Category Archives: blather

Floored.

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Home ImprovementBusy. Not all good. Winter’s finally here, or at least the cold and blowy parts of it, and I’ve been off the bike, which is fine because I always need a break from it. Been on the skates a bit though,which has been fantastic for my old broken knee. Turns out to be just what I needed to finally, after a year, get it back to feeling normal. I can even kneel again, which I proved over the weekend by installing a new floor in the hallway. Usually when I finally get around to a project that I’ve put off for 20 years, I find out exactly the reason I’ve put it off — they prove to be nightmares. This one wasn’t like that, it proved to be a dream, especially with my new laser-guided chop saw. That thing’s a frickin’ dream, and for the first time ever I got the trim exactly perfect, everywhere.

Things I left behind in 2011:

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  • An umbrella that I KNOW I brought home.
  • A balaclava that I am absolutely positive was hanging by the heat register with my other cold weather biking clothes just a couple of weeks ago, and yet is nowhere to be found.
  • My favorite winter hat.
  • A stuffsack that was filled with other stuffsacks. We have torn this house apart looking for them, and they are nowhere to be found.
  • Elvis Costello’s “Imperial Bedroom,” as far as I can tell the only CD I have lost since I bought my first one in 1985. I have it on digital, but it still bothers me.
  • My left knee, though I think it’s coming back to me.
  • A certain sense of financial insecurity.
  • And, apparently, a certain sense of a different security.

Successful Christmas

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Of course, it hasn’t happened yet, so there are no reactions, no “present faces,” no “you shouldn’t have’s” yet. But I’m ready to call this the most successful Christmas in quite some time. For starters, we did a huge amount of our shopping in local stores, particularly Troy, particularly Pfeil Hardware, which is one of those treasures we all wish would exist. Small, friendly, bursting with just about everything for the home. Go there and be amazed, and then go back again and keep buying stuff there. (Our nearer hardware store used to be like that, but they gave in to terrors of Walmart and Home Depot and gave up carrying a lot of the household items that made them such a great local resource.) Also did a lot of business at Market Block Books and a number of the great little galleries and stores nearby. If Rebekah had her way, she’d spend every dime she gets at DesignIt Together, which does some wonderful designs and carries a lot of local music. Everything we didn’t get in Troy we got from Amazon, and a few things from Target. So in the end, there was only one trip to the mall during the entire Christmas season, and it was a bust, so not a dime was spent at a place that I hate with a resounding passion. I consider that success.

Also, the roast squash, pear-cranberry pies, and panettone pudding are all made and cooling. Tomorrow, we pop the local ham from Rolf’s Pork Store in the oven (and rinse and repeat on Monday), and all is done. I was in a position to treat people for Christmas, and to keep a lot of the money local. What could be better than that?

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Ruling things out

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Surgery for the Eye and Ear

Image by carljohnson via Flickr

I don’t think I’ve had medical treatment in the past couple of years that wasn’t primarily designed not to treat the problem, which has usually already passed of its own accord, but in order to rule things out. It’s a good thing to do, it’s the way to keep from being caught by surprise, and I have definitely known some people who were caught by surprise, but five hours in the ER, a nice little dose of radiation and ripping off the IV tape seems a high price to pay to learn, once again, there’s nothing wrong with me. But ruling things out comes with the over-50 territory, doesn’t it? So I rule things out. But at this point it would be nice to find out something is actually wrong and be able to fix it. I was actually excited a few months back when it looked like my nagging knee problem was a torn meniscus, something that could be surgically corrected. I don’t want surgery, haven’t ever had anything major, and there are definite risks, but I actually got excited that there could be a quick fix. I had to draw the honest surgeon who looked at it and said there was nothing for him to do. And so it goes.

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Best of, 2011 edition

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Finally get that tree up, do some last minute gift-bagging (wrapping is not for me), and the holidays will be upon us and gone and 2011 will be over, and once again I’ll be left feeling like I should have done one of those best-of-the-year posts that everyone seems to do  J. Eric has a nice post over at Indie Albany listing his top 20 albums of the year; while returning to the full-time working world has made it possible for me to buy albums again, as far as I can tell I bought three, and none of them was released this year, except perhaps “Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under.” Buzzfeed listed “21 People Who Died in 2011 And Will Be Missed;” I’d heard of 11 of them. Top TV shows? Well, we gave up cable this year. Movies? Didn’t go to a single one.

So with that in mind, and before I forget to do it at all, here are my best of 2011 picks:

  • Best TV Show I Never Watched Before: Doctor Who (with David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor).
  • Best Not In Any Way New Artist: Amanda Fucking Palmer and Dresden Dolls.
  • Best Book I Re-read: Erik Larson’s “The Devil in the White City.”
  • Best Movie: the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of “A Touch of Satan”
  • Best Re-discovered Vacation Spot: Old Forge, New York.
  • Best Financial Security: Weekly paycheck.
  • Best Bike Ride: every one of them, even the commutes.

Rosebud, the bicycle

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Ross Pro Gran Tour.jpgCharles Foster Kane couldn’t reclaim his Rosebud. Until a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t have told you my Rosebud’s name. I remember every bicycle I ever had . . . except for my first serious 10-speed, which somehow completely slipped my mind. I remember my very first bicycle, a red Columbia that cost $48 plus tax at Duane’s Toyland when I was in fourth grade, and which a local miscreant decided would be fun to steal from our back porch and smash into pieces in the schoolyard. On a school day. When he was supposed to have been in school.  (By the way, still waiting for the promised restitution, you shit-heel.)

It was some time before we scared up the money for a replacement, which was a wildly cool orange Columbia with built-in headlights that looked like a streamlined gas tank, cool chromed fenders and a rear rack. Like its pummeled predecessor, it was a single speed with a coaster brake. By then other kids in the neighborhood were getting coveted “English bikes,” internally geared three-speeds with thumb-lever shifters and handbrakes that occasionally I’d get the treat of riding. My family wasn’t in a position to upgrade, so it was several years of whining before I was able to finally convince my parents that I was actually facing complete ostracization because of my lack of a ten-speed, which by the time I was 14 had become the gold standard of personal transportation. Two rings in front, five gears in the back, shift levers on the down tube or the handlebar stem; we all had to have one. Once the ten-speed took over the culture, the only other bike cool enough to hang was the Schwinn Sting-Ray. My first one was a very cheap bike called an Iverson, which I believe was a Kmart special. Cheap, cheap, cheap, and its terrible ride didn’t quell my whining for long. I think it was only a couple of years before I was able to convince my parents that I needed a better bike, and I can only imagine the sales job I must have done, because if it had both wheels it sure would have been hard to convince my parents that it wasn’t good enough

But I prevailed, and I got a new bike. From a bike store (Plane Boys), not a toy store. And it was on this bike, with its gum-walled 27″ tires, its cheap Suntour derailleur, Dia-Compe center-pull brakes and that outrageously angled fork, that I learned everything I know about bikes. I learned to really ride, to dismantle axles and replace ball bearings, and how to take a tuning fork to a rim to true it. I rode it for three or four years, all over the place, nearly every day. I rode it into the hills of Glenville, through the streets of Schenectady, out into the horse pasture that used to be Clifton Park, and did it all in sneakers and cut-offs (and in fact my range was quite limited by wet feet and wedgies). This bike took me everywhere and taught me an awful lot. Nearly every meaningful conversation I had with my friends, those kinds of friends you only have when you’re 15, I had while describing a slow circle around an intersection under a street light, atop my trusty bicycle.

I took my faithful machine to college with me, where it was stolen within the first couple of weeks. Despite all the memories and the trauma, somehow I have not, for years, been able to recall the name of the bike. I can remember every other bike I’ve ever owned, where I was when I heard songs that I absolutely hate, where my pet turtles are buried . . . but not for my life could I remember the name of that bike.

And then, thanks to the magical Internet,  it comes rushing back to me. Some vintage bike blog mentioned the brand, which was Ross, and the light went off, and with a couple of clicks, there it was. The very bike. Absolutely in every way precisely the same bike. The Ross Professional Gran Tour. And honestly, seeing that picture, I was flooded with memories, touched in a way I could never have expected. Strong memories of sitting on the front sidewalk, my tiny Clear Creek Bike Book propped open with a rock, learning how to tear down a bottom bracket (with a chipped screwdriver and another rock as my available tools), of packing lunch in a knapsack and riding up into the Glenville hills, of competing with the other guys to see who could get across the village the fastest, or, sometimes, the slowest.

So there it is. My Rosebud. My Rossbud.

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