Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Liberal Guilt Artery

I've mentioned the Olentangy Trail before.  It is my path to work.  I run on it too.  My section of the path runs from Clintonville to downtown.

This is no ordinary part of the bikepath.  No, this path follows the is the "liberal guilt" artery of Columbus.  See, my part of the path starts in Clintonville, which is home to aging hipsters and even older hippies.  (It's fine, I know which one I am).  The grocery stores in Clintonville stock high quantities of granola and craft beers.  People wear wool socks and sandals.

Picture from
The path then traverses through OSU's campus and its surrounding neighborhoods.  Needless to say, this part of town is chock-a-block with young people and all of their burgeoning suburban guilt and "feelings."  It is also populated with people from other countries who are used to riding bikes as a mode of transportation and who don't see biking as a revolutionary act or a sport requiring special clothes and nutrition. 

Picture from the Dispatch
Then, the path traverses Victorian Village and the Short North, home to grad students, young professionals, and hip urbanites, and the celebrations of individuality known as the Doo-Dah Parade and Com Fest.  The Short North is also the City's art gallery district.

Doo Dah parade from Columbus Underground
Com Fest from Dayton City News
Then we end up downtown. 

Anyway, if you're looking for places in Columbus where it's okay to paint your boobies blue or where you can find some artisanal organic hummus, there's a pretty good chance you'll find it along this route.

What's my point?  Well, point is,  people along the liberal guilt artery don't need incentives to ride bikes.  They do it because it's convenient, hip, cheap, eco-friendly, or for a host of other reasons.  Also, they do it because it's an option for them.  They ride bikes because they can.

So, the City wants input on bike infrastructure.

This Wednesday - go if you can
The City wants to be more bike friendly.  The City is really trying and I'm thrilled.  (But yo, hold the meeting on a weekend or evening if you really want people to come). 

My suggestion for the City: make cycling accessible to people for whom it might do some good.  Give sheltered and safe cycling lanes or bike paths out to the suburbs (where there are often not even sidewalks).  Same for low-income neighborhoods.  It's nice to ride a bike - let's provide safe places for people to find that out.

Fact is, the liberal guilt artery will take care of itself.  That's my two cents.

Your beer pairing:
Evil Twin Hipster Ale

Because it's delicious and hipstery.

Go be brave.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Like Babies on Airplanes

My son insisted that I buy this.  Remember these?  You can style the iron shavings as hair and beard with a magnet-tipped stylus.  It looked fun, so why not?  It wasn't until we got home that he told me why he wanted it - because he thought it looked like me.

I can't see what he's talking about.

My Mom says he's just like me.  Ha!  Joke's on you kid.  As I have mentioned before, I'm a terrible parent.  If you need proof, please refer to my upcoming parenting book.

Anyway, today is Fathers' Day.  Can you guess what I did to celebrate?  I bet you can.

When I ride my bike, I have thoughts.  Usually they are thought about bikes.  But sometimes they are thoughts about other things.

Today, I was thinking about why I get yelled at so much.  Not at work.  And only sometimes at home.  No, mostly I get yelled at in traffic. 

I don't think I deserve it.  Usually I am not doing anything particularly dangerous when I get yelled at.  Sometimes, I have made a mistake, but often, I'm just riding along.

I have often wondered why, but I think I have figured it out.  See, it's like babies on airplanes.  
No, not snakes on a plane
It's all about "triggers."  Basically, something in the present triggers an emotional response (in this case, anger) based upon an unpleasant experience in the past.  That's why, when people are boarding an airplane, they are already angry as soon as they see a baby.  Doesn't matter if the baby is laughing sweetly, sleeping, or shitting skittles.  The only thing the person can see is a baby and babies may cry on airplanes.  Therefore, the person is already angry before the baby has even cried.

What's your trigger here?
On a side note, as someone who has traveled with babies, if you are one of those people who is mad when you see a baby, fuck you.  The world isn't all about you. 

Anyway, people are amazing in their capacities for triggers.  In fact, we don't even need to have experienced the bad past event; it's enough if someone just tells us about an unpleasant event for our trigger to be put in place.  For instance, if you told me that at Cedar Point, there are many "line jumpers" who will get in line ahead of people alread waiting, I would be on the lookout for them next time I go.  And my pump would be primed - I'd be ready to get angry.

Photo from  Worth a browse.
And the same thing happens with bikes on the road.  Folks who have had bad experiences or have heard of others having bad experiences with bikes on the road are primed and ready to yell.  Even if the cyclist hasn't done anything or at least nothing that harmed anyone. My belief is that these "triggers" are compounded when one is driving - so many bad experiences over a long time can coalesce into permanent state of anger on the road.

Get out of the way! I'm trying to get these cookies to the open house while they're still hot!
Cyclists are not immune either - road rage is a two-way street.

What are your triggers?  Can you let go?  What if that mother with a baby on the plane is taking the child to meet his father, who has been stationed in Kuwait, for the first time?  Would that soften you?  Or if you knew that the mother was already exhausted and was flying to help move her mother into a rest home?  What if the guy you flicked off in traffic turned out to be your favorite elementary school teacher?

Beyond basic survival, triggers are just an unnecessary evolutionary vestage.  We don't need the extreme emotional response anymore - there are no saber-tooth tigers chasing you.  So let it go.  I'm examining myself to release some of my triggers.  What about you?

Go be brave, just do it calmly.  And don't yell at strangers. 

Your beer pairing:
Bell's Kalamazoo Stout: A good stout from one of my favorite breweries.

Mainly because, like the fuzzy face above, I have been told that I bear some similarity to the guy on the label.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Christmas in July

Krampus thinks your elf on a shelf is a punk
Do you know about Krampus?  He's pretty much the anti-Santa.  See, in the "Old World"* Santa wasn't alone.  Santa had a travelling companion, Krampus.  Santa would give the good kids gifts, and Krampus would gather the bad kids up in his bag, take them off and eat them.

*I think the Old World is somewhere in Poland, but I'm not sure .  

Krampus is entirely consistent with the Old World parenting method of raising children through abject terror.  Ah, the good old days.  Parents today are too soft, what with their "love" and "praise."  That's no way to raise good potato farmers.

But Krampus doesn't bother me.  What bothers me is what the Krampus relationship says about Santa.  Why would Santa hang out with an asshole like Krampus?  Two possible reasons: (1) Santa approves of Krampus' mission.  In which case, Santa is employing a sadistic demon to do his dirty work, so he can keep his white gloves clean.  Creep.  (2) Santa is weaker than Krampus and wants to get rid of him, but can't.  In which case, Santa is Krampus' bitch.

Know what's worse than Santa?  Elf on a shelf. 

Creepy shit
Have you heard of this?  It appears to be a new trend wherein parents buy an "elf," and then explain to their children that this "elf" is watching them and cannot be touched.  The elf apparently is a spy for Santa and then reports back to Santa.

Comrade elf tells me that you have been misbehaving,
The parenting concept here is that children can't be trusted.  So, they need to be tricked into believing that someone (in this case, a lifeless doll) is watching them at all times.  Also, because kids have no moral compass, they need some external incentive to make the right choices.  In this case, it's gifts - if a child misbehaves he will receive fewer gifts. Holiday fun!

Are you wondering what this all has to do with mountain bikes?  Well, please allow me to loosely and unsatisfactorily tie everything together.

I have a bike called the Krampus.

Here it is doing park duty with the kids.  As you can see, it's something of a fat bike.  Incidentally, I have often wondered whether fat bikes are actually better for fat guys.  It seems to me that my mass is more stable on a bike with a bigger footprint.  I mean, that's true regardless of the rider size, but with narrower tires, I sometimes feel like a buffalo on ice skates.

I use the Krampus for everything - trails, roads, bike path.  The fun thing about the Krampus is that the bike doesn't care where you ride it and over what surfaces.  You just point it in the direction you want to go and start pedaling.  

The bike has kind of got a mind of its own.  Usually when I try to ride it on the path or road, the bike steers itself to ride over landscaping walls and to jump curbs and the like.  I have to obey, because otherwise, I won't get any presents.

It's actually my second fatbike (please don't tell Santa).  

Pugsley in his natural environment
Needless to say, I'm a fan of Surly.  

Will the Krampus replace the Pugsley?  Not in my house.  The Pugsley is just too much fun.  When it's time to ride a fatbike, the Pug wins.  But the Krampus will probably see more miles overall, because it's hella fun. 

I may not post this Sunday, because I'm going on a bike trip.

Actually, I'm going on a mountain bike trip.  I'm taking my son.  We went grocery shopping for the trip last night.  My son found the list hilarious.

He called it an "All-American" Grocery List.  I'm so proud.
I don't see what's so funny.  It's just the necessities.

Your beer pairing:
Southern Tier Krampus:

A 9% Imperial Helles Lager.  Santa would approve.

Go be brave.  Just don't do it in front of the elf!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Dirt Church

Chestnut Ridge - Winter

Chestnut Ridge - Spring
Chestnut Ridge - Summer
Chestnut Ridge - Fall
The pictures above were taken in roughly the same spot at my favorite mountain bike trail.  The trail is at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park and this particular spot is at the top of the hardest climb - the "Apple Barn Climb."

Because it's at the top of a large climb and because there are some pretty good vistas from there, it is a pretty popular rest stop on the trail.  And because I'm fat and out of shape, I frequently stop there.

I love the trail.  See, I have a stressful life.  I have recently moved from big city of Boston to a small southern town, after the death of my mother.  The local preacher and town council have banned teenage dancing and loud music.  But, I need to relieve my stress and anger, so I have stood up to the preacher, and danced at the local drive-in movie theater.

Oh, wait, that wasn't me.  That's the plot of Footloose.  I get confused sometimes.

I'm pretty sure this is a picture of me
Kevin Bacon during the same time period
But back to the matter at hand.  Karl Marx is attributed with the quote "Religion is the opium of the people."  I'm pretty sure he's wrong.  I think opium is the opium of the people.  Or maybe it's crystal meth.   

A typical "religion den" from Marx's time

But, I think I know what he meant.

Whatever makes you feel that way is your opium - your escape.  For Marx, the idea was that the peasant's time in church was an escape.  In church, the senses were exalted and the spirit lifted, parishioners were surrounded by the beauty of the church - the symbols, paintings, and stained glass.  The drudgery of life was lifted for a little while, and one could lose one's self in the feeling of connectedness to something bigger than the self.

Of course, Marx was also kinda judgy about the whole "religion thing."  But that's not what I'm talking about.  I'm talking about the escape.

It's like Walter White said in Breaking Bad: "I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And, I was really... I was alive"

Chestnut Ridge is my Dirt Church.  For a little while, as I'm rolling along in the dust, I am connected with something bigger than myself.  The troubles of the day float away.  And, when it's really good, I'm not aware of the bike anymore, or my own hands and feet.  There's just movement through the world.  And what a world!

People make fun of Ohio mountain bikers - there's no mountains here, the soil is wet and loamy, it's cold for half the year.  But I see it differently. 

If anybody's looking for me today, I'll be in church.  Come worship with me!

Your beer pairing today:

Elevator Big Vic

An imperial IPA with 8.6% alcohol.  It's named after Elevator's brewer Vic Schlitz who, given his name, had no choice to become a brewer.  And he's a good one.  How the hell they stuffed 8.6% in this smooth, wheaty IPA is beyond me.  But I thank him.

Maybe beer is the opium of the people. 

Be brave.  Just do it in church.  I love you!