Tuesday, May 01, 2012

It All Turns On Affection

Morning weigh-in: 182#
"We know enough of our own history by now to be aware that people exploit what they have merely concluded to be of value, but they defend what they love. To defend what we love we need a particularizing language, for we love what we particularly know." - Wendell Berry
So we went down to Washington the weekend before last, to see Wendell Berry give this year's Jefferson Lecture, and we decided to make a long weekend of it, Saturday through Tuesday evening. (I had Friday off, and we were contemplating maybe playing one night in Philly beforehand, but I had a bunch of weekend chores and Anne had some 24-hour bug, so we kept it to four days.)
We took the bus to Philly on Saturday morning and hopped the train to Union Station in DC, where we met Emmi. Lunch was at the Native American Museum.
Dinner was at the Bier Baron, a rathskeller-type place we found last time we were in town. Our dinner guest was Liz H-D, and she was vivacious as ever, and she seems to have acquired a new poise or confidence -- she seems to be thriving in DC, and we were graced with an hour or so of exciting conversation between the garden party she was coming from, and the "Nineties Party" she was heading to. ("Nineties Party" -- am I really that old?)
Sunday was rainy, and we spent the day at the National Gallery of Art -- two big wings, hundreds of famous paintings both modern and classical/historical, lunch in the underground passageway/cafeteria between wings, and they let you take pictures... (BTW I already posted most of those pics over at Flickr, go wild.) It was awesome but in the end exhausting, and I had little energy left when we hit the African Museum afterward -- and not much time either, we got there with only an hour left until closing. It was Earth Day on the Mall, and in our peregrinations we caught bits and pieces of it but the rain put a serious damper on events: even Cheap Trick attracted just a handful of stragglers.
That night we had dinner with Emmi's old college friend Amanda and her partner, at another awesome local place called Meridian Pint. This was Amanda's recommendation, but I'd done my homework and knew that it was considered one of the best beer bars in DC, and it didn't disappoint: food and brew choices were both unbelievable, and the service was both casual and top-notch. Amanda, outspoken and vivacious in her own right, also seems to have matured, mellowed even.. It was really nice to catch up with her, she with her newly-minted admittance to the bar and Emmi with her own brand-new PhD.
We hit the Smithsonian on Monday, but just the Museum of Natural History. (Another overwhelming experience, stay tuned for pictures.) Anne and Emmi went shopping beforehand, so I found myself in a DuPont Circle institution -- Kramer Books -- bought Bill Bryson's Notes On A Small Island, and kicked back for a while in their coffee shop. The girls joined me for lunch there, and then we were off to do the museum thing. We were there long enough, even just scratching the surface, that were pressed for time getting to the Kennedy Center for the lecture.
Tickets were free, but you had to reserve them months ago, and then claim them an hour or so before the lecture or they'd give them away to someone else. We got there in time and retrieved our tickets (walking through literally hundreds of people camped out waiting to grab unclaimed tickets), then we had some time to check out the Kennedy Center -- I mostly sat on the stairs outside the auditorium, where Amanda joined us again. (Anne's friends Lois and Mary Lou were also in town for the lecture; they drove down together that day from the Lehigh Valley, but we didn't see them until afterward.)
The lecture was titled "It All Turns On Affection," which was itself a quote from E.M. Forster. (You can find the lecture here.) It really was very moving, and he was quiet and soft-spoken and seemed to become choked up from time to time -- maybe he was rallying his resources, he's not a young man -- and he held us spellbound in our seats for the duration. The lecture ended on an ironic note when the head of the NEH came out and announced that 'the opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the US Government or the NEH." (More on the lecture here.)
Afterwards we (Anne and me, Emmi, Amanda, and Mary Lou and Lois) all had dinner at Meridian Pint's sister establishment, the Smoke and Barrel. This was another of Amanda's recommendations, and it was a good one (though I think Meridian Pint was the nicer of the two), and we also got to see some of Anne's old neighborhood from when she lived in DC.
Tuesday morning it was finally nice out again, but we were heading home. We said goodbye to Emmi, who was off to a job interview in Maryland, grabbed breakfast in Union Station, and took the train for Philly. We had some time to kill there, so we walked around, hit a few bookshops, and had a long lunch at the White Dog Cafe. One last bus ride, a quick hike across town, and we were home.
I have to say, I really liked that train ride.

Monday, April 30, 2012

On The Beat Down Beat

I raced yesterday, once more unto the Michaux Maximus... I took it as a training  race, which was good not only because I could use the experience -- it's been two years since I raced, or participated in any large-scale cycling event for that matter -- but also because if I had to take my results seriously I'd be pretty upset: I basically got my ass kicked, if not dead last then close to it, even in my age group.

It was a fun day though even considering the smackdown: the weather turned out to be perfect, and course conditions were as good as I've ever seen them there, dry (for the most part) but still pretty tacky where you needed it. The course itself (you can see my GPS track here) started a little different than the way I remember it, but it still hit many of the familiar trails: the Huckleberry, and the Fuzzy, and Dead Woman Hollow and Three Mile Trail, and it finished with the usual climb up the Log Sled Trail.

I really can't complain too much: my biggest problem right now is fitness (which I knew going into this, and which this is supposed to help address), followed by a general aversion to riding too close to other people -- I stopped a few times to let riders pass, and often paced the guys in front of me rather than muscling my way through -- but I think that this aversion could also be attributed to the fitness thing, since I blew up whenever I put out a truly competitive level of effort, especially in the first section, where there was a rapid succession of short steep climbs, so that ""fighting i n the pack" mentality really wasn't working ofr me.

I was more than a little gratified though -- shocked, even -- at how well I did on the technical stuff, especially in comparison to the people I was riding among. This was a real switcheroo: I used to be pretty bad at technical riding, and made up for it with better climbing ability;  yesterday, I struggled to keep my place climbing Dead Woman Hollow, got passed by a few guys, but then I utterly dropped them, and a few others, on Three Mile Trail.

They all caught me before the end though, either on the long, rolling dirt road stretch that came immediately afterward, or when we were climbing the final mile on Log Sled Trail, or at the point  in between, probably the easiest part of the whole course, when I suddenly needed to pull over and hurl. (Apparently I still have a few kinks to work out. When I got back I skipped the free meal...)

My ride time was about 3:15 and my time on the course was probably around 3:30, no worse than I expected but I do see I have some work to do. About par for the course.