Monday, December 19, 2005

Hellos and Furwells

Early 2005 saw the coming of a fresh winter coat on my Trek road bike, courtesy of Joanne Fabrics. People stared, kids wanted to touch it and it felt good to straddle in the nude. It made many appearances around town and received such memorable comments thrown my way, like "Hey it's Big Bird!", "Is your bike warm?" and the classic "How fur are you riding?". Oh we laughed and laughed...

Since nothing is constant but change, it came time to shave the dirty, greasy hair and free the steel steed once again. After using about half a gallon of Goo Gone to remove the 3M brand spray adhesive that snugly held the fur in place, I was convinced that spray glue is evil and I will never ever work with it again (or until inspiration strikes for a new fur bike). In place of fur went numerous bike related decals to separate my bike from all the other red '84 Trek 660s out there.

I found my groove during the stripping process and continued on to the last remaining brake on the bike. The front brake and brake lever were unbolted from the bike and dispatched to the spare parts bin. Being a fixed gear bike, this meant that my only means of stopping would be the ginormous leg power of yours truly. I have seen bike couriers ride like this but have never tried it on my own. This morning's run for coffee on the Blvd would be the first test of the brakeless beast, and as Murphy would have it, turned out to be one of the sketchiest rides, traffic-wise that I've had lately. Drivers pulled stunts that kept me on my toes, hop-skid stopping and sprinting as needed to avoid getting a close-up view of their oil pan drain plug. But I passed the test and the bike shall remain brakeless for the time being.

Disclaimer: the Pucker Factor (PF) is high, around 8.5 so please kids, don't try this at home. Well, try it at home, just not in 4 lanes of last minute Christmas shoppers with one hand on the cell phone, one hand on their gingerbread latte and a knee on the steering wheel.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Protesting the Protest

If it's Friday, it must be Protest Night. While most people are driving home from work, headed out for Date Night or on their way to da club, a dedicated bunch sets up shop on the corner of a busy L.A. intersection to enlighten the motorists on the state of Iraq, the administration, gas prices, national security, etc. All done so in a peaceful, non-confrontational way. (Until now - that's where I come in). Just a handful of concerned citizens out sharing their opinions with anyone who drives by, by means of holding handmade posters and banners. The motorists respond by either honking in approval or flipping them off and calling them dirty hippies.

The first time or two by, I honked in support. "I can change the world by pressing on my steering wheel!"...I like to think to myself. Making an impact is FUN! The next time few times I drive by on a Friday and see the same ol' tired signs, I start to think "ok this is getting old and I need to do something about it."

Cut to: Interior of art supplies store

I ride to the store and buy some large cardboard signs, some paint and brushes. A variety of messages run through my head and I settle on two. The following Friday I'm ready. I ride to The Corner with my signs, as I'm expecting my nephew to come aid me in my mission. One for him, one for me. I arrive at 5pm as I'm not really sure what time they begin and find myself alone with the street corner all to myself. It's dark and traffic is heavy. I position myself on the curb and proudly raise my sign.

The response is quick and varied. People are laughing and honking, some are embarrassed and won't make eye contact, some are so engrossed in their cell phone convo that they don't even notice. Single women smile and honk, construction workers honk with enthusiasm from their pick-ups. *Somebody's* horny!

This goes on for an hour, my nephew arriving later to hold up his sign that proclaims "I heart nachos" with a big red heart. Then I notice at 6:00 that the regulars are starting to trickle in. One guy comes up and asks me in a bitchy tone "What does your sign even mean?". I respond that I'm protesting sexual oppression. He's not entertained. He follows up with "You don't have anything else to do on a Friday night?" My answer: "No". Another concerned protester wants to know "who I'm with" and "where I'm from". He gets smart-ass answers in return.

My 6th sense now tells me that there's a hubbub about my presence. Just then a short, angry man comes up from behind me and gets in my face. "Fuck you very much - go find another corner" he suggests, trembling. "Excuse me?" I ask, unsure of what I just heard. He repeats "Fuck you very much - go find another corner." I now have a small mob glaring at me, the most sorry looking lot of people I've ever seen. We exchange pleasantries and I stay put. Now some unknown civilian steps in between us and starts reading Shorty the Riot Act on my behalf, telling him I can do whatever the fuck I please. Me and my nephew step back and watch the circus unfold. It's beautiful. I offer that they should try and do what their signs say and handle this peacefully, which turns out to be like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

The kid and I decide to bail, we've had enough. As we pack up and walk away, Shorty catches up to us and apologizes. "I lost it - I'm sorry". Apology accepted, we head off into our respective Friday nights, myself being content that things went just a little differently for people tonight. And that maybe those horns honking manifested into some action for a lucky few. :P