Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Bike Snob and the Parenthesis

The Bike Snob is the King of the Parenthetical Comment. There are as many as three or four on a page in his latest book, "The Enlightened Cyclist." They define his writing style, generally a snide wisecrack with an element of truth. They are asides that can be a distraction, but comments he can't resist. Sometimes they are pertinent, but often they simply allow him to lampoon some innocent bystander who he has it in for even though the object has nothing to do with the subject at hand.

When he makes the sweeping comment, "We now live in the 21st century," he adds "(Well, excluding people like the Amish, the Taliban and Larry King)." His book has a Biblical theme to it. When he cites Genesis, he clarifies, "(the Bible book, not the band)."

His book regularly takes to task hipsters and the smug, though at times he might be describing himself. When he used the word "oft" he virtually confesses to being among the clan with his parenthetical disclaimer "("oft" is pretentious for "often")."

The Snob was sporting a beard at his Chicago appearance last week despite his frequent flippant remarks about beards in his book. He says people with beards love bicycles. At one point he gives a definition of smugness, a quality all too many cyclists are prone to. Smugness, he maintains, leads to making one feel like an all-powerful wizard, which "could explain why so many smug cyclists wear beards."

It is a shame the book doesn't have an index. Besides making it easy to find the many smug and beard and hipster references, one could be entertained by a quick scan of the wide array of off-the-wall cultural oddities that irk or bemuse him. Along with the Amish and Larry King, one would find mime, Froot Loops, Segway, ring tones, Chicken McNuggets, bamboo bikes, urban bee keeping, ghost bikes, Howard Stern, Oprah, Billy Joel, David Bryne. There are also multiple references to Portland and Critical Mass, targets he never tires of taking potshots at. There would have been 17 movies listed, down from 43 in his first book. There were three movies mentioned in both books--"Jaws," "Saturday Night Fever" and "Pee Wee's Big Adventure," one of his favorite movies of all time.

To a certain extent the book is a response to the response of his first book. He wants the world to know he is not some loud-mouthed, irrational, anarchist preaching the destruction of the automobile and reviling those who do not embrace the bike, as some regard him. Most radio interviewers on his first book tour asked him why he hated cars. He doesn't hate cars at all. "Cars are for the broad strokes and bikes for the detail work," he asserts. He owns a car and drives it embarrassingly long distances with his bike to compete in cyclocross races. On the morning of 9/ll he was all set to drive his dog to the vet to have a tooth extracted. If his alter ego, BikeSnobNYC, knew about that, he'd certainly have some pointed comment.

He tries to be a voice of reason in the battle between cars and bikes. When he sets out on his bike he has two goals, not to get killed and not to get angry. He preaches acceptance of untoward behavior by motorists. He can tolerate Billy Joel, so bicyclists ought to tolerate cars.

He sees much progress in the number of people riding bikes. He thinks we may be at a major cultural intersection with the possibility of cycling finally going mainstream. He encourages cyclists to do as little as possible to antagonize motorists. He has learned to take great satisfaction at stopping at red lights, especially since it can befuddle, if not disturb, motorists and pedestrians.

He knows the cultural transformation is a gradual process. He compared it to a prison break with the prisoners trying to dig a tunnel with spoons. Every time they leave their cells they must take a pocketful of dirt. Every ride a cyclist takes is a pocketful of goodwill promoting the cause of the bicycle. "If we all do our tiny part, we may get to the other side of the wall," he writes.

1 comment:

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