Bike, Bike, Bike


It was a day to get militant. It was a day to get out. It was a day to bike. It was a day to get out and be militant about biking. I started the day, by cycling in Forest Park. Normal for me, this is my exercise cycling. Later, Anne and I walked over to attended the grand reopening of a neighborhood bike shop, Mesa Cycles, now under new management. It appears to be a Specialized outlet now.

Later still, we hit Immaculate Conception for Trailnet’s annual chili dinner kickoff.

There, we ended up politicking. We dined with the Maplewood mayor and spouse, Barry and Deni. It was delightful. Our longtime friend and cycling enthusiast Sandi joined us. She is running for a seat on Maplewood’s city council. I volunteered to help her on election day. Which means that I only have to pull a twelve-hour day, as opposed to Anne’s fifteen that day. 

Repel Boarders

Castillo de San Marcos Cannon Firing

When we visited St. Augustine, we toured Castillo de San Marcos, a national monument now, where reenactors portray 18th-century Spanish soldiers. Built to repel first the English and then Americans, you could think of it as a not so successful wall. It could not prevent the annexation of Florida by the US.

Static fortifications seldom succeed in the face of dynamic forces. History is rife with examples. The Great Wall could not prevent the Mongols from conquering China and the Maginot Line didn’t stop the Germans. So, I don’t see why anyone thinks that a southern border wall will prevent illegal immigration. Especially since most undocumented people enter the US legally and overstay their visa.

I don’t really have a dog in this fight, since my family members are all citizens, plus I have ancestors that came to America even before San Marcos did. Even they were immigrants though. We are a nation of immigrants. Once, that idea distinguished us from other countries. What ever happened to the ideal of Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

I said that I am not personally affected by this debate, but I am touched by it. It hurts me to witness my country doing wrong. This is not the first time that the US has turned nativist, but it is happening again now and I don’t like it. 

The Rot Has Set In

Unusual Brick Erosion at Fort Zachary Taylor

Pictured is part of the ceiling of one of the enclosed ramparts at Fort Zachary Taylor, which is located in Key West. Shown is some unusual erosion in the ceiling’s brickwork. Normally, the mortar around the bricks erodes first, but in this instance the reverse has occurred, the bricks have eroded, leaving raised rings of mortar still standing around each one. Fort Taylor, once a 19th-century coastal fortification, is now a state park. So, what we see here is a situation where the center has rotted-out first, leaving just a crumbling shell. I offer this oddity as segue to a discussion of our current administration’s plight.

Roiled since its inception, President Trump’s Whitehouse is now facing daily defections. This soap opera has played out accompanied by the steady drumbeat of the Russian investigation. Trump’s lashing out in frustration on Twitter serves only as counterpoint, but recently a new wobble has developed. First there was DACA and then gun control, in both cases Trump had first publicly adopted a position counter to GOP orthodoxy, only then to retreat in the face of blowback.

Now, he has moved on to tariffs. Yesterday, he proposed new tariffs on metals. The markets immediately panicked. Next week’s deadline for implementation allows plenty of time for this latest self-inflicted crisis to dominate the news and then generate opposition, before it also cravenly slinks away. However, unlike guns or DACA, which both required congressional cooperation to succeed, Trump can impose these tariff unilaterally. Always on the hunt for a win, no matter what, he might just pursue his course and let the world be damned.   


Keys from the Arabia Collection

The short, nasty and brutish month of February is in its final quarter. Named for an ancient purification festival that evolved into Lent, February is a time to make amends. African-Americans must feel short-changed being the recipients of this month. It being only 28 days, but it is its weather that is its big negative. Perhaps that’s why it is the shortest month, turning the calendar into a hope that winter will pass sooner. The winter Olympics have been a bit of a reprieve. 

The dreary monotony of this month has been punctuated with the staccato sound of first gunfire and then the shouts of both students and teachers for some action on gun control. Feckless politicians in the thrall of the NRA have responded with tired platitudes about thoughts and prayers or nonsensical suggestions that educators should get strapped up. Rebecca Field, an art teacher from Richmond, VA has written A letter from a furious teacher that powerfully rebuts these so-called public servants. I wonder if we are on the cusp of another variation in this #MeToo era, where the powerful are being called to atone for their lies. 

Closer to home, MSD has trenched the length of the block, laid new storm sewer pipe and filled in the hole with gravel. They’ve cleared away all their extra bits, almost restoring to us our parking strip. Except that AT&T has already planted tiny flags there. This second wave of construction will bring us fiber, more mud and holes regularly spaced in the parking strip up and down the block, February.

Black Panther

War Chief, Warriors and Attendants, Edo, 1600s

Is it a coincidence that in 1966 Stan Lee created the comic book character Black Panther and a few months later the activist Black Panther Party was formed? Maybe. It is certainly no coincidence that the movie’s origin story was set in Oakland, where the Black Panther Party was founded. Political references abound throughout the movie “Black Panther”, from its Oakland introduction to its epilogue. [Spoiler Alert] When did the United Nations move to Vienna? Why?

Black Power is on full display. The movie’s cast is almost exclusively black, except for a couple of Tolkien white guys. Afrocentric, “Black Panther” shows Africans unbowed by racism. It has a cast peppered with role models. Strong women predominate. The king’s daddy issues aside, their intellect governs. Unconquered and empowered, the people of Wakanda are a shiny beacon to a movie world that has never seen their like before.

Afro-futurism is a term bandied about with this show. Its African setting and sci-fi patina prompts this aphorism. I wonder what real effects this movie will have upon its target audience. How will black kids react to seeing this movie?  Why positively, of course. In this movie they are shown their future as has not been shown before. Among all the colorful robes and gleaming gizmos, it is in the actors’ countenances and bearing, where the true power of this movie lies. 

Backpack Full of Cash

Barbarians at the Gates

We barely escaped home this morning. MSD had already trenched across the front of our driveway, when we were ready to leave. Fortunately, Anne had parked the Prius up the street the night before. We had gone to the high school to see the documentary, “Backpack Full of Cash”. Narrated by Matt Damon, this movie deals with the growing privatization of public schools in America, all under the guise of educational reform. Under pressure at both the state and Federal levels, support for public education was the rallying cry in this partisan film. It was followed with a panel discussion by state and local educators. The resistance will not go quietly into the night.