Wednesday, March 31, 2021

70 degrees? At the end of March?

Yes. Today, Portland's high was 70F.

So of course I made it a point to ride somewhere.

This has been hard during the shutdown. Usually when I ride I have somewhere to go, and ideally somewhere to hang out a little while. The absence of places to hang out -- to eat, to read and write, to use the restroom (and don't even get me started on that last one!) -- has made it hard to find reasons to ride.

Thankfully, I had places to go today.

The Post Office

The Credit Union (bonus points for their Bike-Thru window -- I LOVE this town!)

And lunch at Mio Sushi. Since today was also really sunny, I tried out my new sunglasses.
Sunglasses. What a marvel. I'd never had the luxury of regular sunglasses until now; in the past I had to find clip-ons that would fit whatever prescription frames I had at the time. (There were the two seasons I raced with Velo Bella and enjoyed a massive discount on prescription sunglasses, but when I needed a new prescription they became useless.)

So on went the cheapo sunglasses I got on closeout from the Blue Devils Drum Corps online shop -- at five bucks they were a bargain I couldn't pass up. Even if they are too big for my face.

I'll probably just live with them for now. They work fine.

I rode around the bend along Willamette until I found a bar on Greeley that wasn't open yet, and I sat down and enjoyed my lunch there.

After that, I meandered up and down cross streets to enjoy the warmth and see what's blooming in Piedmont Neighborhood.

I took the scenic loop along Willamette until I could turn towards Woodlawn and home.
On the way, I admired some street art, courtesy of PBOT (Portland Bureau Of Transportation) and the neighborhood, respectively.

Tomorrow marks the start of #30daysofbiking and I'm signed up to participate and share ride reports. I'll post most of them in short form with photos at the Joyful Riders Worldwide FB group. If there's anything really special I'll also put up a longer ride report here.

Tomorrow it's supposed to cool down again, with highs near 60F, but I think I can handle it.

I just needed to kick myself in the rear and go outside.
Happy riding.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Rebooting: A ride a day

Today, I had to take a very large package to the FedEx depot, roughly a mile from home.
The day had started out very cold, with temps in the mid-30s. By 2pm, the sun had broken through the clouds and temps had warmed up to around 50. So I pulled on a vest and strapped the package into the flap of my very old Chrome Citizen messenger bag. It's the oldest Chrome bag I own; I bought it used about thirteen years ago, when it had been in much nicer condition. I used the bag to haul music gear, books, groceries and all sorts of things for years, until it became clear that my shoulder needed a break. I switched to a backpack and reserved the shoulder bag for heavy loads by car.

But today it was the perfect bag for this load.

The ride was slow. Pedaling up the first large hill was still hard -- and I suspect it will be for awhile, even as I try to ride a little each day now -- but after that things got easier and more pleasant. The bag held the long, heavy parcel perfectly. After I dropped it off, I got a snack and rode to 13th and Holman "pocket" Park to eat it.

The air was still brisk but it was nice to sit in the sun.
When I got up to go home, I enjoyed the rush of clouds across the blue sky, and the bright colors of daffodils and crocuses against the green grass. And I was glad I'd ridden.

Monday, March 29, 2021

The truth about me and bikes this Spring

It's been a very cold, long winter. The sunny days are slowly increasing, but the overnight lows this week are still in the 30s.
I have not taken good care of myself over the winter. I've gained weight, probably at least ten to fifteen pounds. Having nowhere to ride TO, it's been hard to motivate myself to just go out and ride around and then come home on the cold days in January; and before that I couldn't see well enough to ride much at all.
My skin is pale, perimenopausal-zitty; the bags below my eyes have grown into steamer trunks.

I have hardly been a nutritional role model, I'll admit it. Too many carbs and not enough vegetables.
And my knees have been hurting from the cold and arthritis and maybe from inactivity and who knows, honestly?

But today, the sun came out. So I went out for a short ride. I had something to drop off at FedEx and the sun was out and I figured I could stop by Upcycles and pick up a few inner tubes and make the whole thing a nice little loop.

So in a fit of optimism, I pulled on a flannel shirt over a t-shirt and pants, pulled down the singlespeed and headed out.

It never warmed up all that much. In fact, the warmest part of the day was probably at the start of my ride, and as I kept riding it kept getting colder. So I pedaled harder, at least until my right knee howled again. I warmed up a little this way, and it felt good enough that I extended my loop by adding some back-and-forths on the East-West streets. But it was still cold, and my knees hurt. So I went home.

But on the way, I stopped to notice beauty in the big, swirly-clouded skies and the deep purple flowers that dressed up a fire hydrant, and to admire a couple of ducks -- geese? -- in a neighbor's yard. And even though I'm slow, and heavier than I've ever been, and so tired I can't sleep normally anymore, and even though the world is still pretty damn sideways, I'm glad I went for that little ride.

If it's not raining, I just might do it again tomorrow.
Happy riding.

Sunday, March 14, 2021


The cold snap broke last week.
After what felt like an interminably long, cold winter, Portland finally saw its first 60-degree days, and I rode in them. Mostly solo coffeeneuring rides, but occasionally an added errand here and there allowed me to ride a little father than the boundaries of my little neighborhood.

Things are growing, blooming at last. Cherry and apple trees are blossoming now, a few weeks later than usual. It's as if everyone and everything is waking up, lifting their heads to see the sun and feel its warmth. And while I am still beset by the lethargy of winter, and loss and grief and depression, and inactivity, it's a very welcome development.

Here are some photos from last week's out-and-abouts.

A ride over to Rhythm Traders, to pick up a couple spare parts for a drum refurb project.

The sky was gloriously blue!

It was still a little nippy out, so I suited up in traditional Portland plaid and my favorite between-season cap.

Of course, all of this was supplemented by hot coffee in a thermal cup, which I sipped while I pedaled. It felt good to be out and about and more like a person again.

It's been hard to get myself up and out of the house, even on sunny mornings. I live at the bottom of a long gradual hill -- the result of living in a city built on top of a bunch of small, dead volcanoes -- and if I want to go more than a couple of blocks south, I have to ride up and over it. So it takes some serious mental coaxing to get on my bike and go farther.

So far, when I do it, eventually I start to feel better. My knees don't creak so loudly, and the wind feels good on my cheeks, and with the sun peeking out I begin to almost believe that there will be a light at the end of this sad, lonely tunnel of COVID isolation.

Sweetie and I won't get our shots till probably sometime in May, but I can always go outside in the meantime.

Yesterday, I rewarded myself for doing a bunch of yardwork by taking the singlespeed for a scenic loop that included what I call sushineuring. If you want an amazing lunch that will fill you up and make your mouth supremely happy, get the Sashimi Combo Platter at Mio Sushi. You can thank me later.

(Above) My friend Harriet passed along a hat someone had given her. It wasn't her style -- and to be honest, it's sort of not mine, either -- but it's made by the folks at Double Darn, so it fits my little head perfectly. I wore it yesterday to celebrate spring and flowers and warmth and sun.

(Double Darn makes caps in multiple sizes and types of fabric. They're comfortable and fit easily under a helmet. Check them out.

Golden Pliers has, in the wake of Rivelo's brick-and-mortar closure, the Portland Rivendell dealer. So I like to ride past now and then and see what's parked outside.

Last time, it was a newer Atlantis, an old and very tall Bridgestone XO-1 and an even older Motobecane ten-speed from the 70's that had been cleaned up and refurbished.

I don't miss dealing with the crap about running a business, but I do enjoy visiting the better bike shops just to see the cool bikes and smell the vibe.

I look forward to the day when Golden Pliers can open fully, so I can go inside and order a cup of slow-drip coffee and a sandwich and hang out in the undemanding atmosphere. And when I can do that, I will celebrate. I will throw a fucking party. Come join me.

Until then, happy riding! Wear a mask, wash your hands and stay safe.

Friday, March 5, 2021

What's Nowhere times 2? Homelessness in Portland (and everywhere else)

For the past few months I've been helping gather useful things -- food, clothing and occasionally bicycle tools -- loading them up in my trailer and dropping them with Jenn Louis, a member of my synagogue who's also a chef. After closing her restaurant because of the COVID lockdown last year, she turned her attention to the many tent encampments popping up across Portland, and decided to do something to help. She turned her culinary talents toward making nourishing, delicious meals to distribute at eight homeless tent camps, three days a week. Over time, the food expanded to include warm clothing, sleeping bags, and even tents, all distributed to the myriad men and women moving through the encampments.

Homelessness means a transitory life, as people are swept from one location and must find somewhere else to sleep, often with little notice. Add to that constant stress, the additional stresses of increased physical and mental illness, untreated substance abuse issues, and insane amounts of deep fatigue from having to sleep outside and somehow survive, and the sweeps become not only devastating, but truly life-threatening.

Here's a report from Jenn, who had this to share today.

(re-posted from Facebook)

News from the streets:

Some days are easy out there, some days are really, really hard. Last week a camp that I have been serving was posted. That means that the city has put up a sign that says everyone living in tents or structures on the street has 48 hours to vacate. I find this terrible and ridiculous. Where do they go? To another street. It is unlawful to camp on the streets in Portland, yet the Joint Office of Housing Services for the city and county offer a wonderful array of necessary items to street outreach such as myself. So, I am assuming that although the city doesn't want the visual presence of homeless on the street, they know it is wrong to not help those who are in need. Fair assumption.

Everyone on the posted street left, except for one gentleman who suffers from untreated bipolar disorder. He served in the military and is now living alone on the streets. He was trying to move around the corner, but couldn't get it all done. He has returned to his original tent. I was just told that someone stole his bike while he was asleep.

Another member of the street was taken to the hospital on Tuesday and was diagnosed with pneumonia. His tent was swept while he was away. He will be out in the next few days and I have assembled a survival kit for him: tent, sleeping bag, flashlight, batteries, clothes, socks, underwear, toiletries and basic food needs.

I can't imagine how lonely these two are in this world.
I still need your support, please visit for information. You can contact me from there, too.

Jenn is applying for grants and forming partnerships with businesses from which she used to order food for her retaurant. They are providing ingredients for her hot recispes, while an army of volunteers are bringing non-perishable foodstuffs (peanut butter, cereal, etc) to leave with the people at each encampment.

And while it's great and amazing that one woman decided she could devote her time and energy to helping eight encampments of people living outside year round, the fact is that this is the tip of a very, very large iceberg.

It's estimated that as many as 14,000 people are sleeping outside each night, for want of housing. In many cases, homeless people are working and earning money, but it is never enough to even pay to share a studio apartment (which you can't legally do, but people do it anyway). The rest aren't working because they either can't find a job, or because they are unable to work due to medical issues.

As for their children? Most people with kids have found somewhere for their kids to stay indoors, with family or friends; others have had their kids taken away and placed in foster care. There are some kids living outside, but I haven't seen them at any of the encampments I've ridden by.

The greatest challenge is the lack of affordable housing, and a lack of political on the part of government officials to force the issue with developers and homeowners who don't want to support housing broken and poor people in their midst. Portland is in the process of building "infill" housing as fast as developers can put it up, in close-in eastside neighborhoods. But an 825-square-foot little house that costs $350,000 is NOT affordable for nearly anyone earning an hourly wage.
Secondary challenges include a lack of shelter beds in treatment facilities and a laci of access to affordable healthcare.

But the biggest "Big Picture" issues are, I believe, societal, and they will be the hardest to address.
They include a shift towards toxic individualism in our society; and a shift towards freely and openly suggesting that some peoples' lives matter more than others.

And all of these things are hampering the fight against homelessness.
But homelessness can be fought one person at a time, one dinner at a time, one bicycle at a time.
If each of us as individuals took on one task to reduce the burden of someone living outside, we wouldn't end homelessness, but we might slowly change the societal perception of how and why people end up homeless, and step in before those issues destroy us as a society, as human beings.

So I've turned my focus towards providing cheap bikes for people who've lost theirs as a result of sweeps of homeless encampments. I will ask Jenn to let me know if there's a specific need, and I can address that need with a fixed-up bike.

Of course, this means that I will continue to rely on folks bringing me old bicycles they no longer ride. So if you're in Portland and you have an old bike to let go of, you could do a lot worse than sending it here for repair and re-homing.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Brain Trust reopens, and the refugee bike project returns.

Over the last few months, working on bicycles regularly was very hard for me, because of two eye surgeries and the lengthy recovery time required after each one.

I'm happy to report that my vision is clear and I can return to wrenching.

PART ONE: The Brain Trust will be open for business effective Monday, March 1.
Please reach out to me via FB messenger to schedule an appointment for bike repairs and tune-ups.

PART TWO: The Refugee Bikes Project will start up again.

Beginning March 1, I can accept used adult bicycles and accessories for donation.
The bikes will be tuned up/refurbished as needed and then outfitted with patch kit, tire levers, and a working lock if possible. Bikes will be distributed by Catholic Charities to refugee families seeking affordable transportation.

As this is a hobby for me, I can't give you a receipt for tax purposes. But in the now five years that I've been doing this, a lot of new Portlanders have discovered the joy of sustainable, human-powered transportation, and that's really the point.

If you have a bicycle to donate please give me a shout over on FB messenger.
I'm also gratefully accepting working U-locks and heavy chained padlocks with keys (NO combination locks or cables, please), patch kits and tire levers, and rear racks in working condition.

Thanks so much, and happy riding!

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Everyone who went car-free forty years ago was an early prepper

It's been awhile since I got heavy, but here goes.

As my brain has scrambled to keep up with the various bits of flotsam flying across my screen each day, including stock market fluctuations, regime change in the White House, the national/global employment picture, the multitudes of millions who have contracted COVID and the hundreds of thousands whose lives have been taken by it, I came across this piece today on a friend's feed.

After finding my way around the Times' paywall, I was able to read the piece, and I encourage you to read it too.

Read it when you have time to really take it in,  and ponder each new thought you encounter. Because it's very heavy stuff and worth your time.

It also sort of sweeps aside most of the rest of what I mentioned above.

Because at the end of the day, we will find ourselves divided into two groups:

-- Those who understood the science long ago and began to process it back then so we could handle the truth of our current time; and
-- Those who haven't given this much thought until recently (or now), and who are either losing their shit or deep in denial.

We'll find ourselves sectioned off in other ways, but this is the one I'm looking at tonight.

Those of us who, in our youth (some of us as young as ten or eleven), recognized that nothing lasts forever, and the only way toi help it last a little longer is to scale down and scale back our collective standard of living. I was pondering the necessity of living a Smaller Life back in high school, though I could never discuss it with anyone else back then. I am pretty sure that this precognitive pondering influenced my decision to avoid slaving away for a car. (Watching my father work 60+ hours a week at a job he didn't love also influenced me; why work so long and hard that you end the week without time or energy to enjoy your life, your family and friends?)

So I started riding my bike to and from school in fifth grade, and never looked back. Whenever we moved to another town where we lived close enough to my school, I'd skip the bus and ride my bike. In college, I patched my jeans and wore them without shame or irony; I scavenged the hubcaps and license plates I'd find at roadside and flip them to dealers for a few bucks, which I used to find more stuff to flip at a profit. The world has long been filled with peoples' castoffs.

Today, after reading the above opinion piece, I was at first deeply sad and depressed. I had to go into a video meeting and find a way to get excited about a gig, when in the moments after reading that article, a gig was the last thing on my mind.

But over the course of the day, I was able to find my bearings again. I sat in my studio, played a little music and sat with my thoughts, until I was able to understand that my shock was simply another reminder of my mortality, only painted on the global canvas.

As much as we ache and long for a return to "normal," I know it will not be a full return, we won't get all the way back there again, ever. Our twentieth century penchant for comfort and ease has all but assured us that our children and grandchildren will know a lowered standard of living, even when -- or if -- we are able to knock back the devastating effects of COVID.

I didn't know these possibilities, of course, when I rose at 5 each morning to ride my bike up and over the hill to my high school in the late 1970's. I only knew that I liked going places under my own power and I liked helping the environment; and I loved the way I felt when I rode my bicycle, strong and independent and free. It was a feeling so wonderful that I didn't really care about owning a car. The day after flunking my first driving test at seventeen, I was fine, over the embarrassment and ready to move on without a car in my life. After three years of car ownership in my twenties, I hated it and sold the car for scrap, and bought myself a nice mountain bike with street tires. That was 1990 and I haven't owned a car since (though I dio keep my license current for emergencies and to help share the driving when we visit Sweetie's family out of state).

But here's the real truth: All of us who gave up car ownership in favor of a smaller footprint and stayed that way have ended up preparing for this time in other ways. Many of us learned to work on our own bikes and other things around the house; we learned how to grow some vegetables (in our yard, or in pots), put up food for the winter and how to mend our clothing. These are small things, but in today's world where so many people don't know how to do these things, our knowledge of these home skills has helped us to be slightly better prepared for the very difficult times that are coming.

And they are coming. The weather extremes will grow more extreme, the divides between haves and have-nots -- and the liberals and conservatives -- will only grow wider. Anyone in the big middle will be at risk of danger from those on the extremes of the safety/comfort continuum. Anyone at the bottom of the heap will either die, or claw their way higher to live another day, or week.

But if we try to grasp at the vestiges of the old normal, we do so at our peril. It's highly probable that we're already too late and the effects of climate change cannot be reversed now, only slowed.
So what is left for us?

First, we need to get comfortable with death. We may not make it our best friend, but we can do a better job of having it in the room with us while we're living.
We could start by bringing death back into the room. Let the kids go to funerals. Talk with them (in age-appropriate language) about what death is and how it makes us feel to be left behind by someone we loved. Talk with your loved ones about what you want your final days to look like; fill out powers-of-attorney, disposal of remains orders and advance directives and make your wishes clear.

Then, we need to consider how we live and think about ways of scaling it back. This is actually a hard discussion for many people to have, because they don't want to give up their hard-won comfort.

Thankfully, we are in the middle of a national discussion about just how hard-won our comforts have been, based on race, gender, access to education and a host of other factors. While this has been a painful period in our country, it's long overdue and somewhere along the way it might be a good time to consider what we can let go of, personally and collectively for the greater good.

We need to let go of many aspects of the old normal because they're what's killing us now.
What does that mean to you? I'll let you decide.

What does it mean to me?
It means more of what I've already been doing.
Slowly paring down some of my possessions, selling off what I can and saving the money for necessities, considering what my wishes are regarding my death and disposal (I want to be cremated), and pondering what it really means to be human on the downslope of the Anthoprocene Age. Because I believe that's where we are. The sooner we get that, the sooner we can figure out how to live in a time when our species is looking down the barrel at extinction.

Along the way, I'll still swerve back and forth between the heavy stuff and the lighter stuff like bicycles and music; the human psyche isn't designed to stay heavy all the time and there has to be some ebb and flow.
But this truth lives permanently at the back of my mind and heart, and it does have a bearing on my choices going forward.
Hopefully it will mean more bike rides, more drumming and more love along the way.

Rubber side down, kids.