Sunday, November 15, 2015

Coffeeneuring #7, Just Getting Home

This was an odd trip, the shortest so far at 3.9 miles, and the only one of the seven that employed the use of my car. Also the cheapest trip at a paltry $3.50, and the only one where I did not have the luxury of a chair to sit in.

 My wife wanted me to drop her off at church, run an errand requiring the car, then either pick her up after the service or leave her the car so she could drive home. We employed the latter approach. I stopped at home following the errand, long enough to load the bike.

 Arriving at church, I unloaded the bike, strapped on my cameras, and biked home. It's just that out in the suburbs, there are not many places you _can_ find coffee on a Sunday afternoon between church and home in a sparsely populated residential area. My first stop was a Bruster's ice cream shop. No coffee; not even coffee ice cream. Or hot cocoa either. OK, with Plan A a failure, we move to Plan B. I suppose I could have inquired at the one of the two smoky bars along there, but I simply don't go in those places, ever. I'm not even sure they were open. I also did not figure the community college's snack bar would be open.

 I was too early for the public library to be open, and didn't feel like waiting outside for 45 minutes, so the only place left was a gas station about a mile from home. I got a simple 12-ounce cup plus a package of bread sticks with Nutella, then walked around the side of the place next to the air compressor, sat on the curb, and took this picture.

 Once back on the road, I was back in my own house in five minutes, and at that, my wife got home first. Hey, it would have been nice to work in a long ride on a fabulous 60-degree sunny afternoon, but I'll take what I can get. Seven rides in the books! Yay, 2015 Coffeeneuring Mission Accomplished!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Storytelling thoughts, 2 Nov 2015

I regularly participate in StorySwap, a monthly gathering of local storytellers at Northland Library, and have been attending regional events such as the Three Rivers Storytelling Festival for years. It's a wonderful art form, often overlooked in the daily deluge of electrons and photons vying for our attention. My whole family has been in on this, too, having told stories onstage or written material for others to perform. Many local tellers know us. All of this is good.

When I go to the monthly meetings, I often feel like a square peg in a round hole, though. There is a rhythm to the types of stories at these events, but there are other rhythms that can be played at a storytelling concert as well, just as there are many different styles of music you might hear at a musical concert. StorySwap is different from The Moth which are both different from TED talks which are all different from the type of story you might develop from the Toastmasters storytelling manual. You will hear a sax solo at a jazz or rock concert, less likely at a symphony concert. There's nothing wrong with sax solos or saxophones in general, nor with certain styles of oral storytelling.

My own style is to work from historical accuracy rather than a fictional or folk tale. Sometimes it's something I experienced myself, or an event that happened within my own memory. Sometimes I am working from an event long ago or far away, but typically holding to the facts. There's nothing wrong with this, or with doing the opposite. I would use my craft to guide others to interpret historical events differently, and to look at current events in a different light based on what may have been passed over in the past. Just one example: Most people have heard of Paul Revere's 1775 ride through the countryside, but fewer know about Sybil Ludington, who rode farther, and did a better job. Those stories need a teller, and I would be that teller, if I could.

A week or so ago, I had the idea for a story and started to write some notes outlining how to approach it. Last night, despite the absence of either rehearsal or polish, I told it. Rough as it was, it definitely had the effect I wanted, as the tone of conversation shifted along the lines of where I was going with the tale. I wanted to get people wistful. But it wasn't a fable, and while fables are what experienced StorySwap tellers do best, and what works best at such meetings, I am not a fable-teller. I have no plans to become one, any more than I want to become a jazz saxophonist.

I did get some good tips for how to structure a story better. That's really useful. I should take that, work with my prior notes, and develop a more cohesive tale. Toastmasters meetings also give me a great opportunity to practice in front of a live audience, with constructive feedback. I think I need both arenas. Fables are great, but it's the ability to craft a story that matters more than the ability to fit a style.

My goal is to get good enough at this to be invited onstage at one of these events and do well. I have the stories, and I think my aims for the audience are good, too. I just need to practice.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Coffeeneuring #6, Dio de los Muertos

November 1 in Mexican culture is the day to celebrate Day of the Dead, on which to commemorate those who have passed in the prior year. Today, "412 Flock", the unifying group for Pittsburgh cycling community, at the urging of Lucia, who was born in Mexico, held a Dio de Muertos Ride.

Sadly or ironically, all our rides now start directly across Forbes Avenue from the new memorial ghost bike for Susan Hicks, Ph.D., who lost her life just over a week ago through no fault of her own while waiting for a light to change at Forbes and Bellefield, mere feet away from Dippy the dinosaur.

I rode the 11 miles, almost identically to last Saturday's ride. This ride started on the west side of the same building Ms. Hicks's vigil was held at, only that was on its north side.

Our ride was fairly small, maybe 20 riders, but only 17 bikes. Ben brought all three daughters on his family train bike: a tandem plus a whateveryoucallit plus a trailer. His eldest now has enough size to her to be able to actually help.

The ride would have been seven miles but I peeled off before the end to stop for coffee. I splurged, getting a big piece of Black Widow cake, which seemed appropriate, plus a pumpkin latté. I like pumpkin everything, not just in autumn. The place was another Crazy Mocha, same chain as my first coffeeneuring adventure, but a different shop. This one is in the Bloomfield neighborhood, at Liberty Ave and Taylor Street.

My total miles today will likely be a bit over 20: 11 to get there, about five on the ride, three to get Downtown, then a mile and a half from the bus I will catch.

Being also now November, I am again going to try to write a blog post daily, for NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month. I have plenty I could write about, if I could just park my butt in a chair, write it and post it. That said, this is now mainly written -- in Notes on an iPhone, no less -- so I need to follow through and get it published.