Monday, March 28, 2011


I saw the Sun and blue, blue skies today. After two weeks of clouds and rain, I was so happy to go outside in knickers and a thin t-shirt. The light, the heat, the energy of our nearest and dearest star was systematically absorbed by all the cells in my body, and I am wholly recharged. The energy excess is being burned off in a smile on my face that won't go away. My spirit, my mind, and my body are at peace.

I saw green hillsides (they are green around here this time of year) and crisp skylines today. There was no haze. The Bay Farm Island Bike Bridge was in the middle of my ride. I never tire of reducing my speed and looking West, then East, mid-span. The outline of San Francisco's cityscape is beautiful by any measure. Oakland's Oracle Arena and McAfee Coliseum dominate the view opposite, dwarfed by those green hills. The 94502 section of Alameda is on the other side of that bridge, I took a leisurely ride down paths I first rode twenty-eight years ago. There are many more houses now, But the paths mean no car traffic. My trip was quiet and serene.

I saw a hundreds of birds on my ride today. I grew up in this area, and I remember a time when the variety and number of birds to be seen was considerably less. Wildlife and habitat conservation efforts and a reduction in pollution have done wonders for the ecology of the San Francisco Bay Area. I am so very thankful for the thousands of environmentalists, and decades of work, that make, and keep, my Home the beautiful place it is.

Today would have been very different if I drove the car. I would have missed out on a lot. My day of being outside is not over yet. Next is a ride to Park Street, where I will share ice cream with a friend.

Sun, warmth, beautiful views, a bike ride, birds, ice cream, and friend time. Does it get any better?

Today is a day for me to be thankful. What are you thankful for?

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Herman was buried Friday. Five or six of his buddies got together Friday night at Candlestick Point to mourn their friend. It was dark and quiet, and they made a fire in a steel barrel. They drank, told stories, and shared their sadness. There are few stronger bonding moments for men. Men usually talk about things, not feelings...especially when in the company of other men. There is something primal and disarming about sitting around a fire in the dark. They went to Candlestick for seclusion, to get away from the noise and lights of the city, and not be bothered by the rest of the world. 

Their mourning was interrupted suddenly and unexpectedly when a mob of partying cyclists swarmed into the parking lot adjacent to their secluded gathering spot. Hundreds of partiers on bikes with lights and loud dance music, many in costume, many in drag, laughing and carrying on the way people do at parties on Friday nights. 

At least one of Herman's friends was angered by the rude interruption. He wanted the bikers to leave. He started yelling and swearing in frustration, asking of the bikers, "why are you here?!? Why are you making all this noise when we came out to mourn our dead friend in peace and quiet?!?"

A biker stopped and explained: "This is San Francisco Bike Party. It's a self-propelled party that takes a different route through town every month. This month's route came here. Anybody who rides is welcome. Sorry we interrupted." 

The mourning friend's anger was extinguished. He walked over to one of the parked music bikes and asked to address the mob. The music stopped, and his voice could be heard over the P.A. "I'm sorry. I was wrong. I was upset by y'all showin' up with your bikes and noise, and I said things I shouldn't have. Y'all are cool."

Another of Herman's friends then took the microphone and spoke. "Herman rode a bike. If he were still around, and if he knew y'all were havin' a bike party, he'd be ridin' with y'all. I'm sure Herman's lookin' down, and smilin'. God bless, and ride safe."

Cheers of approval and cameraderie went up from the mob, and Herman's friends walked back to their fire. 

SFBP's March 2011 ride started at China Basin Park, within view of ATT Park, and headed South through Hunter's Point and Bayview to the spot where the above story took place. West on Gilman, then North on 3rd, back to China Basin Park. 

I didn't know Herman. I don't know when or where he was born, where he died, or what mark he left on his world. None of that matters to me. What matters to the world we all share is that he was a good enough man to deserve a funeral, and he is missed by his friends. 

What matters to me is that he rode a bike. That makes him my brother. A brother in chains, cogs, and wheels. 

Rest in peace, Herman. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011


That is the question that is really being asked when you hear "how can I help you," or "what can I do for you today?" Light and friendly questions lead to light friendly answers: "Nothing at the moment...I'm just looking," or " can you show me/I'm interested in a _______."

"What do you want?" is too direct. It forces the person being asked to think...and answer in a deeper, more meaningful way. It is confrontational. It is forceful. It is demanding. Customers do not want to be confronted, forced, or have anything demanded of them when they walk into a bike shop. They do not want to spend the rest of their day off engaged in a debate about the artistic, political, scientific, and moral implications of leather saddles on monocoque carbon frames. Well, most of them don't, anyway. They want to be accomodated. They come in to fondle and drool over what's new and sexy, or to buy what they already know they need, or to get advice on a specific bike-related issue. In most every instance, things are wrapped up in a few minutes. Occasionally, the customer asks a heavy question that needs an equally heavy answer. I never shy away from those questions, and the ensuing discussions have earned me more than a few real friends.

I have walked up to thousands of customers and politely asked "how can I help you today?" I have never used the words "what do you want?" If I were to ask the latter, I imagine the customer would make an angry face and walk out. So I play the accomodating host. It's natural for me, and I enjoy it. 

When I go to a shop, store, boutique, etc., I can't think of a time when I wasn't greeted with "how can I help you?" or something along those lines. Being in customer service myself, I am mindful of how I'm greeted, and even if the attitude is less than friendly, the words usually come out right. I appreciate the effort to be hospitable.

I never consciously considered the title question until last December. I was having an intimate and open conversation with 'J', a woman whose wisdom and integrity I count on. I was sharing with her my plans for 2011, when she sincerely asked of me the query in question. Point blank, no escape. The words I deliberately avoid were suddenly unavoidable. She was being confrontational, forceful, and demanding. I was surprised, both by the question and how uncomfortable it Initially made me. She really wanted an answer, and it occured to me that I really didn't know. Malice is not part of J's personality, and her curiousity was borne of caring. The question, and the answer that was collecting in my mind, spawned a welcome clarity. The initial discomfort evaporated. A calmness, an awareness filled me. The answer was clear.

To be continued...