Happy NonMom’s Day

•May 14, 2023 • 1 Comment

I remember buying myself a rose about ten years after my own mother’s suicide, in a gesture of Mothering Myself. Doreen Phelan, right up to her 51st year, wasn’t much of a nurturer, probably because HER mother didn’t cuddle her. These things can travel vertically through the generations unless violently uprooted.

So, I got “Livin’ Easy” and was thrilled at how the car smelled when I drove it home. It still lives in the yard, much reduced, whereas its hardy rootstock is fleurishing redly among the tea roses. I learned to check very carefully the rating of the roses I bought thereafter. Ones such as Fragrant Cloud will knock you out.

So of course I had to get it, as well as Scentimental, a candy striped one which came out in 1996. My self-momming has proven to be pretty effective.
Another way to take care of Fabulous Moi is to get a massage now and then, and Barbara Parker is my Marin neighbor who does a great job… in case you’re in search of healing touch.: Bbarbville@aol.com

When Charlie lived at home, we got regular massage, but now massage has been relegated to Extreme Luxury, owing to the cost of Bello Gardens each month.

When I raced I used to do my own legs, and it seemed to help flush the lactic acid from my throbbing quads.

Speaking of which, I did a lap of a really excellent race called Redwood Trail Alliance Dirt Days yesterday. Framebuilers were there, Sycip, Hunter, Retrotec, Fitz, SIM cycles…and terrific weather made the arduous 7 mile lap pure joy, with ceonothus blooming wildly in the backlands. I salute Curtis Inglis, Bike Monkey, and all the volunteers for producing a really memorable couple of days.
I plan to take Charlie to hear music this evening (Bach choral music by Cantata Collective of Berkeley), which will round out the weekend’s fun.

Clintonia, interrupted

•April 16, 2022 • 3 Comments

I was out on my first Spring ride, and I opted for Less Traffic, More Climbing. Thus, out the door and up into the MMWD lands beyond the golf course called Meadow Club. I can really tell I’m slowing down (people overtaking me, instead of vice-versa) but on this day I was resolved that I would simply enjoy the 9 mph pace, instead of cringing. I really really want to be Bhudda-minded, but it’s really hard, when you’ve gone 35 years trying to be fast and first.

My goal was to find the doughty Clintonia andrewsiana clinging to the cliff at the intersection of Bo-Fax and Ridgecrest blvd. I found it, but was chagrined to see that the fat green leaves had no central stalk, instead, the stalk lay down flat, broken at the base, and the flower head itself broken from that. I carefully gathered up the flower head, placed it in my musette, and rode off, hoping I wouldn’t macerate the poor thing over the next 18 miles of my slow but sure ascent of the mountain.

I soon noticed a car coming up behind, and saw the window go dow as the driver ducked his head to address me.

” That’s an endangered plant” he said. It was without malice, and the fellow had a kind face. A small kiddo waved an arm from the kid-holder in the back. Risking everything on that slippery potholed and shade dappled road, II turned to face him while continuing to pedal (I reallyhave to stop thinking everytjhing’s smooth in front of me, even on a paved road. I’m too old to tumble and bounce)

I tried to assure him that I’d only pocketed it because it was already broken off, and that I knew it was a Clintonia. He was mollified, and I gave him my name, and asked for his card, so I could thank him properly (with a boastcard)…he had a fine stack, the kind of card stock ones with a different picture on each. I shoved it into my tights and promised myself not to moon anyone for the rest of the ride.

He is a landscape architect, and obviously passionate about natives…if he lets me, I’ll mention him by name, but since this blog goes out to 34 people around the world, I want to be sure he’s OK with fame, etc…
The Scottish bard came to mind

To a Clintonlia

On finding a broke-necked flower on the steep verge of Bolinas Ridge, above the Alpine Dam

Green smooth-paddled leaves

circle round

the fine sleek stem that’s gone to ground

Thou hadna strengh the breeze to bear

And Thursday’s storm bent your knees.

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion

has whipped up winds that topple trees.

Your yearly crown was thusly pinion’d

for our cars and cares come first

while Earth must wait

The best laid schemes thus gang agley.



•June 29, 2020 • 7 Comments

Bad puns of the day

Rehash-omon. This is the universally acknowledged  stupidity of dragging up hurtsfrom the past, in order to freshen the pain, create more discord, and generally keep thingshopping in a dysfunctional relationship. 

The Dalai Lama was once asked what he thought about self-hatred. He looked puzzled, and asked ” what is that?”. He simply didn’t know. (Hard to belive because he’s met so many people…but…)

But I’m sure that it’s our habit in the West: the litany of wounds. The people , I call them “grievance collectors”  will drop a heap on your doorstep,  to distract themselves from their own self-loathing. And  um….share the Opposite of Love.

This habit was ingrained at our dinner table at home, and I must say, I’m still guilty of this…face it, if I take remember the most recent contact I’ve had with a dear friend, I’m ‘counting’. As in …”but who’s counting?” AND IF I TELL THE PERSON what day/year I last heard from them…as in, ‘gee, it’s been 8 years or more’…then I’m doing them no service, and certainly guaranteeing I might not EVER hear back from them. I have a brother that’s made this very clear. He tells me in years, months, days and minutes, which frightens me into wondering if his full time job is counting the days…that his Evil Sister has ‘ignored’ him.

Me. I’m counting. I’m remembering. And of course, feeling left out a lot of the time. Even though it’s plain that everyone has a busy life. And many of the efficient people are channeling their energy into a project. Which I clearly do not do…

I can hardly wait for Alzheimer’s to cure this!

Kombucha moment. Came to me when taking Charlie to Gestalt Haus, the most beloved ‘biker bar’ in Fairfax, run by an incredibly wonderful, gruff guy named Vise. As in ‘vise grip’. The place manages to remain alive, with a few sun-shelters and the regulars enjoying to-go beer in the breezy alley alongside the Haus.

When you run into a bunch of friends that you love, haven’t seen recently, and who have temporarily or permanently sworn off beer, it’s  Kombucha moment. (Think ‘Kumbaya’which has been badly mistreated lately. Or longly. It’s a beautiful song, truly hopeful, sung back when oppressed black slaves asked for the angels to ‘come by here’. 

I am gonna go for a run, and see if I can find Charlie out on this fine summer’s day. He leaves at 2 each day, for a two hour walk in the forest we live next door to.

Cheers, all. Please write. Remember. I’m counting.
PS. Big news. A woman named Erin just wrote out of the blue, and I got to connect with a 1980’s wombat!! In Australia!!! Life is great again!

Au revoir Dan Hennessey

•May 7, 2020 • 2 Comments

Just got word last week that a very cherished part of the biking community had a crash that killed him. Dan Hennessey grew up 12 miles away in Mill Valley, and stayed friends with his neighbors there, as well as developing a very tight cohort of biking friends here in Fairfax.

I’d see the gang heading out of a Wednesday afternoon, packing a nice picnic for merriment on the mountain.
“One of these days, I’ll ride with them” I promised myself.

Alert: “One of these days” is the curse. One must never utter it.

I never did ride with him.

But he was always hosting, at his corner of Fairfax, the annual middle-of-the-street New Years Eve ritual with chairs ringing a tiny ember glowing in an iron pot.

Overhead, twinkling blue lights from one of those window-laser gadgets that gave the impression of hundreds of fairy lights strung 40-50 feet in the canopy of a valley oak.

As I’m wont to do, I’ll be sending up little prayr balloons for Lori his young wife and his two doting daughters….Wishing I could do a thing. Just one thing.

I’m afraid this is the puny little One Thing.

Remembrance, and love.

You can see it bridging the creek, his name and the word LOVE alternating in pastel street chalk….We’ll remember, remember remember.


There goes the neighborhood

•July 14, 2019 • 5 Comments

13 July 2019


Hello Gus,

It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that your magnificent Dobie is no longer on my friends list.

For the second time, I was on my bike when s/he (I forget!) came after me. The first time, an older woman my age had her on a lead, and held tight, and I squeaked past, stopped, looked back, and realized that yes, this was the not-quite-new neighbor Gus’s animal.

This evening around 8:30 I rolled by in daylight, and as I passed the duplex I heard a feminine voice yell “hey! Stop! No!” or something like it. I braced myself, and as sure as can be, yr black bullet shot past me, wheeled around and began to snap at my front wheel, then backed off barking madly.

I tried to be a good human, hopped off the machine (thank god I didn ‘t have my helmet on; dogs are TERRIFIED of people wearing them, I’ve found. Going without is an extreme rarity, owing to the TBI history my husband Charlie suffers from), and began to talk soothingly to her/m, and she approached me warily, but allowed me to pet her on the head, and scratch her ears, while I remained in my Coward Crouch, holding the handlebar.

Then yr mom (as I found out) came up with her phone in her hand, apologizing, and I said it was time to deal with the issue.

“Now?” she was surprised.
“When else?” I said. “Get on the bike and ride up the street.”
“?ME? I haven’t been on a bike in…” something something.
But she handed me her phonething and I watched with some horror as the dog attached the front wheel of the bike, biting it(!) and at that point, upon turning around the bike, with the dog barking madly and jumping up on her, she said “She’s going to knock me over”…and so, walked the bike back to me.

By this time we had two bemused walkers (neighbors?) who were looking on, while I asked if there was anything wrong with saying “NO!” or “Bad dog” or hinting that this behaviour is unacceptable to “the boss”.

Who is the boss?

Will the boss consider a muzzle?
I realize that this might disturb the wearer.
But I have already experienced riding into a parked car, avoiding a dog, and ruining my face temporarily.

I also sport a fine set of five holes in my leg from the pit bull in 2009.

So I tell people: “I just have this irrational fear of dogs…. Could you just hold him for a second while I get by?”
On the other hand what about just waiting awhile, she’ll grow out of it? It’s just a phase.
Children have been known to ride up and down Wood lane, so I ‘m sure there will be more tumult. Every year people are bitten by dogs, but mostly these events go unreported.

I had so looked forward to um… getting to know you. Now I’m getting to know your dog, and your mom.

Care to talk? Or take yr dog out for a bike ride with me along? There’s got to be a reasonable friendly solution. But I don’t want to have to stop, dig out a can of mace, and then ride carefully past your place, since I use a bike daily, 2x daily, 3xdaily, for errands.

Yrs for as long as you live on our street,


Jacquie Phelan Former vet tech, former race champion, current old lady



Pants on Fire

•July 1, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Lies, etc. Jack & Jackie


Lies, fibs, exaggerations, embroidery, weaving, elaborations, embellishments. Tangled webs. What you call it shows what you believe about it. One’s own exposed lies can put you in prison, a liar can put you in prison, fibs are for kids, exaggerations make a good story and embroidering/weaving imply beautification and functionality.


Phelans are by nature liars. Dad and Mom were accomplished, unapologetic liars. Dad lied about who he was when he set eyes on mom. He encountered her at a Montreal hospital where she was recovering from a ski accident. She broke her leg on her very first attempt at skiing. He wanted to impress her by saying he was the ‘chief resident’. She fell for it. He brought her books to read.
Forty years after this, when I was trying to dig up a solid fact about who my mom really was, I called one of the doctor’s wives that knew her. Mrs. Carraway recounted a story about Jack ‘foresaking the cloth’ . Mom implying he gave up the priesthood in a passionate rejection of celibacy and a religious life.
Clearly, my mother had a few cards up her sleeve. I wonder how she kept track of them…



They were the rule makers. From birth, the six offspring were bathed, powdered and diapered in the fabric of deceit.

It was up to each of us to make sense of what was being said and what seemed to be actually happening.
Dad could hug Mom in the kitchen and announce to us that they loved each other very much.

I would try to reconcile that with the fracas the previous night: her piercing shrieks punctuated by his barely audible deep voice behind the master bedroom door.

How easily they come, the steady stream of stretched “truths” . They carve their own course, and at least in my case, led to places I had no intention of going. It may need to be explained that these were nearly always my reaction to some form of punishing inquisition.

Part of the reason I keep a journal is to have my own truth down in writing in case I get confused later on in life.
It was on the playground at Crestview Elementary in Topeka Kansas when I heard the news about President Kennedy being shot. I had no clue what it meant, since I didn’t know what a “president” was, but the anguished tone of our teachers and general playground pall said enough.

I retorted “Hahahahahaha! So?”

Grown ups with some childhood development might have recognized something amiss, in this brutally open expression of glee at someone else’s expense. No one took notice of it in the hubbub, but once home, I was terrified by the sight of my father holding his face in his hands and sobbing as the tiny television transmitted the tragic news. I’d go straight to hell for that mocking tone.

Having been fully steeped in the Catholic Guilt Trip, I knew I was guilty of sin from the moment of my birth. This episode would just add another sin (Venial? Mortal?) to my account.

Topeka was the center of a particular school of psychiatry run by a pair of amiable brothers, the Menningers, who attracted people from both coasts that wanted to pursue a psychoanalytic way of treating the mentally ill.

As I watched the Mrs Kennedy who had ‘my’ name, crawl across the car’s trunk to retrieve her husband’s skull fragments, my dad (who shared the president’s name) assured me that Mrs. Kennedy would never remember this moment.
“Why not?”

“Because she’s in shock, and there is a mechanism that protects people from remembering horrible events” he said evenly.

“You mean, if something horrible happened to me, I wouldn’t be able to remember it like her?”

A surprised look crossed his face.


And thus began my writing career.

Department of Silliness/Congress of Wonders

•March 4, 2019 • Leave a Comment

It’s a wet, sluggish Saturday, but on the radio, what joy. A Grateful Dead Marathon hosted by David Gans, our local Dead expert…Ever since my youth in Los Angeles hideously bucolic suburb (Tarzana) I’ve had fun listening, and writing down the names of the songs and the groups. I’d end up with long lists in .005 rapidograph scribble, as if getting them down was going to serve me someday. As with everyone else, ‘band name inventing’ is a sideline of mine.
I only rarely get the time to do anything like that now, though I do find myself running for a pen while repeating in my head: “Mance Liscomb, Mance Liscomb” til i could get it written down.

In the middle of the music marathon, a hilarious comedy skit began with a pseudo old-man calling to pigeons: “Here pidgy pidgy pidgy…” and another ‘old’ man comes up to the bench, and fogey merriment ensues. It turned out to be a group called Congress of Wonders. Missed them completely in my youth, but am making up for it. Pigeon Park is the name of the five minute gag, full of fogey-defamation so thrilling to post P.C. ears. In a different sketch I hear a doorbell ding-dong followed by a cheery “A-bomb calling!”.

My plan: make you have to learn some of it, to make up for  your own misspent youth.

The other killer performer was Ken Nordine, creator of the music genre now known as Word Jazz. His bit was entitled: “How Are Things in YOUR Town?”. Turns out this poet/voice-over millionaire had a very long, fruitful career, being sought out by Jerry Garcia, Tom Waits, David Bowie and hosts of others in need of a golden voice. Further research reveals that he died a mere two or three weeks ago in February 2019. He had an amazing 70 or more year career.

Last night I chanced upon “My Beautiful Broken Brain”, a Netflix documentary about a 35 yr old filmmaker/ad agency creative  named Lotje Sodderland, who had a stroke. Charlie and I watched it until it grew too late to continue. This TBI survivor  revived a couple of days after the stroke and immediately began documenting her experience on her iphone–which led to meeting another filmmaker, and ultimately getting help from David Lynch, and becoming a reality.

No one at Schurig Center (formerly Marin Brain Injury Network) had heard of it.
I consider it required viewing,  owing to the fine editing and startling creativity it used to get the watcher to experience a bit of Lotje’s brain activity.


Every little ember

•February 27, 2019 • 2 Comments

As I washed out the zip-loc baggie that held the barely-used sponge I pulled from the trash at Schurig Center for Brain Injury Recovery, where I take Charlie twice a week to learn to read, I smiled.
Bag rewashing behavior must seem pretty obsessive to a visitor. I thought back to the first time I’d seen a baggie hanging above someone’s kitchen sink. It was at my friend Lynne Gurnee’s house. She is an artist, biker, and general great human.
I’d decided to overcome my loathing for driving at least for one weekend, and head north toward Eureka (six hours by car).  I so missed her company down here in the Gray Area.  She is the kind of person that writes real letters on real paper (or torn out sheets from New York Times fashion magazine).  For wakefulness insurance (my problem with driving is remaining alert, and not becoming a yellow-line zombie within forty five minutes of turning the key)I brought my sick rat, “Gnogden Gnash” with me, wrapped in a flannel cloth and tucked into my blouse. This way, each time he shifted position in his ‘sleeping bag’, I’d feel it on my stomach and be a better non-drowsy driver, thinking about how little time rat people have to love their pet, before they expire.
Very short shelf-life. Three years, max, unless you have a miracle rat.I’ve heard of five year rodents, but never met one.
ANYWAY, the baggie, dripping over her sink, held at one corner by a clothespin, caught my eye.
When I asked about it she told me she puts a drop of liquid soap in, with some water, squishes it about with the bag firmly cinched, and then rinses, hangs, and re-uses.
Not one to shirk from a (nunspoken) challenge, I carried this new eco-behavior home, where it is put into practice as a routine.
I never buy these bags. I just use them till the heat-seal on the perimeter gives out.
Like any good (ex)Catholic, I take my original sin quite seriously, and I’d like to think that throwing away a perfectly cleanable baggie is a pretty original way of disturbing the heavenly peace.

I realize one must pick one’s battles.
Since I’m despairing of the political situation, I burrow into weird micro-moves
that dispel my sense of powerlessness.


As far as I know, no one has adopted bag re-washing after visiting Offhand Manor, let alone rifling through trash to find barely-used kitchen sponges.
I remain hopeful that we can clean house in a political sense, by having all those women in the House of Representatives, none of them old bags.
I am your always hopeful, even while despairing correspondent
Alice B.

Stop the press! no, wait, rev it up again! No, wait, it’s not a mechanical Chandler & Price letterpress, it’s Wurdpress! ANYWHEY, I struck gold in the tip (that’s Brit for dumpster) today en route home from my 日本語のクラス at College of Marin. It was a heavy cardboard box amid a pile of soon-to-be-composted potted garden plants (they hurl EVERYTHING away here in the Shire of Consumption)…44 lbs to be precise-ish. I didn’t need to look hard at the label. It was a block of cheese. Once I’d ascertained it wasn’t American cheese food (which is not technically cheese but you know that) I wrestled it onto my bike (careful not to let the front wheel fly up as I plopped it on the rear rack (no! no! not the rack!  Wait!  The rack, the rack!!) and care.f.u.l.l.y steered home. Up the hill at Fforest Ave, i noticed a distinct wobble as I tried to make a straight line (by now it was dark and dreich) when a car came past.  Got home, put away bike, and proudly hefted this thing ( didn’t pick it up correctly, Grant Petersen, I bent straight over and destroyed my lumbar vertebrae except I didn’t) into my arms and into the door and onto the table and..it was….an impressive find. AGED ENGLISH CHEDDAR!!  Judging from the web, it was worth about $900 (if sold by a reputable dealer) . In my case it’s going to be given out (and I hope to hell consumed!)  The box that the cheese block came in had a date on it, something like ‘sell by May 2018’…well, since the company proudly shares the fact that their VINTAGE West Country Farmhouse Cheddar is aged 24 months, I can trumpet (should I even USE that word? those first five letters…ugh) that mine is aged 36 months!! EVEN BETTER.
There, now I’ve told you.

Think of the plastic I’m trying not to buy, and the cheese I’ve saved from certain death. Can I have my halo now?


Develop a leaf

•July 5, 2018 • 1 Comment

Hearsay on Hersey

•March 11, 2018 • 3 Comments

I just met, or rather re-met a woman whose last name is Hersey.

“As in John?” I asked. It’s my reflex to help me memorize names.

“Well, yes and no. My ex’s name’s John, too, but no relation…”

We were seated at a convivial table at Sorella, the reputed center of the universe according to some. It’s become the center of my week, Saturday night over pasta and fat sausage. Live music makes it extra memorable (if difficult to hear conversation).

I told her that I’d remember her name better if we talked about a Meaningful topic. I chose the topic: why I’m not going to even try to watch any more “The Fall” (scary British crime serial, starring a horny woman detective and a very sick psycho-killer).

I realzied that even though I survived “Homeland” intact (psychically), it would be harder with the other show, recommended by a different friend.

To  watch repeated murder and rape washes the brain (at least MY brain) in frightening images and actions that are probably indistiguishable with actual events. In other words, my tired old brain would treat those things as if they’d happened to me, and this has no redeeming social value (remember that term?).

And the idea that tens of thousands are glued to such content is a little unsettling, too. It’s probably like porn, and you become inured.

I wanted to share what I read as soon as I tipsily pedaled home last night:

The story that ran in the New Yorker in 1946 by the other John Hersey. That epic piece filled the magazine. The editors kept its identity under wraps: only 3 peple at the magazien knew what they were going to print that summery week. The cover featured a bird’s eye view of a park full of people enjoying a fine day.

I have had time to reflect on something I gave nearly no thought to: why I decided to learn Japanese.
It wasn’t for the manga, the culture, the style. As they say in Japan, “ううん” (huh-uh, as in NO).

It was… to honor the people themselves, despite the near-impossibility of communication with them someday.

I’d truly planned on getting over there, and ‘converting’ a few dozen women to wombatinesss.

To the freedom, silliness, healthiness of pure joy riding, away from cars. I still believe personal transpo via automobile is an incalculable harm to the planet and its inhabitants. This blog was and is my “Phelantine” to two wheel self propulsion.

But I thought I’d tack on some Social Redemption as well.