08 March 2015

Riding Again: Fino Alla Prossima...

The sun shone almost all day today.  People called in to report UFO sightings.

OK, I'm exaggerating just a little.  But it's been weeks, months even, since I've seen as much sun as we've seen today.  So, of course, I took a ride.

Oh, joy!  I get to ride two days in a row and neither of those rides are commutes or errands.  I'll admit, today's ride wasn't the toughest I've ever done.  But my lack of riding this winter showed on the hills in the north Bronx and Westchester County.  

Much of the snow has melted, but I still had to ride over patches of slush mixed with road salt, mud, gravel and the detritus of this season.Both Vera and Helene, my Mercian mixtes, have fenders.  But I've put new chains on both of them and didn't want to clean up their drivetrains all over again.   

Of course, I could blame the LeTour for the added effort I had to expend.  However, the truth of the matter is that I just need to ride more.  The cold is one thing.  But I just will not ride when there's a lot of ice on the streets, as there has been for the past few weeks.  It's one thing to slip and fall into a snowbank on the side of a trial; it's something else to slide and tumble in traffic.

Anyway, it felt so good to be riding again, just for the sake of riding, that I actually started to weep as I pedaled along a path that followed the ever-so-gentle curves--and jagged rocks--of the Bronx River from the Bronx into Westchester County.  Make what you will of that; it felt good, almost as good as the riding itself!

Along the way back, I saw this:

I'm always fascinated to see old signs painted on the sides of buildings. Were the folks who commissioned them seeking immortality?  Of course, I spent the rest of the ride wondering about "Fino, the fighting Congressman"--especially since "Fino" means "till" ("fino a" means "until")  in Italian.

Turns out, he had a really interesting career.  He represented his district for eight terms in the US Congress during the 1950's and 1960's.  Although he was a conservative Republican who introduced legislation to outlaw the Communist Party, he also supported Medicare (which began during his time in Congress), increases in Social Security benefits and financing for mass transit.  But perhaps his most novel idea of all was one he proposed in 1964:  a national lottery to raise revenue for hospitals.  When he proposed it, New Hampshire had just become the first state to authorize a lottery, something no state had during the previous seven decades.

Now that I've read about him, I think much of Fino's politics had at least a touch of class resentment:  At the time, his district consisted mainly of working-class Italian and Irish homeowners who, like him, didn't like the elitism they percieved in politicians like John Lindsay, who served as New York City's mayor during the last two terms Fino spent in Congress.  

What would he have made of someone like me riding a bike through his neighborhood on a day like today?

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