Sunday, February 12, 2012

Some non-bike writing: Just to prove it can be done!

Yeah, that's a picture of me after a cyclocross race in which I spent about as much time on the ground as I did pedaling the bike. I did not pedal too quickly, either. Oh well. There's more to life than bikes, right?

The link below is to the piece I mentioned on my Friday news update. I hope you like it and pass the link along to your friends! :)

Hope the rest of your weekend is great.

Friday, February 10, 2012

News and Schmooze (and blues) #2

An old item. One that never leaves my mind. When I was kid in Menomonee Falls, which is on the northwest corner of Milwaukee, I used to stay up late quite a few nights a week and listen to Ron Kuzner’s jazz show, The Dark Side, on WFMR. The show came on at midnight, and I wasn’t supposed to stay up late, obviously, because I was a kid who had to attend school the next morning. In order to avoid detection, I would curl at the end of my bed, near the clock radio, and listen to Ron Kuzner with very low volume, volume so low I sometimes had to hold the clock radio to my ear to hear it. I loved the jazz he played, sure, but listening to Ron? What a unique radio announcer he was. He had a way of speaking as if his voice were a trombone sliding through the registers, pausing at unexpected places, and he would speak profound truth without ever saying too much. When he did the sports on his show, sometimes he would just say, “Milwaukee defeated Minnesota. Kansas City defeated Detroit. Boston and New York (huge pause) did not play.” Perfect! And he always started his news segment with this: “And now for the news, or the blues, depending on your perspective.” In that spirit, therefore, here is my news for the week.

Steak’s cheap this week at Beck’s Meats on Main Street in Oshkosh. Just FYI. It’s cheap every week, actually, and even though New York strip is bad for the heart and the soul or whatever, I walk the dog over there once or twice a week and see what’s on sale. Nothing like acquiring meat from an old-school butcher shop. This joy, however, is about to come to an end. End of this month, I’m moving from Oshkosh to Appleton – that’s twenty miles north – and either I will need to find a new source of meat or I will have to do the right thing and cut steak out of my diet for cycling season. ßIs that the right thing? I’m looking forward to life in Appleton, though. Should be an adventure because isn’t everything?

On Monday or Tuesday next week, The Massachusetts Review will run a longish piece of mine in their online edition. The piece is called “This Problem of Taste,” and I wrote it as a sort of oddball speech to give on the last day of the Pacific University Brief-Residency (that’s the term, I guess) MFA residency in January. It’s about writing and art and some other high-minded stuff of the sort I usually don’t write about and present to an audience. So I’m nervous and happy to let it loose in the wilds. Obviously, I would like this piece to spread far and wide like a disease of truth over the internet, but who knows? I will post the link here then moment it becomes available, of course. In advance, I thank you for telling people how wonderful and insightful you think my piece is! J

And in two weeks, maybe ten days, I will begin writing a regular blog, once a week, at For now, the blog will be called “The Bike in Balance,” but this may change before it goes live. The subject matter will focus on how I want to ride fairly seriously and do some races and such but at the same time I want to find a way live a normal life (not possible for me, really, I know), one where I can do stuff like not obsess about bikes all the time and where I can hang out with noncyclist friends on weekends, and so on. To people who don’t ride bikes, this may not make sense, but to cyclists, the idea of balancing training and doing events and having positive relationships with human beings away from the bike – well, it’s tough to manage. So that’s what I’m going to try – not only to manage riding and living but to write about it, too.

And for at least two more weeks, I’ll be leading early-morning spin classes at the downtown YMCA. That’s 5:30 a.m. We have a great group every morning, and we’d love to see you there. My Thursday night classes – 5:30 p.m. – will run every week till the end of April. I’m leading the 8:00 a.m. Saturday class at the downtown Y this week, too, and the 1 p.m. Sunday class, and it’s snowing like crazy today in Oshkosh, and the temps are about to tank into the zero-Fahrenheit range. So what’s your excuse for not showing up for class again?

Okay then. Keep on writing and riding and being groovy people. I close with a link to some classic Ron Kuzner. The guy was one of a kind. No doubt. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I obsess. I admit it. This week, I’m obsessing over the new Van Halen album, A Different Kind of Truth, which I’ll tell you right now is damn good, amazingly awesomely good, and I know what I’m saying because I downloaded it yesterday and have been playing it essentially nonstop ever since. I am completely blowing the roof off my life with this album. This probably won’t last, but for the moment, wow.

Or whatever.

Just to keep this as objective as possible, allow me to state for the record that I am an expert on blowing the roof off my life with music. [Dog’s note: without music, too.] On purpose, with all my conscious energy, I try to live my life as a serial music-obsessive who gets hold of new music and listens to it nonstop till something else pops up, music new to me or familiar music I suddenly hear with a new mindset, then I start listening nonstop to that, for days and days, till the next thing pops up, and on and on. I never feel bored living this way. That’s why I live this way.

So yeah. I’ve had lots of Van Halen periods over the years and am especially fond of Fair Warning and Van Halen I and Van Halen II and 1984 and the other albums with David Lee Roth because I guess that’s how I roll. I dig the sound. It’s just so, so totally happy. Not one time, ever, have I heard a Van Halen tune recorded with that lineup and not felt happy to the point where I knew the world was truly a good place and that countless wonderful things would forever be possible in it. This happiness happens in me, I believe, because, much in the manner that happy cheese comes from happy cows in California, Van Halen is music created in the spirit of happiness. Listen to Eddie play. Maybe his life away from the guitar isn’t perfect – whose is? – but when he plays guitar, he is most definitely and undeniably a happy camper. You can’t help hearing him and breaking into a smile. So when I hear Eddie ripping it up and playing with such pure joy on A Different Kind of Truth, fuck yeah, I’m happy.

Turns out maybe I shouldn’t be.

Check out this ungenerous observation made by Shawn Hammond in Premier Guitar:

“Other legendary players (Jeff Beck, Brian Setzer, and Sonny Landreth come to mind) continually evolve and blow minds with their willingness to explore new sonic territory without regard for commercial success, but Van Halen seems either too unambitious, too beholden to fans’ nostalgia, or too coldly calculating to put out something other that tunes they know die-hard fans have been listening to on bootlegs such as those from their 1976 gigs at the Goldenwest Ballroom and their pre-deal demos with Gene Simmons.”

Here is Shawn Hammond’s review of Schlitz (currently on come-back tour in Wisconsin).*

There are plenty of reasons not to like this beer. For one thing, it’s Schlitz. For another thing, they’re making Schlitz with the original formula and selling it packaged to look the same way it always has. In other words, it’s the same old Schlitz. Damn. Why couldn’t Schlitz have gone the way of Lowenbrau and evolved into Delirium Tremens Belgian Strong Pale Ale?

*Possibly not authored by Shawn Hammond. J