Tuesday, February 28, 2006

rideus interruptus

planned time: 2 hrs.
actual time: 55 minutes
number of flats: 1
number of spare tubes: 1
number of spare tube's valve stems broken during flat change: 1
number of patch kits: 0
number of cell phone calls necessary to arrange pickup: 2
wait: 30 minutes
temp: 35

lesson #1: it's a hell of a lot colder sittin' around in 35 degrees than it is pedaling...
lesson #2: get a patch ki--oh, who am i kidding? i wasn't gonna fool with a patch kit in these temperatures--i mean, my fingers were almost shutting down as it was.
lesson #3: the cell phone? a good idea.
lesson #4: an interrupted ride is an unsatisfactory experience...

...but we all knew that, didn't we?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

maybe i won't read so much any more...

i like to read--it usually calms me, helps me focus, takes me somewhere, especially when it's well-written. i like fiction, and for many years (even before i entered a graduate program in literature) that was almost all i read. for those who scoff at reading fiction with the lame "why would i waste my time reading something that wasn't true?", I've got nuthin', since you missed the point somewhere back when you were formulatin' yer identity as an idiot.

more recently, i have leavened my reading of fiction with a fair dose of the non. at first, it was natural history-i once went on a big stephen jay gould jag--loved the voice, loved the insights into unfamiliar worlds, loved envisioning an alternate path for myself in the natural sciences. david quammen's song of the dodo has remained particularly resonant for me, with its observation that island biogeography can tell us a lot about increasingly fragmented ecosystems in today's non-island world; the same is true for jared diamond's guns, germs, and steel, with its thoroughly reasoned dismissal of racialized theories for european superiority. recently, after hurricane katrina, i hunted up a copy of john mcphee's the control of nature (i'd owned a copy years ago, but must have fatally loaned it, or misplaced it in a move), mostly to reread the first essay, 'atchafalaya,' which is a wonderfully written piece on the 'battle' between the army corps of engineers and the mississippi river's wandering ways.

but i find myself reading more and more these days with ever-rising bile, a general revulsion at the state of things around me. i read "science times" on tuesdays--it used to be a pleasure to expand my layman's horizons ever so slightly--only now i read of ice shelfs in greenland melting several times faster than previously predicted. and so much of science disucssions these days are caught up in the theocratic moronathon--one of the great pleasure reads from the public sphere recently was excerpts from the judge's decision in the dover, pennsylvania, snopes trial ii. i read the new york times and the new york review of books and harper's and feel the rumblings of a milennial knell for the world as we knew it--in harper's especially--that lapham character might have fit right in during the great awakening (if he had a religious bone in his body), what with his monthly jeremiads. but we live in world now where the united states is a torture state, and the powers that be are kinda bald-faced about it, you know? i find myself reflecting on the dark days of the '80s, and rumblings of american assistance in the police states in central america, and i wonder: was it like this back then? was i just more optimistic in my younger days about the possibility of change for the better? was it me? or is it the world i live in? world, when did we grow apart?

so maybe i'll turn back to fiction--good fiction, whatever that is--a bit more these days; not so much to escape, but more to regain the pleasure of reading, to lose the dread of scrolling down through troll-comment after troll-comment, cringing all the way, to relearn the skill of reading a worthwhile passage from beginning to end, and--okay, maybe just a little--to escape into another's vision of the world. and to escape into that vision not because it isn't "real," or "true," but precisely because it can help me re-see the real, and come back to it when i've got a better attitude.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

hello, lamppost...

i went for a ride today, on one of my favorite loops: down the river road to crosby farm, a few repetitions of the hill there, over the 5 bridge to ft. snelling and then over the 55 bridge to mendota hts., through lilydale across 35E, down to the river, then to west st. paul, up over wabasha to the capitol, to the cathedral, and then back home. i felt good—the rest week did its job.

but how I felt was maybe less important than usual. a year ago right now, p and I were in a hospital room, waiting for drugs to stimulate the delivery of our daughter, whose water had broken in the 17th week of p’s pregnancy. needless to say, 17 weeks is too soon, too early, bad news when it comes to delivery—in fact, it’s technically still a miscarriage, even though (having been the male partner in several early-term miscarriages) the experience was different by an order of magnitude.

much of our time during that window of time is a blur of fatigue, disbelief, and tears. But just as much remains vivid, in a snapshotty way: the clear blue sky outside the hospital room the morning after; watching crappy tv and not seeing it—although I’ll never forget that friends was on at the moment of delivery; the kind folks at the hospital (especially nurse laura, who left before delivery but came back the next morning and asked to see our daughter, and told us how beautiful she was), the clinically distant but reservedly sympathetic ones (we are in minnesota, after all--one of the doctors who came off as cold and distant at first fought like hell to get us a room, and i'll never forget that), and the one who cried with us the morning after; wandering the halls in disposable sock-slippers, since the socks i'd thrown on in the panicky moments before leaving home ("can you help me? i think something's wrong.") were dirty and hole-y; ordering pizza around midnight; and those moments when the battle between love and loss spilled over into sodden sad smiles at our lovely daughter.

the ensuing months were unpredictable—we did a lot of talking and crying and drinking and getting it back together in a kind of cyclical, slowly improving way; folks rallied around us; i turned to my bike with an excess of energy, and we started thinking about trying again. but we also were prone to bursting into tears if a song came on that we had listened to during the pregnancy (or right after—iron & wine’s endless numbered days left me a wreck for a long time), or venting rage at the injustice of it all.

anyway, it’s been a year now. whew. we’re pregnant again, and i’d be lying through my teeth and yours if i said that didn’t make this anniversary of her birth and death easier in some ways. but i still miss that little girl every damn day—what could have been; hell, what should have been, what should be. and yet isn’t.

so on my ride today i visited a couple places with her in mind—crosby farm is where, on her last day, p and I went cross-country skiing. today, i went into the park planning four repetitions of the hill, but after the 4th i went back down the hill and did one just for her. i hummed/sang the 59th street bridge song (feelin’ groovy) for the whole loop: during one ultrasound, she had been moving her arms in a way that inspired me to create a baby dance, and that was the song for it (imagine elbows up, hands next to ears, twisting a bit at the waist to the bass line, and you’ve got it). plus, near the end of the ride i found myself near the hospital, and i gave a little wave to the only place outside of p’s womb she’d ever been, and where we spent too little time with her. it was a good ride.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

for nigh on three months...

...life has looked like this:

scene: p, sitting on the couch of an evening, sipping a cup of tea; me, sitting across from her in my own chair with my own beverage; pleasant conversation filling the room, until...

p (vociferously, to me): my god! quit breathing on me!
exit p, as she runs upstairs gagging and locks herself in the bathroom.

or this:

scene: 7 am, both of us getting ready for work. p has showered and is trying to figure out which of her clothes still fit her. freshly lathered and rinsed (and smelling of aveda products, no less), i step out of the shower to dry and get dressed.

p (vociferously, to me): my god! you stink!
exit p, as she shoves me out of the bathroom and locks herself in.

or this:

scene: a weekend afternoon. i have just returned from a bike ride, and i do stink, and i am breathing hard and heavy, but i'm elated and feel terrific.

p (vociferously, to me): my god! i can't stand this! i'm leaving until this damn kid gets here!
exit p, as she slams the bathroom door and mutters (between gags) that she can't pack her clothes to leave me because none of her clothes fit and boy oh boy does all of this suck.


either there is a set number of times a pregnant woman can lock herself in the bathroom, after which she is magically cured, -- or we've turned some sort of almost-through-the-first-trimester corner.

suddenly i smell good, my skin is soft, p wants to snuggle and hold my hand and even -- yes, it's true -- bring her mouth near enough mine that i can sneak in a short peck if i catch her unawares. which i sometimes even want to do, now that she is no longer a gagging, wild-eyed, bushy-haired green monster.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

dream journal #2: all business up front...

...and all party in back! that's right, folks, it's the mullet!

this morning i got the rundown on yet another hilarious pregnancy dream courtesy of p. in this one, a very good friend (vgf) featured prominently--this friend has a great head of hair that has, over time, gone from pepper and a little salt to salt with a dash of pepper--but it's always been a good head of hair. correspondingly, he's always been proud of the hair as one of more distinguishing (and distinguished) features--regular styling, careful attention, etc. he's had a number of different styles since i've known him, from an almost-john forsyth look to the classic caesar. and there's photographic evidence that he came of age in the '70s, with the excessive hair associated with that decade (think nyc punk, not disco). but he's never had a mullet. ever. nor would he have considered it a viable hair style for his own worst enemy, much less himself.

until last night.

in the dream, he was quite proud of the mullet.

my favorite snapshot from the dream: the scene is a diner, the counter. vgf and his hair are sitting there, next to an oversized underwashed gentleman. large neighbor actually lifts the party end of the mullet up in order to visualize what vgf would look like with just plain old short hair (all business), and says, "yup--you're right. the mullet is the absolute best haircut for you."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


went to the doc's this evening and got another ultrasound; everything's good, and that's good. got it? good.

a couple of years ago, earlier in our "trying," we went in for an early (8 or 9 week) ultrasound. we had been a little suspicious that something might not be right (at least, that's how i remember it--p says we were unsuspecting), and the nurse practitioner couldn't find a heartbeat. she didn't trust herself to make a definitive statement and went to get the doctor. he couldn't find the heartbeat either, and that's how we found out about one of our miscarriages. what i remember most vividly about that experience is the vertigo of suddenly changing circumstances--all the remodeling of rooms, adjustments of schedules, and reallotment of budget items that we had giddily been discussing were suddenly moot. i felt like jimmy stewart looked trying to get to the top of the tower in hitchcock's movie--i'm not moving, but i'm sick with the sense of everything around me moving in ways i just don't want it to.

ever since then, ultrasounds have always had that element of barely-contained vertigo: everything could remain the same, but then again... during the first ultrasound from this pregnancy i was virtually climbing over the doctor to get a closer look at the screen--he's doing this slow, guided tour: "and here's the yolk sac, and you can see the wall of the uterus here, and there's baby's head..." and i'm jumping out of my skin, just about ready to scream, "great, that's all great, but where's the godamn heartbeat!!" when it showed up, pumping away, just a little faster than normal (whatever that means--maybe the baby was sensing my stress and the heartrate jumped a bit in response). my relief was palpable.

something's changed now, though. today i was excited and pleased to see the ultrasound images, but not worried at all at the beginning. i was confident that all the signs would be good, the heart rate would be strong, and our baby would have continued developing normally. i think i've been waiting for this feeling to come, the feeling that i can embrace this pregnancy on its own terms, the feeling that i'm not just setting myself for all grief and no joy, a repeat performance. i know the possibility is out there still, but i'm willing to give myself over to becoming the full-throated cheering section i need to be for myself, for p, and for the little 'un.

plus the kid had hiccoughs.

funniest damn thing: the baby is just sitting there, stretching, heart beating, making faces (p says his mouth was making kind of tongue-sticky-out-yawny motions, but i couldn't see it, and i had a better view of the screen) and then BAM! he jumped. and went right back to doing the same old same old. the doc chuckled and said, "look, baby's got hiccoughs!" And BAM! again. and p said (after laughing and sending the ultrasound image into convulsions), "thanks for not giving 'em to me."

best part is: hiccoughs are supposed to be a sign of good neurological development--something to do with the vagal nerve growing and responding.

so we got a good laugh, and some positive signs at the same time.

nice. and i've got pictures to prove it (well, not the hiccoughs).

Monday, February 13, 2006

dream journal #1

(courtesy of surging hormones -- p's, not mine)

p: crawling back into bed at 4 am, after her hourly bathroom visit

me: so...(having experience at this)...what were you dreaming about?

p: i dreamt i was given 20 dozen eggs that i had to hatch and take care of.

me: (worried and alarmed) oooohhhhh....(then regaining my senses)...were they chicken eggs?

p: are you kidding? i was so scared i woke myself up. i didn't want to find out.

i say, better this than the time she dreamt she was having an affair with two swimmers (neither of which was me)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

long-ass weekend...

...on the bike, that is...

but i'm getting ahead of myself, since i didn't get on the bike on friday night--instead, i did have a sort of "bikey wake," minus the punching and burning. took the dented steed into the shop to get a professional opinion on its future--not bright enough for shades (options: permanent trainer bike, sculpture, weapon of mass destruction, e-bay bait--picture from opposite side; description acknowledging "minor dent in top tube"), but I knew all that; i really wanted to assess my future-tense options, since the damn season is sneaking up and i'm gonna need me a road bike.

i had all the best intentions of getting back home with the bike relatively quickly, slotting it into the trainer, dent and all, and giving it a good two hours (which would give me a very manageable 5.5 hrs for sat. and sun.); but then the beer showed up. and d. was giving me his impish grin, saying, "man, you can get your hours in on the weekend--don't worry. here, let me open that for you." and the bike was broken anyway, right? so it deserved a bit of a sending off, yes? plus, folks kept coming in (with more beer, mind you), giving me repeated chances to show them the rather impressive dent on the bike, retell the tale (honing it, debating whether to show my knee, eliciting sympathy for my plight. lather. rinse. open another beer.

all in all, an enlightening evening; i learned that i have little tolerance for alcohol any more. i was up at 3 am saturday, restless, thirsty, and wide awake. i learned that there's not much on tv between 3 and 5 am saturday morning. i learned that i still like beer, especially good beer. i learned that all the parts from my defunct bike will transfer over to the new frame i plan on purchasing--this is very good news, since new seatposts, front derailleurs, etc., can nickel and dime you to the curb in no time. i learned that even after a somewhat rough evening (okay okay, it's not like i was up late or even had that much to drink, but jeez, i certainly felt this one) i can ride okay for four hours. and i learned that a 7-plus hour weekend on the (other, cx) bike is greatly facilitated with a little help from the one you love and share a home with. that's right: i got home from today's ride and discovered that P was already at the shop, loading us up with the necessary edibles. best part of the ride, i tell you!

Thursday, February 09, 2006


lots of drinking, punching, burning and burying things. plus talkin' funny.

'twas a good steed.


as i was thinking about all the ways to describe the loss of a beloved bike, i realized how little distinction our common language usage makes between mountains and molehills--when a new cellphone is "awesome," what chance does mont blanc have?

similarly, when the unexpected and inexplicable loss of a loved one is a tragedy, a disaster even, the loss of a beloved item shrinks to a more appropriate level. that said--i'm pretty bummed.

I was getting ready for my regular wednesday evening ride with the fellas, swapping pedals from my cx bike (from tuesday evening's ride) to the road bike--which i hadn't been near since the end of sunday's rather brisk 65-mile trek (see entry of two days ago for mention of same ride and my fall on the ice)--when i discovered something i can't believe i hadn't noticed in the 50+ miles after biffing on sunday, or when i put the bike away afterward: a DENT in my top tube! And not your garden variety pebble-flew-up-and-dinged the finish dent. this is a freakin' gouge! 3-4 inches long, with a nasty crease at the center running from the top of the tube to the bottom of the tube. when you look from the top of the bike down onto the top tube, it slopes gently in toward the crease and back out, and it's dented roughly 1/3 of the way across the tube. i'm no engineer, but i ain't ridin' that thing on the road again.


this was my first pro bike--paid full pop, got the campy chorus because that's what i wanted, not because it fit in my budget (this was back when i was making peanuts teaching adjunct at two places). i dig that bike--it rides great (as only steel can), feels lighter than it is, and has never given me trouble (oops--please add past tense as appropriate--you can see i'm having some trouble putting this behind me).

but i have to--put it behind me, that is. time to keep thinking forward about the upcoming season, find a new racing steed, and get used to it before my first race. i'll get into the shop soon to look into my options--tonight was going to be the night, but the fresh snow made the (driving) commute home longer, and going out again in this was particularly unappealing. plus, tonight i have to hit the trainer, and even if my crippled mount isn't road-worthy, i'm damn sure it's trainer-worthy. for old time's sake, then...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

good thing needles don't bother me...

...since I have to watch a certain someone inject herself twice a day. P has to take heparin injections to prevent clotting (which can apparently wreak havoc in utero). I joke about being glad I'm not afraid of needles, but as we were getting used to the procedure, the bruises on her abdomen broke my heart every time I saw them--which was every time she took the drug, since I (in the spirit of cooperative parenting, and since my biological work is done) am the needle prep-meister.

Speaking of which, gotta run...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Here we go again...

...in so many ways, small and not so small.

How's this for a start? Monday's random ten--the nonmusical edition:

1) rode my bike for 4+ hrs and 65 + miles yesterday in temperatures ranging from 9-17 above (f, not c).

2) loved every minute of it except for the ten right after I went down on my right knee on the ice.

3) just finished reading The Odyssey--that Odysseus was a wily and ruthless dude; we hear a lot about "odysseys" in descriptions of self-exploration and discovery, but the original doesn't leave much room for introspection--guy goes to war, wins, gets hung up on the way home, manages to lose all his comrades along the way, lives with a nymph for seven years, returns home to his faithful wife and, with his son, slaughters a bunch of noblemen camped out as they court the lovely and presumed widow, takes a bath, and goes to bed with said wife. Good stuff. My favorite scene might be near the end, when the souls of the dead noblemen slaughtered (in a very gory scene, by the way) by Odysseus, Telemachus, the cowherd and the swineherd (to say nothing of a very mischievous Athena) go to the underworld. Antinous, the head suitor, is telling his story to all the dead folk there, complaining bitterly about the suitors' ill treatment at the hands of Penelope (who strung them all along, the dirty tease), Odysseus (who did things like pierce them with arrows and crush their heads), and the gods (who locked them in the killing room); at the end of his story, Agammemnon, himself the victim of a faithless wife (Clytmenestra) who murders him on his return from Troy, ignores the suitor and exclaims praises to both Penelope for her fidelity and Odysseus for his strong action and good luck in choosing such a wife. Good stuff.

4) We're having a baby--hopefully in September (actually on Labor Day, if everything goes according to schedule--fat chance); this would have been #1 if these were ranked, but I didn't want to rank and I wanted to bury my lede for effect. Of course, in the blogosphere the fact that an anonymous blogger is having a baby hardly qualifies as a lede, I know--but it's my damn blog.

5) About a year ago, we lost a baby in the fifth month of pregnancy. Her name was Earl, and she was beautiful.

6) I'm nervous about #4 (see #5).

7) I'm missing "24" and wishing I could come up with these last four really quickly--I'm a recent convert to the show (and thus have several seasons to catch up on); I've decided it's like high-sugar candy: hard to stop eating but doomed to make you feel crappy. I decided thisw after watching all 24 episodes of season 1 in three days (and yes...

8) ...I have a job.)

9) because a random ten should mention music in at least one of the ten items--I'm digging "clap your hands say yeah" quite a bit. Don't understand many of the lyrics, but the lead singer's voice is compelling in a nonlinguistic way--along the lines (parallel, not intersecting lines) of the lead singer from Sigur Ros. Don't really care what he's singing, just what it sounds like.

10) I guess I've just developed a working profile for myself here--bikes, books, music, impending fatherhood... I'll go from there and see where it leads.