Life is what happens…

…to you when you’re busy making other plans. John Lennon said that in the song ¨Beautiful Boy¨.

He wasn’t the first to say it. Cartoonist Allen Saunders (Steve  Roper and Mike Nomad, Mary Worth, Kerry Drake)  said it in 1957. I don’t know any other writer who had three comic strips in syndication at the same time. Saunders’ strips were soap operas before TV came along, though they continued into the TV era.

Comic strips are the thinking person’s Twitter. Squeezing something pithy into one or four panels is a pretty good trick. A weeklong (or longer) story arc is like a tweet storm. When I say ¨the thinking person’s Twitter¨, I’m thinking less of Saunders and more of Watterston (Calvin and Hobbes), Mallet (Frazz), Wiley – last name Miller, but he signs “Wiley” –  (Non Sequitur), and Trudeau (Doonesbury).

Back to Lennon; I can’t help thinking of our president whenever I hear Lennon’s “Happiness is a Warm Gun” – “Lying with his eyes while his hands are busy working overtime.”

Today’s plan was for the annual Fall Colors Bike Ride – the famous Blue Spoon to Little Village festival of fine foods.  Tim, the instigator, announced that he’d be out of the area after we set a date. I found out only the night before that “area” meant “continent”. Tenny was the next to bail – a bad cold. When we were down to two, Rosebud begged off, saying he could do this week or next, but not both.

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Sugar Maple

I decided to do it as a solo ride. Since I’m used to following Tim, I thought it would be safer to scout the route ahead of time via map and make myself a cue sheet. That’s what I did but, when going to bed last night, the bathroom faucet wouldn’t turn off. When getting up this morning, the kitchen light wouldn’t turn on. I also realized that the point of this ride is mostly getting in one last ride with my friends and I would miss that doing it alone, even if we do it next week.

So it was off to the hardware store for parts to do some home repairs. On the walk back I ran into a couple standing at a bus stop and asking where to find the Capital City Trail – “the one that goes to Milwaukee”. I pointed out the trail, which they were standing next to (a bit confusing, as it is a sidewalk for the short stretch in their view).

I mentioned that Milwaukee is a long walk. She replied, “Seven hours. It’s a nature walk, plus we’re trying to get home.” She told me how their plans had been derailed and this was their contingency plan. I pointed out that the trail is not continuous to Milwaukee and how to get to the actual trail to Milwaukee after the Cap City trail ends. If they make it in seven hours, I’ll be mightily impressed.

By early afternoon the temperature had climbed to >40 degrees. Time for a ride! Instead of the Blue Spoon and Little Village, I settled for Farm and Fleet and the library. But the cafes wouldn’t have had the replacement water filter cartridge I needed, nor the library book that was on hold. So much for plans. Now life, on the other hand…

Frazz

We haven’t figured out how to reach Frazz or his alter ego Jef Mallett, so we’ll try here. A short ride to Manitowoc, a long ferry ride ride to Ludington, and we’re in Michigan; Frazz country. Frazz, or Jef, if you’re reading this, please join us when we pass through your neck of the woods in a few days.

Frazz is one of my heroes, for a number of reasons. He’s the school janitor at Bryson Elementary with intelligence way beyond his education or what folks expect from someone in his position. I used to be the maintenance guy at a housing project. We have both cleared our share of clogged toilets. Going to college at the age of 40 didn’t make me suddenly smarter.

Frazz is a triathlete. I’m a half-fast bicyclist and was, in my youth, a competitive swimmer and diver. On the other hand, I only ran to catch buses or soccer balls, not just for the fun of it.

Frazz is a successful songwriter (OK, end of parallels) who works as a school janitor because he wants to. I continue to work in a hospital at age 65 because I love the work. (Unlike Frazz, I also need the money.)

One of the main characters in the strip is Caulfield, a brilliant and underachieving child. One of my other roles in life has been as an advocate for advanced learners. Research has identified common traits of gifted students (current nomenclature is “advanced learners”, not “talented and gifted” [TAG] students). Further research has found that the terms used to describe those traits in white students and the same traits in students of color (particularly African American) are different. Donna Y. Ford is a prominent researcher in this field.

A white student may be identified as “inquisitive”, and a black student as “defiant”, for asking tough questions in class. A common trait of gifted learners has been identified as a “keen sense of social justice”. A white student may be identified as “sensitive”, a black student as a “troublemaker” for possessing and acting on that sense. Learning and teaching are culturally-based and black students frequently do not meet white norms.  African American students are 54% less likely to be identified for advanced services than their white counterparts, after adjusting for other differences.

Caulfield is frequently disruptive in class and spends a lot of time in detention with Frazz. Caulfield is African American. His teacher is European American.

Frazz is one of the few comic strips which has made me look things up. Caulfield introduced me to the term “benighted” (antonym of “enlightened”).

Benighted

Another comic strip (Pearls Before Swine) contains a recurring character who embodies all of the stereotypically worst traits of stereotypically arrogant bicyclists. He is identified as “Jef the Cyclist”. Due to the spelling of Jef, I suspect the character is a dig at Jef Mallett. So Jef, come and join us so I can ask you about that in person. (OK, I looked it up and my suspicion was confirmed. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t still like you to join us on the way across Michigan.)

Frazz can’t set his own hours, but maybe you can. Ride with us for a day. Here’s our Michigan itinerary:

MichiganWe have arrived in Ludington after a short bike and long ferry ride. Pizza and Sangiovese for dinner. Thank god for Google Maps, as the written directions and street markings did not agree. I found our destination with darkness falling.

Tent fly is soaked inside and out. Everything else is still damp.

We had a phenomenal lunch spread in Manitowoc at the home of a former Cycle America staffer. The ride was short and sweet, up the Lake Michigan shoreline. A75B59C5-6BC9-4685-9A5F-6ED9EFEB6722

We all got antsy on the ferry, wanting to ride more. We are within spitting distance of 3000 miles.

Boarding the ferry, our escort into Ludington, Michigan shoreline:

Sheboygan County takes their corn security seriously:8C41AE82-8DEF-4775-8F72-BD90344D0548More to come tomorrow on our day off. It’s past my bedtime. Another state and another time zone behind us.