Wednesday's Child: Full of Whoah

Is there a finer time than early autumn to go about your business by bicycle in New York City? I don't think so. You can keep the sunburn, perspiration, and "swamp crotch" of summer. Fie on winter, with its ice, and its snow, and its crunchy road salt, and its beards filled with frozen mucus. Even spring is ruined by its "bike to work" days and "bike months" and legions of wobbly fair-weather cyclists extricating their mechanically unsound bicycles from the recesses of their co-op bike rooms for the first time since the previous year's "bike month."

Autumn, however, is just right, and it was on a particularly lovely late afternoon yesterday that I took to my Scattante to run some errands. "How lovely," I thought to myself as I rode along an unobstructed bike lane--until I saw a "bike salmon" pedaling towards me. Nothing ruins a pleasant ride like a salmon in the bike lane. It's like a busboy's crusty booger falling into your gazpacho just as you're reaching for your spoon. (The crucial difference being that you can't fish the salmon out and flick it at your dining partner for laughs.) As the scruffy-faced salmon approached, I glowered at him, but as he drew closer I realized he looked familiar. It took me a few moments, but I finally placed him: it was Hollywood acting person Jake Gyllenhaal.

At least, I'm pretty sure it was Jake Gyllenhaal, though I suppose it also could have been his sister Maggie Gyllenhaal with a three-day beard. It's hard to know for sure, since he wasn't riding a road bike, and he wasn't wearing The Rapha:

And if it was him (though I'm fairly certain it was), there's no telling whether or not he recognized me as the current owner of his pie plate:

Either way, the entire incident was highly traumatic, and I resented the intrusion upon my right-of-way.

Speaking of resentment, like everything else it tends to refine itself over time. For example, at this point in my life I tend to resent highly specific things: celebrity bike salmon; boogers in my gazpacho; the convoluted ordering process at Starbucks; and so forth. However, when I was much younger my resentment was decidedly more scattershot. In those days, things I resented included but were in no means limited to: school; authority; life; homework; having to wake up; and the grievous social injustice which was having to wear pants.

Of course, in resenting those things as a young person I was by no means unique. In fact, as a young person it was my job to resent those things. I was also not unique in enjoying music that both stoked and pandered to my adolescent sense of resentment. This music consisted mostly of wild bashing and screaming sounds, though at the time the differences between one type of wild bashing and screaming and another type of wild bashing and screaming were enough to start fistfights at nightclubs. If pressed, the typical wild bashing and screaming fan in those days probably couldn't tell you the difference between the IRA and the IRS, but he could expound on the differences between Wild Bashing And Screaming Band X and Wild Bashing And Screaming Band Y until you eventually just started feeling bad for him.

Anyway, I am now (at least chronologically) an adult, and like many adults who shared my tastes when they were younger, I have two sets of feelings when it comes to wild bashing and screaming music. On one hand, it was very important to me then, and I still have a great deal of affection and nostalgia for it. On the other hand, I also think almost all of it is comically stupid. In fact, I remember almost exactly the moment when I started feeling that way. It was during college--that heady time when the influence of the "Wednesday Weed" mingles with reading about intellectual stuff such as Freud and psychoanalysis. I was probably under the influence of both of these things, at which point I put on whatever album by whatever wild bashing and screaming band I favored at the time. Then I had the unsettling revelation that I was basically listening to the musical equivalent of a protracted scatalogical temper tantrum in which an out-of-control child is screaming while twirling a soiled diaper over his head. (Or, to put it more simply, a "total shitfit.")

From then on, the spell was broken. No longer could I put on a bashing and screaming record and feel that little thrill you get when you're giving the middle finger to society. Instead, I just heard someone trying to sound scary while refusing to clean his room, and quite frankly, it was embarrassing.

This is not to say I hold such music in contempt. Far from it. It's crucial to have a type of music that flails wildly against decency and good taste so you can hold in front of you like a shield of unbearable noise while you search for who you are and go through the often confusing and painful process of forming your own identity and set of opinions. For that reason, I still keep and protect my old records--for better or worse, they were my social intermediaries. Somehow though, to write about this music in an "intellectual" manner in a highbrow periodical seems only highly pretentious, but also to undermine the spirit of the music itself. Most of all, though, it's completely ridiculous, which is why I was simultaneously amused and disgusted by this Sasha Frere-Jones article on "black metal" in the New Yorker:

In reading this, I was amazed by two things: 1) this form of music has not advanced creatively or aesthetically by a single millimeter in almost 30 years; and 2) a man in his 50s who is writing a book on Michael Jackson actually sits around listening to "black metal," presumably while quaffing a $50 bottle of wine, and then writes things like this:

...Nathan Weaver sings in a strangled tone that is somewhere between the high, almost avian sound that Liturgy’s Hunt-Hendrix makes and the classic black-metal growl of a traditional Norwegian black-metal singer like Immortal’s Abbath Doom Occulta, as on 1992’s “The Call of the Wintermoon.”

Whereas once people wrote endless variations on the word "brutal" in fanzines and talked about how Wild Bashing and Screaming Band X made them want to smash stuff, now Frere-Jones writes this:

I kept thinking of Janet Cardiff ’s 2001 installation “The Forty-Part Motet,” currently playing at MOMA PS1.

Then again, I suppose this is the treatment wild bashing and screaming music wants now. Awhile back Klaus from Cycling Inquisition sent me this interview with one of the bands Frere-Jones writes about:

This, then, is the spirit of the times. Formulaic music from the 1980s evokes not rage but comparisons to exhibitions at MOMA. Mayonnaise is sold in boutiques. Pretty much everything qualifies as a "culture," and the members of a "culture" celebrate when someone appropriates their "culture" and sells it back to them. We live in a strange age of intellectual political correctness, where everything is brilliant and nothing is crap, and all creative expression no matter how derivative warrants the same degree of sycophantic fawning.

Speaking of dressing up everything, the Forces of Tweed have reminded me that it's almost time for New York City's own "Tweed Run:"

Furthermore, they were kind enough to invite me:

We're drawing close to the big day itself, and I was hoping we could count on seeing yourself dressed up to the nines in some stylish tweed plus fours, with perhaps a flat cap and some hefty facial hair (real or fake) for the occasion?

I had no idea what "plus fours" were, so I looked them up:

Plus fours are breeches or trousers that extend 4 inches (10 cm) below the knee (and thus four inches longer than traditional knickerbockers, hence the name). As they allow more freedom of movement than knickerbockers, they have been traditionally associated with sporting attire from the 1860s and onward, and are particularly associated with golf.[1]

Inasmuch as I don't own any plus fours, have little interest in obtaining any plus fours, and don't really understand what's so exciting about riding a bicycle in plus fours, I'm probably not an ideal Tweed Run candidate. I'd also probably be unable to help "recreate the spirit of a bygone era:"

The Tweed Run is a group bicycle ride through the centre of London, in which the cyclists are expected to dress in traditional British cycling attire, particularly tweed plus four suits. Any bicycle is acceptable on the Tweed Run, but classic vintage bicycles are encouraged. Some effort to recreate the spirit of a bygone era is always appreciated.[1]

I'm not sure what this actually means, but I'm guessing it involves either not having a full suite of inoculations and thus being susceptible to polio, or else giving small children lumps of coal and then kicking them in the face.

Personally, I'd be far more interested in a "Cockpit Run," which would be a ride consisting entirely of bikes with crazy cockpits. Some effort to recreate the spirit of a Rube Goldberg machine is always appreciated, and this bike, forwarded to me by a reader, would of course be more than welcome:

Really, the only problem with a Cockpit Run would be that it wouldn't get very far, since all the wacky cockpits would get tangled almost immediately. In this sense, it would be more of a "clump" than a "run."

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