Monday, June 23, 2008

Friends Made Stupider by the Day

That Big Dummy, I tell ya, it starts conversations ... it gets people a-lookin' ... they wanna know "What is it?!" and "How does it ride?" It's not a bike for an anti-social type for sure. You're gonna have to talk to someone, somewhere, somehow eventually. (I ask myself sometimes why in the HELL do I own one?)

Our long lost friends Joel and Faith came over for dinner a couple weekends ago. Joel took the bike out first by himself. I told him how Sylvia has been riding on it and how April at 9 months pregnant had ridden on it. He just had to take Faith for a spin. He wants one. Of course he does. They're car-free types. The Dummy is a natural and unlike many utilitarian cars, the Dummy is just plain practical and FUN.

Rippin' it in the back alley aboard the Big Dummy.

Perhaps some people wonder why we don't entertain much anymore. We are very excited to be moving to a house, you see. This photo of our dining room and "second bedroom" beyond (a glorified sun porch that serves as our office) literally shows a full 1/3 of our current apartment's size. Add to this madness a couple of kids and all their accoutrements and there's not much space or sanity left to host friends. Sylvia is in her au naturale state, as per usual. (No comment, Johnny.)

Two Sundays ago (after our dinner with Faith and Joel) I went and saw Wrex's band, Bastard Saint. This is one of my favorite photos of the Wrexican in his element -- 7th St Entry, Downtown MPLS. He's one hell of a guy.

Do you ever look for truth or revelation in bathroom graffiti? I've always been fascinated by it ever since I was a kid. I remember when I was 7 yrs old on a winter road trip to Michigan with my mom and sister. I saw some graffiti in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant in Mackinac City that, like most bathroom graffiti, was just stupid. Then there was the occasional witty stuff like: "Here I sit broken-hearted, I came to shit but only farted." That's cute at least. In the City (MPLS) there is graffiti that will blow you away -- literary quotations, intelligent political arguments that stream 2 feet down the side of the stall, designs and art that were sketched by some skilled hand. This simple cursive messsage scrawled in marker caught my eye for its sheer burst of light amid a dark gray, piss-drenched concrete lavatory that looks to have been outfitted with leftover stainless steel prison fixtures.

Fast forward to last Wednesday (yep ... "fast forward" to the past). I embarked on the mythical Wednesday Night Ride. It was a certain Sov's last Wednesday living in town -- he done jumped ship to his home state of Iowa. Never mind they're mostly underwater, since his new house is on a hill. He was leaving and it was an excuse to do it up right.

We met at the usual place. Although it was my first ride a number of the usual suspects swore that I'd been on a WNR previously. I don't know if that's any credit to my notoriety or their lack of sobriety. The mosquitoes came out and then it got dark. Eventually we left and cruised on with an impromptu mission to cross every bridge along Minnehaha Parkway on the way to the Falls. By straight shot that's around 6 miles. Add bridges, and, well ... . Interesting things that were unplanned happened along the way.

Our group was at least a score strong; our route was mostly alleys and trails. We made beer stops and derbied. We rode across small ped bridges that were vigorously rocked side to side by our cohorts. A coaster race took us down one hill on the parkway. At Portland Ave, Gene O and others tried unsuccessfully to trials over the hollow bronze bunny sculpture. That was entertaining. It was like the Gong Show with carnage. My hat went off to Dave Lee for attempting to clean it on a single speed Cross-Check with drop bars. He's an animal.

A firm edict had been issued by Brauer Power -- "Find a bucket!" Bucket still unprocured, we derbied behind Adrian's Bar on Chicago and 48th. The path was clear from back door to front of the bar and the doors were wide open. We (our entire group) rode through to the amazement of patrons but the barkeep just smiled. We didn't get kicked out, but instead stayed and worked on pitchers. Meanwhile, Brauer scoured the alleys for a bucket and found one. At once we were all availed of his purpose -- Bucketball!

Zeigel framed by neon at Adrian's.

Two teams of three were drafted. The action went down in the liquor store parking lot across the street. A ref (Zitox) placed the bucket in the center and at "Go!" both teams charged to work the bucket toward the opposite "goal" using only wheels. A foot dab or crash means a player is out and must circle about to come back into play. Bar patrons on the patio were mesmerized. The game was very loud (as you can imagine bike wheels striking a 5-gallon pail might sound) and occasionally riders spilled into the street. I was amazed there was not more crashing. Another round was played and then another. Soon the law came and politely informed our sportsmen that they needed to stop.

More ale was quaffed, then our group rode out through the 'in' door and we were gone -- four whole blocks to a beautiful, empty hockey rink awaiting our mayhem. Here we had ample room to stage an all-comers bout of epic proportions -- 7 on 7 was it? It was sheer pandemonium for sure. We set about trying to remember who was on our teams while we circled, struck the bucket, locked handlebars with teammates and opponents alike and pretty much just bashed stuff up. The beer break brought much needed rest and the law again. Mr MPD was pretty damned friendly and we cooperatively said we'd move on. The best competition of the evening was yet to come.

Our crew of miscreants rolled through more alleys to the tennis courts along Minne Pkwy south of Lake Hiawatha. No houses nearby meant undisturbed frivolity. Bucketball ensued on the darkest court of the night. Eyes adjusted and we focused. I felt old soccer instincts awaken within me. Our team was smaller than the 7 on 7 madness and we were actually getting things done. We scored a couple of goals. So did the opponents. There were still no crashes, but unfortunately wheels do not hold up so well to such treatment. I mean we were whizzing around this tennis court, cutting tight arcs and just sensing one another -- braking quickly, trackstanding, sensing where folks were going. You'd yell for your teammate to clear the lane after dabbing a drive then charge for the bucket and know you were about to have a collision with your opponent. But at worst you'd lock bars or glance away. It was nothing short of ballet on bikes, plus or minus a generous helping of Grain Belt.

Here's Matt, resident legal counsel, with a freshly straightened front wheel courtesy of Nate and Sov. This photo kinda makes me hungry for potato chips.

After a fierce game of bucketball, one might find onesself mighty thirsty. What's the best way to get into a bar after last call? Well, know someone who knows the bar owner of course. Thanks, Gene O! Here we storm the Sunrise at 2:10am. They poured pitchers and made grilled ham and cheese, and let us park our bikes inside the bar. We were not nearly as bad off as some of the other folks camped out in the bar after hours, by the way (but they were family and it didn't matter).

From the Sunrise our group fractured a great deal. It ended up being Gene, Brauer, Sov, Grayboy and me headed down to the bottoms for a fire. I tailed Gene and noticed he took the route toward the stairs. We flew along a winding, tree-lined sidewalk. Luckily I knew roughly where we were headed because when he locked up his brakes to head left downhill I hit my brakes just in time to lightly pile into him, giggling the whole time. I'd lost the batteries in my front light from a curb crash earlier, so I was completely in the dark. These guys had ridden this route dozens of times and didn't need lights. Meandering down a dark path I knew would soon drop off to stairs (a lot of them -- I had climbed out of in the ice of winter while carrying my bike) meant I was on my guard. Gene rode the first flight. I carried and soon discovered the stairs were not much better without the ice and snowpack, many of them were eroded and smooth.

It was a great evening for a fire. We passed around the libations that remained between us while a couple of us intermittently plunged into the darkness for twigs and bark to stoke our smallish fire. Soon somebody called "Time!" (was it Sov and was it already 4am?) and we mounted up to ride out the easy way, thank goodness. Except the easy way meant the hard way along hiking paths in darkness that skirted the swollen creek so close that a wrong twitch meant certain bathing in the spring waters of Minnehaha Creek.

No one swam, but everyone except Grayboy (the smartest among us) had to attempt to crank a steep and rutted hill at the trailhead. We split off shortly afterward and I was alone. I pedaled along the Greenway. Some sections made me wish I had a larger gear. But mostly I spun out and believed I watched the western horizon lighten. Turning onto Garfield I heard the morning birds in full chorus. I wished I could fall over and sleep beneath a random tree, but I knew only a mile and a half kept me from home. I pedaled on as the horizon grew lighter and the birds got louder. Home at last, I stowed my bike and piled onto the couch at 4:50am thinking I'd greet the work day at 7:30am. Ha!

That evening a group of friends helped Sov load his stuff into a moving van. He bought pizza and beer for the crew. I was wishing he'd purchased some sleep for us. Tanner almost trashed Sov's file cabinet by riding it down the stairs (I pushed him). Afterward Tanner surfed my Dummy Snapdeck for a block.

So, we to return to the Dummy theme...

Sylvia and I have been doing a lot of this lately. She wants to ride. I don't push it -- she just wants to come along on the Dummy. She has become quite protective of it in fact -- she even calls the bike by its full name of 'Big Dummy' when she helps me carry it downstairs (with full enunciation of BIG Dummy). When we ride to a store, in true 3-yr-old fashion, she states, "You can't look at this!" if others ask questions. When I talk of other folks riding she says, "No." To my surprise she wanted ride to the grocery/beer store last weekend, 4 miles one-way. Mom and I made sure she was up to it. Sylvia and I talked the whole way and back. She had a sucker and even rode one-handed at times. She amazed me, as she so often does.

Ride. Take your kids. Ride and teach them now of alternatives to the internal-combustion engine. Yes, clean living. Suburbs, city -- who cares? The car is not your destiny. Really. C'mon ...

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