William Gibson Part I

William Gibson’s connection to bicycling, or more specifically, to bike messengers, began with his novel Virtual Light which recounted the adventures of San Francisco bike messenger Chevette Washington. Chevette has stolen a pair of high-tech sunglasses which are embedded with a kind of software that details the massive redevelopment of San Francisco and forebodes the even further displacement of the city’s poor and disenfranchised. Like all of Gibson’s work, Virtual Light is a critique of end game capitalism and envisions a future in which the annihilation of the middle class is complete and the working classes consist of people like Chevette who subsist on marginalized low paying jobs like messengering, and squat in place like the abandoned Oakland Bay bridge.
Gibson evidently solicited help from a messenger named Markus, aka “Fur” who published a messenger zine back in the early nineties and shortly afterwards died of a heroin overdose. Gibson’s elegantly turned tropes and dystopian themes have won him prominent place of notoriety in the mainstream of literature and have solidified his reputation as a techno-prophet. He single-handedly invented the concepts of “cyberspace” and “virtual reality” and may have contributed to the evolution of “reality TV”. instead of 15 minutes of fame, the most we can hope for is 15 seconds.

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A mere bag of shells

Back in the early days of the Roman Empire, mad emperor Caligula decided to declare war upon Neptune God of the sea after Caligula’s failed expedition to Germany and Britannica.  He summoned several  of the legions to the waters of the English Channel not far from Calais and compelled them to hack at the waves with their swords while Caligula stalked up and down the beach while gnashing his teeth and hissing.  I cannot verify the accuracy of my description but it sounds like something he might have done.  In more contemporary times the modern day equivalent to Caligula, the highly overrated film critic(publicist!) of the New York Post has launched a Caligula like offensive against the bicycle riding citizens of  New York.  Bad enough that he passes himself off as a film critic(he wouldn’t know a good movie from a good slice of pizza) but now he has taken to slighting the hard working members of the bike messenger and food delivery community without which his very mediocre film reviews not to mention his take out Chinese food would never get delivered.  Making jest of this much maligned and marginalized community is always fair game for the Post.  Remember the front page story about the inebriated pedicab driver?  This vicious criminal on three wheels had the audacity to drive two of his bar friends over the Williamsburg bridge drunk (so were the passengers) and had a little spill on the other side of the bridge that required stitches and an ambulance ride for the passengers.  Horror of Horrors.  I guess Mr. Smith failed to notice the white ghost bike placed near the intrepid for Dr. Carl Nacht, run over by a garbage truck in 2005.  Or maybe he missed the other ghost bike down near Tribeca, also on the Hudson, placed for James Ng who was run over by a drunk driver who mistakenly thought he was on the west side highway.  The attitude here I guess is that we shouldn’t be allowed to ride bikes anywhere.  Kinda like what Mayor Koch had in mind back in the mid eighties when he wanted to ban bicycles in midtown.  Perhaps Mr. Smith might have seen the white ghost bike placed near the bottom of the Williamsburg bridge for my friend Jon Neese who was killed in 2006 by a limo driver right near that spot.  But then again I’m sure Mr. Smith is too busy riding around in his own limo to pay attention to such things.

Hence the expression:  Mere bag of shells?

Transit Strike

Okay, let’s back it up.  No, I mean way back.  Before the internet.  Before cell phones.  Let’s travel back thirty years ago to the year 1980 and see what crazyflybikeguy was doing and what the world looked like.  Check out the dude in the background with the funky lid.  You don’t see people wearing those kinds of lids anymore.  This picture was taken during the transit strike of 1980, when the entire city had to resort to other means to get to work.  This was the event that put bicycling on the map for New Yorker’s. It made the city seem more proletarian, as if it were some kind of Bolshevik plot(thank you Barack Obama), seeing the streets filled with bicycles like Amsterdam or Peking.  Hundreds of bikes everywhere you looked.  It was also the year that I became a messenger, quitting my job at Simon and Schuster, to go out on these streets to wait for the apocalypse.  I gotta say that the apocalypse never came(unless you consider 9/11 apocalyptic), but the new millennium did and with that the beginning of a new age in transportation.  In the coming weeks and months I’ll try to expand upon my thesis about the transit strike and the evolution of bicycle culture in New York.  Stay tuned.

Don’t hold me to this…but

At this point I’ve got to put in a plug for Mayor Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner Janett Sadik-Kahn.  OK–I know the guy pretty much bought the election and is mostly on the side of big business(well–maybe completely on the side of big business!) but I like the stance he has taken in terms of the pedestrian mall in Times Square and I respect that he tried to enact the bridge and tunnel fee for cars coming into Manhattan.  When will these idiotic drivers ever think about anyone else but themselves?  Oh, and by the way, as an aside, I think they should keep raising the taxes on cigarettes, booze and sugary soda.  One of the reasons I stopped smoking and drinking is because of these taxes and I’m glad that I did.  And don’t believe that baloney from all those pathetic barfly’s and rummy”s who are singing the blues about “Unfair taxes” and the like.  They are drinking, eating and smoking themselves into an early grave and it is the tax payers who will most likely end up subsidizing their health care when their collective livers, lungs and hearts give.  With these taxes they are just paying for their health care in advance.

Anyway, getting back to the drivers who put my life in jeopardy every time I get on my bicycle.  What the mayor has done, and I really respect him for it, is that he has taken a principled stance with respect to urban space and has made a statement about the future of automobiles in the city.  If people insist on taking their gas belching vehicles  into the city they should have to pay for it.  Tax them.  Tax them.  Tax them.  Let them buy bicycles or take the subway.  And that goes for all those drinkers, smokers and over eaters who are whining about having to pay for their future health care problems.  Let them ride bikes!