Morning in Portland: The Smells of Smugness

There's nothing quite like waking up in Portland.  This morning, I was roused by the gentle sounds of artisanal cobbling as the sweet smells of Stumptown coffee and smugness wafted in through the window.  (This is much more pleasant than the way I wake up in Brooklyn, which is to the cacophony of trash collection as the itinerant gentleman who lives on my fire escape sings "Daisy Dukes" by the 69 Boyz.)  Then, once I was up, I headed outside to engage in my favorite Portland activity, which is purchasing small items and then insisting that the clerk bag them in plastic for me.

When I returned to my hotel, there was a young woman of maybe 20 standing outside and surrounded by luggage.  She had a fine head of dreadlocks and was dressed like a member of the erstwhile band Babes in Toyland, and she was alternately sucking on a lit cigarette and spitting.  Just then, a well-off-looking gentleman who was almost certainly her father emerged from the hotel and mentioned something about how it was time to leave, to which the Babe muttered an incomprehensibly surly retort, probably along the lines of "Screw you, Dad."

"Oh, no, that's OK!" the father figure replied apologetically. "You can finish your cigarette."

I looked for evidence that I had stumbled onto a "Portlandia" shoot, but then I remembered I was actually in Portland, and that this is just the way it is here.

Speaking of traveling and being spoiled, yesterday I sort of mock-complained about my grueling BRA schedule, and a commenter had this to say:

Anonymous said...

Poor Wildcat. All expenses paid to travel to the West Coast. Ride a bike for an hour, talk to hipster d-bags for another hour, then spend the rest of the day doing nothing.

Sounds rough.

APRIL 9, 2012 4:19 PM

This observation is certainly warranted, but in my own defense I will say the following:

1) To be perfectly fair, I don't spend the rest of the day doing nothing.  Instead, I spend it engaged in the act of air travel, which I shouldn't have to tell you can be rather tedious.  (Especially when you exude that "I'm smuggling contraband in a bodily orifice" vibe as I seem to do.)  Sure, I could be doing nothing if my sponsor Brooks had hooked me up with a sweet luxury tour bus, but despite my cajoling they wouldn't go for it.  I had a good pitch, too--the bus was going to underscore how comfortable Brooks saddles are, and it would have been called "The Taint Talk Express:"

(When the Taint Talk Express rolls into town, the chamfering parties go all night long.)

2) Also, I believe very strongly in complaining, no matter how idyllic or cushy my circumstances may be at any given time.  In fact, I subscribe to the dictum "I complain therefore I am."  This is because the moment you're no longer able to find something to complain about is the moment you become complacent, and the moment you become complacent is the moment you surrender your humanity.  One night you actually go to bed happy, and then the next thing you know you wake up 20 years later and you're living in Portland like some sort of dreadlocked Rip Van Winkle.

Fortunately though, I am a cyclist, and the world of cycling furnishes me with much to complain about. For example, I recently received an email from someone who is looking to raise the sizeable sum of $75,000 in order to fund his enterprise:

"What is this enterprise?," you may be asking if you haven't yet bothered to click on the link.  Well, it's a speaker you put on your handlebars, and the inventor explains it thusly:

Headphones always fall off when you‘re biking, ruining your rhythm and becoming a hazard.  Let SleekSpeak’s wireless technology set you free!  Connect to the speaker via bluetooth with your smartphone or MP3 player and start biking to the beat.  When you are riding with friends you can connect to their SleekSpeaks and become the DJ for your whole crew.

Say what you will about people who ride with headphones, but at least they have the decency to keep their musical preferences to themselves.  On the other hand, if this thing takes off I could find myself subjected to all manner of neutered "indie" warblings emanating from the similarly neutered fixiebike cockpits of Nü-Brooklynites.  Incidentally, if you're wondering how it works, basically it's a "hipster cyst" that makes noise:

If bikes weren't built to have wires, why does his have cable guides?

Anyway, if you're still not convinced, here's the promotional video:

First, we see a rider.  Let's call him "Hilpster A:"

As you can see, "Hilpster A's" earbuds are falling out of his ears, and they eventually get caught in his front wheel:

I admit I've ridden with earbuds before.  Granted, I almost never do it, but on the occasions that I have I've never, ever have I had the problem shown above.  Sure, maybe I have prehensile ears, or maybe I clean them so infrequently that the adhesive properties of my earwax buildup keeps the earbuds securely in my head, but we might also need to consider the possibility that the above rider is uniquely hapless and is probably also the type of person who used to constantly stab himself with a pencil in gradeschool and who still can't use the bathroom without getting his "pants yabbies" caught in his zipper.

Meanwhile, as "Hilpster A" is futzing with the "vintage" Cannondale cyclocross bike he picked up on eBay, "Hilpster B" zips by:

Bobbing his head happily like a davening Rebbe:

Only without the sense of rhythm.

"I love bi-keen," effuses "Hilpster B," and his expression leaves us with no doubt that this is true:

Indeed, if you're only going to put one thing on your cockpit, forget the brake lever and let it be a "Hilpster PA System:"

Also, freeing your ears from headphones leaves more room for pretty flowers and voluminous scarves:

Then, once you get to the park, you can have a soundtrack for your impromptu hilpster photo shoots:

Yes, nobody loves cameras more than hilpsters, and you can't ride a bicycle past a crappy building or a crumbling wall in Brooklyn without finding a hilpster standing in front of it and taking pictures of it with $2,000 worth of photo equipment.  I'm not sure if this is because they're enamored of urban decay, or if they're simply looking for new neighborhoods to gentrify, but I suspect it really doesn't matter because they're both essentially the same thing.

Of course, when they're not photographing urban decay they're simply photographing each other, and there's no ambiguity as to why this is:
Yes, you are awesome.

Really, the only thing hilpsters love more than cameras is hanging stuff from their carabiners, and of course the "Hilpster PA System" lends itself to this application quite well:

So be sure to help the inventor reach his $75,000 goal, so that you can put a gigantic mushy cube on your handlebars instead of being without music for 20 minutes:

Still, I'll readily admit that using your bike as a PA system is far better than using it as a means to justify your own prejudices, as in this cringeworthy opinion piece which was forwarded to me by a reader and which manages to invoke both bike theft and the Trayvon Martin shooting:

Basically, this person's crappy bike gets stolen:

It was a beautiful and sunny day, and I planned to ride my bike around the city. The bike, a sharp silver-blue hybrid from L.L. Bean, was only a year old, but had already taken on great literal and symbolic significance for me. In 2008 I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the chemotherapy caused some nerve damage. The doctor says it will slowly go away but exercise will be a big help.

And despite having no evidence whatsoever, he decides it must be the work of a black person:

The students at Catholic University were on Easter break. That left the neighborhoods around the university. Since the time I was an undergrad at Catholic University in the 1980s, most of the crime that has occurred on campus has come from those neighborhoods, which are predominately black. As sure as it took the D.C. cops forever to get to the parking lot to file a report, I knew that the odds were very high that a black person had taken my bike — maybe one of the kids that had been described.

That's the finest piece of detective work I've seen since Mavic absolved themselves for the R-Sys debacle.  Anyway, after considerable hand-wringing, the victim finally experiences catharsis:

In that moment, I had a change of consciousness. Why was I assuming that the kid who stole my bike was acting out of some terrible pain, as if he had been directly under the lash of Bull Connor? What if he has a car, a nice apartment, a hot girlfriend and good health?

What if he is just a selfish asshole?

I decided that I’m just going to let go of my white guilt. We’re all human, we all experience pain in our lives. And black pain is no different than white pain.

I think we all knew from the beginning of the story that the person who stole the bike was a selfish asshole, and by the end of it we know that the writer is an asshole too.  The only thing we still don't know is what color the bike thief actually was.  But really, that doesn't matter, as long as the guy who lost his L.L. Bean bike doesn't have to give Trayvon Martin the benefit of the doubt anymore.

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