Green

The word pales in comparison to what the eye sees. Corn, soybeans, hay, maples, oaks – we call them all green but they are not the same. A nearly infinite variety of greens greets the eye on a long ride (or a single view).

If one tires of green (and how could one?), there are the roadside wildflowers (some are weeds or invasive species) to add variety.

ox eye daisy
Queen Anne’s lace
tiger lily
chicory
sunflower

The fields of flowers defy the camera. The eye and brain can focus on each different flower (those above plus clover – red and white – more kinds of lilies, fleabane, and several whose names I don’t know) and take in the whole array, shifting focus from the individual to the patch in a way that a still camera can’t and would be dizzying on video.

I rode my age Sunday. When I turn 100, that will be a big deal. At 75 it will be a medium-sized deal. The only significance now is how late in the year I did it for the first time. Pre-COVID, the plan was to ride the Death Ride Saturday, about double Sunday’s ride. Riding my age should have come in April to be in shape for the Death Ride.

Have you ever noticed that TV sound effects people use the sounds of loons and hawks when they want to evoke wilderness, whether those birds are endemic to that locale or not? I must say, a hawk sounds much more spine-tingling when it crosses the road 15 feet over your head and lands in a tree on the other side. I advise that you keep your wheels on the pavement while you are trying to watch that hawk. No harm, no foul, as they say in basketball.

Leaving Lodi (where I stopped at a convenience store to buy two bottles of water) I failed to fully zip my saddle bag. I discovered it about 25 miles later, and knew that my money clip was missing. I figured that it could have fallen out immediately in Lodi (meaning either it could be turned in or my identity could be stolen) or it could have fallen out on miles of back roads, where it may never be found. After I ordered a new driver’s license and went to bed, the County Sheriff called to say my money clip with cash and license had been turned in.

I drove up to Lodi Monday (home of Susie the Duck) and discovered that the finder had taken only a $2 reward before turning it in. Since I was out and about in a motor vehicle, I continued to Brigham Park to clean our adopted highway. Once again, Busch Light beer cans were the winner for volume. For number of items there was competition from cigarette butts and those plastic markers highway crews glue to the road to show the painters where to paint new lines. FYI they don’t remain stuck forever but end up scattered along the road.

The irony award goes to a whisk broom and dustpan set. Second place goes to three Mountain Dew bottles, two Three Musketeers wrappers, and an Acucheck bottle all in the same spot. Honorable Mention to a “Pandemic Survival Kit”. The only thing remaining in the kit was the mask. I guess the owner doesn’t really think the pandemic is a hoax (hence keeping most of the kit), but tossed the mask to protect his/her conservative credentials. Speaking of which, the cashier and I were the only people in the convenience store wearing masks Sunday. Today masks become mandatory in all indoor spaces that are not your own house (in this county), but Lodi is in the next county. There are no statewide regulations here, thanks to a Supreme Court that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the ruling class, with major investors The Bradley Foundation and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and a well-gerrymandered legislature. (If you ain’t from around here, the Court threw out the regulations from the Governor and Department of Health Services, and the Legislature shows no interest in regulations. Daily case counts are increasing rapidly.) (Speaking of the pandemic, the AP reported this weekend that the last words of a 30 year old man in San Antonio were “I think I made a mistake. I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.” He died after attending a COVID party. And just so you know the US has no patent on crazy, a group of bus passengers in France pulled the driver off the bus and beat him to death rather than don masks.)

When I die, if there are any ashes remaining after they scavenge me for parts, scatter them here. If there aren’t any, burn some wood and scatter those ashes. I grew up in a church that didn’t believe in transubstantiation. We drank grape juice, symbolic of wine, symbolic of blood; and ate cubed Wonder bread, symbolic of the host, symbolic of body. Therefore, wood ashes could easily symbolize my remains.

The wall is where we sit, out of the wind, to eat our potluck dinner after rides. The bench is where we cheer on the latecomers making their way up the hill. The spot, the view, and the climb (right to left) are among my favorites, and why we adopted this stretch of road. If you need a place to remember me, this is it. Lest you think I’m morbid, I plan to outlive most of you.

Rolling Stones Redux

In honor of the 80th birthday of Charlie Watts next summer, the Rolling Stones are hard at work on the set list for a birthday tour. They are reworking many of their greatest (and earliest) hits. Some of the details have been leaked.

The set will open with the anthem of suburban curmudgeons everywhere, (Hey! you!) Get Off of My Lawn! (original 1965) Where else do you yell that from but your front porch rocker, with the ode Let it Rock? (1971).

The infirmities of aging get a workout. Arthritis of the thumb makes even simple activities difficult and painful. The problems of working the TV remote are detailed in Under My Thumb (1966). Falls and hip fractures are covered in Rip This Joint and rehab after hip replacement with Shake Your Hips (both 1972). Nobody likes uncontrolled flatulence, least of all Jumpin’ Jack Flash (he’s got gas, gas, gas) (1969). And with age comes erectile dysfunction, covered in (This could be) The Last Time (1965). Viagra is extolled in Start Me Up (1981). They sing of Type II diabetes in No Sugar (How come ya taste so good?) (1971), and, of course, hearing loss with Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’ (1971). Good caregivers are hard to find and keep. We hear about that in Mother’s Little Helper (1966). And someone has to hear our complaints, even if it’s only Dear Doctor (1968).

The Stones did cover tunes early in their career and end the same way. After a litany of the troubles of aging, they counsel us to have fun before it’s too late – (Get Your Kicks When) You’re 66 (1964). End of life is explored in Time Ain’t on My Side and It’s All Over Now (1965, 1964).

Remember, you heard it here first. Get your tickets while you can still remember.

I should be waking up early in an inn in Hope Valley, CA and riding the Death Ride today. Instead, I’m waking up just as early, and going to work.

Patriotic Music

Today we celebrate the declaration of freedom of one group of white, male, landowning imperialists from the tyranny of another group of white, male landowning imperialists. (I’m writing this on 4 July, but you won’t see it until the 5th, since everything goes live at midnight. As usual, if you just read your email you won’t see/hear the music links, so click the title and open the page.)

Samuel Johnson has been quoted (by Boswell) as saying that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Our current president hugging and kissing a flag immediately comes to mind.

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

In the 1960s, the people who were the equivalent of Trump’s base today had a bumper sticker that said, “America: Love it or Leave it”. Soon another bumpersticker appeared reading, “America: Love is not Enough”. The triumvirate concluded with, “America: Fix it or Fuck it”. I wrote an essay in high school in which I chose the third and concluded, “In my life, I want to be the fixer.” The elderly version of me would say, “I don’t trust any philosophy that can fit on a bumper sticker.”

I have seen other blogs listing “patriotic music” we should listen to today. As I rambled through 50 miles of countryside this morning, a few patriotic tunes ran through my head, so here is my contribution to the day. First, a potential alternate national anthem. I am far from the first to suggest that.

Much music has been written for “important” people. Aaron Copland decided it was time for a fanfare for the common people. (The imagery in the video seems to have been chosen by someone who had a totally different idea of what Copland meant.)

When I heard Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee perform this song I had a new appreciation for the song and the harmonica, and of the benefits of growing up in a college town so I could see and hear them.

Even presidents who accomplished great things in their tenure can ultimately fail. I always liked this intro, even though the song had nothing to do with LBJ. With a band name like “The Electric Flag” (with the subtitle “An American Music Band”) I had to squeeze them in, with their rendition of this Howlin’ Wolf tune.

Bob Dylan had to make this posting, and this one, while always timely, seems especially so again, with a new generation taking the lead.

Too often in Dylan’s shadow, Phil Ochs was a genius in his own right. It’s hard to pick one song, but this is one that those who don’t listen closely can misconstrue (kinda like “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen).

Richard and Mimi Fariña sang of (not) testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). A live version was recorded at the Newport Folk Festival. I have it on vinyl (the posthumous album “Memories” – beware – the CD version is not the same) but all other versions I can find are a vastly inferior recording, so this is the original studio version, since digitizing my album is beyond my capability. The album was a Christmas present from my sister, who heard it playing at a record store. She told me that if I didn’t want it, she’d keep it. No way was I going to let her have it. It grew on me quickly and I still have it 53(?) years later.

Antonin Dvořák showed that European classical composers can be influenced by the US, not just vice versa. And who can resist a piece that opens with viola?

Much is made of the American Dream. I grew up learning about America as a melting pot; a rich stew enlivened by new additions. But the longer the stew steeps, the smaller the influence of those additions. My kids learned a song in elementary school that told them “My town is not a melting pot/My town is a salad bowl” – that our identities are lost if they are melted together. Folksinger Charlie King taught me that America truly is a melting pot – “The scum rises to the top and those on the bottom get burned.” (One might conclude that we have to stir things up every now and then.)

We tend to forget that “America” includes a huge land mass stretching from about 70 degrees north latitude to about 55 degrees south latitude. The United States is but a small part of America. In Spanish there is a term for people from the US – “estadounidense”, roughly “United Statesian”. English lacks such a term which encourages us to forget the rest of America and think of ourselves as Americans and everyone else as Other. And we conveniently forget that people were already here when it was “discovered”. Not to mention that many think of American as meaning “light-skinned and of European origin”.

Whose version of that dream will be realized? Whose version is snuffed out too soon? Los Lobos asks the question.

Early readers will miss the next link. I forgot it yesterday when I got home. Leadbelly sang of hypocrisy and segregation in “Bourgeois Blues”.

Before hip hop there was Gil Scott-Heron, who taught us that “The Revolution Will Not be Televised”. Sitting back and watching is not enough.

Now that I’m home and can look things up, this list could keep growing. I realize women are under-represented. But I will stay true to the theme (this being a bike blog, not a music blog) of what I thought of and sang on today’s ride – with this one exception. What if we had a president who sang along with the Freedom Singers instead of retweeting White Power? (Oh yeah, we did once.)

I don’t know which should close – Gil Scott-Heron or Sam Cooke – but it’s gonna be Cooke. He started as a gospel singer, became famous to white folks as a pop singer, but I think this was his greatest achievement. It continues to send chills down my spine.

A real American – an oak tree on this morning’s ride

A funny thing happened on the way to the

clinic. The main road there is torn up and there was a Detour sign for bikes. I followed the sign, which led me onto a bike path. There were no further signs to direct me back to the road I needed to be on. I eventually found my way there. With the temperature 88 degrees F (31 C) and dewpoint 73 degrees (23 C) I was pretty sticky on arrival.

To avoid the detour, I took the scenic route home. What is normally a 15 mile round trip ended up as 30 miles. Along the way, I didn’t think I was in Kansas anymore.

A suburban retention pond in Wisconsin…bears would be a stretch; but alligators?!?

https://ytcropper.com/cropped/1N5efa2b6ec33f4

On the way home I stopped to check the cherries on the tree by the middle school. I hoped to pick another pound or three. The tree is dead. Now I know we’re not in Kansas.

I saw someone in a t-shirt that said “achiever” on the front. I wondered if that were a true statement, or aspirational. I wondered about being required to wear shirts that label us, maybe even honestly, or maybe with our family’s judgments, and what they would say: “Underachiever”; “I coulda been somebody”; “Never lived up to my potential”; “I told you you should have gone to med school, but no – you wanted to be a plumber”; “I lie – but mostly to myself”; “My bike deserves better”; “Too much money and not enough sense”. The last two are for people riding bikes that are faster than they are. Your comments/additions are welcome.

Detours were the theme of the week. On our continuing “Wednesday Night’s Greatest Hits” tour, we did the “Mt Horeb South” ride. Screaming downhill at 40+mph we came upon a “Road Closed 1000 Feet” sign, then a “Road Closed 500 Feet” sign. The road ended (with an escape route to the right) in a pile of sand (that we could have turned into a ramp to jump the closed section but I couldn’t talk anyone into doing it while I took pictures). The creek is tiny but the trench was pretty deep and a lot wider than the creek, with steep and muddy banks; not to mention lots of heavy equipment and a crew working. The once and future bridge was nowhere in sight. Some “Road Closed” signs are only suggestions. Rivers can be forded or maybe have something to cross on. We’ve had highway crews welcome us to cross a partly-finished bridge when we asked nicely. This was clearly the end of the route. And of course there was no cell phone service and our map had an inset covering the spot where we were. There was only one way to turn so it was an easy choice. Then it was just a matter of making our way back north and east by any means necessary. This was not the Royal We. I rode with two other people for the first time in a few months. We didn’t share air. or beer.

E-bike commercial

Early in our ride, I saw a car and a bike approaching from the rear. Both were clearly going to overtake us – three men in bike clothes on road bikes, going about 20 mph. The bike came closer and closer. As she pulled around us on the left, she was sitting bolt upright, wearing pedal pushers, and rang her bell, passing us effortlessly. I had to look for the battery. Indeed, it was an e-bike.

I’m not sure which would have looked funnier – three guys close to 70 in bike clothes, or three guys closer to 20 being passed by a middle-aged woman sitting upright on a step-thru frame and passing without breaking a sweat on a 90 degree day. I wanted video. One of my friends thought it would be better were she passing Tour de France riders climbing L’Alpe d’Huez. At any rate, at least one version would make a great commercial.

This being July 4, I have to say something. I can’t think of this holiday without re-posting a history lesson:

While the myths we’ve been raised on are “Give me liberty or give me death”, “No taxation without representation”, and “Don’t tread on me”, the reality is a bit more complicated. Genocide against the current inhabitants was already well under way. Imperialism was a central founding principle. While the term “manifest destiny” had not yet been coined, the US was already expanding, and by the time independence was recognized by England in 1783, the US had claimed land to the Mississippi River and beyond. We had already brought people to work as slaves on our plantations. We enshrined in our constitution that a slave was equal to 3/5 of a person, not to acknowledge that they were more than half human and allow them to vote, but in order to increase the representation of the slave states in the House of Representatives and increase their share of taxes. Were three of every five enslaved people counted, or 3/5 of each person enslaved? At least they were acknowledged as “Persons” as well as property.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

US Constitution: Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3.