Also, I’ve reestablished contact with the WWII veterans’ group that gave me the info on my Uncle Bob’s. After posting Ghosts at the Dinner Table, I contacted the webmaster of my uncle's fighter group, the 506th, and squadron, the 457th. He wrote me that the son of one of the vet's sent this:
My dad's flight log has the following listing for Black Friday [when my uncle went missing] - "Three groups aborted due to weather, my wing man Robert Klippel is missing along with four other in 457th."The 506th Fighter Group historian also got in touch. He provided me names and contact info of the last four surviving members of his squadron. So I’m planning to get in touch with them to see if they remember him. I know it's not much. But it's a lot for me - my mother has never given me many details and I was too young to ask the right questions of my grandmother.
Then at the beginning of this week I was out in DeKalb consulting at Northern Illinois University. The International Training Office there is hosting a group of 12 Muslim leaders from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in the Philippines. They’re here for 3 weeks to learn about US majority-minority relations in order to strengthen their own democratic institutions in Mindanao. I’ll be going back the beginning of next week to finish up my consulting on dialogue and peacebuilding.
I’ve also been doing a hell of a lot of biking with my college buddy, Dave, who lives in my building. We rode in the monthly Critical Mass in Chicago, the last Friday of every month, and Evanston, the first Friday of every month. He’s becoming quite the bike mechanic. He’s got three beater bikes and a relatively new hybrid that he’s been tooling with on the back deck of his apartment. He's even been showing me how to tool up my Raleigh Gazelle. It’s amazing just how easy is actually is especially when I realize that I’ve been paying bike mechanics to do really simple things like change a tire for $20.
The only thing that neither of us has tackled is the Sturmey-Archer Three Speed Hub. Dave downloaded the specs from the web. It’s easily the most challenging piece of machinery on any three speed bike. A highly complicated set of nested bearing rings looks like a highly engineered model of the solar system. If you have trouble with it most mechanics won’t open it up. Instead they’ll tell you just to get a replacement. But the trouble is definitely worth it. These hubs are virtually indestructable since everything, being internal, is protected from the environment. Besides, who needs more than three speeds for the flat streets of Chicago?
He’s now working on bikes for other folks in the building as well as some of his friends as well. His back deck has quickly become beater bike central for the neighborhood. And about every other week, we go down to the Working Bikes Co-operative in the 900 block of south Western Ave to get parts and drool over the 20,000+ bikes they have collected from around the city. It basically offers cheap bikes and parts for folks on the south and west sides, then uses the money to bring cheap bikes to developing countries in Central America and West Africa. Working Bikes is so successful that folks are setting up similar bike co-operatives in Evanston and the other ‘burbs around Chicago.
Finally, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’ve become such a bike booster. I expect that will be the topic of my next posting. In the meantime, check out my amateur attempts at artistry using Adobe Photoshop 5.5 I hope you get the message %)