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Strangers moving by

There is a refrain among city bicycle riders you will recognize. One of the marvels of bicycle riding, it goes, is the openness of the vehicle itself, the windshieldlessness of the vehicle itself that encourages and reminds the rider to connect with strangers and places that are right there. Right there in a way more real than they are when experienced from the cockpit of a car.

I sing this refrain every time I live a ride like today's back home down the Oliverbahn.

First, there was time to stop and consider the textures of elm bark and boa constrictor skin.

A few blocks on, it was easy to get off my bike and offer an arm of help, accepted, to this friendly stranger walking warily from curb to snowy curb.

Then a quick hello and muffled conversation through neck warmers with an Oliverbahn rider who said he appreciated the bare-ish bike lane and how they (the pronoun of choice for the City of Edmonton) hit a sweet spot with de-icer applications this season.

When I caught up to this…

We winter together. (Or, thanks)

At the Winter Bike Congress in Calgary earlier this month, I said, in a kind of convoluted manner that took six minutes and 40 seconds to spit out...I said, in 20 slides, some of which were painful to relive, some nostalgic...I said, in words I tried to get right in the one shot I had in front of some of the very people who I most wanted to say the word to...I said: thanks.

Here's my Pecha Kucha called We Winter Together.

This was me. Making a heartfelt point about Russia at last year's Pecha Kucha night in Moscow.
I fell in with a stellar band of winter bike riders and storytellers that night.
It would take me another month to fully appreciate what I'm doing in this picture.
I mean, look! I am lifting my left arm.

This was a month later.
This was my left arm.
My shoulder is fractured and dislocated.
I fell off my bike.
Like Caesar, I did not beware the ice of March.
But I was aware of how beautiful the ride was on the decline before the fall!

Look! The riverbank trees we…

Radio Days

The bicycle rider moves along the circuitry of the city like a glowing radio dial.

I picture the toaster-sized, countertop radios I grew up with. There was a round knob on the side. Turning it by hand would shuttle a red dial across the AM frequency numbers—55, 60, 70, 80 100, 120, 140 160—and through the static that surrounded them. As a boy, I would spin the dial back and forth, turn it all the way to the end, and then turn it back slowly and listen for the way CHED at 630, CHQT at 880, CFRN at 1260 appeared like islands of sound. It was eerie and thrilling.

Those radio days have aged rapidly. Music is now delivered by keystroke and bluetooth. The new Vampire Weekend I am listening to as I work on this post arrived after I clicked the iTunes icon, entered h-a-r-m-o-n-y space h-a-l-l in the search bar and then clicked on the faux play button.

For me, the experience of shuttling a dial across a radio face has mysteriously deposited itself into practice of riding a bicycle into and th…

With The Weepies in Chicago

We sat in the dark with a few hundred strangers and listened to The Weepies in a club in Chicago last Sunday. We were all so quiet. At first it felt strange sitting so still and listening so carefully. That room knew every note of Weepies music, but there was none of that I'm-gonna-clap-now-because-I-recognize-the-first-waltz-bars-of-Please-Speak-Well-Of-Me applause. The respectful quiet felt quite perfect, though. After all, we were in the presence of artists who don't say words, who don't leave brush strokes, who don't hit notes of harmony they don't mean.

Why make noise and miss a breath, a tone, a colour?

I follow The Weepies.  I love their music. I love their sound. The alliteration of lyrics that capture late light lingering in the grass and looking darkly on the day. I love the breathtaking way their harmonies paint the visual harmony of the sky we mortals know and name as twilight. I love the way Deb pronounces the r in darkenedstars and paper and winter a…

Chicago 2018

Our official Chicago 2018 video, starring Shelagh, featuring Santa, Hamilton, John Hancock, Chagall, Abts and others, with soundtrack purchased from The Weepies (and tickets too), has now been released:

More on living under the influence of the The Weepies here. :)

The Astriders

Hands up if you've used the word astride in conversation lately. Or ever? How about the first song that comes to mind that contains astride in the lyrics? Right. Just the Father John Misty fans. And a lone Walt Whitman disciple there at the back with an arm up.

Astride is a perfectly good preposition, It comes down to us from Middle English and preserves the meaning of "extending across" or "having one leg on each side of."  He sat astride a horse, for example. Chekhov stood astride the 20th century, for example. The sailors at work astride the spars, for example.

In our time, Pedro The Lion uses the old word in a new song about a beloved yellow bike from childhood. David Bazan sings:

But I remember what it was like
Astride my yellow bike
First freedom, second life
All the places I could ride...
It's a wonderful song that make me consider how truly I hear.

On first listen, it is a nostalgic song in the well-worn theme of the freedom of the first bicycle. In…

En garde for thee

My friend Claire organized a United Way fencing fundraiser at work last week. She duct taped a camera to my side and you can see what happened next. Thanks to the Alberta Fencing Association for the tips, thanks to Brian for being a great foil, kinda.