From Suck to Blow: The Storm Before the Calm

First of all, I'd like to thank the many people who sent well-wishings and messages of support over the weekend as hurricane Irene ambled towards New York City at speeds of up to 14mph, like a cyclo-tourist with panniers full of destruction. However, as much as I'd like to thank everybody, I can't, because I didn't receive any well-wishings or messages of support at all. Instead, I was forced to stock up on a week's worth of cheese steaks with the sad knowledge that my fate meant little to anybody:

(Translation: "Hot, from having recently been grilled, steaks in the Philadelphia cheeseway.")

Fortunately, New York City didn't receive nearly as much damage as was anticipated, and I extend my sympathies to those who elsewhere who were affected far more adversely than we were. Nevertheless, I find myself dismayed by what seems to be a growing "You New Yorkers are 'woosies' when it comes natural disasters" sentiment. I noticed it first when Californians scoffed at our little earthquake last Wednesday, and it seemed to continue when we shut down the entire city and evacuated a bunch of people who, for the most part, probably could have just stayed at home eating "hot" cheese steaks.

If you're one of these people (a "New Yorkers are weather 'woosies'" person, not a "sitting at home eating 'hot' cheese steaks" person), I humbly request that you keep two (2) things in mind:

1) Life is much harder in New York City than it is in the rest of Canada's pannier, and on a daily basis we're subject to a degree of difficulty and indignity that most people will never have to experience. If you've never shared a crowded subway car with a homeless person who has recently soiled himself, been kicked in the face by an errant street performer, or shopped at Fairway supermarket on a Sunday (three people were recently trampled to death at the free olive oil sampling station), then you have no right to criticize us. We pay thousands of dollars a month to live in apartments that are worse than your crappiest storm shelters, and laying any sort of "weather event" on top of all this this creates the sort of hardship that would have even the most hardy natural disaster veteran crying to FEMA.

2) Our national image has become somewhat tarnished, so as a "real" city New York is one of very few things that keep this country from devolving into a complete laughingstock to the rest of the world. It's bad enough that our status as one of the world's great cities is already being undermined by designer beard-wearing curators of artisanal handicrafts, so therefore any additional threats to our status and well-being (or at least our distorted concept of what qualifies as well-being) should be taken very seriously. Without New York City, the United States is Los Angeles, Chicago, and a bunch of smaller towns that may or may not have a Cheesecake Factory in them. If this doesn't worry you, it should, because if New York City is washed away then America will simply become that place Canadians visit to do their bargain shopping.

This is not to say that people in other parts of the country are not culturally enlightened or well-versed in the art of creative expression. Consider Virginia Beach, where a man exposed his "pants yabbies" during the Weather Channel's hurricane coverage:

In an America Without New York, the country would effectively become a giant college town, and you'd be likely to see this sort of behavior constantly, even during the State of the Union address.

Speaking of the hurricane, most New Yorkers spent the days preceding it stocking up on provisions, which could explain why one woman in Williamsburg was "portaging" a bunch of wooden logs:

The girl on the bike with wooden logs on her back - m4w - 30 (Bedford Ave/Williamsburg)

Date: 2011-08-26, 10:53AM EDT

Reply to:

You - the sweet girl in burgundy dress with such major connfidence,

Me - the Jewish guy in car,

You looked at me and said such a lovely HEY!

I wanna see you again and say a lovely HI!

I'm not sure if she planned to burn the logs for fuel, or if she was anticipating having to "curate" a log cabin shelter by hand using her artisanal axe, but either way I find this budding cross-cultural romance tremendously inspiring, especially given the strained relations between the "hilpsters" and the Hasidim in this area.

Somewhat less inspiring is this indication that incidents of "smugness baiting" may be on the rise:

"I'm annoyed by your smugness" - m4w - 28 (dean st.)

Date: 2011-08-25, 1:31AM EDT

Reply to:

What I yelled back was, "You're so cute, I was sorry I passed". Want to have coffee or a bike ride?

As a smug cyclist myself, I urge you to refrain from hurling anti-smugness epithets such as the one above when we are out "portaging." After all, hath not a smug cyclist two wheels? Hath not a smug cyclist a load of organic groceries? If you tip us, do we not topple? If you ridicule us, do we not become unduly sensitive? If you ask us about our bicycles, do we not unfurl soporific discourses on the relative merits of frontal versus rearward weight distribution? Hath not David Byrne, the Patron Saint of Smugness, a car?

Well, actually, no, I guess he hathn't.

Evidently, the most influential cycling blog is Copenhagen Cycle Chic:

I certainly have no issues with being "dethroned" from the top spot on a meaningless list, nor do I have any illusions that I have any influence at all, though I was puzzled by their explanation:

At least 11 of the Top 50 cycling bloggers here are women. Cycling Chic Copenhagen has started a global movement — we can see many links pointing to her. This sub-community is rocking the blogosphere, or shall say women are rocking it! Women bloggers are a definite force to be reckoned with in the cycling world.

Now, I love to see women "rocking it!" and all, but I'm also pretty sure Copenhagen Cycle Chic is not a "her," since it was started by Mikael Colville-Andersen:

(Oh no, he's talking about helments! Seek shelter immediately!!!)

And while he may bear at least a stunt double's resemblance to Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, he is clearly not a woman. Yes, I do believe the site has some female contributors, but according to the site's own FAQ it all started when Colville-Andersen took a picture of a woman from behind:


The photos came first. One photo in particular started it all off. Mikael has been involved in street photography for some time and one day he snapped a fellow cyclist in the morning rush hour. All at once a theme, a visual style and a subject was born.

That style? Surreptitiously taking photos of hot Danish chicks:

Now, don't get me wrong--I have nothing but respect for Mikael Colville-Andersen and his "Cycle Chic" empire, and he is clearly the Hugh Hefner of bicycle advocacy. However, maybe the people that made this list should take the time to look at the actual blogs, because if Colville-Andersen is a woman blogger then I should get some acknowledgement for being one of the rare cycling bloggers with an indigenous Australian background.

Speaking of doing stuff from behind, a reader tells me a writer for British newsing paper The Guardian named Peter Walker is actually questioning whether or not Cat 6 commuter wheelsucking is acceptable:

How is this even the subject of debate? Of course it is not acceptable, for the same reasons you shouldn't draft people when you're driving to work in your car. (Unless you're David Byrne, in which case you don't have one.) How come we never see articles in the automotive sections of newspapers that ask, "Where do you stand on tailgating?" Yet, shockingly, the writer not only supports commuter drafting, but also performs domestique duties for his wheelsuckers:

My position's pretty clear: I'm happy to either draft or be drafted. With the former I don't go ludicrously close to another bike's rear wheel and I'm vigilant in case my temporary helper has to brake or swerve to avoid something. And if we reach a red light I'll often try to set off quickly so as to offer a reciprocal helping hand. When in front I indicate well in advance, and point a helpful finger towards upcoming potholes and the like.

Wow, do they also get a "happy ending" with all that? Even more amazingly, he's surprised when he drafts people and they don't like it:

These malcontents react in different ways: some turn round and scowl; others begin weaving round the lane, slowing down or speeding up. One young man's facial expression was so laughably aggrieved – you'd have thought I'd propositioned his mother – that when we stopped at a red traffic light I felt obliged to ask him, politely, why he so objected to being drafted. "Look," he hissed, "we're individuals, we're not in this together. We're cycling alone. Don't you get that?" Even by London's famously misanthropic standards this was strong stuff.

I couldn't agree more with this so-called "malcontent." You are not automatically at someone's disposal just because you are both on bikes--the normal rules of society apply. Is it OK to follow someone at a distance of two inches when you're walking just because you're both wearing sneakers? No it isn't. In reading this article it became increasingly clear to me that Peter Walker must be the most irritating cyclist in London, and it must be incredibly disconcerting not being able to ride around the city without constantly turning around and seeing this:

("Would you mind terribly if I had sex with your mother?")

It should go without saying, then, that Peter Walker's solution to all of this is completely insane:

There is, of course, an obvious answer: if someone clearly doesn't like being drafted then don't do it.

Yes, this is a great approach. Just imagine if we extended this to every other manner of rude and unacceptable human interaction, too. After all, as I always say, "If a stranger clearly doesn't like it when you fondle their buttocks on public transportation then don't do it." The only people who are allowed to just do stuff to other people until they're told to stop aren't people at all; they're dogs. Sure, a dog can get away with sticking his muzzle in your crotch or humping your leg until you register your objection, but if people start acting the same way then human society becomes little more than a dog pack and the next thing you know your dinner guests are drinking from your toilet and urinating on your carpet.

Though I do acknowledge that, in certain social circles, these are indications that the dinner party was a huge success.

Nevertheless--or perhaps because of it--I remain a firm believer in keeping your distance.

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