Into the Triple Digits

“Louisiana in September was like an obscene phone call from nature. The air – moist, sultry, secretive, and far from fresh – felt as if it were being exhaled into one’s face. Sometimes it even sounded like heavy breathing.”

― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

My vintage Cannondale Commuter Bike

As I said last week (when I went to see the movie I’m still thinking about all the time) we are a car short and I am riding my bike to work (5 miles each way) partly out of necessity, partly out of the need for exercise.

And now the temperature has climbed into the triple digits (102 Fahrenheit today – in Centigrade that’s… too damn hot) making it a real challenge.

I was up before six this morning and ready to go at six-thirty, as the sun was barely rising. That was actually pretty nice – not too hot – not too much wind – not a lot of traffic – at that ungodly time of morning. I carry a change of clothes in a garment folder and change into my business attire once I’ve sat at my desk long enough to stop sweating.

The trip home was a beating. It wasn’t so much the heat – I was worn out – I’m too old for this – and the south wind was strong and hot. There was some unexpected construction along my route and that added another mile to the ride.

When I made it home I was exhausted. So I’ll leave all you fine folks and go off to sleep now.

Have to be on the road by six thirty, after all.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

“Every Rejection, Every Disappointment Has Led You Here To This Moment”

— Alpha Waymond, Everything Everywhere All at Once

My bicycle locked up in front of The Alamo Drafthouse theater in Richardson, Texas. They have the coolest bike racks.

Partly out of desire… but mostly out of necessity (we are down to one working car) I have been riding the five mile commute to my work on my bike every day. The mornings are OK – except I have to get up twenty minutes before dawn so I’m riding before it gets too hot – the rising sun slowly burning away the morning fog. The afternoon commute is already too hot, though – here in Texas it’s already in the mid to high nineties most days.

There was a movie I’ve been wanting to see – Everything Everywhere All at Once. It was showing at the Alamo Drafthouse here in Richardson at 6:15. My commute is five miles, it’s three or so miles to the theater, and four and a half home from there. Easy riding – except for the heavy rush hour traffic around downtown Richardson and coming off Highway 75. So I sneaked out of work a few minutes early and rode up to the Alamo.

It was hot and I was sweating like a stuck pig. A bit embarrassing, but I arrived a bit early so I bought a cold beer (Lakewood Temptress on tap) and sat in a dark booth in the back of the cool bar until the movie was announced… I was able to cool and dry off enough to at least be almost presentable.

The movie is getting a lot of hype —- and it deserves every bit of it… and more. It is not a perfect film – it is way too ambitious for that – and when the filmmakers have a chance to go for it… the do that and more.

I can’t really explain the plot. It’s the story of a middle aged Chinese woman named Evelyn (played by the incredibly talented Michelle Yeoh) and her immigrant family (with a very American lesbian daughter) that lives in a tiny apartment over their failing laundromat. They are straining with family drama and friction and are about to undergo an IRS audit. At that point Evelyn discovers that there is an infinite multiverse made up of all the different realities that each person has created with every decision they make. Not only that, but there is an evil creature named Jobu Tupaki that is jumping through the multiverse, destroying everything. Jobu makes Thanos look like a piker. Evelyn, this failing version of Evelyn, this worst of all possible Evelyns, is the only person that can stop this.

She is torn between saving all the universes and trying to complete her IRS audit. Things get strange after that.

This is not a sufficient explanation of the plot or an adequate description of what the movie feels like – those things are impossible. You have to see it to believe it.

Boiled down – it’s the eternal struggle between the googly eye and the everything bagel (really). You have to see it to understand.

Just see it.

I want to see it again. It is so complex, layered, with so many references and symbols – one viewing is not enough (maybe a hundred wouldn’t be enough). Plus, it is a movie with a heart – a giant beating, sometimes bloody heart. It’s really funny too.

Oh, see it in a theater. I can’t imagine watching it for the first time at home, alone.

It was dark when the movie was over, but I have good lights, the traffic had died down, and my ride home was uneventful (and maybe a little fun).

I slept like a stone – dreaming of people with hot dog fingers and sentient stones.

More Bicycling, Coffee,  and a Notebook

“Every time I hear a political speech or I read those of our leaders, I am horrified at having, for years, heard nothing which sounded human. It is always the same words telling the same lies. And the fact that men accept this, that the people’s anger has not destroyed these hollow clowns, strikes me as proof that men attribute no importance to the way they are governed; that they gamble—yes, gamble—with a whole part of their life and their so called “vital interest.”
― Albert Camus, Notebooks 1935-1942

Last weekend I made some coffee, grabbed my notebook and pens, and took off on my bicycle to find a place to write up my three pages – I have been scribbling the morning pages from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. This last Saturday, a week later, I wanted to do the same thing. My son wanted to go to this new coffee shop Staycation – here in downtown Richardson and he offered to ride along with me. Sounds like a good idea. Nice morning ride – we left at 7:30 so we would get there before it opened. It turned out to be a hair over three miles – and very pleasant because there is no traffic at that hour of a Saturday and the air was still cool enough.

Staycation is a great coffee shop. The owner, Nichole Gregory, took a 1940’s cottage left in the middle of downtown Richardson and modified it into a very pleasant and comfortable place to grab a cup of Joe. I can’t recommend it higher.

But don’t take my word for it:

Drop In and Stay Awhile at Staycation, a New Coffee Shop in Richardson

New cafe in Richardson opens with acclaimed coffee, pastry, and wine

A true coffee break: Why Staycation in Richardson is D-FW’s coolest coffee shop right now

Staycation Coffee, Richardson, Texas

After we had our coffee, Nick rode home – but I still wanted to put a few more miles in and I still wanted to stop and write (Yes, I could have written in the coffee shop – but I wanted to try something else). So I went up the Central Trail, then down the Collins Bike Lane, to the Duck Creek Extension trail across Arapaho. Thinking about a place to stop and write (there are a lot of benches… but surprisingly few tables), I remembered about a concrete bench that was stuck incongruously in the middle of a traffic circle at American Parkway and Presidential Drive – I ride my bike past there every now and then when trying to build up mileage. It’s a light commercial area – and would be deserted on a Saturday so I decided to go there… and it worked well.

My pens and looseleaf notebook (Morning pages) on the concrete bench in the traffic circle at Presidential and American, Richardson, Texas.

I wrote my pages – packed up and wandered around the ‘hood until I had my ten miles for the day. Made it home before eleven AM – a good start to the day.

Bicycle, Coffee,  and a Notebook

“Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.”

― Will Self

I meant to get up early – and didn’t really… but didn’t sleep too late. I ground some extra beans and made a thermos of coffee with my Aeropress. My portable Aeropress Go and hand grinder are on my desk at work – or I might have simply filled the thermos with hot water and made the stuff fresh – but the few minutes it sits in the steel vacuum vessel won’t hurt the taste much.

I packed up my loose-leaf binder notebook and selected four pens. Recently I bought some pen holders (brand name Diodrio) that fit on interchangeable stretchy Velcro straps – and they have been very useful to me. The straps come in several sizes so the pens can be attached to any notebook, from a small Moleskine to a big loose leaf. This is truly the  best of all possible worlds.

Diodrio Pen Pouch – on my the loose-leaf notebook I use for morning pages. It comes with interchangeable Velcro straps to fit smaller notebooks.

I have been trying out the idea of morning pages from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Every day, I had write three pages in the notebook – about whatever comes to mind. She recommends never re-reading them, and even destroying the writing after each day. I don’t do that – there may be some useful ideas in there so I am keeping them… at least for a while.

The idea is to write in the morning, immediately upon rising. That doesn’t work for me – there are too many emergencies and interruptions starting as soon as I open my eyes.  I have been able to finish the pages (one important aspect is to write the three sheets every day, without fail) daily, but sometimes haven’t finished them until late at night.

It’s actually easy for me to do the writing – I’ve been writing daily for at least three decades, after all – but I like the aspect of handwriting (it slows me down a bit – and gives me a chance to use my beloved fountain pens) and the idea of writing with no preconceptions.

One thing I also enjoy is writing in different places. So today I decided to pack up my bike with some coffee, my notebook, and ride to some place to get in the scribbling and caffeinate myself at the same time. It looked like some rain – so after about five miles of riding I settled in at a little pocket park with a roofed picnic area. Collins Park – at Alma and Collins – I have stopped there before – and have met other riders there for pre-work coffee. It’s nice, has a power outlet, a drinking fountain, and a bike rack (that I never use). I pulled in just in time, as the rain started coming down – not too bad – little more than a stout Texas sprinkle.

My bike, in a little pocket park I like to stop at. Collins Park – at Collins and Alma, in Richardson, Texas.
Some coffee and my notebook – stopping on a bike ride to write a few pages. The pen is a Pilot Kakuno with a stub nib – Diamine Marine ink.

So I put my earbuds in, started a Spotify playlist on my phone, and wrote my morning pages.

Then I pulled out a folding Bluetooth keyboard and wrote this entry on my phone. It worked pretty well – a morning with a bicycle, coffee, fountain pens, and some extra blog writing. Yes, this is truly the best of all possible worlds.

A Person Freed Of the Future Has Nothing To Fear

“What could I say? Maybe this: the man hunched over his motorcycle can focus only on the present instant of his flight; he is caught in a fragment of time cut off from both the past and the future; he is wrenched from the continuity of time; he is outside time; in other words, he is in a state of ecstasy; in that state he is unaware of his age, his wife, his children, his worries, and so he has no fear, because the source of fear is in the future, and a person freed of the future has nothing to fear.”

― Milan Kundera, Slowness

Bicycle Drag Race, Dallas, Texas

Northaven Trail Bridge Update

“I delve into the mysterious and counterintuitive world of helmets and high-visibility gear later in the book. But it’s worth immediately noting this: while they’re not inherently bad, they’re less a safety device for cycling than a symptom of a road network where no cyclist can truly feel safe.”
― Peter Walker, How Cycling Can Save the World

Nice Tribe Urban Bike parked outside Braindead Brewing, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Let’s see when it was…. May 9, 2021 (well under a year ago) when I went down to the groundbreaking of the Northaven Trail Bridge. It’s exciting – a bridge system that goes over the giant deadly Hway75 North Central Expressway and also White Rock Creek. It will join the Northaven trail with the White Rock and Cottonwood Trails – East and West will come together, opening up a whole new galaxy of bicycle riding in the Metroplex.

Here’s a virtual simulation of the thing:

Whenever I drive down Central or ride down the White Rock Trail I look at the construction. Although the signature bridge is still a long time off – the progress is palpable. It truly is the best of all possible worlds.

Here’s drone footage of what it looks like right now:

Monkeys Minding Machines

“For God’s sake, let us be men
not monkeys minding machines
or sitting with our tails curled
while the machine amuses us, the radio or film or gramophone.

Monkeys with a bland grin on our faces.”
― D.H. Lawrence, Selected Letters

I had heard that the new year was going to be bringing cold weather to North Texas. I opened the door this morning to bright sun and surprisingly mild temperatures. Best of all, no wind.

So I decided to go for a little bike ride – my goal was ten miles around the ‘hood. Comfortable in shorts and a T-shirt I packed up a Moleskine and my pack of portable fountain pens along with a thermos of coffee – so I could stop, sip, and write a little… if I found a good spot.

Wandering around my usual route, then a little off I decided to pedal into downtown Richardson. There are massive changes/construction going on there and I wanted to see. I was disappointed – it is all so car-oriented… and the traffic was fast and noisy. After wandering a bit I did find a little pocket park with some white metal picnic tables – a good place to sip my coffee, scribble in the Moleskine, and listen to a podcast on my phone.

The traffic noise was distracting and my Platinum Preppy spit out a gob of purple ink onto my page (as it is wont to do – have to replace it in my rotation) but otherwise everything was right with the world.

But as I wrote I didn’t notice the clouds rolling in, the strengthening wind switching around to the north, and the temperature dropping like a stone. By the time I made it home it was bitchin` cold, maybe close to freezing and the wind was howling.

Texas.

To make matters worse – my goal was ten miles but checking my Strava I had ridden only 9.92. I took the dog out for a walk and made up the difference, but only made it to the end of the block before the cold drove us back home.

Rona Pondick, Monkeys, Stainless Steel, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans

Upping My Bicycle Commuting Game – Part Seven – Leg Shield

“I had to ride my bike to and from their god damn plant way up north in the high-chemical crime district, and reachable only by riding on the shoulder of some major freeways. I could feel the years ticking off my life expectancy as the mile markers struggled by.”

― Neal Stephenson, Zodiac

My commuter bike

Winter is upon us – and here in Texas that means the two weeks of nice weather is in the rear-view window and the days of windy/wet/cold have begun. Winter is Texas is best described as mostly uncomfortable.

But it does mean I have to dig out my winter cycling gear which consists of two things: layers and long pants.

When I look at my supply of long pants I notice a couple of things – the cuffs of my right legs are shredded and there are grease stains on those same legs.

My bikes don’t have effective chain guards. I remember in the seventies we had these little metal clips for our right pants legs… they didn’t work well and were easy to lose. I am old enough to remember those times – pre-velcro, believe it or not. Then the metal clips were replaced with little nylon velcro straps – which didn’t work well and were even easier to lose.

As I was thinking about these things I thought to myself that there must be a better way to shield my right pants leg and, after a short web search, I found a solution – Leg Shield.

So, a few clicks, a bit of Amazon Prime magic, and I had a neoprene leg shield on my porch that afternoon.

And it works like a charm. Get one, it’s great.

This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

Fox on the Run

“That’s what people do when they find a special place that wild and full of life, they trample it to death.”
― Carl Hiaasen, Flush

My Cannondale road bike at Trammell Crow Park. From an early part of the October Full Moon Ride.

I have taken to riding my Cannondale vintage touring bike at sunset. The killer Texas sun is down, the heat is bearable, the wind dies, and it is in general – a nice time to be outside. I ride about an hour, about ten miles. I’m trying to do this every evening. I have a new, nice bike light I bought with a gift certificate I won in a local contest – so I don’t have a problem if I stay out a little longer in the dark.

Yesterday I had just crossed Plano and Arapaho roads and was angling down into the creek bottom on the new Duck Creek Trail extension. I try to ride this little bit as much as I can with my Strava on to help make the new trail (which I really like) show up brighter on the Strava heatmap. One of the cool things about riding at this time of day is I get to see some urban wildlife – mostly bunnies – but a few coyotes, a beaver or two, snakes…. Bobcats are out there, though I haven’t seen one yet.

I looked across the creek and saw a red fox looking at me. As I approached he turned and ran into a copse of trees farther back from the creek. It was so cool to see a fox in the middle of the city like that.

My son bought a GoPro Hero 7 Black and didn’t like it so he loaned it to me. I had it on my handlebars and hoped that the fox would show up in the footage. Unfortunately, he was off to the side on the wide-angle lens and only visible as a little dot. Shame.