Sunday, May 31, 2020

It's Not Too Much To Ask, Is It?

I read a book a couple of years ago titled Waking Up White by Debbie Irving where she writes about her life of privilege that allowed her to ignore the hardships of others different than herself. Once realizing that she was indeed privileged, she set out to try and more clearly understand the ways in which her privilege manifested itself in her life while at the same time helping her to gain a better understanding of the struggles of others who don't share a similar privilege because of their skin color. It was eye-opening for me and dovetailed well with what has been an ongoing effort in my own life over the past dozen years or more to try and see the world through eyes other than my own. A practice that has revealed in me my own tendency to be ignorant of others' struggles.

I'm a work in progress.

Before reading Waking Up White, I already understood that my life was one of privilege but I had never taken the time to try and put myself in the shoes of someone who wasn't so fortunate, at least not in a way that challenged me. I began to wonder what it must be like to live with the heavy burden that because of my skin color, people were making hurtful, inaccurate judgments of me. It's a thought-provoking, worthwhile exercise to undertake. The problem with it, though, is that I'll oftentimes move too quickly on to other thoughts in my head and I'm back to enjoying my life of privilege. I don't think any of us who aren't a person of color can truly know what it's like to live under the never-ending specter of racial animus. It's a burden and I can't imagine what that would do to my psyche over time. It has to be demoralizing no matter how strong a person may be.

I encourage you to do the same—to try and imagine life as a person of color and under the judgment of others and what that might feel like. Unending.


I rode my bike into South Minneapolis Thursday morning to have a look for myself at the scene where George Floyd was murdered under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision that led me there.

As I approached the area I slowed to a stop and observed for a few minutes before getting off my bike and slowly walking around what was a surreal scene with people quietly leaving memorials and paying their respects to George. Pedestrians traversed the intersection while people in vehicles patiently waited for a break. A few people were painting a mural of George on the south wall of the Cup Foods store that George was murdered in front of. A group of 3 men stood around a motorcycle, talking about injustices at the hands of police that they'd witnessed. A minister stood on a corner of the intersection next to me, live-streaming his thoughts to (I assume) his Facebook followers. And then, out of nowhere, it hit me and I found my heart in my throat as I stood in front of this small memorial. I had no connection to this man other than a human one yet there I was on the verge of shedding tears for him. Senseless racism had taken another one of theirs from them and I felt terrible.

Colin Kaepernick taking a knee on the football field during the national anthem in a quiet protest of police brutality was too much for many of you. Conservatives ridiculed him and accused him of being unpatriotic, never once agreeing that maybe the man has a point. He does. Peaceful protests in the streets by those standing up to the violence and marching in George's memory were met with tear gas and rubber bullets while just weeks earlier, hundreds of white protesters, some armed, gathered inside Michigan’s state capitol protesting the closing of stores during the pandemic. They were met with no violence whatsoever. I'm tired of the hypocritical double-standard that black Americans are faced with each and every day, and I'm tired of family and friends of mine who still don't get it. It's disheartening.

I spoke with the minister after his live-stream. He warned me not to go near the scene of the previous night's riots 3 miles to the east, saying there was still a fair amount of unrest there. I considered his advice but decided to have a look for myself. I figured I could approach the area slowly enough to survey it and make a determination if it was safe. It was.

I went one block out of my way to check on Glass Endeavors where I purchase my stained glass supplies. My heart sank when I saw that one of their front windows had had a cinder block thrown through it. I chatted with Zoi while she worked to clean up the mess. I prayed the shop would survive the coming nights' unrest.

I didn't see any unrest that the minister had warned me of. Instead, I found people walking around in seeming disbelief at what had become of the area. Again, I got off my bike and walked slowly around the area, surveying the damage which was extensive. The AutoZone store was a complete loss with only the front door left mostly still standing while the rest of the building had collapsed. Helpful people worked the area with trash bags picking up what they could, trying to make the best of an awful and sad situation.

The only tension I saw was from a group of people facing off against a phalanx of police, venting their anger at them. Additional police overlooked the crowd from the rooftop of the 3rd precinct police department. The building's windows had been broken out in the previous night's melee. The building would go up in flames later that night—just so unimaginable to me as I stood there in that moment.

There was more to see but I'd seen enough. I got on my bike and began the ride home, somewhat numb—my mind trying to process all I'd seen. How would this play out in the days to come? How would it end?

I have so much to say about all of this but I suppose this is enough for now. I process things best when I write in my blog and I still have so much about what is unfolding all across our country that I need to understand.

Here's a collection of photos from the 38th St and Chicago Ave intersection as well as the Minnehaha Ave and Lake St intersection.

I put together a video of my ride and some of what I saw. If you've seen my ride videos before you'll know that I typically begin and end them in the same place, be it in my driveway or a parking lot; it's my signature of sorts I suppose. It seemed to take on a different feel with this video, though, as I left my world of white privilege and traveled into the inner city, to an area of devastation and sadness before returning to the relative safety I take mostly for granted. It caused me to pause and reflect when I saw it in that light.

The people I observed Thursday morning were sweet people simply in need of respect, fairness, and justice; nothing more than what most of us take for granted. It's not too much to ask, is it?

That's all I've got.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Immigrants, and The Inaugural Heywood—Sort Of

I was up early last Saturday to participate in a ride out of Northfield (25 miles south of me), trying to get a jump on the day with hopes of completing the ride before forecast rains arrived in the afternoon. I tuned to the '70s music station on Sirius XM for the drive, curious to see if I could guess the month and year of Casey Kasem's Top 40 Countdown rebroadcast that was playing ('70's music will always have a special place in my heart). The first song I heard was "Wildfire" by Michael Murphy, number 29 of the countdown. I guessed the rebroadcast to be from either April or May of 1975 because that song (as songs sometimes do) always takes me back to a memory of sitting on the bus for the ride to school from my apartment in the spring of that year, my senior year. It's also a favorite song of mine. Sure enough, the show was from May 17th, 1975.

The number 22 song on the countdown was "The Immigrant" by Neil Sedaka—a song I hadn't heard in maybe decades.

I drove the stretch of Highway 19 toward Northfield listening to Neil's distinctive voice while contemplating the lyrics to the song, my thoughts drifting to the refugees and asylum seekers on our southern border whose stories have been mostly forgotten, overshadowed by the coronavirus that continues to loom over much of the world. Are we still that welcoming place we were led to believe we are; that shining city on the hill—a beacon for others to look up to? Were we ever?

I arrived at the parking lot near Bridge Square with the song still in my head where it would remain throughout the ride.

I accompanied Tammy to an appointment in South Minneapolis Monday morning for some minor surgery. I wasn't keen on hanging out in the hospital for the few hours she'd be there so I went for a walk along streets I was somewhat familiar with, having lived not far from the hospital when I lived with Noy in her home at 2406 13th Ave South from 1981-83 before we were married. I walked past her old house to have a look and reminisce for a moment before moving on.

My walk eventually took me to the Minneapolis Institute of Art where there was a striking display of thousands of life vests tied to the columns at the front of the building. The life vests were actual vests worn primarily by desperate refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria and Afghanistan before making the dangerous sea journey from Turkey to Greece in 2015-16. It was a sobering display and one that brought "The Immigrant" song to the fore of my mind again to run on a loop in my head for the rest of the day.

Is turning our backs on the crisis the response Jesus would've offered? I don't know about your Jesus, but my Jesus is better than that.

I'm saddened by what's become of our country and I wonder how much longer we can keep this fragile democracy together traveling the path we've been taken down; punishing refugees and those seeking asylum; stripping away assistance for the neediest among us to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy; ignoring the rule of law and replacing experienced civil servants with grifters loyal to a corrupt, lying, destructive, and totally incompetent president. We must do better.

(This blog entry continues below)

The ride I was taking part in Saturday morning was the inaugural Heywood ride, replacing what used to be the Almonzo gravel ride. The Heywood was actually canceled due to the pandemic but at Michael's suggestion, a handful of us decided to ride it anyway, separately, as we've been doing for the past two months of Saturday rides along various routes. It was such a fun experience. I was a little concerned going into the ride not having done this distance (110 miles, 177 km) on my gravel bike. I paced myself and settled in for a steady-Eddie approach to the distance and chipped away at it while capturing some video along the way. We couldn't have asked for better weather with moderate temps and a nice breeze at our backs for the return.

A few of us met in Bruce's backyard afterward for a celebratory beer and conversation about the ride. The social aspect of our rides has been missing of late so it was nice to be able to do this in our social-distancing way. I had to laugh, though, because at one point I had to spring up out of my chair to stretch out a cramping left hamstring. Moments later, Bruce popped up out of his seat to stretch out a cramping quadricep muscle. It's the sort of pain you earn—a pain that says, job well done!

That's all I've got.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Mice, Starlink, and of course, Riding

Our home has become a no-kill place for mice. We'll occasionally catch a mouse in one of our traps down in the utility room or in the cabinet under the kitchen sink. I always feel bad that the only solution seemed to be to kill them to rid our home of them. I found a no-kill trap online a month ago and it appears to work really well. I've caught two mice so far. The only improvement I'd like to see with it is an ability for the trap to send a notification to my phone when a mouse has been caught. I doubt there's much of a demand for a feature such as that but I'd pay extra for it. I try and check our traps twice each day.

Our spring season seems slow to get off the ground this year. We've had a smattering of warm days but nothing sustained. It looks like our warmer temps will arrive on Thursday for an extended stay. I made two trips to Gertens this morning to buy some hanging baskets and a few flats of flowers. I had to bring them inside due to one last night of frost warnings for tonight. Tammy and I plan to finish the remainder of our flower shopping on Wednesday. Gertens is typically very crowded no matter what time of day or day of the week we go but not so today. I would estimate 80% of the shoppers were wearing masks along with 100% of the staff. Do masks make a difference? I have to believe they do or caregivers wouldn't be so insistent on wearing them. That's reason enough for me to don one.

Have you seen the Starlink satellites, a broadband project by Elon Musk, flying overhead? They're quite cool to see although I have friends who aren't too fond of them, one of those friends being an astronomer. There are so many of them that they can be a nuisance for astronomers peering into deep space. There are several apps you can use to help determine when the next viewing in your area will be. I use Find Starlink: android and iPhone. The app will tell you where and when to look in the sky and the magnitude of brightness to expect.

Sales from my Etsy site were slow after the 1st of the year and I was expecting them to stay that way due to the downturn in the economy but I was surprised with 6 sales last month. It's about that time of year when I close up shop until next winter. But still, I'm hoping to take advantage of whatever rainy days are in store for us and add to my inventory.

We had 6 deer in our yard well before dusk one night recently. In the mix were triplets that were born last spring, still staying close to their mother. It's crazy the amount of wildlife we have in the suburbs where one would think we'd have forced them from their habitat with our presence. They love to munch on our plants and I really don't mind. I love seeing them.

After 19 years of faithful service, our water heater developed a slow leak and had to be replaced. The repairman who replaced it said the typical life expectancy for a water heater is only 10 years. We're good-to-go again.

I made it down to the trails along the Minnesota River last week for a really fun ride. It had been a few months since I was last there. Most of the floodwaters have receded leaving the trails in very nice condition. I hope to keep making this ride a regular part of my warmer weather riding and not just during the winter.

And one last video—this one from last Saturday's ride out of Northfield. It's our way of keeping our cycling group connected even though we've put our group rides on pause during the pandemic. After analyzing the forecast winds, Bruce drafts up a route for us all to ride; a route that hopefully gives us a tailwind on the return back to Northfield. Some ride the route clockwise while others ride it counterclockwise, giving us a chance to stop for a few minutes when we see another rider and chat a little while keeping our distance. These rides have become one of the highlights of my week.

Stay safe.

That's all I've got.