Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I usually am sure to describe myself as a biker, not a cyclist. "What's the difference?" some people ask me. I frown, thinking about it for a moment, and respond, "Lycra."

Though I'll probably get some before too long.

Anyway, I am a biker and a musician. These two conflict sometimes, like on those lazy Saturdays when I do some bike-tinkering and then want to play guitar. I can't get grease on my guitar strings, so I must scrub my hands clean, but that leaves my fingertips so soft. What to do?

In other fingertip and bike/music conflict news, I almost severed the tip of my left index finger. There is a danger (warning, injury pictures) to not paying attention when working on a fixed gear drive train, but we all think, meh, that won't happen to me.

Well, it happened to me. Fortunately, I didn't lose any bits of finger, though I came uncomfortably close. My fingertip is healing back together, though it feels rough and thickly calloused - almost as though I have lost some feeling in the very tip of my finger. I can't fret with it yet, but I hope that I won't have lost anything when I'm able to play with it.

Especially important because I've gotten my low-level (high quality low fidelity!) home recording setup up and running, and I have all these new ideas, and would like to spend some of the winter making records.

In other news, the holiday season has clutched us, which means it's time for another edition of How Can I Put A Long Weekend's Worth Of Clothing Into A Midsized Shoulderbag And Make It To Another Region of the Tri State Area Safely, Soundly, and Well-(enough)-Dressed?

Maybe it's time to not take the bike to New Jersey...


Thursday, December 14, 2006

i was bouncing in my seat all day at work yesterday. a big package had been shipped and i was to pick it up not far from my office after work. a big, exciting package. i tried to play games of patience but they weren't working - by 2 PM i was already ready to bolt, and i'm usually not so antsy so early! i finally left and walked to the pickup address and got a big box, bigger than i thought it would be. it was awkwardly large, difficult to carry; i took it to the subway and had to be very careful - with it hoisted on a shoulder i kept bumping the box against awnings, cielings, and just anything hanging.

games of patience... the metrocard machine wouldn't take my debit card after repeated swipes and i had no cash - what was i to do? finally, another machine accepted it. i got on a train. i got a seat and kept the box close by, with my hand on it, so that it wouldn't fall over. good - my shoulder and arms were tired from the walk to the train station.

my stop. another spell of wrestling with the box, which is like a sail in the wind, hoisted on my shoulder. down the stairs from the elevated train, across the street, and to my apartment.

i set it down on the floor of the living room and look at it for a second, trying real hard to resist the kid-at-christmas phenomenon. i put my keys down and take off my jacket, and i have to go to the bathroom. games of patience. then i take a knife and carefully cut off the tape. games of patience. it takes some wrangling to get the box apart, and when i do, it takes some further wrangling to take out this mass of bubblewrap and paperwrap. games of patience. slowly i unwrap what i can, using the knife where i need to. and then, there, in the middle of my living room, sits a Pogliaghi Italcorse from the early 1970s.

My future Sunday Rider.


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Monday, December 11, 2006

on Saturday, i went to a memorial ride for Eric Ng, a local cyclist and activist who was killed a little over a week ago by, outrageously enough, a drunk driver driving on a bike path that is physically and significantly seperated from the road. it was really moving - the quiet, somber procession of hundreds of bikers through the village to the spot on the greenway where he was killed, and then friends saying words to honor Eric's memory. "Love and rage," one yelled into the air. Some stood stoney-faced, dark-eyed; others cried. Eric's friends held each other and sung, "go to sleep you little baby..." in the middle of the huge crowd of people standing around the bicycle, chained to a tree, painted white, adorned with flowers. And the strangers, we stood on the edges, watching.

A news reporter was there, interviewing a few people, and I paniced and edged away, afraid of being interviewed as somebody who did not know the person who died. I didn't want to come across - to other people or to myself - as a consumer of the event; this forced me to confront why I was there, and I did, quietly, to myself.

Brian McGloin has got some beautiful photos of the memorial ride.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

This morning's commute:
19 degrees Farenheit.
Winds at 26 mph, gusting to 35 mph.
1 degree with the wind chill.


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Monday, December 04, 2006

Two items of horror have come to my attention recently.

1. Eric Ng, a biker and Times Up! volunteer, was riding on the west side greenway - considered by many to be the safest place to bike in the city, set apart from automobile traffic except for a handful of intersections. Eugenio Cidron, drunkenly driving his BMW from a Canon Corporation holiday party to his home in the East Village, drove for over a mile along the bike path and killed Eric Ng. I'm tired of reading and thinking about this. Gothamist has the story, and Bikeforums.net has the sad reactions of some in the bicycling community.

2. Jennifer Stark, a nineteen year old girl with an already length history of being an asshole behind the wheel of an automobile, was convicted of "improper lane usage" and fined $1000 for an incident wherein she, while downloading ringtones for her cell phone, drove off the road and into a cyclist named Matt Wilhelm, killing him. Bikeforums has some links and some of the outrage.

Some people use incidents like this to call for the incarceration of automobile drivers who are involved in the death of a cyclist. Noteworthy is Kill A Cyclist, Get Ten Years, which is linked to the Fixed Gear Gallery." But as one poster on bikeforums said, it's a tragedy, not a crime. The underlying issue here is not that drivers have a willful disregard for life, but rather that our economy's development of the automobile as an omnipresent part of life, and our cities' construction around the transmission of people via the automobile (combined with general irresponsibility, senses of entitlement, and extreme reluctance to accept anything less than the pinacle of comfort) constitute a willful disregard for life. We accept a world where people are killed by cars every day, and yet streets are built wider, freeways faster, pedestrian spaces fewer. If ever there was an example of diminishing returns, this is it. All we get is more traffic, more deaths, more pollution, more petroleum reliance - all this much to the detriment of other parts of our lives. Streetsblog has continuing coverage of the movement for a safer, more liveable New York City, and Transportation Alternatives is on top of advocacy for a sensible transportation strategy in NYC; Time's Up! takes care of the bicycling advocacy and community gardens.

I'm really saddened by a lot of the bullshit gets thrown around around this subject, so I want to make some things clear to anybody reading these words:
*This should not dissuade you from riding your bike any more than the omnipresent threat of auto accidents dissuade you from driving or walking on sidewalks.
*Bikers need safe, bike-specific infrastructure.
*Automobile traffic needs to be reduced.
*Promoting pedestrian spaces increases economic activity, happiness, and decreases pollution.

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In an ongoing conversation with myself about how to deal with life and time, I realized that last year, in quiet little Bridgeport, I felt that the days were far too long; now, in the big and busy new york city, they're far too short. my need for private space, i realize, is manifested in how i view the world around me - see the last entry as my moment of finding time, space, and quiet in a city that hides that all very well. In fact, it does more than hide it; sometimes it convinces me that it's not there.

In a state of perpetual vagabondery I seek to create routines; routines become overwhelming and I seek to break them. I feel as though I'm filling up my days, which perhaps should come as no surprise as the days shorten into December. I can chose between being bored and being tired, but boredom is tiresome and fatigue is wearying anyway.

And so the need for vacation, or spring, or both all at once, presents itself again.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Last night I found myself in the basement of Time's Up, drinking beer and wrenching on bikes a little bit, but mostly hanging out with some other bikers that I know.

The basement is crowded, packed with bikes, parts, and oddities. A bench that looks like it was once a pew is on one wall underneath a dozens of used and worn tires hanging from a rail; on the bench is a large hollow "subway" sign. One end of the room is taken up with bikes, lined up perpindicular to the wall, with many more hanging above. The room has more corners than I first noticed, where odd things are piled and stacked out of the way beneath more hanging bikes. There are a dozen bike forks on the wall, a large tool box, a mildly inexplicable ramp that rises 3" high to part of the cracked concrete floor, and a creaky stairway that rises to a bathroom that's little more than a closet.

While peeing I noticed that two of the bathroom walls were crumbling brick, like an unfinished exterior, which held a backalley magic that jumped out at me for moment, and for that moment I felt very happy. Pleased that there are still old, disreputable corners in New York City - quiet, mysterious pockets set back from the bustle. It seems to me that spending so much time on the crowded sidewalks or the avenues that penetrate the city with the imposition of the incessant automobile makes me forget that there are these out of the way moments that retain the beauty of the unfinished, the unseen, the worn, the entropic.

I don't intend to resort to the cliche of The Fast-Paced Life In The City That Never Sleeps, because it's not about the pace of life in the Big Apple. It's about the spaces that are given over to multiple lane monstrosities as places to wander around on foot shrink and shrink and shrink until you have to be peeing in a bicycle community center to find some small moment of hidden treasure.