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Author Archive: "BikeSnobNYC"

In Conclusion

Today is Friday, which means my stint here at Powell's is drawing to a close. I plan to take the weekend to collect myself and my thoughts, after which I will embark upon my next "guest blogging" appearance at the Martha Stewart Living website. I don't want to give anything away, but I'll be focusing on making macaroni art.

I'm also looking forward to appearing at Powell's on Sunday, June 20th. I should mention, though, that the 20th is also my first-ever Father's Day, and so I can't promise that I won't spend at least part of my appearance crying into a World's Greatest Dad mug. I only hope that my new son and I still recognize each other when I return. "They grow up fast," everyone keeps telling me, and I'd be pretty creeped out to get home and find the kid has grown a beard during my absence.

Here Comes the Sun: Good Day for Science, Bad Day for Mankind

This morning began like any other. I awoke to the familiar tap of my pet macaw Wilbur's beak on my forehead. Once roused, I mounted my human-powered "blendercycle" and made my customary wheatgrass shake, which I then poured into a bowl of Froot Loops. Sitting down with my breakfast and a big glass of Mello Yello, I switched on my computer and saw a headline that caused me to coat my monitor with a rainbow-hued spray of masticated cereal:

"More Active Sun Means Nasty Solar Storms Ahead," it announced.

Indeed, while millions of barrels of oil pour into the Gulf of Mexico, it would seem that our trusted sun intends to pre-empt BP by laying waste to the Earth. The message from everybody's favorite life-giving star is clear: "If anyone's going to destroy humanity around here, it's going to be me."

Fortunately for us, "top sun scientists met Tuesday." After making a bunch of inside solar-themed jokes in order to break (or, more accurately, melt) the ice, they discussed "the best ways to protect Earth's satellites and other vital systems from the coming solar storms." As far as how to protect Earth's humans from the coming solar storms, presumably the subject never came up. Maybe they should team up with BP, who seem to have a talent for slathering the Earth with unctuous substances. If they can do with SPF 50 what they're doing with 10W30, perhaps we will all be spared.

Shoddily Shod Society: The Luxury of Shoe

As the author of a book (it's called Bike Snob, and it includes drawings and stickers, which is a hell of a lot more than you can say about anything by Cormac McCarthy ), I'm fortunate enough that people actually want to interview me. Actually, it's probably more accurate to say that my publisher, Chronicle, cajoles them into interviewing me. Nevertheless, I've been going on the radio a lot, and I've been answering questions.

Inevitably, in the course of these interviews, some variation of the "Drivers Vs. Cyclists" debate arises. Despite the fact that both vehicles are undeniably useful and are indeed quite compatible and complementary, most people seem unable to conceive of a world in which cars and bicycles coexist peacefully. My thoughts as to why this is go beyond the purview of this blog, but the short version is that such people are idiots.

But while people cannot embrace something as fundamental and practical as shared roads and instead tend to ally themselves with a single form of transportation with the tenacity of religious fundamentalists, they are more than willing to accommodate the most hideous and useless hybrid abominations. This is because, as human beings, we are parochial when it comes to sharing, but we are ecumenical when it comes to buying. We want it all, even if it costs us everything. One example of this is the "crossover vehicle:"

“Become Your Dream,” Demands Pretentious Litterer

Recently I was walking along a Manhattan street (my bicycle was at the dry cleaners) when I encountered a drawer that someone had divorced from its chest and placed upright on the sidewalk. On this drawer, in black marker, it said, "Become Your Dream."

For a moment I thought this was whimsical and amusing, but the more I thought about it the angrier I got. I don't like signs that tell me what to do (traffic signs excluded — those are genuinely useful) and I definitely don't like unsolicited advice from strangers. This was a combination of both. Moreover, it was advice of the most smug and trite kind — gloating masquerading as compassion. "Become this!" I was tempted to reply while indicating my groin, though fortunately I stopped myself before anybody caught me goading a piece of bedroom furniture.

Of course, this being New York City, I had a feeling that what I had seen wasn't just some random scribbling on garbage. Sure enough, when I plugged the phrase "Become Your Dream" into a popular search engine, I learned that this drawer (as well as lots of other similarly inscribed bits of refuse) was in fact the work of James De La Vega, whom Salon.com once called "probably the most revered street artist in New York." Yes, this city is just unfair that way; De La Vega is lauded as brilliant, whereas the building superintendent who writes "Take Me" on an old air conditioner and leaves it on the curb continues to toil in anonymity.

Memories like Lozenges: Remembrances of Portland

[Editor's Note: BikeSnobNYC will read at Powell's City of Books on Sunday, June 20th at 7:30pm. Click here for more details.]

Last October, I was fortunate enough to visit Portland, the home of Powell's, and I wrote an article about my trip in some magazine that appeals to the kinds of people who drive Subarus and who wear climbing apparel and "technical footwear" to Whole Foods. However, while I consider that my first time in Portland, the truth is I visited once before. I just don't count that visit because it was only for a day and I didn't have a bicycle with me. This is sort of like how some people choose not to consider that painfully awkward sexual encounter where it "sort of went in" to be their First Time. So as far as I'm concerned, until the fall of 2009, I was a Portland virgin.

I do, however, often think back to my actual first Portland visit. It was 1998. The Goo Goo Dolls filled the airwaves; people filled the theaters to see Titanic (directed by James Cameron, this now-forgotten film was the prequel to Avatar); Bill Clinton still insisted he had not had sex with that woman; and I was working for a well-known rotund liberal documentary filmmaker.

My job was to travel around the country with this filmmaker while he screened his latest movie, and my responsibilities consisted mostly of getting yelled at by the studio, getting yelled at by his production company, getting yelled at by him, and constantly plying him with bottled water and Ricola throat lozenges so that his voice did not fail him during interviews (or while he yelled at me). Ricola duty was especially difficult because I was under strict orders never to allow the soothing droplets to pass through an airport X-ray machine. (The filmmaker was convinced that if they did, they would become irradiated and carcinogenic, giving him throat cancer.) If I accidentally left the Ricola package in my bag and it did go through, I had to discard it and immediately procure a fresh one, since he was liable to request a Ricola at any time and to be caught without meant censure or worse.

After awhile, though, I learned to lie when he looked at the Ricolas suspiciously.

"Have these been through the X-ray machine?"


To this day I am haunted by that "Riii-co-laa!" jingle from the commercials, and I live in fear that I'll one day see the news headline: "Noted Documentarian Ailing With Throat Cancer."

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