Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Three Good Days

I needed this three-day weekend. Feeling stretched thin and dog-tired. Fighting the bug that laid my poor girls out for a week. Dug out a couple ancient rhododendron stumps out to make room for fruit trees. Flowers are nice, but I want to grow something I can eat; we're thinking maybe a fig and an Asian pear? I also went for a long run, and joined a team mate for a couple hours on a mountain bike in the mud of Forest Park. It felt good to do some riding that was out of my usual element. I'm still too tentative on downhills, but the practice was good and he was patient with me.

I've recently found myself uninspired by my bike commute. Normally, this time is precious to me, when I clear my head, fill my lungs, and get tuned into the weather of the day, or coming home when I unwind from a day spent with hormonal and awkward adolescents. Maybe it's the Coho, which seems worse this winter. Or maybe the cold rain we had last week, or the weeks or riding both ways in the dark, shoulders tensed by traffic and icy patches. Even my bike seemed weary, groaning and creaking pitifully. I suspected some drivetrain malady and took it in for a diagnosis. "Your chain is beyond stretched." was the verdict. So another thing I did this weekend was some bike doctoring. I installed a new chain, recycled a pretty decent Shimano 600 6-speed freewheel. overhauled the hubs, and replaced the cables, housing, and brake pads. Now it rides like a new bike, but cheaper. And the past two days have been glorious; clear and windless, frosty in the morning, and just a hint that any day now the sun will crest the horizon before I get to work. My bike is purring happily as well.

As I pulled around the back of the building this morning, looking down at the football field I saw this:

Daybreak, gulls face east
gilded by the sun's first flame
in a frost-bound field

I also got out for a Valentine's day date with T for brunch at the Country Cat, and our own little economic stimulus pilgrimage. Now I know I've recently been preaching the virtues of saving and I'm not backing away from that. Indeed, part of me wants to see the economy tank even further in the belief that, like an alcoholic who has to hit bottom before he can begin recovery, our economy is not yet at a place where those in charge will acknowledge the folly of a system dependent on consumer debt. However, the government cut us a check last week. Or rather, returned the part of our taxes owed back to us, and we spent part of it on a new camera. The old Canon died on us just before Christmas, and T has been talking for over two years about getting a "real" camera that takes better pictures than the dinky point & shoot we've relied on. I think we made a good decision.

It's been a revelation how much we've been missing. Colors are vivid and skin looks alive, not pasty or washed out, and we can capture motion instead of complaining about blur. With three kids who are growing up too quickly, it's a purchase I don't feel guilty about making. It helped that we were able to get a good deal from a local company instead of going the online or big-box route. I'm trying to keep my money close to home, even if a bunch of it eventually goes to a Chinese camera factory.

I also tried to get one of these so I could make one of these. Almost pulled the trigger because I thought I had a big team discount at River City, but it turns out the discount I hoped for didn't apply to "bikes and frames" which the xtracycle apparently is - because you attach a wheel to it. And feeling cheap and stubborn, I balked at the lesser discount they offered. I'm regretting it, a little, but we're getting closer to the transformation from THIS


Finally, as February wears on, the allowance envelope was getting thin. I was down to my last $14 and was unsure if it would be enough for the new M Ward which was released Tuesday. So that night, after washing up the dinner dishes I did what any desperate music fan would do - scrounged up some cans and headed to Safeway. 4 dollars richer I figured I could swing the purchase and skip the lattes until the end of the month. Even better, MM had it on sale, (My 30+ year love affair with Music Millennium, and my regrets for straying in search of better prices at Best Buy/Target/Amazon I'll save for another post) so I took a look through the used bin and found this. T and I had just been talking about Tapestry at dinner - how it's one of those seminal albums that I never actually owned, probably because in my younger days I just wasn't into "chick" music. Now that I have a wife and 2 daughters who are big fans of the Gilmore Girls, and I listen to the lyrics more than I used to, so I've developed an appreciation for some music that I used to ridicule. Rumours by Fleetwood Mac is another example - I can remember in high school how much the music nerds I hung out with hated them (though I'll bet more than one had a Stevie Nicks poster in his bedroom.) Now I see Rumours for the masterpiece it is, and though I still don't much care for Stevie Nicks, I have to admit that "Dreams" is a pretty decent piece of writing for a 28-year old heartbroken coke-head. And Lindsey Buckingham was - and is - a genius.

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