Thursday, April 04, 2002


No, no comma is missing from the title of tonight's essay; I mean nothing derisive about pedaling or peddling or even piddling.

I took my bicycle out for my first serious ride of the year this evening, to enjoy the weather (sunny, strongly breezy, clear blue sky, the very air aglow with anticipation for the upcoming advent of daylight savings time, which means that Hotel Wolf porch sitting season is almost upon us), get some exercise and, in my family's favorite phrase, "blow the stink off," which stink feels considerable after a winter even more than usually cooped up in doors, lain flat out by a really stupid illness.

I kept within the city limits to avoid "overdoing it" and so did not escape commentary from the likes, for example, of my neighbor cum fellow town council member, who hollered out "Careful that people catch you at that, Kate; there's an ordinance against peddlers, you know."

Ever since I got this bike, a police department special (meaning it was largely cribbed together from two or three bikes that had been repining behind the police station for lo these many years since they were turned in as lost and found back when I was in high school [from the look of them]), I've used my car less and less until it's reached the point whereat one of my closest friends revealed today that he had no idea I even had a car, dredging up in my begrudging brain the endlessly recurring question of why I actually do have a car.

What do I do with a car in Saratoga, WY, population 1726, roughly 200 miles away from the nearest shopping mall, 150 miles away from Wal Mart or the hippie food store, 40 miles away from the nearest movie theater?

My enumeration of my distance from institutions that most Americans take for granted and make part of their daily lives is of course misleading, since I frequent none of these. I don't have the time, wouldn't even if they were just a five instead of a 125 minute drive from me.

No, my car is pretty much for getting me to the odd out of town meeting (usually in Rawlins, where the movie theater is but otherwise a place I have never found particularly appealing and to which I avoid traveling when I can) and for hauling groceries from the store, which is less than a two minute drive from my house but is situated most inconveniently atop a long, steep hill that even serious cyclists like our police chief and his wife (who are the type of people who read bike gear catalogs the way I read the New York Review of Books, i.e. recreationally in their own right as well as a source for serious information on the next big purchase. As I pore over a review of John Polkinghome's latest screed so do they minutely examine new handlebar configurations or bike chains, a fact that I find subtly terrifying even when they are not eagerly passing on the latest catalong to yours truly, who recently made the mistake of mentioning that I might need a new front tire soon) do not often dare, and never more than once a season.

Just before I got sick, though, I found on a fine day that I'd somehow managed to get my cycling ass and haunches in sufficient shape and to build my endurance and tolerance for lactic acid build-up to such a degree that a back way to the grocery store was now within my pedaling reach. I could ride over to the hot pool, cross the footbridge over the Hugus-Mullison Ditch there, and make my way up the hill on that street. It's still uphill, and it's a long hill, but though long and of a decidely upward slope it's still nowhere near as punishing a ride as that via the highway.

The only thing thwarting me from using this route and method for my grocery shopping, then, was my lack of a basket or any kind of saddlebags on my bike! With alacrity, I resolved to begin shopping for one, even to cracking open those creepy catalogs (really, though, I shouldn't mock them; I'm sure if the chief and his wife saw my new favorite website, that belonging to Games Plus, they would be equally disturbed. Perhaps even more so).

But that was then and this is now. I'm just recovered (more or less) from mono, at least to a sufficent degree as to allow me to tramp all over downtown Chicago with two of my friends last week without fainting or anything, though the considerable aid of 1) alcohol and 2) cafe de olla cannot be discounted there.

In other words, it's going to be a long uphill climb before I'm able to do my grocery shopping on my bike, and not just because there's a big nasty literal hill involved. Sigh.

But in a few months, I will. And then I'll really wonder why I'm making car payments. And insurance payments. And paying attention to recall notices. And wondering when the hell my new driver's license that I was supposed to get before my vacation but still don't have and my temp license is about to expire... is going to show up in my mailbox so I'm all legal again in case I get carded at the bar like I did in Chicago.

Until then, I'll be pedaling my ass all over town and beyond, striving, ever striving, to make my car even less useful than it is, except in that my car, quite unlike my bicycle, makes a pretty good storage shed...

Tuesday, April 02, 2002


...Sells paintings!

Yes, I just learned this morning at coffee that the grafitti lovingly placed on Obie's windows by the grateful souls whose tires he decorated yesterday (who at first thought their own tires had been stolen and replaced by old, shot tires from off of fence posts about the county) has actually worked to bring him business!

A visitor strolling idly about town yesterday afternoon couldn't help but take note of the big, bold yellow letters on Obie's shop windows that read "WILL PAINT FOR FOOD" and came in and bought a painting!

I guess that's one joker who will fear no retribution in the future.

Please don't paint the windows on my briar patch...

I’m not done writing about my weird, wonderful vacation in the Anti-Saratoga, but for today I’m going to share with those who missed the fun yesterday a sample of how even the most minor of holidays is commemorated with great enthusiasm and imagination here.

Yesterday was, of course April Fool’s Day, a holiday with origins in the Gregorian reform of the calendar (instituted to bring the calendar year back in line with the solar year). Prior to Pope Gregory’s adjustment in 1562, April 1 was celebrated as New Year’s Day; after the reform, January 1 became the big day. HOWEVER, the internet and other reliable and instantaneous forms of communication not having been invented back then, not everyone knew about the change in anything like a timely fashion, and some when informed of the change did not believe it. People who persisted in celebrating New Year’s Day on April 1 came to be known as April Fools and it became the height of sixteenth century hilarity to send these on “fool’s errands” or to try to get them to believe an amusing fib.

No one tried to convince anyone that, e.g., the Orange Bowl was going to be on TV last night, but there was plenty of foolishness in the Saratoga business community.

As longtime readers of this blog might expect, most of it got started at morning coffee.

My good friend Obie the Artist (not his real name) had the idea and came to coffee looking for takers: wouldn’t it be funny to paint “No Hunting” and “Keep Out” and similar variations on the good old “No Trespassing” theme onto people’s car tires for April Fool’s Day (point of clarification: big old tires are for reasons I’ve never really been able to fathom the item of choice for hanging from ranch fences to communicate these messages, as can be seen on any drive along any county or forest road in the Rocky Mountain states).

Everyone quickly agreed that the best target for this prank would be the Fat Cat Republican Banker (not his real name) who won the Great Corn Pop-Off through his devastating combination of bribery (everyone who voted with a $5 bill or greater got entered in a drawing to win a $50 bill or bottles of, in his words, “panty dropping” wine), half-truths (he plastered posters advising Pop-Off “judges” that his booth featured girls in swimsuits, but pulled a bait-and-switch and just had the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, though none of the guys at the event – not even the FCRB’s closest competitor – seemed too upset with this substitution) and the collection of “absentee” ballots.

Obie and his accomplice/enabler, Tad the Grocer (not his real name) set out immediately after coffee, found the FCRB’s pickup and annointed it appropriately. Then, for good measure, cars belonging to Tad’s Woman Friday (wife of the mayor!) and to the Napa Man (not his real name) got the same treatment.

Tad and Obie retreated, giggling, to their respective places of business and awaited the results.

Obie quickly lost his nerve and, knowing their targets’ taste for retribution, decided it was time he took his pickup for a nice long drive. And it was a good thing, too, as Tad quickly learned when he discovered his own truck had been tightly shrinkwrapped.

Since the wounded parties did not have access to Obie’s vehicle during the afternoon, they revenged themselves on his studio windows, leaving a lasting monument to Obie’s own proclivities. Painted now in huge yellow letters on both windows at WYOLD Aspen Studios is the legend WILL PAINT FOR FOOD.

I watched all of this from a distance, of course. I hate being the butt of practical jokes, the inconvenience of washing my car or replacing its battery, the constant reminders of the whopping load of bull for which I fell, etc. So I do not, therefore, play pranks or encourage them – beyond, at any rate, occasionally favoring particularly favored friends with a seriously outrageous whopper that I’m sure no one would ever actually believe but is just fun to say. I’m always way more baffled than they are when I realize I’ve been believed...

Anyway, so passes another April Fool’s Day in Saratoga. No lasting property damage as such, but there are still lingering signs commemorating the day.

For our part on Sec-J, we prayed that a posting we found on, the internet home of the second-rate actor who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, which suggested that Mr. Wheaton was in negotiations to take on a recurring role of some sort on the latest Star Trek series, was itself an April Fool’s prank. We’re still praying.

And one of us also noted a funky anomaly in the way the most important holiday in the Christian calendar (well, in the non-Orthodox calendar, anyway) fell this year: Sunday, March 31, Jesus is risen from the dead. Monday, April 1, APRIL FOOLS!

Oh, and to all of you stubbornly clinging to the Julian calendar, Happy New Year!