Who are we? We are our stories.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Colnago Townbike

This is an '82 Colnago Super with "incorrect" graphics and paint colors. It was originally black with yellow graphics. When I had it resprayed, I had it painted with the yellow headtube and the metallic charcoal, the closest I could come to the color of raw steel. The decals are close, but the wrong year. The purests would have a fit, but this was bike-boom bike, not an early 70's Mexico. Originally it was a standard issue racing bike. It has evolved, with internal brake routing (if I choose to use a rear brake) and the shifter braze-ons removed. Our streets are leftovers from an earlier Paris-Roubaix, so I have mounted practical tires. Some of the bikier-than-thou hipsters find riding fixed-gear a religious experience. I'm not a religious person, but it certainly scared the hell out of me. I much prefer a freewheel and brake. The beast is really light and rides like a dream. Over the years I've put a ton of miles on it. I may put a chainguard on it. Gotta be damned few Colnagos with chainguards. Some of the stuff:

Modern Campagnolo Record pista crankset
Phil Wood titanium bottom bracket
White freewheel
TA track pedals with titanium toe clips
Brooks Swallow saddle
Silca pump - standard issue except paint
Nitto stem and bars with elkhide covering
Early '80s Dura Ace front brake and lever

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Addy Still in India

Ad called today. Classes are over and she should graduate, probably in the Fall. She still has to write a synopsis of her India classwork and she has shipped her computer home so she can get her life into a backpack. She and a couple of her classmates are hitting the road for a month of travel to northern India - Calcutta, Delhi, the Taj. After her companions have to return to the states she'd like to travel alone to the Himalayas and maybe Nepal. I hope she's careful. It's hard let the love of your life run free. God it's hard.

She'll probably go back to work at the camp for the mentally challenged outside San Francisco again for a little while before continuing on with her life, either working, more schooling or possibly teaching overseas.

Robert Parker Muschler

I attended a funeral today for my friend and neighbor, Bob Muschler. I think Bob had a full and fulfilling life. He was a Social Worker by trade, but his passion was art and theater. He spend his life creating. He was a sculptor, a painter and was deeply involved in local theater. The music was provided by friends. Jack Hockenberry, of the Yellow Dog Jazz Band, played slow New Orleans jazz trombone before the service, as we milled about talking with old friends and sharing Bob stories. Michelle Barber, who at one time hosted a Minneapolis version of Austin City Limits, sang the most heart rending blues version of "His Eye is On The Sparrow" ever sung. Sweet Jesus, she can sing.

Bob built two additions to his home. A northern lit art studio and the "Lake Room", which was built with lumber, windows and stone salvaged from an old barn, and the Danish Lutheran Church of Alden. Each of their five children contributed by hauling six wheelbarrows of dirt out of the foundation hole every day. Total cost of the project, a truly beautiful room, $22. Nails? His family said he was "cheap". It is the wrong choice of words. Bob was not "cheap", he was generous, he just got joy out of re-using, re-creating and saving beautiful things.

When Robert proposed to Joan, she declined, as she was going to become a nun. After she dropped out of the order after 6 months, Bob proposed again. As she now had a frame of reference, she told him she couldn't give him an answer for 6 months. Eventually she said yes and they were married for over 50 years. Joanie is so sweet. At the funeral, she was a beautiful, stylish widow, but when I hugged her there was nothing to her. She's like a tiny and frail bird. I know life without her Robert will be hard.

Robert had a terrible memory and sense of time. He said if he ever got Alzhiemers no one would even notice. He had a wonderful sense of humor. Even at the end, when it became apparent that his life had nearly run it's course, Bob declined chemo because "it causes hair loss"...although I never knew him with hair. He would tell stories that arrived at a point that begged a question. When I asked my innocent question, he would quietly drop the punch line, but subtle enough that it would take a couple of beats before I realized it was even funny... really funny! I'll miss that.

Bob retired from his his job because, as he said, it was taking too much time from his hobby, racing homing pigeons. His birds won many long distance races. As a member of the "Finest Generation", Bob could have had a 21 gun salute. He declined and opted instead for the release of a large flock of homing pigeons. They gathered, turned and wheeled over the lake, getting their bearings, before rocketing toward their loft to the west. It was the most uplifting funeral I've ever attended.

You spend your life
Trying to get mature
And when you reach 80
You realize that you're
Only halfway there
And running out of time
You're not going to make it
You're already past you prime
I'm as good as I can get
And really no great prize
And I ain't going to to make it
Before my demise!
-Bob Muschler
I think he made it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Life of Pi

Addy finds it hard to publish things in a public blog for the world to read. Therefore, I've taken it upon myself to invade her privacy and generally embarass her by snipping this out of her last e-mail. That's what Dad's are for.

My post-colonial women's lit class teacher, Professor Kalpana, invited us over to her house the other night. We had a delicious dinner out on the terrace. We sat and talked for hours. She started talking about her son. I think she said that his name was Patel (or something like that). We found out that he is about our age and studying abroad right now. My friend Keri mentioned that Patel was the name of the main character of a book. My professor smiled. Then her husband said, "Kalpana, what is the name of that book whose main character was named after Patel?" "Life of Pi."-replied Kalpana."What!?" we all exclaimed, "The main character of Life of Pi was named after your son!?" "Yes, the author stayed with us for a few weeks while he was in Pondicherry,"Kalpana told us nonchalantly. "Oh my God! That was my favorite book when I was younger!" I told her."Really? I met the author at a conference in Canada and he mentioned he was writing a book set in South India. I told him he could visit me in Pondicherry. Then a few months later while I was on the train from Chennai to Pondicherry, I saw him again and invited him to my house. He got on really well with my son and they spent a couple of days biking around Pondicherry together. So he named the main character after him. He also really liked our hyper-active dog so he ended up putting the dog in the book as well. He told us that he would put us in the acknowledgements but he never did."By that time I pretty much freaked out! I couldn't believe the author of the Life of Pi got his inspiration in the very house where I was eating dinner. Even more, I couldn't believe that my favorite professor, whom I had developed a rather close relationship with, actually knew the man! All I could think was, "Wow, Breanna is going to be so jealous when she finds this out".

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Return of the Cup

It's a small simple vase; really more of a cup. There are three scenes of daily life incised into the clay. Many people would describe it as crude rather than beautiful. Beauty does tend to be in the eye of the beholder though.

My Grandfather Neil was born near Aalborg, Denmark and my Grandmother Nellie in Iowa, a first generation Danish American. Years ago my Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Harold went on a trip to Denmark to visit the land of of our ancesters, and returned with the vase as a remembrance for my Grandparents.

For years the cup sat on a shelf with my Grandmother's treasures. Tucked among the delicate porcelains it looked a little out of place, like a bucolic country cousin that the family finds just a little embarassing. It was something I could relate to it. Like many of her generation, Grandma simply couldn't appreciate a wabi-sabi quality in things. After Grandpa died and Grandma was downsizing and simplifying her life she gave me the vase because I had always admired it. In my house it shared a shelf with raku pottery and antique wooden cooking bowels, polished by handling and ovalized by time. It fit right in.

Shortly after Grandma died, Kathleen and Harold were visiting and the vase caught my Aunt's eye again. She obviously wanted it and we arranged a trade. She got the cup and I got a piece of Danish porcelain, which had also been my Grandmother's. I still have the porcelain, but it only comes out for a week in the Spring. We fill it with Lily-of-the-Valley like Grandma Nellie did; then it's back into storage for a year... safe from it's rougher companions on the open shelf.

After Kathleen died, Harold moved back to the community and bought a nice apartment in a retirement community. Recently, after a nice meal out, we returned to his apartment for a gin and tonic. As we were talking, he mentioned that he had accumulated a lifetime of objects, that his children either didn't want or didn't have room for, and we could take what we wanted. I didn't hesitate. I asked if I could have the vase.

It's back home again on my shelf.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Ad is still in India, traveling and hopefully studying now and then. She spent a few days in the Andaman Islands three weeks ago. This last weekend she visited Kerala again, which she thinks may be one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth. It may be at that.

Ghost of Elvis

“Ghost bikes” are bicycles that are painted stark white, tires and all, and erected by friends as a memorial at the site where a cyclist has been killed. Someone mentioned my white bike looked a little like a ghost bike, to which another wag replied, “Yeah, maybe if the ghost was Elvis”. I don’t normally name my bicycles, but this one has become the “Ghost of Elvis”.

The Ghost really isn't as tacky in person as it is in photos - which, let us hope, could be said of Elvis too. It's a simple pearlescent white with blue trim. To some less discerning eyes there is apparently too much white and the blue components are over the top. In fact, it has been compared to a pink flamingo, a desert sunset on a van, or a black velvet painting – which I don’t understand at all, as it’s obviously not black. Whatever others see, I love it and perceive a beauty that maybe lesser eyes cannot…and even so, it was not something I had any control over.

The Ghost is a 1982 Chris Kvale, built by a man I consider a master of his craft. When I bought the bike it was used. It wasn't fancy, but had graceful proportions and delicate lug filing. It was mostly a “form follows function” machine. It had been raced for years by a fellow from Minneapolis, who suddenly and unexpectedly... got old. I wasn't buying an “Elvis bike”. I was buying the old "Johnson bike".

One afternoon John Barron and I were poking around his basement and I stumbled across a box containing a NOS blue Modolo Pro brakeset. They sparkled. They sparkled like jewelry. My wife wears sapphire and diamond jewelry. These brakes looked like sapphires and reminded me of my wife. And they were certainly a damned sight cheaper than the earrings were. And unlike the earrings or the old Campy brakes, they would actually stop a moving bicycle. I wrote him a check.

My friend Dan Ulwelling was pushing a set of NOS 1972 Mavic SSCs which he thought would look good on it, but I resisted, mostly because I was trying to get rid of the hassle of sew up tires. After Dan died I mentioned this to John Barron. Some time later he called to tell me he had finally found a set of blue Mavic Open Pros, which looked similar to the famous SSCs. After all his effort what was I to do? I sent him another check.

Later I bought fenders, mostly because I like the randonneur look, rather than because of their functionally - having neither, I prefer the illusion of endurance rather than that of speed. When Chris Kvale was respraying the frame he asked if I wanted the fenders done too. Painted fenders? It had never entered my mind. So I deferred to the master - the frames original creator, and had the fenders, stem and rear light painted to match the frame. (Actually, he pissed and moaned about it through the whole process.)

The white seat. I don't know where the white seat came from…or when it appeared. It just seemed to be there on top of the seatpost one day, slightly worn, as if it had always been there.

Then the Cossack showed up with white elkhide sew-on bar wraps. I think we can agree that it's always good thing to match our leathers if at all posible.

So as you can see, I was the victim of things beyond my control. I was a pawn in a darker game. It was all the fault of the others - Dan, J.B., Lorna, Kvale, the Cossack, and of course Elvis himself. Now Hiroshi at the Jitensha Studio has shown up with cute little Frenchy style front bags which he can order in white or navy. A double whammy - white or navy? And possibly Curt Goodrich or Ahren Rogers can make a small, inconspicuous front rack that won't infer with the sidepulls - and it could be painted either white pearl or sapphire blue. Two more names to add to, what I can only conclude is, a conspiracy.

Of course that doesn’t explain the amazingly tacky blue tires that appeared late last summer. (Only because the white Michelins that Scott Davis had were too tight. He should probably get honorable mention.)