A shapeshifting mate

•January 9, 2018 • 1 Comment

L1000376Listening to Liege and Lief, a favorite Fairport Convention LP, and remembering about Tam Lin, a folktale about a woman whose mate has been cursed, and she must hold on to him regardless of what shape he takes, to defeat the spell.
It brought to mind the two months Charlie spent in hospital, the first in Marin General Intensive Care, reachable easily on a bike, then a couple weeks in Kaiser ICU, then the last month farrrrr away, and people often gave me a ride to Vallejo across the bay-ho.
The road is narrow, two-lane, and guaranteed gridlock much of the time. No public transit connects Vallejo to Marin.
I’d overnight, and crawl into the hydraulic bed with him, activating the hissing of self-inflating pressure bags which spare the nurses much work, flipping patients every couple of hours.
While encircling his frail form with food tube through the nose and sometimes even wrist restraints on, I’d try to envision some form of existence in the future. It was not as bad as it might seem at this telling. I just poured out Hope vibes, and kept up my monthly spirituality subscription, cancellable at any time….
and now…he walks, he talks, we get alone time (right now he’s on a walk between rain storms), he has fun hearing me read about the difference between the oil of the Right whale (burns dirty) and the Sperm whale (clear, bright burning). We’re plowing through Moby Dick, since he loves being read do, and I love finally reading a book I know I ‘ought’ to read. I’m convinced that the elaborate, fine language is better nourishment for his language brain than the nauseatingly profane dialogue in Homeland (TV show, very vile, but seemingly addictive).
We hope that nevermore will whales have to fuel lamps.
Then I went into the internet to tell him about ambergris…
Hope your 2018 is fragrant, natural, and less worried.

If you’ve wondered where I’ve been, I’ve been typing up a storm at Charlie’s Gofundme site. I have about 150 postings, following his slow crawl back into functionality. Not interesting to folks looking for top-notch writing. Just spur-of-the-moment jive.

Wish me luck on MeMoir, eh?


Two Charlies at dinner

•September 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

`Our beloved friend Charlie Kelly, impresario and general fat tire friend recently back from globetrotting to England, invited us (or was it responded to my unsubtle hint?) to join him and Mary his wife…Last Friday we got together and it was clear Mary’d spent the week carefully planning a meal around my Charlie’s gluten intolerance…We had short ribs from CK’s productive backyard ‘cue, Greek Salad and cornbread, and piping hot roasted corn on the cob.
Faces covered with grease, we caught up on each other’s news, eventually tapering into a sort of stupor, which signalled Mary to run to the stove and pull out a massive peach crumble. Maybe 4 lbs of fruit in it–it bubbled merrily over in the oven, portending a clean-up hangover , heaven bless these two.


Treasure (as usual) in the Tips

•September 5, 2017 • 1 Comment

Jacquie Phelan's Weblog

Nuttin in this one...

It didn’t take long to answer the siren song of the curved-top black rubbish bins.

Mrs. Magdala’s Treasure Trove

Just yesterday I came back from a meal delivery –Jac Strachan was freshly home from a hammer session with Martin Steele –‘rainy day risotto’ (it features leeks) and found an entire kitchen pitched into a tip on a posh street next to the Deaf School.

Come to think of it, the meal itself was dumpster cuisine…thanks to a five pound dumpage of Arborio grains–dry, clean, fine, courtesy of Real Foods in Broughton Street.

I called the Scotsman’s Alison Gray to see if she might be interested in sampling my found gourmet provender… no..

Anyway, the stuff I found and squirrelled away: ironstone (beige enamel 6-quart ) covered pot. Denby pottery pitcher and tea pot (kept the latter). Langley oval covered dishes….wooden cutting board. Brand-new analog P. Mercier ladie’s watch (easily…

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•September 2, 2017 • 2 Comments

Today, under smoky skies, in 90-degree heat, I rode (alone) counter-clockwise around the Nicasio reservoir. Eighteen years ago today (Saturday of Labor Day weekend) a habitually drunken driver killed Cece Krone. And I won’t forget how the judge dealt with it all (very low bail). The ‘murderist’ (whose ten year old boy was with her) was sloppily overtaking the weekly hammer ride, and in so doing rode up the stone embankment, crushing Cece and her bike. She’d been standing by her bike inside the white line, waiting for the group.

I stopped riding with that bunch long before this tragic event. Each time I went out with them I’d experience their Peloton-groupthink: if a car was overtaking,  someone, sometimes more than one person,  would yell “CAR BACK!”  and…. nothing would change. No swift re-alignment into echelon (two by two, or even single file). Just…a big blob of spandex clad roadies, owning the whole road.

If we were in Italy, the motorists would indulge. After all, it’s their national pastime, along with futbol.  Here,  most hills are about 3 minute climbs.  Not a long time to wait until the sight line is safe.

Usually I rode on the periphery of the cluster; in the gravel and weeds on the right of the white, or clinging to the yellow double line on the left. I’d call out, “MOVE!” or conversationally suggest we try to ‘skinny up’. This was back when I could talk and climb at a good clip. My suggestions fell on wind-deafened ears. Besides, everyone loves a coach, right? The one of two women in a group of ten or twenty? Right. If I didn’t enjoy riding with them, I was welcome to stop coming, and I did.

Now and then my thoughts turn to statistics. After Cece was killed, a different cyclist lost his life (old, nearly blind motorist plowed into him at the shore of the reservoir), and I began leaving notes on the kitchen table. I’d never been the kind of person to leave notes or be predictable, findable, and expected back, but this felt really bad. A third, life-wrecking crash followed in 2007 when a motorist hit Blake Herod head-on as he rode his Triumph motorcycle on a clockwise tour of the reservoir.
I had to call his widow, Barbara, to verify that yes, there was a peloton…but she adamantly insisted that a) the bikers saved her husband’s life and b)the motorist was solely to blame. “Someone gave me the name of a bigshot lawyer in San Francisco, who advised me to sue the cyclists….because they were the ones with the money! Of course we did nothing of the sort.”

Blake, like Charlie, was a maker, and the total loss of his right arm set him back, but he took up painting and drawing with his left arm. I have not gotten Charlie to feel like doing any artwork, though his impressive drawing of a cluster of oak leaves on the branch gave me so much hope 3 months after the brain bleed.

He doesn’t care to draw, though, and his Stubbornness Chakra was unaffected by the TBI.

Back to the sadniversary… a perusal of today’s Marin paper, the Independent Urinal  shows a slew of crashes, several DUIs, which, along with the hit-and-run of a UC Berkeley lawyer who was standing off the road, checking his phone as he was out on a ride. If you’re like me, you catastrophize.  Never mind that you’ve never actually been in a car wreck (true!) or had a car hit you (my two accidents were cars turning right as I traveled–too fast, because I was late–on a road, and I assume they just ‘didn’t see me’. But the result was, I hit them in the passenger door, so I call that me hitting a car. Lame, but I am so gripped about having a ‘real’ car crash–the kind where you kiss the head-high grill of a Dodge Ram as it slaloms along through traffic. I have a bit of an anti-Dodge ram bias. I doubt many bikers survive when one of them connects with you.

Oh!! OTHER GRIPE!!! Police reports that use Strange Language!  “The car contacted the cyclist in the intersection”….Charlie and I used to re-write news about violent incidents a la  police blotter speak:   “the sheriff’s bullet contacted the victim in the back”, etc..

Despite my cynicism, I have to at least pretend to believe that despite those sad news stories about the rider who was just out on a grocery run, etc etc…. Death By Inattentive Murderist isn’t how I’ll end up. Still, you’ll see on my helmet: “Future Kaiser patient # 146444325”

I need a beer. Or two. A  couple days ago Cece’s ex-boyfriend Larry blew past me coming down White’s hill, and I clung to his wheel. He was going to Gestalt, and I uh…cadged a beer from him, having no gelt on me at the time (which is most of the time).

Going to go to his house RIGHT NOW with a couple of Sierra Nevada pale ales, and a note apologizing for putting him on the spot at that noisy, delightful bastion of bikers hard and soft…I must repent my  Old Jacquie ways.  I must always travel with a tenner in my pocket.

I am quite sure every one of the bikers that were involved in that painful, indelible incident are thinking of her. Every September. Like clockwork.
It does get easier to bear, and riding, unsurprisingly, makes that possible.




Last Wombat in Mecca

•August 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I guess I wasn’t listening to Steve Miller’s band in 1969 when I was fourteen…otherwise I would have heard of the above-mentioned song! The lyrics are juicy & strange :

The last wombat in Mecca. Take 1.

There’s some things I can’t find
Some are better left alone
There are few things I won’t find
Some are better left alone
Like that bulldog in the bathroom
Like that wombat on the phone

As I float in my leer jet
Without a sling shot or a shield
As I hang in my leer jet
Without a shotgun or a shield
Hey, a flying saucer wobbled past
With a bulldog at the wheel

Can you give us a description
Said the air force on the phone
Can you certify you’ve seen this
Said the air force on the phone
No, but here’s his passport
And his teeth mark’s on the phone

If I take a long vacation
And nail my bulldog to a wall
If I leave this smoggy nation
And nail my bulldog to a wall
If my bulldog keeps his mouth shut
Will you remember me at all

I learned about this song when I met a gent at the Marin Museum of Bicycling & Mountain Bike Hall of Fame this afternoon.  When I visit the museum, I like to introduce myself with a card (usually Craig Coss’s fine “queen” card–available for $2 and a SASE, send it to the museum). The permanent exhibit has both Charlie’s first bike and my racing machine, Otto, which features a bunch of Wombat-phernalia under my bike’s red tires.  When I pointed out the acronym for Women’s Mtn Bike & Tea Society, he shot back “Like the Last Wombat in Mecca?”

Whoah!!! Never heard of it.

“Steve Miller Band” he said helpfully.

He recounted how he had founded a tofu-empire called Wildwood. With my velcro memory for unpleasantness, I flashed on the acrimonious split-up, leaving impoverishment and simmering resentment. Having lived thru a similar situation torn from the pages of Capitalism’s Playbook (i.e. the canny business person will take every advantage and leave others with nothing)  with Charlie, I couldn’t resist asking “are you all still friends?” And surprisingly he answered.

“Well…no, X thinks we’re friends but we’re not, and Y…. (no comment) and Z  “is no longer with us”…
“Which of you made out the best?” I asked devilishly.

“I did”.

Need more be said?

Oh yes!
He brandished his card. It showed the logo of the very successful vegan ‘cheese’ company that adjoins the museum.
“Oh! You’re with Miyoko’s! I LOVE YOUR DUMPSTER.

He dropped his head, leaned on his cane and growled, “that stuff is in there for a reason.”

“Well, I sure appreciated the ten pounds of organic cashews I gleaned two months ago. Still roasting and spicing them up…and the coconut oil is top-notch.”

He went out to his Tesla and got me a copy of his hit record, “Just Invoke the 33rd”.  Gonna listen to it real soon.








Reluctant operator

•June 22, 2017 • 7 Comments

This evening, after driving home two miles from a musicale that happens every Thursday, I noticed Charlie got across the street by himself, despite his near blindness. I always hope he’ll get a Sense of Direction, and he must have a little bit of one, otherwise, he’d be standing by the car waiting for me to steer him across the street to our little abode.

He headed straight for bed. I was still full of music, and Bonnie Simmons was on KPFA, and hell, it’s the solstice time…long days. Long years: 50 years since the 1967 summer of love. In L.A. it was  happening differently–for this twelve-yr old kid, it was radio music and crushes on guys like Eric Feldman (who never stopped his infatuation with music).

The house is warmish from the heat of the day. I go into the bathroom and notice the soap-dish Charlie fab’d about 10 years ago is looking ….coated with soap scum. I took a nearby brush–the writing’s nearly gone, but he’d marked it up: “Charlie’s scrubber”. Hanging above the claw-foot tub is a big 4 gallon bucket which is inscribed on the underside: “C’s nettle-gathering bucket: KEEP CLEAN”.

I soak his soap dish and get it back to beautiful stainless steel with delicate wire-work to hold the soap above the surface which thoughtfully tilts into the 1936 sink.

Everywhere are reminders, written notes which cry: This Is Charlie’s. Do Not Use. Now he can’t read. And I am in charge of maintenance around here. I have to use his things. I rarely rarely go in his sacred machine shop, but today the cleats on my ol Shimano shoes–at least 3 yrs old–need some attention.
The work bench is a mess. I’ve left everything on it, and none of Charlie’s projects (he’d left the fork he was building for me in the central work-spot) remain. All dismantled, except the aforementioned fork which Cameron Falconer carefully completed so I could ride the bike C’d built me that summer when I was at Middlebury learning Japanese….

Anyway, it’s so heavy, all this territoriality that has crumbled and my extreme reluctance to assume the mantle of Boss…

Just had to share this..

Tackle the page

•June 7, 2017 • 2 Comments

I’d like to thank you regular readers, first off…It was precisely a decade ago that Chris Hill plopped me down at a table to begin this WordPress blog. In those days it was free, but since about 2011 I’ve had to pay to keep ads off.
It’s in vain that I protect you from ads, since the rest of your day is saturated with them, but I like to think it’s a small plus.

Mark Twain: “Write without pay until someone offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this as a sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.”

And if the candidate has to PAY to write (like me) then….sawing wood, and dumpster diving is what she was intended for.

Daily life here at our Asylum for Two is pretty nice, especially when I reflect on the trauma of so many people’s lives. The garden blooms. Charlie can take a walk on his own and usually not get lost. He can dress himself. He can eat without help. I could even leave food for him to heat..he’s not the avid vegetable chopper of yore, but he doesn’t miss that. What he misses is Touching Metal. His hands are ‘butterfingers’ (this is the too-frequent epithet he flings at his nerve-damaged digits). His feet don’t coordinate enough to skip, though I coach him on that. He can see a LITTLE BIT, but not enough to ride a bicycle alone safely (I’ve let him do it unsafely, and it’s not a good idea).

We are OK, and going to Be Here Now, since that was what fate delivered in September 2015.


New for 2017!

•October 31, 2016 • 2 Comments





Getting Out On The Mountain

•May 10, 2016 • 3 Comments

In the last 7 months I’ve had so few chances to get out on a ride, it’s hard to call myself a biker. I never thought I was that married to the machine, and to the self-imposed role of cyclist first and foremost.
The result is, that when I’m motoring about (and I do this ten times more than ever before) I see the riders out on their bikes and feel a distinct squirm of the gut.

Evidence of some big cosmic gear shifting?

Our dear friend and caregiver David D. reminds me that the ‘self’ is an imaginary construct, and that truly we are all part of a cosmic One.
I’m very late to the sagging table of spiritual bounty, having been force-fed Catholicism at a tender age.
But these days, I’m subscribing to a notion of Togetherness (with occasional additional subscriptions to a God) simply because the idea of sharing the burden is so appealing. I pray that I’ll not be ding’d for Failure to Subscribe the first 60 years.
Anything at all to relax my racing mind.

These days, I ride Tuesday mornings, 7 a.m. pretty regularly–before Charlie wakes up–with an early bird gang of fellows who’ve ridden for at least 35 years without fail, week after week after week. They vacation together. Many kayak together…and for the past few years, but mostly the past 7 months, they’ve embraced me as part of the Over The Hill Gang. They were ‘over’ when they were young men, artists, professionals, & bon vivants. And now they’re really over the hill, modeling muddern maturity to anyone that cares to see a weathered face, rippling calf muscles and exuberant energy.
Sign me up….

michael lipson baldy

Tamalpais, fog, and the Over The Hill Gang riding up Baldy today. Photo: Michael Lipson

So long Owen

•February 17, 2016 • 4 Comments

Jacquie, Owen, Franklin
Last Saturday, a few of us convened to say goodbye to a friend and mentor who had died the previous month.

Owen Mulholland (I’m leaning on him, and he’s with his twin, John Mulholland) was one of the first diehard bikies I met in Marin County.

Within a year of meeting, both of our lives veered in new directions. I quit trying to pass physics classes in order to apply to medical school, and started envisioning myself as a bike racer, and he fathered a son.
Emile grew into a superb human being and I managed to acquit myself in the racing.

I shared one little thing with Emile: the sting of Owen’s tongue.

When dancing on the podium with Liz Newberry who’d just won the national cyclocross championship (a new thing for women), Owen chastised me for unseemly behavior.

But he also backed me when I needed a letter for a small grant from the Women’s Sports Foundation. And rode with me, and listened as I wept about being yet again shunned by the men’s morning ride.

He was a writer, historian, father and above all a cyclist to the core.  He truly lived to ride, and Emile saw to it that his close friends would be able to experience a meandery loop through Point Reyes, taking in a couple of side-trails and then climbing up the long long wooded spine of Mount Vision. I went with the dirt riders on my Croclo-Zeiss (Cunningham  cross bike). There were kids in front of me and old men behind. In the middle feels comfortable now. The ride was just hard enough for me to feel worked, under the forest canopy which the Japanese know is so healthful.

Road riders convened with the dirt riders and we shared stories. Franklin Blackford (the fourth person in the above picture) spoke of how he was embraced by Owen and his men’s Wednesday riding group within months of moving here. Believe me, it’s rare. Our county doesn’t have a warm fuzzy exterior, but there are people within that reach out and grab you.

After the ride, John Mulholland approached me with a smile and announced I was wearing his Pedal y Fibra jersey from 1963, when he raced in Mexico. I was flattered, and wondered how it ended up with Charlie Kelly. It was C.K. who gave it to me (well, he was throwing it away, actually, and I caught it mid-throw), and who swore it was from someone in the Grateful Dead crew.

A very patched up 5 pocket work of sartorial art, I am keeping and wearing this thing til it’s in shreds. It’s only fitting.