Bike to Work Week: Friday (supplemental)

Just a short note here, since I’m taking the night off to watch “Sexy Beast” for the 5th time (possibly, the most perfectly paced movie…ever).

On a bike, you can end up in the unique position as audience to priceless onroad performances.

Today, while stopped at a light, I overheard some yelling. I expect this yelling to be at me, so my first inclination is to ignore it.

But once I figured it wasn’t at me. I backed my bike up a little to get a better view. One motorist was very agitated at another motorist alongside him, and this other motorist seemed to be at some pains to explain himself.  

I couldn’t figure out what started the argument, but it clearly ended with the agitated guy pulling away and screaming “GO BLOW YOUR ASS OUT OF YOUR HEAD!”

Bike to Work Week: Friday Morning

Damn. I forgot my pants.

I can manage a lot of outfits, but the bike shorts/oxford ensemble is a tough sell.

I’ve been forgetting to pack at least one item a day this week. Monday, it was socks. Tuesday, a belt. Wednesday, an undershirt. On Thursday, I finally managed to get it all together, but for my ascot. And now today, overconfident from Thursday’s success, I failed to doublecheck the most essential item.    

My much put-upon ladyfriend offered to drive me my pants, an offer I painfully accept, knowing full well it completely negates my attempt to reduce the carbon emissions I’m responsible for. Such is my reverence for proper workplace attire.

Oh oxfords and bike shorts, when will the world accept you together as business casual ?

Bike to Work Week: Thursday

These are the things I have come to expect from my daily biked commute:

  • A wet bike. No matter the weather the night before, my bike is always wet in the morning. Am I being pranked? The other bikes don’t seem wet.
  • A damp helmet. Not fully dried from the day before. Perhaps need to invest in other helmets if I don’t want to continue with these soggy starts.
  • Almost getting killed six times.
  • A daunting morning climb up the hill at Old Sauk, usually while being casually passed by some dorky 80-year-old dude in a yellow vest and bulging calves.
  • Self-consciousness about how I look in my helmet.
  • The pungent smell of decay from UW’s poorly maintained grain silos. Though it doesn’t smell like grain. Maybe they’re ham silos?
  • Awkward head nods to bikers coming in the opposite direction, silently acknowledging our ethical commuting choice or inability to afford gas.
  • Incomplete contemplation of the mundane. This morning: Whatever happened to the cherry they used to put in canned fruit cups? This afternoon: Is our go-to-market strategy based on a fundamental misunderstanding of our customers’ purchasing affiliations?
  • Student pedestrians: Dumbasses, all.
  • Student moped operators: Dumbasses, all.
  • Sweat. A lot.
  • The guy and his Airedale.
  • The repeated dilemma to stop at red lights and stop signs, or to embrace the biker outlaw spirit and fringe status by blowing right through.
  • The finger.

Bike to Work Week: Wednesday Evening

I caught a clear intersection at the bottom of the Old Sauk hill. This rarely happens. Usually I have to stop at the intersection at the bottom, killing all the momentum I built after going half a mile downhill. But this time, the intersection was clear, and I could just glide right through, propelling me for the next mile, cutting my time by 3 minutes. It’s a rare sweet feeling.

I also saw the guy I always see walking his Airedale Terrier. I had an Airedale growing up. Too bad it was inbred to insanity and terrified everyone. Is it just me, or do parents often get inappropriately aggressive dogs for their small children?

Eventually it would be put to sleep at the request of our neighbors, who’s son happened to have been slightly mauled by “Mickey.” Seeing this well-groomed Airedale every day on my ride home makes me think of old “Mickey” and my unsatisfying attachment to him. What the hell was I getting out of that relationship? It bit me, dragged me across yards, ran away. And yet I was always there for him. When he cut his nose after maniacally sniffing the rough garage floor, it was me as a weepy and pudgy 10-year-old who stayed up all night trying to stop the bleeding.

I kind of long for and resent that dog. And I kind of want to stop and pet this dog. But I don’t. I think I’ll probably end up bringing up “Mickey” which will probably take the conversation places this stranger does not want to go.

Plus, I caught a clear intersection this night. If I get short on material later this week, I’ll stop.

Mouth Full of Pickle

So, let’s say you’re passing that table at work where they put the leftovers to catered lunches you weren’t invited to. And let’s say you espy a pickle and you quickly throw the entire thing into your mouth. And then let’s say as you’re walking away chewing this pickle, you intersect your boss’s boss’s boss (who is not a bad looking lady, as high-powered executives go, and who makes you kind of nervous when she’s nearby).

And when you grunt “hello” through the half-masticated brined cucumber, how do you respond when she says, “Oh, you have a mouth full of pickle.”

Probably not by saying, “Happens all the time.” 

Alas, this is the hand that has been dealt.

I may have indecipherably mumbled this. And it’s exactly for occasions like this that I half-mumble almost everything I say. My mumbles are intentionally protective. I fully acknowledge that I usually have no idea what the hell is about to come out of my mouth. So as much as I can, I try to render it unintelligible.

On such occasions when I do say something asinine, either I’m asked to repeat myself, thereby getting the grace to try again with a rhyming alternative (in this case, it would have been “Pickles are very fine”). Or if they don’t ask me to repeat what I just said, I hopefully leave them with some uncertainty about what they thought they heard me say.

And this was the hope I clung to as I scooted away from the silent awkward intersection, eyes straight ahead. To my glorious future.

When I relayed this story to my ladyfriend, she said, “Well at least it wasn’t ‘I bet you know what that’s like.'”

And true, it could have been worse. But not by much. Either way, the unseemly was suggested

It kills me that I felt like I had to say something when I could have just left it. I mean she started it with the mouth and the pickle thing, which made it awkward immediately. And then feeling empathetic that she caused the unintended awkwardness that I’m usually guilty of, I took it upon myself to smooth things out. I felt obligated (probably my middle-child peacemaker reflex) to make it all better with something cute and self-deprecating.

But instead I make it even worse by further building on her unintentional double entendre to such an extent that it is clear we are well beyond gherkins and dills.

Or maybe she didn’t understand me at all.

Either I am so fired or I’m not. Or I can expect a jar of Claussen’s from my Secret Santa.

I’m angling for the jar.

Bike to Work Week: Wednesday Morning

I almost got killed this morning (how’s that for dramatic tension?).

I was caught off-guard with a mind wandering…this time trying to figure out which was worse for Al Green’s career: the recent Corinne Rae Bailey and John Legend duets or his cameo in that what-the-hell-were-they-thinking Lance Bass romantic comedy vehicle, “On The Line” (2001).

I had just climbed the hill at the beginning of Old Sauk, so I wasn’t thinking clearly (of course it was cameo!).

I came to a stop at the light at the next 4-way intersection.  When the light changed for the intersecting road, I jumped the gun and began to cross, thinking I would then have the green next. I don’t know why I assumed this. I have no idea how traffic lights work.

Instead, the oncoming traffic had a green arrow. So as I was crossing, a big van came right at me. No horn or any slowing down. I just had to move my ass or die.

Now, I’m all about how the proximity to/awareness of death vitalizes life. I remember the thrill and the almost dying after falling off a white-water raft and coming up directly underneath that raft amid class IV rapids and jagged rocks in the New River of West Virginia.

But after this, I didn’t feel thrilled or any added value to life. Completely non-plussed. Just tired. And thinking about getting to work. 

And then I almost get hit again by a guy inexplicably swerving into the bike lane.

And then I start thinking about it and I realize I almost get killed like 6 times a day on the road and it barely registers with me anymore.

Have I become desensitized to my own mortality? Or maybe I’m just bored with the prospect of this kind of bike-related death. I need to keep imagining new and interesting ways to die to keep me sharp and law-abiding.  

That’s not good at all. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this. How sad a fate to have Lance Bass in my final thoughts.

Bike to Work Week: Monday-Tuesday

Since life doesn’t pose enough challenges for me, I’ve decided to pose a few of my own.

When I’m not commenting on the Vore’s blog (which I’ve unsuccessfully lobbied to have them change the title to “Voretext”…no one appreciates me), I also hold down a full time job 7.4 miles away. Apropos of nothing (or if you think about it, everything) I’ve decided to bike to and from it everyday this week.

Lord knows why this will make a good blog series, but I need to stall while figure out what to say about “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” (the finest picker to play the blues or don’t you know?). 

I’ve been biking to work intermittently throughout the summer on my brand new Trek hybrid. It’s a 45-minute trip, 55 if I want it scenic. But this is my first attempt to do it 5 consecutive days. 

Monday was alright. Woke up with enough time. The hill at the beginning of Old Sauk Road is always a trial, a 60 degree pitch that goes half a mile. Makes me nostalgic for that 110 page thesis I once wrote. 

I’m pretty sweaty by the end of this. The factory floor bathroom at work has a shower, which it seems I’m the only one brave enough or careless to use. No problem for me. But I haven’t found a place to stash my laundry during the workday. I’ve been hiding it in my desk, which could get rank fast. I usually just take this home the next day by car. But since we don’t have this option this week, we’ll see how this develops.

The ride back wasn’t a problem. It’s a sweet ride down the Old Sauk hill.

Tuesday, I woke up a little late. So I pedalled a little faster. Even still, the tired mind wanders with monotonous physical activity. Tried to figure out how long it would take for me to get sick of it if I changed my first name to Ivanna.

“Hello?”

“Who is this?”

“Ivanna”

“Ivanna who?”

“Ivanna talk to you.”

Man, I get a kick out of that everytime.

Holy mole, I’m going to need some more dramatic tension soon, other than my moldering, desk-entombed laundry.

From 1 World 2 Wheels: A Trek Commitment

  • 60% of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation.
  • 25% of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40% of all trips are withing 2 miles of the home, and 50% of the working population communtes five miles or less to work. 

Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #8: August (Part 1)

I’m rushing this entry if only for my excitement for the new Walkmen album, which has surprised the hell out of me. I have a few more August buys to write about (the Best of Lynard Skynard, anyone?), but those can wait. 

  • Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul Okay, this was a legacy buy. But seriously, is there an any more transcendent moment in music than the moment Isaac goes “By the time I get to Phoenix/She’ll be rising”? I am serious, or it’s just my caffeine-induced earnestness.
  • The French Kicks – Swimming These guys are like the Dirty on Purpose in 2006, a once-overhyped Brooklyn band that has put out an okey-dokey album, dejected by their press not really turning out. They also sound exactly the same, I think. But I don’t care enough to dig up that Dirty On Purpose album. Nonetheless, I like “Sex Tourists” pretty good. It’s a background album with a short shelf-life.
  • Bowerbirds – Hymns For A Dark Horse Andrew Bird with some friends at summer camp, sticking to acoustic instruments, and maybe after hanging out with Devendra Banhart too much. Worth my while.
  • The Walkmen – You & Me What the hell happened? These guys where heading to the dust heap.  I reviewed their show awhile back and liked it okay. But I wasn’t thinking these guys were still producing. Going from their last couple albums, it seemed like they were content with their respectable output and would just resign themselves to riding their remaining career out, doing some weird things here and there. But no!…with the first line “Back to the battle today…” and holy shit, I’m actually surprised they are going back to the battle.  It’s not a departure from their remarkable sound (which I think they were too eager to escape with A Thousand Miles Off), but a relaxing into it, and maybe finding new places within it…ug, blaw, that sounds like a line from an undergrad English paper. In any case, it also seems they spent some time with The National’s Boxer . These guys are still relevant when CD stores are like fruit stands with their disposable produce. I’m saying, this cd is a bolder among over-ripe kiwis.
  •  Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst  I keep getting snookered on the press that this guy is my generation’s spokesman or something. But I’m not hearing me in these albums, maybe because I don’t like to travel and have like 2 friends.  And perhaps that’s pretty impossible hype to live up to, anyways. No matter what lame critics who make up barf words like “Dylanesque” say, I’m not hearing the storytelling thing Bobby Dee does. It’s the frustrated fragility of youth that made him exciting to me, and maybe that’s a schtick he can no longer sell. Or at least sell to me. He can go the way of Ryan Adams and I’m sure that’ll still make a lot of people happy. If he’s going to keep doing this, I’m not sticking around. That said, can I braid your hair like a sister?
  • Broken Social Scene Presents: Brendan Canning – Something for All of Us I wasn’t expecting this to be good. Bought it out of obligation, it felt. To keep my Broken Social Scene collection together (reminded me of my comic-collecting days while  attempting to keep track of every lame Avengers spin-off). Actually, it seems like I bought quite a few albums this month that I didn’t think would be good. Oh my low expectations, good thing you don’t affect my decision-making. Kevin Drew is not the only worthy hero of the BSS. I’m now excited for who suits up next. Except for Justin Peroff. Actually, that makes me curious. If you make it Justin, I’ll get it.
  • David Bowie – Low Hey, this guy was pretty good, even before he bulged in his Labyrinth leotard. And he does a pretty decent job covering that Sea & Cake song, “Sound and Vision.” But he’s only singing on half the album. What was he doing while Brian Eno was programming his IBM PS1 (or whatever they had back in 77) to finish the rest of the album’s…can’t say it…but I must…so tired…fine, lazy…soundscapes (blah). Was he making Radio Shack floppy disc runs? Nonetheless, I might get more of these.
  • Gnarls Barkley – The Odd Couple It seems like Gnarls Barkley made the album everyone wanted from Portishead and not from Gnarls Barkley. But it’s not that much of a departure. The last album was pretty dark. This one pretty much luxuriates in it.

Done. Now I can spend the rest of the week trying to figure out what to say about “Gimme Back My Bullets”

Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #7: April-July (Part 5)

So I pretty much blew my self-imposed deadline to document all the albums I have bought through July by the end of July. Maybe that had a little something to do with getting the band ready to open for freaking Eef Barzelay this past Thursday, which turned out to be totally awesome…but for my tuner going out mid-gig (a moment that will haunt me probably forever).

  • The Kills – Midnight Boom This is this year’s awesome-cool driving record of the summer. It makes me and my ’96 Camry feel really unworthy. This album should come with white rim sunglasses.
  • Shearwater – Rook He’s got a great voice, but sometimes it can come across a little snooty. This one’s not for the hard hats.  Not really catchy, but it’s not aiming for that. It’s ponderous, slow, and pretty. A lot of birds, too. They should get with Jason Molina and open aviary. Write birdsongs all the day long.
  • Eef Barzelay – Lose Big This is very much an Eef Barzelay record. It’s got the wry sensibility, the great catchy refrains, the offbeat conceits, the quirky earnestness. “Girls Don’t Care” may become my new songwriting guide. But I could be biased. Did you hear that my band opened for him in Madison? Nonetheless, it’s excellent. But don’t take my word for it.
  • Port O’Brien – All We Could Do Was Sing Ecstatic rickety stuff from these West coasters. A lot of stuff on fishing. Grandpa would like that, if Grandpa is 28. At their live show, they hand out pots and pans for the audience to beat along to “Woke Up Today”, which is about right.
  • The Black Angels – Directions To See A Ghost The Black Angels are becoming to me equated with The Sea and Cake. Whereas The Sea and Cake put out samey but excellent suave loungy rock, The Black Angels are putting out samey but excellent tripped out psychedelia. I may not be able to differentiate the albums, but I’ll get every single one. Nonetheless, “Mission District” stands out for its killer opening.  
  • Jay-Z – American Gangster This purchase belongs properly to the January-February area. But since I kind of forgot about it and that it has spent the last 6 months under my car seat, I will speak of it now. “Roc Boys” is pretty good. And there are some pretty excellent beats with “Brooklyn” (not that I’m a connoisseur). But I find it hard to care about Zed’s problems. I know he’s rich and can kill me, but I don’t care. And I maybe cynical, listening to Beyonce pray makes me giggle.
  • Portishead – Third Also bought this one a while ago and I keep forgetting I have it. So it doesn’t make a grand impression like the hype surrounding it promised. Still, it’s worthwhile enough. I love how it refuses to be what anyone wants it to be. Not the grand return everyone wanted.  Song #5 sounds like a washing machine is off balanced. So I keep getting up to check even though I know I don’t have washing machine anywhere nearby. So that’s a little frustrating. Maybe that’s why I don’t listen too much.
  • Pinback – Autumn of the Seraphs I could imagine these guys on commercial radio. They have many of the elements that would put them there (catchy, guitar heavy, seriousness) but it’s their sophistication in all these areas that saves them from radio airplay. And is that the Blonde Redhead lady on backup?
  • The Eternals – Heavy International This is the album you might here if you walk into the coolest comic book shop in the world. It’s very hip, but also not afraid to be a little goofy and a lot strange.
  • Bodies Of Water – A Certain Feeling I have a certain feeling that one day, the Bodies of Water may sit around and ask themselves “So what are we doing exactly?” The band may not survive that question. Not too sure why I think this particular thought about this band, when I’m sure it is widely applicable. Maybe because I think they’re special and worthwhile in ways they may not realize. The new album is a vast improvement on their debut, which was no stinker. The dude singer is sounding more like Bowie, I think (my Bowie knowledge is limited to Labyrinth and TV guest appearances).

Well there it is. I’m a little behind schedule but about halfway through the year. And already, it’s piling up for August. Plants and Animals, the Bowerbirds, Brendan Canning and I can’t believe I got the new Conor Oberst. Why am I doing this?

Oh what a night

The band (which includes me under a ridiculous pseudonym) had a unrepentant blast opening for freaking Eef Barzelay this past Thursday as the Cafe Montmartre in Madison.

Eef and company were awesome and liked how we matched up.

Special thanks to Ed Oliver who captured me losing control my chin.

Photo credit: Ed Oliver

And check out this fantastic lady…

Photo credit: Ed Oliver 

For more awesome pics, check out:

http://youbethemouse.blogspot.com/2008/08/eef-barzelay-lion-v-fish.html

And if you were there and thought it was awesome (or if you weren’t there, but imagined it was) say something nice here:

http://www.muzzleofbees.com/2008/08/08/photos-eef-barzelay-cafe-montmartre-madison/

We hope to be playing Madison again soon. Stay tuned.

Eef & Us

Photobucket

The band I’m in, Lion v. Fish, is opening for Eef Barzelay this Thursday at the Cafe Montmartre just off Capitol Square at 9pm. Eef is the brainfather of Clem Snide, a group that put out a bunch of great indie alt-country soul-tinged records with wry sensibility in the last 10 years. His latest record is as excellent as the Clem Snide material (“The Girls Don’t Care” may be my new songwriting guide). 

It is very exciting for us to be opening for him and his band.

9pm, August 7, 2008 at Cafe Montmartre
127 East Mifflin Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53703
Cost : $10adv./$12 dos