Nov 23

‘On your yellow bucket seat’

Today was Copeland Cookie Day in my classes. (And so was Monday.) Dr. Gary Copeland was a professor of mine. He retired soon after my cohort, and he passed away not too long after that. He didn’t get enough time with his beloved grandchildren, and no one got enough time with a widely beloved man. He was a giant of a scholar, a sweet-hearted man who always did a lot for his students.

In one class, he’d bring cookies, put away the syllabus and talk about whatever seemed important: conferences, papers, dealing with colleagues. A lot of the most important things we learned came from that non-class.

Because of that, that’s why I have a Copeland Cookie Day. I bring in snacks, put aside the plans and, for a few minutes, we just talk about industry, courses, war stories, whatever.

After classes were over we went for a run. It was too late in the day for a run. It was too late, which made it too cold. So I only did a quick mile, but I did see this part of the far side of the sunset.

I need to find my running gloves. And start dressing better than shorts and a t-shirt. ‘Tis the season, and all. Only, I have no idea where my running gloves are. I knew where they were, in a drawer, right by the refrigerator. But that was in the old house. And that was in June, in the chaos of packing our stuff when the packers no-showed, and when it was the middle of summer when gloves weren’t exactly a priority.

Where are they now? No idea, but mother nature is a necessity.

Since we’re at the beginning of the month, let’s look at the year’s cycling graph.

The blue line represents mileage I would accrue if I road seven miles a day, a basically arbitrary number I picked at the beginning of the year when I started this spreadsheet. Seven miles, on average, seemed doable.

Then I added columns, and lines, for nine and 10 miles per day. That’s why those three lines are nice and steady, daily projections are consistent, steady, reassuring.

But that purple line, that’s the one that reflects my actual mileage.

As I say so often, I need to ride more. Tomorrow, then.

But tonight, we dive back into the Re-Listening project. I’m playing all of my old CDs in the car, and in the order in which I acquired them. Right now, we’re in the summer of of 2003, when Guster’s “Keep It Together,” their fourth studio album, was released.

This is the first Guster album where the Thunder God, Brian Rosenworcel, played on a drum kit rather than his legendary hand percussion.

A bunch of musician’s musicians — Ron Aniello, Ben Kweller, Joe Pisapia, Josh Rouse and more — appear on the record, which peaked at number 35 on the Billboard Top 200. Thirteen tracks, I like 12 of them, and I love 11 of them. It’s a record that comes up a lot for me, and so the flashes of memories span, well, two decades now.

This is the first track, which was a trippy departure to hear as the first sounds on the thing.

“Careful” was released as a single, and it went to number 30 on the charts.

This was the lead single, which the label released before the album. “Amsterdam” climbers to the 20 spot on the charts. The band said, and you could never tell if it was a joke, that they wrote this just to get the label to fund a trip to Amsterdam for the video.

I think it was a joke.

Someone told me that this song reminded them of me. All melancholy and what not. I’m not sure if she didn’t understand the song or the word melancholy. Apparently, all of the guest musicians were allowed to record one pass (and only one pass) on this song. They didn’t hear the song before they played, or told chords or instruments. I don’t understand how that would even work out, but it’s a triumph. And not about a melancholy me.

“Jesus on the Radio” is now a crowd favorite singalong. They usually do this on stage as unplugged as possible, and if you look around on YouTube tons of fan videos have been uploaded. It’s odd that the band hasn’t done more with that fervor, he said mischievously. Here’s a version with Pisapia (who toured as the fourth member for seven years) on banjo.

There is a high quality version on the “Guster on Ice” DVD, also featuring Pisapia.

Here’s a more recent version, from four or five years ago, long after Luke Reynolds joined the band.

And, as the O’Malley family proved, most anything in your kitchen can be a percussion instrument.

Not just the O’Malleys, but all of their musical fans cover it and record it and upload “Jesus on the Radio,” too. And a few years ago the band made a supercut, and somehow, despite the changes in tempo from version to version, it mostly works. Except for that one.

I could do this all day. And I usually do, on Jesus on the Radio day, March 16th. I actually have the t-shirt. It was a Christmas gift a few years back.

Here’s the title track.

I could do this with the whole album, but I’ll wrap it up with a version of “Come Downstairs and Say Hello,” a thoroughly underrated song when it gets going, and, here, with symphonic accompaniment.

You will discover, about three minutes in, why the Thunder God is so named. It’s one of the few times on that particular record when he went back to his roots. (As I recall he was basically learning how to play a drum kit while they produced this record, partly to change the sound of the record, but, I think, also to give his hands something of a break.) Also, in the second half of that version, the brass, and certain of the strings make it sound absolutely triumphant. I wish they hadn’t come into the song until then.

I have the T-shirt featur that song too. I guess I should finally buy a Guster Is For Lovers shirt, to solidify my OG cred.

Original Guster cred, that is. I go back to the spring of 1997, when Guster Is For Lovers was one of the two things they sold.

Oct 23

Bikes and barns and books

Have you been enjoying Catober? Sadly it comes to an end this week. Cats are feted around here all year, but tomorrow is the last official day of Catober. Don’t worry, the kitties have some bonus photos planned for you. As ever, they like the spotlight. Which is why, next week, we’ll return to the regular Monday cat updates.

If you somehow missed some of this year’s Catober, click that link and scroll backward. There are five years of Catober photos with Phoebe and Poseidon to scroll through. Five years. Doesn’t seem like that should be the case. Time flies when you’re counting purr cycles.

Sorry, I had to hold a cat for 25 minutes, where was I?

Oh, yes. This was the weekend of the big weather change. Warm on Friday. Warmer on Saturday. Overcast today. Overcast and warmer tomorrow. We’ll be in the 50s on Tuesday. Next week, I think, is when we adjust the clocks, and we’ll all just get used to doing things on a different schedule until February and March, when the days start getting noticeably longer again. That’s fine, I suppose. There’s a lot to do indoors. But there are things to do outdoors, as well.

I have to bring in seven plants and set up a livable arrangement for them in the basement. We have to figure out how to protect a fig tree. What other fall maintenance needs to happen? And so on.

Also, there’s work, of course. My Monday class will have a midterm next week, so tonight’s class will be about preparing for that. And, in all of my classes, we’re now preparing for the big deep breath that will begin the last six weeks of the term. And while I’m wrapping up that fig tree — that’s what you do, I’m told, you wrap up a fig tree — I’ll be beginning to think about next semester’s classes.

It’s a pleasant enough cycle, the ebb and flow of the academic calendar. One week leads to the next and the next and then you’re thinking about the next semester, thinking about two terms at once. You’re only forever hoping you can make it be pleasant and effective enough for the people around you.

I had two nice bike rides this weekend. Friday, I shared a video from the ride, a reverse version of the regular lunchtime route. It was a good video, you should watch.

One part of the route takes you out to the river. There, you can see the Phragmites, an invasive plant that is trying to choke out more beneficial marsh plants.

Right there, it looks like they are winning. But I’m no coastal ecologist or botanist. At least they look nice.

Here’s one of the trees in the neighborhood, in Friday’s full glory.

Leaf blowers will be in full rapture by this time next week, I’m sure.

On Saturday I took a longer ride. This was a 51-mile ride to the other end of the county — hunting for historical markers for a future post — that ended at a state park. Of course there’s a video.

I saw some good barns on the ride down.

Picture book quality stuff, really, in a picturesque farming landscape. It’s quite lovely, really, as you can tell from the video.

Down at the state park, which sits where the pine barrens and hardwood forests meet, there’s a diverse ecology, at least 50 species of trees, more than 180 species of birds and …

The markers I wanted to find were in the state park — a place with a long and complex history. The first Europeans came into the area in the 1740s, but there’s plenty of evidence of Lenape habitation before that. In 1796, Lemuel Parvin dammed the Muddy Run stream to power a sawmill, thus creating a lake, named after him, and the future state park, that also shares his name. Turns out he’s buried in a cemetery I went right on Saturday, not too far away. In 1930, the state bought the acreage to make a park. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed much of that park, which, in 1943, was a summer camp for the children of interned Japanese Americans. The next year it was a prisoner of war camp for German soldiers captured in Africa, and in the 1950s it was refugee housing for Kalmyks.

The first marker was easy to find, and right where it should have been. After some time, longer than I’d anticipated, I found the second marker almost by chance. It was, really, my last guess, because the day was getting late.

I only had to ride about 20 miles back under fading daylight. I changed my route … OK, I took a wrong turn … but it worked out better. Better, clearer roads, broader shoulders. And just seven or eight miles from the house it finally got dark. I had to turn on my headlight. Took a roundabout, turned on the headlight and pedaled straight up a clean, broad-shouldered highway for five miles, through town just after it got properly dark.

It’s OK, though, because there’s only three miles or so more to go. Country-dark, but good roads. And look at the quality of this light.

The battery died on the last mile or so, which was disappointing and a bit of a surprise. It just went dark, and right before a little downhill where gravel gathers. I was able to get it back on for a few seconds, to navigate that stretch. And then finished the ride in quite and darkness. OK, by the oddly spaced streetlights and neighbors’ porch lights. It was great.

I bought new batteries for the bike light yesterday.

And I finally got around to finishing Eudora Welty’s memoir, which I’ve been sitting on since August. One Writer’s Beginnings (1984) is the only thing of hers I’ve ever read. I don’t read a lot of fiction, but she’s a really fine writer. This third section, the last part of series of lectures she delivered at Harvard before turning them into this book, is the lesser of the three, but only because the first two parts were so charming and strong.

Throughout, she talked about her bygone days, and a great deal of this section is about her parents, her beloved father, a captain of the insurance industry who died far too young, her mother who lived, as Eudora said, with grief as her guiding emotion. These were two people who came from Ohio and West Virginia, got married and moved to Mississippi as an adventure and had three children. Eudora grew up the oldest of three surviving children, but she was writing all of this in her seventies, when she was the last of her siblings. (One of her brothers served in the Pacific during World War 2. They were an insurance man and an architect by trade.) There’s a reverence and profound introspection involved with that much time and perspective, and all of her endearment. She talks about the characters she’s written, how they aren’t the people she knows, but how they are sometimes inspired by people she’s met. No less a scribe than Robert Penn Warren teased his way through this, through the beauty and difficulty of human relationships in Welty’s writing, in his famous love and separateness review. That was in 1944, and by then she was well on the path to literary success: having people disagree and/or find infinite layers of nuance to your themes. What, then, could I add to the larger, impressive body of work of a critically important author?

I’m glad I read this memoir. And though I don’t read a lot of her, if you like human themes, fiction or old Mississippi, you should start dogearing some pages today.

Oct 23

More riding, more bridges

Class prep was easy today, even if the classes tomorrow will be a challenge. I have to demo some software, among other things. It can be difficult to do that and hold a room’s attention. It’s fun, and useful, and important, but at the end of the day it’s an afternoon class that will feature a computer program, and on a pretty spectacular autumn day, as it turns out.

It is entirely possible that I’ll enjoy the exercise more than my students will. But I’ve also learned a thing or two in preparing for it, so I’m happy.

The fun thing is that this part of the course has to do with sound. I know a few things about sound. So my planning was efficient and effective, allowing me to spend a few minutes this afternoon. It was delightful.

And early this evening I went for a bike ride. I set out at 5:38 p.m. It was still daylight, but getting along that late-in-the-day time.

You better hurry, my lovely bride said. And so I did. Except for when I slowed down to enjoy the views, which I slowed down even more to enjoy them here.

I only wanted to ride nine miles. OK, probably 15. Definitely 18 miles. So I went down one of the quiet fast roads, which only gives me five miles or so. Retracing my route would only give me 10 miles, so I had to add on. I pedaled into town, turned around, did most of that retracing, and then pedaled back to town again.

They’re good roads, and familiar and safe. Seemed sensible given the hour.

And all of that got me to 14 or so miles. But I really wanted that 18, so I tapped out those on the little neighborhood roads that surround us. Quiet, secluded, and in darkness. This is a fine time to ride, if you can do it safely. Fortunately, I have a great headlight. (Not pictured.)

This was the first time I’ve ever used it on my bike in total darkness, and I was impressed by its throw. I can ride at almost full speed and still see the road, front and sides. I figured I would have to ride a bit slower, lest I outrun the headlight, but there it was, safely out in front of me at 20 miles per hour.

And sure, these photos are all about the same time and in pretty much the same place, trying to share the sunset. There’s not much to photograph of the darkness, of course, but there’s something special about riding in it. Maybe because it is new to me. Maybe because of the quiet. It’s already quiet out here where the heavy land and the green sands meet, but, at night, when everyone is already where they need to be, you can almost start to feel a special quietude.

This is the 13th installment of We Learn Wednesdays. I’ve been riding my bike across the county to find all of the local historical markers. A bike ride is an ideal way to undertake a project like this; you learn new things and see new stuff, that you don’t discover at the speed of a car. Counting today’s discoveries I have listed 31 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database.

In the last two weeks we’ve discovered Quinton’s Bridge and Hancock’s Bridge, two small places that figure into a very small piece of the Revolutionary War, the winter of 1778 to be specific. The markers we’ll see today are also from Hancock’s Bridge. Why twice? Because, as the sign says, “this small tract of land has a rich and diversified history.” This sign isn’t on the database, but it’s a good sign. Let’s check it out.

The ground upon which you are standing was deeded to William Hancock in 1676, before he left England to come to America. The site’s proximity to the Alloway Creek (originally known as Monmouth River) has always made it to be a valuable commercial property. From the earliest recorded history of the site, it served as a wharf where sailing vessels, and later steamers, loaded and unloaded their cargos of merchandise, produce and passengers.

It was in 1677, that William Hancock and his wife Isabella, first established their home on a rise adjacent to the creek. The property passed from the childless couple to William’s nephew John, who arrived in America in 1679. A small wooden structure served as home to the Hancock Family until John’s son and daughter-in-law, William and Sarah Chambless Hancock, constructed the brick structure in 1734.

The original house was converted to a store. Following the American Revolution, the store was relocated across the street, closer to the wharf and creek. Adjacent to the store, Richard Starr and George Mecum founded Starr and Mecum Cannery in 1875, in a former “hay house” along the creek. In 1882, Mecum sold out to Richard Starr’s brother Thomas, to form Starr & Brother Cannery. It was at this time that Starr & Brother constructed a new can house on the site of the former hay house. The old store was moved one last time and finally com down in 1883.

Starr & Brocher had been producing 50,000 cans of tomatoes a day when they sold to Robert Griscom in 1892. The firm of Fogg & Hires (Robert S. Fogg and Lucius C. Hires) purchased the cannery from Griscom in 1896. Fogg and Hires employed 200 people at this location along Alloway Creek. With the closing of the canning house in the early 1900s the site sat abandoned for a few years, later becoming the site for Edwin W. Ridgway’s Texaco gas station.

Adiacent to this parcel lies “Hancock’s Bridge” (the structure, for which the community is named). The earliest known reference to a bridge in this location is dated September 21, 1709, when “Commissioners…made return. by way of John Hancock’s bridge.” Wooden bridges continued to transverse the creek until 1885, when the last wooden structure was removed, and a metal bridge was opened to traffic in March 1886.

From this site, one can view the wetlands on the north side of Alloway Creek. However, this vista too has seen significant changes over the years. As with many wetland areas, this area was diked to control tidal flow, thus creating additional rich, lowland farm fields, so prevalent in Salem County’s history.

In the nineteenth century, a dike existed that followed the creek bank. Along this dike, floating cabins were moored and fishing cabins built. This popular gathering place for fishermen and trappers came to be known as “Bank Street.” However, in recent years with the “meadows gone out to tide,” this embankment has slowly eroded back into the creek, returning the diked wetland to a natural salt marsh.

For many years, and certainly until the predominance of overland shipping practices in twentieth century, this creek side location was the site for many ship moorings. It was from this location that cargo and travelers were received, and local produce was exported to markets in Wilmington, Delaware, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Along these creek banks too, many a trapper and duck hunter set out on an early morning adventure.

This small tract of land on the banks of the Alloway Creek has seen a rich and diverse history, PSEG has permanently preserved the wetlands opposite the site through its Estuary Enhancement Program, and today the site continues to play a role in the life of the community, providing access to the Hancock House State Historic Site and views of the Alloway Creek and its adjoining wetlands.

It seems that the Starr and Mecum families stayed closely intertwined for at least a few more generations. And I’ve seen a Mecum mailbox not too far away, so at least some of the descendants are still in the area.

The county was once home to many canneries in the 19th century, the goods shipped far and wide by water and rail. A lot of the local farming, which is highly productive, went toward those canneries. Lots of tomatoes, but plenty of other fruit, too. Edwin W. Ridgway, who owned the Texaco, died in 1988. He’s buried just 1.4 miles away from that sign, and where his store was.

Right next to the Hancock Lot sign is this one. I love the older style. The heavy signs are full of purpose, but also difficult to read in photographs.

That one, on the two plates, says:

The first bridge across Alloways Creek at this location was built by John Hancock and others in 1709 and was known as Hancocks Bridge.

The same year (1709) two other bridges were built across Alloways Creek, one at Alloway, known as Thompson’s Bridge, and the other at Quinton, often referred to as Quinton’s Bridge.

Various other wooden bridges were built and rebuilt to replace the original bridge at this location. The last wooden bridge being built in 1847 by the Salem County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

On August 12, 1885, the construction of an iron truss swing bridge was authorized by the Board of Chosen Freeholders. This bridge was built at a cost of $8,517.92. On January 13, 1886, another contract was awarded for the sum of $1,835.00 to construct an additional span of fifty feet. Therefore, the cost of the iron swing bridge, which served this location from 1886 to 1952, was constructed at a cost of $10,352.92. The new bridge constructed in 1952-53 cost $532,894.00, one-half of which was assumed by the Federal Government.

The bridge at this location figures largely in early American History. The bridge was used by the Americans to haul cattle and provisions to Gen. Washington at Valley Forge from the fertile lands to the south. With the British moving into Salem, and the Americans holding the south side of Aloes (Alloways) Creek. The rebels decided to destroy the draw of the bridge in order to prevent a frontal attack.

However, the British decided to attack from the south, going by boat to an inlet about seven miles south of Aloes Creek. Because of the strong tide, they had to land at the mouth of Aloes Creek and cross the meadows to surprise the garrison at Hancocks Bridge. This resulted in the massacre at the Hancock House on the night of March 20, 1778, by Major John Graves Simcoe. On the morning of March 21, 1778, Major Simcoe relaid the bridge (by planks) and joined forces with Lt. Col. Mitchell, who had waited all night on the north side of the bridgeless stream.

Here’s the iron swing bridge mentioned in that marker. The picture is from the first sign. And, sure, this seems a bit repetitious, but bridges like this are vitally important to people surrounded by water, and only became more so as transportation evolved.

Here’s the modern bridge. The day I was there, at the beginning of October, the water was way up.

Across the way, the waving grass of the salt marshes, an incredibly important and productive habitat. Protects from flooding, helps control from erosion, filters sediment and pollutants and is a hugely vital nursery for coastal fish and shellfish.

So we have once again learned a great deal, for a Wednesday. There’s even more to learn next week! If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.

Oct 23

Fall down go boom – plus some truly special Queen

Heads up: There’s a bloody leg at the bottom of this post, and I’m not talking about the British expletive attributive. I’m saying there’s a photo of a leg with a bit of blood on it. It’s in black and white, but there’s no mistaking what is going on there. Just so you know.

Saturday was slow. Luxuriously slow. We sat around and watched football, shaking off shot side effects. I checked my email two times too many. My lovely bride took a nap. (She dislikes naps on a fundamental level, so this is indicative of the speed of the day.)

Late on Sunday afternoon, as a break from housework and school work, I proposed a casual little bike ride. We stood over our bikes in the driveway and I said Where would you like to go?

She said, “No, no. You’re idea. Your route.”

So I thought we’d do the square route. But I realized that there isn’t a lot of opportunity to ride and talk on those particular roads. So I selected another series of quieter roads. The point being to just be outside and enjoying the opportunity to have a little ride without bigger goals. To pedal and not pant.

We went, then, through corn fields and across three intersections. After that the road ends. We turned right and went down a nice little hill, around a curve and to another intersection, where we turned left.

(Incidentally, I updated the art on the front page of the site with 10 new photos. The above photo is a clue.)

At that left-turn is a quite little intersection. The National Guard has a facility there. There’s a farm. And another building a small fertilizer concern, that has pearls of wisdom painted up near the roof. This was the second time I’ve been by there, and so we went by slowly, trying to read them all. There are, I think, a few I missed. One day I’ll have to stop and take photos of them all, because I’m sure there’s something important for me to learn in those old faded sayings.

A bit before that I had decided that I would ride us by a few houses that have had an explosion of Halloween decorations. There are at least two of them on this little soft-pedal I planned out, and here’s one now, just there to the left.

A little boy runs into the road. Probably five.

“There’s a party going on and you’re invited!”

He’d come from the direction of the Halloween yard. I looked to him, watching where he’s moving, maybe I said something to him, I don’t recall. I looked back up and there’s my wife’s bike, a half-second away from me riding into it.

When you touch wheels on bikes, you’re going to crash, and that’s what I did. Fell to my right, foolishly putting my hand down to try to catch myself before I rolled into it.

The kid ran off to get his folks, yelling about this guy that’s crashed. My lovely bride stayed up right and she wheeled around. Probably apologizing before she’s even seen me. I was flat on my back. Bike still between my legs.

She said “Are you OK? What can I do?” I’ve been listening to the little boy running off to get his folks. And before I’d even opened my eyes, as I waited for all of the parts of my body to report in with pain, I said Stop that.

When I opened my eyes I was laying opposite the direction of my travel. Still not sure how that happened. But I’d pointed in the right direction that the boy had run. His family must now be outside because she’s saying to them, in her really reassuring tone, “He’s fine. It’s OK.” I wasn’t sure, yet, if I was, but that was nice and encouraging.

This is a residential neighborhood, but there is still the occasional car, so the first thing I noticed when I stood up was this guy standing around me with his arms out wide, blocking off an oncoming car. Someone moved my bike out of the road and there’s a truck where a guy has stopped to offer help. But all I need are a few bandages. First thing I noticed was that my left index finger hurt, and it was bleeding, right on the tip. Second thing was a bit of road rash on the outside of my right calf, which is the direction I’d fallen.

How did I cut my finger, anyway? We’ll never know. We’ll also never know how I scraped my right forearm, a little, but it never hurt. Not like my left finger, or my right wrist, which I put out to catch myself. I tentatively peeled back my right glove to see what I’d done there, but the glove did it’s job. It looked like I’d have a wicked bruise in my hand, but no abrasions. (Today, my palm was just fine.)

My left finger and right leg, then. And also my right wrist, which I immediately diagnosed as the mildest sprain ever.

These nice people quickly retrieved their tub of first aid stuff — like they keep it by the front door or something; this mom was so well prepared, you could tell her boy is the rambunctious sort, even if he was being shy. He’s sprinted back out with an antiseptic spray and I doused my index finger. I took two Batman Band-Aids to cover the thing. Someone else drove by offering to take my bike wherever. My lovely bride had already volunteered to go back to the house for the car. We were only about three miles away at that point. But I said none of that is necessary. This is the silliest slow-speed crash in the world and none of it is as bad as it looks. My leg looks pretty awesome though, right?

We rode back to the house. She stayed behind me, keeping a careful eye, I’m sure, making certain that I didn’t run into anyone. I wound up riding part of the way back with puppy paws so I didn’t have to hold the handlebars with my aching wrist. This is funny because my bike is a little short on me and that’s hilariously obvious when I try to ride in that position.

The shower was fun. Clean and grimace and dab. Clean and grimace and dab. Keep your spirits up and dab. We have some special first aid bandage stuff for road rash that works incredibly well, so I’m wearing that now. The best news is that I wasn’t even sore this morning, except for how I managed to sleep on both that leg and wrist.

Today, while doing class prep, I found myself rubbing my eye. My right wrist popped and it felt immediately better. Not perfect, but a lot better. So I took off the wrist brace and I haven’t worn it since. (Fortunately, we have three varieties of wrist braces in our personal health care stores … )

The biggest problem is that the Band-Aids are limiting the use of my left index finger. If you see any typos in this post, that’s probably because I am typing with six or seven fingers instead of the usual seven or eight.

I should have thought up that excuse years ago.

Tomorrow, I’ll go put a thank you card in those nice people’s mailbox. I’m going to go buy some super hero Band-Aids to put in there, too, to make up for the two they gave me.

I think I’ll ride my bike over to do it.

Back to last Wednesday’s Queen + Adam Lambert show. This was a fun concert. Had a great time. All of the YouTube commenters are jealous that they weren’t there to see the North American debut of the tour. And the more I think back on it the more little bits of it I enjoyed.

Except this part. The crowd let me down. I wanted to be a part of a moment like the end of the utterly classic George Michael performance at the Freddie Mercury tribute show, but this crowd, while good, was not up for that.

“Somebody to Love” peaked at 13 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and made it to the nine spot on the Cash Box Top 100 in its original 1970s run. The version with Michael reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, and stayed there for three weeks. It’s criminal that it didn’t have that reception in the United States, where it stopped at 30.

All told, this song was Triple platinum in the US, the 2011 version was platinum in the UK, also platinum in Denmark and Italy, and gold in Germany

Since I mentioned it, here’s the version with George Michael fronting the song. It’s a fundamentally perfect live performance. No arguments will be entertained.

The look from Brian May at the end of the song says it all. Speaking of May, this beautiful sequence happened at the show. “Love of My Life” has always been a singalong, but this … Watch the whole thing.

That’s just special. I am so so glad we got to be a part of that.

Oct 23

The stuff that makes the hodgepodge of life

Welcome back to Catober, the only month that guarantees a daily post on the site, and constant pictures of the kitties. They’ll go up each day between 10 and noon, and we’ll take turns giving the spotlight to Phoebe and Poseidon, because they’re jealous furballs. Phoebe was up first today, Poseidon takes over tomorrow, and so on. If you miss a day (and how could you?!?!?) just follow the Catober category.

But that’s not the only thing we’ll see here this month, oh no. All of the usual stuff is on tap throughout October as well, of course. One of the key features will be an extensive denial of this being October — a recurring theme of the site until March or so, of course.

But I digress.

I spent the day elbow deep in making notes for class this evening. (Class went well, thanks for asking! The students talked about Neil Postman, a Jonathan Haidt essay and Edward Bernays.

To balance that out, I left them with this uplifting little Ron Garan interview.

We also talked about some design composition rules and color theory, because this is a class that mixes the philosophical with production. It’s an unusual hybrid as these classes go, and the students, thankfully, are up for it.

Watching them get invested in understanding Postman and the Huxleyan warning was a great moment.

The Yankee went to campus with me, to take part in a regular feature called Pizza With The Pros, a program accurately named. They bring in a sports media pro, buy pizza for the students and learning and networking take place. My Monday night class take place during this program, so I might see a few minutes here or there this semester, but not much. Perhaps I’ll be able to see more of them in a future term.

Saturday I slept in. We went for a bike ride. It was a shakeout ride for my lovely bride, since she was doing a sprint tri on Sunday. I just tried to stay in front of her as we both complained about the breeze and our legs. After, we drove over to Delaware for first state chores.

We visited a Chick-fil-A in a mall, which is the slow-moving and entirely uninspired variant of an efficient fast food distribution model.

After that, we visited a museum’s gift shop, for gifts! Actually, we picked up our Bike the Brandywine shirts. This was a metric century to enjoy the sites of the greenest parts of Delaware and the Brandywine tributary. It was supposed to be last weekend, but it was canceled in light of the rain and huge winds. That was the right decision, honestly. No way in the world you want to be on soggy roads being blown into a bunch of other cyclists, if you can help it. But we have the map for the route, so we can go back. And, Saturday, we got our shirts. They’re a nice green.

We also visited Trader Joe’s, which wasn’t busy, but was crowded, and navigating those other customers was plenty of fun. We also visited another grocery store, a Food Lion, because they carry Milo’s Tea. We could get it closer, until about a month ago, when suddenly the local stores stopped carrying it.

Food Lion is an older sort of grocery store. Everything is manual. Everything is slow. And the lines are delightfully long. This allowed us the opportunity to strike up a conversation with the older gentleman behind us, who asked about my tea. Asked where it was from. And so I got to tell him it was from a factory on a hill not far from where I am from. He didn’t think I sounded like I was from Alabama, and he wasn’t sure, he said, if that was a compliment. He didn’t sound like he was from anywhere in particular. But he’d hitchhiked through Alabama when he was young, he said. Making him one of the few out-of-staters in his age group I’ve ever met who said they’d been to Alabama but didn’t say they were one of the Freedom Riders. (I wish I’d kept count on that over the years; I don’t think there were that many buses.) He said he’d been through Montgomery. Said his mother was from Tennessee. His wife was first generation from Germany or thereabouts, and his mother-in-law, he could understand some of her dialects, but not all of them.

I thought about turning the accent on, but there’s always a question about that. should I do the fake Virginia tidewater accent everyone wants to hear? The low country accent that I don’t have? Or should I just underwhelm with the low Appalachian hills-and-hollers sound that belongs to my people, but not me?

And by the time I’d figured out how to shade my vowels, it was, finally, my time to check out.

On Saturday it was cloudy in the morning and the sun came out just in time for that bike ride. Sunday was beautiful throughout. Not a cloud in the sky, 78 degrees and a light breeze. And so I took an afternoon bike ride. I noticed this mantis hanging out on the window as I got ready to leave.

My bike computer’s battery was dead, so I had no idea how the ride started, but it felt fast. I was moving well and not working hard. The wind was behind me on my out-and-back. I thought the road was pulling me forward, but it was the breeze pushing me on.

That was something I didn’t realize until I turned around and the wind was in my face. That explains why I wasn’t riding as efficiently on the way back. Also, I was being miserly with my fuel for reasons that made no sense. But here’s the thing. I found some really quiet roads. I headed southwest, which is generally a direction we haven’t explored here yet. I saw some beautiful countryside, and some Revolutionary War era sights. And this proud little municipal building.

Not bad for a township made up of just 2,580 people.

I went out that direction to find some more historical markers. It was a successful trip, and you’ll see some of those coming up on future Wednesdays. But these views made for a fine Sunday afternoon ride.

The only problem was that, for the whole of my route, there was nowhere to stop for a snack, and I started thinking about hamburgers and fries in such a way that I couldn’t shake it. There wasn’t even anyone grilling as I rode through, which would at least explain it. There’s only so long a PB&J can last, and that actually explains it.

But it was a lovely, lovely day to spend pedaling out to the saltwater marshes and the estuaries that dot the river coastline. The area was called Wootesessungsing by the indigenous people (the Lenape, I believe it was) before the Swedish, and then the English, came in the 17th century. I learned the name on one of the signs I saw; Wootesessunging has apparently never been published online, according to two different search engines. Just goes to show, you’ve got to get out there to see these incredible things. Not all of it can be found online.

Catober will be found, though, right here, all month long. So be sure you stay online for that.