Showing posts from 2018

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.

My Miyata Six Ten

I  cannot forget the price the guy sitting  behind the cash register in the now long-gone used book store near the south end of HUB Mall on the University of Alberta campus put on my nostalgia.

He took a quick look at the front and back of the album I had just handed him. His left thumb rippled the pages back to front. He was considering.

"That'll be 75," he said, looking up.

I met the valuation with a mask of nonchalance. Inside, I felt slight despair. I knew I couldn't afford 75 bucks for the Esso Power Player Saver sticker album. I had collected the stickers as a seven-year-old kid growing up in the NHL hinterland of Edmonton. Each packet contained six stickers of pro hockey stars: Orr, Perrault, Parent, Esposito, Keon and the rest of the immortals whose images were broadcast into our living room on Saturday nights, and who we pretended to be playing road and table hockey. I would coax my father and grandpa to gas up at Esso where they could then buy for me a pac…

The point of no returning

I have a slightly annoying mental habit of replaying, as I ride my bicycle home after occasionally complicated work days, the conversations of those work days, or, worse, fictionalizing them, pretending that I had made this excellent point to that person or imagining how I had delivered this effective line to that person, until, soon, the rut my thoughts run in takes the shape of a loop that shuttles a chain of replayed or imagined conversations back and around and down and back and around again in what is, believe me, a slightly annoying mental habit.

This is why I have a point of no more returning—the point on my commute home where I insist on letting the day's back-and-forth break into pixels and blow away. For me, this point is the 142 St bridge over the MacKinnon Ravine.

The bridge is about two-thirds of the way home. Two-thirds of the way home is about one-third of the way home farther than I feel spinning thoughts of the workday should rightly intrude. The bridge routinely…

A note to my Miyata, long overdue

It was the font.

It was that familiar Miyata font—the lower-case, Japanese-styled letters with breathing room between them, and the way the decalled m, i, y, a, t and a leaned slightly forward, and, placed on the down tube, the way they guided the eye up, reminiscent of a bicycle moving slowly up a mountain pass—that took me in, and for a couple of seconds, made me stand there the other day, just stand there, staring at brand sticker on a bicycle locked to a street sign, staring standing still, while old images flickered back to life, and burned.

Back in the 1980s, I had a grey Miyata 1000. It was a touring bike – it had a long wheel base, it featured "triple-butted chromo tubing," which, I think, meant it had a strong and stiff frame made to carry a lot of gear. If it was a bit slow and ponderous to maneuver in the city, with the city's stops and starts and turns, it became what it truly was doing work out in the open on the highway. There, it was a steady and trusted …

Trail 9, Jasper

At times, I take things a bit literally. Like yesterday afternoon as I hauled my mountain bike up the path on the side of a mountain that was, in places, too rock-encrusted and root-gnarled to actually ride my mountain bike up. That's what I'm going with.

"Nice job, man, good work!"

Those were the encouraging words tossed my way by a hiker on his way down the path as we passed. He moved a bit to the side as his knapsack bell jingled.

He was right. Walking my bike up and down single track was work. By the time I had brought my bike up to the top of the rise, my heart was pounding against my ribcage. When the path evened out, I was back on the saddle and when the pitch down wasn't too steep, it was thrilling to write a zig-zag line around rocks as big as tombstones. Then the rain started. It polished the rocks and slicked the roots. I was off my bike and walking it more than riding. I stopped encountering hikers coming from the other direction. Thirty minutes alon…

Here's to the pavement!

Riding a bicycle every day means looking at the pavement. Riding a bike every day is, added up, probably 80 per cent pavement time and 20 per cent sky.

That's too bad. The sky gets more than its fair share of attention. Attention from the painters and the poets. The sky attracts the longing souls and the dreamers, and those hooked by augury or meteorology or just plain eternity. Stephen Stills did not sing Southern Cross to an intersection.

But we city bicycle riders are pavement and intersection people. Riding a bicycle in the city is inconceivable without the sheets of black paper we scroll across and feel and glance at. So, here's to the lowly street. Here's to the cracked pavement. Here's to the curbs and the gutters that are, and are not, beneath us.

The curbscapes are kinds of forlorn beaches. The curb is the end of the line for the jumble of city material tossed by wind and passing traffic, the wreckage that bicycle riders cannot help but see and register.



On August 19, we became Renewlyweds, then pedalled away together. The ceremony happened down from the funicular because that spot gathers a lot of what we stand for: the river valley, rail tracks, public infra that lets people get down the bank, Edmonton. We brought wonderful musicians (Jenesia, Luke Ehrenholz) to sing their Funicular Song live because that little piece of poetry hides a big challenge: if the ride is only 37 seconds, how will you spend your short time? (The young people still have the answer.) We rode our bikes because it would have been harder to see Shelagh's dress from a inside a car. I make no apologies for riding next to beauty for the last 29 years. :) Carole Kellough was our amazing marriage commissioner.

Hello, everyone!

We are gathered here today on treaty land to witness the formal, or, informal, I suppose, rejoining of Shelagh and Glenn Kubish in the legal state of matrimony. You are to be remarried according to the orders, customs, and the authority gra…

On tacks on bike lanes

My first thought was not that someone had deliberately sown tacks on the bike lane.

It was a Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago. The air was pleasant. We were pedalling down 102 Ave to meet friends from Holland for brunch. A metallic sound, a kind of clank, from the back of Shelagh's bike made her pull over for a quick inspection of her machine.  Not looking for tacks, we didn't at first find two of them embedded in her back tire. The spokes were good, the chain guard was good, maybe a rock had kicked up into the fender? We rode the last block to Blue Plate, locked up and forgot about the mystery sound.
While we talked and laughed and reminisced across a table inside, the back tire breathed its last on the sidewalk outside.

"Something's not right," Shelagh said a block into the ride home.

Flat tire. Or, if optional spelling is allowed, a pfffffflatt tire. The p and the extra f's somehow do a better job of capturing the sense of immediate exasperation pre…

Stop that ball: reflections on tonight's sunset in Edmonton

Tonight the sun in the smoky sky in Edmonton looks like a lot of things. It looks like payload being lowered to the horizon.

And it looks like those flabby red balls we would kick onto the roof of the school during summer holiday. After six or seven attempts.

The sun tonight proves the First Law of the Goodness of Riding a Bicycle in the City: when you are on a bicycle, it is easy to stop for a big, glorious red light.

I am not the only one feeling the need to make time stand still this evening.

Commonplace red lights are coloured with new meaning.

That ball is outta here!

Stopping moves us.

The colour red—we carry it with us. 

This was my favourite book when I was a young boy.