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11/11/2010: "A Night of Momentum"
Though I'm usually more of a morning person, last night I rode over to Highland Park just after sunset to Josef Bray-Ali's Flying Pigeon LA shop for a short but sweet night ride with local bike folks, an impromptu rolling party in honor of Mia Kohout and Tania Lo of Canada's Momentum Magazine.

Momentum, as you may recall, published the original version of my article on LA's bike culture about a year ago.

Jamming through East Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard and then through Chinatown on Broadway was both exhilarating and absurd, the bike, its bottle dyno humming for illumination, threading through endless herds of bloated metal cattle like a nimble cow pony. Once past the Broadway bridge over the river channel, we were free of traffic, and arrived at Flying Pigeon just as the night drew on its deepest cloak.

Everyone was there but the guests of honor, who had called saying they were stuck on the freeway--yes, they had inexplicably chosen to drive from Santa Monica when there was a one-transfer transit option using the Venice express bus to the Union Station Gold Line stop. So it was an hour or so late that we did get on the road, having enjoyed a little wine and much good talk and laughter with Josef and a number of friends and acquaintances old and new, as well as colleagues from LACBC projects.

The night was intense and comforting, rich and dark, the back streets graced with glimmers of lamplight and windowglow, quiet and just a little cold. A crescent sliver of moon hung over the black mass of hills to the west, toward which Josef, riding his bakfiets, led us. Silent backroads, warehouses and railroad tracks, a battered pedestrian bridge over the sudden roar of a freeway, then a dark slope downards towards the concrete bed of the Los Angeles River, where we gathered at the water's edge and watched oscillations of light from streetlamps on the Broadway bridge ripple on the shallows. A Metrolink train passed silently, windows bright, along the opposite bank, while dark heights of concrete over our heads murmured of silent lives and faded passions lived out in their hidden corners...for this was one of the places that I came to, twenty-five years ago, to photograph railroad tramps for my photo essay, "Pillow of Steel."

After that, Josef led us back along Figueroa to Marmion Way, a frontage road of sorts that hugs the dark flank of Mt. Washington on the quiet side of the Gold Line tracks. The murmur of drive chains and a dozen quiet conversations among the thirty or so cyclists, the waver of headlights on the road...a gentle passage of really a good number of people, using the gentlest and most effective of all machines. No scars of harsh noise or bright glare to to disfigure the night; just people, bikes, and constant quiet fellowship. It was sweet.

We soon arrived at the Good Girl Dinette, where a large reserved table and a delightful menu awaited us. Great food, more talk, and a quiet, lively ambience that encouraged rather than crushed conversation. Myself had a roast oyster mushroom banh mi, my first taste of that vaunted hybrid of French and Vietnamese cuisine--and it was damned good! I hope to be back there soon, with Gina along.

The rest of the party went back to Flying Pigeon, where I peeled off for home. It's about ten miles back, and the traffic, late at night, was inconsequential. The group ride was very slow, so at first I shot down Figueroa at top speed, but soon I let myself back off and enjoyed a relaxing amble through the half-deserted streets of Chinatown, East Hollywood, and Hancock Park to home.

Thanks to Josef and Momentum for a wonderful time!

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