Friday, July 27, 2007

Apparently, I'm stupid

A funny thing happened yesterday as I was biking near UW-Madison's Library Mall. I had just stopped at a stop sign and, just after I started up again and turned onto State Street, this cyclist behind me (he'd been following for about a block, but not super close, which I knew thanks to my mirrors) speeds up and grunts, "Why'd you stop? There's no stop sign!"

He was a white, 40-ish, helmetless male. I thought I recognized him as a customer from my days of working at Mifflin Street Co-op. I said, in what I think was a friendly tone, "Actually, there is one, right there," and I pointed to it.

To which he replied, "That's only for cars. Sheesh." By this time he was next to me.

"Actually," I said, "it's for cyclists, too."

Maybe I sounded too parental and unflustered. He looked disgusted, turned away from me and sped across the street toward a bike rack. "Only for stupid cyclists!" he hollered over his shoulder.

"And cyclists who want to follow the law and not get hit by cars--" and I was about to add "--or injure pedestrians," when I realized I was engaging in a street debate with a guy who thought that his calling me "stupid" might shame me into speeding through stop signs.

Yesterday's total: 17 miles. Wednesday's was around 16.5

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Fran's been found alive and apparently well in northern Wisconsin. That is all I know for now -- it only hit the news an hour ago. By the time you read this, there will probably be more information available through various news outlets, which you can peruse through a Google news search.

I drove to work yesterday and my heart welled with pity for all the people who do that every single working day of their lives.

When I get tired and my mind becomes feeble, I imagine that my brain is turning to cotton. All my senses seem muffled.

That is what driving on the Beltline felt like. It did not seem like I was really present, really THERE, speeding along at 55 mph. I felt cut off from world and sound and Madison's multifarious wildlife -- the squirrels, the rabbits, the idiots reading books while bicycling, the Japanese knotweed, the mulberries.

Every morning and every evening I can hear my neighbors hollering at each other. After driving yesterday, I began to understand a little about why there is so much anger in this world.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How not to bring someone to God

On Sunday, I heard a knock on the door and started heading down the stairs. Was I distracted by my ponderings on who it might be, or was it the fact that I was wearing shoes that I don't usually wear indoors? Whatever it was, I was about two-thirds of the way down when I lost my footing and went SMACK! down the stairs. I, of course, yelled out, "F***!"

Having reached the bottom of the stairs, I stood up and opened the door. (Yes, Mom, I looked first.) It was a Jehovah's Witness in a burgundy shirt and tie. Often, I am happy to engage in some sort of scriptural conversation with these folks, but not today. "Now's not a good time," I said. "I just fell down the stairs."

"Are you okay?" he said, but he also had that kind of suppressed smile that says, "I can see that you will be alright, so it's probably okay that I found your swearing so amusing." Then he gave me an invitation to the JW's annual regional assembly, which will be held in DeKalb, Illinois, this year. I didn't ask if it will be the same weekend as that town's famous corn festival so I could have a two-fer weekend getaway.

Fran is still missing and sometimes people I meet ask for updates -- like, if anyone knows where she might be. It's become more evident to me than usual that we humans want a narrative for everything, even the inexplicable. If anyone could fully explain Fran's disappearance or deduce her location, we would have found her by now. And yet we keep thinking that, suddenly, somehow, the answer will arise out of nowhere, and it will all be clear.

Thursday: 20 miles
Friday: 16.5 miles
Saturday: 60 miles
Monday: 17 miles

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yesterday was a very weird day

All is copacetic on the homefront. The offer was officially accepted yesterday, and closing is by the end of August. If the inspection goes without a hitch, I hope to move that date up sooner so I have more time to paint and put in new flooring in the bedroom while it's still hot and humid outside. I had dinner with my friends Matt and Kathy last night and they showed me the flooring that Matt had put in upstairs, using recovered boards that they bought at the Habitat ReStore. It looked fabulous, so I told him he could come over and work on my place. Generous of me, I think.

The disturbing part of yesterdy came in the afternoon, when I received an e-mail from the seller (who also happens to be a friend) on a completely different topic: a friend of ours went missing on Tuesday night. No foul play is suspected, but it was unexpected and is upsetting to a lot of people. She has about a bazillion friends. If you live in the Madison area and want more info or want to post flyers in your workplace or elsewhere, call me and I can e-mail you a pdf.

Yesterday's biking total: 16.75 miles

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

soon to be a frazzled homeowner, maybe

It has been a somewhat overwhelming week, looking at condos and finally making an offer on one. It looks like I very well may get it. In the meantime, and what with the wedding and all, I managed to forget many important things, including my nephew's first birthday. But I forgot his brother's first birthday, too, so I guess they can't compain that I have favorites. I had put it in my mind that it was the same week as my dad's birthday, at the end of July.

Thursday: 22.5 miles
Friday: 29.5
Sunday: 20.5
Monday: 18.5
Tuesday: 16.5

If you want to donate $5 or $10 or more to the Boys' and Girls' Club of Dane County, call me by Friday.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

oh, yeah, the wedding

Some of you may be wondering why I haven't mentioned the 7/7/07 wedding now that it's over and I've signed the marriage certificate (as the officiant, not as a spouse). The reason is because I was waiting to upload the pictures -- for example, the one in which I look quite chagrined to be the one to have caught the bridal bouquet during the ceremonial see-what-single-woman-will-catch-this-marriage-thing flower toss -- but my computer and my camera have not been in the same place since that event.

So I will continue to bore you with biking tallies:
Sunday, 49.5 miles
Monday, 16 miles
Tuesday, 18 miles
Today, 19.5 miles

Monday, July 9, 2007

Eating for two (days)

I was not as hungry yesterday as one would have expected, given all the riding I did. I suppose it was the heat that kept my appetite down. I made up for it today, back in the air-conditioned office. As I packed my food this morning, I asked myself, “Do you really think you’re going to eat all this, Kathryn,” and I answered myself, “Best be prepared. And if I don’t, I’ll have leftovers for tomorrow.”

Well, I ate pretty much all of it. Two cheese sandwiches, roasted chicken with roasted figs and veggies, green beans Athena (green beans simmered with tomatoes, onions and feta), a box of raisins, a little bag of animal crackers ... I don’t remember what else. Oh, yes, some grazing on chocolate, prunes, and saltines. Not simultaneously.

The bad part about riding a lot is the windburn. Of course, windburn and sunburn feel a lot alike, but when the inside of my nose feels lightly sunburned, I figure it must have gotten irritated by the wind. Any cyclists or convertible drivers out there who’ve faced a similar problem? Do they make windburn balm for the inside of your nose and sinuses?

So, there’s this guy I see on the bike path on my way home from work. He’s usually going at a nice clip, maybe 15 miles an hour. This is not remarkable. The remarkable detail is that he always has an open book in one of his hands and is reading it. So, even though I’m not a law enforcement officer, do you think I could arrest him, anyway? There are pedestrians all over that path, and I’m sure none of them want to be injured as a result of his self-absorption.

Now, my self-absorption, that’s another matter.

Two of my friends are signed up to do the Madison AIDS Network ride in August. One of them only signed up last week, and hadn’t ridden more than two miles at a time yet this year (although she’s done the ride in previous years). The ride is 300+ miles in four days. Her recklessness inspires me. I am tempted to sign up myself. Do you think I can raise $1,200 in seven weeks? I already need to raise another $250 in the next two weeks for the Dane County Boys and Girls Club, and I keep forgetting to hit people up for that.

Well, there is more to my life than cycling. Like laundry. I need to do some tonight.

p.s. Credits to Dekalb for the title.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

I am a cycling addict

Friday: 32 miles
Saturday:17 miles
Today: It should be around 49 or 50 by the time I get home

I biked to Windsor to look at a garden for a local magazine. Funny, quirky garden. the woman had put a fake skull and a tequila bottle in the cactus/desert section of the garden. But miles 15-30 (the way back home) sucked. It's in the 90s today and i was going against the wind. I felt like a turtle trying to crawl its way out of a kiln. But then I stopped at home, put my head under the cold water faucet, stuffed my face with chicken and raisins and cheese curds and a coconut popsicle, and I was all energized to bike to church. Of course, all that eating made me run late. i didn't get there until 6:40, halfway through the sermon, and I wondered why I had even bothered. But then the pastor told a story about a man being chased by a lion, falling over a cliff, and catching onto a branch. He looked down and noticed another lion below him. Then he noticed, within arm's reach, some alpine strawberries growing out of a crevice. There was a big ripe one, and he reached for it and plucked it off. He ate it and enjoyed it very much.

And then we sang "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," which rocks for many reasons, including a series of descending half-steps in one bar of the alto part. The words are good, too. I love it.

actually written on Friday evening, July 6, 2007

The Joy of Cooking says it takes 20 minutes per pound for a chicken to roast, but I’ve never found that to be true. It’s not even a good guideline. After leaving my 3.91 pound chicken in the oven for 80 minutes, I stuck the thermometer in and it only registered 150 Fahrenheit. 150! I tell you, they must have written that section in a drug-induced haze, or perhaps they just slapped it together at the last minute before deadline.

I suppose my ovens could all be crappy, or my habit of throwing copious amounts of vegetables into the roasting pan could slow the cooking time, or the fact that I do not let the chicken sit at room temperature so that its internal temperature reaches 70 degrees before I shove it in the oven could have some cooling effect. Perhaps I ought to use a more up-to-date cookbook in which they do not assume that you are willing to leave raw meat on the kitchen counter for a couple of hours before sticking it in the oven.

But I don’t, and now it’s past my bedtime, and I’m too tired to do housework, so I guess I’ll sit here and write instead while I wait for the chicken to be done.

I have been a little crabby all week, so when I left work today, I decided I would take the scenic route home. I was envisioning a route that would take me 10 or 11 miles instead of my usual eight, but once I turned off the beaten path, I remembered what I love so much about life and I ended up taking a very convoluted route that could barely be described as taking me home, except for the fact that I did end up home, eventually, 22 or so miles later.

Clare will be happy to know that this detour led me to two groundhog sightings. The second sighting was of a pair of them right next to each other, munching the clover. It was the first time I’ve ever seen two groundhogs together, unless I’ve seen two fighting somewhere, which probably wouldn’t have struck me as remarkable, and so I would have forgotten it. But these two were content to be together – as lovers or siblings or friends, I don’t know. But I decided to call them E and G. It seemed appropriate.

They were very happy until I stopped my bike to watch them, at which time they scampered off in slightly different directions, stopping after 10 or so feet to evaluate if I was really serious about standing there. They looked at me as if to say, “That’s a very good patch of clover, and we don’t want to leave it, but if you insist on standing there, we will suspect you of either of two motives: (1) you want to eat us for dinner or (2) you want to observe us and spread rumors about our forbidden love. In either case, we would insist on parting ways with you.” So I put my left foot back on its pedal and began to ride off, and they returned to their clover, peaceably.

Sometimes at lunchtime, a co-worker asks, “Did you ride your bike today?” and then I know that the world really doesn’t revolve around me, because if it did, all my co-workers would have noticed by now that I’ve only driven to work twice, and biked at least 25 times. When I answer, “Yes,” they say, “You’re so good.”

I immediately want to correct them. It’s not that biking doesn’t ameliorate some of my discomfort about living in the most resource-gobbling country on Earth (soon to be surpassed by China, the pundits say, but I imagine it will be another five decades or more until then). And yes, it’s beneficial to my health – except for that one time I broke my teeth. (That was September 12, 2001, and it was almost certainly a stress-induced crash, and so I don’t really think it counts – it would have been worse if I’d been driving a car.)

But I’m not sure my biking makes me “good.” See, they don’t know what goes through my mind when I’m biking to and from work. About half of my thoughts are along the lines of, “That idiot shouldn’t be allowed on the road/bike path/planet” – similar to what my thoughts might be if I were driving a car.

The other half of my thoughts are much more positive, and perhaps I will share them with the next coworker who tells me I am “good” for biking. “I don’t know about being good,” I would say. “I just ride so I can ogle all those other bikers’ fine asses.”

Friday, July 6, 2007

Gina said something really brilliant that I was going to use as a title, but I forgot what it was

The wedding is tomorrow. Whoa.

Not my wedding -- the wedding I'm co-officiating. It promises to be fun. The bride and groom are providing no help with suggestions for what I should wear. "Wear whatever you like," they say. But I like so many things! How to choose?

Sunday total: 18.7
Monday: 16.1
Tuesday: 18.3
Thursday: 16.75

I spent all of the Fourth of July doing housework. Celebrating independence from cherry juice stickying up the kitchen floor. The problem with the 4th being on a work night is that you either have to stay up late to watch the fireworks, but still get up in the morning, or go to bed at the regular time and hear the fireworks. I opted for the latter, and still managed to fall asleep. Earplugs help.

The kids next door to me kept lighting ones out on the street, which I particularly dislike. Not for the noise per se or because of safety reasons or because I hate to see children having fun, but because the first one going off always makes me think I'm under fire in the West Bank.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

To the three people who read this...

You may wonder why all the silence the past few weeks. Well, the internet access that I had completely died, and what with freelance work and cherries to can, I have had no time to bring my computer elsewhere for blogging, or even checking my e-mail. Yes, it is a sad story, I know. You missed hearing how I was inspired to give up caffeine completely for three days before falling back off the wagon. See, I'd heard a woman from AA talk about how she would pretend to herself she wasn't drinking alcohol whenever she spiked her water or orange juice or soda or coffee with vodka because, after all, it was just a splash, and it reminded me how I put just a splash of coffee in my milk and pretend it won't really eat the lining in my gut even though, from much experience, I know that it will. Yes, I know that caffeine addiction and alcoholism aren't comparable in the larger scheme of things, but in this one small detail -- telling yourself that the thing you are imbibing that is destroying your system won't really hurt you if you just pretend that you are not imbibing it -- in this one small detail, they are similar.

Oh, if only I had my father's steel stomach.

And you missed hearing about the 30+ pounds of cherries DeKalb and I picked last Sunday, and all my complaining about how long it takes to pit them by hand. Now did I post a picture of the impressions my dentist took of my teeth for a much-needed nightguard. And I didn't tell you about my new haircut, or about a stupid ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, or the woman who is not allowed to grow vegetables in front of her store on Monroe Street.

And I did not give you a daily blow-by-blow of my search for alternate transportation routes since the city of Madison closed a section of the Missing Link bike path, which I would otherwise use every day on my way to work.

I didn't tell you how sweet the juneberries that grow behind my workplace are, or ho I missed catalpa season for the third year in a row -- they drop their flowers so fast.

Bike log, starting two Sundays ago:
Sun, 19.4 miles
Tue, 16.3
Wed, 18.5
Thurs, 17
Fri, 16.3
Sat, 5
Mon, 16.5
Tue, 16.7
Wed, 16.3
Th, 18.75
Fri, 18
Sat, 15
Today, 1.5, so far