Monday, March 26, 2012

The Weekend, My Bike; Beginners

The weekend was good.
Thursday and Friday I attended a seminar at the capitol on substance abuse and mental health.  It was pretty informative, and I learned about a new and interesting mental health treatment courts that they've started down in San Antonio.  We'll see if anyone decides to pursue something similar up here.
Friday night after my seminar I went out and bought a bicycle.  I'm not sure what got into me- whether it was just the really nice spring weather or a frustration with my unusually slow walking speed or what.  At any rate, in my ongoing quest to try to remain somewhat healthy (or at least never move beyond my current "chubby-functional" physique), I purchased a bike. 
My bike is from Wal-Mart, and it's definitely not fancy.  Being a big guy, my primary concern with getting a bike was to try to get something that would be sturdy enough to support me.  At one point I had wandered into a bike shop with a friend, and out of idle curiosity I had asked a salesclerk what kind of bike might work for a 6'7" guy who doesn't exactly have a super skinny frame.  The sales guy immediately pointed me to a $3,000 mountain bike and told me that nothing else would work for me.
I was sort of discouraged by this.  I was interested in trying out a bike, but I only wanted to try one out.  I hadn't really ridden one since I was a kid, and I wasn't even sure I'd like it anymore.  The idea of spending $3K just to see if I enjoyed pedaling around my neighborhood seemed a little preposterous, especially when I knew that I didn't have any interest in becoming a serious cyclist in terms of either distance or off road riding.
So I went to Wal-Mart and I bought a La Jolla Cruiser.  It has no shock absorbers, and I basically wanted as few moving parts as possible, figuring those would be the things that might give out in a big guy/inexpensive bike situation.
Here is my ride.
"Well, you have a sweet bike. And you're really good at hooking up with chicks. Plus you're like the only guy at school who has a mustache." -Napoleon Dynamite

So Friday night I pedaled around the neighborhood a bit on the bike.  It was fun.  The weather was beautiful.  Saturday I rode around a little bit more.  I ventured out to the grocery store just to see how the ride would go.  Yesterday I got up in the morning and rode to Taco Cabana to pick up some breakfast tacos.  It was very pleasant.  Beautiful weather, and it turns out that I notice my surroundings a lot more when I'm on a bike.  In the afternoon I rode down by my friend D.K.'s house and around her neighborhood and then rode over through Sunset Valley.  I'm within riding distance of frozen yogurt, a neighborhood bar and grille, a number of restaurants, a movie theater, and at least two supermarkets.  I'm happy with my bike.  I'm still a little wary about riding in traffic, but I can get to a lot of places using neighborhood roads.  If I end up riding it a bit, I might upgrade at some point, but for right now it seems just fine.

In other, non bike-related news, I got up on Saturday morning and went to have breakfast with Amy and her friend, Heidi.  They went for a walk on Town Lake, but I just joined them for the afterwalk breakfast at Magnolia Cafe (I love a good weekend breakfast!).  After breakfast we drove over to Mount Bonnell and climbed up it for a look around. 

My climb to the top of Mount Bonnell was powered by some tasty
Magnolia  breakfast fuel
Saturday afternoon Amy did some homework, and I exercised.  We did some shopping, and then Saturday night the family (con Jamie y Ryan) joined together for a dinner at Hyde Park with our family friends, Barb and Paul Smith. 
It was really nice to see Barb and Paul!  They're from Upper Michigan, and they've been friends of ours for a long time.  It was good to have a chance to catch up with them and hear about their family.  We had the privilege of being with Barb as she tried out her first chicken fried steak (sort of a rite of passage here in Texas, right?), and Barb and Paul did an admirable job of selling Amy on the virtues of a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (which is not only a beautiful place, but personally kind of special to me after having spent so much time there as a kid).
At any rate, it was a nice dinner, and we had a good ol' fashioned Steans family hang out with the Smiths.  Hope to see them again soon!
Saturday night we watched Beginners.  I enjoyed it.
I'd heard an interview with Mike Mills, the writer and director, on NPR, so I knew a little bit about what to expect.  Beginners is Mills's semi autobiographical tale about his father, who comes out of the closet after the death of his wife after 45 years of marriage.  The protagonist's father stays faithfully married to his wife, but they have a strained relationship, and having only recently embraced his sexual orientation in the latter years of his life, he sort of leaps out of the closet after his wife's death in one colossal bound.  Sadly, soonafter he develops terminal cancer and eventually dies (these technically aren't spoilers because the movie takes place in a nonlinear style, so you know a lot of this stuff very early on).  Oliver, Mills's fictional stand in, struggles to digest the lessons learned by the final, fulfilling years of his father's life, and to incorporate those lessons into a new relationship.
The movie, while dealing with some pretty heavy subject matter, mostly manages to avoid excessive sentimentality, and, at times, is pretty darn funny.  The nonlinear narrative structure, including the death of the father foretold at the outset, steers the film toward introspection and away from simple emotional reactions.
I liked it.  It's a movie that depicts a certain form of courage and heroism, and I found it kind of intriguing (although I'll admit that having heard Mills's short NPR interview beforehand somewhat contributed to my enjoyment).  As I get older I have more and more appreciation for stories of bravery that don't involve machineguns, spaceships, or ninjas (although I still love machineguns, spaceship, and ninjas).      

On Sunday I got up and rode my bike to get some breakfast tacos.  Then we went to church.  Then I ran to the store.  After that I took a big ol' long bicycle ride to scope out places some possible future biking destinations.  After that I mostly just hung out with Amy for a while. 
For dinner Amy made some kind of very delicious tacos (they were in the slow cooker all afternoon, so I was dying to try them by evening).  They were called tinga, and they were great, and I hope they return (we still have leftovers, so I'm good for now).  Amy has gotten really good at cooking Mexican food, and a lot of it is actual Mexican food and not Tex Mex, so it's tasty, but it's not the normal Tex Mex cheese pile (although I still do love the Tex Mex, but, you know, it'll kill you if you let it).  Amy also has a recipe for chilaquiles that I love, and other things as well (she's also good at other kinds of food, but the Mexican thing has just been sort of unexpected).
Other from that, we just sort of chilled out.  I played some of the Batman: Arkham City game that Amy got me for my birthday, and she helped me out when I got to some hard parts.  It's a really cool game.  Amy likes watching me play it sometimes because she says it's like watching a movie.  Nice artwork.

And that's it!

It was a great weekend!  Hope the weather holds up for the next one.

Peace to all of you guys.


Paul Toohey said...

The saddest part of biking around town? Seeing all the dead birds/squirrels/animals everywhere.

My suggestions would be to get lights if you're out when it's dark (you can get clip on ones for fairly cheap). Stay off of sidewalks and either in bike lanes, or take the lane. It seems scary, but it's really safer for you.

J.S. said...

Well, I've heard cyclists complain for years that Austin isn't really a bike friendly town, and in general, it probably could be a whole lot better. If Austin, in general, isn't good for bike safety, though, I'm here to say that South Austin is even worse. We have very few bike lanes, narrow roads, and automobile drivers who seem even less accustomed to dealing with cyclists than the drivers in Central and North Austin. South Austin drivers just seem completely oblivious. I'm sure I'll feel a little better as I get used to riding more, but it's crazy out there!