Monday, May 02, 2005

In my life, I've lived in a number of different parts of the country -- gentrified rural Ohio, the Rust Belt, the Hog Butcher to the World, and the City of Angels' fabulous Boyle Heights district. This is not horn-tooting, as I recognize that all it takes to move around is a pulse, the desire to dodge a warrant, or the inability to hold a job. It's simply meant to convince you that I speak with authority.

Today I live in Northern California, and during my time here I've noticed a number of ways in which the people of this region differ from those found elsewhere. For example, in Northern California many people strongly identify themselves as Liberals. Somewhat incongruously, they're also extremely unfriendly and very racist toward Hispanics. It's not an overt, "Hey, you, wetback!" kind of racism. It's the kind in which they don't even acknowledge as human any member of the largely Mexican service class.

To be fair, I'd say this is also the case in Los Angeles, though not in Boyle Heights, specifically, because there are no white people in Boyle Heights. Also, I say "incongruously" not because I think all Conservatives are racist, but because those who are tend to be pretty open about it. Which, I think, is better.

Back to Northern California. People here also tend to think of themselves as environmentalists, and yet I've found that per capita car ownership here is higher than anywhere else I've lived. For example, a family of five -- three children, none older than 7 -- lives next door to me. They own five cars -- a newish Toyota pickup, an old Datsun pickup, a Miata, an Isuzu SUV, and a Porsche. Across the street lives a family of four. They have two children, aged about 16 and 18, and they own two Ford pickups, an old Bronco, a Toyota pickup, a Suburban, and an RV.

I find these two things to be irritating, but only mildly, especially when compared to the third thing I've noticed. This is that Northern Californians love to ride bicycles. This would be fine in and of itself, except that here it is accompanied by two highly obnoxious traits. The first is that Northern Californians on bicycles claim right of way in all situations. They don't, however, respect any of the generally accepted rules of the road. I'm talking about things like stopping at stop signs or red lights, signaling turns, or avoiding crossing into oncoming traffic whenever possible. If a driver should dare do something like pass a bicyclist or, God forbid, honk at one who is attempting to pass a right-turning car on the right, he or she will be subjected to a litany of profanities only imagined by the most unsavory of minds. This sense of entitlement is made even more annoying and absurd by the fact that even the most obviously novice and out of shape biker here feels compelled to outfit himself like Greg Fucking LeMonde. I'm talking about the spandex pants, little shoes, helmet, and racing shirt.

In any other part of the country or, I'd speculate, the world, being an overweight 38-year-old venture capitalist in spandex pants who yells at drivers about passing too close will get you laughed heartily, if not beaten to death with jumper cables. No here in Northern California.

It is with this perspective that I read this story about a 57-year-old man who died of a heart attack after riding across the country on his bike. At age 39 he'd had a quadruple-bypass, and his wife attributed the following 18 years to health earned by bicycling.

I choose to think that it was bicycling that took him from her at age 57, and that she should have known as much would happen to a grown man who wore spandex pants.

Nice pants, tubby.

Analogcabin @ 3:27 PM
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