February 16th, 2008


Sheldon Brown

In December, I bought a single-speed bike from a guy on Craigslist and started using it as my regular commuter, then switched it to fixed-gear (flip-flop hub) in January. My interest in single-speed riding started with an article by Sheldon Brown, which I happened across a few years ago while reading his pages on bike maintenance. I've consulted them every few weeks for one reason or another for at least five years.

I had never gone to Harris Cyclery, where he worked, since West Newton is a fair bit out of the way and there are many fine bike shops closer; but the guy who sold me the bike threw in a lock, to which he couldn't find the key, and promised he would keep an eye out for it. He found it, and we made plans to get together this weekend in Newton.

I thought it would then be a good time to stop by Harris Cyclery as well, to thank Sheldon for his advice and maybe get some more while I was there. But when I visited their site to find directions just now, I saw that Sheldon Brown had died.

(If you knew him, I guess this is not news; it was more than a week ago.)

By all appearances he lived as good a life as one could hope for; and though there were painful parts, he kept his good humor and kept writing for us all. Many people will remember him. There are not very many things I regret more than that I did not go out and meet him when I had the chance.



Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart's heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,
Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire
In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul's sap quivers. There is no earth smell
Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time
But not in time's covenant. Now the hedgerow
Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom
Of snow, a bloom more sudden
Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading,
Not in the scheme of generation.
Where is the summer, the unimaginable
Zero summer?
—T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding
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