Posts Tagged ‘ city ’

Perfectly Windy Skies & Winter Biking

It’s starting to get cold. Fall has been mild – yesterday morning it was sixty degrees or something – but winter always comes eventually. Certainly the temperatures are dropping, but mostly I notice it in the brittle quality of the light and the relentless wind.

That’s the old post office tower – screw the Washington Monument, it’s the best view in DC, tell ’em Melissa sent you – and lately it’s been looking so ominous under the thin, pale winter sky.

A few weeks ago I was trucking my bike around and had this exchange with a friend –

"What are you going to do when it gets cold?"
"Wear a coat."
"Badass!"

Yes, yes, I’m very impressive. Except not really, because my non-bike option isn’t a car, it’s public transit and my own two feet. Bicycling warms up my core and gets me to my centrally heated destinations faster – nothing grueling or virtuous about it. I expect Farrah will help make this winter much easier than last.

Except, OMIGOD, the wind. I seem to be pushing into a headwind no matter which way I go.

There is one good hill on my commute, down in the morning and up in the afternoon, on the Capitol grounds. I have no concept of how steep or long this hill would seem to serious cyclists, but for me it is intense – when I first started, I figured out my old route through downtown specifically to avoid it. Now, I don’t have to walk, but I do sometimes drag myself up thinking all the way about either walking or dying. I guess some other times it is easy, and before I know it I’m exhilarated at the top, but the wind this past week or two has made those occasions more rare even as (I hope) I’m getting stronger.

From the top, you can see the Washington Monument rising into whatever skies the season brings. It’s a beautiful view every time, as long as I can breathe hard enough to get oxygen to my eyeballs.

I’d like to get the feeling on record, so that in a few months – when I’m coasting up like the terrifying Spandexed waifs on their skinny road bikes – I can look back and laugh.

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November Review

November has been a money-focused month for me.

I bet that would give people who know me a good laugh – I am always budgeting, re-running my budget numbers, worried about staying on budget, talking about my budget. Love that budget! I have a nonprofit salary, city living expenses, some student debt and not a whole lot to fall back on, so it’s a hustle. I’ve had to save rigorously just to cover the next emergency.

But recently, I’ve been enjoying the fruits of a wee pay bump. I did indeed re-run my budget numbers, but mostly what I’m doing is just socking away the additional money in my savings accounts – I have one for emergencies, one for travel and one for large irregular purchases. Perversely, forcing myself not to touch that extra money makes it easier to be frugal and stay on budget. Instead of saying, well I shouldn’t buy this or that because it will make the monthly hustle a teeny tiny fraction easier, I say, I shouldn’t buy this or that because I’m choosing to use my money for fun and for big goals. Psh, easy.

Technically speaking, I did spend over budget some in November, but it’s okay – I paid for a bunch of fast food traveling to New York, I bought all my Christmas presents, and generally can feel okay about dipping into those savings accounts to cover these things if it turns out to be a hustle.

All right – that’s boring. What else happened in November? The weather was pleasantly mild and I wanted to be outside as much as I could, enjoying it before winter. I feel like I spent the whole month on my bike.

Those columns used to be part of the U.S. Capitol, and now they live in a field in the middle of the National Arboretum. The arboretum is a great place for a bike-adventure – my lady and I had a date there this month – because it is beautiful and full of surprises and oh my god the hills will work your bum.

On another bike date day we found ourselves at the Hide/Seek exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. I only made it halfway through because it was so overwhelming and I wanted to read every word and see every detail. I have to go back and finish before it closes, and then possibly go to Jaleo and weep desperately into a pitcher of sangria.

Oh, and in November I started writing in this little journal! It’s good for the soul. Thanks, little journal.

Bike’s-Eye View

It’s a slow day, clearing up my inbox and making my plan for the holiday. I’m expecting more family commitment than usual this Thanksgiving, but I hope to keep my wits (and my bike and this blog) about me.

Meanwhile, I have been trying to take more photos and especially to keep my camera ready on my commute. It is definitely an interesting balance (ha, literally, ba dum bum CHING) especially with the rush of the morning commute and the darkness of the evening, but I’m getting better. So, a quick shot for a slow day.

Excelsior! Brooklyn in the Details

Weekend in Brooklyn! Hung out, ate bagels, admired bicycles and puppies, rocked a vintage pinafore dress in which I usually feel too precious. Like ya do.

I call this one "pocket watch and solo cup." Oh, fashion. In DC, preppy and functional reign supreme, the hipster kids always color inside the lines and good thrift and vintage is hard to find. I’m not down on it – I like that a little flair goes a long way – but I do love going somewhere with more character and getting to look around. We went to Re-Dress, a plus-size resale boutique, and I was bowled over by the sheer personality of it all.

Dear New York bicyclists, why does it seem more of you ride against the auto traffic than with it? I’m not judging – well, I’m judging a little – but mostly I’m just curious. Please advise.

On this trip, I found myself in a few places familiar from movie scenes that I haven’t been to in a while or ever – Times Square, Park Slope, the Q train underground and over the river. The streetscapes give you that TV-or-real-life vertigo. It happens in downtown DC, too, especially around the Capitol, Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House, and often when I’m running or biking around that area I entertain elaborate political thriller fantasies about saving Justices or Senators from right-wing extremists. In New York I don’t have such a strong narrative to anchor it to – mostly it feels like someone is trying to sell me something – but I can see how enough of it would make you feel famous, powerful, as if you must Twitter immediately because your public needs to know what’s on your mind. (Or write in your blog, perhaps.)

Bike-Commuting Hipster Tool

I wrote a letter about bike lanes to the city council today, oh yes I did. I can’t decide if I feel awesome or like a tool about it. I do know that I was sitting at my desk fuming about the two police cars blocking my lanes so volunteers could solicit donations from cars at the stoplight until I wrote it all out, got it out of my head and moved on with my morning – clearly the best thing the city council has to do with their day is let me unload so I can feel better about mine.

I say that with sarcasm, but maybe it is truer than I want to know.

In fact the most notable bike moment of the morning had nothing to do with claiming my space. Earlier, as I waited at a light, an older woman at a bus stop looked me up and down and smiled so warmly and beatifically you’d think I was cruising down the street just handin’ out puppies and kissin’ on babies. Farrah is a red 1971 Schwinn Suburban with a Toto basket, still radiating the adorable energy of the adorable hipster roommate I bought her from, and if I wear something bright or retro or just the right amount of quirkily mismatched, we can make quite a pair. Anything worth doing is worth doing stylishly – maybe you will be so cute you make some lady’s day.

Then again, maybe she was just pleased to see me stop for the red light.

I think all the biking this fall is what makes me want to take more pictures. Although I know neither me nor my camera nor the medium of photography could adequately capture the beauty of the city’s elegant old rowhouses and bright red and gold trees from the perspective of the bicycle, when I’m gliding through the sun with the wind in my hair I get so wrapped up in it all that I want to try.

I did take some pictures last night while waiting outside for my girlfriend to come home and unlock her house, mostly to check out the night setting on my camera and make sure I took a photo that day. (Goal!) They are silly and tragic – night setting requires a tripod.

Farrah models the night setting. Tragically.

I’ve been thinking of trying to keep my camera accessible while I’m commuting. It’s a little scary to imagine seeing and framing good pictures while moving, stopping and starting, balancing, keeping myself, Farrah and the camera safe, and not being the total douchelord who stops in the middle of the road, but I suppose photography favors the brave.