"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer

1.6.09

Sitting against a big stack of pillows...

Wishing the rain would go away.

I certainly enjoyed yesterday - nay, the entire weekend - but one can enjoy such epically beautiful weather with just a 12-pack of Old Style, a Weber grill, and 10 great friends only so much. I did miss the bike yesterday. And a harder ride on Saturday, as well.

But I am a good grasshopper. And racing five times in one weekend does take it's toll. So does day drinking.

So I lie here looking at the weather, hoping it will stay south of here tomorrow so I can ride north to work and then back to the city for a sprint practice with the XXX Big Dawgs. I want to be hard, and to be a good grasshopper.

But that's an awful lot of green on the radar. It stretches all the way west to California. Clouding the days and hopes of rides of all those who made my stay out there in March so wonderful. It's an awful lot of green to deal with to find out everyone else has stayed home and I am doing the workout alone.

But if left with no alternative, I will just ask myself, "would would Jens do?" And if it were hailing and lightening, Jens would HTFU and ride to work.

There's always Metra.

And there's always the chance that weather.com is wrong. Because, now I ask you, what the fuck have they done to their website? Would someone tell me what I am missing, and why I can't figure out how to get the radar screen in motion anymore?

I guess if not, it's wunderground.com for me now. I've been looking for just this type of excuse to switch my bookmark, anyways. The big guys get complacent, lose sight of the customer, and let some key features go by the wayside.

Like GM. Bankrupt. General Motors. What were they - the 12th biggest economy on the planet? Now less than a dollar a share, and not many people are betting on them being able to successfully reorganize. I've always said, "fuck them." They've never cared for what the customer wanted, because for so long the customer didn't know what they wanted. GM could tell customers what it was they wanted. And that was - through planned obsolescence and shitty workmanship in favor of the marketing department - a new car every other year.

Well, now that they and all our country's other industrial producers have shipped all their jobs overseas, no one can afford to buy the giant, gas-guzzling SUV's they only can seem to make. And suddenly the public has woken up - or been woken up, by their terrible credit scores (the author's included) - and knows what it wants.

And it's not what GM is making. They've ignored the market forces staring them in the face for so long, the only way they can retool their manufacturing base to make the cars the public has been increasingly asking for the last five years is to take over $50 billion from the government - and counting - and still make no promises.

So they deserve to go down. Right? But why is it really that they are getting so much assistance from the government then?

This country could very well be seriously fucked in the ass, at this pivotal moment in history. In times of great crisis when we've needed to suddenly drop everything and make serious firepower and the vehicles to deliver it - GM (and Chrysler) were there. They may not be, just there are serious conflicts brewing over oil, water, and food...while Iran is trying to get the bomb, and North Korea and a Pakistan that is losing control to Taliban already have it.

But let's get over the negative side of the collapse of the United States' industrial power and look at this from a global perspective. This is a sign that the world -at least our world - is driving less. Or using less fuel. The movement to mass-transit is growing, slowly but steadily. Ridership is up, on light rail and buses, as well as Amtrak. More and more opinion makers are calling for a larger national priority on rail, even high speed rail.

I find it atrocious that a country such as ours that was built on the back of long distance rail has gotten so far away from it's grand ethos, yet heartening that we still have not forgotten our egalitarian roots. I believe that national high speed rail could be our generation's Manhattan Project. That when fuel costs and lack of credit, material resources, and manufacturing capital have finally curbed our sense of entitlement to travel in such individual luxury, we - as a globe - and not just a nation, eventually, will construct a more economically and environmentally viable mode of getting around.

And the bikes. I know it's not just me who's noticed it, but we are everywhere over the last five years. When I moved to Chicago in 1997 I could never have imagined the number of people I would see regularly commuting to work, play, and life on two wheels with the wind in their face. Of all kinds - machines and people. Moms, suits, culture-warriors, nihilist hipsters on all-pink fixies, immigrants on beat-to-shit Walmart bikes. New bike racing teams being started every season.

Everyone is riding.

Saturday night I went to meet a friend at Do Division Fest in Wicker Park and was astounded at the number of bikes locked in every direction, in every conceivable way. As I am apt to do these days, I love comparing Wicker Park of today to the Lincoln Park I moved to from Texas back in 1997. And back then, there would have been maybe four bicycles parked up against the soon-to-be-closed Lounge Axe (bow your heads) as douchebags in cargo shorts, polo shirts, and visors scratched their heavily gelled hair with one hand while holding a cigarette and a beer in the other.

While Wicker Park - and Do Division Fest - today resemble the Lincoln Park of then in every way, the bikes are different. As much as I bitch about wanna-be hipsters riding brakeless fixies, or worse yet - brakeless free-wheels that LOOK like fixies - doing slow circles at a red light because they can't trackstand yet, at least they are riding, and not driving.



I hope it is the start of something, however small. Because we need a lot more.

This was the entrance/exit to Do Division Fest as I walked in to meet my friend:


That's maybe eight square feet, packed with fresh trash headed to the land fill. The fest stretched from curb to curb between Damen and Leavitt. As the cargo-shorts clad douches and summerdress-wearing trixies were swept out by the cops they left infinitely more of these mountains of useless, wasteful, trash. And will continue to do so throughout the summer festival season. In Chicago. Milwaukee. St. Louis. Minneapolis...

We're trying to rebuild society from the top down. Trying to repair a rotten structure over a cracked foundation. Fixing GM. Trying retrofit a high speed rail system over 50 years of neglected and misused rail right of way. The behavior like this - wasteful, pointless spending and frittering away precious resources will continue until the most uncaring and and unthinking of us has the incentive not to do so.

Those habits die hard. So hard in fact, that new habits may need to be started by those who've known no other way.

Maybe all of this has to come down, crashing suddenly and without warning, for it to happen.

1 comment:

Erik said...

click the arrows on either side of "right now" to animate...