As I am about to embark on a cross-country journey by bicycle, I am cognizant of the fact that danger lurks around every corner and that this trip could be my last. I am also cognizant of the blogger’s overdeveloped sense of drama.
Writing an obituary is a thankless task. You have to make the dead person sound good. No one likes to read the obit of an asshole. On the other hand, you can’t make him sound like a saint. No one would believe you. So how does one tread that middle ground?
I am not a fan of the euphemism. My daughter makes a sport of reading obits for the euphemisms for death: “went to her mansion in heaven”, “went home to meet his heavenly father”, “transitioned from his physical body”, “shed his earthly en-trappings”, “passed into life”, “‘complete’ healing”… When I die, I plan to die. In obituaries, everyone who dies of cancer dies heroically after a long struggle. They fought death. I don’t expect to die a hero. If I fought, I’d probably lose.
[Insert blogger’s name here] died on [insert date here] of [insert cause of death here]. He went kicking and screaming, crying like a baby. His last words were, “Please no! I’m too young to die! Take him instead!”
[The blogger] was tortured by his older siblings as a child. His parents were clearly complicit, as evidenced by these photos from the family photo album.
He never got over this, living, as he died, a miserable wretch. His obituary photo is the last known photo of him happy.
[The blogger] worked a variety of odd jobs throughout his life. He never fit in anywhere, flitting about at 5 to 20 year intervals. He was never very good at anything. One might say he was half-assed. In his longest-tenured job, he never rose to a management level. He would say that he never wanted to be middle management in a large corporation, but he embodied the Peter Principle, rising to his level of incompetence. In his case, that was at the bottom.
He left behind [insert survivors here], who drew straws to see who had to write his obituary. Luckily for them, he pre-wrote some of it. He did want everyone to know this, his last recorded words:
He never worked anywhere long enough to earn a pension and left his family as paupers. They got their revenge via his obituary.
This exercise and song made me realize that MadLibs would make a great way to write an obituary. But since we’re on the topic, I will get serious for a moment. If you haven’t already, write an advance directive to let folks know what you want done if you are ever in a state where you are unable to make medical decisions. Find someone close to you, have a (or some) serious discussion(s) about this, and grant them power of attorney for healthcare, so they can make those decisions, guided by your conversations and written wishes. To do this, you have to think about serious illness, injury, and death, topics most of us avoid studiously.
Consider becoming an organ and tissue donor. In addition to the obvious (donating kidneys, liver, pancreas, heart, lungs), you can donate corneas, bone, skin. You can donate your whole body for cadaver study. You wouldn’t want your surgeons to operate on you having never done it before, right? Cadavers provide opportunity to study and practice. We can look at pictures in books all day, but humans are not all alike. Cadaver study gives up an opportunity to see individual variations and learn hands-on. A study I am involved in examines the brains of people who died with Alzheimer’s Disease, or the offspring of people who had the disease.
Benjamin Franklin said that nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. The latter is clearly no longer certain.
I’m off to drop the bomb, so don’t wait up for me. Some of Tom Lehrer’s lyrics may have gone over my ten year old head, but that one struck home. I thought of it as I rode off from our campsite this morning, not sure when I’d be back.
There was no plan. I headed north (north ¿!?¡?!) as I left the park. I figured I’d check out the lookout tower that was under construction a year ago when I was here. After that…? I used my usual road hierarchy – town roads (named), then county roads (lettered), then state roads (numbered). Since this peninsula is not on the way to anywhere else, there are no US or Interstate highways here.
If the road had an interesting name, it would probably win – Orchard Road sounds more interesting than Townline Road. The final arbiter is that, when I get to an intersection, I look in all directions. If one catches my eye and my heart, I go that way.
I did end up on Townline Road for several miles. After aimless wandering, it was a straight shot on the border between two townships and I covered some miles without having to think about turning – and there were no cars.
One could say I was scouting the route for the century I will ride next month but one would be lying. Since I don’t know the route, I was just wandering. Not to mention that I stopped in the first half hour to hike through a Land Trust.
No map is necessary, because it is pretty hard to get lost on this narrow peninsula. Head west and you hit Green Bay. East and you find Lake Michigan. North and the end of the peninsula appears. South and you arrive in the town of Sturgeon Bay. With the sun shining, it’s pretty easy to know which way you’re going.
I found an interesting-looking coffee shop in Bailey’s Harbor. The menu looked good, there were lots of available outside tables, and the sign said “masks and social distancing required”. I put on a mask and joined the line. It’s hot breathing through a mask after a couple of hours of riding. I grew tired of waiting and got back on the road. The state highway was freshly-paved, with a beautiful paved shoulder and not much traffic (it being Wednesday morning), so I headed down the road to Jacksonport, where there is a cafe I’ve stopped at in other years up here. That cafe was closed (permanently? for the duration of the pandemic? because it’s Wednesday?), so I continued on. I thought about lunch at the brewpub in Egg Harbor (a branch of my neighborhood brewpub, owned by a guy whose dad I knew years ago), but I landed on another road with beautiful pavement and it wasn’t going that way so neither was I.
Back in the park, I climbed the steps up to the lookout tower and looked out. From there it was downhill all the way back to camp. A shower, a couple of tamales, a glass of Tuscan grape juice, and I was ready for the rest of the day.
I don’t know how far I rode, and I really don’t care. I’m on vacation. The biggest tasks for the afternoon are chasing sun for the solar charger and shade for me. Sun is harder to find and requires frequent moving of the solar panel. Work, work, work.
The park has miles of paved roads. There is a shoreline road that goes to all the places that tourists want to go, and a bunch of interior roads that “don’t go anywhere”, so no one drives on them. I spent the next day exploring those roads and think I covered every mile of the park. The first photo above is from that day.
A week without news or internet and I didn’t miss either. My cell phone had no purpose. A surprise text arrived when the wind blew the right way.
Normally we see in the new year with a Lou and Peter Berryman concert. Last year they announced their retirement, so the pandemic did not require a cancellation.
Normally we have a potluck with friends, which includes a listing of everyone’s favorite books, movies, and TV shows for the year. This year was virtual, and we skipped it.
We did welcome the year with home made squash ravioli and closed out 2020 with a 2010 wine that we’d been saving. We’re not wine cellar types, but we do have a root cellar which works equally well for wine and we did lay this bottle down a few years ago with a plan to drink it this year.
Hoarfrost (fog when the temperature is below freezing) came for a visit. (Sorry, but all of the pictures appear darker in WordPress than they did before uploading. I have edited them a second time and re-uploaded them so I hope they look OK this time.)
We live in possibly the weirdest time ever. How many times have you asked yourself if this is really happening? How many times have you thought that this couldn’t be the plot of a novel because it’s too far-fetched to be believable? Here are some excerpts from the transcript of the call from our soon-to-be ex-president and the Georgia Secretary of State (Should we mention that it took 18 tries before they put him through? Maybe somebody knew this was going to go off the rails quickly):
Raffensperger: Mr. President, the problem you have with social media, they — people can say anything.
Trump: Oh this isn’t social media. This is Trump media. It’s not social media. It’s really not; it’s not social media. I don’t care about social media. I couldn’t care less. Social media is Big Tech. Big Tech is on your side, you know. I don’t even know why you have a side because you should want to have an accurate election. And you’re a Republican.
At first I was just going to pull those first two sentences: “This isn’t social media. This is Trump media.” I thought that was crazy enough. But it just kept getting loonier.
Germany: We’ve been going through each of those as well, and those numbers that we got, that Ms. Mitchell was just saying, they’re not accurate. Every one we’ve been through are people that lived in Georgia, moved to a different state, but then moved back to Georgia legitimately. And in many cases —
Trump: How may people do that? They moved out, and then they said, “Ah, to hell with it, I’ll move back.” You know, it doesn’t sound like a very normal . . . you mean, they moved out, and what, they missed it so much that they wanted to move back in? It’s crazy.
Germany: They moved back in years ago. This was not like something just before the election. So there’s something about that data that, it’s just not accurate.
I moved out of Wisconsin in the 1980s. I moved back in the 1990s. I voted in Wisconsin in the 2020 election. Does that mean the soon-to-be ex-president thinks I committed fraud, too? Or just that I’m crazy? We’d better hope he never moves back to New York. (Actually, I do kinda hope he moves back there – to serve a prison term.)
He even disagrees with the lawyer he brought in on the call with him. “Disagree” is the polite way of saying that he is just plain wrong (which is a nice way of saying he is either lying or misinformed):
Germany: We chose Cobb County because that was the only county where there’s been any evidence submitted that the signature verification was not properly done.
Trump: No, but I told you. We’re not, we’re not saying that.
Mitchell: We did say that.
Then there’s the flat-out request for fraud to be committed:
Trump: …So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.
I’m in my fourth winter with a belt-drive bike (bought in spring of 2016). So far it has been a godsend. I replaced the belt once and I have a spare on hand. I would have been through a few chains by now and would probably be looking at other parts. The drivetrain has been getting noisy so I just replaced the chainring (or “front pulley” in belt drive parlance). “They don’t make ’em like they used to” does not always mean things are worse. The original pulley was “carbon-reinforced composite”, AKA plastic. The new one is aluminum. The following pictures should show you why I hope aluminum is the better choice. The rear pulley (“cog” in chain drive parlance) was always aluminum.
I’m hoping for more than four winters from the new pulley.
Since the last post there has been an attempted armed coup. As you are all well aware, our deposed leader attempted to stay in office by overthrowing the legislative branch to prevent them from certifying the election result. How is that called a “protest” or “demonstration”? As videos show, they had the assistance of some of the Capitol Police, as well as the tacit assistance of the administration as evidenced by the paltry police presence and complete absence of National Guard presence compared with the presence during Black Lives Matter protests. (By the way, while media reports have referred to deaths from “medical emergencies” during the coup attempt, at least one of said emergencies has been documented as a trampling by the mob. The police officer killed was reported as dying from injuries while “physically engaging with protestors”. The Chicago Tribune reports he was murdered by being struck in the head with a fire extinguisher.)
Our soon-to-be ex-president has been banned from Twitter after Twitter found credible evidence of a planned second coup attempt, spurred on by his posts. Attacks on Washington and state capitols are planned for next weekend and Inauguration Day. I am hoping for a much more robust response from police and troops. While Twitter is finally taking some responsibility, there are multiple other online fora actively promoting the coup.
COVID-19 and health
I just had the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. While several of my co-workers suffered miserably from side effects, I feel fine. Even my arm ache is less than the first go-round. My hope is that we will be back to public events in 2022 and I can go on a big ride with others again (Cycle America, here we come!). Death Ride 2021 is off the table for me, though it is still scheduled as of this writing.
It has been a year since my surgery (chronicled here) and 20 months since the original injury. Post-op pain has made me question the value of the surgery (pre-op it only hurt to walk; post-op it hurt to ride a bike and sometimes just to sit) and whether, if I had to do it over again, I would have lived with a hernia instead of having it “fixed”. After several rounds of acupuncture which helped for a while, I opted for a nerve block and corticosteroid injection (a mixture of an anesthetic for short-term relief and an anti-inflammatory for longer-term relief). The anesthetic worked great for a day. For the next two days it was like I’d never had the injection, then the following day the pain was reduced (not gone). So far, the injection seems like a winner. We’ll see how long it lasts. The way it works is a 3.5″ long needle is guided via ultrasound through the abdominal wall and to the nerves that are the source of the pain (two nerves, in this case). The injection surrounds the nerve with one medication (bupivacaine – trade name Marcaine) to block transmission of pain signals and a second medication (Kenalog, generic name triamcinolone acetonide) to reduce inflammation around the nerve. The plan is to calm the area down to reduce irritation to the nerve. With luck, this is curative. With less luck, it lasts a few months and then I face the question of more steroids or putting up with pain for the rest of my life. Not to mention the question of whether it is worth it to continue working, since that seems to exacerbate the pain. Since this is (allegedly) an on-the-job injury for which the job accepts no responsibility, retirement may be the best option if the injection doesn’t work long-term. I’d rather not retire until the pandemic is over, so I can have a party.
When Richard Nixon declared, “I am not a crook”, we needed look no further than the vehemence of his denial to find the truth.
Likewise, when Amy Cooper said “I am not a racist”, we knew at once she is a racist. (Amy Cooper, for those who don’t recognize the name, is the woman who called police to tell them “An African American man is threatening my life”, knowing full well that a predictable outcome would be that man’s death at the hands of the police; and knowing full well that her claim was a lie and is documented on video.) We know that Lisa Alexander is a racist. She called the police because a Filipino man was stenciling “Black Lives Matter” in sidewalk chalk on the retaining wall of his house. Since this is a wealthy area, he clearly didn’t belong there. Only white people can be rich enough to live in Pacific Heights.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal (6/15/2020), a recent graduate of Monona Grove High School was in the school as a member of the football coaching staff. He was stopped in the hall by a police officer and a hall pass demanded. The coach responded that everyone in the school knew him. The officer is quoted as asking “what someone new would think about seeing ‘a big black guy’ walking around the building”. I suspect the officer doesn’t think he was being racist, merely acknowledging the possibility of racism in others. But if you care more about a white person possibly being made uncomfortable by the presence of a black person than you do about that black person, that’s racist. If it is the black person who needs to adjust/accommodate, that’s racism.
About 45-50 years ago I saw and heard U. Utah Phillips ,”the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest”, for the first time. He lived in Spokane, Washington, which has since become a stronghold of racists of the blatant variety. To paraphrase, Phillips admitted to racism and told us that anyone who denies being a racist is clearly a racist. To be a white person in the US (or anywhere on earth) and deny racism is like being a fish and denying water. It is the world in which we live. That both makes it hard to see and impossible to be separate from. But we are not fish. We can look for it within and without; and we can fight it within and without. We can live as anti-racists, not mere deniers of racism. When we say or do something racist, we can call it that; not a “mistake”, not “the wrong words”; and not claim that we can’t be racist because we have a black friend or co-worker.
While I can’t find video of Phillips talking about racism, here’s the next best thing:
Bicycling magazine ran an essay about racism in bicycling. That was the prompt for this entry. Responding to one of the racist comments wasn’t enough. The writer, the former Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, is identified as an attorney and a gender non-conforming queer Black woman. She says “Bicycling cannot solve systemic racism in the United States. But systemic racism can’t be fixed without tackling it within bicycling.” Almost as interesting as the essay is the comments section, including “‘Systemic racism’ in America is a complete myth – as false as the claim that ‘people of color’ are being oppressed.” (As of this writing, 29 people have “liked” that comment.) Other commenters think discussing racism has no place in the world of bicycling. We should just talk about spending money on new stuff. Luckily, those comments are not going unanswered.
Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald, to whom I often turn as a voice of reason, put it this way when talking about what to say and not say when you commit a racist act:
“I won’t insult your intelligence by saying ‘I am not a racist’ because I know I am. As a white person in a society where every institution is geared to advantage people like me, it is literally impossible for me to be anything else. In that, I am like a man in a male-dominated society. He cannot help being sexist, his good intentions notwithstanding. Saying he’s not sexist is like a fish saying he’s not wet.
“Many of us as white people struggle with that. That’s because we process racism as a loathsome character defect, when really, it’s the water in which we swim.
“No, the question is not whether we are racist, but what kind of racist we will be. Will we be the overt kind, whose behavior marks her from a mile away? In many ways, her very obviousness makes her the least dangerous.
“Will we be the racist in denial, who thinks that because he doesn’t use racial slurs and eats lunch with a black guy at work, he’s all good? He’s ultimately the most dangerous, because his racism is reflected in implicit bias but otherwise hidden, even from himself.
“Or will we be the racist in remission who knows good intentions are not enough, that he must consciously commit not simply to being non-racist, but actively anti-racist?“
Can someone help me out here? It seems that, by definition, to take up arms against one’s government is treason. I guess that the confederacy wasn’t trying to overthrow the US, just secede from it. But still, why would we name our military bases for the generals that took up arms against us? And why, years later, would our own president be opposed to changing those names? He has already said that he doesn’t like losers and he like veterans who weren’t captured. You’d think he wouldn’t want to name a bunch of military bases for a bunch of losers, but by my count, 10 US military installations are named for confederate generals. Of those, 6 surrendered, 2 were killed in battle, and 2 were captured – they all sound like losers to me by the president’s definition.
As for the title, I owe a debt to Lou and Peter Berryman for “(Your state’s name here)”.