Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dressy Drifty

This is one of the original Drifty portraits I made for the blog's debut.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

If wishes were horses...

I'm less susceptible to the allure of Brooks saddles than I might be, because I have little liking for the feel of leather. But I like wool!

And if this isn't the niftiest bell ever made, what is? See that clamp? Wow! Unfortunately, this image is too small for you to see the details, and I don't know where to find the big image anymore.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Does somebody "up there" hate me?

Every time I try to quit smoking, I start finding nearly full packages of cigarettes on the street. It's only two or three times a week, but that's enough to throw me off my quitting. I know, it's all up to me, even if I am fated to be tempted. I accept that. It's my addiction, and the terrible consequences to my health and social status I have trouble accepting. It seems like a hell of a price to pay for sticking something in my mouth and setting it on fire. A cigarette might as well be a stick of dynamite, except that it works a bit more slowly.

I really enjoy the strangeness of these gifts from hell. There's another funny thing about this "free" tobacco. Never, not once- and we're talking about at least fifty packs of smokes in the last three years- has a found pack been damaged in any way whatsoever, or less than two thirds full, unless it was a pack of menthol or light cigarettes. Weird, eh? There's more... Never, not once, have I found an undamaged pack of menthol or light smokes. Of these, in almost every case the damage is far from total- most have been run over once, but probably not more than once- and only a few times were the packs much less than half full. Usually all but one or two of the cigarettes were acceptably intact. OK, I think that's enough cigarette statistics for now, don't you?

Now for some analysis. Why do I find cigarettes? Because they're there. And because I'm looking. More on looking- and finding- later. Maybe. Unless I forget, or change my mind. Why are there packs of perfectly good cigarettes lying in the street everywhere I go? I have (at least) a couple of ideas:

Once, about a hundred years ago, I was riding with a friend in his car over California Highway 9 toward Santa Cruz, a twisty mountain road. It was a ten year old Subaru, and it was red. You don't need to know that, but it could be helpful if you're trying to imagine the scene. And, years before this story took place- in fact years before my friend owned this car- we had discovered that it was possible to start the car using a pocketknife instead of a key, but not possible to turn it off the same way. In fact it wasn't easy to remove the knife, and utterly impossible to remove the marks the knife left. But that's another story. So, the road was twisty and, being young we were traveling just a bit more quickly than we thought was safe. My friend's girlfriend's hairbrush was sliding back and forth along the dashboard as the road tossed us around. I watched this for awhile, cigarette in hand, head nodding in time to something by Motley Crue (supply your own umlaut) until on one particularly sharp curve the brush slid right out the window. As I mentioned, this happened long ago so I don't remember whether the brush went out the passenger side or otherwise and it doesn't matter, though I think now that it's unlikely to have been the driver side window, because there's often a hump in the dashboard where it goes over the instrument cluster. What's an instrument cluster, you ask? No? OK, I'll ask. That's the name for the place where you look when you want to read the speedometer or tachometer or ammeter or fuel gauge or odometer- any of the instruments we use to see how our car is doing. What matters is that I was delighted to see that hairbrush go. Why? Well, three reasons:

1. My friend's girlfriend had recently sat upon and destroyed my prescription sunglasses, saying only (and quite mildly) "Oh, that felt expensive." and politely but firmly declining to have anything to do with the repair or- as proved necessary- replacement of my crushed spectacles. It was not very nice of me to be delighted to see that hairbrush fly out of the car, never to be seen by any of us again... but I was right to be delighted because

2. it was highly amusing and

3. instructive, although the instruction only came years later. Some other time I'll tell you about what happened to those replacement prescription sunglasses- it was just as sad, and just as funny. The instructive aspect is that I later lost a pack of cigarettes the same way that hairbrush was lost. I suspect this is a common way of losing packs of cigarettes. And, as I explained above, I have apparently stumbled into a lifestyle ideally suited to finding lost packs of cigarettes, though not usually packs I have lost.

OK, that's it- I'm done for the day, except for this:

There are other things I find on the street in uncommonly generous numbers. Clip-on LED bicycle lights. Short 3/8 inch ratchet extenders. 10mm ratchet sockets. (These last two are tools commonly kept in automobiles.) Bic brand cigarette lighters, always perfectly functional, and usually quite full of fuel. Wheel balancing weights. Don't know what a wheel balancing weight is? Look it up, I have to take a leak, and I'm tired of typing. Besides, what would you do if I weren't around? You've got to learn to answer your own questions! I may be abducted by extra-terrestrials tonight and taken up to the mother-ship to interpret for Elvis Presley. No, that isn't likely, not on Sunday night. That sort of thing happens mid-week, at least around here. How do they do it in your neck of the woods? Let me know- use the comments box and/or send an e-mail!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

So good it speaks for itself...

Anyone who has spent more than an hour in my company has heard me talking about how San Francisco Bay- the most useful body of water on the California coast- has been neglected/abused into a state of near uselessness. My favorite lament is the loss of schooner scow traffic. Follow the link below to visit a very interesting blog post on this subject, along with a link to a stunningly beautiful and informative map.

Please also take the time to look around the rest of the blog- the author writes about web-searching, and I learned more in five minutes of browsing there than I have in five years of doing things my own way.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Valentin Podpomogov

Valentin Podpomogov is (or was- I have not yet found out whether he is living) exactly the kind of painter I like best. The piece above, Homer, is perhaps the finest depiction of cut stone I have ever seen.

The piece below that, Expectation, is what first caught my eye. I liked the absence of a face and the finely detailed rendering of the hair, face and bandages- a suggestion of a throat was a nice touch, too.

You can see the artist's biography and a full gallery of paintings at the website linked below:

As I said, I know next to nothing about this painter, but I know what I like.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I was thinkin' how they shot Mr. Lincoln...

The title line is from Brewer and Shipley's beautiful song Platte River. You can click on their names to visit their website- you'll land on the words to the song, and you can see the rest of their site here.

For another take on Mr. Lincoln (and meat, and Jimi Hendrix, and yaks) please check out the strange and disturbing paintings of Mark Ryden, whose Angelica Carnis appears third from the top of this page. I can't promise you'll come away happy, but I believe anyone who looks at his stuff will find something to like.

Are there things I don't care for in his work? Oh, yes. Not least is his fixation on pouty, corpse-like little girls. Very creepy, and not in a good way. I could also do with a bit less of the balloon-headed characters. Another thought, about which I may be mistaken- please take a look and draw your own conclusions: there seem to be occasional failures of perspective, as in The Grinder second from the top of this page. Note Mr. Lincoln's distorted face. Failure is too strong a word- I think there is a certain slippage in perspective, as though the artist's attention had wavered or wandered.

Oddly, I don't mind his kinky use of meat and fetuses one little bit. Yes, hmmm. That is odd. But that's me. I am also very impressed with the picture frames- it's almost impossible not to see them as part of the picture; actually in my first several viewings, it did not occur to me that the frames had not been painted within the pictures.

A word on color: his rich and varied yet restrained palette, which I think is usually well complemented by his sky tones, goes a long way toward explaining his technical appeal, at least in my view. The deep reds are used to good effect within a mainly pale range. An example of surprising color: the pinkish Nazi suit in Little Boy Blue, shown at the very top of this page.

These pieces are not tiny, nor are they huge- they range from under a foot by a foot to about four feet by six feet, roughly. It's fair to say I find the scale inviting, even intimate, both in the exterior sense (size of painting) and the interior sense (space within)- while there is often quite a lot going on within the picture, there is also plenty of room for the action, and the elements are never crowded.

Overall, I'm very glad to have seen these works (oil on canvas, if you're wondering) and I will be keeping an eye on this artist.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wine cork handlebar plugs....

Really, finding a set of handlebar plugs is the least of my worries in my latest bike project, but I am pleased to have tackled the problem head on and solved it in record time- two minutes from conception to installation. None of the many handlebar plugs I have in my parts bin would fit the old BMX handlebar I'm using, so I whittled down two halves of a wine cork and popped them in. Done! Apologies for the picture quality.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Follow-up: Bike race

Last week I posted about some upcoming bicycle racing events scheduled here in the South Bay- scroll back to July for details. One of these has already taken place, and here's my report:

I packed a lunch and rode out to watch a day of bicycle races at Foothill College this past Sunday. Because the course ran on the campus perimeter road it was easy to find multiple places for watching. For the first race I cruised around the racers' prep area, joining the throng at the fence whenever the riders came around. I liked hearing the whoosh of all those tires on asphalt, but I cared less for the crowdedness and for having to look through a chain-link fence. For the second race I rode over to another parking lot, where there were no fences- I could have stood right on the edge of the course if I wanted to, but I didn't want to. The main attraction at this spot was that I had it all to myself. And I mean ALL to myself. It was just me and a flagman and hundreds of empty parking spots. Actually, he was a race marshal, and his job was to wave a flag and shout the number of laps remaining as the pack passed. Although the unobstructed view here was nice, there was no shade. For the third race I rode over by the start/finish line and watched there for a while, still without shade. Eventually, while riding around some tennis courts above the football field, I found a shady spot just down the hill from the finish line, about half way through a steepish, snaking descent in the course. Great views of some tricky riding! That was my favorite location, and I stayed there until I left for the day. Along with deep shade, I had a drinking fountain and a real restroom to myself. For some reason, none of the hundreds of other attendees ever discovered this oasis, and they all made do with porta-potties and purchased beverages. The finish line was all of twenty seconds away, so I had plenty of time to get there for the finishes, thanks to the advance notice provided by a race announcer via loudspeakers. Though I had many wonderful opportunities, I took no pictures, but I don't regret that. And I didn't have a camera with me anyway. I greatly enjoyed the whole thing, and I hope it will become a regular event. Race results and links to photos can be found here:

The second bicycle racing event is still in the future- the near future. In a little over a week, I'll be attending some track races at Hellyer Park in San Jose. I'm really looking forward to that. As with the story above, you can find all the details about the Hellyer Park races in my earlier post. I don't know why, but I can't link to earlier posts anymore, but if you search the blog for races or racing, you'll end up there. Sorry for the inconvenience, I'll try to figure out how to link posts. Oh, never mind- just go to the event's website-

And now... on to my favorite subject, me!

My interest in bike racing is only a few weeks old, and only came about indirectly. Here's how it happened. Because I love to read about bikes and bike riding, I was perusing the library catalog in search of yet more bicycle touring books (which are the very best kind of travel book, if you ask me) when I found a few Tour de France DVDs listed. 2003, 2004, 2005. Initially, I felt almost no interest- more or less on a whim, I brought them home, and BLAMMO I was hooked. Much to my annoyance, during the week I spent watching these highly condensed accounts of races past I learned that the 2011 Tour de France was in progress. Actually, what annoyed me was that I couldn't find any non-pay television coverage. I'm still not very happy about that.

Having become addicted overnight to watching bicycle races, I began to scour the web for local races and stumbled upon the aforementioned two exciting and very local events. My delight was and is nearly boundless. The only limiting factor to my joy is that the track races are twenty miles away and nowhere near any reasonable public transit routes. I'll probably have to drive, which I don't like doing anyway, and can't afford- then too, if I drive I'll have to pay $6 for parking, which I can't afford either. But I'll be there, no matter what!

Best Use of a Sex Doll Ever?

I don't know, but it's the best- and perhaps the only-
good use I've ever heard of. What am I talking about? I'm not, because there's really nothing to be said. Trust me, just go here and give the website a thorough visit. You'll regret it, most likely. I did. But I wouldn't undo the experience.

I may have something more to say about what you'll be seeing, later. Right now I'm still processing my reactions. I will say this immediately: The concept is good, and the execution is superb. The author writes interestingly about the technical aspects, and says little about the content, which is as it should be. The website is fairly well-built and engaging.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

You're not going to like this...

If this offends you... be offended. Or don't. Either way, I'll hate you. Or not. Probably not. You can hate me. I don't care. I won't hate you, I promise. All my promises are conditional. Sometimes.

Usually, I'm a nice person. No, that's a lie, but I do try. I'll try any damned thing. Once. I was a nice person once, for about ten seconds. It made my teeth itch. And it almost made me vote for Ross Perot, but luckily nothing can make me do anything (which is why I do nearly nothing), and anyway I always vote for Bob Pease (1940-2011, RIP) or Frank Zappa (also dead). Or Kurt Vonnegut (dead). Or Douglas Adams (dead). Or B. Traven (presumed dead). Yeah, especially B. Traven. I would probably vote TWICE for B. Traven, except he/she/it was a damned Commie. And speaking of dubious heroes- need I mention this? I have never failed to vote for Ed Abbey (dead) on any ballot on which he appeared, which is (so far as I know, in my voting area, to date... certain limits and/or restrictions may apply. . seek competent advice before acting upon information contained herein) none. I once voted for Willa Cather ( dead), but her ticket was disqualified because her running mate Nicola Tesla (dead) was declared an undesirable alien. And I routinely vote for cartoon characters. Without a trace of irony. By the way, just hearing me say these things makes you a better person. But you'll never be as good a person as I am. Or coulda/shoulda/woulda been. Or so I say. Your mileage may vary- draw your own conclusions, and keep 'em to yourself. Or don't. There's a Comments button at the bottom of the page.

Oh, factual interjection: That crack about Tesla being declared an illegal alien is pure hooey. Nothing to it, so far as I know. But I didn't want to waste a good lie. If I'm ever an alien, I hope I'm desirable. No, I hope I'm irresistible. And undeniably alien. Some aliens blend right in. They walk around like they own the place, and everyone accepts them. I don't want that for me. I want to leave a scar where I settle. I want to be a living mystery, a 9th Wonder of the World. In fact, I'd like to be unfathomable. Maybe even inscrutable. And certainly unflappable. I'd like to be the Napoleon of the law-abiding world. Sadly, I'm all too ordinary. And I'm not much of a Peronist. Well, frankly speaking, I am truly no kind of a Peronist at all. Also a damned poor periodontist. Have a look inside my mouth if you doubt that. I'll thank you kindly to leave my politics out of this. And fuck your mother's Majolica toaster oven, while we're at it. Oh, wow. Where did THAT come from? Well, how do I know what I think until I hear what I say?, as someone once cleverly said.

But seriously, folks, Google the toaster oven reference, including the place name. It might just thrill you through your socks. Or maybe it won't. My money is on won't. Unless you like living a boring life. Or I might be wrong- I haven't Googled it myself, though I probably should have, and maybe will. Or not. That's one of my many favorite qualifiers. Covers a whole lot of nothin', if you know what I mean. And while were on THAT subject, don't forget to drink some water today. Here's a motto: Never let 'em catch you a pint low! And remember, a pint's a pound the world around.

Now, here's why we're all here:

I won't cite sources or dig deep into history on this topic, but here's my take on... well, you'll see.

A microphone is a mic
A bicycle is a bike
Is a dyke a dichotomy?

See what I mean? It ain't worth quibbling over, but it's probably worth talking about. Got any thoughts? You could keep them to yourselves, or you could share them with us. We are tolerant eed-jutz. We see your folly and raise (or lower) it a level or two. And if you would like to vote my poetry in for a Nobel prize, please do. I won't object. I can't, because I have no idea how anything I write ever came into print. Honestly, I don't. Or shouldn't. My lawyers (all 0.000000000001321 of them) tell me I must not say otherwise. As for you... you can (and should, I urge you) take a long walk on a short pier. Really, go for it! Thanks for your attention.

And, on that note...

Have a day, as they say. Thank you, please come again, as the sex-worker said on two-fer-Tuesday. And... Sank ewe- awl be here all zuh veek.

OTE: Check your facts before quoting me. And then don't quote me, or I WILL sue you, big time. Melvin Belli big time. F. Lee Bailey big time. Remember, I am smarter than Leonardo da Vinci and more attractive than Leonardo di Caprio.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Real live bicycle racing, right here in town!

That's right, if you live anywhere in the south San Francisco Bay Area and care about bike races, I have news for you.

First, nearest and dearest to my own heart because it's within biking distance of my home, is a day of racing at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills (12345 El Monte Road Los Altos Hills, CA 94022). 7:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 31 2011. Admission is free for spectators. If you drive there, parking is $2. The race is a fund-raiser to help pay for a new multi-use path around the perimeter of the Foothill College campus. This race is run on a closed road course, with numerous classes and start times.

Racers must register, and must have a USAC license, which may be purchased upon registration or online. I checked the USAC website and it looks like a one-day license is either $5 or $10. NOTE: USAC charges $10 for non-electronic license applications, so think about doing it online. Also, The race organizers impose a $10 late fee for registrations made after July 28th, so think about that too. Schedule and registration information here:

Second, did you know there's an outdoor velodrome in San Jose? Neither did I! It's at Hellyer County Park, and if you live in Santa Clara County, you own it. Did you know that on select Friday evenings you can watch track racing for free- and eat and drink for free, too? Neither did I! But it's true. All you have to pay is $6 for parking, if you drive there. Racers must pay fees and have a license and all that. Click the poster at the top for all the details.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sigh. Groan. I love my face as only a mother could. If Gunter Grass thought he had something to hide in peeling his onion, well... he lived longer and accomplished more. Yet with what regard do I behold my own battered and drooping visage! Oh, how I love me.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

If-let's say- I wanted to make a movie, I might want to make a flick like this:

Which might have a theme such as why- if you were wondering- you should not complain...

To the tune of:
as performed by The Beatles

They say that everyone wants someone
So how come no one wants me?
Then, they say that everyone needs someone
So how come no one needs me?

Well, if you wonder who the loneliest
Creatures IN the world can be
Well, there's the Ugly Duckling
The Little Black Sheep, and me (UH-HUH)

They say that everyone LOVES someone
So how come no one LOVES me?

Well, if you wonder who the loneliest
Creatures IN the world can be
Well, there's the Ugly Duckling
The Little Black Sheep, and me (UH-HUH)

They say that everyone LOVES someone
So how come no one LOVES me?
So how come no one LOVES me?


A shitty character sneaks around sticking a knife in the back of a noble bloke. Ark! Says the noble bloke, I've been stuck in the back! And he has been. Sure enough, a knife is stuck in the back of him. Ouch, he yells. Damn me if I ain't stuck in the back!

He don't ask why, he don't say anything at all, he just takes the blade like a man. He assumes a gent has stuck him in the back, a gent who needn't explain nothing at all, a gent who probably has his reasons.

Ouch, he yells. That fuckin hurts, it does, he says, under his breath. He decides not to look around, decides to let it go, because as he well knows, a fair number of things have no causes and can't be explained.

Meanwhile, another gent- who happens to be a local ladyboy- less than a metre away has been feeling annoyed by the vagaries of amour and has decided to stick a blade in the rearmost aspect of a bystander. Right, you'll do, he thinks out loud, matching his action to his thoughts. He plunges his knife into the rump of a guy who happens to be nearby. Are the results predictable? (author shrugs) The guy who now has a knife stuck in his ass yelps and leaps and spins around.

Shit, he says, not unkindly. What the hell you wanna do that for? That's me arse, and I never asked for a knife in it!

The stabber shrugs and grins meekly. It's not your fault, she says soothingly, it's just one of those things.

One of those things, the stabbed one shouts, it's almost unbearable! It's downright inconvenient! It's damned inconsiderate- what were you thinking?

Oh, says the stabber, it's love.

Love! Love?!? If that's love, I'd just as soon be a virgin, thank you, says the stabbed one, nearly shouting. Why don't you take it out out on someone who gives a damn, eh?

The stabber smirks. I don't suppose you'd like to pop around to my place for a bit of slap and tickle?

The stabbed one looks stunned. Well, he says, I just might...

(Caution: Entire sketch brazenly lifted from Monty Python's Flying Circus- except there's no police officer involved, and no wallet, and the weather is better, and thirty years have passed... and the whole thing has been rewritten.)


There's a shit-head in our soul, a bitchy little critic whose least useful mimicry echoes loudest, snuffing out the guttering wick of our better nature. Who said that?* Well, you. And me. We should shut the hell up.

However many dentists (or other doctors) out of how many other recommend it, our propensity-inclination-predisposition-proclivity... for/towards screeching needs to be decreased. Is that English? Don't care! I don't.

People- that's you and of course I- don't matter. Our opinions are trash. Our thoughts are dubious at best, and possibly (probably) much worse. Do I doubt the utility/validity of my thoughts? Nope- I don't. They're crap, as the prattling class would say.

To you and to me I holler- shut up! Shut the fuck up! Stop yelling. Quit whining. Don't keep on complaining. Why won't you (I) just be quiet?

Honestly, you people are wearing out my tolerance. If you can't say something nice (useful/helpful) why don't you (I) say nothing at all?

Do I believe you need to hear this, or that you might learn from hearing it? Nope. I sure as fiddlesticks don't believe any such thing. But I believe I'll go nuts if I don't tell you.

It's masturbation, sheer finger-fucking! A waste of time and essence. You stand a better chance of making a difference in how the world evolves- or doesn't- by stuffing your head in a wet sack full of oatmeal and shouting “Ave Maria” than you do by howling at me. I don't care one stinking little bit whether this world ends with a thump or a sniffle**, for one thing, and I don't give a star-spangled hoot whether/how much YOU care. Get it? Get it! I got it- you oughta get it too.

Your (our) fascinated grasp of “current events” reflects nothing more than a puke-crusted bleary hang-over memory of what coulda-shoulda-woulda-mighta been. So, please, don't mention it. If you're enlightened, good for you! If you're not, even better. If you can't be bothered saying anything at all- best yet!

Why am I so bitterly disenchanted? I'm not. But I thought you might need a bit of reverse psychology to buck you up. Have a *^&%$#*^&% day. That's Esperanto for “acceptably pleasant”.***

* Says who? Not me... maybe YOUR negative thoughts are intruding...
**Thump'n'Sniffle..... T.S. Eliot spoke of- prize-winningly(?)- a Bang and/or a Whimper.
*** No, that's not Esperanto for anything. But have a pleasantly acceptable day anyway.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rule number one: Don't take an unscheduled nap while cooking!!! Rule number two: Don't whine about what happens when you violate rule number one. This is very important- whining is counter-productive, and if you take your personal-societal growth seriously, counter-revolutionary, which is a capital (means you may/should/will lose your head) offense. I feel kind of offended by what I "cooked", but I don't dare whine about it openly, which is why I feel free to blog about it. I mean our constitution protects my right to talk about things if I don't whine, right? I ain't whining, I'm just saying, eh?

So, uh, anyway..

Preheat oven to BROIL HI

Place potato wedges on broiler pan rack- season to taste

Place hamburger, egg(s), frozen spinach, frozen vegetables (carrots, corn, green beans, lima beans), relatively fresh green leaf lettuce important- do NOT use iceberg lettuce, ever, anywhere, for anything.. period.) in broiler pan

Place boiler pan (top rack and bottom pan) in oven

Take a nap- DO NOT SCHEDULE!!! Pay attention to timing- be sure you sleep through the smoke alarms, phone calls, wailing sirens...

Don't whine, but please DO blog about it!

Friday, October 16, 2009

I had a very strange dream last night. I wasn't in the dream at all, except as the subject of it. Strange to see myself like that- I mean, I'm usually in my dreams of course, but I'm not usually the subject. Well, of course, yes I am.. it's hard to explain. It was a dream about me, and I didn't seem to be the one having the dream. It was like watching a documentary about me- there was even a narrator who sounded like Leonard Nimoy. He talked about my work as a bell-maker, how I cast them in bronze, and how I went to a bell academy in Singapore and studied there for twenty years, supporting myself by drawing erotic comic books that were banned by the UN because they depicted bestiality and genocide. There were a lot of still photos shown,both of me and my work- none real, but all very believable. There were images of me in all the stages of my life, from memory I guess, except for the later ones, which showed me looking more distinguished than I probably will. There were frequent snippets of people- both famous and totally unknown- talking about me. Some of the famous people were Bob Dylan, Werner Herzog, and Ernest Hemingway. Dylan said I was a big influence on him, and that I played harpsichord better than anyone he ever heard. Later he told a story about me turning Joan Baez down for a date, and how that made him so mad he tried to punch me in the eye but I wouldn't fight and ran away laughing. Herzog said I taught him how to photograph the wind and took him sailing underwater. Later he remembered me making tea and sandwiches for him and his daughter in my hotel room in Switzerland, using a candle to boil the water, and I burned the curtains and got wax on the carpet. He said that when his daughter died, I mailed him a diaper to use for his tears, asking him to send it back without washing it. Hemingway said he always considered me a big phony politically, and thought I had a terrible sense of color, but he liked my taste in furniture. Later he claimed I stole one of his wives, but he seemed not believe his own story and his voice trailed off into uncomfortable silence, while the camera stayed on him until he blinked and lowered his gaze. Later yet he said there was no question I was influential, but that deep down I was a crook. He said I once threatened to slash his face with a giant shark tooth unless he signed over the rights to his non-fiction books, but that he refused and I backed down, and that another time I urinated in his convertible and left a stolen mailbox on his front porch.

I had no feelings about hearing any of these stories- or rather, I was fascinated and touched by hearing them, but not as myself, only as someone who didn't know me personally.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

That was when we lived in a volcano...

In the mid 1970s my father served on a US Navy ship cruising the Mediterranean Sea, which kept him away from home (at that time Norfolk, Virginia) for several years. Unwilling to be apart from him so long, our family twice spent several months camping in Europe, following the ship around.When the ship stayed out at sea for long stretches, my mother would take us (four kids under the age of ten) on very long trips far inland. We got to see a lot of Europe that way, and just as importantly our family was able to spend a lot of time together. The ship spent a fair amount of time near Naples, Italy, so we frequently stayed at a local resort called Solfatara, which was home to a dormant volcano. Most of the time we lived in our 1970 Volkswagen camper, but when Dad could come for a visit, we would move into one of the rental bungalows for a while. There were other Navy families in the campground too, doing exactly what we were doing, and we made friends with the other kids. When we were on the road, we looked forward to getting "home" to Solfatara, and seeing our friends again. The volcano was a wonderful playground- boiling mud, sulfurous fumes, hot rocks, caves. Great stuff for kids to play with! You can look at the place on Google Maps- the view below is a bit off-center, so just click on the link to bring up the webpage. There are some good pictures on the Maps page, under the Panoramio link.The white, bare area is the volcano, and the campground is in the trees just to the north-west.

View Larger Map

Saturday, October 10, 2009

And then...

I've been having the kind of day where things keep happening, and leading to other things, which lead to other things. I don't mean unconnected things, either- I'm talking about things causing other things. The kind of day that makes you think. And in my case, the kind of day that opens the soul a little wider with each new twist.

I woke up grumpy and sore from a bad night of little true sleep- I'd been plagued by strange and troubling dreams, my bladder and my sinuses and aching joints all pointing to the onset of a cold or flu episode- and the day seemed to promise only gritty-eyed torment. Feeling grim at best, I left the house on my Townie- the smooth-tired, load-bearing bicycle I use for doing things in and around town- to ride over to the library where an audiobook of Paul Theroux's Ghost Train To The Eastern Star was being held for me. Damnit, I grumbled to myself, I don't want to ride anywhere, especially not somewhere I've never ridden before. And I didn't want to. I never want to. I'm a lousy and lazy cyclist- poor technique and a crappy attitude get you nowhere when pedals are involved. Still, once I get going, I invariably start to feel better, which is the only reason I ever set out at all.

My route required a power merge onto an expressway (signal, go, signal again, go again) in which I had to trust strangers not to run me down when I knew darned well they were all on the phone or checking the kids' seatbelts or doing anything but looking out for me, which I dreaded. I'd been successfully avoiding this ride for months because of the scary merges, but now my closest local library branch was shut down until January for renovation, and I would have to make the ride if I wanted any books. As I came to the merge point, I chickened out because sure enough, the drivers were paying too little attention, as always. Two of them waited until the last possible moment to look up from their phones or whatever and panic-sprint their way right across the very piece of asphalt I would need to occupy, still not looking anywhere but straight ahead, and so close together there wasn't an inch of room for me, while yet another aborted the merge and came right back into the only bit of road I could use. This all happened extremely fast. It looked like those cockpit views of racetrack crashes, with cars going everywhere. The hair on the back of my neck is all that saved me.

Damned fools, I grumbled. I circled the block for another try, passing a gas station where I once worked years ago. The combination of workplace nostalgia and near-miss adrenalin was making me feel pretty good, all of a sudden, to my surprise. Just past the gas station driveway, I noticed a pretty nice looking cell-phone with a slide-out keyboard bouncing around in the road after being run over by a car. I considered stopping to see if there might be any salvageable bits, but pressed on. Back at the merge point, virtually the same thing happened again. People just don't know how to drive anymore, and they either brake or turn whenever anything scares them. I managed to avoid being killed, again, and decided I'd go around one more time, hoping for a break.

As I came up to where I'd seen the bouncing cell-phone on my last lap, I heard screeching tires back at the merge point. Really, I thought, this is just too much! I pulled over and dismounted. I wanted to wait until all these heedless drivers cleared the area. The pitiful cell-phone was bouncing around again, the battery was out by now. Yet another car ran over it. Well, I thought, that's three times now. I had the time, so waited for a break in traffic, and picked up the pieces of the phone. To my great surprise, it looked all right, so I slipped the battery in and held it with my thumb while I pressed the start-up button, not bothering to try the battery cover. I figured something somewhere would keep the thing from working, but it came to life instantly, so I tried the battery cover. It fit right in. I opened up the phone book and dialed the first number. Two rings later, I was talking to someone who promised to e-mail the owner immediately if I would leave the phone at the gas station. I hung up and wheeled my bike over to the front of the gas station and went in. A lady and the clerk were poring over a map, both obviously stumped and she looking very frazzled. I handed the phone to the clerk, told him the name of the person who would coming to ask for it- his eyes lit up. I know her, he cried, delighted. She's a customer. This is her phone! Yes, I said, good, smiling. I like it when things work out. I got ready to go on my way. The map lady looked at me and asked if there was any chance I knew how to find … and she named my street, a cul-de-sac with only nine houses on it. I told her I lived there, and led her straight to the house she wanted. I didn't have a working cyclo-computer today (pinched wire, think), so I don't know how fast I rode, but it felt like a record speed for me- I didn't want to cause a traffic jam.

Back home again, I drank some milk and ate a few grapes, thankfully, for I had neglected to eat before leaving the first time. Feeling positively wonderful by now, I set out again, and zoomed through the merge of death and onto the expressway; I surprised myself by arriving at the library in only about as long as I had spent since leaving home the first time- about fifteen minutes.

What's the point? I started out feeling terrible, and not very happy. When I calmly refused to force the situation (the tough merge complicated by criminally dangerous driving) I found a phone and saved it for its owner. Then I got to lead a family to a birthday party on my home street- sort of a hometown parade. Then I mastered the dread merge and had a nice ride. That's enough of a point for me!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Reduce, reuse, recycle

If a tree falls in your forest and you are not home to hear it, you will know what happened because it will be lying on top of your garden shed... and reaching out as far as the deep end of your OOL.


Long before we moved out to California ourselves and got a pool of our own, we had enjoyed a humorous sign at our uncle's home in Novato. It looked just like the one we eventually hung at our place. “Welcome To Our OOL Notice there is no P in it. Please keep it that way.” I'm pretty sure we and our many guests honored the letter of this law most of the time. As for the rest of the time... Better Living Through Chemistry, anyone?

We had an Atlas Cedar in our yard for many years, which I am sure all my siblings remember, some of them perhaps fondly. Although it was structurally ideal for climbing and tree-house hosting thanks to its dual (or triple- I am no longer sure which) trunks and numerous low branches, like almost any other tree it was also far from ideal for these purposes due to the great quantity of sticky, aromatic sap it exuded. I don't recall that we were much deterred by the sap, though I believe our mother noted its presence in her laundry pile with something less than complete delight. This tree, because of its somewhat spongy wood, was not very strong for its size, and suffered wind damage accordingly through the years; more than once, this wind damage rippled outward- a shed roof, a phone line. Something had to give, and we were tired of it always being that dear old tree, so bit by bit the once full and proud 70 footer was whittled down to about thirty rather ragged feet of snaggle-topped trunk with scarcely enough foliage to keep it alive, and then eventually was cut down to a forlorn stump of a few feet.

When, some years later, this stump had to be removed to make way for a brick patio I gathered some of the stump grindings and further ground them using an old coffee grinder which I had long used for reducing eucalyptus seed pods to powder. Don't ask me why I did either of these two grinding operation- or go ahead and ask me. I don't mind, it's just that I don't have any really interesting reasons. In both cases, I enjoyed the aromatic qualities of the material, which were enhanced by grinding; in the case of the Atlas Cedar, there were also sentimantal motivations- our old tree was finally gone, and I wanted to keep something around to remind me of it. I'm a physical, as well as psychical, collector. I'm a memory monger, and memory can have form. This coffee grinder, made by Girmi of Italy, bore a curiously Fascistic sticker declaring that the appliance had been approved by the City of Los Angeles Department of Building & Safety. You know a local government has gone far wrong when it can find the time to evaluate foreign consumer grade kitchen tools.

What once was lost now is found

Anytime you move something as big as a tree you're going to find things. In the case of a tree that was long used by children, some of those things will be toys. Remember Playmobil? If you do remember the blockily graceful little swing-arm people with removable hair, chances are you also remember some of the wonderful things they brought with them when they colonized our world, such as this dog, who was not born with a bobbed tail, and the accompanying marvelously detailed stave-side pail which is better designed, in my opinion, than 85% of all Playmobil accessories.

You may also remember little green army men- these crippled veterans are about the best preserved, and least destroyed of the hundreds who served and died in that part of our backyard. More fortunate than many, these guys did not fall to fire, airguns, or even the dread shovel-bomb. From their injuries, which include broken backs, missing feet, and one decapitation, I'd say these men were done in by brick artillery, and probably only one or two barrages, at that. Nonetheless when they were called to go forth, they answered the call. The orange-brown box trying to creep in at the right side of the picture is another Playmobil artifact, a non-descript handled crate. I do not consider it notable, and took pains to exclude it, with only about as much success as such pettiness deserves..

The Clown Who Came To Dinner

Things come and things go, staying as long in the backyard as they are needed, or unheeded. Then there are the things that are just passing through. When I first started bike buying about this time last year, I ran across this Miyata “clown bike”, a very goofy eccentric-hubbed machine designed to give an up-and-down ride, sort of a swoopy-bumpy gait. It was of no use to me, but I had been in correspondence with a bike-collecting gentleman in Baltimore who was interested, so I bought it and boxed it and put it on an Amtrak train. Total time on premises- a memorable 72 hours.

Blonde On Blonde

This guitar, which I bought about ten or fifteen years ago was the first of what has since become three mid 70s to early 80s Ibanez Concords, all with maple fretboards. At first, I enjoyed the guitar more for its effortless playability and its balanced sound output than for its stunningly beautiful wood. I didn't think the maple was such a big deal, even visually, though it was kind of nice. Soon, however, I was in love. The visual magic caught hold of my mind, yes, and strongly so, but it was the feel that really got me. After a month of playing this guitar, the regular old guitars with rosewood fretboards I picked up felt a lot less fluid, even downright cranky and resistant. It was the smoothness of the fretboard that made the difference. In fairness, I can't say that the maple is what makes the fretboard smooth, because I believe there is some applied finish -and fairly thick finish at that- involved, but the combination of feel and yellowy goodness proved almost irresistible, and I bought a couple more from this line, as chances came up. This one is a Model 671, and I still like it better than any of the others, though I do appreciate them all very much. I don't know why I never name guitars- it's certainly not that I object to the practice, far from it- but I don't, so I just refer to this one by model number or as the blonde beauty, but if I ever do start naming instruments, I think Ol' Yeller would be about right.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Townie
Mountain Cat

The Folder

I just started biking again after many years off. While I doubt I'll ever be a serious rider, I am enjoying the power of pedal. I started out with the current-production Montague in the background. It's all aluminum (though not very light), and it folds in half, which I thought would be very handy but turned out to have drawbacks, which I'll talk about later. It's a bit odd-looking, but also sort of handsome, in my opinion. Unlike "normal" bikes, it starts conversations- sometimes rather intense ones- with people who aren't interested in bikes at all. People either love it or hate it, and I think I know why, but I'm still always a bit surprised by the strong opinions it inspires. The big "top" tube (due to the unusual design, there is no down tube) in bright yellow draws a lot of attention just because it is big and yellow- and I think that's what some people like about it. It's different, and it's cute, and it's highly visible. I like these aspects of the bike too. This big, hard-to-miss "top" tube is also what draws the negative reactions- people flip out over the Hummer logo. I'm not kidding! Many, many people shake their heads sadly when they see that word. More than a few openly sneer. Some have even asked me how I can ride such a thing, as though the name alone makes it the equivalent of driving a big truck. This amuses me. I tell the Hummer haters that I drive a Honda Civic, which is true, and that I would never consider owning a Hummer, which is also true; I respond this way not because I feel the need to defend my environmental footprint, but in the hope that people will rethink their silly assumptions, and maybe even recognize the utter incivility of abusing a stranger over the name on his bike. I wonder whether these people would dare to act this way to a real Hummer driver? I doubt it, though I'm not sure why. I think people may perceive cyclists as inherently mild-mannered, especially helmeted cyclists, and therefore safe targets for obnoxious harrassment. I also think that people might be afraid to challenge people who drive big trucks because they assume that big-truck drivers must be insecure people and therefore possibly dangerous. Anyway, back to the bike. In its original configuration, I liked the it very much, though it did have a couple of problems. First, I don't like flat and/or low bars, even on rough terrain, but that's how mountain bikes are built. Second, the bike was slightly too big for me, giving me a reach problem. I'm an awkward size for bikes and shoes and clothing, and come to think of it, for cars too. Nothing fits me quite right. I have to modify almost everything I use, and when no modifications are possible, I have to put up with a less-than-ideal fit. In this case I was able to solve both problems by changing to a very short stem and a back-tilted BMX handlebar, which helped "shorten" the bike, while also considerably raising the bar height. It worked out pretty well, so I mounted a bell and a cyclocomputer and was in business. I loved folding up the bike and tossing (well, stuffing) it in the back of my car. This allowed me to drive somewhere fun and ride around, no rack needed. Very cool. In the course of a few such excursions I noticed that it was very easy to knock my rear derailleur out of alignment during loading and unloading and not particularly easy to avoid doing so. Not cool. And I was tearing up my rear upholstery. Also not cool. Eventually, I found that I could solve both these problems by loading the bike upside down. Cool, except that this put a lot of wear and tear on my bell and computer. I flipped the bell so that it rode below the handlebar, and I moved the computer to the lower bar- it's a two-piece handlebar, with a crossmember near the top.

As I put more miles on the Hummer, mostly on paved roads and cycling paths, I began to resent the noise and drag of the knobby tires, and I considered switching to something smoother. When I priced new tires, I realized it wouldn't be much more expensive to buy another bike that already had street tires, and so I did that. I'm glad I did because I would have missed the knobbies off-road, and because I throughly enjoy the second bike, which is perfectly suited to what I use it for.

The Townie
While looking for my townbike, I bought and quickly resold an extremely-too-large Panasonic Mountain Cat 3500 (the blue/yellow seatless wonder in the pictures), keeping the fenders with which it had come. I knew I would need them, and the guy I sold the Panasonic to had his own fenders- or didn't want to run fenders, I can't remember which. Anyway, having these made my search easier since I didn't have to look for a pre-fendered bike. The Mountain Cat, a mid-80's lugged steel hybrid with considerable under-stated elegance and very comfortable upright geometry had helped me see that I didn't want a sloping top-tube, or a suspension fork; this enlightenment simultaneously expanded and contracted the field of eligible bikes- on the one hand, all old bikes were possibilities, on the other hand almost no newer bikes were.

I found a 1983 Diamondback Ridge Runner and fell in love with it right away. It had the lugged steel frame and classic lines I had so admired in the Panasonic, a set of good quality street tires, and it came with some accessories I very much wanted but couldn't really afford- things like a rear rack, a rear rack bag, a full-length pump, a seat-post bag, and it already had a computer. I was delighted. All it really needed was some fenders, and a change of handlebar. I tackled the handlebar problem first, because that was not going to be easy, whereas the fenders would practically install themselves, as Homer Simpson might say. I had recently bought a really nice aluminum one-piece BMX riser handlebar, knowing I would probably not find a bike with the kind of bar I liked, so the problem was already half-solved. But halfway isn't far enough. DBRR came with a "bull-moose" handlebar that had an integral stem, which meant that when the bar came off, so did the stem. Bummer. I would have to find a stem. Once again, it was cheaper and easier to buy a whole bike to get what I needed, so that's what I did. I found an affordable ($20) early 90's Bridgestone MB5 and took its stem for DBRR, giving the MB5 the bullmoose bar in return- and installing friction thumbshifters to replace the utterly non-functional grip-shifters while I was at it. That bike ended up at a friend's ski cabin, where I hoped it would get some use by someone other than me- because if I rode it much, it would need a new handlebar. Sadly, because the bike was so small, much too small even for me, it was very unlikely to be ridden at all, and I have since decided that it should be sold. Anyway, with the nice new (to me) handlebar and the pretty black fenders that went so well with the black-on-grey paint scheme DBRR was reborn as the Townie, and now gets far more miles than the Folder. The Jeep saddle was a hand-me-over from my Dad to replace the woman-specific saddle the Townie was wearing when it came to me.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Try to take a picture of a fly and it will look like crap- try to take a picture of a crap, and you might catch a fly. Look between Dudley Do-Right's right thumb (on your left) and the north-west corner of the turd. Please DO click on the image for a closer look. A fly, doing what a fly does. Can't make out whether the fly is smiling.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hmmm. How about that- I never blog anymore, and I'd assumed this space had been reassigned by now, but it hasn't, so here I am, for a moment. That's a lot of commas.

Garden news:

My new, all-white eggplant is languishing as eggplants always do- I'm hoping it will explode in July, as all past eggplants have. Three or four kinds of potatoes continue to colonize, and I think one tomatillo sleeper is living among the spud shrubs, a child of the mostly ignored crop of last summer. I saved some seeds from the first tomatillo crop, and meant to plant them earlier, but I forgot all about them until I spied the straggly, different-looking mini-bush in with my Yukon Golds, which I had dug up and spread all over the former tomatilla acreage (just shy of 3 square feet, truthfully). I'll tell the friend who gave me the original seedlings that it looks like one seed decided not to wait for the official planting date. Things are starting to flower, which I always enjoy. I sometimes tell people I'm a flower farmer, on the strength of this. This year I have fava beans sharing a tiny hill with some peas, both seeded from the stash jar of a dear friend, who lets his beans wave around like horsetails. I trained mine, along with the peas, up three slender bamboo sticks leaning togetherward, and they are now over two feet tall, half the height of the bamboo array. I spend about five minutes, morning and evening, coaxing the newly curling tendrils off of one another, out of thin air, even off of themselves, and onto the bamboo. Lot of commas there too. Wonder why I care?

What else am I growing? Oh, giant pumpkins. And hopefully some heirloom collard greens from Oakland and/or Berkeley. I tried to sprout the one and a half seeds, which were all the donor could spare, without success and finally planted the sodden little grains in a gently watered slope on the sunny side of my blue potato patch. I hope for the best, but fear the worst. If nothing comes of this planting, I'll write to the donor and ask to be included, perhaps a little more generously, in next year's sharing. Historical greens are too important to wait on good manners, not that I won't speak politely while rudely demanding preference... Is that it for the garden news? Well, there are not many snails around this spring, for the first time in a long time. Plenty of slugs, which are just as bad, and harder to relocate when you catch them. I can eat snails as happily as I eat any meat, not that I do (eat snails) anymore, but I don't know, I honestly don't know, whether I would eat slugs. I guess I might, if they weren't slimy, and were appealingly prepared. It's the least of my worries, but I took a moment to address it, eh?

Other news:

Unemployed, and uninspired. Bought a folding mountain bike, haven't ridden it in weeks. I go out and dust it once a week, and pat it on the saddle, and call it a good horse. I'm in love with another bike, and that's enough of an excuse for me to ignore the bike I'm with. The details would possibly bore you, but the other bike folds too, and it could be made into a pretty fair mountain bike. Tomorrow I will ride MY bike. No reason not to, and I like doing it.

I'll put up some garden and bike pictures soon.