Sunday, March 20, 2011


Paul said something the other day that struck me as very true & worth talking about.
We were listening to a Radiolab podcast. It was really fascinating, dealing with aspects of brain science, language, and how homing pigeons work. People were telling these amazing stories. Of course we had the tv on, or as Paul calls it, "Glass Mother," because he needs that stimulus even though half the time he's looking at the netbook instead. Obviously he had the sound off so we could listen to the podcast. The show on was "Million Dollar Listing," a reality show about spoiled rich kids who sell real estate in California.
Paul's observation: we're looking at this show that's described as "reality" because it depicts real people doing their real jobs. But the show is scripted, and situations are manipulated to tell a story. Now the podcast we're listening to, which is infinitely more interesting, is also produced and manipulated, but it consists of people telling stories that are fascinating, and seems to show us that actual reality is more interesting than the fabricated reality we get on these shows. "I'm sure," he said, "there are aspects of selling real estate that are fascinating. But we're never going to get that from a show like this."
And that's the point, though I'm not sure how to make it. There's something about the phoniness of reality tv that makes it unpalatable. Why is the internet able to provide more stimulating content? I assume it has to do with pandering to the lowest common denominator, or the old saw that no one ever went broke underestimating the public. But with literally over 1,000 television channels, surely someone somewhere can figure out a way to give us worthwhile content. Right?
In a related point, shows like "Intervention" drive me crazy because they contrive these arguments between real addicts and their real families, arguments which probably actually happened in their real lives, recreated for the cameras. But I think I would prefer to see them acted out by professional actors, because these people can never sell me on the idea that the fight is really happening. They don't have the acting chops. But I guess they work cheaper.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Another Saturday, Another Ride

What is it about bike riding that is so goddamn liberating?
Today we set off from home, rode down to Richmond Terrace, down along Front Street, over to Fort Wadsworth, & attacked this crazy hill right under the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. From there we caught the bike path that goes along the boardwalk through South Beach, continues through Miller Field, & rode up New Dorp Lane to Mill Road so I could look for a backpack I want at KMart (they didn't have it, but I had a hot dog & Paul had a pretzel, & that allowed us to sit down for a few minutes & plan our next move).
We went back down Mill Rd. & rode up Guyon Ave past Hylan Boulevard. We wanted to try to get home by getting to Richmond Avenue, though we knew parts of that were going to be terrifying. We figured whatever wasn't bikable we would just walk through or try to find routes around. On Guyon Avenue we had a bit of a tiff, since Paul was annoyed every time I told him I didn't know where a certain street led (he has this idea that I've memorized every inch of the "South Shore," even though I keep arguing that where I grew up is NOT the "South Shore." grrrr....). Anyway, the bottom line is, he didn't feel comfortable on Hylan Blvd., & I didn't feel comfortable on Amboy Road. So what we wound up doing is just grabbing whatever side streets seemed to go towards Richmond Avenue, and turning to another when each one ran out. We wound up taking Winchester Avenue up to Amboy Road, and from there we walked the bikes across Amboy, up Richmond Ave. to Eltingville Blvd., and over Genessee to Ridgewood Avenue. For some crazy reason he didn't really remember later, Paul decided we should go up Sweetbrook Road, but I'm glad he did, because we saw the creek that runs along there, complete with ducks, and the little wooden bridges connecting the road to people's backyards. It's so insane to think that there are these pockets of nature amid all the traffic & ugliness of Staten Island. Anyhoo, that brought us out to Richmond Avenue, where we alternated walking our bikes on the sidewalk with finding back streets to ride on until we had to get back out onto Richmond Avenue.
We walked across Arthur Kill Road, and that's where we did our most egregious lawbreaking: we rode on the sidewalk for a few blocks. This got me thinking: how hard would it be to make that sidewalk a shared bike path? It would make perfect sense: no one walks on it; the only people we saw were also on bikes. It would only require a few signs! And take it from someone who's ridden the length of Broadway in Manhattan, not to mention East Houston street: that stretch of Richmond Avenue is far too dangerous to ride. The car culture on Staten Island has gotten out of control, & we have to start warming up to alternative modes of transportation. (Side note: I couldn't resist calling out "Fuck you, gas station!" when we passed the Hess on Bay Street. $3.83/gal!)
Rant over. Just before Forest Hill Road we noticed, at the entrance into whatever swampy wilderness is there, a sign that there was a bike path! Since it was obviously a path through this creepy park & not something that would take us closer to home, I asked Paul if he thought it was too late for us to explore it. We decided to ride it for a little bit, but then we turned around to keep heading home. We are definitely going to check it out on another day. (I hear you, Robert Frost.)
I checked the other KMart for my bag (they also didn't have it, even though the website says it's available at both stores), got cash at the Citibank, then we took the back way to Barnes & Noble. From there we walked across Richmond Avenue, where a rooster (that's right: a fucking ROOSTER; I shit you not) was trying to cross the road (insert your own punchline) & freaking out all the cars at the intersection of Travis Avenue & Draper Place. We made our way to Arlene Street, where there are bike lanes, and turned down to Richmond Avenue again. At this point, we were on familiar ground, since we both ride Arlene St. to & from the gym.
At Deppe Street, we paused to call in an order to Brother's Pizza, which we rode to next. The guys there were very nice about making sure our dinner fit in my bike basket. It was a short ride home from there.
So we definitely rode over 20 miles today, but the most amazing part of it was being able to explore so much & know we would have the power to get home. It's just so liberating. It's entertainment, exercise, & transportation all at the same time. I wouldn't want to do the same ride the same way every day, but the point is, I don't have to. Having a lighter bike, having trained to strengthen my riding muscles, it's incredible how much more I'm able to do than I was a year ago. And on a single speed bike, no less!