Sunday, September 15, 2019

Coffeeneuring for the hell of it

So the Coffeeneuring Challenge will soon be up and running.
And this year, I don't think I'm going to sign up for it in any official way.
Partly because it overlaps my High Holy Days schedule enough that I don't want to HAVE to ride on a rainy day if my voice tells me it's better to stay indoors; amd partly because I feel like I've done everything I can do with this and still have fun.
I have enough patches and bandannas to last awhile; and in fact will be passing sme of the extras along to friends because I just don't need them anymore.

But still, coffeeneuring is a perfect excuse to ride your bike somewhere.
So if you want to get a cup of coffee, treat yourself and ride to a cafe. Support the local economy. Move your legs and breathe some outdoor air.

Drink up! And hapy riding!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

seasons turning: a ride through north portland

I woke up too late to make it to shul this morning so I decided instead to enjoy a little bike ride around North Portland before the rain came in the late afternoon.
Stops along the way included Peninsula Park, N. Willamette Boulevard (a couple of scenic stops), and the compass rose viewing area at the south end of University of Portland.

Some pix from the day's ride, which meandered for a couple of hours and stayed deliciously cool and cloudy the whole time.


Sunday, September 1, 2019

It's all in the label: Surly edition

This weekend, an item appeared for sale on eBay, a nice wool cap in lovely purple stripes.

 I think it's attractive.
If I didn't already own one each of a simple knit cap and a wool brimmed cycling cap, I might consider buying it.

Except for one small thing: the price.
The opening bid on this wool cap is $30.
That's right, thirty bucks for a factory-made cap that is pretty but otherwise unexceptional.

Here's where things get interesting.

The hat was advertised not by its material first, but by its brand name, which somehow seemed to make that high opening bid okay.

The hat was sold by Surly Bikes. On the other side it had a small label with its logo on it.
And for a moment, even in MY jaded mind, the price tag wasn't so crazy. Because I, too, have been conditioned to shop for brands. That's especially true when it comes to bicycle-related things.

But I caught myself, and regained my senses. That tiny label on one side is why the seller is charging -- and may well realize -- his asking price. The allure and the "lore" of the Surly brand is so strong that even a simply knit cap can demand a higher price if you stick a "Surly" tag on it. Never mind that it's too bulky to fit under a helmet, or that there's nothing about the style of the cap even remotely related to cycling; that little tag makes all the difference.

I reflected on this paradigm ten years ago with the Rapha brand, marveling at how the application of a carefully-researched and well-branded name could increase the price of a cycling jersey by two to three times its prior value. EVen after Rapha was bought by a Walmart subsidiary in 2013, people still flock to the brand.

So once I realized what tricks were being played on my mind by a combination of my upbringing and the phenomenon of branding in today's capitalist economy, I calmed down, had a chuckle and moved on. Because when I can buy a knit cap for five bucks, why spend thirty? Especially since the only reason for the high price is a stupid little tag that could be easily removed?

To be fair, some heavily-marketed items are worth the higher price in terms of function and quality. That's why I continue to be picky about the jeans and shoes I wear. But in so many cases, perfectly acceptable non-branded versions of some items are a third of the price, work just as well and look just as nice. And while this may not always be the case, especially if the Buy Local crowd has their way (they won't in the end, but I digress), it's true enough for now that if you have three kids to outfit for school, you can do it a lot cheaper and more simply then this.

This is the power of branding. The right combination of style-making, words and tag placement is enough to make us lose our heads and want to buy something that may not really be all that special.

I am working on the habit of examining each and every one of those moments when I'm tempted to lose my head. If I stop and do a seven-second check in, I find I'm less likely to shop in general. On my budget, that's a good thing. But learning how not to lose our heads economically may be good for the whole world, too.

I'm going to enjoy a bicycle ride today, to find my head again. It's Sunday, a perfect day for it.
Happy riding!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Sunday Parkways follow-up

So a couple days ago I received this email from a fellow I've worked with at Parkways for a number of years. I've chosen to remove his name to protect his privacy.

Hi Beth - Someone in the community sent me your recent blog post on Sunday Parkways.  They were concerned about your message and what I would think about what you wrote.  I wanted to share what I felt about this.

First, you're pretty much spot on.  I know what your role has been as a mobile mechanic, which is distinct and different from the route management crew.  Our team has had to adapt to a growing population interacting with our lovely Parkways Routes.  By getting the events open with the resources we have, I'm quite proud of what we've accomplished over the years.  But, it sure is different than how it was.  I thought your blog was fair and raised good points.  Happy to speak to those if you like, but mainly wanted to say that I support you and this blog.

Second, if this was your last Parkways, I just want to say a genuine Thank you for all your years of service.  You were the reason we kept the Mobile Mechanic position going.  You signed up, rode around and simply made people's days better when you helped them.  We can't do all things forever Beth, so there's nothing but pure gratitude for all that you've give Parkways.  

We've been in the same circles for 15 years, and that's because we both believe that empowering people on bikes is a great life to lead.  If not at Parkways, I'm sure we'll be crossing paths many times again in the future.  

Take care and have a great weekend.

I wrote back to thank him for his efforts and for making me feel welcome each year as a volunteer.
I also indicated that I was going to step aside from volunteering as an official mechanic at future Parkways, for the reasons I'd stated earlier and because it felt like it was time for me to do so.
(I may choose to ride as a Mobile Mechanic, but I won't wear anything connected with Sunday Parkways or PBOT if I do.)

I am grateful for this positive exchange, esecially with someone whose work I really respect.
I hope Parkways will be able to weather Portland's growth, and I really hope the folks at City of Portland will wake the hell up and divert resources to Parkways -- and to meaningful pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure -- because our beautiful badly needs all of the love it can get.

Rubber side down, kids!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Sunday Parkways: acquiescing to reality rather than changing it.

Once again, BikePortland,org has released a lovely report on the "success" of Sunday Parkways.

Oh, how I wish I could embrace this report as the complete story.
Alas, there are other factors at work here.
I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but here goes:

1. This is my twelfth year of volunteering at Sunday Parkways as a Mobile Mechanic. I have hung in there since the beginning. And I have been glad to do it. I haven’t always been needed, but when I was needed, I was there and read to help repair or adjust someone’s bicycle, roller skate or even a wheelchair so folks could get back to enjoying the Parkways experience.

2. In the early years of Parkways, the most complicated or high-speed intersections along each route were managed by Portland Police, with support from professional flaggers. Volunteers were asked to manage residential intersections so that people could get home while the route was open. From the beginning, there was and has ALWAYS been some pushback from local residents trying to get in our out  of their neighborhoods. In the early years it was a rarer occurrence, and usually solved with a smile and a wave as those behind the wheel waited patiently for volunteers to move a barricade or escort them slowly and safely off the route.

3. As Portland grew in size, our roads were filled with more cars and our streets became more built up with retail businesses, condos and high-end apartments. Of course, the streets became more crowded at Parkways. At the same time, this evolution was taking place, PBOT was having increasing difficulty recruiting enough volunteers to help manage the comings and goings along the route. This has been especially prevalent in the last three or four years. At the same time, the City’s budget for Parkways has shrunk, forcing PBOT to beg for money from participants each year, all year long. Finally, a couple years ago the Portland Police Bureau withdrew their on-street presence from parkways, citing budgetary constraints.

The combination of these realities has meant that Parkways hasn’t been able to keep pace with Portland’s growth. In at least two instances, routes have had to be changed or shortened to avoid potential skirmishes with homeless people camping along part of a route where physical assaults and robberies have happened. (This point is being made for folks who wonder why none of the Parkways routes utilize much of the Springwater Corridor or the I-205 bike-ped path anymore.)

4. Over the last four Parkways seasons, this has translated into my personal experience of being yelled at, harassed and even physically threatened by angry car drivers who encountered road closures due to Parkways and were outraged at not being to go where they wanted at that moment. In two cases I had motorists actually DRIVE their cars TOWARDS me in a menacing manner.
One threatened to run me down if I didn’t get out of his way.
The other made a similar threat if I tried to take a picture of his license plate.

I was rattled, and completely unable to enjoy my Parkways experience after each of these incidents.
Still, I kept signing up for shifts as a Mobile Mechanic, continuing to believe in the vision of Sunday Parkways and wanting to do my part to support it. This may have been a mistake on my part.

Yesterday, while I initialed my name on the volunteer roster to check in as a Mobile Mechanic for what would be my last Parkways event of the season, I was handed a bright pink slip of paper. Printed in large letters on one side was the sentence “May I help you?”
I was told by the volunteer coordinator that I needed to acquaint myself with this in case I hadn’t seen the online training.
On the other side were instructions explaining how to help drivers off the closed route and how to diffuse a potentially threatening situation where an angry car driver was concerned.
The instructions state that helping Car drivers get off the route safely, AND to keep parkways participants safe from car-drivers along the route, was Job #1 for EVERY volunteer.
And apparently, this is now the stated policy for every volunteer at Parkways from here on out, regardless of one's assigned shift duties.

At this point, I realized that I was being corralled into becoming, like it or not, another “Mobile Intersection Superhero” and that, in effect, I was being asked to place myself in harm’s way to protect Parkways participants. In short, I was being asked to do the job of Flaggers and Police.

I walked away, sat at a table, and thought carefully about my choices.

I could place myself in harm’s way voluntarily, and accept the changed nature of both Portland AND the event; or I could decide that it was time to stop volunteering. After some discussion with my sister, who was there to ride the route with me for company and conversation,  and after taking a few deep breaths, I took off my mechanic vest and volunteer shirt, put on another ordinary t-shirt, and rode away. With two other mechanics on duty I would not be missed in that role. And because I did not appreciate the way I was being corralled into becoming a volunteer traffic cop, I decided I was done.

If this is the future direction of PBOT’s management of Sunday Parkways, it is highly unlikely that I will sign up to volunteer again.

I can hear what some of my younger, stronger, more daring bicycle community friends might say to me:

— “For crying out loud, grow a spine. Take a self-defense course or something.”
(I’ve taken two. They’ve given me good tools but have not changed my essential personality. I tend to avoid physical conflict rather than embrace it, and I refuse to feel ashamed of that.)

— “You ought to buy a Go-Pro [camera] and mount it on your bike, and use it EVERY time you ride. That’s the world we live in now.”
(WRONG. The world we live in now is placing ALL of the responsibility for bicyclists’ safety on individual cyclists, and taking it completely off legislators, traffic planners and law enforcement. I refuse to play along with this line of reasoning. My taxes help pay for the roads and I expect some of that money to be used to support people who walk and ride bikes, not only people who drive cars.)

— “Everybody has to do their part.”
(Agreed. I’ve been doing my part for twelve years. My part has been changed with inadequate training and support, and I don’t need to buy into what feels just a little bit like bait-and-switch.)

The photos taken of yesterday’s event show shiny, happy people riding their bikes, scooters and roller skates on streets closed to motorized vehicles. But were those roads really and truly closed?
I doubt it.
The final instruction on my pink sheet reads:
— LET THEM WIN - Safer to stop [participants and move them through
— DON’T ARGUE - Once angry, they won’t be happy. Just tell them you’re there to help.”

The only “training” is an online course with Power-point pages and statements made in outline format. There is no meaningful training provided for how a volunteer is supposed to diffuse an angry and potentially threatening situation.

At the bottom of my sheet was a phone number to call to report incidents:
— Drivers who yell and threaten
— Drivers who hit or bypass barricades
— Drivers who drive dangerously
— "Please text short details of incidents to [phone #]"

I don’t see this as a terribly effective way to create real change on the ground, especially when all other signs point towards letting cars and car culture win. In a city designed for cars, is there really any other way to handle all of this? I doubt it. And I just can’t put my health and safety on the line for it anymore.

I don’t think real change is impossible. But we do need to change the way Parkways is managed and executed in order to keep it safe for anyone not behind the wheel of a car. To do that, we need to think bigger, the way Bogota, Colombia did when they created the first Ciclovia:

— Create a budget string for the event. Divert car infrastructure monies into it if necessary.
— Bring back police and more professional flaggers at every event.
— If you need additional Route Monitors, put them in special uniforms, train them properly, authorize them to act on behalf of PBOT, and PAY them to place themselves in harm’s way.
— Statewide — hell, nationwide! — bring bicycle/pedestrian safety into the school curriculum, and make every student pass a bicycle and pedestrian safety course BEFORE they are allowed to study for a driving learner’s permit.
— Raise the learner’s permit age to 17, and raise the driving age to 18. In every state.
-- Reduce and eventually eliminate subsidies for private car ownership and divert those monies into public transit, and increased lift services for seniors.

I recognize that these are pipe dreams.
I recognize that in America we already lost the car-versus-bicycle wars a very long time ago, before I was even born.
But I cannot let go of my vision of rebellion against car culture. Especially when cities try to organize some kind of “safe streets” initiative but end up kowtowing to the automotive and petroleum industries over and over again.
Sunday Parkways still cannot exist without cars and trucks. And that right there says something about how the City of Portland is trying to convince folks to get out their cars, while at the same time refusing to fight the industries that they rely on for the staging of these monthly events.
While my politics are far from perfect, I know that you can't have both ways in equal measure without something beginning to slip.

Sunday Parkways cannot simultaneously serve as a meaningful vision for a car-reduced future AND as a pop-up diversion for those who embrace car culture the other 360 days a year. Based on my experience I would consider it less visionary and more diversionary these days.

I have a vision that one day, cars and trucks will become so expensive to own and operate that perhaps we won’t need a Sunday Parkways anymore.
And yes, I know that’s ridiculous.
I know that, in order for me to survive as part of a modernized human race, my politics cannot be pure;  because I, too, depend on cars and trucks and a landscape that favors them for many of the things I need to survive.
But I still hold to that vision, and I won’t apologize for it.
And in whatever way I can, I will continue to chip away at the car culture, even if in the end it means shortening my own lifespan too.
Ride on, friends.
Ride and stroll and support public transit and take the quieter paths whenever you can.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

goodbye stompy: end of an era

Stompy has a new home tonight.

I'd been trying only halfheartedly trying to sell my singlespeed bike (Stompy, Version 3.0) for months. Meanwhile, I'd taken it out a few times and ridden it -- the longest ride was in April when I rode 68 laps in the Ladd's 500 -- and each time I liked it, but I also sort of didn't.
The bike was light, and nimble, and fun. But it was also a little cramped for me when I compared it to the more relaxed upright position on each of my two other bikes. I had just resigned myself to having to store it for another winter when I got a text tonight asking if it was available.

Half an hour later, I had sold it for the asking price to a younger woman with (presumably healthier, younger knees), who rode away happily after handing me the cash. I watched her ride away, pounding the pedals from a standing position all the way up the hill on 13th. And I knew it was a better bike for her than for me.

Just before she arrived, I took one last photo of the bike, a lovely bike, a fabulous bike that I had ridden both off-road and on pavement since building it up three years ago.

I wasn't ever planning to race again, so why did I build another singlespeed? Maybe because the fantasy, the tiniest hope of an idea of racing, still lurked at the back of my mind. As long as I had that bike the fantasy could stay and hang out awhile longer.

But fantasies can only be sustained for so long before they stop making sense.
So when I got the text tonight, I knew it was time to let the bike, and the fantasy, go.
I'm fine with it. I raced on a singlespeed bike for six seasons of short-track and four seasons of 'cross and people told me I was a badass for doing it, even though I finished last or near last every time. The one time I made a podium it was because there were only three of us in the category; all I had to do was finish, not die, and I'd earn a State medal in womens' singlespeed. I still have that medal and at some point I'll probably let go of it, too. But not yet. It still reminds me I was badass once, and could be again in some other way.
I still have my 'cross jersey, too, a long-sleeved affair that just fit me when I was twenty-five pounds lighter than I am now, and today I can still zip it up but man, it's a tight fit. Do I frame it with the medal and hang it on the wall? Naah. Maybe at some point I'll give it away, but again, not quite yet.

So today was a good day, a day when I could let go of a period in my cycling life and it felt totally okay. Tomorrow I'll go for a ride on a bike that fits me and feels way more appropriate to the rider I am now.

Happy riding.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Parkways tourism: an eye-opening perspective

I went to Sunday Parkways today as a tourist.

I had signed up to be a rolling wrench; then a family scheduling matter preempted my volunteering so I instead joined my sister and other family members for a leisurely ride around a greatly-shortened Outer Northeast loop.

Being a tourist was nice. I didn't have to worry about anything and could just ride at a mellow pace, enjoying the event through the lens of my great-niece and -nephew, ages 9 and 7 respectively. This meant less riding and more fun exploring and playing in the parks along the route, but I didn't mind.

What I did learn, both by observation and from friends who'd volunteered, was that the overall rate of volunteers had sunk to new lows with this year and at this event especially. This was a confirmation of a hunch I'd nurtured over two years, that PBOT was having trouble recruiting volunteers, especially to be Intersection Superheroes -- those who sit at intersections and assist/guide car drivers across the closed streets of the Parkways route. There were noticeably fewer people staffing the intersections, and some of those weren't really doing their jobs. When a driver approaches an intersection s/he must be escorted across the route at a walking speed. Today, I saw over a dozen drivers helping themselves to move barriers and drive along the route to get where they wanted to go, sometimes driving along as far as two or three blocks before turning off the route again.

I'm pretty sure this is not what PBOT had in mind.

I admit that, the first two times, I had half a thought of getting off my bike and helping direct traffic when the volunteers were just sitting there. A closer look revealed that one volunteer was busy tabling for a cause to notice the car was there; and the other volunteer was sitting next to a walker so she clearly would've been challenged to help direct traffic. I let go of my momentary guilt and rode on, enjoying myself for the rest of the ride.

But it confirmed my suspicions that Parkways is really suffering from a lack of funding for professional staffing (flaggers and police, particularly) and a growing inability to recruit volunteers for each event. This route, formerly seven miles, was shortened to just over four -- mostly likely to avoid having to staff more major intersections with professionals now unavailable.

Honestly, I was glad not to have to volunteer today. But I also wonder about the future of Sunday Parkways when the signs are so clear that its organization isn't keep pace with the city's growth, or with the changes that will be needed to keep it viable and safe.

I haven't signed up to volunteer for the remaining two Parkways. I'm busy in August, and the September event is the day after Selichot and a week before Rosh Hashanah.
Plus, I've now volunteered for four shifts at parkways and feel I've done my bit for the season. And I'm not really up for being expected to work as a traffic cop when that's not what I signed up for.

I hope PBOT can get it together, but I worry that what's needed is too far beyond them.

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.

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.


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:

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.


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.

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:

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.

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.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

transportation and the environment: air travel

In 1990, I did two big things.

First, I sold my car. It was an '81 Ford Escort, the last year they made a 4-speed stick shift in this model. It had been my Dad's, and when he learned it had virtually NO trade-in value he decided to make a present of it to me, for the cost of title transfer. I drove that car for three years and used it mostly to get to my job downtown (where parking was free) and to haul my drum kit to gigs.
Over time I discovered that my night vision was growing worse, and that the car wasn't in such great shape, either.  I sold the car in July 1990, and never looked back.

The next thing I did was to buy a better bicycle. I had a very old five-speed city bike that weighed a ton and looked cool, but was impractical for where I lived and for the kind of riding I aspired to. So I took the money from the sale of the car (a whopping $600) and put some of it towards a new Trek mountain bike.

These were two of the best decisions I'd ever made.

I rode to work in all weather after that, and if someone wanted to hire me for a gig, they had to arrange for transportation for me and my drums. (Since I was a pretty decent drummer, the folks who really needed me were generally happy to provide a ride.)

From 1990 until 2012, my bicycle was my primary mode of transportation.
In 2012, things began to shift. I left Citybikes and full-time work in the bicycle industry), and began to build a career as a touring Jewish artist- and educator-in-residence. I had to tour because there simply wasn't enough paying Jewish music and teaching work in Portland. There still isn't and for someone like me there probably never will be.

The result of that reality is that I've had to build a nice little career through touring. I've been blessed to travel all over this beautiful country and meet some pretty amazing people. I've even made some pretty lovely friends as a result of my travels. But through it all, I've had a nagging feeling that, while this constituted "right livelihood" as far as my work and talents went, it was a lousy livelihood for the planet.

I have struggled with this ever since I decided to focus on music and teaching in the Jewish world.
My family and friends have tried to reassure me that, with my many years of sustainable travel, I've surely not even begun to burn up all those good effects by a few years of air travel.
I'm not so sure. Because the fact is that air travel is especially horrible for the Earth, and more peoplethan ever are choosing air travel as their first transportation choice when it comes to cross-country -- or cross-region -- trips.

But when I live in Portland, and the high-paying gig that will cover half the mortgage on our crappy-lovely little house is in Florida, what am I supposed to do?
Portland is home. My family is here and my friends are mostly here. The way I live is centered around a place where I can depend on strong public transit and bike-accessible roadways, amenities most cities with large Jewish communities simply do not offer.
I'm an independent freelancer and moving to Florida would not guarantee me ongoing work.
Plus, I can't work full-time anymore anyway. But that's another discussion for later.

The truth is that this career change has serious implications for me, for you, and for the future of the planet. I'm not sure how much longer I can sustain it without feeling like I'm the villain here.

This weekend, a whole lot of my Jewish music colleagues and friends are meeting in the middle of the country at a camp and retreat facility, for one of the most important professional conferences of the year. Some of my friends have attended this event every year for decades, because it's kind of like a little summer camp for them.

Conferences are important for many professions.
They allow people in different parts of the country to network, to share ideas and to forge friendships that are otherwise sustained across the miles all year long. But some conferences continue to offer mostly the same workshops and activities year to year, and past a certain point, one has to wonder how efficient it is to keep going back for the same thing each year. I attended this conference just once, seventeen years ago. It was amazing and eye-opening and I'm glad I went. But it was also clear that this was not something I needed to attend every year, especially considering the financial costs and the fact that the synagogue I was affiliated with would not help with expenses. So at the end of the day, I knew I wouldn't be back.

Since then, I've gone to several conferences. As of this writing I've only returned to one conference, each of the past three years. I had hoped that by returning I might gain a foothold of some kind of recognition and advancement in that conference's universe, and that at some point I might become an instructor for that conference, which happened this year. I'm grateful for the experiences and the warm atmosphere this conference offers. And I'm so glad that my workshops were well-attended and appreciated. But at the end of the day, does it make sense for me to keep going back?
I'm not sure.

Because I keep coming back to the villany of air travel, and what it's doing to the Earth. Some scientists say our planet has only 60 or 70 years left before it's too hot for humans to live here. (At least one famous scientist says that fatal benchmark is coming a whole lot sooner.)

I love what I do.
I love where I live.
And I HATE what some of my choices are doing to the planet.

The good part, if there is one, is that I'm not thinking of eliminating ALL travel forever. Because this dilemma is not entirely on me to begin with.
I know that the US military is the largest consumer of fossil fuels; that travel decreases xenophobia and increases understanding of cultures different than our own; and that the real onus for managing climate change through excessive fossil fuel consumption must fall on governments and industries, not on the individual consumer.

The bad part is that if we want governments and industries to act we are going to have to push them to the wall. And one way to do that is by traveling less. A lot less.

Staying put also gives us time and energy to invest in strengthening the communities where we live. And while the community I've been affiliated with for the last decade-plus has made me consider looking elsewhere for another community to affiliate with, that new community will still be here in Portland. Because I believe in blooming where one is planted. And Portland's big enough that I can find something, someone -- some other folks -- to create community with.

I'm not talking about completely shutting down my life beyond the walls of my house. Nor am I talking about staying in Portland forever. My in-laws are elderly and need our help, and they're a 12-hour drive south of us. I have no hesitation about making that trip anytime, because that's what you do for your parents if you're a loving, responsible adult child. And since my career is still active, I'm making a point of working to find gigs closer to home -- staying on the West Coast when I can, for example -- because if I can take the train or the bus my carbon footprint will be smaller by far.
(I'm 5'7". I fit in the seats on a bus. It's not a problem.)

But I am talking about reevaluating how and why I travel in the coming months and years. Because I really need to, and because I think we all need to.

Today my colleagues arrive at their large conference in the Midwest, flying in from all over the country and a few from outside it. Next week I will be downtown at a Climate Action Event in which young people have taken the lead. Because we trashed their future. I'm willing to own that, and to answer for it. Are you?

(final photo, above: one of our beloved horse rings, hundreds of which can be found all over the oldest parts of Portland. Dating to before the turn of the last century; used to tie up horses while you visited a friend or the market. These little iron rings are protected historic landmarks, and removing one will cost you a lot of money.)

Monday, May 27, 2019

Selling off bikes, and other radical implementations

 1. Stompy is for sale.
The third incarnation of my singlespeed mountain bike is something I can't really enjoy riding anymore, thanks to arthritis and a bad knee. It's also a good excuse to get the stable down to two bikes and leave it there.
So if you're in Portland and looking for an affordable way into singlespeed off-roading -- and you're between 5'3" and 5'7" -- this is the bike for you.
Built up and improved with some decent parts, but nothing so fancy that you'd cry if you had to straighten it with your bare hands after a crash. Asking $70. Message me.

Scaling down the stable is just one in a series of steps I've taken over the last few years. Here are a few more:

2. Working less.

This has its roots in a number of things, which I'll outline as briefly as I can.
-- my health, first a foremost. Between three autoimmune conditions, age and the rolling fatigue that comes with depression, I simply cannot manage a 40-hour week anymore.
-- time. You can make more money -- governments do this all the time to adjust the value of their currencies -- but you cannot make more time. All you can do is take it back from your boss. And I use that time to rest, to cook at home more often, to spend time with my loved ones, to create, to daydream. I would suggest that even if you have s child, you can still work less outside the home, and devote more time to raising your child.
-- things. I'm learning -- over and over and over again, because this has truthfully been the hardest one -- that I do not need as many things to be healthy and happy. I mend clothes rather than shop for new ones. I scavenge free boxes for basics, including unopened dry foods. (I picked up a bag of cat food someone had left behind at Sunday Parkways, and my cat seems to like it, so that's ten bucks I didn't have to spend.)
-- money. If I'm working less and I have more time, I can choose not to use that time to go shopping for stuff I don't really need.


a. I'm privileged. I'm white and educated and already live low enough to the ground that making these changes -- evolutions, really -- has taken awhile. We bought our little house 16 years ago, before the housing market went north, and so today we enjoy a modicum of housing security that those who rent do not.

b. I'm in my later 50s. Which means that the government's expectations of me are lower, and I'm no longer required to seek full-time employment in order to qualify for social services based on my health needs. Being in my later 50s also serves me a little better as I wait for a disability hearing. Because again, I'm working under a cloud of lowered expectations.

c. My self-absolution, for having little to show after working full-time for so long. Guess what? Not everyone can be a financier or a professor. Not everyone will earn a real salary or the benefits that go along with one. I've spent my entire life working for piecemeal pay (by-the-job), or for an hourly wage, and most of that time with NO benefits. That reality is based on choices made by employers and governments and those choices were beyond my control. They still are. So I see no need to beat myself up for having earned so little money over my lifetime.

d. Realigning my values. In my late early thirties I discovered a radical notion: You work only as many hours as you must in order to cover your basic needs. If you want more than that, you can choose to work more. Or, you can learn to be content with what you have. Why would I spend the majority of my waking hours working for someone else who may or may not really value me and my contributions? Very few people working for an hourly wage get to do work they love, for people who truly value them. That's just a fact of life. Don't believe me? Here's an article about people who knew how much they were needed and how little they were valued, and how they dealt with that reality.
What do I do with my time? I rest, I daydream, I create, and I spend time with my loved ones. I still watch TV but I'm mindful of how much and what I watch, and I'm pretty good at disengaging from the tube when I want and need to. There's plenty of other stuff to do and life is far too interesting to spend most of it sitting on the couch staring at commercials, which is what most of television programming is anyway.

e. Eating more simply by having more time to prepare food at home. Because let's face it, eating healthy and cooking your own food at home takes more time. It also can cost more money (because processed foods are manufactured by companies that are subsidized by tax breaks and other government niceties, while whole/organic foods are not). We save money by making things that extend whole ingredients and by growing some of our own vegetables at home. In good years, we'll finish the growing season with jars of tomatoes that we can use over the winter for all sorts of recipes, and sometimes we'll store a basket of potatoes in the crawlspace and eat potatoes well into winter. (Pro tip: If you want to eat more whole foods, eat what's in season. That's another way to save money.) We still eat processed food, because it's unavoidable in the city; but I'm more thoughtful about what I eat than I used to be. It's a work in progress.

f. Going back to the privilege -- we are both creative freelancers, my spouse and I, working from home. We live close enough to everything we need, including family, stores, doctors, our house of worship and some of our friends, that I can take public transit almost everywhere and not need a car. I sold my car in 1990, back when it was a burden rather than a privilege. Now, not owning a car feels like a privilege because I don't depend on a job that's an hour's drive away. It's taken a lifetime to get to this point, and while it's fair to say that my relative privilege allows me to support these choices, I would suggest that everyone who CAN choose these things right now MUST choose them if we are to build a critical mass of people choosing simpler living.

And it's hard.

It's hard to avoid the bleating TV or computer screen that shouts advertisements at us all day long, the multinationals that use every resources available to entice us to buy more things and to believe that this will make us feel and live better. It's hqrd to be the one who doesn't drive everywhere when your friends can't live without their cars. And it's not perfect. But I believe that even my imperfect life looks better now than it would have if I'd continued to buy into capitalism's message of constant acquisition, constant work, and constant stress. I have placed myself as far from that maze as I can and still draw breath comfortably. I have no regrets.

I would like to believe that if enough of us make smarter choices about how we send our finite time in this life, and we talk about living lower on the economic ladder without shame, then that will open the door to make it easier for others to choose similarly. And if it doesn't, well, I've picked a course that works for me. And if it looks like a big middle finger to the American Nightmare, so be it.

Monday, May 20, 2019

southeast sunday parkways 2019

Last year, my Sunday Parkways experience was, let's say, Less Than Optimal.
On two different routes, I had angry car drivers who threatened to mow me down because the most direct route to their workplace was blocked off as part of the Parkways route. One actually used his car as a threatened weapon when he actually tried to drive it forward directly into me and a couple other volunteers.

So this year, I decided to be proactive.

First, I informed PBOT that I would be happy to return as a Mobile Mechanic for my 12th season of Parkways. Then, I told them that I would NOT function as a traffic cop because that was not part of my job description; AND I would wear something that clearly identified me as a mobile bike mechanic.
To their credit, they understood, and welcomed me back.

And the vest worked. Bright yellow and clearly marked front and back with the words "Mobile Bicycle Mechanic," it was suddenly obvious to folks riding along thay fi they had a mechanical, I was there to help out. As a result, Several people actually asked me for help, taking their cue from my vest. And this time, I rode with a clear purpose and enjoyed myself a whole lot more.

Portland Peeps! Sunday Parkways has room for more volunteers in many capacities throughout Parkways season. CLICK HERE to learn more.

Along the way, I had a fun time running into friends and enjoying the mellow vibe riding one of the three oldest Parkways routes.

Next up: Sunday Parkways North is Sunday, June 30. I'll see you there!

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Friday, May 10, 2019


Hey, so I know I've been living the bummer life lately.
And while I get that this may turn off some of my readers, I'm not sorry.
One of the beautiful things about getting older is when you reach the point that you stop worrying about what other folks thingk, and you simply live your truest life as your truest Self.
I'm in that time now. Fur sure, I pay a price for this, but it still feels good. Grounding. Worth the cost.
Gonna ride my bike today, and maybe hit some high points along the way.

Cheers, and happy riding!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019


I'm at a coffee shop, and it's staring me right in the face.
And what makes me furious, what makes me incredibly sad, is that all the bike rides and refillable cups and home gardens in the world won't change this.
In the history of the world, species have come and gone forever. It's just never felt like it was happening so fast before.
And I know -- I have to admit -- that the conscious choices I and a million other individuals make won't make a dent.
In a world of billions, a million decisions are a drop in the bucket.
The wealthiest few on the planet make decisions every day with the capitalist machinery they own. Each of their decisions impacts billions of human beings, and permanently alters the biology of our planet.
I'm going to a little boy's birthday party tonight. And I cannot help but wonder how many birthdays he'll celebrate before we industrialize ourselves into extinction.
I am sitting with this moment and will see what else it has to tell me. Stay tuned.

 No photo description available.

Friday, May 3, 2019

That's MISTER grumpypants to you, buddy

Yeah, I know. I'm a really grumpy, old fart bicycle rider who's lived in Portland
too long and has seen too many things come, become cool, and then become trendy.
Well, here's another precious trend about to hatch.
Once a grassroots celebration of alternative transportation makes it into the pages of a
it's over. I'm gonna watch as the grassroots fade away while the kids who are running the show now look for corporate sponsorship to keep their festival going.

Meanwhile, I think I'll just ride my bike.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

30 days of biking: that's a wrap

I ended #30daysofbiking the way I began it: a bicycle meetup with my sister. We met for cheap sushi (at Sushi Ohana: get the spicy tofu. It's everything), talked for over an hour and had Awesome Sister Time together. We've promised each other to keep riding, and to ride together whenever we can this summer.
Along the way, I've had a chance to find plenty of interestingness around my fair city, including beautiful spring flowers, little bits of history and other slices of life.

You can find them all at the Joyful Riders Worldwide FB group, along with amazing photos by other Joyful riders from around the world.
I hope those pictures will inspire you to get out and ride more this summer, and beyond. Wherever you go, Happy riding!

(Shown here: a few photos from the month, some of which didn't make it into my ride reports because I simply took too many. Go for a ride and find the beauty where you live.)

Friday, April 26, 2019

bike builds: some things just won't change

The bike on the top is my current beast of burden, the bike that carries things. It's a 1989 Bridgestone MB-4 that I've built up and rebuilt four times since I got it eight years ago.
The bike on the bottom is a Peugeot Orient Xpress from the mid-1980s. I got the frame at Citybikes, built it up as you see here, and rode the crap out of it for four years -- until I tried to use it in an Xtracycle build and discovered that, at 21 inches, it would be impossibly big for me to mount and dismount safely. So I stripped off the parts and sold it back to the shop.
I suppose the way we build up our bikes says something about us, if we're daily bike riders and tinkerers; and clearly my default is comfort and stability.
I might ride the Bridgestone to shul tomorrow. I need a ride, and won't have time later in the day. Happy riding!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A prayer for right now

Dear Is-ness: As I count each day of these seven weeks from Pesach to Shavuot, let me find the proper balance between abject fear and lightheartedness.
No. Strike that.
Let me instead find good people to surround myself with, who will understand why I need to lean more heavily into the fear and eschew a little more of the frivolity. Because the former is urgent, and too much of the latter a distraction.
There is a time and place for everything.
Right now, I cannot escape the direness of the world, of my city, of each day. So if some of my friends think I'm becoming a bit of a downer, well, I hope they understand.
Let me find the strength to do my small part to make things more fair and to push back -- for however many years, days or even hours -- the date of our human extinction so more of us can live well, and live in peace.
Who knows? If we can add hours of peace to the Earth's timeline, we may live to see it -- and all of us -- last a little longer.
If that means that some parts of my own life will have to change, to evolve -- well, okay then. Help me to be discerning and to know what to let go of, and what to make more room for.
If my friends who think I'm living The Bummer Life can't wrap their heads around it, sorry-not-sorry.
Shit is real and there is not another day to waste.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Cross-post: Somewhere between freedom & enslavement

(A post from my Music blog: Notes From The Road)
Hours before our outta-town family arrive for Pesach, I am finishing up the last of the cleaning and compiling additions for our haggadah, the book that provides the order for our seder (which is redundant, since seder means "order.")

At the same time, friends and family are sharing their preparations for the holiday via social media. And as I view these, I cannot help but ponder our individual and collective choices in our observance of this -- and every -- Jewish holiday.

It has become impossible for me to walk into a store and see fresh produce without considering all the steps required to get that produce from the farm in California, or Mexico, or wherever, to my dinner table. I can't help but consider the energy, in human and environmental terms, required for me to wear clothes that fit well, to eat good food and to travel to the places I go for work and for play.

This recent post on social media (below) stopped me cold.
Someone who traveled from one coast to the other on a sightseeing trip with their family, posting about how easy and cheap it is to obtain everything one needs for Passover in New York City. Of course, not everything in the photo was made in New York City, or even in the United States.
There are so many different choices reflected in this photo, so many cubic inches of particulate in the air, so many thousands of gallons of fossil fuels pumped out of the ground and converted into jet and auto fuel.
And for reasons I cannot begin to describe in detail, this disturbs me almost as much as the sight of veal disturbs my vegetarian friends. Because I cannot see this image without also thinking of all the resources used up to make it, and the travel and consumerism it reflects, so readily possible.

I am still trying to figure out what to do with my discomfort.

I don't know if this is turning me into one of the most strident and boring people ever (like Thoreau, one of my childhood heroes), or if it's just another layer of personal awakening.
And I won't yet take a guess. Not here, not today.
Because I have cleaning and cooking to help with, and family to welcome with a warm embrace. And at least some kind of freedom to celebrate.

But as we celebrate our freedom story, I think we must also remember that the price we pay for that freedom takes many forms, including the potential for other kinds of enslavement. And I think that Pesach may be a perfect time to ponder the relationship between our various enslavements and freedoms, to sit with the tension found there, and to think about how and why we might want to reconfigure ourselves and our understandings. How we might want to reconfigure our lives, even a little, after we safely reach the other side of whatever chasm we're trying to cross.

Chag Pesach Sameach!
A zisn Pesach to all who celebrate.