If you travel regularly by bicycle, you may have noticed that the way others behave towards you can seem cyclical. Sometimes, you're in a positive cycle, during which other cyclist wave at you, motorists afford you the respect you deserve, and riding a bicycle seems like just about the best way to get around since the "riding ostrich." Other times, you're in a negative cycle, in which every cyclist you encounter is a salmon barreling right at you, motorists revile you and buzz you, and you fantasize about moving out to the country and starting a riding ostrich farm.
Of course, it's not always easy to tell whether the world is in fact conspiring against you, or you're projecting your own foul mood onto your surroundings, or it's simply a little bit of both. Regardless, I couldn't help feeling as though I'd entered a negative cycle yesterday when I set out to ride into the "big city" in order to take care of some "business." The first indication was when I encountered a double-parked truck or van of some kind.
When you ride (or drive) in New York City, double-parked cars, trucks, and vans are simply a fact of life. They pick up and disgorge passengers, they transport bedbug-ridden furniture, and increasingly they deliver gourmet groceries to people who can't be bothered to go to the supermarket. In any case, as inconvenient as they can be, you'd think circumventing them would be a relatively straightforward proposition for all involved. Let's say, for example, you're a douchey bike blogger, there's a double-parked car in front of you, and there's another car that's well behind you:
Now, you can't pass it on the right because there's not enough room and/or there's a bedbug-ridden sofa coming out of it. Therefore, logic would dictate that you instead pass it on the left:
Then, the driver of the car that's quite a ways behind you also passes it on the left:
What could be simpler?
Well, unfortunately, that's not how it works here in practice. Instead, what actually happens is that you pass the car, but the driver who's a little ways behind you is disgusted by the double-parked car, the douchebag on the bicycle, and, most of all, himself for reasons that probably go far beyond simple traffic inconveniences and instead involve things like sexual dysfunction and health problems due to an exceedingly poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. So, the driver beeps at you and yells at you from behind his closed window for reasons you don't quite understand, but which you assume have to do with the fact that he wanted to mash on his pedal and pass everybody and everything in one burst of horsepower. Also, he does so in the middle of the cellphone conversation he's having, which is prohibited by New York State law.
So now you're simultaneously riled and depressed after having been yelled at by a fellow human being for no good reason. Fortunately, though, the new bi-directional lime green bike lanes of the Great Hipster Silk Route are near, and you look forward to finding solace in them. Unfortunately, as you enter the new bi-directional lime green bike lane, the stocky fellow in the Aqua & Sapone jersey who doesn't realize it's bi-directional and is riding towards you right in the middle of it curses you out in a language you don't understand.
Now, I can understand his confusion, since these lanes are pretty new and if you've been riding in the city for a long time you're sometimes tempted to continue following the old patterns that are imprinted in your brain. I'm sure that was the case with him, and that I was in effect "salmoning" through his vestigial memory banks. Still, at a certain point you've got to read the writing on the wall (or in this case the little pictures of bikes and arrows painted on the street) and adjust. The truth is, you can't keep living in the past--and believe me, I've tried, but they just don't build ziggurats the way they used to.
Then again, since I didn't understand his language maybe he wasn't cursing at me at all. Maybe he was just apologizing really vehemently. Or, maybe he had materialized through a wormhole from the pre-bike lane days, which would explain the Aqua & Sapone jersey.
Anyway, it was getting to be one of those days where you feel like the world is rejecting you like a cirrhosis patient rejecting a donor liver. I wondered if it was indeed I who was "out of step," as Ian MacKaye used to shout from between his Pantani-eque ears, and if I should instead just move to some sort of slow-moving rural backwater like Portland, Oregon. Then I mounted the Williamsburg Bridge, where I started to think more positively and told myself, "At least I'm not riding a skateboard," since they seem to be getting the worst of it:
Incidentally, it's worth noting that the skater figure is sort of "scissoring" the pedestrian.
Meanwhile, I was correspondencing with my newleywed blogleague Stevil Kinevil, the esteemed operator of the "All Hail The Black Market" Internet destination and family fun factory, and he shared with me the following video starring respected framebuilder Dario Pegoretti:
In it, he talks a lot about how steel smells:
Having already seen the preview for this film, I'm pleased to report that the finished product should more than meet your expectations (assuming your expectations involve poetic descriptions about how metal smells). I can also say that this film has had a profound affect on me. You see, I've never owned a custom bicycle. This isn't because I don't want one--far from it. Like any cyclist I would love to own a bicycle made just for me by a highly skilled craftsperson. Furthermore, I always thought that, one day, when I had the time and the means, I would treat myself to a handmade bicycle that I could ride and enjoy for years to come.
In my custom bike fantasy, I imagined that getting my custom bike would be a moment of joy, perhaps even a rite of passage in my cycling life--sort of like a Bar Mitzvah mixed with winning an Emmy. Now though I realize what will happen is that a wine-soused Italian man will grab me by my neck and force my face into a stack of frame tubing and command me to "Smell, smell!," and when I cannot adequately articulate why the scent is exquisite (because I have a cold perhaps, or because I just don't understand what he's talking about) he'll whack me on the shin with a downtube and then put his cigarette out in my eye. It's obvious to me now that I am indeed a total "pussy" and thus not cut out for custom bike ownership, and that a life of Scattante palpage is my cruel and pathetic fate.
I guess I'll have to settle for an adult Bar Mitzvah, or else hope that my treatment for "The Dario Pegoretti Show" gets picked up and the series receives an Emmy nod.
Speaking of frightening things, singing person Katy Perry recently "hit up" New York City in order to either do some urban cyclocross or else rob a bodega (from the photos it's difficult to tell for sure):
While I'm glad to see she's riding, I must admit I liked it better when she was on "Sesame Street" in the infamous "My First Erection" episode:
("My eyes are up here, Elmo.")
I do think it's a shame Katy Perry can't ride a bike in New York City without being harassed by the press; if that weren't the case then maybe more celebrities could ride instead of being chauffeured around in huge SUVs. Meanwhile, in the most cruel bit of irony, while Perry attempts to escape the paparazzi, actor and aspiring cycling advocate Matthew Modine is across the street shouting "I'm over here!" and doing some "portaging" of his own:
We know you are, Matthew. We know.