Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sweet Crude Week in Review Part II

This week I pulled three flats on the back wheel of my Benotto and had to resort to riding the Trek which sucked. 26 inch wheels suck, I'm over mountain bikes. fucking over them. Road bikes with 700 wheels are the ONLY WAY to ride on streets...Okay townies too....okay cruisers too.

And gas prices are on everyone's lips. Those weekend trips up to SF my friends like to take are getting too expensive. And folks are filling up their tanks only half way, resorting to Costco stations because gas is a little bit cheaper there. It makes me nervous knowing that the situation is only going to get worse and that most folks don't realize this is just the beginning of what James Howard Kunstler calls, "The Long Emergency."

Speaking of Costco, this week a doctor got arrested after brandishing a tire iron and confronting another motorist who cut him off at a Costco gas station.

I don't know which is worse - the fact that people are already acting desperate for fuel or that the pigs actually arrested a man for such behavior (as opposed to detaining him, or you know, just having a stern talk with him).

And half a world away, fuel protests have racked the governments of Spain, Portugal, and many parts of Asia.

As a friend put it via email, "This is crazy, these protests are really effective. This is the only way to get the government, nay, the world to listen to your plight. You have to hit them where it hurts, it's all about money. Although these governments cannot control the actual rising in oil prices, it sounds like they can control how much it gets taxed. If more people mobilized in this country including myself, we could change many problems with this country."

Crazy? Shee-it, it's crazy to me to think that many of these strikes are union led and that the United States has one of the weakest labor movements of all industrialized nations. Americans ain't organized along labor lines, and we're going to pay dearly for it.

But at least one group still has the huevos to take a stand for what they believe in - the ruling class, and their political party, the Republicans. For the 2nd week in a row, the GOP minority in the Senate thwarted plans by the jackass Democrats to enact energy reform in general and tax the oil barons in particular.

You gotta hand it to the Grand Old Party for being consistent - they were dragged kicking & screaming during the desegregation struggles of the 1960s, and they're now being dragged kicking & screaming into the powering-down era of the 21st Century.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sweet Crude Week in Review

In case you missed it, on Wednesday General Motors announced the closure of four truck & SUV factories and is also considering dropping its production of Hummers due to a 30% drop in sales. Reason? Soaring gas prices.

News stories about the impending death of the SUV and Hummer era are already hitting the wires. (An understatement if I ever heard one)

Airlines are also teetering for the same reason.

On Friday, the Senate Republicans successfully filibustered a climate change bill, effectively killing it for the year.

And as this is being written, Wall Street fell like a fat man without a parachute after oil prices hit a new record of $139.12.

Fun times ahead of us, that's for sure. On that note, I'd like to share the following video for just the occasion...

For a more comprehensive review of the crude hitting the fan, check out

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Carry Me Home

This morning I rode to work with a new set of handle bars wedged between my backpack and shoulders, the plan being to hit up the Bike Church ( in the afternoon and replace the old ones. It felt awkward but good, not so much because this was the first piece of new bicycle equipment I've been able to afford in a while but because I'd managed to carry it across town with relative ease.

Next to getting a little sweaty, transporting groceries and other miscellaneous goods is a common excuse I hear from folks who don't ride. I recall how a couple of years ago, a veterinarian friend asked innocently, "But how do you get the kitty litter home?"

"Saddle bags if it's a small box, my bike trailer if it's a large one," I said or something like that.

To be fair, there's always a certain level of improvising that comes with transporting items on a bike, but that's what makes riding so enjoyable. Many a' time I've carried a bag of spinach tied to the shoulder straps of a backpack full of groceries and few pounds more in a saddle bag. Heavy? Yup. Difficult to ride? A little. Worth the hassle? Fuck yeah.

Compare this to everything else in modern life that places comfort and convenience above creativity and resourcefulness. Evidence? Exhibit A: a gourmet S'mores kit - I rest my case.

The other thing people forget about riding a bike is that it automatically makes you think twice before bringing something home that you didn't plan to (or don't need). An impulsive purchase of a brand new singing rainbow trout on clearance at the mall is pretty much out of the question. (Of course, most bike punks wouldn't be caught dead in a shopping mall in the first place).

This is all to say it felt real sweet this morning to once again go about life without feeling dependent on a car. And to think, only yesterday I spotted a woman riding with a painting carefully hung from her backpack. Brilliant!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ride, Scavenge, Scrounge.

It's around 9:30pm on a Friday night and I'm racing around downtown Santa Cruz looking for Wasabi and a copy of Pootietang. Memories of the Crank Mob incident three weeks ago echo in my head but tonight's "Scrounge" scavenger hunt is only about 25 people and we're all riding in different directions so there is little worry about getting hassled by the cops or worse, drunk, aggressive drivers.

The streets are aglow with faces eager, anxious for excitement. Sadly, the options for adventure on a Friday night in 21st century America are fairly limited to conversations about Ninjas vs. Pirates, Grand Theft Auto, Hollywood premiers, expensive bars, and tons upon tons of corporate coffee shops. It's a desperate, ravenous spectacle, all juxtaposed against an imperial government that kills people living on land where the world's remaining barrels of oil are buried. And it's all so we can keep this ugly spectacle going.

And then there's this psychotic scavenger hunt. Psychotic because we have 2.5 hours to get a list of items as far away as Aptos and UC Santa Cruz, and as hygienic as taking your picture next to a sleeping homeless person. Psychotic because most of the items outlined do NOT require purchasing massed produced goods and then taking them home to collect dust. No, tonight we're grabbing what's free or cheap - handfuls of sand, movie ticket stubs, deflated basketballs, it's absurd and I'm not sure why I'm doing it. Oh yeah, it's better than the spectacle.

I poke into record stores, bookstores, and videostores looking for a copy of Pootietang. But it's a nay-no on the runny tine, and I leave quickly. I head for the parks and "forbidden" spaces in search of Poison Hemlock and maybe a picture of an alley cat. On the outskirts of downtown, the streets are quiet, and you can smell the fresh ocean breeze, the wild skunks, the marijuana. It's lovely and I think about how this may be the perfect balance between feeling compelled to buy some shit at a store because there's nothing else to do and riding aimlessly throughout the night because there's no place in particular to go.

Except, I'm getting sweaty. I'm also getting tired. I secure a deflated basketball, a fistful of redwood duff, I ride out to Arana Gulch in search of Socrates' last drink. It's dark and I'm technically not suppose to be here but it's worth the risk of watching the stars obliterate the memories of television screens and I think about how living rooms are cages, as are cubicles, and classrooms. I can hear a party somewhere, female laughter, there's no Poison Hemlock here and I kick myself for not remembering that it's a plant that grows closer to riparian areas, i.e. I'm looking in the wrong place.

I race back towards downtown with only 5 minutes before the rendezvous time with my team. San Lorenzo Park, like so many American parks, is closed at night but I ride through nonetheless and find a huge patch of the plant that killed Socrates, take a sample and head back downtown. In the distance I spot an alley/feral cat - I pull out my camera but it quickly bolts into the bushes. Call of the wild I guess.