Friday, June 30, 2006

The One and Only Chinese Rickshaw in Portland

Yes, you saw it here folks, on Ridemyhandlebars. Tell your friends. Here are Rick and Kari sitting in an actual Chinese rickshaw right here in our city. (Note the Ocean of Parked Bicycles behind them around the fair periphery.) See the close-up of the manufacturer, Wangfu. See the actual Chinese license plate! Rick and Kari said that when they first bought it (from someone here in Portland who did not know its immigration history), it was a bear to drive – not manufactured with the conservation of the poor rickshaw operator in mind. They had major alterations made in the chain drive to make it rideable without pain.

I still have several more pictures of this astounding bicycle carnival, which I will continue to bring you over the next few days.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bicycle Nuptials

I arrived at the tail end of the ceremonies, just in time to witness Skyler be married to his bicycle Christopher. Skyler was the last wedding to take place because he was busy all day being the minister. Here he is shown being married by this stand-in minister (whose name I didn’t get, sorry) who had only just stepped into the role momentarily so that Skyler could get married too.

As for me, I wouldn’t marry my bicycle, but only because I’m already taken, by a perfectly good human being. I can well understand why people would marry their bicycles, though. A good bike can prove far more reliable than many human beings you can find out there.

Another reason I’d seriously hesitate to marry my bike, even if I were single, is that with a bicycle the monogamy thing would be a real challenge. There are many bikes I desire, while there is only one person. I am constantly drooling over other bikes I see, and wondering if I shouldn’t move into something better than what I have. If I had the space, I’d own a whole fleet of bikes. A harem, you might say.

But as far as people go, I can’t imagine that my current situation could be improved upon. Lindi is better than a whole fleet of the best bicycles.

Bikes in the Press

I interrupt my coverage of the Pedal Palooza bike fair to thank the reader who has posted comments pointing out some of the excellent articles that have been appearing in the press recently about biking in Portland. As soon as I can figure out how to do it, I intend to provide links to those articles from my blog. Thank you, reader, for your wonderful contribution to the quality of my blog.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

We Will Draw You With Your Bicycle!

This morning’s time slot has shrunk to a mere crumb, so I’m going to have to cover the Marry Your Bike ceremonies tomorrow. For now I’ll just share with you this photo of Robin, who had married her bike earlier in the day, long before I arrived. She is holding up her wedding photo.
She is also holding up the portrait she had done at the Bike Portrait booth. It says "Robin and Ninja: 4 years together."

As you can see, there was a long line to get your portrait done. The woman in white is showing her seriously scraped knee to a friend. I wonder if her white dress was a wedding dress. I should have asked her.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More Carnage

Girl-jouster issues bloodcurdling battle cry upon seeing enemy combatant, then steadies herself for the charge.

The events I’ve been picturing took place at the Pedal Palooza Bike Fair, the final event of a two week festival that sprouted in various forms all over the city. I regret to inform you that I failed to attend the Nude Bike Ride on the Saturday-before-last at midnight. I could just scream, I’m so mad I missed that. Though I am completely bereft of any desire to ride in the nude myself, I would have wanted to be there for you -- my readers -- to bring you the event as well as I could through my words and my camera. Next year.

However, if you stay tuned, I’ll bring you more on the fair – tune in soon for the photos from the Marry Your Bike booth, and more.

Monday, June 26, 2006

This ain’t no half-baked potato-roll

Despite the appearance of total mayhem at the event, officials in every capacity directed, refereed, announced and recorded every move.

Here, a woman with a stopwatch and a clipboard officiates while a new jouster readies for take-off. The brave referee, probably the participant most at-risk for injury, kept his place in the thick of the action at all times.

Triptych:Knight on Bald Asphalt

Here are some of yesterday’s promised photos.

See the squires preparing the jouster for combat.

See the squires launch the jouster into battle.

See the two jousters make contact with their lances. This last picture was taken a split second before the victory of Mr. Redcap there. The aftermath was much too gorey to depict here. You’ll have to use your imagination.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Knights of Neigh

“Riders, please report to your end of the field with your steed and your squires!” bellowed the ….. the bellower.

And at each end of the field a clump of activity would form around a taller focal point at the clump’s center. After assisting with the donning of armor or costume components, the squires would grip in place a tall-tall bike while its rider climbed on. In the final act of preparation they would hand up a twelve foot lance, and when the rider had this mammoth spear balanced into position, they would wait for the gunshot and launch the bike in the appropriate direction with battle cries and a group shove.

With a raucous live band blaring from one end of the lot, and a raggedy, bloodthirsty, crowd pressing in around the edges, separated from the carnage by a pitiful strand of yellow tape, the knights charged each other, head on.

The goal, unchanged since the early part of the millennium: Smack the opposing rider off their horse with a really long pole. I noted only one concession toward a more humane approach to impaling another human being: today’s lances are tipped with a large boxing glove.

It’s called Tall-Bike Jousting, and though clearly it’s been going on long enough for this kind of participation to develop, this was the first I’d heard of it. I have more to tell you. And yes, I have lurid photographs for you of course, which I will have to insert later on because I have to run off now. Check back with me.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Fourth Horse from the Sun

Here it is – with a mane like a bad wig.

Notice anything about this horse that’s different from the previous one? And the one before that? It’s bigger. Yes, I think the horses are getting bigger. I think the horse installers are plotting to gradually keep replacing them with bigger and bigger ones. Pretty soon there will be rocking horses so that passersby can stop for a brief rock. Maybe then they’ll start installing those grocery store coin-operated bumpety-horses. That alone would be heaven. Do you know how many times I begged my mother to let me ride the bumpety-horse at the grocery store? Begged. And do you know how many times I actually got to ride the horse? Let’s just say I have more than enough fingers to count them. I’m not holding a grudge or anything. Bitterness doth not dwell in my heart. However, the result is an adult whose idea of good urban planning would include adult-sized coin-operated bumpety-horses on every street corner.

That just may be what they’re working up to with these plastic horse installations, given that their size is increasing. After that, actual real horses will start showing up, gradually, here and there, attached to the horse rings, until people will grow so accustomed to seeing horses milling around that eventually they will begin to feel like it would be the most natural thing in the world to go out and purchase a live horse of their own and start using it for transportation. We all know darn well that deep inside people are lemmings – all they really want is to be like everyone else.

And of course this whole subversive but noble plan is being timed precisely to coincide with the constant and dramatic rise of gasoline prices we are experiencing in the day of our Shrub.

You might want to print out a copy of this post and "post" it on your bulletin board so that when all this comes about, you can point to it and say, “Look. I was one of the first to know. I read that this was going to happen way back at the beginning.”

Friday, June 23, 2006

Pencil-blog idea on hold for the moment

If you read the comments section of my last postings, you’ll see that so far I’ve gotten all no votes on the pencil-blog idea. Thank you however for the complements on my current blog – I’m truly moved. Don’t worry, I wasn’t thinking of giving up the bike blog to do the pencil blog, but of maintaining both blogs – although yes, that might mean I’d have to alternate between the two sometimes.

The problem is that the bike topic is so gigantic that I feel perpetually overwhelmed. You’d be amazed at what’s going on out there in bike land that I don’t find time to even mention. It makes me feel so inadequate. I find the world hopelessly overstimulating and I’m looking for ways to pare my scope of observation down to a manageable level.

Writing about pencils, I could begin to feel like I knew something for a change. And you’re mistaken if you think it would be boring. Nothing is boring if you plunge deeply into it, as I would. The reason for the rampant lack of interest in pencils is pure ignorance. Very few people know anything at all about them. If people knew certain things, they couldn’t help but be fascinated.

Never mind then, for now. I’ll let you know if things develop any further in that direction. (I’ll look for a sign.).

As for a blog about Salmon Man, don’t think I haven’t thought of that – except I want Salmon Man to start his own blog. If he would ever answer my email, we could talk. Otherwise I’ll just have to wait till I see him again and flag him down. I might inquire at some of the cafes in my neighborhood where he’s been seen by friends of mine. By the way, I forgot to ask him his name (can you tell I used to be a newspaper reporter?). I found out during the next days as I told friends and co-workers about my encounter and many of them exclaimed, “Oh! You met Salmon-Man!” I was one of the last to know.

In other news..... The horse, which has been missing for almost two weeks now, has been replaced – and yes, I have pictures! Will post forthwith. A subtle but definite change is taking place. I’m sure you’ll see what I mean. Check back tonight or tomorrow.

PS: Don’t you feel drawn in just by looking at that poignant photograph of the pencil? I could tell you what kind of sharpener was used on it and why it’s the Environmentally Incorrect sharpener. Just ask me. (I know you want to.)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Controversial Photo Finally Released by Censors

Please scroll down and note that the fabulous photograph that Blogger was having trouble with this morning has now been inserted into its rightful spot in the text. Time and time again Blogger was refusing to upload it, so I could only conclude that they found the content objectionable. Fortunately I was able to slip it through later in the day while they had their guard down during siesta time.

Signs of Solstice

Yesterday was the longest day of the year and at quarter to nine in the evening it was still day enough to ride home from my secret hideout across town without a light. I had my rear blinkie-dink on, but haven’t yet replaced my lost helmet light and can’t find my headlight. Wore my radioactive glow-in-the-dark jacket, at least.

This always feels like such a ripoff here in Oregon. Reaching the longest day of the year would imply that we’re well into summer, while in fact it’s barely begun to warm up at all. If we’d been baking in the scorching heat of summer for a month or so, we might feel like it was appropriate to be starting down the path of shorter days, but not NOW. Summer hasn’t even started here. We had an early surprise summer in April or May for a week or two (which never happens here), but aside from that, I for one have been wearing my woolly cap in the early morning hours.

On my way home I saw something I’m not sure how to interpret. Here’s a picture.
What do you see? A pencil lying on the pavement, right? Ha! Not so simple. The fact is that for some time I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a blog about pencils. I adore pencils, and have hardly any outlet for my thoughts, feelings, musings and opinions about them. I try talking to my friends and co-workers, but often they’re interested at only the most superficial level. With a blog I could speak to people all over the world who google the word pencil. People would be coming to ME.

I wouldn’t necessarily put meaning on finding this pencil if not for two things. One, it was a Dixon Ticonderoga, which is the pencil in its highest form. Two – it was pointing right at me! What would you think? There, in the middle of the street, directly in my path on my route home? Come on.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Those of us with opposable thumbs can help the fish.

Here is a photo of Salmon Man. Unfortunately you cannot adequately see the salmon on his head, but it’s there. In his hand he is holding two things: one, there between his thumb and pinky, is one of the notorious shirt tags he mentioned to me (see previous posting); the other is his mini-flyer on exactly ¼ of a standard sheet of paper, double-sided, on which he has squeezed the essence of his message, including equations showing fuel and oxygen consumption required to move items of certain weights. Oxygen is needed by the salmon to breathe, and by the foliage that lines the rivers to create shade, something the salmon can’t do without. His final message: “You – with opposables and notochord -- can easily remove cover from Plate Art, but salmon cannot choose where to spawn.” He says “Ask for ecopy of this card then share>”

I will now write him an email and let him know of his stardom in my blog. Perhaps he will add further thoughts in the comment section. Have a look back in a day or so.

If I see him again, I promise a close-up of his salmon and perhaps even instructions on how to make one of your very own.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Salmon Ambassador to Portland

I have met the salmon’s Representative-on-Dry-Land.

If you encounter this man, listen to him, because he has something to say. How will you recognize him? He wears a cardboard salmon on his helmet and he travels exclusively by bike. That should be enough to distinguish him from most other humans.

Don’t be shy, he is very approachable. There’s a good chance he’ll approach you first, as he did me. “Hello, Friendly Biker!” he called out, gliding up next to me as I was locking up my trusty steed in front of Portland Cutlery.

Normally such a greeting would have activated my Weirdo-Repellant Forcefield, but though his degree of friendliness was a little alarming, his energy was wholesome and intriguing. He immediately pointed to the license plate of a parked car. “Do you see that license plate?” he asked me. “Yes,” I replied. “Do you see that metal frame around it that is obscuring part of the state name?” Clearly he saw this as a serious problem, and I began to harbor serious doubts about him again. “I can still plainly make out the numbers,” I argued. “But do you see what’s written on the frame?” he asked. “You mean [bla-bla] Auto Dealers?” I asked, mystified about what he was getting at. “YES!!” he exclaimed. "And do you know how much that license plate weighs?” he further inquired. “Not off the top of my head,” I admitted. And at that point a little bell began to ring.

Yes, I’d heard of this guy. He was in the paper a few years ago. He has done the math, literally the physics, and has figured out how much extra petroleum is being consumed to transport this extra pound of steel attached to most cars. His campaign is to convince every driver to remove the metal frame. But he goes further. What other extra weight are we carrying around? That pesky shirt-label tag poking you in the back of the neck? Three grams, right there. He convinced me to remove my helmet so that he could point out all the “Bell” logos attached and inform me that together they weighed three grams too, and I’d be doing the salmon a big favor to remove them all. The more weight we carry aound, the more oxygen we consume, and the less oxygen remains for the salmon.

He interrupted himself more than once to make a snakey hand motion to a passing cyclist and issue a friendly call-out. “That’s the Salmon Wave,” he explained to me. “Would you like to learn it?” he then asked, after a slight pause. I searched my mind for the courteous way to respond when asked if one wants to learn the salmon-wave, but turned up nothing. It’s an area in which my mother was amiss in her training.

“Oh. Um....I guess so. Sure…”

After a little instruction he told me that I could become an official Salmon Wave Trainer by simply teaching it to two others that same day. Then, as a trainer, I should teach it to two people a day for the rest of my life.

I’m not finished, he had a lot more to offer – such as detailed instructions for how to fashion a cardboard salmon for your helmet out of a used worn-out manila file folder headed for the recycling bin. He has been wearing the same one since 2002. (I forgot to ask him how much it weighed.) He kindly allowed me to take his picture, which I will post later this evening. I said I’d like to resume our conversation at another time, maybe review the Salmon-Wave before committing myself for life, and go over his ideas again, take notes next time. He offered his email address, and took out half a pen to write it down for me, the refill protruding starkly from the barrel – no need to schlep around the weight of the top half of a pen and consume that much extra oxygen that the salmon could be using.

And he rode off into the morning sunlight, his backpack bulging with scrap metal and dead batteries and other trash he collects daily around the city and transports to its proper recycling facility. Goodbye Salmon Man – we shall meet again.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

I’m Promoting Cycling, but Horses Would Do

Someone wrote in this exciting news Last Thursday in the comments section: There are several towns in California- Woodside, Ojai, and Acton, where people are committed to using horses as a means of transportation whenever possible. In fact, there are grocery stores, restaurants and even bars that all have hitching posts outside. Pretty cool way of life, don't you think?

Does anybody know anything more about that? Are we talking about more than a few eccentrics? What I’d really love is to hear from someone who’s doing that. And I have nothing against eccentrics (as one might infer from my blog) so don't be shy. Can we talk?

What if someone started a horse taxi service in Portland? I suppose it would be expensive, but I wonder how it would compare with gassing up an SUV these days? There’s at least one business that runs a couple of horse carriages around downtown that that are hired for weddings or graduations or by tourists. All I’ve seen so far though are open carriages, replicas of old fashioned ones.

Somebody should design a modern, weather-proof carriage with comfortable seats and a sound system in it. They could ride down Broadway picking up commuters in the morning and they could listen to NPR on their way to work, or music, or talk to each other. Raise your hand if you would like to start your day like that.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Insomnia is ruining my life

At least I’m not out there driving a moving-metal-death-trap in this condition. One thing about bicycling – no matter how rotten you feel, you can’t fall asleep while doing it. You may not feel exactly like Wonder Woman, but you’re definitely awake, at least for the duration of the ride. Fresh air billows in and out of your lungs, the movement gets your heart beating…..Ever try to fall asleep while all that’s going on? It won’t happen.

All for now. I do not blog on the job. Ever. I’ll catch up on the weekend.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Effect of Bicycling on Pavement Quality in the 19th Century

I promised a couple of postings ago to continue with the topic of sidewalks, but I started writing about it and it has turned into a treatise. There’s so much to say, and it brought up so many questions, that I can’t write any further until I’ve done more research and can feel like I know what I’m talking about.

Obviously, pavement quality in general is of crucial interest to any cyclist. I heard that pavement was invented in the first place in response to the demand created by the invention of the bicycle. And now look – the cyclists have been made to move aside and get out of the way so the car drivers can hog everything. Time to take back our roads, wouldn’t you say?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Horse Rings are Ready

Not enough time to write this morning, but I want to highlight this post that came in yesterday from Kim Upham:

"Don't worry...I'm sure we soon will be returning to these forms of transportation so long as gas prices continue their trend and oil becomes harder to extract. Those Portland horse rings may actually be used once again for their original purpose. Why don't you talk to those caballeros about helping us out. Oh, and watch your never know."

Maybe this whole horse phenomenon is an omen of what's to come. Maybe it's saying, Notice the horse rings, because we might need them. Almost every aspect of our life is designed around accommodating the car, and many of the results are detrimental. How would life look with a tenth of the cars we depend on now? Portland has tried to consider the scale of the human being in its planning of (at least) our downtown. Would Portland, as a result, be more adaptable than certain other cities to make the kind of a shift to a drastic reduction in car traffic? I would like to think so.

More later.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Don't forget to LOOK DOWN when you're traveling

This is my last photo from Mexico, and I'd like to say a few words on the (very bike-related) topic of pavement surfaces. This gorgeous sidewalk I found in front of a home around the corner from my aunt’s house (in Guadalajara, in case you’re tuning in for the first time).

Sidewalk Responsibility Around the World is a topic that interests me in particular. Information about this can tell a lot about the culture, and I’ll continue along that theme this evening, since I have already run out of time. This morning the Mutiny of the Sleep Gods won out over my Muse.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Inside Story on the Horses

Did y’all read the responses to my last post?

I was going to tell you, but someone wrote in and did it for me: The very day after I took those pictures, which was the very day after the new horses were installed, someone clipped those two horses as well. At first I thought, what a jerk. I speculated that someone was getting sick of the horse game and had decided to spoil it for everyone else by stomping through the room and breaking all the toys. And though I almost dare not admit this publicly, and though I have been enjoying the horse game in my curmudgeonly way, a miniscule part of me had also been thinking, “Enough is enough. Where does it end? Am I fated to finish out my days living in a city peppered with plastic horses?”

I pictured myself on a visit to Mongolia or the Côte D’Ivoire or Tierra del Fuego, telling someone I’m from Portland and having them answer “Oh. Isn’t that the City of Plastic Horses?” and then expecting me to be able to account for the whole absurd phenomenon.

Word gets around quickly about every little thing these days, and I when I say “around” I mean around the world. It was bad enough that pre-Internet, pre-email Olympic year I spent in Czechoslovakia and people kept asking “Isn’t that where Tanya Harding is from?”
“Yes,” I’d answer. “Watch your knees.”

Recently the horses made the Sunday pull-out section of the papers and now it’s becoming common knowledge – at least in Portland -- that this is all part of someone’s perverse plan. I kind of liked it better when the horses were a perplexing mystery. I sort of think the artist should have gone to great lengths to conceal his identity while continuing to relentlessly install the horses. That would have driven people mad – ha ha. I fear that now people have a conclusion to the mystery and can mentally dismiss the whole thing.

I love the second posting by reader Jessica which I reprint here:

1. The horse at the top used to be in my collection when I was a tot living on a horse farm (real ones in the farm, fake ones in my bedroom). 2. The horse project website is fab... I LOVE it. I also think that maybe someone really likes the horses, and that's why the cables are clipped - they like them so much they want to take them home. Probably not the truth, but it could be. Either way, keep up the good work!!!

Can you believe someone is donating their own childhood horses! That is absolutely adorable. And her conclusion about the person taking the horses – what a kind view. A view indicative of empathy and curiosity, based a presumption that people are inherently good -- as opposed to my own happy and uplifting conclusion that people tend to be jerks.

And now “thisrabbit” has posted a new comment, taking Jessica’s idea a step further: “i have this Lovely Idea of a little girl who is stocking her small horse collection with these - as if the Horsie Fariy comes to visit every so often...”

Actually, I have been in touch with the artist. His name is Scott Wayne Indiana, and you can see his intriguing website at Being aware that the reaction of the audience is an important part of any art show, I knew he’d be interested in my recording of one of the horse installations. Soon after, he emailed me to let me know that a large posse had formed, twenty people or more -- people he didn’t even know -- who had contacted him to say they were heading out with sacks of plastic horses to blanket the city. He thought I might like to join them. But I chose not to participate in that particular activity, feeling that it would be somehow cheating in my role as an impartial observer / stenographer / photographer of part of the exhibit.

This whole horse weirdness reminds me of that practice in New York City some time in the late nineties, when there was some kind of a phone tree in place whereby hundreds of people would be notified to suddenly convene on a certain shop or location for no reason whatsoever. I don’t remember what it was called, but a hilarious time was had by all.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Reclining Palomino + Fru-fru Horse

The horse had been missing for at least a week, maybe two. Someone clipped the cable and made off with it. Then, the other day, this new one appeared. Out of curiosity, I rounded the corner and walked down the block to check on that little grey one I discovered recently, the one I extracted from under the wheels of an SUV. There was no sign of it, and in its place was this rather disturbing looking creature – a white, fru-fru horse with mis-articualated legs and bad hair. It is like the Barbie of plastic horses.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

An Actual Horse, for a change

Only a quick picture for today, taken from the park area near my aunt's house. I would like to pretend that this is a typical Guadalajara scene, but it would be misleading of me to imply that. These horses (there's another one in the background if you look closely) were probably the only horses I saw the whole time I was there. A school across the street was having a big party and some rancheros had brought them in to give horsie rides to the kiddies. (Another thing that wouldn't happen in the States because everybody's so utterly obsessed with suing and being sued -- our national hobby. Don't get me started.) So I'm offering this photo out of nostalgia for a day when a person could keep a horse to use for transportation. But again, thanks to the hogness of the car industry, there are few places left in the world where the horse remains a viable transportation option. What was wrong with it, I'd like to know. The advantages of motorized vehicles have not shown themselves to outweigh the advantages of bikes, horses, skateboards, or scooters.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

We Interrupt this Travel Log for a Brief Message

I’ll need more time to search through my photos to find a few last good pictures to wrap up my trip to Mexico. After that, I’ll be switching back to Portland, and I’ve got the most amazing story to tell you: I have met Salmon-Man! Do you know of him? A famous Portland figurehead who rides a bike around with a salmon on his head. Been doing it for years. (Apparently I’m the last to know.) And he’s no lunatic -- he has a definite purpose.

For now, since my time this morning is extremely brief, I’ll jot down that I’ve become aware of an expansive schedule of Portland bike events coming up. One reader contributed the following a couple of weeks ago and I want to post it here where it's more visible. Now that I look at it, it’s only for OHSU people. For those of you not from here, that means Oregon Health Sciences University. I think they should also include patients, don’t you? At least former patients, since current patients might not be in the mood. Former patients and visitors of patients. Or how about just “anybody who’s ever set foot inside OHSU”? I will soon be posting more information about upcoming bike events and will try to find out the date for this one.

FYI...I thought this might be of interest to some of your readers, although you'll notice no date has been provided.Bike Commuter Fair Starts: , 11:30 a.m. Ends: 2:30 p.m. Location: BICC Gallery All OHSU Employees, Faculty & Staff, and Students are invited to join the OHSU Bike Commuters Group's Annual Bike Fair. Stop by and get your bike checked out by a mechanic, find out more OHSU bike-related programs, talk with representatives from bicycle groups and advocates around PDX,and meet fellow OHSU bike commuters. Contact: Kari Hexem 503-914-9962 http://httpazx://

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Walk in the Park

Here’s my last photo in the Biking in Guadalajara series.

This photo was taken in the park near my aunt’s house. It’s the vehicle used by a park maintenance guy. He was nearby, sweeping a path. I don’t think he was a gardener -- he’d have needed more tools for that. There wasn’t much in this cart, as you can see. That’s because he didn’t need much in order to do the job. So why not use a bicycle? It simplifies everything. And a job that required the operation of only a bicycle could be available to a much wider selection of people, since even a person without a driver’s license would be eligible.

In the States they’d be using a super-powered heavy-duty gas-guzzling truck just to schlep around a broom and a rake. But of course in the States they wouldn’t be using a broom or a rake in the first place – it would have to be a gas-consuming leaf blower, the loudest and most obnoxious of the maintenance power tools.

Because this park employee was using hand tools and a bicycle, my aunt and I were able to enjoy a nice quiet walk in the park accompanied by the sound of tropical birds chirping and the rhythmic swish of a broom. We did not have to suspend our conversation, plug our ears, and hold our breath while smoke-belching, peace-shattering machinery ruined the ambience that a park is supposed to provide.

The argument for using leaf-blowers is of course cost. Unfortunately, cost is measured in monetary units alone. You want to talk about cost, I’ll tell you exactly what price we pay to use leaf-blowers. But I’ve run out of time in today’s blogging time slot, so that will have to be the subject of another post – in spite of the fact that I can barely contain myself and am bursting to enlighten the public of certain popular misconceptions.

More park photos tomorrow.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Photos - they are here and so am I

In case any of my readers think I've been absent since Thursday, look again -- at the tiny number at the bottom of the last posting entitled Photos Coming Soon. Yes, if you click on the comments section you'll see that I've been writing away as much as ever, responding to a reader's thoughts. I adore it when people write in!

Here are the controversial photos that go with the whole messy story.
First, the broom & mob bike-cart. Ta Da!

and now the weaver's bike-cart:

So there you have it. And there's still more coming about my Mexico trip!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Photos coming soon

I have added text to yesterday's posting and I tried to add the photos but Blogger is messing with me again. Check in this evening, I'll try it again.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

More Mexican Vendors Who Live by the Bike

Here are two more people who make their living by bike in Guadalajara. The first one is selling brooms and mops. The operator was a young woman from Chiapas. My aunt and cousins can always identify the vendors from Chiapas by their shorter than average stature and colorful clothing. I asked her if I could take some photos of her bike, and she said yes. Since I wasn’t buying anything, I tipped her a dollar for the favor, an amount my aunt said was considerably more than she would expect, and she did seem very pleased. (I didn’t have any pesos on me and no one ever minds American dollars.)

Her three small kids played in a patch of grass/dirt nearby. How she transported them on this bike along with all the merchandise, I don’t know. I asked if I could take a picture of them and she shook her head no. I think that to the American eye, kids having fun in the dirt is majorly cute, but to a poor person from Chiapas, kids-in-the-dirt is not a good photo op. Probably for someone to take a picture of her kids she would want to give them a bath first and get them all dressed up. Even for a photo she'd never see, she didn’t want her kids represented with dirt on them. I suspect that’s what was going on there.

I could say more about different cultural perspectives on kids at play, having tried out several of these as a child. No Italians, for example, rich or poor, are at peace with their kids getting dirty. They get their kids all dolled up to go play in the park, and scold them if they get any smudges on their stylish duds. In Italy, my siblings and I were always the only dirty kids at the park. Thanks, Mom, for not making us “blend in” when it came to frolicking outdoors.

The minute someone starts throwing large sums of money at me, I’d be happy to provide you with at least a book’s worth of material on this sort of thing. I could tell you a lot. Many people are fond of saying we human beings are all the same all over the world. They are so wrong. If people would bother to ferret out the differences and understand them instead of proceeding blindly forward under the premise of that stupid cliché, maybe we wouldn't get on each other's nerves so much and we could all quit killing each other.

Are we still talking about bicycling? Here’s the photo of the broom and mop vendor.

And here’s a photo of another bike peddler, this one from Oaxaca, selling very well-crafted mats and baskets and other woven items that he made himself, and continued to make as he sat waiting for customers. I bought two sets of brightly colored straw placemats for our summer dinners in the back yard..

Grrrr. Once again, blogger is not cooperating. I could scream. I'll have to try this again later. Don't forget to check back in to see the photos.