I see dead people

In looking through WordPress statistics, I note that among my most-read posts are paeans to somewhat famous people (Bruce Gordon and Robert Ruck) I have known.

Bruce Gordon was a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago. He studied framebuilding with the great Albert Eisentraut and then brought an artist’s eye to the building of bicycle frames and components. He designed one of my bikes (the “Hikari”), though it was built in a factory in Japan. When it was damaged by UPS, I took it to him for repairs so I had a chance to talk with him. He said the repair would cost more than it was worth and I could continue to ride it, as the damage was inconsequential, or I could buy his new bike (the “Rock ‘n’ Road”) which he called a better bike and was built in-house. Thirty two years after that conversation, I’m still riding the Hikari. I rode it today before I wrote this. With wider tires it could handle the off-road portions of the Spanish ride I posted the other day.

Robert Ruck designed and built classical and flamenco guitars. An issue with acoustic guitars is volume – how do you design and construct a guitar that is loud enough to be heard in a concert hall without amplification and still produce a quality tone? Bob experimented with ports in the upper bout and different bracing styles to improve both. I never owned one of his guitars. I knew him because we studied and taught Tai Chi together for years.

The other category near the top is the series of COVID-19 posts. I guess that one is less surprising, as I spent a couple of years on the front lines and then got the disease myself. There are too many of those posts to provide all of the links. If you really want to read them, you can enter “COVID” in the search box and WordPress will take you there. (I just did that and it gave me 16 pages of results. WordPress is a bit liberal and inconsistent when it comes to finding connections. I did the search a second time and the list shrunk to 11 pages with the first hit semi-relevant. The list is not just the posts in which I tagged COVID-19, so I don’t know how WordPress’ algorithm works. I linked to my first post after getting the disease, the post from working in the ICU which generated a bunch of comments including an indirect death threat from an anti-vaxxer, and the one that WordPress tells me was the most-read on the topic.)

The final category that hits near the top are posts in response to/inspired by some other blogger. One could argue that WordPress/the blogging world is a community in print, or a closed loop, or self-referential. Take your pick. Other bloggers inspire me to think about things that I might not otherwise think or write about. (Which makes me think of Matthew Harrison Brady in “Inherit the Wind”: “I do not think about…things I do not think about.”)

Finally, in a sign that I may have too much time on my hands, I found that this blog has been read in 78 countries and all continents except Antarctica. Iā€™m blown away by that. The reach of the internet is phenomenal. If people all over the world are reading the ramblings of a half-fast bicyclist, how far do actually significant words travel? And if you know anyone in Antarctica, ask them to read this so I can add the last continent. Maybe the ISS, too šŸ˜‰

And that brings us to the end of the year and the first six months of retirement.

In memory of Robert Ruck

robert-ruck
From Classical Guitar magazine

I met Bob Ruck some time in the 1970s. He had moved from Sturgeon Bay to Middleton WI to be closer to civilization. He made guitars, which he could do anywhere but he said he stayed in the middle of the country for shipping purposes. He later figured out that UPS would ship from anywhere so he moved to Kauai, then Bainbridge Island, WA, and finally to Eugene, OR.

Bob and I studied and taught Tai Chi together (along with another founder of the half-fast cycling club). One day he came to the rest of the teachers in our school and told us he’d met this great new teacher at a workshop in Arkansas, and could we bring him to our school for a workshop? That began my study with Peter Ralston, whose blog appears in my blogroll.

I moved to San Francisco in 1984 and studied with Peter in Oakland. Bob would occasionally fly in for a workshop. We’d go to dinner together and he would joke that, as long as one of us said the word “guitar” during the meal, he could buy my dinner and put it on his expense account.

robert-ruck-classical-2009-cons-soundports
From 12fret.com

I visited Bob at his home on Bainbridge Island and he showed me his workshop and the tonewoods he was ageing. He showed me the new design he was now building, with sound ports in the upper bout for better volume.

It was only many years later that I realized that Ruck guitars are among the most sought-after in the world. His waiting list was closed for years, as he had more orders than he could fill. The wait was ten years. His guitars sold in shops routinely for more than he charged for them.

I haven’t seen him since I found out how famous he was. He was just Bob, the guy who hosted the massive dinner our Tai Chi school had when our teacher came up from Chicago, the guy I taught classes with. It was at Bob’s house that I ate a duck embryo. Our teacher, the late Domingo Tiu, was born in China and raised in the Phillippines. Duck embryo (balut) is a common street food in the Phillippines. Domingo told us it was meant to be consumed with beer. He talked of hot nights sitting out on the front porch, sipping a beer, and buying balut from a street vendor. We didn’t sit on the porch, but we had our embryos with beer.

Manuel Barrueco, a Cuban guitarist and teacher at the Peabody Institute, plays a Ruck detail2_no.58coversmallguitar, number 58. It is the subject of a coffee table book, featuring interviews with Barrueco and Ruck, and detailed photos of the guitar, which Robert made in 1972. It was an experiment, but Barrueco fell in love with it and wanted to buy it. While he is said to be using a newer guitar in concert, he continues to record on the Ruck.

Bob died on August 13 of 2018; the day we rode from Lake Placid to Plattsburg, NY. It was a beautiful morning as we soared down the sweeping turns descending from the Adirondacks.

There was no soaring today; but I did get to find out that my new winter boots work in the cold. It was -14 degrees this morning as I rode home after dropping the car for repairs. By the afternoon it had warmed to +14, but the wind had kicked up to 14 mph. It was a symmetrical sort of day. I was only slightly overdressed. My feet stayed warm.