Moving Is Strange
There is very little left in my apartment. My laptop and some notebooks in a backpack, a weeks worth of clothes in another bag. Everything else I own is packed away in a storage unit across town. My other three room mates have already moved into their new places, taking almost everything with them. There are unclaimed dishes in the kitchen and cleaning supplies abound.
One of my room mates and I spent most of the day cleaning the apartment. Wiping a year of dust from the blades of ceiling fans, clearing windows of handprints, applying spackle to tack holes in walls, emptying the refrigerator and bleaching the bathrooms in an attempt to reclaim some small portion of our security deposit.
In the meantime my sleep schedule has rapidly decayed, despite the regularity of my work schedule. Not having a bed makes it easier to wake and harder to fall and stay asleep. There are few things I look forward to as much as having a bed of my own again.
The details of the place I’m moving into are a bit dubious, and yet I’m intermittently insouciant and worried about the reality of me moving in on Friday. I’ve heard the place described, and I’ve seen similar studio apartments in the area, but I haven’t yet visited the place where I plan to live. While the property manager has told me it would be ready to move into by the first, one of my co-workers who lives in the same group of apartments cautions that I may not be able to move in for another week and a half. I haven’t seen any sort of lease agreement yet, so at this point there is no guarantee of my tenancy.
But I’m not really that worried. I’m calm and I feel optimistic that things will fall into place in the next three days. I hope I’m not being naive.
- Had a doctor look at my knee for the first time in the nearly eight weeks since my surgery. Looks like the kneecap is stitching itself back together again, and it’s ready to have the two supporting pins removed. As soon as I get them out I can begin physical therapy again to restore flexibility and strength to my leg. If I was to try to bend my knee with the pins still in it, they would “shred the flesh”, as the doctor put it. Two little bastard steel toothpicks live in my leg, but not for long.
- Looks like I’ve almost secured a new apartment. My current lease ends next Wednesday and I’ll be able to start moving into the new place the following Friday, so it looks like some couch crashing will be in order. Slowly my belongings are getting boxed in preparation for brief storage and eventual moving into the new digs. I am looking forward to have a gas range, a garden, and a one bedroom apartment all to myself.
- Started listening to Andrew Jackson Jihad last night, very tasty. Kind of rude, kind of nasal and squawking, some kind of awesome. Brave As A Noun is obviously a very good song, but I think People II: The Reckoning is my favorite so far.
So here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson
People love you more, oh nevermind, oh nevermind
In fucking fact, Mrs. Robinson
The world won’t care whether you live or die, live or die
In fucking fact, Mrs. Robinson,
They probably hate to see your stupid face, your stupid face
So here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson,
You live in an unforgiving place.
- I think bicycle frame builders who blog and/or upload photos of frames-in-progress are hot. There are plenty of them on Flickr, including but not limited to Mike of ANT, COURAGE Bicycles, Jordan Hufnagel, Ira Ryan, M.A.P. Cycles, Pereira Cycles, Signal Cycles, and especially Sweetpea Bicycles. Almost all of those builders are from Portland, hey, whadyaknow.
Calendar claustrophobia has accelerated. I’ve got roughly eight and a half days before the lease of my current apartment ends. Almost all secondary hobbies have fallen off the radar. Two of my four room mates have already moved out, but I haven’t yet secured my next abode. I’m waiting to hear back from several possible landlords, no word yet.
If everything suddenly decided to go my way it would be quite surprising. I’d get a call sometime this week along the lines of, “the studio apartment is good to go, you can move in as soon as you sign the lease.” I would then borrow my boss’s truck and move my personal accumulated flotsam over in two or three trips over the coming weekend. Once the unit was emptied it could be properly cleaned. By next week I would be aligning sparse furniture into pleasing geometries in an apartment all to my self. Order of operations is bed, kitchen, computer, bookshelves, bikes.
If nothing goes as I hope it might, things will turn out a bit differently. With my essentials in back packs I’ll stow the rest of my stuff in a storage unit. I would surf the couches of my friends, were they not for the most part traveling the state on bicycles. Some kind of crashing arrangement will be met, while I wait out the doldrums of uncommunicative land owners.
In order for the more preferable of these two possibilities to occur, many large floating objects will need to align and fit together in a very precise way. Unfortunately their shapes are complex and their trajectories unknown. There is no luck involved nor faith required, their inertia will carry them through.
Until I know where I am heading, the only really productive thing I can do is pack. Many things are heading back to my mom’s house for storage, and my cumulative load is lessened. I’m borrowing a trick from a friend and labeling taped up boxes in a manner completely unrelated to their contents. A box of books is labeled “stray cats”, a box of bike parts is designated “assorted novelty limbs”. As my moving situation unfolds I hope these inaccuracies keep me balanced.
Tomorrow morning the Wheeled Migration takes flight. “Students, educators, innovators, activists, organizers, and entrepreneurs of the environmental justice and green economy movements” will be spend ten days riding South from Chico and other parts of the state toward San Luis Obispo and the UC/CSU/CCC Sustainability Conference.
Many of my friends are going on this tour and I wish them the best of luck. However it plays out I am sure it’ll be a great experience. All the preparation I’ve seen so far makes me hunger for my own inevitable bike touring.
At this moment, I like the idea of lightly-loaded short tours, some akin to Randonneuring. I want to ride light and fast, I want to carry the bare minimum and realize that I need even less, I want for something like this.
It’s going to be a while before I’m riding again, and even longer still until I’m riding as fast or as strong as I was. I’m imagining myself as starting from a completely blank slate, though I know this isn’t completely true. It will be through daily indoctrination that my legs return to appropriate levels of muscle tension; riding to and from work, riding in spare hours of sunlight, riding entire Sundays.
Eventually the miles will add up to something. Until then, I’ll watch my friends ride and share in the revelry that I can.
Every so often I feel like upcoming events in my short-term future are conspiring to attack me all at once. I can see them amassed on the horizon, their forces regimenting and growing, preparing to land on me with claws fully extended.
By the end of this month I need to have found and then moved into a new apartment, I’ll get to stop wearing my cast and start going to physical therapy for my knee, I’ll reach my self-imposed and arbitrary deadline for recording the seventeen songs of my album Year Two, and other such assorted feats.
For the most part I feel like I can’t really prepare for these events beyond what I have already done or am currently doing, and there’s not really anything I can do to attend to them any sooner. So here I sit, and here they come.
No One Cycles
A few months ago John Pucher, professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University, gave a lecture titled Cycling for Everyone: Lessons for Vancouver from the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany at a Canadian public policy conference.
Citing the personal and public benefits of increased cycling, Pucher explains why riding a bike is by far one of the most environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable forms of transportation.
The meat of his presentation lies in his exploration of cycling infrastructure in societies where trips by bicycle are much more common. In the Netherlands, for example, over a third of all local trips are made by bike, as compared to less than 1% here in the United States. The reason they are riding more is that the infrastructure in place in their cities makes cycling practical, safe, fast, and convenient.
Ezra Klein, associate editor at The American Prospect, agrees with many of Pucher’s points. In a recent post on his blog Klein suggests that these kinds of transportation issues have been recast as what he calls lifestyle issues:
In America no one cycles, and when you’re over thirty, really no one cycles. In the Netherlands, a quarter of the old make their trips by bike. Which is just to say, everyone cycles. It’s like walking, or driving: A mode of transportation that’s often the best for a given trip. Not some sort of radical lifestyle statement. Meanwhile, the problem in America is that, compared to other countries, cycling is incredibly unsafe, and we have little infrastructure dedicated to supporting it.
This of course means that cycling ends up concentrated among the young, who tend to take more risks and feel more physically capable, and males, who tend to take even more risks and feel even more physically capable. But there’s no reason it should be that way. It’s a public policy choice, and given the energy and public health benefits of cycling, it’s an odd one.
The comments on Klein’s post make a pretty interesting read, discussing wether it’s fair to compare the US and European countries, how cycling advocacy may be indicative of a culture war, and ways in which European modeled cycling infrastructure may or may not be applicable in the United States.
One commentor, Philly, argues nicely:
All the anti-bike people here have very short-sighted sense of what it would take to make more Americans ride bikes.
It isn’t about getting a lawyer who […] lives in a Houston exurb to bike to the city wearing an expensive Italian suit in mid-July. […] It’s about first creating the infrastructure for the people live close enough to work and in appropriate climes (which is a larger number of Americans than most people here concede, but does not include, I will admit, Texan exurbans). And it’s about developing and redeveloping urban areas so that commercial and residential areas are more mixed and closer together.
I think the ideal goal is not an America that looks like 1970/80s-era China where the streets are filled with flocks of bikes, but rather a place where a respectable number of people (but realistically, probably never more than 10% of the population) bike to work and an even larger number of people (again, never a majority) use bikes to run everyday errands and on the weekend rather than using cars or buses, and that there would be a far greater number of bike lanes, bike paths, and bike racks throughout the developed landscape.
I personally need to become much more of a cycling advocate. I’ve always thought of trying to be the best bike mechanic I can be as a way of encouraging others to ride their bikes more often (since you can’t ride your bike if it’s not working), but I can and should be doing more to affect changes in my community that will cultivate more cycling.
Annunciate and Enunciate
In recent weeks my posts have been fewer and farther between. Whenever I want to write for this blog I start with something very loose and descriptive, but after a few paragraphs I start to ask myself, “What am I saying, why am I publishing this?” What begins as something I’m pretty interested in writing about turns into vanity and useless word-tossing.
I usually try to avoid daily journal style posts, à la “Today it was hot and I rode the bus to work.” But sometimes that kind of account is the best way to get some damned words on paper —er, screen.
Last night I drew something I didn’t completely hate. I’ve been drawing in my EVERY DAY sketchbook much less often than the titles suggests, and the usual result doesn’t get me too excited, but yesterday I had some luck. So here is a short illustrated description of a dream I had in which me and Batman were hanging out in my old neighborhood.
On the bus home from work today I was thinking about how one can never be absolutely certain that they understand the meaning of a word. If I want to make sure I know what the word adjunct means ([?aj? ng kt] noun, a thing added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part), then I must know what the words used to define adjunct mean. Then I need to know the definitions of the words defining the definition, on and on.
Surely, over time I can learn how to speak and read and write and become very confident in my understanding of a language, but I can’t ever be absolutely certain that I do. One might be able to relate this idea, of not being able to completely understand a system from within itself, to Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, if one actually understood what was being said.
While at work today I saw a pickup truck burst into flames in the street. Chico has been inundated with firefighters while the wildfires are burning so the situation was rapidly contained, but it was still totally awesome to watch.
Tomorrow is my friend’s birthday. I haven’t heard from them in a while but I can’t wait to call them and tell them how great they are and how much I miss them (it’s a lot). I’m really tempted to call them tonight, to be that person who calls early to avoid the birthday phone call traffic, but I will wait. I’ll call them from the farmer’s market while I buy fruits and vegetables and wait for the bus to come.
Also, vowels are awesome.
Two Fourths Past
I don’t know what I was doing on the fourth of July last year, but I can vividly remember the year before that.
I remember sitting on the lawn behind my house with friends.
We had originally gathered on Flood’s hill, a big grassy slope on which the town gathered to watch fireworks being shot off from the nearest soccer field. Afterwards we walked through the dispersing crowds and the two blocks to my house.
From my backyard we shot bottle rockets out of an empty glass bottle up into the trees, each time hoping it wouldn’t light any of the branches on fire, hoping it wouldn’t fail to take flight and set the grass ablaze.
High school was over and a lot of us were headed to different parts of the country in the next few months. Most would still have family in New Jersey to return to over each extended break between classes, but not all.
I remember a conversation between two friends about their accepting college’s drug reputations, specifically the mention of coke being popular on some North-Eastern campus. I said something admonishing about the drug, asking my friends not to mess around with it. I even told the story of the friend of a coworker who overdosed just a few weeks before.
I had only met the woman a few times in passing, but in stories she sounded rather manic. One evening she invited my coworker over to the place she was house-sitting and upon his arrival refused to let him in. After an argument through the window my coworker left, returned once more to be met by more arguing, and finally left for the night. The woman was found the next morning, apparently dead from an overdose of cocaine. My coworker indicated that he thought it was likely an intentional suicide.
After I told the story, one of my friends remarked how tragic it was, how unfortunate the woman was. Though my feelings have changed in the years since, I said then that I didn’t feel bad for the woman, implying that the situation was her own fault. I now regret having the entire conversation.
Back To Work, Again
I’ve returned to work at the shop again, and it feels good. Even though my leg is still in a (removable) cast that keeps it straight, I’m able to walk/stand/work with it well enough. I was worried I would have to wait until I got my cast off at the end of July before I could return, but I’m finding myself to be plenty capable of standing around and wrenching on bikes.
One thing I forgot about working, both mentally and physically, is what it does to my arms. Besides making my hands and the undersides of my forearms filthy, working on bikes all day really stresses my shoulders. I think it’s funny that while I was away my body got out of shape for turning wrenches.
Another silly thing my body is doing since starting work again is making me pass out at 8pm. Instead of making a big late dinner like I’m used to, I get maybe a bit of a snack and then WHAM my bed jumps me. But this work induced fatigue only lasts a few hours, and I’ll wake up again listless in the middle of the night unable to get back to sleep. At least my body’s not giving me any guff about waking up at 6am each day.
At the same time, I’ve decided to start being a real musician again. The singing/strumming/recording kind. I’ve started re-recording the “rough cuts” of tracks for my second album “Year Two”, when I can get rid of my sleepy inertia. I’m giving myself a deadline of the end of July to get all twelve of the songs done, including collaboration with some friends around the country. That sounds like plenty of time to me.