Let Me Sip

“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup”
― Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings

Notebook, pens, and a cup of Ethiopian Coffee, Staycation, Richardson, Texas

I woke up early, read a bit before dawn, and rode my bike to Staycation for a cup of coffee and a table to write a bit on.

Here’s what’s in my journal – so you don’t have to strain to read it:

Monday – August 15th 2022
7:20 Staycation Coffee

Woke up at six – not sure why, but slept well and felt good. Maybe lack of television (I’m embarking on my reading plan – finished “Desperate Characters” last night – read in 2 days) – have to try that more. Read a chapter (1) of “Mobius Dick” in the backyard before dawn – then left home on my bike at about six thirty when the sun came up. Nice ride here – went by way of Spring Valley – 4 miles – I wanted to see what Staycation was like at seven on a workday – a little disappointed – only one other customer – bought single-origin drip – an Ethiopian blend – pretty good…
Let Me Sip.

I took this photo with my phone and posted it to ‘Gram/Facebook and someone asked about my pens – both the one you can see and the other three in the case. Here’s my reply:

I don’t usually carry nice/expensive pens on my bike – the one you see is one of my favorites, though it is inexpensive. It is a ten dollar Jinhao 159 with a custom Goulet Pens #6 nib. The pen cost under ten dollars (the nib was about fifteen, I think) and I have had people ask, “Is that a Montblanc?” The other pens are a Platinum Preppy, a Hero 616 Parker “51” clone, and, I guess the best, a vintage touchdown-filling Sheaffer inlaid nib pen.

I wrote some more, rode home (by a longer route to get 12 miles in) and the day was still only beginning.

War Minus the Shooting

“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting.”

― George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell 1903-1950

Dallas Arts District. Kids love the reflecting pool. The water is less than a quarter inch deep.

Oblique Strategy: Turn it upside down

Again, I was exploring the depths of my hard drive archives. I found this entry from October 16, 2002. It concerns my youngest son, Lee, who was nine years old.

Lee called me at work – he was home from school and a friend, G. was at our house. He wanted to know how to type on my computer. I gave him quick instructions on how to start up Word, how to save his work, and how to print it out when he was done. It turns out he and G. have an idea for a new sport, which they call Foondball, and they wanted to type out a list of rules.

When I came home I found my desk littered with sheets of notebook paper covered with crude drawings of athletic fields and different dimensions, markings, and goal layouts.

On the screen was their rules for Foondball:


  • The game can only be played with 6 to 12 players.
  • You may use your hands to throw the ball and your feet to kick the ball and the goalie may use a hockey stick to block shots taken by the strikers.
  • The goals are at opposite ends of the playing field the field is 75 yards in length and is about 25 to 30 yards in width
  • The winner of the most rounds wins the match there are three rounds lasting 20 minutes and 5 minutes of rest between rounds
  • In the case of a tie the winner will be decided by a 10 minute overtime if no winner is decided then it is a draw
  • The goals are about- 6 to 7 feet high and 10 to 11 feet wide
  • The game begins with the thrower throwing the ball and the whacker hitting the ball the seekers catch the ball if the seeker on the whackers team catches the ball he may keep running to the goal if the seeker on the throwers side catches the ball he may run it back and try to score
  • Each goal is worth two points
  • If there is a foul the ball goes to the place where the foul was committed and thrown from there.
  • If a foul is committed within ten yards of the goal the person whom the foul was committed against gets to take a free shot he can throw the ball into the goal or he can kick the ball into the goal
  • If one team wins the first two rounds of the game then they automatically win the game
  • At no time during the game is play ever supposed to stop unless a foul is committed
  • There is a ten minute half time in between the 2nd and 3rd round
  • If a person scores on a foul then the goal only counts as one point
  • After a goal the team that scores is to throw the ball and play resumes
  • Helmets are to be worn
  • For each team – 1 goalie, 2 whackers, 1 seeker 2 throwers
  • The goalie may never come out of his 10 foot box
  • If a player is on concrete he may dribble the with his hands
  • The player may throw or kick the ball to one of his fellow teammates

Someday, maybe, kids will dream of glory on the foondball field, and trade photos, cards, and stories of who their favorite whackers, throwers, and seekers are.

All Day Holiday

All day holiday
All day holiday
Home is so far away
“Where should I land?” My hollow voice is carried away on the wind
—-Shugo Tokumaru – Parachute (English Lyrics)

Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Discard an axiom

Our two sons drove back to Dallas, from New Orleans and Houston, for Thanksgiving. They always try to come back to run in the Turkey Trot eight-mile race on Thanksgiving morning. We used to always go down there with them, but now I sleep in and they drive themselves.

Turkey Trot 2011

Turkey Trot 2012

Turkey Trot 2013

Lee and some friends had tickets to see the Dallas Cowboys get the crap beat out of them at the death star – so he was gone most of the afternoon.

I ate too much and did, well pretty much nothing. I did get a little bike ride around the hood on the folder as the sun set and that was surprisingly enjoyable. There were a lot of people out and about.

Holidays are odd – they feel like wasted time, but they string together in your memory. At first you think they are the same, but there are changes.

From my old journal “The Daily Epiphany” – Thursday, November 25, 1999 Thanksgiving – The kids were what? seven and eight.

The feeling of satiety, almost inseparable from large possessions, is a surer cause of misery than ungratified desires.
—-Benjamin Disraeli

We have a family tradition of going camping over Thanksgiving. It’s usually the most pleasant time of year here in Texas, cool nights, warm days. Sometimes we get caught in rain but most years are clear and crispy. A four day trip to a nearby State Park, maybe Fairfield or Bob Sandlin. Red fall trees, inky sparkling night sky, the smell of wood smoke, brown curious deer paying a shy visit, bold nighttime raccoons looking for handouts. Out of the rat race, out of the stuffy too much food too much television couch potato place.
This year we couldn’t do it though. Candy Mom’s illness, soccer games, my work, all conspired to keep us in town; no matter how much we needed to get away, get out of the city.

We went to Candy’s sister’s for Thanksgiving dinner. I had an odd hankering for Chinese take-out, eating out of white foam containers, but the traditional turkey ‘n fixins’ was pretty good. Despite my forewarnings to myself I ate too much, and sank into that holiday hyperglycemic funk.

Nick and Lee played a tough, energetic two-kid soccer game out in the small back yard. The dead and desiccated landscape plants, dormant for the winter, brown, cracked and shattered as the ball whizzed back and forth, showering up a small cloud of bits of leaf and stem.

Poor Lee wore himself out, though. He curled up on the couch, blanket in hand, fingers in mouth, and looked awful while everybody else chowed down. Instead of the traditional watching of the Cowboy game I drove Lee home. We stopped for gas and I promised he could pick whatever he wanted out of the station’s cold-drink case. The poor woman working the counter on the holiday beamed at the cute little pouting kid rummaging around. He, not surprisingly, picked out a half-gallon of chocolate milk, the artificially thickened rich brown sugar stuff that kids love. I thought he’d pick a small bottle but the half gallon was only a dime more, so I guess Lee knows best.

At home he sucked down most of the carton and that revived him some, enough that he was up to playing some video games. Lee didn’t want to be alone, though, so I went back to his room with him. I climbed the steel ladder and curled up in the top bunk, it’s about a foot shorter than I am. I spent the bulk of the day there, fading in and out, dreaming strange and terrifying dreams while Lee sat below guiding Banjo Kazooie through his fantasy world.


I am at Austin Street Shelter

I was walking through downtown Dallas with a group of folks doing a photo walk – everybody with their cameras dangling, strolling, shooting – when on a bench in Main Street Garden Park I saw a tattered spiral notebook. I picked it up and saw that it was full of writing.

There wasn’t much time, everyone else was moving on – so all I could do is skim through. It was full of nice handwriting – page after page of misery and despair set down in cursive. I briefly thought of taking it with me so I could read it completely – maybe learn something.

But I didn’t. That didn’t seem right – the owner might come back for it. So I snapped a quick photo of the first page and set it back on the bench, exactly where it was.

First page of notebook found in Main Street Garden Park, Dallas, Texas

First page of notebook found in Main Street Garden Park, Dallas, Texas

Full Sized Version of the Photo on Flickr

6:00 PM
I am at Austin Street Shelter, I’ve been here since March 23 with a couple of detours. They say it will be at least 6 more months before I get an apt. I hope this works out. I’m tired. I’m old.I need a place to call my own. I’m not interested in any relationship with men ever again. I’m thinking I might buy a trailer. I’m gonna start saving all I can…

Old Found Poetry

Reality only reveals itself when it is illuminated by a ray of poetry.
—-Georges Braque


A taste for pure pork fat, long restricted to a furtive devouring of the white nubbin in the can of baked beans, can now be worn as a badge of honor.
(Julia Moskin, New York Times, 5/7/03, article on pork fat in high-class restaurants)
Under 6 years: 1 pastille as required. Maximum 5 pastilles in 24 hours
(Meggezones 24x)
…on a long bus ride, you should always choose to sit next to Mrs. Robinson, for example, rather than Benjamin.
(Roger Ebert, from a review for Death to Smoochy)
Daisy, the this pretty sea, and the wind.
(Bablefish translation of the first line of a Ruben Dario poem I have stuck in my head… the Spanish is: Margarita, esta linda la mar, y el viento.)
I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter
and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.
-From Othello, by William Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 1
(The opening quote of The Daily Epiphany, my old journal- Thursday – July 25, 1996)
Dolly, Good, Hernia, Bad
(big block letters on the side of a Budget rental truck in my neighborhood)
When I cruise, I’m an adventurer, eager to try new experiences. So on the second day of my first Carnival vacation, I found myself lying on a massage table wrapped in a crisp, clean sheet.
(From Currents, a magazine for people taking Carnival cruises)
I had a dream last night. I dreamt that I worked in a time factory. My job was to take the one-hour time disks out of the oven and carefully cut them into six equal wedges. These ten-minute time slices were used on alarm clock snooze buttons.
I don’t know what happened next, it was time to wake up and go to work.
(The Daily Epiphany – Wednesday, May 30, 2001 )
Often Imitated, Never Duplicated-Great for Men and Women-As Seen on TV-It’s not magnetic, not copper…it’s the Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet designed to help balance your body’s Yin-Yang. Worn by professional athletes striving for energy, strength, flexibility and endurance, it’s also worn by people looking for natural pain relief. According to the oriental theory of Yin-Yang, we remain in good health when our negative (Yin) and positive (Yang) ions are in balance.
(from an ad for the Q-Ray bracelet, $49.95, in Dr. Leonard’s America’s Leading Discount Healthcare Catalog)
Prankster of Love – Ashton Kutcher – the newly single ‘punk’d’ star on the nonstop party he calls life
(cover of the Rolling Stone)
Sriracha, made from sun-ripened chilies, is ready to use in soups, sauces, pasta, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, chow mein, or on anything to add a delicious, spicy taste .
(from the bottle, of course)
Pucks flying into spectator area can cause serious injury. Be alert when in spectator areas – including after the stoppage of play. If injured, notify usher for directions to medical station. The holder of this ticket assumes all risks and all other hazards arising from or related in any way to the event for which this ticket is issued, whether occurring prior to, during, or after the event. These hazards specifically include (but are not exclusive to) the danger of being injured by hockey pucks and sticks, other spectators or players, or by thrown objects. The holder agrees that the arena, the league, it’s officers and employees, the participating clubs, their officers, players, employees and agents are expressly released by the holder from claims arising from such causes.
(On the back of a hockey ticket)
Unheard Poetry

I arrived too late to the poetry reading – having spent too long drinking my cup of coffee. The poets had already started reading and all the good seats were taken.
I had to sit too far away and I couldn’t hear the words. All that made it to my ears was a cadence.
Still, that wasn’t too bad – the rhythms and emotions fan out like waves without the cluttering words to get in the way.

I find I don’t listen to the poems much, anyway, I listen to the poets. It’s not the same thing.
(Bill Chance, The Daily Epiphany – Friday, September 6, 2002 )
“This is a poem I wrote back when… well, I still have a boring day job but this was when I had a really boring day job and I’d get back at them by sitting there writing poems all day.”
(Amy Jo Hylkema – Introducing her first work of poetry at a reading, 2002)
Glorious, stirring sight! The poetry of motion! The real way to travel! The only way to travel! Here today-in next week tomorrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped-always somebody else’s horizons! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!
(Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows)
There is a poetry to daily
so empty of everything else.
The staccato rhythm of the
traffic reports
off on the shoulder
one lane only

Or the shouts of the Barista
as he calls out the orders
(actually, I think
he’s making most of that stuff up).
And though my lawn has gone to weeds
there is still a bird
that kawarbles at me
as I put the key
in my car
to drive to work.
Come ride that little train that is rolling down the tracks to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!
Forget about your cares, it is time to relax at the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!
Lots of curves, you bet, even more when you get to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!

(the theme song from “Petticoat Junction.”)
So I went in to look at the thing, to see if I could figure out how to keep it from beeping. Right in the middle of all the gauges, knobs, buttons, dials, and controls was one big, square touchpad button that was labeled simply with the word “Silence.”
I pressed it and the beeping stopped.
( Silence, The Daily Epiphany, Tuesday, October 06, 1998)



It hadn’t rained here for months. The hot weather and tinderdry vegetation (all the plants I have tended for years along my back fence are dead, my lawn may not make it) felt apocalyptic.

However, one of the nice things about having a journal that goes back well over a decade is that you can look back at other years.

This has happened before.

Friday, September 6, 1996

Summer is ending in Dallas, it’s still plenty hot, but the real heat is past now for another year. Summer is the most uncomfortable season here, but I always like it, I’m going to miss it.

I like the pure brutality of it, heat so bad it’ll kill you. The green, wet spring giving way to the dry brown death of summer. Yellow heat giving way to white heat, the sky white, the blue burned out of it. White hot laser sun, bouncing off the blue Dallas buildings like a lens. The heat beyond shimmering, the air shooting straight up. After work, my car has been sitting alone in the sun, I open the door and the heat bursts out, hits like a hammer. It’ll burn your nostrils, so hot you can’t breathe, so hot your own breath feels cools on the back of your hand.

The heat is so hot, so dry on the black Dallas gumbo clay that the earth itself splits like an overripe tomato. Cracks appear in the ground, big enough to fit your hand in. The slab of my house tilts away from the heat, my deck drops a foot. The plants go dormant, brown, leaves fall, like in a northern winter. Only rich people’s lawns, with men running the sprinklers day and night can keep up with the solar barrage, with the instant evaporation.

If it’s cold, you can always put on more clothes. But you can’t get any cooler than naked. And the burning sun will cook your skin anyway, roast you to death. There are only two ways to get out of it. You can huddle inside, breathing the precious AC. Without AC nobody would live here, we’d all still be up north, back east. You can sit inside, in the cool dark, the rattle and rumble of the AC shakes the house. It’s always dark inside because the sun is so bright, any clouds have been burned away, your eyes can’t get used to the shade. When you come in it’s like night inside, you’re blind, the tungsten can’t compete. If you wait awhile you can see, but the klieg light in the sky is still there, only some brick and sheetrock away.

Or you can find some water, a lake. You can sit in it, sit in the sand, in the freshwater sea-shells, watching the wavelets lap against you, the odd perspective of being right on top of the water, closer than you ever are to the ground. The sound of kids playing, the smell of dead fish, you can survive for a while that way, but you can’t sit in the water all summer.

That’s what Texas summer is to me. I’ve lived in Central America, in the humid Panama jungle, where the air is so laden with water it is more liquid than gas, when I first got off the plane I thought “my God, I can’t breathe this stuff, how can anyone stand this.” But there somehow you can get used to it. Maybe the constant warm refreshing tropical rain. But Texas summers are brutal, vicious, killer. You must take precautions.

I like that, it keeps things in perspective.

Sooner or later, the drought will end. It always does.

From Tuesday, September 12, 2000


Rain is grace; rain is the sky condescending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.

—-John Updike

It’s been something like seventy four days since it’s rained here; that’s some sort of a record – breaking the old gap from the thirties, the dustbowl days. I’ve been fantasizing the first good rain, thinking about running out, face upwards, arms wide, like the guy in “The Shawshank Redemption.”

For some reason I didn’t think it would come at work. Because of Nick’s game last night I missed the weather and didn’t know a possibility of storms was on for today.

As a moneysaving thing, trying to get back on our feet after the car repairs and new heater-air conditioner, I’ve been on a Ramen regimen for lunch. Thirty cents a day. So I sat at my desk eating my humble noodles and began to grind through some more endless government forms I have to fill out. Something made me look out of my office, across the lab to the bank of windows.

It took me awhile to realize what I was looking at – featureless gray background with white angled streaking slashes moving fast across. It was rain. As what I was looking at began to sink in to my awareness the first bright flashes, loud cracks, and rumbling booms started – it was a good late summer thunderstorm.

As an environmental person I have several responsibilities during a rainstorm, especially one when it has been dry for so long. I put on my lab coat and walked the building’s perimeter, looking out each door, making sure everything was in good shape.

The temperature dropped twenty degrees in minutes, and a great howling wind picked up. The rain blew sideways in great clouds, picking up standing water from the ground. Fast flashes of lightning like a strobe light; so close the thunder came on immediately, like giant timbers snapped by a monster hand. A loud clicking started up and I saw pea-sized hail dancing around in the water.

The wind slowed a bit, the hail stopped and it was too much for me to resist. I do need to check the drainage so I strode out quickly into the downpour. I could have picked up a rain suit or even an umbrella but I decided to go ahead and get wet.

It felt wonderful. I had to stop walking and wipe off my safety glasses every now and then, but other than that the rain was comfortable and cool – a great change. The grass out back was soaking the stuff up as fast as it fell – the giant cracks in the clay softening, the dead grass coming loose, the footing flexible and yielding but not yet muddy.

Within an hour or so it was all over. We had almost two inches at work (less than an inch fell at my house). Everything is so desiccated the water was immediately soaked up; by my drive home the streets were dry, the creeks not flowing and we were able to have soccer pictures and baseball practice on schedule. The deluge reduced to only a memory. Inexplicably, there was a small green open rowboat stuck in the dry creek bed behind the school by our house

The odd thing is that not a drop fell at the airport – so officially, according to the government, it never rained and the record drought is still on.

It sure felt like rain to me, though.

This year, for me, it was less dramatic. As a matter of fact, the end of the drought was a pain in the ass. I had plans for Friday night – I was going to hang out at the Sculpture Center for Midnight at the Nasher. A band was going to play and they were going to show “Footloose” on the outdoor screen. But, right at sunset, the skies opened up.

It wasn’t a hard, satisfying rain… more like an ambitious drizzle. It was carefully calibrated to destroy any plans without making it too obvious that all was lost. I stubbornly stuck it out and wandered the garden at the Nasher, pretending that if I ignored it, the rain would go away. After a bit, I gave up and went inside. I must have looked like crap because a museum guard suggested I dry off so, “I don’t catch cold or something.”

Not long after that, I gave up and went home. At least the wet city streets are good for night photography.

It wasn’t until two nights later that we had a real storm. I opened my garage door and stood out in the alley watching the cracked fireworks of lightning split the sky over and over. The dry trickle of a creek behind our house was up in an angry cascade, a powerful torrent tearing down the middle of the block. I looked left and right and saw most of my neighbors doing the same thing, standing in the dark behind their houses looking out at the storm.

It has happened before. It will happen again.

Friday October 1, 1998

Storm Blows Through

Violet serene like none I have seen apart from dreams that escape me. There was no girl as warm as you. How I’ve learned to please, to doubt myself in need, you’ll never, you’ll never know.

—Natalie Merchant – 10,000 Maniacs

A storm blew through today
while I was talking
on the phone
at lunchtime
here at work.

Nobody warned me,
it wasn’t on the news
things are so bleak, these days
I thought the rain would never come.

I’m so isolated
I didn’t hear it at first
But the thunder shook
and I could feel it
from my feet
on up
my legs
rumbling, shaking.

So I grabbed a look
out a window
and it was falling
of sweet sweet rain


It has been so dry
dust parched earth
cracked pain
a desert of dirt
grit and the taste of old salt.

But the rain came
unexpected falling

I wanted to go stand outside
let the sheets
of sweet sweet rain
fall down
all over me,

swallow the rain
and take it all in
let the rain swallow me.

The cool
sweet sweet rain
I watch through the glass
press my palm on the pane
feel the thunder
shake my feet

Blast From the Past

Now I’ve updated this blog every day for the last month. It feels odd to be in that quotidian writing mode again. I’ve done it before. A long time ago.

I used to have a blog before there were blogs. We called them “Online Journals.” Mine was called “The Daily Epiphany” and I uploaded it every day, every day with only a few missed hunks here and there during periods of turmoil or extreme ennui, for somewhere around ten years.

The first entry went up on… let me check the backup copy on the portable hard drive… July 25, 1996. It was not very well written. Let’s see.
(I used to start every entry out with a quote)


I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter

and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.


Thou art a villain.


You are–a senator.

-From Othello, by William Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 1

 Yesterday, I took Nick and Lee down to play baseball after I picked them up. I couldn’t find Nick’s glove so we played with tennis balls, took turns batting. They had a real blast, I’ll try to do this more often. They wanted to bring the tee next time, they are still a little too small to hit pitched balls on a regular basis. Lee was a little overheated and tired, he almost fell asleep when we got home, Candy thought he might be sick, but be was only worn out.

 Then I went to see Othello at Shakespeare in the Park. I really liked it, even though I’d forgotten how depressing this play was. They are alternating Othello with Midsummer’s Nights Dream, which I saw before vacation. The same set and many of the same actors are used in both productions, it is interesting to see the same elements present in two stories of such differing tone and outcome.

 By the way, the phrase “making the beast with two backs” is really from Othello. I always thought it was only some nasty bit someone made up.

 It amazes me that so many people don’t like Shakespeare. I think it is a carryover from school when we all remember the dreary days sitting in class, reading Julius Caesar. These are PLAYS for godssake, they aren’t meant to be read out of a book. I think that all school children should see a Shakespeare play first, or a least rent the movie, and only then read selected parts of the play for further study. Othello, of course, is a very turbulent story of evil, and jealousy. With it’s racial overtones, it is an amazingly contemporary story, Spike Lee could have written a it as a screenplay. Sitting there watching it, I could not believe that it was written over 500 years ago.

 All in all a very entertaining night.

 Many people are surprised that I go to plays, movies and things like that by myself. I don’t understand why more people don’t.

 First of all, it is the only way we can get out without a sitter, which costs a ton of money.

 Actually I did take Nick to see King Lear, two years ago, when he was 3 or 4. He liked it more than I thought he would. Of course, he didn’t have a clue about the plot, but he liked the swordfighting and the storm. Then he fell asleep. I could never take Lee though, he simply can’t sit still. I am looking forward to a couple years from now when we can do more as a family. Right now, Lee is so active, there are few places (DZ, Chucky Cheese, outdoors) where we can take him without driving ourselves and everybody else crazy.

 Also, I’ve always enjoyed movies and some plays by myself. Of course, you miss out on the companionship, but if it is a movie you really want to see, you don’t notice anyone (or anything) else while the movie is on anyway. It’s OK to read a book, watch TV, rent a movie by yourself, why isn’t it considered all right (in many circles at least) to go out in public by yourself. I like to see what I want to see and not have to worry about my companions and whether they like what I like (or am offended by what I like).

 It is a big change from my younger years. The big worry then was being alone and not having anyone around to do stuff with. Now I really cherish any time I have by myself, any privacy I’m able to scare up, any moments that no one is making demands on me.

 After work, I’m planning on riding my mountain bike for a little while, but I have to be home at 6:50 PM, Candy is going out for dinner with the other preschool PTA moms. So I’ll get in a couple quick laps at the Rowlett Creek single track and then get home. When it cools off a little

 I’ll take the kids back down to the school and we’ll play some baseball, if they still want to do that (which they will).

 I’m looking forward to riding today, I rode this weekend and am doing a lot better on the mountain bike, since the trip to New Mexico.

 Years ago I was a serious bike rider. It was a good time in my life, I was healthy, in shape, and really enjoying the challenge of improving my abilities on my road bike. I was considering some amateur racing. It took up a horrendous amount of time, however.

 When my kids were born, I stopped riding for about five years, I really missed riding, but I had literally no spare time. Now that my kids are a little older, I’m starting in again, totally out of shape, about 30 pounds heavier than I was when I last rode. I bought a mountain bike, and am in the long process of learning the sport, and getting my body into shape. I have the goal of being a pretty good rider one year from now, when we will return to New Mexico for my family reunion. The mountains and desert out there will be a great test for me (they sure ate my lunch this year).

Not too much has changed in the last fifteen years. Nick and Lee were, let me think, six and five. Now they are a junior and a sophomore in college and we still don’t feel comfortable leaving them at home without supervision.

Writing something on the web has really changed in that short time, though. Back then, there was no high-speed Internet. To surf the web, you had to have a free phone line and connect with a dial-up modem. I do miss that series of sounds: the dial tone, the number being called, the hiss and tone of the modem speed negotiation.

There was, of course, no blogging software. Everything was written off-line and then uploaded. I think there were a few primitive HTML editors, but most people wrote with notepad, putting in formatting codes by hand.

I still prefer to write off-line – either from OpenOffice or my Alphasmart – and then paste into the blogging software. It gives me one more layer of thought before the words escape. First drafts aren’t writing, they are typing – editing is writing. At first, my only access to web space was the five megabytes that AOL gave you with your membership. It’s surprising what you can do with five megabytes if you work hard and use mostly text.

There were very few people doing this. I was somewhere around the thirteenth person. It was considered very strange and somewhat insane to be putting your private life out there. There was no Facebook or any social media of any kind and privacy had a completely different meaning – that the rapidly evolving technology was threatening in a big way. I was interviewed for a number of articles, Wall Street Journal, New York Times… I’ll try to find copies of those, it would be interesting to look back.

Lee and I

The New York Times used this picture of Lee and I for their article.

There were these things called Webrings… The one for Online Journals was called Open Pages. There are still a few backup copies of Open Pages around, this one from 1998 had 326 listed (see, there I am, number 13), a year later it had more than doubled. I don’t think anyone would have thought that there would be tens of millions of the things being written a short ten years later.

I have a rough backup of my old entries. I’m in pretty good shape from 1996 to 2005, which is pretty damn amazing when I think of the series of computer crashes, online service provider bankruptcies, and lightning strikes my data has endured over the years. Remember, most of that time my work was backed up onto floppy disks. After that it gets pretty spotty as I tried to enter the modern world with a database-based system. It’s surprisingly easy to maintain a backup of a long list of text files in directories, not so easy with a remote database (when your service provider decides to take a powder).

Lee on the monkey bars.

I had to stop around 2006 – my kids were in high school and everybody was now online and it was getting too difficult to manage an online presence that was so public. Now of course, the kids are mostly gone, I’m an old fart, and I don’t give a crap anymore, so I can put it all up.

Several time I’ve tried to make a count of how many actual entries I still have (a few months here and there have gone wonky) – several thousand, at any rate. I am working on finishing my “new” Linux server and when it’s done I will use it as a file, music, and web server and I should be able to get all these old entries up. It will be ugly, the links won’t work anymore, and I’ve lost a lot of the images, but it will be a record of a time gone by.

Nick on his skateboard.

Nick reading Harry Potter.

Nick reading Harry Potter. Is this the first one?

In the meantime I’ll try to keep on writing every day. There are a few hints and tricks I’ve learned that are necessary to keep a string like that going (the most important trick is to give yourself permission to publish crappy entries) – and one is to have a backup plan… a way to pull an entry out of your ass when the idea creek has gone bone dry. One way is to have some photographs stuck away you can stick up… and now I have a few thousand entries I can pull out as say, “Hey look how much I used to suck!” and maybe nobody will notice that I still suck just as much.

Nick and Candy now, in Durham

Nick and Candy now, in Durham

Lee now, in New Orleans

Lee now, a Tulane student in New Orleans - Mardi Gras, Krewe of Zulu parade.