To be the second opinion when you doubt your spouse


It had been about 20 years since I last talked to her. She sounded the same, but I had forgotten her particular diction, prefacing each question with an insistent “Celia!” as if she was interrupting me talking to someone else at a cocktail party, even if it was solely she and I on the phone.


I’d just visited Nancy’s sister in Brussels a couple of weeks ago, and she was planning to visit Brussels for the first time later this summer. So she called me to compare notes.  What airlines, what city to fly into, etc. Nancy had never traveled abrd, so her concerns were understandable. It reminded me of what it would feel like to be in the shoes of a newbie traveler; I’ve traveled so much that I’m quite jaded, and take much about it for granted.


But the more we talked, the more I realized this wasn’t so much a research call, as a quest for reassurance.  Her husband had done his research, but she didn’t quite seem to trust his homework.


I smiled wryly when the lightbulb flickered on. I’ve done the same thing to Joe. “You don’t believe when I tell you something, but when someone offers you the same advice, you simply accept it unquestioningly!” Touché. It felt a bit awkward. Not only was I probably going to be the subject of Nancy’s husband’s “See I told you so,” indignation, but when the dispute stemmed from someone doing travel research and planning, I felt more guilty, even as an disinterested bystander.


“Oh, Nancy actually doesn’t want to go,” said Nancy’s cousin who had provided my phone number to Nancy. “She’s scared and intimidated by traveling.” 

Again, to be in the shoes of someone who . . . doesn’t want to travel. I can’t quite understand it, but I acknowledge that it takes all sorts to make up the diversity of the human race, and that would include people have the resources, but not the desire to travel.


I’ve been kind of worried that I’m losing my ability to feel joy and wonder while traveling. On this most recent trip (which included the visit to Nancy’s sister to Brussels), I felt like it took me way too long regain my travel ‘sea-legs’. I kept getting lost, which was shock to my innate ability to navigate by instinct or by map or landmarks. I didn’t take enough photos. I was stressed out and impatient. I had slackened off on trip planning arrangements, which meant I paid a bit more than I needed to for train tickets, and subjected poor Joe and Biker to the unnecessary burden of biking 80 km on 3-speed bicycles, instead of 7 speed ones; and rushed to White Hart Lane straight from the airport, only to find out that match had been moved to the next day.


But it was OK, by the end I’d mostly come around. I ate jellied eels, and swam in the Serpentine, where I lasted ten strokes before fizzing out like a melting cube of champagne  (It was about 30 degrees F outdoors. At least it was five strokes longer than I lasted in Crater Lake.)  We Velibed along the Seine.  I didn’t get to put my name down as ‘Albert Heijn’ when wait-listing for a restaurant table in Amsterdam, but at least I remembered to take a photo of the chocolate- and rainbow-colored sprinkles which I discovered that the Dutch sprinkle on toast as part of their nutritionally complete breakfast (After all cold cuts, cheese and bread can only get you so far)!


The small ‘aha’ moment of the sprinkles was as exciting to me as the first whiff of skunk was to Biker’s 9-year-old son three weeks later, as we were driving along the Central California coast. “Let’s roll down the windows, I want to smell more skunk!” (They don’t have skunks in Thailand, where they live.)


It’s wonderful to see kids amazed by the first time they smell skunk  and relive that moment from your childhood; it’s an incredible relief that as an adult I haven’t completely lost that capacity for being amazed by the little things you only learn about when you travel. If Nancy goes, I hope she finds out that you are never too old to discover the joy of travel.


Styling and modeling for two wheels

I’m working on a proposal for a bike project near Mountain View. In order to score some brownie points for being ‘local’, my partner and I decided we should include some shots of cyclists tooling around past recognizable neighborhood landmarks.

I was lucky, Anne happened to on a bike delivery tour in Mountain View, and had free time,so she could model for me. Better yet, she had with her her long tights over her short tights, as well as her cycling jacket, so I could one model in several costume changes! It’s better not to have what appears to be the same person in different photos on the same document, because then it looks too staged!

Rather than stake myself out somewhere and wait for strangers to randomly pedal past, I usually bribe (lunch) or cajole friends to model on bike for me. I’ve shot Joe stopped on the bike detector symbol (to show correct positioning), and yahooing with glee as he comes barreling down the ramp of a nearby bridge. I have a shot of Marcella pedaling through an alfalfa field with a baguette sticking out of her backpack (it’s based on a 1980’s French tourism shot of a guy wearing a beret pedaling on his bike, with a baguette at the back). I was all set to guilt-trip one of my colleagues to pose for a bike lane shot; he was supposed to create some files for me, but forgot, which held up something I was working on. He agreed to pose with such alacrity, I was surprised. I suppose he secretly relished being a model, even if it was for a boring plan document. (Cue: “I’m too sexy for my bike…”). I’ve gotten my Caltrain colleagues to pose for me too: Leslie is walking her bike (actually mine) down the platform ramp, because you’re not supposed to ride on them.

I’ve shot Chris in a red jacket on the San Tomas Aquino Trail; VTA is still using those photos! Tom gets a kick out of it whenever he sees them in the newspaper; maybe they’ll be in circulation long enough that her sons will be old enough to be able to recognize their mom in print too!

Having a model for my photoshoot means I can make them ride over and over again and get multiple shots, praying that there will be a few usable ones from the batch. Also with models, I can shoot them face on, and ask them to smile. Bicycling is fun, remember that! I hate photos that show bicyclists’ backs.

I’m the first to admit it – I’m not a good photographer. What I am good at, however, is styling my bicyclist models. By that, I mean I dictate and organize the type of clothes and accessories that the model will be wearing for the photo shoot. Last year I worked on the photo shoots for a print campaign for BTWD in Oakland. One of the photos shows a woman lifting her bike onto a bike rack on the bus. She’s wearing my orange fleece sweater!

I firmly believe that the outfits on models in bike photos help subliminally reinforce key message points:

1) Bright colors make you more visible: the more likely motorists notice you, the more likely they’ll drive carefully around you on your bike

2) Wear regular clothes; you don’t need to have specialized biking clothes to pedal in on a day-to-day basis. You should definitely get a helmet. Next, get bike shorts/tights because of the padded bottoms, and gloves. Cleated shoes and bike jerseys are optional.

3) Wear white at night: again, it makes you more visible to motorists.

4) The other thing is I do like using women cyclist models – they become role models, because amongst the universal cycling population in the US, bicyclists are predominantly male. (Funny though, most bike planners I know are female!)

Likewise, I find the propensity for Asian people to wear black (or other shades of mind-numbingly somber greys and browns) to be very annoying. It makes everyone look alike in the crowd, and then I can’t locate people. (I can’t remember people’s faces very well.) It’s bad enough that most people have rather similar hairstyles (well we can’t help all having naturally black and straight hair!), or ‘ugly but hip’ glasses.

Anyways, we’ve finished the final draft of the proposal, and are going to print tomorrow, and submitting the day after. We’ll see how it goes; I have no idea what to expect. I’m assuming all the major firms are submitting proposals (everyone is very hungry), so either the client will just blow us off because we’re unknowns, or they might call us in for an interview out of curiosity. Actually my partner was at one of the major firms for a really long time, so she’s got the cred! But developing this proposal was a good experience for me, I’ve never done a formal competitive one before. It would be great if we made it to interview round, I’d like to experience that too. (There’s some differences between a proposal interview and a personal interview.)

I’ve been doing nothing but working on it (interspersed with seeing movies), so I feel like a troglodyte. Deja vu, feels like I’ve been working on a term paper in college again.