I did not have serious time off on my recent trip to China, but I did have an afternoon to visit the markets in Beijing and sample some of the local street food – also not sample some… I picked up a few little somethings in the market stalls for everyone and spent a whopping $50 in doing so. It was one of those experiences that you have to be immersed in as the sights, smells, the crush of people, sounds, Etc…. can’t be accurately described.
Archive for category Photography
We had a quiet West Seattle weekend: Friends over on Friday and we all drank no small amount of great Italian wine and ate the last of our French Comte cheese. I worked around the house and in the shop (me and the lathe are friends) Saturday morning while Stamps-With-Foot nursed a touch of a hangover and snuggled with the Brodie – He didn’t complain. Sunday was lazy with Brunch at Meander’s in White Center (Go For the Chicken and Waffles!) and afternoon coffee at C&P. After coffee and reading, there was a trip to Trader Joe’s, home for left-overs, some quality hottub time, and then we finished the evening with glasses of port, sitting in front of a fire.
I got to climb on the Great Wall. Well, I didn’t so much climb as walk up and down steep, worn stone steps from rampart to rampart along the Badaling section near Beijing with 20,000 or so Chinese tourists. That aside, check one more item off the old bucket list!
The scribed graffiti was cool to see – it covered almost every brick and I was told that it was a new development. I ate lunch at the top of a tower and made my way back down to the visitor’s center by way of a small trail beside the wall’s base where I got to touch and see parts of the wall that are not in most tourist pictures.
On a recent trip to China we were north of Beijing driving from one city to another for meetings and we passed a sign in English that said “Shaolin Temple X-kilometers.” THE Shaolin Temple. You know, the home of Kung Fu and the setting for all the bad chop-suey martial arts movies that filled the Saturday mornings of my pre-pubescent youth – after cartoons and The Three Stooges aired. My co-workers were shocked that I “knew” about Shaolin (??) and made it a point for us to stop by after the meeting was over the next day so I could take it all in.
It was a huge and sprawling complex with thousands of students and visitors – very cool. Some pictures are below, but my favorite is of one of the tree trunks. The divots are from student’s fingers. They will wake up early each morning and strike the trees to toughen their digits. Some of those trees are over a hundred years old and are peppered in small round pock marks.
Oh Seattle… Why can’t you be pretty and green and sort of warm all year? I keep telling myself that Summer and early fall here make the crappy six month of fallwinterspring all worth it, but that is a hard pill to swallow right now. This has been an especially dreary winter: rain, cooler than normal temps, very few sunny days (I remember 4…) and it didn’t really get cold enough to kill the mosquito eggs, so we are looking forward to a buggy spring. Oh Joy. On the bright side of things, the lawn and garden at La Masion du Talley are erupting with jonquils, tulips, cherry blossoms, the begonias and the dahlias are just coming up, there is green on the espalier apples, new raspberry canes are shooting up, my rose bushes in the back are leafing out, I saw a couple of honey bees out foraging, the grass is lush and green, and the first hints of the lavender up front are coming in. I spent the weekend splitting my time between the inside of the house and the yard. In the last two weeks I have been in Tokyo, Orange Co.., CA and Las Vegas, so my part of the household chores had gone unattended to. Here is how it all went down:
Slept late Saturday.
Breakfast and coffee while sitting next to Brodie.
Washed a load of whites and a load of colors.
Thought about going for a run.
Lost two hours of my life to Pinterest instead…
Put dishes away – some of them anyway.
Stamp-With-Foot took Brodie to new vet.
Got dressed and picked up living room and office.
Wife loves new vet. Brodie, not so much…
Finished a couple of small house projects.
Got ready to take Brodie for a walk in Lincoln Park
Canceled trip to the park.
Brodie went back to sleep on the couch.
Went downstairs to work on my Workbench of Doom in the basement.
Heard water running outside… SHIT! Gutters overflowing! Downspout Plugged!! FVCK!!!
Ran outside, put ladder up DURING hail storm, dug pine needles and holly leaves out of gutters on both sides of house.
Water started moving down drainpipe.
While on top of wet, slick ladder – wished I possessed The Force – would kill neighbor’s trees and lift them out of the ground like X-wing fighter…
Said loud dirty words about gutters, pine needles and neighbor’s trees.
Squinted eyes, pursed mouth, and made mental note to buy copper nails, a large auger bit, some Drain-O, and a vile of the poison that coated the blade that Bilbo was stabbed with for that hateful tree.
Climbed down slick ladder with frozen hands prayed for a single bolt of well placed lightning.
Went inside, threw wet hat down and stomped downstairs to plan a crime.
Stamps-With-Foot made me coffee.
Felt better & cleaned the basement a little.
Wife took me out on Movie Date.
Had a nice time.
Came home and sat in the hot tub for a good long while – nice light rain fell.
Wife all for me taking a hit out on the tree.
Fell asleep looking at Pinterest again.
Up at the crack of dawn on Sunday: 9:00am
Coffee and breakfast.
Wrote some e-mails and sent a few pics to Instagram
Wife left for appointment and Brodie and I went to C&P Coffee.
Brodie tried to eat a black lab the looked funny at him while I was ordering coffee.
Being French, he has a Napoleon Complex – Really, really.
I grabbed him in mid air and other dog looked like he wanted to tinkle on the carpet: hid behind owner
Brodie looked hard at that dog whole time we were there.
Stopped by Home Depot on the way home and got moss killer for the roof and yard.
Noticed the moss while unstopping gutters.
Came home, cut the grass and spread some Weed&Feed that will lead to the eventual demise of all the dandelions, clover, and nettles that dare to take root in my yard.
Edged and mowed the front and back yards.
Found a couple of ferociousness dandelion patches.
How had I missed them?!
Got out the instant death weed killer and murdered me some dandelions.
Giggled like Buffalo Bill as he put the lotion in the basket.
Other neighbor walked by told me that I had a beautiful yard.
Beamed with pride and tried not to look like a weed serial killer or that I was hatching a plan to commit arborcide!
Wife came home and helped me spray the roof for moss.
Took off overalls and went with wife and Brodie to Lincoln Park – pretty end to the day!
Went to Trader Joe’s for the week’s worth of groceries.
Stamps-With-Foot made dinner while I worked on some handmade Christmas gifts (starting early)
Looked at Pinterest and Instagram again.
Stole wife’s phone because her pics of Lincoln Park were better than mine.
Heard noise outside.
THE WAS A FVCKING RACCOON ON MY ROOF!!
Thought about getting The Ruminator’s pellet rifle.
Decided I did not want to be on top of ladder and at eye level with mad ‘coon that had just been tagged with a pellet.
Turned the water hose on and ruined his night.
He jumped off roof and into the hated pine tree.
I thought about the pellet rifle again… decided to let the raccoon and tree just have each other.
Came in and wife was asleep and the dog was snoring like a 75 year old alcoholic with sleep apnea.
Wrote a couple blog posts.
Turned off lights, set alarm, and went to snuggle with wife.
All the rain, cold, flu and grey skies have me reminiscing about warmer weather and adventures we had this summer: Stamps-With-Foot and I were working and traveling like mad. We were almost burnt out, needed a break and deciding the embracing arms of Mother Nature were in order. A couple that we hang out with was also in a camping state of mind so we planned a little weekend trip to the big woods. A lakeside campground on the slopes on Mt. Adams was chosen and my brother-in-law and his lady friend were invited as well.
This was not a hike ten miles with all our crap sort of outing. We packed up the truck with all our Glamping goodies and bits and drove south one Friday afternoon after work. 5 hours later (traffic, road closures, notes tacked to trees, a campsite change, a lying GPS, etc…) we pulled into camp with good wine, cold beer, salmon fillets and steak waiting for us… This is how all camping trips should start!
We slept in and when we finally did find the initiative to leave our queen sized blow-up bed, we were greeted with a crystal clear lake and a postcard view of the mountain from the door of our tent.
It was a weekend of no cell phones or e-mail, but lots of cast iron cookware, campfires, smores, beer, scotch, laughing, panoramic views and relaxation. Just what the Dr. ordered after a really hectic week.
Finely constructed and designed buildings make me all giddy on the inside. China has exploded and there is no better evidence than that (aside from the traffic and smog…) than the amazing new buildings that you can see in the major cities there. This is my third post in a series from a recent trip to china and I could have spent almost every non-working hour looking at and taking pictures of tall buildings, temples, details, roof lines, etc…
Personality. Chinese cities and architecture have personality. The modern glass and steel structures are looming, playful, artistic and make you look up and wonder. Orbs, pyramids, square holes in the middle of the structures abound. Tucked underneath, are 1000 year old temples, ancient homes, narrow alley-like streets and a flowing tide of humanity and machines.
I took a LOT of pictures on a recent trip for my J-O-B to china. This is the second post in a series meant to break the pile up a bit into a manageable size so that people will actually retain focus long enough to look at. The photos below were taken as I strolled through the Forbidden City in Beijing early one Sunday morning. There are a number of close up shots of features made specifically for my work computer desktop. We have a new 5S push at the office and there have been some rumblings about removing personal pictures flashing on the computers on sleep mode – no mandate, just rumblings so far. I have been taking pictures of bits and pieces of the places I visit and see and use them like a digital wall paper – in case the rumors are founded. The pictures will mean little to anyone but me and to everyone else they will appear generic and therefore worthy of a 5S office/cube/desk/computer.
Below are images of roof tiles, a wooden window screen, graffiti in a closed-off (climbed onto a gate and held my camera WAY out to the side) alleyway near the Forbidden garden, a wooden door panel from Tzu-Hsi, the Dowager Empress, residence and cracked paint for the wall outside of P’u Yi’s (the last emperor of China) sleeping quarters. If you like them, let me know and I will send you a wallpaper sized file.
Every summer, my son and I go camping. Some years his sister has gone and my wife has started joining us, but there is a lot of quality father/son time. Discussions swirl around knights, swords, native American tribes/practices, foreign places/peoples, battles, gvns, more sword talk, camping skills, camp cooking, and the merits of boxing/judo/Krav Maga/etc… This year, The Ruminator and Stamps-With-Foot conspired against me and planned a trip to Forks, Washington to visit the Twilight tour stops.
The plan was to drive from Seattle to Forks, visiting La Push, and then completing the circumnavigation of the Olympic Peninsula - going from campground to campground. The trip coincided with both Quileute Days and the Squim Lavender Festival – I have a soft spot for lavender. I believe that the side trip to Squim was more of a bribe than anything else as our rainey destination and reason for going didn’t really speak to my heart. My sweet, sweet wife, all her friends, my daughter, and most of the women I know are enamored with the sparkling undead. I prefer my vampires to erupt into flames when exposed to sunlight, but I am old-school like that.
We packed the new truck, Tater, with tents, bags, rain tarps, food, cast iron, ukeleles, wood, sleeping pads, water, more tarps and headed west like 21st century hillbillies. Our first night was spent near a WWII concrete anti-ship fort – we had to explore the depths and gvn emplacements twice in 24 hours… Before heading to Squim, we stopped in downtown Port Townsend and explored the wooden boat center and some of the shops. Another bribe. Wooden boats and I have an unrequited love affair. I can’t have one because I already have a wife and a full-time job, but that doesn’t preclude me from lusting over teak decks, tight joinery, and the naughty brass bits…
The rain came our second night of camping and never really left. There were dry hours where we cooked and played dueling ukuleles, but for the most part the next 4 nights were an exercise in trying to keep from getting soggy. Brodie was along for his first Talley Family camp-a-thon and was not amused. All he wanted to do was sit with his mommy and crawl under the dry blankets in the tent. That whole thing in the books about Forks being the rainest place in the lower 48 rings true for me. We were there in the summer and never dried out, I can only imagine what it is like in the depth of a long grey winter.
Quileute Days was a side stop on our way to the Pacific coast and LaPush. The Ruminator just HAD to swim in the ocean and no amount of persuasion about it being cold, really cold, would change his adolescent, made up mind. After running into the surf and getting slapped in the chest by the first arctic-cold wave, his eyes got huge and he came up gasping for air. He stayed in until his lips turned almost blue and we had to drag him out. I have a sneaking suspicion that his next trip to the coast will involve a wetsuit.
Forks is a former logging town that is full of nice people who still seem a little bewildered by all the attention. Two shops really stand out in my memory (aside from the Twilight one): a tackle shop that had the same organizational system as my grandfather’s garage: “I know it is here somewhere….” mounted fish on the wall, a stuffed mountain lion, and a dog sleeping in her spot by the door. The other shop was an eclectic mix of junk shop, antique store, book store, coffee shop and sandwich counter where we had lunch. If you go to Forks – dragged by your significant other as well – you cant miss the latter; it is on the same side of the street of the now closed Twilight store and just to the north.
This summer taught us a few things:
- Full-on luxury glamping is awesome when you arrive, unload and stay in place, but sucks when you move every night.
- Zombie Gunship played on an iPad in the backseat makes the miles fly by and nary a “Are we there yet?” is uttered.
- Brodie hates camping, the woods, rain, campfires, and the ukelele. Hates.
- Stamps-With-Foot makes a mean gumbo!
- The idea of spending time in the “Wettest place in the lower 48″ sounds MUCH better than it is.
- I am more awesomer at checkers than my son
- Lavender ice cream is amazingly yummy
- Flailing about with bullwhip kelp is a fine way to get into trouble
- Bacon fried in a iron skillet over a campfire is another proof the God loves us and wants us to be happy.
- Future summer outings will be less Cormac McCarthy’ The Road (soggy,cold,dirty) and more Endless Summer or Smokey and the Bandit.
When I was maybe 9, National Geographic, which was looked at with high reverence in our house growing up, had this amazing article about a discovery of a clay life-sized army found while some farmers were digging a well in China, under what used to be a village’s persimmon orchard and near the graveyard. I was enthralled and had dreams/fantasies of going all “Indiana Jones” there: finding adventure and treasure. It led to my wanting to be an archaeologist until I was 15 and learned that the career path of archaeology was long, paid poorly, was low in adventure, high on sweat & dirt, and hundreds of over-qualified people fought for what was often a single academic position at even 3rd and 4th tier colleges. None of which sounded ideal to a 15 year old. The career realization I had did nothing to diminish my interest in the warriors and have wanted to see them for myself since reading that small story almost 30 years ago.
My J-O-B sent me to China in November for a little over a week and I found myself in the city of Xi’an, my meeting over, and 7 hours until I had to be at the airport… I threw all my crap in a suitcase, payed my hotel bill, hopped in a taxi and was at the site in 40 minutes. Cross one more AMAZING item off my bucket list! Pictures attached below.
From a more recent National Geo online artical:
“Qin’s army of clay soldiers and horses was not a somber procession but a supernatural display swathed in a riot of bold colors: red and green, purple and yellow. Sadly, most of the colors did not survive the crucible of time—or the exposure to air that comes with discovery and excavation. In earlier digs, archaeologists often watched helplessly as the warriors’ colors disintegrated in the dry Xian air. One study showed that once exposed, the lacquer underneath the paint begins to curl after 15 seconds and flake off in just four minutes—vibrant pieces of history lost in the time it takes to boil an egg.
Now a combination of serendipity and new preservation techniques is revealing the terra-cotta army’s true colors. A three-year excavation in Xian’s most famous site, known as Pit 1, has yielded more than a hundred soldiers, some still adorned with painted features, including black hair, pink faces, and black or brown eyes. The best-preserved specimens were found at the bottom of the pit, where a layer of mud created by flooding acted as a sort of 2,000-year-long spa treatment.
The last excavation in Pit 1 screeched to a halt in 1985 after a worker stole a warrior’s head and was summarily executed—a head for a head, as it were. In the long hiatus that followed, Chinese researchers worked with experts from the Bavarian State Conservation Office in Germany to develop a preservative known as PEG to help save the warriors’ colors. During the recent excavation, the moment a painted artifact was unearthed, workers sprayed any bit of exposed color with the solution, then wrapped it in plastic to keep in the protective moisture. The most colorful pieces (and the earth surrounding them) have been removed to an on-site laboratory for further treatment. To everyone’s delight, the modern techniques for preserving ancient colors seem to be working.
In a narrow trench on the north side of Pit 1, archaeologist Shen Maosheng leads me past what look like terra-cotta backpacks strewn across the reddish soil. They are, in fact, clay quivers still bristling with bronze arrows. Shen and I skirt the remnants of a freshly excavated chariot, then stop beside a plastic sheet. “Want to see a real find?” he asks.
Lifting the sheet, Shen unveils a jagged, three-foot-long shield. The wood has rotted away, but the shield’s delicate design and brilliant reds, greens, and whites are imprinted on the earth. A few steps away is an intact military drum whose leather surface has left another glorious pattern on the dirt, its crimson lines as fine as human hair. Together with the imprints of finely woven silk and linen textiles also found here, these artifacts offer clues about the artistic culture that flourished under the Qin dynasty and the vibrant palette that infused it.
With so much color and artistry imprinted on the soil—the ancient paint, alas, adheres to dirt more readily than to lacquer—Chinese preservationists are now trying to preserve the earth itself. “We are treating the earth as an artifact,” says Rong Bo, the museum’s head chemist, who helped develop a binding agent, now under patent, that holds the soil together so the color won’t be lost. The next challenge, Rong says, will be to find an acceptable method for reapplying this color to the warriors.
With less than one percent of the vast tomb complex excavated so far, it may take centuries to uncover all that remains hidden. But the pace of discovery is quickening. In 2011 the museum launched two long-term excavation projects on the flanks of the 250-foot-high central burial mound. Exploratory digs in this area a decade ago uncovered a group of terra-cotta acrobats and strong men. More extensive excavations will yield “mind-boggling discoveries,” predicts Wu Yongqi, the museum’s director.”
It has been a sweet summer in our small garden. Stamps-With-Foot has really stepped up and has been planting, weeding, watering, picking fruit, staking dahlias and has even once turned the compost and added chicken manure. I have been both shocked and impressed. She even talked me into having some corn planted in the raised boxes this year. She bought the starts, planted them, made sure they were well hydrated and is now about to harvest 15+ ears of yellow sweet corn. Her squash has been prolific and we will have more soybeans this fall than we will know what to do with. Happily surprised at my bride’s greening thumb…
So far this season, we have harvested 25 heads of garlic, 10 sweet yellow onions, 30+ yellow and green squash, a few Roma tomatoes (still very early in the season), 4+pints of raspberries (late summer crop just starting), 3 pints of wonderfully sweet blackberries, figs, apricots, 1 apple (more to come), a gallon+ of cherries, spinach, 5 beets, more Swiss and rainbow chard than I care to remember, 2 pints of small strawberries, a pint-ish of blueberries, and we have supplied three households with rosemary, sage, pineapple sage, thyme, basil, Thai basil, Moroccan mint, and spearmint. We have been trading produce with some other members of our family for eggs and with two sets of neighbors for veggies and flowers. Stamps-With-Foot mentioned the other day that she felt like Marie Antoinette with her little Austrian Hobby farm in the shadow of Versailles.
The amazing amount of flowers (except for the lavender and roses) have all been cared for by my sweet wife and a neighbor from across the street. Both front and back yards have been perfumed since early spring.
Magical Spring has finally come to Le Maison du Talley. Our rhododendrons are back and in full pooping bloom after they were hacked back last year. The tulips, daffodils, and poppies have all decided to bloom at the same time. The Spanash, English and Provence lavender has taken root and flourished along the front fence. After a two year struggle with blossom-rot, the two cherries up front are full of flowers and green cherries. We have Mandarin orange blossoms, apple blossoms, apricots, figs, raspberry buds, a fence line of blooming roses, and 3 Meyer’s lemons on the dwarf tree in our backyard mini-orchard.
Stamps-with-Foot and I planted garlic and onions in the fall that are close to being pulled and we spent an afternoon planting tomatoes, squash, corn, and zucchini in two of our raised beds. After in initial problem with early blight last year, our two full beds of tomatoes went NUTS! and we had more that we could use or give away. We were more selective this year and planted just a couple varieties and only 7 plants. I hot-housed a bed of spinach, Swiss Chard, and beats all winter that is now in full production mode.
I plan to be home more this summer and really spend some time tending and harvesting, although one wouldn’t know it from all the traveling so far. I can’t wait until mid-August when I can sit in my cotton hammock, gently swinging over my Ireland-green grass, drinking a Dunkel Weissbeir, snuggling my wife, and patting our puppy while gazing out onto our yard and garden.
You don’t really own anything you can’t carry on your back at a dead run.
- Daniel Keys Moran
In 2004 there was a Flickr thread entitled “What’s in your bag?” that immediately captured a voyeuristic nerve with the denizens of the Web and since then about a gamillion people have posted pictures of all the crap they carry with them through their daily lives. You can see it all: packs, purses, pencil cases, hello kitty, descriptions, puppies (!?!), the entire Moleskine collection, pens, sunglasses, pistols, retainers, pocket knives, Apple products, and enough bike inner tubes to encircle the earth 12 times. Hours of my life have been lost peeping into other peoples lives through the contents of their purse/messenger bag/pockets. The phenomena has been around long enough now that there are subsets of bags and contents: Camera equipment, writers, hipsters, journalists, students, bike messengers, everyday carry (EDC), diaper bags, etc…
I came in after a recent craptastic day and started emptying my pockets and satchel. It seems I carry what professional organizers call “a lot of shit.” I was amazed to see, all stacked in one spot, how many different individual items I tote around all day. I took a picture and added it to the growing online show & tell/confessional.
2 dollar coins and a quarter
16GB USB with former puppy’s tag attached
Steel LAMY fountain pen – medium nib, brown ink
Moleskine work notebook – filled with sketches and task lists
iPad with case – pic shot from city wall in Essaouira, Morocco
iPhone, no case – pic of driftwood carving found at beach near the house
Truck/car/house keys with old dog tag
Silver bracelets (copies of John Wayne’s – google it)
Wedding ring – milled from and aircraft bearing
Kershaw – Ken Onion pocket knife
Eddie Bauer slim wallet and money clip – that’s right, big money: one WHOLE dollar
Milt Sparks knock-off IWB holster
Magazine loaded with 7 Gold Dots
Para Ordnance Black Watch .45 – some custom work
Ray-Ban birth control glasses
Bag: heavily modified US Army OD green map satchel
I sometimes carry a small flashlight in my satchel, a couple of other Moleskines, a roll of fountain pens, a spare magazine, sunglasses, my ORCA card, a kindle, a cheapo Bic lighter, and a small folding knife on my keychain. I forgot the light this morning and I flew recently and haven’t put the TSA-offending Victorinox back on my keys.
What do you carry with you during your day? Below are a representational photos of the phenomena including mine.
I am sitting in our breakfast nook, drinking coffee and getting mentally prepped for my J-O-B. As I sip my needed and delicious cup o’ joe, I can see the winter sunrise reflecting off the tips of the frost covered grass in the front yard. It has me ruminating on the intensity, goals, minor failures, and harvest from this years garden and yard work.
I spent our very cold spring getting our raised boxes ready for a bumper crop: perfect soil mix, irrigation lines, compost, etc… The tomatoes were planted a little early and they got an early blight that stunted them for a time, but they came back in force and we had more tomatoes than we new what to do with this year. I didn’t get the onions in the ground soon enough or plant garlic at all, so e ultimately gathered 2 medium white onions and I left the rest of the shoots in the ground this fall, planted winter garlic and covered them with straw so the we will have a summer crop next year.
We feel our biggest success was with our greens. Planted spinach, butter lettuce, and chard that fed us all summer. There was an unfortunate incident with the broccoli (bugs, microwave, crunchy dinner…), but on the whole our bed of greens was were most of the bang for our buck came from.
Fall hurt a little. I was away a good bit traveling for work and the garden was neglected. My very first apple was stolen by a squirrel, the slugs went NUTS on the last of the tomato crop. Fvcking slugs… There will be a battle next year and I am planning on a plan of full slug eradication. There was some definite success though: we gathered almost 2 gallons of raspberries, made mint mojitos and mint juleps from the 6 types of mint I have growing in containers. There were probably 3 bushels of tomatoes that came out of one 3×7 raised bed – really. We had our first lemon, first fig, cherries, huckleberries, strawberries (also hurt by the squirrels though), a full cup of blue berries, beets, greens, and lot of knowledge gained through screwing up.
Thoughts for this winter and next year:
Death to all slugs!!
Need more bees early in the season for fruit trees – hang some mason bees in a warm area.
Grow starts in basement and do not plant too early.
Mulch raspberries and roses.
Cut all blackberries out.
Need more drip irrigation hose.
Raise kitchen herb planters up another foot off the ground.
Raise strawberry pots up as well.
Prune tomato flowers so that crop is smaller and fruit larger.
Use apple bags to keep apple pests at bay.
Spray fruit trees early!
Spray roses with anti-rust/fungal early and monthly.
Spend more time in garden.
Since Brodie follows my wife constantly and they are near inseparable, every time I snap a picture of Stamps-With-Foot, Brodie is there. When I leave this life I hope that I am reincarnated as a new frenchie puppy for my wife. She is fully involved with her fur-baby: he eats lavish hot food, has more toys than he can play with, a warm comfy bed, a yard free of crap, other dogs, unlimited snuggling, and bacon for snacks. In short, the life all Frenchies dream of – well except for the occasional romp with a toy poodle – there could be more of that for Brodie…
Stamps-With-Foot and I went down to Portland for Easter weekend… as if we had all the freetime in the world – no projects looming over us – and a pot of money. We have some dear friends there that have just had a baby and we went down to meet him and hang out with them. Holy Pork Chop on a Stick!! The weather was AWESOME!! I am talking 65 degrees, blue skies, sunshine – the works. Saturday found us in a green city park, sitting under a tree, having a picnic, and swigging mimosas! It was a really laid back day and just what the doctor ordered. We spent Easter Sunday with an old family friend who happens to be Jewish – I always imagined the Easter bunny as having Hasidic roots… After a lazy morning, yummy coffee, and a terriffic breakfast, we drove into downtown and went to the Portland Chinese Garden. Our friend is on the Board of Directors there and we got in for free. Although the rain came back, we had a phenomal time walking the paths, finding nooks and alternate views. There was a late lunch at the tea house and the ladies partook of sake and plum wine.
Let’s say that I have been neglecting my bikes this year. If my road bike were a truly a woman, she would have already maxed all the credit cards and run away with that suave, skinny, tanned bike mechanic that so lovingly tuned her last summer. With the return of Daylight Savings time, it is time to rekindle the romance with my many two-wheeled mistresses.
My oldest friend, Herbert, was in Seattle celebrating the rain/spring break/grey skies for a week and we decided to go for a long bike ride while he was visiting. We cruised down to the ferry dock near Lincoln Park and took a couple bikes over to Vashion Island for a circumnavigation tour of that dot of terra firma. I rode my commuter bike and Herbert rode my 1979 disco-orange Volkscycle. The night before we installed some retro fenders on the orange beauty (Arron’s Bike is the SHIT! – incredible customer service!), thinking we might get wet, but karma intervened and we had blue skies and warm sunshine for the whole trip.
After climbing a nasty hill leading from the ferry dock, we rode south along the less populated western side. Vashion is dotted with small farms, quite roads, tall trees, and beach front cabins. The abject poverty of some of the homes we passed was quite sad: 3000+ sq. soot cabin with 3-4 acres of green pasture behind, a dock extending out into the Sound with a handsome 30+ foot sail bot moored there, panted barn, new tractor, happy cows… so sad… ;-)
We stopped for lunch and beer at the Quartermaster Inn – yummy red pepper soup – and made it to Vashion Island Coffee Roasters just before they closed. Coffee… I bought a bag of my favorite Ecuadorian roast, and enjoyed a fine cup of joe, sitting on the bench outside watching the world go by. Getting back on the bikes was difficult… after a wet winter of cheating on my two wheel mistress with beer and snacks, my insensitivity to her was repaid by the butt-numbing pain inflected by my bike seat. Holy crap! Herbert was in worse shape as the plastic 1970′s plush saddle h was astride turned into a crotch mounted torture devise after 25 miles or so.
All together, we rode 46 miles, drank some good beer, ate yummy food, ingested way too much coffee, laughed about stupid things done as children, lovingly remembered friends that have passed, and made some memories.
We had planned to paddle a kayak over to Blake island the next day, but our butts decided that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, we hobbled around for a couple of days like two old guys in search of a hemorrhoid pillow…
On a trip to the UK just before Christmas, I had an early morning bid’ness meeting near Cardiff, Wales and stopped on the way back to London in the pedestrian town of Castle Combs – pronounced “Cwms” – for lunch. A co-worker suggested the stop and once a again, “Peculiar travel suggestions are like dancing lessons from God”
I ate a fantastic meat pie and had a ½ pint of local cider at The White Hart. The place, staff, and food were all top-notch! It was a nice little lull in the midst of a hectic, pressure-filled trip.
Castle Combs is a time capsule of 15th century buildings, streets & houses and seems to be a popular place for filming. It was used a location for the 1967 film Doctor Dolittle, an episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, the 2010 version of The Wolfman, and for the coming Steven Spielberg production War Horse. Who would have thunk it?
I had to take a quick trip back to Hamburg, Germany for work just before Christmas this year. Aside from all our close friends there, the thing that Stamps-With-Foot and I miss most about Germany are the Christmas markets. This is how Christmas should be done everywhere: booths selling hand-made small gifts, warm candied peanuts, hand-blown glass ornaments, hot mulled wine for sale on every corner, hand-painted pewter ornaments, Christmas music, grilled sausage, happy people holding hands, groups caroling, smiling kids, young lovers sneaking a kiss behind the huts…
I had about 3 hours between getting off work and having to drive to the airport, so I walked through the ice and snow to a couple of the larger markets, bought ~$400 in ornaments (we/I have a Christmas tree decorating fetish…) and small gifts for my lovely wife and the kids., then I took some pictures of all the wreathed ambiance.
Just before Christmas the news was filled with people stuck in the major European airports for days due to weather delays. I was one of those souls. I, however, made lemonade out of lemons and spent an afternoon roaming central Paris, the city of light!
I was bumped from two flights and told to come back to the gate for the next available flight – in 12.5 hours! Uhhh… OK…. I have been to Paris enough times over the last 10 years to have a pretty good handle on the transport system. From Charles de Gaulle Airport there is a RER train that, for $10, will take you into the heart of the city, a trip that takes around 35 minutes. It had been snowing like mad that morning, but when I stepped off the train at the Saint Michel Metro stop, the grey skis parted and the sky turned a brilliant blue. It stayed that way for three hours before the clouds and snow moved back in.
I rushed over to Notre-Dame because in the 20-odd times that I have been to Paris, I have never been inside. It always seems to be summer and the line to get in is normally oppressively long so I skip it. Being a COLD winter day there was no line at all! I removed my hat, opened the door walked into the naïve, kneeled, crossed myself, and proceeded to tear up like a little girl. It was stunning!! I walked around the church for almost two hours, exploring every corner. There was so much beauty and a glossy magazine worthy picture opertunity at every turn. I just wish Laurel and the kids could have been there to see it! We will be back.
I reluctantly left Norte-Dame and headed over the Seine to Shakespeare & Co. bookstore. It crowded dusty shelves make me oh so happy. I browsed, listened to the proprietress’s sweet voice laugh and chit-chat in both French and English, I took a few pictures and bought a couple of books. From there I walked to a Crepe stand in the Latin Quarter and ate my savory crepe in the shadow of the “oldest” tree in Paris.
At 4:00 I headed over for the Catacombs tour. 6+ million of Paris’s former residents now reside in former quarry tunnels under the city. In a word, spooky! I left the hour long tour is a pensive, reflective mood. I took the RER back to the airport, my “scheduled” flight was still active and I settled in for a wait. After a few more delays, I flew out just before all flights were cancelled and an hour before Terminal #2 was evacuated because of the weight of snow on the roof.
There are certain advantages to being married to a costume designer whose resume includes stage, TV, and film production… It takes the Halloween costume planning and execution to a whole different level. There are no half-ass Wal-Mart last-minute plastic ensembles allowed in the Talley house. Oh no! Outfits are tailored, accessories are found after hours of internet trolling, wigs are clipped and styled, and the fat suits are tubby perfection! Stamps-With-Foot took a small little ember of Halloween love in me and made it into a choreographed 3-alarm house fire. Below are some pictures of our costumes past and present.
While most people wait until their 20th anniversary to marry their spouse again, we decided to move the time-line up a bit and do it on our 3.75 year anniversary. We is just sort of roll like that… No really, we eloped those long many years ago in Southern California just before our move to Germany. We had planned to have a get-together for family and friends the next summer, but life got in the way. Life kept getting in the way. There has been some increasing pressure from a couple of friends and my mother-in-law to get it done already.
During a visit at Christmas last year (I was still heavily medicated from the latest shoulder surgery so I was in an agreeable mood…) my father-in-law and I went running at Camp Long and happened into the lodge, a WPA built stone and timber craftsman beauty. Donald and I talked about it being a perfect place for a wedding reception and then enrolled Laurel in the idea of having our “DO” close to home (the park is 1.5 blocks from La Maison du Talley) this would simplify planning and logistics and with the rental of all ten cabins on the site, there would a place for everyone to sleep off what promised to be a beverage filled evening. Simple was the plan… Stress was the eventuality, but to see Laurel dressed in radiant white, surrounded by our family and friends was worth every hypertensive moment.
With the amazing help of those gathered, the day of our ceremony went off without a hitch. Our caterer was GREAT, the beer was cold, wine flowed, Donald made killer appetizers, Herbert was on flower and wine delivery duty, Matthew delivered the Nana and was a terrific MC, Henrik was took more pictures than Matthew Brady and Annie Leibovitz combined. Michael delivered the beer, Dani played the violin as if she were truly an angel, Beckie made the cakes beautiful, Gin read the poetry with great flair, Emmy arranged the flowers was Laurel’s rock, Sarah remade the dress, Miguel added the sweetness, the Aunts decorated the hall, Jan was maestro of our crazy little orchestra, Bob the photographer was on time and worked it, Leif was the official dog walker extraordinaire, Brodie was an awesome ring bearer, Nick steamed dresses, Nana folded programs into the wee hours, and the entire Brezynski family was the oil that made it all run smoothly.
The ceremony was held outside in the large meadow and an old Burton family friend was the officiant. I saw my beautiful bride being walked by her father and I cried like a little girl who had her Princess Pony taken away. She looked amazing and graceful and so happy. We said our vows, everyone cheered and at some point I stopped crying. Pictures were taken and we all retired to the lodge for drinking, eating, speeches, dancing, and laughter. As the evening closed, I gave my bride her wedding present. A gift that will always remind her of me and will speak to our journey through life together: a restored 1967 red Schwinn Twin tandem bike. She wanted to ride it in her wedding dress – one of the 10,000 reasons I love her.
Our yard (front and back) is in bloom and we have all sorts of flowers, herbs, and veggies coming up. The grass is thick and green and the couple of bare spots where the overgrown bushes used to be have now been reseeded and they are now sprouting tiny green slivers of Kelly green cover. The vine maple is in full leaf and is a pleasure to both look at and to lay under in an afternoon hammock snooze
I woke up early Saturday morning and took some pictures of the rhododendrons in the front and various sprouty things in the back just to document the current state of affairs for some friends and family who have been asking. Progress in the yard redo is slower than we had wanted – mostly due to us being overly ambitious for the first year in the new house, my own inaction, a screwed up shoulder, and our convoluted schedule. We had planned to have the garden boxes in, but it doesn’t look like they are going to make it this season as I am just running out of time and more projects inside the house have appeared. For now we are growing our kitchen herbs, garlic, and tomatoes in planters/containers and will expand that little by little for the next month to include peppers, three additional tomatoes, two more blueberries, and some yellow squash. I had hoped to have the apple, lemon, and cherry trees taken care of, but as yet the Lapin cherry is the only thing that is growing roots. The raspberries and thorn-less-blackberries are chugging along and I have started tying the canes to galvanized wire on the fence. Someone is going to have cool fresh raspberries in his cereal come June J
The plan for our front yard is currently going through a bit of a shift, mostly because of the neighbors to the north of us: It is a rent house with two 20-something guys (referred to by some of the other neighbors as Bevis and Butthead) who are in a metal band, work(-ish) in construction, and are living what could be called an extended adolescence. Loud band practice at 1:30 AM, wafting pot smoke, firecrackers in the middle of the night, beer bottles on the sidewalk, grass two feet high, trash all over the front stoop, trucks occasionally parked in the yard, etc… They are nice enough guys to talk to, but we don’t want to look at that every day. So, we have left the two 10’ tall rhodies on the north fence until either they move or accidentally burn their house down in the middle of the night while lighting the bong. The Belgium fence of heirloom apples and roses is on hold until then. Additionally, I had wanted to rip out the two rhododendron bushes in the front and replace them with red and white azaleas – Laurel made me wait until they bloomed and she was right, they are beautiful and they get to stay. We are going to thin them some after they are finished blooming and will plant just two white azaleas on each front corner of the house.
I have been watering and potting and weeding in the back a little when I get home in the afternoons and this is exactly the bliss that I had imagined and wanted when we put the offer in on Casa d’ Talley in June of last year. Gathering sticks and string for our nest…
It is windy and raining today and we are sitting inside snuggling with the heater in the living room, but the weather last weekend was nice enough for us to get out and ride our bikes to the city center on Saturday and to Altona the next day for coffee and books. My muse/wife was also gracious enough to let me snap a few pictures of her. She is her own special Betty Crocker/Jenna Jamison/Laurel stew and I couldn’t ask for a better friend or wife or partner in crime.
Earlier this summer, Laurel (my amazing wife) and I took her bike to the shop to have it repaired – warranty issue. While there, we saw a Penny Farthing (also called a Hiwheel or a Bone Shaker) in the window of the shop with a price tag on it. You NEVER see these things for sale! Some guy will have one is his window as advertising or just to be cool, but they never sell them. Well, we found a place that did. Laurel wouldn’t let me leave the shop without taking this baby home: that is how cool she thought it was. She even let me stay in the shop stroking it sweetly as she went to an ATM to get cash. I love my wife!
I am not going to tell you what she paid for it, but it wasn’t much. We had to walk my “new” bike home because I was wearing flip-flops. About halfway there she looked over and asked me, “Umm, can you actually ride this thing?” Fvck yes I can!! I went right home, put some real shoes on, and took it for a cautionary spin around a local school yard to practice mounting and un-mounting – it has been about 22 years since I was shown how by a visiting clown at my elementary school. Just like riding a bike…
After a few adjustments, I rode the thing from the house to downtown Hamburg, around the Klein Alster Lake and back – about ten miles. I turned heads and made people smile and wave (neither is a common site in Hamburg) wherever I went. I even let some old guys have their picture taken with it. Not a chick-magnet, but it pulls old dudes out of the woodwork to talk about classic bikes. I had a lot of fun that first day, but paid a high price. The seat that came with the bike was an old unicycle saddle with no springs to cushion the cobblestones and bumps. I ended up getting a blister on the tip of my tailbone that hurt so bad I couldn’t ride any of my regular bikes for a week.
Our first ride together
My Boneshaker on the Alster in Hamburg
Over the next few days, I found out more and more about my new stead – the original builder’s son still runs the company that built it and really helped me out with info about the bike. She was built by Rideable Bicycle Replicas in the late 1970’s as a copy of an 1875 French Boneshaker and brought to Hamburg along with 20 or so other hiwheels for a bicycle show. My bike was one of 13 that were sold to a guy who rented them out for TV shows, movies, as decoration, and to museums. By 2008 he only had 4 left and mine was the most complete, as it had spent the last ten years in a puppet museum; sparing it a hard life. He sold my bike, two other complete, but ugly/bent ones, and the heavily damaged forth hiwheel to the bike shop owner who then put the best one in the window. The only notable damage to mine is where some jackass drilled strait through the headbadge, the head tube, and the fork to suspend the bike from the ceiling so an evil little puppet could sit astride it – sorry it sort of feels like thinking about my wife kissing some old boyfriend – makes me twitch a little.
Since the initial tailbone trauma, I have installed a new seat (two different ones actually), new bars, given her a good scrubbing, and ride her around town for errands on the any weekend afternoon that the sun is shinning. I even rode her to a local wilderness park to get on a few trails with my wife– not recommended. I didn’t go ass-over-tea-kettle, but it is not the greatest bike I have ever ridden on dirt. To be completely honest, I have had one accident thus far: the cobblestones on my street were wet a couple weekends ago and I slipped off while mounting in front of about fifteen neighbors. They think that I am ‘that crazy American that lives in the red building’ anyway, so it only hurt me pride a little.
At the Niendorfer Gehege Park in North Hamburg
Riding on the paths in the Gehege after a picnic lunch
I fell in love with singlespeed/fixed gear bikes a long while ago. What’s not to love? They are quick, light, there is nothing on them to steal or screw-up, and they have a certain cool factor that is generally limited to things like Triumph bobber motorcycles and Hellbilly music. After my admiration started to border on obsession, I thought about picking a new pre-built and ready to ride Raleigh, Alta, or Giant up from a local shop. When I casually mentioned this “plan” to my loving wife, she MAY have exploded… She may have also pointed out that I have 3.5 (the .5 part is my unicycle – see “Nerdy” post below…) other bikes taking up space, time, and money in our lives and that there was NO WAY that I was going into a store and drop 500-800€ for a new “toy.” After some time had passed we reached an agreement of sorts: I could built a “new” bike if I spent less than 150€, slowly over time, and invested some sweat-equity in the project. Seeing an eventual path to my goal and not wanting to start Armageddon over a steel-framed bicycle, I agreed to her proposition.
I started right away looking on eBay for a suitable candidate bike, but the sellers there were all pretty savvy and I would have blown my budget on the frame alone. I checked most of the used bike shops in town – I stopped counting after sixteen – and while some had just what I needed, their frames didn’t match my budget. I pined away for a few weeks and finally decided to stop looking for the ‘perfect’ frame and to maybe start checking at junk shops for something that I could make do with. The very afternoon I made that decision, Laurel and I were out walking and found a wrecked bike in the trash. It was in BAD shape: Missing the front wheel & misc. parts, a shattered rear wheel, rust and dings everywhere, but the frame was straight, the forks were still there, the chainring was OK, and other than being filthy and banged up, the cranks were just what I needed. It was like Manna from Heaven. I took it home, cleaned it up, and stripped it down to the bare frame that same night.
For the last couple of years I have been a daily visitor to fixedgeargalley.com for my morning dose of bike-porn. Many of the bikes there started their lives as crappy or moderate road bikes that were switched to single speeds. Some of these bikes are God-awful ugly: pink and lime green or with strange attachments bolted willy-nilly to the frame and bars, but the majority are sleek, well built, and very functional. The site served as my daily inspiration to complete my own bike. After looking at the entire 6000+ bike image library, I had a pretty good idea about what I wanted for my own bike in terms of look and function.
It turned out that the found-frame was two sizes too big for me and that the steel forks were an inch and a half out of true, but the frame was solid with no serious imperfections and no rust bad enough to cause structural problems. The drop bars were in good shape too, so I flipped them over and chopped them off to make narrow bullhorn bars. Work got hectic at that point and the frame hung on the wall in my basement for a couple of months, as I told anyone who would listen about my new project. For my birthday, my most dependable riding buddy bought me a bike jersey at the local messenger/track bike shop. Somehow this speciality shop had evaded my attention until that point. There I found what amounted to singlespeed Heaven. For that same birthday, my wife gave me 50€ to buy whatever bike parts I desired. Off we went on the afternoon of the 34th anniversary of my birth and I picked up a flip-flop hub, a 16-tooth freewheel for one side, and a 16-tooth fixed track gear for the other. I may have fondled it, wearing a perverse smile, all the way home.
I spent a couple of hours the next week building the rear wheel from a rim that I have had for a while. I had some trouble with calculating the correct spoke length and used the late Sheldon Brown’s online calculator to set me straight (Sheldon forgot more about bikes than I will ever know and his site was a crutch I used during the whole build process.). I went to a local BMX shop for new spokes and when I found out that they wanted 50€ for them, I laughed at them and left. The wheel and bike frame continued to collect dust until after Christmas with me picking up a few parts here and there: used brakes, a new seat, used seat post, and a used chrome track fork. I found that the original stem/neck on the bike suffered the same fate as the original forks, so I picked up a cheap lightly used one. The track bike shop, Suicycle, ended up building the rear wheel and supplying the new spokes for the same price quoted by the other shop for just the spokes. I was more than happy to let them do it as it saved me time and aggravation.
Shortly after the holidays, we sold my wife’s super-cool Moulton travel bike for a profit and went to buy her another bike that better suited her sense of aesthetics (long story…). While at the shop she spotted some pedals that I had been looking for. They were 75€ new and we got a lightly used pair and a used MTB handle bar for 30€ total. Oh, it was a happy day! She found a great bike for a lot less than she sold the other for and with some of the leftover funds I got some parts for my project. As I built the bike up I realized that we had been sold two LEFT side pedals… Laurel had business near the shop and was sweet enough to go there twice; the first time they didn’t have a RIGHT side pedal and the second to argue about a refund. I ended up buying a new set of similar ones at a local roadbike shop.
I had changed my mind about the cow horns. I wanted something sleeker and bars better able to fit between cars as I made my way through traffic to work in the mornings. There is a current fad among messengers and messenger wannnabes to chop the bar down to ten inches and your thumbs rubbing the underside of the stem. That is somewhat squirrelly for my taste and doesn’t afford me the space to mount brakes. As I have two kids to put through college, I need breaks on my bike. I cut the MTB bars down to fifteen inches, chose 2-fingered MTB break levers, and installed rubber grips to make for both a functional and nice looking setup. I did end up using the cow horns on my folding train-commuter bike. They turned out VERY nice.
A couple of weeks later, I spent a Saturday sanding, priming, and re-sanding and re-priming the frame. Over the next couple of days I put two nice, even rattle-can coats of matte black automotive paint on it and hung it up in my attic to dry. When the painting was done, I made one touch up, and then hung it in our shower with a wallpaper dryer on it all night to help cure the paint. The next day I cut the fork threads to length, installed the bearings, enlarged the brake calliper mounting holes, greased everything (including inside the seat tube) and put it all together in our living room, making sure to fit it as closely as possible to the geometry and measurements of my race bike. Everything did not go exactly as planned: My special ordered chain didn’t fit and my rear break calliper was too short. Those two things took a couple of days to sort out while my bike patiently waited for me in our living room. Did I mention that I have the most understanding wife ever?! Not only did she give me cash for my obsession and go to shops for/with me, bought me bike tools for Christmas, and in addition to not flipping out to bike parts all over her dining room table for a week, she was supportive of my little obsession the whole time.
On the first semi-sunny day (not a frequent occurrence in the cold north of Deutschland) that we had after I finished the build, I took the bike out for a ten mile shakedown ride on Hamburg’s streets, sidewalks, bike lanes. HOLY SHIT!! My new single speed/fixie is all that I could have wished for. It made me want to be bad… I found myself weaving through cars at red lights, passing perhaps too closely to pedestrians, shooting through spaces not ordinarily thought of as bike-friendly. I am old enough to realize that this behavior was something that would get me in trouble at home, but it was just so much damn fun!! The steel frame was smooth on the cobblestones, it was really responsive, and it tracked great when riding with no hands. The bike is light enough that hopping a tall curb took very little effort, the small bars were really comfortable to ride with, and I got a bunch of compliments while in a bike shop and while waiting for lights to turn. The only slightly negative comment that I have is that it doesn’t exactly stop on a dime, but that has to do with the brake lever that I used and can be fixed with an upgrade to BMX levers and stiffer brake pads.
In the interest of full disclosure, I spent about 100€ more than we agreed upon, but in my defence the forks were half of that and the bike still cost about a third of what a new bike would have cost. In addition to learning an absolute ton about gear ratios, inside bike builder tricks, wheel building, and rider fitting – I also had a hobby to occupy my time for almost a year, time that could have been spent bugging my wife and getting on her nerves. One COULD almost reason that a year free of certain aggravation might be priceless… If you see my wife and she is still ticked about the cost overrun, you could remind her of this, you know – if you want…
Like all my other bikes, this one has a woman’s name: Gabby – after Gabrielle Reese the pro volleyball player and model. She is named so because like her namesake, she is too tall for me, is quick, responsive, beautiful, agile, sleek, and if you don’t pay her the proper amount of attention while riding her you will likely end up on the pavement broken and bleeding.
I took pictures of the build process, and have put them here, if you want to take a look and the specifications for my home-brewed bike are below:
Frame: 80’s model 12 speed Raleigh roadbike, originally white.