Posts Tagged ‘lights’

Lights On

5 April 2011

Dear J-

I get up fairly early and ride my bike at a fairly leisurely pace through the suburban streets in the dark. There is much to be learned from navigating the twisty roads at night; for one thing I find myself endlessly fascinated by the lights that people leave on at night. Save the very dedicated night owls or the awakened parents the hour I ride is close enough to morning that most are asleep so the lights are always in kitchens or bathrooms. Sometimes you’ll see the flickering glow that marks the insomniac watching a bit of TV in an effort to damp the lonely feeling of puttering about the world with no one else present. It’s why despite the inpoliteness of it all I perk up and watch windows as I ride past.

It is different than driving to work where between distractions and freeway you don’t have the opportunity to watch for lights and houses. The few residences you pass are usually just your neighbors who you already have a hard time feigning interest in anyway. I make up stories sometimes on the way in based on my old realities, when I used to be up early and listening to something over headphones, whole hosts of vintage audio equipment hooked up amid other piles of thrift store treasures in the spare rooms. Now those rooms hold kids and my getting up way too early has been replaced by just-in-time, no room left for eccentric hobbies or burning midnight oil in an otherwise dark house whiling away hours until it’s time to go to work.

And yes, it sounds like I miss it but nothing could be further from the truth. I read about couples who remain childless by choice — and if that’s what you want by all means, more power to you — but the articles have a defensive tone I don’t particularly care for, as though the years of defending that choice have made them equally ready to offend as quickly as possible. Without kids I might be wealthier or less sleepy or not so aggravated. I might have more time to call my own, I’d have more time to read books or play games, we might be able to afford pay TV or more vacations to exotic places that frown on kids in tow. And I would still wake up early convinced that something was missing. For me that’d be right. As much stress and yelling is baanced by sheer laughter and joy in the rediscovery of the world.

Mike

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Now Log

23 November 2009

Dear J-

We’re walking around the neighborhood looking at the lights (this is Thanksgiviing week here in the States, after all, and a lot of our neighbors have thought it easier to put their strands up while taking Halloween decorations down) pointing a few out here and there to figgy, who promptly responds, “Yeah, lights.”  I can’t help but think of last year when the only word we could get her to reliably repeat was “mee-mee” for the Christmas lights; she would walk, and point, and no matter how we said “lights” it came out “mee-mee.”

The whole vocabulary has expanded dramatically and with it her awareness of the world; her favorite sentences all begin with I:  “I want” (sticker, band-aid, mac’n’cheese, pasta, rice, TV, tissue), “I don’t want” (bath, lunch, clothes, new diaper, go outside), or “I can do it.”  She’s lost the invented words, but does a very good facsimile of what we say, and has learned, somewhere along the way, colors and basic sequences.  I have particular guilt, as I have guilt over so many aspects of my life, that I’m not doing more for her learning:  again it’s another opportunity to marvel at my parents for their patience in exerting a firm steady pressure to embrace knowledge despite our protests.

Some day — probably soon — we’ll start setting down memories she’ll be able to recall as an adult; though she still calls out for Bean occasionally (not as much as that odd first week:  “Bean, come on,” reliably though there was no comforting answering tags jingling as we were getting the leashes ready for the walk) I’m pretty sure she’ll look at pictures of him and ask what kind of dog he was (we’ll say a good one, you must realize he was getting old and crabby but under it all good, happy, and patient).  Yet that will be the same sort of projected memory that makes sense only when you stumble across old albums and a parent to explain it; our job is to catalog the now and keep it.

Mike

Lights Wink

7 July 2009

Dear J-

Lights wink on the horizon all the way up the coast; we pass through communities famed for surf and scenery, we drive on through the dawn and watch the day break anew.  Outlines are softer in the blowing mist.  Between the iron sky and gentle surf, life keeps hurrying along, trapped in painted metal boxes, destinations and deadlines foremost on the mind.  A river of headlights keeps flowing around us, past us, a steady metronomic beat keeping time to the expansion joints.

When we dream young, we dream big, of lands too vast to be walked, of limitless frontiers awaiting us over the next hill.  We learn that our ambitions are achievable and yet impossible:  pick a dream and prioritize, which one today, which ones tomorrow.  All around, the steady, measured pace of time slips past, and distance grows ever more intimidating.  If the universe is, as they postulate, ever expanding, sometimes it feels as though it’s relentlessly personal and immediate; from those quiet motions while the world is dark in your home to the daily commute.

We all live under the same sky; we all see the same moon and sun and stars spinning past at delirious speed.  We may be constrained, or if you rather, contained in this world, with a network of vehicles and communication tracing webs and connections to every point on the globe.  On a human scale, the distance we move under our own power may be minuscule compared to the tools we have at our disposal; the reach of mind and voice is immediate and visceral.  Hello again. Hi.  How are you?

Mike

Bike Judge

30 June 2009

Dear J-

Spend enough time bicycling and you’ll inevitably start to judge other bicyclists in an attempt to justify how fast/slow or gear-laden you are in comparison.  My bike is a bit of a pig — as a folding bike, it’s not the lightest to begin with, and then I pile on my lunch, two bottles of water, lights, rack, bookbag (with a camera I need to charge the batteries in, sunglasses, calculator, GameBoy — also featuring dead batteries, wallet, keys, iPod, monocular, and phone).  Dragging my fluorescent-jacketed carcass along means that folks pass me regularly and easily, pointing all the while at the funny guy with no fashion sense.

On the other hand, maybe those are just excuses (fat tires, extra load, indifferent maintenance) for me not to work hard at it — although I’m still pretty sure that I haven’t ever passed anyone on the way to or from work, I have kept up on the hills for a moment or two now and then.  I guess everyone has their priorities which justifies their choices in bicycle and gear; either I’m terrifed of being somewhere, unentertained, or I like gadgets (with the latter far more likely).

One thing I can’t abide is indifference to safety; I see people riding on the sidewalk (crossing the street in the crosswalk actually lessens your visibility to folks behind you turning right, especially if there’s cars parked at the curb), or without helmets (I’ve already managed to ruin a shirt sliding on a shoulder after a spectacular wipeout going downhill; my faith in the indifference of SoCal drivers was not shaken), but this morning I saw someone with an aggressive recklessness.  His bike had no lights, and he was wearing black; the stealth ninja look is good, I suppose, if you’re interested in blending in, but for folks driving around with no coffee in their systems — I almost chased him down (that is, if I could) to offer him one of my lights, at least.  I’m not saying I’m a perfect bicyclist, but I’m still cringing at the thought of the stealth rider, apologizing to motorists on behalf of bicyclists.

Mike

Bicycle Jones

3 February 2009

Dear J-

Yesterday I nearly got run over by a truck making a stylish, powerful reversing maneuver out of a driveway (seriously, when you need to get on the road really fast, there’s honestly no time to look behind you).  I can’t say that I’ve never been guilty of needing to hurry, so I can’t completely distance myself as an exemplar, and thus I really don’t have any right to say geez, no one needs to get there that fast.

It eventually comes down to this:  there’s no steel cage surrounding me; instead I wrap my soft bones around a spindly collection of aluminum and rubber and hope for the best.  Despite the fluorescent jacket and five lights, my side visibility is still relatively poor; perhaps there is some way to rig up a chest and back light to illuminate the jacket.  I want to continue riding, but the dark — and inattention, even on my part:  I may have the right of way, but no way to insist on it — will conspire against me.  Though tonight was incident-free, how many nights can I rely on that?

Mike