October 31, 2005
Writing about Life
Words about life tend to be like photo snapshots of life. I like writing. But sometimes I feel that words written down on a page are not real. They especially don't feel alive anymore once put out there to read. I think it's because words, just like a snapshot can never show the entire picture. There is so much to life that to begin to describe it is to fail to describe the rest of it.
When I have an experience and write about it, there are hundreds more experiences I am not writing about.
This is one reason why it's so important to not judge other people based on one impression, or even two impressions, or three. This is why it's important to get to know people before coming to any conclusions. We often discover that the 'other person' really is just another human being trying to figure out life, just like we are.
When I sit down and write about a situation, it is also just one situation out of many that might be going on in my life or someone else's. It's not a complete picture. I can pick out one bad event each day for two weeks and complain about them in my blog entries and it would seem like I've had a horrible two weeks but still go home each day and watch movies, work in the garden, play with my dog, eat great meals with my family, read a good book, write and have all kinds of wonderful experiences. A snapshot is not nearly lifelike, though it may be a good picture of a moment in time.
Today I was looking through old blog entries I've written, trying to pick out a few good ones to rework into my next issue of the "Attitudes" Zine. I'm looking for things that might be interesting to read that convey a sense of purpose in life, of love and hope. Then I realized that many of the things that I've written about seem empty and hollow when I am so distant from the experience that prompted the writing. I believe it's because once I put the words down, they are no longer alive. This is kind of the meaning of the 'Living Word of God.' God's words are life and love and hope in practice. We put the words to paper and it's a snapshot of the real thing. Our love for each other cannot be in word only. It has to be in action. This is the living word that is not hollow and empty. Because it's life, not just writing about a part of life.
I don't have anything magical or insightful or full of wisdom to teach anyone that they don't already know about life. For one thing I cannot live life for another person and their experiences are not going to be the same as mine. But I can tell you that your experiences are as real as mine. I love life and love other people. That's who I am. To me that is very hopeful. I like this part of my life.
When I went to the movie the other night with Tom, that was equally interesting to me as the movie itself. I didn't write too much about my experience with Tom mainly because I have limited time and can't write about everything that happens in a day. But to me it was equally important part of my day and maybe more meaningful than the movie. For instance when we saw the part of the movie where the kids were being abandonded and abused, Tom started growling. No kidding. I asked him what was wrong. He was just reacting to the movie in that way and was feeling the impact of what was going on. It was deeply effecting him. He was reacting in a very primal way. At other times he was lost by the movie, and it meant nothing to him. Tom lives in a tent and only has a few posessions. He gets around by bicycle or bus. He doesn't even have a driver's licence. Tom may have a rough exterior but I know his heart is in the right place when it comes to abuse. His heart growls in displeasure and it escapes through his lips. My words about the movie almost meant nothing compared to Tom's reaction at that moment. Living life and experiences it is much more real and vivid than any words can be. It's like that with the living word also. We can say whatever we want and even mean it, but living the words is so much more real and vivid. Alive.
Right now a few of my friends are feeling a little down. I even get that way sometimes and it seems that nothing is helpful, especially someone else telling us it'll be ok. Sometimes just being a friend and listening is all we can do. I found this little bit of 'Old Irish words of encouragement' that David posted on another blog. We are never as alone as we feel sometimes:
May you see God's light on the path ahead
When the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear,
Even in your hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness
Never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember
when the shadows fall—
You do not walk alone
To all my internet friends who are feeling kind of down right now...
Virtual Hug >:-)< Real Love.
October 30, 2005
Site Meter Added
To any readers of this blog, I finally changed my mind and decided to add a site meter to this blog. Thanks to Jim's link and the ease of setting this up, anyone can now see the traffic statistics on this blog's home page. Maybe it does all pages, even archives? I'm not sure about that, but we'll see. I know I visit my own blog to check for comments and I can do searches and see if it tracks hits on other pages in the archives.
Mainly I was curious after Jim posted a map showing the locations of hits from around the world on his blog. This seems like a good curiosity feature and I thought I'd try it for a while. Evidently all the readers can also see this information the way I have it set up now.
Well, I've been blogging for a year and half now? Wow! But up until now I haven't felt the need to know who or how many people have been visiting my blog. But that map was kind of cool, so now I have a Site Meter. I'll let you know what I think about it sometime in a future blog entry.
Victims of Prom
Here is another interesting article from the "Indian Spirit," Friday May 16, 1980, Volume 14, number 7, a High-School Student Newspaper. I think this article by Stacie Schimke could just as well be speaking about all kinds of consumerism today, 25 years later:
" Tonight is the Prom, Sally Jean just can't wait!
Billy Bob asked Sally Jean to go with him three weeks ago, and Sally Jean has saved up enough money to buy her dress, get her hair "fixed up" and buy Billy Bob a boutonniere.
Billy Bob, on the other hand, HAD a bank account, but he paid $18 for the Prom tickets, $45 for renting a tuxedo, $40 (estimated) for dinner, two dollars for a flower for Sally Jean, and $30 for possible hotel arrangements. (Billy Bob isn't certain about the hotel arrangements. I guess his parents weren't too happy about them!)
In total, Billy Bob will be spending $125 in one night, not counting the picnic the next day, which will push the total to $140.
Billy Bob and Sally Jean are the "Prom Victims," and all you other "Prom Victims," should make the most of tonight, because all the "Prom rejects" will be out having fun!"
Lost and Found
Haha, I don't really know what category this belongs under, as if we can really classify and lump our life experiences into one category anyway. As I was cleaning out some old boxes of junk from ages ago, I found some pieces of history. My history from early teens through the birth of my first child was contained in pieces of paper, folders and envelopes all in a big cardboard box. When I discovered this box I was mezmorized. There were old photos, report cards from high school, get well cards, an old scrap-book filled with cards, pictures and handwritten notes about my life, and there were many other treasure objects so long forgotten. Now it's 1:40AM and I'm writing this before I collapse. It's late but I lost all track of time digging through this box! Here are two things I will share with you:
1. I found my Linoleum Block Print that I made in 1976, which I wanted to use as the front cover of my next Zine issue but couldn't find before. I was thrilled to find it. For some reason I felt like I should use this picture and knew that I had it somewhere. I stopped searching for it a few weeks ago, but here it is! Now I proceed with the project.
2. A High-school Newspaper written I believe in 1980 had an article about the gas prices. This one you have to read! It sounds like it could have been written today but these thoughts by a high-school student were penned 25 years ago!
For your reading pleasure I present you with "Cottage Grove gas Shortage" by J. O'Boyle
"In the last six months, we were led to believe by the big oil companies that there was a very serious gas shortage and that if we didn't change our driving habits and lower our rate of gas consumption we would face the possibility of a severe gas shortage.
By June, proof in the form of gas lines, rationing, gas at over $1 a gallon, stations shutting down their pumps earlier and earlier, killings in New York and California over positions in gas lines, convinced the public that there was indeed a shortage, and people tried to conserve whenever they could. By August and September, the gas situation "mellowed" out somewhat and gas was plentiful again, prompting people to return to their old driving habits.
After the increase to over a $1 a gallon, people said the "Hades" with the gas shortage, they called it an excuse for the oil companies to jack up the prices and increase their profits. Now, due to the Iranian situation, we face the same situation again, only this time it could be for real.
The gas shortage may be an illusion created by the oil companies, but it is here to stay, and there isn't much that anybody can do about it, except to live with it and try to conserve as much as possible."
Ok, now I'm delerious and going to bed. Enough archeology for one night. Those fossil fuels are not quite enough to keep me going all night! Sweet dreams. ;-)
October 29, 2005
Let our overabundance help others
Sometimes we find ourselves in the position of having more than we need. We have a choice to build an empire of more and more and to try to control our overabundance, or among other choices we can use our good fortune to benefit and enable others. Sometimes we are so busy building our empires that we choose to not help or ignore others and often miss great opportunities. We often miss great opportunities to collaborate, nuture and help someone else develop or create something outside of our empire.
October 28, 2005
Too Much Rain
Today I had the pleasantry of my wife buying Paul McCartney's new CD "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard."
"Laugh when your eyes are burning,
Smile when your heart is filled with pain,
Sigh as you brush away your sorrow,
Make a vow
that it's not going to happen again.
It's not right, in one life
Too much Rain...
There is hope and something comforting in this song. He sings, "Who wants, a happy and peaceful life, You've got to learn to laugh."
No more Rain.
Today was a day of ups and downs for me. I feel good right now, but I had some very sad moments today. I also had some very bright moments. It's a strange feeling to recognize this happening. The bad was ugly and the good was sun-bright. Now I'm off to watch a movie with my wife. :-)
Too much Rain,
No more rain.
Laugh when your eyes are burning, learn to laugh.
Today is beautiful and so are the songs on this CD. Thanks Paul.
October 26, 2005
Talking to God
Tonight I sat there listening to someone tell me that if someone tells him that God told them to do something he runs far away from them. I didn't tell him that God told me to sit there chatting with him and another friend until 2:10am. It seemed like a good idea to listen to God when he told me to do it. Now I'm tired. But I'm glad I did. I learned a lot and got to know my friends better than I ever would have had I not stuck around. I also shared my friendship with them. It was worth it. How can we claim to know God if we can never converse with God? Can we believe that God exists without believing that God can and does talk to us?
October 25, 2005
My Ride in this morning
Though my day at work was not a very good one, my ride in this morning was worth it. Here it is in photos. (I just happened to have my digital camera with me and was rewarded with the beautiful fog over Downtown St. Paul which dissappeared before I made it to work. In one photo you cannot see the building with the "1st" on top, but in a subsequent photo it's visible. The fog was going fast after that. I was in the right place at the right time I guess. Very cool. Also not 'Dumpster Bike' still being used after I replaced the back wheel with another throwaway wheel because the axel bent and I broke a few teeth off one of the cogs in the back. It happened while torquing up a hill.
No more words are necessary:
October 24, 2005
I find it sad how one candidate can send out literature with the opponents name all over it accusing that person of doing or not doing something, yet provide any information about what they will or will not be doing themselves. St. Paul's mayoral election is November 8th. One of the candidates has a poor tactic that just backfired on me and they lost my vote. Tell me what you stand for, let me make my choice. I don't want to hear you slamming the opponent. I want to hear how you are going to make this a better city and why you think your plans will work. Sell me on you, and stop trying to slam the opponent to make yourself look better.
As voters we have to learn how to look through this crap the politicians and their committees try to pull and vote for the candidate that really does have the best plan and the best answers to the challenges we are facing in our society.
October 23, 2005
Two days of downtime
I didn't show up at the bike shop on Saturday but instead took care of work at home. Dave called me tonight to make sure I was ok. Haha. I think he was worried about me after Friday night going to the movie. I usually show up on Saturdays but he didn't see me or Tom, who went with me to the movie, and thought that something might have happened. What really happened was that Tom and I rode our bikes back from Minneapolis to St. Paul, then went to Villa Roma's Italian Restuarant for a late all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner. By the time we finished gorging ourselves it was really late. I got home after 1am and then was up another couple of hours chatting with friends online. 3am rolled around and I crashed hard. It's tough to get up in the morning. Then Saturday I just relaxed, refreshed my memory on how to make Turkish Coffee on the stove, read a little, replied to some emails and then mowed the lawn and raked up some leaves. After spending four days at the bike shop, I needed some time for myself and for my home. So Yesterday and today I did just that. Down time. Down time is really up time. Yes there were times this weekend where I felt like I should be doing something else. But I didn't. I was going to do a bike race today also. But I didn't. Instead I went to the coffee shop, hung out, read the paper, came home, cleaned, worked on organizing my library and putting more books on the shelves and making more Turkish coffee on the stove. I still don't have the technique right. But I'm getting closer. I had some good family time this weekend and time to chat with old and dear friends from around the world online. It fealt really good.
Tonight talking to Dave tonight I felt really good about this upcoming year at the bike shop. I think there is so much potential for what we are doing. We are working with societies most fragile citizens and encouraging and enabling year-round bicycle commuting. We are cleaning up the environment, providing transportation alternatives, offering services that no-one else is willing to handle and donating a lot of bikes out after fixing them! It's a good thing. I know in my heart this is the right thing for me to be doing at this time. So, I do it. And it's good.
But this weekend I took some time off and shut it off. I did ride my bike to the store for bread and milk today, and to the Chinese restuarant for dinner tonight, but that is as close to bikes as I got. I've been having fun cleaning and organizing my own mess in my library and helping my wife and daughter. There is a time and a place for everything. And I know the time and place for the bike shop is going to be four out of five evenings this week. Next year it may be different, but right now it's necessary. There is a season, turn, turn, turn...
I have thoroughly enjoyed this time off. If I did not do it, I would not have had the chance to talk to my good friend Cecilia from Argentina and get the words of wisdom or encouragement to move forward with energy and focus. There is a certain magnifying energy passed between people. Do you know this energy? It's called inspiration. It's a trigger that releases the best in someone else. God's energy. God's love. During downtime we are able to hear, see and feel it and are revitalized. Tomorrow night I will get all of the tires put away in the shop! That will clear significant floor space. Tuesday night I will be teaching and helping a group of students with their bikes. Wednesday night I'll be directing and working with volunteers to finish up some old projects and Thursday night is a basic bicycle maintenance class and Friday night I want to try the Minneapolis Critical Mass ride, then Saturday my Bikes as a Second Language (BSL) class. I can imagine I'll be taking some down time on Sunday. Wow, a busy week for being a slow season for bikes! Can you imagine? But I know it will also be a beautiful week with a lot of good things happening and I'm ready for them. Mainly because I'm well rested and have had time for myself. now let's roll on...
October 22, 2005
I'm just doing my job.
Last night after work I went to the bike shop just to hang out, maybe do some cleaning and there were a few people there working on bikes and talking. I didn’t get any cleaning done but I did have fun chatting. I had two free tickets to the screening of the movie “Darwin’s Nightmare” at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis and asked if any of them wanted to go with me. Tom said he wanted to go. I knew this would be an interesting and fun night. Tom and I first rode our bikes to SA so I could get some cash. Then we went to Blink Bonnies for dinner. That was good. I bought dinner for Tom and we sat there talking while eating. Then he bought a cookie so he could get change for the bus.
After eating we loaded our bikes onto the 94 Express bus and rode it from downtown St. Paul to Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, then rode our bikes down Hennepin to the Walker. What’s with the bike lane just ending, leaving us in the middle of the road with a bus on our right side, a car on the left and a car tailgaiting? City planners should ride their bikes sometime and see what that feels like. Then riding the bike the rest of the way to the Walker felt like riding on a freeway. Anyway, we made it safely and locked our bikes up. We were almost an hour early for the show but it was better than being late. We picked up our free tickets and the nice man also gave us passes to visit the museum. That was good. Tom and I had a good laugh though at one of their main installations, by Yong Ping, a Chinese man living in France. Well, some of it was very thoughtful but we were laughing about a few of the paintings which Tom referred to as “Finger Paintings.” they were abstract paintings that looked like paint smeared onto large canvases. I told Tom that my next painting was going to be a finger painting in honor of our visiting the Walker. Haha, now I need the canvas and the theme. It’ll be fun. Anyway, some of the other artwork was very interesting and makes me wonder. For instance, a book on the history of Chinese Art that had been run through the washing machine and the wet paper placed in a pile like a dung-heap over a piece of broken glass on top of an empty wooden box. What is he trying to say? To me I can only imagine, because of my upbringing and the whole ‘cold-war’ anti-communist struggle, that Chinese documentation about art was full of rhetoric and spin when art is about life and making statements about living life. This particular piece, like some of the others there, was visually raw, evoking in me kind of a disgusted feeling. Another one was the large display with the long animal cages, raw bones, mostly eaten laying on the floors, representing one of the two options at the customs gates in airports. The signs above the cage-like hallways and the free passages read “Others” and “Nationals” I definately felt the feeling of being singled out as being an outsider, untrusted and alien, subjected to being eaten alive, down to the bones. When you are given no other choice but to go through the animal cage corridor, there has to be fear of what will happen to you.
We looked around the museum some more, then it was time to see the movie, Darwin’s Nightmare. I’m not going to talk much about this movie, but there was one statement in particular I’d like to share. One of the Russian pilots who flew guns in and fish out knew very well what his cargo was, but when confronted with a direct question about his cargo he turned away from the camera and said, “I’m just a radio technician. It’s not my job to know what’s in the cargo.” It struck me that this is the same kind of attitude that many of the people in Germany took leading up to World War II. To the Russian Pilot it was just business and he knew to keep his nose out of where it did not belong or risk losing his income. He knew he was hauling grapes for Christmas from one location in Africa for instance to the children in Europe and hauling guns back to the children in Africa. Nice Christmas present huh? In a recognition of this problem, the pilot felt guilty, but helpless to change it. It’s part of the system he knows and is working within to make a living.
“Right Living” really means, “it is my business, my responsibility to stop contributing to the horrors of the world and find a way to contribute something helpful, beneficial to mankind. ‘Just doing my job’ doesn’t alleviate guilt or the suffering inflicted on others. The time to make art is in every day life. That’s where statements of awareness are needed. Oh man that’s hard sometimes! It takes a certain amount of self-assuredness and lack of fear. When we think, “How will I survive?” it’s a scary thought and we think we are alone. But at the other end of the custom’s gate, there is a ‘other’ feeling helpless and alone at the monolithic collective power forcing them through the tiger’s cage. How can I survive against an attitude of “it’s not my business to know my cargo, I just do my job?”
October 21, 2005
Today as I was walking back to work after lunch I spotted some bright-colored paper that had some writing on it. I walked a little closer and saw that it was a small, bright-pink colored notepad with a couple of pieces of purple notes sticking out of the middle pages. There was some blue ink-pen writing on those two pieces of paper. After examining them I discovered that the two pieces of paper were ‘flashcards’ for some business-oriented student. There was a word or phrase on one side and the definition on the other.
Card one had the phrase “Substitution Effect,” which is “Change in Quantities demanded of a good that results because buyers switch to substitutes when price increases. I.e. Pizza to Cheeseburger.
The second card defined “Substitutes.” “Two goods are substitutes in consumption if increase in price causes right shift in demand curve.”
As I was walking back to work from lunch I was thinking of my own substitutions in life. These little notes just reminded me and drove home some thoughts that had been swirling around in the breeze flowing through my brain lately. When I set sail on the bike ship it was a runaway ship with the crew and captain doing their own things, sometimes together, sometimes contradicting each other. I found it somewhere between the rock and the hard place, stuck on the shoals but still afloat. At first I thought it was a cool ship, but then saw that it was full of pirates, steeling the heart and soul of it all, thinking they were touring the world while stuck in their dilusions. I decided to board to see if I could at least get it off the rocks and set it free. It was going to sink and still may. But I thought it was still worth boarding. After all, I can swim and teach others how to swim. That’s another story though. One thing I did not come on board to do is start a mutiny. A mutiny at this point would be stupid because there is hardly a crew on board that can handle powering and steering the ship. What is needed is not a mutiny, but a substitution. I’m not here to fight against the leadership and destroy the only crew available, but to bring myself and others aboard, who can create a seaworthy ship out of a pile of canibalized bones. There is going to change, but the change is not brought about by resistance and fighting but by substituting despair, anger and burnout with hope. That which we resist, persists. I don’t want to fight anything or anyone. Nobody has to be fed to the sharks to make the ship float. It’s not sinking under the weight of the crew. It’s sinking because of the lack of crew. The ship still waives a beautiful flag from it’s rocky position and the crew is fed a steady diet of fish, but eventually the water would fill more than the bottom of the hull, substituting the light air for the heavier water, bringing it down. It’s stuck and I’m going to help the others rebuild it and sail it free, breathing life into the sails again. No pirate flags, no looting, no bragging rights, just a beautiful, clean-sailing bikeship, sailed cooperatively and willingly all over the world.
The way to do this, is not to tear down and destroy. That which we resist, persists. The way to do this is to create something wonderful to take the place of void. Put wood where there is an open gash. This creates a substitution effect. Filling the spirit of the ship with goodwill and good works makes no room for depression and that old sinking ship feeling. Instead of scrambling for lifeboats, the crew is mending sails, cooking up a storm in the galley, and feeling good about the destination. There is a substitution going on and I’m not worried about losing the things that were not working. I’m only concerned with building something that will sail and be able to sustain itself in the rough waters. You won’t see me in the captains quarters, you’ll see me in the bowels of the ship building something cool. Can it work? Well, time will tell. I’m hopeful. I see the vision and hope. It’s not beyond repair. Seriously. It still has a lot to offer the community and a lot of good works it could be doing. Sure it may be too late, and I can’t do it by myself, but it’s also worth trying to save. Just the process of creating a seaworthy ship is fun and worthwhile. Even if I have to swim to shore and build another ship, I’ve been inspired by this ship’s design and world-class ideals. I will never be the same again. Every ship I touch in the future will be effected by the people and the experiences here.
In life we don’t have to fight evil we have to create good. We have to create good in order to create more good. I’ve been learning about Cooperatives lately and think this is a good example of substitution. Workers creating a new way of doing business, by sharing ownership and risk is a beautiful, successful thing, displacing the greed of a rank-based, owner-takes-all business model. All the workers benefit from their own hard work. Instead of fighting corporate greed, they created a better ship to sail on.
Jesus talks about filling our hearts with love and there will be no room for evil to grow. Many people don’t follow this advice. I’m even guilty of not following this. But more and more I’m believing this by experience. The more I love others the less room I have for hating others. The substitution effect is really about making better choices. Making choices that create instead of destroy. Making choices that lift up instead of tear down. This is very hopeful and encouraging.
Last night at the bike shop I had three very enthusiastic learners who could hardly speak a word of english. They were excited to return next week. Bikes as a Second Language (BSL) is going to be a worthwhile creation. They loved the idea of helping to fix bikes for others. At the same time, they get a language tutor to help them live in this country. I sent them home with three tire-irons, a patch kit and language study material. They are going to fix tires at home, study hard and come back next week to fix two flat tires each. That is more than six tires that were flat but will now work. Do you see the beauty in this? Next week's instruction will be the braking system. Are any of you good english tutors? Want to work with some Hmong refugees with practically no english skills? This is a cool opportunity on a small scale with a large-scale effect. Let me know. There's plenty of room aboard.
October 20, 2005
Bikes as a Second Language (BSL)
Sometimes inspiration comes to us in a chain of events or encounters. On the Bike ship, we were sailing along doing things as usual. I have a good friend who owns a Duplex in St. Paul that he was rennovating. He lives in the upstairs and now rents out the downstairs. When he was looking for tenants to occupy his duplex the Hmong refugees were just arriving from Thailand to this country. Someone talked him into renting to these new immigrants. As a community service I fixed up and donated six bikes to the children of this family a week after they arrived. This was great but then the other refugees wanted bikes. My friend put together a list of ten more people who wanted bikes, but we didn't have the supply of used bikes to give to them at the time. I've been collecting the shorter bikes for them in the shop.
Then I met my hero Dot the teacher, who teaches English for Hmong immigrants. She had been buying bikes at garage sales and giving them to her 'English as a Second Language, or ESL' students. (They call it something else now, but I forget what.) But most of those bikes were in need of repair. One day Dot showed up at our shop with two bikes, asking if we'd fix one if she donated the other to us. I said ok and she was ecstatic. So now she gave me a list of bikes she needs for students and she's bringing me tall bikes in exchange for shorter bikes. haha. It's a cool community relationship.
But then I was talking with my friend about some of the other people and the bikes they wanted and how it would be great if they not only got bikes but learned how to fix them. I've been working on curriculum for our earn-a-bike program from material I downloaded from 'Bikes-Not-Bombs' and thought this would be a great opportunity to practice teaching it. So tonight is the grand opening of our new "Bikes as a Second Language Program (BSL)" I made up some handouts with language tips related to bikes. This will be fun! They will learn to fix bikes, improve their english, work on our bikes and earn adn fix one of their own!!! Inspiration is even cooler when it's put into action. We have four students and two instructors. Tonight is fixing flats. Thursday nights are gold now!
October 19, 2005
What do you do when your teenage daughter throws a temper tantrum and acts irrationally? Logic and rational discussion have no meaning. And don't even try to point out the mean, hurtful attitudes because it just makes matters worse. For all the hateful things I've said to my parents when I was that age, I'm sorry mom and dad. I honestly don't feel that way about you now and can't believe I ever acted that way toward you. But I did. I know I did. Part of it is the age and part of it is hormones and all kinds of other things going on in a teenager's life. I cannot be angry with my daughter now. I love her too much.
Bloviation in traction
Words without action is bloviation in traction.
Action without bloviating is living words.
October 18, 2005
Making it happen and other speculations
Speculating. INteresting word. In all things we can make plans, start to work the plans and it could all come crashing down on us. But it's worth it. The process of making it happen is worth it. There are risks in everything, but to not do because of the risks is to not do. Speculation is not really speculation when it's experience. It is no coincidence Nike used the slogan, "Just do it." WE all want to just do it. We don't want our actions to be a gamble. Success is in the process!!!
October 17, 2005
Letters of Thank You
Being thankful is a good quality. As I've talked about before, we cannot do things in this life alone. We may think we are 'self-made' and 'self-sufficient' but we do depend on a lot of people for even our bare necesseties. So it's good to be thankful for what we've been given and the opportunities we have. Here are some particularly thankful letters from some immigrants to their ESL Teacher "Dot" in regards to bikes she is providing to her students:
Dear Teacher Dot.
I am happy. Because you gave me a bike for my family to ride.
I'm thankful for teacher.
Dear Teacher Dot
Thank you for the bicycle you gave to me. I'm happy you are very generous. I will always remember the gift you gave me. Thank you Teacher Dot very much.
Dear teacher Dot,
Thank you for the bicycle you gave to my children. are very happy to theacher Dot thank you very much good person.
Thank you Teacher Dot,
Dear Teacher Dot,
Thank you for the bicycle you gave to me -
I happy last month teacher buy -
bicycle for me you are very generous
to me I will always remember the gift you gave me.
Thank you Teacher Dot,
Dear Teacher Dot,
Thank you for the bicycle you gave to me.
My children are very happy to Teacher.
You are very generous to gave the bicycle
to my children.
I will always remember the gift you gave me.
Dear Teacher Dot,
Thank you for the bicycle you gave to me.
My children are happy for the bicycle .
My 6 years old daughter riding it.
and my children say Teacher Dot you are very generous.
Dear Teacher Dot,
Thank you for the bicycle you gave to me.
My Children and I are happy.
My 7 year old son. He thanks you for bicycle. Thank you.
My name is ----. I am happy you gave a bicycle for my daughter.
Thank you very much.
Dot is another one of my heroes. I can't take credit for any of these donated bikes but I have partnered with Dot to lighten her load a little and have even started plans to work on an english tutoring/bike repair experience for selected students. It is amazing what can be done when we work together.
Good job Dot! I'm so happy to know you.
October 16, 2005
No play tonight
Tonight I gave up my ticket to the play at the Walker Art Center. I was on my way to the bike shop to pick up my headlight I left there, then planning on going to the play in Minneapolis, but as I was riding through downtown St. Paul, a few blocks from the shop, I saw some kids stranded with their bmx bikes. I brought them over to the bike shop and let them use the tools to fix the broken chain. It was cool, and they thought it was cool and they were happy. But it took too long, and I had only fifteen minutes before the play started. No way could I ride to MPLS in fifteen minutes and pick up my ticket. I didn't want to arrive late so I skipped it. I ended up cleaning for a little while, then going home. I must really love my neighbor when I do stuff like this. Actually I was happy to help them but felt really sad that I missed the play. It's a contradiction between what I wanted and what was good for others. I could have blown them off, but then I would have missed a great opportunity to connect with these kids. Who knows if I will ever see them again, but it was worth it. I'll get over my sadness at missing the play. That's human nature I think. I do love my fellow human beings more than my own entertainment. I guess this was an opportunity for me to experience that.
Sidewalk Riders and Dumpster Divers
This weekend was the St. Paul Art Crawl. Besides displaying artwork and helping my daughter and her friends get into their display space, we had an open-house at the bike shop. I'd say about 50 people who had never been there came in to chat and see what our community bike shop was all about. Everybody was really positive and in a good mood.
Because of a chain of events, I was busy the whole time and dead tired until about 9:30am this morning when I got up. Haha, it's hard to be a morning person when you don't get in until 3:00am! I'll probably need a nap this afternoon too, but I'm going to resist.
Today I have to go clean up from the art showing then tonight I'm going to see a play at the Walker, so it should be a good day.
Last night the Art Crawl officially ended at 6pm, but there was a special event going on next door at the club so I hung around and saw that. There was a fund-raiser and preview of this movie about Urban Exploring, this group of people who go to unusual places and take photos. For instance down in the sewers and in the depths of abandoned munitions plants. The photos were cool and they talked about the adventure of trying to get these photos. They all were really good photographers and the film was well done.
Also, I kind of wanted to hang around to see how Terry and Tom did while driving the Pedal Taxis. They were running people around for the whole Art Crawl, plus at this party to drive people to and from their parking spots. It was cool. They had fun driving and made a little bit of cash. In this city it would not be a good way to make a living because I don't think it could generate enough income. Not bad though for a part-time gig.
About 1:30am they packed up the cabs and called it a night. Then we hang out and talked until about 2:00am. Tom and I rode together part of the way, since we were going the same general direction. First we stopped at SA to pick up something to eat. He bought a shrinkwrapped he-man sandwich, because he said it's the only one that had enough stuff on it. Evidently two of those can last him all night. But tonight he only bought one. I got two-hot dog for a buck special and a juice and we sat outside by the dumpsters eating. That's when Tom noticed the bag of food sitting next to the dumpster torn apart. He informed me that it was from dumpster divers getting something to eat. The station/store owner threw out the old food from the sales cases and someone had come to pick through it to find something they wanted to eat. The sandwiches and salads and other items were still all wrapped and all of them were in a white plastic garbage bag so it looked like it would make a feast, but I don't know. It seems if the store threw them out, they must have been past their expiration date and sitting outside in a dumpster unrefrigerated didn't apeal to me. Maybe if they got there right after the food was thrown in the dumpster. It's funny because I met a guy at the party who told me that he lives like that and never pays for food. He must know all the good spots to get thrown-out food. He looked pretty healthy to me. Now I had a visual refrerence for what it's like to dumpster dive for food, this white plastic bag laying on the pavement torn open, wrapped food spilling out and looking like a deli. We finished eating and then rode on.
I let Tom lead and he proceeded to ride up on the sidewalk downtown, on the left side of the road. This went against all that I know about how I should ride my bike. But I just followed and experienced night-time sidewalk riding. There was nobody out there besides us, we could have ridden our bikes down the center of the road, but both Terry and Tom like to ride on the sidewalk to avoid cars. In the dark it's especially interesting because you have to watch for obstacles like poles and building pillars and benches. And we were moving along at a pretty good clip, not even stopping for the red lights at intersections (there was nobody around) The rules for sidewalk riders are different. It's an attitude of not only owning the road but also any rideable surface. They must have gotten that from the skateboarders ;-) And Tom was very proficient at sidewalk riding.
We got to my turn-off and I headed home. Tonight I got to know Terry and Tom better. I also got to know a few other people while hanging out waiting for the end of the festivities. So it was a good night. Now it's time for coffee.
Have a great day!
October 13, 2005
Final Two Eggs Before the Art Crawl
I did squeak out two more Ukranian Easter Eggs for the Art Crawl, which is about all the time I could manage. I also pulled out a lot of my other artwork to display. It will be interesting to see what people think and to talk to them about the different artforms - woodcarving, eggs, painting, photos, etc.
The St. Paul Art Crawl is a really cool event. I'll be in the Ren-Box - #15 on the Art Crawl Map I believe...
My work will be displayed with the Creative Arts High-school students on the Third Floor, close to Jonathon Stavole. His work is very interesting also. I love the way he puts animal features on human bodies. The faces he draws have a lot of expression and character. You can almost tell what they are thinking.
Also, the Sibley Bike Depot is having an Open House during the Art Crawl. If you stop by you can enter a drawing to win two free tickets to a play at the Walker Art Center for Saturday or Sunday. (The Play is by the Builders Association from New York) The Walker has their schedule posted online.
If you stop by and tell me that you came because you read this blog, I'll give you a free Twin-Cities bicycle map by Metro Commuter Services. It's a little out of date but it's still a great map.
Now is your chance to meet me in person. I'll be held captive in one building for two days. I look forward to seeing you there!
October 12, 2005
Tonight on the Bike ship
I've been cleaning and organizing the bike shop over the last few weeks. It's a huge operation! More like open heart surgery. But this last week I made huge progress so there is so much space and it's so much cleaner and organized that it has had a positive impact. There are many reasons why I took on these tasks, but one of them has to do with how the space effects the volunteers. A clean and organized space feels good to work in, is easier to work in, accmodates more people, and it's contagious. Right now the workbenches are spotless. If you've ever visted the depot before, you know how this has to feel right now. Tonight after people were done, they all picked up after themselves and cleaned up their messes and parts, etc. It was really cool. And all of the volunteers were working on bikes tonight. Some on their own bikes and some on our bikes. Tonight I felt like we were actually implementing our mission. I felt good about what we were doing. The real results of a good house cleaning will show up in attitude as we rebuild and refocus the organization. At some point people need a fresh start. This is the year of fresh starts.
Instead of thinking of this as a process of changing everything, I think it's more like a process of renewal; refreshing of the spirit, dreams and hopes of everyone who has ever been involved in this program.
Tonight one person wanted to throw an old trophy away that one of our predecessors got for excellence in promoting bicycle commuting. I suggested that it might be good to keep it around, now more prominantly displayed, to remind us of where we came from and that a lot of people put in countless hours of their free time to get this organization to where it's at now. It didn't just happen by itself.
Another guy told me the history of the organization tonight, from his own perspective, as one of the members of the original yellow bike program and how it evolved and changed into what it is now. When the yellow bike program collapsed and the funding dried up, it was almost impossible to maintain. They had to reorganize and consolidate. They had to renew their mission and resolve. So what did we end up with? A non-profit community bike shop that is doing a lot of good things for lower income people and other community organizations. There is a lot more. There really is a lot of potential and hope in renewal. I believe we can all use a fresh start sometimes.
October 11, 2005
The Board of Directors Meeting that Never Was
Here is another board of director's meeting that only two out of eight board members showed up. So we talked and then the other person left and I hung out for a little while, then rode home. For us to do any business, we need a majority present because we have to vote on things occassionally.
But there is good news. I have to wait to tell all the details, but it looks like the non-profit community bike shop will not have to move! I'm really thankful for that. Now I have to work on this board of directors to show up once per month.
Also, Don't forget the Art Crawl in downtown St. Paul, Friday night and Saturday: http://www.artcrawl.org
October 10, 2005
I couldn't think of a title for my blog entry. And that reminded me about what bothers me so much about our rank structures in society. I'm liking the collective idea more and more. It just makes sense because we too often start to value some human beings higher than others. Then we also have the feeling of 'entitlement,' where we feel like we are entitled to everything we get because of our position. I can tell you right now, I don't need a title to do good works. I just have to make sure that I treat everyone with love and respect. No title necessary. "Friend" would be ok with me though.
Cynical or Observant?
I'm always trying to be careful about my 'observations.' Sometimes what we consider observation is really biased by our attitudes and can be clouded by pre-conceived thoughts on how things are. I don't think it's fair to pass on our biased views when reporting something as 'observation' when it's obviously just us being cynical about something. There are always multiple facets to every situation and multiple people involved with their own views on how the situations unfold. I'm aware that sometimes even reporting an observation can lead people to think negatively about a situation, based on their own biases.
Yesterday I attended a Grand Opening of the little town park a block away from the bike shop. My observations follow, without a clear understanding of why things were as they were:
1. Attendance was relatively low. There are hundreds of condos surrounding this new park and only about 50 some people showed up for the grand opening of their park. There were two major groups of people that showed up - One group from each of the two churches that are next to the park. Each of them had about 10 or so people from their congregations there. Their pastor/priest presented a speach. About 10 or so people from the condo's were working the tables with free food. Then there were about 7-10 bicyclists there who showed up from the emails we sent out to rally for support of our bike shop remaining in the community. There were also a group of ethnic Karin children (Refugees from Burma/Myanmar) They performed a traditional dance and ate food. They were part of one of the churches there. I think I saw about 5-10 residents of the condos there - I know because I saw them sign up for the park-flower-planting club. That was it. Oh, the Mayor also showed up and gave a dedication speech.
I am trying not to be cynical, but where were all the condo owners at the dedication to their park? Is that being cynical or observant? I wonder why they were not there in force.
It was worth going though. I talked to a lot of people (mostly people from the churches) about the mission of our non-profit community bike shop and what we do. They loved the idea and although they knew we were there, they did not know what we did.
After the event, I went back to the shop and did house cleaning until late into the night. That was also very good.
October 8, 2005
Rally for community
Tomorrow (Sunday, October 9th) at Noon we are all rallying around the new park, one block from the bike depot to show our community support and to show the community we are part of it and want to stay. If anyone is interested in biking to St. Paul and seeing a small urban park be dedicated and showing your support for our community bike shop that would be cool. Noon at: http://www.bikeped.org
A community business really should be integrated into the community.
Last night was very interesting. I didn't blog last night because I was gone until after midnight, then was too tired to try to write. I was spending the evening with three friends talking.
During our conversation I heard an interesting story about something that happened to one of them. He was mistreated once and the perpetrator had no clue what he did. Without going into details, my main lesson from this was this:
We can have attitudes about other people and distorted views, based on what we are trying to 'accomplish.' We can treat people like dirt when they don't fit into our plans and not even realize we are treating them like dirt. I see a lot of this going on these days.
October 6, 2005
Another night at the Greasepit
I don't even know where to begin on this one. I'll just list attributes:
Totally volunteer run.
Open workshop where anyone can come in and fix their bike for free.
Open 6 days per week.
There is more, but what is not to like about these things?
October 5, 2005
Sometimes I feel inadequate when I see all the trouble in the world and I want to help. I want to make a difference. I used to think thoughts like, "Why doesn't someone do something about that?" But that someone is me, and you, and anyone else who cares. It is all of us enrolled in the school of life. We're ALL trying to figure it out. Though some claim to have all the answers, it's still a matter of faith and personal experience. I've said it before, No person can live for another person. We each eat, breath, feel, choose and think for ourselves.
We each do what we can. We have to. If we are blind and cannot see the troubles in this world, in our own backyards, we cannot help. But if we see something wrong, we are obligated to do something. We are guilty of walking by if we don't. It's very harsh, I know. But sometimes I see problems and know I am underqualified, unequipped for what I find. It can be overwhelming and sometimes disheartening. "Can't someone do something to help?" I'm often searching for the answer to the question, "What am I capable of doing right now?" Why can't it be easy. I guess if it were easy I would just do it. I would not bother working with other people and would trivialize it and probably pretty soon abandon helping at all. I guess if there is a struggle or challenge involved, then it's all the more worth doing. Lord have mercy on me, I'm really doing the best I can.
By myself I am a small rain gatherer, bringing water to those that are thirsty. One cup at a time. But together, we can bring a lot of water to a lot of thirsty people.
by Franklin Brainard
I have said, "Dear God," under my breath a thousand times.
Rolling I have wrapped the thousand night sheets around the days
I could not reach, could not hold.
Each day is just beyond my fingers:
my madness, my family's madness, the world's.
Our Father have mercy on me
one of these the least of Your raingatherers.
In a world of earthenware I come with a paper cup.
October 4, 2005
What does it mean to be alive?
Sometimes I just want to say, “Who cares!?” Why do I have to put a reason to it? I’m here. Once I tack a reason to it, I’m forever trying to live up to it. I prefer to think that there is no purpose to life. At least there is no ONE purpose to life. There are many reasons for life. Do I need any of those reasons to continue living? No. I’m already here, alive. It’s like being stranded on a deserted island. A person can question why the ship wrecked, or why they were on the ship in the first place, but it doesn’t help in finding fresh water and food. Sometimes life is a matter of survival. Many people are in survival mode.
When I go to work I see many people who are there, not because they love the work, but because they need the job to get the money to live their lives the way they want. I do it sometimes too. I go in and out of survival mode. Sometimes work is just a paycheck. There is no purpose or meaning to it. Then I think of the great relationships and friendships I have with some of my coworkers. I love people really and think that this could be the reason I am here. I think of my other activities outside of work and think, “This is the reason I am working; For them.” And all of the things I am doing may or may not be the reason I am alive. But life goes on doesn’t it? I am really happy to be alive, even if my boss is being a jerk or I’m not into doing my work some days.
I think just being alive is enough of a reason to be happy and to go on living. Then at least I can wake up every morning thankful and happy for another day. I can make choices about what I want to do based on what I see going on. I’m going to refrain from hanging a purpose around my neck and just live the best way I know how. I already know I am alive so now what? Well, let’s see... So many choices, so little time ;-)
October 3, 2005
It's good to have plans, but plans do not always go as planned. Then what? Much of our happiness in life depends on how we view things and how we react to things doesn't it? I don't think we can become too attached to an idea that has not happened. This is especially difficult when we pour our hearts and souls into a project and then have it all fall apart. This happens. Circumstances change, there are other people's choices that also have an influence on how things progress. So, even though we can plan, we cannot attach our happiness to a desired outcome. It is great when it happens but we can't let it destroy us when it doesn't. It's ok to be sad and upset, but when we really think about it, life goes on, stuff happens and we have to find another plan.
I can deal with change of plans because I am not focused on the end result but on the process of doing what I think is best. I will enjoy the struggle. I remember reading a book about a successful local restaurant. They subtitled their book, "The fun is in the struggle." It's true.
Tonight I looked at the space where the artwork will be displayed for the artcrawl and was met with a pleasant surprise; we will have an entire room now to fill up with artwork. I'm purposefully trying to keep the expectations low, since it's short notice. The best plans are simple. This big studio space is icing on the cake. We will have several young artists displaying in their own studio now along with me. Why am I doing this? Because it's a great opportunity for everyone involved. So it's worth the effort.
October 2, 2005
Today was obviously a bicycle day for me. I woke up late this morning on purpose, not having set my alarm. Then I started watching a movie that a friend had loaned me called Beijing Bicycle. I had to interrupt it to go to the bike shop to take in some rental bikes and while I was there I decided to clean more. I mostly hung out and talked with Terry while waiting for the bikes, but then when everyone left, I started to clean. 7:30pm rolled around and I decided that was enough for the day. It looks much better now. Tomorrow night I'll be at the shop again with help. We should make huge progress then. For me persistence and stubborness will get it cleaned and organized. (plus team work) But I have found it's too easy to start a huge project that seems overwhelming and then stop when it does indeed get too overwhelming or we get tired of doing it. I've also found that sometimes it takes true leadership in the task at hand to get others motivated to jump in and do the same. It sometimes takes the demonstration and commitment to an idea to show other people what is possible. Enthusiasm is catchy. So is determination.
When I got home, I watched the rest of my movie while eating dinner. In the movie a young man had earned a bicycle by working hard at his new courier job. Right as he was about to receive full ownership of the bike he was riding, it was stolen. He came out from one of his deliveries and the bike was gone. He failed to make a delivery then and got fired from his job. The rest of the movie was about this young man trying to get his bike back. At the very end of the movie he gets beat up and his bike is brutally stomped on over and over by one of the assailants. But he gets his bike back for good and limps away carrying his bike.
I'm not sure what the moral of this story was. I think he learned a lot about life. First he learned about persistence. Then he learned about cooperation. Then he learned about forgiveness. Then he got his bike back, even though it was nearly destroyed and he had to hit a guy over the head with a brick to get it back. Maybe he learned that the use of force works in a society that values posessions. That's kind of the lesson that many people learn and use because it fits with our survival instinct. I kind of liked the cooperative and creative solution to a shared dilemma that they came up with earlier in the movie though. Violence proved to be futile and they ended up trading off the bike with each other every other day. Another solution they could have come up with was to get the bike thief a job at the courier company so he could earn his own bike. That also would have been interesting and a creative solution.
I'm glad I watched this movie today, with the bike shop cleaning sandwiched inbetween. It led me to a very interesting view on the movie and my activities.
October 1, 2005
It's in the process not the product
I was talking about my woodcarving and Ukranian Egg decorating. I've done a lot of intricate, beautiful woodcarving over the years and have one piece hanging in my library now and a few hiking sticks. Everything else I gave away. People have asked me, sounding kind of shocked, why I did not sell my woodcarving. But I can give it away, because for me the true beauty is not in the product for sale, but in the making of the art. The process of carving and seeing the object revealed is the beauty and the reward. I can make as many of them as I want in a million variations because I know how, and I enjoy doing it. The same is true for the Ukranian Eggs. The process is the most important part of the whole thing. And I can create an infinate number and variety of these eggs because I know how to do it and really enjnoy.
Some people just don't get this. In life the most valuable part of it is not the stuff we accumulate or the status we achieve but the process of living it. It is through this process that we learn to love and share and change.