Nowtopian

Nowtopian

economy, 'technology', public space, San Francisco past and present, class, books

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Big Applishness

New York is an overwhelming and wonderful place. Spent the past 9 days there before heading up here to New England where I’m writing from now. Most of the time I was in Brooklyn, but had some moments bombing around Manhattan too… near our digs in Bed-Stuy I kept passing this closed establishment, but it sure had an enticing name!

Over in Manhattan for a lunch meeting, we found ourselves staring up at this lovely iconic view:

To get there, we went back and forth across the Williamsburg Bridge at least 20 times in the past week. I love that ride! I kept bumping over various graffiti images, but this one I finally stopped to puzzle over. I think it says “memories of the past, design for the future” but it’s a bit hard to be sure:

While walking around searching for produce for a big dinner Francesca threw us this past Tuesday, we came up on this awesome community garden at Bedford and Clifton Place in Brooklyn. Adriana wandered in and struck up a conversation with William, a 60-something black man who proudly walked us around the garden showing us all the different things starting to grow, how they were going to put in a new patio, their rain-catchment system, and just shared the lovely vibe of a mid-May spring evening, gardeners and neighbors puttering all about us as we wandered the immaculate corner:

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Folding Bikes and Falling Phone Booths

Sitting in VoxPop in Brooklyn, listening to interesting live sound collage of Nader and Seth, friends of Francesca’s from Montreal, sound loops of weird old politician speeches with live guitar and emotional voice-overs… quite quirky and fun… Did my reading earlier to an enthusiastic crowd here, around 20 people in this small space, like many of my venues, but good comments and questions make it SO worthwhile!…. anyway, the tour goes on, having found a tone and style that seems to be leaving something hopeful and encouraging behind as I go on from place to place… still Bluestockings ahead here in NYC before New England and Italy…

During this period in NY it’s Bike Month (now embraced by the city to the chagrin of some local cyclists) which is a direct descendant of BikeSummer, invented in SF in 1999 and a fun month-long festival of bicycling that migrated around to many cities. Not sure if anyone is taking it up this year or if perhaps it has died out. Here in NY though there is a full month of rides and fun. One I caught, serendipitously, was the FoldUp! ride (taking its name from Times Up! and the theme, folding bikes). As usual, social rides like these are just hugely fun. Oddly we had to go single file for long stretches, even though the ride had grown to 105 bikes, bigger than any of the last four years. We went down the West Side Parkway all the way to Battery Park, then looped back to go over the Brooklyn Bridge and right back on the Manhattan Bridge. So it was a lovely day, I had some interesting conversations with an urban planner who commutes in from 92nd to the foot of Manhattan every day, a few recreational riders, a Brazilian, the ride leader, and some other Times Up! pals that I’ve known now for a few years.

At the end of the ride at East 23rd St. Stuyvesant Cove park, we gathered to see demos of folding and unfolding different brands, while all the Bromptons quickly assembled themselves into this funny row:

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Hurtling around NY

Having a lovely time in New York, as always. I really love this city! I brought my folding bike (and guess what? They’re having a Folding Bike ride tomorrow at 2 pm leaving from W. 23rd St., a 10 mile jaunt thru Manhattan and Brooklyn) and I’ve been loving how it handles and that I can bomb through traffic with such New York-native ease… I think I’m wired for this kind of urban chaos, and being able to weave through impossible traffic, avoid impediments (esp. pedestrians, who are impressively aggressive here), crazy drivers, etc., barely pausing at red lights (drivers actually expect bikes to run lights in front them and they often pause for you…!) It’s made me think about the ongoing efforts in SF and everywhere to improve conditions for bicycling and of course I still support that… but somewhere in my mischievous core I actually prefer the utter madness of Manhattan and the total freedom to hurtle and roam anywhere and everywhere, all rules and safety considerations be damned (except to not get hit, of course!)… anyhoo, it’s already been a great visit and still almost a week to go.

I rode from Francesca’s front door in Bed-Stuy to Columbia University on Wednesday, took exactly one hour, riding as fast as i could all out the whole way, mostly up the West Side Parkway, but suffering the imbecility of clogged bike lanes on 6th Ave and 8th Ave first (commonly blocked by police cars shopping for lunch or delivery trucks). It’s about 13-15 miles I think. Here I am on arrival at the front of Columbia (and here’s the podcast of my talk there):

On the way back to Brooklyn, I rode through Central Park, which was spectacular, but I’d also had a more leisurely time in the park the day before. Here’s a shot of the amazing spring weather on the Great Meadow:

Naturally I’m visiting friends and some of them are interviewees in Nowtopia, so I’ve gathered some images that fit the tour. Mark Leger is one of my oldest friends and I rode all the way from Columbia back to outer Bushwick in Brooklyn to see him, and have him give me a tour of nearly a dozen community gardens in his near vicinity. Here are a few shots:

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