by BikeSnobNYC, June 11, 2010 10:39 AM
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.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my book at this point, seeing as how this is a bookstore website and if you're reading this, you're almost certainly interested in books. (Either that, or you were doing an Internet search for "babies with beards" and you wound up here.) While in many ways my book grew out of my blog, it was important to me not to simply reiterate it in book form. Instead, I wanted to express how cycling, or really anything you love, can be a path to understanding yourself and the world, and ultimately to happiness — assuming, of course, that the thing you love is valid, which I think cycling most certainly is, despite what this guy has to say.
What a complete fruitcake.
Anyway, I will leave it to readers to judge whether I've succeeded, but judging from this comment on a recent article about me in the Philadelphia Inquirer, anticipation of the book has reached a fever pitch:
Sounds like someone is a buddy of Weiss. Why else they be plugging a book that no one else has heard of? I won't be buying it. Weiss and his snobbery are something I deal with from them on a daily basis. Weiss won't be getting richer off of my $16.95
I am honored to be the object of an economic boycott.
Thank you very much for reading, and I hope to see you on the 20th.
by BikeSnobNYC, June 10, 2010 10:25 AM
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.
On closer inspection, though, it could be that this whole solar freakout isn't such a bad thing. Apparently, "smart power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications can all be knocked out by intense solar activity." I'm assuming technology like cellphones will also be disrupted. I use my cellphone as much as anybody, and I get as annoyed as anybody when mine doesn't work, but I think if all of our cellphones stopped working at once, it would be more of a reprieve than an inconvenience. After all, humanity got along just fine without all this technology — apart from the regional wars, world wars, genocide, disease, colonization, tyranny, and subjugation. Still, at least when you were in the hold of a slave ship, being forced to help build a pyramid, or hanging from a crucifix, the guy next to you wasn't yammering away on his cell.
But the big winners here are the editors at Space.com, who broke this story. If you told somebody back in 1969 (the year man first landed on the Moon) that in 2010 there would be this thing called the Internet, and a website called Space.com, they would imagine it to be filled with fascinating stories: "Superbowl XLIV to Take Place in the Sea of Tranquility"; "Martian Condominiums Now Open"; "Humans and Andromedians Celebrate 20 Years of Peaceful Coexistence." Instead, nothing interesting has happened in space since then, and Space.com now runs stories like "No Culprit Found in NASA Cocaine Investigation" and "Man Accused of Stealing Sally Ride's Flight Suit." Given this, the solar freakout is nothing less than a godsend.
Meanwhile, in other science news, archaeologists found a really old shoe in Armenia. Fortunately, it wasn't a sandal
by BikeSnobNYC, June 9, 2010 10:45 AM
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:"
What does "The exquisite luxury of you" even mean? It sounds like something you'd say about underwear. In any case, the roads are increasingly full of these collagen-impregnated blobs that have managed to blend sports cars, sedans, trucks, hatchbacks, and station wagons without really offering the advantages of any of them. Mostly, they're just regular cars, only considerably more bulbous. It's like the auto makers have unilaterally decided to "trim the fat" from all their past designs, only instead of discarding it they're using it to make a new type of car constructed entirely of blubber. It's basically vehicular "fat grafting."
An even more disturbing embodiment of our tendency to use only the flabby parts of the buffalo is the sandal boot, or boot sandal. Here's a pair I spotted while waiting at a red light recently:
These started to appear on the streets a few years ago. I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing then, and I'm amazed to find they're still in use. Presumably, in some shoe laboratory somewhere, a scientist yearned for a breakthrough, but realized it had all been done: loafers; pumps; captoe oxfords; stilettos; galoshes; boat shoes; waders; spiked golf shoes; outdoor soccer shoes; indoor soccer shoes; cycling cleats; climbing shoes; aqua socks; those creepy split-toe sneakers that give you a "foot wedgie"; clearly every single conceivable form of footwear had already been invented, every need and whim more than adequately addressed. So, he decided that his fortune lay not in creation but in destruction, and he set about devising a summer shoe that would render the foot hot and funky like it would be in a boot, yet bare and vulnerable like it would be in a sandal. Clearly, he succeeded. Pure evil, the sandal boot is a single type of shoe that negates and invalidates two other types at once. Such was the peculiar and diabolical nature of his genius.
In my nightmare, I ride down a vast urban boulevard. Crossover vehicles line the curbside. John Mayer is singing "The Exquisite Luxury of You," over and over in his skin-crawlingly breathy style. Suddenly, the doors of the vehicles all open simultaneously, and a thousand sandal-booted ankles emerge. I awake in horror, both my feet bathed in a cold
by BikeSnobNYC, June 8, 2010 10:45 AM
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.
Admittedly, though, the Become Your Dream drawer did spur me to think, and maybe that alone qualifies it as art — even if all I could think about was how much it pissed me off. This is because Become Your Dream isn't just corny advice; it's bad advice. Believing that you can simply click your heels three times and Become Your Dream is what's wrong with our culture. It caused the subprime mortgage crisis, it's the reason people drive cars so big they can't even see cyclists, and it's even the essence of the entire "hipster" phenomenon. Just picture some idealized version of yourself in your mind's eye, and then accessorize yourself to match. Everybody's a rock star with no band.
In truth, the best path to self-actualization is not to Become Your Dream; rather, it's to Live Your Nightmare. Nothing will teach you what you truly want like doing something you hate. The filmmaker in yesterday's post was just one in a succession of relentless, quirky, and egotistical taskmasters for whom I have toiled over the years. As a teenager, for example, I worked for a maniacal and bloodthirsty hardware store proprietor. Early in my tenure, he asked me to get him a bag from his station wagon. As I wrestled the full, 55-gallon, heavy-duty bin liner from the tailgate, a head lolled out from it, and I realized the bag was stuffed full of geese he had shot earlier in the day. He also used to take me down to the basement, which he'd then trash while cursing the other employees. It was like the basement was a hotel room and he was a one-man Led Zeppelin (albeit a Jewish Led Zeppelin who had been in the Navy).
"Cocksuckers!" he'd yell as he hurled boxes of sundries across the room. Then he'd make me clean it all up. He wasn't all bad, though. When the sex offender who'd once worked in the store got out of prison, my boss was considerate enough to hire him back — even though his "rehabilitation" was tenuous at best, and even though he'd acquired a frightening scar and matching nervous tic while in the "joint."
Looking back, all of these bosses now resolve themselves into a single, 10-armed, Kali-like being, eternally shouting "Cocksuckers!" and throwing debris at me across time and space. Far from being bitter, though, I'm actually quite grateful. If, down there in the basement, my boss had told me to Become My Dream instead of making me dodge flying boxes of garden hoses, I might never have resolved to do whatever I could not to wind up as miserable as he was. As for the sex offender, I made sure never to go downstairs with him under any
by BikeSnobNYC, June 7, 2010 10:59 AM
[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."
As it happened, the subject of this particular film was Nike, and in it the filmmaker badgers Nike co-founder and Chairman Phil Knight about their manufacturing practices. For this reason, the filmmaker had something special planned for our one-day Portland stop. The details of the actual presentation have long since dissolved from my mind like a black cherry cough drop in the salivating maw of time (it involved presenting a fake award on the local news), but I do clearly remember that upon landing at PDX, I had only a couple of hours to make the actual award. Basically, the filmmaker wanted me to get the biggest sneaker I could find, paint it in garish colors so that it looked like a hyperbolized Nike, and then use it as the basis for some sort of Oscar- or Grammy-esque statuette. As I understood it, this would somehow shame Phil Night into making a public apology, after which he would announce the company was moving production from Indonesia to Michigan and replacing Michael Jordan with Ralph Nader as their celebrity spokesman.
Having minimal artistic ability and no knowledge of Portland, I was at the mercy of a driver who, while good-natured, did not exactly share my sense of urgency when I told him that I needed him to help me find the necessary materials to build an ironic sneaker trophy. Clearly, he'd never worked in show business, nor did he appreciate the fact that this shoe would surely force Corporate America to grovel before the forces of self-righteous liberalism. Eventually, though, I somehow gathered a bunch of crap, set to work in my hotel room, and with a moment to spare, I presented the filmmaker with a Payless basketball high top covered in acrylic and glitter. It looked like it had been fingerpainted by a kindergardener with ADD.
"Be careful with it, it's still wet," I warned him as I handed it over right before he went on the air. Unfortunately, he had already smeared purple paint on his sweater.
Though nothing was said, I knew that I had fallen considerably in his estimation. Later that night, after the screening, he confirmed this when he gratuitously sent me off in search of more bottled water while he hobnobbed with noted Portlander Gus Van Sant. Incidentally, Gus Van Sant had not yet fallen in the public's estimation — he was still basking in the success of Good Will Hunting, and the world had yet to see his wildly unnecessary Psycho remake or hear Sean Connery utter the words, "You're the man now, dog." I, on the other hand, was far from being "the man now, dog." At best, I was a Ricola monkey with sub-par shoe-bedazzling skills.
For this reason, it was a tremendous pleasure for me to return to Portland with the twin luxuries of time and a bicycle, and without an onerous boss. I did, however, take a bit too much pleasure in the improvement of my circumstances by reveling in the misery of others. For example, at the grocery store, I always asked the checker for a bag. In my experience, nothing pains Portlanders like excessive shopping bag consumption. You'd think I was asking them to kill a