30 December 2013

The Light Of The Red Lantern

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.

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