Wednesday, January 18, 2017

off-season coffeeneuring: venice, florida

I was down in Venice, Florida for a Shabbaton gig this last weekend. On Saturday, my hosts took me on a beautiful scenic ride along inter-coastal waterways and out to Casperson park to see the Gulf of Mexico. Wearing shorts in January anywhere, but especially in such a beautiful place, is a real treat.
At Sunset, they took me to Siesta Beach for a natural lightshow. Awesome. Go bicycling here if you can.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

off-season coffeeneuring: cup & saucer killingsworth

After being cooped up in the house for most of the past two weeks because of rain and freezing temperatures, I was going stir-crazy. I really needed a bike ride. So when I learned that today there would be a break in the weather, I decided to capitalize on it with a little ride.
I suited up in wool layers and rain gear and headed out. It was still very cold, in the mid-30s. And it was raining. Still, I had my sights set on one thing: the scones at Cup & Saucer, which closed at 3pm. If I could get there by 2, I'd have enough time to enjoy them with some hot coffee.

I got there in time.
And I was not only cold, I was surprisingly hungry.
So I ordered breakfast.

It was delicious.
Eggs and potatoes and a fresh scone woith butter and jam, and a bottomless cup of hot, fresh coffee (yes, they were still brewing at 2 pm).

It was delightful. So I ordered another three scones to go.

Because early tomorrow morning, I'm heading out of town for a gig and I know that I will want some scones to go with the coffee I'll get at the airport. And I know that nothing I find there will be as good as the scones from Cup & Saucer.

I hope to get in a little bike ride during my working weekend. If I do I'll share about it here. But I won't be wearing wool.
I'm headed to Florida, where the high temperatures will be in the mid 70s. In January.
Yeah. I'm ready.

After I finished my meal, I continued my ride, stopping in at TradeUp Music and then at the CCC. When I was ready to go home, I came out to unlock my bike and discovered that a light snow had begun to fall. And as I rode home in air that was getting colder by the minute, I pondered the reality that one day, I might not want to ride in weather this cold anymore. I already feel differently about the cold than I did just three or four years ago. I'm not as excited about riding when the temperature falls below freezing and stays there for days on end. Even with enough layers, it's just not as fun as it used to be. It's hard to get motivated to ride when the effort of doing so in this kind of cold leaves me more tired than it used to.
I am really looking forward to working for a few days in Florida.
My bones are cold.
Happy riding.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

How to have more fun on January 20: An UNauguration guide

Okay, I'm gonna go out on a limb here. With all the excitement about the protests coming up on Unauguration Day, I'm going to say right now that I think they will mostly be meaningless. Protests, by and large, have become meaningless and ineffective in an age where information travels at the speed of light and can be easily manipulated and obscured.

You want to make a difference on January 20? Here are some ideas: 

1. Don't watch.
I mean don't watch ANY of it -- the ceremony, the buildup or the post-event analysis. It's all fake, rigged and meant for show.
Turn off the damned television and don't give this guy -- or his advertisers -- one moment of viewer market-share.

2. Go outside.
Arrange to meet with your neighbors and friends in real time, whether it's at someone's house or at a community event (hey Jewish friends: Shabbat services are still happening in synagogues everywhere. Just sayin'.)
Go for a walk. Bring the dogs to the off-leash park. Toss a frisbee around. Go birdwatching. Spend the day with your kids (yes, I'm saying pull them out of school that day, or else they may be compelled/pressured to watch the unholy event on a TV screen at school).

3. GENERAL STRIKE. DO NO GO TO WORK OR SCHOOL THAT DAY. Especially if your work helps the wheel of commerce turn (retailers and wholesalers, that's especially true for you). Obviously, if your work is public safety or public service (police, fire, medical, clergy), then feel free to listen to your conscience here and do what you think makes sense.
But all non-essential workers, and teachers and their students, should consider NOT WORKING on Friday the 20th, AND Saturday the 21st. And, if you're feeling especially ballsy, Thursday the 19th as well. May as well make it a long weekend.
By not working, you slow down the wheel of commerce and tell our unfairly-elected officials that there are other ways to inhabit this country that do not depend upon their lousy money-riddled structures.

4. Ideally, #3 ought to be combined with a GENERAL BOYCOTT. DO NOT GO SHOPPING. FOR ANYTHING. Seriously. If you're homeless, you're not doing much shopping anyway because you';re broke and don't have a house to fill with stuff. And if yu DO have a warm-dry place to live then you probably have enough stuff and food and everything else to stay home from every single store you can think of. 

5. Alternative activities:
--meet with some friends at a home with a kitchen. Start cooking early in the day (just bring what you have and figure out how to cook it all up, it needn't be rocket science. Keep it simple. IF you feel ambitious then go ahead and share recipes, but don't stress about it.) Talk, sing, discuss and joke while you cook; all the best gatherings happen in the kitchen. Make sure the kids have something to do, even if it's just chopping vegetables or setting a big table (or floor, with pillows and a picnic blanket).
--make extra food and share it with your neighbors and with folks you don't yet know, housed or homeless or in-between.
--pack a picnic lunch and go for a bike ride or neighborhood walk (weather permitting). Avoid stores, Avoid streets with lots of stores. You ideally don't even want to window shop.
--turn off your electronica for the day. Really, you can do this. If you need to leave your phone on for emergencies or to coordinate a meetup, fine; but when you all get together, shut down the smartphone and hang out together.
--Musical? Theatrical? Literate? Have a performing arts jam session where anyone can contribute something beautiful, funky, or cool to share. If you choose to record it, resolve that you won't sell the recording for profit, but share it FREELY on social media. Be choosy about where you share it; rather than on an ad-dependent site, put it on your own web site or ad-free blog instead, and invite people to get in touch to brainstorm future free arts events.
--Hold a Skill-share Fair and teach each other how to do cool things that don't depend on a lot of shopping. Sewing/mending; quilt-making; knitting; cooking; bicycle repair; re-wiring simple outlets or lamps; building a simple home generator; how to make a musical instrument from ordinary household objects, or how to play a music instrument. (All of this should be free, obviously.)
--Discuss ways to build community that do not depend upon commerce. Make sure you discuss livelihood, spirituality, healthcare, education and whatever else seems like a component of community. Remember that community is, at its heart, about PEOPLE, and that will guide your thinking.

The results:
--by the end of the GENERAL STRIKE/BOYCOTT, you should have compiled a list of folks (names, contact info and list of skills) that you can call on for future communal events, people whom you can check on when the weather gets cold and heating might go out (or who could use a spare fan during the heat-wave), with whom you can close local streets to create celebrations when the weather warms, who can fix things and teach skills to each other for free or for barter.
We cannot completely disentangle from capitalism, and there may be times when we may not want to; but we can certainly reduce its importance in our lives by remembering that PEOPLE come before capital.

Please share this with everyone you know. And start planning your own Unauguration Day where you live.  If you're in Portland, Oregon and want to create an alternative to protest, contact me and let me know. I wanna get in on the fun if I can.

Yes, the country and the world will change on January 20. But we are still the people we are, and we can still do good things together.  That truth is where my hope lies.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

happy new year

A very happy new year to my readers!
Rubber side down
Flat-free rides
and Miles of Smiles
See you in 2017!

Monday, December 26, 2016

spring 2017 tune-up schedule

For my Portland-based bike pals and their friends:

In late February I will begin taking tune-up appointments.  
 Here's what you need to know:

-- One-day turnaround; You bring the bike in the morning on Day one, stick around while we go over what is needed,  and pick it up in the evening on Day two.
-- No full overhauls, tune-ups only, please.  I can true wheels, clean the bike and drive train, replace broken/worn components and adjust brakes and gears. Straightening bent frames and opening up and overhauling all bearing surfaces (including internally-geared rear hubs) is beyond the purview of my tiny workshop and very limited spare parts supply.
-- Appointments IN ADVANCE are the only way I can work on your bike. I have a day job.

I have two decades of professional bike shop experience as a mechanic and purchaser.
I'm a USAC-certified Category Four race mechanic and have several seasons doing neutral wheel and pit support at races and charity rides in the PNW.
I retired from the bicycle industry in 2012.
Because this is more of a hobby for me now, I take in far fewer bikes than a shop would, and I charge considerably less than a full-service shop does.
I am taking appointments for spring tune-ups from late February through mid-May 2017.
Then I will close it down for the summer to work on other projects.
I may re-open for a few weeks in early August if there is interest in help with getting ready for Cyclocross season. (Tune-ups, component upgrades, single-speed conversions.)

If you're interested, email me at:


Meanwhile,  Thanks to all my readers for your support and interest in what I write about here.
All the best for many happy miles in 2017!

(below: working at Community Cycling Center, 2002. Photo by Tim Fricker.)

Monday, December 19, 2016

the end of an era: last day at the Annex

Today was the last day of business at Citybikes Annex.
The second location of Citybikes Workers Cooperative had opened May 1, 1995. I had been hired at Citybikes a week before, and my first tasks were to help finish painting and erecting the wall-mounted bicycle display racks.

The Grand Opening party included potluck finger foods, a dance party and live music, including a pickup trio with me and another new co-worker involved and followed by another co-worker's more famous band (does anyone remember the New Bad Things? I guess they were bigger in Europe than here.)

I worked at Citybikes from April 25, 1995 till mid-July 2001, and again from March 4, 2003 until September 24, 2012 (the break was for grad school and a year working at another bike shop).
During that time, in addition to repairing and selling bicycles, I also worked as an apprentice trainer, an instructor/supervisor at bike repair classes and open shop nights for the public, and for four years, I was the lead purchaser, managing a large budget and overseeing the stocking of product at the co-op's two retail locations.

Throughout my entire time at Citybikes, I earned an hourly wage that finally approached Portland's living wage (at the time) in the last two yeara of my employment there. There was no formal health insurance plan -- we could get a "stipend" -- a token amount annually, perhaps $1000 a year, give or take -- which we could spend on any health care we chose, including alternative therapies not usually covered by insurance. Owners earned Patronage Dividends in years when the business enjoyed a profit after all expenses were covered, paid in percentages over a staggered schedule and only in the summer months when cash flow allowed it.

For young, single people without kids, Citybikes wasn't a bad place to work. The cooperative structure meant that decisions took longer to make, but everyone's input was valued. With as many as fifteen equal owners there were, in theory, no bosses (though in practice one could push his/her agenda by sheer force of personality and/or after-hours cowboy behavior, both of which happened more often than any of would care to admit). As some of us got older, married and had children, it got harder to live on a bike mechanic's wages, and some folks left to go to school or take a more white-collar job.

The co-op structure attracted folks whose politics were usually pretty far to the left, including several people who were active in radical politics (including Jobs with Justice, the cause for Palestinian statehood, and even the IWW (the "Wobblies"). Two of my co-workers had been "red diaper" babies, raised by parents who were card-carrying Communists. And one of the original founders of the co-op was especially active whenever he wasn't at work, also founding a co-op leftist bookstore and even, for a time, a "school" for political activists.

In the Fall of 2012, it all came to an end for me when I reached a turning point on my relationship with one co-worker and, as a result, with the entire co-op Board. I quit that fall, and threw myself into a new, completely different line of work. There was a grieving process for me and finances were precarious for a time; but now, four years later, I am established in my new career. The co-worker who had caused me so much grief left the business about eight months after I did. The co-op lost some people and hired some new people, and things went on. Meanwhile, I've been growing and slowly gaining notice in my music career. I know that everything happened for a reason, and ultimately, for good.

Today, I have no bitter feelings about Citybikes. If I have next to nothing financially to show for my nearly two decades there, I learned a lot about bicycle mechanics, human relations, and my own sense of personal identity. While I didn't get rich (or even earn enough to start a nest egg), I came away with other things that still feel valuable today.

Today I stopped by the Annex to say a final goodbye. Today was the last day of business for the Annex, because the recession finally caught up with Citybikes last year, forcing the cooperative to consolidate its operations. The Board elected to shrink its operations, get out of the business of selling new bicycles and pull back on its used bicycle sales as well. Everything that could not be moved to the Mother Shop was sold off at deep discounts. I figured if I went in on the last day, someone there might be willing to cut me a deal, and I was right. I picked up a few used parts, some gloves for my cold reduction project, and a sweatshirt because it was their last one and they were willing to let it go for dirt cheap. I had a nice chat with the one co-worker I knew -- the other two were hired after I'd left -- and after I made my purchases I looked around at the bare walls and the handful of bicycles still sitting on the showroom floor. It was a little strange, and strangely fitting, to be there today.


I wished them well, walked out, loaded up my bicycle and turned for one last look. I helped paint that door orange (the first time, years ago before there was a mural).

 Do you recognize the mural behind me? That mural was apinted during my time at the shop, and I wrote the lyrics for the song "Ten Miles" around the same time. The mural was funded by a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, so it may stay up for awhile yet, which is good.
Citybikes will move out of the building by the end of the month, and then it will rent the building (which it owns) to the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC), a non-profit that teaches people how to create and self-publish their works.

Citybikes will continue to run a bicycle repair business at its original location with a much smaller workforce. I wish them well.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

off-season coffeeneuring: rivelo

After two weeks off the bike and most of a week being sick, I was antsy to get outside again. The snow melted enough today that I felt comfortable riding the BStone around town. Although I was feeling considerably better, I decided to shorten my ride by taking MAX most of the way there and back. The total of four miles in the brisk air felt like enough when I was done.

I hopped the MAX to the west end of Tillkum Crossing, stopped in Starbucks for some coffee and rode across the bridge. It was very cold, maybe 38F, and mostly sunny. A beautiful day for a little ride!

(At left: It's hard to see, but that's the top of a snow-covered Mt. Hood in the distance.)

I rode to Rivelo, where a delayed holiday event was taking place. It had been delayed by a day because John [Bennett, Rivelo's founder and owner] had taken a bad fall yesterday and ended up breaking his wrist.

He was in good spirits, considering the pain meds and egg nog on hand (plus optional bourbon or rum add-ins for the grown-ups).

I had a delightful time chatting with John and Darby, and enjoyed meeting two delightful little boys who are full of energy, sweetness and giggles.  While I was there, I took a few pictures and got myself a limited edition Shawn Granton-designed Rivelo hankie.

I also picked up a new elastic netting for my bike basket. The netting on the BStone's basket, originally designed for a motorcycle, was too big and had begun to lose its spring. Basket netting is VERY handy, allowing you to overstuff your bike basket while also leaving key things grabbable on the ride (like hankies or gloves, for instance). A useful item available at Rivelo and lots of other bike shops around town.

(Above: the Rosco Bubbe frameset, a wacky design by Grant and Co. Honestly, I'm not sure what it's for, except maybe the tallest riders.)
John, gesticulating carefully while waiting for the pain meds to kick in. I advised him to lay in a supply of newspaper delivery baggies; speaking from experience, they're perfect for covering an arm cast during a shower. Just slip it on, rubber-band the opening to your arm, and go.)
John isn't sure what will need to happen. He's seeing a specialist and hopefully will know more soon. But breaking bones sucks. So if you're in town, stop by the shop during biz hours (check the web site), say hello and cheer him up. He's good people and I like what he's about.

 I rode back over the bridge, caught MAX back over the NE Portland and rode home before it got dark.

(Left: my latest bike-dedicated coffee mug. It holds less coffee, but it will do. And my doc says I ought to think about consuming less coffee anyway. Hmm.)

Below: the new hankie. I got it because I like everything Shawn draws and I wanted to support his art.

It felt SO GOOD to get out today, if only for a couple of hours and even though I wasn't entirely done coughing out the last phase of my cold. Still, I will be glad when the temps go up tomorrow, back to above 40F. Even if it's raining it will be better for riding in.