Thursday, 22 October 2009

Alternate Realities: East is West, Thursday is Wednesday, and the Burritos are Delicious

The state of California is known for many things: its musclebound governor; its "epic" burritos; its rich oral tradition of telling stories about said "epic" burritos; its distinction of being the birthplace of Tone Lōc; and, of course, its eponymous bicycle race, the Tour of California. As a cyclist condemned by life and circumstance to a meager existence in New York, I often gaze longingly westward and imagine what life must be like in this mythical land, where the winters are mild, the people phrase statements as questions ("So, I was going for a ride? And I totally flatted? And, like, I didn't have a tube?"), and the burritos run proud and free. For this reason, I was excited to learn that not only is the 2010 Tour of California route about to "drop" like an overstuffed burrito from the heavens, but it was also going to be announced in an innovative Twitter format:

In fact, like tremors before "the big one," by the time I finished reading the article the announcements had already started, and the governor himself had just emitted the first "Tweet:"

Brimming with excitement like a Mission District burrito brims with guacamole, I headed immediately over to Lance Armstrong's Twitter to see if he'd replied to Arnold Schwarzenegger's gently-lobbed question. To my delight, he had!

This was getting tremendously exciting. Thanks to the miracle of Twitter, I really felt like I was a part of the action, and that I was receiving information right along with the athletes. Naturally, I followed the volley over to Levi Leipheimer's Twitter, only to find he'd already passed the ball to George Hincapie:

Here's what Hincapie had to say:

At this point my excitement was starting to wear off, and I was feeling like I was getting the run-around. This must be what it's like to be a UCI drug inspector in the race hotel after a big Tour de France stage. Still, I managed to muster enough enthusiasm to head over to Dennis Hopper's Twitter, where I finally got some details:

Hesitantly, I clicked on the link, where I saw this:

I'm not sure what that has to do with bike racing, but it sure looks like it was some party. I think I even saw the Nonplussed Journalist in there:

Still, while this rapid explosion of Tweeting ultimately led me into a swirly psychedelic cul-de-sac of the mind, I had to admit it was more kinetic than the typical exchanges you'll find on Twitter. Then again, sometimes there are outstanding Tweets. For example, shortly before the Tour of California-themed game of virtual Duck Duck Goose I learned that George Hincapie's clothing company may be attempting to become the new Rapha, and that his clothing company's "G-Coat" had just made an appearance on "Bicycling" magazine's "Gear of the Day:"

Here's "Bicycling's" write-up on the coat:

Now, I write a column for "Bicycling" magazine, and I'm very grateful to them for the opportunity to do so. However, I must say I'm extremely disappointed that they didn't offer me the opportunity to try out the "G-Coat," because other than the facts that it's not windproof, it's not especially warm, and wind and water can fly into the flared sleeves and right up into your "armpit gussets" (I don't wear any garment that doesn't feature either armpit or crotchal gussets), it sounds like Hincapie Sportswear really nailed it. Plus, that stuff's not important anyway, since while you're freezing you can warm your cockles with the knowledge that you're wearing the same jacket as Patrick Dempsey:

("All You Haters Warm My Cockles")

Yes, you should always take your cycling style cues from a person who wears a sleeveless jersey and puts his glasses on under his helmet straps, and you should always choose your warm garments based on the fact that they're worn by people who do most of their riding in the sun-drenched Land of the Epic Burrito. At any rate, after reading about the coat, I wondered if Armstrong had anything to say about it, but all I found was this Tweet:

I'm glad to see he's enjoying the off-season.

Speaking of psychedelia and make-believe, most of us have a desire to alter our reality once in awhile. This can involve taking hallucinogens and having a 2010 Tour of California-esque "happening" in your mind, or it can involve visiting another part of the world, or it can involve simply altering your normal route a little bit. Occasionally, when I feel the need to alter my own reality and I don't have ready access to either LSD or plane fare, I engage in the last. Here, in New York City, where the burritos are paltry and the California transplants can be identified by the fact that they wear canvas sneakers even in winter, there are three bridges that traverse "The Big Skanky" and connect Brooklyn to downtown Manhattan:

While I generally use the same bridge every day , I do so not out of convenience but rather out of fear that if I choose a different one it will lead me not just to a different part of the city but also into a completely different reality--that somehow if I, say, choose the Williamsburg Bridge over the Manhattan Bridge I will enter an alternate plane of existence in which a truck that might have missed me will instead run me over, or a terrorist attack will take place that might otherwise have been foiled, or that I'll fall victim to a food-borne illness from the lox in my paltry New York-style burrito. Maybe I'll even arrive in Manhattan to find that in this alternate reality the American Revolution never took place, and in fact the English never took Manhattan from the Dutch. Consequently, New York is still New Amsterdam, and I'll be taken into custody and placed in the stocks in Times Square for the horrible crime of not riding a Dutch city bike. (Actually, we're not too far from that now.)

Still, it's important to face your fears, so it was with both trepidation and excitement that I set out this morning across the Williamsburg Bridge. It certainly was different. Not only were there people filming their artistic endeavors in front of the artistic endeavors of others:

But also the riders on the Williamsburg Bridge wear little holsters and carry their keys on the outside just like you see on the Internet!

Fortunately, when I arrived in Manhattan, it was not under Dutch rule, and the Dutch city bikes were grappling with scooters for pole space:

This is not to say that I would ever side with a scooter over a bicycle in a parking dispute; it's just that I was relieved to find Dutch bikes had not yet taken over the city entirely. It's bad enough we're also being attacked by "footbikers:"

Certainly a contraption like this is evocative of an alternate reality in which neither the chain drive nor the direct drive was ever invented and the best we managed to do was to refine the "dandy horse."

Speaking of alternate realities, as fantastic as the notion of them may be, it's certainly true that two completely different existences can inhabit the same space. I was recently reading an article in The New Yorker by music critic Sasha Frere-Jones, whom I've mentioned before in the context of the "bullshitification" of language. Frere-Jones is sort of the Ben Franklin of irritating quotes, and this article provided a number of them--in particular, this one, in which he tries to show his "street cred:"

I don't care where Sasha Frere-Jones lives--it's nowhere near where Jay-Z grew up.


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