30 April 2019

Wearing A Sign To Send A Signal

Most of the time, cycling is good for your health.

There are moments, though, when it can raise your blood pressure, especially if you ride in traffic.

In such a moment, you might be riding as far to the right as you can in the traffic lane because there's no shoulder or bike lane.  It's night, and someone drives close enough to tear off the back of your glove.  Oh, and that car has it's high-beams on.  And the driver honks repeatedly.

If the driver acknowledges you, it's usually with a gesture they don't teach in etiquette classes or words they don't teach in basic English or Spanish or whatever-language classes. 

If Dani Motze hasn't experienced that exact scenario, I am sure she's experienced something just as scary and irksome.  The 28-year-old Reading, Pennsylvania resident says she's been harassed, followed and run off the road in 11 years of pedaling her city's streets.  Oh, and she's been hit by a car.  Another time, she was "grazed"--ironically, when she was on her way to a meeting about cycling.

So, a year ago she took to wearing a sign:

"May Use Full Lane--Change Lanes To Pass"

Her objective, she explains, is not to crusade for the right to ride in traffic. That's already canonized the laws of Pennsylvania, as in most other states.  Moreover, the Keystone State has a "four-foot rule", designating the berth drivers must give cyclists when passing them.  What she wants, she says is to "educate" motorists as well as cyclists.

Motze, who is a social worker and online magazine editor as well as a cycling advocate, says that what she wants is to take the lane in cities and towns, not on highways with 60 MPH speed limits.  That, really, is about as good as we can hope for in the absence of physically separated bike lanes with provisions for turning and crossing intersections.

She sometimes drives a car she shares with her husband.  But most of her commutes and errands are done on her bike, and she sometimes rides for pleasure.

How have drivers responded?  Some well, some not so much, she says.  But, for them most part, in the year Motze has been wearing the sign, "people have been passing me with no issue," she says.   

29 April 2019

Test Rider’s Remorse?

If someone were to steal your bike and bring it back a week later, what would you do?

If you are a bike shop owner and the machine came from your inventory, you most likely would call the cops, which would be understandable—and what Anthony Karambellas did.

He is the manager of The Cyclist shop in Costa Mesa, California.  A week earlier, Paul Verdugo Jr. took a $5000 BH Ultralight Evo Disc for a “test ride,” leaving only an ID card.  Apparently, Verdugo built a rapport with shop staff based on his knowledge of bikes.

But Verdugo decided to return the bike, not out of any sense of guilt, but because he was “tired of being recognized,” as he told Karambellas when he called the shop. He took the bike because he’d been a “bike geek” all of his life but couldn’t afford the bikes he wants.  That revelation, not surprisingly, helped the authorities to connect him to other thefts from area bike shops.

Karambellas gave the call to shop owner John Marconi, who arranged for a Lyft car. He also assured Verdugo that there weren’t any police officers at the shop.

Marconi, of course, fibbed. Officers hid in the bathroom and in a delivery van outside the shop.

Verdugo faces charges for stealing, not only the bikes, but the ID card he gave when he took the BH for a “test ride.”

28 April 2019

What We Came From?

Being a writer and English teacher, I'm irked by overused (and often inappropriate) words and phrases.  It drives me crazy, for example, when a literate, erudite interviewer asks a good question and the interviewee begins his or her response with "So."  

Another annoying language tic is the use of the word "evolution" when "development" makes more sense.  I even heard someone talk about the "evolution" of medical devices.  Trust me, if you've ever had a mammogram or been treated with a vaginal device (I know that at least half of you haven't!), you know that some medical devices haven't "evolved" much!

And so it is with bicycles.  Writers facing deadline will refer to the "evolution" of the bicycle when they're describing how the Draisienne became today's computer-designed machines.

Then again, they might not be too far off the mark:

Hmm... Maybe the bicycle has "evolved" more than humans have--or, at least, more than humans ever will if we don't get rid of war.

27 April 2019

I’m Not Crazy About Their Steaks—Or Bicycle Infrastructure

I have never been to Omaha, and I have met only two people who hail from O.N.E. (Omaha, Nebraska) in my life.  So I won’t make any generalizations about it.  I will say, however, that the seem to have made the same mistakes in bicycle infrastructure planning and construction countless other places—including my hometown of New York.

While city officials are congratulating themselves for stringing together a “network “ of bike lanes that will allow cyclists to get around in the city, local cycling advocates are making the same justified criticisms one hears all over this nation.

From what I can see, local officials think that all you have to do to make a bike lane is to paint lines on the side of the road, and all you have to do to “connect” them is to install a few signs.

I’d protest by boycotting Omaha Steaks, but It wouldn’t change their thinking.  Besides, I’ve never ordered Omaha Steaks before and very rarely eat steak at all.  I’m not a vegetarian, but—I know that this will seem like heresy to some—I’m not so crazy about steak.  Or most bicycle infrastructure I’ve seen.  And I probably won’t like Omaha’s infrastructure, either.

26 April 2019

Night, Rain And The Ocean

Yesterday I did something unthinkable for a blogger:  I went for a ride that stretched from the afternoon into the evening, and didn't take any photos.

So why did I do that?  Well, it wasn't intentional.  In fact, the ride itself wasn't intentional.  Oh, I got on my bike because I wanted to.  I didn't, however, plan my route or destination.

And I decided not to take my phone with me.  No phone, no photos.   In this day and age, not carrying an electronic device seems like a radical idea, or simply unimaginable:  My students, especially the younger ones, tell me they simply can't imagine being without their devices.  I, of course, explain that being without electronic gadgets was the normal state of affairs because, well, we didn't have those things.

So, perhaps, it was inevitable that while riding the way I rode in my youth, I would take roads to destinations that were part of my younger years.

So I pedaled to the World Trade Center and took a PATH train to Newark, on a lark.  From that city's Penn Station, I rolled and bounced the rutty streets of industrial and post-industrial urbanscapes down to Woodbridge, where New Jersey State Route 27 meets State Route 35.  Once I passed the stores, take-out restaurants and professional offices that are just as utilitarian and charmless as they were when they were built--but imbued with more character than anything that might replace them--I rode into an enclave of pickup trucks and "muscle" cars with their actual and implied "Make America Great Again" bumper stickers.  On one of those streets, a guy who looked like he'd just been released from the nearby Rahway prison danced with a skeletal (including her teeth) young woman in full-goth mode and black spike-heel pumps to death-metal music blasting from a car.  I applauded; they smiled and waved to me.

That was in a town called Sayreville.  Next town down the road, Old Bridge, a buzzard buzzed just over my head to something lying on the side of the road.  The town after that, I skirted Lake Matawan along Monmouth County Route 516 to Keyport--where, depending on whom you ask, the Jersey Shore begins.  From there, I took a series of side roads to another lake--or is it a pond?--and turned by a firehouse onto State Route 36 at Airport Plaza, where I used to get on or off the bus to see or leave my parents when they were still living in the area.

Although Route 36 has three lanes in each direction and a speed limit of 45 or 50, depending on which town you're in, it's really not a bad road for cycling.  For most of its length, it has a wide shoulder and drivers don't pull in and out to pick up or discharge people, or double-park, and trucks don't idle in them while making deliveries.  In other words, it's safer than almost any bike lane I've ridden in New York.  Plus, it's interesting to see the landscape change from something that wouldn't look out of place in The Deer Hunter or Silkwood (funny, that Meryl Streep was in both of those movies) to farm stands and, finally to the Highlands, where you climb a long (but not steep) hill, then descend, to the bridge that connects the "mainland" with Sandy Hook and the narrow strip of land between the Shrewsbury River and the Atlantic Ocean. It's sort of like like the strip between the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and the ocean in Florida, with colder weather and without palm trees.

In the "Deer Hunter" part of Route 36, there's a store that sells hunting, fishing and scuba-diving gear, and offers lessons.  Dosil's is owned by one of my high-school classmates and the sign looks as if it hasn't been painted since he took over the store.  I am sure he and his family are doing well, at least financially, but he was one of those kids of whom you knew that he would never leave North Middletown.  He wasn't a bad kid, and I rather liked him, even though he was very different from me.  Perhaps having been wrestlers during our first two years of high school had something to do with that. (After that, we both played football--he, the American kind and me, the kind the rest of the world plays.)

Anyway, whenever I go over the bridge, I know I'm headed to Sandy Hook (if I turn left) or to Sea Bright and Long Branch (if I turn right). I chose the latter, possibly because it had begun to rain lightly around the time I saw Dosil's and the showers came and went as I crossed the bridge and started down the isthmus.  Even though McMansions have replaced the bungalows and cottages Sandy destroyed on some stretches of the road, I like seeing that stretch of beach and ocean under gray skies, especially with a light rain or drizzle.  When I was younger, I sometimes felt that it was a reflection of myself in some invisible mirror.  I still feel that way--or, at least, the memory of feeling that way is still very strong.

After eating my "lunch" by the beach in Long Branch, it was more like dinner time and I knew I had, perhaps, an hour of daylight remaining.  And the light showers had turned into full-blown rain. Still, I continued riding, along the shore.  I thought I'd go to Asbury Park and either take the train home, or turn back toward Long Branch.  Instead, from Asbury, I continued along boardwalks and streets called--what else?--Ocean Avenue.  You might say that I was hypnotized by the streetlamps, with their penumbras of mist, and buoy lights that faded--or was the darkening horizon over the sea so strong that it became the ambient light of that evening?

Finally, in Spring Lake--after 105 kilometers (about 65 miles)  of riding from Newark's Penn Station, I turned around and rode the 20 kilometers back to Long Branch.  The rain seemed to lighten as the skies grew darker, until the rain stopped just before I reached the station.  Maybe it seems like child's play to a racer in training, but I'd say that at this point in my life, riding about 80 miles on a ride that began around two in the afternoon isn't bad.  But, more important, between that ride, and not having my phone, I was doing something I needed to do, though I didn't realize it until I was on the train back to New York's Penn Station.

25 April 2019

Gardens Of Memory

Rain fell in the wee hours of yesterday morning. But the day dawned bright and clear, if windy.  So, of course, I went for a ride--to Connecticut.

When I got to Greenwich, I parked myself on a bench in the Common, where I munched from a packet of Kar's Sweet 'N' Salty Trail Mix (I see how that stuff can be addictive!) and washed it down with a small can of some espresso-and-cream cold drink.  

That combination of caffeine and sugar can make you feel as if you're ready to burst forth--like the flowers I've been seeing during the past few days.  The weather is warm for a day or two, and the flowers just seem to appear, in gardens, on trees (oh, the cherry blossoms) and in public monuments. 

It's sadly ironic to see flowers growing around a memorial to military members who died in combat.  Those soldiers, sailors, airmen and others--almost all of them young-- are gone, long gone.  Who remembers them, or the cause--whatever it was--for which they fought?  And who will remember, in future generations, the ones who die fighting for basically the same reasons and impulses as the ones who survive only as names on stone?

But the flowers return, whether on their own or because someone planted them.  It does not matter whether the monument they adorn commemorates people who gave their lives in a just or unjust, constructive or futile, reasonable or fallacious cause:  Those flowers will return, and grow, just the same.

24 April 2019

Will The Idaho Stop Come To Oregon?

Until recently, I was a disciple of John Forester's "bicycle as vehicle" philosophy.  It's explicated in his "Effective Cycling" book, which--along with the C.O.N.I. manual (which has, possibly, the most beautiful cover illustration of any cycling book)--were my touchstones for cycling.

I haven't looked at the C.O.N.I. manual in a long time.  I'm sure it's still valuable, though some of its specifics might be dated. (To my knowledge, no new edition of the book, at least in English, was published after 1972.)  But I still check out Forester's book on occasion.  Some of its information is dated. That is inevitable, of course:  The book came out about 40 years ago, and, for example, much of the equipment he mentions is no longer made.  But I think his notions about how to cycle in traffic are just as dated.

But they were needed at the time.  As I've related in other posts, many was my commute or training ride in which I would not encounter another cyclist.  Most motorists--which is almost the same thing as saying most adults, as defined by law--didn't ride and regarded the bicycle as a kid's toy.  And if they saw an adult riding, they thought it must be for a bad reason, such as loss of driver's license or inability to afford a car.  The "car is king" attitude was, I believe, even more prevalent than it was now.  Forester was, I think, trying to establish the bicycle as a viable and valid means of transportation for grown-ups in the US.  Four decades ago, that meant cyclists asserting themselves themselves on the road and behaving exactly like drivers in the ways we took lanes, made turns and such.

Image result for cyclists at stop sign

The conditions at the time also meant that almost no policy-makers were cyclists.  So, whatever laws and policies were created in the name of "safety" were wrongheaded, if not flat-out malicious.  Thus, while folks like Forester advocated for more enlightened rules, they knew that they would be a long time a'coming, if they ever came at all.  Cyclists asserting their rights as operators of vehicles therefore seemed like the best way to "establish" cycling, if you will, in the US.

Now, I'm not sure that drivers' attitudes toward cyclists have changed much.  If anything, I think some have grown more hostile becuase they feel bike lanes are taking away "their" traffic lanes, and because they have the misinformed notion that we use roadways and other infrastructure without paying for it. In fact, a driver parking in Brooklyn (at the formoer site of the library I frequented in my childhood, no less!) made that accusation as he shouted other fallacies and epithets at me.  I waited for him; he probably expected me to punch him in the nose.  But I calmly informed him that the only tax he pays that I don't pay is on gasoline.  I don't know whether he was more surprised by what I said or my demeanor.

Anyway, while drivers might be hostile for different reasons than they were four decades ago, there are some changes in the wind.  There are, at least in a few places, a few policymakers who cycle to their offices, and perhaps elsewhere.  And at least a few of the drivers I encounter have ridden a bike, say, within the last month.  So there is a small, but growing recognition, that while bicycles aren't the lawless hooligans some believe us to be, we also can't behave exactly like motor vehicles and live to tell about it.

That bikes aren't the same as cars is a point made by Jonathan Maus, the editor/publisher of Bike PortlandIn an excelllent article he published the other day, he uses that point to advocate for something that has become one of my pet causes, if you will, as a cyclist:  the Idaho Stop.

As I've mentioned in other posts, the Idaho Stop is when you treat a red signal as a "stop" sign and a "stop" sign as a "yield" sign.  In essence, it means that you don't have to come to a complete stop at an intersection unless traffic is crossing. That improves our safety immensely because if we can cross before the light turns green, we get out in front of whatever traffic might approach from behind us, as well as oncoming traffic--which keeps us from being hit by a turning vehicle.

Maus wrote his article because a similar law is up for vote in the Oregon state senate.  Governor Asa Hutchinson recently signed a similar law in Arkansas, and Utah is considering something like it.  A few municipalities in the US as well as the city of Paris have enacted similar policies during the past decade.  But it's called "The Idaho Stop" because the Gem State has had it on the books since 1982, and for about a quarter-century, it was the only such law in the United States.

Let's hope that Jonathan Maus's words move the legislators of Oregon.  Let's also hope that as Oregon goes, so go New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida and...well, you get the idea.

23 April 2019

Tunnel Vision

We’ve had a lot of rain during the past few days.  It is April, after all!

I’ve gotten in a bit of cycling, though not as much as I had been doing.  Now I’ll confess that I actually took the subway yesterday.  My excuses:  The  curtain of rain precluded visibility, and I was carrying something that, perhaps, I could’ve hauled on my bike.

Heading home, I entered the York Street station in DUMBO. (I remember when the neighborhood was, well, not a neighborhood:  All of those self-consciously trendy cafes were warehouses and factories!). There, I remembered why I so prefer cycling!

22 April 2019

Not Offensive. Really!

In the times and places in which I've lived, saying that something is "completely inoffensive" is not a compliment.  I mean, what would you think if you'd heard it in CBGB back in the day, or during a ride with the sorts of guys who used to add gin to their water bottles?

Anyway, I have used that phrase only rarely (which itself sounds rather unflattering) in my current life.  Most recently, I uttered it when someone asked me what I thought of Taylor Swift.

I am no fan of hers, but I still don't get that so many people hate her, or say they do.  I mean, really, do you hate a marshmallow?  I may not get excited about them, or eat them very often.  But what is there to hate about something that's overly gooey and sweet?

Anyway, I may have to say something slightly more complimentary about her. (If I actually start listening to her music, check my vital signs!)  What I never knew, until the other day, is that her preferred mode of transportation is cycling.

And she posted this on Instagram:

It's not offensive at all.  Which is not the same as "completely inoffensive."

20 April 2019

Tour de Flashback?

Do you ever feel as if you're having a flashback?

I did, when I saw an announcement for a ride.  "The Inaugural Tour de" was followed by "Trump."  Or so I thought, for a moment.

There was indeed a "Tour de Trump."  The first of two editions ran thirty years ago next month.  Six more editions ran, from 1991 to 1996, re-branded as the Tour du Pont after financial troubles forced The Orange One to withdraw his support.

(Could it be that the race was doomed by the winner of its last two editions?  His initials are LA.)

Turns out, I wasn't having a flashback--at least, not in the strictest sense of the word. The promo I saw announced the "Tour de Troup," named for the county in Georgia where it will be held.


The county, whose seat is LaGrange, is named for George Troup, Georgia's 32nd Governor.  He is considered a sort of patron saint for today's nationalists and state's rights advocates:  He was a firm believer in Manifest Destiny and supported "Indian Removal" (a.k.a., the slaughter of people who were living here for thousands of years) as well as slavery.

Perhaps it's not a surprise that he was a plantation owner who was born to plantation owners.

Hmm...Maybe I wasn't having a flashback after all!

19 April 2019

A Baltimore Bike Lane That "Caused Problems"

A researcher cuts off a gazelle's leg.  The gazelle can't run.  The researcher then summarizes his findings: "Gazelles can't run."

I don't remember where I read or heard that story. Whether or not it's true, it's a pretty good metaphor for the way policy-makers make decisions about bicycle infrastructure.

To such policy-makers, bicycle infrastructure can be defined in two words:  bike lanes.  And, to them, a bike line is anything so marked in paint on the side of a road.

As often as not, one of the following happens:

  • A cyclist is hit by a motor vehicle that pulls in or out of the bike lane.  The policy-makers conclude, correctly, that the bike lane isn't safe, but makes the faulty inference that all bike lanes are unsafe.
  • Altercations between motorists and cyclists ensue.  This leads policy-makers to conclude that bike lanes are inherently a bad idea.
  • Cyclists don't use the lane because it's inherently unsafe or poorly maintained.
Any of these scenarios can, and often does, lead to the decision to get rid of the bike lane--and, sometimes, for policy-makers to decide that bike lanes are generally a lousy idea.

One problem is, of course, that a couple of lines of paint does not a bike lane make.  

Another, more important, problem is that bicycle infrastructure is more than just bike lanes.  

That is evident at the Roland Avenue bike lane in Baltimore, which is about to be removed for "causing problems."  Of course, the real problems aren't being addressed, one being that the lane is delineated by nothing more than paint stripes.  

Another is that there are bus stops in the bike lane. Too often, bus drivers simply don't see cyclists and veer into them.  Also, like too many other curbside bike lanes, the one on Roland Avenue ends at the corner and resumes across the intersection.  What that means is that cyclists crossing the intersection enter it from a "blind" spot, especially if they are following the traffic signals and regulations.  I recall at least a couple of occasions when I could have easily been struck by a right-turning driver while entering an intersection from a bike lane.

City officials say that the bike lanes caused "problems," which they mis-identify.  Sadly, other municipalities act in much the same way.  So, the Roland Avenue bike lane in Baltimore is not the first, nor will it be the last, such lane to be borne of misguided notions about bicycle safety and infrastructure, and to be scrapped because it "causes problems" or cyclists don't use it.

18 April 2019

What You Can Carry Isn't Necessarily What You Can Stash

Many of us ride with cute little "bike purses" tucked under, or between, the rails of our saddles.  In them, we might carry a spare inner tube, patches, a small multi-tool and, depending on the size of the "purse", a mini-pump and/or cell phone and/or wallet. 

There are larger versions of such "purses", including "banana" bags of the kind popularized by Gilles Berthoud and others, and small versions of boxier saddle bags, like the X-Small Saddle Sack from Rivendell.

And, of course there are larger saddle bags like those from Carradice made in sizes to carry what you need for a day or weekend trip, or even camping gear. Carradice's Camper Longflap almost seems to have been an exercise in carrying as much as possible without using panniers and an expedition-style rack.

Of course, when some people ponder the question of "how much" they can carry under their saddles, they are not talking about volume in liters or cubic inches or whatever.  Instead, they are talking about "street value."

At least, that seemed to be the case for  37-year-old  Mohamed Mohmoud Charara, who lived with his parents in  Windsor, Ontario, Canada.  He kept his bike in a common stairwell area where other residents of his building kept their bikes.  It seems, though, that he wasn't using his wheels to get around the city just across the river from Detroit.  He wasn't even using it to conduct business. Instead, he serviced his clients from a black Escalade SUV parked outside the building. The bike was just for storage.

And what did he keep under the seat?  Well, when he was busted, city constables found 24.7 grams of crack cocaine and 13.2 grams of powder cocaine. Together, they had a street value of almost $3800.

The cops also seized a few things Charara couldn't keep under his bike seat, like a digital scale, other drug paraphenalia, an iPhone (well, with the right bag, he could have kept it on his bike) and $1695 cash.

What if he'd tried to use that bike as a getaway vehicle?  Would he have ended up like this guy?

17 April 2019

What Gears Are Turning In His Mind?

Some time in your childhood, you probably had, at least once, the sort of teacher who punished everyone in your class for something one kid did.  

That, I believe, is the sort of teacher Donald Trump would have been had he pursued the life of an educator.

At least, that is what I believe after seeing one of his latest threats. If he acts on it, some $11.5 billion in goods from the EU could be subject to retaliatory tariffs.  Among those items are hubs and sprockets.

So why does El Cheeto Grande want to slap punitive taxes on wheel goods and gears?  Well, he rationalizes this threat with a World Trade Organization ruling from last May, which found that Airbus had received illegal subsidies from European countries and gave the US the right to impose retaliatory tariffs.

What he didn't mention, however, is a more recent WTO ruling, specifically from last month:  Boeing, which just happens to be Airbus's main rival, received similarly illegal tax breaks in the US.  Thus, said the WTO, the EU can impose sanctions on imports from the US.

Now, I thought really hard about why freewheels, cassettes and hubs for bicycles--or motorcycle hubs or sprockets--are targeted for tariffs that are supposed to punish Europeans for supporting their aerospace industry.  All I could come up was this:  Aircraft have wheels, which use hubs.  And their engines use gears, i.e., sprockets.  So, perhaps, anything that could potentially help an A-380 take off, fly or land is fair game for new taxes.

Hmm...I'm not sure that works.  I must say I tried, really tried, to understand the logic of the threat. But then I remembered:  This is Donald Trump we're talking about.  

16 April 2019

Taxes Were The Least of It

Yesterday was Tax Day in the US.  Except for those who are getting big refunds, nobody was happy.

Some of us look for good news on the day.  Alas, not much was to be found.  Two items made the woes of owing (and, yes, I was one of the people who owed--thank you, Donald!) trivial in comparison.

One of those stories is happening here in the US.  "Retrogrouch" confirmed rumors that I'd heard for some time:  Rebecca Twigg, one of the greatest American female cyclists--actually, one of the greatest American cyclists--is homeless.  She doesn't even have a bicycle anymore.

Of course, it's tragic for anyone to live on the streets, with only ragged blankets, large garbage bags and, if he or she is lucky, a refrigerator box, to protect him or her from cold, wind and rain, along with the dirt and other hazards imposed by other humans.  And Rebecca is not the first elite athlete or other celebrity to end up with nothing of her own and nowhere home.  But her story is especially disturbing because, if you were around during the '80's and '90's, you recall her as someone who "had everything going for her".  Her Olympic medals and other victories brought her endorsement contracts; her looks generated modeling gigs and her intelligence (and hard work) got her into college at age 14.

From the moment she got on a bike as a toddler, she says, she knew she was "born to" ride.  And she exercised that birthright, if you will, to its fullest:  She was as fiercely competitive as she is talented.  Most of us envy people who find their "calling", if you will, before they can even call it that:  the painter who knew he would be creating his life on canvas at age 5; the teacher who knew she'd spend her life in the classroom when she was even younger than the kids she's teaching now; the doctor whose vocation was revealed to him not long after he learned how to read.  

I have known that painter and doctor, both of whom are gone now, and the teacher is a friend who just happens to be granddaughter of my friend Mildred.  Having such a clear vision of their lives at such an early age helped all of them:  They knew what they needed to do and focused on it. 

One difference between them and Rebecca, though, is that they found themselves in professions they could practice for their entire working lives (or, in the case of the painter, his entire life).  None of them (except for the teacher, if she decides to change careers) will ever have to experience something Rebecca, and many other professional athletes, had to endure:  a transition from a life of days structured around sport to the daily routines of a "normal" job or career.

In Rebecca's case, that career was in Information Technology.  She studied it (Computer Science) at Colman College after earning a bachelor's degree in Biology at the University of Washington.  There are people who love that kind of work; others, like Stuart--the Australian fellow with whom I rode in Cambodia--hated it.  I don't know whether Rebecca disliked the work per se or whether she simply couldn't abide being in an office and at a desk. In any case, in spite of her talent and hard work, she seemed to have difficulty in holding down jobs.  Or, perhaps, her trouble came because of her talent and hard work:  She may have simply felt that there was no "victory" at the end of it.

The prospect of not "winning" may also be a reason why she finds it so difficult to accept help.  Perhaps doing so would be an admission of defeat for her.  Also, bicycle racers tend to be rather solitary figures, and even in that world, racers like Rebecca are rather like monks:  Her best event, after all, was the 3000 meter individual pursuit race.

Anyway, I hope her story turns into something better.  I hope the same for la Cathedrale de Notre Dame in Paris.  At least the people in charge of it are already getting, and accepting help in rebuilding after the awful fire it incurred yesterday.  

My friend Michele and I exchanged e-mails about the news. Les francaises sont tres choques--The French are very shocked, she wrote.  To which I replied:  Tout le monde est choqueLa cathedrale est un tresor du monde--The whole world is shocked. The cathedral is a treasure of the world.

I mean, what building besides the Eiffel Tower and, perhaps, the Sacre Coeur de Montmartre, is more embematic of the City of Light?  I still recall, during my second day in Paris (more years ago than I'll admit), sitting in the square by the Notre Dame and listening to the bell on a warm June day.  I felt like I'd become, at that moment, part of a city that has become so much a part of me:  New York is the only city I know better.  

At least it seems that more of the cathedral can be saved than officials originally thought.  President Macron has vowed to rebuild it, and wealthy magnates as well as more anonymous citizens are already donating money.  However the work is done, the real restoration will not be on the structures themselves:  Rather, it will be a healing of the minds and spirits that have been so moved by its grandeur, the light coruscating through its stained-glass windows or the views from its towers--or simply by images of those towers, windows and the spire.  

Sir Kenneth Clark, often called the high priest of Art History, once said that he could not define "civilization" in abstract terms.  But, as he turned to the Notre Dame in his famous "Civilization" series, he declared, "I know I'm looking at it."

For me, a non-religious person, that's reason enough to care about the Notre Dame.   Taxes are just a pimple on the face of my life, which is part of the multitude which, I hope, have helped to contribute in whatever small ways to civilization or "the human project" or whatever you want to call it.

15 April 2019

When You Can't Look Out

The past couple of mornings began with mist that turned to fog at the ocean.

I don't know whether this is what the Ramones had in mind when they sang about Rockaway Beach.  I like it, actually:  The shadowy figures on the jetty were as clear to me as a dream, and I felt myself opening like a leaf on a bush that would soon flower.

The weather and traffic reports warned of poor visibility.  But I had no trouble seeing.

Well, I could see clearly enough to know that Point Lookout would not live up to its name:  It wasn't possible to look out very far from there.

But I could still see clearly, the way we can on an invigorating ride.