Duck breast in my jersey pocket


Last week while riding down Topanga Canyon I got my first flat as an adult. Technically it was my second flat, as the first one happened in my garage overnight, so let’s count this as my first puncture acquired in public.

The people I were riding with had already gone down the hill, because who wants to linger on Topanga Canyon? It’s quite possibly the dumbest downhill stretch in Los Angeles. The grade is between -3 to -8 and you have to pedal super hard to keep the headwind from blowing you into a complete standstill.


Of course the nail went into the back wheel but I was more worried about the CO2 cartridge failing than figuring out how to get the wheel back on. I had heard so many stories of cartridges failing, and I only had one, and I’d rather call Uber than ask anyone to ride all the way back up the f**king mountain with a little extra CO2.

Needless to say I successfully fixed my flat, and have been trying to figure out the best way to carry my beautiful little bicycle pump in addition to my one cartridge.

I can’t put the pump on my bike because my bike is so small there just isn’t any more room, and I’m not going to be one of those people who figure “someone’s bound to have a spare tire” (or have 5 bucks to buy me a coffee) so jersey pockets have been on my mind.


One of my jerseys has a third, tall pocket for a pump, but many jerseys for women only have two short pockets, although some brands provide us with little secret secret areas that are sewn in weird triangular shapes, and nothing normal, as in keys, tampons, credit cards, phone, can fit into them, but someone thinks we women like them.

What I do know is that a Muscovy duck breast is shaped perfectly to fit into a jersey pocket. Yesterday after a great up & down tour of Griffith Park, Elysian Park, and Echo Park, we stopped in at McCalls, who packed us up a bag of ice with our duck and away we went, ice water dripping down our back and leg.


Marinate this jersey-pocket sized piece of meat in soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger, sear it with Sichuan peppercorns and salt, and then smoke it with lapsang souchong tea, rice, and brown sugar and I’ll do that ride any day of the week, even double-flatted.




My Google Important folder, and the authentication of Pu’er tea.



When you manage your email through Google, the system automatically creates default folders for you, and although most of them make sense (Sent Messages really do contain emails that I have sent), there is a truly confounding folder labeled Important, which is where some of my email goes, and ALL of the emails I delete.*

* Yes, I have my settings set correctly, my deleted mail is set to go to the Trash. But whatever.

A folder labeled “Important” is confusing because that’s not how I work, I can’t even begin to fathom the agony of deciding what’s important and what’s not, because importance is a matter of context. You can relegate something to be not important simply because you want to blow that person off, or you can say getting one’s buttocks and abs whipped into shape is of upmost importance.

Since Google’s Important folder seems to follow no apparent logic, the other day I got tired of it.** I deleted an email that had credit card info on it, and it somehow found its way to the Important folder so I seized the moment and deleted all the emails that were in there. Yes, all 19,000+ of them.

** Yes, I have recently found the setting where I can hide the Important folder, which just goes to show you its importance.

And suddenly a lot of my emails were gone. Not my Sent mail (they were in the Sent folder), and not the emails that I had filed to other folders, but the weird emails that were in the middle ground between save and delete, the ones I scroll past every single day and wish someone would just come and tell me what to do with them. And amongst this epic pile, only some, but not all of those emails were gone.

Did I freak out? Nah, I just got a little sad. OK, a lot sad. If a company creates an Important folder for you, when you delete it, shit should really hit the fan. But nothing important was missing. I couldn’t remember anything that I was going to miss having around. Invites to events, notice of stores having sales, or links to dumb articles were resent by whoever, re-spawned into my Inbox like sea monkeys. All those 19,000+ emails were stupid. Email is stupid.


The other day someone from a fancy ass hotel in Beverly Hills called up a friend of mine, looking for an expert on Pu’er tea.

Apparently the cleaning lady at the hotel tossed out a very special guest’s stash of Pu’er tea, which, to any normal person, does look like a clod of dirt.

The guest either threw such a fit, or was so special that the hotel was considering replacing the tea, or at least finding out whether it was something they wanted to do.
My friend asked whether they knew what kind of Pu’er it was, and they told her that the guest said the tea was from the 1920’s, and sent some photos. The guest had quite a few tea cakes from this era, and the wrapping on them looked old and dirty.

A little history here: aged Pu’er is one of the most sought after teas and certainly the most faked. An authentic Pu’er tea from the 1920’s is most likely a fake or impossible to replace, and probably wouldn’t have buddies from the same period. Authenticating Pu’er is hard but understanding that the history of tea and the history of China go hand in hand is the first place to start.




– Before 1949 (invasion by Japan, Chinese civil war) the Pu’er producers were family owned, and used no wrapping.
– After 1949, with the establishment of the Communist party, state ownership took over with 4 major Pu’er companies, each with specific brands on their wrappers.
– After 1970, an agricultural entity takes control and starts production of Pu’er under the name of Seven Sons. At this time there is a proliferation of private label teacakes, a lot of family farms and suddenly everyone has a different wrapper and a different name and a different recipe, leading to a lot of confusion.
—End of history lesson—

Here’s the funny part.
The photos that were sent from the hotel guest were of tea wrapped in none other than the Seven Sons label, which started circa 1970. A 1970’s Pu’er is nothing to sneeze at, but unless you taste the tea, you don’t know what year it’s from, as Seven Sons Pu’er is still manufactured today.

So, 1920’s Pu’er tea my foot, or my ass, or my Google Important folder.

Here’s a commemorative Pu’er from the People’s Liberation Army on its 80th anniversary. This one is real. It’s from 2008. The friend who gave it to us had a relative who was a general.


Salute to all things annoying

My mom is neither young or on Facebook (nor does she read my blog) but lately it feels like she has taken on the most annoying Facebook posting habits.

You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re the status posts where the person says “Oh my God I’m so depressed about what happened,” and after a million comments of “r u ok?” and “praying 4 u” and “did something happen?” and after a couple days, the person finally writes and says “I can’t really say.”

Or how about the person who says “I need obedience for my dog. Whaddoido?” and the Facebook limit on allowable number of comments is reached with all sorts of advice ranging from asinine to extremely well thought out and helpful and the person NEVER replies?

Or how about the person who asks for things to do in some grand city like San Francisco and people suggest all sorts of places to eat and hike and bike and visit, taking into consideration the person’s food preferences and hobbies and interests, and create itineraries that include coffee breaks and ethnic joints and interesting architecture, and then two weeks go by and the person writes back and says “Nah, didn’t want to go there after all. Ended up going somewhere else.”

It’s like that, only on the phone. I swear. Sure the calls are interspersed with tidbits like “How come my heater starts working again as soon as I reset the circuit breaker?” (she didn’t like my suggestion to call the HVAC guy), how far Federer got in the Australian Open (only the third round), and questions like “You already took the dog agility class, why are you still taking lessons?” but she wants to buy a new computer, she wants to go on a trip, she wants to fire her real estate agent, that’s the picture.

But it’s only January and the sun is shining and instead of ranting, I’m going to lie down and embrace it.


I salute the annoying Facebook posts… all of them, with PIG CANDY!


Fight back with bacon baked with brown sugar, rosemary, maple syrup and mustard.

Take that!

Here’s what the pups think about no more agility, and morsels of pig candy.



Doing, meaning, and things that look like other things

A client said to me the other day: “Just because I ask for something, doesn’t mean I want you to do it.”


Now, I’ve already got a client that never means to ask me to do something.
It goes like this (he calls it a conversation):

“I wonder if there is an app that does X.”
“I wonder if you googled “app for X” whether you’d find something that did what I need.”
“Seems like there’d be a bunch of apps that did X?”
“I couldn’t possibly be the only one. Very useful, this X.”
“Just keep wondering whether there isn’t something out there, already built, free. I really do wonder.”

But not meaning to ask me to do something is different than asking me to do something without meaning to ask me to do something.

Maybe my response should have been to ask her what she meant by “do.”


Yet another client’s problems inspired this drawing, in which case I know what to do, but am confused as to what it means.


My fitness app showed me what I did:


Which meant I had done what this diagram asked me to do:


Maybe my response should have been “just because I do something doesn’t mean it means anything.”






On my knees. An open letter to Santa Fe.


O Santa Fe.
you can build adobe yoga rooms
paint your ceiling beams brown

you can move firewood via burro
scratch the chins of the howling coyotes
and dangle chiles in every doorway

go ahead and dip Indian bread in mugs
of broth where “mild” is the new “hot”

i’ll even let you redefine the Frito Pie
or put vibram soles on moccasins
call every blue stone by the same name
and allow Amazon’s elite guests to geocache in the Plaza

but DO NOT—seriously—DO NOT FUCK with the panda bear.


Pooh Sticks on bikes


Pooh sticks is a game you play on a bridge over running water. Not like poo on a bridge:


but Pooh on a bridge.


No backpacking trip I’ve ever been on is complete without a rousing game; bottles of Peppermint Schnapps were won and lost all over the Weminuche Wilderness. We used to drop our sticks and then run across to the other side of the road with full backpacks on, but nothing is quite the same as trying to run this way with cycling shoes on.



Here in Trinity Alps the stick selection is awesome, and the river is punishing.
But the water is so clear even from far away the winner is obvious.



Along the river we found the house where Pooh lives.


The only access is a rickety wooden foot bridge that spans the river, and to move your shit back and forth there’s a wire cable telpher that reaches all the way to the road. We were walking up and down the side of the road trying to get a good photo of the house, and some locals drove by with the look on their faces that they knew exactly what we were trying to do.


Which is: Move in! Move in! The price of Pooh’s cabin is high so the dogs will have to rough it for awhile.


But we’re moving in as soon as we can test out that foot bridge, and maybe after we kick out some squatters. Meanwhile back at the cabin we’re staying at we are trying out a new bear bag technique. We haven’t seen any bears yet, just some wild turkeys, a roving pack of wild rottweilers and a dog named Toby whose owner screams, “Don’t worry he won’t bite. Toby NO! Toby NO!” as Toby gives the bicycles chase. Never can be too careful.


Thomas Pynchon asks us “You guys want to share a joint?”


Last week we packed up dogs and bikes and headed to Trinity Alps. Apparently Trinity Alps is where you want to go in the off season for total isolation. Hello no one, can I ride in the middle of the road now?


Living in Los Angeles it’s pretty darn easy to forget what no-one-around feels like. Your head goes through all the usual stuff: Are my dentals records current? What does bear poop look like again? What do all these people do without cell reception? Does the Audi make us look like Obama supporters? And yes, what if I just collapse here and die, and no one finds me until the spring. Guess that’d be OK.



The leaves are turning yellow with the occasional brilliance of red. Lots of moss climbing over weeping spruces, foxtail pines, sugar pines, dogwood maples, and black oaks.

Riding up a one lane road that wound its way into the mountains we came across black-tailed deer and no cars. Zero. The roads were smooth as silk, and the trees were pumping out as much oxygen as we needed. We didn’t have to worry about potholes and polluted air but we did get chased by dogs near a sign that said “please drive slow, pets live here.”

At a boat put-in on the Trinity River we took a break, dipping only fingers into the cold and grumbly water.


It’s salmon season, and upriver from us were two fishermen, casting from the water with bare legs. As we got ready to leave, a truck stopped next to us and a man dressed in beige camouflage rolled down the window. “Do those guys seem sketchy?” he asked.

We told him we didn’t think so, they were just fishing.

He pointed to a flat area a little further up the river. “What goes on over there?”

We shrugged, and told him it seemed like it was just a parking area, even though there were no cars. But, we said, the weird thing about this whole place is that all we’ve ever seen since we arrived are boat hitches. Not a single boat. Weird huh?

He opened his door and braced it with his foot. “You guys want to share a joint?”

We declined.

He licked his rolling paper and said those guys were probably marijuana growers disguised as fishermen. He was a writer, and that meant they would probably be good fodder for him. He lit his joint.

He said he liked to dress as a hunter because that way everyone gave him “maximum respect,” and then he said something incomprehensible about when the fire came through the area a few years ago and the cops came and one in eight of them weren’t real cops, just dressed as them. “Or scrubs,” he added. “Camo or scrubs will do it.”

Then he hit on a grand idea and said we should ride our bikes dressed not all brightly pink and yellow but as hunters in camo, and instead of having the bike pump attached to our frames to carry a shotgun. David said that would be perfect, so if he fell on the bike he could also shoot himself in the foot. Our friend, whom we decided had to be Thomas Pynchon, said that wouldn’t be a big deal, since the people here shoot themselves up all the time.

Mr. P asked us if we were from the bay area, and we said, no, southern California. His face puckered into a state of maximum confusion. We told him we didn’t bike all that way, and he seemed relieved.


Getting crafty at the velodrome


After getting certified at the velodrome, the next thing to do is to get a bike. After scoring a perfectly “mini me” black track bike the best way to make it real is to go Italian.



After that (and because the certificate says I have “acceptable knowledge of track etiquette”), it’s good to be prepared in the pit with tools. Plus it’s nice to help others out in case they forgot their wrenches. Track people are nice. There’s a self-filtering thing that seem to happen at the track where the dicks show up for awhile, then go back to hammering on the road. I’ve got a theory, but it’s not exactly formed so I’ll hold back for now.







Take “shelfies” not “selfies”

My mother does not want a photo taken of her. Not now, not even ten years ago. She doesn’t even want me to know her age, which I think is around 75 plus minus two or three. Either she’s gotten to the age or I’ve gotten to the age where my friends and I reserve entire evenings to discuss MOM stories.

I’ve always thought it was a better choice to make art than write stories, because when all else fails you can always give your art to your mom. The problem with this is that when she’s trying to sell her house and clean up and toss shit out she won’t let you throw the art out. Yes, Mom I drew that, but come on, it’s got to go.


My mom doesn’t make it easy to visit her, even though she still does nice things like leave the hall light on for me if I go out at night, or places a clean cup under the coffee maker for me to use in the morning. The problem with Mom is, well, it’s not entirely clear what the problem is.

When I visit her in New Mexico I can stay home, keep her inside, jump up and down with her when exciting points are made on the tennis channel, and re-watch the entire collection of Thin Man movies. But things get confusing because she keeps root vegetable chips inside of a sea salt potato chip bag (and maintains it that way), she has two pepper grinders, one she puts ground pepper in and the other whole peppercorns, refuses to give me the code to the house alarm, and leaves half apples, half bananas, half peaches, and I swear half blueberries everywhere, nested inside a half paper towel.

The alternative is to take Mom out into public. There she’ll clip her nails at the restaurant while gawking at the man who walks in with a prosthetic leg. She’ll refuse to use the pepper grinder the restaurant has placed on each table, choosing instead to sit there and not eat, constantly making a pepper grinding motion and saying “I’ll wait for them to bring out the fresh pepper.” She’ll go to the Apple store in Albuquerque with me, and after she decides to buy the iPad and before she hands over her credit card, she will cozy up to the 18 year old genius and point at me suspiciously, asking him to double verify what I told her, that she will indeed be able to use the iPad in Santa Fe.


At Mom’s house there’s always a barometer. There was a barometer in our house when my parents were married too. One friend who had been to both my dad’s and my mom’s house remarked how interesting it was that my parents were both into barometers. After thinking about it for a moment, I realized that it was really all Mom. She bought the one at the old house, didn’t take it with her when she left my dad, and bought herself a new one after moving into her new home.

Mom and Dad were scientists but it’s always funny for me to say it was my mom who designed explosives. She had something to do with the explosive that is set off when a car’s air bag is released. I always toss that one out when people get that look on their face after hearing that I grew up in Los Alamos.

Going to help Mom this past week, I feared the closet full of coffee makers, the eternal bag of bags, the bamboo baskets of matches. But she’s done a lot of work, “clearing the junks” as she likes to say, and only a few things made me pause to think they survived the purge. A framed jigsaw puzzle of an autumn pumpkin harvest, all my old art, a horrific carved ivory piece which I have never seen during my childhood and a jar of Carmex from way back in the past when I used to be addicted to Carmex, or at least said shit like that.


She doesn’t have many books, once you take away my brother’s sci-fi paperbacks and my random books from college and my Beatles phase. Looking at her “shelfie” is a little like looking at her through her Oakley sunglasses. She’s lost one of the nose pieces so she just replaced it with one that’s a different height. Doesn’t bother her though.

In no particular order:

What and How of Chinese Painting
America’s Hidden Corners
The Making of the Atomic Bomb
Monet’s Years at Giverny
The Practical Encyclopedia of Feng Shui
Cooking with Rosemary
Zen To Go
The Complete Illustrated Guide to Medical Self Care (take care of yourself)
The Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair
The Complete Guide to Antiques
The Complete Works of Shakespeare
Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare
Intermediate Readings in Chemical German
Italian for Travelers
French for Beginners
Explosives, third edition

Paying it forward


When we first got MO we took her to dog obedience class in the hopes of getting rid of some of her fears. Fear of walking down the street, fear of loud bangs, other dogs, other people, other dogs, fear of strangers touching her (you win some you lose some).
She went from a dog in complete panic all the time to an ace student (damn you Keeshonds for always beating her on the fastest down contest, and damn you “Stand For Examination test” on the Novice course), thanks to our fabulous teachers (obedience AND agility, yes all of you), and NO THANKS to this guy, aka “Crazy Soccer Man.”


Our obedience classes were held at Rancho Park, where CSM held soccer lessons for girls. He was loud and energetic and the girls were good. Week after week they smashed ball after ball after ball into the chain link fence that separated dog class from soccer madness. Every time the fence took one in the gut the people winced and the dogs began developing issues. Finally David went over to CSM and offered to buy him a net. CSM said he wasn’t technically allowed to have a net on the field because he wasn’t technically officially supposed to be there.

After many painful months we managed to get away from CSM by moving up to higher level class held in a different part of the park. But today at lunch David and I spotted him and a lady friend dining al fresco.


He had on his soccer shorts, and there was some wooing going on and large glasses of wine. Both of us suddenly had the same idea: let’s get the dogs and park them in front of the couple and give the first command MO ever learned and has never failed to perform on demand (and off).



Thanks kicksoccermom for the drawing of how to use a soccer ball as a fork.