I am bloggin' today, from a hotel room in L.A., which rhymes, one of the few good things about my current situation. Maybe I should say a few things about Thoreau and travel, given that I am traveling. Thoreau took the train. People think he just walked, and he liked to walk; he walked every day. But he was not anti-train. He was interested in the fact that, when the train came to town, everything suddenly went on the schedule of the train. That's the thing about technology. You can use it, or you can allow it to use you. That, I think, is Thoreau's point. People are always acting as if Thoreau was a Luddite, when in fact he was an engineer, inventing for his father's pencil company, which, as was noted in a recent review of The Thoreau You Don't Know
, is like Don DeLillo
being involved in the creation of Microsoft Word.
I have been dealing with transportation a lot lately, thinking about biking, in particular. I live in Brooklyn, New York, but when I lived in Portland, I was so pleased to come to a place that was getting into biking. I remember that when the bike lane went in on Broadway, in Portland, in the nineties, I thought I was in a bikers' paradise, riding to my office downtown and watching the clouds in the West Hills, aka the Tualatin Mountains. Jeff Mapes' new book, Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities, is being talked about in New York City, where he spoke last week, and people are realizing that as far as bikes go, we have to do more of what Portland has done and is doing. (Here's the notice from Streetsblog, America's number-one public spaces internet forum.) This means, essentially, taking back some of the public space that was given over to the automobile in the 1950s. I have recently written about bike etiquette, a sticky topic.
That's a question of what is common, and what are The Commons — the things that we all share, that private profit ought not desecrate. Thoreau talked a lot about commons, pitching himself as what he called an extra vagrant, a phrase that, if you think about it, gets better and better.
Here's this about the idea of commons:
Meanwhile, I am just getting word that the president is here in L.A. Is he following me? No, he is doing The Tonight Show. Wierdly, I have to be over there to see a movie. How will I get through traffic? What is the bus situation? Where is my bike? I wish I had a Brompton! I wish every bike store had this cool Portland-based bike cam.