At Play

I don’t merely work with it, it’s recreation, too! And that’s a good thing because, frankly, the family’s IT needs can sometimes be quite a handful.

I guess I’ve got a fair-sized shop, especially when you we’re talking about my home. A number of VMware and VirtualBox virtualized servers are dedicated to tasks such as media, databases, Intranet, Web development, file and backup services, printing, scanning and so on. Every room sports at least one (and usually more than one) gigabit Ethernet ports – eighteen or so of ’em – and there are three full-time WLANs plus another for guests. All major equipment has battery-backed failover power. Brief utility power failures, which are par for the course in rural Florida, merely drop us off the Internet for a bit while the internal networks hum along.

Overkill? Perhaps.

It’s a common story. I rode in my twenties then stopped for some years to concentrate on career and family. At my wife’s urging (not to mention my own itch) I eventually made the time to return to the two wheel lifestyle, restoring my flagging sanity. I haven’t looked back.

Today at least one of the Harleys in the garage gets ridden nearly every day. I often say, “it’s the tool of choice!” When I lived in New Jersey I was one of those crazy guys that rode all year but down here, well, it’s always riding season. That’s why I’m here.

I really can’t let this go without mentioning the Usenet newsgroup Some of the reason is because r.m.h seems to be quite the anomaly. Back in the day, long before the Web was even logoinvented, the Usenet was an excellent resource. But today it’s mostly useless. In fact, with each passing year, fewer and fewer ISPs even support it! Yet somehow r.m.h has retained a kind of quality that still smacks of those earlier times. r.m.h is populated by a diverse core of notoriously no-bullshit biker-types. My kinda people. The r.m.h FAQ is worthy of study if you’re into Harley-Davidsons. I exist there under a pseudonym because, well, that’s what I do.

In the summer of 1994, around the time that Damian was learning to walk, I took up the unicycle. It was something I had always wanted to do as a kid and, well, what better way to empathize with the kid?

It was hard to buy a unicycle back in those days. Today it’s easy: simply visit, plunk down a credit card, wait for the guy in the brown truck, you’re ready to go! But I bought my first unicycle from George Quigley, proprietor of Quigley Bicycles in Manville, New Jersey. George, an ex-bicycle racer from days of yore, had an iconic 24-inch Schwinn, unassembled, in a dusty old box that looked as though it had not seen the light of day for years. I wanted to take it home, assemble it and play, but Mr. Quigley was insistent; he promised to have it assembled and ready for me the next day. And he did. (Sadly, George passed some years back and the building that once held his shop was razed for new development.)

Today the Harleys keep company in the garage with two unicycles. My old 24-inch Schwinn is built like a tank and will likely outlast me. In June 1999 I added a Coker Big One – a 36-inch wheel. The extra 12 inches of diameter add considerable speed and range. I’ve customized it with an air seat and 150mm cranks. It goes way faster than I can run. Just think about the implications of that for a second.

In August 1999 I joined other unicyclists, and rode the Coker the length of Long Beach Island, New Jersey, a fundraiser for the Alliance For A Living Ocean. (The ALO site seems a little bit ill-maintained these days…) It’s a fairly long ride (well, for this old guy, anyway) on one wheel but I’ve taken the annual ride a few times. There are a few pictures from the first Unithon as well as the fourth.

In recent years I haven’t been riding the unicycles much at all. I guess I should work on that.

There are two questions that every one asks when they see someone on a unicycle. The first, of course: “Where’s your other wheel?” The second: “Hey, that’s pretty cool – so can you juggle?” And back then I couldn’t, so I decided to do something about it.

The Klutz book to the rescue! The book comes with 3 square cloth beanbags (walnut shells, not beans, actually). For a time those bags accompanied me just about everywhere I went. Innocent passersby were often the unintended victims my bad throws. That was April 1996.

My skills improved some and my arsenal of props grew to include rings, a variety of clubs, some glow-in-the-dark stuff, even – gasp – tiny an anvil for jugglinganvils. That black area across the top of the image in the background is the bottom of an IBM keyboard. See? They aren’t that big. Enough to break a toe, though, or injure small animals.

In the summer of 2003 I collected my nerve and added torches to my repertoire. If you think that throwing fire is exciting from a spectator perspective you ought to see it from the other side. It’s hot – as expected – but it’s also loud as the flames whoosh by your head. My neighbors have become accustomed to seeing me light ’em up from time to time.

I’m happy to point anyone that cares to the best place in the world to purchase juggling gear, Brian Dubé in New York City.

Splatter StratAs a kid I played guitar. I’ve got a nice 1958 Gibson LG1 to show for it. Okay, maybe nice is debatable – an encounter with a 427 Ford crankshaft (don’t ask) back in the 1970’s left a scar on its face. Still plays well and sounds fine. So one day I was in Sam Ash with my son to buy some drum sticks and I spotted a Splatter Strat on clearance. The rest, ahem, is history.

Jammin' at Digital Life, 2007
Jammin’ at Digital Life, 2007

In winter I play some most every day. But in the summer? Nope. At this rate I should be good by… well, maybe never. I’m still having fun, though, and that’s all that counts.

At the 2007 Digital Life show in New York City I couldn’t pass up a chance to play a little with one of the most celebrated guitars in the whole world, the Gibson Les Paul. Doesn’t it look like I’m having the time of my life? Today I’ve got one of my own.

I’ve since added an Ibanez bass to the collection.

And trust me, you don’t want to hear me sing.

the Godfather of Soul

Rick Plavnicky
   Just more betterer.

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