Monthly Archives: July 2004

Birthdays done, Christmas shopping complete

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We’re through the annual July birthday parade — 3 days (at least) of celebrations for Rebekah (not counting the day in June when she celebrated at school), one for Lee. By the way, cheesecake beats cake like rock smashes scissors! I’m a birthday planning genius! I even remembered to send my old roommate a birthday greeting before his birthday for once. Now if I’d just had the presence of mind to make up the CD I’d thought about making him. Perhaps soon.

Tonight, did most of the Christmas shopping. Found a sidewalk chalk spirograph thingy for my niece (someone gave one to Rebekah last week, and it seemed like a gift that would rock your world if you spent a lot of time drawing on the driveway with chalk. And we do), and for us, I ordered . . . drum roll please . . . season passes to Mount Snow. They were insanely discounted, not much more than passes to our little local hill would have been. Compared them to Gore, which is the same distance in a different direction, and Snow still came up a winner. Plus, it’s an insanely great mountain. Had to do it. Now I don’t have to think about it all winter, we can just pick up and go skiing. So, new rule: NO BROKEN BONES BETWEEN NOW AND SKI SEASON!

Camping this weekend with friends. Take five screaming little girls, add s’mores and stir. Better make sure I’ve got plenty of wiffleballs and frisbees. Taking my bike into the shop tomorrow to replace that troublesome headset, so I’ll be bike-free this weekend, but that means I won’t have to worry about it when we go out on a longer vacation in a couple of weeks.

What on-line CD store rocks? CDBaby rocks. They’ve got an attitude and a very indie selection. I didn’t even know there were new Paperboys CDs — they had them, and packed in a sampler disc with my order, which got here ridiculously quickly. Only got to hear a little of them tonight, but what I heard sounded great.

I’m thinking of recording a depressing, lugubrious, droning version of “Brown-Eyed Girl” under the name Van Morrissey. Whaddaya think?

Energy Level Zero

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I’m either sick or exhausted, not sure which. I feel all right, but there is absolutely nothing going on in my muscles. Had an aggressive but not crazy physical weekend. Saturday we all went out to the bike path behind Schenectady County Community College (hey! Second Chance! Howzabout a port-o-let? Would it kill ya?) and rode out to Lock 8 and a bit beyond. Bek’s first big ride since her arm was in a cast, and she did just fine. These girls grow so fast, their seatposts can’t keep up with them. I bought them good bikes last year, and they’ll need new ones next year. Hannah and I rode across the bridge to Jumpin’ Jack’s, the more-popular-than-ever drive-in restaurant at the foot of the Western Gateway Bridge. That’s one little corner of the world where very little has changed in fifty years (including the pavement on Schonowe Avenue). Other than the expansion of Freedom Park (it was a Bicentennial thing, you wouldn’t understand) and an official boat landing therein, it’s all the same as when I was growing up: Jack’s, the Little League stadium, tennis courts (though they were full on Saturday – is there some tennis craze going on?), the little Scotia library.

Man, am I off-topic. So, did about 13k with Lee and the girls, and then they drove home and I biked home, another 55k over some of the worst pavement on earth. I mostly avoided the bike path because it’s in perfectly awful shape and full of dogs on leashes, but that avoidance took me along Boght Road in Cohoes, where appears to have been paved by accident, with giant asphalt droppings falling from the sky. It’s a mess, and a downhill mess at that. I was happy to get to the bottom of it with my teeth intact. Then I had to use the Albany bike path because Route 32 is still a torn-up ugly mess, but I regretted it as every broken stretch of pavement sent a jarring pain to my neck. I thought they were supposed to repave that thing (and widen it) this year, but I haven’t seen any sign of work since spring, when there was some surveying going on.

Then, Sunday, back to Jack’s and the new Scotia Landing, where we canoed around Isle of the Oneidas to avoid the waterskiing team and then slipped up the channel I grew up on (in). There was a nasty algae bloom in progress, which apparently is happening all over, and we didn’t see any turtles, but we chased some herons, kingfishers and a pileated woodpecker, and overhead (WAY overhead) was an eagle. Beautiful day, long portage from the parking lot to the landing. Then we ended the day with the family party for Rebekah’s 8th. By the time it was all over, we barely had the energy to watch Lance win the TdF.

So, as I said, I’m either exhausted or something’s actually wrong with me, ’cause I barely got through yesterday, caffeine isn’t helping, and last night I was dead by 10:00 again.

Speaking of the TdF (though not for the last time), if you want to see whether a bike rider’s devotion to his dear departed dog can bring tears to your eyes, read Tyler Hamilton’s tribute to Tugboat. (C’mon on now, you didn’t cry when Old Yeller died?)

He did it!

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Lance did it. He can count to six. Jan Ullrich folded, Ivan Basso and Thomas Voeckler showed themselves as potential future champions, my fears about Mancebo were unfounded, and it turns out that Tyler Hamilton really messed up his back. He said it wasn’t pain that caused him to drop out, it was a complete lack of power.

For three weeks in July, I can never say “there’s nothing on TV.” Now, let us return to our normal pathetic state of programming. (Anybody know when the Vuelta starts?)

Are they any good? They sure are loud

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Eight 8-year-olds (and an 11-year-old), evening birthday party at a miniature golf course. Much shrieking. My ears are ringing as much as when we sat next to the speakers at a Pretenders concert. Most interesting present? A very lifelike stuffed rabbit who, when squeezed, proclaims in a French accent, “Allo, my friend! I am Henri! Would you like to go fishing with me?”

Le Tour — final time trial today! Only Tonya Harding could take this away from Lance now. (Which thought made me wonder: where is Nancy Kerrigan?)

This is to say nothing of my bizarre (and entirely Jim Jarmusch-inspired) dream of being with Meg White of the The White Stripes and wanting to show her how my Tesla coil works.

Almost 6

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Normally, watching an individual time trial is like watching paint dry, less the excitement of the fumes. It takes forever, and since the racers are racing one at a time, there’s none of the pack dynamics going on, and other than the time checks, it’s hard to see how a rider is doing. But put a million people on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez, put Jan Ullrich in running several minutes behind, add Lance (who said earlier this year that you can only ride up Alpe d’Huez so many times in a day), and you’ve really got an exciting time trial. Lance punched it, pushing Jan 1:01 further down the list. The GC (general classification) has exploded – the no. 2 man, Ivan Basso, is 3 minutes 48 seconds behind, almost insurmountable at this point. And 10th place Levi Leipheimer (American, in fact) is 15:04 behind. That’s an incredible spread. The only thing that could prevent Lance from taking his sixth is disease or accident, and even then, it’s unlikely. (Where were you during the Cyclism?)

Testing Flickr

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Up on Little Whiteface, Fourth of July weekend. Color is weak because visibility was 5 feet, and it started to rain hard just a few minutes later. Who had rain gear? We had rain gear. Testing a post using Flickr, which offers free photo hosting and easy publishing to my blog.
The Girls Originally uploaded by carljohnson


Smells Like Wet Lion of Luther

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Had another nice little paddle on the lake down the street this morning, letting the girls take turns in the solo canoe. Turns out that all that time they were treating canoe trips as if they were nothing more than a floating snack bar, they were actually learning something, and they’re both pretty much naturals when it comes to paddling. Both can handle a boat better than a lot of adults I’ve seen. Hannah is especially instinctive about it, and it was a deep joy to watch her out there just playing with the paddle to see what it would do, and making that little boat do exactly what she wanted it to do.

The afternoon brought the rains that had been threatened all weekend, but it looked like there was a break in the action and I was itching for a little ride. Yesterday’s 50K was great, but I had to limp home with a broken spoke. (The guy at the DownTube assured me that doesn’t happen often.) Got it fixed and the wheel trued up as best I can, so I wanted to check it out.

There were a few sprinkles, but no big deal. The plan was to rage out Luther Road to the end, then spin back and stop off at the Y for a soak in the hot tub, then head back home. Got to Couse Corners and the heavens opened up. My ride last fall when I got wetter than I’ve ever gotten? I got that wet in about 10 seconds. My shoes were overflowing. Plan B: head directly to the Y. Turns out that the swimsuit water extractor works just as well on soaked bike togs. Thank goodness, because my socks were soaked beyond the point of usefulness. Once I was done with the hot tub and the sauna, the skies had cleared and I was tempted to make more of a ride out of it, but I really didn’t want to work the bike that hard without re-lubing it. Got home, took another shower, and the Lion of Luther took a nap.

Another Pleasant Valley Saturday

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On a brilliant, sunny, unexpectedly beautiful (albeit a tad hot) afternoon,

Number of people I saw riding their riding mowers: 57

Number of people I saw riding their bikes: 5 (not including me)

There is something seriously wrong with our priorities in this country.

Oh, and the just-post-high-school band across the street? They rock. Though they’ve now stuck “C’mon Eileen” in my head, for which they may not be forgiven.

Neighbors, the Tour

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Not in that order. Sitting here, taking in some fuel, getting ready to go out but much later than I had hoped because I couldn’t unglue myself from the Tour last night. There was a taping failure yesterday (digital cable complicates some things, and recording TV is one of them. No accident, since they’re pushing their own version of TiVo), forcing us to watch the evening coverage. Lots less riding, more features, and Al Trautwig, who seems to have calmed down a little bit. I don’t think he interrupted Bob Roll once. Still, Bob and Kirsten Gum was a much better combination. Where the hell is she? Even so, I was just going to record it and catch up with it on the weekend, but it started to get intense, and the next thing I know, I’m up ’til 11:30, which is not a good way to get out riding by 6 a.m. The run up to La Mongie cracked a bunch of leading riders and broke up the field, and it put Lance into 2nd place with a 2nd place finish on the day. He didn’t quite have it to take the stage win, but he gained another two and a half minutes on Jan Ullrich, who looked like baked roadkill by the end, even more on Hamilton (whom we all want to do well, but not so well he beats Lance), and even more on Iban Mayo. Basso emerged as a continuing talent, and Mancebo, my personal vote for a potential surprise, was right there and moved up the general classification. And what about Voeckler?! He’s the Little Yellow Jersey That Could! Nobody expected him to really push his advantage in the mountains . . . he was only going to keep the maillot jaune until others gained on him in time. Well, he’s not sitting back and waiting for that, and one of the most touching moments of the Tour came when Richard Virenque pretty much abandoned his hunt for points yesterday to help Voeckler — not on the same team — keep up with the pack. He came in four minutes behind Basso — not too shabby. Every day he’s worn the yellow, he’s earned it.

Last night, sleep disturbed by the Tour; tonight it’ll be disturbed by the neighbors. The high school twins across the street are having their delayed graduation party, and their band will be playing. Why not? They’ve gotta live once. They’re good kids and don’t bother us, though the late summer night bullshit sessions are a little loud under our bedroom window sometimes. But we like they.

The neighbors on the other side of the house are a different matter. For years and years we had an old man next door, Erwin Willgeroth. He had lived in that house his entire life, and apart from adding aluminum siding sometime in the ’70s and cutting down a tree in the yard around the same time, he had never done a thing with the place, a tiny little cape cod. I’d love to say that knowing him was a delight, because that would make me look like a better person, but in fact we used to hide when he was out wandering around because there was no way to get in and out of a conversation with Erwin in less than an hour. I’d be out hanging rafters in the garage or sawing up studs, and he’d just wander around the work zone, oblivious to danger, noise, or that my mind needed to be elsewhere. He was a nice enough person, just a clueless one. I used to want to say, “Erwin, less is more,” but he wouldn’t have understood, and he was dreadfully lonely, so you can see that in fact I’m a heartless clod.

So, Erwin died and we were terrified of what would happen to the place. Luckily, a contractor bought it for his single-mother daughter and fixed it up quite nicely. She moved in and things were generally pretty quiet, and if the kids are allowed to run around outside until 11 or midnight every night, well — other people have different styles of parenting. They have no garage or shed, so the yard started to become an accumulation of toys, picnic tables and gas grills, but what can ya do. Then the father moved in (and out, and then in again, I think), and the yard started accumulating cars and a truck. All working, all moving around at different times of the day, but never ever parked in the driveway, just driven up on the former lawn. The truck is employed to carry around various debris from the yard, such as a big section of stockade fence. Sometimes it’s down on the ground, sometimes it’s up in the back of the truck. We don’t know why. For a couple of months, the lid for the kids’ sandbox rode around in the back of the truck. Currently, there’s a completely broken chest of drawers back there. And there’s a motorcycle in the mix, but it’s really not too bad, he doesn’t just sit in the yard revving it. I will say, the kids are much better looked after than they used to be. But is it too middle-class of me to wish they would park the cars on the driveway?

One reason little girls are wonderful

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Or not-so-little, in this case, as she’s 11 — which is hard for me to understand sometimes. She comes down the stairs this morning, fresh from the shower, hair wrapped in a big blue towel which is trailing down her back, and says very seriously, “Daddy, that new shampoo made my hair grow very long. And it turned it blue.”