Sunday, August 21, 2005

Please, No Autographs

I went to the Bike In at the Bell Saturday night and had the novel and, for me, unprecedented, experience of being recognized by someone I had never met. I was getting my water bottle from my Atlantis in the bike rack when this guy says, are you Two Cities Two Wheels? I am! He saw the tall Atlantis and saw the tall me to go with it plus I haven't exactly been bashful about running my own photo. He has a blog, too, it's Mello Velo, and he integrates photos into his as well! He also had a really nice bike. The crowd was generally young and funky, the bikes were probably half fixed-gears, so I thought my Atlantis might be the snazziest bike there, but he and his wife had Curt Goodrich custom bikes with S&S frame couplers. I yearn after these couplers, I only regret that it would be probably a thousand bucks or more to retrofit them into the Atlantis and repaint it. He also had the Nitto brazed water bottle cages, nice Brooks seat, et al, so, ok, maybe my Atlantis was the third or fifth or tenth or fiftieth-nicest bike there. I still love it. I kept an eye on it when it was still light out and saw several people looking at it in what I took to be admiring terms (they're probably actually thinking, why did he use a yellow zip-tie for this computer cable, it looks like crap, why's he have a kickstand and bell, how old is this seat! and what kind of freak rides a bike this size?).

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this event. It turned out to be a very young crowd, lots of perforations and tattoos, lots of what might be called Bikerz. Four bandz played. This seems to me to be a mistake. Musicians love to hear themselvez sing and they all sing two songz too many. With four bands, this is eight songs too many. By the time the last band was getting towards the end of their set (actual announcement: "Hey, the movie fans are getting antsy, so we'll just play two more songs!" met with scattered cries of "Movie!" from the crowd, but we still got the two songs oh boy) the moon was rising over the Armory. The movies didn't start until about 10:30, an hour or more after it would have been possible to start them and I had the sense that I wasn't the only one there wishing for the cinema, just like when I sit through all the stupid ads at a movie theatre.

I passed the time drinking a gin and tonic and eating popcorn. We'd been up to Willow River that day to retrieve Geneva from a Diocesan Music Camp and I'd had a half-pound hamburger at Tobie's in Hinckley at 2PM, so wasn't that hungry. They weren't selling gin and tonics, I took my own. I own a couple of the excellent and possibly legendary and now virtually unobtainable Jong Won JSB-500s (as written up on the Bicycle Coffee Systems site) which are thought of mostly as thermal bottles for coffee but which also work great for cold drinks. I can make 1.5 gin and tonics into it and it'll stay cold for hours. When I got home at nearly midnight, for example, the liquid was all gone but I poured out five surviving ice cubes. This makes it extremely convenient to take your own libations. While partaking I admired the crowd, their youth, their beauty and their tattoos. There was a smattering of older folks (like my ancient self) and families and it seemed to me these were the people most likely to have dressed properly. Years of Perseid meteor shower observing has taught me that it can get surprisingly chilly even on mid-August nights, once the dew settles. I had on a wool shirt and long pants. Many people had just shorts and t-shirts and I could see jacket-sharing going on and people leaving.

The bands carried on. I liked the one with the cello even if they played two songs too many.

When they finally started the movies it was a mixed bag. There was a clever animation at the beginning. It was hindered by not having sorted out the sound system yet. One of the independent films was with a camera mounted to catch a bit of the front wheel and the view as the bike rode around. I deeply love unusual camera angles, and liked that. A couple of others were clever to varying degrees. The technical threshold to make a lip-synced film is pretty low these days and a couple of the shorts seemed kind of weak to me. There was a pretty bizarre safety film called One Got Fat from 1963. It was striking both for the weird ape-children and for the surprisingly decent advice; don't ride against traffic, don't ride on the sidewalks, use signals, lock your bike up, maintain your gear, ride like you're a car, be alert. It looked like Effective Cycling set in Planet of the Apes. It was also odd how the ongoing slaughter of these children seemed to faze the survivors not a whit; Stanislaw got run over by a steamroller? Oh well, on to the picnic!

The Aeolian movie struck me as a bit daft; these people put on what appeared to be white plastic garbage bags with holes cut in them then rode around New York as the wind inflated the bags. It looked like the Parade of Molars ("Here are your teeth after flouridation!").

I stayed until about 11:30, then gathered my things, retreived the bike, turned on my lights and headed out. About half the people had already gone by then, many driven off by the chill, I think. Even at this late hour I ran into another cyclist on the Intercampus Transitway on the way home.

Karla asked about it in the morning. I told her about the bands, how they'd gone on too long, how they loved to hear themselves. All musicians love to hear themselves, she said, otherwise they wouldn't be performers. Then she said the trouble with rock musicians is that it's too easy. Twenty minutes of music is nothing, set off the drummer, go through your three chords and repeat as necessary. Think of all the work it took to do a recital, she said, or how much the choir has to practice for a Sunday morning. It's too easy to drag on with most rock music.

Karla's an excellent musician (but a timid and reluctant cyclist, darn), she has a Masters in Piano Performance and was well on her way to her Doctorate when children intervened. She taught at a college in Iowa for several years and was Faculty Accompanist so knows well the work it takes to regularly perform live music. And, although there may seem little in common between the pierced and tattooed rabble up on the Bell stage and Karla on a Sunday morning directing from the organ or piano, she plans, rehearses and performs two services forty weeks a year and one a week over the summer. We're all over live music, I just think the Bell event could have used somewhat less of it. Having said all this, the pierced hordes are not alone in their predilection for running long; at the Diocesan Music Camp earlier in the day the various groups did their things and just when I thought, that was nice, what fun, time for lunch, they announced that now they were going to do a production of "The Wiz" and off we went for another hour. Of course, I tend to write long so know the temptation! (But you're still with me! One more paragraph!)

I still wouldn't mind seeing all the movies. Maybe for most of the crowd 10:30 til midnight seems like a reasonable time frame to watch the flicks after spending three hours in the damp grass, but for boring middle-aged people like myself it's getting kind of late when I have to ride home afterwards. A bit less music up front, a 9:30 start to the flicks, and done by 11:00 (maybe more bands afterwards for the kids?) would work better for me. Still, I admire and aplaud the effort to put this together and recognize that I'm not the core audience.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


It was great meeting you Saturday and your description of the event is totally dead on. It was fun, especially the ride to and from. I tried to track you down to have you joinn our group (also boring middle agers) but lost you in the crowd. Talk to you soon.