Happy Earth Day

•April 22, 2013 • 2 Comments


CC and I got up early to beat the heat (Marin’s first hot day this year) on a ride to the tippy top of Tamalpais. En route many signs of spring…copious flowerage (thick banks of Doug. Iris, small lupine mats, lots of calif poppies and the less common bush poppy, linanthus ceanothus). Then came the fauna: a small gopher snake stretched out on the verge, good luck, and a pair of fawns. I flushed them from the road’s edge, and one stumbled and recovered at the very instant its mother and sister cut to the left into a meadow. The stumbler gallooped after me.
If I’d had more presence of mind, I’d have caught it, catching up to me as I rode away. Finally I thought, why not stop and see what happens?
It came to a halt.

Looked at me, and mewed.

It has been a long time since a dear got trapped in CC’s shop, and when I threw a blanket around it it vocalized like crazy. Didn’t know that about deer at the time.ImageImageImage

It was so early (7:15 departure) that we saw NO traffic. Got to do this more oftn. Returning was normal traffic level, including the inevitable bikers who greet us. Note to friends: I’m not being rude, I’m just trying to keep an eye on the road… Last time I failed to do that, I busted my nose.


Reunited, two ‘pipe guys’

•April 18, 2013 • 1 Comment

IMG_3533Ken D. with Charlie and the ‘Cunningham V’

Today we had a visit from  one of the original handful of ‘Ham owners, a fit gentleman who (as he put it) “rode his bike hard and put it away wet”. He’d raced the original Rockhoppers with me and Charlie (that is: 1983-5) and even did the revivalhopper a couple years ago.

The bike was due for a restoration to original condition, so CC assessed it and sketched out the scope of the project (t’s a bear to find headsets of the correct dimension, and other fitments). It was lovely to catch up on a 30 year hiatus, and we’ll see him again sometime soon.

I reminded him that to us, he is ‘family’ since we forgot to arrange for progeny ourselves. The Bike Is Our Baby.
Eventually he’ll meet Noah Gellner, GH, and the other hamfam members.

Gentle Riders, I apologize for the sluggish blog pace.

Crabby Holidays

•January 4, 2013 • 5 Comments

coconut_crab-biggest+land-dwelling+arthropod+in+the+the+worldFirst week of the new year. I’ve already given my husband a cold that has lasted for three weeks (mine only took one,  thanks to countless hours reading Willa Cather in the snuggletorium). Charlie must work, and so his recovery involves an hour of intense work in a 35 degree (Fahrenheit) shop, followed by a ten minute thermal replenishment at the wood stove, then another hour, then in for more ‘woe-ramth’.

Last night, Bonnie Simmons, our rock n roll pioneer DJ on KPFA, played a wonderful set from 8 pm on, featuring lots of Steve Earle.  He’s the activist songateer with the lovely, weary tenor voice and super gnarly songs like “I’m thinking about burning Walmart down“.

Then on came Robert Earl Keen (this is why I am a DJ devotee–they group their songs according to inner directives that the listeneer is free to imagine) with  “Doing nothing is something that I do”

2012 Induction, US Bicycle Hollow Fame

•November 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment

SeeKay, me, George Mount and Joe Breeze at Freeborn Hall.

On a fine fall day, the  great Peter Rich (owner of recently closed Velosport Bike Shop in Berkeley) picked me up from the bus stop to trundle north to U.C. Davis for a November rider’s ritual feast.

The last three autumns have featured a West Coast enshrinement ritual–the previous eighteen or so took place where the USBHOF was founded, in Somerville N.J., home of the annual criterium classic.  In the early years of USBHOF, it appeared that the U.S. only had fast people in the East, but eventually George Mount was honored (he was the first American man to get close to the front of the pack at an Olympic race–his sixth place in Montreal 1976 was the best American men’s showing in 70 years–women were not yet permitted to compete at the Games on bicycles in 1976)

This year, my criminally humble offroad racing buddy Susan DeMattei would be  lionized, along with some other men.

There are two events: the “Free I.P. reception” (=VIP reception, anyone can attend) on Friday evening at the Hall and Museum on 2nd Street, and the gala the following evening (attendees support the USBHOF annually by attending and buying a table for a cool grand or so).

The first person I met walking in the door was the Not-Yet-Enfamed Erin Hartwell, a thirty something fellow who took some Olympic track racing medals back in the nineties. We traded a few friendly jabs (I love verbal jousting with perfect strangers, and it takes a strong constitution on the part of the stranger to cope with it, I am sure).  Next to him stood a woman whose nametag said “Gale Hartwell”.  I clasped  her hand and said “you must be his honey!”.

“No, I’m the mom” she smiled. We hit it off quite well notwithstanding.

Susan’s friends from nursing school came to the fancy event, but not before cramming into the host hotel room and showering her with champagne, good wishes and contagious cheer.

Bruce Cunningham’s 1964 Household Rules

•October 21, 2012 • 5 Comments

I was churning through a pile of papers, and discovered three sheets of old,  pale green lined accounting-pad paper, covered with my father-in-law’s distinctive all-caps writing style. The sheets were the kind with the line down the middle, and  had been yanked from a spiral-top binding).

Is it possible I over-value scraps?
You be the judge:

FAMILY T.V. RULES March 1964

1) TV WEEK—from Sat 12:00 pm…..end  Sat 12:00 pm

2) STARTS  1 March 64   Doug Week

3) LOCATION in either of boy’s rooms, or in living room

by special arrangement with Mother & Dad

4) Use of TV  (Renegotiate the trial 4-wk period from 1 Mar)

a) School days: max 90 min

b) Non-school days: max 180 min, for each viewer.

During the week, TV will be placed in ONE of boy’s rooms, only programs select by occupant of the room will be viewed. On non-school days double viewing IS possible (per 4(b) above)

c) Behavior in TV room MUST be acceptable to occupant of room. Visitors must leave on FIRST request to do so by occupant.

5) When above agreement is violated in the opinion of Mother and Dad person guilty of violation will lose TV rights for period of one week. In such case TV will be placed in storage for period of penalty.


a) Mother &  Dad have right to watch any designated program on 1 hr. adv. notice.

b) School work has precedence over TV viewing

d) No TV viewing between 6 and 6:30 on School Days.

Signed and dated on this 1st of March, 1964  “Doug” (13 yrs ), “Charlie” (16-yrs) “Bruce” (42 yrs)

Then the attention turns to snakes:


– No more pets are to be brough home w/o specific permission by both Dad & Mother

-No more pet are to be quartered in the house w/ospecific permission by both Mother + Dad

-The only pets permitted in Dougs room are kingsnake, boa, & kangaroo rat. All above pets will be kept on top of hutch only.

-Any significant problems (‘significant’ is to be determined by Dad +Mother) that arise due to pets in house will result in their permanent removal from the house.

(Sanitation-escape-school work).

Since Bruce was freshly out of the military, the notes have a stern, yet immanently accountable feel to them…I forget if the boys had to say “sir”(we sure did, but my father wasn’t a military man. He simply loved the power of controlling his scared little brood).
When I read these notes (which I was about to throw away) to Charlie he laughed and recalled that those rules lasted about a month, and the experiment in paternal omnipotence deteriorated. What touched me about these seemingly reasonable rules was the fact that the Dad was willing to put himself on the line, and be accountable in this ernest contract.

This is about forty years before parents would be coached to create contracts with their children (was Bruce way ahead of his time, or hopelessly mistaken that his little Cunningtroop might be dutiful little soldiers?).

Small catastrophes part 1 and 2

•October 7, 2012 • 5 Comments

I felt like using my favorite teacup–a gift from a Scottish friend–but wasn’t moving gracefully enough. Instead of drinking Boston Tea Campaign darjeeling and feeling good, I let fly some unprintables in our usually quiet morning kitchen, and realized the damage was irreparable, thus no use crying.

Plus, crying about a broken teacup makes me ashamed to care about Stuff that much.

The root of hoarding lies in the irrational emotional ties to Just Stuff.
So I pretended to be mature, rational. I got over it.

For about three days.
But didn’t throw out the damn pieces (there were actually many tiny shards, not just the three you see, or I’d a made CC glue ‘er back together).

No, three days, and I was back on eBay looking for a suitably decorated (note the delicate gold trim! Not just a plain ol’ band of real gold, but a pattern!) simple Delphine antique cup. Not possible. The one I’d gotten from “Libertopia” in Edinburg was a candle-wax filled pink cup that I safely bore home on the airplane, then froze the wax to free it (success! Without using a chisel or some other dangerous implement)…And had a happy year’s use of the thing.

Happy to say I used it dozens of times; didn’t just leave it on a shelf for Sunday best.

This is my elegy for a lost cup, a sixty year old tool that was repurposed, then returned to its original use serving Brook Bond Scottish Blend to an American packrat bicycle freak.
Pale pink
on the outside,
lily-white on the inside.
A gold handle impossibly thin                                                                                                                                                  miraculously holds together

scalding redbrown liquid

and only fails when attention fails.

Ok sorry, I had to get that one off my chest.
The other was the tiny baby mouse in my brother Greg’s tidy house.  When I  heard a little commotion in the hall (there had been some rodent-oriented action, ever since a mama mouse was caught in a trap the previous day) I raced in to find a confused wee ball of fur running not nearly fast enough across the polished wood floor.
Scooping it up in my hand, I said “I’m taking it outside, where it can fend for itself!” (Dumb, in a nice neighborhood where nobody wants to house a mouse).

Each house looked too tidy to hide another mouth to feed.

So it was off to the park, a block and a half away.
I’d felt the thing moving around in the tiny space of my closed fist. I suppose I should have worried about being bitten, but I recognize a toddler when I see one. Toddlers in all of mammalian order are not vicious–they haven’t learned to be feral yet.

I opened my hand and…damn, if the thing wasn’t sleeping! On its back. It wasn’t dead, silly. Anyone can tell if an animals asleep. Its sides move rhythmically, and the feet kick a little now and then.

Made myself comfortable in the breezy Minneapolis autumn afternoon, watched it sleep, and thought: no rush to wake up, since this is the last time you’ll be safe and warm.

My brother drove up, and urged me to come home for supper.
The waterworks began unbidden (silent waterworks)…a fat tear escaped as I nudged the thing, and it wobbled off my pillowy hand and into the crisp leaf litter under some roses.

Owl food, for sure. Its gait was…toddlerish.

The next day, its little brother appeared, and I repeated the grab-and-carry, but this time it didn’t sleep, it poked its nose through the daylit slits between my fingers.
Nephew didn’t want to look at it (sigh), so out I went, and loosed it where little sibling went. This one scampered more, since it was a solid 24 hours older (that is a lot in mouse years), and I hoped it might live.

Here’s what I sketched on the plane, and here’s what rodent freaks like me do when they catch their pet snoozing



Rest In FMPs, Helen Girly Brown

•August 17, 2012 • 4 Comments

You’ve come at least three inches, baby.

Hasbro Pussycat Dolls--their reply to the Bratz

Hasbro Pussycat Dolls–their reply to the Bratz

I was not sad to read that the old Cosmo magazine editress had died. In fact, I wished her contemporary, Betty Friedan, founder of the women’s liberation movement (second wave), had gotten to live another decade, and HGB pack it in back in 2006.

I was braced  for the gushing media response about Ms Brown‘s “feminist” book, Sex & the Single Girl. According to the main, er, manstream press, she represented powerful women in possession of their own sexuality. This was not so. She was  simply the patriarchy-reinforcing Token Woman permitted to pose as a successful, self-made woman.

In truth, she had an immense makeup and fashion industry-supported platform to keep the women who read it firmly in their place: in the never-ending search for self-decoration , selling  one’s self to the richest available man (as she herself did) for top dollar.

It’s not a stretch to say that her advice book, published one year earlier than the important, world-changing Feminine Mystique, did as much to keep women back as Mystique did to move women forward. My mother was addicted to Cosmo, and embodied an as-yet undefined market: body-loathing, exhausted mother  of six with an abusive husband.

I never saw a single critical item in the S.F. Chronicle –where a recent editorial cooed about San Francisco women ‘finally taking the time to accessorize, and dress fashionably’.

So I went online, and was duly reassured that plenty of women aren’t going to miss HGB’s influence. I instead relish the wisdom of scholar/activists  Jo Freeman, whose emails keep me engaged in the process of watchful, caring citizenship. In 1969 she wrote the BITCH manifesto, a stirring diatribe. That was my eighth grade year, and we kids at Portola Jr. High were producing “Come Together”, a free speech polemic that we were prevented from distributing on campus!  Mrs. Freeman (Jo’s mother) was our history teacher, and she prepared the soil for many a thoughtful, progressive student out of the LA suburb of Tarzana.

Then I hit the library, and found Susan Douglas’ book, Enlightened Sexism: the seductive message that feminism’s work is done.

This timely, engaging book is helping me stockpile ammo for my own book, the section where I regret that top racers in mountain biking have to strip for the camera. The men? Of course not.  I mean the underpaid pro racing women supplementing their pay by posing as pin–ups in degrading calendar projects like Cycle Passion. Bring on the comments, gang. 2, 4, 6, 8, who do we excoriate? Other book to read: The Body Project by Joan Jacobs Brumberg.

Since about 1990, Charlie and I have sworn off using the word “passion” because it was used in pretty much every bicycle advertisement in that decade (it still puts in an appearance now & then). To us, it’s just a threadbare word. Like “excited”.  Just count how many times you see that word in the business section of the newspaper, or the industry newsletter you read.  It’s fun. Then picture someone spooning up a bit of fecal material, smiling. To us, every time someone sez “I’m excited about” the change in their job, it means the opposite. Are we too jaded?

Mind you, dear reader, that I have  already produced my OWN nude calendar (it came out in December 2007 and generated 7000 site visits and an impressive number of calendar sales…fifty!!)   But take a look for yourself (it’s in this sites right-hand column way below “About JP”), and tell me if there is one single “come hither” look, soliciting the male gaze. I feel that the mud-covered creature I was represented a primitive human (albeit clearly feminine). Some day I may devote a few pages to expand on this thought, and the seeming clash between my chagrin at biker chick pornography and my elation at being able to pose As I Am without it being a porn calendar. These fine lines between commercial porn and artistic self expression deserve pages and pages.

I just read that in about 2006 Hasbro toy company created a “Pussycat Doll” that little girls were to peel the clothes off of. Now, we have peeled the clothes off of everything we played with but having it framed as a strip tease (there’s a teenybopper group by the same name that helps prepare the preteen terrain for overt sexual self-presentation…who knows if they were included in a licensing agreement…or did Hasbro create the band to sell the dolls?).