Culture bath

October 4, 2016 § 10 Comments

It was my third day in Vienna and I was beginning to feel like a native. We had eaten Vietnamese food, mis-ordered coffee in a city where that’s a sin on the order of eating sushi in Tokyo with your feet, and failed to see a single major tourist attraction.

The only thing I had left on my list of “must-don’ts” was the Lipizzaner Stallions. I checked this task off before getting out of bed. Of all the things that had made our visit to Vienna a breeze, none had helped as much as a copy of Rick Steves’s “Vienna Salzburg & Tirol” guidebook given to me by a buddy the day we left LA.

You should never go to a major city like Vienna without a great guidebook, and this is a great guidebook. I read through it on the flight, in between trips to the galley to get ice packs on my knee. On the Chicago leg of our flight I had been peacefully snoozing with my knee about  0.5 inches out in the aisle.

The nice lady with the 500-lb. cart had smashed into it during what must have been an attempt at a new world sprint record, because she hit it so hard it shattered my kneecap. Of course I woke with a curse, shouting “Fuck!” at the top of my lungs, which also awoke the entire cabin. The good part about being crippled was that it forced me to stay seated the rest of the trip and read the guidebook.

By the time we reached Vienna I knew everything about the city’s major attractions. What to see, what to avoid, and most crucially, what to lie about having seen. It did say that no trip would be complete without seeing the Lipizzaner Stallions, and for me no trip would be complete without leaving something important incomplete.

But the main benefit to having read about all the things in the city worth seeing was that I now didn’t have to go see any of them and could go about my business of hanging out at Hotel am Billigsten, drinking coffee, and gearing up for The Concert.

We had booked seats at the Musikverein to hear Sir Neville Mariner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields play Beethoven and Mozart, or at least that’s what everyone else had come to hear. I had come to see people play a symphony in a field and was disappointed when it turned out that it was going to be in a concert hall.

Inside it became clear that when I had told my wife, “There’s no dress code,” there was most defnitelly a dress code, and it didn’t appear to include sneakers and jeans spattered with coal tar, a BWR 2013 t-shirt, and a knit beanie. The concert hall was very different from the Disney Hall in LA. This one was tiny, but on the other hand getting to hear Beethoven in Vienna on Boesendorfer Street was kind of like getting to hear Stevie Ray at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, with Little Charlie before he went to Hollywood.

Ms. WM vetted the Musikverein on Google afterwards and it turned out to be the finest acoustics of anywhere in the world, and I supposed that included the Armadillo WHQ. It shockingly appeared that I had purchased economy seats, so we had to climb many sets of stairs to reach the Fremdloge, which in German means “where the performers can collect your money but not have to ever look at you.”

The whole place was gilded in gold paint and directly above me was a painting of a naked woman with a bush badly in need of trimming. Our seats were chairs that had been stolen from someone’s kitchen and jammed into rows. We were so tightly packed in that it was clear the Viennese did not have a fire marshal. The man in front of me, who I’ll call Horst, was wider than the tummy of a Lunada Bay Boy on Mom’s couch, and although I never saw a singe performer for the next two hours I can tell you that Horst has 349 neck hairs growing out his collar.

The conductor, Sir Neville Mariner, is one of the leading conductors on earth, and he made the night special beyond belief by dying the night before. The orchestra dude gave a speech and announced that in honor of Sir Neville they would be playing without a conductor, and although it was a very nice gesture the idea of getting through all three movements of Beethoven’s violin concerto without a conductor made me fear it would be like listening to cats, or to the Stones play without heroin. I mean, we were in Vienna. Weren’t there extra conductors lying around in the gutter somewhere?

My fears were unfounded. The music was beautiful and because we were high up, and hot air rises, and because Horst had slammed down one too many before the show, he finally slumped over on the railing and I was able to watch the violinist, Julia Fischer, as she absolutey killed the third movement. I got ready to do a hog whistle in appreciation but Ms. WM broke my other kneecap with a vicious kick so I didn’t.

The next piece was a long bit by Mozart but it was like having a big bowl of whipped cream topped with cane sugar after having chowed down on a banana split. Plus, Horst’s snores were shaking the upper loge so much I feared the whole flimsy structure might rend in two and plunge us to our death.

Back at Hotel am Billigsten I checked off another bit of Viennese culture: “Heard Beethoven, stayed awake.” I was feeling like a true Renaissance man and couldn’t wait for tomorrow, when I was going to really go see those Lipizzaner Stallions one way or another.



Can I have a coffee?

October 4, 2016 § 24 Comments

When you are in Vienna there are a couple of things you have to do. “Go see the Lipizzaner Stallions,” commanded my buddy.

“I don’t like horse shows.”

“This isn’t a horse show,” he said.

“What is it?”

“It is the greatest animal performance in the world. The horses walk backwards.”

“That doesn’t sound very practical.”

“Neither is the hour record. But it’s awesome.”

“Is it free?”

“Nothing in Austria is free.”

“Well, I’m super cheap and don’t like horse shows so I’m going to pass on the backwards dancing horses.”

My buddy was frustrated with my failure to appreciate great culture. “Look, Wanky, I’ll buy the damned tickets.” He owns a Ferrari and a bunch of college debt and a very nice home. “Just go see the damned horses. You will thank me later.”

As soon as we got to Vienna I began avoiding buying the horse show tickets, first by getting concerts to a couple of classical music performances. Mrs. WM was surprised. “How come you gettin’ onna concert Mozart ticket? You always callin that onna funeral musics.”

“It’s either that or the horses. And I hate horse shows.” The weather had been superb unti the moment I spoke ill of the horses. In moved a bank of clouds and it started to rain. We had left our umbrellas back at the Hotel am Billigsten along with our coats. The temperature dropped thirty degrees and it started to rain.

“This will blow right over,” I said as we scooted beneath the eaves of a shop built back in the 1700s. The rain really started coming down.

Ms. WM looked at her weather app. “It’s rainin’ on ten days inna straight.”

“Those forecasts are always wrong.” As I uttered the word “wrong” the rain doubled in fury, washing down big piles of sludge from the tiles that hadn’t been cleaned since, surprise, the 1700s. A giant piece of black tar and coal tailings splattered on my sneakers and then onto my pants.

“You gonna change a pants now.”

“No, because this is the only pair I brought.” A lively husband-wife battle arose about the wisdom of taking an 11-day trip to northern Europe in early winter with only one pair of pants. The words “stupid,” “crazy,” “big dummy,”and “onna” got bandied around a bit.

We finally decided to go warm up so that we could fight some more. One of Vienna’s oldest coffee shops, Das Alte Kaffeehaus, beckoned. The waitress came to take our order. “Two coffees, please,” I said.

She stared blankly, so I repeated my English more slowly but louder. “TWO COFFEES, PLEASE.” Europeans are like people everywhere. If you are patient with them, everyone can understand English, although I briefly wondered if I’d done the equivalent of going into a pro shop and ordering a “bike.”

“Yes, sir, I heard you the first time. What kind of coffee would you like?”

“With milk, thanks.” It’s awesome to see the magic of English in action. You just have to be patient because it’s pretty much the only language in the world that learns itself.

The waitress studied me for a moment. “Would you like to choose from the menu? We don’t exactly have what you have ordered.”

I needed a menu to order coffee in a coffee shop? “Weird,” I thought. I browsed the coffee selections, which were complicated. Schwarzer, Verlaengeter, Brauner, Schale Gold, Melange, Franziskaner, Verkehrt, Einspaenner, Fiaker, Wiener Eiskaffee, Maria Theresia …

It was all a bit too confusing, and getting explanations was going to exceed my kindergarten-level German, so rather than order from the menu and get some weird coffee-with-eggplant concoction I went with something that no one could possibly screw up. “A latte, please.”

“Latte?” she asked.

“Yes. Latte. LATTE.”

She shook her head, resigned.

A few minutes later she came back with two warm glasses of milk and set them on the table. She paused for a second, daring me to say anything.

I looked at the warm milk. Then I drank it.


Pizza break

October 2, 2016 § 15 Comments

I’d never been to Chicago. Yes, that’s a confession. One time I went to Edwardsville, in Illinois, but I was told that’s not much like Chicago.

I didn’t want to go to Chicago because I had heard it was windy and cold all year. In the summer the wind blows 50 mph on calm days and it’s in the low 20’s. The ice never melts and everyone spends their free time watching the local pro sports teams, the Icees hockey team, the Cubs football team, the Bears baseball team, and the Red Sox who play baseball there.

Of course I’m a huge sports fan, obviously, but I knew I couldn’t stand the weather.

Still, it was September and I needed a break from all the huge miles, intervals, and intensity I’d been doing in the off-season, so I scheduled a trip to Austria which isn’t close to Chicago very much. But if you want the double-economy reduced midget legroom middle exit row seat and can fly at midnight, you can get to Vienna for about $76, round trip. Down side is that United only allows you one-half a checked bag on the flight.

I booked the trip for me and Mrs. WM and after paying for the non-refundable tickets I checked the itinerary. Turns out that the midnight flight wasn’t really to Austria but to Chicago. We would arrive at 5:00 AM and then go on to Austria at 4:00 PM, so it was only an 11-hour layover.

Ms. WM had a small disagreement about what to do during the layover. I suggested we cancel the trip.

“You onna crazy? We spendin two hundred dollar for tickets and not refunding?”

“I admit it sounds like a bad deal but when you add up the money we’ll save on not buying food, lodging, souvenirs and transportation by staying home, it’s a pretty good deal. And I’ll take you to In-N-Out to make up for it.”

I dodged the 8-inch iron skillet but thought it made a good point as it cleared the glassware on the kitchen counter, shattering everything.

Then I remembered how my son Hans had quit eating pizza when he was twelve. He traveled around to chess tournaments with his grandpa and one weekend they went to Chicago. “How was the trip?” I asked.

“It was okay but I’m not ever eating pizza again,” he said.

“Food poisoning?”


“What happened? Pizza is your favorite food?”

“I finally had a real pizza in Chicago. I’m not ever eating the pasteboard orange stuff here in Texas again. I’m done.”

“Oh, come on. Chicago pizza can’t be that good.”

He looked at me with sadness and pity and never ate pizza again.

Now, pizza is my second favorite food after coffee. And I never could believe that Chicago pizza is really THAT good. I mean, the pizza in Texas is so awesome. It’s got cheese and pepperoni and crust and Domino’s even gives you two extra packets of cracked red pepper. Pretty much as good as it gets, IMNHO.

But seeing as we had eleven hours to kill in Chicago, I proposed pizza for lunch downtown. Swartzendruber said it was Lou Malnati’s or nothing, and although since he was from Chicago I immediately doubted his recommendation, I figured I would take a chance.

There was a big Chicago Cubs football game at noon, so the restaurant was empty. “How many people will this deep dish pizza for two feed?” I asked.

“Two,” the waitress said.

“Reallly? We’re really hungry.”

“Have you had one of our pizzas before?”



“Okay, we’ll take that one.’

Thirty minutes later the waitress brought out a dinky little pizza that wouldn’t have filled a small child. We looked glumly at the small pizza and mentally counted out the two pieces we would each get.

Our depression deepened after the first bite, because it was truly the best thing I had ever eaten, and rather than floating on the symphonic harmony of cheese, tomato sauce, sausage, cheese, buttery thick pie crust, and cheese, all I could think about was how inadequate the serving size was and how ravenous I was going to be.

“Excuse me, misss,” I said.


“I’m afraid this isn’t going to be enough. Can I order another one?”

“Sure, but you might want to wait.”

“Until what?”

“Until you finish that first piece.”

I waved her off after ordering the second pizza. Then, one bite into the second piece, a funny thing happened. I realized, or more accurately, my stomach realized, that each bite had been the equivalent of filling myself with a half-pound of sand. What had looked like a wholly inadequate serving now appeared as a great unbroken expanse of cheese extending all the way across Lake Michigan like a massive cheese floe.

Ms. WM, who was still on her first piece, looked like she was being waterboarded. “I’m onna full,” she said about the time that the waitress brought the second pizza with the world’s biggest side order of “I told you so” on a separate plate..

We stared in dismay at this second pizza while all the local Chicagoans politely appeared not to notice yet another foreigner trapped by the incredible expanding properties of a Lou Malnati’s pizza. “Can I, uh, have that to go?”

“Of course, sir,” said the waitress.

At least I wasn’t going to have to eat bad airplane food on the way to Austria. And I didn’t.


Pro Tips for Baby B.

October 1, 2016 § 9 Comments

You made it! I’ve seen the pictures and you are so cute I won’t even try to come up with a comparison. We knew you would be! And with your little head wrapped in that cute cap and the rest of you wrapped in that cute baby boy blanket, well, let’s just say that you’re about as special as they come. We already love you to bits and haven’t even met!

Now is probably a pretty solid time for me to give you some baby Pro Tips. Over the last nine months Mommy B. and Poppa B. have been getting bombarded with lots of advice. I may have even given them some, all unsolicited of course. But what we know is this: Mommy B. and Poppa B. are parents and they’re still too young, undeveloped, and inexperienced to really absorb anything. They’re going to need a lot of hand-holding.

In fact the three months after birth are usually referred to as the “fourth trimester” because Mom and Dad have not yet developed enough, especially their brains, to truly separate from the period of gestation. You’ll sometimes wonder if they understand anything at all. Trust me, they do. Be patient and before long they’ll be responding properly and aware of their surroundings and able to correctly respond to each of your demands. It just takes time and some trial and error to distinguish between “That’s a four pound poop” and “Where’s my bottle?”

Anyway, back to the baby Pro Tips. In general, parents aren’t the tires with the thickest tread in the shop. They need lots of coaching, mentoring, patience, and yes, just plain love. Mommy B. and Poppa B. are no exception. I’ve known them for a while and they are wonderful. One day–I promise–you’ll look on them with pride and great love, appreciating the fine work you’ve done raising them to be upstanding, responsible, decent, reasonably intelligent, not completely embarrassing parents.

But the baby Pro Tips. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were good parents. This is where you come in. So listen up.

  1. Be patient with them, especially Poppa B. He’s a perfectionist and isn’t accustomed to chaos, much less piles of baby poop. When he’s looking a little ragged around the edges, don’t squirt out another load of didy-doo. Take it easy on him. Let him get used to the feel and smell of poop under his fingernails. It’s going to take time but he will come around.
  2. You’ll feel a need to correct them by screaming. Loud, high-pitched, brain-piercing, soul-destroying, uber-decimal screams that sound like you’re being lanced with a harpoon. I know it’s fun to watch them put their hands over their ears, Google “mortal baby illnesses” call 911, and ring up sister-in-law at 3:00 AM. But don’t do it more than three times a night; they need a little sleep. But not that much, actually.
  3. When you see them being stupid, you’ll want to helicopter. Don’t. It takes parents a long time to learn that “one more beer” is bad, but over time you’ll be able to teach them how to read. Poppa B. can be started on easy books with big pictures and simple words. He will learn a lot more quickly than you think. One book that you can always start with is by Wank Meister, “Putting Poppa to Sleep.” It’s a nice bedtime story.
  4. Lots of babies worry about how their parents are going to handle the college application process. Your parents will have the same anxieties as every other parent. Let them know that although you emphatically have no desire to be a truck driver or ditch digger, just because you didn’t ace Quantum Physics by Third Grade is no reason for them to burn their library of SAT prep books. They will one day be able to brag that you got admitted to a college that was somewhat your choice.
  5. Fortunately, Momma B. and Poppa B. know how to ride bicycles, so they are already pre-qualified as parents. However, make sure that Poppa B. still goes out on the Donut Ride even though he gets dropped by his friend Wanky who he used to shred like cheese in a Cuisinart. He will feel better just getting out, at least until the Switchbacks. Remind him that it’s a sign of enduring friendship to be left to dangle, sad and alone, while the faster riders speed heroically away.
  6. Utilize your networks. Mom and Dad will sometimes do embarrassing things, but only on days ending in “y.” This is completely normal and is why you have friends. Don’t hesitate to compare notes with little Billy in the sandbox and see if his parents also do weird things like putting you in the car at 2:00 AM and driving around the block calling out to someone named “god” for you to go to sleep. Your buddies can often give you practical solutions that won’t occur to you, such as falling asleep after these driving excursions and then becoming wide awake for the rest of the night the minute the car stops.
  7. Utilize grampy and grandma. They are incredibly old, older than anything except perhaps igneous rock formations, but they are wise. Learn to play them off against Momma B. and Poppa B. If three hours of non-stop screaming don’t communicate what you need, grampy and granny will figure it out.
  8. Remember that they are parents, not pals. At some point your parents will try to be your “friend,” usually when they find your first condom or your stash. Firmly let them know that they are not your friends, they are your parents, and they need to be sent to their room to reflect on all the times they woke up with a splitting hangover or couldn’t remember where they left the car keys. Or the car. Adolescence is hard for parents but they will get through it.
  9. Don’t reward bad behavior. Momma B. and Poppa B. will in the beginning try to get their way by being nice, buying you stuff, pleading, or sobbing hysterically into the phone to a close relative or co-worker while sirens howl in the background. This is not the time to back down, but to continue pretending that you have a terrible illness that will require a Life Flight and that will require payment of the full $5,000 deductible. Let the surgeon flown in from Durban conclude that “It’s nothing, just a mild cold.” It’s never your job to give in to unreasonable demands, even though you’ll be tempted to do so.
  10. Appreciate Momma B. and Poppa B. for who they are, not who you want them to be. They are kind, smart, loving people who already love you more than you will ever begin to understand. You are not the most important thing in their life, as of yesterday you ARE their life. And it is a beautiful thing to see. We love you and welcome to the world.


Notes from underground

September 30, 2016 § 38 Comments

Below are my notes of the anti-bike comments from the RPV meeting on 9/26/16, so you can see the level of discourse, familiarity with the law, and general attitude that a small group of privileged, angry, NIMBY residents who live atop a hill in a gated community have towards cyclists on “their” public streets.

Lady: Atop Crest there isn’t enough space for bikes and motorists. I went to Copenhagen and Stockholm and saw how they handled cycling. They were very cycling friendly.  They have separated bike lanes. These cities are flat so they are conducive to large numbers of bikes getting along well with motorists. And the cyclists don’t even wear helmets! It would be very helpful to have signs on Crest saying “Bikes must ride single file to the right.”

Lady: Let’s elevate the discourse because last time there was name calling and bullying [She made this comment just before one of her compadres started giving the finger to the committee and throwing paper at other attendees]. Let’s work together. Residents are not bike haters, they’re just concerned residents who want to improve safety for all. Safety issues occur when cyclists take over the lane, ride in packs, or ride on the left side of the lane. Residents need to conduct their lives. Another problem is bikes going fast downhill and they’ve fallen over and that’s a hazard. I’m an RPV resident and I support signage for single file, ride to the right, and bikes shouldn’t have access to the lane.

Dude: One of the issues is that I was personally threatened driving home with children in my car when a biker hit my window. I was very frightened and no sheriff was around. Aggressive behavior is bad, we’re saying help us. You will eventually have an altercation with people who are not from this community. It’s the safety issue over and over again. There’s a bike lane and it should be used. Large groups are unsafe. There’s no reason to ride your bike all the way to Crest. This must be implemented for your safety and for our safety. There will be problems. Maybe we should limit the number of cyclists on the road. They have ways of controlling crowds like at Disney. Let’s find out the Disney rules for crowd control.

[Guy shouts at Kramer not to take photos, is told he’s out of order and that photos are legal in a public meeting. Guy flips off Kramer and is admonished by the deputy.]

Lady: It feels intimidating. It shouldn’t be you versus us. I grew up on the Hill and rode my bike downhill once; it’s harrowing and I never did it again. Most riders are experienced but some are old and teetering and I don’t want liability for hurting them. I know too much. I don’t want to hurt someone. It’s not fair. We’re forced to share. It’s big groups from out of town. They’re taking over. You’re supposed to drive to the right. They should be going slower than a car in most areas, in the middle of the lane they will stop everything. It should be single file. This is pure recreation and it’s a hazard and we’re forced to partake. I feel like it should be single file.

Dude: Kramer shouldn’t be on the committee. He has a conflict of interest. That doesn’t make any sense. I heard two stories, one at a party and a friend from Malibu comes here to ride every two weeks. They pay and ride RPV. They like the hills and it’s challenging. Someone’s making money. The city is not collecting permit fees. Traffic has gotten worse from bikers who come from ads in biking groups. On Thursday night after PV High’s open house five bikers were going around the turn. I’m going 45 they’re going 5 mph dressed in black. Police should be there this is safety. It’s not going to work. I would like to see less bicyclists on the road. Sharing should be the same. Obey the DMV.

Lady: We have a growing bike community and everything else, a huge increase in Abalone Cove deaths and severe accidents and visitors don’t know oceans and mountain roads. Hairpin turns. I prepared a huge memo, you’re lucky you didn’t read it. Joggers, beach cruisers and racers, motorcyclists, people with dogs. I gathered evidence and found tremendous mixed use. I used to ride horses here before you were born. Mountain bikers are dangerous and scare horses. We must have a vision for our semi-rural community. These are the pains of social media. Bicyclists camping on our vacant land. I’m thinking we should categorize roads like ski slopes. Some are good for bicyclists and others are not suitable for bicyclists. My son rides with Steve Bauer, a famous cyclist, he knows what he’s doing but those aren’t the people coming into our community.

Dude: Look at all these assault with a deadly weapon reports. By Greg Seyranian. All of the reports were just prior to Kramer’s presentation on traffic safety. Kramer’s phone number is on the tax returns for Big Orange. Kramer is the treasurer. Seyranian is also listed. Look at 2013 Big Orange tax returns. Same Kramer phone, the treasurer, Kramer is more than just a member. He is Big Orange. He’s the agent for service of process. He’s one of the founders, the treasurer. Please recuse yourself as it concerns Big Orange.

Lady: At the last meeting I was shocked there were no reported accidents. I found five specific accident and traffic collision reports. Four were caused by bikes. You need to get all the facts. There is a 3-foot law inconsistency. It’s not possible to comply with the 3-foot law and stay in your own lane. You might better understand our position. I think that there is an agenda and it’s to enact bikes may use full lane curriculum. It’s advertised on Big Orange web site. That agenda needs to be addressed so it doesn’t become part of a campaign. I’m glad you brought up respect. It’s hard to come up and talk in public. It’s discouraging when they’re publicly ridiculed. We are not morons for articulating our concerns. The passive-aggressive commentary is symptomatic of the behavior that raises these conflicts. Please consider all the interests.

Dude: I’ve been living here over 16 years. No choice but to drive the road. Bikes are toys. You know there is a blind spot? We are careful. You get more nervous from bikes. How can we keep distance? We’re waiting until the road is wider then swing by but it’s a dangerous situation. We don’t have a choice but to drive this road. We pay taxes, bikers never pay no taxes, we don’t have a choice but you have a choice to buy a bike and you have a choice to go somewhere else. Please go somewhere else. That’s what we ask you. Avoid the danger. Avoid accidents. Protect their lives. If car and bike hit who’s gonna get more damage? If I want to ride a bike I go to a park. We have no choice but they do.

Dude: Riding the hill on Saturday morning is advertised by Big Orange. They stop at Crest. It seems sponsored. It’s a great opportunity for more policing. Funding through permits to keep bicycles and motorists safe. The ordinance should apply to Big Orange and to all groups who use Crest for training. Kramer should recuse himself because of conflict of interest.

Dude: I’m a resident and runner. I have observed bikers in RHE and RPV, I have seen the number grow enormously. It used to be five or so now there are 35 or 40. Sanitary issues. Treat the Donut Ride as a special event and require a permit. It will put LASD on notice and give them the opportunity to monitor conduct of riders. Many in large groups violate 21202. The city should ensure the safety of the roads. The city is liable if roads are not safe.

Dude: There used to be a sign saying “road unsuitabe for bicycles.” I missed when they made it suitable. You can’t keep up with vehicles. Going downhill maybe you can. I live at the top. Bikers are on the inside line. This is our only road! I don’t know, but if you’re a bike nazi, that’s not getting along.

Lady: There’s been a great increase in bikes, let’s monitor them, I’m all for it. My son and husband are great bicyclists. The bad ones impede traffic, they cause rear ending from their poor riding skills. Many groups are here and more coming. We need to keep this semi-rural environment for us.

Lady: What is an organic ride? It’s Big Orange local rides. The Donut Run and anti-Donut Run. Top ten rides on PV. Groups that are regularly riding as part of an organized situation. We are not wanting to approach adversarially. Residents are raising safety concerns by observed safety incidents on roads not safe for bikes, pedestrians, and motorists need to be addressed and the statute applies and until revisited it should be uniformly applied.

Lady: I’m a Crest resident. I’d like to see us live here safely. How will you enforce the ordinance? This is new and we’ll set parameters. The ordinance is to manage people and it takes money and when the city looks at enforcement, girls walking around isn’t a safety issue, but if we have funding we can intro a pilot program to see what data we have. As we develop guidelines we should look at it. Or if they’re not impinging then the groups shouldn’t be included.

Dude: There’s an impact, let’s look at the impact. Where are the needed rest stops at Marymount? Additional law enforcement to cite motorists and pedestrians. Funding from somewhere. Big Orange can’t say we are not responsible. Girl scouts don’t impact, runners and Sierra Club don’t impact. This is a good time to say let’s try it.

Dude: Certain time too, a certain time. Liability and making sure they have some kind of insurance policy. Whoever posts about the ride is responsible. Clearly it is advertising. Notice for the event shouldn’t be 90 days should be in a week, five days. Hand them a sticker or something or we should have police just designated for that ride. Certain areas should have rest rooms, different containment, stop refresh, and ride in a singe file lane. I’ve driven behind some shaky legs. I disagree about lemonade stands. There’s no liability to us for girl scouts that would apply to that.

Lady: I can understand organic rides. But a lady told me they had time trials going up and down Crest. You can’t relieve yourself in public. I’m sure you’re very good about that Mr. Kramer.



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Double header crazypants

September 29, 2016 § 44 Comments

On Monday night there was a traffic safety committee meeting held by the city of Rancho Palos Verdes. You think committee meetings are boring?

This one wasn’t.

It featured a guy who began by complaining about people taking pictures. The chair told him he was “out of order” which is nice speak for “shut the fuck up” and informed him that it was a public meeting, open to the public, held for the public, and publicly regulated under the Brown Act, which publicly regulates public meetings.

The guy was not mollified by the law because he was part of a contingent who demanded that the city put up signs saying “Bikes Must Ride Single File.” No matter that this isn’t the law, and no matter that the California Vehicle Code doesn’t prohibit riding two abreast, no matter that the committee has given extensive, detailed PowerPoint presentations on CVC 21202(a) and its exceptions, and no matter that the most fundamental principle of statutory construction is that the law permits everything that is not specifically prohibited.

In Rancho Palos Verdes these NIMBYs had come to the meeting to advise what they thought the law should be and to demand that the city put it on a sign. Right? Because after inventing a few new anti-bike provisions for the vehicle code they could follow it with signs that said, “No poor people,” “No Torranceites,” “No San Pedroians,” and of course “No people whose last names end in a vowel.”

It was clear that, having bought a second-hand home with an ugly garage on top of a hill and surrounding the whole faux estate with an iron gate and guard shack, this guy thought that the public meetings were private, too, and no amount of explaining that the meeting was “public” seemed to have any effect on him at all.

Because polysyllabic words and laws and facts kept getting in the way of his opinions, the guy followed up his outburst a few minutes later by showing the middle finger at what appeared to be the committee. When the sheriff’s deputy came over and told him he couldn’t flip off the committee, he told the deputy that he hadn’t been flipping off them, he’d been flipping off … me. For taking pictures.

I hadn’t said a word the entire meeting and when I looked back he threw a fleck of paper at me while raising his middle finger again for emphasis. There I was, back in Third Grade with the classroom bully showing me the finger, throwing spitballs, and daring the teacher to get on with her job. If you think it’s extraordinary that a grown man would go to a public meeting and show his contempt for public participation by flipping people off and flinging flecks of paper at his imagined enemies, you need to come to one of these meetings.

But what’s more extraordinary is that the very people who flipped us off, threw things, and booed Delia Park at the previous meeting when she described the catastrophic injuries of a friend belong to the same anti-bike contingent that opened the meeting with an appeal for civility and made pointed complaints about the militant biker bullies–never mind that not a single cyclist in any public meeting has insulted, attacked, threatened, or made an obscene gesture to anyone ever, and never mind that several cyclists began by thanking the committee for their efforts.

One first-time biker attendee later commented that “I thought you were exaggerating, Seth, but these people really are batshit fucking crazy.”

The discussion point of the meeting was colossally stupid. A handful of NIMBYs on Crest Road were seeking to apply the city’s event permitting ordinance to “organic” groups of ten or more cyclists. Unable to understand the law’s intent–regulation of large events that had a significant impact on the public right of way–these folks yammered on endlessly about how the law should be applied to local, unorganized, organic bike rides.

Under the ingenuous pretense of “safety,” though none of them had consulted any of the cycling groups whose safety is most imperiled in traffic collisions, and after having a prior petition to ban cyclists from the roadway being unceremoniously booted due to its patent illegality, they were now trying to regulate unorganized group bike rides in the hope it would make things somehow more orderly, i.e. get rid of bikes. When I asked one of the NIMBYs whether or not he would attend a free Cycling Savvy course to get educated about the law from the cyclist’s perspective, he told me he was “too busy” because he “had a 16-year-old who was just getting his driver license.”

Well, of course! No responsible father with a new young male driver in the family would possibly be able to make time to go learn the law and safe traffic skills that have to do with cyclists, especially the cyclists who allegedly cause so many traffic problems up on Rancho Palos Verdes Estates Wish We Were Palos Verdes Estates Crest Road.

The details of the ordinance appeared irrelevant to many of the NIMBYs, the main “detail” being no detail at all but rather its most salient feature: The ordinance specifically applies to “organized” events. Speaker after speaker on the cyclists’ side tried in vain to explain to the waxed-in brains of the NIMBYs that THERE IS NO ORGANIZER FOR THE DONUT RIDE. But they either didn’t understand, wouldn’t understand, or couldn’t understand.

It’s true that you can’t fix stupid, but in this case you couldn’t even shut it up. The committee, obviously perplexed by having to deal with something that made no sense at all, referred it for further “study by staff.” This will presumably involve someone sitting in a lawn chair watching groups of cyclists go by at 25 mph and trying to determine if they’re “organized” or “in a group” or “ten or more.” One fool suggested that group riders be required to ride with identifying stickers, a great idea that was used with much success in the late 1930’s.

A cyclist speaker offered the NIMBYs a thousand bucks if they could find the organizer of the Donut Ride, which one of the crazypants asserted was any person who mentioned it on their web site. Kind of like, you know, how you’re an organizer of the Super Bowl when you note on your blog its location, date, time, and the teams who are playing.

Almost three and a half hours later the meeting adjourned, but not before one guy spent several minutes complaining about committee member David Kramer’s “conflict of interest” because in addition to his duties as a committee member he was formerly an officer of Big Orange. We’ll set aside for a minute the fact that nothing on the agenda affects Big Orange as a club at all, another detail that didn’t matter because it so obviously contradicted this guy’s attack.

Lacking any ability to understand that Big Orange doesn’t have a single organized ride in RPV, and unable to do anything other than wave tax returns and Secretary of State filings, this bonehead repeatedly insisted that Kramer “recuse” himself.

Kramer repeated, as he always does, that the committee makes no decisions (ergo there’s nothing to be recused from), that all committee recommendations must be voted on by the city council which has the power to accept, reject or modify anything done by the committee, that the committee acts in a volunteer advisory capacity only, and that his activities as a cyclist have long been public, but the NIMBY didn’t care. All that the NIMBY could grasp is that Kramer is a cyclist, Kramer belongs to Big Orange, therefore Kramer has a conflict of interest. Of course with NIMBY logic, all of the motorists would have to recuse themselves from the committee, too, since no motorist could possibly be expected to be neutral on issues that affected cars. But in an absence of understanding and in a surfeit of ignorance, facts meant little, and one of the NIMBYs assured me outside the building that a lawsuit would be brought to remove Kramer from the committee.

“You’re not going to like that,” he said. I could only hope that he retained a very expensive lawyer with a huge, nonrefundable retainer.

In line with the NIMBY hatred of cyclists on Crest, riders recently reported a white Toyota Corolla buzzing, honking at, and harassing cyclists going up Crest in, surprise, single file. It’s hard to understand what they meant by civility, except perhaps this: Please shut up and go away from RPV.

The next day was Tuesday. I mentally flushed out the cremains of the night before with a good bike ride, one of those organic rides without a leader or promoter that’s been going on for over 30 years, and that evening I was back at another city meeting to witness another series of mindless assaults on cycling. This one was at Palos Verdes Estates.

At the end of the meeting I was accosted by a guy who claimed to be “Frank Ponce” and who “wanted to talk” to me. Imagine a pudgy bully whose hairpiece has been dipped in a bucket of chiGrecian Formula, clad in a two-for-one suit from Men’s Wearhouse, wearing an imitation of a fake Swiss watch and looking like he wanted to kill you.

Then imagine another guy, larger, blobbier, dumber looking (possible? yes!) who was also wearing a sandwich board with my picture on it and the caption “This Clown Wants More Signs.”

This clever fellow had discovered a picture that was on my web site and was now going to expose me as an advocate for bike signage. Plus he was going to call me a clown. Unfortunately, Mom’s allowance must have been a bit on the low side because the construction of the sign had the quality you normally associate with a cardboard roof used by a homeless person to cover his shopping cart.

How a person can strap on a homemade sign and duck-waddle around in public while calling someone else a clown is a metaphor for the wholesale absence of reflection, perspective, or self-awareness that the bike haters displayed at every turn. I was waiting for the Sandwich Clown to ask for gas money since Mom had perhaps kicked him off the couch for the evening, the best explanation for him even being out of the house.

Upon leaving the parking lot, Mr. Men’s Wearhouse, still furious that none of the cyclists would engage with him or take him up on his unspoken offers of a duel using tubes of Rogaine, taunted me as I walked by. Rumor has it that the fake watch consortium is going to set the wheels in motion to “revoke my law license.” It will be fascinating to watch the $99 suits tangle with even more words, rules, laws, and procedures, seeing as they still haven’t been able to read and understand CVC 21202(a) and its exceptions. Imagine their surprise when someone tries to draw them a stick-figure diagram of what an anti-SLAPP motion is and what attorney fee sanctions look like.

As I left the parking lot, catcalls ringing in my ears, it occurred to me that there it was again! Third Grade! Another flaccid wanker thinking that no one could possibly resist the idea of jumping into a verbal sewer with him. I kept walking, slightly pleased that with so little effort I’d taken up permanent residence into such a small and sand-filled head. And best of all, I was staying there rent-free.

The PVE City Council meeting itself was something of a clusterfuck. Because the council had seen the large turnout of cyclists in past meetings and been inundated by NIMBY emails complaining about outsiders/flatlanders/transients influencing their special snowflake on the hill, they sought to do an end-run by moving the time from 5:30 to 7:30 in order to conduct a workshop on traffic safety. It was never articulated as such, but the idea seemed to be to wear down the cyclists with an earlier meeting that would cut off speaking times. The plan only half-worked because the fire marshal had to stop people from entering after the room filled to capacity with cyclists.

While the tiny Men’s Wearhouse contingent had vociferously sought to rally the anti-cycling troops for the meeting, the packed-to-capacity council chambers were filled predominantly with cyclists. When asked to stand if they supported BMUFL signage, only a smattering of the 90+ attendees remained seated. If the plan had been to get all the concerned PVE residents out in force, it worked, because the meeting showed what we’ve known all along: Most residents don’t give two ratfucks about five new BMUFL signs and the only ones who oppose them are either still subsidized by Mom or are retired or are woefully underemployed or all three.

The workshop, although ostensibly held to educate the council as to this “complex” issue of four signs, seemed in fact to be Traffic Safety Principles 101 for the Completely Clueless NIMBYs. It was a rehash of many, many presentations I’ve heard in bits and pieces from the city’s traffic engineer, and it was all politespeak for “These BMUFL signs are legal, you dumbshits.”

But the problem was this: If the NIMBYs were so thick-headed that they couldn’t understand CVC 21202(a), and if they were so pig-headed that they refused to recognized the legality of BMUFL, how in the world was the workshop going to educate them about something as complex as “basic principles of traffic engineering”? Their go-to guy was a stooge in a sandwich board and a sub-literate, flabby realtor in a cheap suit whose Linked-In profile picture reminds me of a hubcap thief from the 1920’s. These people were going to be “educated” about engineering and the law?

No. They were not.

It was like having a civil rights lawyer address a group of Trump supporters on the illegality of segregation.

Civil rights lawyer: “Segregation is illegal.”

Trumpers: “But we hate black people.”

CRL: “It’s still illegal.”

Trumpers: “No, it isn’t.”

CRL: “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).”

Trumpers: “Can we change the law just for here? PVE is unique!”

CRL: “No. It’s the supreme law of the land and codified in numerous federal and state laws and the California Constitution.”

Trumpers: “We still hate black people. We still hate integration. We love segregation. We don’t understand why we can’t have it. We grew up with it. And we’ve lived here since 1984.”

The part of the workshop that did work was that it promptly concluded at 7:30, before even a fraction of the cyclists had gotten to speak out in favor of BMUFL signage. This served the city and the NIMBYs’ agenda perfectly: It delayed the decision on the signs even further, it forced the cyclists to come back again (and again and possibly again), and it let the BMUFL advocates know that the city wasn’t going to easily and quickly fold to the recommendations of its own attorney, traffic engineer, safety committee, and what one NIMBY at the last traffic committee meeting referred to as “transients.”

The other part of the workshop that worked out exquisitely for the NIMBYs was that the latter half of the workshop degenerated into “cyclists running stop signs.” No matter how many times the police say they have limited resources, no matter how many times people point out that stop sign violations are equal among cars and bikes, and no matter how many times people point out that stop sign violations have nothing at all to do with BMUFL signage, once the Dreaded Stop Sign Issue is raised, everything goes running down into the gutter.

It’s as if you convened a meeting to discuss space travel and no one could stop talking about stop signs.

Bike Advocate: “BMUFL signage is legal and saves lives.”

Men’s Wearhouse: “Bikes run stop signs!”

Bike Advocate: “So do motorists but that’s not the issue.”

Men’s Wearhouse: “Bikes run stop signs!”

Bike Advocate: “Yes, but today we’re here to discuss BMUFL signage.”

Men’s Wearhouse: “Norm is videotaping all the scofflaw bikers running stop signs!”

Bike Advocate: “Yes, we’ve seen samples of the high quality videos made by Mom’s Couch Productions. But today we’re here to discuss BMUFL signage, how it’s legal, recommended by the city engineer, and how it saves lives according the the NIH.”

Men’s Wearhouse: “Blobbly Bob is going to make another sandwich board showing bikers running stop signs!”

Bike Advocate: “I hope it’s a wide one.”



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Sunny day up

September 27, 2016 § 7 Comments

Today was a sunny day.

In the morning I rode my bicycle.

I went on the NPR. It is what some NIMBYs in Rancho Palos Verdes call an “organic ride.” I did not see any pesticides.

Some people went very fast. Roberto, Evens, Steinhafel, Eric A., Head Down James, Davy and etc.

Some people went very slow.

Most people went so-so.

It was a lot of fun.

On the way to the coffee shop Eric flatted. We stopped to help, which means we stood around and cracked jokes.

Then Major Bob flatted. More jokes and etc.

At the coffee shop Major Bob bought me an iced coffee.

I drank it quickly because I was hot.

It tasted really good.

I chatted with Lisa and Michelle and Jay and Matt. They were happy and smiling. Everyone was smiling. No one was mad. We laughed about handcuffs and spitwad battles and the back seat of a cop car.

Then I rode home with some friends. Ramon, Christian, Greg, and I pedaled up the hill.

On Basswood I got a flat.

Greg changed it quickly for me, he is super fast, and a few more jokes were cracked.

I came back to my apartment and took a shower.

Then I ate some eggs.

They were sunny side up, too.



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