Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sometimes It's the Short Rides

Perhaps a whirligig* contest in place of fall color competition?

Sitting/laying/moping around indoors in between obligatory tasks when it is sunny and 73°F is its own recipe for discontent. As I was explaining this to my wife, she recognized the symptoms, and directed me to go for a short bike ride. "Go," she said, "The sunshine and fresh air will do you good," and I recognized the truth and wisdom of her words.

Just a quick jaunt a few miles and back down the bike lane. No sooner had I hit the street and arrived at the first red light in the left turn lane, when the light turned green, and the motorist across the way waved me through. When does that happen? It must have been something in the sunshine and warm, easy air counteracting the shopping frenzy and urgent transport happening all around me. What do you call the Sunday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, particularly since both have seemed to bleed into this one day, Schizo Sunday? My expectations were altered by her single act, however. I waved, smiled, and rode on.

The air was dead still, else there would be a video of this magnificent beast right here

The whirligig, the warm sunshine, and the woman who waved me through a left turn, that's really all I have to report about this short ride. But, somehow, that seems like enough. When things don't seem quite in balance, sometimes it's the short rides that set them straight.

Here, do this.

*I wanted to contact the authorities to protest the spelling, which should clearly be "whirlygig", but the authorities were unavailable, apparently out for a bike ride or some similar worthy pursuit.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bike Posters: So Many Questions

Framing, mounting, hanging, choosing...

My daughter went to San Francisco and brought me back a French bicycle poster as a gift. She knows what I like, I guess. It's not an expensive poster, rather thin and mass-produced, but I like the contents, and was touched by the gesture.

I decided to get an inexpensive frame for it, which seemed appropriate, given that the poster itself was inexpensive. There was an attractive wooden frame of the correct size, but it was $50, and that seemed like an unnecessary mismatch between poster and frame. So I got a cheap one, which was an inch too wide on each side, but the sheet inside the frame had a black background, so I thought I would just center the poster and go with that.

Unfortunately, the poster itself is thin enough that you can partially see through it to some of the writing on the poster sheet. That's why I am shining the flashlight on it, above, to try to see how bad it is. Maybe not that bad. Just barely visible inside the main triangle of the red bike, and not that noticeable, I decided. But, on the other hand, not very pleasing to the perfectionist in me.

But, it reminded me how complex, almost convoluted, and definitely possibly expensive, mounting and framing a poster properly can get. I got a David Lance Goines poster from Rivendell, and it looks pretty sharp in an inexpensive frame. But, I think that's because the poster itself is on heavy stock, and is exactly the right size for the frame. Unless I get all perfectionist again, and decide that it needs to be matted, and mounted in a larger frame.

I think posters need to be mounted properly so that they don't take on that "stuck to the dorm room wall with that sticky clay stuff" look. On the other hand, the potential for overdoing it also exists--how much time, effort, money, and scrutiny is warranted? Is professional matting, mounting, and framing the way to go? If so, where do I go to get bicycle posters fine enough to deserve the deluxe treatment? Once I decide the dorm room stick to the wall with clay is no longer sufficient, how far do I take it?


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Give Peace, Give Joy, Forgive and Be Thankful

What's waiting in the night at the end of the tunnel? I truly do not know.

After a long and exhausting day at work, one of a string of the same, I rode through this tunnel and wondered what was on the other side. Usually it's just a quiet trail beside the canal. But, it could be anything, and sometimes, it could be an unpleasant something.

Once, riding my bike through a similar tunnel along the canal at night, three kids tried to drop a mattress on me, for example. I was booking along about 20 mph (those tunnels have downhill entrances) and it could have severely injured me if they had timed it better.

When I heard the WHUMP! behind me, looked back and saw them laughing, it scared me. Made me shake to think what almost happened. Made me initially want to yell back at them, go back and be a monster right back at them. That would have been stupid in so many ways, but it is what I pictured, actually pictured, in my vivid visual-oriented brain: whip the bike around, charge at them yelling like a crazy man, blitz them and put them down.

Of course I did not do that. Nor would it have played out in any predictable way, but would have been some form of bad. How about wheel around and dial 911? For some reason, I didn't have my cell phone. I just kept riding, which often seems like the best choice, and warned a few riders I encountered of what might be up ahead. 

Watch out, there are kids above the tunnel dropping a mattress.

I do think the world would be better if that was a sentence I never had to say to anyone. But, obviously based on the facts right before our eyes, people all around us make these kinds of mistakes all the time. That's how I look at it: the kids dropping a mattress onto passing cyclists were making a mistake. Committing an error. For example, for me to choose to turn around and go and confront them would almost certainly have been an error. A bad decision. I admit that. 

What I also admit is that, for a few seconds right as it was happening, that would have felt natural to do. That was my choice, my decision, my reality to make or change, and I would be held accountable for it. No one else. I blame no one but myself for what would have happened next. It's on me. I kept riding down the path.

Just a duck couple waddling along the path, right?

Also, and I think unfortunately, I have cut way back on my summer night cycling workouts along the canal, mainly due to encounters like that. It is incredible to fly along on my bicycle in the night along the water. But, having people altered on booze or drugs run at you screaming, which happened a couple time near the mattress tunnel, is enough to knock you off the bliss pedestal, certainly. I still do ride at night along the canal when I just can't resist the call, but it's always with a little wariness, a little extra caution about tunnel overpasses, a little extra edge of awareness. 

Those little extra levels of vigilance exact a cost in terms of taking away from the experience of watching the bats skim the water for insects in the dying light, for example. It can knock down the high of flying through the darkness. Fear rising to that level can dominate the emotional landscape. The only thing I've found to counteract that is to think about radiating joy, peace, and forgiveness. To expect people to be people and to expect them, therefore, to make mistakes and errors all the time. 

To know that we are all, particularly in our interactions with the physical world and with each other, and also even within our own minds towards ourselves, accidents waiting to happen. Clumsy, error-prone and imperfect beings who screw up all the time. With that knowledge, coupled with the desire for joy and happiness, the only reasonable response is to forgive those errors. Let go the rage and embrace peace. It's not easy, it's necessary.

OK, the duck couple. I saw them waddling down the path together and snapped some telephoto shots. As I got closer, I learned they were actually actors in a tense drama. It seems that they have developed a habit of munching the delicious greens being cultivated in the garden of a gourmet restaurant. Mr and Mrs Duck have apparently developed a taste for arugula, watercress, winter greens, and fresh herbs. Perhaps dressed with a lovely vinaigrette.

I saw an encounter brewing between Mr and Mrs Duck and the restauranteur himself. "Those ducks are back," a woman with him said, as they exited the establishment and began walking slowly toward the birds. The ducks paused, and the continued boldly onwards, making for the greens. Perhaps they were hungry. Do ducks' mouths water?

I slowed to a stop to see what would happen. Man on duck violence? Shouting? Defense of greens? A precipitous plot to poison the parsnips, perhaps? No, none of those. The restauranteur said, "Time to get out the chicken wire again, I suppose."

I think about those things: ducks being ducks, people making mistakes, restauranteurs stringing chicken wire to protect the serving of the fresh winter greens dressed in a delightful vinaigrette. When it works, when the tension is held but not released, when tolerance and understanding prevail, I take joy from that. The vigilance can be somewhat relaxed, the tunnel up ahead passed through with a little less concern.

These feelings come about not because there is peace, but because people choose to give it. To make it, as a state of action and a conscious choice, unstopping and unfailing, in the face of certain human fallibility. No one is perfect. But peace, joy, forgiveness, thankfulness, it feels to me like these give us a glimpse of what perfection is like, and allow us to feel some of it not only alone, but with each other.

Give peace, give joy, forgive us our imperfections, and be thankful. No one can live that all the time, but all of us can know that it's what we are supposed to do. Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday I'm Free!

There's this connection with the bicycle: 
an anticipation of
the ride is just point to point but there's something more
spinning and wind
night and me
the traffic feels like a friend
because I know what it's doing before it does it
this light they see
this night is me
it's Friday and I am free

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday You Know the Drill

In the morning the day is full of possibilities, the lighting stark and literal

Same person, same bicycle, same place, same day. 

Different times, different light, different feeling, different energy, different.

You never bike past the same canal twice

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday We'll Find a Way

Arizona Canal, November Riding Weather

Wednesday, middle day, let's meet on our common ground, learn from each other, and finish the week stronger thru ongoing dialogue. This may not come naturally to either of us. This tolerance, this listening, this compromise, but keep your mind open, here in the center of the week, teetering at the peak having just ridden up, ready to ride downhill the rest of the week. 

Let's say this thing comes up. Something difficult. A new challenge. Here's what I think, Wednesday: let's look at the options we have which let us look at this challenge as an opportunity. Or if that's too sunny for too dark a thing, let's be real: let's find a way. Rather than stopping before we start, let's decide on a first step and take it. Then use that one-step-forward position as a new perspective on the challenge, from which we'll take one more step. Each time, thinking: we'll find a way.

Every day, each sunrise, a new chance to find a way. Thank you, Wednesday!

Sometimes the Wednesday way is indirect, but down a lovely trail

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday Can't Run

Tuesday came after me...

Tuesday came after me and expected me to run. Instead, I stood my ground. Maintained my optimism, my clearness of purpose, my equanimity and balance, and stared Tuesday down. Suddenly, in the face of my resolve and steadfastness, Tuesday turned tail. Turned tail and ran. 

But I gave chase. Tuesday would not get away so easily. I followed across the distance, closed with Tuesday as the hours wore on, until I caught up. I had a word with Tuesday. A firm, direct, reasonable word. And you know what? Tuesday and I worked it out, and went on with our lives.

Yes it's a Christmas tree. Slightly off center of the red line, oh the OCD!!

Squids in the sky glowing in the night. Heart.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Can't See Me

The normal flow changes when the traffic lights become non-functional

Out the door on Monday and find the back tire is running short on air. Back inside, go to the bike area to fetch the Airbase Pro wonder pump, return to find that the cat has stolen the valve cap I left next to the tire. He grabbed it and ran off as if he had really found something. He dove into his tube house with his bounty, and probably added it to the pile of other small things he's taken from me. He peeked out from the doorway at me. I know he was thinking, "He can't see me. I am stealthy, and hiding. Motionless, I am invisible to him."

Fine, I said, keep it, it's yours, I have plenty, just don't eat* it. Return to bike area, get another valve cap, return to bike, pump up tire, install alternative valve cap, take Airbase Pro pump back to bicycle area. Return to bike. Find cat staring intently at the new valve cap, wearing EXACTLY the expression, "Why is your valve making that soft yet distinct hissing sound just slightly too quiet for your abused human ears to make out but plenty loud for my sensitive cat ears to hear?" Great. 

He gives me a look. His look says, "I have concerns about you riding off on this quietly hissing thing. Perhaps you would prefer to just stay home on Monday. We could bat valve caps across the floor and all around the house. Perhaps we might eat some."

I think it's a Christmas tree installation

The traffic at the light was thrown into a tizzy because the stoplight that they drive through every day at the same time for years happened to choose this day to lapse into a non-functional state. Everyone knows that you're supposed to stop at a non-functioning light as if it were a four-way stop, but no one seems to do this in practice, so they brought out a policeman to stand out there in the middle as a visible authority figure to wave at them to remind them what to do. I decided to avoid the whole thing and diverted to the sidewalk to just ride around the mess. 

Ride around the mess worked marginally better than riding through the mess, but still required a zig-zag two block detour to slurp around the back end of the disturbed mass of crawling drivers of disrupted routine. I thought I might never get around, but of course that's just a dire exaggeration, because just a few moments of patience and perseverance got me around and across, and put the micro-jam behind me.

I felt Monday breathing down my neck, but I did not look him in the eye. Instead, I left Monday in my dust. Monday can't see me, and the tire held just fine.  

*I briefly considered not telling my wife, the cat lady, about this incident, since I immediately had fears of what a cat endoscopy might cost. Then I doubled that. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Echo Coffeeneur #7: Where we coffeeneur echoes in Eternity

Conclusion of my Coffeeneuring 2014 rides

For the final ride of my entries in the Coffeeneuring 2014 Challenge, I chose Echo Coffee, a 12.5 mile round trip. Immediately upon entering Echo I noticed how hard everyone there seemed to be working. Yes, the baristas were hopping, but I mean the patrons: everyone, except one lady at the bar, had laptops open and papers spread across the table. I felt a little out of place without a laptop to work on, or at least some papers to spread out to look busy and full of purpose.

Convenient staple rack bike parking

Echo ambiance shot. The woman in the yellow sweater was the only person I saw there without a laptop

Echo is another place that takes coffee and roasting very seriously. From their web site, "For straight espresso, macchiato, and cappuccino drinkers, the default choice is a single origin El Salvador Bourbon. This amazing coffee is so round, complete, and complex it belies the fact that it is a single origin coffee. The crema is sweet and thick, like chocolate butter, yet it presents a wonderful brightness and berry fruit flavor as well."

The cappuccino in question

Coffeeshops with Bridgestones parked out front always are good

The coffee was good, with flavors more on the subtle and complex end rather than on the deep and assertive end. It seemed like what you would want to sip during an afternoon of working on your laptop with papers spread across the table.

This wraps up my Coffeeneuring 2014 Challenge rides. It's the first time I've finished. I enjoyed both the idea of it, and the actuality, of looking for good coffee shops to ride to, going to them, snapping some pictures, blogging a few words. I've tried some places I haven't been before, and found some new go-to shops when I want a fine cup of coffee combined with a bike ride. There were several that I didn't get to try yet, but there's always Coffeeneuring 2015!

As for the title of this post, I thought about the name of the shop, and the movie quote came to mind. I was thinking, if for some reason someone a hundred years from now wants to find out what was Coffeeneuring in the year 2014, and what was I doing on this day, I think I want them to read these seven posts. Humans landed a space ship on a comet this week. I coffeeneured to Echo Coffee. A lot of the other things from this week, well, I hope the echoes of them fade quickly. 

Global map of Coffeeneuring 2014!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Each Day Provides Its Own Gifts

A gift a found, wrapped up, next to my bicycle this morning

"Each day provides its own gifts." -Marcus Aurelius

As I rolled along on an easy Friday morning commute, I looked up, and saw this. The first sentence that entered my mind was, "Each day is a gift." And what if I always thought that? 

Each morning with a big bow on top, unwrap each sunrise, new and full of surprise and opportunity. 

A fresh start. Wash away any leftovers from whatever came before. 

Release all that I might be holding onto. Let it go. Look at now. Look at this moment in this new day.

Each day is a gift, I thought. And I had some doubts. Each day = every day? They are all gifts? All of them, the sum total of my days, and, also, even the few very bad ones? The classically terrible ones, plus the history-making bad ones, those are gifts? From who? And gift, wouldn't that mean potentially non-essential, or, at least, like a bonus, a gratuity, something extra? But, aren't the sum total of them essential?  And from who, this gift, oh let's not.

Wait, easy there, kid. Deep breath. Inhale the morning. Hold. Exhale. I liked where we were going before the previous paragraph.

Gifts in each evening also

What we can say is, this particular day, this very current one, this next one that came just after the previous, it certainly can be perceived in its fresh, new, just sunrising state, as a gift. Not guaranteed that I would be in it. The previous one could have been the last. 

To be reflect and be grateful for that. To be overcome with the greatness of the opportunity to try again, to learn again, to see and breathe more, to love, to create anew. That's a gift. It's also an antidote.

It's an antidote to the illusion of a build-up of worry, of pain, of stress, or doubt, from before. From yesterday, yesterweek, yesteryear, this gift of a new day is proof against holding onto those things because: unwrap it. You can do anything in it. 

"Discard everything except these few truths: we can live only in the present moment in this brief now." 

"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privledge it is to be alive -- to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."  --both also Marcus Aurelius

As the day wears on and night falls

As the day wears on, though, and as night falls, the fresh sunrise perspective of the day itself as a gift may seem less compelling. In the bright, warm breeze of a balmy Autumn morning the notion has weight, but at the end of a long day, it may feel more conceptual, slightly frayed by the day.

So back to the title of the post. It can be read with ambiguity, like many of his quotes. The nice way, where each day brings gifts unique to it, and one may have to be open to them, perceptive and aware, awake and alive to possibility, to grasp or understand them. I like that.

Also, though, at least in this wording, the quote can also mean that the day doesn't need any gifts or anything from you, it provides for itself. You don't give the day gifts, it provides its own. That's a little harder, but I'm OK with it, too, because in the grander scheme of things outside my little chain circle, it's no doubt true, and meaningful.

Look, a new sunrise. I see it, I feel its heat on my skin. It's a gift of a new start with the chance to achieve something on talent, on chance, on ability. On friendship or love. Different from yesterday, the gifts it provides could be new, different, challenging to see or understand. 

The songs of the birds.

The wind brushing my skin.

This bike ride.

A chance to understand and to fulfill someone's needs.

Those are the gifts of this one day.

Thanks, Marcus, for the thought.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bus Stop Bike Rack Quote

Punctuation slightly off

Some of our bus stops have bike racks. Some of our bus stops which have bike racks also have quotes. Two that I know of. Went round the back of this one because I could not recall reading the one facing away from the street. Found a bike rack back there, along with Lewis Carroll. It's like wonderland back there.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Warm Phoenix Autumn Night Ride

Warm Phoenix autumn night ride. And ride, and ride, and ride...

Monday, November 10, 2014

I'm Simple in Your Arms

Jellies in the Sky, Cacti in the Water, Solar Sculptures by Shana Koenig

At the age of seven, he composed fictions about life
In the vast desert, where luminous Liberty lies in her abduction,
Forests, sun, riverbanks, savanna!—


In shimmer of day.
In wash of coolness pouring from an arroyo.
Purples of canyon wall echoed in shaft of century plant.
Blazing blue, buzzing green, bones whiten in the the explosion of light.
Rain perfume. A sheen of dust on the blood on the rock.

I'm simple in your arms.
There am I still. 

In dark, in light.
Lights reflex us: stop, go, like.
Colors tickle retinas
stimulate optic nerve
shoot electrochemical impulses to brain which
transmutes zaps to mind then flickers into "I"-light.

Screen lights as reminders
to complete the multitude of shadow tasks
which are humans' due in this automated and connected world:
be here, buy that, pay this, reserve it fast,
remember this other tangled nexus of complexity you signed up for over there.
Track this accountable obligation. That debt.
Align this personal indenturement with maximum value extraction.
Erect that professional compromise. 

Hurry to the halfway measure. Check.

Few are the art lights which remind us to be still.
To be delighted.
To be human. Connect, to savor, to revel.
Be still to be this simple.
The waters run against floating cacti bobjects in the current.
The anchored, the lighted, the created
oscillate against the forces of rope and flow.
The rope lights oscillate and bob.

Living, alive, enlivened in water and wind.
They light, they refuge, they still us,
We public, we lost.
Still and simple in your arms.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Songbird Coffeeneur #6: Color, Light, Song

Songbird Coffee and Tea, on a street being adapted for humans

Songbird may be my favorite coffee shop so far in my Phoenix Coffeeneuring 2014, and that's out of a tough field of excellent shops that I've visited. On top of the excellent coffee and hospitable staff, the shop is connected with a gallery space next door, and is surrounded by art. The interior is filled with light. One wall is a bookshelf. It's small, unhurried, conducive to conversation and community gathering. It made me want to hang out a while.

Songbird ambiance shot

It's a fifteen mile round trip bike ride for me over here, though, so I have to really want it. Sometimes, the murals pull me. Sometimes the food. Pedal Craft was here. First Fridays transform the neighborhood. It's in the heart of a zone of coffee and galleries, and the sidewalks are being widened, with better lighting, and I suspect some nice bike racks might be possible.

Maybe it was the perfect weather for bike riding: sunny, mid-eighties, light breeze. But, it just felt good to sit and sip a cappuccino at Songbird. I guess I'll have to return to see if the feeling repeats.

Bunch more photos from right outside, below. I'm not actually sure if you are meant to meditate on songbirds here, but I did: color, light, song. Interfaces, transitions, deep patterns. A calling, a gathering, something both genetic, and beautiful. A frenetic unified kettle wheeling in the dusk. Music outside my window waking me. The smell of coffee from the kitchen.

Connected gallery space

Temporary bike parking. Better maybe on the way.

These are their songbirds.

Nearby mural

Nearby mural

Nearby mural

Global map of Coffeeneuring 2014!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Ode to the SRP Boat: Planing Through the Desert

I've been conditioned over the years to recognize this means art is being installed

Whenever the SRP boat trailer is backed down the ramp like this, it's the sign that the boat is being used for maintenance of some kind. Often in this area, it's installation of public art. I get giddy/manic/inspired/annoying about that here, but this post is about the boat itself. Because apart from the anticipation that new art is being installed, I also always think about the boat itself.

The thought starts with the view above, looking down the canal toward the low bridge ahead. There's a dam gate weir thing right behind me in this photo, so there's only one way to go from here in a boat. The boat operators must have to duck low to get under that bridge. The boat must be operated at a slow crawl to do it. That direction is upstream from here, so some power must be needed to go that direction, but still, I think you might be able to manage it with a small electric or trolling motor. But the SRP boat has a larger outboard than that.

Parked with the Merc 40

In an era where bass boats have like dual 150 HP outboards just to be permitted to make an appearance at the marina, I know that a Merc 40 is no big deal. From what I've seen before, this little boat is good at the tasks its used for here, in support of public art installation. Here's an example from an earlier post

Right tool for the task. Also, the task description is interesting. Task description left as exercise for the reader.

It works. But, in my imagination, I picture this boat, the spirit of it, the heart of it if you will, intended for greater things. What could be greater than the photo above? I imagine it being used to navigate long and distant stretches of the canal through the open desert, at higher speed, planing through the saguaros, past Gila Monsters that stop and stare, among the ocotillos and chollas, running through the water going places at speeds that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to achieve in those locations. Tied up at the Scottsdale Waterfront, installing floaty art, that's great and all, but planing through the desert, that's awesome.

SRP boat in my bike lane, headed off to greater canal adventures

The striders art, the squid paintings on the canal walls, the floating nodes, steel donuts, the  foam tools, along with this new exhibition going in, they all make my brain explode in their surreal and joyful wonder, sure. But, also, and less expectedly, I close my eyes and see a Gila Monster watching an SRP boat motor by in the middle of the open desert, and it takes my breath away. His head turns to follow it, he senses its vibrations flowing to him through canal wall and caliche, has some kind of sense of the motor sound fading into the distance, followed by the quiet of the desert: a cactus wren calls, a locust buzzes at noon, a Gambel's quail chortles to its clan beneath the palo verde. The Gila Monster darts out his tongue because they always to that. Then he scuttles off the rock and goes back to monster business.

Head west

That's my SRP canal boat vision. It colors these art installs for me, and then the art itself. I know how it got there. I understand the tools used to make it float, to get it to stay in place in the flowing waters. As I gaze with wonder at the surreal tangles of light and magic in the night, I close my eyes and hear a boat motor running through the desert.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sink, Float, and Light Up, Light Up

Art anchors!

Last time blocks were pre-positioned like this next to the canal, water striders resulted. I'm pretty sure I know what this is for, but I'm not saying more except piece by piece as more of it appears...

In order to manage art that floats, one requires parts that also sink.

I think I've sorted out the dusk bicycle commuting lighting situation for now. As I indicated, I was convinced that light aim was a key part of the equation. After making some very slight adjustments, the difference was remarkable. Before and after below. Both shots from 100 feet or so. Using the excellent suggestion by Don Graves to double-stick tape sandpaper on the bar to deter the mount from easily turning, the aim remains pretty consistent even though I remove the light when I park the bike. Sink, float, and light up.


After. Same light, just aimed a bit higher. Night and day. Sink or float. See and Be Seen.