Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Washington Heights

Victoria hosted a wonderful birthday party for Tamara. I went there with Katie, who drove. Very exotic to drive around Northern Manhattan. Especially up to 181st St and Broadway. I walked up Broadway once, but it’s still a foreign land. Washington Heights: Big apartment buildings. Hills (gosh, do we turn our wheels when we park?). And lots of Dominicans. And when you go that far up North, you realize just how not-to-scale that subway map is.

While looking for parking, I was thinking how I could never get these damn little bike parts I need. I needed rim tape and a brake-arm clip. Bike stores in Astoria are closed on Sunday. And I work all day Monday. But after finding parking on a side street, I noticed a sign for a bike store half a block down. And lights were on, apparently open at 8PM on a Sunday.

It was just like a little Amsterdam store-front bike store. Except that it was Dominican. And included a posse of six young to middle-aged Spanish-speaking men holding court between the ugly new mountain bikes hanging from the ceiling. The man, whose English was raised-in-New-York good, seemed baffled by my demand for rim tape for road-bike wheels and a part for a rear coaster brake. He kept asking me if I had a road bike or a mountain bike. I didn't think he really wanted the full story. I told him I knew what size rim tape I needed. I just didn’t know what size he had. Neither, apparently, did he. I was insistent. And I made him bring me a ruler to measure the width of the rim tape. I got two rolls of 16mm tape (that’s a little wide for the front wheel, but it should be fine).

He eventually figured out what I meant by brake-arm clip. Though shockingly essential for safty on a coaster-braked bike, this part is a pretty insignificant little piece of metal. It clips the coaster brake to the chainstay of the frame so that the whole wheel, axel, and locking nut apparatus doesn't start spinning wildly if you brake hard.

It's sold, according to the package, by the name of “coaster brake strap.” I sure don’t know what it is in Spanish. But he found it without too much trouble. Little bike stores tend to be good for coaster brake parts. They even had the nice wide yellow pants strap I like, but only have one of. So I got one of those too. $10.50 later, the happy transaction was completed. In theory, this is my last bike purchase! Except for a 14mm socket wrench. But that's a tool and a hardware-store purchase, so it's in a different category.

The little metal band bends around the chainstay and screws shut to itself and the coasterbrake arm.

Then I go outside to find Katie wearing pink pants in the middle of Washington Heights spritzing her freshly cut hair while standing in a girly-girl pose I didn’t think she was capable of. I suddenly felt a long way from home.

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