Monday 23 March 2009

Beware the Idiots of March...

Well, another weekend has come and gone - this one slightly more eventful than usual. Saturday I went for an 85 mile bike ride, out west of London. All was peachy keen and wonderful, and I didn't even get much chafing, thanks to Chafe-Ease. (There is a Santa Claus!).

Sunday was slightly more eventful... Robin and I went to the Starbucks in Vauxhall to meet Allen, so we could sit around feeling morally superior and watch trashed queens stumble out of the clubs into the morning sun ("Yes, I've got schaenfreude on line 1..."). That was good for a few hours of laughs, watching grey-faced, doe-eyed, sunglassed muscle-marys take their first, ginger steps into the daylight. Unfortunately, a group of them then decided to hang around out front of Starbucks, one of them lounging all over Robin's bike. So, we decided it was time to get the bikes and leave. Anyway, Captain Drugfucked sort of stumbles hither and yon, bumps into me, then ends up getting belligerent at Allen when he tried to prevent the guy from falling on me. We try to just walk away, but the guy takes a kick at Allen as we cross the street, and narrowly misses getting hit by a bus. Pity. So, Robin and I head off on our bikes to Enfield for an afternoon of chav-watching and bargain hunting at TKMaxx. Alas, the bargains were not to be found, nor were many chavs. We took the hilly but scenic route to Enfield, but Robin whined, so we took the flat, busy and generally shitty route back, that heads back through a number of not so salubrious neighborhoods.

We get to this very busy intersection, where traffic is all stacked up and not going anywhere... I weave through the traffic (as one does on a bike), and Robin follows behind, a little wobblier still... I see him wobble a bit behind me, in my mirror, but he keeps going, so I keep going through the intersection. I stop on the far side of the intersection, where it's safe to do so and wait for Robin. He doesn't show. After a minute or so, a woman on a bike rides by and says, 'your friend is having some trouble with a driver back there'. Fearing the worst, I turn around (through absolutely gridlocked traffic) and head back. I arrive to find Robin arguing with a young Turkish (I think) many in a 2001 Z3. According to the man (hereafter known as Young, Dumb and Full of Cum, or YDaFC), Robin had fallen off his bike and caused damage on the car's rear bumper. First problem is, Robin didn't actually fall off his bike, but was, in fact, tackled by this man when he kept on riding after wobbling a bit and knocking into the car with his knee. Robin didn't tell me at the time he'd been tackled though. I point out to YDaFC that the damage is, in fact, dirt, which I wipe off. He then finds some minor scratch underneath the bumper that Robin supposedly caused. I point out this would be physically impossible unless Robin had gone under the car, which, given that he was still standing, he most likely did not. I suggest to Robin that the guy is an idiot and we should just leave. He blocks my way and gets up in my face - threatens me with violence and threatens then to call the police. Robin says, 'please do'. The guy realizes we've called his bluff, so I call the police instead. This argument goes on and on and on, the guy demanding money from Robin. I call the police twice, as they are not showing up. Then the guy calls his older and bigger friend who shows up and starts threatening to damage our bikes, to punch us, blah blah blah. Fortunately, this is in the middle of a very busy intersection, but it's still a little worrying. I tell the guy that if he does anything he'll be done for assault and to get out of my face and stop threatening me - meanwhile trying to figure how I might manage to get my chain lock off my waist to beat him with it if possible (not very likely). The two of them are stringing together a whole pack of lies about what Robin supposedly did to bumper of the car. Fortunately, a police van happens to go by, on the way to a burlgary. YDaFC flags it down. Three cops come over, and YDaFC tells his amazing story. I suggest to the cops that there are, in fact, two rather different stories, and Robin tells his. The police have a look at the bumper, and, in not so many words, tell the guy to quit being an ass and wasting their time. They suggest that he could file a civil suit, but as Robin is not driving a car, he is under no obligation to provide his address, whereas YDaFC is. At this point, thoroughly humiliated in front of us and three nice white cops, our two antagonists drive off. Robin and I linger for a bit, long enough to tell the cops about the threats of violence, then we take a very circuitous route home, as I'm sure our Turkish friends would likely kill us if they came across us again. Anyway, no damage was done and no one was hurt. We did require ice cream after that, however, and will probably not be frequenting that neighborhood much in the immediate future. Someone once said never argue with a drunk or a fool. They were right.

Monday 16 March 2009

The map told me to do it...

Well, I have entered the brave new world of people who blindly follow their GPSs. I took my first big step into the modern age over the weekend. I figured out a bike route, using Google Maps, then, through the miracle of science, managed to convert it to a file that could be read by my Garmin. There I had, laid out in front of me, in glowing sort of purply color, the path to my enlightenment, or at least to Hastings, about 65 miles southeast, on the coast. Blindly south(east) I pedalled, guided by the purple light, until I was presented with several minor errors that required actual thought on my part. The first was a taxi stand, which the Garmin goddess insisted I ride through. Fine - I am a taxi of one. The next proved slightly more problematic - a one-way street going the wrong way. I disobeyed my purple pathway and took the long way around, and had to endure the irritated beeping of my little guidance machine. However, this foray into the unknown did give the the chance to pedal through Pratt's Bottom (with a turnoff to Knockholt), which had to have been a good thing. The third and final error would have had me going the wrong way around a roundabout - a very big roundabout. It is quite possible that Google Maps doesn't entirely understand the concept of 'one-way'. I will have to write them a sternly worded letter, or perhaps pay a little more attention the next time I'm creating a route. However, despite these minor little inconveniences, I did not pedal my way into a shrub, or a lake, or off a cliff, and having my route all mapped out and moving along in front of me let me head out onto the little tiny 1-lane roads through towns just so cute I was forced to think cute thoughts. Fortunately, the ride ended up in Hastings, which is about as grim of a seaside town as one could ever desire, full of horrid chavs and other flotsom and jetsom washed up on the shores of the English Channel. I made sure to keep my bike lock fastened securely to my waist, to ensure I was not stolen for parts. One can never be too safe. I survived though, and had a lovely train ride back to civilization, reading the Sunday paper and having important thoughts, about something, I'm sure. Got home then and managed to scarf down 400g of lamb, 400g of potatoes, and 250g of random veggies, which makes well over two pounds of food. Yummy!

Today has been rather useless. I have a whole shitpile of work to do and I've just been uninspired. I did, however, think some about why London cyclists can be such a nasty bunch, glaring at each other and cutting each other off. In the rest of the world, people on bikes tend to nod at each other, help each other out, eat too much granola, that sort of thing. In London, however, cycling often seems to be, well, a competition of who has the largest penis (this sometimes works for women as well). Every traffic light in the morning rush hour feels like the beginning of the Tour de France. It occurred to me today, after engaging with some light conversation with an elderly gentleman about his driving habits (involving several four letter words and random fingers), that perhaps some of this naked aggression and competition on the roads comes b/c a lot of cycling in London is about trying to keep oneself from being mowed over by pinheads in fast moving cars. That sort of environment would, I guess, tend to engender feelings of stress and general pissoffedness at the world, or at least at drivers, pedestrians, other cyclists, the state of the economy, peanut butter, whatever - that I can see how it might transfer into generally antisocial behavior. Behaviour even. So yeah, there you go, and ooh, it looks like it's time to go. Off to the gym, so I can be buff und huge. Or something.

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Dream Trains

Well... A few minutes at the end of the day with no bosses about... I had one of my train dreams last night. This seems to be a new recurring dream. I used to have dreams about fire or water when I got really stressed, but I suppose I've not been as stressed lately, which is a good thing. My recent recurring dream always seems to involve a subway of some sort, which I have taken to some ridiculously distant location. Last night, I had taken the San Diego trolley to somewhere south of downtown. My actual stop was supposed to be downtown, but I'd missed it and got off instead at some sort of artistic workshop in a large brick building with homeless people milling around out back. I wanted, originally, to walk back to town - I was with someone - I don't remember who, but it was actually too far, so we decided we would take the trolley. I walked back into the workshop - I guess I was there visiting someone, but I don't remember who, and found a ticket, with my name on it, lying around on the countertop. On the floor were numerous inlaid trackways for various trolleys, which I had to jump over to get to the one I wanted (this is almost always a constant - many different, intertwined tracks, and me having a difficult time getting to the one I want). Anyway, I manage to get onto the trolley, which heads back towards downtown in this great sweeping arc. Between where we are and downtown is a very large, barren field, full of disused and wrecked planes, farm implements, tanks, etc, all half-buried in the ground. In the trolley itself, the seats are actually wet trough-urinals, which people are sitting in. Not wanting to stand, I perch myself on the edge of a seat and make some comment about how they didn't really design the seats well in these earlier light rail systems, and off we go. I look beyond downtown, to see Mt Soledad and the fog rolling in, and then my alarm goes off. I wake up and think, hmm - life is very strange indeed.

Anyway, life progresses. Last week I spent with a horrible stomach bug. Suppose the good thing is that it was a very easy way to drop 2kg ("Always look on the bright side of life..."), but OMG I just wanted to keel over dead. This last weekend I ventured out on my bike - 57 miles on Sunday, which was lovely except for getting stuck in hail and driving rain. I think that's the 2nd time in my life I started to get hypothermia. The first time also involved driving rain and a long downhill. Maybe I should wear more clothing.

Both David and Robin have bikes now - between them they spent something like £1500. And I still go out biking on my own. How sad. I suppose I enjoy the time to myself - otherwise I wouldn't do it, but there are those times, such as when one is stuck in the middle of nowhere in hail, wearing shorts and a flimsy rain jacket, when company would be nice. Suppose it's time now to pedal off to the gym. Tomorrow morning I'm taking my bike in for a tune-up, which always ends up costing stupid amounts of money (suppose that's what happens when one rides it 200+ miles per week). Should have just gotten a car. Not.