Friday, July 12, 2019

riding, recovery and other bodily science experiments

Just a heads-up to let you know I'm still here.
Most recent riding was a bit of coffeeneuring at Nossa Familia's NW cafe, where I rode in a cooling summer rain (t shirt got soaked and I didn't care because it felt glorious), and enjoyed an iced coffee.
For the last couple of days, riding has been difficult because of a muggy heat that has settled in.

It never used to get muggy here in the summer.

Welcome to climate change.

Temperature regulation becomes a challenge during perimenopause. I sweat, I tire easily and I totalyl crap out after doing a simply task like mowing the lawn.
I thought about a ride today, but every time I got up to go outside I got baked by the sun and the humidity and had to go back inside the house and lie down.

I certainly hope this is not the new normal. When I feel well, I LIKE riding my bicycle.
But in the meanwhile, I'm taking little energy spurts to clear out some old stuff on eBay and make space in my workshop before the summer gets to close to ending. I have lots of music to learn and/or review between now and September, and my riding will likely become a less strenuous reward for my hard rehearsal work at home.
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Some updates:

I enjoyed a lovely Shabbat bicycle ride and potluck dinner out on the Columbia River  couple Fridays ago. It was really nice to go for a longer ride in the cool evening breeze, with folks from The Alberta Shul (a non-profit promoting Jewish communal life on Portland's east side).

Below: Our Shabbes candles, and the sunset as seen from the park we rode to.
No photo description available.













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Image may contain: bicycle and outdoorI sent off the last batch of Refugee Bikes to Catholic Charities this morning. I am now out of both bicycles and U-Locks, and cannot proceed until I find more of both. I am taking donations if they come my way but will not actively pursue fixing up more bikes in earnest until the fall.

The bikes continue to be well-received at CC, and just last week I saw someone downtown riding a bike I'd fixed up earlier in the spring; he'd procured some panniers and was hauling bags of groceries. Seeing the bike in action under a happy rider made me very happy as well.

Most of the bicycles I've rescued and repaired for this effort can be seen here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/bethness/albums/72157665835266472/

Note: This reflects only about three-quarters of the bikes I've repaired. I didn't photograph many of the earliest bikes and missed a few along the way. I now make an effort to record every bike, mostly so folks interested in the ways a bike can be modified for city riding can consider many options.
I LOVE refurbishing old racing and touring bikes for the less-glamorous demands of city transportation.

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On the disability front: I got what will likely be a first hearing.
Sadly, they scheduled it on -- yup -- Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. There's no way I can make the hearing on that day and have applied for a rescheduling. My lawyer believes this is a valid reason and that they will honor it. I just hope they don't honor it on top of a gig or something. I am keeping the faith and hoping it will turn out okay.

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I'm also raising funding to record my latest collection of original songs. If you'd like to learn more and participate in this effort, check it out here:
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-watchman-s-chair/x/1531892#/

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Torn right now between another nap (I've already had one today but I am feeling really sleepy and worn out), and a tiny spin around the block on my bike.
If I do the latter I can reward myself with an iced coffee or something.

Wherever your bicycle takes you this weekend enjoy yourself!
Happy Friday and Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, July 5, 2019

you're not imagining things. the grief and fear are real.

Why I struggle with transportation choices and their impact on my life.
Because the grief and fear so many struggle with is real.
And in the end, we are just another species on planet Earth that is being compelled to face our extinction.
I can't stop it, but I can make the most of the time I have.
So I make music, and teach, and fix bicycles for refugees, and try to live a life that is simple and deliberate.
We're another species that will one day be extinct.
That is not a possibility I ever considered until only recently.

Today, I'm gonna work on bicycles.

What will YOU do with the time left to our species on this beautiful planet?

Monday, July 1, 2019

sunday parkways: a symptom of rampant consumerism?

I participated in my second Sunday Parkways of the 2019 season yesterday.

The day was warm and sunny, and lots of happy people were enjoying themselves walking, bicycling and skating along the route. There were a number of folks trying to get to or from home in their cars, but by and large they all mnaged to get where they were going with what looked like relatively little aggravation.

In short, it was a lovely event, enjoyed by thousands of Portlanders.

This was my twelfth season volunteering as a Mobile Mechanic. I've been quite happy to volunteer, even if I've actually been asked to ply my skills less and less frequently over the years. (With a bike repair station at every park along the routes, I've been asked for help far less frequently along the Parkways routes; yesterday I did not perform one single repair during my shift.)

At each park along the route, dozens of booths from various businesses and non-profit orgs tried to attract the public's attention. At most of these booths, schwag was in great abundance. (I always help myself to things like reflectors and patchkits, which go into my refugee bicycle project.)
Nearly all of it was plastic junk: silicone bracelets or keyfobs, plastic water-measuring devices from the city water utility, sunglasses from a credit union. In a year's time a lot of this stuff, taken home in Parkways participants pockets, will end up in a curbside free box or in the trash. Most of it was made in China and required no small amount of fossil fuels to make and transport to the United States.
In fact, there is an entire industry devoted to providing corporate schwag for companies to hand out, all in the name of branding.

The more I see of these things, the sadder I feel.

When are we going to get away from this? And why is it taking so damned long?

I don't know.

But I do know that every encounter I have with this reality is inspiring me to make some profound choices about how I live, what I consume and how I deal with the leftovers.
It's a struggle, of course.

My clothing comes from somewhere.
The packaging for my food, most of which I cannot produce myself, also cannot be recycled (though we're good about washing out and reusing plastic Ziploc bags ad infinitum).
My medication comes in a syringe that cannot be recycled, and which by law must be disposed of by burning, which means all the leftover chemical residue goes into the air we breathe; is that really a good idea?

For decades, the bicycle industry has struggled with how to dispose of spent inner tubes and worn-out tires, which cannot be recycled easily or affordably. When I worked in the shop, tires were disposed of in the landfill, or bundled and sent to facilities for burning -- again, imagine all that rubber and oil going into the atmosphere. For decades, bicycle clothing has been made of Lycra, itself a derivative of plastic. When Lycra is disposed of, it cannot be recycled. And so, if no one wants it anymore, off to the landfill it goes.

And all of this is directly connected to the mass of consumerism that drives our global economy, our socialization, our very way of human existence in the Western world.
What can I do to stop supporting this big picture without hermiting myself off from the world?

I need to ponder this awhile. But first, another bicycle ride.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Very Big Things: an ongoing series of overthinking

Having now watched both nights of Democratic Party debates, I am left thinking some Very Big Things, and just thinking of them simultaneously alarms and intrigues me:

1. Climate change seems to be the most important issue, at least to my thinking. Even as we fight over diminishing resources -- and the political and economic control of those resources -- all of the other issues, like  gun control, states' rights, civil rights, economic disparity and homelessness seem far less pressing.
The specter of a rapidly warming planet should be scaring the crap out of every single one of us. And so it has been amazing to consider the lengths to which we distract ourselves from this reality in our homes, our personal and professional lives, our practice of any (or no) religion, and the way we conduct commerce.

2. While I continue to pursue as simple a life as I can here at home -- and last-night's Shabbat gathering was as simple and sweet and uncomplicated as any I've participated in, in a very long time -- the fact is that many of my fellow Jews are pursuing lives that are seemingly as complicated as possible.  We follow dietary rules that compel us to buy food that has traveled across the country. We observe holy days that compel us to buy ritual objects made and transported from halfway around the globe. Our professionals travel often, to professional conferences and, if they’re able, back and forth between North America and Israel regularly. We live in Jewish bubbles of our own making, ensconced in comfortable suburbs that lie beyond the reach of public transit and equip our kids with the best things life can offer — both educationally and materially, and all at considerable cost, because life in those bubbles simultaneously requires and justifies that we do so.

In my efforts to build some small semblance of a career as a Jewish professional, I have toured as a visiting artist and educator. While my travel is exclusively for work — my partner and I do not travel for vacations much farther weekend drive to the coast, simply because national or global travel is unaffordable for us — I still shudder at the carbon footprint of my choices. I wonder every day if my choices make sense anymore, in a world that is rapidly burning up. Friends and family tell me not to fret so much — even with all the recent air travel, my carbon footprint before my career change seldom, if ever, required automobile use (I rode to and from work daily by bicycle) and so my current choices still reflect an overall lifetime carbon footprint that’s considerably lower than most.

But this feels like a false paradigm to me, a legal fiction designed to allow me to do this holy work, an attempt to avoid the zero-sum game that climate change represents for the human species.

To calm my distress about the Very Big Things I’ve been wrestling with, I’ve spent my evening reading a number of online articles by Jews from across the spectrum of observance. All but the most radical of them suggest that we ought to be cautious about things like a Green New Deal, or any radical moves away from fossil fuel dependence and meat-based diets — after all, some argue, aren’t we each supposed to live a life based on Torah?

Well, sure. Okay. Torah is thousands of years old. It has provided guidance for our people for ages, and inspires me today.
But the earth is older than Torah by several million or billion years. The earth is older than Judaism. The earth is older than the human species.
And so, doesn’t it make sense that at some point, Judaism may actually become irrelevant? After all, if the earth really has been heated up beyond reversal, then humanity will one day be irrelevant — and nonexistent — as well.

Should we be turning to our tradition for insight on how to deal with the impermanence of things? Of life? Of the human species in its entirety? And can Torah properly prepare us for not only the end of the human species, but the end of our individual lives? What can we glean from Torah to help us come to terms with the death denial of our modern culture, the denial that urges us to distract ourselves with mass consumerism? Can Torah help us come to terms with the reality of human species extinction, which will surely come about as the earth adapts to a warming climate?

I want to figure this out. Because the truth is we’re all going to die someday, and pretending we won’t will only hurt each of us, and all of us, deeply and profoundly. Coming to terms with our eventual demise can only be healthy for all of us, and perhaps will give us insight on how to be better for the planet in the process.

Onward.
Tomorrow will be a good day for a bicycle ride.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Sunday Parkways returns on June 30! Who's in?

Portland peeps!

Come to the next installment of the 2019 Sunday Parkways, on June 30.

Route maps, volunteer info and other stuff can be found HERE.

Parkways is still looking for more volunteers to make the event successful -- you'll get water, snacks and a t-shirt and you'll have fun meeting your friends and neighbors along the way.
(Below: making a friend during and after a quick bike adjustment, Sunday Parkways 2017)

 

I have volunteered EVERY YEAR since Sunday Parkways' inception and it's always a good time!
If you want to meet up a little early and grab some coffee, come find me at the Volunteer check-in at Arbor Lodge Park this Sunday morning at around 10am. See you there!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

back to the sprocket!

Pleased and honored to announce that the latest Sprocket Podcast is now posted and available for streaming. It was great fun to return to the Sprocket, and to hang out in their new digs (the refurb'd Airstream trailer at Open Signal studios) while we recorded the episode.

If you don't yet describe to The Sprocket Podcast, considering doing so!
Guests and topics range far and wide and all circle back to the many ways we can simplify the good life.

Check it out!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

I'm getting left behind, and I don't care so much

Several years ago, a student gave me the gift of an iPhone 4. It was already obsolete by the time she gave it to me, but it was free and if I could find free wifi I could check my email and messages during my music travels.

I appreciated the gift, and have used it daily since then.

A couple years ago, another friend gifted me with an iPhone 6. It's battery needed replacing, which would cost me money, but it was newer and could run more apps than the 4.

It's sitting on our CD shelf as I type this. I haven't done anything with it yet.
I continue to use the 4, because I'm used to it, it's simpler and has fewer doo-dads for me to have to figure out. And the battery is working fine so far. In fact, it seems more robust than the 6.

The only problem -- the same problem I've had with all my technology -- is that because of its age, I can't download newer apps, or newer versions of already-existing apps.

It's a problem only because people expect me to be like them and have the latest devices so I can do things like call an Uber or Lyft; rent a bikeshare bike when I visit a city; or find my way around using GPS.

I don't have these apps and cannot download them onto my 4. It's too old and older versions of the apps are not supported -- or, in many cases, even available anymore.

And honestly? I don't really care.

I don't feel like I'm missing out on a lot when I can't do all these things, because they mostly don't interest me. I like the fact that when I last owned a car in 1990, I had a perfectly functional 1986 copy of the Thomas Guide under the front passenger's seat. It was all I ever need to find my way around parts of town I didn't know. When not driving, public transit was great, and the printed schedules and map booklets they used to provide back then worked just fine.

Today, even many homeless people have smartphones. I'm not sure how they can afford a monthly plan. I sure can't. That's why I continue to use my decade-old flip-phone. It's pay-as-you-go, and the network isn't everywhere I'd like it to be so I'm sometimes out of range in cities where seemingly everyone else has connectivity. But it's also a hell of a lot cheaper than a smartphone plan, and for someone who doesn't keep their cell phone on day and night it makes sense. It does not make me popular with my more up-to-date friends, since they can only call me on my flip-phone (texting is slow, awkward and very expensive on a pay-as-you-go phone).

At home, when I'm online I use my laptop.

And at home, I'm on my laptop more than I'd like to be. So I make a point of being away from computers for awhile every day, whether it's for bike-riding, yardwork, music or just hanging out.

A curious freedom comes with getting older, especially as a woman. Older women are invisible in so many ways. We have a harder time getting work. We aren't taken seriously by the mostly younger people who seem to be running the world these days. And while that can be pretty harsh, it can also be freeing. If I'm invisible, I don't have to struggle to keep up -- with technology, with fashion or anything else that younger people have had to buy into in order to "get ahead" in our winning-obsessed world.

(In game theory, I'm someone who plays the game simply in order to be in the game. I don't really care that much about winning or losing. This makes me rather ill-suited for capitalism. I do the best I can under the circumstances, and try not to get caught by the winner-take-all gamers.)

Since I don't play to win, I don't really care a whole lot about whether or not I'm keeping up with someone else's version of the game (in which there's winning or losing, rather than just playing.)
And that means I sort of don't really care about spending money I don't have to stay technologically up to date.

So when this 4 finally gives out, I might take the 6 in to the local Mac store and find out what it would cost to upgrade the battery. Or I might further limit my screen time by simply using my laptop, which is sure to last for awhile yet (since I don't fill its memory to capacity, and I don't use it 24/7).

I feel like we could approach a tipping point where people burn out on social media and long-distance friendships in favor of strengthening local connectivity. We'll see.

Meanwhile, I don't plan to go shopping for new tech anytime soon.

In fact, tonight might be a good time for a little bicycle ride.
Cheers!