20 years after High School: Well-adjusted and Drinking Heavily

I made it home barely sober from my 20th high school reunion. I want to thank Kristin for supplying me her husband Trent’s ticket to the event as the event was sold out.

Here are my thoughts:

Twenty years is a long time, but not really. You’ve spent more time out of high school than your age in high school. But still you can recognize many of those faces and names immediately. Your brain is full of eternal memories, if you like it or not.

People looking middle-aged: Everyone around you is a mirror. But it seemed that I didn’t age particularly much and some people have.

At a certain age, everyone you once knew becomes approachable and friendly. Especially the women, especially those that are much shorter than you are. So many of them have aged gracefully. If I knew then what I know now.

I was never popular or a personality in high school but everyone seemed to know me. It feels good not to be forgotten.

On the other hand, lots of drinking ensued. So you wonder, is everyone still chock full of nervous energy?

Countless deep discussions ensued. Either it was the alcohol or everyone becomes a philosopher at some age. Is it the distance from being older, or closer to dying?

I approached a table of husbands who married GHS ladies. They were hanging out near the food truck, talking amongst themselves. As it turned out, my high school crush married somebody who now works at Apple. The thought had occurred to stalk him, then stalk his wife. It was odd to think that.

Everyone picks up their instrument from high school from time to time. Except me. I rented my viola, I had to give it back eventually. I ought to buy one. For the kids.

Median quantity of kids for those with kids: 2. Median age: ages 4 and 2. Same here! Oh, and my kids are half Asian. Oh, so are yours, naturally.

Pumping up the jam is great in theory. At least we weren’t in a bowling ally.

For some reason, I’m really glad I went. But lots of missing faces and one of them could have been mine.

I wonder if the bitter, unhappy people just stayed home? There were a lot of people who failed to show up too. I hope they are alright.

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U District Parklet


A new parklet—a “park” replacing a space of a parking spot—opened in the U District last week. I ended up going to an opening celebration which attended largely by volunteers from the neighborhood association U District Square. Pronto bikes had a booth in the mix and were promoting their bicycle share.

Since I live so close, I figured on attending. But aside from myself and my kids, there was hardly anybody in attendance. Maybe a handful of people here and there. There just wasn’t much reason to shut down the street. There wasn’t much of a sense of a party taking place.

Of course, it’s summer break at the UW, though, so most of the local population (students) were likely out-of-town or off doing other things. But where was everyone else?

The U District used to have more retail and higher end shops, which for the most part moved to U Village. And I suppose most of the car traffic and well-to-do have decided to do their shopping there. People do like their free parking and keeping their distance from the riffraff.

But with the light rail station open in 5 years, I suspect there will be a renaissance. People will be fighting to live here. Yes, there’s drug dealing going on here, homeless and runaway kids, and seediness, and maybe that never goes away, but getting to downtown in less than 10 minutes is going to draw a lot of professionals, families, and non-students into the neighborhood.

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“From Hiroshima with Hope”—70 Years After the First Atomic Bombing

Today I went, once again, to the annual “From Hiroshima with Hope” event at Greenlake. The event takes place on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, and this year happens to be the 70th anniversary. Every year, there’s music, speeches, booths of local Buddhist and peace organizations, picnics, families, and mix of Japanese, whites, and half-Japanese like my kids. And as the sun goes down, the event ends with the lighting of lanterns.

I stayed as late as possible, right up until when the first lanterns went into the water, but then Leo had to go to the toilet. With the line up at the porta-potties, and the kids past their bed time, I make an executive decision to return home early.

I went, because it does have relevance to me. I have a desire for peace in this world. I also have sympathy for Japan and how they suffered in the war. And I agree that war is horrible and we must do all we can to avoid conflicts taking place. And I love the sentimentality and gesture of sending wishes away on little floating lanterns.

But in some unfortunate ways, it is very much a political event. And as such, there a couple of things that rubbed me the wrong way, and I hope I can discuss: Yes, civilians were killed. These people did not deserve to die, nor did they deserve to take responsibility for what their government—the military—decided for them, which was to never surrender. But the event was showing images of death without defining the context, the causes of the bombing. The implication being that death was brought upon these people for no explicable reason.

Here is what’s not usually explained. (And not taught to Japanese school children, whose curriculum is determined in part by the right-wing government.)

First a bit of back story: In college, I was traveling Japan. I went to Okinawa for a week as part of my month-long journey. I was with my friend Stanley and we were touring the south end of the island on bicycles. We didn’t have an agenda, just ride as far as possible and get back to Nara before dark. And suddenly we somehow found ourselves visiting these caves in the middle of nowhere.

There I learned the story of how the Okinawans were preparing themselves for mass suicides. The Americans were on the cusp of invading and if they weren’t going to kill themselves, then surely they would die fighting the U.S. army off with bamboo stakes.

And you might believe therefore, if the Japanese people were prepared to throw away their lives like this, then the military certainly weren’t going to give up half as easily. And given the situation at hand during WWII, where even the continuous and unopposed firebombing of Tokyo did not prompt surrender. Where the military promoted and used suicidal tactics like the Kamikaze, and where decisive loss after loss did not prompt surrender, then the U.S. found itself in a difficult situation. What measures would prompt the military dictatorship to act rationally and end this war?

At “From Hiroshima with Hope”, I winced as the key speaker at this event said the nuclear bombing was “genocide” of the people of Japan. This is more than a slight exaggeration. The intentions of the bombing was to end the war as swiftly as possible, both for the sake of the U.S. military personnel and for the Japanese people. And also ending the war was for the sake of those countries under Japanese rule, like Manchuria, and to free those war prisoners being abused and starving to death. (See also: Merry Christmas Mr. Laurence.)

(And another thing I winced at was a fluorescent green sign that said “Cukes not Nukes” and had a picture of a cucumber on it. It was slightly clever but poor taste. I kind of wish the peaceniks would dress up their signs a bit more and try to be a little more formal in their messaging.)

And lastly, it’s sadly true that the U.S. under (Nobel Peace Prize winner) President Obama plans to spend a trillion dollars continuing nuclear proliferation. Obama did have honest intentions to cut down on the number of nuclear weapons. But sadly, the Chinese and Russian governments continue to act hostile. Especially it’s easy to see Putin’s a bit mad. Realistically, nuclear proliferation may only come to an end once those governments, and Israel, India, and Pakistan, end hostilities and pettiness.

It’d be nice if “From Hiroshima with Hope” could concentrate solely on the messages of promoting peace, the result and risks of nuclear weapons, the result of the bombing, rather than entirely frame it as: This was horrible what the U.S. did to innocent people. Or—if there’s no time for a brief history lesson—try not to frame it as victimization of the Japanese people.

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Skate King

Roller skating was a thing back in the late 80’s, early 90’s.

Growing up, yes I spent some time learning to bicycle, but my father was more interested in roller skating. I too grew interested over time. I remember having a birthday party or two at a skating rink.

On weekends, when I was visiting him, my father would put on his own skates and he’d be listening to music, riding backwards around Greenlake on weekends, shaking his booty and whatnot. As for me, I wasn’t really that good, despite all the time spent at various rinks. At least I graduated from hugging the wall and could go fast and stop well.

Skate King in Bellevue was our regular spot.

Things I recall about Skate King:

  • The smell. The place always smelled like a gym with bad ventilation. Add in the smells of popcorn, cheap hot dogs, pizza, and pretzels being kept warm, musty shag carpet, and years of smoking before it was banned and you get the general idea.
  • The sounds. 80’s pop rock, wheels and brakes on concrete, metal locker doors slamming, the chatter of kids and parents, the DJ announcing games: “Four Corners”, “Red Light Green Light”, etc.
  • Sights: Benches for large numbers of skaters to lace in and out. Again, red shag carpet. Round couches to take a break on. A suspended white ceiling with fluorescent lighting. A large neon mural that would glow under the black lights. Old arcade cabinets in attract mode. A wall for kids and beginner skaters to hold on to as they went around. A DJ booth with hundreds of vinyl records and plexiglass to contain the sound around the mike. A snack bar area. (I don’t think I ever ate there; we packed our own food I’m pretty sure.)
  • Putting on old skates and getting them to fit. Skates where the foot bed was worn through and you’d feel the frame, the wheels were worn funny on one side (because you’d always be going counter-clockwise 95% of the time). The sensation of falling and flailing suddenly. The sensation of being hit or run into by falling skaters. Going from the safe and slow surface of the carpet to the fast smooth surface of the rink.

My Dad, bless him, taught me patiently to skate backwards but I never figured it out. But really what it was all about was at least finding something physical to do that I enjoyed. I never got the hang of team sports, unfortunately.

Skate King is closing at the end of May (2015), which is sad, but given I haven’t been back there in years, perhaps it is time for it to pass on.

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Sakura-Con 2015

With Sakura-con coming up, the original agreement I had with Hitomi was, I’ll watch the kids, and Hitomi can spend the weekend with the guests.

Well, h.Naoto was back this year and given I was assigned to him, I knew I couldn’t manage him with two children. I scrambled a bit to get my parents and Ilana to help out watching Leo and Luca.


I didn’t take off Thursday, but I did get a call around 3PM asking for my help. So on my bicycle I went, carrying my clothing and computer in panniers for the extended weekend.

Naoto was setting up his booth, and by the time I did arrive I met him at the Cheesecake Factory with his assistant/publisher Ms. Yamamoto. Naoto was pretty surprised but happy to see me. R wasn’t able to make it this year (due to financial reasons, i.e. not getting paid like she expected), which disappointed both of us since R’s nice to work with and beautiful, of course. Anyway, with lunch/dinner wrapped up around 4PM, and we’re ready to go, of course the wait staff wasn’t on hand, and I went direct to the counter, which turned me back to the table.

With young children, this comes up often in restaurants: Asking me to wait is fairly problematic. When I need to leave a restaurant, I need to leave then and there. Of course, in this case, mostly it was a problem of needing to set up for tomorrow.

Back to the booth: I met up with David, who was assigned (“at the last-minute”) to work with me. Of course there was a bit of confusion as to how much time I could spend helping Naoto, and since he was new, it seemed like a good idea to pair him with someone experienced.

What I ended up doing, mainly, was calculating the appropriate dollar amount for clothing items (after calculating a 50% price increase from the original yen). Mainly, I would divide by 12. I was carrying around a calculator and pen, thinking to myself, “Why am I doing this?” But in the end, the work needed to be done anyway, before my guest could do anything else that evening.

The booth was run by Harry and several other ladies. I’m not sure why Naoto didn’t just let them do all the boring retail work, but maybe he was being nice. Since most of what I could do (simple arithmetic) was done, I excused myself for the “staff signing.”

Staff signing usually consists of me behind the long row of tables with my guest, but this year I was with Hitomi gathering signatures. It was kind of amusing, because this was really the first time ever we got to actually get signatures. The odd thing, of course, is that the American guests—who Hitomi and I don’t really know that well—were lined up before the Japanese, and well, it seemed inappropriate to walk past them, and stop in front of just people we knew. Of course, we didn’t know half the Japanese guests either…Still, isn’t it just a bit a waste to get signatures of people you don’t need?

The signing ended and following that is the Thursday night “Industry Dinner.” Which is neither really a dinner (maybe a cocktail party?) or exclusively industry. There’s a lot of staff and maybe press? But mostly it’s just people who seem to be interested in free food.

Although I previously stated via Facebook, I didn’t have a complaint about Sakura-con, I do have some important suggestions to make here: It’s weird to bring honored guests from Japan and have them deal with navigating an American style cocktail party/buffet. And actually, it wasn’t really a true buffet, just a bunch of finger foods in steamer trays, and which most of the time was thoroughly pilfered. As for drinks, there were not so great drinks: For example, no draft or micro beers. And unfortunately for ambiance, this all took place in a noisy cave-like place with limited seating.

The gold standard for the Thursday night dinner is the arrangement we made many years ago at the Palace Kitchen, where there was plenty of good, fulfilling food and places to sit, importantly. The only downside, being that the Palace Kitchen is a bit of a walk from the hotel.


I knew already (without being asked) that people working the booth need convenient food and drinks. Luckily I had my bicycle and knew that I could get some piroshki at Pike Place Market: Keep well, easy to eat, and filling. Oh, and coffee from nearby.

The convention center amply has what I call industrial food (e.g. pizza and hotdogs) inside, and places like Subway lurk outside. Yet, nobody working a booth wants to leave if they don’t have to, and especially when you do need to eat have to wait in a huge line. My recommendation as a guest liaison is to think ahead the night before as to where and how easy it will be for your guest to eat. Even if you plan on having time, sight-seeing may trump the time it takes to stop to eat.

If anything, if you buy extra food that isn’t consumed, there’s usually someone around who hasn’t eaten and will be glad to help.

Many years ago, I used to buy boxes of bottled green tea, but then the convention center food service folk put an end to that. My recommendation is to buy enough bottles for you and your guest to have on hand.

Most of the day, I hovered around the convention center and walked around, as Naoto was at his booth and wouldn’t need me until closing that day. Still, when dealer’s room closed, there was a bit of work to set up for the next day. After a few hours, finally we headed off to the guest reception dinner at the Fairmont Hotel.

The guest reception dinner is the best chance for attendees to meet our guests. I would say, if you are serious about actually talking to a particular guest, then the dinner is really the best way to meet them. There are the autograph events, but having 2-3 hours with a guest is quite an honor and privilege you don’t get at any other convention.

Though every year, there are a couple of problems that surface with such an event: Often due to different circumstances, a guest shows up late and can find no place to sit. Also, some guests are seemingly unpopular. Actually, they might be generally popular, but not popular as some other guests attendees want to see. And depending on the situation, guests can often not have time to eat, as eating and talking simultaneously isn’t that possible. Given the seating, attendees can camp around guests they like and prevent others from getting to talk. And some attendees show up, but can’t manage to speak up. And worse what can happen is that it turns into a sketch and signing gathering, which isn’t really what it is about. But you know there’s a problem when attendees bring in plastic binders of signature boards and bags of Copic markers to a dinner.

In my case, very few attendees wanted to talk to Naoto, I didn’t have enough seats, and we were seated with attendees who didn’t want to ask anything. So David and I got some beers and just chatted amongst ourselves.

Logistically, it would all be better if attendees could simply choose the preference on who they would like to sit near, then the table seating could be pre-arranged for the attendees, avoiding fights and bad feelings. And there really should be no signing, sketching, video, or pictures…because there’s a lot of overlap with other convention events. And it really distracts from the purpose of the event, which is to talk to guests.


Today was the day of the fashion show; the most important day for my guest.

I knew there would be no time for breakfast or lunch. So I got up early again, in search of rice-based food at Uwajimaya. I discovered, although they open at 8AM, there is no fresh bento lunches until much later. So I bicycled back to the Pike Place Market and bought french sandwiches and yet more piroshki.

The schedule was roughly this: 10-11AM we rehearse, practice the walks, and work with the sound and stage crew on lighting and video. Then there was hair, makeup, and fittings.

There were about 13 female models, some with actual experience, and many new faces, but fortunately it was an easy walk-on, walk-off. I did my best translating and talking to Naoto and the Sakura-con staff, who were very helpful. It was just going to be a 15-20 minute show but there’s a lot going on when you’re in front of an audience.

Once the rehearsal ended, we were back in the dressing room. Of course, few if any of the models had brought food so my food went to them. And then we sent David on a run to buy more things to eat.

I was going to make an appearance on stage. Naoto wrote down what he was going to say, I translated. And of course I find out the problem with that, which is he does not stick with the order of what he wants to talk about…

Incidentally, where was a question of time. Programming had somehow bumped back the show to 2:15PM, yet the Guidebook application was showing the show from 2:30PM. Which meant that attendees might end up missing the show. I had tried to make several calls to update the Guidebook to no effect. Since we were running late with the makeup and hair, it didn’t seem like we could make 2:15 anyway.

But we were on time, at least we arrived backstage at around 2:15. There was a bit of a scare as we took the freight elevator and I hadn’t quite figured out the controls. It was a then the decision to start or not start right away. Well, we started around 2:22 I think, which I guess was splitting the 2:15 and 2:30 difference.

I was wearing Naoto’s black jacket (it fit!) and made my appearance in front of the audience of … I couldn’t see anybody with the bright lights in my eyes, just as well. After saying thank you, Naoto went off script, I tried to read off my translation, it obviously wasn’t corresponding to anything, and plainly obvious. So a bit of a laugh I guess. But then after, things were okay.

Post show, there was a lot of good cheer, photographs, and makeup removal. David and I helped move things back to the booth and again, we were on our own.

Hitomi and I don’t often get to go to the Saturday night concert at Sakura-con, but with Naoto having dinner with his booth staff, I had a chance. Although I admit later, Naoto did contact me and ask if I wanted to go eat with him, I did turn him down, saying I had to watch the kids. Which was true.

Well, Hitomi and I brought the kids to the concert. I didn’t know how well it’d work out, but with the lighting and energy in the room, Leo and Luca had a lot of fun. It was loud, of course, but Luca didn’t want to wear his ear protection.


Sunday’s always on Easter, which makes for an extra quiet last day compared to most conventions. Which is just as well, as sleep deprivation eventually catches up to even the youngest of us.

The original plan with Naoto, was, post convention to head to a shooting range. For which there are plenty in the Seattle area, even there are many open every day of the year. The problem is that I couldn’t find one with a coach on Easter. I think, if you wanted to do something fun and that’s still illegal in Japan, marijuana might be a better option than firing a gun.

With my parents coming by in the afternoon, and Hitomi busy, I had both the kids to watch. I tried taking them to the convention craft room, but Luca was really too young to do anything there. Leo wanted me to fold something, but he couldn’t really fold origami on his own, either. Then discovering Luca’s poopy diaper, I bailed, and instead headed to Pacific Place for an early lunch.

Feeding two young kids on your own is a bit like juggling cats. Leo’s finally getting more self-sufficient, but Luca’s entered a fussy phase of refusing to try anything new. It used to be I could shove a spoon full of something in Luca’s mouth and he’d just simply eat it. Now he uses both arms to great effect.

I also bought some clam chowder (a combination) for Naoto and Yamamoto and headed back to their booth. Unfortunately, they were busy then and busy two hours after the hall closed at 4PM. Still, I made reservations, and so we were going to (finally) get dinner at a nice restaurant at 7:30PM. So with only about an hour, any sort of major sight-seeing was off the table, but I had my car ready and we managed to take a trip to Kerry Park on Queen Anne, overlooking the Space Needle. (We were going to not appear at the closing dinner, which was just as well, given the things I had heard.)

Three years prior Naoto didn’t even get to see anything in Seattle but Pike Place right before it closed. And he had said he never got to do any major sight-seeing in other cities he’s had shows in. Obviously, he’s a hard-working man, but a major draw of coming to an anime convention our guests is indulging in eating, a bit of sight-seeing, and shopping.

We all had a nice quiet dinner. Anthony’s Pier 66 wasn’t my first choice for the evening but it had a nice selection of seafood, oysters, and wine. David picked out a nice bottle of white. And the huckleberry and blackberry desserts were surprisingly good, with the right proportion of sweet, sour, warm and cold.

It was the final night for h.Naoto, but not for me, who took off Monday to help out with some remaining guests.


Hitomi left in the morning to go to work and take the kids to daycare.

So I had no car, but we needed something for the guests. There was no problem with Sakura-con renting another car and I managed to score a 7-seater Lexus at Hertz. At Hertz, there was only one person manning the phone and line, who was overly nice and enthusiastic, especially when it came to their super-duper insurance. (If it were me, I’d forgo paying another $100 a day, but so be it.)

We took people to the Museum of Flight. I kept my membership from last year, so I got a few folks in pretty cheap. I’m not a real flight enthusiast, and perhaps a few of the guests were not either, but it’s still great to see aviation history all hanging from a glass ceiling.

Afterwards, Sumi Shimamoto and her lovely daughter, wanted to go watch shopping for her father. Watch shopping is something I have never done since my college days in Japan, back when G-Shock Casio watches were peaking in popularity. (Hitomi had one herself.) The particular one we were looking for, of course, no store carried. The rumor is luxury goods are cheaper in the U.S., but the true price depends on the currency you’re spending, and the yen has been weak.

Run Sasaki and Sumi were hanging out, and I took a much-needed nap on some chair outside Macy’s. With dinner only about an hour or so away, we left the mall and I decided to take them on a little journey again to Queen Anne Hill, to Kerry Park. I don’t think anybody knew how to work their cameras properly, but whatever, there was the Space Needle! I really wish we had some time to walk around a bit, but…dinner!

Dinner was again at Eugene’s uncles’ place (?), near Greenlake. Hitomi and the kids came and we again had our own table. Luckily things were a little more laid back with the children, but with any long meal it’s a challenge to keep them occupied, at least until dessert arrives.

And so the kids go home again, I take the guests back to the hotel, drop of Lillian in the middle of the night, head back home (with my bicycle in the trunk), and guess what? I have some guests going to the airport at 6:30AM the next day.


I had to work, but my work starts at 10AM, so I had the morning for the airport run. I actually hugged the guests at the airport, whereas most Japanese manage a bow and if anything a weak handshake. I don’t suppose they minded, I figured it would seem more American that way.

Eugene got the car, dropped me off at home so I could work. But then for lunch I met up with Run, Sumi, Rick, etc. again. I convinced the group to go see the tulips in Mt Vernon. (For the full experience, I suggested Deception Pass and a ferry from Whidbey Island, but I don’t think they were up for a long day.)

And again, I got invited to dinner, which was fried chicken at Ma’ono. Oh, and I brought the kids and wife but they didn’t expect to run into Run Sasaki and the rest of them…

So ends my convention experience for 2015.

Suggestions for Next Year

It’d be best to pre-arrange car rentals for post-convention travel use. Car rentals are always cheaper this way.

The Industry Dinner needs to serve better food and drink, be less crowded, and better suit the tastes of Japanese.

Do away with autographing, sketches and possibly photography for the guest reception. Also, allocate attendee seating per guest, possibly charge more for attendees.

A better theater for music performances, which I know isn’t realistic in some ways, but honestly larger conventions use outside venues. AX, Otakon, Fanime all use proper theaters.

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As a young cyclist

My son Leo (3) has his first pedal bike. He has had a couple of push bikes and a balance bike, but Leo wants to ride with pedals.

How did I start to ride? My mom or dad could weigh in, but what I recall is my dad had a plastic carrier on the back of a frame. I’m not sure how much my dad rode, to be honest, as even when I had many bikes throughout my youth, I don’t remember him on a bike. When we went to ride Greenlake, for example, he’d be on roller skates.

Anyway, I grew up early on in Burien, on a little subdivision near the airport. I recall one important goal of my youth: To be able to ride before the age of 5.

I rode on borrowed Hot Wheels. I remember the huge front tires, and how the plastic would be whittled away, and in some cases worn through. There was a cul-de-sac where there was a bit of a hill and you could spin around and somehow there were ramps and whatnot to jump off of.

As for my actual first bike, I remember a training wheels bike. Red, perhaps? The training wheels were cheap white plastic, held on by metal brackets. I think mine were not attached well and eventually came off one day and I had to rely on balance to hold myself up.

Bicycling at around age 5-6 or so, I remember transitioning to my older sister’s red Schwinn. Actually, I’m not sure of the brand, but it was too large and had a big seat, big wheels, swept back handlebars with white plastic grips. It felt really awkward. I remember skinning my toes pretty badly one day, when I wore sandals foolishly, and dragged my feet underneath the pedals. There were probably way too many accidents to remember but I got plenty of pleasure out of riding anyway.

Where did I ride? I had a friend in the neighborhood, Trent. I rode to his place and back, which was a short walk, really. I don’t recall venturing out of there, as basically there was just one busy street outside of the subdivision on a steep hill.

For some reason I recall just riding alone. It wasn’t until my parents divorced and I moved to Seattle did I find somebody to ride with me. Did my sisters ride? I don’t really remember much with them. My oldest sister had a ten speed, blue bike with drop bars. I remember the story of when she rode one day ten times around Greenlake, and how impressive of a distance that was. (Maybe 28 miles?)

When I moved to N 6oth street, I rode to McDonald Elementary. At that time, it was no longer an Elementary, but maybe used as storage or a community center? Anyway, it had a really cool playground, with an interesting and expansive wooden structure. And nearby (in “Tangletown” which it wasn’t known for at the time) was a mini-mart with cheap candy, desserts, etc. Opening later was the Honey Bear Bakery, a produce stand, and later deli. North on Latona was (and still is) a mini-mart run by Koreans. A little further afield was Greenlake and its paths. And when I was older I would bike to N 50th, Meridian School, and play in its fields.

This was my known cycling universe as a kid. I rode the sidewalks and streets when no cars were around. I rode by myself. I discovered all the ways to ‘beat’ the hills, or all the side streets I could maneuver safely through. The idea, suggested by my parents, was that don’t count on cars to see you; to pretend you were invisible. So whenever a car would appear I would dart up somebody’s driveway onto the sidewalk.

Summer times, besides spending time on the computer, was also making the neighborhood rounds. I’d take money from my mom, go buy a sandwich or snack, and head down to Greenlake for the day.

I had no helmet until about Middle School. It wasn’t common in the early 90’s, but when I was moving further afield and my parents finally got me a red Fuji bicycle, it seemed appropriate. This was a Fuji; a serious bicycle from an actual bicycle store. My friend Jeremy was living about 2 hilly miles away, so well within bicycling distance, but there were lots of busy streets in between, but I rode anyway.

Luckily I have completely avoided accidents with cars and really only hurt myself. I rode my bicycle, for example, into a bunch of gravel off the Greenlake path and really scraped my legs. One time I flipped coming downhill into a surprise pothole on NE 65th Street, late at night, and bruised myself really badly on the road. (The street was finally repaved maybe 10 years after that? Seattle streets, especially those patched up over the ages, are not really safe to ride.)

As I made new friends throughout high school (Kevin, Ian, etc.) I rode further and further afield. There were some bigger hills, but really I didn’t go much further than a few miles from home until high school. High school senior year I had my biggest revelation when I participated in a bike to work rally in Westlake Center. I recall meeting my calculus math teacher and getting lots of free food and drinks. It was also awesome having him show me the route from Downtown Seattle to Garfield. And from then on I started riding by myself to school, which was about 6.5 miles each way.

It wasn’t every day, but it sure beat taking the bus.

Flipping through my high school yearbook, I also saw some pictures of the Lopez Island bike trip that Mr. Hudson would put on. I think I only did that two years, but it sure was a great trip. I recall them renting a great big moving van, they would stack the bicycles in there, then put a layer of plywood on top and stack more of them. Hopefully nobody’s handlebars were ruined.

Those trips to Lopez, I probably got just barely south of Lopez Village, no great feat. But the hills were pretty difficult and it was great fun finally riding on the road, not afraid of cars.

I had some ambitions past senior year for me and friends to ride from Seattle to La Push (160 miles). As I looked at the map, though, I realized I was no match for the distance. Fifty miles a day was inconceivable. Yes, I could ride from Seattle to Marymoor Park and back, but that was brutal. And so instead I planned a trip to the San Juan islands, which turned into a really great time. (That’s a separate post.)

Thinking back, really I was timid about the whole thing. I had to figure out cycling on my own. I really needed a mentor or somebody to ride with me, and my parents (post car accident) weren’t really riding much. I also could have used better equipment or better adjusted equipment, as I doubt I did much more than put air into tires or whatnot until things broke.

Now with kids, they will likely have ever advantage they may want (or not) as a cyclist. I’m not sure they are going to be into it, but I don’t really know of any alternative.

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Two kids on a bike

Weather-wise it’s been a tumultuous week. It definitely feels like autumn now, with all the rain and leaves beginning to fall, but today was summer time temperatures, and definitely a good day to ride.

The morning started with Leo getting up and leaving the bed. I’ve been sharing a bed with him, partially because I often put myself to sleep after story time, but also Hitomi stays up later than I like and wakes me up, and baby Luca wakes me up as well. Leo also has a habit of waking up in the middle of the night and storming into the bedroom scared of ghosts or something. Anyway, once Leo gets up, I have to get up too, because immediately he heads toward the kitchen, which isn’t the safest spot for a 3 year old.

From bed, I can hear the dragging of a chair, and crinkle of plastic wrappers and I knew he just was helping himself to some bread. Yes, some day he might help himself to the knife block and start cutting fruit (or his body) and I’ll have to answer to somebody. But he’s been good. And eventually Hitomi had woken up, after Luca started crying. I heard her head down the stairs, and then I need not worry.

It was Saturday, but Hitomi needed to work. Hitomi left and I ended up with two kids. Timing being what it is, I was left with Leo who had (again) dumped a couple boxes of toys out around. Dumping out toys is okay by me, but then he refused to pick anything up, which got me angry and I yelled at him. After scaring him a bit and cleaning up, I knew we ought to leave as well.

I wanted a bike ride. With two kids on one bike, I headed to Magnuson Park. There’s a bouncy castle area and if anything Leo could use some wearing out.

The park is directly east of my house, on NE 75th street, a street definitely hilly on a regular bicycle but I had an extra 70, maybe 80 pounds of kids and seats on a bicycle weighing 50 pounds. (As an aside: I ought to have put in more air in my tire, but I misplaced my pump value. And I ought to have wore lighter clothing: It was quite warm. But once you have the kids on the bike it’s hard to make yet another trip back to the house.)

NE 75th is quite busy with cars. They have recently painted bike lanes on both sides but given the steepness, I can’t see them encourage much use. Really, there’s no need for bike lanes on the downhill, as they are actually pretty dangerous as drivers don’t always “see” the sides of the roads. On the uphill side, bike lanes are quite useful as anybody but the most fit are crawling up on the lowest gear and speed. With Luca in his car seat strapped to the front of my tandem, drivers, but especially passengers were fairly curious. The expressions I saw from both were a mixture of amusement, surprise, and perhaps concern. For who in their right mind would endanger a baby like this?

I certainly share the sentiment. But baby or not, nobody on a bicycle stands a chance against a 5000 pound SUV.

At least in Seattle, the drivers that do notice you usually do give you plenty of room and pass at a reasonable speed; although there are sometimes cases of not so pleasant encounters. With a baby—who would dare honk at a baby—drivers are friendly. I believe the danger comes from drivers not paying attention. Which, thanks to modern technology, are compelled to pay more attention the virtual world than traffic around them.

We arrive at Arena Sports, mostly indoor soccer, but we’re hear for bouncy castle-land. At around 10:45AM, the bike rack’s mostly empty, but the parking lot is very full. I think it’d be nice if there were more bicyclists around, right? Bouncy castle time is only until 11:30AM, and I’m asked if I would I still like to get in? Of course.

It’s carpeted inside, so Luca gets to crawl around a bit, I surreptitiously check my iPhone and (coincidentally) read yet another article about how cyclists and cycle facilities make car drivers miserable. I try to rest but Leo can’t leave me alone and wants me to play with him. So then I carry around Luca and climb up places I shouldn’t one handed with the baby—and slide down steep slides carrying Luca which is probably not a good idea either. In any case, I want to rest not bounce.

Around closing time, Leo pees himself. This I discover after he asks me to take him to the bathroom. When removing Leo’s pants they’re quite wet. Of course, I find plenty of Luca’s clothes, no change of pants that will fit Leo. I put Leo into a diaper sans pants, and he looks fairly ridiculous as he’s half naked wearing rubber boots. And sadly, Leo looks tired and miserable, especially after giving him a hard time about not going to the toilet. I give up further discussion, and we head to the U District Farmer’s Market for food.

Again with the hills! Ravenna Boulevard’s quite a nice ascent, but fairly excruciating with the weight. I’m hungry but Leo’s now fast asleep, so how are we going to eat? On the flip side, Luca now has an opportunity to eat before we do. I place Leo still in his seat down on the sidewalk, lean him on a building so his head is leaning back, and feed Luca some soup and cantaloupe.

I do my grocery shopping carrying Luca in one hand, trying to pick out veggies with the other. And then the rest of the market is a bit of similar one-armed juggling. I forgot the carrier for Luca, sadly, so I’m stuck lugging Luca’s baby car seat.

Once Leo’s awake we can shop and eat. Leo’s a good follower, fortunately, so I managed a sweep of the stands I like. There’s no wood fired pizza today, which was promised to Leo, but Salvadoran food is good if not better. Luca can eat the cooked plantains, and Leo likes rice and beans.

I find a spot on some grass so we can all sit, but what little grass there is is in the vicinity of some ripe smelling dog shit. Leo and I are shouting kusai! 臭いよ!(it stinks!) to the heavens. I get clever and try to kick the shit into the street, but my kicks are not far enough and the sun has its way with ripening it more on the pavement. Well, I’m hungry so I do what I can to not smell it. And I feed both kids at once. Luca after eating his plaintain is in search of more food crawls up my leg and gets himself fed some part of our pupusas.

Fed, I’m hot. I load the bicycle, take off my long sleeved shirt—now I’m half naked!—and do what I can with two kids and a ton of groceries going home.

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