Saturday, March 31, 2007

someone has to do it.....

The other day on my way back from an appointment in Southeast I stopped at Lone Fir Cemetery and rode my bike around in it. I never thought I’d be doing this, at least not before ninety, but the fact is that I’m shopping. Not for me, exactly, but for my family. They don’t know this yet, but someday they’ll thank me.

Recently at a typical family reunion at which all kinds of potentially offensive remarks are blurted out by all, my 20-year old niece called attention to this topic at the dinner table by suddenly shouting, with absolutely no lead-up, “OK, who wants to be buried and who wants to be burned!??” And she proceeded gleefully around the dinner table calling on each person as if she were polling ice cream flavor preferences, never thinking that some present, who might be teetering on the brink of the afterlife, might be a little sensitive about such matters.

But it turned out not to be a bad thing, there with the elders mixed in with the larvals and everyone in between. No one had time to switch to their “morose” channel, and
everyone staked out their preferences in rapid succession in the same tone they use at dessert time: Chocolate! Coffee! Mocha almond!

“Buried!” claimed my father with a raised hand when his turn came around.

So -- hellooo? doesn’t that mean we’re going to need a place to put him? It can’t just be “on the shelf” like it was with Grandma and Grandpa till we found the right time to scatter their ashes in the ocean like they wanted. When there’s a body involved, you have to move more quickly. You can’t just wait till the moment and then start furiously hunting for graveyard real estate. And yet no one in the family is looking into this – no one. My mother’s in no mood. Who is? You think I’m “in the mood”? The only reason I can handle it (and even enjoy it because I’ve always loved cemeteries) is that I feel it’s considerably far off. Everyone in my family lives into their late nineties and my father’s only 86 or so.

More on my findings later.


Friday, March 30, 2007

technical information provided by helpful fellow blogger

Thanks so much to Steve in Halifax who has provided all the technical details for how to get to the Newsweek article, and more. Just click on his comment after my previous post. And when you're done with your reading assignment, you might drop in on his bike blog, if you haven't already.

I've been perusing burial grounds again, and this time I've got some gorgeous pictures to show you soon. Maybe even over the weekend. Maybe.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

If you won't do it for vanity, do it for your mind

OK, the Newsweek website is here. I can’t figure out how to get to that article "Exercise and the Brain" from their website -- it was published last week (March 26), so maybe they don't let you. In case you can’t either, or you don’t have time to read it all, I offer you a few excerpts and paraphrasings.

Keep in mind that these are brand new results they’re talking about, not just the same-old, same-old “exercise makes everything better” stuff that we've known forever. They've figured out (some of) exactly what it makes happen in the brain.

“….vigorous exercise can cause older nerve cells to form dense, interconnected webs that make the brain run faster and more efficiently."

Apparently we need a chemical called “brain-derived neuropathic factor,” sometimes called “Miracle-Gro for the brain."

“With regular exercise, the body builds up its levels of BDNF, and the brain’s nerve cells start to branch out, join together and communicate with each other in new ways. This is the process that underlies learning: every change in the junctions between brain cells signifies a new fact or skill that’s been picked up and stowed away for future use. BDNF makes that process possible. Brains with more of it have a greater capacity for knowledge. On the other hand, [……………..] a brain that’s low on BDNF shuts itself off to new information.

“Most people maintain fairly constant levels of BDNF in adulthood. But as they age, their individual neurons slowly start to die off. Until the mid 90s, scientists thought the loss was permanent – that the brain couldn’t make new nerve cells to replace the dead ones. But animal studies over the last decade have overturned that assumption, showing the “neurogenesis” in some parts of the brain can be induced easily with exercise.

“It’s not just a matter of slowing down the aging process…….It’s a matter of reversing it."

[The article is talking mainly about aerobic exercise. The jury’s still out on whether stretching, toning and weight lifting similarly affect the brain. But if you ask me, it does. How could it not? That’s my scientific opinion, so there. Anyway, all that other stuff makes you do the aerobic exercise better. Read the article. It’ll enhance your commitment to exercise.]


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Your Lazy-A Attitude Cured Forever

I only have a couple of minutes to post today but I want to tell you briefly about the most motivating article on WHY YOU SHOULD EXCERCISE I've ever read in my life -- in last week's Newsweek, called Excercise and the Brain. Whew! I'm converted for life! Later when I have more time I'll try to provide you a link to it if it's possible, and if not I'll give you some excerpts. If I don't get to it today, I will tomorrow.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Car trunk mystery unfolds

Well, I’m back.

If you don’t take breaks from things, even things you love, one day you will wake up and find yourself totally sick of it and not be able to proceed a step further. That’s what happened to me. And I do take a break from blogging every weekend, but I guess I needed a major break. Anyway now I’m fully recovered and ready to roll.

Perhaps you’re wondering what decomposing former life form I found in the trunk of my car that weekend? The answer – good news for me but no doubt disappointing for you – is: nothing. I can only conclude that it is the car itself emitting signs of its last gasp. Instead of that “new car smell” you experience in a brand new vehicle, this must be the “dying car smell.”
Here is a photo of the trunk in question. My car’s 12 or 13 years old and a hundred little things are starting to break and go wrong. (It must be about my age in human years.) The things are little but expensive. Like the rubber strips around the doors starting to break up -- you wouldn’t believe how much it costs to replace that. The locks are loose in the doors. The driver-side window needs to be helped up with a firm hand.

Up till now I’ve always kept it in good repair. I’ve faithfully had body work done (for it and me) after every crash, and the upholstery is immaculate and has no holes or worn spots. People comment on what great shape my car’s in – for which I thank them politely. They’re not looking into the crooks and crannies to see the rotting rubber and the loose screws and the visor hinge popped out and the jiggly mirror and the missing radio knob.

I’m not willing to dish out the money it takes to attend to these details. If I had money to burn, I would, just to preserve a good car that’s done a great job for me. I believe in preserving things instead of just letting them go to ruin and end up in the landfills. So I feel bad but it’s not going to happen.

Lindi and I still haven’t decided what car we’re going to replace our two cars with, to become a one-car family. (For history on that, click
here.) But we take long with these decisions. Been talking about getting cell phones for three years now....


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Wearing off the green

Concluding statements about the trunk of my car will be posted tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the day after St. Patrick’s day turned up this plastered leprechaun retreating into the hollow of a tree -- nursing a hangover? Hard to know. But it's these low-to-the-ground things you miss when you’re driving a car!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More realities of car ownership

It looks like this weekend I’m going to have to engage in that odious all-American practice of “working on my car.” What I’m discovering, in this new life of biking, is that owning a car presents tedious maintenance chores even if you barely use it.

Among other things, it appears that some terribly organic entity has died a thousand deaths in my trunk. The weather's supposed to be nice, which is motivating since (1) I won’t have to stand out in the rain, and (2) any sun rays aimed at the car threaten to render the vehicle unapproachable if I wait any longer, by anyone except maybe a police homicide squad.

I’m praying for rotten food, as opposed to some animal that hopped in unnoticed while I was unloading the groceries. That exact thing happened once, to Lindi’s car. A cat jumped in -– and it was summer. We discovered it in time, but barely, and the poor thing staggered off before we could think to catch it and take it to a vet for rehydration. (Who knows what its owner thought -- Oh, look what the cat dragged in – its own self! Animals need to learn to speak English, that’s all there is to it.)

The last time something stunk in my trunk, I finally found a hardboiled painted Easter egg in a ski boot. This time smells worse than that.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Coming Soon: Compelling new blog about inner demons

I told you I’d tell you about my dark side, so here I am. It’s time to act.You know what they say – the first step is to tell someone. But I plan to go further than that. So disturbing is my compulsion that I’m taking the bull by the horns and – wait! oh NO! They snapped off! The horns! They snapped off right in my hands! Now the bull is running around without horns – and boy is he mad!

Oh well.

Anyway, to put it in other words, I’m diving in to attack the problem with everything I’ve got. The problem I speak of? I am driven to collect things. Driven. And as a result of it, I am so burdened by too much stuff that I have decided to launch a whole separate blog just about that - about junk and clutter and the process of freeing myself of it.

Sound boring? It won’t be. Don’t forget that each one of us is just one loose screw away from mental illness. And you never know when that one screw is going to loosen, or why. As for me, if I had just one more screw loose, I’d fit right into the “hoarder” category of the mental health textbooks. Already I look at some of the stuff I’ve saved and I shake my head and say “I’m one sick puppy.” But it’s not too late. If I work on it now, I can prevent an avalanche.

To that end, I’m going to be taking some time away from my bike blog. Some. Don’t worry, I’ll pop back into ridemyhandlebars with progress reports as I go. I hope you will join me as I embark on this new, much more difficult (than bicycling) journey – that of uncluttering my life. I’ll post the link to it here as soon as I get the first thing up.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sordid details still to come.

I’m so sorry, I don’t mean to play games with you or keep leading you on. When I made that promise, I neglected to look ahead and notice that today’s schedule would not allow me near a computer, any computer, until late in the day. And even now I’m not at my hideout, but stealing these two minutes to jot you a line from someone else’s command center. The pursuit of information for a newspaper article I’m writing took me way out past the airport today and various other far-flung industrial sites – in a perfect example of a schedule not suited to biking. Tomorrow I’ll resume my regular routine.
Kate Gawf, Girl Reporter

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Monday, March 12, 2007

The Truth about Schlepping

Alley Cat wrote a comment (scroll down to see) in response to my last post and pointed out the obvious thing, which for some strange reason I chose to ignore: Clearly that bike rig was the two-wheeled equivalent of a shopping cart. This is not a person who has the luxury of investing in super-lightweight tools and all kinds of fancy sleek and ergonomic biking equipment. It isn’t that he’s “not worried” about tight corners or extra weight, it’s that he has other priorities on his mind, like possibly, “Get Food” or “get cigarettes” or “get drugs” or “find a place to sleep.”

Only reason I myself am not out there schlepping mountains of stuff around with me is that I have the good fortune to have somewhere to put it all. My home is my shopping cart. My satchel or backpack is my Mini Shopping Cart, the temporary, transitional cart I carry things in until I can get back and put them in my house, my Primary Shopping Cart. If I were homeless, I'd need a train of shopping carts a mile long to contain all my stuff.

Coming Tomorrow: Surprising announcement about blogger’s inner life. Never before revealed personal factoid about author of RideMyHandlebars. Get the sick details, available only here!


Friday, March 09, 2007

The bare essentials

The other day I was at the grocery store and I saw this “longbike” parked outside. This guy (?) sure isn’t worried about either tight corners, or excess weight. There were three cables, five padlocks, several steel tools, silverware, a chin-up bar, and a heavy-duty safety vest nailed onto the back for visibility. Plus who knows how much those bundles weigh? And I thought I was a schlep. I feel like Tinkerbell next to this.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

84 year old Alzeimer’s patient receives driver’s license

The other day my mother was driving around doing errands. She took my father with her. She often does that, even though it makes her errands a lot harder, because my father really likes to go out for a ride in the car every day. My father has Alzeimers, and though he can remember lots of questions, he can’t remember the answers. So he keeps asking the questions. He'll get stuck on one or two questions for a couple of days, then move on to another one. That is one of several things he does which can drive you nuts if you’re around him for more than a few hours in a row. Which I rarely am, so I don’t mind it. My mother minds it.

One of the errands was to go get Pop a current ID card, so they went to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Mom handed them his old driver’s license which is many years out of date. The guy said, “You want this renewed?” My mother said, “No, he doesn’t drive any more and hasn’t driven for years. We just want an ID card instead.” So the man handed her a bunch of forms to fill out.

By this point, my mother had already been driving Pop around doing errands for quite some time. On top of that, they’d been waiting in the waiting room at the DMV, which sounds easy unless you’re in your third hour of answering the same question. So my mother, totally exhausted, said to the man, “Is there some way I can get out of here quickly without filling out a lot of forms?” And the man said, “Here, I’ll just renew it.” Renewing it costs more than getting an ID card, but it’s a lot quicker, and by this time all my mother cared about was quickness.

According to my mother’s description, they asked my father about three questions. Then they took him over to some kind of screen or viewing device and asked him whether he could see this or that. Then they took his picture, and in a few minutes he had his license.

Obviously, he’s not going to be driving. There’s no danger of that. Even if he did get a hold of the keys, it's unlikely he'd find his way to the garage. If he did, and even if he got into the driver’s seat, he wouldn’t be able to figure out what to do.

I just think it’s noteworthy that someone in this condition can end up with a driver’s license at all. Of course he wouldn’t have been able to without my mother taking him there, plus she knows he’s not going to end up in the driver’s seat of any car. The point is, what does this say about the way they check people out at the DMV?

Think of that when you’re out there riding your bike.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Cyclist bolts from path of mud for fling with slothdom

You might have noticed I haven’t posted in a while. Sometimes people need a break. Then maybe they realize that the slovenly life they thought they coveted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. At which point they’re happy to go back to their nice predictable routine, which was put in place for a reason. Or more likely, a hundred reasons. Now they remember what those reasons were.

The truth of it is, I broke down and drove my car for three days last week. There, I said it.

And it didn’t stop there. Once I’d gone that far, everything really went to hell in a handbasket: On Saturday morning I drove my car to the gym. Stupidest thing in the world, right? Wait. I know what you’re thinking: that after driving to the gym, I spent my gym time on the stationary bicycle, right? Nope. Worse. Are you ready? By the time I got to the gym, the inside of my car was so warm and toasty that I notched the seat back, curled up in a ball, and read a book for an hour. Then I drove home.

(So far, you are the only one that knows this.)

Look. The weather has been inhuman. I can’t take this freezing cold, all-permeating wetness. Wednesday I used the excuse that I had to schlep a bunch of heavy and awkward items. Thursday my excuse was that I needed to go to a far-away appointment in the middle of the afternoon which on a bike would have taken forever. Friday evening when I left my hideout it was raining just as hard as it was when I left home that morning, only now it was dark on top of it. Remember the formula Lindi and I came up with? Dark + rain + traffic = no bike. So I felt 90% justified in having brought my car – the missing 10% comes from the fact that I could’ve taken the bus. Which I didn’t feel like. If you’re going to throw all your principles to the wind, you might as well do a complete job of it till you get it out of your system.

After a few days of car life, I remember that I didn’t start this bike thing only for virtuous reasons like saving the planet. Another reason was that I thought it would help with my sleeping problems, which it has. Some of my sleeping problems are that (1) I can’t sleep; (2) I get that notorious “jumpy-leg” syndrome, which means that I feel an overwhelming desire to ferociously drum my heels into the footboard of the bed. Getting rid of the feeling by simply giving into that desire proved to be super unpopular with Lindi, so I had to come up with another strategy. I found that riding my bike for a total of an hour a day almost completely took care of it, and I rarely get it anymore. But by last Friday night, after three days of not riding, jumpy-leg was back -- and my sleep endangered anew.

As a reward, apparently, for my “just say no to this weather” attitude, today is balmy, with sporadic sun through random clouds. It's the kind of day when even the most die-hard car drivers would rather be out on a bike.

As you pedal your way around the city trying not to get killed, here’s a question to ponder till I get back to you: Can an 84 year old man with Alzeimer’s waltz into the DMV and obtain a driver’s license?

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Portland to host International Car-Free Conference!

Here is the EXCITING NEWS I promised last Tuesday that I would deliver Wednesday. I realize it is now Thursday. I want my blog to be the place to go for people who missed the news when it originally came out. It’s for people like me who are behind on everything. And who don’t care if they find out about something exactly when it happens as long as they find out about it eventually. Or not. People are busy. They have things to do, and reading the paper every minute isn’t always one of them. So if you missed this fabulous piece of news, here it is again, lifted right out of the Oregonian. Look at this! Was I not just telling you what a bike magnet Portland was becoming? And the next day, this turns up in the paper. See? When I’m not lagging behind, I’m way ahead of everybody.

City of Roses picked to host international "car-free" conference
Posted by Noelle Crombie February 27, 2007 06:28AM
This year, Istanbul. Next year, Portland.
The European-based
World Carfree Network -- which, you guessed it, promotes alternatives to driving -- has picked Portland to host its first-ever conference in the United States, according to this local blog. Portland was chosen based on several key factors, including its support for alternative transportation and its ability to be a model for other cities around the United States and the world.
Past conference hosts include Prague, Berlin, Budapest and Bogota. This year, Istanbul will play host.
Last fall, Portland hosted a Carfree Days event. Read more about it
here.Thanks to for the heads-up.

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