Saigon has fallen!

It was April 29, 1975. Bonnie Raitt was playing the Capitol Theatre. Between songs, someone came out on stage and whispered in her ear. She nodded and went on to play the song she was going to play anyway. After that song she announced to the crowd, “Saigon has fallen!” A cheer erupted and the concert kicked into another gear.

We all saw this image of people scrambling to board helicopters to escape Saigon.

The concert crowd spilled onto the street at the end for an impromptu party, which moved to a nearby street to go long into the night.

I’ve just read Bich Minh Nguyen’s memoir “Stealing Buddha’s Dinner”, the chronicle of a 1980s childhood spent trying to be a “Real American”. She ate the foods and adopted the fads that I had spent my youth rejecting. She embraced the myths that unfolded before her. It is only the privilege of belonging that affords us the luxury of rejection. What does it mean to “be an American”?

To those of us who had opposed that war, the fall of Saigon meant the hope that the Vietnamese could find a new life out from under the thumb of the US, and France before us. To some who had fought in that war, the aftermath was a time to help the country rebuild after a generation of occupation. To those like Ms Nguyen, it was a bewildering time, a childhood escape (with her father but not her mother) and an embrace of middle class US life in a town that was not ready to accept her.

But that night, it was first and foremost a celebration of spring. It was the cultural event of the season, an annual rite that we weren’t always aware of until looking back.

45 years after she first recorded this, she’s still got it.

Bonnie Raitt was schooled in the blues, playing with Muddy Waters (with whom I saw her in 1978), Junior Wells, Fred McDowell, and John Lee Hooker. She recorded the work of Sippie Wallace and appeared in concert with her. When commercial success eluded her, she also played with the likes of James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, Delbert McClinton, and anyone else you might care to name. Her duets with John Prine on “Angel from Montgomery” are the stuff of legend.

She became an overnight success nearly 20 years in, with a single on the charts in John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love”, a Grammy for a duet with John Lee Hooker (“I’m in the Mood”) and three other Grammys for that album and her title song “Nick of Time”. 2022 brought a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys.

She’s not done yet, having just completed a sold out tour of the northeast (with NRBQ), with a run through the south in May and continuing east in June (with Lucinda Williams), followed by the rest of the country with Mavis Staples.

And now for something completely different

When the going gets tough

…the half-fast go for a beer. Today, the going got tough. Today was supposed to be babysitting and rain in the morning, a solo ride in the afternoon. Last night the babysitting was postponed, and at 9 AM the sun came out – just enough time to join today’s club ride.

My MO with this club is to start near the back, let the fast folks disappear, and join the moderately-paced group. When we get to the hills, those riders disappear behind me and I end up in no-man’s-land between the two groups, riding alone for the rest of the day.

Today was a relatively flat ride so I hoped I could avoid that fate. We started out as usual. One of the fast group drifted back to us, saying he’d rather be sociable than fast today. I had several miles to get to know this person and we had a nice chat. We rode along in a group of six. Three took a shortcut so three of us were left. When we hit the wind, the third rider kept drifting off the back and we kept waiting for him. We picked up a fourth and had two well-matched pairs. We couldn’t talk much while headed into the wind and the two pairs drifted further apart. The person I was with tweaked his knee and decided to take a shortcut home. So there I was, in a 20 mph headwind which was pushing rain in my face, with 30 miles to go and no one in sight. Oops, I did it again.

Eventually I decided on a shortcut. I saw a way to get to a bike path that would cross my route and be a straight shot back. Trouble was, it didn’t actually cross the road I was on, it passed under it. It took some doing to get to the path. Now I was on a straight shot home, but the wind had shifted from southerly to southwesterly, so it was back in my face again. The rain stopped and the sun appeared again.

I have mixed feelings about rails-to-trails conversions. They mean a dedicated off-road path, but they also mean that railroads will never come back. Other than the route, the infrastructure is gone. They are good for the slow and casual rider, families, people with strollers, and others who feel safer away from cars and moving slowly. They are not paved, and riding on dirt or gravel takes its toll over time. The town roads follow the contours of the land. I am riding in and of a place. The railroads cut through the land – flattening and straightening the world – but when the world grows back along the path, it can become a smaller disruption in the (adapted) natural world. Today’s path mostly ran through open land with no respite from the wind. In the last 10 miles I came into some woods for a bit of relief. When there is a bike (or multi-use) path, drivers think bicyclists no longer belong on the roads. Today the pros outweighed the cons.

Spring peepers (tiny frogs that make big sound)

The spring peepers are out in force and the magnolias are blooming.

(6)

And we’ll have fun, fun, fun…

The first club ride of the year! It started on my side of town so I could ride to the meet-up spot. That would only add 13 miles (21 km) to the ride…except that I took a detour on the way home, so the 27 mile (43 km) club ride turned into 47 (75 km) for me.

Some of the stalwarts of the half-fast cycling club made it, including Rollie Fingers; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; and Sirius Black.

The club bought coffee for everyone at a cafe at the halfway point. I’m still not ready for maskless indoor crowds (if that seems extreme, see this), so I skipped the coffee and had a caffeinated Clif Shot Blok or two instead, stopping just long enough to shed some surplus clothes and eat a bar. (I’m a fan of the Clif Nut Butter Bars, which don’t taste like cardboard like the regular Clif Bars, or melt in your pocket like Luna Bars. I still miss Powerbars.)

The spring peepers are out and loud as usual, crocus are blooming and, if I wasn’t mistaken, the roadside grass is beginning to show a bit of green.

The thermometer read 33 degrees as I headed out (0.5 C) and my phone claimed a wind velocity of 1 mph. Silk t-shirt, fleece jersey, and jacket; fleece tights, shoe covers, hat, and full gloves were the order of the day – especially when I realized the wind velocity had a 2 in front of it (21 mph – 34 km/h) and it was a headwind for the first 25 miles (40 km). At the halfway point I was able to lose the shoe covers, the fleece jersey, and switch to fingerless gloves. About ¾ of the way, I ditched the hat. By the time I got home it was a balmy 57 degrees (14 C).

The coots are back

(Sat) I saw a flock of about 100 on the water on the way home from work. I watched a car stop to let two Sandhill Cranes stroll across the street. Despite that fact that it is 34 degrees (1 C) and sleeting (after snowing all morning), I think that means spring is on the way. The loons should be here soon.

The big lake is the only one with ice left. It is shrouded in fog, which means that, when the fog clears, we should see liquid from shore to shore. Right now I can see only to that flock of coots, with the occasional mallard interloper.

(Mon) As I rode across the tracks (living on the “wrong side of the tracks” I was crossing over) I saw a rabbit dash across the road in front of me, in much more of a hurry than I usually see. I followed it (with my eyes) into the park to my right, then looked back left. A fox was loping along in its path, either having given up, or hoping to lull the rabbit into inattention. Ten blocks from the center of town, at 3:30 PM, a fox was acting like this was no big deal.

Urban wildlife here usually means birds; raccoons and opossums at night; foxes furtively making their way along the lakeshore at dawn – but not in broad daylight in the middle of town.

(Sun) I have ruined the last 9 liters of maple sap (what would have been about 225 ml of syrup) by taking my eye off it at the crucial endpoint. A foaming black mass on the stove said “Oops – have fun cleaning that pan.”

(Tues) I heard, then saw, a loon flying overhead on the ride in to work. The lake is now fully liquid. Crews were busy yesterday. The piers and hoists for the university crew coaches’ boats are in the water. The floating docks for the crew’s shells are in the water and this morning, as daylight broke, the water was filled with every 4 and 8 (person boat) the university owns. The rafts of coots were on the move, as they like the same area near shore the crew likes to row on.

I think I saw crocus shoots poking out through the ground. (9)