Showing posts with label bike. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bike. Show all posts

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Anything Different Is Good

I had a much more interesting day than I thought I was going to today. Interesting not because of anything specific, but more due to being different than I expected it to be. I suppose I expected this Sunday to be more or less like any other Sunday recently. It's either been too cold or wet to really go outside and enjoy anything more often than not lately or I haven't been able to muster the enthusiasm to get out and do anything. I often find myself in this position around January and February. I suppose I might just chalk it up to "seasonal affective disorder", but I think that's just a clinical way of saying "the weather sucks this time of year and the sun's gone down by the time you get out of work and man ain't that a bummer." The fact that this year's post-holiday movies have been entirely unworthy of getting me out to the theater hasn't helped much either.

No one usually thinks of January - March as a time for decent films, but it tends to be the time of the year that studios put out the movies they have little to no faith in and in general, these tend to be the kinds of movies I like. A quick run down of post-holiday movies in recent memory that were particularly good reads as follows: Cloverfield, Children of Men, Pan's Labyrinth, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. With last year having been the most atrocious year for film in recent memory however, it would seem that even the films the studios had no faith in weren't any good.

I've been in a rut lately, most likely brought on by the fact that winter sucks no matter where you go ... ok, maybe not so much in southern California. But even here where it's 100 degrees for 4 months straight in the summer, winter sucks and it affects my mood every year. I hate the cold, heat may be oppressing, but the cold is just plain depressing. Going to the coffee shop in 30 and 40 degree weather every Sunday morning has brought me little joy lately where before it often made my weekend and bundling up for a bike ride does nothing but remind me that everything is dead and the air hurts. Oh I know it could be worse, I lived most of my life in New England, I'm no stranger to real winters. And yes, I know it's going to be really hot and humid here soon, but I don't care. I'm done with winter, I've had my fill.

Today was different though. I woke up around 9:30 as is my custom on Sunday mornings and the temperature outside was a rather agreeable 51 degrees. Often the temperature has been the deciding factor as to whether or not I bike to Epoch Coffee down the street or take some other mode of transport. If it's too cold I walk, which while it exposes me to the cold for longer periods of time, does not chill me like a bike ride with the air rushing at me does. A couple weeks ago it was cold enough that I decided to drive to Epoch, which to me almost defeats the purpose of going to a coffee shop so close to my apartment. Today was a perfect biking morning however and although the Austin marathon forced me to seek an alternate route, I made it to the coffee shop around the usual time, ordered my double mocha (Mexican, not Dutch chocolate), and sat down to read the Austin Chronicle. Usually I'm at Epoch for about an hour, depending on how interesting the articles in that week's Chronicle are. This week I was there for an hour and a half. Louis Black's (no, not that Louis Black) "Page Two" editorial this week was more interesting than he has been in recent weeks, having shunned the almost impressionistic ramblings he's has been prone to of late for a satirical commentary on extreme right wing activists. There were several other interesting write ups about local news as well and the winning story from the Chronicle's short story contest that I read. The music and film sections held little for me this week.

I rode home from the coffee shop around 11am, the air having warmed a bit, and put Faraquet's "The View From This Tower" album on the iTunes while I pondered the rest of the day. I checked the weather report and for reasons that would become clear later on, it seemed that the balmy weather we were currently experiencing would quickly be receding towards the middle of the afternoon. I watched as the temperature climbed into the mid 60's and decided that if I was going to go out, now was the time. I hadn't ridden my bike except to Epoch in a few weeks and I wasn't about to miss a window of weather this nice.

It must have been around 12:30 when I left the apartment on my bike, heading south on Lamar and then taking quick right to get onto Sunshine Drive, 49th street, and eventually Shoal Creek Blvd. going south and leading me the Shoal Creek trail, a bike and hiking path that would take me all the way to town lake were I to stay on it. I rode the trail to 6th street, locked up my bike and decided to walk around. Maybe I could find someplace to eat. I'll be honest, there were plenty of places to eat, but all the local eateries downtown in the middle of the day are crowded beyond belief and in addition to feeling somewhat odd doing so, I have little patience waiting for food in such situations when I'm alone. It's nice sometimes just to walk around though and having lived in Boston I'm quite acclimated to it so that's what I did. 6th street was as usual bustling with activity and of the people I passed by there was at least one woman who turned my head. She was about 5'5", alabaster skin, short/med length black hair, wearing sunglasses, a red and white patterned sundress, and walking a small dog. She was right in my wheel house, but as I've never spent points on the "Casual Conversations With Random Women in Public" skill I just walked on by. Anyway, after walking around downtown for a while and witnessing the hubbub surrounding the marathon on Congress ave, I got back on my bike and came back to the apartment.

I was hungry by the time I returned around 2:40 and my usual Sunday pilgrimage to the Chipotle down the street seemed both unoriginal and indulgent seeing as how I had just been there Friday night after discovering I had no food in the house for dinner. I needed something new and I felt like a hot dog. Now there's something you need to know about my hometown when it comes to hot dogs. West Haven Connecticut has two great hot dog eateries and I grew up on these things. The first is Chicks, THE place to be by the water in the summer in West Haven. Chick's makes foot long split hot dogs using Hummel Bros. wieners. Unfortunately Chicks ain't what it used to be and the last time I was there they were doing the hot dogs all different so I haven't been back since. The other place is Frankies on Route 1, The Boston Post Road. Frankies deep fries their hot dogs, foot longs like Chicks. I still go to Frankies every time I'm in the area.

Outside of the Coney Island dogs you can get in southern Massachusetts, I never found a good place for a hot dog outside of Connecticut except maybe Five Guys and the occasional Nathan's. Today I didn't want to go to Five Guys though because a) while the hot dogs are good, Five Guys is for burgers and b) I wanted to be able to justify eating dinner later and the mountain of friesI would receive even with a hot dog was more fried carbs than I could reasonably justify. Still, I felt like a hot dog and I remembered hearing about a place called Dog Almighty that had a location on South Lamar. I looked up the address online and headed out via car, my new "karaoke" playlist of songs I own, can sing, and are available to be played by Diamond Karaoke here in Austin, playing along the way.

All told, Dog Almighty was not an unpleasant experience. I had a "Classic" (hot dog w/chili, onions, mustard, and cheese), fries, and a blueberry soda. The staff were nice, the food was good, and my Shazam app couldn't identify the music they had playing and for me anyway, that's a plus. Dog Almighty had the charm, individuality, and quality of an independent business, with the familiarity of a chain. Not a bad combination and I can see myself returning there someday. By the time I got out of Dog Almighty the northwesterly wind that had been prophesied by the AWS had arrived and the temperature was dropping quickly. I got in the car and drove back home via South Congress, Red River, and 51st street, inching the windows upwards the whole way.

There was still some light and the apartment was warm enough that having the windows cracked a bit was amicable. Fresh air always makes me want for music so I decided to play some more Faraquet. I selected their "Anthology" on vinyl and spun it on the record player while transcribing the songs on my karaoke playlist to a note on my iPhone for easy reference at the Canary Roost later. After the album was over, I checked in with my folks in Connecticut as I usually do on Sundays, and then started making dinner while watching a couple episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation I had DVR'd. Dinner was "American Chop Suey": onions, peppers, ground beef, stewed tomatoes (mashed), tomato paste, and elbow macaroni. It came out better than it ever has for me. The Star Trek Episodes were the one with Data's "daughter" and the one where Picard is imprisoned with 3 other aliens while a copy of him remains aboard the Enterprise. By this point I was more or less back to my Sunday routine, but the unexpectedness of the rest of the day made it more palatable and so I watched an episode of The West Wing (I'm almost done with season 7 for the 5th time) while I ate and then hopped on the computer to write about it all.

All told it wasn't anything exciting, but I had more or less expected that finding a reason to leave the apartment today would have been like pulling teeth due to seasonal weather and melancholy, but was pleasantly surprised to find that I was wrong. It's days like today that make me glad to live in a real city again and not some suburb or one of those prefab residential/commercial enclaves that keep springing up and have all the charm of one of a new t-shirts made to look like a vintage band T from 20 years ago. In a world of increasing manufactured charm, it's nice to be reminded that the real deal still exists from time to time.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

You Can Ride It if You Like

I thought about buying a bike again today. This has been a slight obsession of mine since moving to Austin at the end of August and I don't really know why. I have never in my adult life owned a bike and in fact, the few times I have been on a bike as an adult, I've managed to crash into things with it. And yet, I find myself wanting a bike.

When I lived in Boston I used to lovingly refer to the cities cyclists as "stealth pedestrians." The moniker arose due to the number of times I would find myself nearly run down by someone on a bike whilst shifting from one side of the sidewalk to the other. Unlike a runner, whose footfalls are likely to be audible several seconds before passing beside you, people on bikes tend to make very little noise and are moving fast enough that your reaction time is diminished in attempting to avoid them. Add to that the fact that Boston is hardly designed to be used by cars let alone bikes and you've got a lot of cyclists forced to use the sidewalk along with the rest of us, stealthily weaving their way down Comm ave or Newbury street. I never had any desire to own a bike in Boston, why then do I suddenly find myself interested in one now?

It's not that I've all of a sudden started living some "green" lifestyle into which a bike would perfectly fit, neither do I believe that I would be using said bike as a primary mode of transportation, and yet this cycling seed continues to grow in the back of my mind. To be honest I think it may be a combination of a couple different things, but more than anything I think it's the result of my subconscious need to (as my Dad would say) "enjoy every sandwich." This is a saying apparently attributed to the late singer-songwriter Warren Zevon. Zevon might best be known as the artist responsible for the song "Werewolves of London" and several years back found out that he was dying of cancer and had not much longer to live. He put out a very well received final album and appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman (where he often subbed for Paul Shaffer) and it was during this interview that he said something about enjoying every sandwich, another way of saying "eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die" only not having been sullied by the Dave Matthews Band. But to get back on the subject at hand, the most recent time I lived in Boston I felt I never got the chance to take advantage of the city in the way I would have liked, the way I had in college. When I left Boston it was for a job in Fairfax, Virginia. The job was great, as were the people I met there, but a more boring location I would be hard pressed to find. Sure, Washington DC wasn't far away, but it was a trek to get there and even once there, the ease of access was nothing like that of Boston. When I got my current job in Austin I made some sort of vow with myself that if the city did indeed turn out to be everything I was always told it was (ie. the Boston of the south) then I would take full advantage of it; I would "enjoy every sandwich."

For me this tends to be a fairly simple thing to do. I don't require much, at least I don't think of it as much. I need several things really: an independent coffee shop, record store(s) with a large enough selection to satisfy my eclectic tastes, a well stocked comic book store, movie theatres that show a wide variety of films from mainstream to foreign, and ideally as much of this as possible within walking distance of my apartment. So far Austin has matched this criteria perfectly, although walking around isn't as easy as it is in Boston due to somewhat greater distances and maybe that's what brings the idea of getting a bike to mind.

Whatever the case, I've been having a hard time convincing myself to get a bike. This is partly because I don't want to have to buy a bike, which in itself is partly because a bike is a specialty item I know nothing about. I think of it like a computer. I have no problem buying stuff for my computer or advising people to buy stuff for their computers, but this is because I know a lot about computers and I've built my last 3 machines from scratch. Other people are a little nervous about computers. It's like bringing your car in for service. On the one hand you don't want to end up paying for service you don't need and on the other you don't want to look like you don't know a damn thing about cars to begin with. Or maybe that's just me. But anyway, that's part of the bike thing with me. I guess the rest is just convincing myself I'll be able to use it without getting myself killed. I've never really driven on the street before and in some areas here it would be required. And yet there's something that's pushing me towards getting a bike. Is it simply that my subconscious thinks this will be the way to "enjoy every sandwich?" Do I just enjoy the novelty (to me anyway) of being a person who rides a bike? I don't know, but today I thought about buying a bike again and someday soon I might actually do it.