Monday, December 31, 2007

Good Fortune Flies In

Meet Edgar. Edgar is a Great White Egret and stands approximately 45" high with neck fully extended. His beak is 5" long. He eats primarily frogs and fish. An Egret's lifespan is appox. 23 years. Edgar is supposed to live on the marsh - a protected wildlife refuge - across the street. Not anymore.

I swore I would not pollute my newborn BIKE themed blog with a tale of Ed. Like the blogosphere needs another tale of urban wildlife! But today his antics have pushed him across the line from amusing anecdote to local human interest story worthy of a spot in the local paper.

The birds that call the marsh home do not mingle with the humans. For the most part they ignore us by day and fly high over our heads to nest in the trees on the cliffs by night. They do not come closer when you call to them. Except for Ed.

It started out as a mere oddity...
Ed developed an affection for the vacant lot next door.

Posed in the bare tree.

Perched on the telephone pole.

I would say "Hi" to him nearly every day on my way to the mailbox. People on the street began stopping by the road to take pictures. It was a startling and delightful chance to get up close to such a beautiful wild and winged creature. Then it got surreal.

About a week ago I was walking back from the market about 3 blocks from the house when I heard this chortling, cooing sound. I look up and there is Ed right across the street from me on the marsh side. I said "Hey Ed, sweetie how are you doin'!" Damned if he didn't spread those gigantic white wings of his and loft himself across the street (took about a flap and a half) and plopped down on the sidewalk 8 ft. in front of me and gave me a sweet little chirp. I actually backed up a little. He moved into the neighbor's front yard and we stared at each other a bit and I went to get my camera...

When I came back he was up the street making like a lawn ornament and very intent on something...
Turned out to be a hummingbird who was trying to scold him away from a nest.

I clicked away hoping I'd get lucky and wishing I had a professional camera quick enough to stop the hummingbird.

Here is Ed with cyclist on his side of the habitat, right in front of my house. He stood out there chirping at me for awhile while I took pictures from the window.

Well today Edgar put the cherry on it. My neighbors came running all excited to inform me that Edgar had landed on top of my house.

There he is standing atop the cupola to the roof garden. We think it's a sign of good luck for 2008.
In order to satisfy the bike theme I asked Ed if he was interested in cycling at all. He said he is very impressed with the strong formation behavior of the cycling teams. He likes that the cyclists are less noisy and smoky than cars. His favorite kit is Jelly Bellies because they look like they'd be good to eat. Ed said that if he could not fly he would most definitely ride a bike, because it looks like the next best thing.

Thank you Ed, for gracing us with your magnificent presence.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Psychic Gifts

It's always thrilling when a gift we have secretly wished for magically appears under the tree or on a birthday, bestowed by a thoughtful friend. Even more rare and dear is the gift a friend thought to give you before you were aware you wanted it.

Such is the case with my new "The Cyclist's Training Diary" by Velopress (with an introduction by Joe Friel).

My heart leapt with glee as I peeled back the paper to see cycling helmets in the picture on the back cover. It was a BIKE GIFT! I gasped when I turned it over. A training diary! I didn't recognize the kit but that even looked like my fave, Robbie McEwen on the cover (now know it's Tim Johnson).

You see, what is so remarkable is that the friends who gave it aren't into cycling. I'm usually the only one in our circle who talks about it. You know the feeling, you're rattling on about Disco and Astana vs. Chipotle while eyes glaze over and you think 'oh jeez, shut up already, no one cares but you...' But no, this meant that they had been listening, listening to how important it was to me. Those are real friends.

When I set big goals I normally keep them to myself and prepare quietly until I'm reasonably certain I can make them happen - then I tell everybody. But this fall I decided that I would race in 2008. This goal scared me. I've participated in endurance events where the only challenge was to raise money and finish alive. I've never tried to compete and be fast. This would be a BIG stretch. So as a counter measure I started telling everybody because I knew it would prevent me from backing out.

I was so excited as I began leafing through the crisp pages. Then I started seeing things that confused me. It spoke of setting goals for hours per week, measuring distance in kilometers and logging my maximum heart rate... I always set training goals in miles and distance - 50 miles on the flat on Monday, hills on Tuesday, 60 flat on Wednesday...If my heart was beating and I didn't feel like I was gonna throw up or die, I was doing great!

I closed it sharply, put it down literally on the floor and circled it warily as if it were a porcupine with PMS. I was suddenly struck by how different a world I was about to enter into. Just who in the hell did I think I was? How presumptuous of me! How NAIVE! I took a few deep breaths and picked up the book again, sat down. It says: '500-700 annual hours of training for Masters 35+...' Yeah, OK, not so bad, I've done that in a year before. Another deep breath. I guess this is real.

I started making friends with it and found it has spaces for every possible notation. There are grids in the back if you want to graph your progress and charts to note how you've modified your bike as needed. It doesn't just say 'log your heart rate' it tells you how and what you should be looking for. In fact it's not just a logbook it's full of tips that although not the same as a live coach take a lot of the mystery out of developing a comprehensive training program for yourself. Most importantly it introduced a notion that hadn't occurred to me before: tracking my progress in detail after the ride, as opposed to just making a check mark on a list that, 'Yeah I did my fifty miles and I feel pretty good. Time for a trough of lasagna!'

I have a feeling I'm going to grow to love this little diary. And what's really awesome is that every time I look at it I see my friends who cared so much about me and my goals that they searched for something that would help me achieve them. Now when I ride I roll with an invisible posse of friends who believe in me and are already proud of me just for getting out there. COOL!

For those friends I represent spandex and toeclip cycling. I won't let them down.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


My neighbor's 12-year-old son made me a sandcastle menorah for Christmas. Apparently, there is a way of baking the sand in the oven with baking soda that turns it into clay. He had it all decorated with shells. It sounds funny, I know, but we lit the whole thing and with candlelight glowing on the sand it was really quite beautiful.

I can see the menorah candles burning down as I sit on the patio in a tank top and shorts, spread out on two deck chairs munching on maple bacon and drinking Green Machine. Breakfast part deux. On the patio side the other neighbor's child has obviously received a Billy Joel songbook of sheet music. An accomplished pianist, she is ripping through the highlights of the Turnstiles album, a personal favorite, such as Summer Highland Falls and Miami 2017. The kid is really GOOD!

Moreover it gives me a cozy feeling. These days when I say "I'm going home for the holidays" I mean my uncle's place on Manhattan's Upper West Side. He's a concert pianist. By the time a jet-lagged Southern Californian wakes up in New York it's damn near noon and my uncle has started practicing. He usually warms up with jazz standards and oldies from the fifties before launching into Franz Liszt. Closing my eyes I soak in the warmth of the sun and the melodic sound of live ivory. The clear winter sunlight is glinting off the blue water of the marsh and the dense eucalyptus and pines on Torrey Pines Hill look soft as green velvet.

Ahhh contentment. Peace. Is this not what Christmas Day is about? To be at peace with all and HAPPY with what simple pleasures are provided?

Life is GOOD today and I am LUCKY.

My cousins are playing tennis together in Brooklyn, it seems for now the sun is shining there too. Another friend informed me he had already ridden his bike a hundred miles today - in 4 hours! Stud. I know I should get out there too. It's criminal to waste this gorgeous day while my north-eastern brethren and sistren are shivering and riding trainers in their garages to stay in shape...

But, Dayanu! - 'It is enough' what I have right now.

'Thank you for sending the beautiful blue pigments. I cannot pay you because the Pope has not paid me. I am penniless, therefore I cannot be robbed."

-Michelangelo, from a letter to his brother Buonarroto.

Ok. I'll go for a walk to the beach.

There, Tim. I bloggeth therefore I am (self absorbed. tee hee hee).