This week I saw colleagues in the media who organized and joined a union, under threat that the business would close if they did, threats that were made true a week later. And in the background of this, are the unions of the state of NY unanimously fighting to defeat the mandatory constitutional convention referendum, or proposition 1 on the ballot this November 7. Our constitution which expressly gives the right to collective bargaining, but does not mandate employers negotiate with our unions, it gives public employees the right to a prevailing wage but is mute on prevailing wages for other employees. It gives the public pension system the weight of an inviolable contract, but gives far less protection to the other workers of our state. And to my distress, unions, including my own, have looked at a convention, as only something that should not happen. They have decided that our only hope is to cling to what was gained in the 1937 convention in the new deal era, and have not been ambitious for the social justice goals of a new generation. Meanwhile there’s nothing in our NY constitution that requires a private employer to recognize a union, penalizes them for closing rather than deal with one, and only the Taylor law compels NY state to negotiate with public employee unions.
I have two grandfathers who were prominentlabor organizers and academics. (they were both married to my grandmother at different times, she was also involved in the labor movement, as was my grandfather’s second wife Pat.) They became labor organizers in furtherance of social justice, because they were socialists as well. They did not know for sure what the end result of this work would be, in some cases they failed. But they and the labor movement in it’s infancy, saw working people in their numbers, and tried to unite them as a weapon aimed at massive corporate power. They did not know it would work, but they saw the huge unmet need, they saw poverty, they saw exploitation, they were thinking of humanity as a whole and trade unionism as a means to an end.
I cannot claim any of that work as my own, I have only in recent years worked at a job which was union eligible and part of my excitement on taking the job is I would finally have job protections not afforded to most people in my industry. Protections which I had lived without for so long and also could become a helper in the union so we could keep those and make our workplace better. I immediately went to meetings and became a steward and eventually supported a candidate running against the incumbent president. Our union has discovered gender and racial pay inequity, made our findings public and I saw a new ambition to fix this in a candidate who was a woman of color.
I grew up in activism in an era of identity politics, and I participated from a young age in work to safeguard reproductive rights against constant assault. We are in an era where these issues are in a new crisis. The movement for black lives, queer equality, trans equality, the rights of the undocumented, women’s equality and reproductive rights could see gains in NY if we held a convention. Our legislature and governor have not kept pace with what is needed, and have not done anything in the year since Trump was elected to shore up the protections in abortion rights, trans rights, voting rights, immigrant rights, that are being assaulted by our federal government right now. We’ve made no changes to address the deaths of Eric Garner and Akai Gurley.
The center left and progressives have a huge registration advantage in NY state, membership in labor unions is higher here than anywhere else in the country. We voted for Clinton by 60%. Those advocating a no vote on this convention, are looking at that strength, our support for labor and progressive values, and calling it weakness. They are looking at a process that is more populist than our status quo state political environment and they are calling it undemocratic. They call out the fact that our state senate districts are gerrymandered and choose to continue to return to power those who would perpetuate it, and block the only process with a chance of ending it. By rejecting a convention they are choosing to live by the political process most affected by gerrymandering, the normal legislative process, one which will not lead to a less gerrymandered future.
A convention is less sensitive to gerrymandering, it dilutes the effect of it in three ways. The first way is that there are 15 at large delegates, which are elected by a statewide popular vote, these are not subject to districting at all. The second is that there are three delegates per state senate district. Even with these districts engineered as they are have produced 32 to 31 democratic majority to the Senate, it is not a ruling majority because 8 Democrats have accepted lulus and special favors for their districts in exchange for not supporting the Democratic leader. A few of these districts drawn for the relection of GOP incumbents have also voted for Clinton in the presidential election, some of them have democratic assembly members. Eight total voted to return their republican senator and also Hillary Clinton for president. Once three non-incumbents are running for delegate in these purple districts, they are going to shake out a few extra dems. The last way that populism rules the results of a convention is that all the amendments are presented to voters for an up or down vote. The popular will, a direct democratic process is what determines the final outcome of a convention.
It’s deeply sad to me that my own top level union, and organized labor in general are taking the view that protections we passed in historical conventions are enough. That we have no responsibility to the New Yorkers not enfranchised in this document, especially workers outside unions who have no right to healthcare or paid sick time. They have looked at the state with the highest concentration of union members in the nation, which is in no danger of a right wing takeover, and raised the spectre of one on a flimsy premise. They have looked at one of the best moments to seize the both the resistance zeitgeist and a natural demographic advantage to make progressive change NY and called it dangerous. My friend Tony and I wrote an editorial on just how strong we will be in a convention.
I’m am fighting for passage of this referendum because I am not satisfied with the way NY state politics play out. The corruption, the 98% incumbency re-election rate, has all gotten worse in the 20 years since New Yorkers last rejected this vote. I’ve come to embrace term limits as the chemotherapy needed for a cancerous system. Today’s progressives can use this tool to bring our constitution and NY into the 21st century by voting yes on the referendum on Nov 7th. We can insure equality for women and trans people, we can allow early voting and same day registration, which our constitution currently prohibits. We can improve labor standards by including a right to paid sick leave for all full time workers, and cost of living increases to our state minimum wage. We can update and codify reproductive rights, we can mandate ethics reform, fully non partisan redistricting, we can create a full time legislature with no outside income. We can insure cases where people are killed in police custody are given state jurisdiction, we can reform cash bail and streamline our courts, we can legalize recreational marijuana. We can even, like bold progressives of the past, create an even greater safety net in our state by including a right to healthcare. We can make our state a place where many of Trumps harmful policies stop at our borders. Our state can be a progressive sanctuary if we remake the constitution to reflect who we are.
This is my mom feeding ducks on a vacation she took. It’s a nice way to think of her. One of her immutable qualities was instinctual and widespread generosity. Another was her love of animals. Anyway today is one of the days I miss my mom. I have never belonged to anyone like I belonged to my mom, and no one has ever belonged to me either other than her. And I will always miss her, yet I’m also OK by now with her not being there. Happy Mothers day everyone.
Hey I did another mini review at People.com, this one is a book that my mother and I used to read aloud to each other during the holidays. I miss her so much. It’s actually a great book for kids, and I’m rereading it this Christmas and thinking of my mom.
Citibike has settled in at it’s current level, until they roll out another stage it’s a good time to assess how it’s all working. In the neighborhoods it serves, it’s now part of the infrastructure, and as good as it’s going to be until they expand. I’m an enthusiastic booster still, but it’s become like another part of our transportation system, when it’s not there when I want it, I get annoyed. I went from not having this service at all a few months ago, to now feeling entitled to it meeting my transportation needs when I plan for it. And yes I know that’s ridiculous, but it’s NYC and that’s about the speed of things. This is a round about way of saying despite using it several times this week and last, I’ve noticed some shortcomings lately related to it finally getting full saturation of members. Today was the first day I really could not get a bike for a leg of trip I wanted to make and had to take the train. However another time I used it it was especially joyous, like when I went to it’s northern and easternmost station (59th & Sutton Pl) on Thursday morning and saw this view. I found a bike at the start, and a dock at the finish with no hassle at a prime morning commuting time, from 9:15-10:00 AM. It was a sweet ride.
However my ending station, on 51st and 6, did not have bikes after 5PM that day, or the next day, so leaving work via Citibike became a problem. I’ve no idea when a redistribution unit brings more bikes or if they come back through natural use in the morning, but between 5 and 6 getting a bike is probably not likely for me from right behind the office. The station empties out and and it probably stays empty until the next day at whatever time riders start to bring back bikes. I’m going to check in with the map this weekend sporadically to see if the dock there fills up and when.
In some ways the empty stations are a great thing, the program is clearly a success, people want it and are using it. The bad thing is I’ve had to go to three stations two days in a row in the hour between 5 and 6 and one of those two times failed to get a bike. This is a problem that is not easy to solve. Theoretically they can put more stations out, but this takes parking space and there’s only so much of that space they can get, or would be fair for them to get. The program may have maxed out on riders it can support in certain areas at the prime times. Citibike has been talking about rebalancing—>here and in other posts. There’s only so much redistributing bikes it makes sense for them to do, and they focus those efforts on hubs like Penn Station and Grand Central. I personally notice that Union Square and Broadway on a Sunday morning at 8:30 is as empty as on a Monday morning at 8:30 but a block away at University there are usually bikes. But in midtown, I don’t see this problem getting better unless they get some stations in spots like garages and off the street in other pedestrian plazas and such, they probably have taken over all the curbside space they are going to get. If you need a bike at a prime time, you might have to skip it and take the train.
Broadway has a large concentration of stations along it’s length in midtown and that’s facilitated by the fact that a lot of broadway above 34th already has lanes blocked off for pedestrian plazas and such. This gives a lot of room to put Citibike stations, and they have put in the largest ones there. When I’ve not been able to get a bike I go to Broadway, unfortunately even those stations were empty at these times around 50th st and just below today. Yesterday I got one of two bikes there. It’s just not going to be a guarantee anymore that I can take a bike from my office at a typical evening rush hour time. Luckily most of the time I do not work regular hours so hopefully that will work in my favor in terms of getting bikes as I need them.
Another issue is that in the app a station indicating very few bikes, might actually have no bikes. Very often you get there and the station has one or two out of service bikes, or a couple of broken docks that won’t release bikes but seem to be trying. The docks may make noise like they are trying to turn some mechanical gear, but the bikes don’t come out. The app, and I assume the system administration as a whole, has no way of knowing bikes or docks aren’t working, or perhaps they do but the app is not smart enough to capture this info and display it. This is the station at Broadway and 49th St. One of these bikes is out of service, because the red light is on on the dock, and the other is in a dock that won’t release the bike.
Clearly that dock eventually worked because in the wee hours of the morning, I looked on the Citibike website and saw that there is only one bike available at that station, which I assume is the broken bike. I assume that because I’ve now been to a station in Soho a couple days in a row with the same four broken bikes sitting there. I don’t know how long they leave them but it’s become an issue, most stations have bikes locked in a dock under a red light because they are out of service. On that same station map, shows the docks by my office holding one bike also, it’s probably the same broken one that I saw there at 5:45 today, possibly it will be there all weekend. I’ll check for it on Monday and see when it gets turned around.
I also had an experience where I took a bike for lunch in Soho and had to go to three stations in that area before I could find a place to park it. I had to walk quite a few blocks back to where I was working, making the whole thing a risky lunch hour jaunt, because I walked in 15 minutes late. I only found a dock because there was a redistributing truck at the station on Canal and 6th avenue and he moved a bike for me to be able to return the one I was using.
So as I said, today I took the subway after finding no bikes to do an errand in Chelsea from Rockefeller Center. I purchased the whole pomegranates I needed to make grenadine for future cocktail posts. Feeling dejected about walking to a few stations and then having to train it instead of ride, I was pleased to see the station on 22nd and 8th had plenty of bikes for my short jag to the L train home. Here’s a picture of what users have come up with as a way of signifying from a distance the bikes that are out of service. They often lower the seat all the way and turn them around backwards. Because you do feel like a chump getting through adjusting the bike and realizing there’s a red light on the dock and that bike is out of service.
I like when a new etiquette is formed. However some people are only doing half of this gesture. Some are just lowering the seat all the way and that’s it, when I think the crucial thing is turning the seat around at whatever height the post is at. As a lazy person who actually rides on the lowest seat position because I’m also very short, at a full dock I look for a bike I won’t have to adjust first, and often I go up to a bike which is just my height to find it’s actually out of service. So to my fellow riders, flip seats all the way backwards on out of service bikes to help even short people know not to try to use them. Obviously this is not a rule, it’s a new courtesy we are all learning to get used to.
Here I am in my backup helmet after finally finding a Citibike today. A little annoyed and tired, but still rolling along.
These cuff links are deadstock from my family’s jewelry store. They were sitting there for excess of 25 years, and have been in a box for at least 10. I definitely remember strong disinterest in these when I was a child in the 70’s if that gives a clue as to their age. They are probably made in Europe as their only marking is the “925” stamp, which is primarily used in Europe as US jewelers tend to use “sterling” always, at least at that time.
These are very heavy castings with really hefty cufflink findings on the back which will hold a shirt of any thickness, even deep polyester double-knit. They measure 7/8” on the long side, and just over 3/4” on the short side. The thickness of the front design is 1/8”. The design was probably made with an old style wax gun.
Many of my friends said these were Brutalist, Modernist, even architectural. They said that if they went to a party and said they were $750 David Yurman smoked glass and stainless steel, every gay guy would be trolling the internet looking to buy them. They said Eldritch, or Alistair Crowley, if they told folks they were Prada they would want them. They have said “They are perfectly fine, they just need the right shirt.” They have been described as a la Paul Evans, Todd Merrill Antiques, something one would see on the 1stdibs.com site. I noticed 1stdibs is selling cuff links designed by Georg Jensen and point out that the designer of these jewels is Hans Nobody.
I’ve also heard my friends and even a date say “I would totally wear these to a snooty ex bf’s party, to my uncle’s Bauhaus art opening”, and I explained “totally wear” as in you would ironically wear them, is different from “pay good money for” which is what one is hoping for when offering jewelry for sale.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, this was said to me by another friend. This is true, and it’s plausible. The fact that folks had 30+ years to fall in love with these yet did not, does not preclude this possibly happening at a future time. Given additional decades this sort of wax drippery design may come back. You can be cutting edge, decades ahead rather than behind if you choose to pay to own these buggers.
If you do not love them, they will likely be scrapped with other sad jewelry designs from my family’s store once Glenn Beck freaks out enough right wingers to drive up precious metal prices again.
Update 8/14/13, I have some questions and I did add a description from a friend to the listing, which I hope to keep doing as I get more of them.
A couple more things I want to mention before I’m done talking about Citibike for now. One is that if you want to check how long your trips are, at least how long they are billed for, you can go to the web page, not the phone app, and log into your accounts and see that info under the trips window. A couple of these with zeros in front lead me to imagine it’s when I couldn’t get a bike. They clearly haven’t worked on the milage aspect of it yet, because it’s all zeros. Anyway it’s a good way to confirm you haven’t gone over time or find out when you have. I’ve noticed quite a few of my trips take just a hair over 30 minutes. I am not being careful or anything, but I think this is interesting, possibly pushing people toward memberships.
Another thing is that they really have not responded to customer service issues very well via twitter. The website and twitter feed is very sunny without any helpful information, but I glean from the very few responses on twitter that phone calls are what they had been prepared to deal with, until their phones went down. The blog has stats for usage, without any info on outages, problem stations, things that the MTA might have for subway outages. All my tweets reporting station problems have never received a single “we’re working on it” type auto response tweet.
@citibikenyc and not only is the 51st and 6th station full because it won’t release bikes. I can’t get the last remaining dock to work
I’ve sent numerous tweets now about the station at 51st street and 6th ave, having problems I’ve not seen at the handful of other stations I’ve been at. Times of the day it just goes down, no one can get a bike out, the docks fill up and you can’t leave a bike. Even when it’s working it takes 30 seconds for the green light to come on so you can get the bike out. Yesterday in a new twist bikes were sitting there with green lights on but locked and couldn’t be removed. Then I finally sent an email, I received no response but tonight was the first night that I left work to do an errand at 6pm, and nearly all the bikes were gone. It was actually a great sight to see. Also the bike I chose released fairly quickly, so I hope even though they never said a thing the station is fixed, at least for now. Really that’s not such a long wait. We are just over a week into the program.
I do love it, I can’t wait for it to expand in Brooklyn. One thing which is interesting is people are still asking me a lot of questions about it, not just in the station. Other users when you run into them, you might to talk to each other. It’s like when something bizarre happens on the subway, everyone all of a sudden has permission to speak to one another. I know this will go away, but it’s fun for now.
It was more interesting in the first couple days though, now mostly it’s the same questions, and they often are asked right after I’ve taken the bike out and am on the clock. Its really interesting how many tourists and casual users cannot get the idea that the rides are timed. That it’s 30 minutes at a time for a daily price of $10, a weekly price of $25, annual price of $95 (plus tax) and that membership gives you 45 minutes each ride plus the convenient key. Every casual street questioner thinks you get the bike all day. The reason the system works is because it’s timed, if they gave them to you all day, you would need a lock, and the bikes would be stolen. I can’t even believe they have kickstands. The whole purpose of all the stations is to take a bike and leave a bike on every leg of whatever trip or errand you are doing etc. The ubiquity of the docks allows for that in Manhattan at least. It’s very hard to give people a satisfying short answer to explain this, yet I do want to be a cheerful ambassador.
Someone who talked to me for a while from the seat of his own bike asked me more knowledgable questions but also was possibly chatting me up I’m not sure. He did say the bike stores are worried. I hope this ends up being good for them and not bad. At any rate I used my coupon and bought a new helmet at a Manhattan shop, which is actually going to be my helmet to keep home and use with my own bike mostly and I’m wearing it in this pic. And I used the spare pads to rehab the old one a bit to leave at work mostly. I brought my own bike into my local shop for a new rack this week. I hope the program creates more riders who wish to own their own bikes, but it’s probably more likely to enfranchise riders who don’t want to, or really can’t own bikes. Tight apartments preventing one from keeping a bike inside, justified fear of leaving one outside, and four floor walkups are all real barriers to owning a bike. I fully hope that a greater fleet of bikes on the street will cause more people to look out for us, that’s the theory anyway. But it is New York.
I’m just going to give a preliminary review of the new bike sharing program we just christened here in NYC, Citibike, which launched today. This is a cross eyed picture of me returning my first ever bike.
My first impression of the bike is it’s extremely well suited to it’s purpose. The bikes if they stay in this condition, are well thought out and great rides for short hops. They are easy to adjust, 3 speed bikes in which all the speeds are fairly easy. I was often on the highest gear which gave me good speed for city traffic yet you can’t get too fast on. Lever hand brakes were good, grips are big and cushioned, all cables are covered under plastic shells to keep them from sabotage. The front ‘basket’ with bungees held my purse really well. The bike is heavy at 45 pounds. This is not really the drawback it may seem. The somewhat heavy bike is balanced pretty well, though heavy in the front, and very stable on the road when you are seated, so it’s good for riders of a wide range of skill levels. The main drawback of a bike that weighs a lot is getting it up and down stairs, into the subway and adding the weight of your heavy lock to your overall load. That’s not a factor with a bike that docks at street level that you never have to get into your home or on the train. They do not want people to fly down the street at crazy speeds on these, but you can really go as fast as you need to in the stop and go NYC traffic. Standing up on pedals makes it less easy to control than a lighter bike in the same scenario, but still impressively smooth and fun to ride. The lights are automatic and pedal powered which is interesting, but I didn’t get the impression they were very bright.
My first experience was trying to use the station behind my office in the Time-Life building on 51st street. The phone app said all the stations in NYC are inactive, which was confusing. I tried to get a bike out and could not at lunchtime. I put my key into two bike docks, I kept seeing the yellow light and hearing a beep, but never the green indicator that the bike could be taken out. This actually does take a few seconds it turns out and the sun was very bright, so perhaps I just wasn’t seeing the light, though I pulled on the bike it didn’t come out. I went back to my office and read more about it, heard that people were using the bikes, and saw a short video which emphasized lifting the seat when removing the bike. I don’t actually know if the kiosk was having a problem or it was just me because when I tried in the evening I had no problem getting the bike out.
I was worried about being too short for a comfortable ride, I am 5’ and used the #1 setting, and it was fine, and you can go lower than that to put the seat flush with the top tube even. I looked at the phone app for a station near Astor Wines and set the timer on the app, even though I was confident it would not get close the 45 minute ride limit. I got to Astor Wines and it was closed so I checked the timer and saw it had taken 22 minutes to get there from Rockefeller Center and swung up to Union Square to return the bike and get the train home.
When I got to Union Square, the station on University was full. But one block over on Broadway it was nearly empty and I returned the bike. One of the things I think is confusing is knowing that the bike is properly locked on return. Everything I read said there was supposed to be a green light on return too, but that’s not the case. The help portion of the app mentions this green light, but on the Citibike blog post for today, it just said “Redock the bike firmly to ensure it is secure and that your trip is closed.” You just stick it in until it locks and try to pull it back out to test it, if it stays you are good. After eating dinner, I realized the L train wasn’t running, I went to get second bike at a completely different station there was a red light showing when I put my key in. I was never able to get this particular bike out but the rack had plenty of others. I’m really curious if it was flagged for repair. I had a theory that if I bike is returned recently you can’t get it back out again for a few minutes but that’s probably wrong.
People asked me questions about the bike as I rode it and the main complaint and fear folks seem to have is that the ride times seem really short to them. They feel they would never get the bike back in the rack in time. I was not worried about this because as an experienced NYC cyclist I know that most trips in town take 15-20 minutes. Most longer distance trips are still 30-45 minutes. People have got to adjust their minds to a different idea of a bike loan, this is not a bike to have all day, if you need one of those you probably have one. If you are a tourist and want that you need a bike shop rental and a good lock. Most rides you want to take are going to easily fit in the 45 minute time window for annual members, especially once all the stations roll out in Brooklyn and north of 59th street. You can easily return and pick up another bike, also realize overage to 60 minutes is only $2.50 for members for those rare occasions. I think the biggest hurdle for people to get over is realizing how ample that time period is for trips these bikes are intended for. People considering the program who are not experienced city cyclists may genuinely overestimate how long it really takes to get places on a bike. This is something that the city should emphasize in later communications about the program. Show people taking some test rides and publish likely ride times.
The worst part of the program so far is the app, which is a shame because it’s a crucial piece. It really needs tweaks because it’s an essential tool for using the program. A temporary problem is that it lists all the kiosks as inactive at this point. Which is confusing, and made me think none of them were allowing bikes to be used. But it really means that the kiosks that allow day rentals are not on yet, as soon as next week rolls around, I assume just the kiosks that are actually not working will show as inactive. If you are an annual member you don’t really need a kiosk, the key is all you need unless you return a bike right as your time is up and the station is full and you need to ask for extra time to find another place to return it. At any rate, the app shows how many bikes the stations have but don’t indicate things like “full” and I did arrive at a full kiosk. The app also has a timer which is less than wonderful. First of all you need to get used to that it doesn’t work like the iPhone timer which counts down to zero time left and then plays whatever alarm you choose. The Citibike app counts up to the time limit. This is a good idea actually because it lets you be able to learn how long your regular trips are going to take, the time is actually saved when you stop it until you reset it. The real bad thing is the timer goes off and barely makes a sound. It’s like a Twitter alert. It’s not like an iPhone timer which goes off until you turn it off and vibrates as well. This alert really can’t be heard in your bag, or in traffic, though the next time you check your phone there’s a ‘helpful” visual alert that your time is up.
I recommend using your phone’s timer until they make a more noisy alert, perhaps in addition to the timer in the app. The reason I suggest using both at once is that the app timer keeps running when your time is up. Then if you do go over your time, you will know how long your total ride took, and how much overtime you are going to get charged. (For members it’s only $2.50 if your ride goes up to an hour) It also can help you figure out how much you need change your route or habits to shave off time if you do a ride often that is at the edge of the limit. Anyway, most of the problems with the app are not features, they are glitches. The timer is my only beef with a feature.
The worst error is that I got home and now the map won’t show me any stations at all, (though in Greenpoint I’m not near one until the second stage rollout.) I had this happen on the website once as well and it’s really frustrating. Clicking on the one station I put into favorites takes me to the middle of some body of water, or whatever an entirely filled screen of blue symbolizes. This is the useful regular function of the app being broken, I actually wanted to take captures of the station distances and number of bikes but now my app just shows that there’s nothing out there at all. I can’t figure out how to fix it, if it doesn’t reset itself tomorrow I will delete and re-install. You really need the app to plan what station you are dropping the bike when you pick it up and think about your route to your destination. It’s really necessary because many convenient stations are not in immediate eyeshot. So I hope the bugs can be ironed out because it’s really your lifeline when using the bikes.
On the left you see the misleading “inactive” and on the right the blue screen of nowhere.
One other little snag. The package with my annual membership key includes a coupon for $10 off a new helmet purchased at a NYC bike shop. I went to my local bike store, which was listed as participating in the program in the resources section of the website and it was news to them they were participating in the helmet discount program. But they were game to accept a coupon, however, they had none of the three helmet brands the coupon was good for. I realized later looking at that resources tab that they just list all the bike shops they can find, no one has been warned in advance about the coupons or carrying the helmets. The coupon is only good at a NYC shop so I don’t think online works. There is also a coupon to give a guest a free 24 hour ride pass in there, it’s done with a code so I just took a picture of the coupon that way I don’t need to keep track of the tiny slip of paper. That’s a great way of reaching more people I think, having someone try the bikes with a member.
I’m very excited about Citibike and it really solves a problem for me. I love being able to take a one way trip and not be stuck with my bike all day, mostly I make the decision not to ride at all in those circumstances. There are nights I work late and could never consider riding to work as I take a car service home. There are plenty of mornings I can barely get out of the house on foot but would love to ride on my lunch hour or bike home after work. This post should certainly read as an endorsement of the program. My overall emotion when using it today was that of a childish thrill, a feeling of empowerment, that I had options to joyfully go to more far flung places and to see more people and do more errands because I had the flexibility of a bike I didn’t have to look after and could just leave. I plan a lunch run tomorrow. I seriously love new things and this is like a present. Enjoy.
This is Hassan who is from Bangladesh but he’s been here over 15 years and driving a cab for over 10, he was a student when he left his home country. I took a photo of his license but it’s not readable because of glare or I might try to contact him again.
I’ve got to start taking more pictures of drivers when I’m in taxis. Unlike that HBO show, Taxicab Confessions or whatever it was, cabbies usually talk to me. But also I ask, because often they have had really interesting lives in the country they are from. Sometimes they are professionals, have advanced degrees and come to work here in a cab and it’s still worth it. I remember a guy from India who was a mining engineer when he was there, I was totally shocked he could not find any work in that field in the US but his degrees never translated and he made four times the salary he had made driving a cab. I’ve had some of these conversations get very intensely personal. To the extent that a middle eastern cabbie once ended up telling me a lot about his sexual history. I wish there was such a thing as a cell phone back in those days, because I don’t remember his home country and I certainly didn’t have a camera or notepad to record any of it, he parked the cab in front of my apt with the meter off and spoke for at least 45 minutes mostly intimate details of his sex life, though he had started by saying some slightly homophobic things, he eventually confessed to me having sex with people of both genders, especially in his home country he had sex with men. He was also totally hitting on me and said I was the nicest person he had ever met in his cab.
I’ve also had cabbies freely confess their racial and ethnic prejudices to me. One particularly unforgettable moment was a female cab driver in the 80’s who had a blonde gun moll look to her. We started talking and I’ve blanked out on most of the conversation to this point, because she asked me eventually if I was Jewish. I normally answer the question no, not only because I’m not a believer, but officially in the jewish religion only my dad is Jewish, so that means that I am not. The fact that I answered “no” meant that she was free to tell me this story about a passenger she didn’t like who she referred to derogatorily as a “jew boy” the entire time. I really was too stunned to get into an argument with her, and also I felt a bit curious to hear her anti-semitism so open and flip that I didn’t stop her. I guess I feel free to keep my principles to myself in a cab, and not argue, just let them keep talking because it’s a window into a world I don’t usually get to see. I get to judge them privately, and then the transaction is over and they drive away.
Since I’ve been taking cabs my entire life, being from the West Village, (or just Greenwich Village as it was called in the 70’s when I was a kid) they were a necessary form of transport aside from the bus and walking the short distances between school and my moms job and our apartment, or my grandmothers store. I miss the days when really our entire lives played out in this small area, and cabs were a huge part of getting around in that little place, which has tons of subway stops that mostly serve to get you out of the neighborhood. Anyway cabbies change over the years, and I’ve enjoyed each new generation of them, usually it’s an immigration wave from a particular group of countries, you wake up and all the cabbies are Iranian, then they are gone. Lately it’s western African nations and frequently Bangladesh, like Hassan. Who was listening to the Nets, and also telling me how corrupt things are in Bangladesh. A good conversation.
So first I saw this, no really click through and watch the video of women with degrees and important careers openly mourning two boys who premeditatedly raped their classmate because she broke up with their friend:
And I was all:
Then I saw Fox had not censored the name of the victim and I was all:
It could have been merely a sloppy accident, but really it’s the kind of mess you get when you seriously don’t care about how the victim is run through your particular sausage maker. Because your organization is not thinking of how to sensitively treat a story like this in the first place. There is no manual, no set of best practices when you do not care about the outcome for the victim of the crime. If crimes are just salacious grist for the mill of your 24 hour news cycle, you don’t have any second thought that your neglect of the basic shielding, will make the life of a 16 year old crime victim, quite a bit more miserable. She’s already getting death threats and other teens from her school calling her a whore on Twitter. No I won’t link to any of that because I’d need more angry self portraits to put after.
These words are those I would like to be able to use more often in the next year. I have to come up with appropriate conversations to work them into.
Tools of ignorance
Mellifluous—I’m waffling on this one, not sure it’s worth the work.
Some of these like “corpulent” I use at every opportunity. Others I’m going to have to create circumstances that allow me to use them. I love the term “ball peen” and I wish more things besides hammers could be it. I want there to be ball peen shoes, and ball peen cameras, and just other ball peen instruments. My mother was a jeweler and owned several ball peen hammers, but I saved a different hammer of hers, more of a mallet that I keep at home from her jewelry tools. Anyway I don’t use the phrase “Tools of Ignorance” other than to tell people what it means a couple times a baseball season, and I want to make more drinks with some quinquinas.
Anyway, this is my block, and this tree is deciduous