Airport Art Show coming

•February 25, 2012 • 15 Comments

Bottom bracket of CC's very first bike, built in 1978, ridden and 'mollified' several times, and finally deemed Just Right in 1979

Gentle Riders: if you  happen to be  traveling into or out of San Francisco International Airport  between May 5 and Nov 25, there is an exhibit of seminal mtn. bikes right in the lobby.
I know: who goes to an airport to see art?
Talk about yr captive audience, eh.

Well,  we  will have a couple of bikes in the exhibit, Otto, and Charlie’s own Protoham., which just arrived back home after a 25 year stay at the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Crested Butte, CO.

Looking it over, Charlie confided that he’d forgotten just HOW advanced that machine was.  He lovingly built it up (it had been shredded in transit, alas) and polished away the deep gouges in the down tube. As he worked,  I asked him if any of the old school riders (Breeze, Guy, Kelly)  had  test ridden “Proto”, when it was the only alu job around.

“Nope.  It didn’t look like a real mountain bike. It was under their radar.”
The bike remained ‘under radar’ until Noah Gellner, our very own almost-firstborn, created the Cunningham Bikes website.

This was because CC never advertised in the magazine of record (Fat Tire Flyer), and when other magazines came along, they offered to ‘review’ the bikes. IF he would send them one to test ride and keep. Did I already tell you this? I think I did.
I’m agittn C. Nile.

This  letter arrived last week: “SFO Museum is very interested in discussing with you the possibility of borrowing the Charlie Cunningham-designed race bike you rode to consecutive national championships in 1983, 84 and 85. We would like to present this bike as an example of Mr. Cunningham’s visionary design and discuss your pioneering role as both a successful competitor and bicycling advocate. Please be assured that our facilities have state-of-the-art alarm systems and climate control, and that your loaned object will be carefully treated by a professional staff trained to exceed the standards established by the American Association of Museums. Attached are images of the secure galleries intended for this exhibition.”
In a way, it is impressive that he can trust an airport ‘museum’ with his bikes, since in 1989 he was the very unlucky winner of the one-of-these-dozen-machines-is-not-like-the-other sweepstakes.

In 1989, there was a bicycle art show at the domestic United terminal. This was the same year as the seminal show at Bronstein-Quay gallery in San Francisco.
All  twelve hand-builts in the glass display cases were fine examples of framebuilder’s artistry. But in 1989  bicycle design was conservative….or more accurately, ‘derivative’.
Charlie’s bikes have been modern (i.e. rideable) since he built the first one in 1978 , since he wasn’t hewing to the design/shape/frame angles of the revered 1930’s Schwinn Excelsior that everyone else was using as a template.
It took almost two decades (and me winning a few races against all the men) to cause a shift in the fashion. OK, planned obsolescence and disposa-bikes also had a lot to do with the openness to new designs, but I’d like to cling to my tiny thread of cred for inspiring a few people to examine my bicycle frame, when they weren’t challenging my unfeminine riding style.

Oh, dear, climb back down from that platform, darling, it’s unbecoming.

Ah yes. About that sweepstakes.

Charlie’s bike, his personal machine–not an exhibition model–got  stolen from the display. None of the others was ‘honored’ that way…

An unscrupulous United Airlines employee helped him/herself to the (obviously unprotected) bike…It was never to be seen again…In case you ever see an alu bike at a garage sale, just flip the bike upside down.  Look for the serial # 29c.. I bet CC would happily buy it back!

It was unique– even the brakes were custom fabbed, there being no extant roller-cam that was up to his high standards. We sometimes wonder what ever became of it, and some of our friends think we’re crazy to agree to display again. CC  built himself another, and has gotten over that loss.

Clearly I haven’t.
Now about this more pro show: If there is a gathering, I’ll share the details….the beer will have to be Sierra Nevada (they are brewers but also huge bikers), and the nosh will be catered by “Back Door Catering” (motto: Enjoy it if you dare”).  It will be nice to have the full range of bikes so Charlie’s immunity to fashion, and clear devotion to simple functionality will be on display. The geometry says it all.

A prior exhibit

charlie's first mountain bike!

The Good Earth Grand Opening

•February 15, 2012 • 3 Comments

the new store has parking for 20 bicycles

For about five years, the natural food store in town has been busting its seams in the turn of the century market site it had occupied for fifteen years.
The last two years, we’ve watched the tired old Lucky Market (empty about six or seven years) lie fallow, with hundreds of bikers using the parking lot as the jumping off point for rides in town. Then, for the last two years, with an impressive crescendo these last three months, builders, diggers, glaziers swarmed the site. The interior looked so inviting. After six or more years of shuttered windows and empty aisles something new was coming.

Everyone seems to have an investment in the site. Even my neighbors who don’t shop locally will probably poke their nose i, because it looks like a ‘normal store’ as opposed to the soulfood shrine of alternative good eating it had always been.

In the first store, on Bolinas Avenue, there was no room for any size of shopping cart in the aisle, and I imagine plus-size shoppers had to turn sideways like I did because even my messynger bag was too wide a load to pass freely.

Then it moved to the quasi quonset Big Bear market building, and felt huge, for about a month or two. But the front door opened right into the busiest parking lot in Fairfax.

The new new store has no  shop door/automobile interfaces–a massive improvement. And it even has two entrances, which is a first.
My immediate favorite feature is the vertical garden:

Sedum uber alles

Today, a crowd of about five hundred eager souls crowded around to hear  a couple of heartfelt speeches (with nods to Rachel Carson, whose writings inspired the store in the late 1960’s, and the Miwok who occupied the very site thousands of years ago–proof being in their rich middens unearthed during the laying of the pipes).
I saw them cut the ribbon. A cheer went up. It was very 1905.

No newspaper ads touted a sale. No sale prices inside–just about three times the room and three times the selection of impeccable edibles.  I was astonished to see Nairn’s cakes from”Scoatland”.

The crowd was all people smiling.
I nominated this woman with the studded belt and rose bouquet to be Ms. Fairfax.

Outside, people gabbed and hugged.

Even the traffic crawled past, rubbernecking. I got a shot of someone’s bloodhound viewing it all from through the sunroof of a VW bug.

dog at the wheel


I sure love my town.

I’m filling out a job application, gonna work in the kitchen.

Happy Phelantine’s Day

•February 14, 2012 • 1 Comment

Stopped by Leoland for a Valentine drop-off, and bit of  cake & coffee.

Gary and Pat Leo are the archetypical Fairfax pair, married forever, with a garden that strongly resembles Eden.

Right now, there are two dozen greedy songbirds hopping around their milkweed thistle feeders.

The air is perfumed with Daphne odora (wish it could grow over here), and the sky has changed from pink/orange-and-blue striped dawn to the clear pale winter blue we’ve seen a lot of this winter.

The town’s buzzing: our trusty health food store, the Good Earth, which began in a tiny house in 1969, has expanded (for the second time) and the first official day will be  a big fat party...

"Minimum Valentine Requirement" (= MVR, selon SeeKay)

Light-hearted Jain at rest

•January 18, 2012 • 3 Comments

me and Joan Murakami and the irrepressible Jain Light

Have it both ways

•January 1, 2012 • 1 Comment

haircut day

Last night I hit the sack with Charlie at nine, as usual.

After five days of shivering, sweating, feeling horrible and doing even less than I normally don’t do, I was gonna kick this winter sickness. Alas for Charlie, I’d passed it to him, despite my almost stellar 88%  sneeze protocol adherance.

Sneeze protocol: when the urge strikes, drop any tools, implements, and grab collar of shirt/sweater with both hands and cover face up to eyeballs, then emit a sneeze but don’t let ‘er rip because even a real JP -force sneeze laughs at mere cloth.

We’ve never gone to a New Year’s party.  I have been to ONE in Marin, about five years ago.

No, Mr Party Pooper prefers not to, and I would just “not to” right along with him, until…the millenium.  Just to be able to do something unusual on New Year’s Eve, I signed up for folk music camp (Camp Harmony).  Everyone, even the children , stay up past midnight every night  but especially on the big final night, Dec 31st.   It was such a blast, I promised myself to do this for the following year, and the one after that… on and on ..until that awful  Norovirus Year, where EVERYONE was puking and pooping, sick as dogs. 2005-6 I believe. I just never went back, and resumed the ol’ nine-to-bed, waken to all the firecrackers, mumble ‘happy new year, dear’ and roll over.

But the firecrackers were off at ten. Then again, at eleven. I kept being woken up. There was merriment going on Out There!

I remembered that one party, very near by, and wondered if it would be on again this year. “Hell, she’s only five minutes away by bicycle” I goad myself.
“Haven’t you been riding in the freezing cold to go swimming for ten weeks?” my nagging self taunted.  Five f finger-numbing minutes later, u nder a perfectly clear halfmoon starry sky, was there. Cars crammed around her little cottage. Not a lot of noise.

Inside, I can see the party has wound down, there are only fifteen or so folks, being given rattles, gongs, trumpet, noisemakers…

I picked my instrument (a kazooo) and followed everyone , led by  a child in a New Year’s Dragon head,  up and over the hill in the (usually very) quiet San Anselmo neighborhood.

What’s impressive about Linda’s annual ritual is how ready her neighbors are for this occasion.

Kids rush outside and do a jig. Their parents smile from the doorway.

One woman leaned out her window, saying “Thank you! Thank you!”

A  silhouette behind venetian blinds waved feverishly from a second -story window. Straigh out of cinema cliche, the shut-in lady.

I feel so lucky, even at the advanced age of 56, to be able to hop on a bike and scoot somewhere without much thought, even if it is “amateur night” out there (we heard lots of firecrackers and Young Men Yelling).  It’s not to be taken for granted.
My most animated conversation later, in the apres-spirit-warding-off ceremony, was with Victor Zaballa, a Mexican artist who had a lot of stories about being in his car, and having “weekend warriors” smash into him on their bikes. This, after I proudly bragged about being a bike racer. At this party, every single person (save the 9 yr old girl) is Someone Professional, and even though I’m seriously washed up, I have to uh…profess.

As I rode home at about one-thirty, I recalled with a giggle how, in 1979, at a New Year’s Party, I bragged about being a bike racer–without ever having seen a race, let alone be in one.

I plan to lie about being an author this year.

Big 5-Oh for Ken Eich

•December 17, 2011 • 1 Comment

Up at 5, but today no pool.

While the  bread pudding with prickly pear syrup warmed up, I pumped the tires of the still quite new DeSalvo 29r up nice and hard. Fingers barely functioning in the frosty dark, and owing to the strange configuration (= ‘mollification’) of the pump hose, I had to hold the nozzle on the valve with my left hand, while pumping with my right hand. My head was in the way, so it had to tlt off in a bizarre angle (reminding me of mammogramography, where the poor victim has to have body facing forward, and head, neck cranked well away in the other direction. Ow!)

Headed out with three layers of wool, ski gloves, a four-foot cashmere muffler, and my huge down jacket tied around my waist. Hot choc in my backpack, and a stencil, spray paint to put “50!” all over the mountain.

An hour’s ride, and the black sky finally reddened…

Mollified Pump

Raging racefully

•December 13, 2011 • 4 Comments

I am having a birthday week. Number fifty-six: sounds pretty advanced, eh? Well, is it ‘mature’ to relish one’s big day? I’d like to give a nod to my seemingly incurable immaturity, the secret of my spunk, while resolving for the twentieth year in a row

to put the top back on the toothpaste,

wash the dishes within half an hour,

and put things away

rather than permitting Mount Clothing to build up on the couch.

I got up on b.d. morning at 5, hustled up to Sky Oaks to see that lunar eclipse. Alice B. Totality. It was there. I had it to myself, though I could hear cars motoring up Bolinas Rd, doors slamming, and murmuring.

There is an upside down rabbit visible on the rusty-brown surface. I didn’t pack hot choc (nobody to impress). I didn’t howl. I simply sat next to my bike and stared, and was grateful for fifty six fun packed turns around the sun, nearly all of them spent hunting for moons.


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