Friday, July 22, 2011

Bike riding in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Friend or Foe
Who Goes There?
Recently on an idyllic retreat to Fairhope, Alabama a local news story caught my attention. A young man riding his bicycle to work at 6:40 in the morning had his customary commute interrupted by a three hundred pound bear that came out from the woods that the man was pedaling past and slapped him for no apparent reason. Slapped him for no apparent reason, tore off his back tire and lumbered back into the woods (note: bears ‘lumber’; it means to move clumsily). The cyclist’s injury was reported as minor and his quote was “well, I’ve been hit a couple of times by cars but this was the first time that I’ve ever been hit by a bear!”
I wondered aloud that if something happened to me of that magnitude; (excuse me, but getting slapped by three hundred pounds of bad breath brings the word magnitude to mind) that wouldn’t it be prudent of me to rethink my transportation choices. Especially if I had already been hit more than once by automobiles. Girlfriend’s quip in response was: “ya think?”
Since then I have looked up the different run-ins that bicyclists have with wildlife. Bears, deer, dingoes, coyotes, skunks, snakes, moose, squirrel, owls and bats to name a few. Survey shows that once you hoist that leg over that cross bar… you open yourself to a world of weirdness. The Bicycle Zone.
Here in the city we are not without bike nemeses: car doors opening on us, taxis without turn signals doing NASCARs, trucks stopping short in front of us, random idiot pedestrians thinking that they’re indestructible and the lady with the bomb in the baby carriage. We have drunks on bikes, petty thieves and riders that are either discourteous or ignorant of the rules of the road as well. We also have a culture of bicycle stealing here that is unexcelled in other places; I do believe that since their inception bicycles have been nothing short of harbingers of heartbreak, hurt and havoc.
Be that as it may, consider the possibility that animals might be jealous of riders. After all, when Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus gave the animals their attributes and talents they had nothing left to give the poor naked humans but fire… and bicycles. Put fire and bicycles together and what do you get? Civilization. And pizza delivery.
Another consideration is that historians would like us to believe that mayhem mischief and marauding were accomplished by conveyances other than bikes. Nothing could be further from truth; Attila, Alexander, Napoleon, Caesar, Tamerlane and Charlemagne all conquered on two wheels. Bicycle wars are as common as ticks on a hound; how do you think the Crusades were fought? That’s right, it’s a fact; ask anyone.
Bicycles begin their life cycles as paper clips, cute little things, aren’t they? Then in adolescence become wire coat hangers, all gangly and stuff, hanging out before they mature into full fledged bikes. Retarded bikes invariably get training wheels; everyone knows that normal bikes wouldn’t hurt a child who is just learning to ride. Manhattan Island was purchased from the Indians for $24.00 worth of paper clips which led to the great western migration that was only stopped by Bicycle Bill and his Wild West Riders who decimated whole herds for their tires which were made into chewing gum traded to the Indians for cigarettes, popcorn and tickets to the local drive in movie.
Indecently, the settlers at Plymouth Rock traded coat hangers to the Indians for turkey sandwiches and pepper jelly (what do heathens know from coat hangers?); and even as far back as the early 1800’s merchants in California were trading bicycles to the Chinese for sweet tea and fortune cookies. The Mescalero Apache, from their safe havens in Mexico, raided Arizona and New Mexico for bikes that they traded for tequila and tacos. Especially prized was the ‘bicycle built for two’ which anyone can see is a genetic mutation much akin to Siamese twins. You didn’t know that stuff, did you? See the knowledge that you can get from the written word? Here’s some more:
Recently in France cave paintings were found depicting cave people killing wild animals from the backs of (you guessed it) bicycles and then off to the side of the rendering (in axle grease, of course) the first evidence of a bicycle rack with crude locks to keep away thieves. This was confirmed by my archeologist friend Amanda who told me that similar drawings were found in caves in the Black Hills of Dakota.
Now, I’m no creationist but did you happen to read that in some Dead Sea Scrolls the mention of God creating bicycles on that first Friday night was discovered and suppressed? I guess those scientist would have us believe that bicycles evolved from prehistoric wheelbarrows; they must think that I’m stupid or something.
Bikes came to Louisiana as currency 400 years ago by Ponce de Leon who was on his way to Florida to discover the Redneck Riviera. He was actually laughed out of the state because at the time we were using bottle caps and go cups for money. We had not yet set up a foreign exchange, especially for the big money that was in Styrofoam that was being strip mined from what is now Audubon Park. By the way, old Ponce was killed by surfers at Destin when he tried to cash a counterfeit Schwinn.
Nowadays in New Orleans there are rumors of bicycle vampires and werewolves; it came to my attention when I spotted a bike locked up on Dauphine Street with the back tire gone and in its place was some Spanish moss. The poor thing didn’t have a chance, locked up with one of those Kryptonite locks. The vampires will just suck the air from the tires; the bicycle werewolves will tear bikes apart.
Bike thieving here goes back generations also, with folks at family reunions, cook-outs or stoop-sits bragging to the younger generation on how cool it is to steal bikes and then sell them to other suckers and then steal them again. It’s even sanctioned by the church, no one speaks out against it or even questions where little Johnny got his new ride or why you see two guys riding (fast) with three bikes. It’s like “Thou Shall Not Steal (except bicycles)”.
In the meantime, once a month bicycles take over our roadways in an attempt to “Take Back The Streets!!” to which I say: “you can have ’em; just watch out for Fiats, ferrets and felons.

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