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Entries in san diego (6)


Moving Mountains

During various Critical Mass Rides, or the commute to or from them or in other travels, I've now conquered some notorious hills in town on my bikes. Nearly all of them more notable since all I use now is a pair of fixed gear bikes at different ratios. Obviously San Diego is quite varied in its terrain, and hardly anything is flat for long. I won't count the rolling hills one encounters generally going from here to there. But there are some that are notorious for bike riders. Infamous hills that get my heart beating out of my chest include:

  • Soledad Mountain Road on my old 21 speed, now given away and gone. Since my church was on Soledad, I had a few experiences with the short distance to Beryl St., which itself makes a pretty wicked incline for a small section. But one ride took us up to the cross memorial on the mountain. It wasn't even a pleasant ride. I almost would have preferred one of the single speed bikes. That was the bike and the ride with the straight bars that ended my tolerance for straight bars. Now both remaining bikes have bullhorn style which provide a few hand positions.
  • Moraga Avenue into Clairemont. Used the bike that was converted to my lower geared fixie later on. I prefer to use:
  • Avati Drive. Alternative to Moraga that isn't so trafficked. Ascends in various shifts of grade. Used each bike at various times.
  • Regents Road into Clairemont. Not much use to me but once did it on the geared bike when I lived in the neighborhood.
  • Ariane Avenue. The northern most point on Morena Boulevard going into Clairemont. Actually, Ariane goes straight up for a ways, but I took a secret bunch of side streets that peel off that road so that I could go to my old house there. Used the lower geared bike before the fixie conversion.
  • Illion Street, one of the most steep hills in San Diego, at a 24% grade for about a block, and then tapering off. A friend of mine lives at the top of the hill. Sometimes it was easier to ride up Milton Street. Only ridden this on the lower geared of the fixies and even that was with some wild switchbacks.
  • Milton Street, somewhat gentler than Illion, but a bit longer. An acceptable way into Clairemont from Morena Boulevard. Ascends in stages. Ridden with the lower geared fixie.

Various roads into Mission Hills, University Heights, Banker's Hill, and up onto the mesa of the classic neighborhoods:

  • Washington Street. The kindest of the hills going to that area, except for the wicked fast traffic. Generous bike lane.
  • Pringle Street. Steep mofo but with evenly spaced cross streets to do breather laps in if need be. Real narrow though and traffic is kind of reckless. Used each bike at one time or another.
  • California Street. Fairly steep and perfectly straight, but the concrete is old and broken and patched a lot so it's a rough ride.
  • Bandini Street. Near Old Town. Wicked steep section nearly identical to Illion Street. This one took some massive switching back and forth on the higher geared fixie. I have no idea why I used that bike to ride that street. I couldn't even stay clipped into my pedals.
  • Juan Street out of Old Town. Same thing with the concrete, only worse. Ascends in a few stages. Used all three bikes at one time or another.
  • Bachman Street out of Mission Valley. Sort of long and mildly steep but it's not even a general thoroughfare so the traffic is not zooming. Feeds the UCSD medical center parking area. Ridden each bike at one time or another.
  • Laurel Street. One of the most notorious of them all. I just got back from conquering that one on the Torelli, the rougher geared of my fixies. That was exhilarating. I tried that one once, coming from about half way up, starting just below the wicked steep part, and lost it and had to walk. It is the only of these hills that I have resorted to walking! But then once the last half of that wicked block was traversed on foot, then I was back in the saddle. Tonight I just did it block by block, taking breather laps at the cross streets, and hammered the steep section in one shot. Lung buster.
  • The grandpappy of them all for notoriety, Texas Street. Rode this in one shot, no breather breaks or walking or even putting my foot down. Bottom to top in one shot. Was quite proud. Used the low gear fixie.
  • Zoo Place out of the canyon in the shadow of Balboa Hospital near the park. Actually, I did part of the road itself but then we broke off and rode our road bikes up the dirt walkway to the desert garden at Park.

Critical Mass!

critical mass storms fashion valley on bikes on black friday!Critical Mass storms Fashion Valley Mall on Buy Nothing DayLast night I went on the Critical Mass ride, the fourth such ride I've taken part in. Each has been a lot of fun, with the opening part, leaving Balboa Park and maneuvering through Hillcrest or Downtown being an adventure, never knowing for sure where things are going. Last night's ride was an adventure and while some of it was a review of some of the things we've done already in the three previous rides, the one new adventure for me was that finally I was swept up into riding Texas St. out of Mission Valley and into University Heights. Yup, rode up Texas St.! Texas St. was near the end of the 25 mile path the Mass took around town. But I've been working up to it for a while now, riding hills extensively in my various commutes. I fancy it a job well done because with just my fixed gear Globe bike, I was passing all the geared-bike riders who chickened out after exploiting their granny gears for a while and then resorting to walking up the hill, and a few other fixed gear riders who had to do the same because they brought their 52x14 geared race bikes. Oh, they look impressive going DOWN hills that way but a versatile gear it is not. (I'm sort of glad I didn't take the Torelli bike with its steeper gear (46x18), else I would have walked too. Usually that bike is my go-to bike for this type of ride.) I just chugged along at my low 38x16 ratio and then took Texas in one shot! I ROCK!!! It was quite a heavy breather though.

Also, a few weeks ago, I was doing a trackstand at a stop light on the way to work (before 6 am, in the dark, fortunately) and with my shoes still clipped into the still-newish SPD clipless pedals on the Globe bike, I finally fell to the ground from a standstill! D'oh! Fortunately it was not a crowded intersection at that hour and I didn't make too much of a scene. I was told this would happen. I just took five months since I got that type of pedal. I have since relaxed the spring tension as far as it would go so I can get in and out easily! With Critical Mass rides there are enough times when there is a good need to not be clipped in, or to evasively unclip, hence not wanting to ride this bike to such events, lest some stupid topple incident happens in the midst of it all. And I saw several of those last night!

critical mass in the driveway/entry to fashion valley, with a cop. shot from the upper level.CM in Fashion Valley Mall with copsBelow are a few shots of some totally delightfully scandalous moments during the four Critical Mass rides I have taken part in in recent months. These aren't even as outrageous as they come. (The most notorious ride was last summer when the Mass was headed by a few who decided to ride the Coronado Bridge. These are a bit tame by comparison but a lot of fun.)

Halloween Critical Mass at Mission Beach, just before everyone lifts up their bikes with revolutionary fervor. Halloween 2008 is when I heard about the Mass but it wasn't until 2009 that I finally took part. Kelli and our friend Nancy were originally the voices to say 'no, don't ever do that' because they experienced it the wrong way first: in their cars without even knowing what it was, and I think it scared them shitless. Okay, it's 1500 bikes that go for a ride all at once in more or less the same direction for about 30 miles around town. The whole thing fills the streets, and some people do really idiotic things, but many hold firm to the mass and it all chugs along (maybe taking up a mile of roadway at once, I just don't know how long it stretches on for) as if one big vehicle with no driver but for the most fervent riders who get up front and pull it where they want to go.

critical mass bombs the target store in mission valleyCM cuts THROUGH the Target storeFebruary Critical Mass bombs through the Target store in Mission Valley! Yes, we rode through the Target store. The customers were less welcoming than in the rest of the mall. Hmmm. I hope we do Wal Mart someday.

Last November Critical Mass rampaged past the security goons at Mission Valley Mall on the high holy days of the consumer economy: Black Friday! I couldn't resist this shot of a lone goon (on a bike no less) being utterly helpless in the face of all this, just outside their little security office outpost. He'd have more fun if he joined in. Heck, the SDPD rides in the mass too, but more so they can get a feel for the flow of things and radio for patrol car support if needed as the Mass does its winding path through town, often down one way streets and through malls and hotel or airport driveways and such.

The cops have typically functioned as escorts of the Mass but once in a while, the Mass takes them over too! I've been in two Mass rides that have hit Fashion Valley and Mission Valley straight through the heart. Culturejamming and biking are fun when mixed together! I think you have to be there to believe it. Pictures don't do this stuff justice because it all becomes a circus with people yelling and hooting and honking their horns or whatever noisemakers they have. Most of the Mass is still on the upper level with me, not on the ground yet. Others are storming down via the parking garage driveways. I was thinking it might be like the Goths storming Rome.



De-ceiving & Re-leasing

a box of receiving cds has 50 disks. and i had too many of these boxes for my sanity.Fifty to a box, I had about five boxes of Receiving in my closet for yearsFor some years and a few house moves, I have been quite unclear what to do with the five or six boxes of my CD Receiving which was completed back in 2001 after about a two year creative process. I ordered 500 originally and over several years parted with maybe half that many, keeping a pretty close tab on who had them. I kept an Excel spreadsheet file of who I gave them to, sold them to (and for how much), whether they went to industry contacts or coworkers or strangers and so forth. The actual pressing price essentially made each copy a $3 business card, plus the price of mastering which made it about a $4 item. This is to say nothing of the amount of studio gear I bought or of my time, nor of anyone else's who played on it or helped in various ways. For a while I nicknamed them "my $4 business cards." For the past few years, with all the moving house that has taken place, and the almost complete distance I have felt from music-making, they have pretty much taken up a small section of garage space, going unnoticed and generally doing nothing. I've felt for some time I needed to do something. I thought of auctioning them off on Ebay as a block, and if someone can pay themselves back and profit, then okay. Or I thought of cutting them loose on someone who might be more creative to sell them or do something with. But none of that was exciting enough.

I've long since disabused myself of the idea of getting paid back, and I am rather sick of the usual business of making apologies for it being an old piece of music I recorded when I was woefully depressed. So I needed another gimmick that would spare me all that awkwardness and speed the process up so that I could get rid of these things before I turn 40.

leaving my CD on the streets of san diego was a good releaseI just had to be rid of these, so any place was good enough, including the streets of SaThe idea was around some time ago, but I finally did it. Today I finally took a box of 50 with me to work and indiscriminately handed them out to a few coworkers, or kitchen staff I have gotten some rapport with and such, but more unusually I just left copies scattered about town on the streets: window ledges, transformer boxes, entryways, people's car door handles... I have about 200 more to go. It was quite a time leaving them like exposed easter eggs. A few elicited some giggles as I went. Call it performance art. I get the feeling people could like it more by the randomness of it all compared to whatever pathetic sales pitch I would make to guilt someone into receiving a copy.


Beer Summit

I'm not so sure I wasn't invited to the Beer Summit yesterday. I have to be frank; I would have sided with the professor and his charges of overbearing cop authority. For you see, such an instance was sort of my story about this time 12 years ago in my old apartment complex where apparently some dude was flashing his parts before the unsuspecting tenants. Somehow, at the very same time as there were some cops in the neigborhood, I was mistaken briefly for the guy and was questioned for over half an hour by the curb, totally messing up my plans for the evening. Here is a slightly embellished version of the story as presented by Bryan Beller, Mike Keneally's bass player, who was told it by Toss Panos, Mike Keneally's drummer (both of whom I toured with in 1996). Toss, despite being a supporting character in the drama, was sort of an unreliable witness due to his amazing consumption of Greek ouzo liquor that night. They both had it out for me and my foibles, as both treated me like the pesky little brother on tour. So this story was ripe for exaggeration and some condescension. Read it and you might imagine how I'd feel more like Professor Gates than the officer... Here is the 1997 story on BryanBeller.com, quoted here since it is taken from a really long blog of Bryan's.

And that brings us to the story I know you've all been waiting for... the tale of Toss Panos and Ed Lucas out on the town in San Diego. Boy, is this a good one.

Apparently Toss had plans to visit his family down in San Diego for a weekend in early June. It was the Friday of this particular weekend, and Toss was just about to head out the door when the phone rang. It was our old friend Ed, a San Diego resident. Ed wanted to know when Mr. Panos would next be down San Diego way, and Toss gave him the standard "funny you should ask" response. It's not like Toss and Ed hang out every day (an arrangement that doesn't seem to bother Toss that much—I can't speak for Ed), but Toss was in a rush and basically said "what the fuck" and gave Ed directions to a place that he'd be hanging out with a couple of family members as well as Peter Schlacher, the European tour promoter for Waternoise (Toss' jazz project). Toss figured that Ed wouldn't show. He figured wrong.

By the time Ed showed up, Toss and friends/family had already consumed mass quantities of Ouzo, a particularly devastating brand of Greek liquor. Ed doesn't drink, and so he was apparently happy enough simply to be in the company of some very inebriated Greeks, plus one inebriated German (Peter Schlacher's nationality). Party on, dudes.

Toss, Ed and Peter then split from the family Panos and headed over to the Catamaran to take in a performance by The Steely Damned, a local band that covers the music of you-know-who (and a damned good job they do of it). One hour and many more drinks for Peter and Toss later, it became obvious that Ed was the only one in any condition to drive. And if you remember The Alternate Reality (and Ed's driving habits), then you're well aware that saying "Ed was the safest driver available" is saying something indeed. [This telling flatters Toss, who was driving his own car separate from me.]

After leaving the Catamaran, the next agreed upon destination was a strip club. This brought our drunken heroes to a somewhat seedy part of town [my place in Clairemont, later to be found out as a place where one of the 9/11 terrorists did his flight training while just two miles from Montgomery Field]. Ed suddenly turned right into a dark street and declared, "Hey you guys, I'm gonna go change my shirt." Ed then ran out of the car and up into his (apparent) dwelling, leaving the car parked awkwardly in the middle of the street [my car was in my driveway, a tad sloppy, but not in the street]. Toss, realizing that the car was in a bad spot [his car, out in the middle of the street], was forced to jump into the driver's seat and get the car turned around and parked properly. As Toss performed some kind of illegal maneuver to get the car pointed in the right direction, a cop car came up from behind them, lights flashing and sirens wailing [yes lights but no sirens]. Toss stopped. The cop got out of the car and asked, "What are you guys doing here?" It was a D.U.I. waiting to happen. But wait—it gets better.

Toss tried to explain to the nice officer (without breathing in his general direction) that they were merely waiting for a friend who went upstairs to "go change his shirt". The cop, understandably, was skeptical. He asked what their "friend" looked like. Peter replied, "Well, he's kind of big, with glasses and a military haircut. "Really?" the cop answered curiously. All of a sudden, down came Ed with his fresh shirt on. "What's going on?" he asked. The cop scowled. "Come here," he said to Ed. The next thing Ed knew, he was in handcuffs and in the back of the cop car [not really but I was held near the car across the street from my place, and questioned at length]. Two other cop cars arrived in a matter of minutes. Toss and Peter were held there for more than 30 minutes before the cops finally explained why Ed was being detained.

It seems that in that section of San Diego, there had been reports of a man matching Ed's description who was running around flashing little kids and masturbating in front of them for their viewing pleasure [one woman seemed to have complained of some dude exposing himself, and I think I know who these two were]. Toss and Peter meekly tried to explain that, although Ed was not the brightest bulb in the light store, he certainly wasn't capable of such a heinous act. The cops held them anyway.

Finally, one hour after Ed went to go change his shirt, the cops let Peter and Toss go about their business. When the two of them left, Ed was still in the back of the cop car in handcuffs [not cuffed, but those bastards did get to leave. It spoiled my evening]. Was it possible that Ed could have been The San Diego Stroker? Personally I doubt it, but you never know. None of us have heard from him since.

It's always a family affair in The Life Of Bryan, isn't it? As I said earlier, it's been a bit boring 'round these parts, so I figured I could do worse than tell you that little story.


Going to Church

Here is how I got to and from church today. The church is about 15 miles away in La Mesa and I didn't want to drive, since that is all I do all week anyway. I was trying to improve upon a similar trip back in January, but planned to use my bike and trolley. The universe had other plans for me.

  1. At about 8:30 I went for my bike in the garage and pumped up the tires. One of the valve stems broke clean off, so that sort of put the kibbosh on the ridable portion of my journey to the trolley station and then from the station to the church.
  2. Then I saw that I would have time to catch the bus that is about a block from my house, and recalled that on this same trip several months ago, the bus would leave about 8:40. I hustled on down the street but waited just a few minutes for a bus that seemed to have come and gone already.
  3. The bus stop was at a gas station so I asked some middle aged fellow if he could give me a lift to the Morena trolley station, and he did. That was his good deed for the day. I guess he saw no fault with helping a guy get to church, while I was carrying a well-thumbed 45 year old copy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Ethics. (The thumbing was from the previous owner, Lee Van Ham.)
  4. The trolley arrived shortly after this Steve fellow dropped me off. A few minutes more delay would have thrown this trip off, or pressed me to drive my truck. I was about to get on the trolley when I decided to get a bit resourceful at the end of the journey so I called Curtis, the pastor emeritus of the church and with whom I have played in a fellowship band. He agreed to pick me up at the station, though I wasn't certain how to describe the best meeting place. I sort of regretted waiting and not calling him back, particularly since he is rather older (70 something) and I didn't have a cell number of his and I didn't even remember what he was driving anyway!
  5. The ride was maybe a half hour or so, and I got a few pages of reading done.
  6. I walked to the intersection where we talked about and waited. Finally I saw Curtis and his wife but they turned and went to one end of the trolley complex and emerged a short while later after realizing that wasn't going to help. Then they drove down right past me, even stopping at the light in front of me, but with a car blocking our line of sight, they went with the green light all the way to the other end of the trolley complex, and then I started wondering if maybe they'd give up and drive to church, up the hill, about 3/4 mile away. It was now about 9:45. Fortunately, I decided to huff it on down the road—a rather long block—and was almost in front of them before they saw me, but I guess they knew to wait there. I was out of breath when I got in but told them the story thus far—already I was joking that it "took a village" to pull this one off.
  7. The service was great, and the theme was some of the best parables—the yeast, the pearl, the mustard seed. The people were great and even after several months of not attending that church, I was greeted as if it was only a week ago we had last seen each other. (My approach to churchgoing is quite in-the-moment now and the gas prices have influenced me of late, though really it depends more on how Sunday fits into my weekly work schedule and the energy left after all that effort.) Oftentimes, I do lunch with a group of folks who have been nice enough to include me in their crew, so today was no exception, and the ride to the restaurant and subsequently to the trolley station was forthcoming for the asking. They are a chatty bunch and know each other from a church they had to close up, and stuck together even as they migrated to this new church. There are many other friends they talk about—people whom I don't know—but everyone has a good time trading notes on how life is, and it adds a nice community dimension to my experience at the church. But the lunches go a bit long, particularly on a couple occasions when I was beholden to them for a ride. After lunch, one of the folks pulled out a big tray of brownies and we munched on that in the parking lot.
  8. I got to the trolley. It was not very far from the restaurant, but on a hot and humid day like today, it was far enough, and the ride was welcome. At about 2:40 I was on my way. I called Kelli and asked for a ride back home from the station, but by the end, decided I'd walk and maybe surprise Kelli.
  9. So I walked, and without even thinking of the huge brownie I had already, I stopped in at the donut shop and got a couple fat and sugar pills and munched on the way back. Ultimately, all this took long enough that Kelli called and begged to know where I was, and I told her I was just a few blocks away. So much for the surprise. It was hot out and I sort of wish I had just taken the ride home but was pleased with my seat-of-the-pants trip to church today, and thought better of it, and kept walking.

Finally I got home, took a shower and with the sugar crash on its way, I took a nice three hour nap on my newer couch, with the fan blowing across me. It was good. Then I was able to reflect on my meandering course to church and back. Sure, I could have driven, but today I got some exercise, met a stranger, used public transportation, carpooled with some friends, had some lunch, and got more exercise (while sabotaging it with donuts, d'oh!) and all in all had a good day. All this adventure was had for $5 in transportation which is slightly less than what it would take to drive my truck, and also for the cost of lunch and poison pills.


If I Had A Million Dollars

I could almost afford to live in my hometown. But then, sometimes I wonder why I would want to.

There are enough people I know who maybe are from out of town who are surprised that I am not Mister San Diego, even though I was born here. True, I don't go to the beach (this one really confounds people), and I don't like the Padres or Chargers (usually the losingest teams, but I am so far from caring), and I don't even like being in the sun (my studio tan is just fine, thank you). Really, people somehow are way surprised to find I do not live as they almost expect I would. Sometimes San Diego rubs the wrong way. I mean, the place is politically corrupt. The entire place, once a few miles from downtown, is a huge sprawlfest of freeways, boulevards, suburbs, and a million gas stations, strip malls and so forth. America's Finest City, my ass. Granted, we do have some nice things to behold; I like to go to Coronado (a surprisingly quaint place compared to us, and only across the harbor), and I like to soak up the vibe in parts of La Jolla, Mission Bay, Point Loma, and a few other places. But it's a drag to get around in, despite roads going everywhere. I don't know. The place was a desert, and would like to return to a desert, and will once the water stops flowing. There are way too many tourists. I don't say that from having empirical data; it's more of a conclusion reached when realizing there is a lot of entertainment and attractions that are slanted in favor of tourism.

First off, there is next to no actual music scene. We have a lot of musicians—maybe too many—but there is really not a San Diego sound. The only musicians I know who make enough money to live on are playing conventions, dinners, corporate meetings, and benefits, etc. The musicians a step lower than that first class are the ones that play to these same conventioneers in the Gaslamp, playing the well-worn blues, classic rock, soul, disco/funk, island, latin, and pop stuff that has been the staple of dance and bar bands for 25 years or more. Yay. I know there are towns that have thriving original music scenes. San Diego is not one of them. Minneapolis is cold and dark. They have a scene. San Francisco is small and dense. They have a scene. Chicago is another cold place that has a proud musical scene, or many. SD just has a bunch of musicians. Some are great. Mike Keneally of course is one of the finest musical exports from this town in a long time, but no one knows him, and most of his "fame" is from his time in Los Angeles and other places. I know of a dude named Mike Watson who I believe is a more unique guitarist than Keneally, but he will die penniless. No one happens to be too interested in acoustic fretless guitar playing and his self-created ebow-on-fretless portamento chordal style. Watson really is the most unique but generally accessible local musician I know of. I mean, he is good enough to count somewhere, sometime, but alas, he cleans office buildings and lays bricks for a living. In San Fran or New York, he would be sucked into so many gigs, but here, he can't find a band worth a shit to back him up.

And maybe the tourists don't have much to do with this, but the idiots who move 35 miles out of town do. The freeways are hell. And the idiots in charge are too stupid to know or too beholden to developers to admit that the answer is NOT more freeways and suburbs. Fucking idiots. Really. There is a stretch of the I-15 from Miramar to Carmel Mountain or upper Rancho Bernardo where they are trying to add a lane in each direction, cutting the shoulder lanes really thin, wacking away more land, and generally turning wine into water. You see, a decade ago or more, they did this thing with a two lane road in the median that alternated directions by time of day. That idea has already aged out, and even those two lanes for carpooling are crammed a good part of the time. So now that that idea has expired its usefulness, it's time to employ even more idiocy and short sightedness. The problem is not how much road we have. It is how many cars are on that road. No one wants to reduce the cars, or reduce the need for cars, so every few years, it's time for another several million on some concrete and asphalt. It is a temporary solution to an increasingly permanent problem. I believe cars adhere to a rule of physics generally reserved for gaseous states of elements. Gas will expand to fill the space it is allowed. Same goes for cars. Show me one place that has massive road systems that didn't clog up at the same rate with ever more cars made and sold. The whole issue is self-perpetuating; more roads to more suburbs mandate the need for more cars, which makes idiot/fool politicians decide to make more roads, which are the new frontiers of more development. It might help to realize that railroad track costs less to lay and maintain than the same amount of linear mileage of freeway. But no one cares about that. Traveling on mass transit is below the dignity of a lot of people, and is un-American when we have this mindset that car ownership is a right.