Snow in Austin, Winter in America – Still

A year and two weeks ago, I wrote Snow in Austin, Winter in America, based on a powerful song by Gil Scott-Heron. I think that post is some of my best work, not necessarily prize-winning, but in trying to capture a mood. (You should go read it now. I’ll wait.) The street poet, progenitor of rap, musician, and author was a voice of conscience regarding the state of Black people in America, among other things. He could also lay down some serious grooves to go with his strong words; Winter in America is in a minor key and has a great blues flute solo. I wrote that post right before coronavirus began its whirlwind tour of the US — just before it went viral. (Ha!) It was a few months before the modern-day lynching of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. (Not ha.) Scott-Heron died on May 27, 2011, a decade ago later this year. What would he have to say about Floyd’s killer, Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin still being out on bail awaiting trial and maybe even getting some justice for George (yeah, we’ll see about that)? Time marches on. But as Sting once sang,“History will teach us nothing.” The prophetic music and lyrics of Scott-Heron and others like him (Marvin Gaye comes to mind) are relevant — still. Maybe in GSH’s poetry we can find a little solace in these cold and dark days. Or maybe we’ll get pissed and take action somehow. It is Black History Month, but is there more to it than history?

Scott-Heron performing at WOMAD in Bristol, 1986
Gil Scott-Heron in 1986. Source
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New Year, New Dude, New US?

Since it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’ll also remind folks of an older post with a photo of The Rev. Dr. King on a bicycle. Thanks to the pandemic, there was no rally with speakers and then march. I’ve attended them on an off over the years here in Austin and was at a huge gathering and march after the police killings of George Floyd, Breona Taylor and other Black people. I was fortunate to be able to participate in some Black Lives Matter protests last summer and a pair of Black History Bicycle Rides.

Even though this blog is mostly about biking and my other fitness pursuits, I feel strongly about the evils of racism and have written about them before. It must really piss off the white supremacists that it’s a federal holiday. King was assassinated by one of their ilk on April 4, 1968. As they say, SAY HIS NAME! and, Presente! It boggles the mind that almost 53 years later the US (if not the world) is having a resurgence of racial hatred. Education is key and perhaps with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, we will have better role models than the outgoing asterisk president. Adios, Tinyhands Orangehead, ya big loser!

With no rally and march, I continued my daily activities. Biking less has allowed me more time for other things. It’s as good a time as any to do a quick check-in about what I’m up to both on and off the bike.

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Happy Native American Heritage Day, on Black Friday, After White(wash) Thursday

November is Native American Heritage Month in the US, and the fourth Friday in November is Native American Heritage Day. Unfortunately, it’s known more for being the biggest shopping day, aka Black Friday (which has nothing to do with African-Americans). And it comes on the heels of Thanksgiving, aka Un-Thanksgiving or National Day of Mourning. In the 2010 Census, almost 3 million Americans identified as indigenous, and another 2 million said they were indigenous and another race. I’m well aware I’m a white person writing about people of color, so before I go any further, here’s a good interview with Simon Moya-Smith, an Oglala Lakota journalist. Go give that a quick read and then come back. I’ll wait.

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Austin Black History Social Bike Ride #2

After the previous Sunday’s smaller ride, Bike Ride for Black Lives Matter… I somehow heard about another one even though it was organized on Facey Spacey. I happened to be awake and I’m always in need of more miles. Rather than stand around looking at the police station or state police, I decided to join in and try to learn something. The organizers expected 50 people, and they got at least 500. It was a huge event and lasted four hours in the hot Texas sun, but it was a cool thing that is hoped will catch on in other cities.

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Bike Ride for Black Lives Matter, Racial Equality, and Justice For All

Word arrived that this bike ride was happening Friday night. My social calendar being empty as always, and not sitting shiva either, it seemed like a good way to reduce some of my white privilege. I’ve been an ally in a variety of causes ever since I was a baby; my mom took me to civil rights protest in Little Rock, Arkansas and Dallas, Texas. I’ve wanted to be solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, but a small number of people hijacked protests with violence, and there has been a disproportionate police response that has put numerous protesters in the hospital. (See my recent post, Nonviolent Justice for George Floyd and Bronna Taylor.) I have not been on a group ride since mandatory stay home orders and social distancing were set up by the health department in mid-March. So while it was risky, I felt that with a mask, staying away six feet or more from others as possible (often not, but most people had masks), and being outdoors, it was worth it. I always am looking for my daily dose of miles and exercise, too. It turned out to be a peaceful and educational night.

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Snow in Austin, Winter in America

Snow fell from the cold, dark skies on my bike ride home from the gym. The frozen precipitation is rare in Central Texas, especially in relatively mild winters like we’ve been having. So it’s a wondrous sight when it does snow. I felt lucky to have been outside riding when it came down. Light, white, wet kisses on my face melted quickly. Some accumulated on car hoods and lawn chairs, and the roommates and dogs were happy to see and feel it, too.

Of course in other places, there are no romantic notions about snow, because they’re drowning in it and shoveling it by metric ton. Another substance is also being shoveled in similar quantities, but it’s brown, smelly, and comes out of the back end of a cow. And by that of course, I can only be referring to the State of the Union, which was by some accounts a total snow job. Winter isn’t coming, Jon Snow, it’s already here. The revolution will not be televised. It’s winter in America.

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Bicycle Stuff Roundup and Rest Days Photographs

While I am off the bike for a few days, not really by choice, I’m searching for something to blog about. At least I’m getting some rest. Maybe I’ll try a stationary bike or try to ride anyway. I’m tempted to take a rest day from blogging, too, but obviously I’m not. What follows is a rather random brain dump of bike stuff. Just one by itself isn’t enough for a single blog, but together they add up to one. I think it’s interesting, so maybe you will too.

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My New Bicycling Magazine Is Here! My New Bicycling Magazine Is Here!

Not since Navin Johnson (played by Steve Martin) got overly jazzed about the arrival of the new phone books in The Jerk (a film I’ve referenced as recently as my post Jerks in Cars Messing Up My Bike Rides) has a printed and bound document been quite so anticipated and well-received. Well, maybe that’s kind of a little bit of a possible smidgen or a skosh of hyperbole. Sure, when I became a member of the League of American Bicyclists, and Bicycling was was offered as a perq, I was glad to hear it. Just not jumping around shouting it to the whole street glad — only to my blog readers. Anyway, after four long months of anticipation, the last four weeks or so have brought incessant emails from the publisher but not actual magazine, it finally arrived. Let’s take a look under the hood.

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The Invisible or Utility Bicyclist: An Ignored Population

Tonight as I was out dutifully putting in some miles to finish up my yearly goal, I encountered a man stopped in East Austin, near downtown.  He was working on his bicycle, and observing the unwritten code of bike riders, I stopped to ask if I might help. He had a screw driver and was adjusting his rear reflector while enjoying an adult beverage.  He was also worried about his front light, which was red (illegal).  There wasn’t much I could do, but we chatted a bit.  He was friendly, perhaps due to the aforementioned drink.  He introduced himself as Tommy, I replied with my name, and he proferred an ungloved hand for me to shake in the cool temperatures.  He also said that he is homeless.  It got me thinking about the large number of people who ride bikes as transportation, but are not connected with bicycle advocacy organizations.  So here are a few thoughts. Continue reading

MLK on a Bike, the Struggle for Justice & My First Bicycle Consulting Client

April 4, 2018 marks 50 years from when The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated by a racist.  Imagine how different the world might be if he were allowed to live.  The movement to end the US war on Vietnam, the Poor People’s Campaign, the overall condition of African-Americans in the US, and many more were issues he advanced, making life better for all of us; they all could have progressed further much had he not been killed.

How much more could he have accomplished?  Lives saved?  Dignity restored?  Barriers broken down?  It breaks my heart to think these thoughts and to write these words.  As well it should.  We lost a true American hero that day.  But to cheer us up, here is a picture of him on a bicycle a year before his death, yes, riding a bicycle on Fire Island.  A Dude can link ANYTHING to bicycling.

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