September 2008


Useless not-yet-landfill piles up in every home.  When you are car-free getting the goods out the door takes a little creativity.   Sure, I get those postcards that ARC will be in my neighborhood, but I have a love affair with Eastside Neighborhood Thrift Store (formerly Silver Angel) down on the corner of 20th and Central Avenue NE.  I am propelled into grief, like a cheating lover when I shop at the thrift store that involves no biking incline (in St. Anthony). I can’t imagine how I would feel if I actually donated my junk somewhere else.

We have lots of visitors to our door.  Rescue Hero Neighbor, Dog Barf Mama (the Dog Doctor with the specialty in Nutrition) and Crime Fighter Man all make regular stops.  Rescue Hero comes to give the dogs a chance to sniff, Dog Barf Mama is always shuttling The Big One to some geeky musical event and Crime Fighter man stops for a beer (although he always says no to the expensive ones) and to wield a chain saw in the yard.

It is always the same.

“Are you heading near the thrift store today?”

“Not today, but keep asking!”

I couldn’t wait.  On Saturday, I made dancer-husband get the stuff out of the foyer. 

Here he is stacking the bags on the scooter. 

Here he is checking to be sure one his many “treasures” didn’t end up in the purge bags.

And then, he is off to dump the goods!  Check out the non-regulation helmet.  

  

 

My hero.

Windy, sudden rain woke me from my comfy bed this am. Devil baby had already been up 4 times trying his best to coax me into the underbelly of The Big One’s IKEA bed where he sleeps with the wonder dog.

“Come sleep with me, mommy.”

Visions of legs flailing and landing on my larynx run through my sleepy head.

“Sleep in my bed this time,” I say.

And after a few minutes of rest, the rain started. Plans can change so quickly when you are car-free. He really wants to go to child-care at the health club in the neighborhood. It is a short trail-a-bike ride, but I hate being soggy. Should we stay or go? Go. I’ve got to get into a regular life pattern. Work out from 9:30 – 9:45 am, step into the steam room ’til 10 and then I work in the lobby from 10 – 11:30 while he stays trapped in childcare. Great perk. Don’t tell anyone, but I joined the gym for their childcare. I liken most of their yoga classes to “yoga on steroids”, and the one class that works for the average yogini is on Sundays when I don’t need childcare. So I jump up and down on some machine I don’t understand, then go write while he gains germy immunity. Life is good, even when soggy.

The Big one has bigger challenges these days. One of his primary quirks is a lack of interest in details. Like which bus goes in which direction, and why those things matter.

He left early to wait for the 25 to take him to MacPhail Center for Music. Lesson is at 6:30. I get the call at 6:10 pm.

“Mom. I just got off the bus in St. Anthony where we got my brace when I had the scooter accident. I think I went the wrong way.”

“Yep you did Aidan. Walk over to the 4 stop and take it home, I will call Dad.”

Dad has his motor scooter license now. He gets to have passengers. He picked Aidan up and they were 10 minutes late for piano, but Mr. Jazz man, our teacher was running at least 30 minutes late so all was good.

This am, no scooter ride to school in the rain though. I read that Motorcycle handbook. Every third line said something to the effect of “most people get in motorcycle crashes in the first 6 weeks of having their endorsement.” He has had his endorsement for 8 days. Rain? Scooters? Precious not-yet-teenage cargo? I think not. The bus is just fine.

Bikes Matter. Bicyclists matter even more. This is a letter that Colin Beavan at NoImpactMan.com wrote in response to what could have been yet another bike being hit in Manhattan. Because I am technically 1/2 New Yorker (thanks, Mom!), it is my duty to post this.

Readers, please email this post to every New Yorker you know.

New York State citizens, please register your thoughts on the incident I will describe below with Senator Klein and the leader of the New York State Democrats. I will give contact details below. Please also ask Senator Klein to honor my request to meet with him.

Also, readers, please excuse the vulgar language, which as you know, I don’t generally use on the blog.

September 17, 2008

Senator Jeff Klein
Legislative Office Building
Room 313
Albany, New York 12247

Dear Senator Klein,

RE: My request, as a member of the board of Transportation Alternatives, to meet with you to discuss transportation policy as it relates to bicycle safety, carbon emissions, the cultivation of New York City quality of life, breathable air, and traffic congestion.

Though you may not know my name, you may recall that you and I met today under rather unpleasant circumstances on New York City’s Broadway, just north of City Hall. You were driving your black Mercedes. I was riding a small folding bicycle and wearing a purple helmet.

To refresh your memory:

Traffic was moving rather slowly and you were heading in the downtown direction, as was I. You were in the far left lane and I was riding on the curbside of that lane, near your rear passenger door. Suddenly, you began to veer your Mercedes to the left, potentially crushing me between your car and the cars parked on the side of the road.

With nowhere to go to get out of your way, and to avoid serious injury or death, in desperation, I chose to knock on your window to let you know that I was there and that you should avoid veering further in my direction.

At this point, you brought your vehicle to an abrupt halt, not to avoid hitting me, but because you apparently needed to communicate something to me. You rolled down your window and said, “Get your hands off my car, you fucking asshole.”

I said, “You were veering into me and going to crush me.”

You said, “You better not touch other people’s cars. You might find that touching other people’s cars is more dangerous than traffic.”

This gave me the impression that you were threatening me.

I said, “I think my life is more precious than your car.”

You said, “I didn’t see you.”

I said, “If you’re driving a car, it’s your responsibility to see what’s in road space before you veer into it. That’s what your driver side mirror is for.”

You said, “I looked in my mirror.”

I said, “You should also turn and look over your shoulder since you know there could be a bicyclist.”

You said, “Yeah. Well, maybe you should watch where you’re going.”

I said, “Where was I supposed to go? I was there. And you were veering into me.”

I was about to remind you that, in the past week, two cyclists have been killed by automobiles in New York City, but you made a gesture which implied you considered this conversation a waste of time and drove off. That is when I saw that your car had special license plates proclaiming your membership of the New York State Senate.

A red light stopped you at the next intersection. I rode alongside you and, more cautiously, tapped again on your window. You rolled it down. I could tell by your face that you weren’t happy to be talking again to this particular New York State citizen, on whose behalf you govern.

I asked you, “What is your name, Senator?”

You said, “Senator Jeff Klein.” This is how I know it was you.

Now, the thing is, Senator, I don’t particularly call you to task for calling me a fucking asshole. If the roles had been reversed, and I had a big black Mercedes and you came up in a purple helmet, knocking on my window, and I didn’t realize I was on the verge of crushing your legs, I might have called you a fucking asshole, too.

I’d like to point out, however, that, as mad as you were about my touching your car window with my hand, you could double or triple that strength of emotion when it comes to how frightening it is to be on the other side of the Mercedes driving wheel, especially when that particular Mercedes is coming toward you.

Weigh it up: “he might scratch my black Mercedes” against “he might cause my little girl to be left fatherless.”

Weigh it up again: One guy is riding a bike that weighs a grand total of 22 pounds and has a relatively small potential to harm others. The other guy is in charge of a powerful machine that weighs a couple of tons. Which person has the greater responsibility to watch out for the care and welfare of people who may get in their path, by their own fault or not?

As a State Senator, I’m sure you especially feel the weight of the obligation to look out for the welfare of others, no?

Again, this is not to say you did not act like many other humans in the same situation. But it is to say that transportation policy in New York City currently falls way too short of making sure that unintended confrontations like ours–and worse ones that end in fatalities–don’t occur.

Proper policy, which provided ubiquitous segregated bike lanes or which limited traffic congestion, could reduce such incidents without having to depend on drivers of black Mercedes, for example, remembering to look in their driver side mirror or over their shoulders.

It is for this reason that I hope you will honor my request to visit your office, along with Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White, to ask you to reconsider your current platforms on transportation and traffic congestion in New York City.

As you know, the United States’ dependence of foreign oil contributes significantly to our current economic crisis and is a matter of national security. Furthermore, the planet’s future ability to support human life is in peril because of global warming caused, in large measure, by the overuse of the same foreign oil.

At the same time, countless studies show that making the streets of New York and other cities safer and more convenient for bicyclists and pedestrians would reduce automobile use, dependence on foreign oil, carbon emissions, and traffic congestion while contributing to breathable air and livable streets, improved retail business, and the physical health of New Yorkers.

Yet, until now, your platform has presented obstacles to the adaptations that might bring these benefits to New York City. Not only did you oppose congestion pricing, a measure intended to decrease vehicular traffic, but you proposed eliminating the tolls on bridges and tunnels into Manhattan on holidays, which would bring more traffic into the City and further encourage automobile use, just when it should be decreased.

I hope you’ll consider that these policies are out of step with the current times. I hope, too, seeing, in the case of our confrontation, the result of your policies when it comes to impact on personal lives, in general, and the safety of bikers, in particular, might also give you cause to reconsider your position.

Policies that make New York City safe for bicyclists and pedestrians–the people who live on the streets as opposed to the people who just drive through them–is best, both for our citizens and the planet.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding my request to meet in person to discuss these issues.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Beavan
aka No Impact Man,
Board Member, Transportation Alternatives

Readers, if you would like to support my request to meet with Senator Klein or to generally register your thoughts about his confrontation with me, a telephone call is the most effective means of communication. But if you can’t call, please email.

You might also care to register your concerns with his more senior colleague, the leader of the Democrats in the State Senate, Senator Malcolm A. Smith.

Be sure, too, to leave a comment here on the blog letting me know if you’ve contacted either of the Senators.

You can reach Senator Klein at:

718-822-2049 or jdklein@senate.state.ny.us

You can reach Senator Smith at:

718-528-4290 or masmith@senate.state.ny.us

Today the 4 bus was early and I missed it, causing an ugly chain reaction. The light rail was slow coming but I thought that the timing would be fine anyway, getting me to my Creative Writing for High School students on time.

Nope. I ran from the lightrail station to 37th — about 6 blocks in sandals. One day after my pedicure. Sigh. Rocks in my toenails – Yikes! I got there 3 minutes late and trying to catch my breath, gave them their writing prompt: a clown shoe, a librarian and a super soaker 50. After a wonderful class, I succumbed to a request from the Ballroom teacher to be a partner. So, here I am, step, step, rock step. . . 1-2-3, 4-5-6 waltzing with my students. Nice way to get to know each other, and easy way to pay my late-for-class penance.

Funny thing is, I don’t dance. When you are married to a dancer, people assume you go out and dance. I liken it to being married to a Funeral Director and spending time embalming. It just isn’t what we do when we have time together. And the fact that I have 2 left feet doesn’t make it appealing to me.

She did say I was “such a quick learner”. I will NOT be late again though. Too sweaty. And, Devil Baby won’t have The Big One to pick him up next week, so I MUST rush home. Any homeschooled girls about there? They need you in the Planet Homeschool Ballroom dance class. Life has certainly changed since I was in high school.

Took the 10 Bus down to the Aveda School for my yearly pedicure. I start teaching Yoga at the University next week, and to stave off gifts of foot creme, I like to clean up my dogs once in a while. I’m being scrapped and moisturized by Danielle and the conversation turns to transportation, the 35W bridge re-opening, broken down cars on first dates and Tina Fey. I have no idea who Tina Fey is, and I having admitted earlier to not having a car, confessed to the absence of TV in our household. I think the whole room turned and looked at me as if they were witnessing spontaneous human combustion.

“No TV?”

“No. No TV.”

“You don’t watch TV or you don’t have one?”

“I don’t have one. Got rid of it when my oldest son was 7. It is a time waster, and I don’t have enough time as it is.”

No car. No TV. I rarely shop at a big box stores. I am clearly a disgrace to American Culture. I’ll take a lesson from The Big One.

“When they talk about things from TV mom, just nod your head and pretend you know what they are talking about.”

Smart boy. Really smart.

Sorry. . .this entry was locked in my unpublished file:

The Big One and I were riding across the Hennepin Avenue bridge last night, pulling Devil Baby in the Burley trailer. Pop! The urban family had to think twice. Were those gun shots?

“Are my tires okay?”

“Yeah, mom. Are mine?”

“Yep.”

“Burley tires are fine, too.”

But the quick release had somehow decided to quick release and the tire was lying flat by the time we got to Nye’s Polonaise Room. After the valet helped us lift the bike/burley combo up on the sidewalk, a nice couple from Hudson stopped to help us. Determined man got the tire jammed backed in where it belonged. By that time it was dark and we had no lights.

Big hearted-wish-he-was-my-brother-friend, who moonlights as a Criminal Defense attorney got the call.

“Hey Crime-Fighter Man. We had a burley accident. Can you pick us up at Nye’s?”

He was there in 5 minutes with a weary working-too-hard-to-make-sure-civil-rights-aren’t- being-violated demeanor. Clearly tied up with this whole RNC mess.

Dancer husband says the Burley is fine, no problem. Instead, I took Devil Baby around on the trail-a-bike today. He really is too little for it but he didn’t seem to mind after we got the hang of it. If I can get up tomorrow, I think we will ride it to the March on the RNC. Change of scenery from Delegate hell in downtown Minneapolis.

He is right. The Burley is fine. I’ve entrusted my children to that company for over 10 years. Good move on my part. Devil Baby actually thought the bang-drag was fun.

Nita, our wonder dog, has addison’s disease. She has little or no adrenal function and shouldn’t have stress in her life. Today, after she left me two squishy piles in the house, and a couple of puddles, I decided she needed to get some fast Friday afternoon bloodwork.

3:40 pm Camden Pet Hospital, with their in-house lab was quick to accommodate. Can you make it here in 20 minutes. Ah??? Sure. Quick, call Dawn, the neighbor with the pet service.

3:56 pm Dawn rushes home, puts the kennel in the car, tosses her dog “Diablo” into the car for moral support and off they run. Dawn does this is as a service, running dogs to the VET. And in my opinion, she doesn’t charge enough.

4:15 pm Camden calls me with the electrolyte results. Ratio is a tiny bit off, sodium is a teeny bit high, but no biggy. Must be the extra big meals I’ve been giving her. She’s been looking skinny.

If we had a car, I would have just gotten in it and taken Nita myself. But instead I need to be Creative. Resourceful. Interdependent. That’s what car-free living is all about.

Here’s Nita:

Not sure how I got two of her, but remember, this was in her fat stage. You are NOT seeing double.

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