Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Anyone who has seen my bicycles will recognize the style of Ernest Csuka. All of the other great French constructeur companies are gone. Ernest was a nephew of Alex Singer. Now that he is gone, Alex Singer will probably be the last to fall. Originally all racing bicycles were single speed. If you ride a bicycle with multiple gears you owe something to these French constructeurs.
for many decades, died on December 22, 2009. He
was 82 years old. Ernest Csuka was the last of a
generation of great constructeurs, whose work in
post-war France had shaped modern bicycles, with
lightweight tubing, modern geometries, and many
aluminum components which later found their way
to racing bikes. Many of the bikes Ernest Csuka
built have been ridden hard for decades, and
still are ridden today. They combine light weight
and a light feel with quality and durability."
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
"Twas the night before Christmas..."
Always a difficult time for those among us who live alone - the singles, the childless, those who have no close relatives with whom to spend the holidays. Some will spend Christmas Eve by themselves. This is the story of one of them. He sits by the fire, sipping hot tea and watching the flames chase and frolic among the logs. At his feet, a warm pile of sleeping cats. Except for the occasional sputter from the fire, it's a silent night. The winter sun is already setting amid a few crimson clouds, leaving a starry indigo sky to the east. His room grows dim, lit only by the dancing orange flames. It's still early - a few more hours must pass before he makes his rounds. Across the room, leaning serenely against the far wall, is a bicycle. Normally it would be stored for the season, waiting patiently for Spring rains to wash away the road salt, but this evening it stands ready for one last ride before it's winter slumber. Headlights are mounted, along with a single red taillight. A thermos full of hot coffee has replaced the water bottles. Tonight will be a special ride - an honor reserved for this bicycle, which has been favored for the past twelve months.
Curious and confusing changes have been made to the bike. The toptube has been wrapped in cloth tape to protect the paint, and over this a split piece of PVC tube has been slipped into place. Twenty-four silver sleigh bells,arranged in three rows of eight, are attached to a strap of leather at each end of which is tied a length of wire. The strap of bells lays over the top tube, hanging down on either side of the frame, and the ends of the wires are attached to the pedal spindles in such a way that, when the crank is turned, the bells are pulled alternately up and down over the PVC sleeve, so that each revolution creates a "jingle-jingle" sound. It's almost 9:30 - the man begins dressing for the ride ahead. Wrapped in several layers of warm wool, he rolls his bicycle out into the chilly night. Lights turned on, leg over the bike, feet into the pedals, and off he goes. First he rides a lap around his neighborhood. His breath turns to frost in the chilly air, but inside his woolen cocoon, smelling slightly of lanolin, he remains cozy and warm. The bells work as planned, jingling with each stroke of the pedals. Most folks are already in for the night, so the roads are silent and empty - there is only the sound of his sleigh bells in the crystalline air. He has lived in this town for many years, and knows it's neighborhoods well. He knows where many of the children live. Passing their homes, he bounces the bicycle up and down a bit to make extra jingling noises, but only colored lights and silence greet him. First loop completed, he turns onto the main road and heads downtown. He has only a few hours to cover all of the little neighborhoods, his small white light guiding him along the darkened streets. During the ride he thinks about his childhood, and all those early Christmas nights when he lay awake, too excited to sleep. He remembers listening as his parents turned-off the television and went to bed. He recalls the low rumbling from the steel mill across town, where the machinery never slept, and the lonely whistle from trains rolling through the farmlands beyond. A sort of panic would build as sleep continued to elude him. He'd toss and turn, wondering what would happen - would he get in trouble if he couldn't sleep all night? And then he'd suddenly awaken on Christmas morning to a world full of magic. Tonight he continues his ride, visiting one neighborhood after another, covering the entire town, the bells jingling all the way. But what if no one else can hear the bells tonight? Perhaps the televisions are still turned on, the kids are up late playing games on their computers, their exhausted parents having surrendered to wishes to open presents early. But perhaps there is one house, one small room, where one child stares wide-eyed into the darkness... one little believer is wishing for sleep to come, wondering perhaps what time Santa will visit, and how He gets down the chimney, and how He manages to cover the entire world in just one night. Perhaps one small soul will think about the glass of milk and the little plate of cookies left on the table by the Christmas tree. And then, perhaps, they'll hear the gentle jingle of bells outside and rush to the window to see a dot of red light disappearing into the distance. And it won't matter if the light is at road level rather than flying up over the rooftops - an amazing site, otherwise inexplicable - not a car taillight or anything like that, bobbing slightly from side to side as it crests the hill and vanishes. It's three hours later, and the rounds have been completed. The bike rests once more against the far wall. The fire is little more than deep red embers. He sits in his chair, three happy cats napping in a pile amid the warm wool. He thinks about this night's work, reflecting on all the Christmas Eves he's spent alone, and probably will continue to spend alone, and how life isn't always what we expect it to be.
And he's only a little surprised to find that, on the table beside him, someone has left a glass of milk and a small plate of cookies.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
There are about 5000 people living in Red Lake and that many and more of the band living in Minneapolis. Damned if they don't look better and happier at Red Lake. Of course this is a celebration. We're all happier celebrating with family and friends.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
The Pinot Noirs are tough grapes to grow. They like cool, foggy conditions, so they often don't fully ripen and they can be a little foxy. Oregon's Willamette Vally produces some of the best Pinots in the world, and also some that are simply dreadful. There are no passable cheap Pinot Noirs. You either pay up front or find a tolerable Malbec you can live with. I'm not familiar with the Sineann winery, but if someone is going to the trouble of building a special rack to tote them, we can safely assume they are pretty good wine.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I like, "Please send my my pots and pans from Texas." He must have sensed he was going to make it over there.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
And that old time feeling comes stumbling up the street,
Like an old salesman kicking the papers from his feet.
And that old time feeling draws circles around the block,
Like an old woman with no children, holding hands with the clock.
And that old time feeling falls on it's face in the park,
Like an old wino praying he can make it 'til it's dark.
And that old time feeling comes and goes in the rain,
Like an old man with his checkers, dying to find a game.
And that old time feeling plays for beer in bars,
Like an old blues-time picker who don't recall who you are.
And that old time feeling limps through the night on a crutch,
Like an old soldier wondering if he's paid too much.
And that old time feeling rocks and spits and cries,
Like an old lover remembering the girl with the clear blue eyes
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
This is from Margadant. I am assured that it is hilarious. Maybe. I've played both of these roles enough times that I don't know anymore. Just wait 'til the old boy gets his whole life stored in that damned book and his harddrive fails. Hah, then he'll wish he had scroll backup!
While I have you all here together, listen up people, I have a word for you, rather two words: Back up! either locally or offsite. For those of you who assume your harddrive will keep spinning for eternity at a bazillion rpms and won't fail before the Rapture, you are wrong. They all fail, it's just a matter of time. You guys be careful out there - do as I say, not as I do.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Row one, desk one: JoDell Johnson, my first girlfriend. Her father and mother ran the "beer joint" on the edge of town. Our young love was cut short when her father, drunk and angry over a card game, shot his neighbor dead. He went to prison and her mother took JoDell and just went.
Row one, desk three: Eugene Thompson, he's a third grader, sitting with the first graders. I assume he was already being punished for something. Being a third grader, he already had a history. He and Ben were regularly locked in the coal room in the basement with the lights out for punishment. One time they got loose and made their escape out the back door. Which may explain the later rope incident.
Row one, desk four: I think she's a Meyers. If so, her father was electrocuted the next year in an accident at the grain elevator.
Row one, desk five: (?) Johnson. I think she moved during the year.
Row one, desk six: Me. I was in shock. I had never been called "Neil" in my life. I was not Neil. Neil was my grandfather. This is obviously taken on day one before it was discovered that I am as blind as a bat. That may explain the blank look.
Row two, desk one: Ruth Anne DeRaad. Never as innocent as she looked, but really nice. She died as an adult in a terrible automobile accident that killed four people. I still miss her when I remember.
Row two, desk two: Joyce Steinbeck. Known as Foyce, because she struggled with her cursive. She taught me a lot when we hit Junior High.
Row two, desk three: Karen Marie Peterson.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Melia is over a hundred years old but it has an elegance that only comes with age. She is a fine looking older lady, with slightly thread-worn clothes, but with definite class and breeding. Her floors are hand-painted tiles, with wood paneled walls reaching up to the high wood ceilings with chandeliers and slow turning paddle fans. All that is missing is a fat man in a white suit and panama, smoking a cigar at the round table behind the palms.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
My father died at the age that I am now. If your father is still with you, savor your time, savor his time. Enjoy your father while you still can.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
I love the music and my affection tends to grow as we plunger deeper into the frigid abyss of Winter.
I'm all alone, more or less
Let me fly far away from here
Fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun
I want to lie shipwrecked and comatose
Drinking fresh mango juice
Goldfish shoals nibbling at my toes
Fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun
Fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun