Monday, June 28, 2010

Granny Rap

Plenty to do in Amsterdam... thanks to GVB, Amsterdam public transportation.

But I'm posting this because it may be the slickest ad ever for public transportation (with the old Detroit People Mover song as a close second).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bruce Ratner, dictator

I was reading the paper today and came across this picture.

"Gee," I thought, "that guy sure looks familiar!"

"Why," I shouted, "that guy looks just like Bashar al-Assad!"

I turned to look at my fridge magnet of Bashar Assad. (What? doesn't everybody have a fridge magnet of their favorite middle-eastern dictator?) And there he is, in all his I'm-in-over-his-head benevolence.

So it turns out the first picture isn't the Syrian President but rather Bruce Ratner. He just waiting for the crowd to show up so he can raise his hand in glorious I-abused-the-power-of-the-law-to-steal-your-property malevolence.

Now I don't mean to besmirch the reputation of Bashar Assad with this comparison because I like Syria a lot more than the Atlantic Yards project.

Ratner? What can I say? I hate what he's done but I have a tough time getting too worked up because, well, it's not in my backyard. But boy, Freddy's was a good bar. And if I lived closer, I'd be hot as hell! But I live in Astoria and can't see the evilness of Ratner's plan because an ugly Pistilli building is blocking my view.

But I'd take Bashar over Bruce any day. Why here's a picture of the Assad family when Bashar was a kid (that's Bashar on the lower left wearing the first of many ill-fitting suits).

Bashar, who was himself an ophthalmologist before duty called, scored big when he married a babe. She's got brains, too.

(Asma has 38,228 fans on facebook. Poor Bashar has just 62).

But Astoria Bike's deciding factor for Bashar over Bruce? Bashar al-Assad rides a bike with his son on the back.

You ever seen Ratner on two wheels? I didn't think so.

And if you're ever in Aleppo, I know the best bike store.

An Astoria Welcome to the Q Train?

Would anybody be interested in officially welcoming the Q train to Astoria? It might be fun.

The Q runs to Ditmars starting the 27th. I know it's been there a few times for a visit, but now it's ours for real (The W is already dead to me).

One of the dirty secrets of the subway cuts and that we in Astoria actually benefit! M and Q train beat V and W any day (unless you work in lower Manhattan).

So what would be better than welcoming the Q train in style?!

I'm not quite certain what I have in mind. Ideally a brass band and a speech from the mayor. But since neither will probably happen... how about a 8 people and maybe a camera person from NY1 (or at least pictures for transportation alternatives). We could dress fine, applaud like geeks, and roll out a red carpet for the driver or conductor (maybe give each of them a $10 gift certificate the good pizza down below). Give a real Astoria welcome to the Q train! Any music would be great.

Now this could be for the *first* Q train on Sunday, the 27th. But I don't play that early game. So I'm thinking any Q train on Monday would do. Plus, I have a friend, Ali from Kabab Cafe who might be able say a few special words as a dignitary. And Monday is his day off.

Brilliant? Well, let's not go that far. But it could be fun. And I'll buy a round of drinks.

Comment with ideas or if you might want to participate.

New Subway Map

I rode the train yesterday and like the new subway map! At least ascetically. All the bus boxes gone (nobody uses those, right?). Soothing colors (or "recession color," as my partner-in-victimhood said, disparagingly).

And the M train is orange and goes to Queens... Craaaazy!!!

But here's what's weird... the MTA has no night map.

What if you're a tourist. Or a native New Yorker and want to get home at midnight. You look at the map. You pick a route. You transfer to the R. And then you wait for an hour before realizing your train is never going to come because it doesn't run at night.

Now we're blessed to be one of the two subway systems in the world (can you name the other?) to run 24/7. Seriously. There are only two subways in the world that don't close down.

But the New York Subway ain't great at night. It runs less frequently than the other (every 20 minutes compared to every 15). And some lines don't run at all. That wouldn't be a big deal except the map doesn't tell you!

"See signs above platform or look online" is their advice. Not too useful if you're on the damn train!

Why do we have no "owl service" map? Can't I make one.

That was my offer I proposed to the MTA in an email.

Customer (Astoria Bike) - 06/21/2010 03:45 AM Is there an MTA subway map for night service? If so, could you please send it to me? If not, could I make one with photoshop and send it to you? Please send me a jpg (or similar) file of the map if possible.

This is their annoying response.

Recently you requested personal assistance from our on-line support center. Below is a summary of your request and our response.

night map

Discussion Thread
Response (Andrea Popp) - 06/21/2010 02:43 PM This is in response to your recent e-mail to New York City Transit requesting a night map for the subway.

We appreciate your interest in New York City Transit. Please note, we do not offer a night map for the subway or buses. For scheduling information, we recommend you view the individual line maps, available on our website:

We hope this information is helpful and thank you for having taken the time to contact us.

Andrea Popp
Staff Analyst II

Question Reference #100621-000008
Product Level 1: NYC Transit Subway
Category Level 1: Information Request
Date Created: 06/21/2010 03:45 AM
Last Updated: 06/21/2010 02:43 PM
Status: Closed

So I want to make a night map. There should be one. (There would still a limbo between 10 and midnight or so.) But why is it too much to ask for a simple map of what runs between midnight at 6 AM? Or at least why won't they let some nerd like me make one for them?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stupid fucker stole my rack!

I have a bike parked outside. It's been parked outside for, well, about 13 years.

"How can you leave a bike parked outside?" people exclaim with shock. I don't know. It's easy. Convenient. And people leave cars parked outside all the time. Look, it's not a fancy bike. And I do have the seat locked. But hell, I don't even have the rear wheel locked (though it's coaster brake and not quick release). Though I might start now.

We went outside today and discovered that some fucker had stolen both rear racks off both our bikes. Now this is annoying and kind of pissy. My partner in victimhood pointed out, "Hell, if you prorate it out over the years, it's not so bad."

Indeed. My rack probably costs $20 and hers $30. And, if you can say as much, the fucker was nice not to steal more... I suppose.

But here's where it gets weird--and I'm only writing this assuming that the rear rack thief of Astoria doesn't read this blog--we first noticed something amiss because our bike bags (an essential part of any city bike you almost never see here) were on the ground, next to our bikes.

Now my bike bag was new. Sure the fucker didn't know this. But that baby is outrageously expensive. And imported. Like $80. So thank you for not taking it. Not worth taking? You really are a stupid shit. And thank you for not taking my bike bell from Egypt, and not taking my front wheel with Dura Ace hub (I'm not trying to prove anything with the ol' fancy hub on cheap bike action... I just happened to have that hub), and thank you for not taking my rear wheel with a Bendix 2-speed kick-back hub. And thank you for not slashing my tires. Shit man, almost everything on that bike is worth more than the rear rack! My spokes are worth more than a rear rack.

And here's the crazy shit... the fucker had to slice my bike bags to steal my rack because I chained my bag to my rear rack. I didn't want anybody stealing my bags. And the fucker probably thought I had chained the rear rack.

The bastard was armed with at least an allen wrench and a blade. It was a relatively neat and professional job. He wanted rear racks and got two. But good God... for two fucking rear racks?! Are you crazy? There's so much better on these bikes to steal. And now I have to get my bag sewed up.

Anyway, if you see a rear rack for sale with a length of bike chain attached to it (which used to be holding my bag), let me know. I'll beat the crap out of him if he comes around my house again.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Communists Born in the USA and Dire Straits

I was in the hardware store under the tracks by 36th Avenue the other day. The one where the owner or main worker is a middle-aged, liberal, dog loving, some'er teeth, former punk kind of guy (only in New York!).

Dire Straits "Walk of life" was on the radio and I mentioned how I loved that song when it came out... and how today he sounds more like a Bruce Springsteen wannabe.

Then we started talking about Springsteen. It took me years before I liked Springsteen (till hearing "Nebraska," to be precise). Right about then a very clean-cut older guy came in and overheard our conversation. I noticed, as he interrupted, that his belt holding up his shorts and tucked in shirt was perfectly straight around the circumference of his big belly:

"Springsteen, Born in the USA. You ever hear the lyrics?"

No, and, er, that's not what we were talking about.

"'Put a rifle in my hands/Sent me off to Vietnam/To go and kill the yellow man.' How about that? Yellow man!"

Silence. (though those are interesting lyrics)

"You know what it is about Vietnam?"

No. But I bet you're going to tell me.

"We could have won that war!"


"Yeah, we could have won that war if it weren't for... communists and their sympathizers. Sympathizers born right here in the USA!"

You know, I thought we lost 50,000 men over there because it was a fight we kept fighting even though we couldn't win. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you lose. Especially in another country's civil war.

But what do I know? I was barely alive. Maybe the problem wasn't conditions over there but people over here who were against the war. Maybe we just needed more troops and few more years to really beat those bastards.

Kind of like the war on drugs. Or Iraq. To think that liberal ol' me may be responsible for brave young soldiers running over IEDs and not the draft-dodging politicians who sent them there in the first place. (Don't judge patriotism by service! Judge it by flag pins in the lapel!]

It's always easier to blame others than admit you were wrong.

But I said nothing. This guy was already on mindless autopilot mode. Standing in front of an ACLU sticker shouting about communists and their sympathizers ruining this country.

I took my box of garbage bags and continued biking home.

Monday, June 07, 2010

7-Stop Shopping or Why I ♥ Astoria

It really is a beautiful day in the neighborhood. I went to mail some letters and did the mail-drop double-check before dropping them in the mailbox at 30th Ave. No stamps. So I turned around and walked three steps and (1) bought two stamps from the newsstand.

Then I (2) bought wine at the liquor store, (3) ground coffee at Dunkin Donuts, (4) a slice of (bad) pizza, (5) vegetables from one vegetable stand, (6) cheese from the Greek House, and (7) different vegetables and eggs at the other vegetable stand. All in about 20 minutes and without really thinking about it. And I ran into a neighbor on the way. When has seven-stop shopping ever been so convenient?

Or perhaps I'm thinking about it wrong. Maybe the three-block stretch between 30th and 33rd Street is actually one stop! Maybe I live right next to the world's best Wallmart. Grand Avenue Wallmart. Why it even has its own subway stop.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Man Driving SUV attacks bikes in San Fran

A horrible story from the West Coast:
Witnesses said the SUV came speeding south on the street, hit the first bicyclist head on, and then hit the second less than a block away at 24th Street.

The driver roared east about a mile to the corner of 23rd and Pennsylvania streets, where he hit the third cyclist. Then he sped several blocks north to Potrero Hill, where he hit his last victim at the corner of Missouri and 17th streets and slammed to a stop against a light pole.