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Sunday, May 31st
Shopping Run
The Milk Runner at the Hollywood Farmers Market
Click on the picture for a bigger version
When I got back from riding to the westside on (yet another) tedious chore, Gina was all ready to pedal out on the weekly grocery run. Normally this takes her to Larchmont Boulevard, where there's a particularly nice farmers' market. Since I had gotten back earlier than usual from my Sunday ride (since it was a utility ride instead of my usual long ramble), she asked me to come along. She didn't need to ask twice! I turned right around, and we headed to Larchmont as usual for a snack before shopping.

Then she suggested we shop at the Hollywood farmers' market instead. (To make matters more confusing, there is also a nearby permanent capital-letters Farmers Market on Fairfax, which has been around for ages and which is one of my favorite hangouts in LA.) She'd been on the bike all day yesterday, chasing down her own chores, so I was surprised but pleased. Off we went to edge through the dense crowds at the Hollywood market and pick up a pretty good variety of good stuff.

The photo is of Gina's Nishiki mixte, the "Milk Runner," waiting her to get back from one last round while I loafed in a café chair I'd appropriated. (I was carrying most of the stuff in my ancient no-brand messenger bag.) She showed up anon, and we headed home.

On the trip home we stopped at a Trader Joe's for olive oil, tortillas, salsa, and a couple of other ingredients she remembered she needed for tonight's dinner, and then headed home once again.

And on the way Gina realized she really did have a hankerin' for those oysters she hadn't gotten at the Hollywood market, so we detoured to the aforementioned capital-letters Farmers Market on Fairfax, where there's a fishmonger she trusts. (Me, I'm one a them vegetarians, but Gina eats purt near anything....)

Then we headed home yet again...

...And we made it this time! (Possibly because there are almost no stores between the Farmers Market and home....)

We got everything we wanted, and had a wonderful lazy ride to boot.

Richard Risemberg on Sun, 31 May 2009 16:24:50 -0800 [link]  

Saturday, May 30th
Bicycle Film Festival Opens in NYC on June 17th
The Bicycle Film Festival begins its 2009 tour in New York City on June 17th this year, then heads to dozens of other cities, including (deep breath!) Memphis, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Richmond, San Francisco, Detroit, Oakland, Portland, Austin, San Diego, Chicago, Toronto, Orlando, Seattle, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Washington D.C., Zurich, Lisbon, Vienna, London, Las Vegas, Copenhagen, Paris, Milano, Auckland, Denver, Melbourne, Sydney, Tokyo, Miami, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Boulder, Salt Lake City, and Montreal.

Here's the heads-up on New York in their own words:
New York, New York (May 2009) The Bicycle Film Festival is a cultural phenomenon like no other. Originating in New York City, The Bicycle Film Festival is the earliest voice of the most powerful and culturally relevant movements of the past decade, the urban bike movement. The BFF has played a formative role in urban youth culture, and brings many communities together, both cultural (fashion, music, art) to different genres within the bicycle community itself (track bikes, BMX, road cycling) around a shared passion for bicycling.

The festival kicks off June 17th at 7PM with Bikes Rock, a free concert at South Street Seaport, featuring performances by national and local talent that have resonance within the bicycle movement.
Joy Ride, opening June 18th (6-10 PM), the BFF's annual art show, is a visual manifestation of the urban bicycle movement. The show brings together a diverse group of internationally established and emerging artists and members of the bicycling community all who share a passion for bicycles. 2009 artists include Kenny Scharf, Scott Campbell, Chiara Clemente, Steve MacDonald, Mike Giant, Benedict Radcliffe, Artus de Lavilléon, and Cheryl Dunn. The exhibition is held in multiple non-traditional venues and store-fronts on Manhattan's Lower East Side and SOHO: Collective Hardware (169 Bowery) Puffin Room (435 Broome Street), and "the pit" at Sara D. Roosevelt Park (Chrystie Street and Broome Street).

Beginning June 19th, the festival will screen several programs--a total 49 shorts and 4 features--that reflect the diverse experiences involving the bicycle. Highlights from this year include: Where Are You Go, directed by Benny Zenga and Brian Vernor, I Love My Bicycle: The Story of FBM Bikes, directed by Joe Stakun, and The Third Wheel, directed by Brian Schoenfelder. All screenings are held at the Anthology Film Archives, home to the BFF since 2001 (32 Second Avenue).
For some pictures from last years BFF party in LA, see our own little Hoe-Down at Hel-Mel.

We're definitely looking forward to another few rounds of fun!

Richard Risemberg on Sat, 30 May 2009 16:08:29 -0800 [link]  

Friday, May 29th
Just Like Springtime!
After a busy and sometimes unsettling week, it was nice to take a simple bike ride that was not in support of often unpleasant chores. Sometimes the best "utility ride" is one that revives your spirit, since whatever else you do, you live enmeshed in your feelings.

So of course the Bottecchia and I headed west, to the Bridge at Playa del Rey, an easy forty-five minutes ride, most of it on a paved bike path that runs along Ballona Creek.

This being Southern California, Ballona is not so idyllic as one used to wetter climes might suppose; it is mostly a trapezoidal trench clad in concrete or riprap, but it is quiet, and there's water in it, and once you get down to the estuary that channels through the remains of the original wetlands, the banks, and the edges of the bike path, are abloom with daisies and a variety of native plants, filing the air with perfume and the eye with blazes of yellow, red, and white.

And there are birds: giant blue herons with stately stance on the ground and two-meter wingspans in the air; there are egrets, pelicans, gulls, and ducks--lots of ducks. There are sparrows flitting through the chainlink fence, and crows surveying you from the tops of power poles. The bikes don't scare them; I rode within two feet of a mama duck and her four tiny ducklings--delightful!

At the Bridge I met Bill M. and we jawboned for a while, as always. Dozens upon dozens of bikes rolled by, from titanium and carbon road bikes to beach cruisers to recumbents to a fixie or three. Old friends strolled or rolled by and nodded or stopped for a chat. Birds flew over, and the tide whispered as it rolled shuffled slowly under the bridge.

Time came to turn home, and I did, refreshed by my "commute" from my own front door to my own front door, to work.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 29 May 2009 14:52:00 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, May 26th
Marathon Men and Women
The Los Angeles Marathon took place yesterday, and Bicycle Fixation Central lies squarely within the route. (Well, a little to one side: the runners pass one block from the apartment.) One of the great traditions of this city is for our drivers to moan and groan about the unutterable horror of street closures necessitated by the race, but we found we had not a bit of trouble getting around....

In the morning I went to pick up groceries for my mother, then stop by a farmers' market in West Hollywood for greens for us; later Gina and I went to the farmers' market again, since she usually works Mondays and had never perused the most excellent offerings of this one (Plummer Park, Monday mornings, for you LA folks). After bringing home the goods, we met Patrick Miller and crew, who were following Patrick's girlfriend as she ran the course, and cheering her on at certain milepoints. Then Gina and I felt the need for coffee and a nibble and headed out again...all while the Marathon was running and the streets closed off.

Oh, yes, of course we were on bicycles, as were our friends of the cheering section!

No frustration, no overheating engines, no feeling trapped, no trouble at all on a beautiful cool calm day. Just true freedom, courtesy of the velo.

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 26 May 2009 21:03:06 -0800 [link]  

Friday, May 22nd
New York, New Amsterdam....
Eric Miller is publisher and co-editor of our sister publication, The New Colonist, which concentrates on sustainable urban development, neighborhood and community, and (especially) sustainable transportation issues. So it's particularly appropriate that he's tooling around NYC (the town formerly known as new Amsterdam) on what looks to be a city bike inspired by the classic Dutch roadster. Here it is parked in the East Village:

Eric Miller's City Bike

Basket, fenders, and nice sturdy tires, and it's black! And a good photo too...let's see you wear that thing out, Eric!

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 22 May 2009 22:21:50 -0800 [link]  

Thursday, May 21st
Busy Springtime
It's been a busy few days, but at least the jasmine's been in bloom all month, and every ride in the neighborhood smells sweet and rich.

Jasmine is such a powerful flower that you don't even need to "stop and smell the"; it's all over you all over town!

With the days full of chores, the perfume of spring is truly welcome to this tired old cyclist. We get another couple of weeks of this before the jasmine fades; I aim to enjoy it!

Richard Risemberg on Thu, 21 May 2009 17:19:48 -0800 [link]  

Friday, May 15th
Fenders & Coffee
So we are in San Francisco for a couple of days, Gina and I, to celebrate our anniversary.

Unfortunately, we flew up, sans bikes. You all know I hate flying--the unconvivial crowding of planes, the banality of airports, the land use horrors of runway and parking...and airline travel is worse for the world per passenger mile than romping around in SUVs. But Gina's work schedule didn't allow much time, and besides, like most Americans, she is bred to worship hurry, so we flew. But next time, Amtrak--a civilized, convivial passage with bikes in the luggage car, you bet!

San Francisco is a great walking city, and we have been trotting all over. I've been here many times, but it's always refreshing to rediscover the things that make it my favorite US city: the (mostly) human-scale and richly-detailed architecture, the crowds on the sidewalks, the coffee everywhere, and the bikes....

Bikes, everywhere bikes. Granted, it's Bike to Work Week, but the bikes we've seen do not look like garage queens out for their yearly airing, nor do they resemble hardcore roadie racebikes curling their lips at the hoi-polloi around fact, they are the hoi-polloi, looking well-used and comfortable with the hills, the rain, and the U-lock.

Lots of fixies, of course, though, to my surprise, proportionately less than in LA. But way more bikes being ridden to destinations, or locked up tight in front of destinations, than back at home

And lots of fenders! A sure sign of a strong bicycling culture: fenders on at least half the bikes, no matter how few or how many the cogs; baskets on many; panniers prevalent; and riders wearing everything from suits or dresses to messenger chic to (apparently) whatever was at the top of the drawer that bleary-eyed AM.

It's just plain beautiful--and after a cup of good French coffee, it is exquisite.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 15 May 2009 08:37:36 -0800 [link]  

Monday, May 11th
Rising Tide
I had to walk up and down Wilshire boulevard by my apartment a couple of times today, and I have to say, it was pretty heartening to see how many bikes were on the road, or locked to racks and meters, on a busy weekday here in the Miracle Mile!

The dueling bike racks at the Wilshire Courtyard were full--though the building management had just added another row, and there is bike parking in the garage as well. Riders were cruising up and down the street (and sidewalk), and every block sported two, three, four bikes U-locked to a variety of street furniture (including the few actual bike racks), while their owners were presumably in the various buildings working, meeting, or doing lunch.

And it seemed as though I couldn't look out my front window without seeing someone pedal by.

I'd blame it on Bike to Work Week, but the good news is, that it's not really a huge increase in riders over any other week.

My morning ride to fetch Mom's groceries for her put me in the good company of numerous cyclists, too, right at rush hour when it counts the most.

Looks like we're getting smart at last.

Richard Risemberg on Mon, 11 May 2009 18:39:55 -0800 [link]  

Friday, May 8th
Wind & Wheels
This has been one of the windiest springs I can remember for LA. Usually there are storms in January and February, winds in March, still damp mornings with hazy afternoons through May and June, and then the clear and searing days of summer.

This year, we've had blasting heat in April and May, the desert-bred "devil winds" months early, and today, another hot wind inexplicably blowing in from the sea! And Santa Barbara is burning as I write....

No doubt part of the Global Warming boil-up, long predicted and now here thanks to our own wilfull cluelessness. Driving as a sacrament, the American way, but ultimately stupid on so many counts.

Makes me think of putting drop bars back on my Bottecchia. I love my bullhorns, but nothing beats good drops in a headwind!

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 08 May 2009 16:47:11 -0800 [link]  

Tuesday, May 5th
Fixing to Commute
Rode off a little earlier than usual this morning for my Tuesday ride to South Pasadena--had a meeting with a web design client out there, a friend of Chuck's, and I needed to pick up some graphics and a check. So, I was out and about during the tail end of rush hour, which gave me a chance to carry out another informal eyeball survey of the State of Bicycle Commuting in Los Angeles.

It's completely unscientific, but I stand by it, as anyone riding purposefully down a banal street during the time of worst traffic in this crazy town is likely on the way to work, rather than on a recreational ride. (I'll make an exception for the ancient lady pedaling a shiny new cruiser with groceries peeking out of the panniers, but hell, she counts too, even if she wasn't headed to the office....)

And I saw a good number of bikes...fresh, clean bikes ridden by well-groomed, productive-looking folks-discretionary riders, not DUIs or the desperately poor.

Now, many of the poor and immigrant workers I've met are actually enthusiastic cyclists, but they are always used as data points by the motorheads who like to say that no one chooses to travel by bike, especially not to "high-class" jobs, so I focus on the office-drone types I see. And I did see them; I've been seeing more and more of them for three or so years now.

And what I've really been seeing more of is these guys and gals on fixed-gear and single-speed bikes.

I'd guess about three-fifths of the bikes I saw today (including that ancient lady's) sported but a single cog on the rear wheel. And they were all doing just fine in hilly, hot, chaotic Los Angeles.

Despite the scorn heaped on the fixie "fad" by the curmudgeons.

Fixies, as I wrote in a recent article, have a long history in bicycling, and make wonderful city bikes. And it's good to see the rest of LA voting with its feet, and hearts, for the simple liberty of fixed-wheel riding.

Richard Risemberg on Tue, 05 May 2009 18:04:55 -0800 [link]  

Friday, May 1st
May Day
Seems like Workers' Solidarity Day didn't achieve much solidarity today, at least not in LA, with separate marches by organizations who seemed to disagree with each other more than they do with the Power-That-Be.

So, I got on my bike and rode to the Bridge at Playa del Rey to gaze on the primal solidarity of the sea. It was a close, damp day--no rain, but the air warm and heavy with moisture, which is unusual here. Unfortunately I wore all gray and black, by chance, which seemed to operate as effective urban camouflage. Either that, or the drivers were even more clueless than usual, for I had to face off one fool who passed another car, on a side street, at high speed, in the opposite lane (which was mine!); a number of close passes, and a higher than typical number of right turns form the left lane, or left turns form the right lane--capped off by an incident I saw while walking back from the ATM, where a consummate idiot in a modern muscle car variant turned right from the left turn bay! The car seems to transform grownups into brats again, thinking only of themselves....

Despite all that, it was a good day, and a good ride; and on the way home from the beach I stopped at the Farmers Market on Third Street to have lunch with a friend of mine, a former pro bike racer now studying for her PhD in international relations. (She'd ridden her fixie over, too!) A plate of sushi and some May Day maunderings, and it was time for me to ride home and take care of business.

To all who earn their bread with honest labor, be it of the brain, the hand, or both, I wish you peace and comfort, and a pint among friends.

Richard Risemberg on Fri, 01 May 2009 20:23:30 -0800 [link]  

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