Try, Try Again

August 30, 2010

It seems somehow emblematic of my uppity middle-class suburb that (1) people would own $759 strollers and (2) when they no longer needed said strollers, they would simply throw them away. (Now I can remember a time – in my early 20s, probably – when the notion of car ownership was so foreign to me that I likely wouldn’t have been able to guess the cost of a new Corolla to within an order of magnitude, so I recognize that the following bears mentioning: $759 is an absurd amount of money to pay for a stroller.) And indeed, a few weeks ago I came across a perfectly good Bugaboo Frog at the kerb, awaiting garbage pickup. I like to think that it is emblematic of my sometimes difficult relationship with said suburb that I should take this cast-off and fashion it into a useful item of a sort that one never sees in use here, so that is what I attempted to do: with some basic stuff from the hardware store, I made the frog into a bicycle cargo trailer.

Unfortunately, while I seem to have a surplus of self-congratulory bike smugness, I’m running a lot lower on engineering skills. So, while my trailer seemed like it would do the job when I headed out on the inaugural mission to the grocery store yesterday . . .


. . . and even seemed ready once I’d loaded it with $130 of provisions . . .


. . . I quickly discovered the following facts:

1. The wooden shovel handle I used to connect the trailer to the bike was definitely handy, in the sense that I had it lying around, but was not the ideal material for this job, because it was too flexible.

2. To counteract the flexibility of the wooden shovel handle, I should have cut it as short as possible.

3. The farther the weight on a trailer is from the axle of the trailer’s wheels, the worse.

Basically, the weight on the trailer made the front wheel of the bicycle come off the ground unless I pressed down hard on the handlebars while riding, which is not so comfortable. Also, the front of the trailer dragged intermittently on the street because the wooden shovel handle meant to keep the thing level was warping.

So, back to the drawing board (I actually started working on Trailer 1.1 last night). On the positive side, I discovered yesterday that nothing lends gravitas to an ordinary grocery list like typing it on a mechanical typewriter. I definitely need to keep that thing out for such tasks.

Grocery List

P.S. I know that “mozzarella” is one word. That’s just a coincidentally syllabic typo.


Ordinarily, television and sprawl are not my favorite things, but last night they came together magically to make happiness for me and my darling wife. Naturally, there was a bicycle involved.

You see, there is a television program called “So You Think You Can Dance.” I feel the title should have a question mark, since the essential premise is of competition, and the show’s organizers are challenging America to show off its dancing skills (in other words, the tone of the title is really, “so you think you can dance, huh?”). If that were my only complaint about the program, it would be far better than it is. In fact, it is a very very bad program. There is dancing, which is usually athletically adept, and sometimes choreographically inspired. But the dancing is like the cartoons in the New Yorker if the New Yorker were AARP The Magazine, which is to say, the good stuff is a handful of beautiful sailboats bobbing sadly in a vast sea of garbage. The garbage is commentary by judges and montages of the contestants’ rehearsal sessions and of their hardscrabble back-stories. The commentary is the worst, because the judges are pompous and they talk about how moved they are after every dance, and they say stuff that doesn’t make a lick of sense. The other filler is just tolerably trite.

Maybe I am not making myself clear, so let me get right to it: I hate “So You Think You Can Dance.” Inexplicable, my wife, who is very smart and generally has good taste, adores the program. Luckily for both of us, she has found a community of otherwise sensible adults who like the show. It is lucky for her because she can share her deviant vice with others similarly inclined, and lucky for me because it banishes the viewing of the program from my house on most occasions. The only bad part, if you can call it that, is that Anna’s “So You Think You Can Dance” viewing parties, which happen at a friend’s house in a suburb about 15 miles away, are an important part of her social life and she is sad that she cannot share this with me. I’m not too sad about this, but I do like the people who attend, and I want to support Anna in her weirdness if possible.

Usually, notwithstanding any tooth-gritting goodwill on my part, I cannot attend these gatherings because I have to stay home with the children, who are sleeping and thus safe from “SYTYCD.” But last night, the kids were with their grandmother in Cape Cod, leaving (sigh) no impediment at all to my attendance. And then, inspiration struck: Anna and I had finished dinner, and she wanted to take a shower before leaving for her friend’s house. Having just replaced my bicycle’s inappropriately knobby, off-road-type tires with skinnier, slicker tires, I was eager to take it out for a spin, so I proposed that I leave by bike while Anna was in the shower and we meet at the viewing party. Here’s the genius part: Because our friends live in Cromwell and we live in West Hartford, Anna would traverse 14 miles by highway and arrive by car just about in time for the show, while I would travel 17 miles by bike and miss at least the first hour!

It worked out very nicely, indeed. Night was just falling when I set out, so Hartford’s typical mugginess was giving way to a pleasant summer evening, and I chose a different route than usual, which happily traversed more of those strangely rural pockets that cling tenaciously to the suburban sprawl of Central Connecticut. So while Anna was hanging on every awful word of Nigel Lythgoe (the requisite British judge) and Adam Shankman (the requisite flamboyantly gay judge), I was enjoying cool, dark, country roads and the happy thunder of crickets. Hooray for America!