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?).


•August 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday as I ate my sourmilk pancakes with superfresh blackberries from our fence, I saw what looked like a strung out team of roadies roll by.

Since our street doesn’t go anywhere, I put down my fork and headed out to the street.

I grabbed one of the movie posters  FedEx brought earlier in the week, to promote a movie that has bicycles in it–it’s no surprise that the two-wheel set has become an Interesting Segment Of The Market.  Since I’m hard pressed to promote something I haven’t seen, yet burdened by the clutter, I contemplated crossing the line between honest citizen and ovine consumer.

“You’re lost, right?”

As I proffered the poster for “Prime Rush”, one of the riders looked at me closely and said, “I know you! music camp!” I took a second look and said, “You’re the parking lot duty from Camp Harmony!”  Then: “need a floor pump?”.
One of the men had a flat tire.

While the flat tire guy wrestled with the repair, I chatted with Phillip ( a fiddler)who somehow  recalled my face from at least fifteen years ago, among the Santa Cruz redwoods.

“You need my postcard.” I was on that ovine side of the line, why not go for the gusto, and flog my teaching prowess?

Well, not everyone needed it but I pushed a couple of JP + Rat (available for five clams and a stamp) on them black & white art cards on ’em.

(PG said “we were looking for a bathroom…this is the fast bunch in the club, there are several more who continued up the road”.

“Club ride?”

“Yes. We’re the Veloraptors…an East Bay group, like, you know, the Yellow Jackets”.

“Can I please come on your ride?”

Did I really ask? Or did I just grab my bike? This is a prime opportunity to examine more closely the line between fact and wishful (in this case, politened-up) fiction.

Thus it was that I accompanied a random group exploring Marin on a fine Wednesday morning. And did my level best to “school” the Fast Guy, catch up  with Phil ( the Tall Guy on Orange Bike), and later, guide the Artist-With-An-Artist back to the Fairfax Cyclery lot where they’d all parked.

Our Vitrine

•July 18, 2012 • 1 Comment


Originally uploaded by Geoffrey M. Halaburt

Ignore the glare.

SFO Show Preview!

•July 18, 2012 • 1 Comment

Courtesy of one of our friends who spied on the site mid-wide through its installation. A poorly mounted bike (alas, it was Charlie’s) will need a little tweaking to repair. My guess is Charlie will repair the cable-stop if allowed INTO the vitrine in a couple of weeks, when  le tout Marin descend on the international terminal to ogle their very own history.

It’s called Repack to Rwanda, and here’s our friend’s photospread.

Stunning Engineering Breakthrough!

•July 18, 2012 • 3 Comments

Right Angle Makes Right










Scientific Language, Too!

























The Year of the Ham

•July 17, 2012 • 4 Comments

Graphic by VTT Oldschool artist Pierre Bonnafous

Artist Pierre Bonnafous of VTT Old School/Old’s Cool drew a Cunningham bike for the newly-minted French Mountain Bike Hollow Fame exhibit in the ice rink near Villard-de-Lans town center…there were no ‘hams available.
He had keenly depicted many Cunning-elements, but it wasn’t  quite “Otto”.

Yesterday he sent a clever drawing of the machine which challenged the barely-hardened status quo.

‘It can’t be a mountain bike.” I would hear (or sometimes read in magazines).

a) Because it has road bars

b) Because there are only two chainrings

c) Because aluminum tubes can be crushed like a can of Budweiser.

My response tended to be a withering “coulda fooled me”.

Charlie ignored the critics.

A steel framemaker who’d seen his own superlight frames break in competition  cautioned, ” Just wait–those bikes will come back to bite you!“.

Elsewhere, impressionable readers absorbed  pseudo-science from editors like Bicycling’s Jim Langley who opined that he “wouldn’t want to be in the same room when an aluminum frame failed”.

This was twenty years ago–the big companies hadn’t tried out the dangerous new material that airplanes tend to be made of.
Now that so many companies  have made aluminum bikes (maybe not Tom Ritchey) there is less rumor and more reality out there. Alu is old school, in fact.

The old ‘hams keep rolling along, decade after decade, passing unobtrusively as functional art in a world where bikes have got to attract attention with meaningless design features….(psst, remember the slingshot, the elevated chainstay, the right angle cranks?)

OK, they had a purpose: to start conversations.

One must never underestimate the gawk and gossip factor when it comes to novelty-seekers (most mtn bikers act like they have that extra few molecules on their D4 receptors).

Here’s a song I penned & sang at my camps in the late 80’s and early 90’s:

Cunningham Bike

(sung to the tune of “Tennessee Stud”, from the Will the Circle Be Unbroken album by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band)

Along about 1981

I rolled into Fairfax  on a quest for fun

 I never woulda found the life I’d lead

If I had’t met up with the fat-tired breed.


 The Cunningham bike was short and stout

Ain’t no paint you could brag about

Aluminum frame with a feel I liked

And there never was a bike like the Cunningham bike


The tubes were fat and the welds were weird

Some folks pointed and all of ‘em  jeered

I raced ol’ “Otto”  with the fastest guys

and always  came home with the NORBA prize


 But me &my race team, we couldn’t agree

They couldn’t take a chick who could stand and pee

They canned my ass and I couldn’t save face

The very next week I lost my first race


The Cunningham bike was short and stout

There wasn’t no paint you could brag about

It had the verve and it had the mud

And the Cunningham bike is in my blood.

Well I learned that a woman riding proud & free

Riled up the men in the patriarchy

Still, I rode real far & rode like a girl

Cause I was the queen of  the off-road world


Now the world has changed with the sport I knew

You can’t race a bike if you can’t sell you

Saddest of all, worse than all them scars

Is the fact that you’re paid just to peddle some car.


 Now there’s fine antique in the bicycle barn

It’s my trusty “Otto” hanging safe from harm

10 straight seasons the frame did fly

And I’d do ten more if my legs weren’t fried.



Me and my  dad, we couldn’t agree

He thought he could say what  I ought to be

Every child born deserves to have her own say

So I devoted my life to the study of play


Cunningham bike was plain & stout

That aluminum frame was a little far out

But put us on the starting line and brace for a fight

I had some trouble with my uptight dad

about  my future as a college grad

I drove out west and never looked back

And I found a lean dude  riding single track..


Cuz I blew on by on my Cunningham bike



Cunningham bike  is plain & stout

Those aluminum tubes had em all freaked out

Listen for the starting gun and brace for a fight

Cause there’ll never be another like the Cunningham bike.

At the Generation MTB reunion, 2012 June