This afternoon I wandered aimlessly from my place through Hipster Hook and along various side-streets in Brooklyn when I chanced upon this:
I simply had to stop. After all, how often does one see old bicycles and wheels posted above an entrance to an estaminet with a Pabst Blue Ribbon neon sign in the window?
For years, I’ve been hearing about the “bike cafes” and “bike bars” in Portland and a few other places. A few have opened here in New York during the past two or three years. I’ve been to a couple such places. It was a bit difficult to see inside the windows of Red Lantern Bicycles on Myrtle Avenue, just a few blocks from the Brooklyn Academy of Music. But once I stepped inside, I felt as if I could hang out there all day.
At the bar, a friendly young man named Bradford held court. I ordered a French-press coffee, even though I normally don’t drink coffee these days. I could have ordered a cappuccino (which I occasionally drink) as well as other kinds of coffee- and tea- based beverages or a variety of beers they had on tap and in bottles. They also make their own almond milk and other kinds of non-dairy beverages which can be added to your coffee or tea.
I parked my bike and sauntered around the store, where I met Chombo. I did a double-take: For a moment, I thought I’d stepped back about 30 years and met a young Frank Chrinko, the proprietor of Highland Park Cyclery, where I worked. While his appearance was similar, Chombo’s demeanor was very different: Outgoing and articulate, he patiently explained why one crankset was more expensive than another and what, exactly, would be involved in the fixed-gear conversion a customer was considering for his Fuji from the same era in which I worked at Highland Park Cyclery.
One enters the store in the bar/café area; the bike shop is in the back. But they seem to work together very well; while one or two customers seemed to be there strictly for one or the other, most seemed to flow between the two, as I did.
While I was there, a young woman named Raven entered with two of her friends. “I’m not really a cyclist,” she demurred, almost apologetically. I tried to reassure her that there was no need to explain herself that way: She is riding a bike; that is what matters. And, to my mind, no one with her sense of style has to apologize for anything!
Somehow it made sense that I would meet her and her friends, Zack and Mary, at Red Lantern.