Eyes of a Painter

Every picture tells a story, as Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart told us 50 years ago.

I was advised, when I started this blog, that pictures were essential. Words would not be enough. Since it’s about riding a bike, that meant phone pictures for the most part. With a “real” camera, composition includes choosing the right lens, getting the light right, and using aperture and shutter speed to control depth of field and motion. A phone limits those choices and a camera and lenses are too heavy to carry.

What my eye sees and what my phone shows you don’t always match. The weakness is on both sides – me and the phone. Another blogger I follow is a writer (novelist, poet, former English teacher) and a painter. On the ride that spawned the picture below, I though about Martha – writer and painter – and whether the picture in the phone would really show you what I saw.

Ken Burns tries to capture that in his films. It has been named “The Ken Burns Effect”. My eye saw that truck a lot more clearly than you probably see it in the picture. To get closer to the truck with a digital zoom loses the sharpness and the buildings on the horizon. The colors seem less vibrant here than out there. Digital enhancement (at least with the built-in phone software) makes it look fake. While Martha has the eyes of a painter, this is my kind of music, not hers. She’s a punk. I mean that in the nicest way.

Since Martha is a punk, The Stranglers may be more to her liking. I was never a Stranglers fan, but heard them on the way to meeting some folks for a ride. They were being interviewed by Lulu Garcia-Navarro, and played this:

It is from the album “Dark Matters”, their first in nearly 10 years, and contains the last recorded work of their keyboardist, Dave Greenfield, who died of COVID-19 during its recording. Nothing punk about that song (or a lot of their other work), but as we approach 70 (or pass it) my friends and I talk about aging more. Some friends no longer ride with us, having gotten old. Some have slowed down. Some wonder how long we will feel this good. I can ride 100 miles now, but for how much longer? I will enjoy it while it’s here. There are no guarantees.

Last Wednesday Night Ride

It is October. It is supposed to be getting cold and dark after work. 77 degrees and sunny. A quick 17 miles and I’ll be home in time to cook dinner. Soon there will not be enough daylight to ride after work. The fall color ride is just around the corner, and that will mark the end of recreational riding until the New Year Ride (unless it just stays too nice to resist).

The Ride (getting closer)

Carol was the Nurse Case Manager for Trauma. At daily rounds, she was often the only one who got my jokes. Everyone else looked puzzled. In turn, I was the only one who got her cultural references. Everyone else looked at us blankly.

She turned in her resignation on short notice. It was whispered that she had cancer. Soon I saw the notice for her funeral – on a Saturday, so I had to remember her the way I knew her – by working. In her obituary I noted that she was 3-4 months younger than I; thus the same high school graduation year. Not only did we think alike, but we had the same cultural touchstones. Like Geoph, it was pancreatic cancer. Like Geoph, it was fast.

My first personal encounter with cancer (that I recall) was my favorite singer. The call went out for a bone marrow donor and platelet donations. While donating platelets I was tested but not a bone marrow match. Kate Wolf died soon after. She sang of cancer (not her own) in her cover of Muriel Hogan’s “Agent Orange”.

I will be riding to benefit the Carbone Cancer Center on September 26; 100 miles or so. If you can, please add to my donation at: https://runsignup.com/half-fast I ride to remember the friends I have lost and I ride to try to keep that list from getting any longer. Thank you. If you have stories you want to share, please add them in the comments.

Friends

…and I don’t mean the TV show and I don’t mean Quakers.

A blogger I follow recently referred to me as a friend (and I agree). That got me to thinking. That, and a visit out of the blue last night.

My daughter has “Internet friends” all over the world; people they have never met in the flesh, but many they have met face-to-face via FaceTime, so we know they are who they say they are (as much as we know that about anybody, but that’s another story).

That reality had always been foreign to me until I started blogging. Now I have people all over the country whom I would call friends, or at least friendly acquaintances, though we have never been face-to-face even on FaceTime.

My best friend R from my ten years in California appeared out of the blue last night. I got a FaceTime request from an unknown number. I declined it and said “Who are you?” He was an hour and a half away and passing through. We had a great walk and talk in the park a few blocks from my house. We stayed several feet apart. He got back in the RV and disappeared. I walked home for dinner.

Three of us (R and F and I) used to get in hot water together regularly in the Bay Area. I mean that literally. We would go to a hot tub place, sit in the tub together and talk, then continue the talk over dinner. (Truth be told, I’m more of a sauna guy, but hey, this was California;) We asked each other the kinds of questions that made us think and feel and know each other and ourselves more deeply than usual.

R and I once drove 50 miles to a jazz concert. We argued economics (or discussed passionately) for most of the drive and part of dinner. We heard and saw a great concert, then continued the discussion on the drive home and sitting parked in front of my house for too long. As I walked into the house I realized I had just learned something about love. I had spent my formative years (18 to 30) in a close-knit community, where we agreed on most things and our disagreements were, in the grand scheme of things, pretty small. Now I was having a disagreement that was pretty big; but I realized that I could disagree about an idea and love the person speaking it.

This is a friend to whom, when I am gone, I think I may be invisible. We have had no contact in over ten years. But when we are together, he is here 100%. He is fully present – so I don’t begrudge him the fact that he is fully present somewhere else with someone else when I am 2000 miles away.

Those years from 18-30 were present in our talk. The park contains a memorial to an old friend. We had a community of interlocking organizations and friendships. (See previous post and reference to the New Nation – building a new society in the shell of the old.) I initially knew Orly through an organization I worked for, People’s Office. We were a community center providing some of the services that the internet provides now. If you needed someone to fix your plumbing, Orly was the guy, and we had his number at our fingertips. Need to get bailed out of jail? Find out what’s happening in town tonight? Need to get your car fixed at the Co-op Garage? Having a bad acid trip? We could help you. If you had a problem we hadn’t run across before, we’d find a way to help you. Several organizations got their start that way.

Later Orly apprenticed to the electrician who wired the co-op when we got a new building. That electrician happened to have a PhD, but he’d put himself through school as an electrician and liked it. It was only years later that he worked as a psychotherapist, using that degree. Working at the neighborhood grocery co-op, I knew pretty much everybody (and what they ate), and they knew me. S liked to work Sunday mornings so she could see who came in together to pick up bagels and the New York Times. She thus knew the neighborhood gossip first. It was that kind of town.

Moving back after ten years in California, my re-introduction to the community was Orly’s funeral. He died during a heat wave just after I moved back. We had a canoe funeral procession down the river. His flower-filled canoe was towed between two others. We rounded the bend out of the river and into the lake, pulled up on shore at the park, and had a big potluck. It seems that everyone I knew was there. I was home. Orly and the canoe are memorialized on a plaque on a park bench right where the river flows into the lake (where we took the walk back at the beginning of this post). That park is also home to the Marquette Waterfront Festival, with which we welcome each summer (the weekend that school gets out).

So there are that kind of friends, too. Those whose lives weave in and out of our own for years. Those we may never know well, but who make our lives richer anyway. Those we have a deep connection with somewhere along the way, but not forever, but they are still part of that fabric. Then there are friends like the half-fast cycling club, folks I’ve ridden with for 10-45 years. Sometimes a bike ride is the best place to talk.

A song from the Women’s Movement of the 1970s. I couldn’t find a recording by the writer, Ginni Clemmens (without buying the whole album). She was a Chicago folksinger in the 60s and a stalwart of women’s music in the 70s. She died in 2003 on Maui.

You may have noticed that I refer to living people only by an initial and dead people by name. I guess dead people can’t defend themselves and living people may not want to be identified here, so I don’t name them without consent, and I don’t tend to contact them to ask for consent.

Happy Father’s Day!

I’m not one of those people who thinks you have to be a parent to be fulfilled. I’m one of those people who thinks you have to be fulfilled to be a parent. It is fine to not want to be a parent – and even better not to be one if you don’t want to. Your kids will know.

I realized early in life that I didn’t want to be my dad and it was no better to be my anti-dad. I had to learn how to be me and be a dad. That took until I was 40.

I also want to acknowledge those who never had a dad. Maybe you had a father, one who provided DNA, but not a dad. Wil Wheaton says it better than I ever could, so go read this.

For those of you who are dads, happy day! I had a great day and I hope you did, too. I started with the laundry and breakfast (the usual Sunday) and then picked strawberries at our CSA farm. They’ve been growing organic vegetables for about 45 years and I’ve been buying from them for about 45 years. In 2016, they were named “Organic Farmers of the Year“. While you might not be close enough to buy from them, check out community-supported agriculture in your neck of the woods. There are plenty of excellent farmers out there. CSA, for those unfamiliar, is a way for the community to help capitalize farming and share some of the risk. We pay upfront for the season (there are variations), since farmers face major costs at the time of year when they lack income. If it’s a great year for strawberries, we get lots of strawberries. If not, we may get a lot of spinach that year. Each week is a new adventure and a lesson in seasonal eating.

When I got home I picked some rhubarb to go with the fresh strawberries. Strawberry season is short here (maybe three weeks) and there is not always a good overlap with rhubarb. I made a strawberry-rhubarb pie, strawberry-rhubarb sauce, a smoothie, a gallon of frozen berries, and my wife made strawberry shortcake. The pie still has to cool. We had a Zoom lunch with the kids and my daughter-in-law’s father. Later we re-enacted becoming a father, without the kids.

I am not a fan of single-use kitchen gadgets. One doesn’t need 37 assorted knives. An 8 inch French knife (nowadays known as a chef’s knife), a good paring knife, a serrated knife to cut bread; most of the rest are superfluous. I will admit I like a few single-use items – a strawberry huller and a cherry pitter come in pretty handy. A good rolling pin and a pastry cloth. You can tell I like to bake pies.

The Summer Solstice seemed like a good time for the New Glarus Ride. I wrote of it last year. The wild roses were in bloom this week. Dougherty Creek Road was newly chip-sealed. The sound of pea gravel striking the underside of a carbon fiber downtube is not one of my favorite sounds; but it beats the ride of many years ago when the chip-seal was so fresh that I had to throw away my tires after the ride – they were thickly coated in tar and gravel that I couldn’t get off. Usually they use oil instead of tar. The climb at the end of Dougherty Creek (up to Prairie View Road) required staying in the saddle. Luckily, most of the climb is after the turn onto Prairie View. I love when the road name tells you about itself.

The ride ends near a pizza parlor. They have good pizza and 80 beers. I looked over as I rode past. No masks, tables too close for comfort. I passed. I’m not ready to eat in a restaurant yet, not even outside. Maybe if the servers were masked and the tables farther apart. The next day I mentioned this at work, and all of my co-workers agreed – they aren’t ready, either. I guess working in a hospital does that to you.

The long and winding road – nothing beats a downhill S-bend!

Next weekend would be the beginning of Co-op Camp Sierra. Camp is virtual this year, like much of life. I’ll probably drink my morning coffee out on the front porch, as we would at camp. The ride back home to the Bay Area after camp follows the route from this song by Kate Wolf. (The title is misspelled in the video – it’s “Pacheco”.) Mentioning Kate Wolf requires a shout-out to Nina Gerber. Nina was Kate’s accompanist until Kate died, then branched out. She always played the right note and, more importantly, knew how to use the silence between notes. Highly under-rated by the general public, she is highly sought-after by other musicians.

from coopcamp.com. Not the porch for my morning coffee, but for afternoon fermented grape juice.