Friday, September 13, 2013

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Keeping it simple

I've ridden many types of bikes over the years and have loved them all. What I don't love are the repairs that have to be made and paid for, at least those repairs I can't do myself. Yvon Chounard, owner of Patagonia is perhaps, the greatest example of someone getting close to the ideal of running a sustainable business. If Yvon were a cyclist (and who knows, maybe he is?) he'd ride a single speed. Why? Because its simple, requiring little or no maintenance, is versatile and when you're climbing, presents a challenge and I believe Yvon is a man that enjoys a challenge.

With that in mind. I took an old mountain bike I had and started stripping away the excess. Here is what I ended up with.

TO me, this is art. Note the clean lines. The gentle curve of the front fork and the accent of the blue pedals. This is my ideal bike, simple, functional and beautiful.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My Novel

The following is the introduction of a story I've been writing. I'll be placing a chapter at a time on this blog. Feel free to comment.


            His bones ached.  He couldn’t sleep despite being exhausted from hiking through the snow drifts for the past two days and nights.  He couldn’t sleep because the package he had been sent to pick up was laying beside him in the tent as the blizzard rumbled outside. He lay staring at the ceiling of the tent, thinking. Then, he heard a sound from the package. It was the soft sound of a baby’s snore. That’s when he said out loud to himself-“I promise you will be with your family soon.”  Then, he heard another sound, it was the sound of men yelling. It was time to run
His snowshoes made little clouds of powder with each step. His mouth was drier than he could ever remember. It was worse than any of the marathons he had run, worse than any trail race and even worse than most of the tests he underwent in the Navy. His breath made clouds too. The clouds were in sync  Like a syncopated rhythm, his hoarse inhales and exhales echoed in his ears. They floated in front of eyes, blinding him at times. For the first time in decades, O’Brien felt real fear welling up in his chest. It wasn’t the fear of death, it was the fear of failure. 
            His arms ached from carrying his 40 pound package. Biceps screamed for relief, but, he had no mercy for his body, never had. He drove it on and on and on and would until he completed his mission or fell over dead. He became a machine, breathe in, breathe out. Take a step with the right foot, take one with the left. He thought of nothing.     The package stirred and the sweatshirt parted just enough so that O’Brien could see the tangled black hair inside. O’Brien couldn’t help himself.  He paused and looked over his shoulder.  His snowshoe foot prints were clear to see as were the drops of bright red blood that trailed behind him. 

Oakland is A-Okay!

I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1982. It's a great place to live for a variety of people for a variety of reasons. Even in this micro-climate, multiple sterotypes persist. Gertrude Stein who for some reason has remained famous since the 1920's despite writing several exceedingly boring novels is most well known for her alleged statement about Oakland-"Theres no there, there." In this, as in many other things, Gertrude Stein was wrong.

First, Oakland is a City with distinct neighborhoods. From the Hispanic center of Fruitvale, to Piedmont to Rockridge to East and West Oakland. I'll discuss my two favorite locales.


Walk along College avenue in the Rockridge area and you are surrounded by academics, both students and teachers every where you turn. A veritable sea of Birkinstocks, yellow labs and Coexist bumper stickers. You'll also find Zachary's deep dish pizza and directly across the street, a great place that serves very thin crispy slices of pizza. Like Japanese, Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese? All within walking distance of the BART station. Transbay Sports is renowned among runners as being the best Running store in the Bay Area, down the street is Run Jane Run a store for women runners and sponsor of many races and events.


Piedmont has two faces. The first and most well known face are the million dollar and up homes in the hills, the private and public schools catering to the wealthy locals and a beautiful private golf course. The second face of Piedmont is Piedmont Avenue where you can rest your soul at one of the many coffee shops, check out the independent bookstores, eat a variety of fine meals, shop at a great grocery store and get your bike fix at Montano Velo. I've spent many a fine hour on the Avenue.

Yes, its true that there is a lacking of civic activity in downtown Oakland but, that is changing. Farleys East is evidence enough that the younger demographic will hang out and spend their money in Oakland. Usually the most severe critics of Oakland are people who live in San Francisco and didn't grow up there. Given that downtown San Francisco goes to sleep after 6 is ample evidence that criticising downtown Oakland for not being lively enough is the height of hypocrisy.

So, check out Oakland and if you mention this column, you'll be entitled to the beverage of your choice, maybe two depending on yopur review.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Old Friends


John Matney

            O’Brien saw them first.  He hoped they would walk past him, unrecognized. She was as he remembered, a trim, short Asian woman with a protruding belly, looking like she was 3 months pregnant. She was 50 or more years old and had never had children. He was a little taller than O’Brien, handsome and still in shape. On her left had was a very large diamond ring. It was her third marriage. O’Brien remembered her saying once that she had told a previous boyfriend that before she would get married a second time, she had to have a 1 or 2 karat ring, O’Brien couldn’t remember what size. Her current ring had to be at least 3 karats.
            O’Brien was dressed in cargo pants, hiking shoes and a short sleeve linen shirt. His hair was long and he had a white beard. He hoped that was enough. It wasn’t. She noticed him and before passing stopped and stared. He looked back in silence. She poked her husband in the side and said loud enough for O’Brien to hear, “hey, that’s O’Brien!” The man, Mike looked at O’Brien for a few seconds and smiled.
            “Hey, what’s going on man?” Mike said with a big smile. O’Brien looked up and said, “just waiting for a plane, you?” Mike said, “we’re on our way to the Bahamas, Lynne has a marathon and we want to get in some beach time.”  “That’s nice” said O’Brien  hoping the conversation would end soon. Lynne then asked, “tell us what you’ve been up to.”
            O’Brien knew how this was supposed to play out. He remembered years ago, when he and Lynn had been friends that Lynne would ask him the most personal questions and he would oblige, revealing his most personal thoughts or experiences. She did not provide any stories or thoughts about her life. Questions about her weekend were answered with, “okay or the usual.” It had been a frustrating relationship. He used to feel foolish revealing so much of himself to a woman who was essentially a stanger. With that in mind, O’Brien said, “just enjoying myself.” 
            Mike asked “what’s with the beard man?”  Lynne added, “yes, you look so much older.” O’Brien thought about his recent trek through Nepal and Tibet, hiking over tens of thousands of feet in the mountains and smiled. “Well said O’Brien, I just haven’t felt like shaving.”
            “People have been asking about you, wanting to know what you’re up to,” Lynne said. O’Brien knew she wanted a story from him about the beard or what he was doing.  She wanted O'Brien to entertain her. Staring into the middle distance, he heard his breath and remembered. Remembered that years earlier, this woman didn't write, call or make an effort to see him in person when everything was falling apart around O’Brien. Years ago, O’Brien would have made a sarcastic remark peppered with a few F-bombs to chase Lynne away. Now, he was a different man.
            “I’ve been traveling and doing a lot of thinking” he said. He added, “I hope you have a great trip in the Bahamas”  He looked at the couple. Lynne had once said to O’Brien that she made a better girlfriend than she made a wife. That may have been the most revealing thing she had ever said to O’Brien. It was a true and revealing statement. He almost felt sorry for Mike knowing Lynne would get bored with him in a few years and start her search again for her perfect mate.
            “Well, Lynne stammered, goodbye.” Mike said, “yeah man, later” and they walked away, no doubt telling each other how strange O’Brien had behaved. O'Brien felt clean as he drank some of the now cold coffee, he picked up his book and started reading. Breathe in, breathe out.     

Musings in the summer heat

It's true that it is perfectly normal for a person to become lazy when the temperature is in the 100's. I don't care how Type A someone is, when the temperature hits 3 digits, its time for a siesta.

This is the swing where I read, sleep and drink beer when its hot outside. A perfect oasis to rest and retreat from noise, television and chores. When its dark, I like to watch Netflix movies on my iPad in the cool night air. Its a civilized way to live. Why else would one own a house if it didn't offer refuge from everyday life and annoying people?