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Monday, August 29, 2016

August Mass

This is quite a streak. I haven't missed Critical Mass in 2016. The last one I didn't ride was December 2015.

For the first time this year, though, I didn't make a spoke card. Several people asked about it, but I'd had a total shit day at work and I couldn't think of anything clever. Or zeitgeisty.

But I love Critical Mass. These photogenic people are some of my favorite human beings in the whole world.

I don't know about other cities' Critical Mass rides, I hear of small ones, massive ones with police escorts, and I've heard ours criticized as a alcoholocaust.

There's definitely a party element to Kansas City's Mass. But there's also folks who make it a family outing with kids too young to ride loaded in trailers, their older siblings on BMX bikes and such. The roadie element is pretty scarce, though Randall fulfills that role for our purposes. Roadies don't actually claim him, but he rides in a full kit on a carbon fiber time trial bike. Wears a helmet, clips in, by urban cycling standards he's definitely a roadie.

But we're a diverse group. And I think part of what makes our Critical Mass such a gas is the diversity and size of the group. In nice weather, we'll draw 150 or so (giving out those spoke cards this year gave me a pretty good census of mass). My guess is this month we had about 100 riders. Probably would have had more except the forecast called for thunderstorms.

The forecast wasn't wrong. After we cleared out of the Nelson, I was hearing talk of a tornado touchdown in Gladstone, there was obviously heavy weather coming in from the north. I had my electronics bagged and it was warm, so no reason to fear riding in the rain, but tornados... And I figured that might also mean hail was a real possibility and riding in a hailstorm really is a big bowl of suck.

Sarahsaurus Rex was along for this Mass. I met her in person relatively recently at the Trashboat Regatta, but through the miracle of Facebook I feel like I've known her a long time. She's a total badass (she's the redhead I'm trying to get a Pilsner Urquell endorsement deal for). I introduced my friend Eric to her and it turned out he hadn't met her but was a fan. The miracle of Facebook again—she's one of those people who regularly posts stuff she's doing that makes you think, 'I want to go do that!'

So anyway, like I was saying, I got a little freaked out at the prospect of tornados and hail, and I'd decided to head for home. The Max runs late these days, so I thought maybe see if I can't get downtown on the Max and transfer to the 101 if it was still running. Thinking to get out of the weather sooner rather than later basically. Total pussy move, I know, but it made sense at the time.

So I make it to the bus stop at 39th and Main and it's like two minutes until the bus will come and pick my pussy ass up. And who comes riding up Main? First Sarahsaurus Rex asks me what I'm stopping for. Then Speedo Ryan says, 'I'd rather die on my bike that live on the bus.' And the next thing, I'm riding with my friends again. Not long after we got to the Scout, the skies really opened up. I had my Nikon in double plastic bags by then, and a good thing. The rain shield on my camera bag assumes that if you can block the water hitting everywhere but where your body is in contact with it, you're fine. But it rained so hard I could feel a steady stream running down my back between me and the bag.

We shaded up a bit in a parking garage where we could get good and likkered up for the ride home. A lot of people only had a mile or so to get home, but it was more like six or seven miles.

And what a slog it was. The main thing was visibility, both for me and for drivers. I wear glasses, and there's just no good option in a downpour, what I can see gets limited. I'm really familiar with the route on the up side, we left off from a spot on my regular commute. The down side is late on a Friday night in a rain storm is exactly when car people don't expect cyclists. And some of those motorists have been drinking as much as I had.

Oh, and speaking of celebrities: another badass, Cupcake Smasher, a local Roller Derby superstar was at mass. I've tried, it's just impossible to take a bad picture of her.

Whenever Corinna is canning, she'll talk about the 'jewels' she's putting away.

I feel the same way about these ferments, mostly pickled peppers.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Rainout that Wasn't

I don't get out to the K very often. I'm a pretty big Royals fan, I listen to them on the radio a lot but they've generally priced me out of the live experience. But my boss gave me his tickets and parking pass for Friday's game. Short notice, I had eleven hours to find three people to take and get there for first pitch. I suspect this would have been easier if we were ten games above 500 and in the lead of our division. I tried a few direct asks, then put up a Facebook feeler, but in the end I ended up just taking my daughter Mo, gave the other two tickets to people waiting to buy seats at the box office.

And they're good seats, too. Way, way better than I'd probably buy for myself given that I tend to think even the upstairs is too pricey. These were lower level, about 25 rows back from the home dugout. Not quite where Tech9 sits but you can really see and hear what's going on from there. I should have brought my Nikon with the 105mm prime—I didn't think they'd allow it in but I learned that they're (unlike the Chiefs or most other venues) fine with people bringing pro gear in. My 105mm isn't really the glass to shoot baseball, but I could have walked down to where I could get a few good shots off from where we were sitting.

So anyway, the Boys in Blue were doing great through the first four innings, a commanding lead. We feasted off Jose Berrios, a very promising young pitcher with a 9+ ERA. When he gets all his chest hairs grown in, I suspect we'll really hate coming to the plate against this guy, but Friday night he was incredibly hittable. And Edinsoln Volquez, on the bump for the Royals, well, he was looking really solid until he got wet.

I used to work with a guy who ate the same thing for lunch every day of the year except his birthday when he went to the Chinese buffet. He explained that this made the Chinese buffet seem like an incredible treat. That's kinda where I am with pro sports, I hardly ever go but then when I do it's a big deal. So I wasn't going to let a few sprinkles or even a downpour curtail our night at the ball park. It rained quite a bit but there was no word of the game being rescheduled. And we waited. I looked up the rules for this on my phone to kill time, and learned that the rules are very nebulous on the subject but that, generally, the head umpire waits at least thirty minutes before making the call. And that there's really no upper limit on how long they can postpone. If we'd had five complete innings, it could have been called a complete game except that when Volquez started to get wet he suddenly earned three runs and tied the sucker up at 4-all with only one out in the Fifth.

Besides not wanting to miss out on the big win when the game resumed, this was the last night of the year where they end with fireworks. And I like fireworks just fine and Mo really likes them. Eventually, though, fatigue set in. After two hours or rain delay, I looked at my phone and the city was still a big green blob on radar and the update on Weather Underground's app said 'thunderstorms ending at 2:15 a.m.

So I figured it was inevitable that they'd call it a rainout and reschedule the last three innings for some other day, and I'd come back and my tickets and parking pass would be good then—I checked and this is how it works. I could even bring my Nikon for the rescheduled half game. So we packed it in, and listened to the rain delay filler on 610 AM all the way home and went to bed. And I got up at 3:00 a.m. having to pee and glanced at my phone and the game had basically just ended. Remember I said it had tied up before the rain? Eleven innings, so after the rain delay almost a full game of baseball and the rain delay was over three hours. Then they had another fifteen minute delay in the Sixth when the stadium lights assumed we'd all be gone by this hour. From first pitch to the walk-off RBI by Hosmer was seven hours. I've stayed to the end of a Chiefs game in single digit temperatures down by a big margin, but seven hours even in nice weather, at the end of a work week, that's ultra endurance spectating. I'm bummed we missed the win, and the fireworks if they bothered with them at 2:15 a.m. For what I'm guessing was about 800 glassy eyed remaining fans.

Actually now that I know I can bring my camera in, I might have to buy a ticket for a game later on this year and make a photography project out of it. Probably one of those upstairs tickets and sneak downstairs to shoot until I get told to go back to where the proletariat sits.

Especially since we seem to have gotten hot. We swept this series with the Twinkies and the road trip to Detroit before it. We're still a low percentage chance to play baseball in October, but it's possible. Hell, if we could keep winning nine out of ten games we'd probably win the division (I'm not waiting under water, that would be truly the stuff of legends).

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Picture Shows

Been a bit under the weather of late, I guess hanging out at Kelly's waiting for nobody to show up for the Post Modern Pentathlon might have exposed me to a bug, then the stress of getting ready for the thing and dragging that trailer full of goodies to Westport and back might have lowered my defenses. Or maybe it was just coincidence. But yeah, I've felt better than I have the first half of this week.

I'm not a big one for calling in sick. I only missed a week for a heart attack. I know, I probably shouldn't go to work some of the times I do because I potentially make my coworkers sick, but I'm a one man department, the only person who can cover my desk is my boss and I generally hate the way he does things—when someone comes looking to reorder something, I know where to find stuff in editable form as long as I did it.

Plus, a lot of times getting busy at work is enough to distract me from my misery. But it wasn't that busy today and by 2:00 I had my desk caught up and still felt like death warmed over. So I went to the movies. I like movies generally, and they tend to distract one from misery, and when you're at a low energy level what's better than sitting in the dark receiving a story?

Suicide Squad was, well, it was DC. A lot like Bat-meh vs. Super-meh, Suicide Squad takes great characters from great comic books and makes a mediocre hash of a movie out of it. The last DC movie that really impressed me was Heath Ledger's Dark Knight. And folks, that's been a day or two. Marvel adaptations aren't always super awesome, but they are generally solid (X-Men Apocalypse, Captain America Civil War) and often divine (Deadpool, the Iron Man franchise, etc.)

But anyway, in my zombie state I decided to make it a double feature. And the second movie I saw, Sausage Party, is fucking awesome. Like the best of science fiction, Sausage Party asks the important questions. And while it definitely goes a bit blue, it's also hilarious.

And unlike Suicide Squad, Sausage Party actually made me forget I was sick for quite a while. Hopefully I'm on the mend, not sure I plan to bike to work tomorrow but hopefully Friday anyway. Call it the healing power of seeing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolved by animated food products while the Meaning of Life is probed by a hot dog and a wheelchair bound piece of gum.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Post Modern Pentathlon: Mulligan!

So I've been promoting this event with spoke cards at Critical Mass at least five months running, a Facebook event with 300+ invites, flyers and posters at three bike shops.

The Post Modern Pentathlon: during the Olympics so it mirrors the Modern Pentathlon, a silly but incredibly expensive event mocked by a silly but free event. I got B-Cycle to sponsor with free use of their bikes, so you get to ride a 'horse unknown to you' (and admittedly poorly suited to racing). I got Dustin and Christina from Midwest Cyclery to pony up paintball guns (paintball duel instead of the run & shoot), I had my wife's Disc Golf discs for a disc golf round. I bought some steel tipped darts for a darts round. I also bought a toaster from a thrift store and a measuring wheel for the fifth event, Toaster Thrown for Distance.

I was prepared for a low turnout. I scouted the B-Cycle stand nearest the bar we were to meet at, and it had six bikes. If I had ten or twenty riders, we'd have to split it up and use a stopwatch.

But there's low turnout, then there's not really any turnout. Chris showed up, he owns the toaster that inspired the Toaster Throw event, though he was up front that he didn't even know what he'd showed up for. But he was On Time. My co-organizer was over an hour late, so on time is a bonus, right?

I had dragged twelve prizes, the discs, the measuring wheel, the toaster, the darts, etc., by trailer up to Kelly's (I know it's not the Cool Kids' favorite bar but it's open early on Sunday and it's in Westport). And I had one competitor.

A few others showed up later, to watch. Watch one guy compete against himself in five events? But Dustin convinced me (I had a few by the time this conversation happened) to reschedule for October and promote the event at Pub N Pedal next month.

So I guess I'll try again. I have around $500 in prizes donated by three bike shops, we have the gear. I just need to figure out if I didn't do enough promotion or if people heard about it and thought the event was stupid. In which case, maybe I need to adjust my event. Maybe people are afraid to get hit by paintballs, maybe they think disc golf is gay, I don't know. I thought having it on a Sunday when bike mechanics would be off work and having decent prizes would get me ten people or so by default.