Falling Down/Getting Up

“Man down, man down”
I was doing so well
A handful of brake is all it takes
To slide out
Crashing to the concrete floor
Jarred back to life
Bikes whizzing by
A dizzying blur
Wrap the chain back on the crank
Grease-stained fingers
Gotta keep going
Do not give up
Get back on and finish
10th  place
Not what I hoped

Disappointment sets in
Blood flows
Adrenaline wears off
Pain takes hold
No skin to protect me
Exposed to the hurt
Exposed to the world
Truly vulnerable

Lessons learned
When you fall
Get up
Keep going
Wounds are superficial
Comfort in healing,
In time
Scars are but a reminder
Of what we endured,
Of how strong we are.

Safety Concern of Pennsylvania Ave. Bridge

In mid April, I wrote the District of Columbia Transportation Department about concerns I had regarding a section of the Pennsylvania Avenue bridge that crosses the Rock Creek Parkway. I cross the bridge two times a day as part of my bike commute to and from work.  During the first few months of this year, I noticed that the height difference between the eastern-most section of the bridge where it meets the road was growing. Given the news of a bridge collapse in Washington state, I figured it would be timely to publish DDOT’s letter in full.

Dear Mr. Huisman,

We at the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) have received your message regarding the stability of the bridge along Pennsylvania Avenue.

The bridge is safe. The reason the bridge is appearing to sag is due to the support bearings having settled slightly. This condition will be addressed in a forthcoming rehabilitation project which will replace the aging bearings. In the interim a temporary asphalt transition will be placed to soften the bump by the end of June 2013, until permanent repairs are made.

Regarding the gap you mentioned. All bridges are built in this manner there is a rubber joint which separates one concrete slab from another on bridges. It’s an expansion Joint between the bridge deck and the hard street approach.

For further questions regarding this matter, please contact DDOT at 202-673-6813. Thank you for contacting DDOT.

d. Clearinghouse


Harbinger of Change

I am a harbinger of the weather anomalies. This week’s double-whammy earthquake and Hurricane Irene invoked memories of past weather instances. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that dramatic changes in my life have been exemplified by dramatic weather.

The earliest coincidence dates back to 2008 when I took my first full-time reporting job with The Observer Newspaper, a group of weekly papers in northeast Harris County. No more than two weeks after I start at the paper, then Houston is hammered by Hurricane Ike. The category 4 hurricane made landfall at Galveston Island where a friend of mine was studying at the University of Texas Medical Branch. He evacuated the island and headed up to my casa in suburbia to weather out the storm. At about 2 a.m. the hurricane knocked out the power and it wouldn’t be restored until 12 days later. It’s the only time I’ve ever grilled a frozen pizza barbecue style and finished a game of Risk.

In 2009, I left Texas to pursue a master’s degree at Columbia University School of Journalism. The day I landed in New York City was the hottest day of the summer. And while I balked at the New York definition of “hot” I could not deny the thunderstorm that rocked the city a week later, downing hundred-year-old trees in Central Park and sending New Yorkers scrambling for cover.

I left New York City in August 2010 on a road trip to the west coast, with layovers in Austin and Tucson. Our arrival in Tucson was coincidentally the coolest day of the summer. It even rained on us as we were hiking among the Saguaro cacti, a rarity in a city referred to as the Sunshine Factory.

The one recent exception could my brief stint with the Local News Service, a defunct operation of the Star-Ledger. Although, when I left the state in December after I was laid-off, a massive snow storm proceeded to bury New Jersey. The garden state got off light.

I landed an internship with the Dallas Morning News in early January. Naturally, Snowpocalypse v2.0 shut down the city for a day. Fastfoward to the end of June when I visited my home in Austin. The day I arrived was the only day of measurable rain during what is set to be the hottest summer on record.

Lastly – and I realize this whole post has been grasping straws – is my arrival at my latest job, which I hope to have for at least a year or two, at The National Law Journal / Legal Times. Although I started almost two months ago, the hurricane/earthquake combo will hopefully be the last phenomenon for a while. Although, since things come in threes, I wonder what will complete the trifecta of natural disaster.

Hundreds March in Support of Prop. 8 Ruling

Thousands of supporters of a California judge's recent Propsition 8 decision gather in The Castro before marching down Market Street toward City Hall. (photo by Matthew Huisman)
Thousands of supporters of a California judge's recent Propsition 8 decision gather in The Castro before marching down Market Street toward City Hall. Mickey Garza holds up a sign in San Francisco's The Castro district.(photo by Matthew Huisman)

by Matthew Huisman

SAN FRANCISCO – Gay rights supporters showed their pride and colors after a California judge overturned Proposition 8, a law that only recognized marriages between men and women. Rainbow flags flew through the streets of San Francisco as thousands marched from The Castro, San Francisco’s gay district, down Market Street toward City Hall where a rally would be held.

Leading the march was a portion of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band. Jeff Bowles plays clarinet for the band. “It’s a great day for everyone,” Bowles said.

Thousands of supporters of a California judge's recent Propsition 8 decision gather in The Castro before marching down Market Street toward City Hall. (photo by Matthew Huisman)

Supporters toted signs and waved rainbow flags during the march. The ruling would overturn the controversial ballot proposition passed in the 2008 elections that stripped the rights of the gay community. In the meantime, the law will remain in effect, pending the appellate process.

Mickey Garza, a 14-year San Francisco resident, was holding up a sign with the words “Can I get a witness?!” – a phrase Garza said he used to hear often from pastors in the Midwest where he grew up.

“Hallelujah, Amen,” Garza said. “I’m happy to be celebrating equality.”

Thousands of supporters of a California judge's recent Propsition 8 decision gather in The Castro before marching down Market Street toward City Hall. (photo by Matthew Huisman)
Thousands of supporters of a California judge's recent Propsition 8 decision gather in The Castro before marching down Market Street toward City Hall. (photo by Matthew Huisman)

20 Miles, Three Flautas and Two Flat Tires Later or How I Bought a Bike

It’s summertime and for me that usually means two things: bicycling and swimming. Unfortunately, living in New York City limits my ability to do the latter. So to kick off summer, I decided that I needed a new road bike. I prowled Cragislist and a few bike shops before setting off for a bike shop in Sheepshead Bay, a few stops short of Coney Island on the Q train.

But when I got to the bike shop, I was dismayed to find that they only sold new bikes, starting at around $400. Not wanting to drop so much money on a bike before the added cost of accessories, I opted instead to call a guy I met on Cragislist. He lived a short 15-minute bus ride away in Bensonhurst. So I hopped on the bus and met up with the Don in his garage. When I arrived, I found him and a friend drinking Coors Light in the garage.

There she was, a red road bike with greasy gears and a solid frame. The tires, however were rotted and cracked. After bartering him down from the original price, I walked the bike three blocks away to a gas station where I filled it up with air.

Not knowing how long the tires would stay inflated, I headed for the nearest bike shop to get them replaced. I made it three or four miles before the back tire went flat. Luckily,  was a few blocks from the shop by the time this happened.

I left the bike at the shop for the attendant to fix and went next door to a Mexican restaurant to eat lunch. Three chicken flautas and a side of rice and beans later, I was back on the road with two new tubes and tires. And seeing as how safety is a priority for me, I decided the best thing to do was see how fast I could ride the bike. So on my way back to Manhattan I rode through Prospect Park.

Man did it open up. I shifted the bike to the lowest gear as I weaved through other bikes and pedestrians.

The rest of the ride home was rather uneventful. I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and made my way to the bike path along the Westside Highway where I rode all the way home.

Skitchin’ a Ride

Traffic is usually a skateboarders worst enemy. Nothing makes riding the concrete wave more difficult than cars whizzing by inches from your board. Now normally I like to ride the hills in Central Park but riding the same street all the time is monotonous. So I took to the streets and decided to use the traffic to my advantage by skitching a ride on city buses. The best way to skitch a ride is to hold on to the bumper or tail light of buses. While not the easiest of vehicle to hang on to, I find the bus drivers are nicer than most drivers. The hazard can be the constant stopping and starting to pick up passengers. This is a more dangerous endeavor than darting between pedestrians.

The advantage is a welcome break from having to push myself.Fortunately today I was able to find a driver who didn’t mind me getting a free ride. I used him to pull me through some lights and finally let go when I saw him signal that he was pulling over. I passed the bus on the left side and waved thank you to the driver. Sometimes I’m not as lucky, but the skateboarding gods were on my side today.

Fed-Ex, Delivering More Than Packages

Anyone who rides public transportation knows the feeling – watching the glowing red tail lights of the bus or train as it rides away without you, missing it by a matter of seconds. The feeling of disappointment hurts almost as much as the cold wind that slaps you across the face.

This happened to me Thursday night, coming back from Harlem. Fortunately for me, a Fed-Ex driver named Derrick saw my misfortune and honking his horn, motioned me to the door. He unlocked it and asked if I was trying to make the bus.

“Yeah,” I said.
“Hop in. I know what it’s like to miss the bus,” he said.

Now I’m not normally one to be accepting rides from strangers, especially ones offering me candy or willing to drive me to soccer practice, but on this cold evening I made an exception. Dressed in a blue hoodie and with white earbuds dangling from his ears, he introduced himself as Derrick.

“Hold on,” Derrick said punching the accelerator.

The engine roared and the truck raced up the hill to the next stop. Derrick pulled the truck to a halt and I hopped out, slamming the door behind me. I waved to Derrick, thanking him as he peeled off around the corner.

At this moment the M104 pulled up and I hopped on board. That night Fed-Ex was delivering more than just packages – they were delivering Huisman too.

Zen and the Insanity of Running

Yesterday I ran further than I can recall in recent memory. The last time I ran more than 20 miles was six years ago to the day when I finished the Motorola Marathon in Austin, Texas.

So I laced up my shoes and headed toward Central Park. I initially intended to run to a nearby borough – The Bronx or Queens, perhaps, but as I traversed the trees of the North Woods, I decided to detour south, cutting through to Columbus Circle.

” The Brooklyn Bridge,” I thought. “I’ll run across the Brooklyn Bridge.”

The cereal and granola bars in my stomach were getting tossed around with each step and I needed something to level the balance of food. A hot dog fit the bill perfectly. I dug two dollars out of my kangaroo pouch in my running tights in exchange for some red and yellow tube steak.

With zip in my step I started down Broadway again following the green path between traffic and the sidewalk. It was here that I noticed a bicyclist who was keeping pace with me quite well. We matched each other through Times Square but I lost him shortly after Herald Square. Oh well, I thought brushing him off.

I continued past the Flat Iron building, through Chinatown and finally reached a bridge. But to my dismay it was The Manhattan Bridge.

“Maybe I’ll just cross this one instead,” I thought. “No…I’m not quitting now.”

Finally I approached the Brooklyn Bridge as I weaved between photographers and tourists the massive cables ran overhead. The wooden planks that carry you across the East River provide a nice change from the hard concrete and asphalt of the city.

I am not familiar with most of Brooklyn so I knew that I would have to zen it. It’s a combination of a good sense of direction and wandering about aimlessly. I use this quite often.

I remember running down Flushing Avenue until I arrived at Metropolitan Avenue when I realized I was lost. A sign pointing east toward Long Island was a pretty good indication. I had intended to zen toward the northwest part of the island, when in fact I was running northeast. The good news about getting lost is that your ability to zen only improves. Continue reading “Zen and the Insanity of Running”

Dr. Frankenstein’s Metal Monster

I was walking to dinner this evening when I noticed something sitting at the foot of a lamppost. It was the unmistakable suitcase that holds typewriters. Given my affinity for typewriters, I immediately investigated the scene of the crime.

DCPI Report:
On Saturday, January 23, 2010 at approximately 1756 hours police responded to the corner of West 112th Street and Broadway Avenue within the confines of the 26 Precinct in regards to an unconscious typewriter. Upon arrival police discovered an electric typewriter with lacerations to the body of the keyboard. The victim, a T/B/40’s, was unconscious inside of a trashcan at the location. EMS responded and pronounced the typewriter DOA at 1808 hours. The Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death, the investigation is ongoing at this time.

Family notification is pending for the deceased.
Continue reading “Dr. Frankenstein’s Metal Monster”

A Change of Heart and Home

Driftwood, Texas is no New York City. But for better or worse, it was my home for 18 years until I moved to Boston for my undergraduate studies. I have lived the majority of my life in the house that my father built. This year my return home during Christmas and New Years was not what I anticipated. I expected to have a relaxing and enjoyable time, but I was left bored more than anything else.

While it was nice seeing my family a few friends from high school, I spent the majority of my time trying to keep myself occupied on our 10-acre plot of land, while holding onto what little sanity remained after the majority of it was ripped from my soul by the Journalism School.

While it feels good to be back in New York City, I cannot shake the feeling that for the first time in my life Texas no longer feels like home. It’s sad, but I guess its just a sign that I’m changing as a human being. Even as I change, I still maintain some of the characteristics of my youth. As my father always says, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”

Mother Nature has a way of cleansing herself through disaster. In the case of my family, Onion Creek – named for the wild green onions that grow its’ banks – will flood, destroying whatever gets in its path. I’ve witnessed flood waters carry away livestock, cars and homes, throwing them around like they were toys. Now a flood of emotions overtake me in the new decade as I finish my latest journey and start a new one. Where I’ll finally wash up is still to be determined.

Debris from years of flooding.
Debris depositing after years of flooding.
Onion Creek marks the southern boundary of our property line.