July 3, 2007

And still I ride. I give in to the thrill and to the fun, risks to myself and others notwithstanding. After all, if I wanted a life without risk I'd live in Naperville. I'd order my meat well-done and use paper towels to open restroom doors.

Me, Jan. 24, 2006

Bike racing has been my life for three years, and I've made it my calling to spread its joys, by writing on this blog, by rallying my team, by creating a Web site to recruit people into the sport.

How do I now square that with the risks that Saturday's tragedy reminds us of? How do I tell a family that their father should join me?

At this moment I can't.

Racing is no less safe now than it was a week ago -- with new awareness it may even be safer -- but at this moment I'm not sure how to go on.

At this moment my thoughts have not reached conclusion, but here is a start. I expect these thoughts to evolve and reverse and reverse again. They are what they are.

All life's decisions balance risk and reward -- the reward of jaywalking vs. the risk of getting hit by a bus, the reward of a hamburger vs. the risk of heart disease -- but right now my inner scales are out of calibration.

I know I want to race again, but the desire is not yet back. I can't imagine bearing down on a finish line, surging out of a pack or wanting a wheel enough to elbow someone off it.

And I can't imagine riding on the outside. As I drove to and from Wisconsin this weekend for a visit with family, my insides quivered every time I found myself staring at the centerline.

I mourn Beth, but separately and selfishly, I also mourn that my sport is in fact full of danger. It seems so unfair. Cycling would be just so perfect if it were not so risky, if it did not exact such a toll.

I've already sent myself to the emergency room twice this year. Ellen doesn't want me to race anymore. Mom says she understands this is what I love and that there are risks with anything, but I don't think she means it.

I could always ride without racing, but I can't fathom it. Cycling without racing would be like golfing without a green, or sewing without fabric.

In all seriousness, I would need professional therapy to switch to a new life without racing.

This is not to suggest that such a life couldn't be as fulfilling, with more free time and money for loved ones and other pursuits. I'm just saying I'm not ready for it yet.

Ten years ago I was 40 pounds heavier and content to idle in front of the television. A lot has changed. Cycling is now who I am. I like who I am.

I like the dedication it has taught me. I like the health it has brought me. I like smugly looking around a room and knowing I'm the only bike racer. In short, I like the person that racing has made me, to say nothing of the relationships it has found for me. Could I still be that person without it?

Would it be too much to say that cycling has saved my life?

If lightning were to strike me now, it could not be said that fate stopped me before I could live a full life, that I did not find all the joys and experiences I was looking for. Ten years ago, that would not have been the case.

Again with the inner scales, as we wrestle with what is worth the risk. For every 50,000 people who complete a marathon, one will die. For a big race like October's Chicago Marathon, that statistic almost makes tragedy a matter of course. But how many lives has marathon training saved? How many thousands of people will now live to be 80 and see their great-grandchildren?

What if my father had been 40 pounds lighter and rode a bicycle instead of idling his time in front of the TV?

When someone like Beth is robbed of the chance to experience a full life's joys, it falls to the rest of us to experience them on their behalf. This is our charge, whether those joys come from racing or not.

It's a natural reaction to want to continue this sport "for Beth," to do an extra 50 miles "for her." But I don't think it's necessary to continue racing on her behalf, and it's a little presumptuous to say what she would have wanted us to do. Anyone who quit this sport would not be doing her disservice. All that's important is that we do something on her behalf, that in whatever we do, we touch others, we create and we love.

For those who do decide to continue racing, there is a new duty: to keep the rewards worth the risk. There has to be a point to what we do. We must keep this sport fun, safe and positive, and we must let the haters, the intimidators and the cynics know that they are not welcome.

Even if it is not always requited and even if most teammates don't yet know me from Adam, I have in three short months developed an intense love for my team, not just for its riders but even for its uniform and what it represents. (Yes, I'm crushing on laundry.) When I see a teammate, any teammate, I swell with admiration and a desire to put their needs above my own -- true love, in my book.

Me, June 29, 2005

The team has long felt like family. I felt it last spring, when my father passed away. There is something that binds us, something more than that we pay dues to the same treasurer. Like family, we share goals and values. Like family, we did not choose to be together -- we just are.

Last night we met to hug, cry and tell stories.

Just as I can't imagine not doing this, I can't imagine doing this without them.


Oct. 23, 2006

I ran a marathon this weekend. Which is to say, I ran in a marathon.

Levi was running the Indianapolis Marathon, and since Ellen was due to visit family nearby, we drove down early Saturday to watch.

It's been almost a year and a half since my last serious run -- a happy, regret-free year and a half, I should note -- but I've always wanted to be someone's rabbit, and I was pleased when Levi accepted my offer to jump in around the 21st mile. I told him I couldn't promise to last very long, but I'd help him keep his 8-minute pace as long as I could.

I would be sore the next two days, but it turned out that the running muscles haven't atrophied as much as I had expected. I stayed with him the balance of the course, peeling off with 385 yards to go and cutting across a park in order to cheer him at the finish line as he set a personal record.

The highlight of the morning came at the beginning of the run. We'd just rendezvoused but I desperately had to pee. (The coffee required to leave Chicago at 6 a.m. is great.) So I told him to keep going, popped into a Porta-Potty and then sprinted to catch up.

This sprint created the illusion of a marathoner having an improbable gale-force second wind. "Good job!" spectators yelled as I bounded past bonked runners. "You're looking great!"

And of course I looked great: I'd only been running for 30 seconds.

Chicago's marathon was this weekend too. Walking down Michigan Avenue this morning, I saw tell-tale green ribbons around necks. Full-page newspaper ads congratulated runners. At the office, someone wanted to surprise a colleague with a standing ovation. I rolled my eyes.

In the past 15 or so years, the marathon-industrial complex has elevated the race from fringe stunt to Oprah-approved rite of passage, if not outright act of heroism. Enough is enough. It's time to stop lionizing marathon runners -- and not just because cyclists train so much harder.

Marathoners deserve congratulations and support -- just as all loved ones deserve congratulations and support for following their bliss, whether their bliss is running 26.2 miles or darning socks or performing the banjo -- but they are not heroes, and I'm tired of Nike ads that allege that they are.

Runners neither cure cancer nor survive it. I should know: I ran seven marathons. The world isn't any better for any of them. The world may even be worse for my narcissism. Those seven marathons required thousands of hours of training that could have been spent doing something useful, like learning a trade or teaching people to read or baking cookies.

Is running hard? Sure. So is parenting. So is teaching. So is driving a CTA bus. As the Dread Pirate Roberts said to Buttercup, "Life is pain, Highness."

Levi knows I'm not talking about him. He's the type who races in order to train, not the other way around. He would be mortally embarrassed by a standing ovation, the first person ever to be clapped to death, and I don't expect he wore his medal to work today. In fact, he rightly allowed that if the weather had been any worse Saturday, he would have bagged the race and felt not one pang of regret.

And just as cycling requires a greater devotion to training, so is it an even bigger waste of time and an even bigger act of narcissism. The difference is that we don't expect to hear the "Beaches" soundtrack when we cross the finish line. We don't expect mortals to pour oil on our feet the day after a race. And we only give medals to winners.

The co-worker? She didn't get her applause. She called in sick with sore legs.

Photo taken: Oct. 21, 2006


Jan. 24, 2006

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be alley cats.

Yes, I am conflicted by the ethics of alley-cat racing. That's why I didn't write much after last week's stage of the Tour da Chicago, and that's why I changed the subject when my mother asked about it. (Hint: If you can't tell your mother, it's time to have second thoughts.)

Scooting through red lights during my commute is one thing. Racing through open streets, however cautiously, is another, and I've had second, third and fourth thoughts since hearing about last week's accident. It didn't happen in my pack, but I understand a rider cracked his hip and a driver cracked her windshield, losses for which all of us racers share blame. Collectively we own this race. Collectively we own its consequences. Organizers passed a hat for the rider, but I don't think the $5 I threw in covers my portion of the responsibility. (No hat was passed for the faultless driver.)

Ideally these alley cats would take place early in the morning and would be no more dangerous than normal urban riding. I gather that's how the Tour went down back in the day. Riders would stay up all night and ride at dawn. The messenger crowd must be aging. This year's events are starting at 9 on Sundays, an hour when the city begins to rub its eyes and traffic begins to flow.

And still I ride. I give in to the thrill and to the fun, risks to myself and others notwithstanding. After all, if I wanted a life without risk I'd live in Naperville. I'd order my meat well-done and use paper towels to open restroom doors.

Sunday's Stage 2 was a three-way time trial, a menage-a-TT: from a Starbucks on Division to Buckingham Fountain to Hyde Park and back to Division, about 20 miles total. Riders picked their own routes. I felt better about a time trial. We'd stagger our starts and, in theory, there would be no drafting. I wouldn't be taking anyone else's chances, and nobody would be taking mine.

For an hour before the race, 60 riders crowded the Starbucks and debated which routes to take. It was a comical scene, like 60 Betty Crockers comparing recipes before a bake-off: Everyone wanted to show off their expertise and creativity, but all held something back, lest their secrets help the competition.

The leg from Buckingham Fountain to Hyde Park caused the most grief. Take the streets, and deal with broken glass, cars and stop lights? Or take the lakefront path, which was safer but less direct and could be sheeted in ice?

Like most riders I took the streets for all three legs. Luck was with me. Traffic was negligible and most lights went my way. I had to stop for only one and cheat through only a few others. My biggest mistake -- other than riding in the first place, that is -- was taking the overpass at Roosevelt and Clark instead of going up State. I don't know what I was thinking. It easily cost me 20 seconds, especially when traffic prevented me from taking the descent at speed.

Nonetheless, I made good time, as my father would always say after a road trip, less than an hour total. My 6th place finish was one spot behind the three-time champion who'd come out from California to ride, and I finished ahead of the 2005 winner. I'm now in 5th overall.

I hesitate to commit to the remaining stages. This may be a race where the most decisive moment occurs before the first stroke of the pedal. The hesitation suggests that indeed I should take a pass -- if something don't feel right, it's probably wrong -- and wait till summer to risk life, limb and bike. At least then USCF points will be on the line and not merely the admiration of messengers. I've already proved I have better legs than most of them. If I have a weaker stomach, so be it.

Photo taken: Jan. 22, 2006


Jan. 7, 2006

(Ald. Ted Matlak [32nd]) said he had supported the tear-down because the development project proposed for the site would add parking, reduce density and eliminate space for a corner tavern.

Jan. 5, 2006, Chicago Journal story on the planned demolition of the 1899 Artful Dodger building

Things I would do if I were an alderman and wanted to make my neighborhood suck, and the order in which I would do them:

  1. Add parking, so there could be more cars, thus more congestion, noise and pollution. Also, less safety!
  2. Reduce density, because people shouldn't have to live in the suburbs in order to be isolated from friends and services.
  3. Eliminate spaces for corner taverns, so that drinking and socializing is ghettoized into loud clubs and sports bars.

Dec. 8, 2005

Nine inches of snow: nature's kickstand.

My new fixed-gear performed admirably in her first winter test. She was as fast, stable and fun as I'd hoped she would be. Despite the conditions my commute took only a few minutes more than usual, and I didn't slide once.

Once again my co-workers are amazed to the point of mocking that I ride in this weather, and my stock replies -- "My only problem is that I get too hot!" "You know a way to get around that is quicker or warmer? Pray tell!" "The best part is passing the snowplows!" -- are filled with less cheer each time they are invoked.

One colleague in particular doesn't conceal what an idiot he thinks I am. That's fine. Many, many years from now I will be too old and feeble to ride my bicycle through the snow. He, on the other hand, will always be a dickhead.

Once upon a time, I have read, Chicago was a stormy, husky, brawling city of big shoulders. It was a city proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning. I'm not so sure anymore. Temperatures in the teens and snow barely to the curb now send people into a cowed, trembling tizzy of fur and cashmere.

Weather whiners. The people complaining about the cold now are the same ones who complained about the heat in June. Look, I want to tell them, it's Chicago. Shut the fuck up and deal. Want to spend 15 minutes on a freezing platform so you can ride the train with the flu-ridden sickies? Fine. Want to spend 15 minutes shoveling your car so you can sit an hour in weather-related gridlock? Fine. Me, I want to go as fast and be as warm and as healthy as possible, so I bike. Now leave me alone.

The winter cycling is no longer just about me showing off. It's about me shutting the fuck up and dealing. My way.

Photo taken: Dec. 8, 2005


Oct. 24, 2005

Five recent moments:



"I'm seeing Sleater-Kinney at Metro. The crowd will all be short lesbians, so at least I'll have a good view of the stage."



When I start a book, I like to get through the first 10 percent in the first sitting. Then, whether it's a good book or not, I continue to flip toward the back to monitor what kind of progress I'm making.

On my 30th birthday, I decide that this is a life hack I wouldn't mind. I don't want any spoilers, thank you, but I wouldn't mind knowing where I am. Halfway through? Nine-tenths? One-tenth???

Also, better footnotes, please.



"I noticed you taking communion."

"Yeah, I didn't want to be the first to not take it. Also, I was sort of hungry."



I'm driving to Ohio with Gus and Conrad. I take a turn behind the wheel, and Gus does Sodoku puzzles in the passenger seat. I realize that this is the problem with Sodoku: Unlike a crossword, there's no potential for collaboration. At no point is Gus going to ask, "What's a one-digit number that's not 3, 4 or 6 and is also not 1, 5, 8 or 9? And if it's 2, then what's a number that's not 1, 2, 6 or 9 and is not ..."



"I'm not sure which is worse: dating or looking for a job. They both have the same, insufferable interview process, the same 'I enjoyed meeting you, let's do it again' follow-up e-mail, the same sense of lonely rejection."

"But if you don't get the job, you can't go home and hire yourself."


Oct. 18, 2005

So this World Series. It's a big deal in my city this year. I'm to understand that its importance rivals the Tour de France, but it lasts two fewer weeks? With each individual contest lasting much less than five hours? With opportunities to sit and eat sunflower seeds? Without much chance of death or maiming? And participants, even the ones shaped like Larry Walker, are still considered athletes?

America! What a country!


Oct. 7, 2005

I'd thought about making a list of 30 things I know at 30 that I wish I had known at 20. 3. Time is too valuable to ever be "killed" ... 5. Always check for toilet paper, or always carry small bills ... 8. Don't assume everyone else is any less baffled than you are ...

But then I got to 11 or 12 and realized: Here I am, 30, almost an adult, and after all my travels and adventures, after all my education and work, after all the hearts I've broken and all the hearts I've had broke, all I'm really, really certain of is this: 1. When I was 20 I thought I knew everything, and I still don't know shit.

Photo taken: Oct. 6, 2005


Sept. 28, 2005

Three recent moments:



"I don't think we've met. I'm [important person]."

"I'm Luke."

"You new here?"

"Five years."

"Oh. Well, welcome."



I'm making salad for a small dinner party. It calls for candied pecans. I've made this before but always end up nibbling too many along the way. One for the salad, one for me. One for the salad, two for me.

This time I chew gum while I cook so I'm not tempted to nibble. This fails. In the end I just become adept at chewing gum in the left side of my mouth while eating candied pecans in the right.



Sometimes I wonder about the motorcyclists popping wheelies or gunning their engines. Do they realize that when I pantomime the act of masturbation I'm referring to them?


Sept. 24, 2005

Luxury seating is one of the more regrettable developments in baseball, more regrettable than the designated hitter, more than steroids, more than Bud Selig, more than the Yankees.

More regrettable than a juiced Bud Selig playing DH. For the Yankees.

I find skyboxes anti-democratic and contrary to the game's working-class origins. By pushing upper decks even further into the clouds, they degrade millions more fan experiences than they enrich. They are like the modern city's parking garage, which provides convenience to some but is an eyesore to all.

That said, who am I to refuse an employer who offers a free seat in the company box?

The best part of the skybox? It's not bypassing the lines and bag searches at the front gate. It's not the dessert cart or beer fridge. It's not even the dry, warm shelter during the hourlong rain delay.

The best part of sitting in a skybox is looking down on all the little people, huddled and massive, and thinking: "Hello, little people! Don't you wish you had cake?"

And then thinking: So this is what life would be like as a Republican. I had always wondered.

Photo taken: Sept. 24, 2005


Sept. 19, 2005

Three recent moments:



"Addison stop, Addison stop, home of the 2006 World Series, doors open on your left."



A woman is Rollerblading down the lake. She's attractive, but she's not wearing a helmet and she's talking on a cell phone, two qualities that strike me as evolutional disadvantages, like the supermodel whose narrow hips couldn't possible bear a healthy child. It suggests a variation on one of Sandy's favorite jokes:

Q: What's the hardest part about Rollerblading?

A: Telling your parents you're evolutionarily disadvantageous.



It's three months and a week before Christmas and I have already seen my first holiday display, and already a treacly version of "Frosty the Snowman" has made me want to jump in the river. Thank you, Marshall Field's.


Aug. 31, 2005

I know a rider who teaches for Chicago Public Schools. Cycling is expensive. Since a teacher isn't likely to afford a top-of-the-line bike unless a student steals it for him, he supplements his income by gambling. Any money he wins he plows into his cycling. He's a good rider and an even better poker player, so he's ended up with very nice components.

It's a natural combination, cycling and poker. I just read "Big Deal," Anthony Holden's smart account of a year on the poker circuit -- back in 1988, before it was cool -- and I was struck at how much they have in common. (Granted, I'm obsessed with cycling, if you haven't noticed, so I see everything through its lens, much as how for a person going through a break-up, every love song is about them.)

But I think I might be on to something. Here, then, is why a bike race is like a night at the no-limit Texas hold 'em table. Or, How I learned to stop worrying and love the dudes with the carbon frames.

The deal
A rider's fitness constitutes his hand, and for as long as a rider lasts in a race he is claiming his to be the strongest. That's what a poker player is doing, too. When a cyclist is dropped or a poker player folds, they are saying: "Just kidding. I didn't really have anything."

Some cards -- the length of his legs, the size of his lungs -- were dealt by God; other cards -- his aerobic capacity, his fat-to-muscle ratio -- he dealt himself. Cycling is stud, not draw, so once the race starts there's nothing he can do to improve his hand. All turns on how well he plays it.

Obviously some hands are stronger than others; some riders are blessed with better bodies than others. But the weaker hand often wins in poker. So, too, in cycling, especially in criteriums. The physically weaker rider can win if he sucks the right wheels, makes the right moves and has the right luck.

The key is misrepresenting your hand. People associate poker with the bluff, but bluffing -- tricking your opponents into overestimating your hand -- is risky and rare. More effective is to trick your opponent into underestimating your hand. Make him think you have two pair when you really have trips, a straight when you have a flush. Only after you've done that a hundred times can you trick him into thinking you have a boat when you really have rags.

Anthony Holden tells of the time he arrived at a table of strangers and played the part of tourist. He asks basic questions of the rules ("Do you have to use both concealed cards?"), bungles an attempt at riffling his chips and even intentionally loses a few cheap hands. Once he'd conned them, he attacks and fleeces them blind.

The same gamesmanship happens in cycling. Most guys try to overrepresent: They talk tough, they ride expensive gear, they sport terrifying tattoos. The thinking is that if the field thinks you're an inconquerable bad-ass, it won't bother trying to conquer, and your breakaway can break on its merry way. But it never works. Nobody cares about your carbon-fiber jock.

Far better is to underrepresent your hand. This is what Lance was doing every time he preceded a Tour de France by moaning about illnesses and poor training and how impossible it was going to be to beat such a strong field. Getting caught eating a donut with Sheryl Crow early in 2004 was perhaps his career's most brilliant tactical move. Everyone then assumed he'd show up in July as a fatty with powdered sugar on his lips -- and he proceeded to win one of his easiest Tours.

So how do you get your cycling opponents to underestimate you? Pin your number sideways. Complain about broken shifters. Apologize in advance for your chronic flatulence. Remove a price tag from your bike at the start line. Grow your leg hair. Wear an ugly Primal jersey instead of your team kit. Lean into your chain and get a nice Cat 5 tattoo. Anything to ensure that when you make your move, the reaction of the field will be: "Don't worry about chasing him. He'll pop soon enough. Plus, he farts."

The play
What are the traits of a successful poker player?








These also happen to be the traits of a successful cyclist, and few riders wouldn't sell their own mother to get more of the same.

Both endeavors demand perfect resource management. In poker, chips are your resources. In cycling, it's energy. The goals are the same: Maximize how much you start with, minimize how much you lose as you go.

This leads to risk management. Is any given risk worth the possible reward? Is a bet worth the pot? Is it worth one's energy to bridge to a breakaway? And when's the right time to make the big bet? Before the flop? Fourth street? The river? Same in cycling. When do you attack? At the bottom of a hill? At the top? On the first lap? At the final sprint?

Minimizing risks and maximizing resources come into play with all of each sport's various moves and plays, many of which are fairly analogous:

Poker: Limping in, or betting the minimum in order to see the flop.
Cycling: Sucking wheel, or hiding in the pack and waiting for opportunities.

Poker: Raising. Best done when weakness is sensed.
Cycling: Attacking. Best done when weakness is sensed.

Poker: Calling, matching someone's raise.
Cycling: Covering an attack or bridging, leaving the pack to join a breakaway down the road.

Poker: Coming over the top, or significantly re-raising a raise. This is an excellent way to hear an opponent's bowels gurgle.
Cycling: Counterattacking, or launching a second attack right when the peloton catches a previous one. Same thing with the bowels.

Poker: Folding. You can't win. You know it. Your opponents know it. You depart with a whimper.
Cycling: Getting dropped, fading from the peloton with no hope of reunion.

Poker: Going all-in, putting all your chips on the table.
Cycling: Hammering, putting all conceivable energy and will into a move.

Poker: Busted. You've gone all-in and lost. Now you're going home.
Cycling: Popped. You've put the hammer down but you just didn't have enough. You don't just fade away. Your legs are crippled from fatigue and lactic burn. And now you're going home.

And of course the stakes in both are no-limit. If you want to lose your house and your kid's college fund, you can. If you want to attempt a hairpin turn at 60 mph, you can.

The finish
And here's the most crucial element. Victory in both hinges on a decisive moment. "I have the two best pair," Holden writes of one such moment. "This is Armaggedon. Do or die."

Sometimes this moment occurs early, sometimes in the last 100 meters or after hours and hours of play. You cannot foresee this moment or plan for it, but the thousands of miles training and hundreds of hours studying "Super/System" have led to it and will determine whether you handle it correctly.

In poker, it's called going all-in. You either double your chips or you go home broke. In cycling, it's called putting the hammer down. From out of nowhere you attack with everything you have, along the way finding things you didn't know you have, knowing that if it succeeds, you've won. If it fails, you will be too knackered to salvage anything from the race. That's the pot, that's the bet. Once you've decided, you don't look back. You just go. You're all-in, baby.

My exterior, I think, looked appropriately cool and collected; inside, I'd been a quivering blancmange of self-doubt right from the starter's pistol. All year I had prided myself on my temperament, nerve, self-discipline, even "heart," all of which had steadied with experience. But did I, in the end, possess the indefatigable, indefinable insight which distinguishes poker's great champions? Had my sheer enjoyment of playing blinded me to the finer points of mind- and card-reading, odds and outs? Or was it just that I didn't have "the right stuff"?

Anthony Holden, "Big Deal"

I'm racing Saturday. Aside from a minor series in October, this will be the last race of the year. Just when I finally feel like I almost know what I'm doing, the season is already over.

For the first time I think I have a good shot at success. I'm in good shape, my bike is in good shape and it's not a very technical course. Plus, it's Cat 5 only, which increases the chance of crashing but should be an easier field.

Funny how my objectives have matured in just four months. In my first race back in April, my goals were simple: Don't crash, don't die. Now I'm more ambitious. I want to either finish in the top 10 or contribute to a teammate finishing in the top three. I'll want to stay away from squirrelly riders during the race and a bunch sprint at the end, so the plan is to attack often, hopefully breaking away early and staying away.

And then it will be time to start planning the winter training regimen, so that I can start next season with the nuts in hand.

Photo taken: Aug. 28, 2005


June 16, 2005

Sylvia sits down on the wooden picnic bench and straightens out her legs, lifting one at a time slowly without looking up. Long silences mean gloom for her, and I comment on it. She looks up and then looks down again.

"It was all those people in the cars coming the other way," she says. "The first one looked so sad. And then the next one looked exactly the same way, and then the next one and the next one, they were all the same. It's just that they looked so lost. Like they were all dead. Like a funeral procession."


The cars seem to be moving at a steady maximum speed for in-town driving, as though they want to get somewhere, as though what's here right now is just something to get through. The drivers seem to be thinking about where they want to be rather than where they are.

I know what it is! We've arrived at the West Coast! We're all strangers again! Folks, I just forgot the biggest gumption trap of all. The funeral procession! The one everybody's in, this hyped-up, fuck-you, supermodern, ego style of life that thinks it owns this country.

Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"

Another Chicago bicyclist was killed two weeks ago.

Alicia Frantz fell from her bike during the morning rush and landed in the path of a truck. She died on the spot. It was her 32nd birthday.

I never met her, but she was the friend of acquaintances and an acquaintance to my friends, and I'm not the first to say she sounds like the kind of person I'd have liked to have known.

Whenever a car kills a pedestrian or cyclist I am sad and angry for days, and I am doubly so this time. Sad that a bright light was put out, angry that she was doing the right thing and died for it.

The crisis is that this happens every few days around Chicago. (Now you understand why I am sad and angry all the time.)

As a yearround bike commuter, I worry that the lesson taken from Alicia's death is that she'd be alive if only she hadn't been on a bike. I prefer to think that she'd be alive if only the driver had been on one, too.

The trendy bumpersticker a few years back was, What would Jesus drive? Mine would have read, Would Jesus drive? Would the Buddha? Would they even carpool? Or would they take their bagel and coffee to the train platform and wait with the rest of us?

After the accident I submitted some strident, self-righteous thoughts -- even more strident and self-righteous than this -- to the opinion page of a local newspaper. It had the good sense to reject them without comment. And now, two weeks later, I have in my pocket the keys to a car I will be borrowing for the summer, this after suggesting that all drivers, even the careful ones, share responsibility for Alicia's death. It's hypocrisy writ large, insofar as one can at once be unpublished and writ large.

The goal, then, is to go the summer and use the car for fewer than 10 non-bike-related trips. So far, so good, and it's about to get better: Tomorrow I leave for a week in Wisconsin with my bike, a tent and a bag of Clif bars. Seven days away from this hyped-up, fuck-you style of life.


May 4, 2005

Pronunciation: &-'prE-shE-"At, -'pri- also -'prE-sE-
Function: verb
Etymology: Late Latin appretiatus, past participle of appretiare, from Latin ad- + pretium price
1 a: to grasp the nature, worth, quality, or significance of b: to value or admire highly c: to judge with heightened perception or understanding : be fully aware of d: to recognize with gratitude

Merriam-Webster, "Appreciate"

Two, four, six, eight -- Whom does President Bush appreciate?

I decided to find out, but after 150 instances my head started to hurt and I stopped looking. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating study in rhetoric.

Most of the time the president uses his appreciation as a form of roll call. He starts most speeches by naming others in the room and whether he "appreciates" or "appreciates so very much" their presence.

Sometimes he uses it as a synonym for thanks, but with a dose of ambiguity. Like when he says "I want to appreciate your wise counsel" -- it's not clear whether he appreciates it or not, nor how wise he truly considers your counsel. I want to think he's being a smart ass here.

Often he appreciates things that don't necessarily exist -- "strong bipartisan support," "the courage of most Americans," "your understanding" -- as if by "appreciating" them he can will them into being, like the sign in the diner restroom that says "We appreciate your cleanliness" whether you're smearing feces on the walls or not.

I think the foible I appreciate most is the way he appreciates things that he likely does not in fact appreciate. Questions, for example. Whenever a reporter asks a real stinker, President Bush likes to say how much he appreciates the question. But a president who averages less than one prime-time press conference a year does not strike me as a man who appreciates being questioned. Perhaps "I appreciate that question" is a code phrase to the IRS, meaning, "Commence the audit."

At any rate, I hope you appreciate the hour or so it took me to document all this.

  1. "Fidel, I appreciate your tone, I appreciate your constructive work on this issue." (May 4, 2005)
  2. "I appreciate you letting us use you as an example, looking forward to meeting the kids." (May 4, 2005)
  3. "I appreciate you bringing the payroll taxes in." (May 4, 2005)
  4. "I appreciate you bringing that up again, Elizabeth." (May 4, 2005)
  5. " I appreciate you saying I brought up an issue that I didn't need to bring up." (May 4, 2005)
  6. "Thanks, Sam. Good job. I appreciate it." (May 3, 2005)
  7. "I appreciate you understanding that you're going to get your check." (May 3, 2005)
  8. "And I appreciate that gesture ... And I appreciate that gesture." (April 28, 2005)
  9. "I appreciate that question." (April 28, 2005)
  10. "I appreciate the strong bipartisan support for supporting our troops in harm's way." (April 28, 2005)
  11. "I appreciate his courage and the courage of those who are willing to serve the Iraqi people in government." (April 28, 2005)
  12. "I appreciate such a generous welcome." (April 27, 2005)
  13. "I appreciate the courage that Marianne has shown and her determination to succeed." (April 27, 2005)
  14. "I appreciate the fine job he's done ... I appreciate the ambassadors who are here ... And I appreciate you all giving me a chance to come by and visit with you." (April 27, 2005)
  15. "I appreciate the fact that our small business owners are taking risks and pursuing dreams ... I appreciate the fact that the small business entrepreneurs are some of the great innovators in our nation." (April 27, 2005)
  16. "I appreciate the fact that the Senate has passed a version of the budget." (April 27, 2005)
  17. "I appreciate the leadership in the House." (April 27, 2005)
  18. "I appreciate Mike McIntyre from North Carolina joining us ... I appreciate Michael Steele, the Lieutenant Governor from Maryland. I appreciate Gordon England, who's the Secretary of the Navy ... And I appreciate Vice Admiral Rod Rempt for your hospitality at the games." (April 20, 2005)
  19. "I appreciate Secretary Don Rumsfeld joining us today ... I appreciate Secretary Francis Harvey ... I appreciate the family members who have joined us today ... I appreciate Chaplain David Hicks, for his invocation." (April 7, 2005)
  20. "I appreciate citizens from Iraq who have joined us. I appreciate my fellow citizens who have joined us." (March 29, 2005)
  21. "I appreciate the determination of the Iraqi electoral workers." (March 29, 2005)
  22. "We appreciate the fact that Canada's tar sands are now becoming economical." (March 23, 2005)
  23. "I appreciate the meetings we've just had." (March 23, 2005)
  24. "I appreciate the commitment of the prime minister and the president toward a spirit of partnership to outlast whatever politics may occur." (March 23, 2005)
  25. "Thank you, Paul, I appreciate that very much. " (March 23, 2005)
  26. "I appreciate the fact that the unemployment rate here in Colorado is 4.9 percent." (March 21, 2005)
  27. "I appreciate the idea." (March 21, 2005)
  28. "Yes, I appreciate you saying that." (March 21, 2005)
  29. "I appreciate so much, Senator, your willingness to join in this issue." (March 21, 2005)
  30. "I appreciate the world leaders taking my phone calls." (March 16, 2005)
  31. "I do appreciate the public concern about the use of steroids in sports ... So I appreciate the fact that baseball is addressing this, and I appreciate the fact that the Congress is paying attention to the issue." (March 16, 2005)
  32. "I appreciate the fine example that you have set for aspiring young scientists." (March 14, 2005)
  33. "I really appreciate what Boston does off the field, too ... I appreciate what individual players do ... I appreciate what the Red Sox are doing in the Dominican Republic with Seor Octubre." (March 2, 2005)
  34. "I appreciate the willingness of these men to take on these tough new assignments in an extraordinary moment in our nation's history." (Feb. 17, 2005
  35. "Thank you all very much for your attention and questions. Appreciate it." (Feb. 17, 2005)
  36. "I appreciate people bringing forth ideas." (Jan. 26, 2005)
  37. "I appreciate that question." (Jan. 26, 2005)
  38. "I appreciate His Majesty's understanding of the need for democracy to advance in the greater Middle East." (Jan. 26, 2005)
  39. "I appreciate your hard work. ... We really appreciate you having us. I appreciate the Justices of the Supreme Court being here... I appreciate General Myers ... I appreciate Barbara and Jenna." (Jan. 20, 2005)
  40. "Fuel -- I appreciate Fuel being here." (Jan 18, 2005)
  41. "Yes, I appreciate that question." (Dec. 20, 2004)
  42. "Well, I appreciate that, Ed, but we did take on Medicare." (Dec. 20, 2004)
  43. "Yes, I appreciate that." (Dec. 20, 2004)
  44. "I appreciate the nations of Great Britain and Germany and France who are working to try to convince Iran to honor their international treaty obligations." (Nov. 26, 2004)
  45. "I appreciate his work to fight Internet pornography ... I appreciate his service and wish him and Janet all the best." (Nov. 9, 2004)
  46. "I appreciate that. Listen, I've made some very hard decisions." (Nov. 4, 2004)
  47. "I appreciate all people who voted." (Nov. 4, 2004)
  48. "I appreciate you being here to watch it. And I really do appreciate working with Mr. Chairman ... I appreciate other members of the congressional delegation who are with us today ... I appreciate my friend, Jim Leach being here ... I appreciate his hard work on this bill and I appreciate him working with Chuck Grassley to get the bill done ... I appreciate members of the ex-governors club who've joined us today. ... I appreciate their friendship ... appreciate you coming." (Oct. 4, 2004)
  49. "I appreciate the members of Congress who are here today." (Oct. 4, 2004)
  50. "I appreciate the strong leadership of the -- of those who represent the armies of compassion." (Sept. 30, 2004)
  51. "I appreciate you serving your respective countries and working together to make the world a better place." (Sept. 22, 2004)
  52. "I appreciate your courage. I appreciate your leadership ... And I appreciate your will, and I appreciate your strength." (Sept. 21, 2004)
  53. "I appreciate his courage."(Sept. 21, 2004)
  54. "I appreciate you giving me the chance to come on and have, what we say in Texas, 'Just a visit.'" (Sept. 28, 2004)
  55. "I appreciate the hard work of the commission over the past 20 months." (Aug. 24, 2004)
  56. "I appreciate the Senate's work." (Aug. 9, 2004)
  57. "I appreciate the solid and bipartisan support of this bill. I appreciate both people -- people of both parties coming together to support our troops." (Aug. 5, 2004)
  58. "I appreciate so very much those in my Cabinet who have worked hard to make this agreement come true." (Aug. 3, 2004)
  59. "I appreciate Prime Minister Howard, he's a strong partner in peace." (Aug. 3, 2004)
  60. "I want to know the facts. I appreciate the fact-finders working hard." (Aug. 9, 2004)
  61. "I appreciate -- listen, one of the reasons I enjoy working with LULAC so much is I appreciate your commitments to freedom and to entrepreneurship ... Once again, I appreciate the good work of LULAC." (July 8, 2004)
  62. "I appreciate your understanding for the need for us, whoever is traveling with me, to get moving." (June 10, 2004)
  63. "I appreciate your willingness to work on promoting freedom around the world ... I appreciate your government's good work. I appreciate very much the Chancellor's help in Afghanistan ... I appreciate our mutual work on the U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq." (June 8, 2004)
  64. "Thanks, Gerhard, I appreciate you." (June 8, 2004)
  65. "I appreciate the fact that we've got scholarship and award recipients who are with us. And I appreciate the distinguished guests who are here, as well." (May 19, 2004)
  66. "I appreciate his good, strong advice." (May 19, 2004)
  67. "What I appreciate is the fact that in the contracts you sign with the players that you include a commitment to participate in at least 10 public service events each year. I appreciate the commitment. I also appreciate the players' commitment, as well." (May 10, 2004)
  68. "I appreciate Sununu, the Senator from New Hampshire." (May 10, 2004)
  69. "I appreciate the dramatic comebacks that you were capable of making. I like it when a kicker ends up winning the game." (May 10, 2004)
  70. "I appreciated your strong words, and I really appreciate your faith." (May 5, 2004)
  71. "Thank you for what you do. I appreciate you." (May 5, 2004)
  72. "I appreciate your vision and your understanding of that, Your Majesty." (May 6, 2004)
  73. "I appreciate your friendship, and I appreciate the opportunity to hear your thoughts on a range of issues that face your country." (May 6, 2004)
  74. "I appreciated your advice, Your Majesty." (May 6, 2004)
  75. "I want to appreciate your wise counsel, Your Majesty." (May 6, 2004)
  76. "I appreciate you coming." (May 6, 2004)
  77. "I appreciate the Prime Minister understanding that vision." (April 16, 2004)
  78. "No matter where they may stand on this war, the thing I appreciate most about our country is the strong support given to the men and women in uniform." (April 13, 2004")
  79. "I appreciate the candid discussion we've had." (Feb. 25, 2004)
  80. "I appreciate you bringing up the Russian bases problem." (Feb. 25, 2004)
  81. "I appreciate his willingness to go to Iraq and I appreciate his willingness to gather facts." (Jan. 27, 2004)
  82. "I appreciate your friendship, I appreciate your strength." (Jan. 27, 2004)
  83. "I appreciate David Kay's contribution." (Jan. 27, 2004)
  84. "I appreciate Ozzie Guillen being here." (Jan. 23, 2004)
  85. "I appreciate the fact that Josh Beckett -- a big, old Texan I might add -- (laughter) -- is involved with youth baseball." (Jan. 23, 2004)
  86. "I appreciate the joint efforts of the Russians with our country to explore ... I appreciate the astronauts of yesterday who are with us as well, who inspired the astronauts of today to serve our country. I appreciate so very much the members of Congress being here. ... I appreciate your interest in this subject." (Jan. 14, 2004)
  87. "I appreciate Commander Mike Foale's introduction. I'm sorry I couldn't shake his hand." (Jan. 14, 2004)
  88. "To John Travolta. (We shall call him 'Moon Man' from now on.) I appreciate your friendship. I appreciate your love of flight. Thank you for being such a fine entertainer." (Dec. 17, 2003)
  89. "I appreciate so very much American heroes who are here, well-known and not so well-known heroes." (Dec. 17, 2003)
  90. "I appreciate that question." (Dec. 15 , 2003)
  91. "I appreciate the fact that durable orders for durable goods are up." (Dec. 15 , 2003)
  92. "I appreciate the Hot Shot team members from the great state of California." (Dec. 3, 2003)
  93. "I appreciate the representatives of the conservation groups who have worked in a constructive way to help change the attitude inside the halls of the United States Congress." (Dec. 3, 2003)
  94. "I appreciate the fact that the Indonesian government was able to accommodate my desires to come here." (Oct. 22, 2003)
  95. "I appreciate Vin for the short introduction. I'm a man who likes short introductions. And he didn't let me down. But more importantly, I appreciate the invitation. I appreciate the members of Congress who are here, senators from both political parties, members of the House of Representatives from both political parties. I appreciate the ambassadors who are here. I appreciate the guests who have come. I appreciate the bipartisan spirit, the nonpartisan spirit of the National Endowment for Democracy." (Oct. 16, 2003)
  96. "I appreciate very much your commitment to trade and markets ... I appreciate your honesty and openness and forthrightness when it comes to battling the pandemic of AIDS ... I appreciate your leadership, and I appreciate your friendship." (Aug. 12, 2003)
  97. "I appreciate her strength; I appreciate her courage. And I appreciate you being here today, Madam President ... I appreciate President Arroyo's leadership." (May 19, 2003)
  98. "I appreciate his advice, I appreciate his counsel." (April 29, 2003)
  99. "I appreciate those who are members of the faith-based world who have answered the call, the universal call, to help a brother and sister in need." (April 29, 2003)
  100. "You asked about sharing of intelligence, and I appreciate that." (March 6, 2003)
  101. "I appreciate societies in which people can express their opinion." (March 6, 2003)
  102. "I appreciate that question a lot." (March 6, 2003)
  103. "I had a chance to tell both soldier and loved one alike that their service to our country was noble and strong and good. And I appreciated that very much." (Jan. 17, 2003)
  104. "I appreciate you all. giving me a chance to talk about a significant problem which faces America." (Jan. 16, 2003)
  105. "Thanks for your good work, and I certainly appreciate it all." (Nov. 19, 2002)
  106. "I appreciate those kind remarks, Rosario. You're a gran amiga. Buenos dias." (Oct. 17, 2002)
  107. "I appreciate so very much the chair of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. I appreciate so very much the President and CEO." (Oct. 17, 2002)
  108. "I appreciate their spirit. I appreciate their love for country ... I appreciate the spirit in which members of Congress are considering this vital issue." (Sept. 26, 2002)
  109. "I appreciate the government of Portugal for its strong support in the war against terror." (Sept. 10, 2002)
  110. "I appreciate the way the House voted the bill." (Sept. 5, 2002)
  111. "I appreciate so very much Vice President Cheney's hard work on this issue. I appreciate Colin Powell and Ann Veneman, who ably serve in my Cabinet .... And I appreciate Elaine Chao as well. ... I appreciate so very much Cal Dooley, and a guy I call "Jeff", William Jefferson, Congressmen from California and Louisiana ... I appreciate your leadership and I appreciate your work and I appreciate your help." (Aug. 6, 2002)
  112. "I appreciate so very much Senator Rick Santorum and Congressman Steve Chabot from Ohio for sponsoring this important piece of legislation. I also appreciate Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Congresswoman Melissa Hart for coming, as well ... I appreciate Hadley Arkes." (Aug. 5, 2002)
  113. "I want to appreciate Chip's support of the tax relief plan." (Aug. 7, 2002)
  114. "I appreciate the long hours that they're putting in. I appreciate their love for America and their patriotism during this trying time for our country." (July 16, 2002)
  115. "I appreciate so very much his leadership and his continued willingness to find a new common ground in this most important relationship." (June 27, 2002)
  116. "I appreciate you saying that, Martha. I appreciate you hear me say that I appreciate the fact that our country prays for me and Laura." (June 27, 2002)
  117. "I appreciate her leadership. I appreciate her concern." (June 25, 2002)
  118. "I appreciate the good -- I appreciate, I want to thank Chad Ettmueller, who's the -- I guess the man in charge of the Red Cross here." (June 25, 2002)
  119. "I really appreciate the theme of this conference and the importance of the conference." (June 19, 2002)
  120. "I appreciate you answering my mail, Mr. Congressman." (June 19, 2002)
  121. "The thing I appreciate is that you understand education should prepare children for jobs, and it also should prepare our children for life." (June 19, 2002)
  122. "I appreciate you qualifying it that way." (June 13, 2002)
  123. "I appreciate all the Mexicans who are here today." (May 3, 2002)
  124. "I appreciate President Fox's leadership in our hemisphere ... I appreciate his vision." (May 3, 2002)
  125. "I told the Crown Prince how much I appreciate his vision for a peaceful and integrated Middle East, and how I appreciated his leadership in helping rally the Arab world toward that vision. I also appreciated the Crown Prince's assurance that Saudi Arabia condemns terror." (April 25, 2002)
  126. "I appreciate that, respect that, and expect that to be the case." (April 25, 2002)
  127. "I reminded him how much I appreciated his statement toward Israel ... Then he went and sold that in Beirut, and I appreciated that, as well." (April 25, 2002)
  128. "The government has been acting, and I appreciate that very much." (April 25, 2002)
  129. "I deeply appreciate President Fox's early support and his continuing advice." (March 22, 2002)
  130. "I really appreciate the fact that my National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, is here to offer prayer. appreciate the members of my Cabinet who are here." (Feb. 7, 2002)
  131. "I appreciate her example of faith made stronger in trial." (Feb. 7, 2002)
  132. "I appreciate the work the airlines have done with the Federal Aviation Administration." (Nov. 19, 2001)
  133. "I appreciate Norm Mineta, who is here." (Nov. 2, 2001)
  134. "I appreciate the patience of the American people." (Nov. 2, 2001)
  135. "I appreciate the courage of most Americans." (Nov. 2, 2001)
  136. "I appreciate diplomatic talk, but I'm more interested in action and results." (Oct. 11, 2001)
  137. "I personally think that a -- and I appreciate Tony Blair's -- and I've discussed this with him -- his vision about Afghan after we're successful -- Afghanistan after we're successful." (Oct. 11, 2001)
  138. "I appreciate the actions of that government." (Oct. 11, 2001)
  139. "I appreciate my friend Tom Ridge." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  140. "I appreciate a straightforward fellow, a fellow who you know where he stands." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  141. "I want to appreciate and thank the U.S. Steel and its workers for a good conservation policy." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  142. "I appreciate your strong stance on holding the line on cutting the car tax in Virginia." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  143. "I appreciate so very much the supplemental that got passed." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  144. "Mr. Prime Minister, I appreciate your leadership." (Aug. 23, 2001
  145. "I appreciate so very much the Italian leadership in the Balkans." (Aug. 23, 2001)
  146. "I appreciate so very much President Putin's willingness to think differently about how to make the world more peaceful." (Aug. 22, 2001)
  147. "I appreciate this attitude so very much with President Putin." (Aug. 22, 2001)
  148. "I appreciate you bringing such nice weather." (April 30, 2001)
  149. "I appreciate what's going on here." (April 25, 2001)
  150. "I appreciate your service to the country." (April 23, 2001)
  151. "I appreciate that so very much." (April 23, 2001)
  152. "I appreciate the members of the press." (March 30, 2001)
  153. " I actually said this in New Hampshire: 'I appreciate preservation. It's what you do when you run for President, you've got to preserve.' I don't have the slightest idea what I was saying there." (March 30, 2001)
  154. "I appreciated the vote." (March 29, 2001)
  155. "I appreciate the hard work that's being done on the legislation." (March 29, 2001)

April 15, 2005

Where are all the faces?

Chicago is a city of 3 million people, but you'd never know it from its photoblogs and Flickr entries.

With rare exception -- Derek Powazek comes to mind -- we're a timid lot, we photobloggers. We're fearful. We're wary of offending strangers, sensing their nervous looks and desires for privacy. We fail to convey that our cameras are signs of affection.

So instead of taking pictures of people and bringing life to the Web we shoot buildings, quirky signage or, in our most daring moments, the backs of people's heads on the train.

Reluctance to offend or discomfort is a revolutionary concept these days, but it's driving me crazy. The facelessness that results approaches misanthropy, and it gives the false impression that Chicago is a cold, vacant and inanimate place.

I'm as guilty as anyone, but here's my summer goal: More faces and less fear. More smiles, more crying. Fewer parking lots, fewer industrial sites, fewer empty seats.

People are beautiful, and Chicago people are the most beautiful of all. We should show them off.

Photo taken: April 9, 2005


March 17, 2005

Suffering is the sole origin of consciousness.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, "Notes from Underground"

This quote showed up in a New York Times story this week. An ultramarathoner used it to explain why he runs hundreds of miles at a time.

Suffering is why I run, too, but not in the same way. It's not suffering I love. It's having suffered that I get all woozy for.

I don't even like running. I hate running, in fact. But I love ending a run, and if I feel great stopping after 1 mile, then logically I should feel even better when I stop after having run 26.2 of them, and I do.

That's why I embraced this previously mentioned passage from Tim Krabbe's "The Rider":

After the finish all the suffering turns to memories of pleasure, and the greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure. That is Nature's payback to riders for the homage they pay her by suffering.

(I don't pretend, I should point out, that this is anything but the most decadent of luxuries: the freedom to control the intensity and duration of one's suffering. It is the indefinite ordeals of life that make me shiver and quake, and I'm not about to visit the unemployment office or oncology ward and preach the virtues of a good hurt.)

For four months I've been suffering with my winter bike, a Trek mountain bike I bought when I first moved here and didn't know any better. I hate it. I hate its fat tires, its weight, the way it makes me feel like a child for riding it.

Its rear tire has had rotten luck this winter: five flats and a shot brake pad. The latest flat happened Tuesday night. Usually a flat is a calamity that waits to surprise me in the morning. This one I heard the instant it happened, a pop and then a fizz that Dopplered as I went. The bike was ridable, but I knew it would not be for long. At Foster it finally gave out. At 2:30 a.m. I walked the last half-mile home.

So Wednesday, hopeful that the last of the snow and salt is behind us, I switched to my preferred ride, a Cannondale touring bike. I'd been training on it, but this was its first trip outdoors since November.

I've always said that I look forward to summer for three things: baseball, fresh basil and sweating. My perfect summer moment is spent sitting in my living room with a ballgame on the radio, a plate of pesto in my lap and a paper towel soaking the sweat from my brow.

These days I look forward to only this: cycling down Michigan Avenue. It's my favorite moment of each day.

There is no parking on Michigan, so there is no risk of getting doored, and contrary to most urban situations I feel safer here the faster I am going. My winter bike is nowhere near fast enough for the job, but the Cannondale does just fine.

It takes three minutes to blaze from Oak to Illinois. My body is alive with pedaling, my mind alive with anticipating cabs, tourists and stop lights. After having suffered four months on the winter bike, it feels good to be alive again. It feels good to have suffered.


Feb. 4, 2005

Near Foster Avenue Beach, with fake Lomo affect applied afterward.

In all things purity, and for me that includes photography. I'm suspicious of photos that have been manipulated in the lab in Photoshop. It speaks to my journalism background: I believe that any photo, whether a .jpg or a print, should faithfully depict what the photographer saw through her viewfinder.

Add some extra contrast here and some masking there and a photo ceases to be a photo and starts to be an illustration or a drawing or a lie. For this reason I tend to be dismissive of the Flickr group Technique: Too many of the threads have to do with aftereffects. For me, technique stops once the shutter is released.

But this photo needed some help. I'd accidentally been overexposing everything I shot at the rocks on this day but I was keen on salvaging this shot. Thus the fake Lomo effect, which I hope elevates a bad photo to an average one.

Photo taken: Jan. 27, 2005


Jan. 21, 2005

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,

Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,

I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,

But is there because he's a victim of the times.

And I wear it for the thousands who have died,

Believin' that the Lord was on their side,

I wear it for another hundred-thousand who have died,

Believin' that we all were on their side.

Johnny Cash

To show my enthusiasm for the inauguration, I wore black to work. The get-up got scores of double-takes, though probably more for the tie than for the black. Since my interview I've worn a tie inside the building fewer than a dozen times, usually on Election Day.

By the end of the night I conceded that I looked less like "subtle political statement" than "gangster intern."

Photo taken: Jan. 20, 2005


Jan. 15, 2005

I've been reading about the rubber bandwagon. Bands for cancer, bands for tsunami relief, bands for faith. Even the White Sox are selling black rubber bracelets for $2. (Proceeds go to charity, not to finance middle relief, unless acquiring Luis Vizcaino somehow qualifies as charity, which it might.)

I like to think I don't need a yellow rubber band to remind myself to "live strong." I don't need a pink band to remember we're still fighting breast cancer. I could, however, use colored bands to remind me about other things. Sort of a wearable to-do list. 1. Live strong. 2. Call Mom. 3. Do laundry.

I'm imagining waking up on April 15 and finding green and yellow bands around my wrist. "Green band ... green band ... Fuck! Taxes! And fuck! Live strong!"