12 June, 2009

Cycling misadventures

This is not turning into a cycling blog. I can't promise that this will be the last thing I write about biking but hopefully I won't have any more exciting stories to share. Wednesday morning I woke up and went for a ride out to Olmsted Park in Jamaica Plain. It's about 4 miles from my apartment and the loop around the park is another 3 miles. There are biking/walking paths going around the park and I thought it would be a nice ride before going to work that afternoon.

At times there are separate paths for walkers and bikers around the park, but in some places they merge and the path must be shared. I was riding hard and whenever there were walkers or runners I would shout out, "passing on the right!" and the people would move to the left and allow me to pass. I had lost my voice on Monday and was still hoarse but I had enough of a voice for people to hear me shouting. About halfway around the park the biking and walking paths had converged and shortly beyond that were two women walking side by side, just distant enough from one another to block the whole path. I called out, "passing on the right" and kept pedaling towards them, only they didn't respond. I shouted it again and louder, but my voice was failing me and they didn't seem to hear.

To my right was a rocky embankment and to my left was the pond. There was no way I could go off the path. "Fuck," I thought, and hit the brakes hard and yelled "RIGHT!" as loudly as possible as I skidded towards them. I was as far right as I could be on the path, as I hoped that the women would hear my shout and respond. With my last cry they finally noticed. The woman on the right looked back at me, paused, and then moved to the right so she was squarely in front of me. My bike skidded straight into her ass and then everything slowed down.

The back of the bike lifted into the air and I was thrown off head first in slow motion. The ground was above me somehow and I had an upside down view of the bike as I flew through the air. It was a very surreal experience until I hit the pavement. My left foot was still hooked in the pedal but I smashed my right knee into the ground and caught myself with my right palm. I bounced back up immediately to check on the woman I had hit. We were both apologizing to one another but she seemed to be fine. Her rather large ass had cushioned most of the blow which probably helped both of us in the end.

I knew a a crash was inevitable in a big city and I feel better knowing that I got my first one out of the way quickly and without serious injury. I'll definitely be more wary around walkers and runners in the future.

There was almost another incident of a different variety that afternoon. I had ridden my bike to work and was feeling more comfortable in Boston traffic. Most drivers are actually pretty courteous and try to give bikers as much room as possible. On the way home from work I noticed a driver behind me driving slowly instead of passing me. I was as far to the side as I could be but it was a one lane road and I can understand if drivers don't want to risk passing close to bikers. I had had a few others do the same and while I'm sure it's annoying to be stuck behind a bike there was nothing that I could do about it.

After following me for a block the driver honked at me. I looked back at him briefly but again, there was nothing I could do about it. The street finally widened into two lanes and he pulls up along side me with his window open and shouts something at me. I couldn't hear what he said with the wind blowing past my ears but I was pissed. There was no reason to honk at me and even less reason to shout at me as he drove past. The driver sped up as we approached a light and I screamed back at him, "share the road fucker!" The car hit the brakes and stopped at the light as it turned red. "Fuck, why did I have to say anything?" I thought. I road slowly up next to him and the guy begins yelling at me. Stories of road rage shootings flashed in my mind and I realized what a dumbass I was to have shouted back at him. The light was red but there was no traffic. I figured it was better to run the red light and get away from this asshole than risk whatever might have happened had I waited at the light next to him. He continued to scream as I rode away. From now on I plan to ignore any assholes on the road.

10 June, 2009

The bike arrives and my problems begin

The bike finally arrived Thursday morning. When I went out to greet the UPS man, he greeted me with a cheery, "hey, I've got your bike for you." Bike boxes are pretty easy to recognize but he could tell with certainty that there was a bike in it since the top of the box was completely open. The whole package was pretty banged up.
"Uh... yeah, but is everything still in there?" I asked him.
"I think it just ripped open as it was being moved to the truck. I'll mark the package as open though, just in case," he told me.

A quick glance inside showed that everything seemed to be there except the pump. I dragged the box inside and started putting it together in the living room. I had put together a bike once or twice before with my dad, but that was at least 5 years ago and I had just done whatever he instructed. It wasn't too bad though, and I was able to get it together in about an hour while watching the Red Sox game on TV.

The first thing I noticed after it was put together was that both tires were rubbing up against the brakes. You need a wrench to adjust the brakes and of course I didn't have one, so I walked the bike over to Kevin and Katy's apartment to use a wrench. The front brakes moved easily enough but I couldn't get the back brakes fixed. Kevin and I realized that the back wheel was bent. I had ridden this bike when I was in California in April and it had been fine so the damage had to have occurred during shipping. I walked it over to Back Bay Bicycles and one hour and $28 later they told me they had fixed it. I'm hoping that UPS will reimburse me for the repairs.

I started riding it back home and my first thought was, "damn, I never realized how bumpy Boston streets are." This is true but I then noticed that the bumpyness was coming at a regular interval from the back wheel. I turned around and road it back to the shop where they actually fixed it this time at no additional charge. It was about 5:30PM by this point and I road it home but didn't want to go for a long ride in rush hour. I decided to save my first real ride for the next day.

Naturally, I woke up sick on Friday and didn't feel up to riding. I spent most of the day in bed and hoped I'd feel well enough to ride on Saturday. After Dan heard about all the problems I had gone through with the bike and how I got sick upon its arrival, he asked, "did you consider that maye you're just not meant to ride a bike in Boston?" I did feel a little better Saturday, although I still had a sore throat but I wasn't going to wait around forever to ride the damn thing after having waited for so long to get it. I took a nice ride out through Jamaica Plain to the Arnold Arboretum and back. I also rode the bike to the movie theater by the Boston Common that afternoon and left it locked up outside for a couple of hours. I was half convinced that when I came back out it would have been stolen, just because practically everything else had already gone wrong at that point, but the bike was still there. I realized that anytime I ride the bike instead of taking the T I'll end up getting to my destination quicker but quite sweaty. To my Boston friends: you're going to have to deal with it.

Monday was my first day back at work after the bike arrived. Finally I'd be able to give up the T once and for all. The MBTA will have to do without my $3.40 per day. The ride to Coolidge Corner only took 20 minutes riding at a leisurely pace. I still got to work a little sweaty but it was so nice not to have to depend on the T. I biked home that evening with groceries from Trader Joe's in my backpack and without having to endure the headache of taking the T around rush hour.

Upon waking up Tuesday I discovered rain and a forecast for steady rain all day long. It stopped early in the morning though and by the time I was ready to leave for work the roads were almost dry. Still, I decided to take the T since I assumed that the weather forecast was correct and that the rain would resume. It didn't rain all afternoon and a light drizzle started right as I left work. I was pissed that I hadn't ridden to work and it didn't even rain. Just to spite me, the T took close to half an hour to arrive and was then packed full of people. I'll be riding to work every day from now on, barring a heavy downpour.

04 June, 2009

Waiting For Nishiki

My last attempt to purchase a bike didn't go so well. I made a few more half-hearted inquiries through craigslist after that but couldn't find any decent road bikes in my price range. I did have one person reply and say that he had about 10-15 bikes at his home in Dorchester that he was selling for cheap, but I didn't particularly feel like getting robbed or buying a stolen bike. When I told my grandfather about my bike woes he offered to ship me the Nishiki road bike that my dad had kept in California. He took it to a bike store in Claremont and was told that I would have the bike delivered either last Friday or Monday.

Since the bike was being shipped UPS freight we had no tracking number. I spent all day Friday inside my apartment waiting for the front door buzzer to signify the arrival of the bike. I didn't even want to risk taking a shower in case UPS showed up. It didn't come and I was disappointed but not surprised. They had said it might not get there until Monday and I could wait three more days for the bike. Unfortunately, I had work on Monday and could only wait around the apartment until 1PM. The bike didn't come before I left for work. When I got home that evening I went to the front of my apartment building, hoping to see a UPS sticker on the front door showing that they had at least tried to deliver it. Walking up to the door I could see a familiar brown and yellow sticker. yes! They had tried to deliver it! I ripped the sticker off eagerly to see when they'd be back for another delivery attempt. Then I saw the name on the sticker. It wasn't mine. Go to hell, Josh in apartment 25. I sheepishly replaced the sticker, disappointed once again.

But before I got to my apartment another glimmer of hope appeared. Maybe they had actually delivered it. Maybe Nick had been home this afternoon and had signed for it. Maybe the bike was sitting in our hallway! I unlocked the apartment and walked inside, squinting in the darkness and searching for a large cardboard box. Nothing. Maybe Nick put the box in the living room. Again, nothing. Fuck. Ok, well this will be an exercise in patience, I thought. The bike will get here when it gets here and there's nothing I can do about it in the meantime.

My grandfather called me that evening to ask if the bike had arrived. I told him in a cheery voice that no, it hadn't, but I'm sure it will get here soon. I was trying to be very optimistic about everything when really the delay was fucking killing me inside. "I'm going to call the bike store and find out what's going on," he told me. I said not to bother, that the bike had been shipped and I'm sure they didn't have any more information than we did. It's all in UPS' hands now, no use annoying the nice people at the friendly local bike shop. My grandfather called back 15 minutes later. "They really screwed up. The bike is still sitting in the store. They forgot to ship it last week," he said. Guess it was a good thing he decided to call the store after all.

The store said they would ship it the next day (Tuesday) and that it would be sent via UPS 3-day air. UPS currently says that the package is in Shrewsbury, MA and is scheduled for delivery today. It has been 17 days since I made that first attempt to buy a bike. During that time I have spent $33.85 on the T, wasted countless hours hoping the bike would arrive, countless more hours being disappointed and an untold amount of money and time drinking beer to cope with the disappointment. The title of this post is a reference to "Waiting For Godot," a play in which the two characters wait for the mysterious Godot to arrive. Godot never appears, but I'm confident that the Nishiki will be delivered today.

02 June, 2009

Even homeless people need lovin'

Summer seems to have really brought out all the crazies in Boston. Their winter ice caves have melted and they have dispersed themselves among us, in the streets, the stores and, of course, the MBTA. Saturday night found me taking the T home from Cambridge with my friends Kathryn and Alex. We had spent the evening drinking at a friend's BBQ, but due to the T sucking ass and closing around midnight we were forced to leave the party early in order to avoid shelling out money we didn't have to an angry cab driver.
And so we walked somewhat drunkenly to the Lechmere T stop where, despite Alex's brief attempt to fight the mechanical T gate, we happily made it onto a train. The three of us sat down together, Kathryn in the middle and Alex and I on either side of her. For a brief period of time, all was great in the world. And then he got on the train.

I think Alex noticed him first, as he later recalled that, "the second I saw that dude I fucking knew he was going to talk to us." He was short and dirty, obviously homeless or very poor, and made no move to hide his insobriety as he stumbled onto the train and practically fell into the seat facing me.
"Hey... you've got nice hair," he slurred, and I looked up at him. "Uh, thanks," I replied. I glanced at his hair. Light brown and gray, dirty and very curly emerging from under a soiled blue Red Sox cap. I turned back to my friends, wrongfully assuming that our chat was over.

"That's a nice shirt you've got, too," he said. I thanked him again without looking up. Kathryn and Alex were giggling at this point while I squirmed awkwardly in my seat and moved closer to them.
"Is that some chest hair sticking out?" he asked, and I looked at him again to see him grinning at me and staring at my chest.
"Uh, no," I said and turned my body away from him and towards Kathryn to block his view. It was then that my good friend Kathryn decided to intervene on my behalf and smash her purse into his wrinkled face while screaming at the drunken fuck to leave me alone. Or so I wanted. Instead, she said, "actually, I make him shave his chest." Alex burst into laughter and I wanted to kill them both.
"Don't fucking encourage him," I tried to quietly scream at her through clenched teeth.
"Looks like a hairy chest to me. Why don't you unbutton that shirt and show me," homeless man said. I quickly buttoned the top collar button on my shirt.

By now everyone around us was paying rapt attention to this conversation. The girl next to homeless man was staring straight at the floor and trying not to laugh, while the girl to my left stared in open enjoyment at the scene before her.
"I make him keep his shirt on while we're on public transportation," Kathryn offered. "Trust me, it's shaved." Finally, some support.
"Heh-heh, what else do you make him shave?" homeless man asked.
"Oh, I make him shave eeeeverythiiiing," Kathryn replied without missing a beat. I don't know how she managed to keep her composure. Alex was about to piss himself, everyone around us was openly laughing and I just wanted to disappear.
"You wanna show me?" homeless man asked hopefully.
"No. Absolutely not. Fuck you, Kathryn," I said.
"I think you and me should get together," homeless man suggested. Apparently I hadn't made it myself clear. I wasn't interested. I put my arm around Kathryn and said, "I don't think my girlfriend would like that very much."
"Oh. Well we could have a threesome," homeless man said with a grin.
"No. I think my friend over here would get jealous," I said while reaching behind Kathryn and grabbing Alex by the shoulder. He stopped laughing momentarily, until homeless man suggested we just go all out and have a foursome together. Alex resumed his fit of giggles while Kathryn declined the offer.

"She's no fun. How 'bout just us men have a threesome then?" homeless man said. This time I burst out laughing while Alex replied with, "nah.. man, no way," and collapsed into laughter once again.
The girl next to homeless man was laughing and typing rapidly on her phone. I can only assume she was texting about the awkward situation going on around her. Homeless man was still staring at me like a piece of meat. By now we had reached Copley Square. When the stop was announced, homeless guy sat up straight and said, "oh shit! I think I missed my stop! Is this North Station?" North Station had been the second stop after Lechmere, and we were pretty sure that's where homeless guy had boarded the train. He jumped up and stumbled towards the door. We all laughed and I was relieved that he had gotten off. I had been somewhat concerned he would get off the train when we did and follow us home.

And then seconds later he was back in his seat. "This wadn't my stop! I'm getting off at Prudential!" homeless man shouted, happy to have figured out where he was. Prudential was one stop away and at least he'd be off the train before we had to get off. He leaned forward and leered at us.
"He's gonna impregnate you," homeless guy stated quite matter of factly while looking at Kathryn. I couldn't look at the guy I was laughing so hard. And also creeped out.
"Mark my words, he's gonna impregnate you tonight!" homeless guy shouted. People not in our immediate vicinity were looking over and laughing now. We finally got to Prudential and the girl next to him reminded him that it was his stop. He once again stumbled on his way off the train, but turned around once more before stepping off to again shout, "he'll impregnate you!"
Nobody could control their laughter at this point, especially when we realized he hadn't walked off but was standing right outside the train window staring in at us and waving, a big toothy grin on his face. Homeless man stood there until the train left. Yet another reason to avoid the MBTA.

01 June, 2009

Be wary of free

If there's anything I've learned in Boston it's that you should not always take advantage of something just because it's free. I learned this lesson the first week of freshman year when I inadvertently ended up at a LGBT meeting based on the promise of free pizza. There was no pizza. The internet, however, is a treasure trove of free stuff. Just in 2009 alone I have gotten several free sandwiches from Quizno's, a $50 prepaid Visa card, a 24oz bottle of ketchup, some terrible Stride "Always Mandarin" gum and, most recently, 4 tickets to a concert at the House of Blues (note: none of these free things were obtained by clicking on a flashing banner or links contained in emails. I do not endorse attempts to sign up for free things on the internet and cannot be held liable for damage to your hard drive, credit rating or mailbox if you attempt to get free stuff after reading this blog. By continuing to read you submit to a legal agreement to abide by the Terms and Conditions of the "coming or leaving" blog. For a full copy of the Terms and Conditions please send $1.99 US via PayPal to comingorleaving [at] gmaildotcom along with your physical mailing address. Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery. For international requests I also require an additional $5 for the purchasing of a beer on the way to the Post Office. Additionally, this beer is not for you and will not be mailed with the Terms and Conditions).

The House of Blues occasionally gives away tickets to concerts that aren't sold out through their Twitter account. I follow them since I like live music and free things that don't suck. Last week they were giving away free tickets to see some band to the first five people who replied with the locations of other House of Blues venues. A quick google search on my phone later and I was one of the lucky winners. I texted my roommate Dan to see if he'd be interested in going and got a quick response back: "fuck yea who is playing." The band was called The Bangles and neither of us had heard of them. I was pretty excited to have something fun to do after work that day. If you know of The Bangles then you already know where this story is headed.

When I got home, Dan said he had told some people at work about the concert we were going to. His boss replied, "oh wow, I used to listen to The Bangles all the time in the 80s!" Well, that wasn't what I was expecting. Obviously any show that they're giving away tickets to isn't going to be really popular or sold out but I wasn't expecting a band from 20+ years ago. So we searched YouTube to find out who The Bangles really were. This is the video we saw.

Yes, The Bangles are the 80s girl band who brought the world hits such as "Walk Like an Egyptian," "Eternal Flame" and "Manic Monday." They weren't a band I had ever planned on seeing live but we couldn't pass up this opportunity. When we got to the House of Blues I went to the box office window, handed them my ID and said, "I, uh, won tickets to see The Bangles... from Twitter. God I feel like such a dumbass." I was handed four tickets but I was only able to convince two people to come with me. While we were waiting in line to have our IDs checked I was given hope that there would at least be a young crowd there. The guy in front of us couldn't have been more than a few years older than us and was bragging to the bouncer about how he had just left court after fighting his DUI charge. He appeared to be pretty drunk.

Once we were inside the crowd was about what we had expected: the place was only about half full and most of the people were in their 30s. Since none of us were inebriated or even alive when these songs were released we couldn't enjoy it in the same manner as the other concert goers, but we stuck around to hear Manic Monday and Eternal Flame. We had hoped to hear Walk Like an Egyptian but worried that it wouldn't be played until the encore and I certainly had no desire to stay for that long. We finally left after a particularly drunk woman shouted out a request to have a song dedicated to her. The singer obliged and the woman shouted out "yeaaaah!! Girls night out!" The singer laughed and said, "well for all of us on stage it's moms night out!" I no longer follow the House of Blues on Twitter.