Monthly Archives: November 2009

Book Review: Pedaling Revolution

Urban cyclists, whether they’re deliberately subversive or simply attempting to get some exercise, are remaking many cities. So posits Jeff Mapes in his book Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities.

Click here to read the rest of the book review online at Matador Goods.


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8 Absurd 5k Runs

It doesn’t matter if you’re morbidly obese, a nudist, or a gorilla: there’s a 5K for you out there.

Click here to read the article at Matador Sports.

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Back on the saddle

The bike saddle, that is.

I made friends with one of the nurses in Vancouver who had the exciting job of taking my vitals every hour during her 7 p.m.-7 a.m. shifts and fetching random things for my pain in the ass room mate on the other side of the curtain. When I mentioned how I would miss riding a bike during my recovery, she inhaled sharply and looked away. A polite Canadian show of disapproval. After a few minutes of prodding, she admitted she didn’t think I’d ever ride again, given the psychological implications of my accident.

Well, I bought the Panasonic I’d been riding in Seattle from Sam and she shipped it last week. My palms still hurt from falling on them after being hurled to the pavement, but I’ve taken the bike out for a couple of short rides already. There aren’t many places to ride around here–the streets end in culs-de-sac or busy highways without shoulders–but there’s still something mildly freeing about self-propulsion. I’m a little worried about falling, now that falling has new implications, but I have an expensive new helmet and am so thrilled to get my legs burning. Even though it’s really, painfully flat here.

I have also learned that bicicletta is a Tuscan slang word for a loose woman. Don’t you hate it when your favorite words end up being euphemisms?

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Filed under Cycling and Bike Culture

Sample chapter

I think Chapter 1 is ready to make an appearance.

Click here to read it, and feel free to offer your comments and (constructive) criticism.

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This is your spleen on [Canadian] drugs

My spleen and I waited an hour in a very cold waiting room full of old people for a nurse at the doctor’s office to put us in a room, where she took my blood pressure and pulse. A half hour later, the surgeon came in and felt around on my ribs for a minute and then left to look at the CD of my Canadian cat scan.


I was not on any illegal drugs, as the title of this post might lead you to believe. The squiggly is, I think, a coil the doctor in Canada threaded in to stop some bleeding.

“Wow, you were really lucky,” she explained, with a raised eyebrow and playful half smile as if to say, “I’m a nerd and looking at this stuff makes me feel like an eighteen-year-old boy watching porn.” She went on to explain that the part of my spleen that broke  was the part where all the blood vessels come in. Not only did I somehow avoid getting a blood transfusion, but there was hardly any blood in my abdomen and I didn’t lose my spleen. Lucky.

That’s not really what I wanted to hear. I don’t want to know that I almost lost an entire organ, that I had a very serious accident and that my spleen, to which I’ve become rather attached as of late, almost died. No, what I wanted to hear was “Yeah, you’re fine. This was never any big deal. Get out of here and don’t ever come back.” Or, better yet, “This was all a nightmare and you’re going to wake up now.”

The doctor said there’s a very, very minor chance of a delayed rupture or my spleen dying around this time, but I would have felt severe pain, dizziness, and had a lot of noticeable swelling. She said most of her spleen patients are drunk on a ladder or roof when they fall and injure themselves and then go back and do the same thing again.

It would also be “cool,” she said with another half-grin, to get another CT just to see what it looks like–to see how much of my spleen died, or maybe even if the whole thing is now gone. All of which seems way more medically significant than simply being a fun thing to look at.

I have lost like 10 pounds from the four days of liquids at the hospital and a month of inactivity so I asked, very nicely, if I could please exercise again. She hesitated. “Oh, Jesus, now if something happens to you it’s going to be my fault. Yes, you can run, play tennis, lift weights…just be careful,” noting that if I fell and hit my midsection–like by the same sort of misfortune that brought me to where I am now–well, that’d be bad news.

So I guess my spleen and I are going to have to be content to sit tight for a little while longer, although my labs look good and (if my spleen is still alive) it’s likely fine. We’ve really bonded through this ordeal, and are now enjoying a cup of coffee while the remains of Tropical Storm Ida blow through Madisonville.

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Filed under Travel

Who Dat fever

Win or lose today, seeing this on the front page today is pretty much the highlight of my morning.


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Filed under New Orleans

Does your travel writing matter?

There’s a great post today on The Traveler’s Notebook at Matador by Joshywashington that questions what purpose–if any–travel writing serves, especially if you’re simply writing a destination piece without any sort of larger meaning behind it.

I had a revelatory moment once, about two years ago, when I volunteered with KaBOOM!, a non profit that gathers hundreds of volunteers to build a playground in one day. We were building this playground in New Orleans East just two years after Katrina had rendered that part of the city a ghost town. I wondered if spending a whole day building a playground was really a good use of my time when I could be building a house instead.

Playgrounds don’t meet the same basic needs for a person (or a family) that a home does. But playing is so central, so critical to one’s childhood that facilitating that takes on a larger importance, and in that devastated neighborhood, a brightly colored playground takes on a greater meaning.

That’s a long answer to a short question, but building that playground helped me understand the importance of recreation, of play time, for the good life.

Providing entertainment or escape for readers makes a writer relevant, although maybe not the more obvious sense that a more hard-hitting, eye-opening piece does. Travel writers crafting stories about their vacations are certainly not going to crumble anyone’s worldview, but we all need a venue for stepping out of our minds and our daily lives, and art–in its many forms–helps us do that. In that sense, travel writing contributes to an essential service.

I don’t harbor any grand illusions about the redemptive power of my writing. I’m not sure that writing about desserts in New Orleans is going to take away the stresses of someone’s work day, for example. But sometimes I have to write for myself, for my own sanity, because it’s what I love and I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. We all know how draining it can be to be around someone who’s unhappy, so in some tangential way my happiness serves or contributes to the greater good. Right?

When I was reading this post I noticed one of my articles found its way to the four featured posts at the top of every page on Matador’s website. I don’t think that’s happened before, so I was excited:

matador banner


Filed under Writing