On June 7th, I rode in the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon for the third time. I seem to participate every other year, although it’s such a lovely event for a great cause that I need to commit to doing it annually. I was joined by children Kay, who rode in to co-pilot’s seat, and Peter, who pedaled his own bike for the ten-mile ride. The three of us were able to raise $615 which was part of the record $209,280 raised by a record 866 riders! Our donation page is still open to receive more contributions should you be so inclined
When we first arrived at the starting point near Stony Brook station, we saw lots of bikes with brooms sticking off the back. I thought maybe I’d missed out on a theme for the ride, but it turned out this was a fleet of bikes for a team called The Golden Sneetches. After checking-in and eating breakfast, we got on line to start the ride and found ourselves behind our nextdoor neighbors who were also festively attired. Note to self: wear a costume next time.
The Bikes Not Bombs staff introduced our ride, warning us that there were steep uphills early on as we headed away from Jamaica Plain, but we’d be rewarded with a nice long downhill after the rest area. The hills were tough for Peter who rides a single-gear Schwinn. He complained about having to go up so much and asked repeatedly when we’d get to the rest area, but persevered and kept on pedaling. Another wrench in the works was that near the halfway point of the ride, we ended up running into a charity 5K run! A person from that other event insisted that we bike down a side street meaning that myself and a number of Golden Sneetches had to navigate a new route on the fly.
At last we made it to the rest area in Brookline and refreshed by orange slices and Gatorade, were able to carry on with the rest of the ride. Not only was it mostly downhill, but Peter began to recognize the streets of Brookline as being close to home. We pedaled past Allandale Farm and the Arboretum and back into central Jamaica Plain to finish the ride. The kids received medals and we ate some lunch and played for a while before heading home for a much-needed. Well, the kids were still full of energy, so they played with Mom while I napped.
In a long preamble to this book, Forbes discusses his lifelong love of sports and his realization as he turned 40 that he could go into sports management as a career. Fast forward ten years of working on golf tournaments and Forbes discovers that he’s losing his passion for the games. To address this, he decides to tour the United States for a year attending 100 sporting events in 50 different sports. Forbes likes golf and works in golf, so the first 40% of this book is very focused on golf. I don’t like golf, so this was a bear to read, although there were interesting details about golf personalities and courses here and there.
Forbes comes to the realization that the big-time sports with athletes living large and the control of ESPN over big events are draining his love of watching sports. Interestingly, he says he finds the behavior of crowds at big events more drunken and violent than a decade earlier. In my own experience, going to a game was scarier in the 70s and 80s but since the 90s there has been more effort to control crowds, manage alcohol consumption, and create a family friendly environment to the point that the game experience is almost too sanitized. Nevertheless, Forbes and I can agree that the real thrill of spectator sports is going to be found in lower-level divisions or in sports that are not in the eye of the big sports media complex.
Forbes makes his discovery when the same player helps win a minor league baseball game that he saw in a college baseball game earlier in the year. His journey changes as begins to embrace minor sports like synchronized swimming, paddling, and high school volleyball. He discovers communities of families, friends, athletes, and dedicated fans around the many different sports. Finally, whether it be adult kickball, curling, or lawn bowl, Forbes finds that the best sports experience come from participation.
The third novel in the All the Wrong Questions series reaches a turning point in the overarching story, and contains a lot of surprises. I like this novel particularly because the many supporting characters introduced over the course of the series come together as a team. Even S. Theodora Markson gets a turn to break away from her arrogant mien and general incompetence. While the themes in this novel are dark – children are essentially held in prison and drugged with laudanum, for starters – there’s an optimism that stands out among Snicket books, and satisfying twist at the conclusion.
Author: Jasper Fforde Title: The Eyre Affair Narrator: Susan Duerden Publication Info: New York : [Westminster, Md.] : Penguin Audio : Random House ; Books on Tape, p2009. Summary/Review:
It’s always good to revisit some old favorites from my 100 Favorite Books list, and this one continues to deserve it’s spot on that list. This time I listened to it as an audiobook and Duerden adds an unexpected gravitas to the first person narration of Thursday Next. Having read the many sequels to this book, which inevitably have Thursday juggling 3-4 ridiculous scenarios at once, and I was surprised at how relatively quiet this first book is. Fforde has a lot of world to build in his alternate universe 1985, and he does a great job of establishing it in this book setting seeds for things that get explored more thoroughly in later novels. Ultimately though, this is a great stand alone book with it’s mix of alternate universe science fiction, detective novel pastiche, literary allusions, and riotous humor. And after all these years, I still want to live in a world where people perform Shakespeare’s Richard III in a Rocky Horror Show style, if only for a little bit.
Author: Matthew Callan Title: Hang a Crooked Number Publication Info: Smashwords (2013) Summary/Review:
This mystery novel is about a catcher on a minor league baseball time on Coney Island (known in the book as the Brooklyn Hitmen as opposed to the real-life Brooklyn Cyclones) who leads a double life as an agent in a domestic spying organization that’s part CIA, part SABR. Set in a slightly dystopian near-future, the protagonist known by the codename Backstop finds himself in the middle of a crisis where there is no one he can trusts. Callan does a good job of building the tension, while revealing details of the organization. The real life story of Moe Berg, baseball player and spy, and a character called The Guru who is almost certainly a fictionalized version of Bill James grounds this story in reality. It’s an entertaining attempt at bringing together a sports story with a mystery.
Author: Rebecca Stead Title: When you reach me Narrator: Cynthia Holloway Publication Info: [New York] : Listening Library, 2009. Summary/Review:
This young adult novel is grounded in a realistic setting of New York’s Upper West Side in the 1970s with the protagonist Miranda dealing with going to school, a falling-out with a friend, and her mother appearing on a tv game show. Added to this are mystery and science fiction elements such as Miranda receiving unexplained notes that predict the future and a seemingly homeless “laughing man” having a constant presence on the street near her school. It’s a good blend of storytelling techniques that deals with children gaining independence, friendship, and second chances. Recommended books: The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem, Tunnelingby Beth Bosworth, The Time It Takes to Fall by Margaret Lazarus Dean and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle Rating: ***
Author: E.L. Konigsburg Title: From the Mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Narrator: Jill Clayburgh Publication Info: [New York] : Simon & Schuster Audio, 2011 [Originally published in 1967] Summary/Review:
When I was in junior high school, I had an idea to write a book about a couple of kids running away from their home in suburban Connecticut, taking the train to New York City, and settling in for some adventures. I made a few attempts at starting the book but the idea never translated to the page. Which is a good thing, because if I had written that book it would have been accused of being totally derivative of From the Mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The story is about a brother and sister from Connecticut who take a train to New York and (in an interesting twist I hadn’t considered) move into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s a good story that’s a mix of adventure and mystery with a lesson for children coming of age. Jill Clayburgh does an excellent job narrating the story as well. Now that I’ve caught up on another book I never read as a child I must endeavor to make sure my kids read it too.
The Adventures with the Wife in Space is a blog which documents the experiment in which Neil Perryman (a diehard Doctor Who fan) gets his wife Sue (who is not) to watch and review every story of the classic Doctor Who from 1963 to 1989. It’s brilliant because Sue challenges the fan community gospel of Doctor Who while also being wickedly funny. One would expect that this book would simply be a compilation of the blog reviews with some extra content, but instead it is something better. It turns out to be a memoir of Perryman’s life and interests (he’s obsessed with things other than Doctor Who, like Tangerine Dream and Jaws) and his marriage with Sue. Turns out that the Perrymans are interesting people with lots of good stories. The book also offers a behind-the-scenes view of the experiment watching Doctor Who which both strengthened their marriage while offering challenges of being an internet phenomenon. Favorite Passages:
‘If anything, the old series has made me a fan of the new series. I bloody love it. But at the same time, I don’t need to wallow in the past. Yes, it’s nice to have it there to refer to, but you have to keep moving forward. You know, like a shark.’
Author: Terrance Dicks Title: Timewyrm: Exodus Publication Info: London : Doctor Who Books, 1991. Summary/Review:
In the 1990s, when Doctor Who was no longer being made for television, a series of original novels not only continued the adventures of the Doctor but redefined what a Doctor Who story could be. This novel takes on a familiar science-fiction/time travel them with a Doctor Who twist: what if the Nazis won World War II? It’s a griping adventure with the Doctor in his role as master manipulator and schemer. It is discomforting in how Dicks makes Nazi characters somewhat sympathetic and even more so the suggestion that Nazism was due to manipulation by aliens rather than the worst of human nature. That aside it’s a well-written and entertaining novel.
Recommended books: Making History by Stephen Fry Rating: ***
Author: William B. Helmreich Title: The New York nobody knows : walking 6,000 miles in the city Publication Info: Princeton :, Princeton University Press,,  Summary/Review:
The title suggests that the author has walked every block of every street and this book is going to be a story of this walks. But for Helmreich, the walks are just a launch pad for something bigger, a sociological/ethnographic portrait of the City today in a single volume. It’s a huge undertaking, but I think he succeeds in creating a comprehensive portrait of contemporary New York, built on statistics, and illustrated with stories from his walk. His take on gentrification and life in New York for the poor today as well as the recent immigrant experience are particularly interesting. This is a good book for people interested in New York or in studies of urban environments. Favorite Passages: Recommended books: Snowshoeing Through Sewers: Adventures in New York City, New Jersey, and Philadelphia by Michael Aaron Rockland Rating: ****