Thursday, April 21, 2011

How Blogs Languish

Writing doesn't have to be a solitary occupation as long as you leave me the hell alone. I have no trouble concentrating when people are around. They just seem to have trouble letting me.

At work they keep expecting me to, well, work. It's a huge impediment to literary -- or even journalistic -- achievement. On the other hand, my servitude in the bike business has provided most of my actual material, so I shouldn't bitch too much. I intended to be a writer who cycles more than a cyclist who writes, but whatever my day job I always insisted on biking to it, so here I am. Whatever might be teeming in my brain during the day, it has to get through many obstacles just to make it home with me.

At home I fully embrace the concept that I did not marry the cellist just so I could ignore her. In fact, I defy anyone to try. I might come home to hear her running through a Bach sonata with or without the TV on. The house might smell like fresh-baked bread or any number of delectable creations, or she might be poking moodily at her computer in a sit-down strike because she's tired of having to come up with meals all the time. My kitchen wizardry is rudimentary at best. My expertise extends more to cleaning up.

Since her illness makes her a definite limited-time offer, I spend time with her when she's around unless she's working on something of her own. Medical intervention might extend her span, but it will depend a great deal on luck. And, of course, we live in a world that is proven to be 100 percent fatal anyway. If you find someone you like to be with, be with them.

Good writing takes time. I'm not a link-farmer and a news junkie. I'm a thinker. From a single dropped cigarette butt I can extrapolate the entire future of the human race. I would rather sit and watch a dewdrop sparkle than go to a major sporting event. What can I say? I'm a boring nerd. And not even the science-wizard, geeky millionaire kind of nerd. So I usually have to sit a spell to craft good sentences and build them into paragraphs worth posting.

When I get some time to myself I have decades of ideas jammed in a tangle in the closet/playroom that passes for my brain. New ones come from life every day, and every day most of them get stuffed into the pile with the others.

When the cellist goes away I can spend my time as I choose. For instance, tonight I was going to ride straight home from work, take care of necessary domestic chores, shower, stretch, suck down a simple supper and start writing.

The temperature was 43 degrees F, the wind was gusting over 40 miles per hour and turbulent gray clouds released scattered snowflakes into the gale as I prepared to ride home. Then the sky cleared. The wind didn't drop, but the snow ceased and the sun lit the scene with golden light. And then the clouds came back. And left again. All the while the wind swirled around, hitting me from the side, the front, the back, helping, impeding, harassing.

I got home shortly before 7 p.m. I had to scoop the cat boxes, grab some dry firewood, get the wood stove going, shower, stretch, put away clean dishes and figure out that supper. I sat down to eat at about 8:40. So then it's after 9.

The cellist called. She's having a bit of an emotional time because she's playing a gig in the church where her brother's funeral was held about a month and a half ago. When she scheduled the trip months ago he was still alive. They were going to get together. There are other things, too. When someone calls with stuff like that you listen.

And so we close in on midnight.

During the brief times in which I didn't have a job and could turn entirely to creativity I would frequently stay up late because that's when people finally quieted down. With a day job it's still easy to stay up too late and then resort to coffee and will power to get through the next day and the next and the next until stamina runs out, at least when my night noises won't disturb someone else who has to get up early the next day. I find it much harder to pound out the bike commute day after day on short sleep, though.

Maybe I'll have a little better luck tomorrow night.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pointless Fashion Strikes Again

A few new bikes this year have arrived with handlebar stems with the bar clamp bolts threaded into the face plate from the back. This serves absolutely no practical function. It does add several minutes to assembly time because it's awkward to maneuver wrenches alongside the stem. It's especially fun when you're juggling the bars with one hand as you try to assemble the stem clamp with the other.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Pint Low

The information package they gave me to read at the blood drive yesterday said I should avoid strenuous exercise for five hours after donating. Does riding 15 miles in wind, snow and rain count?

I had never donated before. Because I planned to drive today, I wanted to ride yesterday. The forecast called for a chance of showers in the late afternoon. Chance. Showers. I have fenders. It'll be fine. So I rode to town. At noon I went to the church where the blood drawing was set up.

The screeners liked my pulse rate, blood pressure, hemoglobin level and general fitness. They raved over my large veins. Then they had trouble establishing a satisfactory flow, or so I gathered from the conversation between the phlebotomist and her supervisor as they jiggled the needle around. I wasn't watching.

"You'll feel a little poke," the technician had said. Indeed I did, followed by a strong impression that they were digging for my humerus with a hot wire.

"Keep taking deep, relaxing breaths," they told me. What else could I do? I had a mission and they'd already made the hole. After a minute or two they got things settled. I squeezed the little rubber thingie in my hand periodically to enhance the flow and wake up that hot wire sensation again.

By donating blood I not only contribute to the lifesaving stocks of blood in reserve, I also get to find out my blood type for free. I need to know my blood type as part of the compatibility criteria to see if I can throw my wife a kidney or if we need to get involved in one of those chain-reaction donations becoming popular with the live-donor set. Once it becomes totally routine, people may even do it at parties. Imagine swapping all sorts of body parts at a wild revel on a Saturday night.

"I woke up with one green eye and one blue one. Is one of them yours?"

"Yeah, the green one, but you got it all red."

You could actually have two left feet.

As a first-time donor I took seriously all the stories I'd heard about people jumping up too quickly and keeling over right afterward. I lay there a bit before walking carefully to the snack table, where I drank a pint of water and ate some excellent crunchy stuff, a small bag of raisins and a chocolate chip cookie. Then I walked back to work, where I drank more water and stuffed down lunch while I assembled a bike.

I couldn't linger at closing time because I needed to rip home to get to a zoning board meeting. It hadn't been quite five hours yet, but I had no other options.

The chance of showers had turned into dark gray skies dumping wet snowflakes into a gusty wind. At 36 degrees, nothing was sticking to the road. It would just be raw and unpleasant. And so it was.

I kept meaning to get out my camera to document how nasty it was, but I never did. Pictures can't convey the feeling of a raw wind slapping fat snowflakes in your face. They don't portray the creeping wetness, the steady chilling of arms and legs. I didn't want to change my position and give that wind another way into my collar, so I faced front and kept pushing the pedals.

The snow and rain passed to the south after ten miles or so, but the wind still cut. By the time I got home I really wanted to take a hot shower, put on comfy lounging attire and put my feet up. Instead I just had time to feed the cats, put on some dry clothing and drive off to my meeting.

Today is dry and milder but I have an evening engagement, so I did not ride. A warming trend promises improving conditions for the weekend. I'll have regenerated my blood by then, too.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Great April Fool's Day Blizzard

We didn't get a foot of snow. We didn't get six inches of snow. We probably got four or five inches that snapped a few tree limbs around the area. I've heard that 25,000 customers were without power in the state. And of course people smashed up their cars. But that's a national pastime.

I drove to work on the slick roads without incident. A small shipment of Surly bikes awaited my attention along with some early season repairs. Since I had jumped into the full commute with no base miles, I needed a couple of rest days.

The snow continued to fall as the morning went on, but it melted on contact. It even seemed to melt on contact with the snow that had fallen overnight. Some days are like that: the air is thick with flakes that vanish when they land. A day of snowfall leaves nothing on the ground. It's fine with me. Snowblowing the muddy, rutted driveway would just gunk up the machine. Slop like we got yesterday just splatters out a few feet beyond the chute. Better to leave it to melt.

The highway crews laid down a new layer of abrasive sand and corrosive salt. Even if the roads are clear of snow and slush it's a setback. Cold mornings and rough, messy roads add several minutes to travel time by bike.

The sun is strong. Conditions improve.