Tour de flat

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Second opinions save time, trouble and lives.

When I noticed my bicycle was wobbling, I went back to the downtown bike shop I stopped by a week ago. I needed a screw to fasten a bracket on my rear platform. Bless them, they didn’t charge me anything to do it, so I left a few bucks in the tip jar and hopped back on.

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But something was still wrong with my ride. Fortunately, the other bike shop a few blocks away noticed my flat rear tire and the pinch puncture it had sustained sometime after I’d gotten the tires replaced at the first shop a week ago. After charging me $15 to replace it, I left the second shop much relieved and better prepared to pedal my best foot forward.

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Black death

I almost got good at it this evening, grabbing the remote and cutting off the newsroom television’s sound as each local television station in turn broadcast that clip of last year’s fatal traffic stop. I’d seen the images and clips all over Twitter, but I certainly don’t enable auto-play because, well, you both know and never know.

What I never got good at this evening was the other stuff that kept making me think of the traffic stop. Oddly, the biggest issue for me were the car commercials that pay for most of those stations’ newscasts. I didn’t understand why trailers teasing images of care-free dime-stop braking maneuvers and even easier leasing and financing terms kept making me look away.

Then I remembered Philando Castile was shot July 6, 2016, the day we bought our new Honda, one day after Alton Sterling’s fatal shooting, one day before all those police officers were fatally shot.

The other start to my shift was the news about Prodigy, and the accompanying reminder of all those rappers from hip-hop’s Golden Age who don’t get to make it to their own.

Love yoself

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They’re just words on a bench.

When you see them, breathe. Remember to turn the bicycle around slowly, angling up off the protected lane and onto the empty sidewalk.

Position yourself just so, with your phone held out to compose the picture you’re taking, so the woman walking past you can see what you’re doing clearly enough to risk a smile.

Ponder the effort it takes to perform this self-love, the forms it can take, from fruitlessly flogging yourself around the lake on the first day heralding a series of harbinger-of-climate-change hot-weather stretches, to purchasing the tires, chain and hand grips that will improve the ease and quality of your flogging.

The other advice written in the same wide purple scrawl on the bench is no easier to follow, but what can you expect from words on a bench like: “Spread love and follow ur dreams.”

These four walls can never hold us

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I used to say that sometimes working at a newspaper feels a little like living your life in a house that’s just a little bit on fire. Sometimes that meant it felt a bit like one of the scenes from “Synecdoche, New York” and sometimes that meant feeling like the “this-is-fine” dog, but I pretty much cut it out after last December, because for real though.

Going to a grocery store that’s part of a chain swallowed whole by an online book seller? That was me today, always distracted by the music that plays while I make my purchase, grease the wheels of capitalism, pay a little bit of money and a little bit of attention where they’re not yet but soon might be one and the same.

I can only imagine just how much tighter and brighter and on-the-nose the algorithms governing everything from the spot-cleaning of the aisles to the bands and artists on the store playlists are going to get.

Warriors

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I didn’t have to work until the afternoon. I managed to put off having to go anywhere downtown until after the parade. This meant noticing the swelling of the city’s population and the celebration on city streets nearby at the margins. I looked out my bedroom window and saw a plane skywriting hashtags into the fathomless blue overhead, and thought to myself, there’s a job minting money on a day like today with hundreds of thousands of people out. There’s a war on for people’s attentions, and what’s easier than little white puffs of smoke out a plane’s rear-end?

The other folks fighting the day’s battle were the men tasked with gathering up all the crowd-control barriers lining the downtown streets, navigating confetti and sandbags and suspect curbs to lift them onto flatbed trucks.

And then there was the addict leaning against one of the newsroom’s false doors, lighting up a pipe in between racuous tuneless belts of song, cheerily taking the hot dog I offered when I asked if he was hungry, and asking me in turn if I could help him get off drugs. Now there’s a war you don’t get asked to fight every day. I said I couldn’t help him, but I’d handed him food he might remember to consume. Maybe that might get him to tomorrow, but this late in the day, how hard could that be?

Colors against neutrals

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Today, I needed little pops of color against a dull backdrop, and I found them here, against one of the falsest buildings around.

Force me to make an appointment more than a week out to get something looked at, and I’ll do what I have to do to get it taken care of. Now all I have to do is remember to cancel the appointment I made, so someone else can benefit from the time I preemptively carved out of my schedule.

Take away even more in a series of good people away from the place I work, and I’ll do what I have to do to get something good out of it, even if I can’t talk about it or move on it this week.

So I could laugh at least, when I walked into the ice cream shop for a pint and found I wasn’t in the mood for any of their pre-packed rainbow flavors like vegan matcha or pumpkin cheesecake or “dirty south.” I waited for them to make mine vanilla to-go. Today I’ve more than enough flavor in my life in need of a dull backdrop, thanks for asking.

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Combinations

Veggie and meat combo platter with injera

Today’s normal and commonplace and holy and another Monday in a series.

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Some honor the sacrifice of those who died after they were sent to war. Others honor those who died more recently closer to home while challenging bigotry and defending fellow citizens, while others debate the day’s origins in grave decorations. Me, I’m eating the kind of meal in the rare kind of moment A. and I ever seem to do so, when it’s a holiday and other restaurants offer limited hours or closed doors.

I’m also thinking about the bravery and honesty in today’s latest post on a new-ish blog and hoping for many more posts to come.

Some sun and some soil

Westbound 14th between Alice and Harrison, Oakland

Today was only partially about tending to others’ gardens. I’m still dealing with whipping those walled-garden portals on my phone into shape. Some things like IFTTT may have to lie barren for a while until I can find a way back in.

I still have no use for certain messaging platforms (I’m looking at you, VK, and probably Weibo too). Others, like LinkedIn, will come back more easily and may yet reward more focused approaches.

It was funny to dig a Square card reader out of a pile on my desk, attach it to my phone and find it still works. I wonder if all the cool kids have moved onto other forms of payment, like contactless NFC-based hand gestures or something.

Results not immediately found

Southbound Telegraph Avenue at 17th Street, Oakland

I had to get up earlier than I’d planned and I found myself on Telegraph Avenue. I tried the convenience store with entrances on Broadway and Telegraph, but they didn’t have a thing I’ve been looking for. Then I stared at the intersection for a while, taking some pictures for Snapchat, before realizing I couldn’t quite make out the name on the mural hanging overhead and that nothing was turning up in search results for it.

Hours later, I was sitting in a cafe and grateful that the music playing from the overhead speakers was just loud enough to capture on my phone’s Sound Search app. The songs weren’t all alike, but were enough of a piece to program. I should have asked if it was Internet radio or somebody’s playlist, but that’s six of one and half a dozen of another these days.

Overheard at Caffe La Scala, Walnut Creek, CA

Necropolis

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I don’t think I literally live and work in cities of the dead until I have to get through certain days.

I got a few texts from one of my bosses before my shift started. There had been a shooting at an intersection in a city about 10 miles north of where I live. It involved an ex-boyfriend with a short temper and a gun crossing paths with a woman taking her two children to a day-care center.

I got there on time and talked to a police department spokesman, who pointed out the green spray-painted spots on the road where the woman’s sport-utility vehicle had gotten boxed in before the single shot rang out at a quarter to eight in the morning, with the kids still sitting and watching from the backseat.

I made it through today. Not everybody who started today did. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.