A Ramble into the Void.

Its been sometime since I sat to write. There has been a change in my routine. Now, finding those idle hours in the morning is like trying to find the lone allen wrench in my cluttered toolbox. My commute has been slashed to a nibble of its former feast, and in consequence, I’m chewing on mad writer’s block. My old blog post ideas float like the nimbus and never really touch ground. I’ve extended and looped my commute for some real riding time, but oddly enough, the “commute” is gone! In the middle of Los Angeles, I’ve a route that is only 7 miles of “street” out of 31 miles. No wandering pondering of the moral code during my journey to and fro, no more ideological skirmishes with a failed blinker, just the sweat, the climb, the descent. My commuted has been muted, and so too, am I.

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Be safe, have fun.

Bike to Work Week Post-Script

 

It was good to see all the smiling faces last week…and get some free shit. One year, I happened across a Bike To Work Week pit-stop that passed out solar powered odometers. I’ve been hoping to find one again ever since…no luck yet. So I was a little dismayed at the limited variety of loot that was being passed out (I started with an empty backpack in anticipation of great things). I visited 4 different pit-stops and most of the offerings were the same, bagels, water, metro lights, bananas, cliff bars and happy faces. So after my bag was stuffed full, I headed to work. Disappointed I wondered “will I ever find the solar powered odometer again?”

It was not until last night that I discovered a hidden treasure amongst my loot. I highly value the practice of “Be Safe, Be Seen”. As such, I constantly aim to have a light on my helmet in addition to the two on my ride. The thing is, if I have an extra light, and I come across a rider without, I pass my extra light on to them (see previous post “Something to Brag About”). Thus, I am never with a light on my helmet for more than a week. Until Now! Amongst my Metro Loot, I A-Teamed a free and easy bike light onto my helmet. With the use of one of their highly reflective pant straps and what I would consider a rather cheap red light, I believe I created a high point of visibility upon my cranium…for free!

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Of course, now the long days of summer our upon us, and I’m rarely on the street at night, but hey I’m ready to rock. If you have some free stuff lying around, and some free time, see if there is anything you can A-Team together to make your ride safer (you must play the A-Team theme music while your building it, or it won’t work).

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Complete with Flag

Be Safe, Have Fun-

Bike to Work Week?!

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Where’s the traffic on the 101? Oh, it’s Bike to Work Week!

 

Every year, Bike to Work Week sneaks upon me. From my saddle, every week is Bike to Work Week, the only dissimilarity is the free stuff I get this week. I spoke to a local bike owner who  with all the pomp of a deflated tire announced to me “You know, its Bike Month?” The last end of “month” seemed to falter like a faucet turned off. Thus it seemed with displeasure that he observed people take this week and month as their ONE time a year to ride their bike, as not to miss out on the cycling zeitgeist that they observe from their car windows. I dunno, he may have been having a bad day, but its Bike to Work Week!! Free Shit Fool! Well, I guess as a bike shop owner, he’s the one giving out free shit.

So, I know its the middle of the week and it is almost over, but if you can, make sure your bike is in safe working order and route a safe path to your 9-5 this week. Ride straight, remain predictable and be SEEN.

In Los Angeles, all the free stuff is happening on Thursday, check the map link here http://www.metro.net/bikes/bike-week/ (check pit stop locations map on the right of the website).

For Southern Californians, don’t miss out on the opportunity to see the last two stages of the Tour De California, and get more Free Shit (Santa Clarita to Pasadena on Saturday, Thousand Oaks on Sunday).

And whether it be the Bike to Work Week or Bike Month, do not let this be your ONE time to get on your bike, make it your FIRST of many times you ride your bike this year.

Be Safe, Have fun.

Wake Up The Dead

Wake up the dead-

those geometric shadows

dwelling in the cellar.

For that which has been in slumber,

has gone asunder.

Wake up the dead-

with a whiir click in the twilight dawn,

the road goes on.

Wake up the dead-

until the sun hangs high

and glistens the skin.

For that which was dead,

is alive again.

 

The season is upon us, Get on Your Bike.

Be safe, have fun.

 

 

 

Enter, The Traffic Gods

author’s note: for amusement only, no attempt to establish a tax free institution shall be contrived from this post.

When one dedicates over a decade of one’s life to anything, inevitably an ethos will evolve. Sometimes its as simple as a personal credo, other times its as complex as a corporate structure. With my hours spent on the road, and my hours studying the past of human culture, I humbly bring you, The Traffic Gods. They are an amalgamation of various religions and beliefs, beholden only to their own will. Like the Hebrew God of old, they shall not be named, and unlike the Roman-Greco gods (and the later Roman adaptation of the man god who came to be known as Christ), they shall not take a human form to become idolized. They are more akin to the Satanic tenet that they are a formless force, inherit in all things that exist upon pavement and concrete. Although take no form, they are recognized by the primary colors they communicate with, green, yellow and red, or The Go, The Yield and The Stop.

They exist whenever one utilizes a wheeled vessel for transport. They demand no prayer or dogma, for when one travels, one is automatically an agent of the Traffic Gods, and the traveler is involuntarily obedient to their will. If one is a courteous fellow and obedient to the laws of the road (and humanity), one may find green light blessings from the Traffic Gods. If one travels with greed and avarice, one might find the Traffic Gods flush one’s cheeks with ire as red lights abound their path.

They are deities of Karma, and are always willing to give what is coming around. Sometimes when I see a driver rushing through traffic, shifting lanes without a blinker, a slower car will smooth in front of them, causing them to slam on their brakes. This may seem innocuous and happenstance, but to an observer of the Traffic Gods, this is recognized as their will, their Karmic way of setting the road in balance.

There have been times when I’m inclined to jump a red light and proceed before my green light is given (I jump many, daily), but I hesitate and wait. Only after the light turns green and I proceed to roll that a police cruiser immediately passes me by. I see this as a gift from the Traffic Gods, rewarding me for my piety. Other times I’ve waited just the same, only for a car to go flying through the intersection directly where I would be had I jumped the light. This too is the Traffic Gods keeping a watchful eye and shepherding me safely home.

The Traffic Gods have a trying sense of humor. I’ll think of something in my bag, or receive a text. I think, “I’ll get to it at the next red light.” The Traffic Gods will not grant me a red. I envision their ethereal smile as they view my casual frustration. Conversely, when nature is calling and I just need to get to a pee-hole, they’ll turn all lights red, just to watch me dance in my seat as  natural seepage takes place. At this too, they laugh at, so I laaugh with them and  I curse them.

There is more on their existence, but they have yet to reveal it to me as of yet.

So, when you travel, either by bike or by motored means, open your awareness to their will, and they will manifest before you. And in the kindest sense, do unto others as you would have the Traffic Gods do unto to you.

Be safe, have fun.

A Messenger’s Tale, The Power of the U-Lock

Author’s Disclaimer: the story contains one of, if not the most offensive word of the modern English language. It’s purpose of inclusion is not meant to demean or offend, rather it is simply a matter of journalistic integrity, to reflect a true record of this occurrence. It is simply the way the shit went down.

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This particular event occurred while I was riding my newly assembled Voodoo Rada, a sparkling Heineken green frame capped with my treasured wheelset, the deep bladed, twelve spoke bling of Campagnolo Shamals. This vain fact  is presented here only as a insert to the subconscious undercurrent of my mindset.

The approach to the Stanley Mosk Courthouse from the south places the court on the left side of the street. Rather than cross over four lanes of constant Los Angeles traffic, it is wiser to approach on the sidewalk. This sidewalk is narrow and is often full of; counsel, civic pedestrians, promoters of legal services and the mandatory homeless, extending a cup for passerbys to perform a random act of kindness. As you near the courthouse, the sidewalk gets narrower and crowded. The stairs up to the entrance are capped with large granite edifices, creating what is commonly referred to as a “blind corner”. So my approach is a cautious coasting with hands on the brakes. The rear hub of the Shamal creates a buzz, not unlike a pack of locusts rising from the soil, thereby alerting pedestrians to the presence of a bicycle…or locusts.

At this particular moment in the universe, a man was striding down the steps, towards my path. He was on the blind side of the aforementioned corner, I was on the blind side of his corner. We collided with such a force that both myself and my Voodoo were jettisoned from the sidewalk, ejected onto the street, into oncoming traffic. First things first; at this same particular moment, there was no immediate traffic (phew!), a silver Mercedes had enough room to brake and not hit me. Second item of business, get off the street, spin my front and back tire, good and good. Radio still in the holster, U-Lock still in the back pocket and I’m all good. I proceed to walk to the bike rack without a thought as to the individual that ejected me from my trajectory. After all, this was the result of a blind corner and nothing personal, or so I thought.

I heard him before I saw him. “Fuck That! I want an apology!” Coming through the crowd was a large light skinned brother with tight dreadlocks pulled back in the crown of a bandana. With his vehement aura he looked like the Predator breaking through the crowd of people. Just as I leaned my bike against the rack, he was in my face. “I want an apology!”, he demanded. I looked in the distance over his shoulder, then my eyes traveled up to his flaring nostrils. I calmly responded, “You came down the steps fast, ran into me and pushed me into the street, an apology is not gonna happen, kick rocks.”

“Fuck you nigger, I want an apology” was his strike back.

For the record, I’m not black, so I can only think this epithet had one purpose, and I saw his strategy in a snap; a black man calls a white man a nig…, the white man responds with “I’m not the nig…, you’re the nig…”, then boom, white man = racist bad guy. Not a bad strategy, but underhanded and inapplicable to a cosmopolitan man of the modern world such as myself.

I maintained my chi, “Kick rocks man, I’m not gonna apologize” I tried to shoo him with a nod of my chin, the nonverbal “Get on”.

“Kick rocks??” He replied, “I’ll kick something” and he swung his Timberland boot into my rear wheel with angry force. Touch me, don’t touch my bike, those are the words I live by, so my response was swift, effective and involuntary. My left hand reached into my back pocket for the U-Lock, my shoulders squared towards his and my torso leaned forward. “You’d better fucking run!” came from either my soul or my heart, but it roared out of my mouth and sent him backpedaling along the steps of the county courthouse. As he moved backwards, I stalked forward. He tripped over his retreat and landed prone, half on the steps, half on the sidewalk, his head smacked against the granite edifice which created this skirmish. As I leaned over him with my U-Lock in striking position, I no longer saw an angry man. His eyes were wide with fear, his mouth agape and one hand was stretched up, pleading for peace, “aah”, I thought, “we’ve come to an accord”. I’ve never considered myself a man of violence, and I’ve seen what happens to messengers who get caught using their U-Lock in force, they get a charged with assault with a deadly weapon. I relaxed my stance and who knows what would have happened next.

Enter Courthouse security, (how long have they been watching?) a donut of a man, lumbered down the steps aiming towards me, “Stop!” and he grabbed me by the arm. He did something to ascertain the situation, but my mind was still red, buzzing with victory, not collecting or processing information. At this time an attorney service regular descended the perch he was probably watching us from and quickly explained that the man on the ground initiated the conflict and I was acting in defense. His word was sufficient to the authority and we were instructed to “break it up”. My former opponent gathered his backpack and moved down the sidewalk, I walked the other direction and tended to my Voodoo. My prized rear wheel had a cracked rim wall and two broken spokes. It was a wheelset too fragile for the mean streets of Los Angeles.

Epilogue: As I checked into court, security notified me that the man I had conflict with had a knife on his person (a courthouse security check detained it and returned it to  him when he left the court). As I checked out of court, they informed me that he had returned to the steps, most likely looking for me. He had left by the time my work was done, but I like to think he was waiting for me, hoping to give me an apology.

Be Safe, Have fun and Keep Calm.

Don Smart and Appreciation, a Thanksgiving Entry

I would be remiss to let the holidays pass without a mention of their effects. Turkey Day is one of my favorite holidays, if not only for a guaranteed Lions game, the gathering of family is always an event to fondly look forward and back upon. But this entry is not about family.

Don Smart was my local barber for over a decade. His business “The Sportsman” existed between a laundry mat and dry cleaner, housed within a battered strip mall of Pomona. The walls of The Sportsman were Celeste Green, the same color as a steel Bianchi, adorned with toy rifles and posters of tigers. Closer to his chair were black and white photos; one of a Naval destroyer and two of when Pomona High School burnt down in the fifties. Or was it before that? Although he had five barber chairs, he ran the shop himself, sometimes taking in another pair of hands, but it would never last. Yes, Don Smart was a true citizen of Pomona, not to be taken too seriously, but not one to give up easily either. He was one of the rare white business owners of contemporary Pomona, not a fresh entrepreneur, but an anchored existence, a throw back to a time long gone. Pomona was once a predominately white city. So white, rumors like this were still told by the remnant white folk that still reside there; “In the late 60’s a mayor in Louisiana (not sure if it was a Louisiana mayor or Pomona Mayor) announced to the black populace they they were giving out free housing in Pomona. So they came in droves. They came and done run all the white out of Pomona.” That’s how the rumor goes. After the black populace had settled, then came the surge from peoples south of our border. They were always in Pomona on account of the orchards and the campesinos. But now they grew in numbers, thus lightening the hue (not by much) of the average Pomona citizen. It is now safe to say Pomona is a multicultural town, forever a mosaic of race. Throughout all the changes, the exodus of various businesses, the welfare, and the gangs, Don Smart held fast.

I think only once or twice he was without a head in his chair when I’d arrive. And on Saturdays, there would always be a line of men and boys, awaiting to enter a tradition that would keep Don in business for generations. After some time, I wouldn’t need to tell him what I wanted, he would just start clipping away. He would talk, his words sometimes brushed together under his handlebar mustache. Most of his banter was reminiscing on old times or misunderstanding of current ones, and (as mandated by barber code) an occasional philosophical tidbit. When I informed him I’d be moving to Echo Park, he shared that he too once lived their, after the military. He would frequent the bars on Sunset, then stumble up Echo Park avenue and climb a hill to his bungalow, events I would not be unfamiliar with in the years to come. One tidbit of sage advice he shared  stuck with me. Maybe it stuck because he stopped his clipping. He swiveled the chair so we were face to face. It was weird. He said “All things are temporary”. It wasn’t out of the blue, it was within the context of the conversation. It stuck with me so much that I live it, so much that I share it (hence this verbose blog). And there’s many ways one can go with it, But I’ll take it this way…

Whether one is enjoying a bike ride, a marriage or a successful act of revenge, or whether one is in a fit of anger, a stall of traffic or a holding cell, remember- all things are temporary. They will pass and then be gone. I think  this often when I’m riding; “Someday I will not be able to ride and this anoesis will never again be captured.” I remind myself that I too will be temporary and my existence will cease. So I take a worthwhile assessment of the event; the temperature, hot or cold,  the sweat, the heat through my muscles and the smoothness of the road. And through my pores as the sweat exits my pores, the essence of enjoyment seeps in. And the thought that surfaces “Be thankful…thankful to who? Whoever. But be thankful and be appreciative of the moment because it will pass and then be gone”.

A month after I moved, I drove back to Pomona, just for the haircut. As I neared The Sportsman, I noticed he was closed. This would happen sometimes, but this was different. I slowed as pull in front. His counter was gone, his chairs were gone, the posters, the guns, everything- gone. And just like that, after decades of haircuts and chatter, The Sportsman, Don Smart was gone too.

Beyond this holiday season, be thankful, for All Things Are Temporary.

Be Safe, have fun.

Of Rabbits And Their Varied Uses

I write from a road bike frame of mind,  the following and it’s dynamics will be in consideration of such.

While we toggle our tablets with our fingers, reach into the fridge with our hands or stand on cold tile in our bare feet, we often forget that for centuries, we humans enacted the role of predator. We hunted not for sport, but for resource acquisition, for necessity, and for survival. Engrained in our DNA, and hidden within our daily civil life, we rarely address or acknowledge our predatory instinct. There are times when it surfaces and although it may go unrecognized, it’s effects are not.

Now when I say Rabbit, I mean any rider some distance in front of you, and when I say varied uses, I mean only three.

One might be in their tenth mile, or their ninetieth, once that distant rolling figure is sighted, the image goes straight to the core of the skull.  The Rabbit becomes the visual impetus for our predatory nature, use number One . The eyes scan  the rabbit and now the predator calculates. How much energy will be needed to catch this rabbit?   Can this be accomplished?  A splash of electrons sizzle the nerves, alerts the heart and blood is quickened throughout the vessel. Breathing increases vacuum, and the hunt is on. The down-stroke of the quads is enforced and there becomes an awareness of the calves and ankles on the return pull. The core tucks close to the frame, if not for aerodynamics, but also to let the world know you’re in business. You’ve increased your output and the RPM’s are up, thank you rabbit. The rabbit may be on a beach cruiser or a mountain bike. In that case it will be a short chase and one gets nothing more than a quick burst of blood through the system. Sometimes the Rabbit alters route before the catch, in that case- lucky rabbit. But sometimes (not always) with focus and a hungry cadence, the rabbit is caught.

Now, I’ve caught rabbits, and I’ve been a rabbit.  When catching a rabbit, if the rabbit was good game and a fair amount of energy was spent, it’s wise to remain silent and catch the rabbit’s wheel for a spell. This becomes use number Two. Rest a bit, take a pull. If one is accustomed to riding in a group dynamic, this  conclusion might arrive naturally.  But being a rabbit, sometimes riders pass me quick, only to boil over shortly thereafter. I wonder how far back they’ve been chasing, only to quickly become my rabbit supper. Use the rabbit to save some energy and take a “working break”. Once the rabbit is aware of your presence, then arrives use number Three.

Take a moment to greet your prey, smile and let it see your bicuspids dripping. But be polite. Be nice, nobody likes to eat a squirmy rabbit. That  is, I mean, drum up a conversation, if you’re riding the same direction, feel out the rider’s sociability and initiate the buddy system. Often the rabbit’s I catch are remarkably good conversationalists, filled with tips and tidbits of information pertinent to cycling. After all, what are you going to talk about, “Hey nice bike, what do you think of Obamacare?”

It has been said that people who go through harrowing or dangerous experiences together tend to create a special unbreakable bond. As cyclists, we come across harrowing and dangerous events every couple miles. Between the Rabbit and I, that underlying awareness of danger helps create a genuine human connectivity and mutual respect. I like to refer to these rabbits as  “Road Friends”, and they are one of the better benefits of riding a bicycle.

So catch a rabbit, or be a rabbit caught, but don’t pass up the opportunity to make a friend.

Be safe, have fun.

Something to brag about. Try it!

notice how quickly you see riders with lights, but you need to search for the ones without lights

notice how quickly you see riders with lights, but you need to search for the ones without lights

Normally, I prefer to let good deeds remain silent, focus only on the essence of their benevolence, I dismiss the human urge for gratification of ego by telling all I know what good deed I’ve done. Normally. There are instances when a good deed is intertwined with advocacy, and these must be shared. To be an advocate is to act upon and speak on what one believes in. If one believes, one should be proud, and if one is proud, why not be boastful of actions fueled by belief?

When October arrives,  so does the pretense of Autumn. Soon leaves will fall, and the sun too will fall earlier, leaving night’s shroud upon the asphalt and shadows heavy on the eyes. It is in this month I begin to buy extra light sets at my local bike shop. I make sure the front and rear use the same battery type and are easy to install. They also must be relatively inexpensive, but not cheaply manufactured.

A good piece of my route home is through residences with large trees and drapes of darkness below them. During the months to come, I will see other riders and I will not see other riders. I will see clues of the latter’s existence in hints of metal and a shaded cadence. I don’t care too much to imagine horrific accidents,  but when I see night riders with no lights, images of blood, bent frames and broken flesh is an involuntary flash. If I can barely see this rider, how can drivers see them from behind a windshield?

So I’ll catch these rabbits (usually they travel at a turtles pace), stop them and give them a light set. If they need help attaching it, I will stay and provide. It is common that most of these riders are from somewhere south of the border, going to or coming from a days (in some cases a day’s and night’s) work. My Spanish doesn’t go outside the kitchen,  so these conversations are usually filled with tones kindness whilst we butcher tongues.

When we separate  I’m convinced I just prevented a death,  a vicious unexpected trip to hospital, or a run in with The Law (in California, it is ticket-able to not ride with a front light and at least a rear reflector).

So I done good and then I tell a few people. I tell them not only to satisfy my leonine leanings and clean out some bad karma, but to propel an urge to DO something similar. If you’ve done something good and you believe in its impetus, why not brag about it to someone? Maybe you’ll encourage them to do a good deed they can brag about… the important thing is, a good deed will be done.

Be safe, have fun.

A Non-Directional Response

Bear with me on this one, let me get the heat out, then I’ll get the meat out.

I must say, if I had to choose my favorite part on a car, I’d have to go with the blinker, the turn signal, or the directional, whatever you like to call it. Of all the features of a car, it is the one that enables the driver inside to communicate effectively with those outside. It’s conveniently placed so that it’s use is literally one away from the old adage “I didn’t have to lift a finger”, all you do is lift a finger. That being typed, if I had to choose the worst transgression that a driver can make is…not using their blinker! I mean, its right there! How lazy or inconsiderate can one be NOT to use it? This isnt the 1940’s, where the turn signal was a nob resting on the dashboard.  I usually refrain from posting political positions,  but I feel that the death penalty should be reserved for child molesters and people who don’t use their blinkers.

In my decade plus of cycling, I’ve run the gamut of venting my frustrations at drivers who violate me without using a directional. From verbal “fuck you” to it’s silent one fingered cousin, from pounding on the hood of a car to tapping on the window, I’ve found nothing works, nothing is more satisfactory than the following:

When the opportunity arises (lets say a motorist turns Right in front of you, no blinker, causing you to abruptly brake while they head into the parking lot of Ross to get some deals), try this; Follow them and when they park, or slow enough, approach the driver side, an politely get the driver’s attention. Once you have them, kindly deliver “I think you’re blinker may be broken”. If they were aware of your presence before they turned in front of you, they’re probably expecting a confrontation. Your polite manner will give them pause. If they had no clue you were on the road before they turned, then they’re probably surprised to see a cyclist at their window, either way once you deliver that first sentence, their response is usually a single worded question, “Oh?” or “Really?”. Once they got that off their chest, give ’em “Yeah, you made that turn and no signal came on. That can be very dangerous, you may want to get that checked out.”. Then ride off, keep it short, and you keep control of the situation. It works for me because, one, it gives the driver the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he/she did use their blinker and it really doesn’t work, in that case you just did them a favor. Two, it creates a satisfactory dialogue and gets the point across. Turning in such an inconsiderate manner can be dangerous, dangerous enough that a cyclist will take the time to tell them so. Three, it reflects well on cyclists as a whole. If the driver is small minded enough to judge all based on the actions of one, it helps portray cyclists as considerate travelers, concerned citizens and not the sharp edged two wheeled ruffians we really are.  I’ve had the opportunity to do this about six times, and each time the conversation ends in “thank you”, not “fuck you”.

Keep the rubber side down.

Get Your Third Eye Riding

Author’s disclaimer: the musings posted here are for entertainment and personal enjoyment, the posting seeks no validation or acceptance as truth. No scientific evidence will be presented in an attempt to persuade the reader. If one decides to humor the author and adopt the following, then may one’s lights always be green. If the reader discounts the author’s post as heretical or blasphemous, then let that reader eat hot flaming death.

A strange phenomenon occurs at times, when the gears are whirring and the sweat seeps from the dermis. An awareness opens up and the body reacts in a way not easily understood by the mind. Case in point: Once while riding through what was once called Skid Row (now known as The Arts District), two homeless people were jaywalking across my path. They were  some distance ahead of me, but at my speed, I could tell we would be passing closely. My normal response is to aim for where they are because,  as they keep moving, they will no longer be where they are. I will pass where they were, and  glide behind them, through their shadows. As always my peripherals were picking up all the activities of the street; local denizens pitching, a chess game on the curb, lines of disenfranchised and broken human beings. Their were few other vehicles on the road, save for me, a police cruiser and some rolling carts filled with a bum’s last prized possessions. And as I approached the jaywalkers, instead of aiming for where they were, I aimed for where they were going. Don’t ask me why, it was like an unseen hand steered my bike in that direction. And I’m glad it did, because once they were aware of the police car, they did an abrupt “about face” and headed back they way they came, to the exact same spot where I would have directed my normal trajectory! There was no conscious thought on my part, I was rolling to quick to put it all together. So what was it? It was my Third Eye. the all seeing extra sense.

Now I ask for the reader to open one’s mind to the possibilities of the unseen. Perhaps something ethereal occurs in the synapses of our brains, a cosmic link between exploding ions, a connectivity of subconscious threads. An unseen force that directs, if you would, a soul yet to surface. And when this soul exercises what it knows, what it sees, when it manifests, we call it “mysticism” or “enlightenment” or “extra sensory perception”.

Or a more practical pill to swallow: If the eyes are “the window to the soul”, doesn’t that conclude that the soul looks out as well?  Windows are two-way visibility options. Then the soul or subconscious, whatever you like, takes in all visual stimuli, and then some. As our conscious simply monitors the obvious, the subconscious takes in ALL. In lightning speed it categorizes the moving from the still; buildings, people, trees, trashcans, cars, dogs, cats, lamas. It does the math of a moving object’s trajectory and travel time, and compares it with the speed and direction of one’s self. It evaluates the percentage of chance that a still object will move and that moving objects will stop. All this occurs whilst we sweat and pedal at our pace.

This is when the Third Eye rises; The soul/ subconscious evaluates its findings and percolates the pertinent. It stimulates the muscles, and mitigates or evades what threats may come our way. Sometimes, all this occurs slowly enough that our conscious becomes aware, and it is a voluntary decision to avoid that cat. But sometimes it happens so fast, that we have no idea why we reacted the way we did, we’re just glad we did. Sometimes it happens so fast, it predicts one’s immediate future.

It does not come easy not does it not come to all. Although I found that it can be practiced and honed, but not on a conscious level. When I was riding fixed gear, no brakes as a messenger, a subconscious survival instinct kicked in. My conscious perception was telescoped three or four blocks ahead of my travel to recognize danger. In retrospect, my soul/subconscious perception was telescoped as well, taking in ALL stimuli to recognize danger. It was working and exercising that ethereal thread of connected possibilities and thoughts, the part of the unseen soul that looks out and protects its fleshly vessel, the Third Eye.

 

Be safe, have fun.

A Messenger’s Tale

At times I may find myself without a soapbox of Cycling righteousness to espouse, and this blog might sit idle. At these times, I’ve chosen to fill the void with tales from days of yore, days when my messenger bag saw daily my shoulder, days when standing by meant puffin in the A.M. and chess in the early afternoon. My work environment was city streets and elevators, loading docks and reception lobbies, these were the days when I was an active messenger.

In between road bikes, I could always rely on my trusty rookie bike to do what was needed. It was (and is) a Trek 4300 mountain bike trimmed down to a single speed due to various mechanical failures. The San Marco saddle is weathered, the only cable device being a single XTR front brake and the handle bars are primitively hack-sawed down to narrow my hand position. I ride the handle bars without grips, the jags on the unfinished edges sometimes snagging my gloves. In short, this is a bike that screams “why would you want to steal me?”, but it is also a bike that is always on stand by, ready to roll when other steeds are inoperable.

It was a crisp February morning when I was riding into work. I was cresting a hill, crossing an intersection when a black Nissan truck approached from the right. I had the greenlight, he had the red. As I crossed his path, he continued to roll forward towards me with intent to turn right, a traditional California stop. I’ve gotten use to this, I’ve seen it more times than I’ve had sex. Maybe.

My developed response is to politely glide my hand across the hood of the car. This does two things: it alerts the driver to your presence, and it lets them know that they are close enough that you can touch them. I like to think it gives me a chance to push away from them in the event they keep on moving forward, but I have yet the need to test it.

So I slid my gloved hand along his hood. It was a winter glove, more warmth with less grip. It was a really smooth glide. Apparently, he didn’t care for it. As soon as he passed my field of vision, I heard his engine rev. He came up on my left, sharply crossed right in front of me and hit his brakes!  I crossed the span of his bumper to the left and avoided eating his tailgate. He exited the right turn lane and shifted to his left, to the lane where I now was. The lane change to the right was permissible by ignorance maybe, but moving to the left informed me that aggression was behind the wheel, not ignorance. So I scootch over to the next lane. He pushes left again, now I’m in the lane closest to the center divider. He continues to shift to the left, forcing me into oncoming traffic! “OK, that’s how you want it?”

We were now descending, I was riding the center divider to avoid the grills of oncoming cars. He stopped at a red light, in the left turn lane, I was near his driver’s side taillight and my margin was getting narrower. As I came to pass him, I rather intentionally dug the jagged, hack-sawed handle bar of the my rookie bike into the length of his door and front quarter panel. I heard a grinding scrap and scratch that brought a smile to my face,  I always wondered if the saw job would have a more devious and destructive application. With the momentum of the downhill, this went deep. As the paint scraped and the metal on his truck gave way, a vicious satisfaction vibrated in my hand. That damned jagged handle had done me good, almost. Once the handlebar reached the turn-signal/headlight casing, it became stuck on the lip between plastic and metal. My wheel snagged to the right but my momentum didn’t stop! I tumbled into the intersection off my bike, luckily there was no fast moving traffic, a car or two drove around me. As I gathered myself, I saw his door had opened. This dude was fast, he was already upon me. He grabbed me by my bag, I twisted out, mounted my bike and rode off one block away to my workplace.

Adrenaline seething through every viscous area of my body, my hands were shaking something fierce. They trembled so much I couldn’t lock up my bike. I tried to gather myself by taking a deep breath and looked up- FUCK! The black Nissan parked right in front of me. There’s never any parking there! He exits his car screaming. He reminds me of my father. I think it best to lock up my bike, not for it’s safety, but his. Never enter an argument with a U-lock in your hand. I locked up as he continued to ramble about how sick he is of cyclists and bad drivers. I noticed two things, he still had the dealer’s advert on his front license plate (brand new truck purchased in Orange County) and his passenger side headlight was damaged (previous accident). This guy has not had the best luck with his new truck. I shook my head as he demanded recompense. I told him my signature line, “kick rocks, you full on initiated the aggression. I simply placed my hand on your car to alert you to my presence as you rolled towards me”. He asked if I worked in this building, all things honest in me, yes. He demanded to speak to my boss. Ok, lets do it.

My supervisor, Eddie  procured a conference room as this guy continued on like Yosemite Sam, spouting “I’m gonna sue, you better have insurance…” yada yada yada. Eddie sat silent as this guy spilled his rage. My heart was still pounding, his audacity kept my blood at a sprinter’s pace.  As the guy finished his story, Eddie politely said, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do for you. He was not on the clock when this happened, we have no liability for his actions.” Flummoxed but not beaten, he voiced intent to call the police. I informed him “there’s a whole floor of them 3 floors down. Lets go and tell them how you cut me off, stopped abruptly, then proceeded to push me into oncoming traffic. I had no choice but to squeeze into you. Yes, remember you pushing me into oncoming traffic? How else will you explain the three foot gash on your driver’s side?”

His mouth was agape. I could’ve thrown a grape into it. If I missed, I would’ve had time to try three more times. The shadow of rage rescinded and impotence was unveiled. His plight was larger than him. He recollected the sequence of events, starting from the first lane change and brake combo, then onto the subsequent lane changes and pushing a cyclist into oncoming traffic. In silent retrospect he had no ground to pursue recompense, and he had no justification for his actions. He raised his hand in surrender, he shook his head as his chin lowered his face to his chest. I took a view at him again, not as a combatant, but as a human with no recourse. His  head was full of salt and pepper hair (mostly salt), underlined by old-school fighter pilot sunglasses, and his white t shirt adorned with some five color screen from an event he probably took his kids to, tarped over a paunch stocky frame, this guy really reminded me of my father! I felt a little empathy for the guy. Brand new truck, twice maligned, no way to repair it, aside from his own pocketbook. What a way to start the day. He should have stayed behind the Orange Curtain, or at least came to a full stop.

Be safe, have fun.

 

Bicycle Safety Site from the Cali DMV

It’s a cheap post, but what the hell, I’m dry on material.

The California DMV has created a bicycle safety page on its website. A lot of the information is regurgitated and repetitive dry material on bicycle safety. There are some of those handbook drawings I’ve enjoyed during  my long waits at the DMV illustrating proper means of travel, as well as some links to other gubmint sites regarding cycling.

The gem of the page is the child safety links towards the bottom. As parents we often think it satisfactory to teach our children only what “we” know. The child safety links expand our expectations, sometimes in the simplest and commonly overlooked facets of bicycle riding. There is also a hefty guide to teaching a child safety course which could be of some use to those community cycling advocates. My type A intentions have urged me to print it out, my type B manifestations means I’ll probably carry it home, where it will gather with other printed pulp from the web, inert, vacant from use for many moons to come.

View the webpage here: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/coi/bicycle/safety.htm

Be safe, have fun,

The Karma Wheel

….What goes around comes around. I’m not inclined to bore you with the parameters and facets of Karma. I’d rather actualize its existence by a story, a story that happened to me….

Ever since I was on the eastern horizon of my teenage, my friends and I earnestly felt that if we walked down enough obscure and back alley paths, we’d come across a hidden briefcase full of cash. So our Doc Martens scoured the suburban landscape, searching for a reward as we filled our empty minutes with laughter and travel, in search of ourselves and the briefcase full of cash.

But I digress, my story is meant to illustrate Karma, not nostalgia. So, as I ride, my eyes scan the asphalt looking for hazards, bumps, and other peoples’ dropped valuables. In my travels, some items I’ve found include;  a watch that still tells accurate time (11 yrs), a Louis Vutton Wallet (used 9yrs), countless photographs, drafting furniture (had to go get the car for that one), and one turquoise Jessica Simpson oversized wallet. It caught my eye on Route 66, during my daily. It flashed into my view, “make-up bag, rather new” was my initial assessment. “Might be full of cash” was my second, I stopped, made the u turn, deftly picked it up, resumed my previous course and rode a block. I took a quick glance around, assessed witnesses (none) and proceeded to discover my Turquoise Jessica Simpson Make up bag. Yes, in a minute’s time, it had become “mine”, finders keepers.

Firstly, it was a wallet. Second, it did have cash!! Pesos rather than Dollars, but what the hell, it was cash. There was also a prayer card, international phone cards, a credit card, an authorized border crossing card, a card from the Secretary of Mexico indicating that the previous owner of the wallet, Gabriella was authorized to perform secretarial work, and a Mexican drivers license (from Sonora). There was another card indicating her right to be here but that she was not eligible for work. It doesn’t matter, as these documents are not easy to come by and would require much hardship if not returned to Gabriella, the wallet and its contents were no longer mine.  So there in a parking lot, hidden by a wall I delved into her wallet, her two dimensional self. I searched for a phone number, and also to be honest, I’m a stubbornly curious fellow. Her picture in some of the IDs showed a young woman who was rather easy on the eyes.

The only phone numbers in the wallet were on business cards from Mexico (I’m not calling Mexico, my Spanish ain’t that good)  and the phone number on the credit card! I’ll start there. I spoke with Ed at customer service, indicated that I found a credit card. Ed did his thing in the computer, then informed me that I could destroy the card. I interjected, “Well there’s more, I have her entire wallet, she may need it. Can I give you my name and number to forward to her?” Customer service is as customer service does.

I rode home and about three hours later, I receive a call from the 626 area code. She sounded young, smart, concerned. When I told her I had her wallet she screeched joy and relief. It had an affect. We arranged a fair meeting spot, and I left. I arrived early, parked toward the rear of the parking lot, facing its mass. A Prius drove up, of all the spots to park it parked directly in front of me. The passenger got on the phone. My phone rang. We looked at each other, smiled a bit and got out of our cars. Apparently, she found it necessary to bring her boyfriend, Robert. He offered me a verbal thank you and a very limp handshake. They asked where I found it, which I answered honestly. They determined it dropped out of her lap when she dropped him off at work. I handed over the wallet (it wasn’t my color anyway), and Robert again offered a verbal thank you. This time he passed on the limp handshake, instead his hand held a folded bill or bills within.

“Can we give something for your trouble?”

I put up my hands, “No, no, that’s not necessary”.

“Are you sure?” his hand raised higher.

As much as a cash reward would be reward for what I returned, my hands went higher, “No really” I explained “Sometime I’m gonna drop something somewhere, and someone will call me to return it. Besides, the sound of her relief over the phone was reward enough”. And that was true, when I heard her relief over the phone, it placed a smile in my soul and for once, the voice in my head announced “You’ done good”. They said thank you again, Gabriella said if she ever found  a wallet she would do the same thing, and we parted.

The next day, I went to a bike shop I frequent. Earlier in the season I was erroneously shipped three boxes of bike lubricant and a bike cleaning compound. They had been subletting in my bike locker, taking up much needed space in a narrow triangle. The product was sent to me in support of the Cycle Messenger World Championships.  Problem was, I have nothing to do with the CMWC, and I’m not willing to pay the shipping to return them back to the East Coast. So my contact at the bike shop knows this product can go to Seattle in support of the NACC, and he’s willing to ship it. That’s a load out of my bike locker, literally.

Here’s the Karma part, thank you for waiting. For my efforts of storing and delivering the three boxes, the bike shop rewards me with two free new Gator Skin tires! I really needed new tires. And if you ride like I do, when you need new tires, you need new tires. I was intending on purchasing them when I delivered  the product, but Karma surprised me instead. In my mind, in an instant, I was aware that Karma had come around, my good deed would was published.

But I wonder, if I had taken Robert’s folded cash reward, would Karma still deliver the free tires? Is this coincidence something that we call Karma, only to accessorize our droll existence with meaningful spirituality? Was the cash reward greater than the cash value of the tires? Was the act of returning the wallet enough to warrant me free tires? Either way I rub it, Karma was in effect and I knew I did the right thing by making that phone call to Ed the customer service rep at Citicard.

As cyclists, we have the unique opportunity to scavenge what others have lost along the road. As humans, we have the choice to put the wheels of Karma into motion. Keep what we can, return what we must.FigureFourGallery 112

Be safe, have fun.

Shaar Thee Road

Pasadena-20130429-02032In preparation for Bike to Work Week, I thought it fitting to post some beginner commuter tips. When I began commuting at the turn of the century, it seemed I could not complete a one way trip without being heckled, honked or hollered at. Nowadays, it is rare that a motorist reaches out to me in a loud offensive manner. I attribute this to two things; the popularity of cycling has grown, with it motorists’ awareness and sensitivities have grown as well, and second, my cycling skillset has evolved from erratic and vulnerable to predictable and dominant (I’ll do my best to explain). Most of these tips are simple common sense, but as my good friend Sam says,  common sense is neither common, nor a sense.

1. Choose your route wisely. Often the thoroughfares one drives in and out of work are not bike friendly. Experiment with side streets, bike paths and other options. Google maps and MapMyRide.com both  highlight bike lanes. Be wary of Google maps if you use it to auto program your route, it takes some human judgment to fine tune a wise route.  You may discover unfriendly asphalt or unexpected climbs, so it may take a couple trips to nail down a solid route. If you’ve the time, try it on a weekend first. Once you’re sure of your route, give its maiden voyage a good looksee, or reconnaissance. During your commuter hours, you’ll want to take note of traffic light patterns, curbside parking areas, bus routes and businesses. Yes businesses. Fast food restaurants are good places to refill water bottles, and who knows, you may be able to complete a few errands during your commute. It also helps if you can place a bike shop along your route.

2. Make sure your bike and bike equipment is up to snuff. Mechanical failures can be rather upsetting and sometimes dangerous. If your riding after the sun goes down, lights are necessary, as is bright clothing, even if you’re commuting during the day.

3. Remain consistent and predictable in your riding. Motorists take note of erratic behavior and it causes apprehension, which can cause them to make rattled decisions. Riding in a straight path and signaling when you need to move over helps a lot. Even if your scooching  over a lil to the left to avoid roadkill or a baby bottle, motorists appreciate the communicative effort. Oh, looking over your shoulder helps as well, even if you don’t intend to alter your line. It alerts them that you’re alert, then your both on the same page.

4. Take the lane if needed. If you ride scared and hug the curb, motorists will see that as a sign of weakness and try to edge you out in narrow areas.  Try to keep you right side clear by two or three feet, and a good motorist should give you three feet on your left side. If they don’t you’ll have two or three feet on your right for “reaction space”. Sometimes this places you in the middle of the lane, so make sure your riding at a good pace, and make sure it’s necessary. If you need to take the lane, do it with assurance and dominance. Gather speed, look over your shoulder, judge the speed of the nearest upcoming car, if its too fast, let it pass, if the next car is moving slow enough or is too far back, throw your left arm out straight, let it stay there while you move over, drop your arm when complete. It can be scary, so know your roads (where motorists move at heightened speeds), look over your shoulder and love life everyday. Commuting is dangerous, actualize the risk you are taking on, and act accordingly.

5. Communicate when possible. Signaling when altering you path (when possible) is a large part of sharing the road. I believe one cannot share effectively if one does not communicate.  A  simple “thumbs up” or peace sign helps when you notice a motorist has done you a courtesy, and it creates a brief human connection to a driver who is otherwise “in a bubble” of their own. As I posted before, try, try to communicate positively and let the negative drop off your back wheel without a sound, it can only help other cyclists.

Remember, commuting is not racing, it is not easyriding, it is not fun riding with your friends. It is interacting with weathered roads, moving creatures and tons of fast moving metal, sometimes being handled by less than savvy operators. The important thing is to get where you are going, safely.

Bike to Work week is May 13-17, check out your local community offerings, get on your bike, get to work and get some free stuff!

Be safe, have fun.

 

Yours Truly, a Truly Bad Example

As I was riding home yesterday, I reflected on the words I previously posted. As I jumped red lights, rode with headphones in both ears and occasionally altered my line without signaling, I realized that may have been a sizable soap box I was on yesterday. As much as I have a concern for safety and the halting of ignorance, I must admit that I violate California vehicle code on a daily basis. That being said, let me share with you some of my less than exemplary moments of commuting. Not all will be reflective of violating vehicle code. These may entail violating a Human code, the unwritten rules of behavior and manners. Often we discard this code, seeking instead brief satisfaction of our pride and ego.

A car was once riding my wheel, I felt her presence pressing, but she would not go around me. I hit a red light, and sensing that she may want to turn right, I scooted towards the center to provide her space to do so.  She rolled up next to me and in a tone as ugly as her red Hyundai yelled “You need to get off the fucking road!”  And what was my eloquent and benign response?  “Fuck you, bitch!”. Bad, bad choice. Whatever combination of malignant subconscious activity that was going on within me to produce such a response should have been shelved. I say subconscious because my words came out like a whip, no warning, no thought. Although she proceeded to turn and drive on, do you suppose she was kinder, more compassionate to the next cyclist she encountered? I think not, and that is the crux of my point. One, a rider’s response reflects on other cyclists. My retort to her vulgarity did nothing to bridge the gap between cyclist and motorist. In fact, I’m pretty sure she’ll run down the next cyclist that gets in her way, or at least she’ll want to. Our actions and our words carry into future events, and I loathe to think that my words may cause injury to a cyclist because I failed to communicate in a humane and polite manner. Two, a rider should always be aware of the quick response. We live on bikes, our reflexes are honed to be quick and sharp, our thoughts and words should be as well. True, she fired the F-bomb first, but my ideal response should have been “Not true ma’am, I have a right to be here. Go eat a bag of chips.”

There’s more, but in the meantime, Be safe, have fun.

May Bike Month, Concerns

I don’t mean to rant, but let me get this off my chest, then I’ll move on.

everylane_busback  As May comes upon us, there is a fervor of cycling awareness that will accompany it. Yes, May is National Bike Month. As such, some short sighted media campaigns will be passing by your conscience’s window . Case in point, LA Metro’s “Every lane is a bike lane” campaign.  Although aimed primarily at drivers, this large type, absent of explanation campaign on Metro’s behalf makes me shudder in fear, when you consider the ignorance and ego of some people, and then put them on bikes. To the novice cyclist, one may view this campaign as justification to easyride in the number 1 lane (The lane closest to the center divider is lane 1, then count outwards), slowing cars entitled to, and expected to cruise at speeds of 25-45 mph. I give you 3 city blocks of riding in this manner before enraging a honking, late for something, just spilled my latte motorist. And, if the rider’s confrontation strategy is as shortsighted as the Metro campaign, the outcome may be disastrous, unhealthy and subject to litigation. California Vehicle Code 21202 states that riders need to remain as close to the right hand side curb as practical, except when turning left, or avoiding obstacles. By promoting that every lane is a bike lane in such bold and large type, it can be misconstrued by some that the right to ride in any lane is theirs. I know to most readers, the above scenario may seem extreme and unlikely, but trust, I’ve witnessed the absence of common sense in both cyclists and drivers. It will only take one extreme or unlikely instance to take or damage someone’s life, and in this case, chances are, it’ll be the life of a cyclist.

bikelane_copy0_lg Another one. This shirt would be perfect, if after the type it read “when necessary”. To promote this erroneous mandate and to follow it, absent of common sense, will madden those armored by their cars. Trust me, I’m a cyclist first, and I get it, when needed we do need the full lane. But I’ve been on the road many miles, and I’ve no faith in cars and the people armored by them. Sooo many cars will act, and have acted in dangerous ways because a cyclist is slowing them down, taking the full lane when unnecessary, believing that they need not move because they are “allowed” the full use of the lane. If we continue to ride in ignorance, and propagate ignorant messages, we may  get a white bicycle where we last rode. The messages cyclists should embrace are ones of reserve and awareness, which I now feel compelled to post, stay tuned.

The Preamble Ramble

word is bondWord is definitely Bond. I’ve been a bicycling commuter for over a decade, a DTLA bike messenger for more than half of that decade.  I’ve had near death experiences on the road, and I have experienced the death of friends on the road. While cycling is extremely fun and highly enjoyable, it can result in serious injury or death….or even worse, damage to one’s bike. If any reader can learn and live from the words I post, they will then be bonded to a safer and more enjoyable life of cycling. Be safe, have fun.