Hi Fordham BFFs!

I took the blog out of retirement because I really had too much fun Saturday to keep it to myself.  Doctoral Level homework assignment:  1)  Observe; 2) Note thoughts and questions; 3) Reflect.  Peeeeerfect!

Objective:  Observe mountain bike culture…from the inside.  I’ve prepared by inviting my friend Stan, manager of the local shop, to join me for chitchat and free advertising.  No fool, I remind him that he’s sponsored by the local coffee roaster — I’m going to need some!

8:00am.  Downstairs to dress for the dirt.  No logos.  No lycra.  Sun faded bandana in place to prevent helmet hair (this is a fake — I don’t plan on riding).  Back outside to put the bike on the car.  Tool kit. Pump.  Other very important stuff, such as a cute little folding chair.

8:30am.  Arrive at the parking lot for the mountain bike park.  Stan car looks too clean.  The bikes on the roof appear to have been waxed and polished.  Wait a minute!   Stan is plastered in logos and wearing a cute ligreg.  coffee.  voltaire.  ttle roadie cap.  He’s even wearing lycra shorts.  I want to abort but I have to do this homework.  I bite the bullet and park.  Luckily, there’s coffee.

Sit. Chat. Drink coffee.  I make friends with a guy who is clearly new to the mountain bike scene.  Just by talking with me instead of nodding, he gives away his outside status.  While I’m taking notes, another car arrives.  The driver gets out, puts on MTB shoes, and nods to me.  I nod back.  He pulls his bike off the back, gets on, and circles us once.  He and I make eye contact.  Stan and the new guy are still talking.  Circles once more and is gone.  Part of the tribe.

9am.  Still talking.  Turns out new guy needs help putting onobserve the pedal pedals.  Stan, official bike shop representative, does not have a crescent wrench for removing the old pedals, nor did he bring an 8mm allen key for installing the new ones.  Roadie.  Greg, participatory ethnographic observer, has both.  I document the outsiders attempting to install a right-threaded pedal in a left threaded hole before stepping in to right the wrongs (see photo at right.  Do not emulate.)

More mountain bikers arrive. Transition.  And depart.  Stan leaves as well, clearly overcome by the sight coffee. giacobean. sponsorof fat tires everywhere.  I take possession of the coffee.

New guy takes off.

There is a strange noise, like chainsaws in the background.  What? Illicit dirt bikes tearing up the trails?  Mechanized mayhem?  The sound becomes an ear-splitting roar as the quad blasts out of the woods.  Suddenly there is near deafening quiet as the rider throttles down before shouting “Hi Mr. Stephens!” and then roaring off.  Gotta be a student, but I won’t know who until Monday.  Strange world.  Different tribe.

I’m wrapping up the observational period when I notice a behemoth entering the lot.  It is a Hummer in gun-metal gray and sporting two Ellsworths on a rack in the back.  This is like mountain biking for the platinum set — I’m pretty sure I’d have to sell my car to buy the bikes.  Two kids get out and put on full face helmets as they prep the bikes.  Weird.  These two are from the gravity set, sporting bikes that can get down most anything.  … But wait!  There are no chairlifts here!  What will they do?  Use the hummer?!  I watch them struggle up a small rock incline, clearly baffled by gravity’s cruel betrayal.  As they regroup, I ask if I can take a picture of the car.  Although not in the tribe, they are gracious.  hummer

The required hour long past, I pack stuff up.  I should go out for a bit of riding myself, but my head is buzzing with reflections.  I have to get home so that I can get started coding  observed traits and making generalizations.  This, my friends, is the heavy cost paid by the serious student.  We are focused.  Driven.  We do not ride when cerebration is required.  Instead, we sacrifice to the scarred stone altar of knowledge.





Cutting the cord



This is graffiti spray painted onto an electrical panel on the side of a wall.  My wife and I were taking the long way back to the hotel, fantasizing about what it would be like to have an apartment here, gazing out at the Mediterranean every morning and walking down to the market for food.  I saw the picture of the rat out of the corner of my eye, struck by the contrast between the grit of the graffiti and the idyllic patina of our dreamy wonderings.  The shot itself was taken wide open and sitting.  I took several moments to calm myself in an effort to minimize blur and then saturated the colors in post processing.

It’s the end of the second summer that I didn’t go off traveling.  That has pushed this blog into a weird place, although it was certainly fun right up until Spring.  I figure this will be the last post of this sort and then reinvent the location as something else in a few weeks.  Or just leave it sit until inspiration strikes!  Hope all is well out in the world; best to all.



Move on.

This is my ‘moving on post.’  It’s mid-July and I’m in a little hotel room on the beach in Denia, Spain.  This is quite the surprise, because I thought I was going to spend my summer in lovely Hastings on Hudson, doing chores, cleaning house for my two daughters and otherwise slowly going crazy.  I even took a job at the local bike shop Saturdays, chatting up customers and doing scut work and basic tune-ups and repair.

I should show up for work again in a few days, but instead I’ll be heading to Madrid with my sweetie for a little museum tour before my triumphant return to the quotidian life of the middle class in Hastings.  No bike shop photos, but I did take this one of a shelf full of bicycles meticulously handcrafted out of wire and plastic cable housing.

bicicletas in Denia

Bicicletas de cable en denia

Myriam and I have spent two days now sunning on the beach, snorkeling, and strolling through Denia and its lively street markets (as in this photo from a stall selling jewelry by the beach).  All the cares of the world are dissolving in the salt and sun.

Even more exciting, we’ve been wandering around wondering what it would be like to buy an apartment here.  We’ve spent the last twenty years going to Picasent and Valencia, but the families have changed now — the kids are growing up and moving on and the adults don’t all come back to live in Picasent anymore.  We’re an hour away from Valencia by car, two hours by bus.  Wouldn’t we rather spend the summer alternating between city and beach?  It’s a pipe dream right now, but it’s fun to think about the different people who might come visit us for a week or two if we had a wee little apartment in the sun.

Best wishes to all.  Hugs and kisses.