31 August 2008

root beer floats

My good friend Tek, one who tosses off spot-on advice on a regular basis, recently mentioned root beer floats in a night-out tweet. It reminded me of a period of several days when some bike-riding friends of mine (did I mention I ride bikes?) were planning a ride on the freeway during rush hour traffic. "If you rode a bike, you'd be home by now." People wore capes.

Debate raged about the ride's legality, which is absurd. Naysayers suggested skipping the ride entirely, and Yaysayers (or Sayers) looked for loopholes and suggested playing dumb. But why play dumb? This was my response:

I suffer from infrequent, short-lived, and severe bouts of insomnia. Once every three or four months, couple days. They give me very lucid dreams when I finally sleep, and then I remember the dreams very well. I dreamt about this ride last night. We fought up until the second we got on the freeway, but then the ride went without a hitch. Very slow traffic meant lots of weaving, lots of waving, lots of startled people but little anger. More like disbelief followed by honking and nervous laughter and even some cheering. Then, "If you rode a bike you'd be home by now!" and they were less cheerful. Then traffic picked up, and cars could actually move to the side to let cop cars through, and they did, and we hightailed it outta there. Then we got root beer floats. Well. I'm not sure if the root beer floats part was the same dream, or the next dream. But we should consider them. They were really good.
I'm being flip. But I'm also being serious. Yes, there are dangers, and most likely it will not happen as smoothly as I dreamt. Drivers will be mad, and maybe aggressive and confused, and they'll probably call the cops on us if the cops aren't already waiting. People will probably get arrested. I, not being the fastest rider on this thread, will probably get arrested. It's more a matter of whether or not I'm willing to accept getting arrested or not. People on this thread have gotten arrested for far less.

But think about it. Do you want to have it on your record that you got arrested for biking on the Santa Monica Freeway? I do. It's absurd and delicious and perfect, and it makes my nose tingle, and it makes me laugh, just like a root beer float. Of course I want that.

I think they must have been the same dream.

The results of the ride were a lot of hooting and hollering, mixed reactions (but a lot of support) from motorists, one law-enforcement warning (footage of the cape-wearing rider getting that warning at the end of this video), and no tickets. Some riders went out for root beer floats afterwards.

And I still want that ticket.

26 August 2008

the not-so-secret girls-that-kick-ass club

My friend Tek recently commented that fellow lady biker Shannon and I must be part of a secret girls-that-kick-ass club, unafraid of putting our buffness into action. I was surprised, as I never thought of myself as in-your-face about my physical strength -- there's not very much of it, for one, and that which I have is fallout from biking rather a lot. In contrast, if I became strong because of a conscious effort to become strong (with weights, say), then maybe I would be more proud of it.

But I was also surprised at the implication that anyone would be afraid of putting their buffness into action. Physical prowess may not be the defining feature of femininity, but if you've got it, hiding it seems odd. Especially since, in general, it's considered to be very positive. It would never occur to me to hide my physical strength.

But lady bikers might be an odd breed -- none of my biking pals would blink at outpacing a guy if she could, would bike slowly to stave off sweating, would shy away from a hill. The results are not only such unladylike things as sweat, strength, and speed, but also safety -- the more conspicuous you are, at any speed or strength, the less likely you are to get hit. Not putting buffness into action (being tentative, biking slowly in car traffic, being unable to control your bike) is downright bad biking. And it's more important to us to be good bikers than it is to be dainty. (That's not to say we don't clean up good.)

So maybe Tek's right -- perhaps I do belong to a girls-that-kick-ass club. However, it's not very secret. We're right there in the open, every day, in the streets and in the bike lanes. And we'd love it if you joined us. But try to keep up.

13 August 2008

the cambodian disabled volleyball team is not afraid of you and it will beat your ass

[ WARNING: This post has nothing to do with bikes. ]

Some of you know that I spent some time in Cambodia. My sister went long: She spent over 5 years in the country, during which time she co-founded a grassroots micro-loan organization primarily benefiting disabled people. So I've got some insights into the country that I wouldn't otherwise have.

_ In Cambodia, a citizen can't hold office if she or he has a disability of any kind;
_ The Cambodian landscape is still littered with unexploded land mines, & the disability rate is thus much higher than average;
_ The children of Cambodia's Civil War (1970-1975) -- many of whom are disabled too -- have grown up, and many of them have children of their own to support;
_ It's sanctioned by law to pay disabled people less than able-bodied people, even if their disability doesn't affect their work.

So it's pretty damned amazing to hear a story like this. The Cambodian National Volleyball Team, whose members are all disabled, is ranked third in the world. The prize money they earned from one of their recent conquests was equivalent to two years' salary for every team member. Dude. That's the best lemonade I've heard of in a long, long time.

[From GOOD Magazine.]