The remains of the longest winter in my short MN history are melting away. Happy spring, everyone. Go ride your bike.
I wrote that "post" over a week ago and intended it to accompany a photo of my bike parked next to a tenaciously lingering snow drift slowly melting on a warm, sunny morning commute. The photo was taken with my new phone -- a smartphone, nonetheless, and smarter than I -- but I have to reconfigure some settings to get things to work for blog posts. If you're in the Mpls area you get the picture without need of an actual photo. Pretty much everyone's been tired of winter for a while now. And it's been spring for nearly a month. That's saying something.
It's easy to personify winter in a less than pleasing get-up when you've gone four months without seeing green grass (e.g. the 'ole man winter' image ... I think I even refered to winter as a baby boomer whose retirement account tanked in one post a few months ago).
I must note, however, that spring has been showing its instability -- its unmedicated, bipolar side. One minute it's warm and balmy like the party's in full swing; the next, spring's sobbing uncontrollably and smashing soft plates of half-frozen precip on the kitchen walls.
Settle in and have another beer. You're better off pinning your hopes on nothing this early in the game.
So I got this new phone. Did I mention that? I like gadgets; I have to fess up and admit I really do. This new phone (a Motorola Defy [with Motoblur], in case you're wondering) has me enamored. I'm glad I didn't hop on the smartphone craze right away because it seems developers are ironing out a lot of things. No, I don't chase technology, but I like a good gadget. I'm especially prone to the compact, powerful gizmos that can store and access an inordinate amount of information. I guess it helps that I don't mind reading small fonts. Oh, and I always wait for my contract to expire so I can get a good deal. Weird.
Right after getting this phone I pondered the list of gadgets I've owned in the past 10-12 years. This is my sixth cell phone (five I actually bought since the first was a hand-me-down). Back in the late 90s I inherited an Apple Newton (anyone remember those?) and followed that up with a Palm III and a T|X purchased five years ago. Whew -- color screen and WiFi! I no sooner bought the T|X than realized I should have bought a netbook instead. I have a netbook now and love the thing. Fortunately I'm not a Mac person or I would have an iPod, an iPhone and now an iPad. I have none of those but can appreciate their appeal, I guess.
Where the hell am I going with this anyway? Oh, my blog!
If you read my blog with any regularity you might have noticed that it gets updated rather infrequently. Well, I think about this a lot more than you might imagine. I've read articles about how no one blogs anymore. I'm hip to the "Twitterization" of our culture. I think there's substance and truth in much of this. Vinyl gave way to tapes which gave way to discs and now it's all in the clouds. Who'da thunk it?
In my case, part of it is the sheer coincidence of timing. Blogs were cool way back when and now Facebook is all the rage. I always enjoy digging beneath pop culture trends to explain behavior though. For me it has more to do with where I was then and am now. A handful of years ago when I started this blog I was a student (again) working part-time in a warehouse. I checked my email 3-5 times a day. I rode my bike from school to work and then home. My mind was on fire with ideas and advocacy. I wrote papers for shcool and vented my spleen on my blog, based largely on the issues I saw on a firsthand basis aboard my bike every day.
I'm still aboard my bike most every day, but things have changed. The infant we had when I went back to school is now a young lady and our second daughter is not far behind. My job is more involved, meaning not only do I reside behind a computer screen for long periods of time in the office, I often bring my work home in order to catch clients in time zones stretched around the world. Don't get me wrong -- I am a lucky bastard and I love my job. But my point is I spend most of my day in front of a computer toiling over emails, documents, reports. I'm often ashamed how long it takes me to reply to personal email (sorry, JB and Aaron). Let alone how long it takes me to work up the resolve to write a coherent blog post.
Perhaps that is the issue that reveals me as a hold-out -- the fact I think of a meaningful blog post as an essay with a thesis, supporting material and a conclusion. In our Twitterized society, publicized thoughts become the prostituted haiku of techno-altered parents conceiving illegitimate children with half-baked intellects.
Perhaps that was harsh. But I digress.
I have this new phone now. Have I mentioned that? It came with all these pre-loaded apps (Widgets, even) to facilitate interfacing with social media. But not blogs, because blogs are no longer legit social media apparently. I can work it out though and as soon as I get my next burst of blog energy to follow this one I plan to do just that.
In the meantime, I've been giving some more thought to the Facebook thing (FB, I understand the kids are abbreviating it these days). This could be due to a couple of things. One is a trend I read about last extended winter that indicated the authorities responsible for the OED (or Oxford English Dictionary, as opposed to OCED which is Obsessive Compulsive English Disorder) began admitting text slang to the venerable tome. Maybe I'm just fighting the inevitable? My new phone has Swype, so I'm texting more, dawg. OMFG YO.
Then last night we watched 'The Social Network'. After seeing the depiction of how miserable all those bastards are I have little hope that anyone created social networking sites based on philanthropy or goodwill. It's all posturing, self-absorption and money-grubbing capitalism. I can dig that desperation.
Why can I dig that desperation? Because I have an immense respect for the breadth and depth of holes that people dig for themselves. And I do include myself ...
On my ride home tonight I had one of the most egregious buzzes by a car I've had in a long while. A Nissan Altima, or some other Euro knock-off sedan, MN license plate 046 ATX, cruised by me above the speed limit on Xerxes just south of Hwy 62 passing within one foot of my handlebars. It was after 9pm. There was no other traffic about and I was lit up like a christ mass tree given the reflectives and LEDs. Didn't see me? Scary. Saw me and hated me and my presence? Even scarier.
I had no chance of catching up to confront but I had half my ride home to ponder. I passed two gas stations on the way and noted fuel is $4 a gallon. Maybe that's it? Maybe it's also the fickle weather that's got people cranky. I don't know.
I do know that a few years ago this sort of encounter made me mad. Don't get me wrong, I had a flush of anger. More so, though, I felt a wave of sadness. I related the story to April tonight and told her my philosophy of riding which goes something like this: "I take every precaution I can to ensure that I arrive home safely and avoid harming anyone else while I'm riding my bike. But I have no control over a driver approaching from behind who doesn't see me or sees me and regards me as little more than a bug on the floor."
I don't smash bugs on the floor and I try my damnedest not to berate those around me. Some of it is human nature, I suppose, lost in the moment of judgment by acquaintances. Still, we can regret and mend. How many are engaging that pattern, however? How many who wage a disparaging word have the courage to apologize? Moreover, how many who buzz a cyclist, intentionally or not, go home and think, "Geez, that was bad. I need to give that person more space because I could have killed her/him"?
The desperation I can dig is the trough that surrounds me, and us, at all times -- dug by people on both sides of the fence who want to berate, name call and otherwise sling shit at thine neighbor.
What is crying foul? In a caustic environment are words apt to burn more than the ire already ablaze in an inferno? The wisdom of age quells my desire to lift my finger, but in return my heart despairs all the more. We are a society of self-absorbed idiots. Fear rules us, not unlike my fear of some driver striking me from behind while I'm blogging away in my mind ... and thinking about getting home to my family.
It's not unlike our fear of $4/gallon gas, or Facebook and the breakdown of our culture. Does anyone truly think that while we stand steadfast by the empty bastions of our freedom that our language, our culture and our very "moral fabric" are not being stripped from beneath us? Apparently, yes, many people think so because there are armed guards with theoretical jurisdiction posted at every entry point as you read this. Thus the hatred for one another, those with opposing viewpoints, within our own country.
Ironically, the "threat" (if anyone dare label it as such) is so far beyond our borders yet embodied within each of us. We are all truncating our language, eating factory-farmed food and consuming willy-nilly. Meanwhile the places formerly known as the third world are emulating and chasing our own wake hoping to ride that elusive wave.
On that note, cheers and good night!