Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Endless Desert

The idea here was to show that I was just driving through an endless desert. Most people probabably don't think that the central valley in California is really a desert ... but it's a lot like a desert. Any way, I am in Twentynine Palms, CA for the night. Tomorrow, Joshua Tree, and onward to Phoenix.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Fork in the Trail

... I took the road less traveled. That's pretty cliché. Cliché is a French word that means snapshot. The French maybe don't quite have it right. What makes a cliché is that the image is effective, so it is subject to a bunch of agreeable use. It's widely understood and oft used, and we all know what it means.

Yawn. Now that I am free, I am going to run out to Arizona, for a few days. I'll spend the New Year Holiday in the Superstitions with the Happy Hiker Guy, and our friend Dale. We are going to Reavis Ranch for two days and I'll be in the Phoenix Metro for a few days. currently temps in Mesa are about like the are here, but promising to drop0 to freezing over the next few days. It will be cold at night in the superstitions at 3-4000 feet.

After a few days in Phoenix (looking for a job.) I'll spend about 10 days in Flagstaff, where it's snowing and the temps are ranging from 4 degrees F. to 25 degrees over the next couple of days. I am taking my bikes and gear and plan to try to ride a bit around Flagstaff while I am there. So I developed a little checklist for my gear for riding in winter with snow. Since I'll be a rodie in Mesa and a Snow Biker in Flagstaff, I'll have 2 bikes. The Trek mountain bike and the Marin San Marino.
  • Spare platform pedals (so I can wear my boots).
  • Gloves (2 pair)
  • Cycling shoes (2 pair)
  • neoprene booties
  • rain pants
  • long underwear (capilene or merino wool)
  • Wool shirt
  • Scarf
  • Jacket
  • Raincoat
  • Socks
  • helmet
  • balaclava
  • Pump
  • Toolkit
  • Spare tires
  • Water bottle
  • patch kit
  • tights
  • bike bag

I'll be getting ready.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


This is a clipping from my grandmother's recipe book, which, according to my mother, came from the Jamestown, ND newspaper sometime before 1934, when my grandfather died of pneumonia. This recipe is interesting, because one, it assume the reader can cook and bake, and two, it assumes you'll find some business for 10 egg whites (like containerizing them and freezing them for the rest of eternity -- that's what I'm planning), and three, that you'll know what sort of flavoring might be good.

Any way, this was a staple christmas favorite in my family from the 1920's until well before my grandmother passed in 1993 (at 97). It's a bit of a simple dough deep fried and coated with sugar. I don't think my grandmother used lard (my mother says peanut oil, but I am thinking crisco), but I did. The recipe was lost in a pile of stuff at my mother's, but after a fairly long search today, I found this little scrap of paper.

And it says:

Fattigmand (sic, Fattigmann is more common)
10 egg yolks
2 eggs, whole
10 teaspoons sugar
10 teaspoons cream
Any flavoring can be used

Beat yolks and whole eggs; add sugar and beat. Add cream, and enough flour to roll like cookies. Roll very thin; cut in diamond shapes, punch holes with end of knife, and fry in deep (very hot) lard.

So I made them. It wasn't until I took a stab at poke holes in the dough with tip of knife and heard the scrape of the knife against the board that I began to hear my grandmother talking in my head ... "Keep the board clean, with a thin dust of flour, roll this really thin. Make sure the oil is hot, you can tell by the way the water boils off as soon as it hits the oil". I could all of the sudden smell the smeels of her kitchen -- the mysterious starting to roll back, exposing themselves.

Now if I could just find the recipe for the sticky buns ...
Note: It turns out my memory of events was a bit off, my ex-wife claims that she's never seen these, which means my grandmother had stopped making them before 1983-ish.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ummm ... I Baked Some Bread

... Spicy Currant Bread, to be exact. I used to bake a bunch of whole grain breads, which, as we all know, takes special voodoo magic. I haven't baked bread for some years ... but it seems like maybe it's a bit like riding a bike ...

This recipe comes from the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, which is a must read if you are interested in making good whole grain bread.

Tomorrow morning I will share it with some friends. Tonight, my place is filled with great smells and warmth.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ahhhh ...that's better

Dear Shawn,
I don't know why you have neglected me for so long, but I appreciate the bits of grease and the new handle bar tape, and the new fangled saddle with the hole in it. It's about time. I am a sophisticated, serious, lightweight, carbon and steel road bike, and I deserve better (I can;t believe you actually let me get rusty). I was second best in my class in 2003. I am fast, sleek, and a great hill climber. I have to insist that you take better care of me from now on.
I notice that you have a couple of cool new mountain bikes. I am pretty jealous of those, and I am glad you've moved them to the other side of the garage. I don't want thewm to get the idea that they're important.
I feel better now that you've put air in my tires and ridden me a couple of times. I appreciate the ride to Lake Merced, it's beautiful there and it's been so long since I have been out. Today's 5 and 1/2 mile ride was a bit short, but it sure was fun now that I am all spruced up. You should continue to try not to ride me through puddles.
Your Roadster.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Saddle ...

... what will gilby think. I have always been a strong advocate of a Brooks saddle as seen in this old post, Tearing Myself a New Asshole, so this must seem like an absolute reversal of great past wisdom. But it's not. When I got the Surly KM, I moved my swell Brooks Saddle over to it and returned my Selle Italia Trimatic to its original home on the San Marino Yellow Bar 20 lb. roadie. After last week's ButtRendering&trade on the Selle Italia; ride, I decided to look at a new saddle.

I let the bike wizard guy talk me into looking at the Specialized saddles with the hole in the middle, which I like to refer to as the assGap™. He had me sit on an assGauge™ to determine my bony butt wants a 143 mm wide saddle and then we picked out one with gel. A Specialized Phenom. Despite my original tirade against gel, with the assGap™, the gel won't be able to wedge itself up where the sun won't shine -- so maybe I can tolerate it.

So I put it on the bike -- and have so far retired the Selle Italia Trimatic ... 2003's finest and a very popular saddle. It has Manganese gizmo-rod things and is handmade of leather and plastic in Italy, by expert seat makers. It has a couple of signs of wear after about a 1000 miles of use, and is scuffed on both ends. If you're willing to pay shipping and a hundred bucks or so -- it's yours. It's well made and although I don't like it, many people rave about it.

If I don't like the new saddle, I suppose I'll have to buy a Brooks Titanium Swallow (wholly crap, I'll need a loan), and move The Specialialized Phenom Gel over to the trek -- which has a generic foamy crapSaddle™. It will be an improvement.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Layers of My Life

So ... a couple of days ago I started sifting through my stuff. Looking for my sign grip (a toolbox, if you will) and a box of paint cans. It's because I may have a side job lettering something, which I haven't done since the last time I was unemployed. So I need the brushes, whispery bits, odd gadgets and other sorts of what-not that allow me to perform the real magic of painting.
Magic, you say?
It's really probably the Guilder's fault that glitter is associated with magic and mysticism. The guilder uses static electricity generated by rubbing the Guilder's tip (a brush) in his hair to pick up gold leaf from a cushion. this action deposits bit of gold in the Guilder's hair. Now for the scary part, the static electricity causes the gold leaf to literally leap from the cushion to the brush (ooohs and ahhhs). This is clearly evil wizardry.
But what about the painter and the magic wand. What other profession can you think of where a person (Artist) waves a wand (paint brush) to create some thing (painting) where before there was nothing. Now that's your real magic. No wonder painters were venerated. It was fear of magic. Ha!
Anyway, let's get back to the subject, my grip. "Grip" is a term that old-timey set painters and the like use to call their tool box. They are musty, oily places with tapes and razors and wads of gum, the stuff used to put a show together. Mine has cheese cloth and cotton balls, crazy odd hand cut graining brushes and the occasional screwdriver. I used to say that with that toolbox I could go anywhere and work.
It really started in about 1985 when some crazy friend of mine said "Hey, why don't you make this guy a sign?" Well it started before that -- but this is where I'm going to start. I was sitting in a bar named "Stella Blue," which happened to be right near the local sign shop, and met this guy who told me he was painting a painting ... and a few weeks later he was teaching me to really make signs and I was helping him paint. There are a bunch of twists and turns to this story and although I never was that great at it -- I was a sign shop for about 5 years. Then I taught painting at the local community center, and went back to college. When I got out of college I got divorced and went to grad school with a truckload of tools and a Subaru, which leads us to the point where this story actually starts.
Me looking for a box of sign paint amidst a huge pile of stuff. Layers of stuff. When I moved to Eastern Washington to go to grad school right after giving up everything in my divorce, I had a truck load of tools, what fit into my Subaru, and my freedom. Two years later I packed up my studio and sculpture and the contents of an apartment and headed back to California to create the first layer of stuff in the storage that would not get unpacked. I moved to Northern California and back, New Hampshire and back, South Korea and back, Arizona and back, and several times in between. Each time I've added a layer to the storage here at my folks. About 11 layers. Some stuff always finds a home in the new location ... the stereo, the sign kit. Some paintings. the topo maps. Other stuff -- always manages to return to the pile ... letters from a certain friend. Oil painting stuff.
So I've been riding around with an old-timey sign guy, once covered by Signcraft magazine, when he was a sign shop in Maui. Definitely one of the local characters. I offered to help him out if he needed a hand, and he did. We ride around in his truck, fix up old signs, make new ones, drink coffee, flirt with waitresses. It's just like living one of the old layers of my life. One of the good layers.
As I clean up and sift and sort ... I find myself uplifted by my past life. The stuff I did. Each layer has residue that is about what I did at the time. The things I was interested in. There are layers of me as a painter, a sculptor, birder, bird owner, orchid collector, camera enthusiast, a darkroom layer, a ceramics layer, a blacksmith layer, a software layer, a manager layer, an adventurer layer, and we shouldn't forget about the bicycle layer. Or the book layer.
Anyway, so I walked into the sign guy's shop and it was organized like mine ... "In Wally's world, sandpaper is usually at the end of the shelf, standing on edge;" once you know that you'll always be able to find it.
I missed my unorganized shop in the barn at 20 South Eldorado when I had two cats and a one year old, a phone and a roof that leaked; A racoon that was starting to act like a pet, and a neighbor that made sculpture with names like "Gateway to Narnia" and drank like ... well ... a drunk. My unorganized shop with a greenhouse on the roof and wild parrots in the trees above.. The same year that I traded a sign for a VW 411 -- which I later traded for a 46 flat bed Dodge. The Sign Layer.
I could go back to that.

Monday, December 8, 2008

On Becoming Human ... Or I'm a Statistic

This week I've become a statistic. One of ~90,000 jobs lost in California over the last month. AT&T layed off 12,000 "resources" (aka ... people) that very day, which is nothing compared to the 10 jobs lost in my companies SF office. It seems really inhumane the way these large corporations reduce, downsize, and hack the size of their "staff," their "resources". It seems that the further up you get, the less likely it is that the people will be called people, much less friends, and that the decisions made about who to cut where, will be made regarding "resources" that are largely unknown to the "management."

It's clear that no one who actually knows me was involved in the decision. Hopefully that makes it easier for them. I know that makes it easier for me. I am probably an ok guy, and they just don't know what they're doing. After all, they don't even really know me.

When I was in graduate school at the school of Wazzu, we practiced being human. It was our job. There was 16 of us, grad students in art. We loved and hated each other, the faculty, and the undergrads. We were the face to classes and accesible for schlepping stuff around, or helping at the firings (ceramics, not people), or bronze casting, to lecture ad hoc, read papers, spout untested opinions, give technical advice, but most importantly, to find the way to justify and explain are own humanity. To find the big T truth, to explain our very meanderings, the real arguments for the being in human being.

I remember at that time I was reading an amazing amount. I was also hiking and exploring the Bitterroots, the Palouse, Eastern Washington, and Idaho. I was exploring. I was looking for myself in a landscape of farmland and hard work, wilderness, and my own acute philpsophical mind. I was making Congoesque objects from grease and wool, and barbed wire, trying to heal myself. I was reading Vine Deloria and Jose Sepulveda, and arguing the case for my own ideas in a great scholastic swirl. The freedom to chase these ideas was intoxicating.

Like I said I was reading a shit load. I was looking to Pablo Neruda, Borges, Terry Tempest Williams, Edward Abbey for the evidence of my humanity. Neruda spoke of love and injustice, Borges of an undefinable dream, of desire, Abbey of the absolute, of travel in the wild, and Terry Tempest Williams of the desire of people to become human.

The desire to become human. Just think about that for a minute. Why is being human so difficult that we all want to do it. You might be wondering about now what this has to do with being layed off -- seemingly less than humanely.

How do we get to the place we where fear life without our job. That we won't survive. That our kids won't thrive. That we won't be defined well. How do we get to the point where the conversation is about whether or not we're willing to agree to not speak disparagingly about the company that is laying us off, in exchange for the small bit of severence they allot us. How do we get to the point where we call our co-workers, our friends, "resources."

It's because we don't take enough walks. We don't go outside. We focus on our stuff and not our actions.

I know this because I did it. When I finished grad school, I set out to make art; teach art. I worked for two years, showed all over the west. Lectured, won prizes. I made no money. I took a job out of desperation and turned it into a great career. I just got layed off in the middle of a an economic disaster and I am so delighted and scared. Why?

One. I doubt myself. Two. I know this is just another opportunity for me to be a human being. I know I can travel, work hard, be kind, and get by. I am relieved because I feel abused. Pay doesn't make up for abuse, time does. I am excited because I have been planning a trip for a while. I just needed to get some time to go. Now I can. I can go to Alaska and look for a job. I can retrain for a new career. I can try to find a way to have more fun and ride my bike.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ask Me Where it Hurts ...

The Mushroom Girl shooting God beams at Fort Funston.

A while ago, The Mushroom Girl scored a bike, a X-country Peugeot, possibly about 15 years old, all steel and set up to bring home the bacon. She has been riding it everywhere. I think she likes it. I would have bought it for myself if I could, but it was exactly her size, and it's the perfect bike for her.

So, the Mushroom Girl came to me and asked if I wanted to go for a thirty mile ride with her before she leaves for some Asian islands in about a week. She said -- well -- "I want to go to Lake Merced", and I am thinking -- oh, that's like a fifty miler. We'll need to start early, say -- 11:00. She's training for the ride for your life AIDS thing, where you have to raise a crapload of money, and then also ride your bike 450 miles (from SF to LA) or so in 5 days. So I am all for helping out.

Well, I haven't been on a bike since October 1 or so, but I figure, well -- I am in pretty good shape. I've been working out ... and so on. So we park up in Hillsborough by the watershed, but away from the trailhead at Crystal Springs, where so many cars (including the Mushroom Girl's) have been broken into, And head North. It's like 2:30. We tear down the first 6 miles, so quickly, neither of us believes it.

Seriously, we bounce down the bike trail and the crazy girl is pointing and calling out Mushrooms alongside the trail (it rained finally) and it's looking like a serious roll into the city. We break briefly and I ask if she has any lights ... No. I think, well I have lights. We hammer up Skyline road and gracefully descend past Fort Funston and into the city. At one point we found ourselves on the freeway so rode back to a Starvebucks™ and asked a Barristar™ if it was ok to ride on the freeway. He said it was, so we believed him and did. Zoom-Zoom.

We found the Lake. I looked at my odometer and it said 15 miles ... We briefly debated going around the lake, but decided we better turn back for fear of the approching darkness.

There's a HangGlider in This Shot.

Or Maybe the Hanglider's in This One.

At Fort Funston I discovered that I actually only had a headlight (the crappy Blackburn tailight has fallen out of it's holder) ... and we were probably going to be riding in the dark. I estimated 1.5 hours of useful light. We could make it, but we had to Go. Despite a fairly tough ride back, championed by the MGirl, we still were trapped by darkness, with the last bit being a bit challenging.

When I got home I ate like a horse. A roast beef dinner with a baked potato, cornbread, and green beans, followed by a 700 calorie protein shake and a pint of vanilla ice cream. Yummy. I love riding a bike.

There was this one spot during the ride where I had to stop and walk while climbing Trousdale Blvd., due to some cramping, but it only slowed us for a few minutes. I might have pulled a quad slightly. I suppose I'll know before long.

Any one care to have a guess at where today's ride really hurts?