Saturday, April 29, 2006

Critical Smash

Last night's Critical Mass ride was awesome, peaceful and fun -- until the shit royally hit the fan.

John designed the map, left town and had Paul and other friends pass it out. This map won and Paul had to lead it. I stayed near to the front and it was an awesome, well-planned ride. Paul did a great job keeping the ride massed up and under control.

The mass ended horribly however and did not ride the extra block or two to the final destination of a public park. At the 'six corners' intersection of Damen, Milwaukee and North the bikers parked themselves. This is a crazy-busy intersection in one of the busiest, trendiest, bar and restaurant-laden parts of Chicago. I hate it when we linger in intersections, because it really serves no point but to piss people off and make us look like juvenile assholes.

I started to break away with a group, but realized that the vast bulk of the Mass wasn't following. The blue lights of police were visible and I turned back around and stood on the sidewalks to see what would happen and hope that all ended well.

The cops started clearing bikers out and a large, black SUV/Pick-up truck vehicle jammed itself into the intersection. The driver was angry and yelling and not particularly concerned about the people he might hit. In his eagerness to get through the crowd, he kept causing a bottleneck and wouldn't listen to my and other's reasonable arguments that he was only slowing things down, and that the intersection would clear quicker if he stopped moving.

The crowd went wild with glee and laughter when a cop barked over the PA "Just get on your bikes and ride." Best thing I heard from a cop all night long.

We headed East on North Avenue along with a thick crowd. After biking out of the fray of the intersection, I pulled over to get some photos of the bikes streaming past me. There was a gap in the bikes and I heard the sound of a vehicle aggressively accelerating. Mr. Black Truck.

Moments after he screamed past me I heard a sickening crunching noise. I followed to find a scene of disarray. Apparently he smashed through the bikers, hitting several people and dragging two bikes with him, before smashing into a vehicle to make a left turn onto a side street.

Clusterfuck doesn't begin to describe the scene. People were shouting the license plate number and freaked out. The one bike I saw was amazingly mangled.

The cops were total assholes. They simply would not, could not comprehend that a serious crime happened. They also demonstrated that they are clueless about biking laws, "You guys need to learn to stick to the bike lanes, riding outside of bike lane is illegal in Chicago." When I informed this cop that bikes have all of the rights of a motorized vehicle in Illinois and Chicago the cop shook his head, denied my statement and assured me that as a police officer, he "knows the law better than we do." Copper then gave a lecture that we should expect that drivers try to run us down if we make them wait.

The cops only began to take the situation seriously when the driver of the vehicle who was hit by Black Truck got their attention. Once they understood that another car was involved, their attitude changed and they started calling in the license plate number and writing a report.

One of the guys who was hit and whose bike was dragged requested an ambulance and to file a police report. The police arrested him, along with another guy who was hit and four other bikers.

I scooted home to get my ARDC card, swapped the slow Breeze for the speedy Julep and biked to the police station at California/Shakespear.

After getting the information about some of the arrested from the crowd, I went inside to play lawyer. After much bullshit, I was told that they were getting processed and would be released on their own recognisance in about an hour. The crowd was relieved and we goofed off outside.

An hour passed and I learned that a shift change had occurred. The new staff laughed when I mentioned the hour and they said that it would be 4-8 hours before their prints cleared and they were released. Grrrr...... I asked to see them and dealt with the police's shit about my status as a lawyer.

Blah..blah...privilege.

We waited, and waited, and napped and waited and waited.

The first guy was released around 4:00am.

One of the cops came out to greet us with bike registration forms, in case our bikes get stolen. He seemed nice and the group started talking with him and asking questions about the Black Truck. This officer also doesn't know the law and began this little dialogue with members of the group:

"Unfortunately, the law in Illinois says that any time a vehicle is in a collision with a bike or pedestrian, it is always the biker or ped's fault. The motorist is not at fault for hitting bikes or peds."

--- But what about the hit and run? Leaving the scene has to be a crime.

"Sure, if it was with another car, but he couldn't be at fault with a bike or ped, so he doesn't have to stay at the scene. Unless the biker is in a bike lane, or the pedestrian on the sidewalk, they are the party at fault."

--- What about leaving the bike lane to avoid getting doored?

"Then you need to get the contact information of the person who opened the door. They are the responsible party."

____________________

Then we were told we had to leave the station. One arestee was not yet released. His brother was allowed to wait inside, and I needed to give him some more advice. I was told to leave and I said I was waiting for my remaining client, and counseling the one with me. The officer again tried to call my bluff and my credentials came out yet again. After reviewing them, I was told I had to leave anyway. I was quite tired and cranky and furious at the ignorance and hostility from the police and I felt my nostrils flaring and ears pulling back. I told the cop that I was going to speak with my client that had been released and marched into the waiting room to do so.

I don't know the exact rules at police stations, but I doubt that they were supposed to make any of us leave. There were plenty of other people at the station wating for something or another. I have no doubt that they crossed a line when they demanded that I leave, too.

At the same time, the station is their turf. Being right doesn't mean that you can't get arrrested. Not a single part of me wanted to get arrested myself and spend another eight hours at the station.

I left and was home in bed by 5:12am.

______________

The whole situation sucked. There is so much about the situation that I don't know -- including what happened between when I left the Black Truck and when he violently ran into people. There are rumors of some sort of altercation, but nothing concrete. Whatever happened, he didn't have the right to ram into a random group of people, even if Mr. Copper finds it understandable.

The cops' gross misunderstanding of several points of law is truly frightening. There is a constant problem of cops not taking accidents involving bicycles or pedestrians seriously. These are the cops who write the police reports that are very important in insurance settlements, criminal/traffic citations or civil disputes to determine liability and damages. With their ignorance and/or anymosity towards bikers and laws, it is no wonder that so many bikers have injuries/damages that cannot be recovered. Grrrr......

Also, I am suspicious about this group of arrestees and their friends waiting at the jail. They apparently spend a lot of time waiting outside of police stations and/or getting arrested themselves. On Saturday, a friend identified one of them as the man who hit another friend of ours and are the "young punks who are always causing trouble and trying to antagonize motorists."

I'm going to try to ride the next Mass with them and see for myself. If they ride like assholes, I will royally call them out on it -- if they are arrested again, they are on their own and won't get any help from me. This jail stuff is exhausting; I'll do it for someone who deserves help, but damn if I will do it for kids who cause their own trouble.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Noisy White Trash




































One way to fight gentrification. On Damen Ave.

In other news, the cayenne pepper has greatly reduced the amount of dogshit in my garden. I have seen only two piles of poop since I applied it. We've had some monster rains, so I think it all got washed away...hence the new poop.

My sunflower seeds sprouted on Monday, and I am thrilled to see them grow each day.

The snap peas are reaching out for things to trellis to, so I gave them some sticks leading to the chain link fence that I hope they take over.

I think all seeds/plants have been planted in my herb garden, but I still have to wait for a few more to sprout (basil, cumin & more chives). I'm not really patient and I want to see the plants big and healthy Now! No matter how many times I go to look at them, they will just keep growing at their own pace, though.

_________________

This morning, when I approached the Kinzie/Clinton 4-way stop intersection just east of Blommers. The intersection can be really weird at times -- there is an overpass above and diagonal tracks crossing your path and many drivers who have their heads firmly up their asses. Besides this combo, it is also at the bottom of the hill.

A woman approaching from the right completely blew the stop sign and forced me to stop my bike or ram into her car as she turned right into my path. Of course, there was plenty of time for me to talk with her as she waited in a long line of cars at the next stop light.

I yelled that she needs to pay attention and obey the signs. With one of those earpiece/cellphone/cyborg thingies welded to her ear she explained the problem, "I didn't see it." I questioned whether she didn't see the stop sign or me. She repeated that she "didn't see it, don't worry about it."

Excuse me, but when you are accused of not paying attention, answering that you didn't see something doesn't help your case. However, her lack of seeing it certainly wasn't the issue. This particular intersection begs for you to pay attention. The street she approached from doesn't continue, but terminates, forcing the driver to turn right or left. The posts supporting the overpass should be a natural traffic calming devise. Even if you aren't familiar with the intersection to know that there is a stopsign, the intersection itself should give you pause. I doubt this is the case, though. My guess is that this particular part of downtown is almost exclusively travelled by commuters, and not tourists (on this side of town at least).

My hunch is that she was just lying. A more honest answer would have been either, "I blow through that stop sign all the time, and didn't see you" OR "I blow through that stop sign all of the time and saw you, but I just don't fucking care." Bitch.

By the way, who are all of these people talking with anyway? When I meet friends at 7:30 before work, there are tons of drivers babbling away on cell phones. Who are they talking with? Are they all talking to each other? What sort of drowsy lame conversations are they having at 7:30am -- "I'm driving to work --me too; I hate work -- me too; there's a lot of traffic -- here too....yeah....umm....bye. I'll call you on the drive home."

After meeting friends the other day I saw a man be completely obnoxious. He arrived at his car, parked under the "NO PARKING EVER" sign, removed the ticket from windshield and violently threw it on the ground to become litter. He then cranked a u-turn to head the opposite direction on Wells St, cutting off several cars in the process. His plates were from Arizona.

Gotta love 'em. I hope all of these assholes have fun at the pump.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Encounters: Bikes meet Bumps and Punks

I almost bit it with the Julep. I was cruising Southeast on Elston. The wind was at my back as I biked home and I was flying. If the cars would have been obeying the speed limit, I absolutely would have passed them, instead, I was only keeping up with them. Suddenly I noticed a huge ‘bump’ that spanned the bike lane. There was a garbage truck chugging beside me, so I couldn’t swerve around this bump, that was basically the height/shape of a steep speedbump.

I have only minimal control of my bikes and hitting this bump, at the speed I was going scared the crap out of me. Obviously, my bike caught pretty good air – and then had to come back down. I don’t know what my legs were doing mid-air, but my guess is that the speed of my pedalling got off kilter from the speed of my bike. When the rear wheel hit the ground, my left foot unclipped and bounced from the pedal, leaving me with an unbalanced fixed gear bike that I tried to control with just one foot on the pedals.

The traffic light at the intersection also turned red in the meantime, so besides working to keep the rubber side down, I now had to slow down this runaway bike, while my left food was suspended in the air, fearful of getting smacked by the pedal. Eventually, my foot found the pedal and we came to a quick, but safe stop at the intersection.

The truck driver was very cool during this weird, unsightly mess. He braked and dropped back considerably, and moved to the left of his lane while I was showcasing my inability to keep my bike under control. I was happy to know that while I might not be able to keep my skin from the ground, the truck driver was going to help me stay out from under his wheels.

Despite the bump incident, it was really fun to take the Julep up to speed again.
__________________________________

Maybe she was just thanking me for defending her honor the day before. While puttering around sick in my apartment, I heard the tinkling of the Breeze’s windchimes and my ears perked up to hear a voice urge, "just take it".

Like Hell.

I grabbed my keys and flew down the steps to investigate my bikes. Both the Breeze’s windchimes, along with her basket and bell were intact. Then I turned my eye and noticed that on of the Julep’s drop bar taillights was sticking out weirdly. I started to push it back in when I realized that she was missing her left streamers. My attention snapped to the group of teenagers walking further down the block and I started after them. A glint of silver in one boy’s hand identified his stolen bounty, and I ran to close the distance.

I stormed in front of the punk and demanded that he give it back. Quickly he relinquished the streamer and I told him to keep his hands off other people’s stuff, before turning back home. I don’t remember what exactly the words were, but after I was halfway down the block, he shouted something, and I turned and caught back up with them again.

I walked alongside the boy in silence as his friends snickered. He began repeating that he doesn’t care if I walk with them, but he was obviously uncomfortable and getting more so. He threatened to change course and walk back to ‘the ‘hood’ to see how I’d like it there.' He then turned East and I couldn’t help but laugh and mock, "exactl what ‘hood’ are you trying to go to in that direction? Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, Noble Square? You don’t even know where the ‘hood is from here, and instead are heading into yuppie central." The boys responded by saying that they were on their way to meet with a rapist, "he should be happy to see you."

Obviously, they were full of shit, and I wasn’t buying it. I questioned and lectured him a bit about his stealing, and he claimed that he didn’t know the streamer belonged to someone. Eventually, he became so uncomfortable that he ran down a breezeway, away from his friends and me. I stayed and talked with his friends for a bit. The oldest, in his mid-twenties, asked how old I was and if I had a boyfriend, and whether I’d date him. I declined the offer, explaining that I don’t date thieves, or those who hang out with thieves. I said that I prefer to date men who work to make their communities better instead of ruining them.

Next I pointed out that their friend, who seemed to try hard to appear tough, just ran away from a woman considerably smaller than him, because he is a coward. Eventually the boy returned to the group, and the youngest boy teased him for being scared by a girl. I left him to deal with the taunts from his friends. Of course, after I was nearly a block away, he started yelling insults again.

I just went home to re-attach the streamer and make the Julep whole again.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bedtime with Blackie

Blackie has been sleeping with me for a while now. She is a combination of frisky and super-sweet-cuddly when we first get into bed. First she is all play, jumping on my chest and prancing all over, ticking me with her whiskers. Then she calms down a bit and tries to find the most comfortable cuddling position -- seeming to prefer being close to my face. Finally her loud purring subsides into deep breathing and we can both fall asleep. She sure is a sweetheart!

Don't worry -- I'm sure my obsession with my new camera will fade, and the excessive pictures of Blackie and my bikes will drop off.







































































Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Close Calls

I have had two extremely freaky close calls in the last two days.

On Tuesday night I had to go through the horrible North/Clyborn yuppie big-box shopping mecca in order pick up supplies to fix my bikes. I was past the Home Depot heading west. The road is two lanes each direction, with no shoulder and a tall curb – no room to manuever. Traffic was lumbering along, bumper to bumper and pretty slow – they type of traffic where keeping pace on a bike isn’t at all hard, but it is still moving along fast enough that you don’t bother trying to slip past the cars.

All of a sudden, something happened that jerked my attention to the area around my left foot. There was a cab, completely up in my space. I think my foot or pant leg made contact with his bumper. It was the most freaky, shocking sight to see a car where it simply should never be. I am used to getting ‘spooked’ by cars buzzing by too close or making sudden turns. My heart leaps and races for a few seconds, I get angry, but it isn’t really a big deal. This was different. This car was less than two inches from my rear wheel. If our paths would have continued, he was on course to hit my pedal and leg with the bumper/hood of his car and there is no way he could have cleared my hips and handlebars with his windshield, much less his side mirror.
A few yards later traffic stopped for a red light and I shakingly started a conversation with him.

This is my half-assed try at a visual of the crazy situation:
















He didn’t care at all and suggested that if I didn’t want to get hit I should get off his road. Besides the disgusting lack of concern for my well-being, I want to make it clear, that he had nothing to gain by passing me ( hitting someone to force them off the road and out of your way isn’t really ‘passing’ them, though). I was riding the Julep at the same speed as the cars ahead of me, and we were coming up to a red light.

Anyway, talking to him was pointless, so I turned my attention to the middle-aged woman passenger who looked nervous in the back seat. I said, "don’t you dare tip him and reward his behavior." This got the cabby's attention and he started asking, "why you have to mess with my business?" I replied, "because you are messing with my life," and again looked the woman square in the eye and told her not to tip him.

I wish I knew whether she tipped him. I let him pass me because I didn’t want him behind or next to me. For several blocks I rode behind him, as the passenger craned to see me through the mirrors. When I got to the bike shop I was still shaking from the incident.
_____________________

This morning I rode the Breeze to Old Town to meet friends for coffee before work. Again I was on North Avenue, this time headed East. As I was crossing the right side on-ramp to the highway, some jagoff whipped around me to cut me off by turning right onto the ramp. I avoided getting hit by swinging my bike as far to the right, while hitting the brakes hard.

Once again, I am completely furious about this. I was mostly across the on-ramp when this
happened. The car had the choice of turning onto the ramp behind me, or racing ahead of me to make a tight turn. I just don’t understand this behavior. This driver could have safely gotten on the ramp quicker instead of jack rabbiting around me like a jack ass.

Unfortunately, North Avenue, or other streets just as obnoxious, are basically unavoidable to get East from my neighborhood. The highway and river cut off most of the streets, funneling all traffic onto a few big, fast, through streets. Ugh. Also, every option (besides going at least a mile out of the way, each direction) involves going over a metal grate bridge. Ugh. Ugh.
______________
In happier news, I got a ton of work done on the Breeze and the Julep last night. Both now have shiny new chains. I gave the Julep a good, all-over, deap-clean scrubbing, including removing the chainring to really scour the winter gunk off of her parts; her front wheel is finally trued, and most importantly, I finally replaced her pathetic, ratty streamers with luxurious, fluffy new ones.

The Breeze is also prettied up. Besides her new chain, I adjusted and tightened her seat/handlebars, added a basket, bell and installed tiny windchimes for streamers. The basket is removable for shopping. Super-duper cute. She makes tinkling music as I ride her. At coffee this morning, the gang fell in love with her cuteness – and giggled at me sitting upright and riding slow instead of down in the Julep’s drops.

I got clocked by a radar on Damen Avenue this morning – 13mph. Faster than I thought. I even passed another biker this morning on the way back from coffee. Two other bikers on road bikes passed our group, though. Chris and Dan bust out laughing when I got passed. Without me saying a word, they knew my ego was getting bruised at being passed. Anyway, here is the new and improved Breeze:






























"I love my Bike" bell, and windchime "streamer"

















Cute. Cute. Cute.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Life's a Breeze

Here she is. From the top:















Have no fear, a basket and streamers will soon be installed.




















Gotta love Chicago's most famous bike company.
















And it's old-school seat.
















Damn Straight.

















Life's a breeze without worrying about clothing getting caught or dirtied by the chain. (I totally have to tighten that thing up, though.
















Full crome fenders to keep the road dirt/water off of me.
Notice the coaster brake and kick stand!
















In her full, old-school glory.

Besides the basket & streamers, she also needs a bell and skirt guard. Before I add fun accessories, though, I have to repack the rear hub and do some more cleaning.

For over a year I have been admiring my friend Liz's super-cute red bike. I saw it again this weekend and realized that they are exactly the same, exept for the color. We can't wait to ride them together -- Chris says that the only way it could be cuter is if we had puppies and kittens sniffing flowers in the baskets.

I rode her into work on Monday -- it feels completely different than being on a road bike. I look around and notice more of my surroundings. Plus the traffic feels less dangerous at slow speeds, especially the risk of getting doored. I feel very prim and proper sitting upright and dorking along with a huge smile on my face.

Today I was back on the Julep -- damn what a difference. Her speed and power is awesome and I love how quickly we can swerve around obstacles and the blocks just slip past us. At the same time, I now feel the flip side of riding fast; besides just being a fun workout, it also will make any crash more serious for me. Getting doored at Julep speed will be a serious crash, whereas on the Breeze I might not even hit the ground.

I am bringing them both to West Town bikes tonight for some serious maintenance and cleaning.

Dog Shit

I live in a three flat with a gated back yard. Me and the second floor apartment work on the gardening in the yard (lawn, flowers around edges, herb garden). Everyone in the building can graze from the herb garden, and all of our porches overlook the yard. The first floor apartment has a dog, and declined a share in any of the spaces to plant.

They let Fletcher out to ‘do his thing’ unsupervised. He poops all over the yard, but has a special love of pooping and pissing in my small herb garden. There are usually two piles of crap and a dark stain in my garden. For a while they were rarely cleaning up his poop, but now they do it 2-3 times a week. He also likes to dig in fresh dirt – basically any place we are preparing to plant, or have planted. This ruins our plants.

I have requested that they keep their dog out of my garden and they agreed to ‘try’ but they act as if it is out of their control. This weekend, I notices the dog in the act of pissing in my garden while Kimmie watched from her porch. She obviously wasn’t doing a damn thing to keep him out. When I suggested that they keep him on a leash, Kimmie stormed back into her apartment and before the door closed I heard her yell, "you wouldn’t believe what just happened...".

I don’t think my request is unreasonable, although it is more inconvenient for them. Inconvenience is part of being a dog owner in the city, though. However, their dog crap all over the yard (even when they clean it up they miss some) makes the yard unpleasant, because it is inevitable that if you walk in the yard your feet will get shit on them.

I don’t like dogs however, so it is hard to gauge if my anti-dog bias has blurred my perception of this issue. What is reasonable in this solution?

Also, a few weeks ago I was working in the garden with Blackie on a leash when Fletcher came charging, unleashed, out of the apartment. I got between the two and kept Fletcher away from her until Kimmie got Fletcher under control and back in the house. Blackie was so freaked out that when I finally picked her up, her flailing claws caused my gardening gloves to get soaked in my blood. Kimmie thinks I shouldn’t have my cat outside, because, "you never know what Fletcher will do."

Fletcher on a leash would resolve all of these problems. Part of me wants to play ‘bad neighbor’ and start leaving the gates open so they have to chase Fletcher down. Another, more reasonable, idea is to put cayenne pepper all over the garden to make peeing in the garden unpleasant to the dog. It sucks that Fletcher is the party at risk, when it is his owners who have misbehaved.

When they got him as a puppy last year, he destroyed my garden and I had to replant it. I have been very clear that I don’t want him in there, but they think it is funny and that he "helps to fertilize it." Concentrated dog piss kills plants. If they barely want to pick up his shit, why in the world should I have to pick it up, or play around in it almost everytime I dig in the soil.
Anyway....is requesting that they leash their dog in the yard and/or train him to stay out of the garden an unreasonable request?

FYI: I was told when I signed the lease that I could plant in the garden. I think cats, but not dogs, are allowed in the lease. However, our landlord is not the type who will get involved with this issue, so the rules of the lease are basically irrelevant.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A new addition

I went to Working Bikes last night and along with a ton of help from my friend Steve, picked out and repaired what will be the next addition to my stable. She needs a little bit more work and cleaning, but I will bring her home this weekend to meet the crew. Pictures forthcoming.

This weekend will be fantastically busy. For the cookbook Chris and I are hosting a Secular Easter Dinner for 20 people on Saturday and taking pictures of families in front of Churches on Easter. Sometime in the midst I will also bring the new bike home, finish my taxes, work in my garden and finally tackle the swelling mound of laundry that is growing on my bedroom floor. Yikes!

This morning's commute was a delight! Just like my snap peas, bicyclists sprouted up all over the place overnight. Since it is Good Friday, the roads were noticeably lacking in cars. One normally busy intersection had six bicyclists heading south and not a single car. Woo-hoo!

Lots of these riders are lacking in street smarts, though and I worry for their safety.

One guy, painted in spandex and on a shiny, road bike with aero bars was swerving all over the place as he poked along trying to clip in. Thin white cords snaked from his ears into the rear pocket of his jersey. Even though his body was as hard and lean as his fancy bike, he couldn't keep up when I passed him, and I heard him breathing way too hard when he caught up with me at red lights. I am perplexed at how he looks so in shape, but breathes hard to try to keep up. Very weird. To his immense credit, he didn't try to cut ahead of me at the lights and let me pass without being a jerk.

Still all of the headphones I saw today, combined with the corresponding lack of helmets disturbs me. I love more people biking to work, but I wish they were smarter about it.

Have a good weekend.

Brothers: call the Grandparents on Easter -- you know it will make their day.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Photos: Julep, Blackie, Me

Most of these pictures are embarrassing for one of two reasons:

1. I have waaayy too many pictures of Blackie. I am turning into a cat lady. [In my defense, she is the obvious subject to take pictures of – much more exciting that chairs or other furniture at my place.]

2. Pictures of myself. Last Saturday morning it dawned on me that I Have A Digital Camera, but not a single photo of myself. So, unwashed and with messy hair, I dropped what I was doing, held my camera at arm’s length and started snapping away. Can anything more narcissistic? Yes, posting them on the internet.

Blackie and my photos are below. First, here are some non-embarrassing pics of the Julep, first front of my apartment, and then at the Handlebar later that day: [She sorely needs a spring cleaning and new streamers.]





Blackie’s least flattering picture:


And less disturbing ones. Look how friggin’ long she is:

Me. This was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Props to all of the people who can actually make these pictures turn out OK.

1

2 3 4 5


6

Any thoughts on which one (if any) should replace my current blog header pic?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Springtime

After an unseasonable cold Saturday, we are luxuriating in full-fledged Springtime. Woo Hoo! Instead of wearing my staple knee-high black boots at work, I'm busting out the strappy shoes and not only my ankles, but my toes, too are exposed to the warm air.

Another sign of Spring occurred last night on my way home because people are driving with their windows down, and are finally free to express all of the crude comments they've been unable to share in their climate-controlled cages.

I was making a left-hand turn from Milwaukee to westbound Grand avenue at a six-way intersection when a car full of guys began the following dialogue:

"Great Ass!"
**Fuck off Assholes!
"Fucking Bitch!"
**(uncontrollable laughter)

Our exchange took about four seconds, and contained five curse words. I wonder what the pedestrians and people waiting for the bus thought of this profane outburst. Prior to and immediately following this explosion of cursing I revelled in the glorious weather. Somehow the whole situation was just perfect.

On Monday night at the Hbar, I chatted up a table full of bike messengers. It's cool that the races introduced me to this community. Unfortunately, most of these guys were smoking, so the idea of flirting with them was basically nixed.

However, I did get to watch the most hilarious change come over them. After hearing their stories of brakeless exploits and not having health insurance (with a suspicious lack of helmets in sight) they turned into cautious mother hens when the Julep's gearing was mentioned. [I was asked if she was brakeless, and I said that her gearing is too high for skid stops] Suddenly these daredevils started scolding me about the danger of riding around with 'track gearing' on my bike because it would destroy my knees. The whole thing was simply too funny: messengers scolding me about safety!

Anyway, good times.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Gumballhead, Gardening

The weekend went pretty well.

I spent Saturday morning working at the Hbar and then the afternoon/evening there for the Gumballhead release party. The place was packed. Too bad it was damn near freezing outside.

It was another opportunity to talk with Paul, too. At one point we separated from the main group to grab a table and talk. Too many times I noticed our mutual friends peeking over at us with interest. Grrrrr...... I don’t like feeling under a microscope and also knowing that people will talk about us later. It was very nice to speak with him though, and the awkwardness seems to be dissipating. Yeah!

Around 10:00pm, I met up with some other friends at a bar in yuppie-saturated Lincoln Park. After that, Chris and I went back to his place for some drunken cookbook planning. I can’t wait until it finally gets warm – I was actually considering sleeping on Chris’s couch instead of biking the single mile home in the cold. That would be retarded though, so I braved the cold and slept in my own bed. I can deal with the cold when it is seasonally appropriate, but now that I have decided it should be warm and spring-like, I lost all cold tolerance.

On Sunday morning I was interviewed for an article on bike commuting. The magazine will probably contact me in the next week or two for pictures of me biking in a business suit. This means that the Julep needs to get some major TLC – she is filthy and her streamers are in tatters. I wish I could just put her in the dishwasher or washing machine to blast all the accumulated crud off of her.

Sunday afternoon I worked on some garden stuff and planted snap peas, zuccinni and butternut squashes. The squash I planted in the yard, so I don’t know how that will work. A lot of my planting is just experimenting – cool if it works, but no big deal if it fails.

Then I met up with Chris and Jill for coffee/lunch. Jill and Chris crashed their bikes earlier in the day and Jill sprained her wrist, poor girl. It was her first time biking since October, too.

After lunch, Chris and I went to my apartment to experiment with a grapefruit flavored cake, topped with kiwi slices. It was pretty good, but I want it to have more grapefruit flavor and will add some beet juice for a pinker color the next time I make it. I want this to look like a ‘reverse watermelon’ cake with pink edging encircling the seed-studded kiwi slices. The flavors were really bright – sweet and tart together. Yum.

Then Payton came over to try on some of my long formal dresses for a skit/demonstration that he will be in soon. Chris and Payton stayed until about 10:30pm. I hate that my weekends end so quickly and my time at work drags so painfully. At least this weekend was productive. Also, John is gone until Tuesday night, so I am taking the opportunity to be as much of a slob as possible.

As expected, now that I am single again, there were of course no boys this weekend for me to flirt with. None. Where the hell did all of the cute, interesting biking boys go? When they were off limits they seemed to be everywhere, and now the city is suffering a serious drought.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Seriously Busy

I’m Back.
Here’s the update of new, crazy events that have occupied my time recently:
  • Paul and I broke up.
  • I told my boss I’m looking for a new job.
  • We are working frantically on the Hbar patio.
  • Chris and I decided to create a vegan cookbook.

Paul requested that I don’t blab about our break-up here, so no details will be forthcoming. We are still friends and have seen each other in social groups a few times. I suspect/hope that in a few weeks the slight awkwardness we feel goes away. He is still a great guy.

Weirdly, I have a strong urge to hook him up with a girl I know. I’m going to try to resist playing match-maker for my ex-boyfriend.
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The following week I told my boss that I was seeking new employment, to try to break into real estate development/finance law. My boss was awesome and has used his network to line up some interviews for me. As much as I complain that he is crazy (he is), he is also a really great guy and one of the few employers who are loyal to their employees. I have a lot of respect for him and besides getting help on the job search front, being upfront with him seems to fortify our relationship for the future.

The interviews are with the firm of my dreams that does tons of high-level real estate deals in Chicago. Super-scary. My hours would undeniably increase. However, since this is an area of law that I am highly interested in, the increased hours hopefully won’t be that bad – I have lots of energy to do things that I find interesting! More important, I’d get about a 50% pay increase and a kick-ass firm on my resume. Cross your fingers.

A few months ago I bought a few more suits in preparation to make this jump. However, one of the biggest chores to do if I get this job would be to go on a horrible, whirlwind shopping spree for work clothes. The only thing more horrifying than this prospect will be the obligatory cell phone/blackberry shackling.
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The Hbar patio project has been a major time-suck for the last several weeks. I just want the project done and my weekends/evenings freed up.

We tore out the old disintegrating bricks, dug out lots of dirt, to be replaced with better draining gravel/sand, and then re-fitted with patio pavers. This last task is actually getting contracted out – and it is moving far too slow for my liking. Grrr. There are a thousand other tasks that never seem to end and take Too Damn Long. Building the raised plant beds, for instance is taking far too much time. Karen and I hope to plant them tomorrow morning, though.

We still have to:

  • build a new gazebo (we dug and poured the footings already)
  • move the bike racks (remove, grind old bolts and reinstall in new place)
  • fence off the air conditioning units,
  • build a huge table,
  • move the waiter station,
  • remove a huge pile of concete mix,
  • re-weld the gate,
  • purchase/install new tables,
  • Clean. Clean. Clean.

Ugh. Thinking about how much work is left to do depresses me. I vow that when this project is finally done and dead – I will lounge and drink away a full glorious summer weekend.
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The Cookbook.

This is another huge, HUGE time commitment. Months ago (probably over wine) my friend Chris and I decided to create a cookbook together. Chris is insanely vegan. And manic. The more I thought about it, the more exciting and feasible this idea seemed. Plus, the vegans need me. I am not vegan and have not trained my tastebuds to accept inferior food. I was a pastry chef and do not consider acceptable the sawdust hockey pucks that pass for vegan scones, cookies, brownies or cupcakes (they are usually interchangeable dry, bland and horrible).

Vegan baking is challenging enough to begin with, but the strong overlap between vegans and other crazy food movements (raw, whole-grain, gluten-free, just plain hippie....) leads to these hockeypucks. The loss of eggs is a huge problem – but then too many vegan bakers also refuse to use white flour, sugar or chocolate to their concoctions. Sorry but mashing up a banana with molasses, whole grain spelt flour and carob will NOT bake into a brownie. no.no.no. What the hell is carob anyway? Certainly it isn’t chocolate. Why is chocolate considered bad by some people?

I am not one of the converted. I think butter is great, eggs are a miracle ingredient, milk is yummy, cream is delightful and cheese cannot be beat. I eat meat sometimes, too. In other words, I expect that food has good flavor and texture. Too many vegans have forgotten this.
So the sweets/baking section is what my focus in the book is about. Chris will handle most of the savory food.

We plan to make this cookbook more in the style of a traveloge than a simple cookbook. The book begins this Spring, when we planted herb seedlings. It will follow our lives for a year, closely tied to the seasons and featuring my garden and biking in the city. Chicago will be the background and social cooking/eating events will introduce recipes. This is going to be a whirlwind project that will take up part of almost every weekend for the next year.

Next weekend we are hosting a vegan Easter Brunch and will also bike around to different Chicago churches to take pictures of families in their Easter Best.

The following weekend is helping with an Earth Day park clean-up on Saturday, followed by a move-by-bike trailer collaboration on Sunday. We plan to cook & take pictures on the weekends, and do menu development during the week. Whew.

This project is almost a full-time job in and of itself. We both have our day jobs, too. Plus Chris is consulting with a catering company to develop a line of vegan offerings, and I have the Hbar. We both volunteer for CBF and are involved in the bikey community. Goodness. This will be a whirlwind.
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In pure biking news, my achilles is nearly healed. I haven’t gone out on a long, fast ride yet. One night I biked north along the lakeshore path to visit a friend and see her new condo. The headwind was pretty stiff. There were two men all decked in spandex with impressive calves who probably thought they were fast. I left them behind with the Julep’s brisk pace.

Riding hard was fun, although I was dressed for a leisurely ride along the path and arrived all sweaty because I got too warm. I can’t seem to turn off this ridiculous competitveness, but throughout the six mile ride, I passed every biker I saw and no biker passed me. My achilles felt completely fine. I need to try to get in a long, fast ride sometime this weekend to work some of my dormant muscles and burn off some energy.
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Oh yeah, since I’m not dating Paul – I’m single again. I obviously don’t have the time to date anyone right now, but I do have enough time to lament each morning that I won’t have sex that day. Damnit.

There is no boy who holds my interest at this time. Double Damnit.
So, the above reasons are why I haven’t had time to blog much recently.

I bought a digital camera and will learn how to synch it with my ancient laptop (hopefully). When that happens expect more blogging, and lots of pictures of the Julep, Blackie, my garden & vegan food.

Despite my pathetic recent blogging, I still am better than both my brothers. How sad.

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