Monthly Archives: June 2009

When I have nothing to say

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When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed. Say something once, why say it again?

My resemblance to “Psycho Killer” ends there (I hope), but as we venture into the unpredictable days of summer, when the weather forecasters should just admit they have no idea what’s going to happen (chance of 25-degree swings, violent thunderstorms, cloudbursts, blazing sun, overcast skies, and short periods of time when it is raining on the front of the truck but not the back). It’s the ridiculous and constantly debunked belief that they know what’s going to happen that keeps setting me back. I look up at the sky and it doesn’t even match what they say is happening now.

So despite uncertainty we’ve been getting out there and doing the summer things, not the least of which is spending several hours a day harvesting the black raspberries (it becomes a relief when they finally run out, but we do have a new pie recipe that is fantastic). Some light kayaking (in a heavy kayak) on Sunday, a fantastic new ride up Dunham Hollow Road yesterday (grateful for the cooling influence of an unpronounceable creek that wasn’t Tsatsawassa Creek), spending time weeding the garden, and interrupting the rare blog posting with another violent thunderstorm and lightning that’s too close for my computer’s comfort. Yesterday I took an afternoon nap in the hammock, one of those things I always think of and never do, and one of those things life is simply too short not to do. There was even time to chase fireflies, an activity that wins out in hazy memory over the reality of being chawed by skeeters as you try to relate the blinking of lightning bugs to quantum physics and wondering whether Heisenberg spent his evenings in the yard with a jar.

Aircheck, freshman!

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A great thing (and sometimes a scary thing) about the Web is that, apparently, everything will be preserved forever — something that happened 40 years past can be called up in an instant, just as if it had happened moments before. Another great thing (and sometimes a scary thing) about the Web is that a simple search can sometimes lead you on a descent like Orpheus in his underwear, down into a subculture you barely knew existed but which appears to be alive and thriving on some unknown corner of the Web. It’s not always Illinois Nazis (though often it is).

I’m putting together a disc of some of the great music that came out of Syracuse bands during a very specific little slice of time, my undergrad years, when we were sure every single one of these bands was going to be the next big thing, just as soon as they got their 45 pressed. It happens that I had a couple of stray bits of radio broadcasts from the time that would make nice bookends and such, and thought maybe, just maybe, I could find a couple of others on the web – a couple of radio station IDs at the very least, maybe from old WHEN, WOLF, or WNDR. Well. Into the pit I fell – starting with an encyclopedic site devoted to WOLF, a station that I didn’t listen to very much but which apparently many others did. (This was the late ’70s, when my car radio and every workplace radio still only got the AM band, and for some reason it felt like knowing who was playing the records for us mattered.) But that site has nothing on NortheastAirchecks.com, a fascinating, wide-ranging collection of “airchecks” from radio stations across the Northeast, with a heavy dose of my hometown stations such as WTRY, WPTR and even the little station that could, Schenectady’s 3WD, where I did some hanging out for reasons that are no longer clear in my memory bank but which I think involved a girl who didn’t know I existed. The unremitting awfulness of modern radio led me to become someone who now relies entirely on Sirius for my audio broadcast entertainment (and in Little Steven’s Underground Garage, I’ve found the only station that has ever truly understood me), and as I go through my old records and look at old charts, I just marvel at the tremendous diversity that used to exist in Top 40 radio, at the songs that would have been played, a diversity of sounds and styles that exists nowhere in commercial radio today. Listening back to these old airchecks brings back some of the fun and excitement (and incredible over-annunciation) of those days when it seemed like radio really mattered.

It’s amazing to me that there’s a whole community of people who have saved these tapes for all these years, and even more amazing that now there is a way for them to share them all with anyone who might be interested, even someone who might just have been looking for a quick snippet of Captain Scott King giving the traffic report in a city where the traffic problems were the same day in and day out, but where as the sun set over Onondaga Lake, “sunglasses and sun visors are in effect.”

Cycling riddle

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What’s the difference between a 30-speed bike and a 3-speed bike?

One broken cable.

A few days of fiddling with an out-of-whack rear derailleur, adjusting and readjusting and just not being able to figure out why I couldn’t get it to stay in smooth alignment – though it’s a 10-speed cassette, and therefore finicky, I’m not new at this – and I finally found out what was really wrong. After a few days of flats to get my legs back in the groove, I decided that Thursday was the day to climb Taborton Road up to Dutch Church, a good hard 11km climb followed by a rocketing descent, and I thought I had the gears back in shape to take it. But as I headed out to Sand Lake things were getting balky in back again and taking the time to fiddling with the cable adjustments wasn’t getting me anywhere. Just before I was to start the climb, I went off on a flat side road to make one last stab at getting the gears right. Got off, fiddled, spun the crank, ticked the lever – and nothing. Nothing. The lever is now not changing anything, no matter how many times I tap it. Reach up to look under the hood, touch the cable, and it falls out of the lever. I’m now completely disconnected, stuck on an 11-tooth sprocket, and thankful for the triple in front that will hopefully help me to limp partway home. (Second call to the sag wagon in two weeks, which is annoying, after NO calls in a couple of years.) The hills of Rensselaer County are somewhat unforgiving to those stuck in the final gear, even with a granny ring up front, so I was grateful when I saw the Big Blue Truck come up the road.

No debating with myself this time, I ran it right down to Steiners and decided to have them true the rims while they were at it (after 6600km or so, I probably should have had them change the cassette and chain, too, but you know how it goes). Hoping to get it back today and finally get these legs back where they should be, up to Dutch Church.

Not losing my religion

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I’ve said this before but it bears saying again: the reason we are on this earth is to appreciate fresh strawberries. That’s it, that’s all. There is no afterlife, clearly, because although they will grow in thin, dry soils, strawberries will not grow in an ethereal plane. No strawberries, no need for people to appreciate them. So this is the one shot you get, and you’d do well to enjoy all the fresh (preferably local) strawberries you can.

It’s tempting to make this into a formal religion – partly for the tax breaks, partly for the costumes, but especially for a very tasty communion (finally). However, right at the outset there have been squibbles. For instance, there are those who believe that blueberries, rather than strawberries, are the foundation of human cognitive existence. While I hold blueberries in high esteem, second only to the divine fruit that has its seeds on the outside (and between my teeth), they are not the reason for our existence, and those who believe they are can only be deemed bog-lovers and their presence in our religion can only lead to discord. Therefore, we must undertake preventive shunning to avoid that discord. It all gets ugly pretty quickly, just like any other organized religion, and therefore I’ve decided to maintain our unofficial, fully taxable disorganized status.

Disorganized though we may be, something of vital importance to our beliefs came to my attention last night, and I need to make this clear to all our adherents. On TV last night I saw an ad for the International House of Pancakes (IHOP, for you hip Twitterers who don’t have time to use all the letters in words) offering “strawberry treats” that “sweeten the season.” I want there to be no confusion on this issue: Satan is real. He does not preside over a fiery realm of pain and punishment; that’s all made-up bogeyman nonsense designed to scare mouth-breathers. Here’s what Satan actually does: he packs strawberries, the very point of creation, into steel cans, smothers them in high-fructose corn syrup (which everyone now knows is the current sweetener of the Devil), and ships them off to hideous chain restaurants for use in the calorie-laden concoctions these dens of iniquity refer to as “breakfast.” In doing so, he hooks the masses on these sorry substitutes for fresh strawberries, and in their sugar comas they forget the very nature of our existence. This is the work of the Devil, and it is the only work of the Devil.

By the way, just as proof that this is not zealotry, I had blueberries on my Grape Nuts this morning.

June?! NO!!!

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Flamin’ march of time. It’s inexorable, isn’t it? Every year at this time, I lament that I’m missing the lengthening of the days, that I should be outside every evening, soaking up the late day sun and enjoying the crazy length of a summer day. And every solstice I regret that throughout the summer, the days will be shrinking, all those hours of light are already being lost. But the reality is that May is usually a mixed bag of wet, and this year it’s a bag of wet and cold (and orchestra and band recitals, piano practice, late dance classes, and all those other bits of life). But in the end I never feel like I’m getting enough out of the longer days.

Whether I appreciate the longer days or not, this will have been The Year of the Garden. A massive deforestation effort among the front dogwood bushes and the shockingly evil hydrangea along the back fence resulted in vast open spaces that we have gardened like we were doing it on purpose. The raspberries have their space pretty much to themselves (except of course for the maples that won’t give up), there’s a nice little space for a blueberry bush and strawberry plants, the bee balm has been reduced to a reasonable crop (sorry, hummingbirds), and the new magnolia is doing beautifully. If you walked by and looked at it, you’d almost think we had some idea how to garden. Almost.

Not enough biking though, a combination of rain, cold, too many other things to do and some undefinable stomach thing that has been kicking up. Last week I found myself with an hour with nothing to do and no bike, and I ventured to just take a walk. No running, biking, blading, or skiing — I just walked. I hadn’t done that in the longest time. As things go now I just don’t walk very much — ride for miles, but little walking. It was wet and I had on the wrong shoes, so I paid for my boldness with blisters. So I learned my lesson and from now on will only move forward if I’m pedaling.