You can read a little more about it in the Post, but I learned about it on local cable (yes, I have cable to go along with my hot and cold running water) news channel NY1:
Note how the bystanders in this interview are a perfect cross-section of the neighborhood as it is today. Note also that two members of the Human League were kind enough to take some time out of their busy schedules in order to attend, and that between them they almost have a complete haircut. Most importantly, it was a relatively cool 53 degrees, which prevented the situation from boiling over into a full-scale "Do The Right Thing" style riot.
While the city has rescinded the tickets, the bitterness remains, and it seems unlikely that the tensions between orthodox Jewry and cycling hipsterdom is going to go away anytime soon. And like most disagreements of this nature, the root of the problem is a lack of understanding on both sides. So once again, I feel it is incumbent upon me to put on my Cone of Mediation (it looks like a Cone of Smugness except it's got a picture of Condoleezza Rice taped to it) and try to broker a settlement.
What the orthodox Jews need to understand is that Kent Avenue is a vital part of the Great Hipster Silk Route. The hipster cultural economy depends on the easy flow of hipsters and hipster goods from Williamsburg (represented by Jerusalem) to the remote northeastern region of Astoria, Queens (represented by the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, the only place in Queens they know) and the southwestern region of Red Hook, Brooklyn (represented by the Obama Bike, which was photographed in Red Hook). Moreover, hipsters sojourning in all parts of Brooklyn and Queens must be able to travel to and worship in Williamsburg, which is their ancestral home. (At least since the late 1990s.)
If you've ever traveled along the Great Hipster Silk Route, you've doubtless seen hipster caravans on Kent and Flushing Avenues. Like their Bedouin counterparts, they travel slowly in small groups and are often huddled together against the wind, but instead of camels they ride old crappy ten speeds and shoddy Craigslist conversions with wobbly rear wheels and steel rims, their skateboarding helmets crooked on their heads and their messenger bags brimming with dirty clothes as they perform the time-honored ritual known as the "ride of shame."
Sure, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "It's 2008. The hipsters can exchange their cultural currency on the internet." Not so. Even today the hipster cultural economy relies heavily on the Great Hipster Silk Route. What happens when a hipster in Red Hook wants a tattoo that can only be obtained in Greenpoint, or a hipster in Long Island City wants to drink with and attempt to mate with a hipster in Clinton Hill, or a hipster in Fort Greene wants to rehearse with his bandmates in Dumbo? And that's to say nothing of the drugs and STDs, both of which are key components of hipster culture and which even today are still not downloadable.
Of course, like a recent Bard graduate this situation swings both ways, and what the hipsters need to understand is that double-parked minivans in the advanced stages of road salt-induced corrosion that perform u-turns suddenly and without warning are as essential to orthodox Jews as riding crappy bikes to crappy bars is to hipsters. In fact, the Talmud sets forth highly specific rules pertaining to the mandatory use of a cellphone while driving, the placement of bumper stickers bearing the likeness of Menachem Schneerson, and the sacred use of a coat hanger in place of an antenna. Also, what may appear to be seriously erratic driving is actually ritual driving, and if you were to watch from above you'd realize they are spelling out Hebrew prayers.
Armed with this knowledge I'm confident that both groups can take at least one more step towards understanding each-other and living in harmony.
I'm way less confident about the economy, though. It's one thing when things like investment banks are suffering; it's something else entirely when it's affecting cyclists directly. A reader recently forwarded me this troubling Craigslist ad:
Colnago Road Bike - $4000 (Upper East Side)
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-10-26, 7:15PM EDT
Beautiful hand crafted frame with a one of a kind paint job, with top of the line gears (dura ace), mavic cosmic elite wheels, computer, carbon fiber seat post and stem, paid $5000 year ago for this bike, economy got me down, have to sell, take advantage, your gain, a sure beauty for any bike collector/enthusiast -- Price is negotiable
It is hard to match the tie-dyed ugliness that is a Colnago, and it's always sad when someone is forced to part with one. Understandably, this particular seller is too distressed to mention small details like frame size and model, though judging from the photographs it's one of the older aluminum ones. These truly are rare bicycles, since most of them broke. Still, it's upsetting to see the economy forcing someone to part with his baby, even if that baby looks like something you might find in a hippie's laundry hamper.
Concerned, I realized I had to take a closer look at the cycling economy--one that looks beyond the PistaDex. As such, I amassed some data in order to determine the current Chris King Headset Composite Index:
Unlike the PistaDex, which is influenced by fashion as much as it is by the economy, the CKHCI is a much more reliable indicator of people's willingness to part with money for used bicycle products. If you're unfamiliar with the Chris King headset, it is a component that retails for about $130. Online retailer Competitive Cyclist says the bearings are made from "surgical grade stainless steel," which is essential if you ever need to smuggle it in a body cavity, and that they "provide an impervious barrier to the worst grit and grime of riding," which makes them ideal for hipsters on the Great Hipster Silk Route since they are usually pretty grimy.
Unfortunately, though, grimy people usually can't afford them, since even used Chris King headsets generally sell for pretty close to what new ones cost. This makes them probably the most conservative investment in the cycling world. Of course, if Chris King headsets start going cheap, you know we're all in trouble. Looking at the data above, you'll note that the average closing price for the six headsets that sold on eBay recently was $89.79, which means that the CKHCI is 89.79. (The CKHCI does not account for variables such as headset color, diameter, or threads or lack thereof, since these rarely affect a headset's cost in the used marketplace.) Generally, I don't grow alarmed or suspicious unless a Chris King headset trades below $70.
The PistaDex in New York City is at 475 right now, which is a bit low but not alarmingly so. And with the nationwide CKHCI hovering at around 90 I'm cautiously optimistic. Together, I sincerely hope we can get through this. So don't go throwing your ugly babies out with the bathwater quite yet.