Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: Putting the "Meh" in Reme(h)dial

While this blog is ostensibly about "shed culture," I occasionally enjoy exploring other subjects such as bicycles, urban alpaca farming, and, of course, axes. That's why I feel it recumbent upon me to share with you the following recall, of which I was informed by a reader:


Yes, you read that right. The Gerber® Gator® Combo Axe--which is an axe with a knife inside the handle--is being recalled because it poses a "laceration hazard:"

Now, I may be a bit naive in the ways of cutting tools, but isn't the whole point of an axe with a knife on the inside to lacerate stuff? What's next, recalling Jack Daniel's because it's causing slurred speech, impaired motor funcion, and ill-advised sexual liaisons in some users? Last I checked, this was America--Canada's septic tank--and dadgummit I a-member a time when if a feller sauntered on down to the trading post and swapped a hunnert beaver pelts for a axe with a knife on the inside then that feller knew dolgarned well that he might git cut.

Then again, I suppose maybe an axe with a knife in the handle that's held in place by a magnet isn't such a great idea after all:

This seems like the kind of thing Specialized would design if they went into the axe business. I'm sure they'd market it as a laterally stiff yet vertically compliant "all-cutting" tool perfect for the serial killer who needs all the raw dismemberment power of an axe yet at the same time wants ready access to a knife so he can easily remove small body parts like ears and pinkies to add to his twisted trophy case. (Of course, it would also be made of crabon and have a Zertz insert in the handle.)

Most surprising though is that Gerber is located in my new hometown of Portland (though their wares are made in Taiwan) and frankly I'm disgusted that my smug neighbors would stand for this kind of shoddy outsourced "curation." As we say here Stumptownsburg, "Go artisanal or go home."

Speaking of going home, yesterday I temporarily repatriated to my ancestral home of New York City. After three whole days of pretending to live in Portland I was becoming a bit homesick, and I'm pleased to report that a leisurely ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan all but cured me of that condition.

Since beginning this blog back in 1972 I've been fortunate enough to travel to and ride in other cities, and I have to say that while New York City is on the "cutting edge" of many things (cuisine, media, art, mindless consumerism, soulless trend-mongering) I now realize it is very much a remedial city as far as cycling is concerned. Sure, the fixed-gear trend, the Dutch bike trend, and the moribund bike lane experiment have conspired to foster a new age of "practical" cycling here, but watching riders figure out how the whole thing works is like watching my helper monkey, Vito, try to carve a Thanksgiving turkey with a recalled Gerber® Gator® Combo Axe--by which I mean it's awkward and nauseating and you're lucky to come away from the whole debacle with all your limbs. Just stand on the Williamsburg Bridge for awhile and watch the legions of Nü-Freds streaming across it in their crooked skateboard helmets and with a look of terror in their eyes like doomed draftees storming the beach at Normandy and you'll know what I'm talking about.

However, some cycling sights in New York City predate this latest "boom," and one of these is the man in a sweatsuit riding a tricked-out mountain bike:

Just as the track bike appeals to fans of indie music and Apple products, so does the mountain bike appeal to the sorts of people who listen to club music even in their homes and who apply liberal amounts of cologne at all times in hopes that it will act as chloroform and incapacitate any woman foolish enough to come close enough to them.

In this particular instance the gentleman who shoaled me was not only clad in a tracksuit and riding a cross-country mountain bike complete with slicks and platform pedals, but he was also wearing Ferrari sneakers:

This is textbook "cycle chic" among the Eastern Bloc set.

Even more impressive was this singlespeed conversion, which marries the homespun rattlecan customization of yesteryear with the fixie "flambullience" of today:

That "colorway" is known as "LiveTarck."

In addition to the Nü-Fred phenomenon, another manifestation of New York City's remedial approach to cycling is in the recent proliferation of people salmoning on "bake feets:"

("Can we play 'chicken' with the taxis again, mommy? Pleeeze?")

I'm not sure what compels increasing numbers of wealthy New Yorkers to throw their children into wheelbarrows and then set out straight into oncoming traffic, but this is what's happening. I suppose it's because these are the sorts of entitled people who until recently triple-parked their luxury SUVs in front of their children's private schools but have since become born-again environmentalists. However, while their "carbon footprint" may be smaller, their ego and sense of entitlement are as bloated as ever, thus the notion that some tragedy could befall their Italian Ice Cart of Smugness is positively unthinkable. Still, you've got to hand it to them: It's a brave statement to "portage" your children by "bake feets" and leave the Range Rover out at the house in Southampton.

By the way, I have a sinking feeling that these parents are raising a generation of super-hipsters that will make our current crop seem like Tom Brokaw's "greatest generation." What's more, they're raising them in boxes like they're tulip bulbs:

It's like a Skinner Box of Smugness.

Then again, they may be on to something, since that particular contraption has three wheels and is not technically a bicycle. Therefore, they may very well have found a loophole through which to escape New York City's ongoing bicycle crackdown. This would also explain why young couples are doubling up on contraptions like this:

Hopefully I can physically move from here before they force us all onto Segways.

By the way, here in New York the bicycle backlash is inextricably intertwined with the hipster backlash:

Granted, I'm sure the above sticker is ironic, since only hipsters go around stickering street signs with designs they curated on their MacBook Pros, but nevertheless the backlash is real. In fact, commenter Ant1 informs me they're among New Yorkers' top annoyances:

As you can see, that's a New York Post survey, and I find it telling that the readers of that paper can't stand any of the above, yet they're perfectly fine with crime, bedbugs, police brutality, high taxes, public school layoffs, and rats that crawl all over your face while you're riding the subway.

No wonder it's so easy to make them hate bike lanes. It takes their minds off all the itching caused by the insects that are feasting off their blood in the night.

Speaking of hipsters, another reader informs me that the TV show "Triple Rush" is on the lookout for "Skid Extras:"

Skid Extras
Date: 2011-03-29, 8:43PM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

Needed for next seasons Triple Rush messengers reality show
This time we're stepping it up to include more Hipster Culture. So we need extras with Top Fixed Gear Skills that want to show them off.
Shooting begins late spring and ends mid summer so we need you to apply NOW!
Reply with photo of your bike and any still shots of you doing "Fixie Tricks."
This is an example of what we're looking for.



Sadly, I'm certain the post is fake--not because its ridiculous in itself, but because there's no way "Triple Rush" will go past the first season.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bike-Coastal: A Tail of Two Cities

Greetings this fine Wednesday morning from my virtual Stumptown! I can't tell you how much happier I am since I pretend-moved to Portland. Actually, I can. I'm this happy:



Or, for you rural folk, I'm this happy:

Really, telling people how aaahsome things are is the best part of "living" in Portland, for as we Portlanders say about life, "If everybody doesn't want to punch you in the nuts then you're just not being smug enough." Sure, I have occasional hourly crying jags, and sure all the indigent people who live under the bridges are kind of depressing, and yeah, I suppose if you really pressed me I'd admit that Portland is like a big Williamsburg only without a real city around it. But there are plenty of bike lanes, and of course the goddamned coffee is fantastic, and what else do you need, right?

Right?
Yes, every day it's another shade of grey in the land that reality and diversity forgot:
Things are looking up briefly around 1:00pm though.

Meanwhile, "back East" in New York City (where my physical presence resides slumped in an armchair like a character from "Inception"), it looks like the Mayor's office is trying desperately to rehabilitate the bike lane network's negative public image:

Ironically, a key component of this propaganda campaign involves making the network seem utterly insignificant by downplaying its size:

The memo cited improvements to street safety and played down the growth of the lanes, noting that 255 miles had been added in four years, a small fraction of the city’s 6,000 miles of streets. In the past, the city has bragged about its swift expansion of the bike lane network.

You might think that "swift expansion" would be positive. After all, when it comes to transportation networks and public projects, "swift" and "expansive" are good, while "sluggish" and "limited" are bad, right? Wrong. These are bicycles we're talking about. People hate bicycles. Therefore, the general public needs to be reassured that this is just another ineffectual project that the city is approaching in a typically half-assed fashion and that will ultimately come to nothing.

Consequently, the city is now selling the lanes like a self-effacing Viagra salesman: "Yeah, it's technically erectile dysfunction medication, but look how tiny the pill is, and I promise it'll hardly make your penis move at all."

This is also why, as much as pretend-living in Portland is increasingly making me want to tear my own face off in boredom and frustration (is that why so many Portlanders wear beards?), I'm not sure I could ever go back to acknowledging that I live in New York. New York hates cycling so much that Robin Williams can't even ride in a balaclava there. That's right--I was reading The New Yorker in the bathroom recently, and in the "Talk of the Town" section the hirsute comedian and über-Fred related the following anecdote:

"This morning, I biked up the George Washington Bridge. It was cold, so I put on my black Army balaclava, covering my face. A cop stopped me and asked me to take it off."

Granted, he could have been joking (without that hairy forearm applause meter thing he does it's tough to know for sure) but I have a feeling he's probably serious, especially given the fact that the NYPD has managed to almost completely rid Central Park of cyclists:

On the surface of it you'd think a bunch of local taxpaying businesses complaining about the loss of revenue might actually influence the city to ease up on the "crackdown," but when you consider that all the bike shops in Manhattan probably generate about as much taxable income as a single hedge fund operator then you start to realize what you're up against.

Yes, everything's outsized in New York, which is why normal reasoning rarely applies. Consider these tips from my Freds friends at "Bicycling" magazine about how to keep your bike from getting stolen if you don't have a lock with you:

Rig the chain
As you're coasting near your stopping point, shift into the big-ring/big-cog combo. When you stop to park your bike, shift just your shifters (don't pedal) into the small-ring/small-cog combo.
Thief jumps on, tries to pedal, gears go crazy, chain drops off, thief freaks out and splits.

Loosen the rear
Open the rear quick--release skewer.
Thief pedals for a bit, wheel starts to wobble, bike eventually becomes unrideable, thief drops bike and runs.

Secure it secretly
Use the straps on your helmet to "lock" your bike to a secure object.
Thief grabs bike, straps stop thief, thief fumbles with helmet, gets frustrated, leaves.

Use your mini-tool
Loosen the side pinch bolts on your stem and turn your bar 90 degrees; loosen your seat clamp bolt and turn your seat backward.

Thief looks at bike, thinks he's losing his mind, wants nothing to do with it, thief moves on.


It goes without saying that all of these methods would be laughably ineffectual in New York, and I don't even think the thieves in Portland are easily vexed enough to be hindered by them. The last one about turning the bars around 90 degrees is especially ironic considering that's how most people's Walmart Mongooses (Mongeese?) are set up anyway. I'm surprised they left off the old "leave some fake poo on the saddle" trick--or my personal favorite, "The Riddle of the Spinx," in which I leave a note on the bicycle explaining to the thief that he may keep the bike, provided he solve a cunning brain teaser. Yes, many's the time I've emerged from the store only to find a thwarted thief still puzzling over a real head-scratcher like "What bleeds for five days and doesn't die?" (Answer: A hemophiliac with a really tiny papercut. Duh.)

Yes, we New Yorkers (or former New Yorkers) love to pride ourselves on our "street smarts." Indeed, that's what's behind the proliferation of bike messenger movies and concomitant boasting about urban survival skillzzz. Then again, being a bike messenger in New York can be very difficult--at least when compared to being a bike messenger in Los Angeles, which mostly just involves modeling:



Though this is not to say it isn't also possible to take a potentially dangerous wrong turn when working as a bike messenger in LA. However, instead of, say, getting hit by a truck, you're more likely to fall victim to the unsafe-for-work world of messenger-themed porn:

Guess he was a little late on that "triple rush."

Speaking of porn, I can't help noticing that many of VeloNews's "Training Center" articles are are at least mildly suggestive:

You can see this when you implement the old "add 'in bed' to the fortune cookie fortune" trick:

Then again, maybe I'm watching too much messenger porn.

Finally, speaking of bicycle delivery and things that are sexually suggestive, a reader informs me that a woman in San Francisco will rendez-vous with you in order to give you some hot pie:



These days you can get your cupcake-sized pies delivered by bicycle if you live in the right San Francisco neighborhood, or can convince Natalie Galatzer of Bike Basket Pies to schedule a rendezvous because you can't live without her apple-cheddar, shaker orange or sweet potato-chard mini-pies.

Yes, pies are apparenty the new cupcake:

In short, pie seems to have hit a tipping point similar to the one that propelled the lowly cupcake to pastry superstardom.

Right. Because up until a few years ago, cupcakes were totally obscure.

Anyway, I visited the Bike Basket Pies website, which led me to this video:




From it, I learned that the proprietor "started this when I didn't have...I wasn't doing any other kind of like, inspiring...work?" Actually, that's exactly the same, like, reason I'm starting an artisanal "squirrelrito" bicycle delivery service in Portland:

As it happens, I was watching an episode of "No Reservations" last night in which Anthony Bourdain was eating squirrels, and given the "Americana backwoods revival" movement I think the next urban dining trend is going to be Ozarkian cuisine--though I'm giving it a twist by serving it in burrito form. Naturally, my enterprise will be totally sustainable for two reasons:

1) I will deliver your "squirrelrito" by bike;

and

2) Those little fuckers are everywhere.

I also think it's going to be way more successful than the failed "ratrito" joint I previously launched in New York City:

Not only did they make a tasty subway snack, but they also delivered themselves right to your mouth while you were sleeping.

I have no idea why it never caught on.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Creation Myth: Where do Hipsters Come From?

As I mentioned yesterday, I have officially shifted my consciousness to Portland, Oregon, and I couldn't be happier. Not only am I no longer forced to discuss any subject more profound than coffee, but I also garnered some attention in my now-local media. For example, something called "The Oregonian" (I think it's some kind of newsletter for oregano enthusiasts) asks:

Yes. Yes, I have.

BikePortland also reported on my move, presumably because there was a rare two-hour window yesterday in which nobody had organized any sort of naked theme ride, thus resulting in something of a slow news day:


I'm also pleased to report that BikePortland's commenters were almost universally nonplussed:

Mike March 29, 2011 at 6:21 am

I use to pay attention to this guy's blog....not anymore. Seems to me he is more negative than anything, for Christ sake it's just an F'ing bike lighten up. Myself, I don't care what kind of bike it is, how lame-o it is if it's being rode then I'm happy.


Sure, I realize my blog is deadly serious, though his comment still stung me somewhat. After all, like Mike, I also love all bikes--except for his, which is hopelessly lame.

Anyway, after reading about myself I browsed on over to Craigslist to see if I'd scored any "missed connections." I hadn't, but I did find this:

You: Pleather. Me: Lace. - w4w - 27 (The Blow of the Pony)
Date: 2011-03-28, 12:02AM PDT

My first time at "the BlowPony". You in white pleather (hopefully? I'm vegan) chaps drinking an MGD on the first level... Is strutted past you in my neon-teal snap-crotch lace onesie, hoping you'd pick up on the contextual irony. Alas, you turned towards a friend and squawked incoherently about (the music? the D.J.? the color of the walls?)

In spite of your obtusiveness, I'd really like to take you out in my Mustang (c'est la vie chalet? ring a bell?) and show you a good time... I'll buy the MGD this round.

Peace, love, and downward dog....


I totally thought it was for me at first though, since I just happened to be wearing white pleather chaps yesterday too. However, I wasn't drinking MGD and was actually quaffing a fermented beverage my organic farming roommates and I "curate" from fluid expressed from the anal glands of our chickens. (Fortunately the bar had a liberal BYOFEFTAGOC policy.) Nevertheless, I've extended an invitation to the poster to come join us at the homestead for a little soirée in which we can exchange observations of contextual irony over glasses of fermented chicken ass juice, and I'm hoping she'll accept.

I'd be lying though if I said I didn't occassionally miss my old life in New York City. The truth is that no other city boasts New York's diversity, or its rich pastiche of interesting characters. Each one of my neighbors alone could have been the starring character in a movie. For example, one of my next-door neighbors was an irascible actor living hand-to-mouth until he--get this--dressed up in drag and landed himself a starring role on a soap opera:

While my other next-door neighbor was an irascible huckster with severe respiratory problems who always hung around with a guy dressed as a cowboy:

Really, by far my most normal neighbor was the young guy who lived across the hall. He was a graduate student at Columbia who was also a pretty serious runner:

Oddly though I haven't seen him since his last dental appointment. ("Is it safe?," asked the dentist menacingly as he rolled up on his Serotta.)

Seriously, you can't make this stuff up. Only in New York, and so forth.

Of course, the most important part of living in New York is constantly lamenting about how much better it was "back in the day"--you know, before Times Square was Disney-ified and you could still go see the Talking Heads play CBGB without listening to David Byrne read from his stupid book about bikes, after which you could go to an after-hours club where you'd contract hepatitis from ingesting hard drugs off a toilet seat, and then finally enjoy a nightcap of being beaten and robbed.

I also fondly remember the days when New York's streets were teeming with erudite pedestrians who alternately cracked wise and held forth on philosophy, literature, and cinema:

At least until they almost got run over by cars.

So why do the young and hopeful continue to move to New York City? Is it because they're in search of that romantic, pedantic, hepatitis-infected past? Or, to put it another way, who are hipsters, where do they come from, and how are they made? Well, the following short film about bicycle messengers (forwarded to me by the filmmaker) may at least partially answer these questions:

Zebra 022 from T. Leonardo on Vimeo.


First, the film establishes the typical hipster's mental state as the main character browses an art gallery a metaphor for creativity:

"Sometimes I think New York is a cage and I'm trapped in it. My head becomes swollen with ideas and I can't think anymore. Sometimes I wonder how free I really am."

I totally "feel you" on that one. That's why I left and moved to Portland. My head was also swollen with ideas when I lived in New York. Just a few ideas I might have at any given moment included:

--Wrap the cat in cellophane;
--Take up beekeeping;
--See if Skittles would be good on a BLT;
--Turn my coat closet into a sauna;
--Change the color scheme on my "fixie."

In retrospect though there might have been other factors contributing to these ideas as well, and I'd advise the young lady in the glasses to lay off the "Wednesday weed" and see if the mental swelling persists.

Next, we see a messenger metaphor for freedom weaving through traffic:

Unlike the young lady with the glasses, his head is completely devoid of ideas. This is because, apparently, nothing matters on a bike:

"I always wanted to move fast. I wanted to get away, but I didn't know where I was going. But it doesn't matter on a bike. Nothing matters on a bike but speed and freedom."

I think the victim memorialized by that ghost bike might have a different opinion. Nothing matters when you're sitting on the couch smoking "Wednesday weed" and eating a BLT with Skittles. Everything matters when you're on a bike in the city and you're eternally one wrong move away from getting flattened by a bus.

In any case, by now we understand that hipsters are essentially people who are overwhelmed by simply being alive and are constantly looking to escape the unpleasant business of thinking for themselves that the rest of us generally refer to as "adulthood." But where do they come from? Well, Iowa apparently:

"Ever since I was a kid I always wanted to go fast, you know? I just like, I love the action and I love the adrenaline and I just--I just needed to get out of Iowa."

Wait, she loves action and adrenaline and she left Iowa? Has she never heard of RAGBRAI?!?

RAGBRAI is action and adrenaline--I think that's actually what the two "A"s stand for:

I may have to ditch Portland for Iowa.

Nevertheless, every person undergoes his or her own journey to self-discovery, which is what these train tracks mean:


"Portaging" her bike along railroad tracks means the bike is an integral part of her personal journey, and when she shifts the bicycle onto the rail it means things are going more smoothly. Or something:

And obviously, the rain symbolizes Portland.

Incidentally, railroads are a popular device in cinema, though they usually symbolize "doing it," as in the old "train entering the tunnel" metaphor:



Which is generally followed by some variation on the orgasmic "erupting geyser:"



Next, nine months later, the avian symbol arrives:


Finally, after 22 years, $150,000 in tuition, and a Bard diploma, your child moves to New York City to deliver paperwork on a color-coordinated bicycle with no brakes and you wonder where you went wrong:


Up until now, most of the film has consisted of riding footage and voice-overs, but at 5:09 the acting kicks in with a single line delivered with all the passion and enthusiasm of a surly teenager making an obligatory phone call to a grandparent:

"Picking up at 150 Varick?"

She deserves an Acada-meh Award.

Having thoroughly exhausted all the acting reserves, the film then goes back to riding footage and voice-overs, though now it's a male voice speaking in an almost indecipherable disinterested hipster patois:

"I dunno, I was just cruisin' to the city the other day, I saw some dude layin' down on the road. Like, everyone was surrounding him, definitely got hit. [mumblemumblemumble] by riding harder, by being more aggressive. You know, keep on the streets in a safe manner. I think it's definitely [mumblemumblemumble] cars come out of nowhere. You know, be a close call...car overtakes you... You know, you just gotta keep moving forward on that path [mumblemumblemumble]...."

I don't know how people make it through four years of Bard without having to completely form their mouths around words, but then again I suppose when you pay all that tuition you shouldn't be expected to have to go through the trouble of actually speaking.

Then we see breakdancers metaphors for urban creativity:

"I don't know when I'll leave New York. I kinda wanna get something done here which is obtain this dream I've had of being an artist."

Frank Sinatra famously sang of New York, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." Decades later, I guess it's now a place you come to from Iowa if you "kinda wanna get something done." In terms of ambition, hipsters clearly skew towards the "If it rains takes the bus" end of the spectrum.

Fortunately though the acting in the film suddenly gets a second wind, for at 8:19 the young lady has a total "bike-gasm," complete with contended sigh:

I suppose this means she has finally attained complete communion with the rhythms of New York City traffic, and by extension the universe, and it's a testament to the director's restraint that he doesn't follow it with an obvious symbol:



So there you have it. Hipsters come from Iowa, they don't like to think, they do like to ride bikes, and they ultimately want to be artists or something. Really, though, I can't think of many places less conducive to artistic endeavors than New York City, which essentially consists of wealthy financiers and the people who serve them. And speaking of financiers, a reader informs me that the time-traveling t-shirt-wearing retro-Fred from the planet Tridork is now in the business of market forecasting:

Given his ability to time travel, this may qualify as insider trading.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Virtual Reality: Smugness is a State of Mind

As an anonymous blogger whose identity is a closely guarded secret, I endeavor to share as little personal information as possible on this blog. In fact, apart from the basics such as my social security number, my bank account numbers, and all my PINs and passwords (all of which you can see by clicking here), I make it something of a de facto policy not to bore you with the minutiae of my everyday life.

For this reason, you may not have picked up of the fact that for the past few months I've actually been living in Portland, OR. Yes, the truth is I've been "burnt out" on New York for quite some time and not too long ago I finally "hit the wall" as they say. The the ludicrous cost of living, the constant kvetching about bike lanes, and the wily talking raccoons who fleece you in games of three-card monty at every turn all conspired to precipitate my move.

To put it another way, I could no longer hack it in The Big Arple, and so I've finally been "spit out the back" like a Cat 5 on a group ride. (Or, if you prefer, I pulled a "Prolly.")

I should point out though that I haven't physically moved. Indeed, my body remains in Brooklyn, and as you know since you have access to all my banking information, I live in "hardcore luxury" in a million-dollar Williamsburg loft:

(That's actually me with the lady sideburns.)

However, given the stagnant real estate market, I've been having quite a difficult time finding a buyer who possesses just the right combination of douchiness, financial solvency, and general naïveté to meet my stratospherically high asking price for my smallish drywall box.

So instead, while my corporeal self still resides in "hardcore luxury," I've transported my consciousness to the soggy utopia that is Portland. I've done this by transcending the material plane and by realizing that physical existence is merely a state of mind--or by completely deluding myself, depending on how you look at it. It was surprisingly easy, too. First, I created an artificial Portland habitat in my home by purchasing a humidifier which I fill with Stumptown coffee instead of water. Then, I set all my clocks back by three and a half hours. (Portland is an additional half hour behind the rest of the western United States.) Finally, I completed my microenvironment by making Bikeportland my homepage and pretending it was the local news. So instead of waking up to stories about how restaurants are now using the bike lanes for valet parking, I now awake to delightful morsels of smugness like this:

"Yaaah, that's aaahsome!," I exclaim as I take another pull from the humidifier. "Another win for bikes...?" (People west of the Rockies seem to draw out their vowels and phrase statements as questions, and so I've adopted this manner of speech as well.)

Once I became acclimated to my Portland biodome, I then decided to "take it to the next level" by finding a full-time job. Sure, working can interfere with your process of self-discovery, but keep in mind a full Portland work week is only 15 hours long, which leaves us Portlanders plenty of free time for extracurricular smugness.

Obviously the most coveted employer in Portland is Chris King Precision Components, which is why they're widely referred to as the "G*ogle of the Willamette." However, when I told the Animatronic Chris Kingbot 9000 who conducts their interviews that I wanted to work on the "espresso tampon" line he showed me the door. (It was anodized pink, said "King" all over it, and had a 10-year warranty.) So I picked myself up off the floor, brushed the metal shavings off my Cane Creek t-shirt (which has a 110 year warranty), and resolved to press on.

Next, I went to Rapha, which is an even better place to work than Chris King since you don't have to operate any machinery--unless you consider riding a bicycle and being photographed in black and white to be "operating a machine." I was certain I'd nail this interview, and I even went so far as to don my bespoke cycling suit:

Unfortunately, I totally failed the "epic" portion of the interview when I finished dead last in the "Rapha Prospective Employee Gentleman's Soup Cook-Off." I also managed to catch a glimpse of their HR person's notes, and I distinctly saw the words "mustache not insouciant enough."

After Rapha, I headed over to Vanilla Bicycles to see if celebrity builder Sacha White could use an assistant, but it turns out there's even a five year wait list over there to clean the toilets--which, I might add, are absolutely filthy as a result.

Since it was clear I wasn't going to land an A-list Portland cycling job, I figured I'd have to dip my metaphorical ladle into the decidedly non-epic soup that is the Bikeportland job listings, and fortunately I was able to land something in short order:
This is Portland's equivalent of a "Midnight Cowboy" scenario, as bicycle food vending is the male prostitution of the Pacific Northwest, but it's still totally "aaahsome" since they observe Cross Crusade races as religious holidays and so I don't have to work on those days. (I do have to prove I raced though by presenting my boss with a pair of muddy "shants.")

Anyway, now that I was a real-life (in my imagination) Portland food vendor, I knew it was time to find "digs" befitting someone of my stature. So I turned to Craigslist, which is known as the "New York Times real estate section of the Willamette." Fortunately, it didn't take me long to find the perfect home:


A new home in an old house, on SE 52nd Ave north of Powell. Available in the beginning of April (officially), if you've contacted us before and are still interested, please email us again.

We're looking for someone or a couple that is interested in being part of a little start-up urban farm community. We don't own this house, but treat it as if we do, and are looking for someone that will do the same. We're looking for a housemate that is as interested in the "community" aspect of living here. We don't have to be best friends, but friendly conversation over a beer or tea on the porch is what we're after. A good candidate will be as into the gardening, helping with the fowl, building, and bettering our community as we are. We want this to be a light-hearted sanctuary. A place where you feel good about having a friend over, you feel good about coming home to, and feel good about taking care of. We sure do.

Neo-Hippies? Yes, probably.

(now if that didn't scare you)

It is about a 1,530 sq ft house, two stories plus dirt (not-so-dry) basement and attic. (A good amount of storage space in the attic, and bonus, it's dry)

A total of 3 bedrooms, all upstairs.

The room for rent looks east out over the back yard, and is 11'x13.5' About 148sqft which will rent for $450 or $550/month, depending if it's a single or couple. Room has average sized closet and large old double hung window. (It's the blue room pictured below, sorry for the low quality picture. The room is unfurnished. The rocking chair and dresser aren't included.

1 good sized bathroom (also upstairs) with full bath and shower with a great built-in for storage. Then the living room, dining room, entry way, small laundry/utility room (w/d included), and medium/large size walk-through kitchen with pantry are all down stairs.

It's a charming old farmhouse with front covered porch, back uncovered porch, old cherry tree in the back yard and a fenced garden with raised beds :) A somewhat wild yard (front and back) just waiting to be tamed into luscious Oregon gardens (which we hope to do). We have brought the farm back to the house in a sense. By raising chickens and ducks, building a coop and maintaining gardens, we're in the slow process of starting an urban farm. Hopefully we'll build a greenhouse by spring to start our years veggies, and the gardening potential is endless, really. We compost, have hopes to collect rainwater, and have dreams of solar panels.

Gas range/oven, gas furnace, and gas water heater. No dishwasher, so be comfortable doing them by hand.

Now you know about the house, here's some info on the house mates:

We're two active males who live a leisurely, but very busy, lifestyle (not to be confused with lazy) looking to share this SE house with a like minded individual or couple. We're into hiking, biking, camping and backpacking, road trips and day trips, cross country skiing, white water rafting and canoeing. We enjoy preparing home cooked meals and barbecues. We're friendly to people and animals, and sometimes find humor in their (and our) silly behavior. People watching entertains us; we enjoy spending time with friends, and making new ones. Thrift shopping excites us. Gardening, plants, and trees strengthen our collective spirit. We consider our selves open minded with the ability to empathize with others. Sunday conversations with a pot of coffee keep us grounded. One of us is self employed as a people and dog trainer. The other is a Cafe Manager at a popular eatery. We're queer, hetero, omnivore, and 420 friendly. We occasionally enjoy a cocktail after work, but rarely more than 2. We travel with an 11yo canine, who is often described by friends and strangers as a very good dog, a 2 year old canine who is clean, mostly well mannered, enjoyable to interact with and loves to play, and a 2 year old, very chill, indoor feline who manages the family. (additional animals considered on a case-by-case basis, though adding another dog to the house is pretty unlikely) We take great pride in the manners, habits, and cleanliness of our companions, as well as ourselves. Neither of us are neat freaks, but do appreciate a tidy household.

We're not into a scene; we enjoy DIY projects, occasional gatherings of friends, and generally a healthy well balanced enjoyment of life and its experiences.

Happy to enjoy interviews over a beer or tea.


Admittedly, as much as I ply him with artisanal craft ales and Stumptown coffee, the residual cynical New Yorker in me still pipes up now and again, and so a few items in this ad did give me pause. For example:

We compost, have hopes to collect rainwater...

How do you aspire to collect rainwater in Portland? This seems less like a goal than like something that's almost unavoidable. It's like saying you have hopes to collect mosquitos in summer, or you have hopes to acquire a bullet in your leg at a rap concert. Have they not managed to muster up the funds to purchase a bucket and leave it outside for a few days?

We're queer, hetero, omnivore, and 420 friendly.

Thank smugness I can seek refuge from the judgements of society in their idyllic urban farm community that has not yet "gotten it together" to stick a bucket outside. As soon as I move in I plan to take up permanent residence on the couch where I will proceed to test every limit of their politically correct tolerance by perusing heterosexual pornography, watching RuPaul's Drag Race on Logo, devouring spare ribs and vegan barley scones by the bucketful, and taking massive bong hits off of a 5 foot bong in the shape of a phallus while dressed in drag. (None of this behavior will seem odd to anybody who's attended a Cross Crusade race.)

Clearly, in Portland, tolerance has doubled over on itself like a sexually omnivorous yoga instructor performing oral sex on shimself.

I also enjoyed this:

We travel with an 11yo canine, who is often described by friends and strangers as a very good dog, a 2 year old canine who is clean, mostly well mannered, enjoyable to interact with and loves to play, and a 2 year old, very chill, indoor feline who manages the family.

I always enjoy prospective roommates who provide far too much information about their pets who, they don't seem to realize, are not people. Just say you have a couple of dogs and a cat, it's enough. Maybe specify the breed. Otherwise, most of us "get" how dogs and cats operate. Anyway, none of it matters, because if any of them bugs me while I'm "getting down" on the sofa with my ribs and my dong bong then they're going outside with the rainwater bucket.

By the way, notice that despite including a complete personality profile on both the dog and the cat they don't actually mention the sex. I suppose it would be very un-Portland to start assigning gender roles to them.

Finally though I managed to quell the knee-jerk sarcasm that they injected into me when I was born (standard practice in New York hospitals back in the 1940s when the stork "portaged" me into existence), and I'm pleased to say our urban farming community is coming along splendidly. I even procured a politically correct bamboo bucket which is collecting water (and possibly some urine) as I type this. I've also come to appreciate my roommates' painfully overbearing political correctness, which is much better than the sort of racial insensitivity you'll find up in Seattle:

I spotted this "ethnic care" section in a drugstore while I was there for the Bike Expo, and I must say I found it rather offensive--though their prices on "ethnic cleanser" were positively unbeatable.

But you know what they say: "You're not a real Portlander until you've had a case of beard lice gotten yourself a bicycle," and thanks to Craigslist I've picked up a real beaut:


Date: 2011-03-26, 8:57PM PDT
Reply to: [deleted]

Handmade Chopper bike
It is in overall ridable shape. It has back brakes (the kind that engage when you push back on the peddles)
I do not know the maker of this bike, so I cannot guarantee the structural integrity of it, but everything seems to be in good shape. Currently the tires need air and I don't have a pump to fill them up.

Selling for $50 (firm on the price). I live in North Portland near Lombard & I-5 (couple blocks from the MAX yellow line Kenton stop)

(503) 4 2 1 - [deleted]

I don't know about its integrity either, but as for my own, as a make-believe member of an urban farm community in the second-most bike friendly city in Canada's licey beard, I'm sure you'll agree its positively unimpeachable.