Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Across Indiana

"I'm a bicyclist too," one of the librarians at the Waterloo Grove Carnegie in the northeast corner of Indiana told me.  It was the second of the six Carnegies on my route across northern Indiana on Highway 6.

"I hope you were able to get in a ride yesterday," I said.  "At last some warm weather.  It was the first time this year I was able to ride in shorts."

"I sure did," she replied.  "It was a perfect way to spend Easter.  My partner and I rode 62 miles.  We're training for the 101 Lakes Ride on May 10.  It passes through three states and is 110 miles.  And later in the year we're planning on doing the Ride Across Indiana, known as RAIN. Its a one-day, 157-mile ride from Terre Haute through Indianapolis to Richmond."

"How many Carnegies does it pass?"

"I don't know, but I'll have to look it up.  I search them out myself.  I've got a doll I take along and take a photo of at each library."

"I've seen nearly twenty in the last few days biking from Pittsburgh.  Searching them out makes for a good bike ride."

"Anything makes for a good bike ride," she wisely corrected me.

We talked biking and Carnegies awhile longer at the bike rack outside the red-brick classic building until she had to excuse herself to tend to the construction going on at the library.

It had celebrated its 100th anniversary the year before.  It was in the process of being rewired and having its boiler replaced and getting an addition.  Despite her enthusiasm for Carneige libraries, hers had no recognition of Carnegie on the outside of the library, just his portrait hanging in a corner inside.  I thought maybe the 100th anniversary banner still hanging over the entry might cover something relating to Carnegie, either his name or one of the phrases often seen on his libraries reflecting the era when they were built--"Free Public Library" or "Open to All"--but all it covered was brick.  There was nothing inscribed on the building identifying it as a library, though there was a recent sculpture out front of a boy and a girl each enjoying a book in their own way.

My first Carnegie of the day in Butler, just across the border from Ohio, had "Butler Carnegie" over its entry despite no longer serving as the town's library.  It is now the DeKalb County Museum, open on  Fridays and Saturdays noon to four, though closed for the month of May.  It was right on Highway 6, known as Main Street through the town.  Four of the Carnegies on my route across Indiana had "Main Street" addresses, not unusual, as one of the few stipulations Carnegie gave to a town requesting a library was that the library be built within a block or two of the town center on land provided by the town.  Such a central location would generally be intersected by a "Main Street."

Kendanville's Carnegie had likewise been replaced by a new library.  It was now a vintage furniture and curiosities shop, though not doing so well, as a sign on the door said it was closed until further notice.  It was a block off the town's Main Street in a residential neighborhood.  The intricately bricked, Prairie School-influenced, building could easily be converted into someone's home, as have a handful of the libraries.  There are no inscriptions on its exterior that might be confusing to passersby if it did turn into someone's dream home. 

The Ligonier Carnegie was closed and undergoing a significant renovation and addition.  Even with the construction going on, it had a most stately presence. It had more than a full block to itself, surrounded on all sides by grass and trees, with no other buildings diminishing its dignity.  "Carnegie" in bold gold lettering was directly over the entry flanked by columns and above that "Public Library."  

Flanking the stairs to the entry were a pair of griffins, a mythical creature known for guarding treasures.  The librarian said they are also a symbol of knowledge.  They had been added about fifteen years ago.  The stairs too are a symbol--of one's elevation by learning.  The stairs were one of the requests of Carnegie for all his libraries, along with a lamppost or two out front, symbolizing enlightenment by learning.

Of to the side in a nicely landscaped garden was a touching sculpture of a barefoot girl reading a book entitled "Booked for the day," almost as worthwhile a way to spend one's day as riding one's bike.

The temporary library in a small shopping mall only had a portion of the library's holdings, but it did have the Carnegie portrait hanging.  I am always happy to give him a nod. 

I was denied that part of my Carnegie ritual at the other two of his libraries on my route.  I was told he hung in the office of the director at the Syracuse library.  He was gone for the day and his office was locked.  The library had had two additions, one in the front and the other in the back.  I at first thought it was a new library, as the additions, especially the one tacked on to the entry that took away the steps, made it no longer look like a Carnegie.

It doesn't deny its heritage though, as it had a stack of very worthwhile glossy twelve-page brochures entitled "Syracuse Public Library, 100 Years in the Making," free for the taking, tracing the history of the library.  It included a portrait of Carnegie and acknowledged him as the "Patron Saint of Libraries."

was sent to the basement of the Carnegie in Milford to give Carnegie a greeting, but his portrait was not to be found and the two librarians on hand didn't know where it had disappeared to.  

It wasn't that the library was ignoring its roots, as by the original wooden curved checkout desk, that was a magnificent work of art itself, hung a photo of the library shortly after its construction, without any of the trees that now surrounded it, and a photo of the first librarian, wearing a bonnet, sitting around a table with the members of the original library board.  

The cornerstone did have "Carnegie Public Library" engraved on it, but not the date of its construction in 1918.  

A seamless expansion to the rear of the brick building in 1995 more than doubled its size.  It included an elevator, the first in this town of 4,000 residents.  It was the only one of the Carnegies in Ohio and Indiana on my route that required a password to access its WIFI--"springhassprung."  

"Do you keep that password year round?" I asked.

"No we change it every few months.  We don't allow anyone under eighteen to use our computers, so we have to have a password.  We change it to keep it from becoming too well known.  We don't want teenagers coming around the library after it closes and accessing the WIFI."  

I didn't know it at the time, but I was on the fringe of Amish country, perhaps explaining the sensitivity of underage use of the Internet.  It was growing dark and as I pedaled along a county road a couple miles south a of Highway 6,  I was passed by a couple of horse drawn carriages with bright headlights.  And that evening in my final night in my tent in a soggy forest I heard the rapid staccato clatter of horses pulling a cart passing by.

The next morning I was joined on the county road by school children bicycling to school, some accompanied by their mothers, all wearing reflective vests.  I was ending my journey as I had begun it, with a touch of Amish.  As usual there had been a scattering of Amish at Chicago's  Union Station at my departure point, and a handful too on my train.  They all looked very stern and nervous out in the world of heathens.  None of the bicyclists responded to my waves or dared even to look over at me.  It was a pleasant sight though biking past farms without a car or truck or tractor in sight.

Another of the distinctive joys of being out in small-town rural American are the local ice cream parlors, the anti-Dairy Queens with a character of their own.

So too is tuning into non-big city radio stations.  Their radio hosts are less regulated and molded by the corporate interests trying to draw as big an audience as possible so they charge as much as they can for commercials.  They are allowed to have their own personality and don't sound like all the rest of those on the radio dial as they do in the metropolises, who seem as cloned as the franchises taking over the world and spew nothing but cynicism and negativity.

An older guy on a station out of Akron kept saying things today aren't like they were in the '50s.  But he didn't agree with a recent article by Phyllis Schlafly that men should earn more money than women. She argued that equal pay would make it hard for women to find husbands, as men don't want to marry women who earn more money than they'd do.  He said that wasn't true in his case at all, as having a wife who earned more money than he did allowed him to continue his career in radio.  He was an entertaining old coot with many regular callers.  He began his show with a gigantic sigh saying, "We made it to Friday," an all too common sentiment in the world of wage-slaves.

On the opposite end of the spectrum I picked up a young woman out of Canada with a refreshingly wholesome chirpy outlook who spoke a Canadian version of Valley Girl, gleefully and giggly blurting "fer sure," "no way," "how cool," "neat stuff," and on and on.  The only distraction was her having to give the temperature in Fahrenheit and Centigrade.  A story that grated on her was a petition by Americans to send Justin Beiber back to Canada and to take away his green card.

The most entertaining commercial of the trip was a drill sergeant barking to his troops to keep them in step promoting a metal recycling company in Cleveland, not a business one often hears advertised on the radio. His spiel was: "Who pays more for your scrape?  Steel, copper, aluminum.  West Side Metals, we pay more."  It was a ten-second spot that turned up every half hour or so on a sports station.  

I also supplemented my listening pleasure with an audio book on my iPad of the "Fifty Craziest Stories in Cycling" by English cycling expert Les Woodland.  Many were about the Tour de France, but one was about a contest by a British cycling magazine challenging its readers to see who could bicycle the most miles in a year.  The first record holder did 34,666 miles in 1911, which included 332 centuries.  The record stood until 1937 when someone did 36,007 miles.  Five years later an Australian did a staggering 62,657 miles.  But even more staggering was someone doing 75,065 miles in 1939 and then continuing on to see how much longer it would take him to get to 100,000 miles.

I thought I was doing well to average nearly 90 miles a day for my six day ride from Pittaburgh to Chicago, culminating with a final 115-mile effort arriving at my apartment at 9:30, passing up a final night of camping on the outskirts of the city in Indiana's Dunes.  I hadn't lost much of the conditioning I had gained in the Philippines.  I will have no worries about my ride from Paris to Cannes next week.  I won't have to make it as direct as possible, but can swing over towards the Alps and preview a bit of the upcoming Tour de France route.  Target number one will be Oyonnax, 267 miles from Paris north of Lyon.  It is one of nine first time Ville √ątapes.  Five of the nine are in England, where the first three stages will be conducted.  By the time I'm in Oyonnax it will be two months until the start of The Race. It was exciting when the countdown reached one hundred days a month ago.  To be on The Race route checking on the preparations will be even more exciting.  I'm ready.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Across Ohio

This could have been a football-themed ride if I'd wanted it to be, beginning with the Steelers stadium along the riverfront in Pittsburgh and continuing to hometowns of famous players in Pennsylvania and across Ohio and other football shrines.  Beaver Falls, hometown of Joe Namath, has a Carnegie Library and was just a bit north of Pittsburgh and not too far from the town Mike Ditka grew up in, Aliquippa, but neither were  on my most direct route back to Chicago, so will have to wait for another time.  

It was sheer happenstance that I visited the town where Mike Ditka was born, Carnegie.  I didn't even realize it until after I had left and was reading up on the town.  Later when I was telling the librarian at the Carnegie Library in Midland, the last of my Pennsylvania Carnegies, about the various Carnegies I had visited so far on this trip, I mentioned that among the things I had learned was that Ditka was born in Carnegie.  An older guy sitting at a nearby table leapt to his feet and said,"That's not true.  He's from Alliquipa.  I knew his parents."

"Yes, I know," I replied. "I'm from Chicago and I know the Aliquippa connection.  I was surprised myself to learn he was born in Carnegie."

But the guy would not hear of it, angry that another town would try to steal Ditka, even in a small way, from his town.  I shut up lest we be ejected from the library.  I was having too nice of a conversation with the librarian for that.  He said they were beginning to prepare for the 100th anniversary of their library the next year.  Their library had less of the classical design of the later Carnegies and more the fortress/castle look of the early Carnegies even though it was of the latter era.

Just across the border in East Liverpool I came upon the first of the eight Carnegies on my 250 mile route across Ohio, some of it hilly, but most of it flat.  I initially followed highway 30, part of the Historic Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental road across the US from Times Sqaure in New York to Lincoln Park in San Francisco.  It was established in 1912 and was 3.389 miles long.  The highway 30 segment of it started west of Pittsburgh  and continued across Ohio and Indiana to Aurora, Illinois.  I stuck to it for one hundred miles before angling north at Wooster, a town on my Carnegie quest.

East Liverpool was one of a trio of Ohio towns along with Sandusky and Steubenville that received the first grants in Ohio for Carnegies in 1899.  Eventually there were 112 built in the state, exceeded only by Indiana and California. Illinois, New York and Iowa also are in the one hundred Carnegie library club.  A plaque out front stated East Liverpool had a place in Carnegie's heart as he used to visit relatives there in his youth.  He gave a larger than normal $50,000 grant for a building grand enough to be a state capital.

The football theme came acalling again in Canton the next day fifty miles down the road after a pleasant, but cold, night in my tent in a forest.  The Canton Carnegie was another of large proportions.  "Open To All" was chiseled over the entry and above that below the roofline "Canton Public Library."   It is now a law office, with a good location for its business across the street from a penitentiary.  

Canton is home to the professional football Hall of Fame.  It was on the outskirts of the city, too far out of my way for a detour, especially since I had paid it a visit in 1977 for the induction of Gale Sayers. A week later Ernie Banks was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooerstown, New York.  I had intended on attending that as well, but the person I was traveling with let his job interfere, something I'm sure he returns to this day.

Just west of Canton is another significant football town--Massilon, 22 times state champion.  If Columbus hadn't been south and well off my route I could have completed a trio of the great football towns of Ohio, other than of course Cincinnati and Cleveland, home to the state's two professional teams.

I arrived in Wooster at dusk.  Wikipedia had no address for its Carnegie, unlike most.  I thought I had found it, but the double-pillared building was the headquarters for the Masons.  I learned from a couple of pedestrians that the Carnegie had been torn down years ago.

I camped a few miles out of town in another forest.  Like the night before I had to push in a little further than normal for full privacy as there weren't even buds on the trees with spring very late this year.  The fields didn't even look as if they had been planted yet.

As I normally do, I spotted the Carnegie in New London the next morning from a block away, not even knowing I was on the road where it resided.  There is no mistaking their distinctive dignity and the warm magnetic positive power that emanates from them, something that Masonic building in Wooster lacked.  It was built in 1914 and had no inscription on it whatsoever.  Only a sign out front indicated it was a library, if one could not otherwise discern it.  The Carnegie portrait welcomed all who entered, looking down upon the entry from a far wall, the first thing one would notice if they were looking up at all as they climbed the last few steps after entering the library.

The Carnegie portrait in Norwalk's Carnegie, twenty miles away, hung above the check-out desk, bidding all a farewell as they left, if they could drag themself away from this magnificent domed building with a stained glass ceiling under the dome softly filtering the light in.  

Carnegie resided in Bellleveu's genealogy room, part of a huge addition to the library, protected from having to look at the former entrance now barricaded over which was chiseled "Free Public Library."  The front of the library faced a busy four-lane highway, a good reason to move the entry to the side, besides making it handicap-accessible.

The Clyde Carnegie, seven miles away, was on the quiet residential Buckeye Street.  Ohio is the Buckeye State and many businesses and products carry the name, just as in Nebraska many things are named Cornhusker.  Ohio even had a Buckeye vodka.  Clyde's Carnegie was an A-plus in every respect--its location, its architecture with a domed cupola, its well-groomed grounds, a plaque on the outside of the building acknowledging Carnegie, the string of authors chiseled on three sides of the building under its roofline, a seamless stone addition, its maintained original entrance, the light fixture outside the entry and also WIFI that I could access sitting outside the library as I arrived Saturday evening after it had closed.  Its exterior was so exceptional it is one I will gladly return to, certain that its interior would be equally magnificent.

After camping in a yet to be planted field besides a patch of trees I had a final two Carnegies in Ohio the next day along Highway Six, the road that would take me across Indiana and almost all the way to Chicago.  The first was in Napolean along the Maumee River that empties into Lake Erie.  Its Carnegie, with "Carnegie Library" over its entry, is now a storage facility for the new library just behind it.  The red brick building with two columns was somewhat blocked by a beginning to bud grand magnolia tree.

The Bryan Carnegie had a huge addition behind it, with the front entrance unceremoniously blocked, slightly tainting its white-brick elegance with two inset Doric columns.  It acknowledged Carnegie on its exterior with "1903 Carnegie" chiseled just under its peaked roof. 

I could access its WIFI, but it wasn't strong enough to connect with Janina through our Apple FaceTime feature as I so easily did from the Philippines.  I'd had no success on this trip and we had much to catch up on, especially her first smelting outing along Lake Michigan at Montrose Friday night with our friend Tim who had twice biked with us to Midewin National Prairie.  She was on line.  I went in search of a pay phone that she could call me on.  I spent twenty minutes meandering around Bryan and asking whoever I saw, pedestrians and dog-walkers and joggers, and going into the local movie house and a liquor store, and could find no one knew who knew of a pay phone.  They have gone the way of the dodo.

It being Easter it seemed appropriate that I camped behind a church just across the border into Indiana, not far from Butler.  I could have pushed into a forest behind it, but the church's gardening shed was far enough from the road to offer all the privacy I needed and spared me from having to push my bike through a furrowed field and then some brambles.  Though it wasn't particularly rustic, it was still Another Great Night in the Tent after Another Great Day on the Bike. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pittsburgh--Ground Zero for Carnegie Libraries

I could have spent a couple days tracking down all the Carmegie Libraries in and around Pittsburgh, but with only limited time I had to restrict myself to just the more prominent of them.  I had just a week to bike the 550 miles back to Chicago on my annual pre-France training ride, and knowing the vagaries of spring weather eighty miles a day could be a challenge.  But this was less of a training rain and more of a tune-up, having returned from a 2,000 mile ride around the Philippines a month ago.  Plus I'd had a 180 mile ride two weeks ago to Starved Rock and back with Janina and our friend Wendy (in the foreground in front of the Marseilles Carnegie Library).

That was a cold ride, as evidenced by how bundled up they were.  We camped in sub-freezing temperatures, but they were troopers and whimpered not, even in the rain.  It was Janina's longest ride and Wendy's first.  Wendy had hiked the Appalchia Trail in its entirety on her own two years ago, so there was no denying her capabilities.  She acknowledged, thought, the ride was tougher than she anticipated.  She bowed out after 130 miles with sore shoulders, unaccustomed to sitting on the bike for five or six hours a day.  Still she is eager for more, and Janina too.

It was ten-and-half hours by train to Pittsburgh from Chicago.  It was an overnight trip.  I had a seat to myself and slept most of the way.  There were two other cyclists on the train, a couple from Portland who planned to cycle the Geat Allegheny Passage to Washington D.C. They had no idea they had arrived at Ground Zero of Carnegie Libraries.

Pittsburgh is where Andrew Carnegie made his fortune in the steel industry after immigrating in 1845 from Scotland with his family as a twelve year old. He was immediately thrust into the steel mills working twelve-hour days six days a week as a bobbin boy earning $1.20 a week. His book learning from that time on was restricted to reading books borrowed from a benefactor who opened his private library to  the young boys working in the factories who were deprived of school.

Thus was born Carnegie's devotion to libraries and his desire to fund as many as he could.  Libraries molded him into the man he was and he wished to make them available to one and all.  Not all libraries were open to the public then.  Many of the libraries he established had "Free to All" chiseled into their facade.  He eventually established over 2,500 of them all over the world, including 1,689 in the US, doubling the number of public libraries in the country during his era of giving in the early 1900s. The first he subsidized was in his Scottish home town of Dunfermline.

After that he began funding libraries in and around Pitttsburgh.  The first was in Allegheny, the city where his family first settled, right across the river from Pittsburgh.  It was closed as a library in 2006 when lightning struck its bell town.  It now serves  as a police station and senior center.  Allegheny was long ago incorporated into Pittsburgh, and its new library is part of its 19-library system.

Like many of his early libraries it also had space for a theater or meeting hall.

It took several years for the government to approve Carnegie's behest, as it included the stipulation that the government provide the funds for its operation.  Before it was finished the steel town of Braddock fifteen miles down the Monongahela River gained the distinction of being the first Carnegie  Library opened in the US in 1889.  Like the Allengheny libary it was designed in an eclectic medieval style.

The town was so proud of its library, it named the street its on Library Street and commemorated it with a painting across from the library in a small park.

Three miles back towards Pittsburgh on the opposite side of the Monongahela is the French Renaissance style Homestead library high on a hill.

Its full sprawl is better represented by a painting in the library.

It was Carnegie Library number six built in the US in 1896.  It was large enough to include a swimming pool and a bowling alley.  The swimming pool was the training grounds for a handful of Olympians and is still in use, but the bowling alley has been converted into batting cages for the local baseball teams.  I wouldn't have known about the batting cages unless a librarian at the Pittaburgh main library, who used to work at Homestead, had told me about them, as they are well hidden in the basement of the library and not promoted.

The third of Carnegie's libraries was the Pittsbugh main libary, a monumental building endowed from a million dollar grant that also included funds for four branch libraries.  Carnegie knew that a city couldn't have enough libraries and wished to make them easily accessible to all.

The main library had huge rooms with high ceilings, providing a most comfortable atmosphere for reading and study. 

The only of the branch libraries I was able to include in my travels was the South side branch on my way from Homestead to the town of Carnegie.  It was still in its original state with no additions, as were also those of Homestead and Braddock.

The town of Carnegie, five miles south of Pittsburgh through steep hills, earned the seventh US Carnegie Library by changing ing its town name to Carnegie. It too sits on a high hill.  Adjoining it is an 787-seat auditorium.  Carnegie is also known as the birthplace of Mike Ditka, though his family moved to Aliquippa north of Pittsburgh shortly after his birth.

Over its fireplace was an original Carnegie portrait, not the standard one that was issued to all the libraries in 1933 on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Throughout the town were many businesses bearing his name.

Not every Carnegie Library is identified with his name, but that of Carnegie could hardly avoid it.  It was the final Carnegie in my half day of biking around the environs of Pittsburgh, a most enjoyable ride on roads with a minimum of traffic thanks to the less than stellar local economy.  It was a most amenable uban environment, especially the older parts of the city with narrow streets and small local businesses. Its only negative was that not everyone I asked knew where the downtown library was.  When I began my meanderings around the city at seven a.m. the first four people I asked couldn't tell me where it was, by far the most of anywhere I've been.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Nine Cycle Touring Books of Bettina Selby

My Telluride bicycle touring friend David, who rode along with me in Turkey three years ago, enjoys travel writing as much as I do.  He lets me know from time to time of a book or author he has recently read that he thinks I would enjoy.

The latest was Bettina Selby, an Englishwoman who wrote nine books about traveling by bicycle in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe from 1984 to 1996 until old age caught up to her.  She didn't begin her traveling life until she was 47, after raising three children and serving as a primary school teacher in London.  Somehow or another neither of us had stumbled upon any of her books or had ever heard of her.  

David discovered her while reading up on the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route across northern Spain that he intended to ride this winter.  She had written a book about bicycling it in 1994, the eighth of her nine touring books.  David was also pleased to report that another of her books that he had gotten his hands on, "Beyond Ararat, A Journey Through Eastern Turkey,"  recounted roads we had ridden and experiences similar to ours being set upon by dogs and stoned by kids and chased by mobs of teens.

Chicago's public library had her book on the Camino.  It had eluded me when I read up on it before riding it in 2008, as it was filed amongst the large type books and not on the shelf with the handful of books on the Camino, including one by Shirley MacLaine.  For her other books I turned to my  Northwestern University librarian friend Elizabeth.  They could all be found at various universities, including Northwestern, as her writing has a sheen of academia to it, with a little more commentary on history and culture than most travel books.  They are still mostly personal recollections of the travel experience, but with a school marmish temperament.  She scolds and reprimands behavior that she deems rude and inappropriate, sometimes getting her in trouble.

In her third book, "Riding the Desert Trail," bicycling from Cairo to Uganda following the Nile River for awhile, she rather harshly asks some partiers at a hotel she is staying at to quiet down.  They are so incensed at her demands they charge up to her room calling out, "Where you white woman?  Come out of there sister, we going to pull you apart."  Luckily they couldn't find her room.

In India on her first trip, a 4,000 mile ride from Karachi, Pakistan to Kathmandu, she is knocked off her bike by a mob of young men.  She was paralyzed by fear, but rose up "so incensed by rage, I could have done murder." She gathers her wits and "icy calm and authoritative, as though I was addressing a class of fractious eight-year olds, said, 'I am going to fetch a policeman.'"  That stilled the mob and she managed to ride on.

Later, on the same trip in Nepal a group of school children enthusiastically greet her chanting, "Hello tourist."  She found that disrespectful and "sternly told them that this was not a suitable form of address for a female visitor of mature years."

She regularly has to fend off unwelcome advances by men, once even chasing after a young man who pinched her bottom as she slowly passed him on a climb in Jordan.  She is sustained by an indomitable spirit and an optimistic nature.  In nearly every one of her books she comments that travelers are optimists at heart.

She likewise makes mention of a "guardian angel" looking after her.  In "Fragile Islands, A Journey Through the Outer Hebrides" she continually battled winds.  One day when a particularly malevolent blast had reduced her to a standstill, a blue van came to her rescue.  She wrote, "I was convinced that it was another instance of the Hand of Providence intervening in an hour of need."

In her final travel book, "Like Water in a Dry Land--A Journey into Modern Israel," Selby returns to one of her favorite cities, Jerusalem, starting in Cyprus and passing through Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.  At the outset she assures her readers that she sets off with little worries as, "I have come to believe that I have a guardian angel who looks out for me when danger does threaten."  A while later in thick traffic in Beirut she acknowledges, "My guardian angel had his work cut out."

Another one of her defenses is tears.  She would prefer not to be driven to tears, but there are occasions so dire, she cannot help herself and they wheedle her out of trouble.  She wrote that if she hadn't given in to tears at the Israeli/Jordan border in "Riding to Jerusalem" her second book, after being kept waiting for hours by the Israelis, she didn't think she would ever have been let it.

The shedding of tears were a constant feature of her first trip before she realized she had a guardian angel, one of the few books that she doesn't mention such protection.  Another is "Riding North One Summer," where she rides around England and hardly needs one.  But in Pakistan and India she cried so often it worried her until she met other female travelers who had the same proclivity.  "Tears were almost impossible to avoid," she wrote, "because of life being so difficult and frustrating for women in that male-dominated world."

Most of her books include several pages of photos, but rarely one of her. The photos of her first Africa book were mostly of people. There were no photos of bare-breasted woman, but one of males baring their gentilia.   She reveals little of her personal life.  Her husband and children rarely merit more than a single mention.  In her book on bicycling around England she reveals her husband is involved in the film industry.  She acknowledges she is a grandmother and that her son is an ardent traveler too.  Of her two daughters we know nothing other than one was traveling in South America during her first trip and one, who may have been the same, helped her pick out her wardrobe for that trip.

She comes across as very prim and proper.  The worst part of fixing a flat tire for her is getting her hands dirty.   She turns her nose up at grimy linens.  She likes to finish her day with a good shot of whiskey.  When she lists all her gear she includes whiskey among her luxury items, but then corrects herself, calling it a virtual necessity as "a universal catholicon for all manner of ailments."  She mentions having a drink at the end of a day more often than getting a shower or bath, which is much more frequently referred to in most touring cyclist books.

Though she is easily irritated, there is no denying her toughness and fearlessness and daring spirit.  She even had the audacity to enlist as a bicycle messenger as a fifty-year old before her ride down the Nile to get in shape for the ride.  She loved it, despite never working so hard for so little monetary reward.  She gained the fitness she needed and also enhanced her riding skills.

Before her first trip she sold her car so she could buy a first-rate bike and equipment.  That was the only one of her trips where she didn't have a name for her bike.  As an ardent cyclist she is inclined to disparaging remarks about the automobile, even in her only non-cycling book that she wrote five years after her final touring book.

"Two Cats Walking" is the narrative of two cats who abandon their owners, upset with them for forcing them to move from the home they have become accustomed to.  After being on their own for awhile they begin to miss their owners and set out on an odyssey to return to them.  They always hated being transported by car and escape from their owner's car on the way to their new home in rural Wales.  The cats are perplexed by "this perverse generation of humans who both worship the motor car, but at the same time crave peace and quiet."  They are relieved to be back on foot, "as you don't find that kind of magic on a car journey."

Selby's books have been translated into Dutch, German and Japanese.  Some have been made into documentaries.  Though her writing can be a bit dry and impersonal compared to other travel writing, she captures well the travel experience and fully endorses the bicycle as a means of travel.  She should be better known than she is.  She ranks right up there with the two more prominent and equally prolific women touring cyclist writers from the British Isles--Dervla Murphy and Josie Dew.  Murphy preceded her and no doubt was an inspiration, but curiously not once does she pay her homage.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Cycle of Lies" versus "Wheelmen"

Juliet Macur brings a strong female perspective to the Lance Armstrong saga in "Cycle of Lies," the latest book detailing the downfall of the seven-time conqueror of The Tour de France.  She cultivated many female sources in the decade that she covered Armstrong and bicycle racing for the "New York Times."

She's the reporter who convinced Frankie Andreu to confess to his use of EPO, revealed in a front page story in the "New York Times" in September of 2006.  She had been visiting Betsy Andreu at their home in Michigan.  Her husband wasn't happy at all that Macur was there.  He argued with Betsy about it, but relented to Macur's persistence and became the first of Armstrong's teammates to bravely acknowledge that things with Lance weren't so clean. Jonathan Vaughters also admitted to drug-taking in that article, but anonymously.

Macur spoke with Betsy hundreds of times over the years.  Macur's book answers the question, "Did the wives and girl friends of the racers know about their doping?"  Of course they did.  At the bachelorette party for Christian Vande Velde's wife-to-be, Leah, she tearfully comments to Vaughter's wife Alisa, "All the needles.  Its just so hard."  They hugged and they both cried.

Macur uses tears repeatedly to emphasis a point, citing over thirty incidences, including some of her own.  It is quite a contrast to the mere nine in "Wheelman," a similar version of the same story published just a few months ago by the two "Wall Street Journal" reporters, Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O'Connell, who had been on the case for years too. The third book in this trilogy of books published after the official report documenting of Armstrong's doping, "Seven Deadly Sins," by Lance's chief nemesis the Irish sportswriter David Walsh, mentions tears twelve time.  

The latest two books by rival Amrican writers have a slightly different focus, though they both are determined, as was Walsh, to portray Armstrong in the lowest light possible. The "Journal" reporters go on at length castigating the money-man behind Armstrong, Thom Weisel.  Macur doesn't pursue that side of the story at all, barely even mentioning him.  

She directs her strongest ire, other than that for Armstrong, at his mother.  She calls her a fraud for claiming to be a single mother, as she was married during most of the years of Armstrong's youth to a very hands-on husband who very avidly supported Armstrong in his athletic endeavors and takes partial blame for making him such a beast of a competitor.  He officially adopted Armstrong, with Lance taking his name, and would correct anyone who referred to him as a step-father.  He considered himself his father, though Armstrong later renounced him and refused to have anything to do with him, just as he did with his biological father.

Macur devotes several pages to the mother and sister of the young man who fathered Armstrong when he and his mother were just teens.  Even though he and Armstrong's mother quickly divorced, the women on his side of the family still helped out babysitting and looking after Armstrong.  Once when Armstrong's mother came to pick him up from his mother-in-law when he was four years old, he reluctantly left in tears.  When Armstrong's mother broke off relations with them, refusing to let his grandmother give him some Christmas presents when he was five or six, she was brought to tears.

Lance's tears as a four-year old is the first of five instances Macur cites of Armstrong crying.  The next was a few years later when he crashed at his first BMX race.  "Wheelman" also mentions this, one of three crying episodes both books share.  The other two involved Dave Zabriskie.

Zabriskie was a prime source for Macur.  He earns an entire chapter, more than any other of Armstrong's former teammates.  He was a close friend of Floyd Landis, acknowledging they doped together while training in the off-season before his 2006 victory in The Tour.  When he learned that Landis had been stripped of his title, he cried for hours, unable to leave his bathtub.

Landis chose not to talk to Macur, evidently having enough after Albergotti spent two weeks interrogating him at his cabin in a small town in California.  Besides the assistance of Zabriskie, Macur pursued the Landis side of the story through his physiologist Dr. Allen Lim.  He reveals that when he discovered Landis injecting himself with EPO when he was with him in Spain in 2005, he dropped him as a client and flew back to the US.  But he was hard-up for money and when Landis sent him a check for $7,000, he returned two weeks later.  

Macur states that Lim's time with Landis in Europe that year was the first time he had been to Europe.  Evidently she does not keep up with the podcasts of Michael Creed, essential listening for anyone interested in the true ins-and-outs of professional racing.  When Lim was a guest on the show while she was writing her book he tells of racing in Europe in 1989 as a sixteen-year old.  While there he attended The Tour de France and met Greg LeMond.  He can also be seen in the one-hour highlight video of that year's Tour standing at the top of a mountain pass on the tenth stage of The Race cheering the passing peloton.  That was about the only factual error in the book.  Macur had better fact-checkers than did Albergotti and O'Connell, who had quite a few mistakes, even referring to the Colombian Santiago Botero as a Spaniard.

Lim was a great source, as he went on to be one of Armstrong's coaches during his comeback.  Lim claims that Landis was a much stronger cyclist than Armstrong and makes the bold assertion that if there had been no doping in cycling he would have won The Tour ten times.  Lim also corroborates the story of Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel flushing a bag of Landis' blood down the toilet during the 2004 Tour, as they were upset with him and they knew that it would make it harder for him even though he was on their team.  

Zabriskie also confirms this story, a story that Landis inexplicably denied to Paul Kimmage in his seven-hour interview with him.  The story first came to light during the trial when Armstrong sued the company that didn't want to pay him a five million dollar bonus for winning The Tour five times over the suspicions of his doping.  It was introduced as evidence in a text message between Frankie Andreu and Vaughters.  The several pages of their conversation is published in its entirety in David Walsh's "From Lance to Landis, Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France."

 Macur doesn't give the background on the story, but she implies she knows its uncertainty, as she mentions the dumping of the blood three different times.  "Wheelman" avoids it altogether.  The two books also differ on their perception of Eddie Borysewicz, the coach of the 1984 American Olympic team that blood-doped.  The "Wall Street Journal" reporters write most favorably of him and say he was only marginally involved, while Macur, as if in response to their book, refers to his "dubious reputation" and that  he pressured riders to take blood transfusions, the more accepted version of the story.

Although Macur does not list "Wheelmen" in her bibliography, her extensive footnotes list several "WSJ" articles by its authors, and its clear she read the book as she also allows Armstrong to respond to the mention in that book that he dated Tyler Hamilton's wife.  In one of his diatribes to her during a June 2013 interview at his ten-million dollar mansion in Austin on the day he was moving to a more modest two-million dollar house in central Austin he ranted, he "didn't sleep with his idiot teammate's wife, but the thought crossed his mind."  Macur does not identify the idiot teammate or provide any footnoted explanation, just offering this juicy morsel for those knowledgeable enough to be aware of the story.  She also somewhat forsakes her responsibility as a journalist to give the full story when she does not Identiy the seven Olympians Borysewicz convinced to take blood, just that two became sick and four won medals, including a gold.

Both books recount Armstrong's one and only meeting with Travis Tygaart, the investigator who made the case against Armstrong.  They met in Denver with lawyers and the ex-governor of Colorado on December 12, 2012 to discuss reducing his life-time ban from competing in any Olympic sport.  Macur had better sources than Albergotti and O'Connell, going into more detail, having the advantage of being published second.  Macur quotes Armstrong as calling Tygaart  a "motherfucker."  She may have a feminine slant to her coverage, but she is much less restrained including Armstrong's profanity.  The f-word turns up eighty-one times in her book, compared to just twenty in "Wheelmen," and thirty-three in "Seven Deadly Sins."  She says Armstrong "gave profanity a bad name" during her Austin interview at his home.

It would be impossible though to choose one book over the other.  They are both written by reporters who have covered the story for years and know it well.  They differ in having closer relationships with different sources.  Macur virtually ignores the LeMonds, while they were a principal source for her rival book.  Both mention Armstrong's mother and his close friend J.T. Neal flying up to Minneapolis to talk with the LeMonds.  Macur says it was to discuss dealing with sponsors, with also the subject of how to rein in Lance's runaway ego coming up, while the "Wheelmen" authors imply that was the main reason for their visit, as the LeMonds would probably have it, being such ardent Armstrong-haters.

Both books share a most one-sided portrayal of the Armstrong story.  Long-time Armstrong friend Jim Hoyt, who I spoke with for an hour this past January in his mammoth bike shop in Richardson, Texas, refused to talk to any of these reporters, knowing their agenda.  Still  the story of him helping Lance buy a car when he was a teen is recounted in both books.  The car was in Hoyt's name, and when Armstrong abandoned the car after a high-speed chase from the police, they came to Hoyt.  Hoyt has long since forgiven Lance and only had positive things to say about him during our conversation.  He was there in Paris when Lance won his first Tour in 1999 and Lance was a surprise guest at a ride celebrating his 60th birthday and his bike shop is full of Lance memorabilia.  That is a side of the Armstrong story these attack-books ignore.

The dust-jacket of Macur's book calls it "the definitive account of Lance Armstrong's spectacular rise and fall."  It is difficult to say that it is even more definitive than "Wheelmen."  It is far from the last word on Armstrong.  That won't come until Armstrong fully opens up and an author receives the full cooperation of all the prinicpals in the story.  But both books are a giant step towards gaining that definitive account of this tragic Greek-myth of a story.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Manila, Philippines

When I closed to within a couple hundred miles of Manila and began telling people that was my next destination I'd ocasionally ask, "What should I see there?"  No one had a ready response except a couple of young women who excitedly blurted, "The Mall of Asia."  

I hadn't come to the Philippines to go to the mall.  I could understand why it could have an attraction for young women in the hinterlands, but hardly for me...that is until I arrived in the big city and began wilting from the heat and choking on the stew of the stench that hung heavy in the air and was overcome by the noise and fumes of the traffic clogged streets.

Even before I found a hotel my throat and lungs were stinging from the polluted air and my nose was burning from the strong odor of raw sewage and urine and thick exhaust spewing out of the many jeepneys.  The homeless were sprawled everywhere, even along the main boulevard hugging the Bay of Manila.

Little kids had their hands out wherever one looked.

I had three days to explore the city before my flight home, but I knew from my previous two brief visits  passing through earlier in these travels that pollution, traffic, noise and poverty were the dominant features of this city of twelve million and would be hard to escape. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go back out into it once I had checked into a hotel. One of the things I was looking forward to was the sanctuary of a movie theater, a pleasure I had yet to experience in the Philippines.  

I learned from a cyclist I met while drinking an ice-filled cup of Gatorade at a 7-Eleven that there are multiplexes at the malls and that the nearby Robinson Mall was his preference as it provided bike parking. He was another of the many ardent and generous cyclists I've encountered on this trip.  He had a spare reflective wrap that one can place around one's ankle that he gave me.  He was a ship's navigator and had traveled the world.  His bike accompanied him on his voyages and he used it as often as he could. 

With his news of bike parking and cinema at the mall a few blocks away, all of a sudden the mall became my promised land.  I'm not sure which I welcomed most when I walked through its doors after being checked by a security guard, the cool air or the clean air.  It wasn't particularly quiet, as it was thronged by people, but at least the noise wasn't the roar of jeepneys.

It was a considerable hike and then climb up three floors to the theaters, but it was a relief to be in a clean, semi-orderly universe and amongst relatively well-dressed and beaming consumers.  This was an oasis and sanctuary for all of us.

I had seven movies to choose from, all recent Hollywood fare.  The only one I was familiar with was "Non-Stop," a Liam Nesson air marshall thriller that was very topical with the recent disappearance of the Malaysian jet.  But when I noticed Colin Firth and Reese Winterspoon on the poster for "Devil's Knot" and that it was directed by Atom Egoyan, that had to be my choice.  At first I thought I was going to get in free when I saw a notice on the box office stating that seniors were given free admission on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, but then I looked closer and saw it only applied to residents of Manila.

After I slipped into my seat I could have been back home, at least until the commercials and public service announcements began, preceding the trailers.  One was devoted to an award-winning local artist who designed wicker furniture.  It concluded with "once again he proves Filipinos can conquer the world."  Another spot encouraged people to read English newspapers to improve their English and ended with the slogan "Filipiinos can be better."

The movie was the true story already recounted in several documentaries of the trial of three teens in 1992 in Arkansas for the murder of three eight year olds. The teens were wrongly convicted in a sensationalistic trial that painted them as Satanists.  It bore little evidence of an Egoyan movie, virtually devoid of any of his early distinctive style that won him accolades from cineastes and that hasn't been evident in his last few films.  Firth seemed to be the only one who much cared about his role and gave more than a perfunctory performance.  Still, it was nice to be in the familiar embrace of the world of cinema, especially with Cannes less than two months away.

Manila's less than desirable, and well nigh repellant, cycling conditions couldn't make me totally forsake the bike.  But rather than meandering all day exploring the city, as I would have liked to have done, I restricted myself to just a few hours, though I did manage nearly forty miles on a day when I venutred to the neighboring Catholic and Chinese cemeteries.  They were both refreshingly quiet, traffic-free retreats full of grand mausoleums.  Although they shared a wall, they had separate entrances.  Both were a challenge to find, padding my mileage for the day.

The Chinese cemetery was much better maintained than the Catholic cemetery. 

Many of its tombs looked like luxury condos.

There was more wild extravagance on the Catholic side.

Some of he tombs had shelters providing shade from the hellish heat.

My sight-seeing also included the city's World Heritage San Augustin Cathedral, the oldest in the country built between 1587 and 1606.  It has survived seven major earthquakes.

It is within the old walled city of Intramuros that also contains the prison where Jose Rizal was held before his execution.  Nearby is a statute of him holding an open book.

His cell, like that of Nelson Mandela's outside of Cape Town, is a national shrine. Free tours are given of the site.  My guide was a very enthusiastic young devotee of Rizal, who acted as if it was a privilege to be able to share all he knew about his hero.  Among the artifacts on display was a ten pound dumbbell that he used to strengthen himself when he was a young man.  He was only 5'2" and wanted to bulk himself up a bit.  His museum also contained original copies of the two novels he wrote castigating the Spanish, both written abroad.  They are read by every Filipino in high school. Rizal was inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" to use the novel as a means to galvanize his countrymen against the Spanish.  He was just 36 when he was executed.  My guide said that Rizal never married, though there is reason to believe he wed his Irish girl friend an hour before he was executed.  She was one of many foreign girl friends he had from his years of living abroad.

I concluded my exploration of the city with a visit to the gargantuan Mall of Asia, a virtual Disney World of hundreds, actually thousands, of shops in several huge adjoining malls.  

It was another of the many Filipino sites I have come upon that was beyond imagining.  It was so ambitious and sprawling, it seemed something the Chinese would have devised.  And on a Saturday it was absolutely mobbed.  Swarms and swarms of jeepneys were dispensing full loads of passengers.  It was too overwhelming to wander by foot, but had walkways that I could cycle, the only one doing so.  It contained an ice skating rink and casino and IMAX along with seven regular theaters.  Countless food and drink stands lined the passages.  It was on a different planet from the city on the other side of the main boulevard of Roxas.  It was part of a monumental development with amusement parks and other attractions along the Bay that made Manila seem more livable.  It was a mile from a Cultural Center that Imelda Marcos led the construction of in 1966 shortly after her husband became president. And just beyond it was a one mile strip along the Bay with a bicycle path and palm trees and benches. It was scattered with homeless and people with cardboard signs offering massages.  Like much of the Philippines, the extremes of wealth and dire poverty were cheek by jowl.

The heavily polluted air provides technicolor sunsets out over the bay, but clouds deprived me of any my three final evenings in the country.  But I hardly felt deprived having been treated to so many other delights including a fine evening with a college professor who Janina met at a conference for art critics in Washington D.C. in 2009.  Sharon was a high school student during the final days of Marcos' presidency and was among the mobs who stormed his palace demanding his ouster.  She gave me a broad list of books to read on the Philippines to help me put my 2,000 miles of cycling around the country into perspective.  One that may not be so easy to find is a PhD dissertation on the thousands of stautes of Rizla and the significance of his many poses.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cabuyao , Philippines


One of the common sights of these travels, at least a once a day occurrence, has been seeing the same blue sign for "Ang Dating Daan."  I initially assumed it was some sort of match-making service like "Its Just Lunch," never looking close enough on those occasions when it disclosed in smaller print that it was also known as "The Church of God."  It wasn't until I met the Australians Dud and Pearl that I learned it was another of the many Christain churches that have gained a foothold in the Philippines. Pearl's brother is a member.  He told me that if I was ever in need of a place to sleep for the night, that they would happily accommodate me.  

Ever since I learned that nearly a month ago, I have been awaiting such an opportunity, especially as their churches were basic, totally unpretentious buildings that blended into a neighborhood, the most unchurchly buildings imaginable. That alone was enough to make me want to learn about this religion. It wasn't trying to capture attention or win converts with grandiosity, such as its chief Philippine-born rival, the Church of Christ, that erects strikingly magnificent, but generic, edifices with fences around them and nice watered lawns.  It was such a church that turned me away one evening.  

My wish was finally granted last night on my last night on the road twenty-five miles south of Manila just outside of Calamba, the birthplace of Jose Rizal, the great national hero of the Philippines, who was executed in 1896 by the Spaniards and who is memorialized in nearly every Philippine town with a statue.  After seeing him at least once a day in a variety of poses I didn't mind at all going a bit out of my way to see the home where he grew up. A few blocks away there was a statue unlike any I had seen.  He was holding a cane and a jacket, a different version of the quiet dignity each has portrayed.

A plaque on his house said that it had been restored with money donated by school children all over the Philippines.

The urban mayhem of Manila with the streets clogged with jeepnays and tricycles spewing noxious fumes extended all the way to Calamba.  It was on a bay where there were some hot springs.  I was hoping I would find a resort where I could pitch my tent.  I was told I would have to go south away from Manila towards Banos to find such a thing. That was too far in the time before it would be dark.  As I headed north to Manila in search of a hotel I passed a couple advertising rooms for ten hours for 490 pesos.  Twelve hours was barely enough to accommodate me.  This was the first time I had seen ten hour rates.  Before I started asking where I might find a budget hotel I saw an Ang Dating Daan sign without even thinking that I should be hoping for one.  It was down a side street near a bus station.  There was a bustle of people out front.  Wednesday night happened to be one of three days a week when they hold a service and people were streaming in.  The others are Saturday and Sunday.  

I immediately attracted attention and was welcomed.  I told those drawn to me that their church had been recommended to me by one of their members and I had been looking for an opportunity to make its acquaintance and was hoping I might be able to spend the night there.  They all responded favorably but was told I would need the permission of the brother in charge.  He was a little more inquisitive and suspicious and not so warmly welcoming, but after several minutes said he would find a place for me, though they had no bare ground or grass for my tent, just concrete.  

He introduced me to John, a fine young man with a most sunny disposition, and my latest Facebook friend, who works for a television station and was quite computer savy.  He looked after me when the head man had to tend to other responsibilities.  He explained to me that Ang Dating Daan meant The Old Path in Tagalog and that like many Tagalog words "dating" was derived from a related English word, "past."  During a lull he took the time to search out my blog without me even mentioning it and was full of questions.  But they had to wait until after the service held under a large open air pavilion, similar to some of the basketball courts I'd seen in villages.  I sat in the back and ate my dinner of noodles and hard-boiled eggs.

There were television monitors broadcasting a sermon by the church's charismatic leader and founder, Eli Soriana, that was being beamed to its churches in 73 countries.  It was mostly in Tagalog, but there was some English interspersed and some English subtitles.  The ceremony lasted from 5:30 until seven.  There was an hour break and then an hour more, which not everyone stuck around for.  The weekend services run four and five hours.  

The head brother could tell I was exhausted and let me put my bedding down on a wooden examination table in the church's medical center at eight.  I was extra tired as I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, victim of the only stomach upset I've had here.  I struggled for hours to vomit up whatever it was that had my stomach in turmoil.  I was too exhausted to depart at six a.m. when my twelve hours were up at the hotel I was at and slept for an extra three hours and could have slept for more if I hadn't been aroused by the hotel owner concerned whether I'd pay for all the overtime.   

I had been hoping to get to Manila that night, but instead my delay and weakness allowed me the privilege of being introduced to Ang Dating Daan. They have two branches in Chicago, one less than two miles from where I live.  I'll have to give it a look.  The religion was founded in 1977 and has grown into a substantial religion.  YouTube has a wide range of Soriana commentaries.  The head brother was quite conversant with the Bible and read me passage after passage as we sat in his office between services.  He didn't approve of Christain Science, the religion I was raised in, as it was founded by a woman.  He didn't think it right either that a religion would renounce medicine, and he produced  Biblical passages supporting his case.

My fatigue was also compounded by a hard day that culminated with my illness that had a final  twelve-mile, two-hour climb to a ridge 2,000 feet high overlooking the Taal volcano, one of the Philippine's most notorious and scenic in the middle of a lake, one last spectacular sight that the Philippines had for me.  Less than fifty miles south of Manila, it is a big draw, not only for its beauty but also for the cool temperatures of its highlands.  Hotel after hotel lined the ridge advertising its view.

One of the best views is at a place called the Picnic Grove that I was hoping to get to that night, as it offered camping.  But I was too weakened by my stomach disorder and fell eight miles short.  The view had to wait until the next morning.  There was a fifty peso entry fee and an extra charge to use one of the covered picnic sights.  I actually took a nap at the Grove before continuing along the ridge for a few more miles and then descending to the flatlands and Calamba.

Before Picnic Grove was a huge construction project of high rise condos for the haves of the country.

Down off the ridge I came to the first golf course I have seen.  It was surrounded by a thin forest that I might have camped in if I had more water.  I was down to two bottles and didn't think that was enough to get me through the rest of the afternoon and the night.  It would have just been my second night of wild-camping in the Philippines, something I really longed to do, but it wouldn't have been as worthwhile as my evening getting to know Ang Dating Daan.