Fish & Bicycles Goes On Virtual Hiatus

hiatushi·a·tus
noun — A gap or interruption in space, time, or continuity; a break


You know, I’ve been working at a university for 12 years, and so, when I hear the term hiatus, I think of privileged faculty or higher up administrators who are eligible to enjoy the occasional long break from employment, six months to a year, knowing that their job will be waiting for them when they return.

Me, on the other hand, while I have excellent healthcare benefits and a retirement plan, as well as paid sick leave and vacation, the demands of my job and the low level of my position on campus do not allow me the opportunity for hiatus. Anything longer than a 2-week vacation is very difficult to get approval for.

Therefore, I hereby announce that Fish & Bicycles is going on a virtual hiatus, for how long I do not know.

This has been a very difficult decision to make. I’ve loved blogging. I’ve been doing it since June 2004, first at my now-defunct first blog, and here at Fish & Bicycles since October 2009.

But, a number of things have added up to a gradual decline in enthusiasm and enjoyment. My life offline has become too busy, cluttered with a wide range of things both voluntary and involuntary.

Meanwhile:

  • I have a 15-year old son who will not be living at home all that much longer;
  • I have a lovely wife whom I ALWAYS wish I had more time with;
  • And, at 48 years of age, I’m finding my physical, mental, and spiritual health to be demanding more attention from me.

Additionally, I find myself, more times than not, feeling obligated to post something here at Fish & Bicycles, just to keep it alive, rather than as the product of an inspiration to create for creativity’s sake. I know that maintaining a regular practice of anything requires persistence in the face of challenges, and I’ve managed to do just that for nine years of blogging. But, I just need to take a break for a while, to attend to other things in my life.

I LOVE that definition of hiatus that I included at the start of this post — A gap or interruption in space, time, or continuity. It sounds so Sci-Fi, and given that I’m taking a virtual hiatus, I feel like a time traveler!

Hopefully, on my “travels” I will find my muse again and I’ll return to Fish & Bicycles with renewed vigor and determination.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank all of my regular readers and the many folks who have chosen to Follow Fish & Bicycles. I’ve been honored by the time people have taken to check out what I’ve been doing here.

Cheers!

Cutest.Beatles.Cover.Ever?

So, there I was thinking that the cutest Beatles cover ever was performed by my son, approximately age 7, in our front yard, using a karaoke machine, screaming Twist & Shout at the top of his lungs all over the neighborhood…

Then I saw this:

Ok, so, that’s pretty frickin’ cute, but my son’s performance will always be a precious memory, so let’s just call it a tie.

My Teen, My Tug o’ War: A Poem

tug-o-war1

my teen, my tug o’war
the rope stretched taut between us
we pull
me wanting him closer
he wanting to get away…
…and yet, no letting go

for 15 years years I’ve been telling
the same old joke
about how my son had a lot of nerve
growing up
how, if I could, I would freeze his growth
at any given time
for as long as I needed him to be
that age
that size
that capable
Until I had had my fill
Until I was ready to move on

but I’ve never had that power
over time and space
and now…
…he’s been weightlifting
he’s ripped
he could kick my ass in a fight

and so here I am
reduced to being grateful that he hasn’t yet
let go of the rope

we tug

Quadrophenia & “The Universal Adolescent Problem”

QuadropheniaWhen I was a sophomore at Rutgers University, I read an article in the school newspaper that mentioned an album that was very near and dear to my heart, The Who‘s 1973 masterpiece Quadrophenia.

And, because I was a serious music geek, obsessed with Rock & Roll on a scholarly level, and because I was majoring in English literature, writing papers on a nearly constant basis, I sat down at my typewriter and pounded out a letter-to-the-editor in response to the piece I’d read. Only, instead of the few column inches typical for this sort of thing, page after page after page spilled out, with at least a dozen quotes, transcribed from memory.

It was classic me at the time. I put considerably more effort, my heart and soul really, into that letter than I did into the paper on Shakespeare or something that I should have been working on. It also took me a fraction of the time.

Well, much to my surprise, the letter was published in its entirety, as a full-on article, which was a terrific thrill and an enormous boost to my confidence as a writer. (So, I guess it was probably a good thing, after all, that I was procrastinating that Shakespeare paper.)

One of the reasons why that piece on Quadrophenia was so easy to write was because that album spoke to me and touched me so deeply. Though it was written all the way across the Atlantic, about people and events in a totally different culture, set right around the time I was born, its writer, Pete Townshend, had communicated the essence of what it’s like to grow up, how difficult and confusing and painful it can be, and, as it turns out, though 20 years and many cultural changes had come and gone since the fictional events depicted in Quadrophenia had taken place, so much of the coming-of-age experience had stayed the same, filled with all of the pressures to leave the innocence of childhood behind, to fit in, to get a job and keep it, and to find, if you’re lucky, sometimes against seemingly insurmountable odds, love.

In the video below, a documentary about the making of the album, The Who’s manager, Bill Curbishley, referred to this theme that Townshend had so accurately portrayed as “the universal adolescent problem”.

Anyway, as a father of a 15-year old son, I can see my boy wrestling with this universal problem just like I did, I can see him struggling mightily at times, and in some ways it’s more painful than when I went through it. Parents like me want so badly to protect our children from this kind of thing, and when we see it happening, regardless of our hopes and efforts, we not only feel the pain that our kids are feeling, we feel anger at the world for bringing it upon them, and sometimes anger at ourselves for having failed to protect them from it.

So, you might wonder, if this universal adolescent experience is so painful, why would we want to listen to an album on such a painful subject?

Thing is, one of the things that can happen at this time of our lives is tremendous isolation, born from a sense that we’re the only ones going through it. We look around, everyone’s putting on their brave faces, posing their asses off, no one’s talking about their feelings and about how difficult it is to keep up this pretense.

When you hear Quadrophenia, then, it breaks through that isolation, letting you know that you aren’t alone, that you aren’t the only one to have experienced the difficulties you are experiencing, and there’s great relief and comfort in that. Add to this the intense, powerful, pulsing rock music of The Who, and the album becomes a vehicle for this catharsis, this release valve for all the pressure that’s been building up.

I very nearly owe my life to Quadrophenia, and so having stumbled across this documentary on the album was a real treat for me, stirring up considerable memories.

I hereby dedicate this post to my son, who has inherited my vinyl record collection, including Quadrophenia, and I hope that it provides as much comfort and inspiration to him as it did for me.

Is That An Ice Pack In Your Underwear, Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

snowballsMale infertility is a serious issue, accounting for 40% of all infertility cases.

So, you might think that it’s rather insensitive of me, via the title of this post, to joke about the new fertility-enhancement-through-refrigeration underwear by Procreativity.

But, when you consider that the folks at Procreativity have actually branded their product with the name Snowballs, you can see that they have already beaten me to the punch.

Via Mashable:

Snowballs creator Joshua Shoemake had trouble in the “fertility factory” with his wife. Too many appointments and too much money spent were taking its toll. A friend going through a similar situation was told to put some ice down below, since elevated scrotal temperature can be a major cause of infertility.

After icing for a year, Shoemake’s friend became father to a baby girl. Inspired by the idea, the two believed they could find a way to “hack fertility.”…

The specially designed underwear include SnowWedges for cooling. The wedges mold to the body and use a freezable, non-toxic gel to maintain a comfortable temperature for 30 minutes.

I think that their preemptive use of humor in naming the underwear Snowballs and the video below is brilliant marketing, recognizing that, people being people, jokes would be predictable.

And, while I shiver at the thought of ice in my underwear, having had personal experience with procreation and the incredible joy of being a parent, I can’t help hope that this product can make that experience possible for more men who want it.

Video Fridays: Jake Shimabukuro

jake-shimabukuroIn case you didn’t know, the ukulele was the most popular instrument in American homes in the 1920s.

Time passed, and on the wave of guitar-centric Folk and Rock & Roll music of the 1950s and 1960s, the guitar took over.

But, then came Brother IZ, aka Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, and his 1993 medley of Somewhere Over The Rainbow and What A Wonderful World, the spark to a worldwide ukulele revival.

Fast forward to 2005, when a YouTube video went viral, that of a young man playing a rendition of George Harrison’s and The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps. That young man was Jake Shimabukuro, the video blew me away, and from that day forward I started to notice the ukulele…everywhere!

  • YouTube was flooded with uke clips.
  • I suddenly came across articles about the ukulele all over the web.
  • In 2006, BUG (Bellingham Ukulele Group) was founded right here Bellingham by a group of enthusiasts who wanted to gather and make music with each other, to spread the good word of the ukulele, and now they claim 135 members, hold open jam sessions, song circles and workshops.
  • In 2010, BUG co-sponsored the screening of a documentary film titled The Mighty Uke, all about the ukulele revolution.

Tonight, Jake Shimabukuro performs in Bellingham at the Performing Arts Center at Western Washington University. And since, as I mentioned a couple of years ago, my son tinkers with the ukulele, I’m particularly thrilled that he and I will be going to the show tonight for a shot in the arm of inspiration.

In the meantime, for this week’s Video Fridays installment, I’ve chosen that very first video that I saw of Jake. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll be likewise blown away, and if you have seen it, it’s about time you watched it again, isn’t it?

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Best of Fish & Bicycles: The Fragile Male Self

Originally Published: August 10, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, our cat came scurrying into the house from the backyard, with this in her mouth:

I know. Before you’re able to settle into how cute the baby squirrel is, you find that it’s actually kinda painful to look at. How vulnerable. How fragile?!

And, it’s one thing to just look at the photo, another entirely when you need to figure out what to do with the poor little thing.

No, it wasn’t dead. The eyes, like those of other baby mammals, hadn’t opened yet. As far as I could tell, the cat had not injured the tiny squirrelet, and it didn’t seem, however skinny it appeared, to be particularly weak, as it squirmed around considerably, repeatedly wresting itself from the hand towel I tried to wrap it in to keep it warm.

I couldn’t return it to its nest, or whatever you call it, because I had no idea where that might be. And even if I could, I remember reading somewhere that the mother will reject the baby if she detects a human scent, and I rushed to hold the baby in my hands to keep it warm, because I read somewhere else that this would prevent the animal from going into shock.

Thank goodness for the NW Wildlife Rehabilitation Center! I called at 5pm and they were open until 8pm. Awesome! They were a 30-minute drive out Mt. Baker Highway, but they told me it’s baby squirrel season, they have 6 others from the past week, and they have a very good success rate rehabbing them and releasing them out in the wild.


As I’ve mentioned before, I have a 12-year old son, and there’s no one who looks at him, either in repose or while rock climbing or skimboarding or etc., and thinks he’s fragile in any way.

According to Michael Gurian, however, author of A Fine Young Man: What Parents, Mentors, and Educators Can Do to Shape Adolescent Boys into Exceptional Men, nothing could be further from the truth. Through review of extensive research and research of his own, Gurian presents conclusive evidence that, while boys outwardly exhibit bravado and toughness, contrary to sexist stereotypes that women are the weaker sex boys are actually more mentally and emotionally fragile than girls.

It’s this disconnect between what boys feel they need to be and who they are that makes the time of adolescence so incredibly difficult for them, and I certainly see my son struggling with that all the time.

Now, don’t think for a second that there’s a simple solution. You don’t just coddle and tell your son, “Honey, you don’t have to pretend.” Some of the posturing they do, Gurian suggests, is actually healthy and it’s a matter of finding a positive outlet for it, through sports or other male activities.

Anyway, there’s much more to it than that, and there’s much more to my son for sure.

(Oh, by the way, the little squirrelet was a boy and he’s doing very well.)

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Dad, you’re embarrassing me!

Originally Published: November 14, 2009


embarrassingHe didn’t say it.

Didn’t have to.

It was frickin’ cold outside this morning, frost on the rooftops and windshields, and I was up at 7am on a Saturday, doing my fatherly duty, dropping my son off at the YMCA, where he loaded into a van for a trip to a rock climbing competition in Seattle.

On the way to the Y, it was a really sweet time. I lightheartedly teased him into eating his eggs, he joked about having to carry those eggs up the wall as he climbed, we listened to the Hawaiian music radio show on KUGS, and we reminisced about having been swimming with sea turtles off the Big Island several years ago.

Shortly after we arrived, the rock climbing team and their coach loaded into the van, my son took a spot in the back by a window, and I went up to the window to say goodbye. For years we’ve been saying “I love you” to each other in sign language in moments like this, so I flashed him the signs. Usually, he responds instantly, but this time he hesitated.

Feeling like something was missing, that this was not a sufficient send-off, I started signing again, but in wildly dramatic fashion, making all kinds of silly faces, tapping on the window, waving my hands goodbye frantically…really hamming it up for comedic effect.

Like I said, he didn’t say it, but the non-verbals, the roll of the eyes and lack of reciprocation of the sign language, almost certainly could be translated as, “Dad, you’re embarrassing me!”

And it was the first time this phenomenon played out for us. The first of many times it will play out, if there is any degree of truth to the anecdotes from other parents and stories from my own childhood.

I have to say, it’s a little heartbreaking.

Fatherly Pride Redux

The Story Thus Far
Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about the tremendous pride I experienced, when my then 13-year old son, Julian, took first place in the Men’s Intermediate Division at the annual Veni. Vidi. Ascendi. rock climbing competition at Western Washington University.

Julian continued climbing in the year since, facing the typical ups and downs, and since this is not a hardcore climbing blog and you, my readers, are not, for the most part, I assume, hardcore climbing enthusiasts, it really hasn’t made sense to chronicle here much of what has transpired. For rock climbing is essentially a practice of such small incremental progress, measured in cryptic rating systems that are completely meaningless to the layperson, and at the same time it’s more about achieving one’s personal best rather than beating the competition.

The News
BUT…then there are the occasional HUGE accomplishments, like when Julian qualified at the Regional Championships on December 10th to move on to Divisional Championships, and when this past weekend, at Divisionals he qualified to move on to the National Championships in Colorado Springs, CO the first weekend in March!

Woohoo!!!

The Irony
The Injury: Right after Regionals, Julian hurt the middle finger on both hands from overuse, he was told he needed to rest for 4 weeks, meaning no climbing at all, we’d just completed construction of a new, killer climbing wall in our garage and he’d qualified for Divisionals.

It was torture! Julian had to develop some serious discipline, with daily ice baths for his hands, and resisting the temptation to climb, with all his climbing buddies itching to get on the new wall.

I think the thing I’m most proud of is how well he stepped up to these challenges, which really enabled him to heal in time to train hard the week before Divisionals, and then, of course, enabled him to do as well as he did there.

The Money: Usually we think about success in terms of positive gains. There’s the sense of accomplishment we earn, the acknowledgment of the accomplishment from others that we receive, and some times there are even prizes or other awards.

In the case of Nationals, well, Julian’s accomplishment will be costing us a hefty chunk of change, for airfare, car rental, lodging, meals, competition registration, etc.

And yet, I give it all up gladly, that he might have this amazing experience, that he can see where his hard work and determination can take him when he sets his mind, his will, and his passion towards his goals.

Go Julian!!!