Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Get a grip on yourself... it's the last day of the year!

Here we go, it's that time again.
Let's toast the year and its end.

What a crazy year, through and through!  The weather has almost been as psychotic as 2013 itself, mirroring its soaring, bright heights of Malala inspiration, and its cold, dark, dank depths of Fordly despair.  We've been very lucky here in Vancouver, though, with a few seriously cold, bright, clear snaps an only a  little rain as autumn turned winter this time round. The city's skiers are a little worried, because no rain means no snow on the hills, but one man's curse is another's blessing.  We've had tons of beautiful bicycle cycling weather, which of course means I'm happy.  :D 

 This is Marine drive on a lazy Sunday morning's ride up past UBC of late.  As often as not, however, I'm up there at stooopid o'clock in the morning, so it looks like this instead:

Or this, a step back from the bike:

Stooopid o'clock rocks, though, even at the very end of the year. Most of the rest of you peeps are still asleep, or at the very least you're indoors, so I have the roads all to myself. It's serene, and so much safer than riding any other time of day.  I rode six laps round Stanley Park recently, and I saw only six cars in all the time it took.  There was one in the third, one in the fourth and three in the last half of the sixth lap.  It's heaven when everything is quiet like that and I'm hurtling through time and space, into the inky darkness:  pushing, pumping hard, panting, pondering, and praying for enlightenment.

Prayers are always answered somehow, you know. I am no closer to understanding the secrets of life, the universe, and everything, but every day the universe replies with the rising of the sun, and hey!  What do you know?! It's true.  Troubles are always a little more manageable in the light of dawn.
Blessed be.

Yup.  A tip of the hat to the beauty of the year's end, from full spectrum sunrises to great, white blankets of snow which turn the world into a monochrome, muted wonderland.

It's a lot of slip slidy fun, all that slushy white stuff.

 You've gotta love the year end, what with all of the celebrating and toasting and stuff.  Here's to surviving 2013 so we can drink to it.  And since we're toasting good endings, let's toast the rear end, too.  You've gotta love a good bum.

Everybody's got one, though not all posteriors are created equal...

and the maximusest gluteuses are definitely cycle butts.

Yup. You've gotta love a bike-buffed bum.

 It's the classic bubble-butt.

You've also gotta love what the sun does for yer bum, how it makes it nice and brown and warm, but you'd be starkers to try sunbathing your rear end here in Vancouver this time of year.  The good news is that you can ride your bike and buff yer rear end, year end or not.

Oh!  Speaking of which, I have a year end rear end wish. I would like to find a kindred crazy spirit who wants to ride bikes at silly hours even in the dead of  darkness.  I'm looking for a fellow speed-junkie friend whose rear end I can chase around the park at stupid o'clock in the morning. Someone faster than me, and it would be super sweet if it were a girl, cause I like girls. That's not too much to ask for, is it?
It would make me very happy because it might just make me fast.

And that's the important thing, isn't it?

No, not fast. Happy.  Happy is everything. Well, fast is good, too, if it makes you as happy as it makes me, but happiness is the goal of all other goals, or as Aristotle so eloquently put it, "Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence."  So here's to happiness, too, and more specifically, since this is a blog about endings, here's to happy endings.

You probably already know what spokeNscene is all about... that riding your bike makes you happy (literally, since it stimulates your brain's production of happy chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins), healthy, and hot.  The new happy, healthy, hot, and less financially stressed you has a much higher chance of enjoying the many wonderful benefits of a long term relationship, including, though not limited to a great sex life.  Enjoying a great sex life means you have oxytocin floating around in your brain, and that makes you see others as more loving and trustworthy AND it makes you behave in a more loving and trustworthy way.  Hence it's the bike path to world peace.  If everyone is doing it, nobody will be agitated enough to go to war.

And for those of us unlucky enough not to be getting enough with a partner, just remember we're living in a digital world.  After all, we've all got to pull together.  And here's the rub:  masturbation beats frustration hands down. Better yet, if you're really talented, you can enjoy the second coming every single day!  

And it's definitely better than  blue balls, but then you get the picture...

So do as Woody says:

Stand up and be counted, so together we can toast year ends, rear ends and happy endings.
Seasonal greetings and gropings, dear reader.
See you in the New Year! xo xo

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Bearing witness to Vancouver's relics of war slowly fading away, peace by peace.

I recently discovered that Vancouver had a basic, if somewhat token, harbour defence system in place during World War II.  It was head-quartered on Fort Point Grey, but included Jericho Beach Air Station, Stanley Park, Narrows North on the other side of the Lion's Gate Bridge, and Point Atkinson in West Vancouver.  As an exercise in exploring Vancouver's history, I figured it might be interesting to check these spots out.

We started at Jericho Beach, where the only physical remnant of the past lingers in a sign...

and a view

or two

and nothing but this statue is left of the site of the UN's first international conference on human settlement in 1976, Habitat I, which was hosted in the re-painted hangars of old before they were torn down.

Next we headed up toward the site of the head-quarters of Vancouver's harbour defence operations for WWII, the old Fort Point Grey.   It's mostly gone now, demolished in favour of the Arthur Erickson  Museum of Anthropology.

Despite the inevitable march of progress, this wee remnant of Vancouver's history was deemed relevant enough to escape the dynamite which destroyed the rest of the fort to make way for the museum, largely because Erickson liked the notion that  “The gun turret, the symbol of war, base for destruction, was to be vanquished by (Bill Reid's) haunting portrayal of Creation.”

Fort Point Grey today.

Below the old fort and present day museum, you'll see searchlight towers on the beach, which would have been used to carefully examine any vessel heading into the harbour.

Sure searchlights may illuminate a situation, but now these towers are a shining beacon for a whole new kind of social commentary, a canvass for a new generation.

Next we headed to Stanley Park and the emplacement at Siwash Rock.

It's a steep trail which takes you down there... you'll soon know it if you take a wrong turn!

When you walk by the rock, the harbour defence installation above you isn't readily apparent, but it's there.

It's also not readily apparent that it's the middle of December.  I love the holidays.  As much as I want to turn my thoughts toward this year's winter solstice, the dawn of longer days, and all of the Earthly festivities which inevitably accompany all that, inwardly I'm chasing a freedom fighter's ghost from half way round the world instead whilst outwardly I examine the ghosts of global conflicts past.

It is easy to see a dark and frightening image of mankind in the ghostly shadows of modern history.

 I am searching through the patina of time for some small measure of present day success in the good fight against the tyranny of evil, oppression, and greed, though I don't exactly wait with baited breath.

Sigh... my heart is like the weather this weekend: super heavy, dark, and grey.  It's as if the world itself is reacting with me in grief to the loss of one of my all time favourite heroes ever, Nelson Mandela.  

Course there's all the good stuff to be grateful for... you know, that everyone has come together for a moment to reflect on his life and the profound impact he had upon all of us.  That he influenced the very Zeitgeist of our times in a profoundly positive and meaningful way. That his works continue to resonate through time and will influence generations to come. There is no arguing with any of that.

And there's no remnant of the North Narrows defence installation which used to exist right underneath the Lion's Gate Bridge.

As a woman raised with an awareness that apartheid's townships had been created in the likeness of our very own Canadian system of First Nation reserves, I was studying South African literature and politics in the late eighties and early nineties in an attempt to understand  exactly how it is that a whole nation of seemingly normal, good people could freely participate in perpetrating evil upon others.  I never did find all of the answers I was looking for, though along the way, I gained a true appreciation of the enormity of Madiba's great work, and a deep and abiding love and respect for the man himself. He was a human being who lived his most passionate beliefs and learned from his mistakes, and the ripple effect of his actions created a measurable, enormous difference here on Earth. 

What an inspiration. I definitely witnessed the Madiba magic.  He made my world a better place for sure, and that's why I'm sad he's gone.  I carried my heavy heart all the way out to Point Atkinson in Lighthouse Park.  It was the final destination on our journey, and it's far enough from the city that I finally felt I had a bit of perspective on things.

The emplacement is between here and the lighthouse, embedded in the rocky shore.

It's less interesting from the outside looking in,

...than it is from the inside looking out.
It's funny the things which actually end up passing the test of time, and the incarnations those things assume are often surprising, don't you think?  Still, we can honour the past without being chained to it.

We can't continue to do things the way we always have,
simply because that's the way we've always done them.

One of the things which really stuck with me this week was a recording from way back in the annals of time.  It's a voice record of Mandela's famous speech to the courts in which he talked about the "Evil in power," before he offered up his very life itself to make things right in his beloved South Africa, saying "I cherish the ideal of a democratic and free society... it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." That nearly three decades later he came out of prison with forgiveness in his heart, and then relinquished his own power and presidency as promised only serves to underline his tremendous strength of character.  He was my brightest beacon of hope in this crazy day and age and as they lay him to rest I find it ever so hard to say goodbye.  Why? Because despite his tremendous influence, it seems to me that evil is still in power today, and that our battle to overcome it has only just begun.

Watch out for signs of corruption and greed in your neck of the woods, and remember:
be prepared to seize the occasion and fight for the greatest good whenever and wherever you can.

The forces of evil are not always crystal clear and abundantly apparent. Quite often they come disguised as "the foundation of the economy,' or some other such malarkey, so remember to be vigilant. Always.  And remember, too, that our weapons have changed dramatically since the second world war seventy years ago, when we needed searchlight and gun emplacements along the Vancouver harbour.

Our revolution can be a bloodless one.  This time we're battling a global corporatocracy, among other things, so you the consumer control the theatre of war every time you spend your money.  
It really is that simple.

With any luck, this time round we'll choose evolution over revolution.  Maybe we will finally see the forest for the trees so we can indeed create a world worthy of all of our children's children. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Having the wear-with-all to give it a go.

Snobbers published this little gem last week:

The sum total of all of my street cred combined doesn't amount to a hill of beans, but I am a girl. I love clothes, and can dork out over what to wear any time, any day. In fact, "bike clothes," and how to dress when you're riding a bike, is one of those topics I get asked about a lot.  Needless to say, I can babble on and on and on about it, and I do. It only takes a moment to utter a motto, though.  

Dress up, show up, and live it up.

Vancouver is kind of bizarre when it comes to dress sense.  We won the never so coveted bronze medallion for the Worst Dressed City in the World in 2011, thanks in no small part to Chip Wilson's yoga pants.  He probably took a lot of flack when that little ditty of a story broke, and as a guy with a clearly defined sense of aesthetics, and in the true spirit of first world problems, he probably feels awful about it.  You can't blame him for saying that his yoga pants don't work for everyone. There is a kernel of truth in it.

 Don't get me wrong.  I love yoga.  It's crucial to my health and wellness and it's an important part of my daily grind.  Sometimes I even wear yoga pants when I practice yoga, but there IS definitely a time and place for everything, and perhaps some butts aren't the best place for yoga pants.  Even if I didn't agree with him, though, I would be inclined to give Chip a free pass on his faux pas, anyway, cause he's entertaining.  He makes for an interesting neighbour.

 Last August he had the Red Hot Chilli Peppers over for an outdoor playdate at his place, so that anyone on Kitsilano's beaches that evening got to enjoy a free concert.  That's kind of fun, right?  And besides. The ubiquity of yoga pants on Vancouver city streets? It's not Chip's fault that an enormous proportion of Vancouver women believe yoga pants to be the height of fashion and wear them anywhere and everywhere.  He created a superior product, and people came and bought them, till now you see them everywhere, doing everything BUT yoga, though they are designed exclusively for the yoga butt.  At least in this new era of  accountability and transparency, Chip is giving the people what they want. That's what you call sheer audacity.

The strange thing is that you can wear whatever you like on a bike, and yet people in Vancouver usually dress as if they are going camping as soon as they get anywhere near one. I love camping, as much as the next person, and I dress for it when I go. But bicycles are for every day, not just for camping holidays. They are a super-efficient way to get around, and Hey! Did you know they even work in the rain?  Yes, it's true. They do.  I can't tell you how many people are shocked when they notice that I ride my bike all year long, whatever the weather.  

People are so weird.  I was in Mountain Equipment Co-Op the other day, wearing my fredliest gear, with Ti Baby in hand, when I met a man wearing ski boots who was seriously pondering dropping five hundred dollars to walk out with them. Because he loves to ski. He clocked the bike and the fred gear and made a comment about how hardcore I am, because "Damned, it sure is cold out there!"

( * )

Excuse me?

I am left wondering whether our clever skier could possibly be living on the same planet as me.  I ride up mountains sometimes, and before that, I even lived in the Rockies for a few years, so I've spent enough time in alpine environments to know for a fact that it's always colder at the top of a mountain than it is at the bottom.  Always.  That's why pictures of mountains always have the white, snow covered icing thing on the top bit, not the bottom.  Right?  That means that little old me, riding my bicycle as I do down here in town at sea level, is actually in a warmer place than clever you, swooping down the pistes at woo hoo rates of speed. Clever you has clearly figured out that if you dress for the weather and keep moving you stay warm, even on the bloody cold top of a mountain, and you're afraid to ride your bike in the winter because why?
Never mind.  Listen. Everyone knows that if you look good you feel good, so dress for the weather, but remember to wear your favourite things. Don't let them sit neglected and unworn, till either they're no longer in fashion, or they no longer fit. Wear the clothes which put a smile on your face.

Don't forget your safety shoes.  
Seriously,  I meet more people over footwear than any other topic.  I don't understand why everybody is so amazed.  It's easier than walking in them! On your bike, you never have to worry about heel strike, so it doesn't matter one whit how high your heel is.  Platforms do complicate things a teeny bit, but only till you find the sweet spot.  

I wear heels, because mmmm ... pretty,

and suits, because they're best for work.  
It's important to always dress for the weather, too.
You want to be warm in the winter, 

dry in the rain

cool in the heat of summer

and covered in case of showers.

In the winter I just chuck my shoes in my bag 

and wear boots.

Mmm, boots.

I love boots.
Specially safety boots.

Mmm safety boots.

You probably noticed how often I wear a helmet on my head. 

Or on my bike.

 I have to wear one.  Mum said so, and she was right, because sooner or later, my helmets are always well used and appreciated.  I ride hard, and sometimes that means I crash hard, and this small skull of mine hasn't any extra braincells inside to spare so I need all the protection I can get. 

But having said that, helmet laws never did a single thing to make any cyclist's life safer.  Most of the helmets out there don't actually do everything they are cracked up to do, anyway.  They just make it easier to blame the victim when another speeding, distracted driver kills them with that lethal weapon they are piloting. Nope. The safest solutions lie in the way we design and police our roadways, so that the vulnerable are protected and the dangerous are held accountable. Those of us who actually need helmets know who we are.

Oh!  So after helmets and safety shoes, there is one more thing I'm wearing these days.  Remember how I told you about my constant tears of joy as I ride Ti Baby in the Lazer helmet, the continual brain drain?  Foam on the helmet actually made the situation worse, but never fear.
The solution is here.  

Groucho Babs at your service.

Yup. That's me... your friendly neighbourhood speed junkie slave to health, wellness, fashion and design.  

Look, you don't have to drop a ton of cash on cycling specific clothes in order to change your transportation habits.  The whole idea that you can't ride a bike without becoming one with the ubiquitous army of MEC cyclists on our streets is wearing a little thin, anyway.  

Have the wear-with-all to wear whatever you like.  Take it further, though.  Wear what you really like, so that you feel good about yourself and the way you look.  

Dress up!

Once you dress up, all you have to do is hop on your bike and show up to carpe diem.  
Therein lies happiness.

C'mon.  Give it a go. Join me in the bike lane.
It's better here.