Archive for the ‘stories & lies’ Category

Spare

14 December 2017

Dear J—

So right after that glowing report on reliability, it turns out the crash I had last week actually cracked one of the handlebar-to-stem welds. It’s a big unit – bull moose bars, widely spaced – and so since I have to replace the whole damn thing anyway (who can weld on that? I wouldn’t trust the results) I looked at all the pieces I’m going to need: handlebar, stem, quill adapter, brake hanger. I should just throw on one of the spare V-brakes I have hanging around while I’m at it, but no.

Today I got to ride the old bike, which I’d stopped riding maybe six months ago? It (and the knee pain) is a revelation: how did I ride something so small (it feels like riding a child’s bike, to be honest) and for multiple years at that?

Mike

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Reliability

12 December 2017

Dear J—

Last week was a pretty bad one, as far as biking went: two Fridays ago, I had the flat tire after going up to San Bruno (I can tell you exactly where and when it happened, too: on the turnoff from El Camino to San Mateo Avenue, they have these steel plates down and apparently loose nails too: beware) and then last Wednesday I hit the chunk of pavement and wiped out on Central Expressway. The next morning I stopped and threw some of the chunks over to the side of the road so no one else would do the same. Finally, last Friday I got another flat coming in to Sunnyvale.

As far as the bike goes, I had to fix the rear tube (the patch appears fine; it’s the intrados of the tube that seems to have gotten holed last time) and the stem needed to be tweaked, which meant the brake tension went all wrong. Spending any amount of time tuning the bike, though, means putting up with questions of its ultimate reliability, and for the most part, this frankenbike has been pretty solid, with only a few things here and there. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the first flat I’ve gotten, proving the wisdom of expensively thick tires with flat resistance. I haven’t sent myself over the handlebars lately. My finger feels a bit achy but I can see my knuckles again. Yeah, this works.

Mike

Bounce

6 December 2017

Dear J—

On the train this morning and thinking about how there’s a lot of motion between Burlingame and San Mateo: the phrase comes to mind, “bounce in the belly” and I have no idea from where or why. Bounce in the belly. Pleasant words that leave your mouth roundly and with a smile on your lips, but what it really means is it’s another one of these cars that may be worn out and tired. Many of these gallery cars are better than thirty years old and other rail fans have noted that when California ordered them, they were a lot rougher-riding than the old ones were, and I suppose that hasn’t changed since 1985.

I also want to say this: I’m feeling overwhelmed by the idea of having to uproot my parents into a home, potentially. Where do I start? It feels like all the how-tos and what’s-next tell me I should have been doing something else, and when I pivot to those, they’re saying there are more prerequisites that I should have been doing all along. Am I nuts? It’s a more complicated process than I had initially thought, and I’m grateful for the advice, but need to seek a professional, I suspect.

Mike

The Etiquette

4 December 2017

Dear J—

The public transportation service I ride the most – Caltrain – has published a flyer on etiquette that still pops up now and again in the racks next to the schedules and newsletters. It’s entitled “Caltrain Manners” and is a double-sided, 8-1/2″ x 11/3″ slightly stiff sheet that’s probably as snarky as possible without being actively rude, and is a remarkable milestone achievement in public snark. One of those is not to take up too much room – which I do end up doing in the mornings as I write, by putting my bag on the seat rather than on my lap – but that’s nothing compared to the guy next to me, who has managed the signature achievement of sprawling across an entire quad (bag, helmet, and coat, all taking up a separate seat although now that I’ve mentally sent him the evil eye, perhaps he has sensed that and consolidated his stuff).

I’m surprised by the number of Monday riders, but maybe that’s just the ambitious blown south by the winds that have swept into the region.

Mike

Dry Mood

28 November 2017

Dear J—

After yesterday morning’s sprinkles, today is clear and cold, for the early bit of today that I get to experience, at least. Commercial power generation seems to be waning and I’m on my way to a job that one of my colleagues predicted won’t even exist in five years, but hey, flexibility and adaptation, am I right or what? The novel I’m reading – 4 3 2 1 (Paul Auster) is filled with laconic prose and sketches of how one character might fare in four different parallel universes, or alternate timelines, if you will. All of these conspire to put me into a wry sort of mood, or maybe that’s just the lack of sleep talking.

I should be getting more, and more often perhaps. Rely on the kindness of others who might wake me up on time, or not, or just find a better set of friends to let me rest. If I could just find a dark room to nap in …

Mike

Glasses

21 November 2017

Dear J—

I’ve been thinking about Brayden a lot lately. I first got glasses in the middle of third grade and suddenly the world made a lot more sense: the blackboard was sharp again and being sent to the back row didn’t mean having to settle for learning through listening and interpolation. It also meant that when we went out for recess, I’d set them down carefully on the table because they told me, hey kid, those glasses are expensive and they’re made of real glass, so don’t you go falling down and tripping with them at recess, not unless you want an eye full of glass shards or unless you buy this special strap, only 19.95 plus tax.

So back to fuzzy-edged reality when I went outside, which wasn’t really a handicap or at least not much of one when you’re playing so-called bumblebee soccer, featuring more than five on a side and a cluster of kids swarming around the ball. I was nearsighted, not blind, and the cluster was easy enough to distinguish that I could follow it. Baseball, on the other hand … nah. That and a decided lack of coordination, hand-eye or otherwise, spelled doom for my nascent sports career, at least without glasses. Now they offer all kinds of glasses designed for sports, goggles that make you feel like channeling your inner Kareem, so the options are more plentiful and feasible. In 1983, though, you might as well have been talking about moving the moon as convincing someone to risk the $150 glasses that were supposed to last for two years.

All this came to an end, though, in fourth grade, when I came back in a little late coming back (the soccer field was the furthest away from the door) and I couldn’t find my glasses. I could have sworn that I left them right there on top of my desk … and I suppose I did, but then I saw them on Brayden’s face, and he was trying to convince everyone that sure, these were his. Yeah, I got glasses. I needed them because I couldn’t see, that’s why I’ve been disruptive in class. The glasses will make me smart, he said. I was more confused than angry: maybe those were his glasses, I thought? But that soon was replaced by panic, and then the same sort of tattling anger that informs our savage natures: Hey I need those to see, man, I need those to do the work today, damnit.

Like I said, I’ve been thinking about Brayden lately. We had parent-teacher conferences last week and the teachers made it a point to talk about Calcifer: yeah, he’s a good kid, he knows how to do the work, it’s just … (you have to be gentle with him) (he doesn’t respond well to yelling) (we just let him sit during PE because the coach can’t make him run the whole distance) … stuff we’ve seen at home when we’re trying to get him to do his homework, but stuff we thought was staying at home because he was comfortable with us. And you know that feeling of silent judgment, right or wrong, that the kid’s behavior is directly traced back to what the parents are doing? He is a delight to have one-on-one; we’ve gone on bike rides and hikes the last few weekends and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed that time. We need to make sure he has that available with us, on his schedule, not ours, and I think that would help us help him.

I take back all the thoughts I had about Brayden, by the way. It’s not my place to figure out what was going on, but it was 1983 and lots was going on that we didn’t know about.

Mike

Daringly Mine

17 November 2017

Dear J—

I suppose the long-form text blog entry is a dying medium (dead), with most of the posts that I read nowadays filled with illlustrations and hashtags, social media beckoning us onward to share our lives, perfected, with strangers.

I read about services in Japan that will let you rent a friend or even a family member: need a dad to be contrite to the principal? Yeah, we can do that. The more I read about it, though, the less fun the stories got and hopefully I can do some justice to the concept of a rental family as I continue to work on that article.

Mike

Behind Otters

6 November 2017

Dear J—

There ought to be (otter bee) a whole list of things I know I’m behind on in order to light a fire under me to get them done, but that list is already on the list, you know? It has been a busy weekend and I’m not sure I’ve gotten enough done to justify as busy as we were, but there you have it. Figgy had four performances in a musical theater production of The Pajama Game and the bulk of the weekend was revolving around getting her to and back from that. I took the prohibition on photography seriously this time and so there’s not much to be seen aside from the movie in my mind, and maybe that’s why what happened this weekend seemed intangible. Calciferol and I rode our extended bike out to an elementary school as part of his Cub Scout volunteer cleanup, spending an hour walking around and picking up trash. No pictures of that, either. Do we need to document every moment, or what’s considered good enough nowadays?

Mike

Pleasantries

23 October 2017

Dear J—

We’re in Maui for a grand total of maybe three hours last week before I hear someone calling out my daughter’s name – not a common name, mind you – and we turn around to see one of her oldest friends yelling and waving at us, each two thousand miles from home and somehow able to meet up on the second-largest island in Hawaii at the same shave ice stand. We knew they were going to be on Maui as well, but we didn’t know exactly when or where. It turns out they were staying about an hour away and were in the area just coincidentally for the day.

theVet told me it was a small island, and not such a big deal, but the more I thought about it, the more serendipitous it seemed, and finally, we convinced her how strange a coincidence it really was. This is our life, perhaps, a series of coincidences that become so commonplace you never realize how lucky we are.

Mike

Infrastructure

12 October 2017

Dear J—

Guy in a Santa Cruz hoodie just walked by, looked at the destination chart, and went through the doors between cars, followed closely by a conductor. The process of buying a ticket is simple and quick, but there’s always people who don’t want to do it, I suppose. So be it. This is the whole point of infrastructure and the rules that apply.

I haven’t noticed the changes along Railroad Avenue here in San Mateo. Before you had a bunch of little operators attracted by the lower rents facing the tracks; roll-up doors were accompanied by signs that were inevitably some variant of initials and automotive or service or mechanic; now they have the cheekily-named Super Evil Megacorp and a set of identically-groomed brogrammers debating the merits of Philz or Peet’s Coffee. It’s … demand and supply, I guess. In the four years that we’ve been in this town I’ve already seen a change in the character, though, and it’s a little like what’s happened in San Francisco, isn’t it?

Mike