Sunday, August 30, 2009

Only in My World?

Mrs. V. just started a terrific new job as the librarian at a local middle school. I went in with her Saturday morning to get a gander at her library and help her chip away at the gargantuan task of re-shelving the hundreds of dusty books piled randomly about the place. (The school hasn’t had an official librarian in many years.) We spent a nice morning listening to bouncy tunes from her iPod and perusing the various titles kids are reading nowadays – and were reading in, say, 1961, since there are innumerable dust-encrusted tomes that sorely need replacing. It was a geek’s paradise.

As a reward for my labors, the Missus bestowed upon me an important historical volume, reluctantly jettisoned from the collection due to its antiquity: Popular Mechanics Book of Bikes and Bicycling, by Dick Teresi. (Thanks, hon!)

Now, before you go smirking at the photo and the grandma’s-attic funk wafting from the typeface, just feast your little peepers on a random selection of topics covered in this baby, selected by simply flipping it open to various pages as I write this:
  • The bleeding-edge innovation of titanium frames, newly available from Teledyne, an aeronautics company. Much lighter than Reynolds 531 steel tubing, which was the coin of the realm when this book was published. (Insider’s tip: Titanium is expensive, kids! A fully equipped bike, including that newfangled Japanese componentry, costs $300! But hey, it weighs a mere 18 pounds – the lightest bike on the market…)
  • A suggestion that kids getting involved in those lunatic off-road cycling events that seem to be gaining popularity in wacky California, “use the ever-popular banana-seat, high-rise [handlebar] type of bike, sometimes called a ‘Sting Ray’ or a ‘Chopper’ (…) Some riders adapt their bikes with special studded tires, and handlebars with a special padded brace across the ‘Y’.” (Think full-travel suspension and disk brakes are recent? Look again. But careful of the stick shifter when jumping those stumps -- your future children are at stake.)
  • A delightful photo of a woman in welding glasses and a summery gingham smock, hard at work in the Schwinn factory. The caption reads, “A craftswoman hand-brazes a Schwinn Paramount frame at [low] temperature, which produces a stronger frame.”

If you think you detect a sardonic note in my worship of this book, think again. I’m loving it; the nostalgia, the history lessons the pix and all. Personally, I think discarding it from the library equates roughly with using one of the lost papyruses from Alexandria to light a cigar – but then, I’m not complaining. My gain, right?

But the best is yet to come, folks. For fun, I looked up Mr. Teresi on the Web. First, I have to mention that he turns out to be an accomplished author and editor. But better yet, where do you think he lives? Amherst, Massachusetts. That’s right, the next town over from me. I’ll have to look him up some time. My bet is I already know someone who knows him.

This kind of thing tends to happen to me. My passions tend to connect me with people in my midst. Arbitrary folks -- my doctor, a therapist I'm starting counseling with, the husband of a co-worker -- just "happen" to turn out to be enthusiasts, too. It's always a treat when it comes out of the blue, a little gift to brighten the day-to-day. It's part of the flavor of my sweet and weird little world.

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