October 22nd, 2003

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Warsaw and Scurry

When I lived in Mesquite, Texas, I rode my Peugeot bicycle. It was a sleek ten speed, which go could go faster and ride more smoothly than any bike I ever owned. I'd set out on a weekend day on a long ride, from Mesquite, home of the International Rodeo, through Balch Springs, where the seniors pop up on Fox News nowadays because they insist they ought to be able to have religious services at a government funded service center, to Seagoville, whose main industry is the minimum security federal prison. Then I'd head onto a country road, where the traffic was usually quite light. I'd roll down a pleasant hill to Crandall, passing the dirt track race strip, and pastures filled with cows and Spring yellow susan flowers. Crandall had about two thousand people, and I could ride through town without traffic incident in less than five minutes. I'd stay on a farm to market road, until I reached Scurry, which has a town sign, but not really much town there. If I were particularly energetic, I'd go another few miles to Warsaw, which is also more sign than town.

Whenever I encountered an angry, loose dog, I hopped off my bike, placed the bike between myself and the dog, and repeatedly demonstrated to the dog that the bike would be a formidable obstacle with which to deal if I chose to use it that way, and waited for the dog to get bored. Once, on a country highway near Amy, Arkansas, I tried to outrun the dog. I succeeded, but I must report that the stories that country mutt dogs lack stamina are grossly exaggerated. I found myself successful in eventually winning some reverse Iditarod, but ultimately having to lie by the side of the road, my energy reserves wasted. I learned that day that the "show the dog the bike" approach succeeded far better. I have always admired that the dogs, when shown the possible disadvantages of tangling with a metal bike frame, kept the discussion of the possibility on a purely intellectual level, and never tried to confront the issue head-on, as it were.

Eventually, the time would come that I would turn around and pedal home. I have a simple philosophy of biking--no heroics. If the day rendered me too exhausted to ride up a hill, then I walked the bike up the hill. If the day left me too exhausted to pedal all the way home,
then I hopped off and walked the bike. There's something wonderful about a gentle walk, bike in hand, with all those endorphins doing whatever they do after a vigorous ride.

I no longer have the Peugeot bike, although I cannot imagine why I did not keep refurbishing it ad infinitem. I have a mountain bike now, which I do not prefer to my road bike, because I like the feel of razor-thin tires on pavement, and I do not go off-road much. I haven't ridden my bike in a couple of years--the tires need air. The tires are those new-fangled tires that do not air as easily as the old fashioned ones, because instead of a convenient air access, it has some ornate system of rods in the inner tube air intake. I have had some wonderful rides on this bike--along the rim of the Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale, California, and all the way through the urban trail in Plano, Texas from my home to my brother's distant home. But I have gotten out of the rhythm.

But this morning I realize that I need to be on my bicycle again. I need to work up from three miles to five miles to ten miles to thirty miles. I need to commune with the things one can't really reach at the auto's sixty mile an hour pace nor the walker's three mile an hour pace. I need to be in that perfect middle way, where the world slips by ten miles each hour,
and I'm alone with my thoughts while pastures and fields spin by.
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90 degree days

I like that Texas October has its "the way Summer ought to be" qualities. But ninety degrees is a bit too Summer-ish. I begin to have fevered dreams. In one dream, Jane Campion made the film of "In the Cut". Meg Ryan, of all people, was cast in the lead. Oh, but wait--that's not a dream. It's real. Life has transformed to a dream. I remember reading "In the Cut" and finding it so gripping and genuinely eerie. Halloween has nothing on life-like narrative. Now I am left with the heat. Ninety degrees. I love Campion's "Angel at my Table", but I think that's because I have an in-built Janet Frame weakness. I am always intrigued by people like Janet Frame and Vera Brittain, whose autobios intrigue me more than their novels. I think about minor writers, or minor works by major writers, as if I knew the story of the people just from the magpie fragments from which I have built my pseudo-intellectual nest. What of Winifred Holtby, who wrote novels nobody now reads, but died of cancer before her prime? Why does everyone know AA Milne's childrens' stories, but nobody knows the amusing adult stories? So many grand novelists out of fashion, so many novelists in fashion because of a curious bio detail--an affair, a kinship, an historical bit of trivia.
I have another trip to SF coming up, for an all-day meeting. In the after 9/11 era, fewer evening flights back to Texas exist. So I'm flying to Oklahoma City again, to either drive or fly the rest of the way on Saturday morning.
Maybe I'll stop by that cool garden in the Arbuckles. Maybe I'll just spin straight home, and sleep. For sure, I'll be glad to take a break next week from travel. A break with a good book. My own book, less than good, has sold 3 copies on eBay this month now. The first offer via "Buy It Now!" sold pretty quickly. It's been a good month that way. But I will still miss ER tomorrow, as well as have to fly all night.
Trade offs. Life is full of them.