Friday, May 15, 2020

bicycles are the new toilet paper

This week in adventures in hoarding:

-- Portland police broke up an established stolen bike chop shop inside a large homeless encampment. Two of the men arrested had been in and out of jail for bicycle theft for years.

-- I took in two more bikes for tuneups from people who had decided to economize by using their bikes for local trips. This has been a recurring theme in most of the bikes Ive tuned up in the last two months.

-- Looking for more bikes to tune up and sell on the cheap has gotten a lot harder. Ten-year-old Huffys and Magnas are selling on craigslist for updards of $60 to 80 -- nearly what they cost new.

I predict that, if and when we move beyond this pandemic, I'll have a much harder time finding donations for refugees. (And that's if they'll be allowed to keep coming here, which is an even bigger if than the pandemic.)

Bicycles are the new toilet paper. I kid you not.
So if you have a bike you hold dear, park it inside and keep it locked.

Monday, May 11, 2020

problem-solving: replacing a snapped adjusting barrel

Today I took in another tune-up, a decent bike that is ridden daily. Everything was going smoothly, until I examined the shifting and found it sluggish and then non-functional. While replacing the cables, I discovered the cause: The adjusting barrel of the rear derailleur had snapped, with half of it inside the threaded hole in the derailleur body.

What to do?
I knew I'd have to remove the broken barrel; replacing the derailleur was beyond the owner's budget.
So I looked at my tools, and found something pointy and small enough to get inside the barrel.
I found a tiny screwdriver that fit the bill. First, I applied a drop of oil to the top of the break, and tapped the derailleur body so the oil would work down into the threads.
Then I applied the screwdriver and turned.

It was pretty easy once a corner of the screwdriver caught inside.
Then, I went to my parts bin and found a replacement barrel that would fit.
I mostly find these in buckets of free nuts and bolts at smaller bike shops.  Sometimes I also find them laying on the ground behind the CCC near the dumpsters. Free is free, regardless of where it's found.
Inserting the replacement barrel into the spring-loaded holder, I simply threaded the adjusting barrel back into the derailleur, adjusted the shifting, and was done.

I am happy to take in simple tune-ups and small repairs during the shutdown. I can make my own schedule, rest when I need to and help friends and family whose budgets are equally tight right now.
I'm sure I'm not making folks at the shops happy, but honestly I don't know too many folks who can afford to pay shop rates right now -- their hourly labor rate is a third to half again higher than what I charge and I have almost no overhead and a hobby mechanic. So I don't feel too guilty about it. And when I can effect a repair some shops wouldn't bother with (because they'd make more money selling you a new derailleur, for example), I'm happy.

Looking forward to a longer bike ride later this week. Of course, a ride report will follow.
Happy riding!

Friday, May 8, 2020

extended play bike ride

I really needed this bike ride today. Nearly four hours meandering on my bike around N/NE Portland.
Lots of interestingness, and tons of Irises in bloom right now.
A few photos for your edification.

Golden Pliers, where I was able to obtain a pesky little part for my kickstand.

Riding MAX, masked and distanced.
Incipient helicopters.

Bike mojo. Various bits found in the street while riding over the last couple of years.
Hope to get out on the bike again this weekend.
Cheers and happy riding.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

we are fucked right now, but not forever.

Today, the Rule of Law was officially gunned down in Washington, D.C., and its bloody corpse was later displayed on a pike in front of the White House, hung there by a politicized Judiciary that is now entirely in the grip of a power-mad Executive Branch. (In other news, the Legislative Branch, neutered back in 1992, left work and went out for a three-martini lunch.)

Meanwhile, the part of the world that still has money and places to spend it went shopping.

I sat in my yard talking with one of my beloveds, who told me that, among everyone in our family, she felt I was the one most prepared to cobble together a living during this pandemic. With my diverse skillset, my natural curiosity about how things work, my high tolerance for dirt and grit and an ability to self-entertain that I was compelled to develop from a very young age, I seem to figured out a way to meet the world on its terms and still wrest at least some of what I need from it. And I've mostly managed to do so with my sense of Self intact. But one little outlier isn't really real in the eyes of the reat of the world. I'm so small I'm hardly noticed, much less real.

What's really real is that right now, anyone paying attention is stockpiling camping gear, tools, and a sturdy bicycle that will make it over gravel and dirt. What's really real right now is that, while so many people are still in the grip of shopping endorphins, those who are preparing are taking advantage of that drug high by selling off non-essential items as quietly as they can, and converting the proceeds into tools, food, and other necessities that will allow them to stay below the radar when the crap really hits the fan. (The scarier ones in this group are also amassing guns and ammo and any other weapons they can find. I am not one of those. I remain a pacifist, for better or worse. It may get me killed in the end but it will not force me to lose my Self.)

How many people are still in denial, still hoping against hope that their votes will matter in November? (Hell, my vote didn't matter last week in the primary, because the outcome was decided before Oregon's ballots were ever mailed out. But I digress.)
While Drumpf may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, anyone with a pulse knows that he never had to be. All that was needed was for his handlers to guide him to his joystick module, let him play at Being President and keep him from stepping too obviously far out of line while the guys in the Star Chamber (aka The Council for National Policy) did their wheeling and dealing and laid the groundwork for what's happening now.

We would eventually have gotten here without COVID-19. It just would have taken longer. COVID-19 simply moved the hands on the clock, that's all.
COVID-19 wasn't a plan; it was just an unexpected gift combined with brilliant timing.
And so the People in Power (hereafter known as PiP) are using it to every advantage while the rest of us either stay hunkered down, or riot to open the damned barber shop already.

Either way, surplus population will die off, and that is exactly what the PiP are hoping for.

I won't go as far as calling this another form of Eugenics -- that requires far more forethought and than these clowns are capable of, and it requires more time than their shareholders have patience for right now.  They just want to see enough people die so that resources won't have to distributed among as many of us afterwards -- and the PiP will get to keep more of what's in the pot.

But the PiP are forgetting their own mortality.

And that's where I hold whatever's left of my "hope" these days.

Remember in the Bible, where the generation of the people who had known slavery had to wander in the desert for forty years before the Children of Israel could finally enter the Promised Land?
They had to keep wandering until most of them had died off, and their children and grandchildren had grown up. Because they could not be rid of the slave mentality thoroughly enough to build a new way of life in a new place. That task would fall to their children and grandchildren.

Right now, we are living in a time and on a planet where a LOT of people over 50 will die before this pandemic is safely behind us.

I may well be one of them.

I accept that.
I accept that because of so many beautiful moments that have already comprised my life to this point. The most recent moment came today, as we sat in the yard under the shade of a tree that Sweetie and I planted as a sapling 16 years ago this month. Then, it stood not quite five feet tall. Today it towers above the roof line of our house, spreading enough shade for three of us to sit and relax on a breezy, sunny afternoon. And that moment was a moment of perfection. We sat and talked and laughed, and the tree shaded us from a warm sun, and the breeze rustled the leaves overhead and it was a simple, glorious moment.

I have been blessed with many such moments in my life.
So if at some point my time to stop having those moments comes, then so be it.
Nobody gets to live forever, not even the People in Power. And so, like the generation who wandered the desert for forty years, I suspect that I am part of the generation which will have to move over and make room for the younger people coming behind us. When that time comes, I will gladly hand over my tools, and let someone else take up the load.
We all take our turns in life and at some point in the future my turn will come to an end.
When it does, I hope I will have just enough time to be grateful, and then I'll be done.

I feel like I'm better prepared for so much of whatever's next than the People in Power. Living just under the radar, with little left to lose and rich with blessings and gratitude for all I've had and done and loved. So while I hold out almost no hope for the immediate future, especially in the United States, I am filled with hope that those younger people who make it through this will help move humanity to something better than where we find ourselves just now.

And tonight, that is all the hope I really need.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

on my terms: my work-life balance in the time of COVID

I just did a really rash thing.

I turned down a Bar Mitzvah student.

While there are some perfectly legitimate reasons for doing this, including spotty wifi where we live and the fact that teaching private students online is not my ideal, the honest-to-goodness truth is that

I am burned out on working with kids, and

I am burned out on wrestling with my synagogue's leadership.

As soon as I saw the email, I could feel the pit rise in my stomach, and the sorrow trying to creep in.
And I knew that in this time and place, I would get absolutely no support from the synagogue leadership, or even from my spouse, for the processing I still have to do with my decade-long struggle regarding my ongoing involvement with my home shul. They've moved on. And so must I.
So I turned down the family, and then I sent an email to the shul asking to be removed from the tutor list.

Right now I am doing reasonably well.

I am scavenging bike parts and other ephemera and flipping them at a profit.
I am taking bikes in from friends and their friends, for tune-ups and repairs.
And honestly, that is about all I can handle.
It's all I want to handle.
I like not working forty to fifty hours a week anymore.
And if I can pay the bills and work less, well, that's what I plan to do going forward.

Is it selfish? Well, yes, on some level it is. But right now it seems okay.

In this time of COVID, we are all being given an opportunity to reconsider the way we use our time, talent and energies. And I have decided that at this point in my life, if I can't count on a "retirement package," I can still choose how I spend my time. Now that we're not shopping for entertainment, now that we're staying home and giving ourselves permission to breathe a little biut, I am fine with things as they are for the time being.

I am also in the beginning of a process of rethinking not only my professional life as a Jewish musician, I'm looking at my personal Jewish practice (such as it is) and wondering what pieces of it remain relevant and useful. In this time of self-isolating and social distancing, how am I connecting with other people? If we really are looking at least another 12 months of this before it's safe to come together again, what will stick, and what will fall away like chaff?

It's too soon to tell.

But I do like being able to do be useful on my terms. And after so many years of having to do what others demand of me, in the way they expect it to be done, it is really lovely and restorative to be able to be useful on my terms.

I can enjoy making bikes good again. I can enjoy the novel solutions I come up with that are unusual but which work just fine. I can encourage people to ride more and drive less. And I can decide how long I work each day and listen to my body for signs that I need some rest.

If I can't have financial security in this time and place -- if a ruthless, narcissistic President I didn't vote for truly has the power to starve me out, then I don't need to be productive for him or for his cronies.

And I can be useful and creative and all the rest in as quiet and gentle a way as I can, and call that a good life.

I look forward to the end of this emergency, AND I know we have quite awhile yet before that happens.
So for now, I'll do what I do and be grateful for all I have, all I can do and all whom I love.

Happy riding.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

bummitude: refugee bike gone awol?

Wandering around the bicycle want-ads today, I came across this:

I recognized it almost immediately as a bike I had fixed up for Catholic Charities three years ago.
All that was missing was one of the grips and the rear bag. Everything else was there, including the funky red- and black grip and the stem-shifter fix I'd installed.
The seller was asking $200 for it.
It wasn't worth that when it was new over forty years ago.

Here's the bike, photographed about an hour before CC picked it up back in early 2017:

I hate to draw conclusions, but it's hard not to wonder if the bike was stolen somewhere along the line. I would hope not; but considering how much the seller wants for it I wouldn't be surprised -- Portland has a big problem with bicycle theft as it is, and now that we have a Stay-At-Home order I can only imagine that it will be worse, since essential workers still have to get to work and public transit usage is discouraged right now.