Tip o’ the week

January 29, 2010

The Apple design engineers clearly didn’t have my particular ear hole in mind when they designed the earbud. I have a hard time keeping them in place, even in the most inert circumstances. Running, forget it. I’ve used a number of over- or behind-the-head sorts of set ups. OK, not great.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I saw an NFL player on TV going through warm-ups, his earbuds held in place with a headband over them. Genius!

Now you’ll find me on the Y treadmill sporting a LeBron-style band. While there’s something about pulling the headband over the ears that creates a sort of post-op patient look, I don’t let that bother me. I get my stroll on. I own it.

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Le Tour de Basement

January 27, 2010

Gray cement underfoot, beams and pipes and wires and cobwebs overhead, my basement is a place of integrity without pretentions or potential to be something it is not. Over the winter months this is where I set up my LeMond on a bike trainer, carefully aligning it between floor joists which leave just enough room for me to sit up. I don’t spend a lot of time down there on the trainer, but these days I go subterranean for my Monday recovery workout, 40 minutes of light spinning.

An easy workout in a room with a cat-litter-box view gives your mind room to roam. The iPod helps. I was reminded recently of just how much it helps while watching the movie “It Might Get Loud,” a rockumentary that brings together  Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White for a guitar legends chat and jam session. At one point in the movie The Edge talks about striving to create a place/landscape with his electric guitar, usually building on simple riffs with all kinds of echo and other effects. (You know: chicka-chicka-chicka-chicka-chicka-chicka-chicka-chicka.) I was interested to hear him say this, because I’ve always felt that many of the songs on “The Joshua Tree” bring to mind the album’s art — spare, wide open, American Southwest.

I’m not a huge U2 fan, but they’ve always been high on my iPod exercise charts. A righteous anthem, some yelping from Bono, that military snare on “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” all good to keep me going. But now I’ve got a new level of appreciation for The Edge’s Stratocaster ricocheting off into space, opening a window on the imagination, essential when I’m staring down a paint spot on the floor.

Street souvenirs

January 9, 2010

Got back a week ago from a trip to Italy, France, and northern England. In most of the places we visited there were ample opportunities to buy souvenirs. The same stuff over and over and over again. In Rome, the boxer shorts featuring private parts by Michelangelo. In Paris, the guys at every tourist destination with their bent coat hangers jangling with Eiffel Towers (one Euro for three mini towers is the current exchange rate). And in Edinburgh, scarves upon scarves upon scarves; tartan upon tartan upon tartan.

Oh no, I’m not going to pooh-pooh this tourist trade. I’ve long had an affinity for souvenirs, tracing back to the shops on the one short street of Longville, Minnesota — log cabin style structures, usually attached to a bait shop, trading in faux Native American (Indian in those days) mementos and fishing novelty items. That affinity is still strong. Later today I plan to fix our new blue enamel #10 to the house so Burlington, Vermont can feel a little more like Paris. And I’ll probably throw my new cashmere scarf (made in Scotland) around my neck to keep the chill off.

Also acquired on this trip, what my family has come to refer to as the “street souvenir.” I’ve attached a photo of three examples of the genre from this trip. We have a pigeon feather from the Tuleries Garden in Paris; a chunk of basalt from the Appian Way, the ancient Roman road; and a ticket stub from a Newcastle United soccer game that I peeled up off a damp sidewalk outside a metro station. (Not pictured: yellow plastic tape from the Polizia Municipale Roma that my daughter Arline unwrapped from a street sign and a pair of shoes found in Montmartre that my daughter Grace wears today with the claim that they are the ultimate street souvenir. )

If the measure of a souvenir is its ability to evoke a memory, I maintain these found souvenirs have a power far beyond the purchased gee-gaw to transport you back to a place and a moment. Besides, even at three Eiffel Towers for a Euro, they’re cheaper.