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Bike crashing San Diego Bay you might notice this giant Dole freighter tucked in the corner. It parks itself on the tail end of the harbor walks, tall ships and luxury yachts. If you ask me, this beast of a boat, journeyed from Honduras, is more photo worthy than all that tourist stuff. It’s the kind of spectacle you pedal your Trek into by accident only.

Each of those rectangular cargo containers hitch on the tractor trailers, lined up single file on the other side of this monstrosity. And you see those huge beams running parallel to the hull? They slide up down the boat, rearranging the cargo like giant robot arms in a Terminator II flashback (or flash forward, depending on your perspective). Sounds like Han Solo being frozen in carbonite (wait and listen for the machinary and slamming sounds). I watched like a curious kid–which is the whole point of city bike crashing.

Turn 180 degrees, you see  Hilton guests poolside–pointed at the same floating warehouse. I wonder if they enjoyed industrial clamor as much as I did (I’m guessing not).

It makes for a strange juxtaposition of luxury and industry.


Coded Colors

Ever hear of “color therapy”? I hadn’t, until I came across my classmate Ja Young’s blog project, and I swear my blood pressure went down almost instantly. It was a reminder of a childlike ease and simplicity that, like our boxes of crayons, we put away and forget about as adults. But as it turns out, color therapy is about more that staying in the lines, as Ja Young recently explained during a City-Bike-Crash course at Twiggs.

It starts with a very simple pencil drawing and follows with me staring and not wanting to mess the thing up. But you can’t mess it up. Anything goes. This is coloring, after all. So I went for it, and here’s how it went…

I called my piece "Empty Bird-Fish" because it reminded me of a fish and the body was uncolored. So what?

If you’re looking at this and asking “What the hell?,” than you might be on to something. There are theories suggesting that choices as disparate as composition, orientation, border design–and yes, color choice–can reflect one’s emotions, goals and patterns of behavior. My filled-in border suggests routine (though since it is green and brown, it could also point to a strong earth relationship), a bright beak my willingness to communicate, leftward orientation my forward thinking mentality, and the uncolored body my cool loneliness and fear of failure. A rosy cheek betrays embarrassment. “What the hell?,” indeed!

Ja Young was flying on her own groove…

Nothing too ambiguous about Ja Young's title: "Time to Stand Alone."

This bird is also moving toward the future, dodging bamboo thickets, free and unbound by any color in her frame. The brown beak is her reticence. The hawkish red eye is focused with a hint of meanness (her words–I wouldn’t say such a thing). The blue tail is like a thoughtful rudder. The curl of hair: “just decoration.” I suggested the bubble in the torso could be nervousness and Ja Young said it was good insight. But let her explain.

I pedaled the Trek home feeling a little more centered and relaxed than when I left.

Mystery Destination

My pal Brian mentioned an old-looking, domed building he spotted on a hill off the freeway (I guess it would have been the 5 Freeway–shout out if I’m wrong). So on this bike crash Brian came along and we checked out the destination, not knowing what it was, and purposely leaving it a surprise. For all I knew it could have been the home of a Tony Montana wannabe, or a Church of Scientology. We would see.

So we headed from Location X in Normal Heights in a general, westerly direction, toward Mission Hills, up some grueling inclines, regretfully bypassing  Old Town (that’ll be another trip), and stopping only to admire this view from Sunset Cliffs:

View from Sunset Cliffs, overlooking Mission Bay. I'll have to check this out sometime during an actual sunset.

We didn’t know exactly where we were going, but after some extended uphill pedaling and cutting through makeshift dirt trails, we were relieved to find the reasonably flat ground of Presidio Park, which looked to be mostly green grass and picnic grounds–and this statue:

But poking around a little we saw the Mystery Building from the rear, though a gap in the trees. Being worn and disoriented, the sight was like beacon..

The razor wire, to the right, looks foreboding, but I think that’s just to keep young riff raff form climbing onto the roof (20 year ago I might relate to the impulse). There’s actually an inviting, though steep, trail that we walked our bikes down to get a closer look.

Turns out we were at the Juniperro Serra Museum, that it’s always been a museum (not an old mission like some mistake it for), that a presidio is a Mexican military emcampment, that there is a ton of history on this hill, and that it would cost $6 if we wanted to go inside. So we poked a little more around the free areas and didn’t learn much at all, which is OK because City Bike Crashes aren’t about book learnin’ anyway.

So my pal Brian and I pedaled back through Mission Hills, mostly downhill this time. There was a high-pitched, loud flash of sound that I swear sounded like glass breaking but turned out to be Brian’s tire blowing out.

So we walked our bikes a few blocks down Washington St. to the nearest bike shop. While waiting for the bike to get serviced I asked the guy why my  Trek is so off balance that I can’t ride the darned thing no-handed. He said there were no major problems and I shouldn’t ride no handed anyway — an amusing answer that made me laugh.

So that little fiasco cost Brian about 30 bucks, but at least he had a sweet new road tire and I had a little something extra for the day’s narrative. That’s how I look at it.

Out of the City

Something happened Saturday. I uncharacteristically woke before dawn, and not knowing what to do with my restless energy, I switched on the blinky lights on my Trek and pedaled my way 8 miles out of the city to crash Mission Trails and the quaint little rock and mortar dam it holds. The trip meant braving the semis crushing by on the decidedly non-bicycle-friendly Fairmount Ave., a digusting hill on Mission Gorge Rd., an under-maintenced bike creaking like an old barn in the wind, and a rattlesnake bigger than a baseball bat.

But after some fun gibes at this little adventure, I need to emphasize how fun, and how calming and refreshing it all was. Pedaling up Mission Gorge, I was first moved by the hard mechanizations of this quarry. The rock dust added to the hazy morning, and left a smell of minerals in the air.

I didn’t see another soul at the trails when I arrived, and went for a seat at the dam. A huge fish jumped out of the water. I learned it was a carp when a couple of fisherman arrived. They throw back whatever they catch, they said, and were grateful others did to because there wouldn’t be fish in there otherwise. I asked what they use for bait and they would not say. It’s a secret proprietary blend. I would have taken pictures of the guys, but I didn’t want to disturb them. They looked and spoke in a folksy manner, and I found myself affecting a similar tone. It was enjoyable. I watched them fish for a while, and then I hiked the trails.

The Old Mission Dam is a tranquil place. Apparantly it's construction had something to do with crop production. (I only skimmed the plaquard).

At Mission Trails there are signs everywhere telling visitors not to deviate from the main trail, so that’s what I did–stayed on the main trail. There are more gorgeous sites than I can describe here: mountainous panoramas, gnarled trees, colorful insects, flowers, all sorts of stuff. You meet people bird watching, jogging, walking as families–you could imagine–and it’s all very pleasant.  Then there was a makeshift trail that looked sort of like a main trail, with no warning signs nearby. So I took it. That’s when I was this sucker:

My first wild rattlesnake sighting. Suddenly it seemed like there were rattlesnakes everywhere. I was very very careful getting out.

I’ll never deviate from the main trail again.

Welcomed Invader

I’m into films more than I am street art. If it wasn’t for the 2010 documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” one of my favorites of 2010, I probably would not have taken much notice of names like Shepard Fairey and Space Invader. But now that I know, a chance sighing of their work, while pedaling the Trek, for me is akin to accidentally crashing into Sean Penn or Chris Rock while they’re ordering pizza. (I wonder what the artists would say about that.)

The first tag I happened to notice in San Diego was a mosaic by Space Invader, a French artist who flies to cities around the world, leaving images of old video game characters in public view. (I have to believe there’s some punning in the name “Space Invader.”)

Space Invader tag on a downtown overpass. What is that weird white-and-blue blob underneath?

One of my bicycle pals pointed out that the blue-and-white blob is Dig Dug. If you didn't have an Atari as a kid, than you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Looks like an astronaut Smurf.

I was stoked when I first saw this Space Invader tag, as if it was a unique find. But of course it isn’t, as a quick Google search confirms. A year ago, before Comic Con, Invader created a whole Space Invader Walk, with some 21 tags spread throughout downtown in a pattern that forms a space-invader shape if viewed from above. (It looks like it might even have been sponsored by Olive Garden. Now that’s marketing!)

More on the Space Invader Walk and other street art in future posts.

Go San Diego Go Club

Early this year on a Tuesday I was aimlessly pedaling the Trek, looking for a new quiet spot to sit with a book (I think it was “Do What You Love and The Money Will Follow”), when I finally landed at Twiggs coffee shop on Park Boulevard. It was comfortable enough, until I was interrupted by an onslaught of smart-looking people placing black and white stones on these curious wooden grids. I had to ask “what’s that?” I’ve crashed Twiggs every Tuesday since.

Turns out they were all members of the San Diego Go Club, a group that gets together to play the ancient game of “Go,” which originated in China thousands of years ago but has since been taken to new heights by Japan and Korea. Some consider Go to be less of a game and more of a marshal art–one geared more toward a general than a samurai. It’s been touted by Bill Gates and was featured in the film “A Beautiful Mind.” The game’s complexity surpasses that of chess; a computer program has not been developed that can dominate humans.

The San Diego Go Club meets Tuesday evenings at 7 at Twiggs Coffeehouse & Bakery on 4590 Park Boulevard.

I think the best part of the SDGC is the pleasure the veteran players derive from passing on the tradition. There is always somebody who will patiently walk a beginner through the learning process (a process that never really ends). Fees are never even mentioned, and if you want to borrow from the clubs library of training books, that is usually a welcomed option.

On Tuesday nights, many of the tables at Twiggs are occupied by Go boards.

Go has a lot to teach: patience, concentration, strategy, etiquette, humility and self control, among others. It’s a great activity to rally around. There is a whole lexicon of Japanese terms that come into the game play. Some English terms such as “life,” “death,” and “connection,” are also used; learn to play and you’ll see how apropos these terms really are.

A finished game of Go. Can you guess what color won?

Most of all, Go is a lot of fun. Whatever your skill level, expert to “huh?”, It’s definitely worth visiting the San Diego Go Club.

Neighborhood of a Legend

As a former New Englander living in San Diego, I can get sentimental about my native customs, like building snow forts, raking leaves and, especially, visiting Fenway Park–home of the Boston Red Sox. Sure, an element of Red Sox Nation survives in So Cal, but it’s not quite the same.

However, I was thrilled to find out that Red Sox legend Ted Williams (not flash-in-the-pan homeless “golden voice” Ted Williams) lived right here in “America’s Finest City.” And I was ecstatic to learn the “Splendid Splinter’s” childhood home is in my North Park–less than a mile from my home in Location X!

I grabbed my camera and hopped on my Trek, which is creaking badly with bicycle arthritis, to crash the place where history’s best hitter learned to swing a baseball bat.


OK, OK, it might look like just another house. But use your imagination: A young Ted Williams racing home after school, breaking in his glove, dreaming of dingers--right in this house! Before fame and cryonics!

The city even named a nearby baseball after him. It's located a block away from Williams' former home, in North Park, where Williams spent a lot of time practicing, according to legend.

I get lots of satisfaction seeing the Red Sox logo on San Diego city property. Sorry Padres.

Yay! More signage.

That’s all for today, but my Ted Williams historical tour of San Diego far from over. In upcoming posts I’ll see if I can speak with the current residents of Ted Williams’ childhood home, and see what other Ted Williams historical sites I can uncover.