Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Water Proof is in the Pants

Bicycling turns one into an optimist. There's the empowerment of all that mechanical assist, the sense of levitation, of "taking a load off" and letting the wheels do the work. Over years of shifting from car to bike, I've changed my view of all that uncertain weather, located between sunshine and thunderstorm, when it looks like it might rain but hasn't yet. That prospect used to send me looking for the car keys, but much less so now. Like a glass half empty or half full, it might rain on me, or it might not, and my experience is that most of the time the rain doesn't manifest, or remains more of a mist that doesn't affect a bike ride into town at all.

Still, there've been a couple times, venturing out on a bike in a light rain, when the rain turned heavy, and my legs got soaked--the thighs being the one horizontal feature while pedaling, and therefore the most exposed to the rain. Amazingly, the pants dry off in an hour--a small and fleeting discomfort. Rain is just water, after all. But when the Blue Ridge outfitters store was going out of business, I finally bought the proof. The water proof. Pants, that is. They slip on before heading out, and one gets this uncanny feeling of being immersed in rain and yet remaining unaffected. It's the closest I might get to being a dolphin, or a duck.

People talk about sustainability. This, for me, is how it happens. Small insights that probably should have been obvious years ago, and yet they come when they come, and accumulate until one's life is considerably changed. Oftentimes, sustainability is experienced not as a closing down or limitation, but as an opening up, of possibility and awareness, a way of looking more to oneself and nature, and less to machines, for answers to the day's questions.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Week Bursting With Events and Tree Metaphors

Princeton's always bursting with brain food, but coming days are remarkable. Feast, yee who can break minds and schedules free.

Monday, April 18
McCarter Theater, free symposium, The Ground On Which We Stand
Princeton Public Libary, 4pm -- I'm a Good Person, Isn't that enough? Author of Waking Up White
Toni Morrison Lectures, 5:30 -- In Praise--and Dread--of Trees

Tuesday, April 19
Arts Council, 7pm -- Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize winning poet reads from "Ordinary Light: A Memoir". (She played the role of interlocutor at remarkable, transformative recent events, a performance by Flexn, and a viewing at the Garden Theater of a documentary of poet Robert Bly.)

And on through the week at the library in the evening, with PBS's Warren Zanes Wednesday, the author of "Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government" on Thursday. Friday at 6:30 there's a film on autism produced by Princeton residents Roland and Pam Machold, who also helped bring about a film on Marquand Park, and on Sunday at 2pm, Princeton author and historian Clifford Zink tells the story of "Mercer Magic and the Story of America's First Sports Car".

The film about Marquand Park, shown at the recent Princeton Environmental Film Festival, is said to be on youtube, but all I could find thus far is a preview shot from a drone rising high over the park. 

April 26, Labyrinth Bookstore on Nassau Street -- Rootedness, the Ramifications of a Metaphor

Monday, April 04, 2016

Bicycle Books and Breakthroughs

Those of us who live in a relatively bikeable community know the pleasure of riding these "freedom machines" around town. Because my main bike is awaiting a new tire, I've been making do with my daughters' old bike. The thick tires, small frame and big basket in front somehow evoke a feeling of flying an old biplane.

What a coincidence, then, to hear from Steve Kruse about a new book called "The Mechanical Horse", which tells among others things about how bicycle technology played an important role in the development of airplanes.

Another book, encountered while researching the New York-based family that brought what later would be called the Veblen House to Princeton in the 1930s, is The Cycling City: Bicycles and Urban America in the 1890's. If you happen to be in NY this Wednesday, April 6th, the author's giving a talk.

Every now and then, I catch a glimpse of the role bicycles could play in the "AsIf" world--that imaginary place where people live as if the future of the planet matters. Early afternoon on April 1, I got a call from my daughter announcing that she had ridden her bike to Cranbury to see a friend. I had already been fooled earlier in the day by a friend who had called to ask why I wasn't at McCarter Theater for the auditions for environmental theater. I fell for that one hook, line, and sinker, and was searching the theater's website for information when she called back to say April Fools. Surely my daughter, who has a mischievous streak, was playing tricks, so it took her awhile to convince me she actually had made the cross-country ride, in less than an hour. Cranbury for serious bicyclists would be small potatoes, I suppose, but for a puddle jumper like me, it was as if my daughter had ridden her bike to the moon. She was calling, in part, to ask for a ride home, which I supplied, as we all do, because we can.