Twelve years ago, the graphic designer & wombat artist Sandy Gin urged me to check out the SF Chinese New Year’s parade, it being “my” year (no, I’m not BORN in the ear of the rat, just like rats a lot)…Well, imagine my chagrin to hear that the parade’s principal sponsor was celebrating the “year of the mouse”…no, it wasn’t Disney.
Who ever it was, though, objected to the idea of “rat”.

Sheeeesh. In China, rats get real respect (probably cuz they’re so like us humans).

Dja know why Rat is the first year of the Chinese Zodiac?

Cuz Ms Rat beat all the other animals, even the Ox, in the foot race Buddha officiated.
Cat didn’t even make it to the start line (overslept, plus majorly lazy)…Rat rode on the back of the Ox, and leapt off Ox’s horns to beat Ox …by a nose!

This is like wheel-sucking in a bike race–crafty, efficient but NOT CHEATING. Your typical American honestly believes that this proves bike racing is corrupt. Cuz the rider in front for most of the race doesn’t get to be the winner!

It will take 20 more years to re-program our Joe Sixpack types to grasp an essential fact of bicycle racing: drafting. Even GEESE get it! When you’re going fast, and have a puny motor …you trade off the lead….

Ah, but back to the Chinese and their colorful timetables and noisy rituals…

A mere half million people packed the streets of Chinatown (compared to the several millions in Beijing)
“Quies” waxen earplugs came in very handy (the firecrackers go on endlessly, taking away upper register hearing by the minute)…. I had my bike decked in the unfragrant but very colorful salmony blooms of flowering quince, another good luck charm. Red money sacks, Sandy mailed me a couple of them.. I did have a great year (twas 1996, and the messenger world championship came to SF, I competed and had a blast)..

This time, well, I just stayed home & had lunch in the yard with the quince in sight, enjoying my luck.

To be alive and without pain is lucky (pretty basic definition).

Rat’s luck seems to be all about ‘wealth’ but it’s primarily pecuniary (a pretty parochial parameter if you ask me). We lack any rodents bringing our hovel good fortune at the moment, but I can always look at the ‘family album”…see August Rodent in my shirt?

Amid all this noise about luck and auspicious years, a chasm of quiet loss:
cherished bicycle genius/trickster/iconoclast Sheldon Brownis no longer here. He will of course be missed most acutely by his wife and two grown kids in Massachussetts, but the loss is strongly felt and very widely noted all through cyberspace (and across the globe).

Before blogs, he was committing his prodigious wisdom (and multi-layered wit) to various ‘rooms’ at his personal home page. It’s hard to imagine how many hours he was up each day…

He had a cool acronym “AASHTA” (as always, Sheldon has the answer”). Kind of rolls off the tongue, huh?

One fan wrote in that he never had to buy a bicycle repair book ‘because it was all on Sheldon’s site”.

Another lamented that Brownsure took the Patriot’s losing hard” (the unbeaten Boston Patriots lost the superbowl football game in the last five seconds).
Happy to see a joke in there.
Go to the Sheldon Brown home site and learn more about everything bicycle, then get in a ride.

He expressly stated his beliefs (truth, justice, science, ‘exogamy’) and things he emphatically did NOT believe in (magic, faeries, horoscope), very simple, in adjacent columns.

Angels notwithstanding, he will be sorely myth’d.

~ by jacquiephelan on February 8, 2008.

3 Responses to “HAPPY EAR OF THE RAT”

  1. Love your blog JP… was jonesing for another entry since becoming a regular reader in Nov./Dec time frame. MORE!! Take care.

  2. Wunderbar!

  3. I miss him too Jacquie. I only wish I’d gotten to meet him in person: I missed interbike last year (well, EVERY year so far), and other than flying to the east coast, Interbike appears to have been the only way I might have met him. Todd Fahrner, owner of Clever Cycles in Portland O.R ( http://clevercycles.com/?p=218 ) wrote a nice thing about meeting him at Interbike last year… *sigh*.

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