Monday, December 5, 2011

back issue #5: New York City: bits and pieces from my three-week stay

WARNING: Rampant tense-switching ahead...

The Brooklyn Bridge (duh)

Mouse on the sidewalk:
On Tuesday, while walking north on Broadway, I saw a brownish smear on the sidewalk.  I paused to examine it.  It wasn't (as I had thought at first) a squished, half-eaten 'hot pocket', but something nearly as disgusting: a mouse.  An ex-mouse, that is.  A very flat ex-mouse.  A very, very flat ex-mouse.  It had been steamrolled by thousands of feet belonging to thousands of people in thousands of hurries.  I walked around it.

The Doughnut Plant:
I have wanted to go to this place ever since I read about it in a review of New York City doughnut shops.  The Doughnut Plant features flavors such as salted peanut, peanut butter and jelly, and pistachio.  I went with my friend Shirley.  We ordered doughnuts for breakfast.  Then we sat around talking.  Then we ordered doughnuts for lunch.  It was awesome.  

The bathroom at the Doughnut Plant (I'm pointing the camera  at the ceiling).  In addition to having the best ever doughnuts, the Doughnut Plant also has the best ever bathroom, which is completely covered in tiny mirrors, and has a disco ball hanging from the ceiling.

Thoughts about eating food on the subway: 
Avoid this at all costs.  If you absolutely must eat because you are about to faint and your stomach is consuming neighboring organs for sustenance, then eat something with a wrapper (like a granola bar) so that you can put the food into your face without having to touch it with your hands.  I would also recommend thoroughly 'Purell'-ing your hands and mouth before and after consuming said granola bar.  Now, I am not normally a 'germaphobe', but after witnessing a (most likely homeless) man masturbating on the subway I can only assume that everything I touch on the subway has, at some point, been coated in semen, which does not happen to fit into my idea of a 'tasty snack'.

...all of which makes this next bit even more disgusting:

On Wednesday when day I when was riding the 'A' line, a woman eating a fried chicken drumstick boarded the train.  All the seats had been taken, so she stood, grabbing onto a pole with one hand while continuing to gnaw on the greasy pile of deep-fried flesh in her other hand.  As if this weren't revolting enough, five minutes later she decided that it would be a good idea to SWITCH HANDS.  So she was now holding the chicken drumstick with the hand that had previously been grasping the (probably semen-covered) pole, and holding the pole with her greasy chicken hand. <involuntary shudder>

Conclusion: everything in the subway is covered in semen and fried chicken grease.
(Note: despite all this, I still love riding the subway.  Great people watching.)

Coney Island restrooms:
It is almost as hard to find a public restroom on Coney Island as it is in Manhattan.  There are some restroom/changing room facilities on the beach, but, it being October, they are closed.  McDonalds turns out to be the most reliable option for relieving my bladder.  The employees there are apathetic and/or depressed enough that they don't make any attempt to enforce the 'Restroom For Customers Only' sign.

On Friday, before setting my easel up on Coney Island Beach to paint the 'Wonder Wheel', I ducked into the McDonalds to pee.  I pushed open the door to the Ladies' Room.  A short, barrel-shaped woman waiting for the next stall turned to survey me.  Her pursed lips curled downward as she took in my short hair and angular six-foot frame.  She narrowed her eyes, and in a thick Russian accent, hissed, "Zees eez veemens rhestroom.  For veemens! Not mens!"  I stood, staring at her blankly, until it dawned on me what she had said.  "Ohhhh," I thought, "she thinks I have a penis."  Just then, a stall opened, and the Russian woman waddled toward it. Before she shut the stall door behind her, she looked back at me and snarled, "Dhon't luke".

Painting the 'Wonder Wheel' on Coney Island

Painting the 'Dreamland Roller Rink' on Coney Island

Comic Con:
The following Friday I went to Comic Con (a comic book, video game, fantasy, and all-around dork convention).  If Manhattan is  overstimulating, then Comic Con is overstimulating to the point of being potentially seizure-inducing.  Thousands  of people (many of them in all manner of superhero costumes) packed themselves into the Javits Convention Center to revel in their collective geekiness.  It was a blast.

 Needless to say, I now have several more piercings...

Some of the many costumes to be seen at Comic Con

On Wednesday I walked to Babeland, a sex toy shop in Soho.  After sampling every single bottle of 'tester' lube (on my hands), I decided to buy a t-shirt.  The t-shirt featured a drawing of a hand with two fingers extended. (If you don't get the reference, ask someone. I am not going to explain it here.)  Delighted with my purchase, I walked out of the store and removed my phone from my pocket to text a friend about my awesome new t-shirt.  The phone slid through my lube-covered fingers and onto the sidewalk.

The next day I wore the t-shirt.  A woman came up to me on the sidewalk to ask, "is that a sign language symbol on your shirt?"  "Uhhh," I stuttered, "kind of."  Later I thought of a much better (and by better I mean tasteless) response involving Anne Sullivan teaching Helen Keller the word for 'fingering'.

The t-shirt in question...

Parting Shot: Sad Umbrellas:
The Thursday before I left it rained all day.  I walked to the art museum holding a $3 Walgreens umbrella over my head in a futile attempt to stay dry.  A gust of wind immediately blew the umbrella inside out, leaving me clinging to what looked like a disembodied, mangled webbed foot.  Later in the day I saw a garbage can stuffed to overflowing with other mangled webbed feet.
Umbrella Graveyard

As a conclusion to my last Rust Belt Ride blog post (*sob*), I would like to invite everyone to my Rust Belt Ride art show:

Friday 12/9: 6-9pm*
Saturday 12/10: 2-5pm
2716 Atwood Avenue 
Madison, WI

*Bonus: my biological clock ticks over to 29 on Friday 12/9, so there might be a cake or something... 

Hope to see you all there!
If you have any questions, please email me at

I have thoroughly enjoyed my Rust Belt Ride project.  Thank you all for your love and support.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

back issue #4: Arriving in Manhattan (last day on the road...*sigh*)

(Note: as will soon become painfully apparent, I do not really know how to use [brackets], but I've decided that they're fun and want to use them [anyway])

Instructions for my last day on the road (written after the fact):

Start with:
A few minutes of drizzly rain [put on rain gear]
Drizzly rain stops [get hot, take off rain gear] 
Repeat 8 zillion times.

Feel suddenly very hungry [look for place that has food]
See a McDonalds [stop at the McDonalds]
Order cholesterol-laden Big Mac [receive Big Mac 47 seconds after ordering it]
Eat cholesterol-laden Big Mac [tell arteries to shut-up complaining]
Get back on bike without noticing ketchup 'fu manchu' style moustache adhered to face.

Think to self, "back tire feels a bit flat." [stop to check tire pressure; tire is, in fact, fairly flat]
Look for spare innertube [find no spare innertubes]
Look for patch kit [find no patch kit]
Inflate back tire [tire goes flat again in 10 minutes]
Continue to stop every 10 minutes to inflate tire over the next 80 miles.

Arrive in Manhattan at 9pm
Wait for brother to arrive
Take picture of hilarious intersection where brother lives [double over with laughter]
Brother arrives [hug brother]

back issue #3: Schenectady: in which I realize that there are very few words that rhyme with 'Schenectady'

There once was a flood in Schenectady
That ruined my bike route inexorably
All the small roads were closed
So I rode, quite exposed
On freeways that put life in jeopardy

Hurricane Irene had caused quite a bit of flooding in upstate New York, and as I neared Schenectady the roads got worse and worse. When my planned route led to a closed road, I replanned my route...and immediately encountered another closed road.  More replanning.  More closed roads.  Like a  mouse (a very well-outfitted mouse with a smartphone) in a maze, I scurried, whiskers trembling, from dead end to blocked road to washed-out bridge.  Increasingly, it seemed that all Schenectady-bound roads were either impassable or closed...except for the interstate. (Note: it is actually illegal to bike on the interstate, and for good reason).  But, as the saying goes, desperate times call for foolish, life-threatening measures (or something like that).  So, dusk descending, I pedaled up the on-ramp to the freeway.  Battalions of distracted drivers sped past as I maneuvered through the roadkill obstacle course on the shoulder.  Wind from passing semi trucks threatened to suck me into traffic. The occasional angry honk startled me nearly out of my spandex.  One particularly cheery soul rolled down his window to give me a one-fingered wave.  Forty adrenaline-fueled minutes later (teeth ground to nubs, eyes bugged out cartoonishly, and knuckles permanently white) I arrived in Schenectady. 

It rained for most of the time I was in Schenectady.  I managed to do a few sketches between cloudbursts, but mainly I stayed inside while my nerves knit themselves back together.  And I saw 'Contagion'. It was okay.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

back issue #2: Utica

Utica Train Station

Not sure what this Utica

Rested, but still top-heavy with clogged sinuses, I packed up my camping equipment and pointed my bike towards Utica.  The roads gradually unflattened themselves, swelling into ever steeper and more arduous hills.  Huffing and puffing my way up what I estimated to be a eighty-five degree slope, I recalled a tidbit I'd read in a 'Men's Health' type magazine while waiting in the checkout line at a grocery store.  The tidbit advised that a  modicum of well-placed swearing during intense physical exertion could help one tap into hidden energy reserves.  (My vocabulary already tends toward the potty end of the spectrum, so this was an idea I had no qualms about trying.)  "FUUUUCK!," I shouted as I struggled to keep the odometer over 3mph. The suggested 'modicum of swearing' quickly snow-balled into an outburst resembling a Tourettes attack. "YOU...MOTHER...FUCKING...JERK..." I wheezed, addressing the hill ahead of me, "you think you're all BAAAD because you're all steep and shit, but you'll see...I am going to ride you like a FUCKING PONY till I get ON TOP of you, you FUCKING UN-SHADED ASSHOLE." Just then I noticed a couple and their young child out for a walk on the other side of the road.  "Oh hi!" I said chirpily, using my best I-would-never-swear-at-inanimate-objects-you-must-have-been-hearing-things voice. The couple paused, mouths ajar. The child clung to her mother's leg and fixed me with what I imagine was her steeliest staring-down-monsters-under-the-bed gaze. "Well," I panted, "have a nice walk, it's a beautiful day!"  Chagrined, I pedaled away as fast as I could, which was not nearly fast enough, thanks to the F***ING A**HOLE hill.

My uphill efforts did pay off later in the day, when the hill finally ended.  I paused at the crest to catch my breath and to survey the twisting descent ahead of me, which was easily as steep as the slope I had just climbed.  Using my well-honed skills in completely disregarding my personal safety,  I released the brakes and shoved off.  Ten, twenty, thirty miles-per-hour. My tires buzzed down the pavement and my panniers rattled tenuously, threatening to unhook themselves from the bike. As the odometer climbed past forty miles-per-hour, I whizzed by a "Speed Limit: 35" sign (getting a speeding ticket for biking too fast is one of the things I hope to accomplish in this life, but alas, no cop was around to pull me over).  I continued to zoom downward, the wind forcing tears out of my eyes.  When I spotted an intersection ahead of me, I reluctantly squeezed the brakes and trembled to a stop.  I pushed the 'max recorded speed' button on my odometer: 47.6mph

my max speed...!

I don't know what this sign was referring to.  The closest things to it were a barn and a  graveyard...