Monthly Archives: March 2009

A little like a turnip green

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It’s a miserable, rainy spring Sunday, it’s all I can do to stay awake while reading about the French and Indian Wars, I have no desire whatever to go and get much-needed groceries – but I have just discovered this:

Tony Joe White and Johnny Cash, back in the days when live music was performed on the teevee, and drying weeds and smoking them was funny. Please to enjoy.

Terra Nova

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Growing up on a bicycle and having pretty much free rein, I got to know the streets of my village and town in a way that I never expect to know a place again – I not only knew the map of an area of 60 or 70 square miles, I knew who lived in many of the houses I rode by. Even today when I ride through the largely unchanged community, I remember who lived in those houses 40 years ago. I still like riding through the old hometown, and part of it is because it’s all so familiar (because it’s certainly not the challenging ride my current town is).

So imagine my surprise yesterday, riding along a road I’ve ridden along for more than 30 years, when I decided to take a turn I’d never taken and found an entire neighborhood I’d never even known existed. It was tucked in behind the county airport, and if I ever thought anything was there, I’d have assumed it was just part of the airport. Not only was there an entire neighborhood I hadn’t known about, but it has been there all this time. The kids there go to a neighboring school district, so I likely wouldn’t have known anyone from there when I was growing up, but I was still stunned to find all these houses tucked into a place I’d never even thought about.

Back here at home, I’m discovering new places all the time – there are still lots of little roads I haven’t ventured down for one reason or another, but on any given day I may decide to take that wrong turn and see if I fall off the map. As well as I know the four or five towns that I regularly ride around in, I don’t have the rest of the picture that I had in the place I grew up, I don’t know who’s in the houses I’m riding by. (Their dogs, however, are marked on the map in my head. And so is that attack pig out on Sagendorf road).

Beautiful ride yesterday, by the way. Major endorphins, and I’m happy to be on the way to a great spring of training. It started off with a broken valve stem that had to be changed in 25 degree weather, followed by something I’d never done before, scoring a new tube with a tire lever and having to patch it right from the start. But the day warmed up and the tire held, and all was good.


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Watching TV with the kids is always an interesting learning experience. They’re both old enough now that we’re past worrying about anything they might see, but still stuck in the phase of explaining it. Life was easier for our parents because of all the things that simply weren’t allowed on TV, so they didn’t have to explain it to us (I’m still waiting for the sex talk). I remember when “Hill Street Blues” broke the “scumbag” barrier, which surprised me at the time and still surprises me today, but I guess it’s abstract enough that many people didn’t think much about what it literally meant. I forget what we were watching the other night, but thank the technological gods for DVR and the pause button, as Rebekah suddenly asked, “What exactly IS a douchebag, anyway?”

We’ve watched a lot of ’60s stuff in the last couple of years, documentaries and movies and TV shows from the ’60s, and have tried to explain the Cold War, the assassinations, the riots, the Generation Gap, and of course the drugs. The other night we were watching “Grace of My Heart,” a sweet little film that follows a Brill Building songwriter of the Carole King mold (played by the vastly underused Ileana Douglas) through the late ’50s and the ’60s. When we got to the part where the always-a-little-spooky David Clennon was playing a freaked-out spiritual guide to the broken-down Brian Wilson character, it suddenly occurred to me that the only way to explain the ’60s is this: They were a national psychosis. We went absolutely insane, coast to coast. We believed that drugs wouldn’t kill people, that the Pentagon could be levitated by the power of the mind, that everything from the past had to be thrown out (unless it involved Eastern philosophy). We lost our fucking minds.

As a kid growing up in the middle of that psychosis, it was often truly scary. It was hard to understand why cities were on fire, and there was definitely the fear that it could happen here. We were told all the time (by reassuring grown-ups) that our town was a nuclear target, and like everyone practiced hiding from atomic war under our desks or down in the school basement with our jackets over our heads. I remember being about 7 years old and terrified, riding along with my father in the car and listening to someone on the radio proclaiming that the end of the world was near. I didn’t believe it, but I couldn’t be sure, and I was so scared at that moment that I wouldn’t see my father again.

So now when we watch movies like “Easy Rider” or “The Wild Angels” or “The Party” or “Dr. Strangelove,” instead of trying to explain the intricacies of the hundreds of social upheavals that were going on in that crazy decade, I’m just going to say, “It was a national psychosis. There’s no other explanation.”

Spring! Yeah, right.

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The march toward Spring is such a cruel thing around here. We get those delightful warm days when the temperature may even flirt with 50, and all that bright and almost-warming sunshine, and we start making plans and schemes that involve boats and bikes and being outside, and then the temps plummet like a stone and it’s 19 degrees when you wake up. Things are poking up out of the ground, which is a little advanced and probably a mistake on their part. Some of the mess from December’s incredibly destructive ice storm is finally free of snow and ice and getting cleaned up, but the broken trees that are just everywhere will be visible for years to come.

Only got out on the bike once this week, and there was still ice on the ponds I rode by. Plan on getting out again today if it gets into the 40s as advertised, but there’s a lot to do today and the timing is tight. We have ballet classes followed by ballet academy auditions followed by a promised trip to the ballet supply store in Saratoga, during which I intend to fulfill my chromosomal destiny and slip down the street to the bike store and drool over equipment I can’t have. I may be reckless and buy some tires, who knows?

Road kill of the week is possum, but there’s a pink bra in the middle of the road up the hill that is certainly vying for the title. It’s road tested!


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I feel the need to correct an impression, spread freely by my daughters, the extent of which seems to be growing with each day’s pile of mail from colleges to the elder one. Even though she has taken to regularly calling me “Fluff-boy,” it is not true that I survived my freshman year of college entirely on peanut butter and fluff. Simply not true.

That was junior year.

The cycle.

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Much of the summer, I look at my little box of unused cold-weather riding gear – tights, leg warmers, arm warmers, shoe covers, helmet cover, long-sleeve jerseys and a couple of very expensive jackets – and lament the amount of money I’ve spent on such a short part of the riding season. Then I have to remind myself that without that fancy gear, I wouldn’t get out at all in November, or December, or January, or February, or March. And when I’m out there riding on a cold (but sunny enough to keep the frost off) day, I never regret being warm and getting that cold weather ride in. In fact I’ve had a couple of gorgeous rides already this season, despite the fact that when we wake up it’s still below freezing. Hoping to get a couple more in this weekend as the temperature flirts with 50. If the sun’s out to warm me and the wind is low, I can hack it.

Starting the season just a couple of pounds up from where I left off last fall, which was ridiculously thin. I was about 155, thinner than any time since high school, and my clothes were just falling off. I don’t worry much about my weight, but I can tell you there’s a real difference between what I can do on the bike at 155 and what I can do at 170, which is the top of my acceptable weight range. Between training and weight, by the end of last fall I was flying up hills that had eaten me up in the spring.

Of course, that’s part of the cycle of cycling. I don’t know how people do it in the warmer climes, but here the seasonality is part of the beauty. You’ve got to bundle up and take a rested, unfit body out onto messy, flat-inducing roads for the first few hundred K of the season, trying to stay warm and rebuild some strength. (And you’ve got to endure a month or more of rain that keeps you from getting where you want to in your training.) But then you hit that summertime groove where your body keeps getting better, the rides are nearly always great (even when there are hailstorms), and all is right with the world. You find some new challenges and beat them. Then as you start to get bored with it all, it starts to wind down, you get in a few late-season rides where you can feel the heat leaving the earth and telling you to get inside for a while. Nothing wrong with that.

Quote of the week

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“A less decisive figure than his predecessor, La Jonquière overreacted, then dithered, contemplated half-measures, and died.”

Crucible of War, Fred Anderson.

In related news, I put this thick tome down on the coffee table while Hannah was playing Destroy All Humans. She then shifted around on the couch and proclaimed, “The Crucible of War is blocking my signal!”

The Troll Massacre

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The Troll Massacre

No trolls were harmed, but several hairdos were permanently altered.

This kind of thing happens all the time in our house, where trolls are constantly being found in underwear drawers, bathrobe pockets,dance bags, etc. . . .

Behind them? That’s just a lobster hat.