Posts

Showing posts from 2017

A fish in Facebrook

Image
I am reading Ted Bishop's Ink: Culture, Wonder, And Our Relationship with the Written Word. I am trying not to read it too quickly. I don't think there's a sequel to dive into next. So, I use my computer as a kind of teacher's internet assistant. When Hongwu is mentioned, I check out the emperor's Wikipedia page. When a willow tree in the wind is likened to a writing brush, I head for Google Images to look at a willow tree.

But I don't always get where I am going. I get lured this way and that. On the way to the willow I fell into Facebrook. In rough order of encounter, I:

saw that my friend Rosa gave a clown face to my Facebook post last night on the changing colours of traffic lights, looked at Keith's nature photography from the Upper Peninsula, monitored a debate about the mixture of musicians at Folk Fest workshops, learned that my friend Michelle went to Ikea on Thursday, a trip immortalized by a Facebook-generated video, learned my friend John needs …

I packed my pannier, and in it I put...

Image
When I pedal my bike through the city, I carry some things with me. Some other things I pick up along the way. Here are the contents of my red Arkel bike bags (Red Bike, Cliff), in no particular order of weight, after this morning's ride.

Ziploc large freezer bag, transparent, containing orange bandana from murder mystery dinner night in Chelem, México, where Shelagh was a reporter and Sheryl was the sheriff, eyeglasses (right lens chipped, prescription: -1.00, -1.25, not bad), 3x pencils (2 Blackwing 530 special edition California Gold Rush series from Stylus, closed on Saturdays in the summer, 1 with Chinese charactering, gift), eye drops, pencil sharpener containing shavings that remind me of a dancing woman's hemmed dress, City of Edmonton red reflector and blue reflective bracelet courtesy bike grid street team because Edmonton now has a bike grid street team because Edmonton now has a downtown bike grid, iPhone 6ring of keys: Honda Accord, not driven in a month, unknown …

What could go wrong? :)

Image
If I remember right, Chris Hadfield made the suggestion that, instead of envisioning success, we should all picture failure. Imagine the countless ways that things can go wrong. Engineers like Hadfield build bridges and launch rockets and keep the Talus balls from rolling into the North Saskatchewan River*, but what they're really acquainted with is collapse and the rest of the long, sad list of how things fade, snap, break, shatter, splinter, fragment, turn to ash, and, essentially, are torn asunder.

This is the honest way of making sure the centre holds for as long as the centre can hold.

Taken to its extreme, it means living life by remembering that I will die. Not that everyone will die, not we all must die, but, me, the tapper of these keystrokes, I will die. Morose? Maybe. Pessimistic? Perhaps. True? Yes. A flight plan for happiness if interpreted in a healthy way? I am beginning to believe so.

Yesterday I pedalled through the city and considered these things from my side o…

Renée

Image
If you happened to be driving west on Stony Plain Road between 170 St and 178 St this morning around 10:30am, and if you glanced over to the sidewalk on the south side of the road, you would have seen two people speaking. A gangly, helmeted man standing over his bicycle was talking to a stylish older woman wearing a floral print skirt, a pink turtleneck, teal-framed sunglasses, her head covered by a summer scarf from which grey pigtails poked out on either side. She moved with the help of a wheeled walker.

You wouldn't have been able to hear why, as they parted, the bicycle rider was laughing, but here is why.

"Tell your wife she has nothing to worry about with you talking to an older woman from Europe!" the woman said.

The laughing, goofy-looking guy was me. She told me her name was Renée. She was walking to McDonald's and was taking a detour from her route because the direct-line sidewalk was under construction. She wondered if she could cut across the box store p…

Tombstones of the days: July 22, 2017

Image
For a reason that I trust will reveal itself as time rolls along, and despite that article of faith proving how poor a researcher I am (I mean, when has data collection by itself magically suggested a theory, instead of the other way around?), I am almost nine months into a writing project that took an interesting turn yesterday.

Starting back on Halloween last year, I have witnessed in word and photograph the sights and thoughts that strike me every day I ride my bike. I am into my fourth booklet of souvenirs. I have been uncharacteristically disciplined about taking pics and reviewing video and pencilling my observations from the saddle. The entries are little tombstones of the days.

From 11.29: A joy of riding a bicycle in the city is actually touching the city as I ride. I reach out to touch the overhanging spruce boughs. I let them scrape my helmet hello. I like to run my gloved hand along the bridge railing, especially when there is a film of snow to wake up. I like to read the…

Of pennies and senses and palate revolts

Image
The penny dropped. I love that idiom. I am old enough to remember pennies. I was around when the government dropped the penny from circulation. I love short sentences. I love the stubbornness of solid idioms from analog times. What's better than that click sound I hear in my mind when someone voices the idiom? (The absolute best is when banker Dave Mowat employs it.) The penny dropped is the sound of realization, the testimony that insight, like starlight, takes time to arrive, and, when it does, it resonates. Just like a coin-in-slot machine come to life when the stuck penny drops.

Peas, too.

Shelagh was talking the other day about children and their young taste buds. I don't know how the subject came up. For the most part I stay in touch with the subject matter of current podcasts when Shelagh summarizes key points from the 100 or so she stays current with. So, maybe the observation about taste buds was from a pea podcast she had heard, I don't know.

The taste buds of yo…

Free speech and that naked dude at the Tour de France

Image
Bauke Mollema streaked to victory today in Tour de France stage 15 from Laissac-Severac l'Eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay. He made his move with about 30 km to go, after much of the field had cracked. He was only 100 m or so from the peak. Still, a group of pursuers were only a few hundred metres behind. "Mollema needs a buffer!" said the announcer. I tweeted my thanks immediately.


Both announcers, Matthew Keenan and Robby McEwen, liked the tweet. That was fun. I could have a drink or three with those guys, I think.

I have been told that the Greek word for clever, deinos, also connotes a sense of terrible. Perhaps that is why those who make puns are routinely greeted with the judgment "that was terrible!" To say that Mollema needed a buffer was accurate if, by it, the speaker simply meant a little extra time and distance from his chasers. But it's clever to choose the word buffer, which carries the extra meaning of being naked. It's doubly clever, even cheek…

Archeology

Image
As I stopped to take this pic this morning, the workers standing on the boulevard might have briefly wondered what I was doing. What did I see? What was I looking at?

I stopped because I was once seven years old. And because I was once young enough to play with all that heavy equipment.

Our house at 6704 in the northeast end had a sandbox between the side of the garage and the fence next to the Ramseys. In the sandbox, there was one rule: no throwing sand. And, basically, two scenes or games we'd re-enact again and again. The first was digging for treasure. We'd bury beer and Happy Pop tops in the sand and try to dig out as many as possible with one scoop of a plastic shovel. That got boring after three or four straight hours.

What we never tired of was doing construction work.

With our Tonka toy graders and front end loaders and dump trucks (David across the lane supplied a Johnny West tractor trailer unit we imagined always full of explosive TNT) we dug sand, rearranged it …

The humorous descent of Alexis Vuillermoz

Image
Alexis Vuillermoz is streaming down the side of the Col de la Biche this morning. He is at the head of the race. It is stage 9 of the Tour de France. His front wheel slips slightly in the rain on the road. He keeps his balance. Commentator Robbie McEwen explains the French rider's mountain bike resume has prepared him for the sliding and drifting that happen when courage mixes with a wet descent.

"It's a huge advantage for him," McEwen says.

"When you're used to things getting a little bit loose on you, and staying in control, because it's about staying calm, when it gets loose and you tense up or touch the brakes, that's when you go down. You gotta be able to flow [emphasis not added] with it."

The trickster Vuillermoz is riding a corridor of humor.

The term is from French painter and sculptor and chess player Marcel Duchamp.

"While Dada was a movement of negation and, by the very fact of its negation, turned itself into an appendage of t…

Early morning thoughts while pictures beam in from France

Image
This morning I am in a happy place. It is an intersection. A listening post.

The Tour de France is on TV, and that is a thrill itself. Getting up early on a long weekend Monday to watch the colours of the peloton's men and machines stream and curve through the countryside is time in front of the monitor well spent. I enjoy parades, and bicycles, and TV in the sun.

With a mug of coffee, and a book and a sharpened pencil as the broadcast flows in.


This morning, the book is Trickster Makes The World by Lewis Hyde. The open pages resemble a gravesite I saw embedded into the earth at the Hillcrest cemetery. The shaft of sunlight stares across the printed words. They are worth standing in front of and staring at.
Structures always arise from exclusion. Think, for example, of how one might go about designing a flag. This world has endless color; the palette of greens in field and forest is boundless, as is that of water under changing skies. To make a flag, we select only two or three o…

Black Diamond

Image
A little book found me a few weeks ago in a store in Black Diamond where we had wandered on a trip to Waterton. Somehow, I'd never seen unmediated Waterton. That baffled me.

The book is by Lewis Hyde and it's about the tricksters among us. Like all my favourite books, Trickster Makes The World has delivered the thrill of approaching something new, while also leaving a residue of regret that it has taken me this long to get there. And the sad certainty that I am skimming the surface of this book, and life.

It is by our likes and dislikes Hyde says John Cage says that we isolate ourselves from the wider mind and the big old world. Hyde:
Likes and dislikes are the lapdogs and guard dogs of the ego, busy all the time, panting and barking at the gates of attachment and aversion and thereby narrowing perception and experience.  My thoughts fire this way and that. Likes and dislikes—these are the words of engagement in social media. Lapdogs and guard dogs—Plato's Socrates says s…

On the streets where we live

Image
I saw some things on the streets today. I heard some things, too.

That's Olga signalling a left turn above.  In her impromptu bike network master class, I learned about big green bike boxes and how to safely get across lanes of traffic on the 100 Ave portion of the downtown grid. What I heard: there is a safe place in the city's allocation of space for bicycle commuters.


I saw this dude's shoulder bag and heard him say he thought the new bike lane on 100 Ave was pretty good.



I saw no helmet on this bicycle rider. I saw her smile and heard her say hello as we passed.



"Whoa!" this pedestrian said as he walked on green and watched the car driver turn across his path.


A few blocks later, approaching the traffic signal on the Glenora multi-use path, I saw the green traffic light turn yellow and the yellow turn red, and, as I hummed some old April Wine as I always do when red and yellow seasons change in gear, oh yeah, I  heard the rev of a car engine behind me revea…

We are gathered here

Image
A solemn scene surprised me this afternoon as I took the turn on Ravine Dr. and pointed for the 142 St. bridge. It shook me. It spoke the visual grammar of the ceremony at a graveside.

What I witnessed was the protocol of the aftermath of an automobile collision.

The sky was smeared with mascara grey clouds.

At the head of the procession sat a flatbed truck. It would soon be loaded with the damaged body.



Three people stood on the lawn. They looked up and down, this way and that. They swayed back and forth like metronomes. One held his arms crossed over his chest. Vehicles streamed by on 142 St. The sky sagged. This sudden congress was in no one's plans. 



On the sidewalk, apart from the standing congregation, clad in black jeans and hoodie, holding his hands over his eyes, lay, outstretched, a man consumed by an event that cannot be undone. 
I held my breath and pedalled through. 



Jasper bruin company

Image
"There's your bear," Shelagh said this morning.

We were driving up to Miette, it was raining a little, and, there, right there, in the ditch off to the right, was a trundling bear. We stopped just ahead and looked back as the bear ambled out of the ditch and across the yellow line and into the woods on the other side.

We drove on a few hundred metres until we could safely turn around and then drove back looking, hoping to see it again.

We did.


It's usually good enough for me not to stop for wildlife beyond slowing down to pass safely. That's what we had done the evening before, coming back from Jasper, as a shaggy mountain goat stepped down a rock face.

But we had to stop for a bear. The poet says it just don't get no better than a bear.

Serentwitterpity

Image
Let's call the chance occurrence and development of consecutive Twitter posts from discrete tweeters, whether that conjunction is happy and beneficial or not, serentwitterpity.

This morning, for instance, @Penalosa_G celebrates open streets, while @TorontoStar reminds us of their fragility:



There is serentwitterpity when we reveal what we count:


Serentwitterpity happens when points of view about where viewpoints should be pointed clash: 

Serentwitterpity often leaves the one who experiences it with a residue of regret.

Regret and rue are worth sharing. Share your serentwitterpities with me. I'm @kub64. :)

The examined ride

Image
The examined ride is worth reliving.

It started when Tim caught up to me on Jasper Ave this afternoon. By the time we reached Railtown, we had had a good talk about our public duties as bicycle riders. He shared a story. I shared mine about the day last week I watched, while stopped, a fellow bicycle rider fly through a red light, oblivious to the couple who had the pedestrian-walk right-of-way, narrowly missing them.


I told him I was surrounded by a double dilemma before I could check to see if my Go Pro had captured the scene. First, I routinely share images of automobile drivers showing disrespect to bicycle riders and pedestrians. Left turners, crosswalk deniers, bike-bus-taxi lane interlopers, middle-finger wavers and the rest of the fish in the barrel. But what to do now? Here was a member of the club behaving badly. Do I share the image, or quietly censor it? Then, what to do about the actual bicycle rider? Do I try to catch up and share my thoughts? I did. And when I got home…

There's no denying Clarence

Image
At Andy's IGA we glided to a stop and Shelagh went in to get some groceries for supper. I stayed behind to mark the bicycles.

A tall figure rattled his shopping cart past the bench I sat on. He had just finished his shopping trip. His cart was overflowing with plastic bags bulging with the shapes of concealed packages and cans and pieces of fruit. He had spent a lot of money, I thought. The man was pushing the cart, but he also seemed to be steadying himself with it. His tan jacket was unzipped even though rain was falling. His pants flapped around his ankles as the wind blew. The ashy, orangey tip of a cigarette looked like a dead fuse as it hung from his bottom lip. He coughed. He stopped in front of me. I decided to slowly pick up and go to cleaner air. I have a chronic bronchitis condition.

"What's the trophy for?" he asked, pointing at the back of my bicycle. His voice was lighter than I had imagined.

Earlier in the afternoon I was at a team-building bowling co…