Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Friendly Cycling P.S.A. (Rerun from last season)

Darkness is upon us, friends. It seems like just yesterday we had twilight until 10pm. Now it's dark by 8 and the days are shortening as I type. It's getting chilly. Returning from Las Vegas I plunged my body from a week in the 90s(F) to the 50s in a matter of hours. Instant autumn. Man, that was fast.

Leaving work last night I opted to blink my front and rear lights all the way home. That still did not prevent two trucks facing opposite directions at the same intersection from pulling directly in front of me. I have enough experience to anticipate these things and simply braked hard to avoid any real danger. All I was left to do was give the 'attaboy' wave and shake my head. Ignorant drivers.

Tonight I opted for an extra spoke light to increase my side visibility. That was the theory anyway. Halfway home a vehicle gunned it to cross four lanes of busy traffic. I was on the main road crossing the lane the car was destined to end up in. I watched the timing and grabbed the brakes at the last moment. So did the driver who was already 3 feet from hitting me. I slowly rolled in front of the Lexus SUV and stopped completely. Peering through the windshield I spied a woman, cell phone pressed to her ear, staring back at me with an expression that read: "What the hell are you doing in my way?" I shouted "What the hell?" and making the finger phone with my thumb and pinky motioned a quick hang-up gesture. I then rolled slowly away and said, "Hang up your phone and learn how to fucking drive!" Without missing a beat, she deftly stretched her left arm out the window and unfurled a boney, bejewelled middle finger at me as she drove off.

I guess indignance is the fallback reaction when someone calls out your shit. Funny though, it's a bit different than cutting in front of someone at Starbuck's. She broke the traffic laws and almost ran me down. Would a simple 'sorry' have been too much to muster?

Drivers in general are negligent enough with regard to non-motorized traffic. But the more I bike the more I support a law that prohibits cell phone use while driving. Furthermore, why not instate the death penalty for drivers stupid enough to text message while operating a moving vehicle?

So folks, one message: BE SEEN. If you think one little LED front and back is enough, it's not. Be seen. Lights are cheap. The batteries last a long time. Wear some bright clothing. Put reflective tape all over your fenders, rack, frame, helmet. Dork out. Ride naked with your body painted dayglo orange. Do anything to BE SEEN.

That goes for you two-wheeled yahoos who take the ninja approach to cycling not only the streets, but the very dark, tree-lined bike paths after sundown. Personally speaking, I'd rather have a dozen close calls with cars in one night than one run-in with you dim-witted fools. You're idiots. Why? Here's why: It's not just your safety you need to worry about, jackass. I'm not a violent person, but if you crash into me or I clip you because you're cruising in stealth mode I'm gonna get up off the ground and attempt to enlighten you with fists of compassion.

I reiterate: Lights are cheap. The batteries last a long time. Wear some bright clothing. Put reflective tape all over your fenders, racks, frames, helmet. Dork out. Ride naked with your body painted dayglo orange. Do anything to BE SEEN.

Good night.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stranded in Vegas

"Vague-ass." "Lost Wages." I'm weathering the last day here coming off Interbike. Call it by any name you want but I don't like this place. Never have.

I got out of the hotel and past the casinos today. Work was finished and I had time to kill, so I went for a long walk. It was really hot but so dry that it felt pleasant. I thought to myself, "I'm gonna find something to enjoy about this final day in Vegas."

I found a local Korean restaurant where I ate my favorite dish. It was delicious. Afterward I wandered down some more sidewalks, empty except for locals, littered club brochures and homeless destitutes. I circled the block past second-tier casinos still trying to live in a heyday of yore. I kept walking, back toward the Strip, revelling in the heat, learning that even the shade of a utility pole can deliver respite from the baking midday sun.

I climbed stairs instead of using escalators. I studied the blown litter and broken glass in vacant lots awaiting new condos, shopping malls and casinos. Perhaps the economy will one day allow "progress" to continue. I quickly learned that perpendicular diversions from the Strip can grant one a bit of solace away from the noise and bustle, to places free from drunken frat boys as well as young and old women alike trying in vain to impress someone whose tastes I'll never comprehend. I thought to myself, "Maybe I've found something in Vegas to enjoy. This is not so bad after all." I was pensive about adopting this conclusion, but I marched on somewhat encouraged.

I walked to Caesar's Palace because last year I found the only spot on the Strip designed for stopping and sitting a while -- absolutely free of charge. It's a small Hindu shrine to Brahma, a modest yet brilliant oasis of genuine spirituality amidst a desert run amok, heeding a quasi-religious doctrine of empty consumption. The shrine's surrounding air is scented with sweet incense instead of fake floral casino stench. I sat and studied passersby. I photographed a few groups who shuffled through to inspect this cultural curiosity in all its preposterousness. Mostly it appeared to represent another quaint photo stop along the way.

The sweat on my back quickly evaporated. Deciding it was time to move on, I shouldered my bag and went off into the crowds again, past cooler toting street vendors offering "ice cold water ... one dollar!" I paced onward, smugly sipping the now warm tap water from my stainless flask and shirking off the cards thrust at me by men whose t-shirts promised girls in just 20 minutes. After all, I had found my Vegas and it was so far above all of this.

Quite by chance I arrived in front of the Bellagio at the stroke of 4pm. The fountain show was beginning. I had never seen it before. Music cued and the jets of water shot choreographed patterns of water-dance across the previously placid pond. Camera shutters clicked around me. I, like all the others, felt this to be a picture worthy stop. Reaching for my own camera I noticed it was not where it was supposed to be. I had little time to panic because I knew right away what had happened. Oh shit, oh shit! I'd set it beside my bag while shooting photos at the shrine. Then I got up, shouldered my bag without looking down and marched away. I left the camera, neatly in its case, in open sight on the step.

I ran back to Caesar's, but five, maybe seven, minutes had passed. My lovely new Canon was gone.

In my Vegas I'd found the one spot I could sit and enjoy absolutely free of charge. Ironically, one could say that slice of peace cost me an offering of $250.

Damn, I despise this town.