Where We Stand: Don't Let The Door Hit You on the Way Out

Further to yesterday's post, in which I bloviated about loud music, I found myself trapped in one of those seemingly endless nostalgia-fueled Internet searches. Proust may have had his madeleine, but now we have YouTube, and anyone who remembers the days when you actually had to venture to unseemly neighborhoods and smell unsavory things in order to hear "countercultural" music can never quite get over the novelty of simply punching it up on a home computing device. It's like someone who's been rescued from the desert turning the faucet on and off simply because he can.

Of course, anyone who's ever been trapped in an endless nostalgia-fueled underground music Internet search also knows just how dangerous this can be. Sadly I forgot this, but it wasn't long before I remembered, because in relatively short order I was watching one of the aging members of the anti-establishment band Crass demonstrating a composting toilet in the nude:

(To avoid back injury, when building a composting toilet, always lift with your penis.)

I should have known this would happen, since physics dictates that if you spend enough time around any counterculture it's only a matter of time before someone will wind up naked and building a composting toilet. It's sort of like how, if you place an infinite number of monkeys in a room with an infinite number of typewriters, one of them will type up "Hamlet"--or start pleasuring himself and flinging his own feces, I forget which. In any case, all of these are signs that it's probably time for you to avert your eyes and move along.

But how can we simply move along and avert our eyes from injustice, and inequality, and corruption in the "system?" Sure, Crass may be more concerned with the subtleties of responsible and sustainable fecal management now, but thousands of others are still taking to the streets:

I haven't visited the demonstrations myself recently. This is partially because I've been "busy" (lots of YouTube videos to watch don't you know), and partially because, despite having visited twice already, I didn't see a single naked person building a compost toilet. Therefore, I'm beginning to think I should cash in all my chips now before I see what cannot be unseen. Then again, it probably doesn't matter. After all, the house always wins, and even if never go back I'll probably turn on the TV in a couple of days and see a group of dedicated and handy Occupy Wall Streeters fabricating a mighty Throne of Smugness, their hammers falling in unison and their pendulous "pants yabbies" swaying in the autumn breeze.

Nevertheless, I continue to be interested in the protests from a cultural standpoint--if only because, in this, the Age of Meh, it's refreshing to see people actively voice dissatisfaction and dissent instead of debating which coffee house in gentrified Brooklyn tamps its espresso more evenly:

Or else just throwing a "total shit fit," depending on how you look at it.

Speaking of dissatisfaction, if you ride a bicycle for transportation pretty much anywhere in the world besides maybe Amsterdam and Copenhagen then it's a feeling with which you're intimately familiar. As it happens, Jack Thurston of The Bike Show alerted me to a compelling article which endeavors to explain why. Among the many interesting points it raised was this one:

When I posted my Cycling is dangerous post here, a commenter told me that by writing this phrase, I was likely to get cycling banned – the same old thinking. I had to reply that, well, perhaps he hadn't noticed, but cycling is banned already in the UK – has been for years. Its 1% modal share of journeys shows it has been banned more effectively than could ever have been achieved by legislation. As I told him, he government bans travelling at more than 70 mph on motorways, and at more than 30 mph is towns, but most motorists do these things. The government bans narcotic drugs, but more than 1% of people take them. The government bans tax evasion, but lots of people engage in that. People do not stop doing things because they are banned from doing them legally, they stop doing things because those things are made very unpleasant and inconvenient – which is what has happened with cycling.

Here in Canada's chamois (and Canada itself I'd imagine) we certainly do make cycling very unpleasant and very inconvenient. Who among us has not had an experience like this (via Streetsblog)?

The officer asks me what happened, and specified that he wanted to know which way I was riding. I felt like from the get go he was trying to find something that I was doing wrong, like riding the wrong way on a one way street…which was not the case.

I explained that I was riding my bike, and that a car service passenger opened their door into me. The officer proceeded to tell me that I was at fault. Since the car wasn’t moving he would treat it like I ran into the car.

Yes, riding a bike may not actually be illegal, but is more or less unsanctioned, and therefore you undertake the activity at your own risk. (In this sense, I suppose you could call it "ab-legal.") Most importantly, mind the cars when you're on your bike, since it would be a shame if any of them were to get scratched. And if you insist on riding a bike anyway, make sure you do so like Arnold Schwarzenegger, as in this Vanity Fair profile which was forwarded to me by a reader:

California Iron Man

A t seven o’clock one summer morning I pedaled a $5,000 titanium-frame mountain bike rented in anxiety the previous evening down the Santa Monica beach road to the corner where Arnold Schwarzenegger had asked me to meet him. He turned up right on time, driving a black Cadillac S.U.V. with a handful of crappy old jalopy bikes racked to the back. I wore the closest I could find to actual bicycle gear; he wore a green fleece, shorts, and soft beige slipper-like shoes that suggested both a surprising indifference to his own appearance and a security in his own manhood. His hair was still vaguely in a shape left by a pillow, and his eyelids drooped, though he swore he’d been up for an hour and a half reading newspapers. After reading the newspapers, this is what the former governor of California often does: rides his bike for cardio, then hits the weight room.

He hauls a bike off the back of the car, hops on, and takes off down an already busy Ocean Avenue. He wears no bike helmet, runs red lights, and rips past do not enter signs without seeming to notice them and up one-way streets the wrong way. When he wants to cross three lanes of fast traffic he doesn’t so much as glance over his shoulder but just sticks out his hand and follows it, assuming that whatever is behind him will stop. His bike has at least 10 speeds, but he has just 2: zero and pedaling as fast as he can. Inside half a mile he’s moving fast enough that wind-induced tears course down his cheeks.

Who needs bike lanes anyway? That's what Cadillac SUVs are for.

I suppose then this is why some cyclists pine for the kinder and gentler times (whether real or imagined) that the "Tweed Run" purports to embody--a ride which, as I also mentioned yesterday, is coming to New York. I plan to crush the ride, too, since while everybody else is wearing "plus fours," I'll be wearing "plus fives:"

The cycle suit tailored by Russell Howarth is designed for the urban cyclist. Using the Urban Check tweed design which is from the reflective LumatwillTM range. This tweed has the added benenfit of Teflon coating, which prevents the tweed soaking up water if one gets caught in a shower. The design includes specially cut cycling plus 5s which button up the sides, and a very clever action back to allow one to bend over down over the handbars when pedaling hard.

My victory is all but assured--unless someone shows up with those new Campagnolo "plus sixes." Then I'm screwed.

I'll also be blasting some brutally heavy "tweed metal:"

Just as long as I can figure out a way to mount my TweedPod to my handlebars, that is:

I'll probably use jute twine, which is the tweed equivalent of duct tape.

Of course, the real problem with getting into the tweed scene is the high cost of entry, since a bespoke cycling suit complete with Campagnolo Plus Seven Ergo Bloomers can cost thousands of dollars. So until someone starts a tweed version of Nashbar, if you want an entry-level "Tweed Run" outfit you've got to visit the golfing mail order shops:

Really "feeling" those "colorways."

Lastly, yesterday I also mentioned that I'd like to see a Cockpit Run, and in the spirit of creativity I'm pleased to announce that homemade fairings (like this one forwarded to me by a reader) would of course be welcome:

As would hand-"curated" awnings, like this one spotted by another reader in Ft. Lauderdale:

Note also the bicycle's superior "portaging" ability:

Store-bought cockpits like "Back-Up Barz" would not be acceptable, though--nor would "The Octagon," as forwarded by yet another reader:

On the other hand, adapting something like this for the same purpose would win you an award:

I'm not sure how you'd do it, though you could probably figure something out with jute twine.

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