Friday, January 12, 2018


Seattle P-I
“Which one of you assholes almost got me punched by the angry guy on the Fremont Bridge?!”

I was already burned up and we hadn’t even gotten to the conflagration. 

My grouchy old man rancor at the narrow escape from a fist to the face and at the frantic pace the piney pelaton had hightailed it towards the beach was a furnace within me and I couldn’t wait to scream a furious inquiry to the assembled masses who I hoped would be milling about at the traditional 7-11 stop on the way.

But there was only a handful of shoppers in the little parking lot one of which, fortunately, was tehSchkott, who, in an unprecedented role reversal, talked me down from the livid ledge on which I stood with the thoughtful observation that whoever it was who bumped the outraged hobo mid-span was probably right not to stop because, shit, that guy was dangerous.

Mollified, I continued on, and only felt my ire rise momentarily upon nearing the shore and seeing sparks already climbing skyward in the distance, but when I approached the circle and saw how much fuel was still remaining, I cooled down plenty sufficiently to be able to fully embrace the heat of all those Christmas memories returning their carbon to the atmosphere and the warmth of so many familiar faces lit by the glow.

Our traditional head pyromaniac, waylaid by the weather up North, wasn’t able to be there, but was there really—further evidence, for the Vedanta perspective the Angry Hippy and I were reflecting upon: that our individual selves are really the Universal Self, each lick of flame actually the fire, if you will.

I kept thinking about that scene in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, where Tom gets to observe his own funeral; similarly, having “passed the torch;” (almost literally); another adventurous rascal could see how brightly his influence burns in his absence.

And who could be angry at that?

Friday, January 5, 2018


I’m not a huge proponent of New Year’s resolutions but I do think the turning of our yearly calendar page is a good time to take stock and be slightly more intentional about the things you do or don’t do.  So, while I won’t be cutting alcohol or caffeine from my diet this month, I would like to recognize my good fortune and make note of some of what I’m grateful for when I’m being more intentional about gratitude.

Above all, I’m grateful to be loved by someone who generally accepts my inclination for Thursday night bicycle adventures and whose general acceptance thereby makes possible my ability to regularly find myself quaffing quaffables around an outdoor fire to which I’ve ridden my bike with several dozen similarly inclined miscreants.

I’m grateful I have a job.  Full stop.  But especially a job that is not only mostly rewarding, but also allows me, with some regularity, to depart on Thursdays in time for a leisurely 18-mile pedal primarily on a lakeside bicycle path that brings me eventually to the center of our fair city for a rendezvous with said aforementioned miscreants.

I’m grateful that said miscreants, while fairly opinionated as a rule, are also willing to be persuaded to set aside worries about impending rainfall and head for the spot I’d had my fingers crossed they could be persuaded to head for.

I’m grateful that grocery stores sell firewood and spirits and for Joby’s largesse in acquiring mass quantities of both.

I’m grateful for the 12-pack of Rainier beer, which fits so perfectly in the Wald basket and is predictably just the right amount for drinking and sharing.

I’m grateful to live in a time and place where recreational cannabis is legal, fuck you, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.

I’m grateful that, in spite of certain past indiscretions, said miscreants have not been permanently 86’ed from Bush Gardens.

And I’m grateful that the bicycle is a gyroscope all the way home.

Friday, December 22, 2017


The Revolution may not, as they say, be televised, but it sure has been made easier to get to, courtesy of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s beautiful SR 520 bike trail on the Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge across Lake Washington.

When the tocsin sounds and we storm the barricades, we can do so in luxury as we pedal on the double-wide path into the land of one-percenters so as to requisition their ill-gotten gains for the deserving masses.

In the meantime, though, we will continue to marvel at the abundance of our region. 

Even those of us who don’t reside behind perfectly-groomed twelve-foot high hedges and ornately crafted wrought iron gates, are still able to enjoy the lavish gift of cycling together through neighborhoods and downtown cores where—if the streets aren’t exactly paved with gold—they certainly glitter like precious metal with an undeniable burnish of wealth and power at every intersection and byway.

I mean where else have you been cut off while riding by a Bentley convertible, the driver so content with her station in life that she merely waives like the Dowager Countess dismissing her handmaiden for tea?

It’s a place where a playground, even one in the part of town in which houses are permitted to touch one another, has a jungle gym that fairly oozes privilege, its complex system of ropes and rings like something from LeCorbusier via Chanel.

But then, lo and behold, after a rousing chorus of “Sleigh Ride,” you eventually pull up at a friendly watering hole that would be right at home in your humble homeland, illustrating that, in spite of what F. Scott Fitzgerald observed, the rich aren’t so different from you and me; after all, who doesn’t love tater tots no matter what hedge fund you manage or multinational conglomerate you own.

Eventually, the complete loop of luxury is completed, and you bed down, feeling, like George Bailey, the richest man in town.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


The root of the word “disaster,” as we know, refers to the star, the “astrum,” being “dissed,” that is, out of alignment.  So, there ought to be a word something like “enaster,” meaning, broadly, a time when the stars align, and everything comes out just right, or, that is, with all the right wrongness included in heaven and earth.

If so, then this year’s annual Point83 holiday “enaster,” "A Pointy-Three Christmas Disaster” would qualify as current poster child for term. 

It all came together in a glorious mess with a galaxy of stars, topped off with a Christmas miracle of singing Sugarplum Elves who twinkled brighter than that mythical stellar phenomenon whose scintillating rays supposedly led the Biblical Maji to the manger where the source of all this holiday fun was born.

It’s a fucking gift, really, to be blessed with such room in one’s life to enable bike-riding through paved forest paths, booze-swilling on lakeside promontories, and leg-wrestling on reasonably dry plastic fields even as, throughout most of the world, such luxuries are not of this world.

Most of us, in most of our lives, are kind, compassionate, responsible people, doing our level best to make the world a little bit better place, so it’s an almost indecent pleasure to be gifted with such a unique opportunity to tear off the wrapper of rectitude and celebrate insensitivity with such abandon. 

Hip-hip-hooray, surely Jesus, (and Allah, and Shiva, and Buddha, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and Bigfoot) loves us all. 

And Santa and his anagram Satan, too!

It’s been a rough year, no doubt about it, so perhaps that gift that keeps on giving the most is to just be kinder and gentler to each other but maybe that also means more forgiving of our trespasses especially the ones on two wheels in public parks around fires of palettes and logs.

The holidays have only just started and already we’ve got it all, thank our lucky stars.

Friday, December 8, 2017


Beauty is dangerous, as illustrated by cliff edges, thunderstorms, and all those femmes fatales in noir detective novels by Raymond Chandler or James M. Cain.

Also, icy streets, glittering with frost on a cold and uncommonly clear night in December out on two wheels.  At one moment, you’re remarking to a friend how remarkable it is that you’re still upright in spite of how slippery it looks, at the next, you’re circling gingerly back to check on another colleague who’s just bitten the dust, so to speak, although the “dust” in this case is actually asphalt coated with a frozen water glaze.

But all’s well that ends well and pretty soon you’re re-assembled in a cocktail lounge that looks too fancy at first, but soon is transformed into a reasonable facsimile of a living room, albeit one that serves pitchers of beer and French fries along with something that appears to be baby shrimp in a glass—another example, come to think of it, of dangerous beauty.

It was a throwback to the old days when bars came first before fires and resulted, for those who hung in there, in a legitimately late night of burning things, Jenga-type fires being one more instantiation of the lovely but perilous theme.  Fortunately, no human animals were harmed in the act, even with boiling accelerant in beer cans as part of the fun.

Of course, the stage was set for hazard much earlier as longstanding guidelines were eschewed by following Fred down a gravel road that, after a short spiral, became more like following Ben up a mountain; surprisingly, however, not a single angry homeowner came out their back door to complain; although leaving Westlake, accompanied by the Pedicab’s sound system blaring the prog-rock standard “Roundabout” by Yes, at least two sets of methheads leapt up clapping in support—a fitting send-off, I suppose, being a fine counterexample of that which, though almost certainly dangerous, is not at all beautiful.

Friday, November 17, 2017


A “widowmaker,” I learned last night, is a term in forestry for a broken-off limb that hangs in a tree that’s about to fall or be cut down; according to the internetz, it’s also called a “fool killer,” which might be an even better term for the log that perched precariously above us during the forest revel component of the evening’s cycle revelry experience.

And fortunately, perhaps because of the old saw (no pun intended) that “the Lord looks out for babies and fools,” no significant other of any of the assembled fools was turned into a widow (or widower as the case may be) by the evil-looking tree trunk with the malicious chipmunk-face that was aimed like a bullet from above just outside the fire’s warmth but certainly right where it might have come crashing down on someone parking their bike or fetching a glove from their pannier.

Donovan (or was it Fancy Fred?) rightly pointed out that if it did fall, it would fall unpredictably, so surely discretion (something usually in short supply on Thursday nights) was the better part of valor for once, and no one, surprisingly, tried to dislodge the mighty branch with chucked rocks, hurled sticks, or even thankfully, a bottle rocket.

It seemed appropriate, somehow, to be in such proximity to imminent disaster, a situation that feels more and more familiar these days globally, and is, of course, a commonplace local state of affairs for anyone who’s ever followed a line of blinking taillights into the woods while under the influence of some, and soon to be more, of one’s favorite mood-altering adulterants.

Shining a light up into the canopy, you could see the rocking motion of the limb that held the widowmaker in place; a strong gust of wind was all that was needed to launch it earthwards.

And yet somehow, catastrophe was avoided (or perhaps merely postponed), but in any case, I’ll quite happily take it, thank you, my Lord.

Friday, November 3, 2017


There’s more than one way to skin a cat, as they say, and although I’m pretty sure I’d not be particularly interested in experiencing any of them, I do appreciate the sentiment and am pleased to draw the analogy with bike ride planning.

There’s certainly more than one way to (dis)organize a group of cyclists for a Thursday night of beer-drinking and pedal-spinning.  One possibility, for instance, involves a theme that is stuck to and played out in a variety of forms; another, for example, envisions a destination and figures out how to get there one way or another; still another, by contrast, depends on costumes!

But all, pretty much, as Shahan pointed out at one of the half-dozen stops on the route he more or less commandeered last evening, are mostly a matter of shouting the loudest.  Point83, whatever it is, is at least not a democracy, a form of governance that, if I recall correctly (and why would I), Winston Churchill called “the worst form of government…except for all the others.”

Perhaps we might refer to the way decisions are made, then, as “Shoutocratic;” the person who shouts the loudest makes the rules, a “Shoutacracy” if you will.

With that in mind, the chief Shoutocrat, Shahan, had a plan, which essentially comprised quick stops at half a dozen outdoor venues, one for each beer in your virtual (or literal) six-pack.

More than one was a pea-patch, although one of those was modified to be a well-timed respite inside the parking garage while a brief thunderstorm drenched the uncovered.  And a couple were spots I’d never been to, an eventuality that becomes less and less likely with every passing year (although soon enough, I’ll start forgetting where I’ve been, so eventually, it will get easier.)

We can think of this mode of organization as process-oriented; instead of heading somewhere, we did something; wherever we were, we’d already arrived then; I’d call it a very successful “shout-show.”

Friday, October 27, 2017


There are (at least) two schools of thought when it comes to Halloween costumes. 

On the one hand, you can create an outfit that fits your personality, perhaps highlighting some feature of yourself, like your essential nerdiness or eclectic taste in music, art, or even, if you have some skill with papier maché, videogames.

On the other hand, you can choose a costume that allows you to express a personality trait or way of being in the world that’s entirely different than your usual mode of expression; you get to fantasize about being someone (or something) else and don accoutrements that illustrate this difference flamboyantly.

It turns out that, for me, dressing up as Garth Alger, Wayne Campbell’s sidekick on the eponymous “Wayne’s World,” does a little of both and, perhaps not surprisingly, when combining that with a Thursday night bike ride featuring loud music and costumes galore, both the fit and the flamboyance are revealed.

Appropriately enough, for those for whom 1990s late-night television and low-budget film comedy references are less than top-of-mind, the Garth costume can alternately serve as a costume of me at age 17: same hair, same ripped jeans, same flannel shirt tied around the waist. 

Oh, and while the weed is better these days, that kid had also probably ridden his bike to some park with friends and was sharing what we called in those days, a “dube.”  “Plus ca change,” as they say in France, “plus c’est le meme chose.”

Which also sort of the same, but different, when it comes to Point83. 

It was surely, after all, at least the 10th time I’ve seen Winnie the Pooh on a bike, and multiple times that that I’ve enjoyed the face-melting pleasures of riding behind the Music Bike while Icona Pop’s “I Love It” bathed me in sound, and many multiple times that that I’ve stood around a fire drinking beer with drunken cyclists, all dressed up, whether in costume or not.

Friday, October 13, 2017


It’s pretty remarkable that human beings have evolved to be creatures who can stand around a fire conversing about evolution.  There’s something delightfully circular about that, like the mind observing the mind, or riding your bike to ride bikes.  Natural selection, the “blind watchmaker,” as Richard Dawkins refers to it, sure has done a good job of enabling itself to observe itself, even with those sightless eyes.

Moistra and Softcore were debating, debunking, and splitting tiny hairs on points almost as miniscule as the genes to which they were referring, but the notion that stuck with this layman was the idea of convergent evolution, whereby similar structures evolve in organisms whose last common ancestor didn’t have them--like how wings show up on everything from dragonflies to bald eagles or how so many creatures in the ocean turn out to be streamlined.

The same principle applies to Thursday night rides, of course, as so often, by different pathways, we eventually find ourselves drinking beer and whiskey around a campfire.  Westlake Center, then, can be seen as those first amino acids coming together in the primordial soup but then the tree branches off in myriad directions, north, south, west, and as it did last evening, in a sort of easterly direction to first pay brief homage to interred ancestors and then take relatively familiar routes to the fanciest of our hometown’s official wood-burning venues.

Numbers dwindled along the way, but that’s evolution, right?  Nature prefers efficiency, but it also seems to adore excess, otherwise, there’s no way there could be peacocks and pandas, not to mention humans on bikes, at firepits, talking about genetic drift among other things.

Or this, from French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge."

Friday, October 6, 2017


photo from Squirrel's video
The “Harvest Moon,” the internet tell us is the full moon nearest the start of fall or the autumnal equinox.  The “Harvest Moon,” says the Old Farmer’s Almanac, “isn’t like the other Moons. Usually, throughout the year, the Moon rises an average of about 50 minutes later each day. But near the autumnal equinox, the difference is only 30 minutes.”

All right then.  That explains why the luminous orb began appearing behind the Starbucks building as we pedaled along the industrial waterfront right after sunset, providing the first of the night’s many opportunities for howling at our planet’s shimmering satellite and also, I suppose, why it cast such remarkable shadows in Japanese Gardens, abandoned roadways, and alongside one more goddamned hill throughout the course of the evening’s festivities.

What it fails to make sense of, however, is how delightful each and every one of these opportunities turned out to be, even in the face of a certain bittersweet quality at the imminent departure for points south of a longtime OG member of the clan, whose fire-riding skills were on display one last time to the amusement of all and the detriment of his rear tire after the third time through the glimmering coals.

Speaking of things unlike other things, it was the first time, in my recollection, that the assembled have ever been chastised by a hobo, (as opposed to merely screamed at in passing), and the point was probably well-taken, (although given that the forest wasn’t ever set afire, perhaps superfluous).  Ultimately, no disrespect to outsider art was intended and given that, as our homeless interlocutor pointed out, all of the land upon which we were convening was originally Duwamish people’s territory, I think we can all agree that enjoyment of it around a hearty bonfire would be an appropriate homage to spirits both past and present.

One thing is certain: it was a ride as full of it as the moon, shine on, ride on.

Friday, September 29, 2017


As we pedaled along the Elliot Bay Trail between Civil and Nautical Twilight, Softcore began to engage me in a conversation of a deeply metaphysical nature and although I found his take on the matter lucid and illuminating, I just couldn’t connect. 

The vibrant streaks of orange and pink outlining the Bay with the silhouetted Olympics behind drew my attention so powerfully that I had to beg off from the discussion with a plea for permission to wordlessly appreciate the aesthetic moment.  Philosophical reflection, as appetizing as it usually is, was way more than I could stomach at the moment.

Similarly, as we hung out on beach number one, catching our collective breaths after portaging our bikes through the woods the first time, I couldn’t help but go all grouchy old man at the vocal stylings of one who, (in keeping with the monikers “Shuttup” and “Shows Up” Joe, I cannot but fondly think of as “Won’t Shut Up” Joe), accusing the singer of “gilding the lily” by attempting to pile on to what struck me as an already perfectly beautiful experience.

Likewise, I was my usual curmudgeonly self when having to hear another someone’s Bluetooth speaker create a public soundtrack to my suffering as I slowly mashed up towards the summit of Discovery Park; headphones there, son; I’ll take my bike ride through nature with nature’s own acoustic score, if you please.

All of which is to say that often—for me, anyway—enough is enough and sometimes, honestly, it’s almost too much as you begin to tip backwards down the stairs up which you’re carrying your rig, knowing full well, of course, that your own travails are nothing like those the Amazing Sergio overcame in bike-hiking his dreadnought through the trail earlier.

Perhaps I’m too easily satisfied at this stage in life; maybe more is better, but maybe, sometimes, as a beach fire that’s small enough to actually stand close around shows, less really is more.

Friday, September 22, 2017


Standing alongside the mighty Duwamish, the historical lifeline of our fair city, lit by the golden glow of a hearty palette fire, Shaddup Joe wouldn’t shaddup about his aspiration that the human race eventually ought to colonize other planets.  This sort of homo sapiens chauvinism escapes me; I myself resist the idea that having fucked up our home planet, humanity should look for other nests to foul. 

Additionally, it also seems to me that were the human race, through genetic modification and/or natural selection, able to adapt to life beyond earth, then those beings would no longer be human beings, and so the idea that creatures like us should see them as continuing our biological line amounts to the empty claim that sure, all the atoms that we’re made of will continue to exist in some form, no matter what; you know, we’re all made of star stuff, like Moby and Carl Sagan have observed.

Mainly, though, I can’t see why any prospective space traveler would want to leave a place like this, one where a surprisingly small group of cyclists on such a dry and temperate evening, (officially, the last Thursday of this year’s summer) is able to ride together down a four-lane mixed-use light industrial boulevard, pissing off only one angry Mercedes driver who loudly admonished all within range to “Follow the fucking laws!” and arrive eventually at a dead end overlooking the aforementioned civic lifeline in order to drink beer and reflect on prospects for extra-terrestrial terrestrials.

Anyway, the robots have already won; most contemporary human beings spend most of their time having machines tell them what to do; the bicycle, by contrast, unlike the “smart” phone or computer, is one of the few inventions in our lives that does our bidding rather than the other way around.

My bike takes me where I want to get go, (and amazingly, gets me back home, as well) right here, on planet Earth, where we belong.

Friday, September 15, 2017


In my experience, the toothbrush has a life-cycle: It begins in your bathroom, for brushing of teeth, then off to the kitchen for cleaning the grout, and finally ends up on the workbench, for scrubbing cassettes.

There’s a class system here to be sure, but since so many make the transition, value judgments are set aside.  After all, flossing the teeth of a Shimano Megarange is no less noble an enterprise than getting into the spaces between molars. 

Your average toothbrush is just happy to have a role in life; it doesn’t matter whether it’s the penthouse or the outhouse, what matters to it is being used, performing its function, expressing its purpose, or as Aristotle would say, its telos.

Shirts in my house follow a similar trajectory as above: they start out as items in the weekday wardrobe, then become articles to sport on the weekend or in summer; finally, I figure I can put them on for a Thursday night ride without caring whether they end up with a burn hole or smeared with waffle batter or, as was the case most recently, shredded on the forearm due to an unexpected dive at the gravel path following an overzealous attempt to avoid a blackberry bramble hanging over the trail to Foster Island.

Nobody likes crashing, but I am pleased that my helmeted head slid under the park bench rather than landing on top of it, which is what I’ll try to keep reminding myself if the pace of sore shoulder recovery drags in the coming days.

And while I might regret the carelessness en route, at least I’ll be glad for thoughtful preparation: heading out on the ride, I swapped the nicer shirt I’d gone to lunch with for one already showing a few holes near the hemline, no great loss in its loss, after all.

Nobody minds when the workbench toothbrush falls to the floor; you just pick it back up and keep scrubbing.

Friday, September 8, 2017


I like that the officer who rousted us out of our favorite concrete platform above a Superfund site had a patch on his uniform that said “Gang Unit.” 

I’ve long been of the opinion that, in spite of the embroidered jerseys, custom beer coozies, logo lighters, internet forum, sew-on patches, annual spoke cards, and other such identity-marking schwag, that Point83©™ is far more of a gang than a club; after all, there are no dues or admission requirements; all you have to do is show up on your bike and not be an asshole (or, at least be a relatively friendly, charming one), and eventually, you’re in, whether you like it or not, and if you don’t, then you don’t have to be, unless you change your mind and show up again.

I’ll always have a fondness for Jack Block Park, not only for its commanding view of our fair city, but also because it was, for me, the spot at which my association with the bike gang was more or less initiated—thanks not only to Derrick’s loving nutpunch, but also because it was probably the first time I found myself out on a Thursday night, riding my bike with a bunch of non-spandexed cyclists to a superior place I’d never been before, in order to mill about, drink beer, tell and hear stories, and, if I recall correctly, in that case, to play a little beer can/U-lock baseball.

So it was a bit of a bummer (and unprecedented in my experience) to be asked to leave so soon after we got there, but the good news, I guess, is that no one had to hoist their bike over (or under) the fence to get out. 

Plus, there was serendipity in coming across another bike gang at the alternative waterfront without having to go all Sharks vs. Jets on them.  Harmony reigns in the naked city; I guess that “Gang Unit” really is doing its job.

Friday, September 1, 2017


When I arrived at the SLU Pre-funk, still in the mind-manifesting glow of my summer capstone adventure, Moistra and Shaddup Joe were conversing about Bitcoin and floating various strategies to scheme tech-bros out real money by gaming arcane aspects of the virtual currency market. 

Now, because I’m something of a Luddite (and no doubt in part due to the aforementioned capstone adventure), I really had no idea what they were talking about until Joe, with his usual bombastic air of authority, explained that it’s a scarcity model that infuses those zeros and ones with value since, after all, anything that’s rare is valuable.

That, I get.

Which is why an evening like last night is priceless.

Sure, the destination was not unprecedented; and yes, of course, several times a year, we find ourselves standing and sitting around a toasty bonfire on a bluff above the Puget Sound with the opportunity to launch glass projectiles at passing trains, but if you take the long view, and consider a whole life, even the traditional conservative estimate of three score and twelve years, and figure, in twelve years of Thursday night rides, let’s be generous and give the spot three times a year, that’s 26,293 days of living divided into a mere 36 such instances (and frankly, I’m sure it’s way less than that, but okay), that comes to mere 0.137 percent of one’s time on earth.

So, there’s about a 1 in a thousand chance that, on any given day you’re alive, you will be afforded such delights as bouncing through forest paths on a two-wheeler to congregate and quaff with friends and acquaintances beneath a rain-cleared sky illuminated by a brilliant quarter moon on an evening so mild that the fire is more for show and kinship than warmth.

Long odds indeed, but as 17th century philosopher Spinoza said, “All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare;” still, amazingly, it was ours free for the taking.

Friday, August 25, 2017


As we were wobbling out of Ye Olde Zipline Park in Ravenna, K-Sep asked me what I was laughing about and I replied that I was superstoned and kinda tipsy while riding my bike on a warm summer evening and he immediately saw my point and started laughing himself, further evidence that I was not the only one enjoying the opportunity to enjoy such an opportunity for such enjoyable hijinks out on the first post-eclipse ride of the season.

Moistra had a plan from the beginning, which featured a circuitous and unsurprisingly vertical route to familiar locations and an unbridled descent to a roundabout where the first disgruntled driver of the evening reminded us over and over that bikes have stop signs, too—a bit of unsolicited advice that induced lots of merrymaking and mocking, just for the fun of it.

Soon afterwards, more fun was to be had when additional testosterone spilled over as a driver of a small penis took umbrage at the line of bicycles making him wait three seconds to floor it to the red light but cooler heads prevailed in spite of missing a real opportunity to slam his car door and lock it when he exited the vehicle spoiling for a fight.

And who didn’t have fun killing time outside the least efficient Safeway in captivity as Derrick papered the area with “For Rectal Use Only” stickers and shared beers with hobos who spread the word about his largesse with impressive efficiency?

I was reminded that you can’t ride the zipline without cracking up, that’s just how fun it is, especially after you’ve been having fun two-fisting joints and blunts in a small circle of acquaintances.

And it’s always fun to navigate the paths, bridges, and tunnels of Woodland Park even though, I must say, I miss the elephant smell of the elephant trails.

But the fun didn’t stop there, did it?  Dancing, drinking, and welcoming home ensued; fun times indeed.

Friday, August 11, 2017


If President Donald Trumps ends up calling for a pre-emptive nuclear strike on North Korea and World War III begins, at least we will have had one more perfect summer evening out on two wheels to savor before we kiss our asses goodbye.

As the bombs rain down, at least we’ll be able to recall, (fleetingly), how swell it was to careen wildly atop the Chief Sealth Trail as a tangerine moon rose before us.  We’ll be able to savor the thrilling sensation of flying over hill and dale and under powerlines even as we duck and cover after the initial atomic blast.

While nuclear winter dawns, at least we’ll have in our memories (until they are extinguished) the feel of night swimming in lake water so warm that it’s warmer to stay in than sit on the dock, although the air is so mild you hardly even need a towel to dry off, even after dark.

In the last few moments of civilization as we know it, at least we’ll be able to reflect upon how grand it was to live in a world where a city park accommodates several dozen happy human-powered travelers, reclining on the grass, sitting in lifeguard chairs, standing in lively groups, drinking beer, sipping leftover vodka, and dining al fresco on Dreamsicles and candy.

When it’s all over and only cockroaches are left to skittle about, perhaps they will enjoy the Blattodean version of the characteristically homo sapien pleasures we were able to enjoy: conversing with friends and acquaintances, sharing libations among like-minded revelers, swimming way out into the lake, far enough into the deep, as did Topher with his steady crawl, that the milfoil no longer tickles your arms and legs with each stroke.

As the Doomsday Clock strikes midnight, perhaps we can take some measure of comfort in knowing that there was time when such simple joys were available, simply by launching the atomic energy of bikes, not bombs.

Friday, August 4, 2017


Some philosophers of mind, notably Australian cognitive scientist David Chalmers, wonder about what they refer to as “the hard problem of consciousness.”  Basically, as I understand it (and frankly, I don’t really), this is the puzzle of how human beings (and perhaps other sentient creatures) have subjective experience, how, in other words it is that we experience phenomena in terms of sensory perceptions like taste, smell, sight, sound and touch.

The science fiction writer, Terry Bisson, captured this idea in a humorous piece he wrote years ago entitled “They’re Made Out of Meat” in which a couple of disembodied consciousnesses are confounded (and somewhat disgusted by) the existence of humanoids, who, although made out of meat, manage to have mental states.

And it is confounding (and probably a bit disgusting, too) that sacks of meat like us are conscious and experience the physical world in terms of non-physical mental experiences; we taste, smell, see, hear, and are touched—all of that from the inside of our minds.

But it’s phenomenal, in the normative sense of the term, because otherwise, how could we get to overload our senses with the phenomenon of another annual Slip n’ Slide Ride whose sights, sounds, smells (sorta), and, (new addition) tastes! touched all who had the good fortune to experience it.

The “easy problem of consciousness,” in Chalmers' terms, is to explain the mechanisms by which our senses work.  It’s no big deal to specify, for instance, how our eyes render the image of five score humans bedecked in multi-colored glowsticks and phosphorescent paint hurling themselves down a giant plastic sheet or grappling in a kiddie pool filled with jellied goo, or to scientifically determine the way our tastebuds work when we consume grain alcohol mixed with cranberry juice or homemade tacos served up by subsequent generations.

What this leaves out, though, is what it’s like: the delightful, joyful, and totally unexplainable experience that makes being a day-glow sack of meat so phenomenal.

Friday, July 28, 2017


Your shadow doesn’t age as quickly as your reflection, so imagine this Disney movie where the two of them carry on a doomed love affair as the image in the mirror turns old and decrepit while the penumbra on the sidewalk stays youthful and vibrant.  Eventually, your gray and wrinkled reflection has to bid a tearful adieu to your forever young shadow, but it’s a lovely moment, not a dry eye in the house, as the ancient image raises a gnarled hand to its still smooth friend, who animates like rippling water as it pedals away, zoetroping on the guardrails of the freeway overpass just like last night on the Lakeview Bridge where the best part about leading the ride is that going uphill slowly means you get to say hello to almost everyone who has come along as they eventually and inexorably pass you on the climb.

A somewhat smaller group of riders than might have been expected on such a lovely summer evening, but that can probably be chalked up to the expectation of much larger numbers for upcoming shenanigans; nonetheless, a couple of dozen or so turned out to be a sufficient data set for testing out Tony’s hypothesis about the phrase “Smoke follows beauty,” which may, indeed, track along the cowboy trail from Texas and New Mexico through to Montana, a conjecture that remains on the table until further disconfirming evidence can be found.

The few who obeyed the maxim never to pass up an opportunity for a swim in the lake were rewarded with water that was almost certainly warmer than the air, no mean feat given that it remained shirt sleeve weather all through the evening, especially around the small, but effective Jenga fire, an apt metaphor, if you think about it, for the ride itself.

In the end, nothing particularly exotic, but the familiar can be plenty delightful when reflection and mirroring connect, the old and the ageless pedaling together.

Friday, July 14, 2017


I take these all as markers of a successful Running of the Bulls:

•    Being unable to precisely recall my route home

•    Blood dried black on my shin from what looks like an encounter with a chain ring, but who can be sure?

•    A yard sale of my bag’s contents on the floor of the bike shed this morning, but surprisingly, nothing’s missing (although my rear blinky is gone, but that was noted last night)

•    Plenty of new wine stains on my outfit, (but there’s a year to get them out and plenty of bleach on hand)

•    Freaking out the squares at the Troll!

•    A record number of bulls, I think, including at least one formed on the spot

•    Many a conversation, most of them funny or profound, I’m sure

•    No sash-in-the-spokes, even on that mysterious ride back

•    Perfect weather, a roaring fire, thematically-appropriate music, revelers still reveling when I left

Of course, much more can be said, about the value of tradition and the joy of a certain kind of nonsense made all the more merry through repetition or perhaps one could wax rhapsodic about how strikingly gorgeous our fair city can be on a clear and windy evening in July when observed from across the body of water whose far side you were just swimming in an hour or so earlier, but I’m quite sure that doing so (especially given the weakened state of one’s abilities in the aftermath) would fail to capture how remarkable the thing is and the fact that it still happens, year after year, a state of affairs only slightly less remarkable than that the annual fat-checking pants still fit, albeit more tightly, now just a year short of a decade into their service.

Previous years may have featured more running and I realize this year’s edition didn’t include a lakefront and, as far as I know, no nudity, but in my book, it was lacking nothing.

Except, of course, that blinky.

Friday, July 7, 2017


photo by "80's Jeff"
Several points were made apparent to me last night.

First, the circumstances of one’s death do not overwrite the circumstances of one’s life.  That said, however, in the end, family is family and loss is no less keenly felt just because emotions are complicated.  In fact, such complication makes the cut that much deeper.

And second, trite but true: the world is a staggeringly beautiful place, whose grandeur will carry on in spite of us all. 

After we’re gone, the sun will still sink magnificently into the sea while an all-but-full moon hangs out watching; a Great Blue Heron will take this in calmly as it perches on a log in the wetland.  Our atoms will disperse back into the Universe and the cycle of beauty will continue as we become sunset and moonrise ourselves.

Quite a turnout on a lovely summer evening, the somber undertone of the occasion making the inevitable joy of two wheels and dozens of friends stand out all the more starkly.  A small fire meant that we huddled up, just as we needed to, flames being wiser than humans, as is their wont.

DerrickIto, as is his wont, tried to justify bad behavior on the grounds that dangerous, unexpected explosions were an appropriate memorial.  I can’t dispute that, but when I go, I’d like to be remembered with something less likely to put out an eye.  How about yinz guys just light up some joints, instead.

The twentieth-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote: “Death is not an event in life; we do not live to experience death.”  That’s true, of course, about our own demise: we’re not around for it, at least in our current form.  We do, however, poignantly experience the death of others we have known and especially, cared for.

He continues: “If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.”

Be present, live forever, ride on.

Friday, June 16, 2017


Sometimes the bike club is more of a drinking club and that’s fine (as well as traditional), especially when Seattle’s June-uary is in full swing. 

As Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” reminds us, the eponymous night in question is actually in spring, but given the weather, it could have been winter, (except for not needing gloves in the rain), and so, discretion (albeit often in short supply) being the better part of valor, it made perfect sense to skew the proceedings in favor of shelter rather than miles, and since what good is a roof over your head without a drink in your hand, tippling trumped pedaling when all was said and done.

A rooftop garden was the site of our first assembly, but the Garth-approved “shelter” was no match for the steady deluge and so proceedings were moved down a floor to less picturesque, but more comfortable surroundings. 

One thing you can count on from Thursday night rides: you’re apt to find yourself someplace that you would never find yourself were it not for Thursday night rides.  In six-plus decades of living, for instance, I’ve never before had the pleasure of a parking garage playroom and while it’s entirely likely I shall never again either, I would say it’s an experience I’d have been sorry to miss.  Hashtag bucket list, yes?

Joby was telling me about some new technology that lets you no longer have to discard hard drives with only one bad sector (whatever that means) but I took it as a metaphor for the evening: too often we eschew opportunities just because there’s one bad thing about them; consider, for instance, the chance to fraternize with a select group of intrepid cyclists in spite of a late spring downpour.  No need to chuck the whole thing just because of that single adverse feature.

The weather may have been lousy, but everything else was swell: a Midsummer Night’s dream, you (or the Bard) might say.

Friday, May 26, 2017


The thing about halves is that they’re not always half of the thing.

How often, for instance, do we talk about the “big half” and the “little half?”

So, if you put together the first part of one week and the last part of another, you’re able to make a whole, and if you equivocate sufficiently, you can crawl through that hole and see yourself, at one point, commemorating a local celebrity passing and at another, rounding out the evening pretty much where it all began more than a decade earlier, give or take a couple months.

The eyes have seen so much of this before which is why the destination bar is predictable even if its name eludes you for a good part of the way along the lake.  Language leaves us before spatial ability, apparently, but you can be reasonably confident that if you continue pedaling, eventually the verbal and the visual will stitch together and what’s sort of amazing after all this time—and just a little bit frightening, too—is that when it’s all over and done with, the bicycle somehow brings you safely home, even in the absence of perfect recollection the morning after.

Initially, the moon has yet to rise, and subsequently, it’s so new that it doesn’t at all, but in both cases, its influence abides, pulling you all the way from the north and the east to the south and the west and most of the way in-between: those gaps are gapped and the stops stopped at; insides stay inside and the outside remains on the outside.

Details run together, so that one week’s climb is the next one’s descent; you’ve heard that song before but not this rendition.  And after all, as long as a person can dance to it a little, then does it really matter when it happened?

Two bodies warm themselves by the fire, both prone, one for old time’s sake and one for now.

Friday, May 12, 2017


When of a night that the inimitable music bike is just the second-loudest source of joyful noise, you know you’re in for a special treat.

from Prom 4 by via Bo Ttorff
And when the sonically-dominant font of mellifluous racket is something like two dozen female musicians cranking out hits by such luminaries as Madonna and Lady Gaga on saxophones, trombones, trumpets, a couple of Sousaphones, a drum line, and via their very own shared voices, then, well, you know it’s a gift so extraordinary as to be singularly unprecedented and far more than anyone could possibly deserve.

Yippee for the Filthy FemCorps, huzzah!

To be honest, the annual school dance can feel a bit of a chore, especially on evening that begins all drizzly, but if you make just a bit of an effort with your attitude and outfit, pretty soon, the clouds have parted and the occasion is underway, rolling down three lanes of traffic and a hundred or so decibels of Twisted Sister.

It would have been enough satisfy the aesthetic appetite of anyone to simply have feasted on all that party finery against the backdrop of the almost-as-lovely downtown Seattle, but that was merely an hors d’oeuvre.

For the main course, you got to be immersed in the dish, with horns and reeds all around, topped with glitter and black light face paint, and, as a whipped cream with a cherry on top, fire dancers!

A shout out to the Prom Committee, hip-hip-hooray!

The park shelter managed not to ignite, but, really, that was about the only thing there that wasn’t on fire, so much shimmying and shaking to beat that unbeatable band that even the wallflowers were belles of the ball.

And while there may have been an official King and/or Queen of the event, everyone got to feel like royalty when those sighing angel voices were heard; just like a prayer, I know they took us there, (on bikes, no less, feels like flying), let the choir sing!

Sunday, May 7, 2017


Twelve things to remember (more or less) from Ben Country XII.

1.    The mate on the ferry joking with “club spokesman” Ben birthday-boy-guest-of-honor, that the captain had a special treat for us: he’d agreed to let us off before the boat reached the dock!

2.    Part One of BCXII Animal Planet: a whale!  (Well, froth and foam on the Sound, anyway; you fill in the rest with your imagination and the cheers of ferry rider families).

3.    Part Two of BCXII Animal Planet: kittens!  (It’s still hard to believe that TooTall didn’t tuck one in his jersey when we left.)

4.    Part Three of BCXII Animal Planet: A goat named David, a peacock showing off on a fence, and an albino pheasant that stayed under wraps.

5.    No one, (except maybe Mark, who might have been misplaced earlier), getting lost on the Lost Highway.

6.    Whenever you go down a hill, you have to climb back up; and yes, it’s worth it, especially when you eventually get to re-group and congregate at the roofless clubhouse for the special opportunity to urinate on broken glass.

7.    So much pizza!  And even more at camp.

8.    Just enough rain to make it officially a Ben Country, but that’s all; and pretty soon, the clouds part to reveal an almost full moon bright enough to shine brightly through your rain fly.

9.    Sensible portions!  (Except of the so-called “time,” which the Fancy Dancer munched like potato chips while those of us with lower tolerances or less experience experiencing timelessness rode the cresting temporal waves with just a few blue-tinted crumbs.)

10.    Thirty seconds; twenty seconds; ten seconds of quiet; Happy Birthday!

11.    Lying in your tent, staring at the ancient Egyptians dancing on the insides of your eyelids, wondering why all those people around the fire won’t stop tickling that poor woman.

12.    No shame in catching a truck ride home; showered, shaved, and on the couch napping by noon.

Friday, April 28, 2017


One of the best parts of not knowing where you’re going is seeing the possibilities eliminated; it’s like the tumblers of a lock clicking into place as one after another, the options fall away. 

At first, you might be on your way anywhere, but then, it’s surely the Ghettodrome, but isn’t, even though the pedicab plays the perfect mash-up of Hendrix and Hanson as a candidate soundtrack for the spin.

And then, you could be heading to Queen Anne or Discovery Park, albeit with a Locks-walk, but pretty soon, you’re not, as even Fancy Fred’s penchant for hills falls by the wayside and there you are, crossing the bridge on the grating, despite a little water on the rails.

Ironically, as fewer and fewer destinations remain in the mix, more and more potential is released, and by the time there’s only one place you could really be headed, the likelihood of anything at all coming to be expands.

The Haulin’ Colin front rack is perfectly designed for the classical Thursday night load: a bundle of wood and a half-rack of Rainier fit perfectly and balance just right. 

Combine that with plenty more fuel tied to a score of other rigs, and a six-pack of accelerant tucked away one place or another and there you have it: all that’s needed for what is certainly is the first visit of the season, if not the year, to what may construed as default perfection; in other words, if you can’t decide where to go, don’t decide at all; just let the water show up through the woods and hear that train a’ comin.’

The almost-new moon was a smile and a wink as it set in the west and even Mars seemed at peace with a night sky that only sprinkled once and that, as a way to cool the ascent.

Ultimately, there was only one option: nothing that could possibly have happened didn’t, and all that might have did.

Friday, April 21, 2017


Before the internet, there was no easy way of fact-checking the authoritative pronouncements of your know-it-all friends, so back when Sammy Albano asserted that the origin of the slang term for marijuana, “420” was that the numbers were the California State Police code for a pot bust, you never questioned it—and, in fact, authoritatively pronounced the assertion yourself on numerous subsequent occasions.

And even though the claim turns out to be false, the error never compromised the enjoyment of celebrating the number, whether, specially, on April 20th, or more typically, on any given day of the week, precisely, (give or take a few hours either way), at 4:20 in the afternoon.

Which just goes to show that you don’t have to be correct to have fun or, more broadly, that it’s better to be happy than right, as they say.

I take this admonition as a reasonable guideline for Thursday night bicycle riding where, most of the time, mistakes are opportunities for enjoyment, meaning, of course, that they’re not really mistakes at all, except that then thinking of them as mistakes is, but then isn’t, but then is, paradoxically all over again and again.

See how you think when you enthusiastically celebrate the day right from the start through the traditional middle and then at the Superfund site park, which is, itself, appropriately enough, high above the ground, too?

It was an unprecedented full house for a while, with Joes over Kevins but attrition evened the score, although the Shuttup variety sported enough outfits for at least two more of his namesakes.

To my knowledge, no nuts were punched at Nutpunch Park, although we did get to savor the pleasure of exiting the site from the side door.  A few subsequent destinations were authoritatively, but erroneously, asserted before one more perfect skyline hove into view.

The stoner theme carried on with videogames, or in my case, a groovy pedal home to fall asleep on the couch.

Friday, April 7, 2017


You know the rules about following people:

Ben and mountains; Fred and gravel roads; Garth and “rain shelters”--all to be avoided.

Let us now, though, add an additional admonition:

Do not follow K-Sep up the steps!

A person comes to acquire a few guiding principles in the course of a long life, such as:

•    If you can’t unlock your bike, you’re not allowed to ride your bike, or
•    If you ride to the bar, have a drink at the bar, or
•    Always carry an spare brake cable on a bike camping trip

And, of course:

•    You don’t carry your bike, your bike carries you

All that said, the velo-portage up the back stairs to Pigeon Point was, afterwards, reasonably well worth it, not the least because it afforded the opportunity to bitch about it for minutes, lay a punch square on the sweater logo of the aforementioned ride leader, and best of all, gain access to a variety of trails on Joeball Ridge—although it should be noted that without the eponymous guide to said trails, one is apt to encounter a good deal more backtracking and route-aborting than with him.

At the traditional pee-pot-beer stop beneath the bridge, Joby mentioned that, given the meteorological expectations of the endlessly damp last few months, the evening was a gift, and even had the weather not cooperated so well with a warm dry twilight featuring striated bands of color on the setting sun horizon and a waxing gibbous moon that glowed behind contrails as night fell, it would still have been a benediction.

After all, when you have bestowed upon you a sufficient number of loops through the woods that even your cannabis-infused brain begins to recognize familiar climbs, and you’re bequeathed as a destination your very own pagoda in which to share libations with friends, and you’re also given the opportunity to plummet through the woods before heading home, that’s a fine bequest; put a bow on it!

Friday, March 24, 2017


The world would be a happier place if we all focused on our similarities rather than our differences.

Like, for instance, the fact that everyone poops, no matter what their race, gender, political affiliation, or NCAA March Madness picks.

Or, the simple truth that we all get wet when we’re outside in the rain, whether in Seattle, Spokane, Washington, DC, or North Korea.

Or, the unavoidable reality that, every single one of us: male, female, transgendered, genderfree, Shaddup Joe, you name it, had, at some point, in some way, a father, even if that dad was merely biological; nobody, anywhere in the whole world has not come into being as a result of some male’s sperm combining with some female’s egg; (so not only, of course, does everyone have a father, but also a mother, too), which seems like something we ought to be able to build on in our efforts to promote peace, harmony, and understanding around the globe—or at least refrain from name-calling on news site comments sections.

And speaking of dads, it’s unfortunate (and also, certainly fortunate) that the majority of humans in the world did not have dads like the rather surprising number of them out riding bikes and in drinking booze together in Seattle last night.

It’s hard for me to imagine, for example, my own dearly-departed father, the good Herr Doctor Professor Alvin P. Shapiro, MD, riding his bike down a crowded city sidewalk in order to head the wrong way on a one-way street on his way across town towards the local Research One University.

Nor can I see him waiting patiently in the drizzle as one of his colleagues purchased pizza slices from a walk-up window, then fed bites to another colleague as they pedaled along

And no way would he ever have happily consumed four jello shots in a single sitting.

He surely would have stood around a blazing fire and drunk cold beer, though.

Like son, like father!

Friday, March 10, 2017


photo by Apricot
These days, having fun feels like a political act, so it’s doubly fun to have fun, since not only are you having fun, you’re also fighting the good fight against fascism, intolerance, and perhaps, above all, bad taste.

Alcohol and cannabis-fueled bicycle shenanigans become not merely a good time, but, indeed, an aesthetic obligation, a sorely-needed poke in the eye of the powerful, an opportunity for revelers to manifest beauty in response to the ugliness and cruelty of the contemporary world.

Exhibit A: waffles, gorgeously created al fresco, courtesy of The JLC, slathered with Farmer Ito brand bud-butter, and consumed with or without toppings so heart-wrenchingly lovely that tears spring to one’s eyes—(or that could be a result of flying batter, marijuana smoke, or the tartness of the bathtub gin cocktails coming your way.)

Even for someone entering the seventh decade of life, there aren’t many things  done for12 years running (or, biking, that is), so it’s hard not to embrace the opportunity to keep the streak going even on an initially misty evening that, in the end, turns moonlit and dry, as if the weather gods themselves want to get in on the show, doing their best to enhance the artistic appeal of what is already a feast for the senses and an event for the ages.

Among my own goals was to avoid last year’s driveway tumble that resulted in two months of wrist recovery and I’m pleased to say “mission accomplished,” although I probably have the gyroscoping qualities of the bicycle to thank for that as much as anything, but that’s just the point, isn’t it?

To be grateful for that which protects you and makes possible all this useful useless beauty, that’s what I want to do, while at the same time having human-powered adventures that include tunnel-screaming and taillight streaming and which, in doing so, reaffirm the very nonsense that makes sense of all the nonsense.

Fight the powers that be.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Why do anything, really?

After all, we’re all going to be gone in a couple hundred years so what’s the difference?

On the other hand, everyone loves Ferry Whiskey, even those who prefer not to indulge.

What I kept thinking most of the time was that it’s a little lonely to be alone but that you’re never really alone on an island since so many of your loved ones are also a ferry ride home from home.

I was also mostly glad to be pacing at my own pace since that meant pretty much any Porta-Potty was fair game, including those that belonged somewhere off-road but which enabled the appreciative peddler to appreciate peddling even up those hills that people with expensive bikes and uncomfortable shoes had to walk up in spite of what they had spent and endured.

I saw of a lot of miserable people but I only felt awful for half a second when half of the world was left behind; after that, though, it was all about appreciating the older growth and perfect air-conditioning; of course conditions might have been different, but I’m pretty sure there couldn’t have been anything less to imagine complaining about..

If you put your name in a bunch of times, it turns out you’re more likely to be picked, at least when there’s a dearth of options beyond the ideal Cheetoh Jeezus that rained down deliciousness after being carried on board instead of being left unattended and exploded, I guess, as opposed to having a carbon fiber handlebar raked across the baldness alongside the bay.

You missed it if you missed it, but, of course, you didn’t miss it if you didn’t. 

What I mean to say  is that the FHR isn’t the same without the FHR, but even without it,  it’s still the same and even better.

The island remains darling; the boat ride is still ineffable; the Sun Deck always shines; Fucking Hills Race, Fuck yeah.

Friday, February 24, 2017


A rational number, I recall from 7th grade math, is one that can be expressed as a ratio of two numbers, like 1 to 2 for ½.  But I was confused, until I looked at the internet, about a number like 1/3, that—while it can be expressed as a fraction—cannot be represented as a non-repeating decimal number. 

Now I know, however, that as long as there’s a pattern that repeats, even if it does so endlessly, the number counts as rational, (contrasted, for example with π, whose decimal digits never follow a repeatable pattern even when calculated to the new world record length of 2.7 trillion places.)

All of which is to say that even though Thursday night rides may extend towards infinity, and even though there are destinations that come up with greater regularity than others, nothing is ever quite the same over time and therefore, we can conclude, that rides are—using the favored mathematical terminology—irrational (although one hardly needs even seventh grade math to confirm that).

And what this means, I thought, as I alternated between the redneck and artisan fires at our sylvan destination last night, that the longstanding question about whether—if indeed our Universe is but a vast simulation—“is it digital or analogue?” has a solution (or rather, it doesn’t but that’s just the point).

Point being: it’s neither and both, since neither digital nor analogue can fully represent the simulation’s fully irrational nature.

And this makes me more inclined than ever towards the view that we get in the non-dualist Advaita Vedanta where, more or less, Pure Being and Pure Consciousness, Atman and Brahman, are one, and that’s what each of us are, as well, “Thou Art That”, Tat Tvam Asi, just like it says on tehSchott’s formidable calf.

In other words, I’ve made my peace with two fires.

After all, they’re really just one, and while that may sound irrational, at least it never ends.

Friday, February 10, 2017


Here’s one thing we learned: when the Zombie Apocalypse hits, don’t stock up on Pres-to-Logs; instead, commandeer as many clean-burning Tacoma Firelogs you can get your hands on.

Here’s another: all the accelerant in the world (or, at least in the bottle), doesn’t do a bit of good if you can’t achieve ignition.  (So, carry matches, maybe, during World War Z).

And finally, (although most probably knew this already): Once the flames are hot enough, pretty much anything will burn, including PBR cans pretending to be Rainiers, wet cardboard coated in plastic film, and even, surprisingly, not only little pucks but entire logs of overcompressed sawdust that seemed, initially, entirely unable to fulfill their vaunted claims about how many BTUs they produce under conditions of full combustion.

The wild weather of the last few days probably contributed to the relatively sparse turnout, but those hardy (or just stubborn) souls who were willing to ignore reports and simply show up and ride, were treated to a blustery but mostly dry evening with a  full moon bright enough to yield the relatively rare phenomenon of moonbow in the mist; our planet’s favored satellite peeking through bare branches overhead, like a celestial yoke nestled in its multi-hued albumen, evoking the occasional howl from humans feeling their ancestral animal roots.

Having fought the headwind for a couple hours on my way home from school to Westlake, I was delighted to have the gale at my back as we headed towards the tidy town of Magnolia; northwest along the Elliot Bay trail put the full force of the wind at our service; for a few shining moments, I was a beast, a cannibal like Eddy Merckx, taking full credit for the power of my pedaling, like those privileged Republican motherfuckers who were born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.

Honestly, anyone can set the world on fire, once it’s already ablaze; even Pres-to-Logs burn in Hell.

Friday, January 27, 2017


The Duwamish runs like a seam down the middle of our fair city and is really, of course, a big part of why Seattle is here at all, so it’s almost like stitching the town together when you ride across; and it’s especially like sewing together the past and future when, after doing so, you arrive at an old bend in the river to enjoy a park so new the concrete has hardly even cured yet, making hot rocks crack steamy smiles right along their hidden seams, as well.

It was shades of 2007 as (Not As) Young Remington appeared and pointed out the impending onset of his 10th anniversary 21 year-old ride and Double-Dad Diddy pedaled up from beneath the overhead tracks like an emissary from the previous decade.  Meanwhile, patrons of Link Light Rail were treated to brief pyrotechnic displays in honor of their trains’ own artistic luminance, a ribbon of blue winking southward as orange fingers waved merrily below.

I’ve heard Joby (who, lo and behold, but in keeping with the chronological theme, just happened to be celebrating a going-away in the very same watering hole at which we eventually nightcapped) remark that one of the primary technological advances in the history of the bike gang has been tehSchkott’s introduction of accelerant, and I must say, I concur: Girl Scout water rocks!  (And rocks rocks, too, as we’ve learned.)

For me, the most dramatic seam of the evening was earlier, when V., apparently needing a wake-up call from the adrenal gland, caught his front wheel on a crack between concrete and tarmac and, while darting left to correct and recover, narrowly missed being clipped by a Subaru, crisis averted, heart rate level achieved.

The gap between what does happen and what might have occurred is vanishingly slim and yet thankfully, does exist.

On the other hand, when the space between what should have transpired and what does arise closes, that’s when even stones sing.

Friday, January 13, 2017


I wonder about the intrepid holiday pioneers who first started the Christmas tree tradition; according to our paper of record, “for six successive seasons, Riga and Tallinn—the capitals of Latvia and Estonia—have waged a feud over which was the site of the world’s first decorated Christmas tree. Riga says it was first, in 1510. Tallinn claims a much earlier event, in 1441.”

But whoever’s responsible, I picture those first tinsel throwers trying something out for the first time—decorating a spruce with fruits and candles, dancing around it, then, a few days later, burning it to the ground—and enjoying things so much that they repeated the action again the following year, and the next, and so on, and before anyone knew it, a tradition was born.

That’s how it happens, I guess, and so here we are, some six centuries later, drawing upon those time-honored practices to forge new rituals which also emerge, almost by accident, from simply having a good time.

Who’d a thunk, for instance, that the goofy pleasure of strapping a dried-out and discarded Christmas tree to your bike or body and pedaling crosstown to a sandy beach in order to set it ablaze would be something that anyone would want to do even once, much less at least at least eight years running now give or take a few?

Similarly, could anyone have predicted that a silver metallic fire suit would become pretty much as iconic a holiday outfit as Santa Claus’ red coat and black belt?

And my goodness, isn’t it charming the way some of our city’s most dedicated and professional first responders have joined in on the merriment, making what has now, apparently, become an annual visit to the festivities simply in order to protect us from ourselves and make sure we tidy up before leaving?

The holidays may now (officially) be over, but the tradition carries on, burning ever brighter, just for the fun of it.

Friday, December 30, 2016


I was glad I got my designated flat tire at the pre-funk, thereby enabling me to appease the Cycling Gods before the ride actually started, (although it probably was, in part, my subsequent two-minute late arrival at Westlake and thus commensurately delayed departure for the graciously attendant group that continued to piss Their Highnesses off and consequently resulted in a combined record number of punctures in an evening, especially one that included none by the Angry Hippy, who presumably had other fish to fry than subjecting his bike tires to nails, wire bristles, tacks, glass shards, staples, and other sharp pointy things that emerge when the weather turns moist and misty on a moonless late December night in the Pacific Northwest.)

And it is charming how “helpful” your comrades become when your rig is turned over “Pasadena style” and you blacken your hands with road schmutz while performing that most elemental of bike repair skills, thereby enabling you to complete the task only a few minutes less quickly than you would have without their breath on your neck, but that’s what friends are for (along with—if last night is any gauge—beer-drinking, lie-telling, and firewood-liberating), right?

The good thing is to find the point what done it, usually by pricking your fingers as you run them around the inside of your tire; it’s a small price to pay for being confident you’ve located the source of the problem; I happily pulled a metal shard from my index finger and set it on a windowsill where it hopefully won’t re-offend before the season’s out.

And, in spite of it all, (or perhaps because of it), a good deal of miles were covered, many on surprisingly dry paths through the woods, resulting eventually at a sheltered fireplace that inspired dual conflagrations, one of which eschewed shelter, which just goes to show there’s no accounting for taste, but that’s as it should be, just so long as everyone’s pumped.

Friday, December 23, 2016


At the mid-ride provisioning stop, I asked Fancy Fred whether, given the incessant precipitation, we would be heading off to someplace covered or a location at which we could have a fire, and he replied “both,” which narrowed the possible destinations to only a few and since Lincoln Park had already been eschewed, implied, logically, that our terminus would have to be somewhere north of the ship canal.

And when it was revealed that we needn’t purchase wood, only accelerant, one could conclude, with utmost certainty, that we were headed to the abode of fire dancers and hoboes, although, as it turned out neither group was in attendance, (unless you include our home-grown examples, emerging, as they tend to do, in the wake of beer and wormwood.)

In Western philosophy, the so-called “Law of Non-Contradiction,” which states that contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time, is considered one of the three basic principles of reasoning.  Thus, it’s the height of irrationality, for example, to assert both that “It is raining,” and “It is not raining,” in the same place, at the same instant, in the same way.

And yet, oddly enough, it does seem possible to experience that very contradiction when you’re standing near flaming pallets underneath a public park shelter while streams of water pour off its flat roof like liquid icicles on the second longest night of the year.

So, perhaps this state of affairs is more appropriately rendered by a non-Western perspective, such as that which we find in the Vedic tradition, wherein the principle of non-contradiction is less strict.  Rather, there is, in six orthodox schools of Indian philosophy, a great deal more openness to the possibility of something and its opposite both being the case.  As Professor.Narasimhan put it, “there are no false claims in Indian philosophy.”

Same goes for Thursday night adventures, where wet is dry, riding is standing, and every neither is both.

Friday, December 9, 2016


photo by Tom
The highly-anticipated lowland snow finally did materialize, but not until it was summoned by Christmas music, first, from the onboard sound system of the pedicab driver as we streamed from Seattle Center after sampling the joys of the surprisingly dangerous Artists at Play playground and then, second, from the glorious pipes of the always effervescent Sugarplum Elves, whose acapella and accordion renditions of holiday favorites like “Santa Baby” and “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” called forth Jack Frost and his meteorological cronies to manifest a genuine December blizzard and turn the front porch of a favorite old dive bar into a veritable winter wonderland, warming the fingers, toes, and most importantly, the hearts of all those lucky enough to witness this latest rendition of a goddamn authentic Christmas miracle, so help me Jeezus.

We followed a fairly vertical route to get there, ascending Queen Anne via a handful of viewpoints, each more spectacular than the next until finally, who gives a shit, and then back down through the Hobo Goat Trail on which I slow-motion endo-ed at exactly the same place I did last time even though this was at the beginning of the evening and not the raw-dog-in-the-butt conclusion of it.

The Elves were in their usual wonderfully naughty-but-nice and nice-but-naughty form and spread holiday cheer both underground and above, augmented magnanimously by a glimmering candelabra of tequila shots courtesy of the Joby Lafkey Corporation; several generations of fans basked in the angelic harmonies and devilish grins of the performers, while also snapping up a whole year of candy-coated joy courtesy of this year’s Elf Calendar, order one here!

As 2016 draws mercifully to a close and we can’t help but reflect back sadly on all that went wrong and was lost, it’s absolutely heartwarming (and essential) to have to have our halls joyfully bedecked with bikes and Sugarplum Elves; it’s the gift that keeps on giving and one we are surely blessed to receive.

Friday, December 2, 2016


What gets to count as a memory? 

If you supplement it with a photograph, is that really remembering?  Or is that constructing a memory out of articles available to the extended mind, which might also include the ability to count on your fingers or write down in a notebook what you have experienced?

Or, for that matter, these words.

Here’s what I would have written about the night: I left home, a little bit afraid of being able to merely navigate, so I took the route most likely to mitigate against that.  Soon enough, however, even muddy trails were laughed at.

And although much was familiar, it all seemed new, including a boardwalk empire that actually was.

Thematically, everything connected: the ArbROretum, the UW ROwing Center, the KROger family of grocery stores, and, of course, LauROlhurst.

As predicted, the Greg Barnes route enabled ascension without descent and pretty soon, who wouldn’t cross that bridge when they came to it? Pour it on, people, pour it on.

Plenty of beer can flares provided entertainment and must have convinced a few of the locals that there are those among us who really are as young as we act. 

Seattle’s Finest, emerging from the darkened wood, brightened considerably when they saw gray hair and beards.

As it turns out, the cops in better parts of town are also the most relaxed.  Best line from the sandy-haired officer: “You didn’t run when we showed up.  That’s unusual.”

Check your privilege? Yes, indeed.  But in times like these, it’s also: Privilege?  Check.

So, coals were spread, pretty much on the original schedule, anyway.  And, thus, a reeled-in newcomer got to experience the classic trifecta: gravel trails, beery fire, and a pleasant encounter with the authorities, check, check, check.

A little flat-fixing and some prophylactic pumping set the stage for the final leg of the evening.  Never made it to either of the ROanoke bars, but, I think the NeighbRO Lady suffices, right?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Riding bikes is fun. 

And even more fun when you get to do it with three dozen or so of your friends and acquaintances, along with several random strangers.

And even more fun when combined with medicinal doses of your favorite recreational intoxicants, namely cannabis and alcohol.

And even more fun when you get to wind through waterfront pathways and climb unpaved park service roads through a dense urban greenway to congregate around a graffitied shipping container straight out of a 1980s gritty crime drama movie set.

And even more fun when the ride eventually takes you on a reasonably thrilling descent through familiar neighborhoods made unfamiliar by the unprecedented route and you end up, en masse, at what appears to be a high-concept version of a no-concept dive bar, but which turns out to be relatively authentic in its re-creation of the re-creation it re-creates.

But perhaps the most fun of all is that for the first time in recent memory (and, admittedly, the aforementioned recreational intoxicants constrain the scope of those recollections), you get to do all this without having to plastic coat yourself for comfort or grin and bear another of this rainy season’s rainy rains.

As fun as it is to hear your tires hiss and squish, and as pleasant it is to avoid the squealing of brakes with the wetting of rims, it really is an uncommon pleasure to not have rain-spattered glasses and sodden gloves. 

Enjoying the joys of wet weather cycling, and the sense of smug satisfaction that goes along with perceiving yourself a badass who’s out on two wheels, conditions be damned is surely enjoyable, but how much easier it is to find joy on your bike when you’re not having to run your soaking fingers over your dripping spectacles every few blocks and you don’t arrive home with gloves smelling like cheese and socks whose waterlogged dye has colored your ankles.

Riding bikes is fun.

Dry bikes funner.

Friday, October 28, 2016


photo by Officer Ride Bikes
One marker of really good pot is that you can smoke enough to be unable to smoke any more. 

It’s not like getting too drunk, where you stumble around trying to find your beer and then spill it before it reaches your lips; the governor here on your behavior is mental, not physical.

The whole enterprise simply becomes too fraught with meaning: maybe you could have another hit, but maybe not.  If you do, then the entire course of history from here on out will change, resulting in a possible world where anything is possible, but if you don’t, then why is everyone looking (or is it not looking) at me and howcome my socks feel so funny and how do you work this lighter, anyway?

By contrast, one marker of a truly excellent Thursday evening bike ride is that you can keep going on to the next thing even while the thing you’re doing is still going on and there’s still plenty of time for biking and boozing, the night is still young.

Derrick’s crop of Fremont Homegrown didn’t quite get me to the point of total uselessness, but it sure improved my appetite for whatever was next, whether that be sculpture-ogling, pathway-pedaling, palette-burning, or even karaoke-singing.

(Unfortunately, the bar’s rendition of my costume character’s theme song didn’t match the one I grew up with, but thankfully, it only lasted a minute and two seconds--although due in part to the aforementioned homegrown, it seemed rather longer.)

In any event, the second annual “Smoking of the Bowls Halloween Edition” surely counts as an unqualified success even though a number of the costumes were suspiciously of the “I’m a Dude Who Works in an Office and Commutes by Bike to Work” ilk. 

Props to Pooh Bear for showing up and to yours truly for availing himself of another opportunity to wear a wig and a dress; learned to keep my money in my sock and didn’t lose it neither!

Friday, October 14, 2016


It’s always better than it looks; you catch the rain in the streetlight and it seems like you’d have to be crazy to be out there, but when you are, it’s way more like an expensive facial treatment had for free.

The future oppresses us in our imaginings; when you wait for it to arrive before passing judgment, it loses some of its power to incite panic.   Once you’re willing to see plastic as a viable fire-starter, the embrace of the available begins.

Pleasure is overrated at least to the extent that pleasure means “what’s pleasurable.”  Or “pleasing,”maybe.   Anyway, it feels good to be kind of miserable in the rain.  Bedragled rats.  Very handsome bedragled rats.

It took a Goldilocks-like two shelters to find the one that was just right, but it was, and the kindling kindled into the cheeriest blaze you could ever hope for on a night that it took just such a fire to counteract the water, giving rise to plenty of steaming garments even before two levels of flames had been achieved.

You surely have to like riding bikes to like riding bikes on a night such as this; on the other hand, what’s the alternative?  In general, you come to regret the things you haven’t done rather than those you have, although you can certainly regret a few of those, as well.

Tonight, however, there’s nothing really you’d take back: your route home admittedly isn’t the most efficient, but, in any case, there you am, warm and dry on the living room couch while the wind wails outside. 

You could have had that all along, I guess, but then, you’d have missed out on the opportunity to find solace in the maple leaves that carpeted your route home through Ye Olde Byke Traile; to be once again impressed with the mini-wormhole that spills you out on the other side of the hill; soaking in being outside and the experience of experiencing the outside.

Friday, September 23, 2016


We live in the middle of everything: poised between the future and the past, neither here nor there, enduring in that dashed line separating birth from death, so it suits us well, as creatures in a Universe that exists ever since never and always, to experience those couple days a year when day and night effect a truce and neither prevails over the other, (specifically, of course, right in the middle.)

Tradition, such as it is, often finds us at those transitions points between the seasons, circling around flames where land meets water; amazingly, there continue to be relatively untapped routes to get there, which just goes to show that if the journey really is the destination, then you never haven’t arrived, have you?

Wikipedia tells me this: “The point where the Sun crosses the celestial equator southwards is called the first point of Libra. However, due to the precession of the equinoxes, this point is no longer in the constellation Libra, but rather in Virgo.”  But we all knew that, didn’t we?  As time goes on, the same thing that was is no longer, even if the song remains the same.

No need to mourn the changing cast of characters, though; rather, we celebrate the relentless movement of all things and hang on, brakes squealing in dissonance and harmony simultaneously.

An injured, but on-the-mend Angry Hippy rolled from his nearby lair to mark the occasion, another in-the-middle example, halfway between broken and fixed.

Or take drinking beer, too; the whole point of it characterized by what happens in the space between full and empty, see?

By the time I was making my slow and solitary way back, the Moon had risen from the east, and was perfectly half-illuminated; it edges softened by gauzy clouds, the offset semi-circle looked more like the half-and-half cookie it has inspired than our planet’s satellite itself.

Life imitates art imitating life and there we are, halfway home, still and always.

Friday, September 16, 2016


Humor is a delicate critter.  If you dissect it in order to find the funny, you inevitably kill the beast.

Take a joke (please!) like “Fancy Fred told me to bring a picture of my junk; so I took a photograph of my basement!”

As soon as you point out that, for example, he said “genitals,” not “junk” or that there was a footnote legitimizing “stuntcocking,” you’ve let the air out of the humor (assuming it wasn’t deflated already).

That’s why it’s better to actually experience the LOLs, primarily by riding your bike in a group of three dozen or so cyclists on a perfectly mild Indian Summer evening in the Pacific Northwest with an all-but-full moon so bright it casts shadows of the cranks (and of their spinning cranksets, too, hah!) as the group switchbacks up a topographically and archeologically significant lookout point and later bushwhacks over to a sentimentally and pornographically meaningful riverside all in the space of a couple hours that seem much longer with the addition of edible, quaffable, and smokeable additions.

Sooner than later, there’s someone in the tree and eventually, feet are flying over the fire and since no one loses an eye or breaks their neck, it remains all in good fun throughout.

Playing cards are played with and ogled at askance; no doubt many find their way into the cleansing flames, as well.

Seattle-based art critic Jen Graves wrote that the Tukwila hill “has been preserved for the purpose of telling you a juicy story,” called "The Epic of the Winds," which is the earliest recorded tale of the weather in Seattle, all about how the North and South wind vie with each other for meteorological dominance.

Now, that’s some serious shit, but if you ride behind a palette-sized human in the tipsy paceline, it doesn’t matter which direction it’s blowing.

Here, of course, you could dissect jokes about breaking wind, or alternately, just pedal, laughing all the way.