As the subtitle of this blog suggests, I don’t review burger joints very often anymore. Also, now that I am almost as fat as I have ever been, I have made a couple of healthy half measures (I rarely stick to whole measures): cut way down on dairy and beef. The decision on cutting down on dairy is purely a healthy choice–I’ve replaced milk with vanilla soy and hope to go to almond or some other replacement for soymilk since I’ve been reading negative stuff on that milk substitute. I haven’t begun to look for alternatives for butter, cream, mayo yet. (So the cutting down on dairy is truly a baby step.) Cheese, what would life be like without cheese? My low-beef consumption decision has more to do with how the demand for beef–especially in America–is killing the planet. I would rant on about that, but instead, I’m providing one of many sources here if you care to investigate this very serious dilemma yourself.
While on this kick I picked up Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra. I’d love to tell my readers that when I was forty, I weighed 200 pounds (think heavier) and that within two years I was training for the Ultraman or Ironman Triathlon or the NorCal Spartan or even the less-challenging Sacramento Urban Cow Half-Marathon (nope, nope, nope, and not even), but at forty I was happily stuffing my face. I’m sixty and twenty quid past the two-century mark as my stressed scale tells me. I am interested in Roll’s book for some inspiration and information, that’s all. And since reading it I do think more about what I’m eating, but I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to personal fitness and healthy food choices. I love to eat, and plants are at the tippy-top of my perverted food pyramid. At least for now.
Last June folks from both sides of my family met up at Raley Field to celebrate my mom’s 85th birthday. It was quite an event. The matriarch rented a corporate suite and my brother popped for the refreshments. With beer bottles in hands cousins from my mother’s side and my late father’s side (presumably still thinking this blog was for the reviewing burgers) marveled at the fact that I had never been to a Five Guys. At one point one of the cousins whispered the driving directions to me as if she expected me to Uber it to the lauded grill and pick up a burger in between innings.
As it turned out, there is a Five Guys much closer than the one the cousin directed me to–only ten minutes away from the park. So when I decided to check out what’s the big deal with Five Guys, I opted for the one in West Sac. From my house, I can use a circuitous, but pleasurable route: from my South Land Park house take the River Road, cross the Freeport Bridge and take South River Road up into West Sacramento proper then Google Maps the rest of the way.
It had been a could of years since riding the River Road (California State Route 160). It is by far the best ride for a motorcyclist or scooterist in Sacramento. Winding roads that follow the Sacramento River down to the Delta. (If I was more serious about turning over a new leaf I would ride my bike there, but the streets are very narrow with no bike lanes.) If the rider doesn’t want to cut over the river at Freeport they can keep riding to the Old Sugar Mill, a place I have never visited, but seems worth checking out. A little further south and there’s Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge–another place this blogger has not seen but might be worth a look. Al the Wop’s is in the Walnut Grove area about a half hour from the end of Freeport Blvd and is known for excellent food and has some history to it. If this blog had remained a burger review, I would have covered it a long time ago. Keep in mind, all these places can be accessed much quicker by taking Interstate 5 South, but that’s not the point. The River Road is the event. The destination takes a backseat to the ride!
Anyway, if you have ever seen the colossal IKEA store in West Sac, that’s where the Five Guys store is. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the restaurant is that it looked very similar to an In-N-Out Burger. This is an important point–to me at least–because the cousins at Raley Field and every other burger booster I know who has sung the praises of Five Guys, inevitably compare the chain to In-N-Out Burger–not Smashburger, not Habit Burger, and not any other chain.
The menu is much bigger than In-N-Out Burger since we’re on the subject. There are far more items on the menu including hot dogs, veggie selections, and a BLT. There are far more flavors of shakes besides In-N-Out Burger’s traditional chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
I ordered something called a Bacon Cheeseburger, which was two patties, two strips of bacon and two slices of American Cheese. (It’s sad that the most boring cheese on the planet is called “American.” Perhaps the French or the German’s invented it and named it as a joke.) I also ordered medium fries, an Oreo Cookie Pieces Shake and a small Diet Coke. Before you think me a complete pig, I ordered the Coke as a shake chaser so I wouldn’t have that aftertaste one gets after drinking a shake. I normally don’t order shakes unless I’m getting the order to go.
So did it meet all the expectations? It was a mixed bag. First, the shake was delicious. I didn’t finish it. Nor did I finish the Diet Coke. The fries were excellent and quite possibly better than In-N-Out if my memory serves me well. If I wanted to kill myself, a blind taste test of all these items could be executed with little hassle since there is an In-N-Out Burger spitting distance from the Five Guys. The same with the shakes. Five Guys has an In-N-Out Burger beat on variety, but vanilla shake to vanilla shake–that would be interesting.
The Bacon Cheeseburger was a mess. I damn near asked for cutlery to eat it. First of all, they have the labeling all wrong. The Bacon Cheeseburger was a double bacon cheeseburger and the Little Bacon Cheeseburger was not a kid’s bacon cheeseburger, but a large single-patty affair. (Think Quarterpounder, Whopper, et al.) In other words, a good-sized, single-patty burger. What self-hating fatass would want anything “little” when they waddle into a burger joint! Not me! So I bought a huge burger that immediately fell apart when I opened it.
So there I was, eating what tasted like a pretty good burger–with my fingers. Was it better than an In-N-Out Burger? Once again, I don’t know, but for sure it was too big. If I go to a Five Guys again, I’ll order the Little Bacon Cheeseburger. Ridiculous naming conventions! But why should I care, anyway? I can’t enjoy this shit anymore in my physical state and my age: while I was eating this stuff, I envisioned two people sitting across from me: my ex-doctor whispering, “Don’t love food that doesn’t love you back” and Rich Roll, the guy I have been reading. He’s just shaking his head and saying, “Man, you’ll never find Ultra the way you’re going, bro.”
The best cup of coffee I ever had–cold or hot–was a Kyoto Cold Brew at the Temple Coffee Roasters‘ coffeehouse at 2200 K Street here in Sacramento. It featured all the pleasurable notes I love in coffee without the acid quality. When I first began to drink coffee I had to accept the acid quality of the drink as a given–that the acid taste was not a bad taste, but just a part of the drink’s signature. Similar to the hurdle new wine drinkers clear when they accept the vinegar quality and move on to notice the features that bring the wine drinker back for more. I never got there with wine, though my sister-in-law from Sonoma County is still trying to pull me over that hurdle–a particular pinot noir she poured me once has come the closest to me completing that jump.
One quality about cold brewed coffee that the taster immediately notices is that the drink is nearly devoid of the acidy note they come to accept in a hot cup of coffee. I still like hot coffee–acidity and all, but the first time I tasted a Kyoto, it was everything I come to expect in a cold brew, but it was even smoother. I was sick on the day I was scheduled to take a class on Palate Development & Tasting that I wrote about in a previous post so I can’t give you a full report on the tastes and aromas I experienced with the Kyoto. Let’s say it had a certain jenesequa.
What you get is eight fluid ounces of the best coffee you may ever taste. Yeah, that’s not a typo–eight (8) ounces. I would prefer at least twelve, but this gourmet coffeehouse serves the drink without ice, and the glass is chilled, so it isn’t that far off from twelve-ounce glass with ice cubes, but I usually buy sixteen-ounce drinks. Oh never mind. This cold brew you are supposed to spend time savoring. Considering how slow the process is I can see why the small dose. And at about $4 a glass it is worth every drop!
This experience led me to investigate cold brewers for the home. The first thing I looked for was a home-scale Kyoto, but I couldn’t find one small enough for my operation and storage. Nick Dekker of Breakfast with Nick did a thorough post on how Kyoto-style brewing works. You should check it out here if you are interested in the specifics. The image below I lifted from his excellent site and as you can see the domestic Kyoto is still quite tall and is too cumbersome for my kitchen. Also, I can see me knocking this thing over–shattered glass everywhere!
So I binged on YouTube videos looking for more practical home cold brewers. I got to know Gail from Seattle Coffee Gear like she was my out-of-town wife and watched a lot of demonstrations of cold brew contraptions. I narrowed my cold brewer down to brewers by Hario, Osaka, Toddy, OXO, Bruer (more on this one later), and Takeya (better known for its tumblers and insulated sports bottles). I settled on Hario mainly because of the design, but also its rep in the coffee business. To my frustration, I couldn’t buy a new Hario anywhere online, so I ended up with the Takeya Cold Brew Coffee Maker because it was almost identical in design to the Hario.
After I took the above two photos, I went to bed. Visions of ice-cold coffee beans dancing on my large head. I woke up in the morning got on my riding gear and blew my brand new cold brewer a kiss–promising I would brew my first quart when I got home that night. When I arrived back at the homestead that evening my son had decided he would pop the poor brewer’s cherry usings some Peet’s pre-ground coffee. Before I could taste the stuff, my son told me it was awful–blaming the bad taste on the pedestrian-quality of the coffee and the manufacturer’s fine grind. Indeed, it was horrible, but we slogged through the quart thanks to on-hand low-fat milk and chocolate syrup or vanilla soymilk (not together, mind you).
On my first try, I used my–whole bean–coffee: a blended Brazilian from Temple Roasters. I started buying this coffee because it is reported to taste like “milk chocolate in a cup.” Meh, my dull buds say it just tastes like good coffee, hot or cold. (Anyway, if I want milk chocolate in a cup I’ll fix me some chocolate milk.) The main reason I return to this product and not any of the other equally good beans the coffeehouse sells is that 50 cents of each bag sold go to the Sac Bike Park Project. Unfortunately, just before I published this post this a manager at the Temple coffeehouse told me this blend’s days are numbered. I’d better find a new bean!
I’ve had a few carafes of cold brew from my Takeya since that nasty false start and can say it was worth the purchase. Also, with the weather beginning to cool I may continue cold brewing and mixing the concentrate with (very) hot water when the weather turns chilly. My son, the ex-barista reminds me that cold brewing means not brewing with hot water–room temperature will do, you only need to watch your brewing times. Room-temperature brewing means I can heat my drink faster when I want a cup of hot coffee.
Still, the more I look at the $80 Cold Bruer Iced Coffee Maker Temple sells, the more I am intrigued: it has an adjustable valve that controls the drip. So the operator can brew the coffee one drip at a time, in a similar way the Kyoto brews. Damn! Why didn’t I notice that before? All I saw at the time was the cost-prohibitive pricing and that it was a little too small with too much glass. I should be happy with my purchase and move on, but now I want to know how a cup of coffee from the Bruer product tastes. Some people are never satisfied.
Postscript: While tooling around the web looking for Kyoto-style cold brewers I found Kyoto Black by Justin Doggett–a pre-brewed Kyoto-style coffee concentrate. In the spirit of this post, I ordered one. After tax, the 1.5-liter pouch cost about $40. That’s about $5 a drink depending on how strong you like your coffee. As far as the taste goes, it was good, though not as good as the Kyoto I had at Temple, but that’s not the point. If you have never had Kyoto cold brew and none of the coffeehouses in your area brews it, you might think the price is not an issue. If that’s the case, you may get hooked. As for me, I’ll stick with my non-Kyoto style Takeya–for now, at least. Happy sipping!
On August 10, 2018, Richard “Beebo” Russell, an overworked, underpaid ground service agent at SeaTac, stole an empty Horizon Air Q400. After seventy-five minutes in the air, he crashed on a desolate part of Ketron Island in the south of the Puget Sound killing himself. There were no other casualties.
The mainstream media reported this incident as a security failure because Russell was an employee of Horizon Air and as an employee, he had cleared the security perimeter that day. Airlines were also addressing the possibilities for psychological evaluations for airline employees. They scrambled to cover any and all the security holes. Only the alternative press wanted to discuss the subject of Horizon Air’s horrible working conditions and the airline’s poor work culture and to suggest that maybe the dehumanizing working conditions could have contributed to Russell’s decision to steal the plane he did not know how to fly.
In 2013 Alaska Air Group (the parent company of Horizon Air) lead the fight to suppress the City of SeaTac’s $15 minimum wage increase. The result was a confusing patchwork of wage minimums–many of the workers on the ramp, like Russell, worked for less than a living wage while all the employees working inside the airport were at the new $15 an hour minimum wage. (To be fair, Horizon Air employees get free or discounted airline tickets, which Russell appeared to take advantage of. Whether he used his stock options benefit at a $12 wage is doubtful.)
While most of what Russell said when he was up in the air talking with air traffic controllers and pilots was about flying the plane, not wanting to land, and that he had vomited in the cockpit and felt light-headed, he did give a reason why he stole the plane: “Minimum wage, we’ll chalk it up to that. Maybe that will grease some gears little bit with the higher ups. Maybe, uh. Yeah.” He also called himself a “broken man.” That last comment could have come from somewhere other than his work, but other past and current employees empathized with him.
Former Horizon Air co-worker, and friend, Robert Reeves explained to KIRO-TV, that Russell was one of the hardest working people Reeves has ever met at the airlines. Reeves also said that they were overworked and underpaid. “As the years go by and they are expecting more and more and more out of you,” Reeves said. “You could be at the end of your shift but they still want you to go work another flight.” Coincidently, this is what happened to Russell at the end of his shift on August 10.
The airline industry used to be heavily regulated and unionized. Workers were respected. But after forty years of restructuring and cost-cutting workers are now treated with about as much respect as a screwdriver.
Jacobin Magazine’s Joe Allen interviews writer Todd Bunker, who worked with Russell at Horizon Air. Bunker wrote a guest editorial for the Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger. The short interview for Jacobin’s blog is linked below.
On August 10, a Seattle-area airport worker stole a plane and crashed it, killing himself. Because his working conditions were so miserable, his former coworker says in an interview, the act wasn’t a complete shock. Getty Images The US workplace produced another devastating act of worker violence on August 10, when Richard Russell stole a…
Mike, my now retired scooter mechanic, once told me, “Most of my customers have owned a bike (motorcycle) sometime in their past. They are usually the ones who later buy a scooter and stick with it. It’s the ones who started out on a scooter that usually step up to a bike.” I was inquiring of this dusty old Triumph parked among the scooters at the Barber’s Automotive, the place I used to go to get my Vespa serviced. Mike might have thought I was pining for something bigger, faster. I wasn’t. I was just curious. Even with its equal parts rust and dust, the old Street Twin still looked good–better than some bikes when they are on the showroom floor. But I am content being a scooterist, and yes, I have had motorcycles in my past, albeit that was forty years ago and none of them were Triumphs. I have to admit I have a love for Triumph motorcycles. Any model will do, but I have an affinity for Bonnies. Will I ever graduate to a motorcycle? I seriously doubt it. Perhaps, if I someday win the lottery and become obscenely wealthy and can have a mini version of Jay Leno’s garage. Then I can buy me a Bonneville. I would probably take it out about one-tenth of the time I ride. The other ninety percent of my riding time would be split between a half-dozen or so new and vintage Vespas and Lambrettas. Even with my Triumph’s low odometer value, it would hold a special place in my garage. The spot that would remind my guests and me that I’m man enough to straddling a Tramp, but confident enough in my sexuality to prefer riding scooters most of the time.
Not everybody understands my love of the scooter over the cruiser or the sportbike. While receiving a food delivery at home one Saturday afternoon about five years ago, I was going over the invoice with the driver. He was a formidable looking guy, over six-feet tall with forearms the size of my calves. He had on black jeans that had seen plenty of action, tucked into knee-high steel-toe, black boots, and a waffle thermal shirt I would call heather but don’t tell him that. The sleeves of the shirt were pushed up revealing some busy, thick black tats.
At one point he gazed over the motorcycles in my garage: a Kawasaki Vulcan 800 Classic cruiser, a Suzuki SV650 sportbike, and a Vespa GT200L scooter. He told me he had a Harley Hard Tail and rode with an MC (Motorcycle Club–I don’t remember which one). I swallowed hard knowing what was coming next. He asked me which bike was mine, implying, I’m sure, the cruiser or the crotch rocket. I told him the scooter was mine. I finished the self-castration by saying that my son rides the Kawasaki and my wife rides the Suzuki. “Oh come on, man!” He exclaimed backing up a half-step as if he was afraid some of my pussy would rub off on him. I wish I could remember exactly what he said next, but it had something to do with being a man and “representing” or something like that. As if I had a duty to let everyone know who had the stones in this house or on the road. Before the delivery was finished my son and wife can out to the garage dressed for a very rare weekend spin together. They mounted their rides and took off leaving the Vagina GT200L there with its cuckold owner and an intimidating, Harley-owning, truck driver. The guy then handed me the clipboard and shook his head in a half-mocking disgusting manner. This guy was what I would call a typical Harley rider or at least a typical motorcycle club member. He had a very narrow idea of how masculinity should be exhibited and that there is no room for a feminine element for anyone with a Y chromosome.
It’s true that Harley-Davidson has one-uped Triumph and all other motorcycles in the macho department when the manufacturer is closely associated with tough-looking MCs–especially the 1%ers, but in the youthful macho/stylish department, the Triumph is matchless. Hell, Paul Newman rode a Triumph, for Christsake! You know, the guy in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid who opted to pick apples with Katherine Ross rather than half sex with her. Triumphs have always conjured up youth, freedom, and a fair enough amount of machismo. “Tramps” as my dad and others used to lovingly call them are without a doubt the coolest motorcycles on the road. My father rode a Triumph, and so did my uncle–the sexiest, manliness man I ever met. I’m not sure about my uncle’s ride, to be honest. I’m saying he rode a Triumph for the story for convenient continuity, but my uncle may have actually ridden a BSA–which were nearly as sharp as Triumphs, but the now-defunct motorcycle company’s product has been relegated to vintage-bike collectors’ objects.) I can’t find any pictures of my dad and my uncle on their Triumphs. The only vision I have of that is contained in an 8mm home movie of my dad and uncle wearing their badass black t-shirts, Newport soft packs sticking out their breast pockets, cigarettes dangling from their lips as they manhandle their top-heavy thumpers through some dunes. Neither of them looked very graceful, but there is plenty of machismo between the two of them! A few years later my dad would get into two-cycle dirt bikes. He would show far more finesse in the dirt with these lighter bikes, winning himself an impressive trove of trophies to go with his boat- and car-racing trinkets.
Perhaps my dad and uncle got the idea to ride Triumphs from the movies–there sure were a lot of examples of cool guys riding them. My dad was in Marlon Brando’s and
James Dean’s generation who rode Triumphs on screen and (at least for Dean) off. But my dad seemed to have the highest degree of respect for Steve McQueen. McQueen raced cars and dirt bikes and in The Great Escape did virtually all of the tricky motorcycle work short of the famous jump and spill which. Due to insurance regulations, his off-road racing buddy Bud Ekins performed those stunts. The motorcycles used were not the historically correct BMWs, but more nimble Triumphs. McQueen indirectly sold a lot of Triumphs. Triumph Motorcycles Ltd. returned the favor and named apparel and even one of their motorcycle models after him.
So Triumphs are closely linked to men like James Dean, Steve “King of Cool” McQueen, and, on a personal level, my dad, and my uncle. I might enjoy riding a Triumph Bonneville, Scrambler, or Street Twin, but I wouldn’t be forwarding the brand any, and that’s okay. My love of Triumphs is more of unfulfilled love–a shiny object in the window I look upon from time to time with a distant longing. So, when I literally saw a gun-barrel grey Triumph Bonneville T1200 in the window of the store where I buy my calcium and vitamin D (pills I’d rather not take, but I need to because of my old age) the irony stung a bit. And, with return visits, it is the sting that kept on hurting.
First, it reminded me of how unobservant I am. I have been getting my supplements at that place for a couple of years now, and it wasn’t until about six months ago that I noticed the 450-pound motorcycle in the room. When I first started buying my supplements there, I immediately saw the bright-yellow Fuji road bike hanging very high in the shop. The shop’s owner gave me a reason he hung the pricey road bike in the shop, but I quickly forgot. That’s fine, I guess. I ride a hybrid and have never felt I needed a road bike, so my envy was checked. I’m such a selfish bastard that if I wanted a road bike, it would have drove me nuts looking at that nice bike up there every time I walked into the shop. He introduced himself as Gabriel and said he recognized me walking my dog in our neighborhood. (It turns out we live on the opposite ends of the same street.) During a later visit, I even noticed the yellow LeMond Fitness spin bike right next to the still unnoticed Triumph. I never asked him why his spin bike is in the shop. I would like to think if I had that bike in my house I would use it, but you probably know how that story goes, right? It would end up a coat rack. I could see Gabriel moving the LeMond out of his house and into a store that pushes pills and potions that are or claim to be beneficial for you–like regular workouts on a spin bike have proven to be. That would be a good sales hook. But it took me months of return visits to realize “The Bike of My Dreams” was less than two feet from that spin bike.
I don’t recall why Gabriel placed his Bonneville in the window. I know he gave me a reason because I shot him a heavily filtered version of, “What the fuck are you doing with a Triumph Bonneville in the window of a supplements shop? Are you crazy? You could be riding that Tramp to work every day. There’s free motorcycle parking right across the street, too!” Whatever the reason he gave me, I recall thinking the answer was grossly insufficient. He was especially nuts ruining the iconic logo on both sides of the gas tank by adding black decal lettering “Total Body Nutrition.” I also wanted to weep when I saw he added in decal lettering “Est. 2015” on both battery covers. Sacrilege!
While I could see he cared more about pushing Ginkgo biloba than riding his motorcycle I just felt pathetic. I was in this joint because my body is disintegrating and the stuff I needed from this shop was kind of the opposite of a Triumph Bonneville. The spin bike or the Fuji road bike would have been more appropriate window dressing for this kind of shop. The discovery of the motorcycle was a surprising slap in the face. Like going to see my doctor about my low T levels only to have Heidi Klum bust through the door on a black Triumph wearing sexy underwear and telling me, “I got your Testosterone test back. Not good. Poor little man. Well, I’ve got to go. I have a date with my boyfriend. He’s a stud, not like you.” and then peel out the door. When I was first diagnosed with Low T and requested hormone therapy, my doctor at the time (a man about ten years my senior) told me that we should “enjoy this phase of our lives. The eunuchs lived for a hundred years. They were happy people…”
In the meantime, I started seeing targeted online advertising for products like Nugenix, HighT, Steel Libido, T-Up, T-Blast, everything short of Mr. T. WTF? Did my HMO sell me out? I incidentally got the soft sell from Gabriel when, by accident, I bought a bottle of Vitamin B Complex, thinking it was my calcium fix. (Same company, similar box color, and design.) When I brought it back for an exchange, Gabriel tried to sell me on the stuff. “Are you sure you don’t want to keep it? You know B is the sex vitamin and for guys like us getting on in age we can use all the help we can get.” He also started in on the wonders of Zinc, Ginger, and stuff I doubt I could pronounce back to him if I gave a shit. I wanted to snap, “Hey, who’s the one treating a Triumph Bonneville T1200 like it was a box of ginseng tea?” I exchanged my unwanted Vitamin B for calcium and walked out glancing at the big, firm, erect, sexy, seemingly self-confident Triumph as I exited.
To be fair, adding the words “Low T” and “Overweight” as tags to this post will only intensify the targeted advertising. What can I say, it comes with the territory of being a whore for hits on my blog!
Some experts say that low T also brings on weight gain or is it difficulty losing weight. Yeah, I like that excuse! I am at one of my heaviest. I’ve long forgotten the post-marital epochs; times where I would mount the scale in my 53rd Street bathroom, my wife standing there to officiate the new high and offer support with a dash of criticism. I only remember one time when my youngest son was running around in diapers, and I knew the pregnancy and infancy of the new addition had brought on a lot of joy, but also a lot of food consumption especially late-night snacking. I also was becoming more sedentary than ever before. After the analog scale whirled like the tach on a revving Street Triple, the number rested on 222–like Room 222, the 70’s TV show that was a belated answer to To Sir With Love. I began sardonically humming the theme song during weigh times. The only correlation here was that I felt as big as a room. I would love to inform the reader that this was the all-time heaviest, but I only got out of the zone about four times in the twenty-five years that followed: two times after vacations when I weighed in at a whopping 235 and two times I somehow, some way dropped slightly below two centuries.
My relationship with Gabriel and supplements is not all frustration. There is also some hope, albeit most likely false. I like to think while walking the back aisle of the little store I will discover something that will be the cure to my ails including my chronic weight problem. You know, a shaft of light from the heavens shone on a golden box beckoning me to pick it up. Alas, it never happens, but on one sad day, feeling the waist of my jeans tighter than usual, I blurted out in faux humor, “Is there anything in your shop that will make me skinny?” God, did I just say that? Take it back, take it back! Shit, too late. If Gabriel were brutally honest his reply would be, “Yeah, these magic words: Eat Less, Exercise More” but he didn’t say that. “Hey, I’ve got something for you,” disappearing from the other side of the center aisle. I walked around the corridor with dread, expecting some herbal weight loss gimmick in a pill with green tea extract or cactus. He hands me a book. I sighed with relief (at least I wouldn’t feel pressured to buy refills.)
He first called the book a loaner, which was a drag. I didn’t want responsibility for the book. Whenever this happens, I visualize bringing back whatever was loaned to me looking like a dog’s chew toy or with a conspicuous coffee ring on it. It’s not that I treat other people’s property like shit, I just stress over the responsibility. I planned to take it back to my cube glance over it. Take a picture of the cover (in case I actually liked it) then returned it to Gabriel before I accidentally dump iced tea on it or something. Just before I left the store, he changed his mind and said I could have it. That was probably a business investment towards a regular customer, but Gabriel is really a nice guy despite my complaining here. Regardless of his motive, his change of heart changed things with me and the book. I tucked it under my arm and thanked Gabriel and took off before he started chucking ketones at me or some other diet “solution.” Outside of the shop, I glanced once again at the Triumph. What the fuck is that doing there. What is the connection between a classic motorcycle and green tea tablets? The more I want to look at that beautiful bike the more it frustrates me. And hey, I wasn’t this fixated on Tramps until I saw the motorcycle in the window. I’m sure (I hope) time will pass and I’ll ignore the window dressing and stop looking up Triumphs online and how much they cost (too much, by the way).
The book went from my armpit to my bag, then to the trunk of my bicycle. It wasn’t until I got home that I got my first good look at the cover: “You on a Diet” by Michael Roizen and [Dranatic silence here] Mehmet Oz. Dr. Oz?! The guy who is beloved by overweight housewives everywhere and hated by anyone who makes even the slightest attempt to research his latest “miracle” weight loss drug. The guy who, in 2016, was rightfully raked over the coals by Dean Heller and Claire McCaskill, among other U.S. Senators, during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing.
My wife has been railing against this guy for years for peddling snake oil. The fact that he is an M.D makes it far worse in her eyes. He’s in it for the cash, apparently. When my wife came home that night, I made the mistake of showing the book to her in the spirit of a joke. She wasn’t amused. After I told her about how I got it, she thought I should not patronize that store anymore. (I never got to the part about the Triumph in the window.)
Now nearly every time we are in a grocery store, she will point out the supplements section and tell me in a humorless tone, “You probably could get a better deal on your vitamins here.” Months after I showed her the book we were shopping at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. As we walked by what probably is the most expensive aisle of supplements in town she said, “Maybe you should buy your vitamins here.” Damn, women don’t forget! Yet I still buy my “bone pills” in Gabriel’s shop. I’m not sure why I’m loyal. I know there are a few places I could get cheaper pills while staying true to supporting independent shops. Maybe it is because we are neighbors and I want to avoid the awkward moments of running into him.
I finally got around to browsing the Dr. Oz diet book the other day. It is long-winded and speaks almost exclusively to women. I even looked up “Testosterone” and “Low Testosterone” in the index. (As stated above there is supposed to be some correlation between low T and weight gain.) No reference to Low T and only a few references to Testosterone, but exclusively on how it relates to women. I brought the book back to Gabriel, making sure to conceal the title on my walk to his shop to prevent any cracks like “It’s not working!” from any smartasses on the street who thinks a fat guy holding a book that says “Diet” on it is fair game. When I placed the book on the counter and said in so many words thanks but no thanks, it’s more of a diet book for women he understood. I then turned to the Triumph and asked why the iconic bike was in his shop window. He told me he is a collector of motorcycles. He has a couple Hondas one or two other bikes that I can’t recall and a Ducati. A Duck? Damn it: “the Ferrari of motorcycles.” He told me placing the Triumph in the window is for business purposes. He also added, “while the Triumph depreciates in bluebook value it increases in collector’s value because it’s a Triumph.” I wanted to scream, “Yeah, but it’s in the fucking window of a supplements store! Deface one of your lousy Hondas and put it up there among the tablets of fish oil, chromium, and Omega-3 Fatty Acid, but not your Tramp”! He continued that placing a motorcycle in the window is a tax write-off. “Macy’s and the other big department stores have been doing this for years and saving money.” Okay, so you’re a shrewd businessman, but Macy’s isn’t placing Triumphs or Ducati’s for that matter in their windows. (Well okay, I haven’t been to every department store in the U.S. Maybe some stores do, but they are faceless, impersonal corporations. You are a cyclist, man! Act like one!) He, apparently, doesn’t think of the bike the way that I do.
We continued to chat about motorcycles then he wanted to talk about our neighborhood and local real estate prices, how he recently set up a trust fund, and how trust funds are better than wills. He’s talking about death and I’m stealing glances at the gun barrel grey Triumph Bonneville T1200. He says he sees me walking my dog from time to time. “She’s slowing down now, isn’t she.” “Yes, my dog is a senior citizen, just like me,” I reply sadly. One day he might quit the elderly talk and I’ll see him riding a wheelie down our street on that Ducati of his. Or better yet, after freeing his Big Twin from its Protein Shake Purgatory, I’ll see him ride by my house (sands the advertising on the tank and battery covers) when I’m watering my lawn in my old-man shorts. Just a passing glance. Pull in the clutch and let’s hear that throaty rev! Yeah, that’s the Elixir of Life!
I’m the worst person you want on your debate team. A couple of years of Toastmasters didn’t make much of a dent in the problem. This person pitfall is made worse when the subject is politics in general and advocating socialism and criticising capitalism specifically. I get anxious, frustrated, angry when my listener thinks socialism won’t work here in the U.S. (presumably because it has never been tried and my listener does not have the imagination to seriously consider a society without the free market and the social architecture of capitalism). I lose my thread. Hell, I lose my thread nearly every time I tell one of my long-winded stories. Just ask the few friends I have who will attempt to hang on for dear life as I jump subjects like a train in a switching yard until someone asks, “What do cats have to do with California’s GDP?”
This brief piece from Kevin Drum’s column in Mother Jones’ website does a better job explaining how the Democratic Socialists of America want to change one aspect of health care.
I’ve been curious for a while about just what a democratic socialist really is. An FDR liberal on steroids? A Swedish style social democrat? I’m not very clear about this. Meagan Day clears things up for me: Here’s the truth: In the long run, democratic socialists want to end capitalism. And we want to do…
I have had some bad luck lately when it comes to commuting vehicles. My bicycle has been in the shop for two weeks with many problems to be resolved including replacing parts the shop does not have in stock. I made the fateful decision to surrender it to the shop thinking that I would always have my scooter to fall back on. Two days after handing over my bike I found that my Vespa had a flat back tire. My bad luck was compounded by my scooter mechanic not being able to fix my ride until the first week of August.
Lucky for me I come prepared! I have a stash of bus tickets I have been using while I have been in this state of congealed personal transport. It’s like the good ole days riding the bus in the morning. Jockomo, jockeying for the best possible seat as the bus begins to fill, upgrading my seats as the bus starts to empty. After getting an encouraging progress report from the bike mechanic, I was hoping that Friday (yesterday) would be the last day of taking mass transit to work. Standing at my bus stop, hearing the bus downshift to clear the hill in front of me, I knew I had a whole hour to burn until the next coach. I could have gone back home and made another cup of coffee and listened to another podcast or two, but instead, I looked at my phone, launched the Jump Bike app to see if there was a bike close by. There was–sort of. I walked to the closest Jump Bike.
In case you don’t know what a Jump Bike is I’ll let Wikipedia explain:
Jump Bike is a dockless electric bicycle sharing system operating in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. The bikes cost $2 for the first half-hour to rent (then 7¢ per minute) and are located using a companion smartphone app. They are neon red and weigh seventy pounds (32 kilograms). Each JUMP bike has a 250-watt electric motor which powers the front tire. JUMP employees swap out the battery packs every three days. At the end of a ride, the bikes have to be locked to a sidewalk bicycle rack. A pilot program began in February 2018, allowing certain users of the Uber app in San Francisco to access JUMP’s fleet of electric bicycles. Here’s the link: Jump Bikes.
Before the bright red electric peddled-assisted bikes were omnipresent in downtown Sacramento, there was the Tower Bridge Bike Share. I saw the white bikes parked on R Street as I rode into work every morning. I believe the fledgling company was bought out
by Jump Bike. There have been other bike share companies. When my wife and I were in London in 2011, there were plenty of ride-share bikes that we couldn’t use. (Damn chipless Yankee debit cards!) Barclays Cycle Hire (now Santander Cycles) nicknamed “BorisBikes” after former mayor and Brexit figure Boris Johnson, who launched the idea were everywhere. Currently, there are other ride-share bike companies in Northern California, but I think Jump Bike has a monopoly in Sacramento. LimeBikes can be rented in some Bay Area cities, and I am sure there are many other ride-share bike companies in America.
When Jump Bikes first came to Sacramento, my wife and I downloaded the app to our phones then drove around looking for two available bikes that were close together on a sunny Sunday afternoon. When we found two bikes across the street from one another, we reserved them. Wow, that was easy! (Beginners luck, I would realize later. Read on.) We rode around the California State University, Sacramento campus until we got the idea how the bikes work and handle. After we were satiated, we hooked them back up near our car. Wow, that is cool.
Quickly forgetting how uncomfortable the ride was compared to my Giant hybrid or my Vespa or, hell, a bench seat on public transportation, for that matter, I was kind of on a high thinking about our little ride on the red electric bikes. I also failed to ask myself, “Why do the bikes have to be electric? What does that buy the rider after the cheap thrill of the first ride?” But that wasn’t the point–it was an adventure. Still, when the euphoria would subside–and it eventually did–I had to ask myself what good the Jump Bike is to me, personally?
The only application I could see for me is riding a short distance in town (and a nonelectric bike would be just as effective and, ultimately, cheaper). This would be tested a couple of times. Each time I wanted to ride to 5-One-5 Market, a small grocery store/deli located in downtown Sacramento only ten blocks away from my office. I’ve been walking there once a week since it opened its doors in May to buy lunch fixings and to treat myself to lunch at the deli, sit back and enjoy a meal out once a week. If I took a Jump Bike there or take one coming back to the office that would cut down on travel time and considering it’s summer in Sacramento and the walk in 90 degree-weather invariably makes me sweaty, a Jump Bike would come in handy. Each time I eyeballed one of those red bikes or found one on the app close enough to make it worth my while the bikes were reserved. No biggy; if walking both ways to the market was time prohibitive I wouldn’t have done it or brought it up here. So I walk. Anyway, I usually ride a bike to work so why not ride that? This was just a test, remember. Later, I would find out I was not alone in this problem. Other people I know wanted to use these bikes often to find they were reserved by someone else.
The idea of commuting to work (or back) on a Jump Bike seems indulgent–but I almost did it a few days ago, anyway. Someone in my neighborhood decided they didn’t want to respect Jump Bike’s boundaries and rode one to their house about a third of a mile south of the thick red line on Jump Bike’s GPS screen. I nearly walked over there but thought better of it before my bus came and picked me up. Then, as I stated above, I missed my bus last Friday–I mean I was twenty feet away from my bus stop and the bus shot by. So, I ended up weighing my options: sit around for about fifty more minutes and catch the next one or walk to the closest Jump Bike and ride the Big Red Bike in.
I don’t live within Jump Bike’s Sacramento sphere, so I had to hoof it to the closest bike; about 2.3 miles. Not ideal, but at the time I guessed I’d make it into work faster that way than sitting around for the next bus. It’s absurd that any metropolitan mass transit system has buses that run only once an hour during rush hours, but that is the reality here in Sacramento with our Regional Transit District.
So I walked over two miles to the nearest Jump Bike reserving it when I got within .2 miles. When I arrived at the red electric peddle-assist bike I enter my PIN, the U-lock pops free, I dropped the U-lock in its holder, my bag in the big red handlebar basket and start peddling. I turned onto Riverside Boulevard–a busy and occasionally dangerous street for both bicyclists and motorists. Immediately I felt the thrill of the new bike/service dissipate. I was now doing calculations on my way to work: Why is this lug on wheels so damn heavy? Well, there’s a computer onboard to assist the customer and to track the company’s asset. This isn’t your bike, by the way! But did they have to make the product electric peddle-assist? No, but it sure helps to lug the ponderous piece of shit around, doesn’t it? Circular thinking!
I rode 2.5 miles. I wondered how long the average Jump Bike ride for Sacramento customers is? If it is over two miles it is a rough two miles if it is under I have to reiterate, why does the Jump Bike have to be an electric peddle-assist bike? Those lonely and ill-fated Tower Bridge Bike Share bikes would have been ideal. There needed to be a lot more of them and a lot more publicity (and for God’s sakes, any other color but white. Who wants to ride what looks like a ghost bike. It’s as if you are asking for it!).
Of course, one could ask why is there a demand for the Jump Bike. I wouldn’t have thought there would be such a demand for the fancy bike until they arrived now the red bikes are all over downtown. Perhaps the answer can be found in the rise in popularity in ridesharing and smartphone applications. A few hours of this posting my wife and I were toggling between an A’s vs. Giants game (A’s won in extra innings!) and a Cubs vs. Cards game (alas my wife’s Cubbies lost). She looked at her Jump app at least two times commenting on how close a couple of Jump Bikes were. We were in for the night. She had no interest in going for a ride at 9p.m. Still, I wanted to ask her if she had an app that located her Cannondale EVO forty feet away in our garage. She won’t have found that funny. Seriously though, why do we get so excited about this stuff–especially when there are more straightforward solutions already available? I want to revisit the Jump Bike phenomenon a year from now to see if the fascination is still there; will the streets of downtown Sacramento have more or less of the big red bikes? One happy ending (beginning) to this is the Jump Bike encourages more people to buy and ride bikes. Somehow, I don’t think bicycling has much to do with the rage. I just had s shudder: would if the evildoers at Uber creates a fake event like “June (or some other month besides May) Is Jump Month.” God, shoot me!
I’m not trying to make too close a comparison between Jump Bike and its parent corporation–Jump Bike doesn’t exploit worker insecurity. I don’t think any struggling cab drivers will be hanging themselves thanks to Jump Bikes. Nor do I think bus drivers will lose bargaining power thanks to those red bikes. I just can’t fully appreciate the business model. The first time I had the Jump Bike Experience (tracking a bike down via my smartphone, performing the transaction, riding the peddle-assist two-wheeler, and locking it up damn near wherever I choose), it was exciting. And that’s precisely because it was the first time–it was new, novel, fresh. The second time I rode a Jump Bike, it was uncomfortable and inefficient. I thought up a bunch of improvements to the thing, first one losing the wasteful electric peddle-assist feature, but I suppose that and the app are the hooks.
Last night I received a call from my neighborhood bicycle shop. My commuter bike was ready to go. Actually, I need a new derailer, but that’s being shipped, so they asked me if I wanted to pick up my bike now with the option of replacing the derailer on the spot when the new one comes in. It had been two weeks without my bike and one week without my scooter. Hell yes. From work, I took the trolley to the station only a couple of blocks away from the shop, paid the bill, and rode my bike home. A much better ride.
As I peddled back to the house I wondered, if I didn’t have my own bicycle, if I lived a little closer–inside Jump Bike’s area of service, and if missed my bus would I ride a Jump Bike in? No. There are too many ifs in the above situation. The Jump Bike is a desperate last resort. I can always have another cup of coffee at home.