Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bled Duquesne

As a bike commuter, forced to follow the same streets day after day; they are not boringly familiar, since changes of season and research into history still present things to see. However, for decades made it a mission to visit new environs on weekend spins. Covered every back lane and road in a 75 mile radius, even drove to other states for loops up to 100 miles. Extraordinary only means you’ve never encountered it. Popularity only means it suits an unsophisticated throng. Recommendations don’t require your response.

Does paying attention buy endorsements, entertainment, or practical facts? Must say no, since that's not always the case. Would be nice if authors and critics could help readers divert a deluge of details, reject worthless drivel, select best and most relevant. No doubt, some try. Generalities just seem like truths, but never survive analysis. Mentors tell you what you want to hear. News anchors read scripts masking motives. Teachers stick to curricula. Writers mostly regurgitate tales deemed repeatable based on brainwashing. Your cell text is increasingly encrypted. Only barrier to B&C is a bit of poetry. In an enormous world where everything is somehow interconnected and everyone has personal agendas, you almost have to find your own way, ignore pundits, rely on own experiences, yet seek unique perspectives that free your mind and serve you in good stead.

Deplore lists that pump titles for payola; discredit selection bias that generates rest. Still feel obliged to point out bicycling books that occupy space and steal time. Life may be too short to explore endless imaginative nonsense stuffed between covers, mummified remnants of what once was vital, or overlong digressions from commonplace knowledge that informs sensible choices. Yet future historians might form entirely wrong impressions of what was happening now based on conservative broadcasts and consistent advertising that throttled the life out of truth so thoroughly practically nobody has any clue how to filter fabrications from facts. Compared to huge monthly bills for cable and connectivity, basic needs now that commerce and governance have placed everything online, where should such an annoyance rate on your grievance meter? Unless masses cherish logic and reason, and voters refuse to be duped by rhetoric, atrocities will ensue, cruelty resume, and mankind confront doom, something no one wants to hear about ever again.

Society steadily steers toward an oligarchy who would oppress everyone they can, not any destination you'd want to reach. In garage attending winter chores and reflecting upon life, sense how unchecked up-flow will eventually resemble monarchies and serfdoms. History shows that kings waged war among themselves and used subjects as pawns and proxies in battles. Next, robber barons subjugated industrial minions with long hours and small wages, and supplanted self professed birthrights. Duquesne Steel Plant, now a closed hulk in Iron City, Pittsburgh, PA, and National Tube works across the river, were once the epicenter of raw material for bicycles and “welfare capitalism” intended to block rise of labor unions. There Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan battled for steel dominance and bled workers of life force by bobbing token benefits as bait. China, having stockpiled untold acre-feet of nation’s ferrous disposables, now produce most of the steel world needs, but at such an environmental cost people can hardly breathe and must buy oxygen peddled on street corners. It’s still exploitation only a century later in a different place under forced servitude. So much for the myth of communism delivering labor rights.

Teddy Roosevelt reviled monopolies and split up these monetary trusts. Roosevelt’s ancestors engaged in opium and slave trade, which positioned them among nation’s wealthiest families. Behind every billionaire lies a wake of broken promises and human ruin. Trump's casinos exploited gamblers and sex addicts. Whoever enthralls sinners invests profitably. Ethics have been slaughtered by politics. The loudest, most confident argument prevails, not the most commendable or decent. Somebody must pay for unearned privileges, usually anonymous, marginalized, middle class wage slaves, who never seem to learn from history that isolation weakens and organization strengthens.

Why can’t majority comprehend that unfair practices are reprehensible? It happens so often - kids disrespecting parents, motorists forcing others off road, public heaping abuse on civil servants, spouses forcing each other to do things they rather not - Republican, self serving, unconstitutional rules escape repeal. How does the elephant in room - GOP villainy - always go unnoticed? Free speech is a beginning, but it's far from freedom from tyranny and want. Answer lies in how distracted 75% of Americans are. If it’s not swilling beer and watching football, it’s being duped, doing chores, fighting desperation, meeting obligations, tweeting pointlessly, or working overtime. What ever happened to equality, fraternity and liberty for all men and women? Bled dry is why. You never have to care, or loyalty swear, simply track elsewhere by armchair book or real backpack.

Don Petterson, Old Man on a Bicycle: A Ride Across America and How to Realize a More Enjoyable Old Age (Outskirts Press, 2014, 236 pp.) visits this foreign service septuagenarian and New Hampshire native as he hits the road to San Francisco and records his impressions.

Jim Malusa, Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of Six Continents (Counterpoint, 2008, 336 pp.): With nothing but sleeping bag and sundry supplies, this author/botanist bicycled solo to the lowest point on every continent but Antarctica, including Caspian Sea, Dead Sea, Death Valley, Djibouti in Horn of Africa, Lake Eyre outback, and Patagonia, and lived to log his observations on local culture and ecology.

Joe Boyd, White Bicycles (Serpent's Tail, 2007, 282 pp.) is both a book on Amazon and podcast from 2007. Title metaphor tells how flower power, exemplified by Amsterdam’s Provo who supplied free white bicycles to everyone and selfless brotherhood, morphed into selfish hedonism fueled by plentiful cocaine, which quickly supplanted marijuana and mind expanding hallucinogens, some say by government officals.

Boyd, remarkable for always being at the right place at right time, was an impresario and record producer for Electra label who got to know all the most notable counterculture acts during 60's and early '70's, including Jimi Hendrix and Tomorrow frontman Steve Howe, who later formed chartbuster group Yes. He notes how band Tomorrow's performance at London's UFO club after a street demonstration concluded club’s reign as an underground icon when news media they were protesting in retaliation denounced club as a drug hangout; this brought police heat and destroyed its outlaw appeal. Boyd complained that rock and roll was sanitized by silencing DJs, who had been delivering revolutionary messages.

Mike Howerton, The Ride of Your Life: What I Learned about God, Love, and Adventure by Teaching My Son to Ride a Bike (Baker Books, 2014, 194 pp.) compares how lessons used to master this particular skill can be applied to every challenge in life, and gives a video synopsis on Youtube. Readers find Howerton’s homilies absolutely credible and stirringly inspirational. Nothing new, am reminded of Baptist Pastor Harold Habecker’s Modern Parable of Bicycling podcast (2008), which was mentioned in B&C at the time. Some see spirituality in every act; some pray a painful ride will soon end, or they’ll make it to wherever they're going.

S. Ehmann, R. Klanten editors, Velo—2nd Gear: Bicycle Culture and Style (Gestalten, 2013, 256 pp.): “I bike, therefore I am.” Coffee table book proposes with photographic evidence that choices flag attitudes - certain bikes peg owners into particular demographic groups - and submits for your consideration coveted and unusual bicycles and those who ride them.

Wheeler’s Disciples, Epic Bike Rides of the World (Lonely Planet, 2016, 320 pp.): Crack team of travel writers describing 200 once-in-a-lifetime spins in far flung corners. Maureen and Tony Wheeler founded Lonely Planet when they composed a travelog following an impecunious drive from London, England to Sydney, Australia. It became an empire with broadcast series Lonely Planet and excellence award winning spinoff Globe Trekker entering its 19th season.

Dylan Thomas, Me and My Bike (McGraw-Hill, 1965, 53 pp.), illustrated by Leonora Box, is the famous poet’s unfinished screenplay. His stanza, “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” has been cited wrongly and misinterpreted for decades. It’s about his dying father, who’s going blind. Such is the nature of words floating dissociated from context, taken to mean whatever by whoever stumbles across them. Freedom Medal recipient and Nobel Laureate songwriter Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman) adopted his name in homage to their mutual conflict with those to whom they spoke; occurred around 1959 when Bob gave up interest in rock-n-roll for more serious folk music. Both were originals not easily accepted by mainstream Americans.

The web features all sorts of poetry devoted to bicycling’s joys and sorrows.