Cyclists catch a lot of grief when it comes to traffic laws. I hear it all the time–people in motor cars honking at me (which is now against the law in Oklahoma), yelling at me (also against the law), and telling me to obey the law, when they do not obey the law.
I always blow it off. It is easy to blow stuff off on a bicycle, because bike riding is so effective at burning off the crazy. When something memorable happens, it is completely forgotten about by the time I get home. Lately, though, it has been harder to forget interactions with motorist, for now I am rocking this sweet GoPro camera. I am unable to forget what happens. What have I learned since I started utilizing a GoPro? I’ve learned that almost no one obeys traffic laws ever. Just yesterday a woman in a giant SUV passed me in a no passing zone, violating the speed limit, without proper clearance (another car was coming in her direction), and she was within 100 feet of an intersection. I was just riding along, at the posted speed limit, minding my own business.
This video is of an incident that happened a couple days later. Check it:
I live in a bubble, where everything is happy and peaceful and nobody is hurt or mad or sad or broke. Just like the Lyle Lovett song, I live in my own mind, and it ain’t nothin’ but a good time. Life is good, so good that I sometimes lack empathy, a fact that was exemplified by a former student, one who always managed to get on my last nerve. He was late to class. He would always fall asleep instead of doing his work, which he never completed on time. To make matters worse, it was an advanced placement class—he ought to know better! One day I pulled him aside and attempted to motivate him by barking about his poor habits. He quickly apologized and vowed to do better. This took me by surprise, since most high school students only want to defend themselves. Not him. He told me that he doesn’t sleep well ever since they were evicted and had to move to his grandmother’s house. There weren’t enough beds so he has to sleep on a couch that was infested with mice. He could hear them, and was afraid that he would get bit if he fell asleep. “Oh,” I replied, feeling like a jerk. Where was my compassion? How could I call myself a Christian, yet neglect to show him mercy and understanding? So when I write about some of the more difficult parts of my childhood, it seems trite compared to the things my students go through. Growing up, my life was mostly perfect. But there was that one day… I was in the third grade. Mrs. O’Kief was my teacher—a beautiful gray-haired lady who perfectly fit the stereotype of a “school marm.” One morning as she was teaching us about whatever kids learn in third grade, I was summoned to the office. I’d never been summoned to the office before. I was nine, and still a rookie at living in Oklahoma. I was an Okie rookie. A rookie Okie? Anyway, even though I was just a kid, I was very optimistic—still am. When asked to go to the office, it only made sense that I was going to get an award or a medal or something. More wrong I could not have been. I was led into the principal’s office, or to a room adjacent to it. There were chairs in a semi-circle facing one direction, and a single chair facing them. That was the chair they invited me to sit in. There was an older lady, Mrs. Pry was her name. She was the school secretary and the first person I’d ever met at Cleveland Public Schools a year and a half earlier. Next to her sat a little girl that I recognized as a kid who rides my bus to school. She was also my neighbor—we were COUNTRY neighbors, which is different than regular neighbors—she lived a mile away from me. Lastly, there was a lady sitting on the other side of the little girl. Based on the way she acted, I assumed it was the girl’s mother. If my math is correct, that is four against one, counting the principal (Mr. Black). They immediately teamed up on me. If you‘ve ever watched murder shows on TV, this is the interrogation room. This is the place where they put their prime suspect and begin flogging him with questions until he confesses.
I took my seat as Principal Black explained why we were there. I was being accused of punching the little girl in the stomach as I boarded the bus that morning. I don’t know what had led up to her pointing the finger at me—was this part of a poorly thought-out plan to divert attention from whatever was going on down in the kindergarten department? Was she looking for a reason to go home from school? Did she have a personal vendetta against me? I WAS NINE. What could it be?
Now I’ll admit that when I was young, I could be a little fartknocker. But punch a child…a GIRL, in the stomach? I would never. I protested my innocence, but they weren’t buying it. They said they knew. They asked why a girl like this would concoct such a story. I couldn’t answer that. All I knew was that it wasn’t me.
The girl‘s last name was Vostad, but her first name is long gone. I remember that she was one of three girls in that family—the youngest, which makes total sense. She had a sister named April, I think. April was the middle child, a year younger than me. The oldest sibling, Kristi, was a year older than me. I don’t remember ever speaking a word to any of them, not because I was unfriendly, but because I would have tripped over my words, like I always did around pretty girls.
We were in that interrogation room for hours. HOURS. Not a half hour or forty-five minutes. It was around 8:00 am when the questioning began, and it lasted until lunch was nearly over. That is four hours—half a school day. I was in a small room with three adults and one child, all pointing the finger at me, accusing me of something unconscionable. My mom was nowhere in sight, not because she didn’t want to be there, or couldn’t be there. I’m sure she would have dropped everything to be by my side that day. She just didn’t know, because no one from the school bothered to pick up the phone and call. This is one of those times when a story seems so implausible compared to the way things are done today. It’s like telling someone that it was okay to smoke cigarettes inside, or on airplanes, or in the teacher’s lounge (which it totally was). If the same thing happened today, there would be a lawsuit filed against the school before the echo of the tardy bell faded, and rightly so. But this was the 70s, and things were different. “Call your mother? Sure. How about you confess first, and then we’ll call her. Maybe. If we feel like it.” It was the wild west back then. They talked like detectives on television: “Tell us exactly what happened when you boarded the bus this morning. Leave out no detail.” Over and over they asked the same questions, making me recount the events of that morning. Later I would learn that this is a typical police interrogation method—ask the same questions multiple times, and listen for inconsistencies in the suspect’s responses. The difference between homicide detectives and that little assembly of geniuses at Cleveland Elementary School is that a criminal suspect could have ended the interrogation at any point by invoking their Constitutional right to have an attorney present when being “questioned.” But I was NINE. Mentally, I was strong. I would not cave. This lack of emotion surprised me. I’ve always been a passionate person, even then. But on that day my attitude was stoic, unwavering in my defense, insisting on my innocence. I remained unbroken for hours, but even the strongest person has a breaking point, and mine came at about 11:40am, three hours and forty minutes into this little shit show.
I broke. I was out of gas, sick of playing this little game, and of trying to convince them that I did not do this thing. When some people reach this point, they shut down. Not me. Others will falsely confess, just wanting to get out of that room. I did not. When my breaking point came, I started crying. Not the kind of crying where you see a little tear or two well up in the eyes. No, this was an all out weep-assault, like a dam bursting. It must have sounded like I was using the very last breath I would ever take, my dying words stating emphatically, “I DIDN’T DO THIS!” I was Mount Vesuvius, Hiroshima, and Chernobyl, all rolled into one. I don’t know if it was the flash flood of tears, or my passionate plea of innocence, but suddenly and for the first time that day, the room fell completely silent. It felt like a long time, but it was probably only a few seconds, that no one uttered a word. Not a peep. When someone did speak, it was the mother, the head of this little domestic disaster. She turned and looked sternly at her little demon spawn, and for the first time all morning, it entered everyone’s thinking that perhaps they had been duped. By a CHILD. Her mom said, “Sybil?” (That wasn’t her real name, of course). Sybil was a woman who had written a book about her battle with dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder. “Sybil?“ She stretched the name out as she spoke it, the way moms do when their kid is in trouble. “Syyybiiiiillll? Did he really hit you?” That was all it took. This lying little turd (who must now be in her fifties) fell completely apart. She started crying, and everyone in the room suddenly realized that she had made the whole thing up. If she ever revealed her motive, I wasn’t there to hear it. Mr. Black dismissed me back to class. I don’t remember if he apologized—probably not. All I knew was that I walked down that big wide hallway like I was Andy-effing-Dufresne emerging from that sewage drain, arms spread wide in a driving rain, tearing my shirt off, driving that convertible down the Mexico coast, Warden Norton’s money tucked neatly in the back seat, a free man. Or boy, whatever.
It felt good. I felt relieved. I made no plan to exact revenge or to seek justice. I was just glad to have been vindicated. If anything significant occurred during the balance of that day, I do not remember it. But I’ll never forget walking into the house after school, and Mom doing the same thing she always did, asking how my day was. I told her the whole kit and caboodle—about spending the entire morning in a small room with three adults and a kid, being falsely accused of assaulting a small child. To no one’s surprise, mom barely reacted. She took no action. She called no one at the school. She did not demand an investigation, nor did she retain legal counsel. She just nodded her head and said, “wow, crazy day.” And that was the end of that.. I WAS FREAKING NINE.
Ten years ago, I’d never heard of Jack Reacher. The first time I read that name was on Facebook in 2012. A friend had posted about the new Tom Cruise movie being released, and other people talked about it like they knew something I did not. That’s not surprising—there is a lot I don’t know, especially when it comes to popular culture. There were several conclusions I drew from the reactions to the post, but the first one was that Tom Cruise was the absolute wrong guy to be cast as Jack Reacher. Too short. Too old. Too little. Of course, I found out later that Cruise was one of eleven producers of the film, and cast himself as Jack Reacher—I’d have done the same thing. When you know that no one else in the world will do as good a job as you, you take the job and you work around the obvious.
A few questions of my friends filled me in on the book series. Lee Child is the author. It is a pseudonym. His real name is James Grant, born and raised in England, and he spent twenty years or so writing and directing television commercials and other shows on a British television network. In his spare time, he wrote stories, mostly about a man who retired from the United States army and who went around helping people out of a jam. It was a hobby for him, and for a long time he may have dreamed of becoming a writer of popular novels, but never thought it would be a reality. In the mid-90’s, as television began to change, Grant saw the handwriting on the wall, and began making his plans to earn a living in some other way. His friends and co-workers had told him for years that his writing was as good as any author they’d read, and now he would test the waters and find out. Turns out, they were right.
Jack Reacher is not much different than any other reluctant hero. Jack Bauer, Jack Ryan, hey, why are all the badass heroes named Jack?? Anyway, he’s a rugged individualist, content to walk around the country and help people out. He is huge—6’5” tall and 285 pounds. I read the first book, and it quickly became apparent why Tom Cruise was the wrong person for the role, at least physically. I’m not sure how many of the twenty-five books published about Jack Reacher. Call it ”several.” I stopped because all the stories were the same.
I saw the movie, released in 2012, and had to force myself to ignore Tom Cruise’s small stature. It didn’t take long. He is good. Great, in fact. One of the best actors ever. And he did a great job playing Jack Reacher. So what if he’s tiny? Some of the lines were delivered perfectly by Cruise. When a bad guy is complaining that his finger hurts because Reacher has control of the gun he’d been holding, Reacher calmly says, ”well, then you shouldn’t play with guns.” Every sarcastic line Reacher says is delivered perfectly by Cruise. Reacher makes lists all the time. ”There are four reasons why men join the army.” Or, ”there are three things cops never do. They don’t vote Democrat, they don’t drive Cadillacs, and they never use personal vehicles.” Tom Cruise delivers these lines perfectly, and other than his size, made the perfect Jack Reacher.
Imagine my excitement when I discovered that a new Reacher television series was being released. Tom Cruise is out, replaced by Alan Ritchson, a 38 year old actor who is the son of a high school teacher and an Air Force master sergeant. He has been in several films and TV shows, none of which I have seen. He isn’t 6’5”, but he’s close—6’2”, and although I’m no movie director, it’s got to be easier to make six-two look like six-five than it is to make five-seven look like six-five. In fact, neither of the Reacher movies starring Cruise focused on Reacher’s size. They didn’t even bother. If you’re a purist, this bothers you (and if you’re a Reacher fan, you saw what I just did). In the books, his size is always part of the story. People notice him. In the films, women notice him because he’s handsome, not because he’s huge. The series, which was released February 4, has eight episodes, each roughly an hour long. Lisa and I binge-watched it over two days.
So which is better, the films or the TV series?
As far as acting is concerned, the films win. Tom Cruise is just plain better as an actor than Alan Ritchson. Ritchson isn’t a bad actor. He delivers Reacher dialogue like I expected him to, but lacks the rhythm that Cruise has, as well as the facial expressions. Ritchson did a good job, in fact, he read every single one of Lee Child’s Reacher books before filming began. He studied the character and knew it as well as anyone. But there’s only so much you can do.
When considering the storyline, the series wins. The first film did not claim to be based on any particular one of the books. It was just an amalgam of all the stories. Seriously, how many ways is there to tell the same story twenty-five times? The series starts right off the bat telling viewers that it is based on the first in the Reacher series, ”Killing Floor.” Unlike many Hollywood productions, this one was very true to the book.
The cast of the film was probably better, and not just because of Cruise. Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, and Rosamund Pike are all Oscar-nominated actors, and of course, Robert Duvall is an Oscar winner. The series had exactly zero actors that I’d ever heard of. That doesn’t matter, they were all good and delivered their roles in a convincing manner.
So which is better? I’ll give the series the win—true to the story line. True to the characters. Better able to hash out the stories and the characters over eight hours than one can do in ninety minutes.
Watch it on Amazon Prime. Or better yet, read the books.
Life is weird sometimes. Have you ever been sitting around with nothing else to do, and a song comes on the radio, and you think to yourself, “I wonder if that guy is still alive?” And so you start researching the artist, and then you say, “wow, I had no idea?” Does that ever happen to you? Yeah, me neither.
Actually that was a lie. It happens to me all the time. Just this morning, listening to my Pandora radio station built around Neil Diamond (shutty), a David Gates song came on the radio. David Gates—I haven’t thought of him in a long time. I wonder if he is still alive? One quick Google search later, I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would. If you’re still reading this, I’ll assume you’re curious.
Of course I was already aware that Gates is a Tulsa native. The people on pop radio talked about it all the time. Plus there was that time at Westside Elementary in Cleveland (was there an Eastside elementary?), but I’ll get to that in a minute.
David Gates’s dad was a school band director. I had no clue. In high school, he formed his first band with some buddies, called The Accents. Clever. The band’s piano player was a fellow student at Tulsa Rogers High school—his name was Claude. Claude Bridges. You don’t hear of too many guys named Claude these days. After the band parted ways, Claude changed his name, using his middle name as his last name and became known as Leon Russell. Who knew? The Accents recorded a single (hey kids—a single is a small vinyl record, played at forty-five rotations per minute —45 rpm—and contained two songs, the A – side and B – side), which contained a song called Jo-Baby. Gates had written it for his girlfriend, Jo Rita. He married her in 1959. As of this morning, they will wake up still married. A pop singer who stays married for sixty-three years—that’s pretty rare!
After moving to LA (that’s in California), Gates formed a band called “Bread,” which became one of the most popular groups of the 1970s, with a string of hit songs, and multiple albums certified Gold or Platinum. For a time, one of the members of Bread was Warren Ham, who would later join Kansas with Kerry Livgren (during the John Elefante era) and became the lead singer for Livgren when he formed the band known as AD.
Today, David and Jo Rita live on a 1400 acre cattle ranch in Washington state. They raised four kids—three of them are attorneys and one is a cardiothoracic surgeon. A Tulsa kid who is in the hall of fame, wrote a ton of hit songs, helped launch to the careers of other talented people, who has been married for six and a half decades, raising four successful members of society…no big deal, right?
I said I would talk about “that day” in elementary school. Do any of my friends from school remember this? My sister was a huge music fan, and went to many live shows (I remember the Abbott and Costello moment between her and mom when she had tickets to see “Guess Who”), and one day she proudly announced that she had scored two tickets to see Bread when they were in Tulsa. I guess I was excited for her, but only because I knew the songs from the radio. Mostly I didn’t care.
Also, there were some new kids at school. I don’t remember their names, or where they came from, or where they went to after leaving Cleveland, or where they are today. I remember that they were brother and sister, possibly twins, but I don’t know, and that they had red hair and freckles. Strike one. He wore round glasses like John Denver. Strike two. And there were from … somewhere’s else—strike three, you’re out. If you aren’t from Cleveland, you’ll never be from Cleveland, see. I know this because I’m not from Cleveland, so I never felt like I was from Cleveland. It always felt like there was a certain pecking order and the only way I would ever see the top of it would be if every single Cleveland native moved away. Not that I cared—it wasn’t that important to me, but I learned that the most effective way to move up the order was for someone to move there after you did. For example, the red headed kids previously mentioned.
I’ll admit that I liked the fact that I was above them on the Cleveland social ladder. Of course, now I see how stupid that was—who cares?? But then, it seemed so important. If I could live that part of life over again, I would stand up for those red headed strangers. Of course, they would likely have said no to that, even though it looked to me like they were teased and bullied mercilessly. I could be totally wrong about that, but that’s what it looked like.
When you’re just little, you have no life of your own, so you live vicariously through your older siblings. Case in point: one morning at school, some of us were bragging about how our older siblings had seen Bread in concert the night before. That day had me feeling pretty good about my position in that little contest. I don’t know know today, like I didn’t know then, where Kristen’s seats were in the Tulsa Convention Center, but that didn’t stop me from taking the position that Kristen was squarely seated at front row center. I was all set to assume my place as King Turd up on Sh!t Mountain (thanks Sturgill), when all the kids on the playground noticed the sound of a diesel engine approaching—not a normal thing back in nineteen and seventy-whatever. Every eye was looking, scanning to see where this noise was coming from, when up the street came a huge tour bus. HUGE, like you might see sitting outside a concert arena when a popular band is in town. The bus was painted in a typical 70s-era color scheme, and the destination placard over the top of the windshield said, BREAD. You could have collectively knocked every single one of us over with a feather as the bus stopped, the door opened, and like a prom king and queen (who were brother and sister…wait, gross, never mind, forget that metaphor…) like a prince and princess, off the bus stepped that red headed brother and sister. They were walking tall and proud, and I’m pretty sure I detected a strut in their step as they approach to the school. It was like they were saying, “yeah, we be bad.” As they walked, the brother looked at no one in particular, pointed his thumb backward toward the bus as it drove away and just said, “Bread.” No duh. We know. Apparently their family had grown up with David Gates, they’d all hung out together before the show, and when Gates found out that his friend’s kids were struggling to fit in at their new school, he said, “let us drop you off on our way out of town.” And that’s just what they did.
I don’t know if it worked. Somehow I doubt if it did. I wonder what happened to them. Do any of my Cleveland friends remember?
I love John Steinbeck’s writing. It is clever and intelligent. No word is a waste of time or ink or space or paper. I reckon I’ll never forget the first time I read Grapes of Wrath. I was an undergrad, in my twenties, and rarely, if ever, used profanity. But when I read the last line of the last paragraph of the last page of Grapes of Wrath, I’m pretty sure I uttered a profane word of language. If the only thing you know of Grapes of Wrath is the movie, you don’t know. If you fake-read the book, you don’t know. But if you read the book, you know precisely what I’m talking about.
Right now I’m reading ”Travels with Charley.” It is non-fiction. I only heard about this book earlier this year, and the subjects he writes about—all of them—intrigued me. I immediately bought it. Steinbeck says that he felt like he’d lost touch with America, so he spent several months driving around the country in a pickup with a camper on it, talking to people everywhere and hanging out with this dog, Charley. It is pretty good—how could it not be? One of America’s greatest authors, camping out and hanging out with his dog. Writing. Camping. Dogs. That’s good stuff, right there.
Yesterday a friend posted a letter written by Steinbeck. The letter was written to Marilyn Monroe, asking her to send an autographed picture to his nephew. Check it:
My first question when I read this was, ”did Steinbeck really write this?” Snopes says he did, although he never typed letters, preferring instead to handwrite them. And this is not his signature, his secretary typed it and signed it as well. But reliable sources say that he did write the letter. My second question is ”did Marilyn Monroe send the autographed picture?” The answer is no, she didn’t. I’m disappointed.
The biggest takeaway, for me anyway, is the way the letter is written. Good writers are good writers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Steinbeck’s grocery list makes compelling reading. To Monroe, he says, ”He has his foot in the door of puberty, but that is only one of his problems. You are the other.”
After asking her for the autographed picture, he says, ”He is already your slave. This will make him mine.” Steinbeck’s nephew never knew about the letter. He doesn’t remember being infatuated with Marilyn Monroe. But that doesn’t matter.
How long has it been since you read a book by one of the great authors? There aren’t that many of them. Steinbeck is one. Clancy, Grisham, King. Those are the ones I am partial to. Who do you consider to be among the greatest authors of the last hundred years? Why do you like them?
Seriously, there are a million directions we could go from here. But I am asking this question in reference to one thing, referring to the photo below:
I might ask you, ”what does this letter mean?” And the answer would be, ”Not a darn thing.”
We have been getting letters like this ever since we bought Lisa’s Pilot in 2017. Well, specifically it wasn’t immediately after buying that car, it started the following year. We always respond the same way—we shred it. Not interested. Lisa loves her car. Recently however, Lisa has acted more interested in trading cars. We got a letter much like this one, in December. I showed it to Lisa, told her that this might be a good time to get her a new vehicle. It is the perfect storm: interest rates are historically low, and are getting ready to go back up. Also, the used car market has never been like this—dealerships are so desperate for used inventory that they are paying stupid money to buy them. Also, we are about to have to drop the money to buy new tires, and there is some maintenance we are going to need to tackle this year. To my surprise, Lisa is open to the idea. That fact is more historically unique than anything, because Lisa hates change. Better act now, before she changes her mind!
I took that letter and reached out to the person who sent it. I told him my thoughts, what we wanted, what we could afford. Not a peep in return. I sent another request. Nothing. I think I’ve reached out to him four or five times, and never received a response. Maybe he quit—there is a lot of turnover in that business—so I sent a generic message to the dealership, but haven’t heard a word. I sent messages to a GMC dealership and a Subaru dealership—they each responded quickly and with enthusiasm. But South Pointe Honda? Nada.
Fine, I’ll buy an Outback. Ferguson has one that looks really cool—black rims, and the lift kit is already installed. The only thing I would need them to add is a receiver hitch for my bike rack. I sent a pic to Lisa. She hated it. ”Looks like a station wagon,” she said. Well, it IS a station wagon. Also, she won’t look at a car that doesn’t have a third row—you know, grand babies and swim dates and sleepovers and all. So I sent her a pic of a Chevy Tahoe and the GMC version of it, with a diesel engine—YEAH!—but they’re all priced at around ninety grand. Even at that price, with interest rates so low, it might be worth it—this could be the last car we ever own. As much as Lisa would love to have a Tahoe, she isn’t interested in paying that much for one.
The GMC Acadia is a possibility—they come with the option of a third row, so that is still on the table, and they are priced at around the same as a Honda Pilot.
Then yesterday, I get the mail, and right there it is ANOTHER letter from South Pointe Honda—the one pictured above, offering to take our Pilot in trade for a new one. I know what you’re thinking—they just don’t have any inventory. You’re right, many dealers don’t have much in stock. But South Pointe does—they have nine or ten Pilots that meet our criteria. You might think, ”well they’re spoken for, someone has put down a deposit.” Fine. STOP SENDING ME LETTERS, THEN. I understand a little about marketing, and the law of large numbers. If you want to sell ten cars this month, you’ve got to send out ten thousand letters. That has to cost them a couple of grand every time. Save yourself some money if you’re not going to return the phone calls of the people you spent all that money to reach!
An old banker said that to me once. We were standing in the middle of a huge, beautiful compound situated on the shores of the Lake of the Ozarks, which was owned by the bank where we worked. He was responding to one person’s reaction to the cost of the bicycle I owned at the time, but it is true of just about everything. If you try to save money, you will often spend more on cheaper versions—be it a bicycle, a pair of shoes, or…a harness for your service dog.
When I first pressed Woody into service, I did a lot of online research into the best harness for balance and stability. No matter how many times I searched, or how many different ways I tried to phrase the search, the top choice was always the same: Bold Lead Design. Problem is, they are also the most expensive.
In my defense, I didn’t really want to spend top dollar, because I wasn’t 100% sure if Woody would succeed as a service dog. Of course, he did. But that is a different story. I tried all kinds of different harnesses, all less expensive, every one of them a bust. In every case but one, I made the purchase through Amazon, which meant that I was able to get my money back when the harness failed to live up to my expectations. The “one” I didn’t order from Amazon was not refundable, so I was out $100 (does anyone need a nice dog harness? I’ll make you a deal).
Finally I decided to bite the bullet, spend the money, and get the Bold Lead Design harness. Yes it was expensive. Also yes—it has been worth every penny. The lady that started it all began her work as a custom equestrian saddle maker. A friend told her about how difficult it is to find a quality dog harness for service dogs, so she made one. Today, that is all she does. Once a deposit is put down, the crew at BLD goes to work. I probably received at least three or four phone calls from my rep, asking for updated measurements on Woody, and on me. The directions were clear and precise, telling me exactly where to measure, and how. Just before they went into final production, they called again for one last measurement. Within a few days, FedEx showed up with the new harness. Woody was so excited!
We use it all the time, and even though I won’t tell you that he loves it (he likes to go to work in casual dress like a lot of us), it is the most comfortable harness ever. It is also very effective—it works. Because of the design, it keeps me from losing my balance without putting too much burden on Woody’s back. Its science.
Last week we were at Sam’s—Lisa and me, along with Woody. There we met a nice lady who was dealing with the same affliction as me, and she had a beautiful service dog with her—a Belgian Malinois. What an amazing breed! They can climb trees! The same breed of dog was a member of Seal Team Six when they raided the compound and took out Bin Laden. True story. And according to the lady we met at Sam’s, they make wonderful service dogs. She had a pretty sturdy harness on him, but couldn’t stop looking at Woody’s. She wrote down the maker and vowed to call the next business day.
If you need a service dog harness—for balance and stability or any other reason, there is no better one made in the world. Woody’s cost something under $700, but that was a couple of years ago. Don’t fret over the cost. It will be cheaper than trying everything else under the sun. Click on the link below to visit their website.
I started commuting by bicycle a long time ago. It was so long ago I have to get my calculator to know for sure. Let’s see…I was living in Norman, Oklahoma, and had just started back to school. 1993. That is 29 years. Twenty. Nine. Years. Man. Time sure gets away from us.
I never wore a helmet back then. Until mom bought me one—she insisted, since her neighbor owned a bike shop and he said it was important. Why all of a sudden do we have to wear helmets?? I rode bikes all the time as a kid, and never wore one. Oh well, I guess we wear helmets for the same reason we wear seat belts. We know more things now. So I’ll wear it, if you’re buying it. Problem is the helmet could fit in the same category of the jeans I wrote about earlier—on sale at K-Mart, a couple of sizes too small, and I think it was a hockey helmet. But I wore it anyway, most of the time. Now I wear one all the time, but no K-mart “blue light” specials for me. Only the best for Mrs. Kearney’s youngest son.
For Christmas this year, Lisa bought me a GoPro camera. I told her that since the first GoPro I had was a long time ago—one of the first they made, and my next camera was the Garmin Virb, which wasn’t all the good in terms of video quality, but she is amazing, and bought me the most recent release—the GoPro Hero 10. It does things that I didn’t know any camera could do. It records in 4K, at 30fps. For you non-film types, that’s thirty frames per second. That’s pretty good! I’ve seen a setting option on the camera that allows a frame rate of 60 fps—wow! I haven’t gone there yet, because YouTube and Facebook will dumb down any video you upload, so it doesn’t much matter. But this post isn’t about camera quality or frame rates or anything like that. Sorry I got sidetracked. It happens
Having a GoPro on board is nice because it makes it real, when I talk about a close call I had on my ride. I talk about them when they happen, but talk is cheap and a picture is worth a thousand words. A video is worth a million words! If I’d had a camera mounted to my handlebars last year I wouldn’t be going round and round with Falcon Insurance Company of Oak Brook, Illinois—the crappiest insurance company ever. One of their customers ran a stop sign and hit me with her car, she admitted fault, and her admission is reflected in the police report. Now the insurance company is trying to stick me for half of the liability, because their client “remembered it more clearly” when she got home. Yeah. I’ll bet she did.
I did have the camera rolling yesterday on my ride home. I was on the bike trail headed south, could see the big sand truck approaching. I was prepared for the driver to pull a bonehead move, and he didn’t disappoint, as reflected in the video.
“Clean shirt, new shoes And I don’t know where I am goin’ to Silk suit, black tie (black tie) I don’t need a reason why they come runnin’ just as fast as they can ‘Cause every girl crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed man”
I was never much on ZZ Top. Rock and roll was never my bag. Oh wait, sorry. I almost broke into a Seinfeld soliloquy. ZZ Top was never my favorite band, but there is no questioning the fact that some of their songs are legendary, including the one quoted here. People tend to notice when people dress nicely, especially if they aren’t known for dressing nicely. Like me.
I’ve never been very good at looking good. I remember a girl making fun of me in elementary school because I was wearing dark colored socks with blue jeans and sneakers. How did she know what color socks I was wearing? Well, it is because my pants were too short—another notable characteristic of my fashion style when I was a kid. She was pretty hard core about it too. Like, in her mind everyone in the world, or at least everyone on the playground at Westside Elementary in Cleveland, Oklahoma, knew that anyone who is anyone was wearing tube socks. Tube socks, baby. That’s where it’s at.
In junior high, things were not any better. Fake Nikes purchased on sale at K-Mart, a remarkably stylish shirt, and jeans with no pockets in the back. On my jeans, the back pockets were in the front. Mom insisted that they were found in the men’s department at K-Mart, but they looked like women’s pants. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the pockets on the front were stylishly decorated with a cool macrame chevron pattern, awkwardly pointing arrows straight at my no-no square. As if a boy in seventh grade needed any further attention drawn to that part of the body. The good news is that mom got such a great deal on those jeans, she bought me two pair. Score.
High school was more of the same. Mom still insisted on buying me fake Nikes. She was good at defending her position with regard to the wisdom of careful budgeting, and on the economic value of sneakers, but lost some credibility when she failed to make the connection between cheap shoes and their durability under pressure. She often wondered out loud how boys could tear through a pair of shoes so quickly. “YOU BOYS,” she would say, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING WHEN YOU ARE WEARING THESE SHOES…” Not much, mom. Because my feet hurt. Blisters will do that. Once I started dating (believe it or not, after seeing those pictures), it occurred to me one day that I must be going out with the most generous girl in school—for Christmas one year, she bought me a brand-spanking new pair of Nikes, just like the ones Jenny bought Forrest back in Greenbow, Alabama (side note—that’s not the only similarity between me and Forrest Gump, but we’ll save that for another time). Mom smugly turned her nose up at this, pontificating over peoples’ lack of common sense and wasting hard-earned money just to be fashionably correct. Of course, those shoes lasted me well over a year, doing the same kinds of things I did in the store brand shoes. It was later, and by later I mean like, two or three years ago, that I realized my girlfriend may have had an ulterior motive when she bought me those shoes—she didn’t want to be known as the girl who dated the guy who wore fake Nikes. Fair enough. I’m pretty sure this explains why I identified so perfectly with Sue, the man in the Johnny Cash song, whose dad chose a girl’s name believing it would make him tough. My fashion prowess helped shape me—I learned to come up with ways to defend myself against cruel people in school who teased me about the way I dressed. In a world that places a high priority on fashion, I was a newborn giraffe calf, among a pride of hungry lions.
I could go on, about how in high school and college, when I wore Wrangler jeans (before they were popular with the cowboys) and shirts acquired at the many Christian rock concerts I attended back then. It’s a wonder I survived.
Lisa has been a huge help for me in many ways, especially in the area of fashion. She knows things. Thanks to her, I am a much better dresser than I was as a young man. No more “nut huggers.” (Her words, not mine). Avoid monochrome (light colored shirt, dark colored pants, or vice versa). Untuck that shirt! Longer inseams—we don’t want to see your socks! “Wear the clothes, don’t let the clothes wear you.” She says that often.
Back in ‘21, I made a decision to step up my fashion game. (did you catch that—back in ‘21?). I came across a company out of Los Angeles—that’s in California if you didn’t know—their skill set involves turning fashion morons like me into stately looking men. Why not? I’ve heard of companies like this—I think it was Sarah that told us about Stitch Fix—where you pay $25 a month and they send you clothes to try on. What you don’t like, send back. Keep what you like and only pay for the things you keep, minus the $25 you already paid. I’m not a fan of that business model. It works for some people, but not me. You see, I’m a guy, and guys are funny about shopping for clothes. I realize that not everyone is like me, but it is stereotypical of men to not focus on clothes or fret over picking them. Sure, I’ll go to the mall to buy clothes, but only if I absolutely have to, OR if there is a sale going on. And not just any sale—a big sale, like at least 70% off. Dillards does that—a couple of times a year you can walk through Dillards and find clothes at 20 or even 50% off of items already marked down by 70%. “So you’re telling me, Olga, that this pair of pants originally cost sixty dollars, but you’ve marked them down by 70%?” Olga is a Russian immigrant who was a CPA or a pediatrician or something back in the old country, but here in the states, she sells men’s clothes at a department store. I think. Anyway, she confirmed my assessment of the situation. “HOW-EVERRR,” she continued in that cool Russian accent with the rolling r’s, “you can take an additional fifty percent off that price, making these pants nine dollars.” NINE DOLLARS? Heck it would be worth nine dollars to set them on fire and watch them burn! (I say that a lot). So most men HATE shopping for clothes, and only go when there is absolutely no other way out. But don’t expect me to go into that little room and try anything on—there’s no way that we are going into that nasty, covid-laden fitting room. Who has time for that?? They’re nine dollars, I’ll take my chances. Men just need to be told what to wear, and when to wear it. That’s why Stitch Fix isn’t a good fit for me. Just give me a box of clothes, and I’ll take it from there. Don’t give me a bunch of arbitrary choices and make me pick and send stuff back. Too much to think about.
“Stately Men” is the company I discovered last year, and I love their model. You start out by filling out a fairly detailed profile of who you are, what you do, where you work, where you hang out, etc. They assign you a stylist who fits your profile. Then you choose a membership level. There are three. The basic membership is $99 a month. The middle level is $179, and the top level is $300. With the basic membership, you almost never get shoes. The mid-range gets you shoes every once in a while, or a belt, or even a watch. The top level gets you shoes every month, and more clothes. I chose the mid level. The first box I received came with a nice note from my stylist—Megan is her name—and she was quick to point out that she too has MS, which is kind of cool. She doesn’t send a note every month, which is fine, but she does a fine job picking out clothes for me. Lisa doesn’t always agree, but I think she’s a little jelly (that’s what the kids say) of some random woman from Cali picking out clothes for her main man. Lisa’s right though, to be fair—sometimes the clothes they send are a little bland, but I can always send them back for an exchange. Last month they ran a special for upping your membership, so I did. No obligation to stay at the higher level (I’m not about to pay $300 a month for clothes), but spending just one month at the higher level snagged me a giant box of clothes, shoes, belt, etc. Also, you don’t have to do every month. Sometimes I’ll look in my closet, and its like I’ve become some Hollywood clothes horse or something, so I’ll drop back to getting a box every other month. Then I might go back to monthly if I feel like it. For a guy who has never been very good at dressing himself, Stately Men is a game changer. Below you can see some pictures of me rocking the stuff sent to me over the last several months.
Yesterday I wore the latest shipment from Megan and the crew out in LA. All day , students asked me why I was so dressed up. “Who ME? Aw this thing? It’s just something I threw together.”
I should point out that Stately isn’t for everyone. Taylor got Jared a membership for Christmas. They weren’t impressed. Didn’t like the choices, or the colors, or whatever. I respect that. Everyone is different. It is working for me—I really like that I have more to wear than jeans and sneakers. I love the anticipation—knowing that box is on the way, and when it arrives, it is like Christmas morning. And just like that, I’m a sharp-dressed man. Or something like that.
Do you want to start dressing like you’re not in junior high anymore? Give Stately a try. It can’t hurt. If you decide to give it a go, maybe you could use this link to get started: http://stately.refr.cc/jasonkearney . If you do, you’ll get 20% off your order, and I’ll get some free stuff. It’s a win-win.
When you get your first box, take some pictures and post them in the comment section so we can all dote over your newly found fashionista status.
Keep an eye out—every time I get a new shipment from Stately, I’ll post it here.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Tulsa has an active cycling community. This is a good thing! It reduces yuck in the air, and saves money fixing streets, since bicycle riders don’t cause any road wear. Ultimately, it saves us all money, since cyclists are (generally) in fairly good physical shape and are less likely to become a drain on the healthcare system.
Now I realize that not everyone sees the plus side of all those people out there wearing spandex pants and acting all smug and sanctimonious. Some people view cyclists as an imposition, and as a result, drivers sometimes lose their ability to think clearly, or make sound decisions under pressure. I talk about it all the time, but talking about the close calls I’ve seen isn’t as effective as seeing it.
Lisa gave me a GoPro for Christmas. It is the third camera I have owned for recording action-type stuff. The first was a GoPro from the early days–it was great, way better than the other cameras I had tried. Then Garmin came out with an action cam of their own. I bought one, and it was okay. The video quality was sub-par, but it did project the riders stats on the video, which is pretty cool. When Lisa asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, I mentioned a new camera, but told her that she didn’t need to get me the latest offering from GoPro–the 8 or 9 would do fine. But she had to go all out and get me the newest version, the Hero 10. I’m still trying to figure it out. But it is really nice! The video quality is spectacular! And it didn’t take long for me to capture an impatient driver acting foolishly, putting himself and others in danger. Just another day in Oklahoma.
Be patient with me. I don’t adapt well to change, and learning to use the camera and the editing software is a challenge. For example, I originally had a detailed set of captions on this video, but they didn’t make the final cut. I’ll get it figured out. Or I won’t.
If I’d had this when Dolores ran that stop sign and hit me back in May, I wouldn’t still be fighting with Falcon Insurance of Oak Brook, Illinois. The video seen here was taken on December 26, 2021 on Frankoma Road outside of Sapulpa. I was traveling northeast at 22 mph when these two cars decided to pass me. The first car was no problem–plenty of room to safely pass. The second car? Well let’s just say that this driver wasn’t using his/her thinker. It was close. Very close. Way closer than it appears in this video. The good news, for me anyway, is that I had an escape plan in mind–if those cars had collided, I was fully prepared to veer off to the right, leave the road, and avoid the inevitably fiery crash that would have been the result, calling 911 just before attempting to rescue people trapped inside the burning wreckage. Call me Gage. Or DeSoto. “Rampart, this is squad 51…”