Friday, October 28, 2005

Just a nice day

Whew, where to start? I haven't been writing for a while but that doesn't mean nothin's happening. On the contrary, I've got a backlog of stuff that I'll try to get out in the next few days.

Last weekend started off like any other. We had a break from a few days of rain and gloomy skies so naturally Gina and I pack up the road bikes for our weekly spin up the Capitol Crescent path to Bethesda. As usual, I'm pulling Sagada on the trailer bike. It was a beautiful day, although a bit cold for a leisurely lunch at an outdoor table. The Cosi cafe is somewhat of a bike central on a nice day like this. I counted about six people in geeky bike clothes not including myself. On the way back to DC we had to stop at the waterfront and snap the obligatory dock picture. By the time Sagada is old enough to make this ride on her own, I think I will have snapped about a hundred of these waterfront shots.

Back at the cars we get ready to go to a Pumpkin carving party at Rick and Deb's place with some of Sagada's friends from school. Our pumpkins, which we got from our last trip to Homestead Farms, were already a few weeks old so Sagada and I wasted no time and got right to work with the knives. She was getting freaked out by all the scary pumpkin faces so I helped her carve a flower design instead. The party was a lot of fun. Good food, good company, lots of cute kids with sharp knives, and nobody lost an eye.

Everyone went home with something nice, but I found something extra special in my grab bag:

RickW found this beautiful old Colnago frame in a dumpster and passed it on to me. I haven't been able to identify the model. Someone threw it out because of a stuck seat post and I've decided to make it my winter project. So far, the post hasn't budged. I took it to the Bike Lane to get worked on but to no avail. I just wound up with a small hole in the seat tube from where the steel frame had fused to the aluminum post. I've decided to take a hacksaw to it and take it out in pieces. Come hell or high water I will get that seatpost unstuck and build this thing into a proper fixie. Progress reports to follow...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

L.A. stories (The Uprising)

What I love about L.A. is that in 1998, I could drive five miles to the East and go from Filipino town to Olvera Street and the garment district. Five miles to the West is Beverly Hills. If I drive two miles to the South I'd be in Korea town. And in another five miles I'd be at the base of the mighty Watts Towers. This diversity is what makes L.A. thrive. But sometimes it can also be the wind that drives the wildfire. But to say that racial or cultural tensions caused the LA uprisings of 1992 would be wrong. In a society in which resources are so unevenly divided, and the economic dividing lines are pretty much indistinguishable from the cultural, racial, and geographical lines, something's gotta give. The signs were everywhere: on the news in the form of the Latasha Harlins shooting and many other similar stories; on the streets in front of my window in the form of gunshots fired by an Asian man at a youth running out of our parking garage; with every LAPD squad car "protecting and serving" our communities by stopping non-white youth for the offense of fitting a racial profile; and in every liqour store turned fortress with wrought iron bars, security cameras, and sheets of bullet-proof glass.

It was the spring of 92 and Gina and I were living in an apartment building in Korea town when the Rodney King verdicts were announced. Four white officers caught on tape beating a black man, were acquitted of criminal charges by a predominantly white jury in a Simi Valley courthouse. I had no doubt that something big was going to happen. It started out will small but vocal spontaneous demonstrations around City Hall. But by the next day, buildings were being set on fire, Korean business owners were on their roofs with assault rifles, and people were getting beaten and killed. I remember going up to the roof of our building and seeing smoke clouds in every direction. We were literally in the middle of it. That night we slept lightly if at all. We made plans to evacuate in case things got really out of hand, but we wound up staying for the whole thing. After a few days hunkered down in our apartment, I got in my car and drove to campus. All the liquor stores in my neighborhood were boarded up. The streets were eerily deserted. But by the time I got to the Miracle Mile district, the streets were a flurry of activity. The National Guard had moved into the Masonic temple on Wilshire Blvd and were setting up their command post. Razor wire fences and sandbag bunkers with machine guns made sure that everything to the West (namely Beverly Hills) was well protected. Meanwhile, buildings were still being set ablaze in my part of town. Protect and serve, indeed. It would be four or five days before a sense of order was restored in the city.

When things began to settle down, the talking started. Community groups led the way for people-- Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Whites, to sit down and start the dialogue that was long overdue. Inevitably calls for social and economic justice went out, right along with demands for police reform. People were marching in the streets. Signs reading "Justice for Rodney King" were being carried by people of every color, right along with unflattering effigies of Police Chief Darryl Gates and Governor Pete Wilson. The city would never be the same, but some things would never change. Most people in Simi Valley probably still look back on what happened as (what George H.W. Bush described as) "random terror and lawlessness", while some Black youth will call it a "revolution". The question of whatever it actually "was" has passed into the realm of armchair discussion. All I know is that on the streets of LA today many of those dividing lines still exist. The parts of the city that were in bad shape back then, don't look like they're getting better. A general sense of decay was obvious to me on my last trip back. Meanwhile, the border of Korea town has moved about a mile to the West, inching ever closer to Beverly Hills.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Where the narnar live

Larry and Pierre contemplate Buzzard Rocks.

Added a few more dents to my frame, a few more bruises to my body, and a big slice of humble pie to my diet during today's ride at Buzzard Rocks with my Bike Lane teammates Larry and Pierre. I'm no stranger to technical trails but I'd never seen anything like this before. Miles of rocks formations requiring a bit of skill and a good dose of luck to clear. Apparently luck wasn't on our side today. Although we cleared many of the sections eventually, the bloopers reel was a sight to see. I pushed the limits of 29er stability and got the bike to endo for the first time, breaking a rear wheel spoke in the process. Pierre also endoed and broke his rear brake lever. In place of the brake lever, he zip-tied his finger to the brake cable and completed the ride. I think Pierre can sell that idea to Shimano for their new ultra-lightweight XTRR component line. Both Pierre and I got pretty bruised up. Larry, riding the trail SS and rigid for the first time, walked away with just a scratch on his little finger. Despite the mishaps, it was a great ride with some of the best scenery I've seen anywhere. I'm looking forward to going up there again.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Start 'em early

I took Sagada out for two of the longest rides in her life, so far. Friday evening we did 6 miles on the Mount Vernon bike path. Today we rode along with Trips for Kids (TFC) on their Accotink/Wakefield romp. That was 8 miles on the Accotink cinder trail and the Wakefield creek trail. I wish I had something like TFC when I was growing up. Sagada tells me she had fun on today's ride. We even stopped to watch tadpoles and ducks, and skip stones at Lake Accotink. This is her account:

"The ducks came closer and closer to me because they thought I was a grape. I smelled like a grape. I did the whole Creek Trail but I got tired and went slow, but I just keep on going."

-- Sagada (blogger at 5)