Friday, March 24, 2017

Prodigal

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

Iron

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

Because

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

Irrational

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

Thermal

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

Seam

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

Blaze

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

Pump

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

Both

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

Magical

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

ROmember

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

Respite

https://www.instagram.com/p/BIq53V3hDP3/
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

Wiggy

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

Soaked

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

Balanced

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

Comic

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.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Recollection

It was 20th century British philosopher Bertrand Russell, I think, who pointed out that it’s impossible to disprove the statement, “The world was created just ten seconds ago with everything just as it is.”

If you refer to, say, fossils as evidence, one simply points out that ten seconds ago, when the world was made, those fossils were put there just as they are, in all their fossil-like glory.

Same goes for memories: If I were to respond by saying, “Yes, but I remember yesterday and the day before and the day before that, so clearly the world has existed for longer than ten seconds,” the rejoinder is again, to assert that when the world was created ten seconds ago, those memories were created as well.

So, perhaps it is the case that we live in a world that is less than half a minute old, but if so, I must commend the creator for installing in my head memories of last night and for choosing today as the start date so I can effectively recall not just one, but two birthdays to celebrate so soon after inception.

Of course, we can’t prove that Monica and Gabe, like all of us, didn’t only come into existence mere moments ago, but it’s nevertheless swell to recall celebrating their “birthday” with a return to childhood pleasures like bike-riding, sight-seeing, and playground zip-line swinging. 

There weren’t a lot of miles overall, but if you convert the distance to furlongs, we can be confident that the total surpasses their combined “ages,” so count that as a win, for sure.

Additionally, it’s delightful to recollect that subsequent to the outdoor amusements, celebrants assembled for birthday Chelanigans and were rewarded with something straight out of a David Lynch movie, complete with stock characters, haunting melodies, and a birthday boy whose “mom” couldn’t possibly have been unless she was and if so, wow, cue the dancing midgets.

At least that’s how I remember it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Bookends

Someday, Nature willing, you will have a clearly-identifiable marker of something you have been or done for nineteen years.  It will, at first, be the simple fact of existence, but soon, there will be other identifiers, like residing somewhere, preferring a particular sports team, or pedaling a two-wheeler.

If you end up bearing responsibility for a member of the subsequent generation, one such marker will be the point at which they attain their legal majority and choose to cease living under your roof.  You will meet this eventuality eventually and you can reasonably expect it to color your perception of your perceptions.

The Angry Hippy noted, at the first of the evening’s two swims, that our own lives are currently palindromic on that score, as he welcomes into his house a new member the same month I have bid adieu to one who has shared my home for all this time together.

Bookends, if you will, just as last night’s ride was the mirror image of one almost exactly a year ago; same route (thanks to some skilled wayfaring), same destination, and same perfectly bruised skyline to the west along the way.

As Dr. Tittlefitz reminded me at the Lake, the 20th century philosopher, Willard Van Orman Quine, in his highly-influential essay, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” argues that the alleged bright line between what we know via experience and what we know via the process of analytic reasoning is not really so bright.

How we define the world defines how we experience it—and yet oddly, the expectation of cycle-swimming is not tantamount to its realization. 

As soon as RZA conceptualized the route, we could predict a set of outcomes—e.g, trail-riding, back-floating, beer-quaffing—but claims about those outcomes would not be true simply by definition; rather, they would have to be experienced for us to know them. 

Bookends may define possibilities; the experience in the middle, (e.g, trail-riding, back-floating, beer-quaffing), however, yields truth.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Fins

According to the New York Times, “on Wednesday, a team of researchers at the University of Chicago reported that our hands share a deep evolutionary connection not only to bat wings or horse hooves, but also to fish fins.” Using molecular markers, they found conclusive proof that human beings share a common ancestor with fish and that, ultimately, (or make that originally), we all come from the sea.

So, it’s not surprising that most of the people in the world live near coasts, nor that, by and large, humans are drawn to water, whether it be to swim, surf, boat, fish, float, or any number of other one-syllable activities.

What is unusual, however, is how enthusiastically three dozen or so cyclists can pedal across and to the eastern shore of their city’s most prominent body of fresh water in order to dunk themselves in the drink (and the Lake, as well) and, even more amazingly, do so with sufficient alacrity to arrive in time to catch the last rays of sunlight as our planet’s star sinks behind the horizon on a summer evening almost two months after the longest day of the year.

The glassy surface of the water glowed pink while pale bodies rose above the rosiness like mayonnaise mangroves in a happy human swamp. 

Feet were challenged during the rocky ingress and egress, but if you floated for as long as possible, the worst could be avoided—literally, of course, as well as figuratively.

Fireball gymnastics were assayed without success, but with plenty of LOLs; I myself found it to be an effective governor on my consumption of the whiskey to only allow myself as much as I could handle while floating on my back.

Eventually, the full moon appeared in the east and silvery shadows assembled for the ride back across the water.

Hands and feet that once were fins connected with handlebars and pedals, back from whence we came, onward to the future.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Meteoric

The annual Perseid meteor shower and your weekly Point83 bike ride actually have a lot in common.

Both, for example, are predictable in the broad sense; that is, you know when they’re coming around, every year or every week at the same time.  However, with neither can you forecast exactly when sparks will fly.  You have to keep your eyes open, gently scanning the celestial sphere and wait to be surprised by what you nevertheless have come to expect.

Both, also, are occasioned by a kind of reverse action.  The earth passing through the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle makes it more likely that bits and pieces of space dust will slam into the our planetary atmosphere and ignite; bicycles moving through darkened park trails and closed roadways increase the likelihood that folks will get lit, especially with the addition of various intoxicants and mood-lifters.

Observing a meteor is kind of a little miracle.  Usually, by the time you realize what you’re seeing, it’s gone.  You get a sort of roller-coaster feeling, an “oooh” escapes your lips, a giggling “wow,” and then it’s over.  Same thing happens as you float atop sandy paths on your bike, taillights winking in the distance and then, before you know it, you’re home.

And, finally, in each case, things really get going once the moon sets.

Of course, there are some differences.  Meteors travel at the speed of 130,000 miles per hour.  Only Fancy Fred, leading the ride away from the park, approaches that velocity. 

Also, all of the Perseid meteors radiate from the same point in the sky.  By contrast, nearly every outburst in Point83 comes from a different source—except, of course, when Derrick is along in full argle-bargle mode.

And unlike bike gang shenanigans, meteor showers occur whether you’re there to observe them or not; they’re a force of nature happening independently of human agency.

Wait.  Come to think of it, that’s another one both share in plenty.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Inconceivable

The 19th-century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that the ultimate passion of the human mind is to think the unthinkable or know the unknowable.

For him, this desire manifests itself in the essential urge to know God, that fundamentally paradoxical effort of the finite to grasp the infinite or the profane to experience the Divine.  Ultimately, for Kierkegaard, the paradox extends even further such that, in the end, the only way for human beings to actually connect with God is through His exact opposite, sin.

Weird, huh?

But you don’t have to be proto-Existentialist Scandinavian Christian theologian to see what he was talking about; you can approach that contradictory mind-state of conceiving the inconceivable on purely materialist grounds, too: just imagine the unimaginable sequence of events that had to have transpired over the course of the last 13.7 billion years for the Universe to have unfolded in a way that makes it possible for 100 or so people riding bicycles to arrive on a warm August evening at a sylvan glade of mighty conifers and—thanks to the application of highly-distilled spirits and globalized capitalism—soon find themselves (due primarily to the largesse of one beloved neon-hued instigator) hurling their bodies down a hundred-foot long sheet of polyvinyl chloride and grappling with each other in a kiddie pool filled with non-toxic biodegradable jelly.

Oh.  And thousands of glowsticks in all colors, too, turning mild-mannered software analysts into psychedelic gladiators from the planet Future.

Kierkegaard’s own mind would have blown to witness the impossible made possible: sunless rainbows, an outdoor interior, and even a lost key ring found. 

Famously, he argues that a “leap of faith” is required for us to realize the Divine; maybe.  But it sure seems like diving headfirst onto an inflatable alligator and careening down a slick plastic hill does the trick, too.

Fourteen billion years after the singularity expanded and here we are: shirtless, intoxicated, and glowing. 

It’s inconceivable.  Unimaginable.  Unthinkable.

And Divine.



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Pukesprints

I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Mogen David beverages. 

It was their sacramental concord grape wine, after all, served at Jeffrey Goldberg’s bar-mitzvah, on which I first got tipsy, as did my friend and classmate, Nicole Corregan, leading to our initial make-out session in the darkened recreation room of the B’nai Israel Synogogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania sometime in the spring of 1970.

So, I guess I’ve known all along that their products have a performance-enhancing effect, but I guess I never realized how powerful was that influence until last night when, thanks to numerous shots of multi-colored (and allegedly multi-flavored) Mogen David MD 20/20 (aka Mad Dog), a dozen or so bike racers was eventually, after four or five heats, winnowed down to three podium standees (standing, admittedly, a bit wobbly), topped by the very aero Mike Keller, who showed up just in time for the first heat—demonstrating, I guess, just how important warm-up and preparation is for an event like this.

I managed to get eliminated in the first race of the night, meaning that I only got to (had to) down one shot of the “blueberry-flavored” Tidy Bowl-colored fortified wine.  More successful racers were required to consume another round at the start and finish of subsequent heats, meaning that those stalwart souls who made it through to the finals had thrown down something on the order of sixteen or twenty ounces of what basically amounts to over-the-counter cough suppressant marketed as a party drink to college students, but which is also widely consumed by homeless alcoholics in need of maximum alcohol kick for minimum cost.

I don’t know if MD 20/20 has made it onto this summer’s Olympics’ list of banned substances; based on last night’s Pukesprints event, it should probably be prohibited if the event is competitive fun-making; nobody actually hurled (at least on my watch), but I threw up my hands in wonder and joy like mad (dog.)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Summertime

Normative judgments about the weather are inherently subjective; there’s no more actually a “nice day” than there is a best flavor of ice cream.  You may prefer a sun-drenched afternoon just as I choose strawberry Haagen Dazs in the frozen food aisle; ask someone else, though, and they’ll take a steady all-day drizzle even as you reach for the Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.

That said, it would be hard to argue that the weather last night for the beloved bike gang’s annual ride into the water wasn’t perfect: an alleged 83 degrees Fahrenheit, not a cloud in the sky, snow-capped mountains visible to the south and the north and nary a breeze to shiver the timbers of dripping wet bodies in the gathering dusk.  “Everybody,” I’ve been known to claim, “likes deviled eggs and Michael Jackson;” I think we can safely add to that list late July evenings on which meteorological summer finally arrives in the Pacific Northwest, the first really hot day of the season after our typical Juneuary and Julyctober.

In our hearts of hearts, we are all, in summertime, adolescent boys and girls, embracing those long school-free days with nothing else do to than sneak a beer from Dad’s fridge and pedal off somewhere to share it with our friends.  The intoxication that ensues is not so much from alcohol as it is the heady mix of forbidden fruit and mutual mischievousness; all it takes to recreate that in adulthood is half a hundred bicyclists, many a half-rack of chilly brew, and a wooden ramp at the end of a T-shaped dock off of which one after another intrepid rider can hurl him or herself astride a BMX bike covered with pool noodles for flotation and padding.

As is my usual wont, I eschewed the jump in favor of back-floating and sky-gazing; nevertheless, my heart leapt each time a rider went airborne, every grinning splashdown made me warm all over, just like summertime.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Toro

Over the years, our beloved Cascade Bike Club has earned the affectionate regard of numerous branches of the local civic authorities.  

We’ve engaged in half a dozen or so friendly conversations with the Seattle Police Department; club members have traded tips on water safety with the University of Washington security forces; Seattle Fire Department has kindly shared with us perspectives on outdoor grilling; Bainbridge Island’s Finest has offered guidance on picnicking under the trees in their neighborhood; the Washington State Patrol has shown a deep interest in combined efforts around bicycle route planning; at least one city park rent-a-cop has joined in the evening’s festivities around a fire; and, of course, Puget Sound Ferry captains have graciously consented to provide advice on proper boating attire en route.

Never before, however, (at least in my experience), has the group enjoyed the privilege of being greeted by the Harbor Patrol, who showed their regard by illuminating the night, thereby enabling a more efficient clean-up and departure for bulls, matador, and runners alike.

The annual encierro successfully achieved escape velocity, which just goes to show that, even in a world where tragedies abound, joy can still be made manifest with the help of two-wheelers, silly costumes, and ample fermented or distilled beverages. 

While nerds with smartphones looked to their handheld devices for fun and games in the virtual world, riders of bikes found delight in a full-throttled four-dimensional existence simply by dressing up, pedaling en masse, singing songs that had little, if anything, to do with an event being celebrated, and, in my case, screaming “Yay” as loudly as possible each time the spirit inevitably moved one to do so.

Although nobody was gored, there was at least one unfortunate human/animal encounter that drew bodily fluid; one can only hope that, as noted taurophile Papa Hemingway put it in A Farewell to Arms, the ‘blood coagulates beautifully.”

And appropriately enough, bulls ended the evening at a Zoo, toro, toro, olé.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Heuristic

In ten years and some three hundred or so rides with Point83, I really haven’t learned all that much.  I still listen to Derrick from time to time; I’m still prone to follow Ben up a mountain; and heaven knows, I still always eat the whole cookie.

But this I do know: it’s a mistake to base your decision not to ride on the weather, especially on the weather prior to meet-up, and most especially on pre-ride weather forecasts on the internet.

Case in point: I wore my rain gear to Westlake and got reasonably soaked coming down Jackson circa eighteen hundred and thirty hours, but by the time, thirty minutes  later, I was wandering around the park and being fairly impressed by the size of the rally and march peacefully (thank God) protesting the killings of Black men by White police officers, the rain had stopped, never to return for the rest of the night. 

Had I decided (as I almost did) not to ride just because it was a little icky early in the evening or due to the fact that weather.org called for showers all night long, I would have missed out on a number of reasonably enjoyable activities, including drinking beer and kibitzing as a simple tire change turned into a tutorial on disc brakes and further evidence in support of my decision to stick to cantilevers; drinking beer and ruminating on the origin of the phrase “All hat, no cattle,” as a dozen or so bike riders relaxed beneath our city’s largest example of cowboy headgear or looked like Hallmark card photos back-dropped by flowering artichoke plants and giant sunflowers ; drinking beer and taking Rza’s suggestion that a bike club ought to ride bikes to heart, thereby spinning, at water level, all the way crosstown to the karaoke joint for a nightcap.

And one final lesson confirmed on the misty ride home: being drunk is still not a mechanical, cantilevers rule.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Onomatopoeia

I’m not particularly proud to be an American; (aside from being, on the contrary, rather ashamed of many of our country’s policies, practices, and dominant attitudes, I think there’s something weird about taking pride in a condition that’s simply an accident of birth), but I am, admittedly, entirely amazed to live in a place and at a time where so astonishing a confluence of factors can come together with a such a bang—not to mention a pop, sizzle, woosh, crackle and ka-boom, as well.

Ironically, something so stereotypically American is really all about the Chinese; if not for the invention of gunpowder during the 9th century Tang dynasty; if not for all those factories in Liuyang, Hunan Province, the world’s capital of fireworks; if not for bicycle framemakers, mostly in Taiwan, it never could have happened that some four dozen people living in the United States, whose descendants, by and large (but not exclusively) emigrated from Great Britain and Continental Europe (including, in my case, the Ukraine) would be able to board a boat constructed in the Seattle area bound for an island named for an English commodore, to pedal through the wooded trails and over a bridge, ending up finally, at a Coast Salish Indian reservation in order for Native American vendors to sell Asian-made fireworks to be launched into the Pacific Northwest night on the eve, more or less, of our country’s traditional birthday, commemorating an event that took place an entire continent away, almost 250 years ago.

Of course, it also required the wayfaring expertise of Fancy Fred, who led us down (and up) those aforementioned trails with only an occasional backtracking and slow-motion endo; it’s hard to get completely lost on an island, but we did our best, although I was reminded that if you follow the path, you’ll eventually arrive, even if it’s by a different route.

Ultimately, no fingers blown off, no eyes put out, no wildfires started; success.  Boom!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Conjugal

With a perspective informed by almost three decades of connubial bliss, I’m well aware that married people tend to grow alike over the years; what I didn’t realize until last night is that couples who are merely betrothed may also develop similar proclivities.

Case in point: the usually mild-mannered bride-to-be channeling her inner fiancé with a somewhat impatient driver who took umbrage to all those bikes in the way out of downtown.  While it was calmly shouted through the driver’s side window that the piece of road in question was actually a “Bus Only,” lane, tempers flared and an impromptu teaching moment ensued complete with empty threats and handclaps for effect.  Had the groom himself been there to bear witness, I’m quite sure a tear or two of pride would have glistened in his loving eyes.

Now, while that metaphorical storm blew over without incident, the same can’t be said for the literal squall that rose up soon after.  One expects a summer downpour to be brief, but surprise!  Every time you thought it was ending, another wave of water arrived.

We did learn, however, that a trellis is not a shelter, although it does sort of feel drier when there’s wood overhead.  Also: a sidewalk qualifies as higher ground when a parking lot is flooded, but once your socks are soaked, you may as well ride through the river anyway.

The evening’s returning Nurse of Honor opted for the firepit he’d never seen rather than the covered park shelter but given the fire-making skills of resident hardcore boy scouts, it all worked out fine: eventually, the flames were hot enough to evaporate the deluge if you stood close and the nearby foliage dense enough to intercept most of the downpour; the challenge was choosing between the two.

“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain,” sang Seventies folk-rocker and sometimes-crazy person, James Taylor; same as last night’s ride, the wet and the hot wedded and becoming as one.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Longest

At first, it’s just a tiny campfire, barely staying lit against the night breeze; but soon, enough fuel has been added and sufficient accelerant applied, that people’s eyebrows are being singed and any sprinkles of rain descending evaporate before they can even hit ground.

And this goes not only metaphorically for Point83 as a temporal phenomenon, but also, literally, for the little beach fire that Lieutenant Dan coaxed, eventually with the help of many a driftwood log dragger, into a conflagration that somehow managed not to attract the attention of the local authorities (at least during my tenure) but also, more pertinently, succeeded in lighting up a night that would be the shortest for any Thursday this year.

How appropriate, therefore, that the ride itself was likely the longest of 2016, and did, I believe, add a new southwest corner to the club’s bounding box.

A giant bottle of tequila provided much of the inspiration for the southward trek and magically disappeared back into the pack just at the moment when Burien’s finest cruised by our roadside re-group, one of several that did a remarkable job of keeping together what a smiling youngster counted as 56 bikes in a line of which, at that moment, I brought up the rear.

But it was also probably the wealth of lumens we all get to ingest this time of year in Seattle, when a single five-hour energy shot is all it takes to get you through the set and rise of nautical twilight.  It’s no wonder folks are so willing to be intrepid; night’s not so scary when it only dark for a handful of hours.

Of course, being able to catch the light rail for much of the way home doesn’t hurt, either, but that’s legit when you have to navigate the road under the airport runway to locate the station.

Those jets passing directly overhead are impressive on take-off; but it takes a bike to really fly.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Re-Remembering

As Buffy the Vampire Slayer made so abundantly clear, high school is hell, so it’s weird in a way that any of us should remember those four long years of our lives with any kind of affection; and yet, somehow, many of us do.

The tedious hours spent slogging through Trigonometry class or the many moments of sheer terror as yet another young hoodlum cornered you outside in the smoking area are forgotten and only the good stuff remains, like reading Mao Tse-Tung in Political Philosophy class or making out with your new crush in the back seat of the bus on the way home from a Friday night Ski Club ski trip.

And, of course, the same goes for Prom, which, with each passing year, grows slightly more golden in memory, so that, after a decade or two (or in my case, four), the event assumes a place in our consciousness reserved for the most pleasant of remembrances: our first sexual encounter, first skinny dip, first blackout drunk—(all of which, coincidentally, may have happened at Prom.)

Fortunately, this process of revisionist personal history is accelerated by events that color the past with a much-improved present. 

So, for instance, instead of being stuck with the recollection of driving your family’s Ford Maverick to the Central Catholic High School gym, you can substitute the memory of sixty spiffily-dressed cyclists pedaling crosstown under pink and blue skies to a lakeside shelter where much gabbing, shimmying, and quaffing takes place.  You get to paint over awkward fumblings to Doobie Brothers’ songs with an entire concrete dance floor getting low to Lil’ Jon.  And painful reminiscences of conversations about home room and summer jobs are subsumed by mental pictures of circling the Jenga fire and engaging in discourse on aesthetics, technology, and the meaning of life, (as well as where to find another beer.)

And happily, all is well that ended well—at least that’s how I’ll remember it now.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Yes

In his masterpiece The Varieties of Religious Experience, American Pragmatist philosopher William James writes: “Sobriety diminishes, discriminates and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes. It is in fact the great exciter of the Yes function in man.”

Combine that with bicycling and you’ve got a double-yes; add a bonfire on an abandoned highway somewhere deep within the industrial outskirts of a mid-sized metropolis, throw in half a hundred featherless bipeds including a handful just visiting for fun, stir with a mild spring night on which the predicted rain showers never developed, and it’s like, “Yes, yes, yes, yes yes!”  Really.  Yes.

Even the West Seattle Low-Level drawbridge operators gave their assent to the proceedings, waiting, contrary to their traditional wont, until the entire group crossed over before closing the gates to open the span for a passing barge.  This made for an especially festive re-group at the usual spot and was probably part of the reason why there was a minimum of grumbling even though the subsequent route along the Duwamish included an abrupt about-face due to a loop that didn’t.

The gas station mini-mart operator was nervous about his bathroom key but still managed to survive our massive provisioning which included three, count ‘em, three containers of Girl Scout water, all of which, not surprisingly, were used (and misused) up before the night was out.

No one died or fell over on the tricky ascent along and across the scary highway and only one BMW driver decided to be more annoyed than he needed to be.

There’s something especially gratifying about sourcing one’s fuel at the site and the recent relatively dry weather made that relatively easy—aided, of course, by the aforementioned petroleum-based accelerant.

Fred said yeah to boiling a beer can or two of the stuff; a junked shopping cart consented to a moment of flaming glory; and most agreed that leaving early was slower than staying late; yes, yes, yes indeed.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Eleven

You could either be warm or dry at the campground festivities, but not both, as the drizzle never really let up, so you had to decide whether to array around the small but persistent campfire, or huddle under shelter near the picnic tables groaning with foodstuffs and strangely-flavored potato chips.

But either, actually, was just fine, as was, in fact, the entire Ben Country Eleven (Feel the Ben) ride from Seattle’s Pioneer Square to North Bend’s Middle Fork Campground, an excursion that featured a stunning amount of dirt, gravel, and wood-chip cycling over its half a hundred-plus miles.

There were more riders than years in the guest of honor’s life and somehow, all of them made it the whole way, even those who started out missing a crank arm or ended up needing a bike shop to finalize a repair.

Over the course of the eight hours it took the group to travel the five-hour route, many a height was scaled and plenty a sock was soaked.  A pig farmer was scared by something going bang, but his animals seemed none the worse for wear.  Private property was probably trespassed briefly, but no one got in any trouble not of their own making.

The final six or seven miles to the campground were particularly spectacular, alternating between washed out washboard and fresh, perfectly smooth tarmac; hardly a single automobile passed by, so you could fearlessly drink in all the scenery you wanted while chatting with fellow riders about tree names, slugs mating with snails, and books to one day be read.

Thanks to Mother Nature and the Snoqualmie River’s appetite for flooding its banks, we had the campground pretty much to ourselves, proving all the room necessary for plenty of weirdness and an adequate amount of Angry Hippy commemorating.  Surprisingly, no one clambered up into the rafters, but let that be no indicating that things did not, ultimately, go to eleven. 

That they certainly did.  And more.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Via

When you get to do something you've never done that you've long wanted to and will probably never get to do again, you don't need 327 words to remember it; a single (compound) sentence is plenty.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Loops

I’ll bet if you plotted the route as a line on a map it would tie up like a ribbon on a birthday gift, marking the lovely lagniappe that was last night’s ride, a southerly meander along Seattle’s original waterway highlighted by a Whack-A-Mole freeway viewing during which, fortunately, no moles were whacked.

Even without Fancy Fred leading the way, we were able to split the group within two blocks of leaving Westlake, but happily, there was reunion at the car wash minimart which featured, to my cannabis-induced consternation and indecisiveness, way more different types of Reese’s Peanut Butter snacks than is parseable by a mind under the influence of such-and-such and so-and-so.

I had originally predicted that our riverside jaunt was headed all the way to the bottom of the lake, but instead, we eschewed the full riparian version for a curlicue back around the dreaded Family “Fun” Center and a mass of pitch pedaling not particularly endorsed by a lone spectator in a speeding pickup truck.

If you’ve never stood on a platform of dirt with your head poking out between four lanes of freeway—to have cars and trucks blowing by your ears at eye level—you’re surely missing out on something and not just the opportunity to ingest mass quantities of grit traveling sixty miles an hour. 

Consider it a new perspective on automobile culture; viewing vehicles from below reveals their soft underbellies; they’re like careless dragons lounging in their caves on mounds of bejeweled baubles, and you feel a renewed compassion for those poor drivers strapped in metal cages missing out on the opportunity to glide alongside Old Man River for mile upon looping mile on a cool but dry spring evening to the tune of spinning cranks, puttering chains, and beer cans being opened and chugged.

He, like we, just keeps flowing, that Old Man River: mile after mile, week after week, Thursday night after Thursday night, just keeps flowing along.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Purple

There is comfort to be found in marking the passage of a beloved contemporary music and pop-culture icon by pedaling in a group of three or four dozen cyclists behind the Music Bike blasting the greatest hits from their catalogue; it worked for Bowie a couple months ago, and it worked last night for Prince, may he rest in peace.

I usually prefer to give Joby’s bicycle-mounted audio system about a half block berth in order to keep the flesh on my face from melting, but with selections from his Royal Purpleness on the playlist, I was perfectly happy with being subjected to the sonic assault.

It’s seventeen years after the name of the song, “1999,” which, according to the internet, came out seventeen years before the eponymous date, which seems appropriate somehow, a kind of balance, if you will, between the future and the past—a state of affairs even more apt given that this was a ride that featured, literally (in the literal sense) two generations Point83 riders.

The route to our sylvan discotheque was amusing and the outdoor club itself large enough to house numerous conversations and observations as well as a vertical fire on a night unseasonably warm enough to hardly really need one.

The only ding in an otherwise shiny full moon evening was when Mr. Oblivious and Ms. Impatient collaborated on handing out a door prize to Fast Zach resulting in an impressively theatrical crash and an unfortunately unfortunate shoulder injury; best wishes for a speedy recovery and don’t hesitate to lawyer up if satisfaction does not appear forthcoming.

Having sampled one of the larger of the remaining shortbreads from the “It’s All Downhill From Here (Except When It Isn’t) Time Trial” earlier in the evening, I found myself, (mostly to my satisfaction) in the Land Beyond Words for much of the time.

All the better to listen, anyway; I swear you could hear, in the space between songs, the doves cry.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Concentric

photo by Stephen
I recall at least three “dromes” along the way: the Ghetto, of course, but also two more pint-sized circles at different spots near the top of uphill.

And then, I guess, a fourth, too, because, after all, when you think about it, isn’t the Queen Anne summit a kind of ring, as well?  (Albeit one that only appears as such when you circumnavigate it, a pedaling Magellan of sorts, with the ancillary advantage of not being eviscerated by the natives, a fate that would be truly weird among the dog-walkers and baby-joggers of Seattle’s crown jewel, right?)

It’s always a pleasure to be escorted through a neighborhood by someone who lives there—a native, if you will; that’s when you discover pocket parks you’ve never been in before, vistas you’ve overlooked, and routes you’ve yet to have ridden over—and walked up as the case may be.

Shahan had an idea, starting with ping pong in the futuristic wasteland of SLU and did his best Fancy Fred imitation, leading us on hike-a-bike adventures straight out of the F.F. playbook.  There was some minor grumbling on the superfluous uphills, but after a stint at the home of our fair city’s busiest bartender, including a juggernaut of lovingly prepared tequila shots courtesy of yet another Aries, it was high time to wait no more for raw dog in the butt and a thrilling descent to Interbay through the west side woods via sheer cliffs and multiple roots.

During the course of the evening, both a Frisbee and a cop were rescued from various blackberry brambles, both, as it turned out, requiring at least three helpers to extract the relevant item.  Neither, however, seemed particularly worse for wear after spinning free from what we used to call in Pittsburgh, “jagger bushes.”

Which just goes to show, if you go round in circles enough, you’ll eventually return to where you started, the end, as it were, a beginning all over again.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Sensor

I learned on the internetz that sensor size is important in digital photography because it significantly affects image quality. I’m told if you have two cameras with the same pixel count, but one has a physically larger sensor than the other, the one with the larger sensor will usually produce better quality images. 

I guess I would understand the difference between sensor size and pixel count as something like scope versus detail: a bigger sensor lets you capture more light and therefore expand the horizon; more pixels allows for greater focus, thereby affording you the opportunity for improved clarity.

While this may not accurately reflect the ways cameras work, I nevertheless take it as an apt metaphor for Point83, which I would say is way more about the sensor than the pixels.

Thursday nights out on two wheels afford you the opportunity for opening your eyes really wide and taking it all in, even if, ultimately, in the end, some—if not most—of the details are lost.

I arrived at the waterside fairly late in the proceedings, after a long ride from the top of the lake to the edge of the Sound.  Some cellular wayfaring advice from Joeball, combined with a bit of dead reckoning on my part and then a serendipitous meet-up with a bipedaling (as opposed to simply pedaling) Meg-Ha enabled me to locate the assembled assembled around the teeter-tottering driftwood fire on a new moon night with a spring tide down low revealing thousands of tiny little translucent crabs scuttling out from under rocks and deeper into the sand.

A couple of beers and enough conversation ensued to convince the Angry Hippy that I’d finally begun acting my age as a grumpy curmudgeon, but that was only momentary, when it was time to clean up the mess and head back uphill, cursing a blue streak, to ease the pain of climbing.

I’m leaving out details, of course; my sensors, though, captured it all.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Nursed

When, at the lakeside pre-funk, already made charming by cold beers and warm sunshine, a guy glides to the dock on a stand-up paddleboard with what at first appears to be a small dog behind him but which, upon further investigation, turns out to be a pet chicken, (that being, as tehSchkott pointed out, so much better in every way), you can reliably conclude that the evening already counts as a success. 

From there on out, you’re playing with house money so to speak.

And when the ride starts by going to Harborview, except that, for a change, not because somebody needs to be patched up or put back together, but rather, simply to enjoy a view that features silhouette mountains, pink cotton candy clouds, and the occasional “M”-shaped seagull circling lazily on the horizon, you know you’ve hit the jackpot.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t even necessary to make a U-turn back to the hospital after bombing down the Hipster Highway and skidding over gravel and fist-sized rocks through the Jungle trail; everyone emerged relatively unscathed, if somewhat muddied in certain cases.

As we waited beneath the highway for the straggling and cautious to arrive, I said to Fred, “Well, that was fun;” and he replied, “Yes, and it’s going to get funner!” and lo and behold, he was right, especially if your idea of fun is riding straight up the side West Seattle in order to twist and turn through the woods all the way down to the beach.

The barbecue grill fire was plenty big enough to warm the assembled on such a mild spring evening and even if it launched an ember that burned a washer-sized hole in the shoulder of a particularly-beloved old shirt, you happily chalk it up to the price of admission.

After all, that’s the bitter that makes the sweetness sweeter, like how it’s sad your favorite Nurse is leaving town; but how happy is a ride commemorating the ensuing departure.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ovum

Easter is surely the most confusing holiday when it comes to celebration.

You’ve got good old Peter Cottontail, hoppin’ down the bunny trail, carrying a basket of eggs, which is a very strange bit of cargo for a mammal, especially a male one.

And then, usually, in the eggs are chocolate pellets, something that—to anyone who has ever had a bunny and was responsible for cleaning the hutch—is not very appetizing in connection with a rabbit.  Or else, there are jellybeans which don’t make any sense, since why would Cottontail be planting sugary legumes; aren’t carrots his species’ favorite delicacy?  Or Peeps, which are even weirder, being a marshmallow simulacrum of the mid-20th century practice of selling pink and powder-blue dyed baby chickens for the ephemeral entertainment of suburban toddlers and, more often than not, the family dog.

Of course, all this pales in comparison to the peculiarity of the “official” story, the one where the supposedly immaculately-conceived alleged son of God is brutally sacrificed by crucifixion, buried, and then, three days later, comes back from the dead to absolve the faithful of their sins and let the rest of us know that his Dad will judge the world severely in His righteousness.

But you know what?  It all becomes clear when your ride your bike with fifty or so other cyclists to a city park by a lake at twilight and are met there by folks bedecked in bunny ears and cottontails who have kindly hidden plastic eggs filled with treats, adult and otherwise, on the rolling lawn leading to the water. 

And as you compare the shouts and murmurs of the happy human revelers to the guttural song of thousands of randy amphibians in the nearby brush, you come to understand how it all fits together: the rabbits, the eggs, the jellybeans, immaculate conception, the great mystery of creation and resurrection, and even, O Miracle of Miracles, the Peeps, so help me God.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Emerald

Pretty much everyone I pinched for violating the “wearing of the green,” requirement revealed that they were actually sporting verdant hues somewhere, even if only on their socks, underwear, or at the very least, in glitter on their eyebrows and foreheads, courtesy of one or more happy leprechauns sprinkling it around.

Which just goes to show that appearances can be deceiving and leave the best parts unseen at first, an apt metaphor, I think, for many a Thursday night ride, especially the first of the year to feature a meetup before dark—which may have been part of the reason, in addition to the Hibernian holiday—for such a good turnout on an evening that still, technically, qualified as being in winter.

St. Patrick’s Day, like New Year’s Eve and Cinquo de Mayo, is, to most seasoned tipplers, a kind of amateur night, so it was nice to see so many professionals in the art of boozing out on two wheels. 

The music bike blasted an appropriately-themed repertoire of jigs and reels and I realized, after a time, that Irish music eventually sounds surprisingly like Country, which I suppose make sense, given how many of those who fled the Potato Famine back in the 1800s ended up in the American Heartland planting tubers, drinking whiskey, and doing a two-step to fiddle and pipe around the fire.

Folks celebrating the holiday at various watering holes around town applauded as we rolled loudly past; I can’t say for sure whether any pink hearts, orange stars, yellow moons, or green clovers trailed in our wake, but I am confident that wherever we went was magically delicious, especially for those of us engaged in not only the wearing of, but in the smoking of the green, as well.

In How the Irish Saved Civilization, historian Thomas Cahill argues that Ireland played a critical role in preserving Western civilization; cool; I like how it helps with our inevitable decline, as well.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Gumption

“There are no wrong ways, only long ways,” announced Fancy Fred as we exited the woods to the bluff overlooking Puget Sound, a bit of poetry that many of those within earshot found remarkable enough to remark upon it.

Nevertheless, it occasioned another 180 degree turn, one of several undertaken during the course of the evening, each of which transformed a way that, while not wronger than another, would have been longer than the other eventually pursued.

Which just goes to show that perseverance pays off in many ways, and not just for the most obvious example of fire-building. 

It warmed the cockles of my heart (not as did the fire itself, the heart of my cockles, you sickos!) to see that after a failed attempt to ignite damp brush with the new improved technology, actual Eagle Scouts at hand were willing to tear the whole thing apart and do it over the right way, with twigs, moss, and human huffing and puffing.

Less committed souls might have just given up and been forced to stand around the in the cold, but fortunately, there are those among us who have that quality which the Angry Hippy said he believes is sorely lacking among most of the population these days: gumption—that old-fashioned stick-to-it-ivness that made this country great, or at least, for example, enabled one-time bike mechanics like Orville and Wilbur Wright to persevere in the workshop until they figured out how to get their heavier-than-air craft aloft.

It’s the same gumption that keeps riders plunging forward into the underbrush even on a tandem with inadequate lighting or which ensures that all the bottles of everything will be finished before departure or that eleven-plus years into this nonsense, the nonsense carries on, still finding improvements: like doing the bulk of the off-road before the fire so that nearly everyone enjoys the promised trails. 

“There are no wrong ways, only long ways;” clearly, the longer and wronger, the better.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Battered

It counts as success if you wake in the morning on the downstairs couch, your glasses nowhere to be seen, with a sore wrist and pain in your quadriceps that must have been occasioned by some sort of impact you can’t quite recall.

What you do remember, however, is how lucky we were to have a bit of drizzle that encouraged the assembled to congregate under cover, and while there wasn’t a fire, you could, by standing close to the makeshift kitchen, be plenty warmed by the steam rising from a phalanx of irons, at least one of which made spider designs on the outcomes, the others content to merely produce warm pastries perfect for the application of butter, jam, Nutella, syrup, whipped cream, or nothing at all.

After eleven years, you can almost take this shit for granted, but that would be a mistake; I’m sure if the space aliens landed atop the covered freeway, they wouldn’t believe their multiple eyes, but the report back to Alpha Centuri would be accurate: a hundred or so homo sapiens on two wheels arriving at a spot that still doesn’t fail to deliver.

Electricity is a naturally-occurring phenomenon; you just have to direct it.  Picture Old Ben Franklin out in the storm with hit kite and key: I’m sure he never could have envisioned this sort of application of his discovery, but I’m also positive he would have adored it.  Early to bed and early to rise may make someone healthy, wealthy, and wise; however, in doing so, they would miss the opportunity to stand on a picnic table and see patterned pancakes make like Frisbees across the crowded shelter to the delight of many a butter-fingered reveler surprised by deliciousness saucering their way.

We should all thank our lucky stars that technology, combined with competence and a unique set of skills makes such events possible; a single waffle would be plenty; a decade-plus of them is pure astonishment.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Chimney


They can brick up our flues, but they can’t extinguish our fire!

Even though the choice was, for much of the evening, between being chilled or smoked, you still had to enjoy the options, especially when, for some of the time, the drizzle let up and you could stand outside, under the crepuscular heavens, and enjoy the view of bearded and unbearded alike mingling in the roaster while clouds of unburned carbon mushroomed over the eaves.

This was preceded by a conga-line through the yacht haven and the more efficient, but much warmer route alongside the underside of I-5; plastic was peeled off at every intersection and for a time it seemed that sleeveless t-shirt weather had arrived, along with the emerging crocuses, already in February.

The grocery stop allowed metabolisms to return to baseline and it became clear that, in spite of Punxatawney Phil’s prediction last week, winter was still here to stay for a bit longer—not that it matters, just as long as you’ve got a place to dry your gloves before setting out again.

A cup of boiling Boy Scout water provided a momentary thrill, one which neither singed off any eyebrows nor caught the park shelter on fire, in spite of the best efforts of the organizers.

Our descent upon the sylvan grove apparently caused a few secret sweethearts to exit the park with great alacrity; nevertheless, we brought out own brand of Valentine’s Day spirit to the woodland by sharing bike love mixed with alcohol affection to all within reach.

Sure, there were those moments when an overaggressive driver needed to be schooled in how to embrace the reality of several dozen cyclists crossing in front of his field of vision or when a stumbling stumblebum required a reminder not to be rude, but overall, it was mostly a lovefest of sorts, the kind that is ignited only by bicycles combined, chimney or no chimney, where there’s smoke, there is fire.
 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Reunited

It wasn’t exactly a mountain, so the standard Rule 54 admonition didn’t technically apply, but the route of the Hill People following the Angry Hippy up the south side of Queen Anne was way steeper (and incrementally slower) than the one taken by cooler heads, but it wasn’t, as Stephen pointed out, more scenic which begets (but doesn’t “beg,” my friends) the question, “What is scenic?”

Surely, the view was more expansive, especially on that bluff overlooking Elliot Bay and Magnolia but it’s hard, I think, to fully establish the claim that one view has more scenery in it than another.  (Unless, of course, you experience it, which frankly, we all did before the evening was through, most clearly in the park by the fire, but come to think of it, all the way from start to finish, notably through the woods, both directions, switchbacks up and down.)

It was heartwarming to reunite in Ballard on the way, the Up-Group and the Down-Group reconnecting like the Ida and Pingala channels of the breath to reveal the Sushuma nadi; if that don’t activate the Kundalini serpent power, I don’t know what does.  Suffice it to say the whole is greater than the sum of its parts which, while mathematically impossible, happens with great regularity on Thursday nights in these parts.

I finally got a good explanation of why it might be worse to burn the plastic covering store-bought firewood than it is to liberally douse the conflagration in bottle after bottle of Boy Scout water, but honestly, I’m not sure it’s necessary all the time to be as fully responsible as one can be. 

For well over a decade, I’ve believed that getting to your destination via bicycle earns you a little leeway in the environmental responsibility department and, although I realize, of course, how self-serving that judgment is, I maintain that it’s reasonable.

As long as you treat the planet no worse than your liver; you're good.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Generation

It goes without saying that we are all One; everything is everything and it isn’t; all the basic claims of the mystical traditions are true, but so what?  What difference does it make in a world where people harm each other over trivial disagreements?

At the very least, it makes you appreciate everything just a little more, even if it makes you appreciate one thing most of all, but that’s harmless, too, just so long as you put your feet on the ground when doing so.

On a night you didn’t need your raingear for the first time in days, the ground was amusingly marsh-like; I found it hard to remember to watch where I stepped, but was glad for the opportunity to do so without getting soaked to the skin.

We talked of generosity and got to experience it; Joby pointed out that twenty dollars of mirth is money well spent and you can’t argue with success, although, of course, why would you?

Kevin Kevin asked me “What is the most beautiful thing you’ve seen this year?” and, while I haven’t witnessed anyone propose marriage to anyone else, I’d submit last night as a candidate.  It began for me with a vertical slice of rainbow to the west as I was leaving school and continued all along the lake, south then north before the evening was done.

The unfamiliar direction along a familiar route reminds you to notice all the beauty that is usually at your back; you also get to raise your awareness of the terrain.  It’s surprising how much shorter downhills are than uphills; nevertheless, they both benefit visually from bike lights snaking through their contrasting switchbacks and a majestic crossing of MLK to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”

When you lean against a tree, plenty more is possible; when you get there by bicycle, even more than that.

There is only the present if you can manage to be in the present; time disappears when you hold onto your breath and ride.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Combustion


Being born, as is our leading pyromaniac, with my Sun in Aries, I share that Cardinal Fire Sign attitude when it comes to burning shit up: hotter, faster, bigger, yes, of course.

But there’s something to said for a slow—or least slower—burn, especially when it enables you to keep burning all the way down.

Last year we were shown a counterexample to the well-worn phrase “too big to fail,” as shared aspirations were so large that success was not an option.  This year, by contrast, by setting our sights lower, we were actually able to rise higher, (and by “we” I mean the flames, which lit up the night sky and illuminated loopy grins all around the cheery conflagration, and the firepit, as well—cue rimshot.)

Sure, there was that charming gut-tingling moment where it really seemed like the hook-and-ladder truck was giving us an escort, but that just added to the excitement and made the eventual carbon release that much sweeter.  Plus, it’s nice to know that were one ever really able to ignite sand, our city’s first responders would be on the job.

What’s amazing, and should never be lost against the backdrop of several story-high examples of chemical combustion, is how impressive are the remains: coals easily hot enough to melt aluminum and with enough radiance to warm dozens lit similarly from the inside by the eponymous juice of choice.

Vulcan to the Romans, Hephaestus to the Greeks, Agni in the Vedic tradition, and the internet tells me there’s many more I’ve never even heard of.  Point being: pretty much every culture has some sort of fire god it worships; and it’s easy enough to see why.  Nothing brings human beings together like the sacred combination of heat, oxygen, and fuel—and it’s even better when you throw in bikes, alcohol, and music.

So thanks, Fire God, in every form you take, especially our local deity, attired in silver with snorkel, as well.