Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I'm in my hometown, visiting mom for Thanksgiving. I will NOT be blogging during that time, but yesterday I wrote a check for $859.25.

It was the very last check on the very last credit card bill.

As of yesterday, I'm debt free. I've had credit card debt for nearly 25 years, but no longer

WOO HOO!!!!!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Staying warm

This morning the Kid was in his chair playing a video game in just his boxer shorts.

I'm cold, he says.

Put on some sweatpants and a shirt, I say.

I shouldn't have to shiver in my own house, he says.

You have the 'misfortune' to have a dad who considers the world in a small way. Your goose bumps rate very low. Put on a shirt, some pants, some socks.

He does.

I'm a lucky man.

Winter Clothes

Tom W called early in the a.m. and wanted to go on a bike ride – 44 miles or so, Clifty Hollow or the Porter Pike route. Tom and I are about the only members of our bike club that like these two routes. They are intense, but with intensity of effort there are scenic rewards that aren't available elsewhere.

I suppose that's true across life in general.

We decided on the latter route with easier and fewer climbs. I’m not much on intensity these days. I'll ramp it back up in December so I'll be able to kick some serious ass by the end of March, but November is my chill out, slow down, get a bit fatter month. Tom, however, is all about intensity. Ah well, off we go.

The last time I was out that way it was drop dead gorgeous with fall foliage at its peak. Now, however, the landscape was sporting its winter attire and there was a frigid northwest wind blowing through the bones. We stopped on Iron Bridge – the halfway point with a view that never disappoints no matter the season, but we didn’t stay long because it was CHILLY.

This was a ride I probably shouldn’t have gone on. I'm in a reflective mood these days, trying to sort shit out and giving the endorphin addiction a rest, but I’m glad I went. We rode quietly, not much conversation since you typically need breath to speak and for me breath seemed in short supply. But there were moments - side by side, intense focus, the breath dialed in, cadence synchronized, simultaneous shifting of gears, leaning into curves, the whir of tires, all of these things speaking volumes to the world passing by and to each of us. People who don’t bike won’t get that last bit. Tom’s a good friend.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ugly Reality

A powerful memory from my childhood was when I was 9 or 10 and I read an article in Time magazine about hungry children in New York City. I remember the pictures of the poor huddled around the fires that were set in barrels and reading about those children, my age, who didn't know where they would sleep or what they would eat. I remember that it was around Christmas and I was so sad for them. It was the first time that the reality of poverty struck me. I wanted to make things ok, but I couldn't. My mother tried to console me, but I sobbed.

Fast forward 16 years.

When I was a paid chorister in the Presbyterian Church two blocks away from here, I remember waiting to enter the sanctuary and reading one of the many mission posters describing the work being done around the world. This one read 'Two thousand miles away, someone is going to bed hungry'.

Somebody had scratched out the word 'thousand' and written 'blocks'.

At the time I lived in another section of town and I was much younger than now (22 years younger, to be exact), so even though I knew the edited poster was probably telling the truth, it was still very much an abstraction, something that happened 'somewhere else', no matter how close 'somewhere else' was. There was a twinge of concern somewhere in my gut, but the wrenching emotion that I had known as a child was not there.

Fast forward another 19 years, to three years ago. I had been living in my present house for 10 years. It was around this time of year, maybe a bit later, because I had first started to ride my bicycle to work.

One particularly frosty morning I had stopped at an intersection and there was a latino in a light jacket pushing a shopping cart with cans and bottles across the street. I nodded hello to him, but his eyes were distant and hard, perhaps he was drunk or mentally ill, I remembered thinking. On to work I went.

Later that day I drove the store van to my house to drop off some slatwall, and as I drove up I saw that man going through my trash. I parked some distance away and watched him. People had been leaving trash outside of my bin after going through it for the cans, etc. and it was pissing me off. Then I became suspicious because I saw him get something out and look at it closely. I thought that maybe he had one of my financial statements and might try to defraud me somehow.

Then, ... and I'll never ever forget this... he ate that thing that he had been looking at. It was a cantaloupe rind and he had been looking at it to determine if it might be safe to eat. I felt dirty and fat and callous and mean and cold and so very wrong, but I did nothing. I hurt on the inside, but I did nothing as the shame poured over me. Later that day that I remembered the poster with the edited phrase '2 blocks away people are going to bed hungry'. I realized that this was no longer an abstraction.

The universe had given me an opportunity and I blew it.

I'm writing all of this because today I listened to the message over at minuscar about 'being beautiful' and it talked about this very thing. I don't buy the whole 'do it for the kingdom' angle. I believe that we should be kind to our neighbors because it is the right thing to do. I hope the next time inequity is put so honestly in front of me that I'll not be paralyzed with inaction.

Being beautiful - Be beautiful - beautiful

this message is kicking me hard from the inside.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Sucky weather day, and my alarm clock was the Kid’s frustrated voice yelling ‘Great, I missed my FUCKING ride’ followed by a sheepish ‘Dad, can I have a ride to school?’. Of course, I say. After dropping him off at school I head to the hospital lab where I’ll have blood drawn in preparation for my physical on Monday. They don’t know I’m coming and don’t have any ‘orders’. This appointment has been on the ‘books’ since February. I cancelled the Monday appointment and left without having blood drawn. I was a pissed off guy. I’ll do it in March.

Even with my massive indignation the universe continued to whirl about, apparently unconcerned about my mood, and now as I’m writing about it everything just feels silly. I’m glad I could let it go.

I was late to work but what of it? Because of the limited time, I decided to ride the bike even in the cold rain of this pissy day and it was miserable, but only slightly so. I would rather have had the time to walk, though.

Over at minuscar there are a couple of MP3 files. I listened to the one from the Mars Hill Church, about slowing down, because it was the quickest to load. Yes, I can see the irony. There was a tidbit that I wrote down so I wouldn’t forget it - 'one of the central practices of the examined life is we look thoroughly at our soul ad find out what is going on inside of us - There were other gems about the importance of observing an off day, resisting the deceitfulness of wealth, being right here, right now and taking time for nothingness. Good stuff. I’m being ministered to by a site I originally visited because I like to ride my bicycle. I hope minuscar gets a giggle out of that.


update: MinusCar has taken the link to this spot down. Good. I can go back to anonymity. :-) His blog has had, and will continue to have, a major impact on the way I live.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Karma (Bike-Ma?)

I thought I would take advantage of a window of opportunity when it was NOT raining. Well, it rained. Live Doppler radar has its shortfalls, evidently. AND, it turns out that khaki pants are not the brightest choice when there’s rain in the picture. BUT… I enjoyed the ride in more than I would have imagined. I enjoyed it a lot.

One of the best moments was waiting to turn on to Old Morgantown road. Here’s the picture… I’m waiting to turn left this very busy road, and there’s a stream of cars waiting to cross the railroad tracks at the green light. The light turns red, and I make eye contact with this lady in a small car and gesture to her as if to ask if she’ll let me turn in. She looks away and speeds up and closes the gap between her and the car so that I couldn’t even fit between them. The car behind her does the same thing. I’m soaked, and those drivers are MEAN. That’s what they are, just plain mean. Ah… but sweet karma (bike-ma?)is on my side. I hear the train coming, a slow, tortuously slow freight train, huffing just to get up speed. Had she not pulled so close to the car in front of her, she could have turned left and taken a back road to beat that train, but because of her unwillingness to show a soaked bicycle rider the tiniest bit of courtesy, she’s trapped (in more ways than one, I might add). She can’t back up, she can’t turn, she can’t go ANYWHERE. But me, I have options out the wazoo. So I turn left and ride by her on the left hand side, smile (REAL BIG) and wave, go down and cross the tracks as the barriers come down. That line of cars wasn’t going to go anywhere for a while. Long, long slow train. Couldn’t have happened to nicer people.

I’m grinning as I write this. I hope she wasn’t late too late to work, because that would just be AWFUL.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Good Month

Tonight was two meetings that overlapped, but I made both of 'em. One was the newly organized green city initiative, and this is a cause that I believe in with every fiber of my being. The second was the GreenWay commission, with is in charge of connecting the city with a series of paths, bike paths, bike lanes, shared use paths, etc. They were meeting at the same time through a snafu of scheduling. I cut the first short to make sure I had time to book it over to the second.

On the way to the second, a major throughfare that I cross has been widened and ample bike lanes put in. In general I think bike lanes are a bad idea, but in this case they are really well done. I decided to take that road to my destination instead of the circuitous route I normally take.

The route I normally take has few cars. The route with the new bike lanes has LOTS of cars travelling 45+, and it was okay except for the exhaust I kept smelling. Foremost in my mind was that people needed to see a cyclist using the lanes. So there I was, after dark on a somewhat chilly night showing that if you build them, the bike lanes, they, the cyclists, will come. I'll use them sparingly. I still like the quiet streets, commune with trees and folks in their yards, the sound of children and birds and dogs. I like knowing all the back roads.

When I got home I remembered to check the car mileage to see how many I drove this past month. The last fillup was Oct. 4th, and I've driven 82 miles and have used a bit over a fourth of a tank.

I agree with SueJ that 'I can't stomach buying gasoline without extreme provocation, because I really believe it contributes to the greed and carnage we are so thoroughly insulated from'. Folks who know that I ride everywhere have commented that I must really like riding my bicycle. Not always. Sometimes it is a pain in the ass, but I ALWAYS feel good that I made the effort even if the rest of me is worn the fuck out.

In a totally unrelated moment, I was listening to episode #304 (Heretics) on This American Life and my insides felt soft and gentle and able to believe. 20 years ago I would have thought God is speaking to me. hmmmm.

Right now, however, the hifi (Klipschorns and tubes) have Gillian Welch playing. I'm totally spoiled by my stereo setup... it's like she's sitting in my little house playing just for me. I'm far luckier than I deserve to be.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Think Globally, act locally

I rode to church for the Wednesday meditation group. Tonight we did a 'sound meditation' which used a recording of tibetan monks chanting. The idea was to chant with them, a zen sing along, if you will. Not too sure about that.

The ride home was very foggy... eerie and quite nice. Everything looked like a suspense movie. Before I got home I sopped at city hall to support a resolution supporting the Green City initiative. It passed, but with language modifications that gutted it's original intent... which was to actively consider and support infrastructure that would lower carbon emissions over the future. Sigh... I suppose you have to start somewhere, and even though the new resolution is a shadow of the original, it's something.

I even spoke to the comission in favor of the resolution. I felt like Mr. Smith in Washington... well, without all that moral clarity and ethical uprightness, and certainly without the public speaking ability. :-)

After the commission moved on to other business the 10 or so supporters of the resolution left the building and each one of them got in their separate cars and drove home.

On a related note, when I got home I had received a letter from the Sierra Club. They sent me a bumper sticker to show that I support the fight against global warming. What.The.Fuck??

New Political Landscape

Well, everybody's whoopin' it up now that we have a 'new day in America'. I like the change. I was VERY involved in the process, giving both time and money. I hope the current madman in chief will have a VERY hard time over the next two years.

However, I can't get over the feeling that all we've done is put a new coat of paint on the whorehouse.

The time for vigilance is NOW. Always has been.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


The country is frenzied with political projections. I'm happy avoiding the political blogs and hanging out with my cat. I'm hoping the outcome of this night will at least be oversight of our reckless, dangerous president.

Tomorrow I continue to learn the new Yang style taiji sword form being taught to our small, extremely fortunate group by Ding Ma Ma. It's the first new martial arts form (and the only sword form) I've learned in 16 years, and the 'learning' mode is definitely different from the 'maintaining' mode or the 'teaching' mode.

I'm almost tempted to return to martial arts study (I earned my first black belt in Shaolin martial arts in 1982) ... but typically martial arts studios are testosterone laden vats of male attitude that i don't have time for. Plus, it hurts more at 48 than it did at 24. Unfortunately there is no school dedicated to the soft styles of wushu around here.

Time for sleep.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Gas Gadgets

On a much lighter note, or perhaps more alarming... on the way to church this morning and on the way home I saw a lot (more than 10, probably less than 20) folks out clearing leaves from their yards and driveways.

Most were using these gasoline powered leaf machines that turn a calm, peaceful Sunday afternoon into a whining, screeching, cacaphonous mess of blowing leaves.

What ever happened to rakes and brooms? It won't be long before you'll have to have gasoline to take a dump, it seems.

Important Lesson

I decided to take part in a small group ministry offered by our church. Our first meeting was on Thursday, November 2nd. As always, I rode my bicycle there on a very chilly autumn night.

I purchased the book ‘With Purpose and Principle: Essays About the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism’. It was suggested as a companion to these gatherings – an aid to jump start the thought processes, if you will. Contained within Marilyn Sewell’s essay about Unitarian Universalism’s first principle - ‘We affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every human being’ - was this passage:

- Though our first principle is the foundation of our theological and relational lives in community, we must acknowledge that there are questions and contradictions that plague us. One of these questions emerges in regard to the tolerance we profess. Some Unitarian Universalists who have moved away from Christianity, but who have not yet resolved the painful experiences of their childhood faith, find it difficult to tolerate Christian Unitarian Universalists, or even the use of the Bible in a worship service. –

Wow. I’ve been giving non-forgiveness & intolerance towards Christians (and by extension, Christ) free rent inside my head for nearly 12 years now. Not healthy.

The ride home was beautiful. It was a clear, cold night and the moon was nearly full. I took a long route home to let my thoughts tumble by while my breath and cadence dialed in. Time to let the anger go. Pedal over pedal, the faces and places needing forgiveness make their appearance and received dismissal, but not forgiveness, not yet. I’ve gotten used to being angry, used to being indignant, used to being a victim. In a whir of tires, the houses roll by. I pick up the pace and my breath follows. Every inhalation is refreshing coolness and every exhalation welcome warmth inside the balaclava. Let the anger go. I’m a shadow moving fast and dark among the bright yellow halogen light kissed acers, their leaves most beautiful at the end of their lives. I’m new to this. Forgive does not mean forget. Remembering doesn’t have to include anger. The bike becomes my whipping boy and I beat it, and myself, in the process. I stop for a busy intersection and feel my heart racing, my breath an empty, steamy thought bubble. You can learn this…. Question mark or exclamation point?! Practice forgiveness, I hear. Yes you’ll fuck up, but practice forgiveness. I am Mrs. Turpin in Flannery O’Conner’s ‘Revelation’ screaming ‘Who do you think you are?’ across the fields.

The answer returns to me as it did to her, an echo.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Book and Movie

Because I work at a university bookstore, I have never had any problem finding things to read during my lunch hour. I finished Griffin's: 'Black Like Me' a few days ago and was looking for something else to read. I picked up the short play 'W;t' by Margaret Edson. It won a pulitzer prize, so I figured it might have some substance to it.

I have not read a play since my college english class, and found them difficult at the time. I've seen Shakepearean plays and had a great time, but reading Shakespeare is extremely difficult for me.

It took me two lunch hours to finish 'W;t', and yesterday in the breakroom of my store I was weeping.

Contrast that with this evening. I rode my bicycle around town to see all the leaves in the last grips of their annual suicide and to do a little exploring on roads I don't normally ride. It was soothing and familiar. Then I picked up my Kid and we went to see the movie 'Borat'. Gene Shalitt (spelling?) had given it a great review on Good Morning America (a trash show, generally) and because he said most of the skits involved folks who had no idea what was going on and because he said he laughed his butt off and because he said it was 'raw' and 'politically incorrect' and 'vulgar' and because I remembered what fun I had had viewing 'Jackass 2' was a no brainer that I had to see it. (yes, I see the pun)

Anyway, I laughed my ass off. As deep and moving as 'W;t' was, 'Borat' is crude and unrefined... and funny as hell.

I drove the car to get to the movie - only because I was in no mood to have the Kid whining. In the snarl of traffic I was reminded why I hate to drive the car (unless it's raining and cold... then I like the car).