Archive for March, 2007

Of Hills & Goodbyes

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Agh. Fact is I was psyched out before I even left the house to bike over to the Fargo Street Hill Climb. I was breathing hard and adrenalating right here by my desk. Sure, there were a lot of reasons why I should succeed: I was lighter and in better condition than when I attempted and failed it last year, and I was more confident my road bike would be better for the job than my knobby-tired full-suspension mountain bike. But still the hill had already beaten me and I hadn’t even gotten on a bike yet.

I suppose I can take some reassurance in at least making the attempt — however futile — but I can’t take any for failing to go along with my game plan, which was:

  1. get there
  2. get signed up
  3. get busy climbing

Even though I knew full well that the less time spent staring up at the top of the obstacle from the bottom the better, what did I do when after the first and second steps were completed? Yeah, I sat at the bottom and stared up at the hill and wondered how the hell I even thought I had the technical skills and strength required to pedal the the 560-odd feet up the 30% grade to the summit.

Not only that, but I was under the added pressure of aa time constraint. I had a funeral at noon that I was expected to be at — a funeral I was speaking at. So did I get a move on? Hell no. Sure I did a half-baked practice climb up half the neighboring steep Baxter Street to the north of Fargo and that went pretty well, and I readjusted the handlebars lower to give me a more forward-leaning position (the better to keep the front wheel from lifting) but it was some 50 minutes after getting there and signing in before I made my first attempt.

The greatest part about it, it was going really well. Yes, I had to rise up out of the saddle and pedal standing a lot earlier than I’d hoped to achieve maximum thrust, but I was feeling strong and making good progress. I actually thought I stood a good chance of making it to the top… right up until the baddest part of it, which occured about halfway up in the form of another entrant ahead of me who bailed out of his attempt but then made no attempt to get the hell off the course and instead for reasons known only to him stayed perfectly still and perpindicular to the curb, ultimately and egregiously blocking me from accessing several feet of the street that I could have used — and would have used had he had a better sense of awareness and consideration, which is clearly evident in this brief clip below of my meeting up with him.

Wow, did I get through all that without calling the guy a fucking asshole? Cool!

Seeing as I was forced to cut back quicker to get by him, the breaking of my already unsteady rhythm plus the distraction of his obtrusive presence proved fatal to that try. As such, I gave the hill a second go. This time without any human obstractions I can only blame myself for failing and on the video I captured of that (which I will not be showing) I can clearly be heard breaking down and crying briefly in abject and absolute frustration. Then I manned up, walked to the top, vowed to come back and try again next year and biked my way home because I had little more than an hour to get cleaned up for the impending funeral of my friend Mark Burton’s father at Mt. Sinai Cemetery.

As a very pleasant surprise bonus Susan changed her mind and decided to accompany me and we got to the sevices right on time.

Though the circumstances were unfortunate, it was a pleasure to see Mark’s sister Heather and his mom Harriet as well Mark — all for the first time in a very long time. It was also nice to reconnect with another high school buddy Craig Pines as well as Kendall Parks who both attended. I even spied Richard Jastrow after the services but never got a chance to say hello as he didn’t attend the reception at Harriet’s home afterwards.

I did however get the chance to stand before everyone and express my thanks to David Burton, some 25 years overdue. I was very pleased that my words were so well-received. You can read what I said after the jump if you’d like:

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Treemail

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

To: thetree@nextdoor.com
From: wildbell@gmail.com
Subject: Inquiring neighbors wanna know…

What gives, eh? It’s spring. Not fall. Not winter. SPRING. Please make a note of it, and stop with the excessive shedding, will ya!? The gardeners cleaned up after you Friday of last week and look (below and clickable) at what I had to sweep up today eight days later. It’s waaaaay too late for this to be happening, and certainly not this much. Thanks.

leaves.jpg

Adrenalinity

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Got two things cooking this weekend — both on Sunday actually — that are intense enough so that whenever I so much as glance at them mentally I’m rewarded with strong shots of adrenaline jetting into my system giving me that combination fight/flee excited/terrified feeling.

The first is the annual Fargo Street Hill Climb, one of the most unique cycling events in the entire world. I tried it for the first time a year ago and failed, then made a second attempt and failed at that, too. I was so intimidated and out-psyched by the sheer steepness of that street that just the simple thought of tackling it again a year later basically makes me break out in a cold sweat.

But that ain’t gonna stop me from trying, and succeeding.

I’ll have to get it done early in the morning because the second event is the funeral for my friend Mark Burton’s father at noon. Attending it isn’t the issue, it’s that Mark in knowing how much his father meant to me has given me the opportunity to say a few words.

It’s an offer I can’t and wouldn’t refuse, but adding a bit to the anxiety he’s said the rabbi presiding over the services has suggested keeping all eulogies within a three-minute window and at present draft, what I have to say runs five. I’ll be attempting to whittle it down tomorrow, but if I can’t slim it down enough to fit the proposed timeframe I’m hoping whatever overage will be indulged seeing as what I have to say is about 25 years overdue.

The Dog Ate The Remote

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

By and large, Ranger’s adjusted well to being left to her own devices these past few weeks that I’ve been gigging full-time. No doubt having grown used to me being home during the days to having the house all-together devoid of humans can be a jarring transition for a young, high-strung pup. But we haven’t received complaints of any excessive barking and other than ripping apart the pet bed she’s pretty much kept her chewing exercises to paper products pulled from the recycle basket (or the occasional rent check). Well, there was that dead (but thankfully not-very-chewed) rat. And a towel or two.

Yesterday she raised it to a whole new level. When Susan got home she discovered the TiVo remote no longer in its previous and formerly safe place on the coffee table and instead on the living room area rug gnawed well past the point of no return:

remote.jpg

The unit might still seem serviceable, but no. Trust me, I tried valiantly to revive it. Ranger’s massive mastications popped open the battery compartment door and laid waste to the circuit board and connections within.

Sigh.

At least she left the batteries alone. Maybe after she got one in her mouth and got the tiny little zing that comes from them when the contacts are tongued just so.

It’s funny but last night after we shut the TV down I debated on whether to leave the remote on the sofa arm because there was something in me that sensed the coffee table was no longer safe harbor, but I didn’t pay it any attention. And now here we are, with no way to change channels on the TV until the replacement remote, which I promptly ordered online ($30 plus another $20 for taxes and expedited shipping), but won’t be here until Monday, Tuesday at the latest.

With no retailers in the area selling only the remotes I was almost desperate enough to rationalize buying an entirely new TiVo box at the local Radio Shack for $99 (after $170 rebate), but nixed that plan when I read the small print on the rebate form that pointed out the rebate would be valid with new service activation only. I would’ve gone the extra $50 for a remote and a new box… but not $260.

So instead we await the new remote’s arrival, and think twice about leaving anything on the coffee table that we don’t want chewed up.

Inner Tubin’

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

By no means am I an avid YouTuber. Sure, I post occasional vidclips of the night bike rides I go on or of unique events such as the YMCA “Stair Climb To The Top” of downtown’s U.S. Bank Tower, but I usually put ’em up and shut up.

As such, if any of my uploads get viewers into three digits I’m amazed. So you can imagine my surprise to find my clip of the A380 landing at LAX Monday punctuated with a couple of my “good gawds!” as she passed by has logged more than 1,200 2,800(!) views and even some complimentary comments and four-star ratings as well as various fluctuating “honors” in certain top rankings categories.

Dang!

Little Is Coincidental

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

I try to be a firm believer in things happening for a reason — good or bad. Sometimes I’ll get into arguments with myself about that adage over the little things… like what could possibly be the purpose of that ding I got from some sunzabeech in my truck’s door in the parking lot where I work yesterday (answer: all the more reason to ride my bike!), but with the bigger-picture events I pretty much accept it without debate.

For example, take me reconnecting with my old friend Russell last week. After finding me via the internest a week earlier and exchanging emails, last Thursday I biked up from work to Mar Vista where I met his wife Jessica and then he took me out to dinner at this wonderful Japanese grill place called Sakura House on Washington Boulevard where we had a great time climbing over the 17-year wall that had built up between us. Afterward back at his house I did my best not to drool over the two tricked out Harleys he showed me in his garage.

In the course of the evening we talked about a bunch of stuff, including our mutual friend Mark Burton who Russell is still very much in-touch with and who I haven’t seen in about as long as it had been since I’d last seen Russell. Since only a few weeks before that I was participating in that downtown storytellers project at the Music Center in which the downtown story I attempted to share was the one involving Mark’s father, I asked about Mr. Burton and was surprised to learn from Russell that he was still alive considering he’s now well into his 70s and spent the last 21-years of his life in prison.

When I said goodnight to Russell later that night I asked him to pass my regards along to Mark in the hopes that the three of us could get together one day soon and throw back a nostaligic sixer of Mickey’s or Killian’s Red (our beers of choice back then) maybe in our old haunt that I called Crossroads Park (Now Will Rogers Park) in between the Beverly Hills Hotel and the intersections of several of that city’s residential streets.

Russell certainly made good on my request and the next morning I found an enthusiastic email from Mark which I answered. In a follow-up I asked about his mom and sister and (even though I figured it was a sensitive subject) his dad because I wanted him to know how much I appreciated the two of them coming to my rescue back when I was arrested in 1982 for being a stupid 18-year-old with a .22 rifle.

Several days went by and no response came from Mark. I chalked it up to what certainly was his busy work schedule, but by yesterday I finally broached the subject in a quick note to him in hopes that was indeed the case and that I hadn’t offended him.

I was relieved to get his email back saying yes he’d been busy and no there’d been no offense taken, and then I was heartbroken by his news that a large part of the reason he hadn’t been able to respond was that his father, who had been ill for quite some time, had taken a grave turn over the weekend and died early that Tuesday morning up in Vacaville. He told me he’d keep me informed of the funeral plans and when he let me know this morning that his father is to be buried this Sunday at noon I told him I’d be honored to attend.

And while it may not be beers in the park as I’d wished, I want to make that clear that I will be honored to stand with my old friends at the ceremony for Mark’s father, a man who when I stood bitter and brooding at the threshold of a very dark path stepped up to my aid when no one else would or could and turned me from it with quiet kindness and understanding and a helping hand.

Not A Bad Way To Begin The Day/Week

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Twenty-four miles and a big old jet airliner… all before breakfast. Unfortunately as my digivideo cam is not equipped to wirelessly transfer its data into the ether I have no capability of uploading my footage of the awesome on-time landing of the Airbus A380 at LAX at 9:30 a.m. this morning… but that should be no big deal as I’m pretty sure a search of YouTube and or any of the newschannel videostreams should yield one or two thousand other captures of the historic landing.

So for now and the remainder of the day you’ll have to content yourself with someone else’s video(s) and my impression that it was fantastic and mind-blowing to behold such a behemoth on its inaugural L.A. touchdown.

And I certainly wasn’t alone. Lincoln Boulevard and Westchester Parkway were loaded with a couple thousand like-minded airplane geeks, one of which was Julia, a Blogging.la reader, who met up with me on the side of the road not too far from the Sepulveda Boulevard In-N-Out and not long after that the big bird came calling.

Afterward I biked the long way around the airport (Westchester Parkway to Pershing Drive to Imperial Highway) to get to work.

UPDATE (12:45 p.m.): Julia’s got a post on her blog up with video of the landing, and me after it touches down.

UPDATE (8:14 p.m.): Here she is from my POV…