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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:


I got to take a test ride on this remarkable ride, the Strida.

It was fun to look around and see a mini-Critical Mass of folding bikes tooling around town all afternoon…

On Sunday we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to have a quick look the Gustave Courbet show and the Poussin show too (too much for one day, but heck, we’re tourists and don’t have another chance). We both liked the Courbet better, with his amazing paintings of naked women, portraits of his cohort of radical writers, musicians and artists, etc. One picture of a woman’s spread legs called “The Origin of the World” was clearly quite a scandalous image in its time (mid 1850s) but is qutie tame in the x-rated era… Poussin was painting a lot earlier, the 17th century, and his landscapes are quite interesting for the way he escaped his time to render accurate images of nature, integrated with human culture. A couple of his were really memorable, esp. the one with a dead body in the foreground near a river, wrapped by a python, while regular life continues in various other parts of the painting.

After that we hurried across town to Broadway to catch “Passing Strange,” a rock opera of sorts, a coming of age story that has some really hilarious moments, some real profundity, and a fair number of awkwardly embarrassing moments. All in all we enjoyed it a lot, especially the well-chosen cast, the deep perceptions into youthful existential angst and the intelligent denouement in which the obsessive focus on art is critiqued as somehow a reification of real life. Here I am just after the show in front of the marquee:

Of course I’m seeing all my old friends here, as usual, so on Monday I went in the storm to Manhattan to catch up with my high school chemistry lab partner, Karen. I emerged from the subway at 2nd Ave and Houston right next to the Liz Christy garden, one of the original community gardens back in the 1970s. Took these photos:

On the way up 2nd Ave I came upon this odd image:

The end of the line for public phones? Certainly a lot harder to find them in this cell-phone saturated era. Odd to see it just collapsed into the sidewalk though…

Anyway, today it’s NYC back to its full spring glory. Had a spectacular walk with Donald Nicholson-Smith through Prospect Park at midday, and now grabbing a chance to blog from Gorilla cafe on 5th and Baltic in Park Slope. One more day in NY, then northward…

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