The Art of Experience

Cropped K on Bike 2015-12-10 at 2.05.37 PM

Calm down. Yes, I ride with a helmet, as seen in gif below.

If there’s an age limit for obsessing over a new bike, I’ve probably overshot by…oh, let’s round it off to half a century. 

That didn’t stop me from developing a bike crush last summer. The object of my affection: “Abbey” from the Pure City line of Pure Fix Cycles. At the outset, let me say this is not a paid blog post. But it was sweet of you to let that thought cross your mind. Also hilarious. It would mean their marketing department targets the old lady demo. Are you drinking? To underscore the point, here’s a Pure City video demonstrating a style of biking for which I lack both the youth and the right underwear. Also, the mom in me screams, “Put your helmets on!”

In the tradition of 21st century romance, I found Abbey online. I wasn’t looking for a bike when I spotted her, hadn’t ridden in years, but it was bike love at first sight. I just knew we were meant to be together. In the parlance of Marie Kondo, that grand duchess of decluttering, I knew Abbey would “bring me joy.”

Maybe it was her cheery yellow paint job and minty-fresh turquoise tire walls.

Or the step-through design that promised, “Hey, Old Lady, with any luck you won’t crack your pelvis getting on and off.”

Or the comfy-looking leather seat that beckoned, “Come sit, Old Lady Fanny.” 

Have I mentioned I’m really old?

Abbey played hard to get until I whipped out my credit card. Things moved fast from there, and within two weeks she’d moved in with me. Well, into my garage. The single rough spot of our union was that Pure City demanded Abbey be assembled professionally to activate the warranty. Cheap, cranky old ladies don’t shell out when we have cheap, cranky old husbands with perfectly fine mechanical skills.


From mid-July through mid-November, Abbey and I cruised our neighborhood nearly every day. I was recreating the fun of bike riding as a kid and realized a huge part of that was riding upright. The only other bike I’d owned as an adult was a Peugeot 10-speed purchased in my twenties. It had those ridiculous curled-under handlebars. (Attention serious bikers about to lecture on aerodynamics: I don’t care. Really, I don’t. Save your breath for the uphill.)

Abbey and I tool around at a leisurely pace on paved trails in a nearby park and on residential streets with almost no traffic. She’s a three-speed, but we’re not about speed or how many miles we cover in a day. We are about the quiet joy of pedaling in the fresh air in an increasingly unquiet world. That and the irrepressible, childish pleasure of dinging the bell to warn pedestrians we’re about to pass.

great Bike w: snow

A friend gave me this oh-so-French-movie basket for Christmas. Now for the baguette.

As the days grow longer, I’ve begun estimating how soon Abbey and I can reasonably hope to ride again. With luck, gloves, hat, scarf and a warm jacket, we’re thinking April 1.

That’s right. A fool in bike love.

The other day I was browsing gmail emoji—could we pretend I didn’t admit that?—and was struck by this little number  , which reminded me of the way my dad greeted other drivers in North Dakota. keep 50%-fingerwave

Index finger lifted from the steering wheel. That was it. No turn of the head. Smile optional.

Driver’s Finger was a simple, dignified gesture. It was a manly alternative to waving, which tends to make other drivers think you’re alerting them to a problem, say, dragging a fire hydrant from their rear bumper.

I still see Driver’s Finger in rural areas. Maybe it’s used in cities and I just haven’t noticed. I can imagine situations in which the move could prove troublesome unless you’re up on your gang signs. (“Hell, yes, I shot him. Dude flashed me his index finger from the steering wheel and it was on.”)

At sports events a comically oversized index finger delivers a message: “Look, I’m waving a big piece of foam at you.” In contrast, Driver’s Finger never goes out of its way to draw attention to itself. It’s understood without screams or body spasms.

I have no idea how Driver’s Finger originated. Perhaps it dates back to when farm trucks and cars were harder to steer and keep on the road. This minimalist gesture was polite and safe. Whatever its beginnings, I like Driver’s Finger. It’s well-mannered. Never crude or overwrought like its neighbor, middle finger, aka The Finger.

I call Driver’s Finger a “manly alternative” because women drivers who recognized their friends in an oncoming vehicle, then as now, usually eschewed Driver’s Finger for a friendly smile accompanied by an upward tilt of the jaw. Also subtle but, well, ladylike. 50%-head+tilt

Both Driver’s Finger and Head Tilt + Smile are soft, noninvasive pleasantries. These gestures don’t demand we “get together soon.” They’re not invitations to “like my driving on Facebook.” All they do is recognize another driver as a human being—which may be anachronistic soon enough with driverless cars. Meanwhile, Driver’s Finger and Head Tilt + Smile express civility. That’s always worth pointing out, or in the case of Driver’s Finger, pointing up.



Photo on 1-4-14 at 3.00 PM #2

Over the holidays, I got hooked on the glossy South Korean family drama “Hundred Year Inheritance,” becoming irrationally invested in the star-crossed relationship of adorable Min Chae Won and hunky Lee Se Yoon. Don’t even start me on what I’ve learned about monkey business in the noodle business.

Let’s get it out there: I have watched 32 of the 50 episodes on Netflix. They’re also on Hulu. Online, this show goes by a confusing array of titles including “A Hundred Years’ Inheritance,” “A Hundred Year Legacy” and “Third Generation Noodle House.”

By any title, the storytelling is a delicious mix of classic soap opera, complete with overwrought musical score, and screwball comedy. When three sisters-in-law show up at the cafe owned by their brother-in-law’s girlfriend, ready to rumble, well, you’d have to go back to Lucy and Ethel for more exquisitely executed physical comedy. Lean in? Push and shove, sisters. Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 9.50.36 AM

Beautifully shot and paced—with wardrobe, hair and makeup to swoon over—the show proves that greed, jealousy, pride, prejudice and eavesdropping make the TV world go round, around the world. (Does nobody in TV world ever check to see who might be lurking behind a door?)

In the best tradition of soaps, “Hundred Year Inheritance” focuses on personal relationships and tunes out world events. No jabs at North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. No “ripped from the headlines” plots that increasingly sully American TV dramas.

In the first episode, Chae Won and Se Yoon have their meet-cute in a mental hospital where perfectly sane Chae Won has been committed by her fire-breathing mother-in-law. Don’t bother me with your questions like, Hmmm, can you do that in South Korea? Just believe that the mother-in-law, Bang Young-Ja—arguably the scariest woman in the history of television—gets it done, whatever it is, whatever it takes. Big checks. Threats. Shrieks. Her shrieks don’t require translation, but the subtitles for this show are excellent. The sole snafu I’ve noticed is “My innocent son-in-law has been bewitched by this wrench’s butt.” To my disappointment, “wrench” was corrected to “wench” a few subtitles later.

If this show were on American TV, it would belong on the Food Network. Nearly all the characters are in the food biz. Working in a family noodle factory. Running a food megacorp. Operating a small cafe. Scenes become visual feasts as the camera lingers on rows of noodles drying on lines outdoors or trays of scrumptious-looking food products in development. “Inheritance” in the title refers to the noodle factory, which nobody in the family wants, until everybody does. The ongoing competition, devised by the endearing family patriarch, owes debts to both “Top Chef” and “The Apprentice.” Note to Food Network: Consider developing “So You Want to Run a Noodle Factory.”

 Why I need Korean TV Etiquette for Dummies  

Lee Se Yoon, our hero. Formal manners rule on this show, but nobody wants to miss a text.

Lee Se Yoon, our hero. Formal manners may rule on this show, but nobody ever wants to miss a text.

A big part of my fun in watching the show is trying to wrap my head around Korean etiquette, or at least Korean TV etiquette. Who steps away first after a social interaction seems to be a big deal. Even a conversation on a street corner can require negotiations about who moves on. I sometimes lose track of the plot as I try to make sense of who’s gone first. Showing up without phoning or texting ahead can be met with a pointed “Why are you here without calling?” Oops.

Also, I’d like to understand the self-effacing conversational opener “I lack a lot, but…” and why it’s okay to introduce someone near and dear with “She lacks a lot, but…” I’d love to know the origin of “I’m going to bite my tongue and die,” though given how casually the expression is delivered, it seems more cliché than credible threat. Easier to understand is the admonition to “Shut that mouth before I sew it up.”

Then there’s the manner of characters addressing each other, which jumps from extreme formality, even among family members at home, to a jarring bluntness in which people’s jobs or roles morph into a form of address. I’m now used to hearing a mother routinely addressed as “Bo Rheum’s Mom” instead of by her own name. But I still blink at hearing someone in a shop called back to the counter with “Hey, customer.” And then there are the two guys, romantic rivals, one a member of the noodle factory family who happens to be an electrician, the other a singer who lives over a cafe. Even I now call them “Utility Pole” and “Rooftop.”

Obviously I lack a lot, but have to end this now and go watch episode 33.

Thank you for your time, Blog Reader.

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