After revisiting winter as a metaphor with my last post, I’m feeling a bit poetic. My first attempt at poetry (in this blog — I wrote plenty of sappy rhymes in my school days) was a tribute to nature titled Poem: Word to Your Mother (Earth). The second one was called Verisimilitude: Leap Day Twenty Twenty Poem; it dealt with a day in the life and went a little into politics including the environment. In case you missed them, or have forgotten, enjoy. As for today’s words, they’re about the longest period of subfreezing weather in Texas for a long time and the third heaviest snowstorm ever, resulting in power outages and water line breaks for millions across the state and many here in Austin. In fact, there’s an Austin water crew digging up the street to fix a leak as I write. This poem is also about life, politics and nature; I’m beginning to see a theme.
What does nature and political poetry have to do with pedaling a bike? As always, I think the best weapon against climate change is the bicycle. It was warm enough today I went out for a 10-mile ride. If it’s cold where you are but you’re brave and layered up enough, be safe out there. Or if you have one, get on your stationery bike or put your bike on a home trainer like I did the last few days. And if you’re amongst the hoi polloi, well, I doubt you’re reading this dude’s blog, but if so, have fun on your Peloton. We don’t judge. But before your pedaling, or after, here’s my poem. I don’t claim to be a good poet, but it’s like art: I don’t know much about it, but I know what I like. Hey, I’m no Ralph Waldo Emersonor Mary Oliver. I hope you like it.
A year and two weeks ago, I wrote Snow in Austin, Winter in America, based on a powerful song by Gil Scott-Heron. I think that post is some of my best work, not necessarily prize-winning, but in trying to capture a mood. (You should go read it now. I’ll wait.) The street poet, progenitor of rap, musician, and author was a voice of conscience regarding the state of Black people in America, among other things. He could also lay down some serious grooves to go with his strong words; Winter in America is in a minor key and has a great blues flute solo. I wrote that post right before coronavirus began its whirlwind tour of the US — just before it went viral. (Ha!) It was a few months before the modern-day lynching of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. (Not ha.) Scott-Heron died on May 27, 2011, a decade ago later this year. What would he have to say about Floyd’s killer, Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin still being out on bail awaiting trial and maybe even getting some justice for George (yeah, we’ll see about that)? Time marches on. But as Sting once sang,“History will teach us nothing.” The prophetic music and lyrics of Scott-Heron and others like him (Marvin Gaye comes to mind) are relevant — still. Maybe in GSH’s poetry we can find a little solace in these cold and dark days. Or maybe we’ll get pissed and take action somehow. It is Black History Month, but is there more to it than history?
Hot it’s not. Hotter than hell would be swell right about now. Because here in Central Texas the Valentine’s / Presidents Day cold front is a weeklong blast that has 2 million people statewide without electricity. Like much of the US, we’ve suffering through an Arctic weather pattern that is so cold (how cold IS it?) that temperatures are below what it normally is in Anchorage, Alaska. It was forecast to be 5 degrees F tonight, and we got our first ever Wind Chill Warning, meaning it could feel like under 0. This was the third heaviest snowfall ever and the most since 1949. Over 6 feet fell at the main weather station, though where I stay was not as much, but it was plenty. Except for my year in New England, this is the most snow I’ve ever seen. The roads are not safe, and most everything is shut down for several days. But today the sun came out, and I’m still A Dude Abikes, so I went out on a wobbly, wandering walk, and later a short, slushy, and slow bike ride.
Snow fell from the cold, dark skies on my bike ride home from the gym. The frozen precipitation is rare in Central Texas, especially in relatively mild winters like we’ve been having. So it’s a wondrous sight when it does snow. I felt lucky to have been outside riding when it came down. Light, white, wet kisses on my face melted quickly. Some accumulated on car hoods and lawn chairs, and the roommates and dogs were happy to see and feel it, too.
Of course in other places, there are no romantic notions about snow, because they’re drowning in it and shoveling it by metric ton. Another substance is also being shoveled in similar quantities, but it’s brown, smelly, and comes out of the back end of a cow. And by that of course, I can only be referring to the State of the Union, which was by some accounts a total snow job. Winter isn’t coming, Jon Snow, it’s already here. The revolution will not be televised. It’s winter in America.
Late autumn conditions have been dry, mostly sunny and not too cold here in Central Texas. Waking to some light rain and grey skies was a welcome change, just in time for winter which officially begins tomorrow. For a car-less dude like me, going places generally means getting on Sophie the Fairdale Weekender Archer bicycle and dealing with whatever Mother Nature throws at me. While I was prepared to ride in the rain, it turned out that I didn’t need to and so I chose not to take advantage and rest.
Normally I write about my biking, and also the people, places or things I go do or see while on the bicycle. I would have biked there but today a big cold front blew into Austin, so I had to abort my ride after two miles. It got considerably chilly and wildly windy quite quickly. There’s always time for that, and this blog is also about A Dude’s other activities and interests, like writing. And fortunately good ol’ friend Bruce agreed to drive us in his eco-friendly Prius to a poetry reading. Herewith and posthaste is my report.
Today was a day that I could have biked, but I didn’t. I could use the sleet and tiny hail that fell on Austin streets today and the cold weather for excuses. But the precipitation didn’t stick to the roads, and it’s not like I’m in Fargo, North Dakota or somewhere actually very cold. With enough layers it can be done. There was my headache, probably due to a lack of sleep. For the latter, I can blame the excellent film Sicario: Day of the Soldado which I stayed up to watch on DVD. Or there was being busy: two friends were over to help start packing for my move, and they gave me a ride to the second half of a how to start your own business class. I walked almost two miles and then just wasn’t feeling like going back out. So I didn’t. It was nice to, um, just chill out.
Dr. Adonia E. Lugo, (maybe I’ll call her Doctor Wheelgood), who is Affiliate Faculty in Urban Sustainability at Antioch University Los Angeles, was here in Austin for the Imagine Austin Speaker Series. Her talk was called, “Mobility Justice: People Power & the Future of Urban Transportation.”Those in attendance said it was quite good. I wouldn’t know.
It’s winter solstice here in Austin, Texas, United States of America, and I’m feeling nostalgic. Not only because of the holidays, or working in a place with a long history here in town and in the country that’s closing down, or because a year ago I had ridden my bike alot more, and the year before that, even more. It’s mostly because my maternal grandmother died 20 years ago on December 22, 1998. This post is dedicated to her memory. (Check back after the holidays for more photos.)
Maybe biking 102 miles in 5 days in cold, grey and at times very windy conditions with my, Sophie’s and backpack weights combined, not lubricating the chain since the rain until Wednesday at Yellow Bike Project, a rear disc brake caliper that was rubbing on the rotor and slowing me down til Brandon figured it out at Sun & Ski Sports last night, plus being low on sleep and other stuff has something to do with being very tired. Nah, those are excuses. I think the reason is alien abductions. All their probing, er, I mean, questions are exhausting! Point being, I’m biking alot to make my upwardly revised goal, and I’m tired. But not too tired to complain — I mean write about it in my blog — and share some more photos and statistics. Continue reading →