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Aging Bike Rides, Healing Brain

Rainy Saturday night after a fun morning ride with a couple of dozen old friends. It was the 15th annual San Francisco Bicycle Messenger Association 49-mile ride, traditionally a seriously besotted ride that barely travels a mile or two before stopping for another lengthy drinking-smoking-and-snacking break. Hardly any “real” messengers on it anymore, though a healthy smattering of former ones, and then some of us who have been friends of the scene for years… It was gray and we spent our usual time socializing at McKinley Square on Potrero Hill, at Toxic Beach (where we crossed paths with another ride working on the bay trail), at Pier 7 and Coit Tower.

Got jammed up by a bunch of rent-a-cops trying to pass over the 3rd St. Bridge. Somehow the people staging a motocross in the ballpark had fenced things off so we were funneled into a cul-de-sac from which there was no way out except to open the fence and move on. The rent-a-cops on hand were deeply upset and confused, but after about 3 minutes of tussling and pushing, they relented and let us pass. Very dumb…

Here I am at 7th St. Pier, with my new dunce cap!


Last night we had a wonderful Critical Mass here in SF. Probably about 700-800 riders at the peak, a very comfy number. We went up Market for too long, so I rushed to the front and obnoxiously insisted on a turn onto McAllister, then a loop around City Hall, and after that, with a few tips offered to some of the newbies who were making classic mistakes in traffic management, things went much better. I had a lot of interesting conversations and friendly interactions; it was a balm for my soul. It’s just amazing that we can still have such a copacetic and satisfying time together after all these years. Here’s a shot of riders heading down Lombard, a great thrill for everyone who has ever lucked into a CM that made its way down that famous hill….

here’s what it looked like at the top of the hill…

earlier we had paused at Geary and Polk where a spontaneous bike-lift erupted. I’d guess we had a lot of folks from other places visiting, since this has rarely happened in SF without some Chicagoans or New Yorkers instigating it… who knows? Here’s a photo but after most of the bikes had been lowered again…

I’ve been in a good groove this past week, seeing friends old and new, and just getting out a lot. My own writing is lagging, to be sure, but sometimes you just have to let it go. I was encouraged to try out bloglines as a way of keeping track of the dozen or more blogs I like to check in on. It’s not entirely satisfying, but it is a quick one-stop way to organize your daily cruise through Blogland, if you’re so inclined. Today I found a piece at Long Sunday that caught my eye. They were raising a reasonable objection to a recent, quite funny Onion piece lampooning demonstrations by having a whole article about Snowmen and -women demonstrating against global warming. The Long Sunday piece was a bit humorless and tight, focused on the post-political cynicism represented by the Onion piece. I wanted to agree with their argument, but I think the Onion piece is too clever to beat it up with that particular critique. There is plenty of that kind of cynicism around of course, and I think any of us concerned with changing the world have a HUGE responsibility to reanimate and reclaim sincerity… dare I say ‘make it cool’ to be sincere? Nah. But the defeat of sincerity by shallow, self-enamored, hip irony is one impediment to a public political life. I think the Onion piece escapes partly because the satire actually sharply underlines the real issues around global warming. By having a demonstration of snowmen (and Jesse Jackson!) instead of ‘real’ people, it illustrates the point AND subtly critiques the paralysis that besets political activists these days in the face of the numbing and overwhelming facts of climate change, so that mostly we (as political subjects of our own lives) cannot mobilize ourselves in any meaningful way to address one of the most dramatically serious ‘issues’ ever identified.

My penpal Nate has a blog in which he vented yesterday about what he did when the sounds of a major wife-beating poured into his apartment from a nearby flat. I was really impressed that he could write about this real-time, real-life problem, and admit in public that he felt completely conflicted about calling the cops. Radicals generally feel that we should deal with such problems directly, go next door and intervene immediately. Sounds good until you hear the violence erupting and know that you have to go on living there, maybe next to the same people for years to come. That’s when having the cops to call, protecting your own anonymity, letting them handle it, is a great service. All the cop-haters and -baiters out there tend to forget that one of the major activities of the police is handling domestic disputes. I’m not a big fan of the police, and have had far more reason to be anti- than not, but I realized some time ago that there are times when you are really glad for the service they provide. (If only they were limited to that kind of thing, and not to protecting property and the rich against inevitable class conflict.)

I put this kind of problem in my novel. Didn’t offer much of an answer either. I realized that as I broached it there, just how difficult a utopian take on domestic violence is. If you agree that in ANY human society there will sometimes be incredibly sad and violent behavior, then how do we deal with it? If you rely on the people who live next door to handle it, that quickly leads to lots of problems. If you give people carte blanche to take NO responsibility, that leads to all kinds of problems too. It’s a topic I’m quite interested in, but feel truly stumped about what might be a healthy way of dealing with it… in case anyone wants to chime in!…

and in general, if you’ve read this far, I’d love to get a hello email from you. I have seen my ‘visits’ skyrocket in the past two months, but I’m pretty sure it’s mostly automated bots passing through picking up links and data. But maybe I have a bunch of new readers too, so if you’re out there reading me semi-regularly, please drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

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5 Responses to “Aging Bike Rides, Healing Brain”

  1. 1
    Matt:

    If only the new sincerity were so easy (as the Eggersards, not necessarily DFW, would have it…) But why don’t you comment on the post itself; I’m sure Alain would love to hear from you.

  2. 2
    Frank:

    The bike-lift at Polk and Geary was for Sarah Tucker: http://www.sfbike.org/?tucker

  3. 3
    Saheli:

    and in general, if you’ve read this far, I’d love to get a hello email from you

    Ah well, hello, via rhinocrisy. I don’t have much intelligent to say except the pictures are lovely and your discussion via Nate of to call or not to call has greatly perturbed me. I will have to sleep on it though. I keep typing a comment and then going, “no, that’s quite what I think either,” so I’ll just have to digest.

    Also, I am very sorry to hear about Ms. Tucker.

    Thanks for blogging!

  4. 4
    Hugh Who:

    About utopian solutions to violence (domestic and otherwise): One thing to remember is that in a sane, human-scaled “utopian” society, members of a community would all know each other, existing together in powerful networks of mutual aid. This would provide a potent means to enforce general standards of decency, since individuals who exhibit bad behavior would soon find themselves lacking the help and support of the community. Beat up your partner, cheat a friend, don’t take out the garbage

  5. 5
    Jym Dyer:

    =1= Nice dunce cap.

    =2= There were New Yorkers on the ride, but they aren’t used to hills, much less Lombard Street.

    =3= The Onion does so much right-on trenchant satire that’s consistently funny. I don’t see them as post-political at all, and given their overall service to humanity, I’ve no problem with their lapses into sheer silliness.

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