05 March 2011

Biking Bauhaus

A warm, or at least mild, early March day.  And I spent a good part of it doing errands.  At least it was on my bike.

Is a day like this one a foreshadowing of the season that will soon come?  Or is it a respite from the long, wearying season we've been experiencing?  Or is it just a teaser?

What if days like this were labeled?  What if bikes were so labeled?  Some announce themselves as racing bikes, city bikes or "comfort tourers" (whatever they are) in the decals on their frames or other parts.  Nearly all bikes--even the ones that aren't so marked--are marketed under one designation or another.  

What if there were truth in advertising?  One bike might be labeled, "sound design, solid construction."  Another would have to say, "Ignores 140 years of accumulated wisdom."  Yet another would have to say, "Designed by art-school dropout on crystal meth."  

Or they could tell you what they offer.  "Arcane design and proprietary parts."  How would you like a bike that so announced itself?  "Plastic with a pretentious name."  Then there are those bikes that could tell us they offer a "comfortable ride," "speed" or, perhaps, "flawless shifting and braking."  They could take their inspiration from this:

That building is in my neighborhood, more or less.  I've always wondered whether "Cornice and Skylights" was an advertisement?  An announcement?  The name of the firm that built or manages it?

Whatever its story, it has nothing on this building on the eastern end of Long Island:

You guessed it: Ducks and duck eggs were sold inside this building by a duck farmer.  (Now there's a career!)  Now it's a museum or visitors' center or some such thing.  I'm not surprised, as the days when one could make, or order in a restaurant, a dinner consisting of duck, potatoes and vegetables from Long Island are long past. (Such a dinner could be had during my childhood.  The ingredients could even be bought at our neighborhood's Waldbaum supermarket.)

Hmm...Can you imagine a bike shop or factory shaped like the product made or sold inside?  Is that Bauhausian?  Or some other -ian?  Or Ian?


  1. I think it's some other -ian, though I don't know which! ...much to my shame as I am an art school dropout (though not on crystal meth).

    In Maine, there is (of course) a similar structure shaped like a gigantic blueberry.

    Very sad about the disappearance of the duck dinner...

  2. Good post! and funny enough, I think I saw that duck building featured on a TV show a few years back... its a small world sometimes!

  3. Velouria: We were living in Brooklyn when those dinners could be had or made. So the duck, potatoes and vegetables didn't have to travel more than two hours to get to the stores in our neighborhood.

    Thanks for reminding me about the Maine blueberry.

    Historical footnote: The Long Island Rail Road (To this day, "Rail Road" is two separate words.) began in the 1830's to bring Long Island produce into Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan. In fact, the Rail Road's Long Island City terminus, which is about a mile and a half from where I live, was a point at which the produced was moved from trains to boats that took the produce into Manhattan.

    Paddy Anne: You may well have seen that building on TV. It's often featured in articles and programs about roadside landmarks or architecture, or about Americana. (Buildings like the duck and the blueberry Velouria mentioned seem to be a particularly American phenomenon.)

  4. I was once asked to give my opinion on an art school student's dissertation on the "evolution of mountain bike design" and not one word was about the functionality of the bikes, it was all about fashion!