Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Raven in Wyoming

 Raven in Wyoming


 I was on the Hog, riding back to So Cal after a cross country trip that peaked with a week at the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. I rolled out of Cheyenne  early in the morning for the day-long trek westward along Interstate 80. I was headed for  Evanston near the Utah state line, where I knew of a very good restaurant, and a very cheap motel. It's as long and lonely a ride as you'll find anywhere.  You don't know how big the Earth is until you've driven across Wyoming.


Now this was back in 1993, so I had to look up the route to see if I could find just where I had my brief encounter with Raven. I did remember a long, u-turning on ramp that climbed pretty steeply up to the highway. A search on Google maps revealed only one such place along the length of the interstate, a census-named spot call Arlington, population 25. 


There was a couple of gas pumps, and a C-store in a pre-fab building. They had a bench outside, and not much else. I filled the tank, and bought a pack of Marlboros, and a coke. They had those giant Slim Jim sausage things in a box right by the register. I don't know why, but I bought one. I rolled the bike away from the pumps, and sat down for a break. Just as I opened the Slim Jim the big black bird  glided down and landed on the ground before me maybe ten feet away. I knew right away that this was not Crow, but Raven. I had never seen one so close.

The bird stood there, cocking his head, looking at me sideways with first one eye, and then the other.

Raven | Size & Facts | Britannica 


I said, "Hello."  The shaggy black bird took a few tentative sideways hops in my direction. I broke off a good sized piece of the sausage, and tossed it about halfway between me and the bird. Raven wanted that sausage. He took a few timid sideways hops, but quickly hopped back to a safer distance. The chunk of Slim Jim was just a little too close to me for the raven.

 I spoke softly, "C'mon. It's for you."

 Hop closer in, back away, hop closer in.... almost... but no. This went on for a few minutes. Raven wanted that sausage, but he was going to get only so close to this strange visitor, Man.

I finished my soda, saddled up, the bike, and lit the V-twin. The bike spit thunder, and the bird fluttered off. I made the U-turn and as I charged up the ramp, Raven swooped  across my path. He flew right at eye level, so close that I almost could have touched.  He had that Slim Jim in his beak, and a bright gleam in his black beady eye.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Cold Cruising, Rocks, and Storybooks

Cold Cruising, Rocks, and Storybooks  


What we started with

Work on the stone has been a little sketchy this week. It has been cold (for So Cal) so I'm not getting out to the table until late in the morning. Too, I've been trying to get out on the bike more often. At this advanced age one falls out of shape very quickly.  The local bike path is nearly finished, so now I can get in a good twelve mile cruise every day, or two without having to ride on  any major surface streets.  

It's not as though I'm working to a deadline, or anything, but taking that cruise slows everything down. It means either getting a late start on the art, or an putting an early ending to the work sessions. 

Here's where we left off last week. 

I opened up the cone a little farther. Now, the job is working  that flat, suction cup face into the irregular curves of a blossom. I'm retaining as much of the ragged, "natural" shape of the rock as I can.  If rocks bloomed this would be the flower.

Sun. 2/19/23

Got together with the bike gang, Saturday, for twenty six  miles on the fat tires. We rode the Santa Ana river from right around Angel Stadium, down to just a couple miles short of the beach. I hadn't been on this stretch of the river trail since the late 1970's. Back then, I'd take my single speed Schwinn Spitfire out in the morning,  cruise my way down to Anaheim, and pick up the Santa Ana River Trail right there at Angel Stadium. I'd ride the trail all the way down to Huntington, then slog it back home up Beach Boulevard for total of just over fifty miles.

Saturday's ride covered about half that distance. I rode all day on the Santa Ana Trail expecting to see some small thing that would light up a memory. It has all changed. There was nothing familiar at all. And twenty five miles in the cold and wind just kicked my ass. I've been flopped all day today.

 I finished up CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia the other day. I was sad to see the series come to an end, and not just because of the sad ending of the World of Narnia.

 Turning an eye to the ongoing mess of news, current events, and commentary is just disheartening. Too much exposure to it brings on this free-floating sense of dismay.  I still look through the bookmarks every morning, but I'm reading less and less. I quickly reach a point where my eyes glaze out of focus, and my attention just evaporates. I return to the same conclusion: The world as we knew it ended with Trump's "two weeks to flatten the curve" speech. The covid panic may have abated, but that was only the first shot in this war.

"The world is in a bad way, my man, and bound to be worse before it mends; ..." 

And so it is, and all signs point to the worsening.  I don't have the four or five centuries to wait it out. I doubt if I have two decades. My generation will not see an end to it in our lifetimes. And there is not a whole heck of a lot we can do about any of it.  Accept what you cannot change; change what you can, and all that. I can change my focus. I can turn away. Reading is a way out, and  CS Lewis was on my bookshelf.

 Reading Narnia was just plain fun. And, at first  it seemed like it would be fun to write about it. But I had barely touched the keyboard, when I got time-jacked straight back to Cal State Fullerton, where the penalty for reading any piece of literature was five type-written pages minimum.  Or worse, a final exam bluebook prompt: 

Discuss the theme of Redemption in CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. Compare and contrast similar themes in the work of two other authors from this semester's reading list.

That's pushing forty years ago.  Even so, that routine killed off any interest I had in books or reading for a very long time. As soon as I hit the keyboard I found myself trying to write term paper prose. I'm not going to do it. I'll make a few notes on what I enjoyed, and why.

The Chronicles of Narnia provided me with a most welcome escape, but the magic of Narnia was not  the magic of talking animals, or witches' spells. In Narnia,  Evil can be directly confronted fought, and, with great effort,  defeated. The avatar of God can speak to us directly. That there could be a place where there was no history for thousands of years sounds pretty good to this old bastard.

But. Getting back to that redemption thing. I like the broad brush with which Lewis paints his characters. I liked the way that  his heroes: Edmund, in particular, start out as perfect little shits, yet grow to become worthy kings. It's a good lesson for the young, and a good reminder for the aged, like myself.  At seventy years, it is quite easy to look back through your resume, and find stuff that makes you wince, and cringe. It is comforting to be reminded that the Lion is forgiving to those who own their wrongs, and change their ways. I try.

And I like the way that Lewis reminds us that not all will be redeemed. The blind dwarfs in the last book have chosen their lot. They sit at a sumptuous feast in the glory of fresh air and a warm sum. Yet they believe them selves confined to eating garbage in a lightless stable. Those who have ears hear the music of Creation. Others, like Uncle Andrew,  hear only unpleasant noise: 

[Uncle Andrew] had disliked the song very Much. It made him think and feel things he did not want to think and feel.

 This resonated with me. I can recall the time when any mention of Christianity just gave me the creeps and the willies. That time is past, and I have become a Believer, albeit feral.

I don't know if there is anything more to say. But treating a story like a dead bird bird on dissection tray just gives me the creeps and the willies.

And now, thanks to the cruel, and remorseless taunts of Will, and Julie, I've embarked on that grim voyage aboard the Pequod, and I'm laboring beneath Ahab's scowl, and Ishmael's verbosity. All goofing aside, here. I'm about halfway through Moby Dick. It isn't nearly the monster I remember, and (don't tell anyone) It's actually a heck of a good story. Maybe some notes on The Whale, next week.

Monday, February 13, 2023

chisel and drill

 Chisel and Drill

Tue, 2/7/23
I reached the point where I have a clear separation between the bulb that lies flat along the base, and the mouth of the large irregular cone that will rest atop the bulb. 
Now to address that big flat oval face.

 I got out the big drill, put the 5/8" masonry bit in the chuck, and bored down about three and a half inches into the face of the cone. Time to break out the point chisels. My chisel-fu gets stronger with each project. Here's where we are as of Wednesday afternoon.

The next task will be pushing the walls of that cone thinner, and then we'll take the flatness out of the front rim of the cone.   I took another bite with the drill, chiseled out more material, and started shaping in the irregular curves with the cabinet rasp.


Thu. 2/9/23
 I'm an early riser, but 2:30 is too damned early for even me. Had an early visit with the doc today, and got Mary's car in for service. Doctor visit was OK. All the numbers are very good, and the echo test on the heart showed nothing amiss. Mary's car is another matter. It's thrashed.
But  a night without much sleep was just what I did not need. I'm draggin' it. I couldn't work up the juice to get the tools out, but I did finish Chronicles of Narnia today.
I'm sad that it's over. I haven't had so much fun with a series of books in a very long time. More on this in a post somewhere down the line...
Fri. 2/10/23
 I hadn't been on the Roadster in a while, so I polished it up for Saturday's ride, and put in a about eight miles on the local bike trail. It felt good.
But Saturday was cold, and windy.  
Newport Harbor.
We left the fancy dress bikes home.  I am a wimp when it comes to cold. I'm skinny, and I chill easily. I have to prep for a sixty degree day the way most people gear up for the snow. I was ready for the cold, and it paid off. Sometimes fighting a little wind and cold is actually fun. I think it's called "invigorating" or something.

Sunday, 2/12
I founded the So Cal RatRod Ride eleven years ago, and a year later three of us founded RatRod Riders B/C. This was when the "Outlaw Bicycle Clubs" were just catching fire. I'm leaving out names, because I am the only one of the three founders remaining in the club. We were there for the first OBC gathering in Las Vegas, and our monthly ride drew dozens of participants. 
We used to roll a pretty darn impressive pack through the Huntington and Newport Beach bike paths. We did a few parades, and threw some giant parties. But all things change, do they not? A bunch of clubs came and went. The scene gradually evolved into sort of a custom bike show circuit. The various builders do come up with some gorgeous machines, but most of the customs are show queens: impractical, heavy, tough to ride. 
Most of the club rides became more focused on the bar stops than the bike path. Lots and lots of people ride with bluetooth stereos. Many have "sound bike" trailers with big ass speakers, and they play them loud. As a group, we slowly fell away from the big gatherings. It just wasn't fun to drive an hour or more out to a ride, and then spend most of the day standing around waiting for everyone to get done drinking.

We don't do stereos or bar stops. Last thing any of us wants on a bike ride is being stuck behind someone blasting rap, or heavy metal.  Dave and Russ don't smoke,  but the rest of us enjoy our weed. One life's sweet little pleasures is to catch a buzz, and take in the peace and quiet of a long slow cruise along the coast. Our rides run in the 15-20 mile range, with a couple of 'safety meetings' and a lunch break where we can find cheap food.  So, of course, attendance at our  event fell away. We mostly stopped going to their rides, and they mostly stopped stopped coming to ours. The club has become a small, tight family. We do our own thing, and it is good. Even so, we have our 'fancy-go-to-meetin' bikes as well as our daily riders. We're still in touch with the rest of the scene. 
Dave, and Troy went up to Simi Saturday to show off Dave's custom. Check this baby out:

And that's about it for this week. I do want to get around to talking about The Chronicles of Narnia, and also about Life, the Universe, and Everything, in a subsequent post. Oh, and Moby Dick, too. No foolin', I really started it again, and you know what? I'm enjoying the heck out of it.

Monday, February 6, 2023

On Days After Rain

 On Days After Rain


Friday, 2/3/23

We got a break from the rain this week, but it's been cold, for So Cal- 46 degrees this morning. It's  sunny and clear, but the temps are hanging in the 60's. Buddy the Cat is back to being his noisy self, and I'm much grateful for that.  I got a little work done on the stone.


I did not have great ambitions on this project, but I like how it's turning out.  After the Aerodyne project I wanted an easy, free form, improvisational exercise, sort of make-it-up-as-I-go-along. 


I wanted a break after taking exact measurements, and working to a plan.  




I'm pleased with the flower-like form that's emerging from this odd wedge of stone, but between the crappy weather, and my dull, flat humor, the project is lurching along in starts and stalls. Whether you plan it all ahead, or plan it as you go, you still gotta' plan. Can't get anywhere if you don't know where you want to go. So, I'm taking some long sit-and-stare sessions before chowing into this much farther.

I just nuked several paragraphs of dark, and melancholy musings about death, the purpose of Life, and the nature of cyber friendships. VanderLeun is gone. We have all been very fortunate to have been a part of the event that was American Digest. But it's over. The community will dissolve in time. Some of us will stay in touch in the way we do with our on-line friends. We'll lose touch with others. That's just how it goes. I do not want to lose touch with the group, but I'm not looking to replace the time I spent there with another site, another host, another community. Truth to tell, I am sick of internet, and bone weary of the passing world. I'm going to tune out, and turn to other things.

 Remember books? Odd how things get started. A couple weeks back I had to take Mary to Kaiser for cataract surgery. It  meant several hours sitting and waiting in the truck, or somewhere on the Kaiser campus. No fun.  I got the great idea that a book would be just the thing. Haven't read one in a while. On my bookshelf I had a new, unopened, and unabridged copy of The Chronicles of Narnia. All the books in one big volume. I had never read them. Why not?

The books have been a blessing during this episode of low spirits. Lewis is an easy read. There is depth enough to the stories to keep them from becoming idle entertainment, but you don't need to do a line by line exegesis on them to suss out the hidden meanings. And I love his absolutely horrid English brats. 

This is reading for escape; escape is fine with me right now.  I remember when I was in the fifth grade, devouring Tom Swift Junior books, and getting completely absorbed into that science fiction world that surely I'd live to see by the time I was eighteen. I really wish I'd have found the  Chronicles of Narnia back then.  

And right now? Believe me, if could walk through a gateway into Narnia... but of course, I'm much too old for that. Once you reach a certain age you can no longer cross through the portals.  And in much the same way, once you reach a certain age you can delight in the stories, appreciate them from many points and perspectives, but you can't be absorbed into the world of Narnia in the way you could when you were crossing the line between single, and double digit birthdays.  There is no going back, and no going through. Even so, I count myself fortunate that I can still feel a little wistful about it. The fires aren't out just yet.

Sunday, 2/5/23

Today started cold, wet, and rainy. And being the first Sunday of the month it was Cyclone Coaster day.  February is "Bring a Lady" for the monthly antique and classic ride. Everyone brings out their best girls' bike for the ride. I was going to bring the 1956 Schwinn Starlet.

 But like I said, it was cold and raining, so I brought the 1961 Rat bike instead.

 The rain let up before I got to the freeway. It was cold and crappy when I got to Long Beach, but I dressed for the cold. I always go down early, and park in Belmont shore, a couple of miles away from  where we meet up for the ride. I found a parking place (not always easy) Got the truck locked, and rolled down Bayshore to take a pit stop before hitting the bike path. Path was empty. I hit a wake n' bake and took a quiet dreamy cruise in the early morning haze.

By the time I reached the meet up, the sun was out. Penny, Troy, Russ, and Dave were all there. All in all, some  twenty, or thirty folks showed up for the event. By the time we rolled it was too warm for the heavy coat.  By the time we stopped for lunch it was like this.

(HT Penny for the pic)

This made for a wonderful day. But no Cyclone Coaster ride is complete for us until we make our last stop on the bike path for an ice cream at the Batman catering truck. Between the time that we ordered our ice cream, and finished the cones the wind rose up sharp, cold, and stiff.

Now wind can be your best friend or a nasty adversary on a bike ride. It depends entirely on which way the wind is blowing, relative to one's direction of travel. Riding with a tail wind is one of those sweet little pleasures that make life worth living.  Once you're at speed with the wind the ride is effortless and quiet. The air around you is so still you could light a smoke with a paper match. It feels like flying. I had about three and a half miles of it, and it was good. Traffic going home was light and fast.

Mary had pork and onion stew on the stove when I got home. She served it up in sourdough bread bowls. After dinner, a hot shower, and a bite on the bong, I sat in the green chair with a cup of hot coffee, and the book. Buddy the Cat hopped up in my lap to read along. There is much to be grateful for.