Friday, June 29, 2007

Spiderhead backs down

The crisis has subsided.

I’ve come to an agreement with Spiderhead. I reminded him of my invaluable presence on the property. I’m the one who got the city to install the bike rack outside, at no cost to him. I’m the one who called when water was gushing from a pipe sticking out of the boiler room into the parking lot. I’m the one who lets the window-jumping cat stay in my unit all day so that he doesn’t go bothering other tenants. Plus I’m the only one in the building with the smallest clue of what to do in case of an earthquake, which is pretty darned important given that this building is going to be one of the first to go – at least according to the firemen who taught the URM class (unreinforced masonry buildings) at Earthquake School.

This building needs me, and no one knows it better than Spiderhead. He’s agreed to raise the rent by only half of what he was going to raise it. Hence, I’ve signed on for another year.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Return of Spiderhead

He’s been here.

How can I tell? The patchouli lags behind him for at least a couple of hours. It’s hovering outside my door now, in the tunnel leading up to my hidey hole.

I knew he was going to raise the rent as soon as I let his henchman in to repair the glass in the window. It got broken two years ago when his other henchman, working outside the window-well, impaled it with his shovel handle. Not wanting to break my chain of thought, I didn't say a word -- just calmly brushed away the glass and kept writing. I never once asked him to fix the star-shaped hole. In fact, I enjoyed the thin stream of air it provided, given that I can’t open the window without being pelted with mud-infused rain drops.

He kept threatening -- or as he might put it, offering -- to repair the glass. I told him it didn’t bother me. Another tenant had begged him for two years to fix a leak in her ceiling before he got around to it, so I thought I was safe. But I hadn’t decoded the formula yet: You want something, he can’t get to it. You don't want something, he’s all over it.

Too late, I realized I should have been begging him to repair the window all this time. But I couldn’t stave him off any longer. I ran out of excuses and finally had to let the henchman in to fix it. And now, sure enough, the rent is skyrocketing.

The window in question, post repair -- lower left pane.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

See the world from an easy-chair

Here’s a photo I took on the well-tour of an amazing bicycle. This woman looked the most relaxed of anyone, and it wasn’t that she was going any slower. She got this bike at Coventry Cycle Works and loves it because “it doesn’t hurt my legs, it doesn’t hurt my shoulders, it doesn’t hurt my butt," and a few other places.

And because, though it looks like a “recumbent bike,” it really isn’t. I forgot why not, except that it isn’t low down like that – you’re still sitting up high enough for car drivers to see you. And you’re not pedaling with your hands.

I got her name but by the time I got home, the paper I wrote it on was all soggy and the ink had dribbled all over the paper and I couldn’t read it. But I’m pretty sure she said she worked for the water bureau, like a lot of people on that trip. I’ll alert the water bureau. Maybe she’ll write in with her name and more information on the bike.


Monday, June 25, 2007

It’s not always about bicycles

I have about eight things pending in my life right now and it’s driving me nuts. This must be what the polar bears feel like when they can’t find an iceberg to land on because they’re all melting from global warming.

On second thought, maybe things aren’t that bad.

One of the things, though, is that I’m at risk of losing my hidey-hole – the place I go to five days a week to write. My landlord – whom I will call Spiderhead to protect his anonymity -- is rumbling about raising the rent.

(While he was talking to me a spider lowered itself down from the rafters and landed in his hair. Normally I would say something, but in this case it seemed so appropriate. What spider wouldn’t want to live there? Prime real estate for the arachnid crowd. No threat of water or comb attacks. So now I know for a FACT there are spiders living there. Hence the name.)

Negotiations are in progress.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Peeve No. 863: Passing while stupid

Here's one of the things I brought up at the Women's Bike Forum the other night, and it turns out I'm not the only one with this PEEVE.

When other cyclists pass me, they usually allow about: half an inch. of clearance room. I'm always relieved that I didn't happen to wiggle over to the left at that particular split second. You know? Because how often do you wiggle over slightly when you're riding a bike? Like all the time, right? And why? Because! -- there might be a blip on the road that you swerve to avoid, or a big stone, or a gust of wind that throws you off balance for a second. For whatever reason, bicyling is not a perfectly straight line activity, by its very nature.

What you're supposed to do is yell "On your left!" before you pass someone. That way, I can make sure I don't wiggle while you're passing. The interesting factoid I want to point out is this: When I do hear those magic words, "on your left," nine times out of ten they're in a woman's voice. Nine times out of ten, no lyin.

You can make of that what you will.

(And if you don't believe me, read Jeff's comment on my posting of yesterday -- and he's not even a girl. So there.)


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Women's Bike Forum meeting

Well, I went to that Women's Bike Forum last night. What an inspiring collection of women! As a group it's still in the process of defining itself, but one thing we all had in common was that we want more women on bikes. Why? Because women are the ones least represented on the bike lanes, and the more women that are out there, the more bikes that are out there. We need those numbers on the road in order to gain traffic planning clout. Plus women are more safety oriented, so if a higher percentage of the bike population is women, the more the bike culture will go the direction of safe, practical riding, rather than the direction of loony-tunes testosterone-driven types in spandex superhero outfits and their hair on fire whose goal is to get across town as quickly as possible no matter how many heart attacks they cause. Call me sexist, but this is what I see. Really. I invite you to disagree, but expect me to argue back with evidence.

I'm sorry to say that my camera batteries failed me all at once last night, even my extras, so I have no photos. But Jonathan Maus of was there taking zillions of pictures and scribbling away in his tiny notebook -- after introducing himself politely and apologizing for not being a woman. We were of course thrilled to have him there making news of our meeting. Don't know when he'll post on it, but probably soon. (No pressure, JM!)


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Women's Bike Forum

For today, just a quick announcement, and then I gotta go. I'm going to the gym early today so I'll have time to go to the Women's Bike Forum tonight. In case you're interested, it's at 6:30 at the old Kennedy School. (It's not a school any more, it's that McMenamin's place on NE 33rd.) You can buy dinner in the restaurant part and eat it at the meeting.

My friend Ginger told me it was really inspirational for women who are hesitant about taking on the biking life -- which would not be me. But I'm hoping to take Lindi with me, and that she'll be influenced in that direction. She says her only problem is that she's afraid of cars. I don't know if they'll be able to fix that. (Hmm.... Does it need fixing? I thought fear of cars was a sign of mental health.)

Anyway it sounds interesting and it's about bikes so I'm going. I'll report back tomorrow.

If you go there, look for me. I'll be the one eating a delicious McMenamin's hamburger.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

the scene of the accident

Just to show how easy it is to wipe out, I went back and snapped a picture of the seemingly insignificant patch of dirt I slipped on last week. It was mud at the time, after a day of heavy rain.

Here’s my technique: I approach the end of the cul-de-sac and whip left up this curb-cut, then immediately make a fun-filled, sharp flip to the right, proceed straight ahead and down the next curb-cut, then curve to the left and I'm there, on that next street – a shortcut limited to bikes and peds. Only this time I didn't get further than my first left turn because of that mudpatch.

This is a route I’ve taken hundreds of times, so take note: don’t get overconfident. You know what they say: “Most accidents happen within three miles of home.”

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Monday, June 18, 2007

One less item in the storage unit

in the
of the
storage unit.

I finally did it – took my 1975 Motobecane Grand Touring over to Sellwood Cycles for them to sell for me. I could sell it myself, but I don’t feel like it. Besides, I’d heard that these guys are connected to all kinds of collector people, that’s why I took it there. I didn’t want to sell it to just anybody. Not that it’s a rare and sought-after collector’s piece, but it’s got some beautiful points, as you can see in the photos. For example, look at the way the tubing meets together, and look at the top of the forks.

This is the bike I rode from Eugene to Seattle on. I went by myself on an unplanned, ride-as-you-go, just-head-north ride for the solitary lunatic. I don’t regret it, but I would do it much differently today.

I also went on some other dumb rides – some dumb and bad, some dumb but good anyway. The bike never did fit me quite right, so I’m ready to let go of it.

Goodbye Moto.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

A pedal-boat for use on land

Get a load of this wild Italian-made vehicle I came across a couple of days ago outside Irvington athletic club. Max came out as I was taking photos of it and gave me a demo while waiting for the rest of his clan. His family piles on and they ride to the pool/tennis club together. Makes a lot more sense than driving a car to another location for the purpose of getting exercise -- which seems to be what most people do.
My. Portland is coming along, isn’t it?

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

About the well-tour

Getting back to last Saturday, the tour was put on by the Columbia Watershed Council and the Portland Water Bureau. We cycled around to various parts of Portland’s well-water system. People from the water bureau explained everything. Unfortunately I didn’t retain all that much of it because it’s all new information to me. Not to sound like a dope, but in order to absorb information, there has to be something in your brain to stick it to, or it falls right back out. And before this field trip there was almost nothing in my brain on that topic.

Besides, my powers of retention are cut to about 25% when I’m freezing and sopping wet. But though it poured the entire time, only a few people defected. Just when my friend Jennifer and I were about to abandon ship, we learned that making our own way back to the transit center would take just as long as if we stayed with the group. So we stuck it out.

Call me ignorant, but I thought well usage had to do with people too far out in the boonies to be reached by the city water system. Now I learn that the whole city’s on wells – gigantic super-deep specially engineered wells that are really complicated. These ain’t no hole-in-the-ground with a bucket-on-a-rope kinda thing. I’m impressed. And I’m glad there are people out there who know how to make water drinkable because it definitely wouldn’t be my forte.

I’m signed up in advance for the re-run when they have one. Now that I’ve got something in my brain to stick it to, I should learn a lot more second time around. I think that Bull Run Watershed is our main source of water, but we have this elaborate well system for when the Bull Run water is low. Don't quote me.

Here are some pictures of all these loony Oregonians standing around getting drenched. I think there were about 20 of us.Who knew wells could look like this?
They had maps, they had charts, they had diagrams; and they forged ahead and proceded as if the sky were not falling.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Another head-banger….

…only this was harder than the last one. No cars in sight, I managed to wipe out all by myself at a speed of about three miles an hour. I was turning onto a curb cut at the end of a cul-de-sac along my very regular route to the gym. The only thing different was a patch of mud, or rotted leaves there, that my front tire slipped on. My head hit the slope of the concrete so hard, and made such a loud whack, that a passerby said she was about to call 911 the minute she heard it, she was so sure I wouldn’t be getting up.

Fortunately, these super nice people happened to be walking by just then and saw the whole thing. It helps so much to have another human being around when you’re a wreck. Mary and Laurel with two little girls Katerina and Elena walking home from school in their school uniforms just like the one I used to wear. They stood around with me for a good ten minutes offering all kinds of help – could they call someone for me, could they lend me their cell phone, could they walk me to where I was going, would I like some water, etc etc.

Like last time when I fell, people are very kind and concerned. And everybody seems to realize that just because a hurt person looks ok and says they are ok, it doesn’t necessarily mean they really are ok. Mary and Laurel really wanted to make sure. I appreciated that so much. It makes me feel like I live in a kind world -- which is a hopeful feeling given how much evidence there is to the contrary. I hope those kids will remember seeing this and always take care of their heads.

Yes, this is another commercial for helmets. Don’t think that just because you’re avoiding the busy streets you’re fine. Since 5:30 yesterday afternoon when this happened, I am periodically visited by the thought that I could very well be dead now. That smack was so hard that I couldn’t stop crying for about ten minutes. Way harder than the time I fell over from a standing position last year. I think it’s very possible that without the helmet it would have killed me. At least it would have seriously injured me, possibly to the point where Lindi might not have had the same Kate that she had before.

And let me just add this note to you people who are too footloose and fancyfree to be bothered by the possibility of an accident – and excuse me, I don’t usually sermonize, but -- If you can’t be sensible enough to think of your own life, think of the people that love you. Think about your partner, your mother or your sister your brother, etc ---which one of those people would you like to stick with the job of taking care of a head-injury victim for the rest of your days? If you can’t put a shell on your head for yourself, do it for them.

Grrrr. I’m starting to feel angry at people I see without helmets. And aside from the emotional toll, head injuries are very expensive financially to the whole community. Even people you don’t know pick up part of the tab in one way or another.

Today I have a slight recurring headache. I think I bruised my brain. It seems to be working properly, however. This is how it felt last time, and it went away after a few days. Ow. I hope nothing’s wrong. I need every single brain cell I have.

Tomorrow I will resume my report on Saturday’s cycling tour of Portland’s wells.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Standing in the rain learning about water

I went on a bicycle field trip on Saturday. I want to show you just what Oregonians will do. You put on an event that involves spending several hours under a downpour, and that’s educational, even, and people not only show up, but stick with it to the bitter end.

This would not happen in Italy. If people saw one raindrop when they got up that morning, that would be it. If they showed up and it started raining later on, they would run for cover (some even emanating a scream while doing so) and/or grab any item whatsoever to hold over their heads till they could get to shelter. Then at the first break in the rain they would flee, back to their dwellings.

The reason I know this, and the reason I often compare Italians and Oregonians is because I happen to have spent most of my youth in that grape land, so its people are with me always. Not to mention a few other peoples in whose countries I spent the rest of my youth and some of my adulthood.

The rainstorm that was predicted for last weekend finally arrived this weekend. Being a long-time converted Oregonian, I went on the field trip anyway. It was called Cycling the Well Fields. At first I thought this meant that our fields were “well” as opposed to “ill,” but I soon figured out that the two words go together, and the word “well” is a noun being used to modify the word “fields” to indicate the kind of field they’re talking about. In summary, it was a tour of our drinking water system in Portland and how it works. I have lots of pictures. Today’s just the intro. More tomorrow.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Throngs of cyclists. Throngs.

On my way home yesterday just as I reached the middle of the Broadway Bridge the gate came down. The ensuing snail paced event gave me a chance to experience the true thickness of the throngs of people who commute by bike in Portland.

The bridge was raised to accommodate one of the Navy ships arriving for the Rose Festival. They raised it while the ship was still way up under the Fremont Bridge. Police cars sat on the bridge and police boats trolled around in the water. The whole thing took a good twenty minutes, as opposed to the usual ten.

So by the time they lowered it back down, there was quite a line-up of cars, bikes, and pedestrians. Instead of following my first impulse which was to dart off and make up for lost time, it occurred to me to step aside and let the bikes flow past me to see how many there were. They just kept passing and passing and passing, as if they would never end. It looked like one of those programmed bike-a-thons, but it was only the day’s commuters. And this happened at 6:30, so this probably wasn’t even most of them. It was thrilling, really, to realize that that many people are using human powered vehicles. I think it’s incredibly exciting, and it gives me hope for the planet. Ok, for Portland. (see the stuffed monkey riding on the rear rack of the rear cyclist.)

(See all the tiny sailors standing on the ship.)
(See the cute little row of outhouses on the deck of the ship. I wonder if they got to the end of the ship construction and realized they forgot to put bathrooms in.)


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Time of Reflection

Someone busted a mirror on the Broadway Bridge. It must’ve fallen off the back of the truck of someone moving. (If they'd moved by bike this never woulda happened.) I found it Monday morning, lying there reflecting the sky and the upper bridge, and I got these photos. You have to wonder, did the people driving the vehicle not notice that a gigantic item had just slid off the back? And of course, if they did, what could they really do? Stop in the middle of the flowing bridge traffic to pick it up?
It landed on the sidewalk/bike path part, but at least it was kind of between the girders -- although shards of that broken glass were making their way across the sidewalk. Someone must’ve gotten right on it, because it’s all cleaned it up now.
It could’ve been worse. It could’ve been the piano or the fridge.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Broadway Bridge - the never-ending photo-op

I can't seen to stop taking pictures of the Broadway Bridge - or I should say from the Broadway Bridge. The Bridge itself isn't that spectacular when viewed from elsewhere, but the view from on and within it is another story. These are just three of a dozen I took the other day. If you think they're all alike, you're mistaken. Look more closely, each one is completely different.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Clean-car alternative to bike transports 6 x the load

Look what I came across while riding over to pick up a couple of burritos last night. A guy named Michael (I think) was touring this happy little mob around on a noiseless, gas-free vehicle -- otherwise known as a golf cart. The owner of the cart was a high school senior graduating that same night. This is what he's been using to get from home to school and back for the last couple of years.
Did they nab his cart the minute he left for graduation? I don't know. Maybe Michael will write in with the full story. Bet those kids know how lucky they are to have a fun guy like Uncle Mike in their lives.

You can see by their clothes that summer has come a month early to Portland this year -- it usually doesn't stop raining and warm up till July. So this was a "real" summer evening, like they've already been having in the rest of the country for at least a month.

We're only a couple weeks away from the longest day in the year. After June 16th, the days start getting chopped off at the ends again.

So don't forget to enjoy the light!