Monthly Archives: October 2004

Uneasy Rider

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Not to diss my adopted city, but there surely is no worse place to try to ride a bike. The combination of hideous pavement, narrow busy streets, ancient street irons (sewers) and well-scattered neighborhoods to be avoided makes it a fairly dreadful place to try to undertake a leisurely ride. Unfortunately, I’m over there every weekend for Nutcracker rehearsals, which give me a nice window of opportunity, but I get tired of the relatively safe and enjoyable ride to the Albany Rural Cemetery. So yesterday I thought I’d shoot out to the State Office Campus (an arrangement of loops within loops that makes for long, flat, uneventful riding, traffic-free on weekends), and then over to the SUNY campus and back. (Has ever there breathed a soul so black that it looked at SUNY Albany and said, “My god! What beauty!” I fell in love with the campus of Syracuse University the first time I ever visited there; I can’t imagine anyone even falling in like with SUNY’s campus.) But I disliked the thought of going back in on Madison or Washington, both nasty rides, so I cooked up a return route that included only temporary lapses of sanity: riding along Fuller Road, shooting through two malls, and then coming out way over on Sand Creek Road. Little lapse of memory trying to keep Albany-Shaker and Watervliet-Shaker roads straight, but it all came out in the end. Nice 32k on a gray but warm day, but I won’t be doing it again. At the same time, the bike path is under desperately needed renovations (though I’m not convinced they’re doing much of a job in places), so there’s really not a great set of options.

Today, didn’t really want to ride but felt the need to because it’s nice and warm (62 degrees) though not pretty out. Unfortunately, left my tool bag behind, and since I don’t want to end up stuck in a place like Watervliet with a broken spoke, flat tire or loose headset without any hope of repair, I bagged it and came home. The leaves are calling me, anyway, and I think I’ll answer them with a lawnmower.

The Unthinkable

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Yesterday was one of those perfect fall days — the temp started around 35 in the morning, too cold for a quick morning ride, but the sun came out and it climbed up to the 50s. Work was caught up and the boss was out of cell range, so I actually skipped out early, raced home and got out for a bike ride. Always hard to figure out what to wear when the temperature’s down, but I went with full-length tights, long-sleeve jersey, my new hurricane-proof Postal vest, cap and long gloves. Turned out to be perfect. The sun was still providing warmth, the roads were dry, and it was just a glorious day. And then — I’m ashamed to admit — someone else on a bike passed me.

I had already done about 20K and was taking it leisurely up Palmer Road when I passed another cyclist who had stopped to chat with a woman and her dog. He was just starting up again as I went by, so I poured on some steam to open up the distance between us. The Lion of Luther does not get passed. I thought I was pretty comfortably out there, 400 meters or more, but then on a long straight-away I could see him gaining in my mirror (I always ride with a mirror, despite the additional drag it creates, and the attendant risk of being passed that comes with that extra drag). Then I got to the T where Palmer Road ends, and a truck coming up Elliot Road made me come to a complete stop before I could make the turn. As I pushed down on the crank and fumbled with my pedal, the other cyclist blew right through the intersection and passed me. So now, of course, I had to chase him down, which I did fairly quickly, and then I passed him just as he was turning off onto a dirt road. My dignity was restored, and best of all, we didn’t have to keep passing each other for another 10k, which would have been a lot of work.

I recognize that there are probably lots of recreational riders (forget racers) out there who go faster than I can. I’ve seen them on the Tour de Cure, in fact. But here in the hills of Rensselaer, I haven’t seen any. And it is my solemn duty to not only pass anyone I see, but in fact to blow their doors off. 16-year-old kid, age-appropriate male competition, 70-year-old ladies — all must be passed with extreme prejudice. I could see someone nearly a mile ahead, and the switch flips and I am instantly concerned with catching up to the person and passing him before he goes off down a side road and the chance to display my alpha male superiority is missed.

Spouse says something to the effect of, “So, how your ride goes is determined by your ability to pass someone you’ve never seen before, no idea of who they are or their abilities, you just have to pass them?” So, obviously, she gets it.

As I said, catastrophe averted, and I’m feeling much better after a night’s sleep. This won’t happen again.

World Series

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A couple of thoughts:

  • Boston fans, and there are plenty of them around here, are going to be insufferable for a while. In Massachusetts, they were using the big overhead traffic information signs to flash the scores of the games. I can understand their excitement, and applaud their inventiveness, although it presumes a driving population that is both a) interested and b) unable to spring for that extraordinarily expensive “AM radio option” in their cars. This is less necessary in regions that are accustomed to having their teams win more often than every 86 years or so.
  • Watching St. Louis fans actually cry gave me a little frisson of pleasure, because the one time I had to visit St. Louis, I also wanted to cry. It is not my city, though it would be a hell of a lot more interesting if they laid that damn arch on its side and let skateboarders grind on it. The rental car I was given had no gasoline in the tank. The hotel I stayed in had an “art gallery” that sold clown paintings by comedian Red Skelton as if they were Warhols. All meals contained some level of beef, and at a dinner when a colleague requested a vegetarian entree, they took her plate back to the kitchen, scraped off the slab of beef, and returned it to her, a plate of limp green beans accompanied by beef juice.
  • The Cardinals must have been under the impression this was one of the new “wild card golf” years, when the lowest score wins. That’s next year.
  • Thank god for the mute button, because I really couldn’t take any more of the incredibly stupid commentary. I think “That was a real big-league play” was the straw that broke the camel’s back. You might say that at a Little League game, Babe Ruth, maybe even the low minors. During the World Series? Yes, I think this would be the big leagues, wouldn’t it? Is cycling the only sport that has even halfway intelligent commentary? (I’m blocking out the whole Al Trautwig experience.)


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I had to stop in a very questionable neighborhood (questionable if you’re a bike-riding man in spandex, anyway) in order to snap this sign. No idea what it once pointed to (a rubble-strewn parking lot, now), but I thought it was wonderful. Little bit of Photoshop to give it that gauzy look. I gave this one a number of treatments, which can be found, on days when it’s working, at my fotolog. And, even more highly modified, in my semi-new logo, above.

Abandoned pointer sign Originally uploaded by carljohnson



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If you haven’t ever whiled away a few hours looking at other people’s grocery lists, you simply must. One recent example: “Floss picks / Oreo B Interdental Refills / Ketchup / Nuts / Bourbin”.

I personally view use of a grocery list as a moral failing. Even if I write one out for the unusual things I may need to get on any given week, I will forget to take it with me, and the act of writing it down erases it from my brain, so the whole thing becomes an exercise in frustration. Instead, I rely on fate. If the grocery gods intend me to remember something, it will jump out at me from the shelf. If not, there’s nothing I can do; it was the will of the gods.

Were I to write one, my list for the day would include ” Fix leaky washing machine / check dryer lint / Nutcracker rehearsals / 30k ride / dinner at Marcia’s.” So, I’m off to do it!


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Camper Van (and honestly, I’m much more of a Cracker fan) is getting by with a little help from their friends, access to e-mail, and a desperate plea to borrow instruments for their next gig in Detroit. Yes, they’ve put out an e-mail that says:
The emergency shipment from Gibson is taking a little longer than expected..
Anyone heading to the show in Detroit at the Royal Oak Theatre
and have a guitar?
Anyone want free tickets to the Detroit show and “more”?
(“more” hasnt been decided yet)
Is it like one of the ones listed here:
Can you do the band a special favor?
Send two things to this email:
1. a brief description of the guitar
2. your phone number (hopefully a cell number)
After you do that… something will happen .. we’re not quite sure
just yet though.
Someone in Toronto just happened to have a Charvel Surfcaster last night
and that is the guitar David Lowery used …

Now, that’s rock ‘n’ roll!

But it’s not Cracker that I’m working on this weekend. I’m trying to get the best of the 9-disc collection “The Complete Stax/Volt Singles 1959-1968” onto my iPod, which takes a while, since I haven’t listened to these in a while, so other than the no-brainers (Otis Redding, most of the Bar-Kays, some Rufus Thomas), I need to go through and listen to each one to see if I want it on my iPod. (Nice little script called “Needle Drop” does the trick, playing each song in a playlist for as long as I specify.) So far, through disc 4. Can your monkey do the dog?! My heart is chained and bound! Gee whiz it’s Christmas!

Be forewarned, when I go into a Stax mood, I don’t come out for a while.


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Sometimes when I’m dancing through the aisles of the grocery store, oblivious to the world in my iPod-induced haze, an old lyric I’ve heard a million times will suddenly cut through the fog and present itself in stunning clarity. Tonight, there were two:

“All that professional lipstick
pressed into an amateur kiss”
Elvis Costello, Starting to Come to Me

“Things are getting weirder at the speed of light,
Nightmare girl”
Aimee Mann, Nightmare Girl

By the way (Nancy), I refuse to get sucked into the National League Championship Series. Though I did just watch Beltran steal all the way home, something I haven’t seen in a very long time. But no, I’m going to bed tonight, dammit!


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Apparently, the Yankees’ strategy of tiring out the Red Sox by letting them score so much they’d become exhausted didn’t really pan out. Couple that with the surprising revelation that pitching is an important part of the game and you have the most sensational flameout in playoff history. Now I’m going to end up having to watch the series in hopes of seeing that smug Johnny “Breck for Men” Damon get his comeuppance. Something about him just sets my teeth on edge. Grrrr.

Random thoughts

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The honeymoon is over when your bride serves you meatloaf. (Given that by the most liberal possible measure of time, the honeymoon was over at least 20 years ago, I am not surprised. I am, however, surprised that it took this long for her to resort to meatloaf.)

Yankees. Please. I need some sleep. So does Jorge. Please make this stop. I can understand the joy of killing off the Red Sox in the Bronx, but I really can’t take any more of these 6 hour games. For me, the Yankees haven’t been the same since the old days when I could listen to Phil Rizzutto get progressively drunker throughout the broadcast. “Izzn’t that right, White?”

The reason I only update my genealogy site about every other year? It takes forever. More than 2200 pages, and every little customization I want to make just bogs down GoLive for the longest time, even on my speedy little G4. Plus the debugging, plus the uploading, and the timing out and the crashing . . . .