Bicycling Technology

Using Technology to Enhance Bicycle Riding – Now and Just Ahead


This post is intended for bicyclists or others interested in the subject. It concerns applications of technology that offer added opportunities to the bike ride, now and in the near future. I have tried to make it practical enough so that you could use it as a guide to implement your own setup. And I will also suggest how the uses of this setup will be greatly expanded in the near future.

I live in south central Pennsylvania, in a small town surrounded by farms and mountains. I enjoy riding in this area, usually one to three hours at a time, and usually by myself. I always think about safe riding – potholes in the road, any traffic, dogs that chase, any gravel or wet pavement, things like that. But when you have ridden for many years, all that becomes second nature and almost automatic. You have room for other thoughts. I love to observe the farms and the wildlife and people in their yards and the skies and the weather and all that. But still there is room for other thoughts.

Those other thoughts that come while riding include things I need to remember to do, ideas for my reading and my writing, sometimes whole paragraphs for my writing, people I should write or call and what I want to say to them, something I’ve seen that I want to remember. In the past, I would find a place to stop the bike, pull out my phone, and type in whatever it was. This is not very practical or convenient if the need for it happens often. So, I now have put in place and tested a new system.

This system allows me to keep riding, keep my eyes on the road, keep my hands on the handlebars, keep my ears listening for any sounds I may need to give my attention to, and yet record my thoughts just by talking out loud. This is available to me at any time, just by talking out loud. There is nothing to turn on and off because it stays on and at the ready all the time. It has taken awhile to get this worked out and settled, but now I think I have it. On a ride recently, I covered 24 miles and recorded my thoughts some 20 times, all while riding and without using any hands. Now I will tell you how I do this.

I use an iPhone with Siri activated, which I carry in a small pouch around my waist. It the phone settings, in the Display and Brightness area, I set Auto-Lock to “never.” I use the Apple Notes app which came with the phone. In the Notes app settings under “allow Notes to access” I have turned on “Siri & Search.” Also, in the Notes settings I have set the default account to iCloud. This means that whatever I record will be available on all of my Apple devices. And before I start riding, I open the Notes app and leave it open for the duration of the ride.

Next, I have the Apple AirPods Pro set up properly and paired via Bluetooth with the phone. I make sure that I have the best fitting of the rubber ear pieces (they give you four choices) and the pods securely placed in my ears. Very importantly I also use a safety lanyard which ensures that if an ear piece should fall out it will just hang loose and not get lost. I have also found that putting on my bike helmet AFTER the AirPods gives an extra layer of safety.

Now, speaking of safety, you may be wondering if it is safe to ride the bike with these things in your ears. Yes, it definitely is. I can hear everything around me just fine, including the faint sounds of approaching cars. The AirPods have four levels of cancelling external noises including one for zero cancellation. These settings are mostly for the benefit of people playing music, which I choose not to do while riding the bike. Just set the level to zero and you’ll be fine.

So, this is how it goes. A great thought hits me, and I say, “Hey Siri, take a note.” Siri says, “What would you like for the note to say?” And I dictate the note. When I pause, Siri will conclude the note. Sometimes she will simply say “done” and sometimes she will repeat the note. I have no idea why there is this variation unless she is sometimes too busy with others to repeat my notes. Ha! Ha!

You will find the text of all your notes listed right there in the Notes app after the ride, and you can do all the things you do with any text. Most times the transcription is perfect. A few times, especially with strong wind noise, a note may get cut off or even fail to work. You learn to recognize and anticipate these situations and just try again when things are calmer.

With this setup, you have other options besides recording to Notes. You can also say “Hey Siri, send a text.” She will ask who to send it to, and then have you say what you want to send. You can also send emails the same way with “Hey Siri, send an email.” But to text or email someone their names and information must be available in your contacts. You can also have Siri initiate a phone call. You can do this in one of two ways. “Hey Siri, call 301-511-2299” or “Hey Siri, call Joe Smith.” Once again, if you are calling Joe Smith he must be listed in your contacts, where Siri will look up his number. If he has more than one number in your contacts you can designate which one to call as “Hey Siri, call Joe Smith on his mobile.”

As I said, my rides are usually 1-3 hours. I have never had any battery issues on rides of this length. For longer rides I take a very small charging stick to connect just in case.

Just a word for users of Android phones like Samsung, Google, and Sony. You can definitely achieve this same functionality with your phone. You would use the Google Assistant instead of Siri, and you would get Bluetooth ear pods compatible with your phone, such as Google Pixel Buds Pro, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, or Sony WF-1000XM4. You would use the Google Keep note-taking app instead of the Apple Notes. It does take some messing around and testing configurations, but “Hey Google” can definitely get you there with the proper setup.

There is a new development on the way which will add greatly to the functionality of this bicycle setup. If you are set up as described above, you are ready for it already.

Siri is soon to be given the powers of artificial intelligence. Siri will then be able to do many more things than those described above. We should be able to get any information available from AI with hands-free voice control. So instead of making a note to look up some information when I get back home, I can get the information while riding. And AI will be storing the text of all questions and answers, so you have access to it for use back home. And the Siri/AI partnership will provide much more than simple Q&A. Here are some potential examples:

• Siri could provide real-time updates and suggest alternative routes if there are obstacles like road closures, heavy traffic, or bad weather conditions.
• As you approach towns or landmarks, Siri could give you historical information, interesting facts, or recommendations for local attractions, restaurants, or rest stops.
• Siri could offer tips on bike adjustments, repairs, and maintenance based on your bike model and current issues you face. For any necessary roadside repairs or adjustments you could get step-by-step instructions.
• Siri could inform you about the type of farming in the area, wildlife you might encounter, or geographical features you’re passing by.
• Siri could alert you to any local events or news relevant to your current location, such as festivals, community events, or local weather forecasts.
• In case of an accident or sudden health issue, Siri could immediately contact emergency services and share your location.
• Siri could seamlessly connect you to other cyclists or friends, share your location with family members for safety, or notify a contact if you need assistance.
• Siri could create and manage group chats, allowing you to communicate with multiple cyclists at once. This could be useful for organizing meetups, sharing route information, or discussing plans for upcoming rides.
• Siri could share your real-time location with other cyclists or a selected group. This feature could help in coordinating group rides, ensuring that no one gets lost, and providing safety updates on everyone’s whereabouts.
• Siri could control smart devices like bike lights, cameras, and navigation systems, allowing you to focus on your ride while staying connected with other cyclists.
• Siri could suggest and play audiobooks, podcasts, or music tailored to your interests, mood, or current location. I don’t recommend music while riding but you could enjoy some while laid out resting beside the road on a long ride.
• As you ride through different regions, Siri could offer educational content about local history, geography, or culture, turning your ride into a learning experience.
• And as a daily user of the AI subscription ChatGPT, I could add with almost no qualification, “anything not covered above.”

Stay tuned, as I certainly will.


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Free-Range Boys

Down in East Tennessee where I grew up, we had the Great Smoky Mountains standing tall out there in the distance. But then we also had “the foothills” which lay between us and the big mountains. In later years they build a fine and scenic road along those ridges called the Foothills Parkway. It has great views of the higher mountains and is a resource often overlooked by visitors. It is also a great bicycle ride.

Down on our side of the foothills was an area known as Montvale Springs. There had been a YMCA summer camp there, and before that a luxury hotel. Local tradition had it that the area was first discovered by Sam Houston, who taught school nearby and later became governor of Texas. Close to the remains of the camp there was Montvale Lake, a small mountain lake with an old concrete dam and cold mountain water.

Morton and I were out there one February day just messing around. We hiked down to the lake and walked out along the top of the dam. We were somewhat at loose ends and looking for something to do. Even something crazy like jumping off that dam and down into that winter-cold water. Fully clothed. Gosh darn!

Someone said, “I dare you” and we jumped. Wheee! Oh my gosh!

The jumping distance to the water was not extraordinary, but the water temperature was. We appeared on the bank in a very short time, but soaking wet and shivering. No one had thought about the lack of any shelter or warmth nearby. It wasn’t long before we were wondering why on earth we had done this.

Why had we?

There was another day with Morton that was quite the opposite of that cold one. It was HOT. We were on the Maryville College campus where my father taught. We were walking around and came near the tall water tank that stood up behind Pearson’s Hall. I never knew if this tank supplied water for just the college, or for the town in general. This question did not concern Morton or myself as we considered this situation and what to do.

We approached the water tank, observing there was no one around. We found that one of the tank’s four legs had a ladder. It might be cooler up high there, yes. We started climbing. Up we went like two young squirrels. The day was looking better now.

From the top of this tank, we had a great view of the college and the town of Maryville. We could see the Blount County courthouse and the line of buildings along Main Street. We also discovered that there was a swinging trap door at the top of the ladder.

It would be locked, of course. We could check on this, though. So, we checked. But, no, it was not locked. We swung open this door and looked down inside.

Yes, there was water. Lots of water. And, yes, there was a ladder going down, just like the one we had come up on. What to do?

It felt cool down there. Cool on this very hot day. This water may have been pumped out of a cool nearby spring.

On this hot day and having already come this far, we climbed down the inside ladder. We hung our clothes on its rungs, and went swimming in our underwear.

I know this does not seem like the right thing to have done. This being the same water that would be coming out of people’s kitchen faucets, filling bathtubs, boiling corn, brushing teeth, filling the dog’s water bowl, and washing hands. And I swear I would never recommend it today to any young boys faced with the same opportunity. “No, boys,” I would say. “Don’t do what I did, and you won’t have to regret it like I do.”

This is just a story, boys. Just something you read about in books and magazines. Go on back to your homework now.

And if a young boy should ask what you are reading about on the internet just now . . . ?

Well . . . I’ll leave that up to you.


Some may be wondering how two young boys can be running around like this and unsupervised. Why aren’t their parents looking after them?

In Montgomery County, Maryland, where I used to live, we had a case some years ago where neighbors observed two children walking unaccompanied to a nearby park and called the police. The children, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, were aged 10 and 6. The parents were brought before the Child Protective Services to explain their neglect. It turns out they were quite good parents who were teaching self-reliance to their children. The case sparked a national debate and was later dropped in some embarrassment. What was accused of being “parental neglect” was actually just the opposite.

In the small East Tennessee town where I grew up in the 1940’s and 50’s, children were not supervised, managed, and watched over as they are now. Kids were expected to entertain themselves, not to be entertained. We walked or rode our bicycles to school unaccompanied. Our parents kept no calendars of activities they had arranged for us. Homework was our responsibility to manage, along with various household tasks, known as “chores.” No chores done meant no allowance money handed out. “Go out and play” was our instruction, and the rest was up to us.

Today’s child rearing experts can find fault with this system, but that’s the way it was. We may have been self-managed and done some things we should not have done, but many of us turned out okay regardless.

Related Resources

Here are some highly regarded books that discuss the overprotection of children and youth and the importance of developing self-reliance:

1. “Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)” by Lenore Skenazy
• This book is a pioneering work advocating for the free-range parenting movement. Skenazy argues against the overprotection of children and encourages parents to allow their children more freedom to explore and learn independence.
2. “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
• Lukianoff and Haidt explore the consequences of overprotection in schools and parenting, discussing how this approach can lead to increased anxiety and decreased resilience among young people. The authors provide insights into how to foster self-reliance and critical thinking.
3. “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth
• Although not solely focused on overprotection, this book delves into the importance of resilience, perseverance, and developing a strong character. Duckworth’s research highlights how fostering grit in children can help them become more self-reliant.
4. “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed” by Jessica Lahey
• Lahey, a teacher and parent, discusses the benefits of allowing children to experience failure and learn from it. She argues that overprotection hinders children’s ability to develop self-reliance and resilience.
5. “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” by Julie Lythcott-Haims
• This book provides a critical look at overparenting and offers practical advice for raising self-sufficient and independent children. Lythcott-Haims draws on her experience as a dean at Stanford University to highlight the pitfalls of overprotective parenting.
6. “Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids” by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross
• Payne and Ross advocate for a simpler, less hectic approach to parenting that encourages independence and self-reliance. The book provides strategies for reducing the over-scheduling and overprotection that can stifle children’s development.
7. “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” by Pamela Druckerman
• Druckerman explores the differences between American and French parenting styles, noting how French parents encourage independence and self-reliance in their children from a young age. The book offers insights into fostering a balanced approach to parenting.


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His name was John P. Murphy. We called him just plain “Murphy,” as I was called just “Briggs” and Morton just “Morton.” I know Murphy worked at the nearby Alcoa Aluminum Plant in Alcoa, Tennessee. I believe he was a supervisor of some kind. The most important thing about him was that he was our scoutmaster, and he was a man we loved and admired. Unlike many of our other adult leaders. No one of us spoke a bad word about Murphy. If you had, you would have been looked at strangely, or worse.

Murphy loved hiking in the mountains. Our small town was right in view of the Great Smoky Mountains, and Murphy took us everywhere. Cades Cove, Silers Bald, Gregory’s Bald, Charlie’s Bunion, Mount LeConte, Balsam High Top, Rich Mountain, Turkeypen Ridge, Thunderhead Mountain, the Ch imney Tops, Hen Wallow Falls, Snake Den Ridge, Spence Field, and many more. Excepting the short and popular “tourist walks” we all scorned.

I thought that Murphy liked me and I know now that he did. But looking back on it, I do believe now that every one of his boys felt the same. Every one of us felt like we were special to Murphy.

Murphy didn’t do discipline. There was no shouting or cussing or demanding. But if he asked us to do something, we did it. If he asked us not to do something, we didn’t do it. Things were that simple.

Then there was the overnight hike to Icy Water Springs.

I see now on the maps that it is called “Icewater Spring.” And that is okay, although inaccurate. It is near the intersection of the Boulevard Trail and the Appalachian Trail, and we parked at Fontana Dam to hike there, sleep in the trail shelter, and come back the next day.

My story begins on the hike back. Morton and I were hiking by ourselves and behind all the others. When we hiked, we preferred to be in the lead up front or bringing up the rear.

So, Murphy and all the others are down the way in front of us, out of sight, maybe some already sitting and resting in the shade at the parking lot. And Morton and I are hiking, talking, not too far to go now, and then we see something there in the woods, and we stop in our tracks.

We see an old car. It is parked in a clearing down off the trail. Is it junk or what, we wonder? We look at each other. It is agreed we must find out. We look and listen all around. No sight or sound of anyone. So, we approach this car.

The car is clearly still in use and also unlocked. But why would it be parked way up here in the woods? A moonshiner maybe? Someone up to no good, for sure. What would be our duty in a case such as that?

We raised the car hood, unhooked all the spark plug wires from the distributor cap, removed the cap and threw it in a nearby bush. Now, no car in those days would ever start or run without its distributor cap. We had taken this car out of service. We had excused it as citizenship but knew it was only mischief.

Then we decided we should get on our way, and did. We put on our packs and started down the trail to join the others in the parking lot.

Wait! There was someone coming up the trail down in front of us. Shit! Better hide. We ran off the trail and into some bushes and were lucky that a mountain man walking the trail had not seen us. Oh shit! He went straight to the old car, which apparently was his car, and he got in and tried to start it. This failed of course. Puzzled, he got out of the car and lifted the hood, immediately seeing the hanging spark plug wires and no distributor cap. He looked around on the ground and saw nothing. And now he was no longer puzzled, he was mad. Mad as hell.

He turned and started back down the trail, going fast. He had remembered the bunch of young boys in the parking lot at the bottom of the trail. One of them had done this. He must hurry before they get away. He will call the police. They will pay for this.

Morton and I discussed what to do. We had no good alternatives. The mountain man blocked our path of escape.

Down at the parking lot the angry man told Murphy what his boys had done to the car. Which one was it? All shook their heads. Is this all of you, the mountain man wanted to know. Well, no, Briggs and Morton had still not arrived. Murphy told the man forcefully that Briggs and Morton would never do such a thing. The mountain man said the Bryson City police were on the way and nobody leaves, and he started back up the trail.

I can still see him coming as if had been filmed and replayed for me to watch over all these years later. He was striding fast, and his big fists were clenched. We were two scarred kids and wanted any way out of this. We came out of hiding and met him and told him we would fix his car and we were sorry, sorry, sorry. For a minute there I thought he was going to beat us up, but the offer to fix the car made a difference. We found the missing part and fixed the car. The man escorted us back down the trail to meet the police. We were put in the police car while Murphy and the other boys watched. I can still see their watching stares, and that of Murphy.

I now think that Murphy had talked with the called policeman before we arrived back with the mountain man. Murphy who was mortified, but still our friend and leader. The Bryson City policeman drove out of the parking lot with us in his back seat. He drove around for awhile and talked with us about what we had done, almost like a Murphy himself. Before he brought us back, he mentioned that the same mountain man who called him had been in his jail before. He knew that man. Then he drove us back and set us free. The mountain man had departed.

I recall no lectures from Murphy. Perhaps he was depending on the policeman for that. But I can recall my deep sense of shame around him for some time afterward. We never thought this little prank would have led to such dire consequences. We had planned to join the group and say nothing about it on the long ride home.

I knew Murphy had liked me before, but I did not know if he would like me any more. Morton and I were both in a repentant state, and it would be a long time before we could joke about this occasion. It would be a long time before I could give up the thought that every time Murphy saw me, he would be thinking about what we had done. I desperately wanted this to change.  And I think it did, and I know when.

It was Youth Sunday at our church. There were to be three youth speakers. I had volunteered and was one of them. Hard to believe, Briggs up there in the pulpit being religious. That seemed as unlikely as getting caught by the mountain man up there with his old car.

It was my first time ever up in a church pulpit addressing a congregation. But I “did good” with my 10 minutes, they said. And it served as my redemption, for looking down into all those faces, the one that mattered most was that of Murphy. Murphy looking up to me.

He was smiling. 


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Thoughts On the Hearing of Some News

The death of actor Donald Sutherland caused me to think and reflect for a number of reasons.

I will always remember his role in the movie “Ordinary People.” I will always consider him a principled man and remember how he protested the Vietnam war alongside Jane Fonda. And I have appreciated him for the fact that he never played the “movie star” role and despite his 6’4” height was always modest and not self-promoting. Of the 4 lead actors in “Ordinary People,” three were nominated for Academy Awards, not including him. And he deserved it most of all, but never complained.

But there is another reason I found myself reflecting on this news. Donald Sutherland died at age 88, and I myself am age 88. And I am still alive.

In fact, I feel very much alive. So far this week I have swum 5 miles, ridden my bicycle 86 miles, and walked a lot. I have swum across the Chesapeake Bay 10 times, all since the age of 70. I read over 100 books a year. I still write stories and poems and things for  I still have . . . (oops, no, someone would say “too much information.”)

My doctor suggested a checkup with a cardiologist a few months back. The cardiologist did an EKG and a stress test and basically told me not to bother him anymore because he has unhealthy people to care for, and I am not one of them.

I was born in 1936 so I cannot deny being 88. But I do not feel old or think old, and I try not to act old. I think of myself as a normal person and not In some special category. Some others of us 88s that you know of include Julie Andrews, Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Johnny Mathis, and Phil Donahue. Pope Francis will join us in December. He and most of this list are still doing well in the world.

Still, Brother Sutherland has reminded me that my exit is not only possible, not only probable, but clearly inevitable. Thank you, Sir. One day I will remind someone else the very same way you have.

This being so, I do resent the sentiment I sometimes encounter, that an 88 person is on his way out and in a different category of living persons. Living, but barely, in some people’s view. Last year I made an appointment to see a urologist at a famous hospital in Baltimore. I won’t call the name but if you Google “famous hospital in Baltimore” it will come up in big bold letters. Nearly laughing, the young doctor told me that “we don’t treat people your age.” We. I left shaking my 88-year-old head. I have since found a fine urologist who does treat people “my age.”

When I was a young boy in Tennessee, there were doctors who would say to some potential patients, “we don’t treat people your color.” Today I assume that isn’t acceptable. But somewhere in Baltimore your age can still disqualify you.

I admit to wishing for an age beyond 88. I have a loving wife and family and many friends. I am as happy as I have ever been, especially remembering those years of middle age. But I have already had a good life, as did Brother Sutherland. All is well . . . and will be well.


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Nature Stories

A Rattlesnake Kill on Little Shuckstack


Down low in the Great Smoky Mountains is
Cades Cove where my wife’s ancestors once lived.
High up above it is Gregory’s Bald, where I
hiked and slept the night as a young Boy Scout.
My very first overnight hike.

And down the far side hovered over Fontana Lake is
Big Shuckstack. There a lookout tower stands tall above
the trees, and rangers gaze out over Sassafras Gap,
Ekaneetlee Creek, Piney Ridge, Proctor Branch, Cheoah
Lake, and Long Hungry Ridge for signs of smoke and
reason to call the fire crew into action.

Lower down still more is Little Shuckstack, the trail so
steep between those two that the knees let you know
right off.

But there on top of little stack is a level stretch
where knees rest, and a rattlesnake might too. Rest there
nearly under some dead leaves about his own color.
Where I hiked alone with thumbs hooked under the
pack straps, just putting one foot in front of the other until
motion caught the corner of the eye, a strange sound
in the ears, and short hairs stood up straight along
the back of the neck as DAMN!
mountain time slowed to frame-by-frame as I
tried to get the legs to MOVE or JUMP or
something, which they finally did.

I landed some distance away.

He was coming after me, NO. He was
watching me, YES.

Back off, he says, I can kill you.

Usually his prey is mice, rats, squirrels, birds, eggs,
lizards, toads, even insects if he has to. Coiled up tight
with his tail raised shaking at one end and his head pointing
fangs at the other. Forked tongue flicking out, eyes shiny
like beads as I felt behind for the hunting knife on my belt.

Maybe throw that knife like Tarzan. Pin his head to the
ground with perfect aim.

Not likely. Or maybe

quick as a cat I could fake him with one hand and then
grab him just behind the head with the other.

A kid like me would think such thoughts, then turn and go
safely looking for a forked stick.

No time to think of animal rights at a time like this.

Approach with the stick as the rattle gets louder and faster,
louder and faster. Just like my heart.

Swipe down there with the stick now. Swing and a miss it was.

Please now, once again for God’s sake and . . . and
THERE . . . got him, pinned down now. Just the head though,
the tail still going strong.

The head is still but the body writhing. My left hand is
going back for the knife as the right hand holds the stick
tight, and tighter.

And now comes the hard part because I must reach down
THERE with him, my bare hand THERE with HIM, and
hope to hell this works as was advised in the book someone
wrote. Someone writing with no snake whatever in sight.

And praise be to God it does work . . . somehow . . . and
the snakes head is OFF, cut clean although the wiggling
snake body doesn’t seem to know it yet.

I should get a merit badge for this, and a big ceremony
too. Mom and Dad both there and proud. What I
thought of in that trembling mountain air where a
snake’s head lay still down there on the ground.

So then I dug and buried that thing as the
Boy Scout manual said to do. Because some
good animal might eat it and get poisoned by that
bad snake.

Animal rights did play some part you see.

And after all those years now gone by, I still have
that rattlesnake’s rattle somewhere in its
proud little box.

It still rattles too.


This story from my youth needs a word of explanation. Although the story is true and I did in fact kill that rattlesnake, I do not now advocate their killing. Rattlesnakes perform important natural functions and pose little threat to humans. Rattlesnake bite deaths in the U.S. average 5-6 per year. With firearms in our own hands we kill ourselves and one another at the rate of 40,000 a year, exceeding the 38,000 deaths in car crashes.

I did not need to kill this snake. All I needed to do was say hello there and goodbye and walk on down the trail. I suppose I believed there was something grown-up and manly in my actions. I thought my father and my friends would see it that way.

I needed to add this explanation. I hope it doesn’t ruin the story for you. I do still have his rattler and wouldn’t think of parting with it.


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Me and PeeDab

About 10 minutes into my run I happened to notice a beautiful naked woman lying right at my feet.  I do see interesting things on my runs, especially in this nearby park with its deer and squirrels and herons and beavers and people having picnics and throwing frisbees.  But this was the first time I had seen a naked woman along my route. 

I picked her up to get a better look.  She was in a magazine called “The Girls of Penthouse.”  But why had she been discarded? And in this park of all places?  One does not often discard a naked woman.

Finding her recalled a boyhood experience on a Scout hike with Milton Bardin, who was known to us all as PeeDab.  I am guessing at how “PeeDab” should be written since I never saw it in that form.  PeeDab and I were friends because our dads were friends and teaching at the same college.  We never agreed about who saw the magazine first, but I know it was me.  The name of the magazine was “Eyefull.”  It was lying right beside the road we were hiking on. It had no actual naked women, but it did have the closest thing either of us had seen at the time.

You don’t know quite what to do with a naked woman you pick up off the ground.  Especially if you have 6 miles of running still ahead of you.  Nice as a naked woman is, you probably don’t want to carry one all that distance.  But I did roll mine up and carried her as I resumed my run, unsure about what to do next.

PeeDab and I had not been unsure about the Eyefull magazine.  I would grab it from him and start looking, and then he would grab it back and do the same.  Although we disagreed about who had found it or whose turn it was, we agreed on its value.  It was priceless and would be kept forever.

Eyeful was a men’s magazine published by Robert Harrison, starting in March 1943. The magazine had a bi-monthly, 65 issue run, ending April 1955. It was popular with soldiers during the latter years of World War II.  Its popularity dropped sharply after the initial publication of Playboy magazine in 1953. Playboy featured nude center-folds, which Harrison refused to do, and so Playboy soon put him out of business.

PeeDab and I knew nothing about Robert Harrison, but we could have advised him on the issue of nude center-folds.

It is hard to run and study naked women at the same time.  In a short while the woman had been moved about a mile from her original spot.  It crossed my mind to discard her in the woods beside the trail.

The Eyefull magazine was kept hidden in the traditional spot beneath the mattress, shoved far enough so Mother wouldn’t find it making up the bed.  Mother would not understand about the Eyefull magazine.

There were few people in the park that day, but I did keep thinking about meeting up with someone.  I rolled the magazine tightly enough to pass for Newsweek.  But still it seemed funny to be carrying a magazine while running.

When the Eyefull magazine was there under my mattress it meant it wasn’t under PeeDab’s mattress.  So I knew to expect that he would want it back.  And we would argue about whose turn it was and who had kept it the longest.

I decided not to put the magazine in the woods.  There was a nice, shady spot along the trail beside the lake, and I laid it down there in plain view.  Perhaps a young boy will come along and give it a good home.    




A 76-year-old woman was slain and her 43-year-old son was found suffering from slashed wrists and a drug overdose last night at their apartment in Beltsville, Prince George’s County police reported. Police said they obtained warrants charging the son with murder. — The Washington Post

How disappointing to be still alive,
your anger now a milder shade than when
it flared up high and messed with
you and Mom and everything. Had all

that you can take, a voice inside you said.
So late at night you finally let it out,
and later tried to put it out for good –
but somehow made a mess of that. And now

you’re sitting in this cell and wondering who’s
the luckier, you or Mom? You think it’s her,
for she’s not angry anymore. They’re through
with her, but only started in on you.

Hey, listen Judge, I’m not no kid, but damn
she bugged me every rotten day we lived.
Forgive me please. You hope you might
get off by using that, but know you won’t.

And stored-up memories take a toll these days,
for Mom keeps washing dishes, serving
meals all hot. And tears cried years ago
may be forgotten, but your wrists are not.


Commentary Stories


I met this man who trains dogs to sniff out explosives.  They call them bomb dogs.  He does this for the police department in Washington, D.C.  Of course, a lot of people both home and abroad would like to plant explosives in Washington, D.C. our nation’s capitol.  Even some people who work there in-and-out seem to want to blow the place up. It isn’t clear these dogs can save the day, but who knows?

The man I talked with told me they get the dogs from Germany, and a fully trained dog is worth over a hundred thousand dollars.  One reason is that it takes the trainer a year of full time work to get a dog ready.  An untrained dog will smell all the smells there are, and there are so many it must be hard to get a dog focused on the few things a bomb can smell like.

The trainer I talked with said they get very attached to their dogs, and the dogs to them. He said they even get bereavement leave if their dog dies or gets killed.  He said the thing that makes a bomb dog’s day is to do his job well and have the trainer pet him and tell him he’s a good dog.  But it has to be the trainer telling him that.  Anyone else tells him “good dog” and he’ll say “well who the heck are you?”  He has one master, and what the master says about his work is the only thing that matters. Bomb dogs are very clear about this.

It must be hard, working every day as a bomb dog. You’re trained you to go in where the bombs are so people don’t have to. People used to do this themselves, but now they have you to do it so they can stay safe. 

So you have to work alone in there where a bomb may be.  You have to make your own decisions.  There’s no such thing as calling over a fellow dog and asking him to take a whiff please.  Ask him what this smells like to him.  Have a conference on it there like those umpires do when they throw down their little flags.  They huddle together and try to decide why they did that.  But these dogs have to make the decision alone and in a hurry.

And speaking of in a hurry, it would be easy to get heavy-nosed while in a hurry. The bombs are lying there just waiting for a heavy-nosed dog to set it off. A bomb dog can’t get heavy-nosed or he won’t be staying on the bomb squad long. Rush in there and hard nose right down on a bomb and BOOM! His trainer who spent a year just with him wouldn’t appreciate this. Instead of “good dog” he’d be hearing something else.  Or hearing nothing at all. His memorial service would get scheduled.

When you’re in an explosive situation, the first thing you have to do is stay light-nosed.

Think about this.



Advice Not Taken

I went out running the neighborhoods on a Saturday afternoon. Soon after I started I heard the sound of helicopters overhead and discovered they were spraying. 

It gives you a funny feeling to be running along and have a helicopter fly over you and spray you.  But I kept on running.  And after awhile I came upon the woman who was directing all this.

She had a balloon way up in the air on the end of a rope and was sitting in her car with a radio talking in the sky with the helicopters.  I noticed she had all her car windows rolled up, hot as it was. 

She saw me coming and got out of her car as if something important was up.  She met me in the road and I thought maybe she wanted directions to somewhere else in the neighborhood.  Since I run these streets all the time I could have helped her with that.

But instead of this she had advice.  She said “It’s not a good time to be out running, because we’re spraying.”  And I thought fast and said, “Well, it’s not a good time to be out spraying, because I’m running.”  And I suppose we each had a point.

Well, they kept right on spraying. And I kept right on running.  And I’m alive to write about it all these years later.  So I guess no harm was done to me, and certainly not to them. 

People who try to tell you what to do may have a balloon and seem official, but think twice before you mind them. When you need to run, just run.


The Shopper

Twelve eager rows of cars sat waiting while
an ooze of Christmas shoppers flowed across
their street beneath a signal giving right
of way but flashing now to hurry up.
She was behind them all and all behind

in general so it seemed to me who noticed
from the curb her death-like grip on tops
of bags that billowed out around her. And
like a sniper laid in wait frustration
watched until she got positioned in

the center of that busy place then let
the bottom of a bag break loose despite
her solid grip around its neck and someone’s
crockpot hit the street. She’d bought it
for the fact its liner came right out

and so it did and broke in shattered pieces
all across that space just as the light
above said go to cars who soon began
to honk because their go was now held up
by one poor shopper all alone in picking

up the bags her panic had turned loose
and all that glass. I watched her face change
through phases like the signal light above
embarrassed first and looking round as if
to make amends to honking cars who sought

a cop or someone anything to get her
out of there. Then pain appeared which dollars
wasted played some part I thought and changed
again and hung this time. A weary look I saw and
felt but soon away from there I then forgot.

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