Sunday, February 24, 2013

six months

Six months ago my life changed in a fairly radical way. I have struggled at times with the change in both my primary career and in my work-related identity in many ways. So much of one's identity in the world is wrapped up in what we do, sometimes to the exclusion of who we are.

The challenges continue to confound me at times.
Money remains woefully tight and now my employment is determined from year to year, rather than assured indefinitely.
My circle of friends continues to evolve as I move through this landscape. Some friends from my bicycle industry days have stopped calling or returning my emails and I chalk that up to simple proximity. Outta sight and all that.

But mostly I am profoundly blessed to have found meaningful work that allows me to be who I am and to make a difference for others.
So I can say that, six months out, I'm doing more than okay.
I am grateful beyond words for my loved ones, family and friends, who have supported me through this strange and occasionally scary time.
I hope that time and energy will point me in the directions I'm supposed to go, and that I will find good people along the way to help me to keep things real.

Life is good. I am grateful.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Shalshelet cross-post # 2: More bike content

(This is the second cross-post from my music blog; content here has been edited for my bikey readers)

Monday started out really mellow and great. Jim had some work to do, even though it was a federal holiday; so I took the opportunity to venture out and say a bit of a goodbye to Miami Beach. I rented a bike (this one required me to manually un-bend the badly bent left brake lever so it would actually function -- someone had crashed it into a wall or something) and rode a big loop, over the bridge at 41st Street and around what I call Old Jewish Miami Beach -- lots of kosher cafes and stores, and spottings of large orthodox families walking their broods of kids (who were also off for the holiday).

Sights of my last ride through Miami Beach:

 Yeah, it's a palm nut, about the size of a mushball (bigger-than-normal softball).
Heavy, with liquid sloshing around inside. I'd never seen one up-close before and here it was just lying in someone's front yard.

I wondered how the milk might taste, but didn't travel with a pocket knife and didn't really have time to stay and find out (I'd only paid for a two-hour rental), so I continued on.

This is the same shop I visited on my last trip to Miami, some 15 years ago. I bought a little hamsa pendant that still hangs on my guitar case at home. (Sadly, Bob's Texas Kosher Barbecue, where I'd enjoyed lunch, seems to have gone The Way Of All Things.) As I didn't have a lock, I didn't go in.

Here's my obligatory Miami Beach Bike Panda shot, taken in the one reasonably-sized bike lane I found in the area on Indian Creek Drive. This was actually a pleasant part of my ride, and I sped along happily, feeling the burn in my legs and wishing I could've found a way to make a trip like this work with a bicycle. Two short rides (4 and 6 miles, respectively) just wasn't enough. I've really missed riding!


Also added a shot of the rental bike up-close showing the generator-powered headlamp, which is neatly positions in an indentation in the front basket for added protection. The lights runs no matter what time of day, most likely for insurance purposes and because it's easier to set up that way.

(Note to Miami visitors: The rental kiosks can be found all along Collins Ave. and down in the South Beach/Art Deco Districts. You can return a bike to any kiosk, not just the one you got it from. And if you have a problem getting a bike in or out of the magnetic rack, each kiosk has printed on it a 24/7 phone nuumber to call for help. The first bike I tried to pull from the rack on Friday simply wouldn't budge; I called the helpline and they talked me through the process with another bike, making sure my card was only charged once. Definitely a bike-sharing program that seems to work at least reasonably well.)

I stopped at a coffee shop in the neighborhood and was able to get outdoor table service without leaving the bike unattended, so I ordered coffee and a muffin. It has long been a complaint of mine, that at many kosher restaurants and cafes they work so hard to make the food kosher that they forget to make it taste good; happily, the kosher muffin did not suck and the coffee was reasonably acceptable. (I've learned that coffee in Portland is coffee and coffee many other places is dark brown water impregnated with caffeine. That's just how it is, and I've learned to roll with it. End of Foodie Snob Moment.) I sat at a table next to the front door, where the hours and such were painted on. At the bottom of the glass door was an admonition warning, "Baby carriages not allowed in cafe by order of Fire Dept." Seconds later, two families with about eight kids and three strollers between them emerged from two mini-vans and attempted to enter the restaurant. Minutes later. the two dads came out with the strollers and put them in the mini-vans, looking somewhat chastened, as an older woman wearing a waitress apron followed them, scolding in Yiddish. I tried very hard not to smile too broadly, but the young mother at the other outdoor table saw the same thing, and we looked at each other and giggled.

I returned the bike, walked back to Jim's apartment and left for the airport. I was three hours early for my departure, but that was fine by me. I found a spot between an airport shop and the parking corral for the suitcase carts, sat on the floor, pulled out my guitar and played for half an hour for anyone who cared to listen. Most did not, but two families with kids stopped and listened for a minute or two each, their young children staring at my guitar and the parents tapping their feet in time to the music. As they left, they dropped a dollar bill in my case. I smiled and nodded thanks while I kept singing.
Two bucks wasn't enough to buy a cup of coffee in this very expensive town, but it was enough to make me smile. I de-tensioned the strings and re-packed the guitar for the trip, and went to the gate.

The flights were horrible. In both Miami and Houston (my lay-over city), planes were delayed and sat on the tarmac for nearly 90 minutes each, grounded by the ATC because of thunderstorms moving through the Houston area. The delays only added to the unpleasantness of air travel, and made me glad I'd ridden six miles earlier that day.

Houston Airport, something like 9:00 pm Central time:

I got home at around 1:30 am Pacific time this morning and fell into Sweetie's arms, and bed, utterly exhausted.
A little more than 12 hours later, I've had some sleep but am still so tired that I've opted to skip a bike ride and just relax at home. Tomorrow I'll be taking my guitar back to work on the cargo bike and getting back to density.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Shalshelet music festival cross-post: bicycle-related content

(This is a cross-post from my music blog, I'm re-posting the bike-related content here for my bikelovejones readers. Enjoy.)

Friday morning, 2/15/13: Miami Beach

I ate a slow breakfast, had some hot tea for my throat, and walked The Adorable One (aka Kiran) before heading out to see the sights. I wasn't planning anything super-strenuous but needed to get out and walk; plus I thought the humid air might do my throat some good.

I walked five blocks and noticed six people passing me all on the exact same make and model of bicycle. And that was how I found Miami's bike-share program. DecoBikes are single-speed rental bikes that can be used anywhere along the Miami Beach harbor area, with multipl stations along the way where you can return them. At 6 bucks an hour I couldn't pass up an opportunity for a bike ride, even on a clunky beach cruiser; so I went for it.

Riding along Collins Avenue (the friendly officer who offered directions on where to go and what to see also advised me to stay on the sidewalk the whole time), I spotted flora and fauna not normally seen back home.

 I heard birdsong I wasn't familiar with, and spied fast-moving birds that looked like very exotic blue-jays flitting between the palm trees.

 Miami Beach is known for amazing Art Deco architecture; the area enjoyed a building boom in the 1920's and early 30's and many reminders of that time still stand. Some are historically-designated buildings today.

I found a beautiful reminder of the importance of memory, especially poignant during this week when I observed my father's yahrtzeit.

 Restoration project of an historic Deco building in South Beach.

 On the way back towards my homestay, I found this innovative take on a charity box, this one specifically designated for agencies helping Miami's homeless citizens. Being a former parking meter and therefore sort of bombproof, it's brilliant.
Along the way I asked a friendly policeman for directions and also if he would mind taking my picture. He happily obliged.
(Yes, Miami, I am wearing brown pants. Dig it.)
I had rented the bike for an hour, so I was mindful of the time and distance. I rode down to around 5th Street and back again up to the rental kiosk at 44th. Not sure how many miles that was, and didn't really care; I was just happy to have had a chance to ride a bike during my trip to Miami. On the way back, traffic was relatively light, so several times I jumped my bike off the sidewalk (these things are pretty sturdy), and took the lane at a brisk pace. Occasionally I busted out a short-track move to get around a parked bus or van and back up onto the sidewalk when needed. These things steer like crap (note the high handle bar) but ride surprisingly smoothly for what they are. I had a good time.
(Note to family and friends: No, I did not wear a helmet. The bike didn't come with one, and I felt comfortable enough to not worry about it for an hour. Please do not scold me when I get home. As of my most recent birthday, I can do whatever I want and the lack of a helmet is not enough to keep me off a rental bicycle.)
Miami police are busy this weekend, directing traffic along Collins Avenue during a large yacht show in the harbor. Somehow, every office I saw seemed to maintain good humor and a smile. I'm sure their work isn't always so mellow, but it was refreshing to see.
Looking at the gigantic boats parked in the water I was saddened at the excess -- I generally have a near-horror of flashy displays of unsustainable wealth -- so I avoided the tours of boats.
Passing a stand selling Budweiser and noting the very long line of folks waiting to buy one, I pondered the possibility that Bud may be what passes for good beer in this town. That would be tragic.
I walked back to the apartment in a light and very warm drizzle, relishing the feeling of the damp falling on my arms and head. Warm rain is delicious. It got heavier as I neared the apartment building, and I saw lots of umbrellas pop open as folks visibly shivered. I smiled. It has been a gloriously mellow day and I am so happy to have gotten in a bicycle ride.

Saturday, February 2, 2013