“I believe when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade…and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.”
― Ron White
Next to the smelly dumpster behind the coffee shop in the apartment complex I saw a sad bunch of colorful Mylar balloons left over from a birthday party. I had ridden my bicycle down for a cold brew and a place to hang out and write.
The balloons bothered me. So vivid and kaleidoscopic – and yet starting to droop and lose their helium. They are a symbol of good times, happy times, friends gathered together. But the party is over, and all that is left is a sad fading echo out by the disgusting rotting trash, its noble gas leaking away, its lift failing – starting to settle down towards the ground. The people from the party never appreciated how good is was while it lasted and now its gone.
“When we think about the present, we veer wildly between the belief in chance and the evidence in favour of determinism. When we think about the past, however, it seems obvious that everything happened in the way that it was intended.” ― Michel Houellebecq, The Elementary Particles
“I felt despair. The word’s overused and banalified now, despair, but it’s a serious word, and I’m using it seriously. For me it denotes a simple admixture — a weird yearning for death combined with a crushing sense of my own smallness and futility that presents as a fear of death. It’s maybe close to what people call dread or angst. But it’s not these things, quite. It’s more like wanting to die in order to escape the unbearable feeling of becoming aware that I’m small and weak and selfish and going without any doubt at all to die. It’s wanting to jump overboard.”
― David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments
I am going to write tonight about something that you don’t care about… don’t pretend… I know you don’t. It is something that I care about – and that is a fact that I’m more than a little embarrassed and ashamed. Such trivialities.
At any rate, the City of Richardson (where I live) is in the middle of spending some taxpayer largess in executing the idea of an Active Transportation Plan. This is something that I am interested and involved in. All in all it is a good thing… a very good thing. However, it is not what I’m writing about tonight
One minor part of the plan is the putting together of an inventory of bike parking in the city. I became way too enthused about this – wasting a lot of time riding around looking for bike racks. These were then entered into an interactive map. I did win a fifty dollar gift certificate in a contest… so there is that.
But one thing really frustrated me. There is an LA Fitness – a health club/exercise place at the end of my neighborhood. Back when we had a disposable income the whole family belonged and we worked out there regularly. I have been there literally hundreds of times (though not in the last few years).
It always bothered me that the club did not have a bike rack. The gas station on the corner has a bike rack. The Mexican rotisserie chicken place across the street has a bike rack. The new Dunkin Donuts down the road has a bike rack. But this place – big and dedicated to health and exercise… did not have a bike rack. Not one in front… not one on the side where the parking is.
But the other day, I was out for a walk, trying to get some non-stressful exercise in, and strolled past the health club. This was the first time I walked to it – all the time, over the years I rode my bike (and locked it to the railing because there was no bike rack). Because I was on foot – I turned a corner I never had before and looked down the narrow alley-like space between the health club and the Korean Bar-B-Que place… and there, lo and behold was:
a bike rack. It has been there all this time. I never noticed it.
I don’t feel too bad – it’s really hidden, off to an obscure side and behind a pillar. I seriously doubt that there has ever been a bike locked up to this thing (though I’ll try to ride there this weekend and lock up… for no reason). But still…. I thought I was good at finding these things.
So there it is. The high point of my day. Now you all can go back to what you find interesting and important and leave my with my pitiful useless epiphanies.
“It occurs to me that I really can’t remember your face in any precise detail. Only the way you walked away through the tables in the café, your figure, your dress, that I still see.”
― Franz Kafka, Letters to Milena
I know I’ve done this (many) times before – but I am always amused in the winter by how the snow piles up on the little plastic nubs on the children’s climbing wall in the Park at the end of my block… and they look sorta like white hair on top of little faces. Makes it almost worth the bitter cold.
“The sky, at sunset, looked like a carnivorous flower.”
― Roberto Bolaño, 2666
So, this weekend I’ve been fiddling around with some stuff – since I soon will have a lot of time on my hands I have been looking for things that are fun to do and don’t cost much money. One thing is I have built a little alcohol stove from a Fancy Feast cat treat can and a little empty can of tomato paste. What I want to do it to put together a kit that I can use to walk to some random spot, heat water, and make coffee.
This evening was a simple test of my idea – alcohol stove for hot water, AeroPress for the coffee. It all fit into a sling bag and I walked down to the park at the end of my block. It worked fairly well – though I had to make three trips back and forth for things I forgot or almost lost. I’m learning – next time will be better.
I sipped my (not hot enough) coffee, looked at all the folks out for a walk, and watched the sun set – it was so beautiful I pulled my phone out and snapped a snap.
“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.
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.
“when I left her to-day, she put her arms around me and felt my shoulder blades, to see if my wings were strong, she said. ‘The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.’ ” ― Kate Chopin, The Awakening
Everyone has their traditions. The best traditions, especially the best holiday traditions… are the ones you establish yourselves.
I don’t remember how we started… probably inspired by the ending (after the disaster where the Bumpass’ dogs ate the turkey) of A Christmas Story….
Our Christmas tradition is to eat at Bistro B – a (one of many) Vietnamese restaurant in our city.
The other members of my family order various things (the menu at Bistro B is literally a book – the menu items run into the seven hundreds) but I stick to the Pho. Today, I ordered number 37 – the beef and meat ball Pho.
It was too much food. I have been trying to eat less. With most of the broth, most of the noodles, and all of the beef consumed, I was full. But, what the hell… it’s Christmas. I went for it.
There aren’t too many empty bowls left behind at that place.
I felt like I had swallowed a football. The rest of the day… well, it’s a bit of a blur.
We did open presents – not the wild blowout of rending paper as it was when the kids were little.
My son did buy my a cool and interesting gift – Tickets to the January 15th Kansas-West Virginia Basketball game – so we will have a weekend road trip to Lawrence in our future. That should be fun – I’ve only been back once in the last twenty years or so.
“Don’t you believe in flying saucers, they ask me? Don’t you believe in telepathy? — in ancient astronauts? — in the Bermuda triangle? — in life after death?
No, I reply. No, no, no, no, and again no.
One person recently, goaded into desperation by the litany of unrelieved negation, burst out “Don’t you believe in anything?”
Yes”, I said. “I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”
― Isaac Asimov
Over break, I’m working on an addition to my exercise regime. In addition to ten miles a day on the bike (which is usually on my spin bike indoors) I added a minimum two mile walk outside. I increase that a little every day. Sometimes I take my dog with me, sometimes I go alone (the dog is very good on a leash, but holding the thing and not being able to swing my arms cramps my rhythm a bit).
I look for odd things on my walks – here is a strange and wonderful sign I saw today along the paved hike/bike trail.