Yeah, I'm back, whatever, who cares.
So firstly of all, I have an impotent announcement to make, which is that this Thursday, May 9th, I'll be in Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA. (The "PA" stands for Pennsylvania.) Here, the good people at Bilenky Cycle Works will help me whore my new book, "Bike Snob Awhore." Here's the agender, as it's been presented to me:
6PM: Meet at Rittenhouse Square (Walnut and 18th)
6:30: 1.5 hour spin through town
8PM: book signing, chatting, beer, and bowling at North Bowl
Come for the spinning, stay for the chatting.
Here are some more details from Bilenky, and here's a Facebook page which I can't look at because I'm not on Facebook.
Please come by, because really, what do you have to lose apart from your precious Thursday evening alone time?
Secondly, my absence last week was bookended by two events which could, in the current vernacular, be described as "epic"--so epicly epic I couldn't possibly address them both in a single post. (I mean, a real blogger could, but I can't.) One of these "epic" events was the Rapha Gentlemen's Race, which took place in the wilds of New Jersey this past Saturday. Owing to the fact that I suck at blogging I'll hold my comments regarding the race in abeyance until another day, but for now I will say that I rode with (or more accurately was towed by) the Bicycling team (captained by the aptly-named "Fit Chick") and that it was a hugely enjoyable day of bicycle cycling with five enjoyable people who ride bikes about five times as well as I do.
The other "epic" event was my visit to Cleveland way back on April 27th. They say you always remember your first visit to Cleveland, and indeed the question "How can a moderately-sized city have so much meat for sale?" is one that will haunt me forever.
But let's start at the beginning.
I've never been reluctant to hire a car to take me to the airport, but for some reason it felt appropriate to use public transportation to LaGuardia for my trip to Cleveland. In particular, I figured a miserable rush hour slog in a bus would set the mood perfectly, and so I took the subway downtown to 125th Street (yes, 125th Street is downtown for me), where I stared aghast at someone's ass crack while waiting a full 45 minutes for my bus to travel the 25 feet from the intersection to the bus stop:
(Crack kills, but mopeds are just stupid.)
Finally, I boarded the bus along with roughly 14,000 other passengers. I won't say I felt like a sardine, because that's both clichéd and déclassé, but I will say I felt like a prized clam from the Rias of Galicia:
By the way, canned prized clams from the Rias of Calicia are my favorite snack food, and I went through five tins of the stuff before we even reached the Triboro Bridge or whatever they're calling it now.
At $63.50 a pop, this trip to Cleveland was getting expensive.
Plus, as if all this wasn't indignity enough, the heavy traffic gave me a lot of time to stare at a sign that told me exactly what I was:
I mean I was a schmuck, not a liquidator of antiques.
Finally, I made it to the airport, only to find out that my flight was delayed, and so I bought a book, bellied up to the bar, and started sucking down sickly-sweet airport margaritas as fast as they could make them (which was pretty fast, since I'm fairly sure they came right out of a carton):
Drunk from the margaritas, flatulent from the prized clams, belligerent from the tales of dreaded gangs like the Dead Rabbits, yet surprisingly jocular from mentions of the heyday of the Yiddish theater, it was as though Martin Scorcese and Barry Levinson were battling for control of my body, and it's a miracle I wasn't detained indefinitely by homeland security.
Eventually though, I landed in Cleveland, where I found this display in the airport:
This was about all the boredom I could take for one day and I hadn't even made it to the city proper yet, and so I bedded down in front of it and went promptly to sleep.
The next morning, this person (the Brian one):
And Alex who owns this place:
Took me out for some sightseeing, despite having much better things to do, such as sleeping off their hangovers and generally avoiding the sights of Cleveland. (Landmark-avoidance is a favorite pastime of Clevelanders, since they prefer not to be reminded that they live in Cleveland.)
I, on the other hand, greatly enjoyed the sights. Check out these two imposing figures, for example. They're called "The Guardians of Traffic," and they "typify the spirit of progress in transportation:"
Obviously, I'm talking about the two guys on the bikes. If you're wondering what those big statue things are I have no fucking idea.
By the way, all panoramic views of the skyline are protected by high fences:
If they weren't, the hopeless lack of grandeur might inspire you to jump.
But it's not all hopelessness and despair in Cleveland. In fact, here's an uplifting landmark:
You might recognize it as the church from the wedding scene in "The Deer Hunter," a movie which is in no way depressing:
If you haven't seen it I won't spoil it, but I can assure you that Russian roulette was never so hilarious.
Needless to say, by this point I was actually sobbing, so my tour guides took mercy on me and shepherded me to a more uplifting landmark:
At first, given the theme of the morning, I just assumed it was a house from "Sophie's Choice" or some similarly miserable film, but then I wiped away my tears and looked closer:
Actually, that's not exactly what happened. What really happened was that after we rolled by "The Deer Hunter" church somebody said in an off-handed fashion, "Oh, the 'Christmas Story' house is near here, too." Then I got all excited and insisted they take me to see it, which made them wince in embarrassment over what a dork I was, and in fact the whole way there they rode at least this far away from me:
So I know what you're wondering, and the answer is, "Yes, the leg lamp is in the window:"
Actually, it's in like every window in the whole neighborhood, and in some cases it's even encased in bulletproof glass like the Pope:
Because, you know, this is all these people have.
After I was finished gawking and they were finished slinking away from me, we rolled by this:
"What's that?," I asked. David thought I was referring to the giant billiard ball sitting on the grass. "That's some stupid art," he replied. "No, that," I said, pointing to the big building in the background--which it turns out is a gigantic house of meat and sundry comestibles:
Yes, Clevelanders actually smile in here, so you know it's good. It's also worth noting that Clevelanders smile at stuff that makes Portlanders cry, such as dead bunny rabbits:
Portlanders ride around on bespoke bicycles wearing artisanal fanny packs and eating kimchi quesadillas out of food trucks. Clevelanders watch "The Deer Hunter" and eat rabbit and tubular meats while basking in the warm glow of their leg lamps--though as it turns out I was now in the "artisanal" neighborhood of Cleveland:
As evidenced not only by the sign, but also by the gigantic "bike hutch" to which it was affixed:
And by this bike rack:
Even David Byrne himself would be hard-pressed to design a rack with so few viable locking positions. Apart from the two "o"s pretty much every letter is totally useless.
Still, you have to admire them for trying, and when the sun comes through the bike hutch at just the right angle you can almost pretend you're in some kind of overly gentrified douche-tastic Poortlyn wonderland:
Then again, Cleveland has its own unique take on the whole "artisanal" phenomenon. For example, in Brooklyn people open stores where they only sell olive oil or mayonnaise, or where some Oberlin graduate will give you an old-timey shave with a straight razor and a leather strop for $75. In Cleveland, this guy sits outside his shop making bats:
Yes, I'm assured that if you want an artisanal decorative baseball bat for non-sporting purposes, this is the place:
Though if you want a bike you should go next door to Joy Machines:
They have bikes:
They have bags:
They have balls:
They have ambiance:
And they even have a FAG-2:
Plus, you can keep up on all the local happenings, such as the "tweed ride:"
And the "Manly Mart:"
Just be sure to give your beard a good fluffing beforehand.
Indeed, Ohio City seemed to have a good grip on this whole "artisanal" thing, with only one problem:
Uh, you can't have an artisanal neighborhood without loitering. Loitering is what this whole way of life is about. Have they never been to Brooklyn? A hipster is just a loiterer with more expensive pants.
Then again, in Cleveland they don't have time for fancy pants--or for any kind of shirt at all for that matter:
Not sure why he's carrying flowers, but either he's a magician, or else some poor woman is going to get a shirtless apology.
Finally, having soaked up as much Cleveland as I could handle, I headed to the Market Garden Brewery, where we all drank beer:
And where I signed books for people in clever t-shirts:
Before winging it back home to New York:
(I live down there.)
In all, it was a very enjoyable visit, and I will always keep a leg lamp burning for Cleveland.