C got me a vibrator as a holiday gift. I don't really know C very well -- which is why it was so odd. We are in a writing group together but that is our only contact and even that is limited since we come from different disciplines and don't fully "get" how the other writes. What made this so hilarious was that she did not understand why this was funny. L and I were in tears we were laughing so hard. P and J were amused, partly by the gift, partly by the laughing. And every time C tried to explain ("but it's aromatherapy too," "it's not a vibrator, it just vibrates") the laughter ramped up to a new level. Nope she didn't get it -- though it did open the door to some new territory for discussion in the writing group!
It has been a busy weekend: Cookie making at my folks (with Great Grandma) on Saturday. Decorating of the fake tree. Yule shoot your eye party at P & L's Saturday evening. More cookie making at D's on Sunday. Crafting ornaments and the beginnings of a decent Scrabble game at AE's on Sunday. Whew. I got a new camera... can you tell?
"They are sophisticated men that know how to bam you." 11/30/08
In one of the books I've been reading lately -- written on an envelope scrap and in my own hand -- I found that quotation yesterday.
I have no explanation. I've got as little as I would if it were published in Found Magazine. I obviously wrote it down fairly recently, but for the life of me, I can't remember where it came from or why it struck me as worth writing down. Sigh. Mushy brain.
People ask me if I'm better... well, yes, I'm better, but not fixed. I did look back at the assessment I had done of my pain right before the surgery:
"Over the course of the four+ years, I have seen the flexibility and strength on my right side decrease markedly, I have become increasingly unable to walk or stand for long periods of time (esp. on concrete), I cannot sit on overly soft couches or overly hard chairs for more than a few minutes, I cannot sleep on my side (often being on the left with my right hip in the air hurts too), I cannot sleep for more than a few hours, I cannot step up more than about a foot on the right, I cannot drive for more than about two hours without suffering for days after."
Considering what I wrote a year ago, yep, I'm better... still weaker on that side, still suffering from some pain at the back of my hip often (not always), but I do not take handfuls of ibuprofen, I can walk on concrete (made it through the Shadow Art Fair yesterday just fine!), and the pain does not wake me up, generally. Overall, I'm glad I had the surgery -- it did not create a profound change in my life (this hip may always challenge me) but for the first time in 5 years, I've felt better rather than worse.
To get a good grade in my class, you would need to attend class regularly and show up on time.
To get a good grade in my class, you would need to turn in all the assignments, not two of the ten that have been due.
To get a good grade in my class, you would need to direct your comments during discussion to the assigned readings and the topics at hand.
To get a good grade in my class, you would need to keep the appointments you make with me instead of just trying to grab minutes of my time after class when I have clearly told you that I am leaving for the day. Here's a hint: don't make a professor have to say to you point blank: "pick up your things now and walk out the door because I am going to lock the door and walk away."
To get a good grade in my class, you would need to have a final project. You would need to stop asking me abstract questions about how different professors approach the writing of papers and actually start writing something.
To get a good grade in my class, you should absolutely not -- never ever -- stand in a hallway and accuse me of not returning graded work to the class promptly when you have only turned in TWO assignments (both late) and you have no fucking idea what you are talking about. Since you took your own sweet time turning your work in, I will take my own sweet time in grading -- which means I will always grade the work your classmates have turned in on time first.
So, no, no you are not going to get a good grade in my class. You are not going to pass my class, in all likelihood, let alone get the C you need for it to count toward your major. Here's a thought, maybe we could just call it a day. You focus on not failing your other classes and I'll focus my energy on the students who are actually engaged with this class.
I am currently sitting at the dining room table, trying to write. I am wearing: a hat, yoga tank, long sleeve t-shirt, wool sweater, fleece pull over, undies, long johns, jeans, wool socks, and clogs. And I have blanket over my legs. And I'm still cold. I realize that if I got myself moving I'd probably be just fine, but I need to tie my ass to this chair and finish this project!!!!
When I think too much about it, the concept of "feeling proud" of someone else's accomplishments is baffling to me (isn't it like taking credit for what they did?), but I have no other way to describe how I feel right now.
One of my students, a woman I had in my U.S. survey course the very first term I was in Michigan and then had in two other courses in years following, won a seat in the state house.
Like many of our students, she was not a traditional student. She was older. She was a nurse. She wanted so much from college. She was always one of my most enthusiastic students, intensely following every discussion and lecture, but also one of the most tentative, at least at first. I pushed her and pushed her in her writing and discussions to take a stand, defend her points, make an argument and it has been a joy to see her lose that tentativeness, a process that has resulted in her election to the house.
I wrote her a few lines of congratulations and she responded with the most generous e-mail. It made me cry. She told me not only how she felt inspired by my classes but played back through the various topics we had covered and how they had helped her stay motivated and talk to her now-constituents during the campaign. And then she closed with this:
You made a huge difference in my life and I hope to do the same for other women.
Today is a good day to be a professor. Lesia, you rock! Do good things!
Houston is precisely the same age as Atlanta. You wouldn't know it from looking at it, though. The city is, according to one architectural historian, "notably unsentimental" about the past and the built environment of the central business district is certainly a testament to that. Houston is also the only major U.S. city with no zoning ordinances. This last bit is a tiny bit ironic since I was there to give a talk on, in part, the zoning for adult businesses in Minneapolis. The individualist orientation of Houston is most noticeable downtown in the buildings that span the street. Apparently the way downtown was platted, land owners owned to the middle of street and as long as they didn't block traffic, they were free to build away. And they did, creating an almost tunnel-like feel on many of the streets.
Downtown is chock full of skyscrapers built after the oil embargo of 1973 and before the U.S. oil market went bust in the 1980s. All the major oil companies built tall in that period, competing for height, shimmer, and bragging rights for capturing the hottest architects from around the world. There was a bit of public mindedness (or was it just competition?) so that several of these developments also include plazas, fountains, and, ah...., sculpture. Even though the architects came from all over, most gave a nod to climate of south Texas and put the steel frame on the exterior and set the windows back in so that the steel would offer a touch of shade. A touch is the right word, though. The setting sun reflecting off all that glass is a pretty amazing sight.
Houston has a couple of older neighborhoods. A tiny bit of the old 4th ward, the black neighborhood, still exists with its tiny streets and even tinier houses. These places looked like the tourist cabins you can still see in the UP, but closer together, all white, and under the shadow of downtown, separated by the elevated freeway that seems like a belt holding the skyscrapers together. A white working class neighborhood also still exists near downtown, but it has taken herculean efforts to save it and the results are mixed at best. Not surprisingly, THE wealthy neighborhood of River Oaks still exists, though even there some of the old houses are being torn down so that even more opulent abodes can be constructed. While there was a mix of housing styles, the modern theme of the city is still evident: flat roof, right angles, long footprints. There is a mark of the climate in the housing as well. Most of the homes are built to be quite narrow, not more than a room deep, so that windows can be opened to create cross-breezes.
One of the things that these wealthy, wealthy folks did was to collect art. The city has a sculpture garden and an art institute. One couple, John and Dominique de Menil, have had a stunning impact on Houston's built and cultural environment. They were instrumental in establishing the University of St Thomas and, a testament to their love of modern, had much of it designed by Philip Johnson. A block away, the couple worked with Mark Rothko to create the Rothko Chapel. A block in another direction they built the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum. Both these spaces called too heavily on the sacred for my tastes, but together with the university, one can certainly get a good sense of the modern vernacular: entrance ways that are so non-descript that they look more like loading docks than front doors, heavy use of concrete and steel girders that almost overshadow the lines and proportions of the designs, and lots of dimness/darkness. Much effort went into controlling the light... using natural light, but bending it, diminishing it...
The real heart of this neighborhood of art is the Menil Collection, however. Not only is there a good chunk of amazing art from the Menil's personal collection in this museum, but Dominique guided the design of the building with her very strong ideas about building accessibility and aesthetics. The collection is plunked down in the middle of a neighborhood of 1920s bungalows -- all of which, the museum and the houses, are painted this shade of gray/green with white trim that she chose. She was also adamant that art spaces should be about art... no parking lots (there is one a block away, everyone must walk past houses and sculpture to get to the entrance), no gift shops, no cafes, no gimmicks -- just white walls, diffused light, rough dark wood floors and lots of art that included everything from tribal masks to surreal paintings and modern sculpture. Amazing.
So there. That is what I saw during my weekend in Houston.
So here I am in downtown Houston for too many days for an urban history conference. I'm an early riser generally, but the hustle and bustle of this downtown surprises even me. When I opened my curtains yesterday morning around 6:00am, I could see a couple of people moving about their offices in the tower just across the way. This morning, not even 6:30am, the parking spaces in the lot I can see from my window were half full. The sidewalks below were not crowded, but they were surprisingly busy with business-suited white folks carrying the standard-issue black bag.
I've been recently fascinated by the early morning world at home which I've encounter when I head out the door early a couple of mornings a week to take a walk before days that would otherwise be spent sitting at my desk. Those wanderings, however, are in a neighborhood. I see people leaving for work and kids waiting for the early bus so they can get to band or sports practice before school. Here, though, there are few residences. These are people who are coming from somewhere else. They have already been up, dropped their kids somewhere, and driven downtown. I don't entirely understand this early world. I'm a morning person, but I'm not the "be in my office every morning before 7am" kind of morning person. I generally like my early mornings... as long as I don't need to be anywhere. In my ideal world, I like to get up early, listen to the news, drink my coffee, read, and, often, do some writing, all while still in my jammies and without having to talk to anyone -- kind of like I get to do this morning.
So The Killers have a some new music out and it's being played to death by the radio stations. I don't particularly care for the band (though I am sure I would have loved them in 1983!), but the song "Human" is catchy so I've noticed it and I think they are having a larf at us. Part of the chorus goes:
Are we human? Or are we dancer? My sign is vital My hands are cold
Right... "my sign is vital." And some of the lyrics...
Will your system be alright When you dream of home tonight? There is no message we're receiving Let me know is your heart still beating?
There's more, but you get the idea. I'm imagining someone in the band having a riff and they all sat around and threw in phrases, rhymed off each other, had a drink, stirred the words around, and then poof... they called it a song... and now it is this huge hit. Yeesh.
I picked up a couple of pairs jeans last week and they are my first ever with a button fly. Yes I've encountered button fly jeans before, if ya know what I mean, but never had any myself. So now I've found myself teetering off-balance as my graceful, well-practiced approach to the toilet is hampered by a fly that takes more concentration than I am used to. Worse yet is the getting them done up. I'm a button first then zip kind of gal generally, but that doesn't work with button-flies. If you button the top button first, then work your way up from the bottom you run out of room to maneuver the last button or two through their holes. None of this is earth-shattering, of course, but I'm amused by the muscle memory I seem to have for getting dressed and how that has been challenged in the last couple of days.
POLITICS Finally, I've been a little stumped by McCain's recent stump speech. Why is he running around Pennsylvania and everywhere else saying "Obama wants to redistribute the wealth"? It's not really the distortion of the Democratic platform that leaves me puzzled, rather it's that this line might work (or at least be thought to work) on the (ever amorphous) "middle class" voter. How is it that we have bred a sizable (or sizable enough to attract the Republicans) population that is convinced that they have enough wealth that the Democrats might actually take from them and give it to... who? This sense of embattlement, sense of competition, sense of individualism, sense that for someone else to do better you must necessarily do worse chills me. And that McCain would jiggle that particular insecurity in the electorate offends me.
Being department chair means that my days at work are filled with doing things for other people -- administrators, faculty, students -- and doing tasks that with which I have little familiarity -- budgets, strategic planning, scheduling.
But today I am not going to campus. Nope. Once I get the kids off to school, it's all about me and things I do know how to do. On today's agenda: editing the galley's of my article on challenging gender segregation in bars that is coming out in Feminist Studies this fall, reviewing an edition of Jacob Riis' How the Other Half Lives (a book I teach with frequently) that is being revised for a second edition (and I particularly like that I get paid $225 for doing this task!), and attending a workshop in AA on teaching about conflict.
And to top it all off, I get to ride my bike (a rare opportunity these days) to that workshop on what promises to be a lovely, crisp, and sunny fall day.
Cabins (on rainy fall nights when temps fall into the 30s). Exuberant dogs wearing silly sweaters. K & N's friends. Apple/cider/donut stands on rural roads, after big hills. Wool base layers. Vans that carry lots of bikes. Wine with lunch after a long hike. Dry trails. Polish porters and Golabki. Wheels with all spokes attached. Deer bounding across trails. Riding off the last trail with 18 miles on my widget and a smile on my face. Euchre, beer, and ribald talk. Apple pie and hot coffee for breakfast. Adventure buddies.
This was not the bloggiest of seasons for me. Like many of the friendly blogs in my world, YesterdayLooksGood got very little attention. Her sister blog, Breaking the Code, got even less.
I meant to record more of my happenings -- they are fun to look back at, a way to solidify memories, etc. -- but many posts were never started and of those that were, I abandoned more posts than I actually published.
Using my calendar and a scroll through the drafts-never-published here are the highlights of Summer 2008:
In June I went to Minneapolis/St. Paul for a conference and research (probably the highlight of my summer in terms of work).
In June, E finished 4th grade (which she loved) and O finished Kindergarten (which he tolerated). They understood that they were supposed to be happy about summer, but they didn't quite know what to do with themselves with day after day of unstructured time. Apparently, they didn't feel the chores I assigned them was the kind of structure they were looking for, however. They did a week of low-quality day camp that convinced us they were better off rattling around the house bored and beating on each other than in that environment.
In late June/early July, we went to my folks' cottage. This is a trip I have done for years, but this particular trip came with some twists. I went without my dog, for one. It was her favorite place in the world. She was dune colored and loved to romp there. [sniff]
In July, I became a stay-at-home mom. I struggled with this for awhile. I finally had to accept that my sabbatical was over and stop trying to parent and write at the same time. Things got much easier after that. I scheduled playdates so I could launch a new article and get ready for classes, but I also took other people's kids on adventures with us, rode bikes with my pups, went blueberry picking, hit the pool and the waterpark, danced to the bands at Crossroads, became a regular at the Tuesday farmers' market, and visited many area parks. The kids and I even rode our bikes in the Heritage Festival parade (which I think we all found pretty boring).
In July, E went off for a week at sleep-away camp. I loved camp as a kid and went for multiple weeks (regular, horseback riding, competitive swimming, and, my favorite, sailing) so I was rather excited for her. She did great there but was incredibly tired when I retrieved her. The promised "vegetarian option at every meal" also turned out to be salad and peanut butter sandwiches, so she was mighty happy to have a plate of pasta plopped down in front of her. I had hoped that a week apart would get the kids out of the negative patterns of taunting they had developed. It didn't. Almost as soon as I had fetched her I heard from the backseat, "mom, he's looking at meeeeeeee!"
July also meant beerfest and I had a lovely time with my dad, brother, and many buddies. I didn't pick a "best beer" this year, but I enjoyed several ryes... and I really enjoyed that there were several ryes to enjoy. Worst beer: Jolly Pumpkin's Perseguido. It almost doesn't seem fair, since I don't like their beers/sour beers in general, but EVERYONE in my universe that day agreed that this one particularly sucked.
In August, we went to Dunegrass, the music festival in Empire, MI. Year #2 for us and it held up well, which is not surprising because the kids are now old enough to be fairly sturdy on such outings, we took the camper and therefore had cushy digs, and there is a beautiful beach with great dunes just down the way. moe. wins for best band, I think. Particle was the same as always, only I was too tired to get into the groove this year.
Also in August, S finally got me to play water polo. Okay, yes, it is fun. Water polo easily slid into the hole left by us quitting clogging (E lost her interest and I wasn't going to force it). The kids could swim in the shallows while mommy dunked the college boys... then we would all go home mellow and tired. E wormed her way into one game and played well. I'll coach a tweener team next year if the pool folks will let me! Most of my other exercise came from the bike. I think my fitness level peaked somewhere in late August. If I had to pick a day, I'd say it was when I rode (read: held on for) the local shop ride: 32 miles in about an hour and half. Otherwise I rode with Bike Ypsi many Sundays and took to early morning roll outs so that I could do 20-30 miles and be back in time for W to leave for work. (Tom's right: it's a great time because there is no wind!) My favorite ride became the Saline-Milan route (40 miles), though it was hard to squeeze in on weekday mornings.
The last bit of August contained my birthday weekend. I celebrated Bike Ypsi's first birthday, helped break in Andre and Stephanie's new house at their first party there, closed the pool for the season, and celebrated my many revolutions around the sun with my extended family.
September saw me not only enter my forties but also take on my first big administrative job: department chair. The kids went back to school. We celebrated surviving that momentous week with a bonfire at the party barn, including a birthday king and queen, and chocolate cake with a milk fountain built in.
But the signs of fall have started to arrive. E started soccer, the rain pushed the last Crossroads act (Black Jake and the Carnies) inside, and it was time to make pesto. I rode 50 miles last Saturday to help make 35 pounds of pesto at Jeff's house out in Chelsea. It poured for much of the ride, but it was warm and I loved it except for my fogging glasses. On Sunday, I rolled out in the ran again to ride Tom's Taco Tour. Five taco stops over 19 miles and we ended -- very wet -- at the Corner.
What this summary, focused on specific events and dominant trends, glosses over is the emotional terrain of my summer. It is hard to characterize, but I think I have spent much of the last three months trying to get my head in the game -- whatever the game may be. I've been sad, I've been unfocused, I've raised indecision to a near art form, and somehow I became a procrastinator. I've decided I'm angrier (in general, or maybe it is that I am easier to anger) than I realized. This is not to say that I was not happy this summer. I was, at times, but these other things had me pulled off in too many directions to focus on the things that made me happy. So this is the problem I am tackling this fall: how to be in the right place... or at least how to be in the place I am. How old-school hippie-ish, eh? Yeah, well, I seem to need to go back to that school. To frame it positively (and find a way out of this post!), my goal for the fall is to be good with where I am and what I am doing in that moment and not overthink where else I might be. I'll be in that other place soon enough.
Week 2 of my life as a department chair and I find one of my senior colleagues trying to bully me into dropping an initiative that would greatly benefit my discipline. The specifics of the situation don't really matter (and it would be impolitic of me to lay them out here) but I realize just how negatively I am reacting to his approach. Rather than seeing his communications as his best attempt to give me a realistic assessment of my chances of seeing this project through, I'm feeling bullied and that makes me ornery. I am deeply troubled by the inflexibility of his thinking. His objections were crafted long ago and that he won't really even look at the current situation bugs me enormously. And his telling me that I should just walk away from it -- that I will never, ever be able to apply enough creative thinking and good politicking to make it work for him -- just pisses me off. I can feel my jaws locking down on this one...
So I wrote that first paragraph of this post this morning after composing a careful, cautious, yet firm e-mail response to my colleague. This afternoon I wandered over to Historiann's site wanting some good feminist perspective on the recent Palin interview so I that I could feel less alone in the world, only to find that she has been posting quite a bit lately on the topic of academic bullying. One of her posts even got picked up for a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Reading her blog/comments and the article was unnerving. So familiar. My normal cynicism gives way to naivete, perhaps, but I am just baffled at people who use the privilege of tenure and academic freedom to act like manipulative asses.
Now I'm flashing back to the thrashing I used to regularly get from the chair at my first tenure track job. He'd yell at me, belittle me because I was young (and most certainly made him feel old), and, most frustratingly, conflate my actions with those of other female faculty in the department. When I or others challenged him on his inability or unwillingness to tell the women apart (7 out of 25 faculty), he would blow up and claim that it was impossible for him to act in any sort of sexist way because he had been a part of 'the movement' in the 1960s.
A part of this trend in higher education has got to be that faculty are world-class grudge holders. What I can't figure out is why so many of them are so damn grumpy. We have lovely jobs, as the world of work goes. We get paid to pursue our own intellectual interests (within limits). No one tells me what to research, where to publish, what books to use in class, what time to come to work, or what time to go home. That freedom, however, may also contribute to the problem. No one tells the senior people -- people who sometimes feel like they have earned the right to treat others with little respect since that was the way they were treated when they were junior -- to sit down, shut up, let it go, and behave like civil human beings.
Last week and then again today, in carrying out my duties as department chair, I got to spend some time trying to round up chairs. Not other department chairs or the chairs of any committees, but actual furniture.
My department complained about classrooms being short of seats. Facilities people told us there should be plenty of chairs. We explained there weren't. They threatened to take our conference room chairs. Our admin assistant stood them down on Thursday morning. Other chairs were found to fill out the classroom by Thursday afternoon. But then, over the weekend, said chairs magically disappeared from our conference room.
So today I got to write terse e-mails to high level administrators about missing chairs. There has never been a finer use of my skills.
After fifteen, er... maybe closer to sixteen, months of not teaching, I gathered up my books and papers and headed into a classroom today. My voice is certainly not in condition, especially for a three hour class, and I only made it through 45 minutes before the scratching at the back of my throat began. Other than that, I seemed to remember what I was doing. I learned a few names (that I will forget again before next week), got them to talk, made a few laugh, and none of them (yet) took me to task for the outrageous cost of the books I asked them to buy.
I'm thinking that my six hours in the classroom each week this term may very well become my refuge from being department chair. Here's why...
Tally from the first two days in the big corner office:
memos with incorrect information distributed: 1 out of 1 poorly worded e-mails: 2 out of 5 icky political situations I'll need to dodge: 2 complaints about my colleagues that I need to deal with: 3
Okay, I'm amused. Bud Light's slogan is "keeps it coming" and apparently I can already order a Michael Phelps "Greatest Olympic Champion" video.
Yes, yes, I'm watching Olympics... and there are commercials.
I'm also reading blogs and snorting over the way a certain someone has managed to once again (though unintentionally, I suspect) mischaracterize my feminism. Oh wait, maybe I shouldn't write about that. He might want to beat me into suppression with his penis. No, maybe he will just oppress me with it. Jeez. I leave you with this.
So.... some new folks moved in across the street. On the plus side, one of them is an 8-year old boy and my kids are delighted to have a new playmate. But the interactions I've had with mom have been nothing but strange and awkward.
The first time she tried to introduce herself was when I was sitting on the front porch, talking with a friend from Georgia who has gone through large life changes of late. I did need to finish up with this call, but there a lot of ground to cover. I tried to motion to the new neighbor that I was on the phone (I assumed it must not have been obvious or she wouldn't have approached me then) and would catch up with her when I was done. I'm not sure I was successful. By the time I got off the phone, she had wandered down the street out of sight.
Then last night, she came by while I had another friend over. I wouldn't have answered the door, except that I guessed that it was her kid who had buddied up to mine and was playing in the backyard. I thought she wanted him back and wanted to check in with me before heading back there. Well, no, she wanted to introduce herself. And I guess she wanted to chitchat, but serious awkwardness ensued because she answered all my questions with single words...
"Are you new to the area?"
"Where did you come from?"
"Oh, that's not too far..."
"So, is your son going to the local school in the fall?"
Okay, I give up. After all, I had abandoned my friend in the house... I made my 'gotta go' noises and scooted back in.
Then tonight, the kids are out playing while I am making dinner. I see that the new kid is over but all seem to be getting along well, so I let them be. Then I hear an adult talking... but it doesn't seem to be to the kids so I look around and find the neighbor mom has walked past the kids, up my driveway and is standing in my open garage talking on her cell phone while smoking a cigarette. Then she strolls down the driveway to chat with the kids. I can smell the smoke coming in the kitchen and dining room windows, so I pop outside. She is still on the phone. I say "Hi (note my pleasant greeting). Please don't smoke around my kids or my house."
She apologizes and scurries away so quickly that I don't think she heard me about not smoking around the house. Strange.
Then, later, while we are eating dinner and then every ten minutes afterward, the boy knocks loud and long on the door asking if O can come back out and play yet.
Yahoo won't let me into my yesterdaylooksgood e-mail account. I can log into my other one just fine. I've had this happen now and again, but it has never lasted 12 hours! It is driving me nuts (of course) because I know from Messenger that I have two new e-mails in there. Anyway, if one of those e-mails was from you, you'd better call, I guess.
Caught a bit of the Heritage Festival on Friday night. We started with dinner (and beers, of course) at Sidetrack and then had a mellow amble through the happenings.
Saturday morning we paraded with 'Local Motion' -- a combo of Bike Ypsi, Ypsi Food Coop, Growing Hope and a local farmer. Pete, the farmer, brought along a trailer with goats and chickens in it and other folks had some rabbits in cages on wagons. Best part? We were behind the Willow Run High School band (and not some singing-to-canned-music-Christians on a float -- whew). The route was short, which was probably best as riding at 2mph is, um, hard. It is extra hard when you have an impatient 6 year old on a trail-a-bike attached you.
After an afternoon spent recovering from the parade at home, the kids and I set out for the festival again. We got ice cream at Luwak and watched the robots for a while. The high schoolers even let O drive one for a bit and both had fun being chased around the parking lot by a robot with a pizza box body (and it was made with an Aubrey's box, even!). A kind friend brought me a beer to help sustain me through the hour we volunteered to work the bike valet booth -- something the kids did not want to do. We talked about pitching in and keeping commitments and all survived. That left only eating sandwiches and grooving to Hullabaloo to round out the evening.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to a SEMCOG public forum on regional transportation issues. They held three of these around Southeast Michigan. I attended a session at Washtenaw Community College.
The results of the public forums have just been posted. You can read the full results of the survey done with forum attendees and see how we doled out the 100 SEMCOG "bucks" the presenters gave us to spend, if you are so inclined, but I can tell you [Spoiler alert] most people think our public transit system in the region is inadequate and more money should be spent on it. Astounding, eh?
I found the meeting to be disappointing overall. It didn't have much depth to it and it was hard to not snicker at hard-hitting polling items designed to gauge our level of agreement with statements such as this: "The region's transportation system has an impact on the region's economy."
Sniping aside, here are a few important points that did emerge from the meeting: First, "non-motorized transportation" is an awkward/inadequate category (one of six that SEMCOG focuses on). As one who frequently uses a bike as transportation, I found that lumping biking and walking together tended to pull the discussion in the "recreation" direction and away from "transportation." The focus then becomes more on expensive-to-build paved paths ($300,000/mile... just for comparison, it might be helpful to know that a 2-lane road only costs $950,000/mile!) and less on bike routes/lanes, sensors at lights that can detect bikes, and other fixes that would promote transportation/commuting by bike. Bike lanes are cheaper than paths and have more in common with other SEMCOG categories (such as "pavement" and "bridges"), but being lumped in with non-motorized seems to make these connections secondary.
The SEMCOG representative with whom I spoke about non-motorized transportation confirmed that this is, more than any of the other categories, the most intensely local issue. In other words, planning for regional non-motorized transportation has been quite difficult and, in some cases, is a non-starter. Considering that, those of us interested in such issues and interested in shaping the planning in this area, need to be working on the county, city, and township level. SEMCOG's planning for Direction2035 (the regional plan they are now developing) will move to this level during the winter (Nov.-March) and those are meetings -- with both regional and local officials -- that we will want to be attending.
Second, the regional rail project between Ann Arbor and Detroit is moving ahead. There was some big grant that was going to launch this initiative in style, but it didn't come through. Instead, a shoe-string budget, some heavy negotiation, and probably some political slight of hand is going to produce a much more modest system to be up and running by 2010. I'm stupidly excited about this. I don't care if it's third-hand rolling stock and passengers have to use an old loading dock as a station platform -- being able to train to Dearborn for my work would be gorgeous... half an hour to doze or read instead of drive. Oh yes, please.
Two weeks ago, I went to the cottage: Celebrated Dad's birthday (a celebration that will not be complete until we attend beerfest on Saturday). Rode some good miles... including a 40-mile ride where I only unclipped ONCE the entire time, when I had to make a left onto Route 2 to ride the last 7 miles to the cottage. Walked the beach with the kids quite a bit. Saw the parade and the fireworks. We skipped the fire on the beach this year, as the weather on the last night was threatening.
W and I came back from the cottage without the kids. They stayed on with my folks for a few days and we had a couple of days of freedom from the tyranny of 6:30pm dinner. It was odd, I had too many things I wanted to do with that time and I had a hard time arranging it all. I did play water polo for the first time (fun!), work a bit (but not as much as I had hoped), and ride the potowatami trail (18 miles of hot, BUGGY hills -- I wanted a big challenge and I got it. Some tender parts of my anatomy were not on speaking terms with me after the ride, but we are all recovered now).
Then I took off for Interlochen to rescue my parents from the kids and attend a cousin's wedding. The grandparents (my folks) were 'plumb wore out' for sure after 5 days with the kids. I have rather exuberant children, I guess:) The wedding was a wedding. Very special for the most immediate people involved, I suppose, but I felt rather removed from the whole thing and fled pretty early when the children started to flag. Even after three cupcakes, Owen still would not dance more than a minute with me. E looked pretty worn out as well and she was dragging the whole next day. We ventured out to my aunt and uncle's cottage nearby and I borrowed one of their kayak's to take each kid out for a paddle. The wind was huge and kept us off the main part of Spider Lake, but there several sheltered bits that we could access. Both kids actually seemed interested in how to kayak and happily listened to me prattle on about stroke techniques, wet exits, and the like. Having them one-on-one is amazing... getting to interact with them instead acting the referee.
This past week has been one with W working lots of hours for his new job and me being at home with the kids. I had not finished the writing I needed to the week before, but friends A and G stepped in to give me some much needed time and I cranked out 22 pages on the Minneapolis research. This is a first attempt at writing on this material, so some of it was slow going, but I have enough done that I should be able to get good feedback from my writing group when we meet on Friday.
Yesterday I hung out with the kids in the morning, spending way too much time getting them to leave each other alone as we made the rounds of town gathering things for E's week at camp (she left this afternoon!) and checking out the Farmers' Market. I fled after lunch to ride in Thomas and Luke's alleycat around Ypsi. They had done such a nice job planning, it was a shame only a small group turned out to ride. In classic form, I changed my mind on my route (it is sort of like a scavenger hunt) as we were starting and then had to make up a new route while riding. The new route was fine, but prevented me from getting the bonus checkpoints. As it turns out, it did not matter in terms of my final time. I came in after riders 1 & 2, but then there was a long gap before anyone else rolled up. Rider 2 missed a checkpoint, though, so I took second place. Okay, the field was tiny, but, for the moment, let's not focus on that :) Anyway, thanks to Thomas and Luke, who not only sponsored, planned, and ran the race, but then fed us too!
Next stop for the day was the Corner and the Shadow Art Fair. The kids and W met up with me there. Friends came out, bike folk came out... it was a fun overlap of several different parts of my social world. The kids were bored and tired but I distracted them with lemonade and nachos while W spent his allowance on posters and t-shirts. Then he took them home so that I could roll home peacefully a bit later. I didn't buy any art this time around -- I have already bought from many of the folks there at previous Shadows and the leather bag lady wasn't there this time! I'd been toying with splurging on a funky bag with a long strap as a 40th birthday present for myself... guess it was not meant to be.
And that brings us to today... we made pancakes with blueberries and finished packing E up for camp. She has been so excited, I hope it lives up to her expectations. I loved sleep-away camp as a kid and it has been more fun than I expected to see her gear up for it. I wrote her a letter already! While W took her to camp, O and I rode the mtb/trail-a-bike rig up to the pool for a swim. He is so funny on the bike. He likes to sing as we cruise along, peddles like mad on the downhills (the boy likes speed), and is generally quite the good sport bumping along behind me. We chatted for a moment with the returning Bike Ypsi riders, but they had taken a route that would have been waaaay too long/fast for us. Another day I'll take O and go with a B group for a Sunday Social Ride.
This morning's distraction/writing warm up activity was to unsubscribe myself from lists/mass mailings that are cluttering up my e-mail in-boxes. It felt good. NARAL, NOW, Amnesty International, you all do lovely things, but I don't really want to know about every single one of them... just take my money, keep your website current, and I'll check in when I can.
Now I just wish someone would come along and so a similar "unsubscribe" for all the tangible things cluttering up my life. I'd work on it myself, but it is REALLY time to work now.
The staff is sounding me out on my impending move into the big office. Meeting schedules for the fall are being set. "Congratulations" are coming in from my colleagues. All of this is intruding a bit on my summer, but I figure these little things can be a good chance for me to get a bit more intentional about the interaction habits and style I want to practice while department chair.
First order of business is to be much more guarded about e-mails. If it is a question, idea, or comment that I don't want circulated throughout the entire college, I am not going to put it in an e-mail. This is going to mean many, many more phone calls (which I detest) but I think the good of this policy outweighs the bad.
The second item on my list is to write everything down for myself and, when necessary, for others. I've worked with our current dean long enough to know that she will agree to things in meetings and then, when it comes time for them to actually happen, has no memory of said agreement. I will cultivate the habit of the follow-up/confirmation/"this-is-what-we-agreed-to" e-mails. There are times when I also need a prompt to remember how things were left after a meeting, so I vow to keep track!
Third, I'm going to try to keep a lid on my sarcasm. Okay, okay, stop laughing. I know it will be difficult, but it is too easily misunderstood or mis-used. It is more the latter that concerns me, but I figure suppressing my acerbic wit for a term won't kill me and will help ensure that I leave office in 2009 as a well-loved dictator. Er, leader, I mean.
On Saturday night, I went out to Paychecks Lounge in Hamtramck to hear Cowboy Messiah. They were sloppy (bad), goofy (good, 'cuz it was a clever goofy), obsessed with getting laid (pretty much every song had at least one reference), and thoroughly screwed by a sound guy who looked to be about 15 and didn't think it was rock and roll if there wasn't a wall of guitars coming from the stage.
Anyway, on the drive back -- round about 1:ooam -- and very near the Rawsonville Exit, a man walked straight out onto the highway. I was driving in the middle of the three lanes. I hit brakes and horn, but was reluctant to swerve unless it became absolutely necessary because there was traffic coming up behind me (but not too close) and because there was nothing in this man's demeanor that indicated he had any clue that 3,000 lb boxes of steel were barreling down on him at 70mph. I had no idea what he was going to do. If he had even looked at me, I would have felt better about swerving right (in the direction from which he had come), but that he showed no recognition of his peril -- he did not look, he did not hurry -- left me fearful that he might stop walking or that he might even turn right around.
I did not hit him (thank you brakes) and he seemed to make it across the third lane into the median okay, but I have no clue what fate awaited him on the other side. Eyes forward, relaxed pace, completely unaware... I'm having trouble shaking the image of him.
Knowing it would be a long ride, I put an extra cliff bar in my bag and tucked a banana in my jersey pocket for Saturday's ride. That banana traveled 63+ miles... out to Belleville, through the metroparks, on to Trenton (Natalie's ancestral homeland) and back. It got wet in rainy rain on the way out, but still got to enjoy a fast ride with my good friends and some sunshine on the way back. No bonking happened so the banana got to ride the whole ride. I did eat it, but later... after the return, the de-gritting shower, the nap, and that first beautiful post-ride beer.
While I was in Minneapolis, some things were changing back on my home campus. The politics of the situation created an opportunity (or is a duty?) for me to serve as interim department chair for the fall term. The transition from a year+ of sabbatical to being in the office everyday is going to be abrupt, but the staff is good and I won't have to do some of the more onerous budget tasks that only come up in the winter term. The extra compensation will be nice too.
I do find it rather amusing that I will officially take over this responsibility-laden job on the day I turn 40!
I opted to skip the receptions last night after 10 hours of conferencing and head downtown on my bike. It just so happens that at the same time that Minneapolis is hosting the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, it was also hosting part of a week long series of pro bike races. Who knew this town was big enough for all of us?
The women raced first: 40 laps on a 1.2 kilometer course through city streets. I parked myself at an outside corner and could see them take two corners and the straightaway to the finish line. I was surprised to see how different the women were in size, shape, and age (okay, that part I could only see after the race) -- lots of rippling muscles, but muscles on very different types of bodies from stocky to long and lean. There were a few teams, but all were small. Compared to the men who came out later, it looked like the women were doing a lot more individual work. Four strong riders up front traded off the lead -- all from different teams. There were a few stragglers, but the women stayed fairly well clumped. I know nothing of the riders or the teams, but it was fun to watch the race and to chitchcat with the fairly diverse crowd that came out. These were bikey folk, but all different kinds of bikey folk. Our little corner had riding companions of racers, fixie hipsters, dad with trailer and toddler, lycra dude, and me (historian chick on a rented commuter bike that does not express my personality).
For the men's race, I made my way around the whole course. Once the pack passed my spot, I'd move along. I did happen to be on the backside when some sort of crash happened in the thick of the pack. About a quarter of the field (123 riders) went down or got hung up 20 yards down from my perch. The barricades got knocked over, but no one seemed hurt. A couple of bikes were out of the race as a result, but everyone walked or rode out of the heap under their own power.
The men had big teams (6-8 riders, maybe?)and the Bissel boys were up front for 32 laps. Then the olive oil guys took over for a while, but none of them won. Who won? The guy in the Wheaties jersey (meaning he had won the bike race the day before) who had been buried in the pack the whole race while other people pushed the wind out of the way for him. Then he took it in the sprint. This kind of racing is a team sport... but individuals win. Bike racing is a weird sport.
After all the hoopla, I -- like many people on bikes -- rode part of the course before they took down the barricades. No worries, I rode about 14 mph... not 43mph (the speed for the final sprint!).
The evening was nice so I explored the northwestern part of town a bit -- lots of condos butting up against the warehouse district -- found some Thai food for dinner and made my way back to the dorm to rewrite my presentation for the umpteenth time.
I've been to 8 sessions now and had my brain poked and prodded from all different directions. I've heard "homonormative" bantered around in multiple talks, learned about the class implications of oral versus digital sex among lesbians in the 1940s and 1950s and pondered the "publicness" of bathrooms in Chinese-American homes in LA at the end of the 19th century. I did my own song and dance calling for seeing cities as gendered spaces and seeing gender as an urban process. At this point, the only thing I can take away from it all is that the essence of what we (historians) all do, is find a new way to prepare the cucumber: we slice, we dice, thick, thin, strips, chunks... it is still a cucumber, but we do this in the hopes of seeing something new, seeing old things in new ways.
Stick a fork in me, I'm done... at least until tomorrow when I shift out of conference mode and back into research mode. I have three oral histories scheduled, which is ambitious.
A city in June is usually a lovely thing. It is such a good time to meet a city. People are so happy to be out in the sunshine, flowers are blooming, summer heat hasn't beaten anyone down yet... I often hit new cities in June (takes me a month after school ends to get a trip planned, it seems) and over the years I've had lovely affairs with Atlanta, DC, Portland and Ithaca.
My current crush is Minneapolis. And tomorrow, when I head to St Paul, it'll probably become a polyamorous thing.
I was in Minneapolis/St Paul exactly a year ago for my first visit. Now I'm back for research and a conference. I know just enough of the geography and offerings that everything is pretty easy. Just to extend the crush/fling analogy, it is like having sex with someone for the second time. Despite my bike having been stolen last year during my visit, I've opted to bike the cities again. I rented a snazzy red Trek commuter -- fully outfitted with rack, trunk bag, lights, lock, spd pedals, etc. -- so I am feeling very free. Right now I'm having a lovely beer at the Town Hall Brewery, but soon I will roll on down to the bike path and say hi to the Mississippi river.
Today's adventures included checking into a dorm room. The conference I am attending is held on college campuses and they open the dorms early so that people can come research before the proceedings begin. The twin bed looks disturbingly small and oddly high, but the room is fine and I like being on campus. I like the lounge three rooms down that has a view of the Mississippi. I like that there are towels, since I neglected to pack any.
Next up was renting my bike and taking a very roundabout (and pleasant!) route to the downtown public library -- a stunning building. Many of the mechanicals have been left (intentionally) exposed, so you can see the guts of the escalators and elevators, for example. There is lots of glass, including between the rungs of the stairs that float out into the atrium. I'm sure all the blonde wood will soon look dated and worn, but I love huge, ambitious public buildings -- especially ones that are libraries.
The Special Collections in the library are chock full of interesting things -- including clipping files on "pornography" and "Chicago Ave" (both related to my current research). Some dedicated staff people read the papers every morning/week and dutifully clipped out articles on protests at dirty bookstores and neighborhood organization meetings over the last 40 years. Yay! They were so happy to have someone there loving on their stuff, the archivist offered to stay a half hour beyond official closing (4:30pm!) so that I could finish the folder I was working on. (I know, it should be "the folder on which I was working" but that just sounds dumb.)
Interestingly (okay, perhaps only to me), the library is around the corner from the warehouse district where all the "adult businesses" landed after the zoning ordinances of the late 1980s drove them out of neighborhood commercial districts. I'm amused by researching the history of the built environment that just out the door and down the block. I rolled around the block once just to take in the "girls, girls, girls, all nude, all the time" signage...
But then the ride from here to there (library to brewery): Minneapolis is bike friendly. There be bikes EVERYWHERE and the drivers of cars are almost scarily polite to bikers. But the city has these FREAKY bike lanes that run down the middle of downtown streets. On some, the bikes lanes are double wide -- with lanes for bikes going in both directions. It is wild (somewhere in between insane and cool) to have a bus pass you on the right... in rush hour traffic. All is good, except on Hennepin Ave where the middle-of-the-road bike lane gets to an intersection and just ends. No hints. No explanation. Nothing.... except 2 full lanes of traffic between you and that right turn. Hmmm.... I tried to catch a guy in full bike dork regalia to get the skinny, but the light changed and he got away. I muddled through, but this is a mystery that must be solved this week.
Can I go back to researching dead people now, please? Pretty please? I am just a ball of adrenalin after making a bunch of cold calls to potential oral history subjects for my upcoming research trip to Minneapolis. I'll take the adrenalin over the anxiety I had before the calls, but, geez, this is not a part of my work that I enjoy.
It seems so simple... "You were involved in this thing. I want to know more about that thing. Will you talk to me?" But it's not. I hate to impose, I worry they'll say no, I worry I haven't prepared well enough, scheduling is a nightmare, finding a location is an even bigger nightmare...
I've only done a dozen or so interviews, so the whole process is still daunting. Though, honestly, I think I will still be twitching on my 100th interview.
Some of the stress I invent. I always expect to have to work harder to prove myself but now that I think about it, no one has ever asked for my cv and no one has really interrogated me about what my motives/politics are or what kind of argument I intend to make with this research. I guess that is the advantage of interviewing activists. Obviously they thought the cause was good enough to devote some significant part of their lives to, so I guess they just assume that my interest is the same as theirs!
Two interesting bits from today's calls: one guy did ask was my interest was in the topic, but then he was a business owner in the neighborhood and not an activist, and he was easily satisfied by my two sentence reference to community organizing around quality of life issues in neighborhoods and surrounding commercial districts. Another woman turned out to be an activist from a later period than I have been working on (see one of those surprises I dread!) -- but her story is great and she is wonderfully thoughtful about her participation, local politics, tactics/strategies of community orgs, etc. that I am going to interview her anyway. All I could think while I listened to her on the phone today was, "I should get her in front of my class" -- they would be amazed.
So... it all turned out fine. I have 5 interviews lined up or coming together. All is good. Now I just need to calm down.
So I've been "involved parent" this week and last and chaperoned trips with both the kids.
For O, the outing was to the Toledo Zoo. These kindergarten teachers had each kid bring a "special adult" so that no one adult would end up managing multiple munchkins. Not surprisingly, some kids didn't these kids would just not get to go. In reality, though, these kids were placed with willing adults who could attend.
I've heard folks raving about this zoo for years, but this was our first visit. I didn't like the layout of the place -- lots of land to cover -- but the exhibits are well set up for human-animal viewing. I don't know if this works all that well for the animals (I hope it does, soft-hearted vegetarian that I am), but I know it worked well for the human animals. We spent a long time watching the orangutans, in particular. The momma even dragged her tarp over to one of the windows, and laid it out for a nap. Then her kid came over to playfully pester her, but she gave as good as she got. Roaring white lions, a pacing snow leopard (with a giant fuzzy tail!), a meandering hippo with shit all over its hind quarters were all amazingly close. Watching the polar bears belly flop into the water was a treat. O was done by this time, but I was fascinated.
For O, though, the trip was much more about the social world than the natural world. He didn't want to walk around with just me and look for animals, he wanted to be with his classmates. We ended up spending time with one pair of boys and then a larger gaggle of kids (escorted two parents). When the latter group hit the gift shop, my boy nearly lost it with envy. "What do you have?" and "Where are you going?" meant far more to him than whether we got to see any zebras or otters. In this sense, the teachers' plan didn't really work all that well. I was just not enough for him -- until he slumped over on me for a good long nap in the bus seat on the way home.
Today, I went to The Henry Ford with E's fourth grade class. She was delighted to have me along, though I did get a few too many lectures about all the rules we were supposed to be following. Since her BFF's mom was also attending, she and T ended up in separate groups but we scored her buddies N and O, along with another girl I hadn't met before. I am super proud of E for making sure that J, who is not a part of E's usual gang felt included. She even insisted that J pick the first place we visit. Yay!
The kids were great. N is hilarious -- such a suck up. He laughed loudly at all my jokes, stayed glued to my side, and always asked ever so politely for the map. How many 9 year olds do you know who greet you with "It is so good to see you again." Hehe. He is one of 6 or 9 kids... wonder if he is desperate for adult attention.
I thought it might have changed, but my overall impression of the museum is much the same as when I was a teen and last visited. It is such an odd hodge-podge of stuff. The kids loved the trains, the 1940s diner, and (I swear, I didn't lead them at all on this) the bicycles -- especially the 8-seater. They were awfully good sports when I asked them the "what do you think that was used for?" questions and made them put a post-it note response on the wall under the question of "What does freedom mean to you?" before they could have lunch. The trouble of having E's mom (aka: the History Professor) as chaperone is that you are going to have to discuss hearth ovens, the Selma to Montgomery march, and the significance of Amelia Earhart. Ah well, they survived and E didn't roll her eyes at me once.
I'm not going to give in. Since so many of my friends seem to be overrun with garden-mania, I am just going to proclaim here and now: I don't garden. How uncool is that? All I intentionally grow is grass, really, and that is just because I like to roll around on it with my kids. I don't really even pay that much attention to the grass.
I do find myself swept up in the romance of the tales of planting running around the friendly blogs these days and I'll probably envy their haul once things get going, but I'm just not that kind of hippie. Oh, okay, I might put in a few herb plants (that someone else started) and a tomato plant (but that is just so that I can use my composting worm's poop), but no more.
Just remember all you garden freaks (and I say that with love), I'm happy to soak up your extra produce and I make excellent zucchini bread!
1. Gorgeous day. Bright and chilly in the morning, but stayed bright and got warm quickly.
2. Lots of folks. Maybe 20 on the long rides and 60 on the not-so-long rides. Over 100 rode the community ride.
3. Good booths. Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition, St. Joe's, Project Grow, PEAC, Rails to Trails, and the Ypsi Food Coop all had tables. Wheels in Motion and Tree Fort really turned out. The former tweaked mechanicals on lots of bikes, including a bit o' work on my back wheel and squishy brake. My next biking business will go to them.
4. Minimal no-shows. AATA was supposed to send a bus so we could let people practice putting their bikes on the racks but some sort of crisis downtown distracted them and the bus never came. I did get a call from them this morning apologizing (good) and they are eager to come out to our next happening. Two Wheel Tango notified us a few days before the event that they were not going to come -- disappointing, but at least they let us know. Ypsi Cycle just plain did not show. I do not understand that one.
5. Surprise hit. Bike polo and kids apparently go together quite nicely. I was really happy to see that the usual crowd of polo playing adults mostly wore helmets and then happily worked with the kids who got curious to teach them the game and let them play.
6. Nice rides. It looked for a while there like I was again going to have to shorten my ride, but the folks who were not up to the 19-20mph pace of the fast group proved happy to do the whole 30 miles at 16mph. I don't mind riding slow... as long as I get to ride long. I did have to do a few wicked sprints to move between the front and back of a way stretched out group (which we eventually broke into two) and a mechanical breakdown and the main group. Pretty fun to see that I could get 23.5mph -- and not just on a downhill. The community ride (pictured above) was a bit intimidating to launch but rolled nicely once we got going. Letting the group break into groups during the ride actually seemed to work, but that was mostly due to having sooooo many Bike Ypsi people there to make sure somebody who knew the way and would look out for the group was at the head of every clump of riders.
7. No major disasters. One kid fell (he was fine), we ran out of hot dogs (Andy got more), we forgot to mention that we were selling t-shirts (let me know if you want one!)... but really? Nothing big. No fires to put out. Nice.
So now what? I've been a part of planning the Bike Ypsi Spring Ride and Festival for months. K tells us it has been [deep breath] 5 months in the works. Wow. I didn't really notice that because there were a few other issues along the way (like weekly rides, Bike to Work, and preserving the Ford Blvd road diet/bike lanes) and because I really enjoy the people in Bike Ypsi. The meetings were fun, the post-meetings involved happy hour at the Corner, and the between-meetings meet-ups usually had us on bikes pedaling out and about in the world.
I suspect that with this second big and successful event (you might recall that we had a fabulous fall ride in Oct 2007), there will be some fresh blood looking to get in on the Bike Ypsi love and the group will change because of that. There will be new agendas. Organizational issues will have to be dealt with. People will take us back over ground we have already covered. Personalities may clash. I'm happy to have new recruits (we don't want to burn out!), but I just gotta say, this first year has just been a blast.
Now that I got the promotional blog post up, I can linger over the more personal bike-y things that have happened in my life of late.
Perhaps most exciting, O is up on two wheels. This has been a long time coming. I found him a cute little Diamondback at the ReUse Center last year and my brother fixed it up for him for his birthday. But O was impatient with the learning curve and preferred to blast around on the little bike with the training wheels. Last week, however, it came together for him and he finally got the feel for the bigger bike. By the second day, his inner hellion had come out. He was racing around pedestrians (yes, we're working on that), tearing up grass, and skidding every stop. He found a hill near E's soccer practice and took to pushing his bike up it so that he could barrel down it. He already has a trackstand better than his mama's and has been bunnyhopping along. I'm expecting curb jumping and wheelies next week. Yeesh. My mom is greatly amused by all this and in between her snorts of laughter has only managed to say "just like you were!"
On Saturday, I rode in a "Beat the Train" alleycat around Ypsilanti. It was a small affair (maybe 15 riders?) and not really a race. I knew we were in trouble when we rode up to the start and the organizer said, "I've never actually been to an alleycat but I've watched plenty on YouTube." Yikes! The idea was to follow the clues/map to five checkpoints, get a playing card at each, and then figure out who had the best poker hand. See? It was all about the hand you brought in, not how long it took you to get there. Oh yeah, and it was less than 5 miles of riding. I put more miles on riding to the coffee shop, brewery, and home. Anyway, I did the circuit with Andy and Luke and we got to all have a pleasant chitchat.
Last week I also acquired a new set of skinny tires for the black bike. I've had some on that bike before, but going from the heavy, big commuter tires I've been riding this winter to these Rubino Pros was amazing. I LOVED them. And then I injured one on only its third ride with me. A third of the way around the Milan loop (mile 22, if you care) I hit the RR tracks on Platt all wrong. The fresh, sharply cornered ties that had just been laid got ahold of my back tire. No surprise that I flatted (no biggie -- skeeters aren't out yet to eat me up!) but I was distressed to see that I'd damaged the sidewall. With reassurances from Bike Geek Supreme, I duct taped the inside and am still riding it. I like these tires bunches, but I guess I found out early on their weakness... lack of durability.
Finally, I'm loving the spread of bike-y-ness around me. Tierra the Earth Mama is an almost overnight and extremely enthusiastic convert to bike commuting and Bike Ypsi, my brother has signed on as Bike Ypsi photographer, and my neighbor has been out to ride with us a couple of times. O is on two wheels. We taught E's BFF to ride. Even W rolled out of the driveway on his bike the other day.
Many of my bike freak pals and I have been riding enthusiastically since March, but May is going to be it... the month of the bike. I hope you'll come out and find your own bike love.
Bike Ypsi's Spring Ride and Festival is Sunday (May 4) in Rec Park. There are long, medium, and short rides in the morning and then food, bike related booths, bike polo, and a kid bike rodeo until 2:30pm (we'll be in the Senior Center if the weather is really bad). Cool stuff will be happening: mechanics to show you how to do basic things for your bike, an AATA bus so you can practice putting your bike on the rack without the threat of holding up a busload of impatient passengers, info on gear and nutrition, a helmet give-away, WCC fitness center passes, etc.
Every Friday in May I'll be biking to AA with anyone who wants to ride. There's been a "bike to work" initiative nationwide for years and my encounter with one of these rides in 1993, a week or two after I moved to Atlanta, helped launch me into being an urban bike commuter for the rest of the years I lived in Georgia. It is probably too much to hope that these Yspi-AA rides will have quite the same impact on any of the participants, but you never know... So, if you've thought about but hesitated to ride to AA, please come with me. We're leaving from Bombadill's: 8:00am on May 2, 9, 23, and 30; 7:15am on May 16 (since there is a big rally in downtown AA that day). Return ride is from AA City Hall, leaving at 5:15pm and ending at Haab's for free happy hour appetizers.
BTW, the image on this post is from a "Good Roads Rally" in SF in 1896: 5,000 riders showed up demanding, yep, better roads.
"Is that no beer for a while? A week? A month? Or no beer ever again?"
She just kept saying "no beer," and then finally relented and said, "well, at least less beer."
But I can still have my red wine. And coffee. Hmmm....
Okay, here is the story: I've had some stomach pain of late. Some of it has been rather debilitating and caused my hubby to rush home and care for me (thanks, babe!). So I toddled off to see my GP today to see if we can't figure out what is going on. We reviewed my "lifestyle," which includes coffee, red wine, and luscious, luscious BEER (but hey, I don't drink liquor and I don't smoke!). And, oh yeah, I took huge, huge doses of ibuprofen for the 8 months or so leading up to my December hip surgery. The doc put me on prilosec 2x a day for the next month (or maybe six weeks... she was a bit vague on that) and ordered some blood tests. I guess we are going to rule out some rare-in-Caucasians H-virus and pancreatic issues (and I noticed she slipped a liver test in there... she must think I'm a real lush!) and then assume that it is some sort of gastroenteritis/ulcerish type thing that just needs to heal... something that can happen with time, the prilosec, and [sniff] no beer.
But wait, again, "The wine is okay? The coffee is okay?"
"But no beer?"
"Wine has good properties"
"Trust me, beer has good properties, too"
"What is even in beer?"
Hmmmm.... I'm suspicious. Did she really just ask me what is in beer? She is obviously not a beer drinker (she seems to think all beer drinkers are bingers). And she has told me that lots of "old wisdom" on stomach issues has been debunked recently and there is no need to go on a bland diet unless something in particular causes me pain, in which case I only need to cut out that one thing. She also admitted that if I smoked, that would be the lifestyle change she would lobby for... Wait, am I losing beer because I don't have any worse habits? Is it possible that beer is no worse for this than tomatoes?
Okay, let's not get ahead of ourselves. For the short term -- at least until she calls me on Monday with the test results and my tummy has a few days of prilosec to calm it down -- I will not drink. Then we shall see. I think a little more research and maybe some conversations with beer-enthusiast physicians will be in order.
Good golly. I'm drinking (very weak) coffee at Jungle Java in Ann Arbor while my children are off climbing around in the giant indoor jungle gym. Very strange. I suppose this is a lovely idea, especially for a cool, rainy Saturday afternoon at the tail end of spring break. I brought work (because the kids don't want much from me with all this play equipment and I am not allowed to chase them through the climbing structure anyway) but I find the people here way too distracting to get much done. The lighting is really weird, too, and I'm feeling seriously disoriented. I expect we will all be twitching by the time we leave.
I wonder, what is the ratio of tantrums-upon-leaving to number of child patrons at this place?