It’s heartbreaking to read statements from same-sex couples such as this, which appeared in the New York Times coverage of the state’s first same-sex marriages, in which Ray Durand, 68, declares “We feel a little more human today,” as he formalizes his union with his partner, 79-year-old Dale Shields. The pair has endured a 42-year relationship during which the trials and oppressiveness of society and politics I can only begin to imagine. I am nonetheless moved by their victory despite my distinctly different experiences as a young heterosexual woman.
The way I see it, encroachment on anyone’s civil rights is encroachment on my rights. The battle for LGBT rights bears as much weight as the battle for civil rights that black Americans endure(d) and likewise that of women.
I also relate these battles to the struggles that Jews have endured throughout history. As a non-practicing Jew, there are still certain things that I draw deep connections to in terms of my Jewish heritage. Being the descendant of a population that has faced extreme oppression since nearly the beginning of civilization, I have always put a lot of weight on tolerance for others.
While I have long held onto these values, my visit to Israel cemented my dedication to tolerance and equality for all people. Trekking to the peak of Mount Masada, where several hundred Jews committed mass suicide to avoid becoming enslaved by the Romans, instilled me with a very serious and extreme sense of duty to not only exercise tolerance but advocate for it as well.
On many levels, though, imagining the oppressive atmosphere that exists for LGBT folks today is somewhat beyond me, because I’ve never been discriminated against for my sexual preferences or faced many of the consequences for these choices that the LGBT population does. Still, knowing that my great grandfather snuck out of Poland as a stowaway in a lifeboat to reach America–a holocaust refugee who was forced to leave his mother behind in his choice for survival–I empathize and ache for those who could face oppression in America today, 100 years later, in a purportedly free nation.
Legal parameters that specifically exclude same-sex couple and LGBT individuals, including ballot and law language such as that seen in California’s Prop 8, which began: “Eliminates rights of same-sex couples…,” bear a haunting echo to Germany’s antisemitic Nuremberg laws, albeit with less severity.
Of course, marriage is just one of many, and perhaps less severe forms of discrimination that LGBT individuals face today. While Maine and Oregon continue to uphold laws based on language similar to California’s overturned (yet passed by popular vote) Prop 8, numerous other states have statutes in place that allow thousands of men and women to bear the burden of facing eviction or even being fired because of their sexual preference, and with zero recourse.
Oppression is oppression, and the removal and restriction of one group’s rights is the mud that forms the foundation of any totalitarian Fascist society.
With antisemitism on the rise in many parts of the world today–England’s parliament has considered legislation that would remove teaching about the holocaust from history lessons because it has been proposed as offensive to Islamic holocaust deniers–the struggles that the LGBT population face can only strike an even deeper chord with my sense of fear for losing ground on the equality front for every person. Suppression hurts everyone, and the time for fear-engrossed parties to realize this fact is quite overdue.
The first time Anthony Converse tweeted, he pledged $100/minute to the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition for every minute the Wolfpack Cyclists beat Jetblue to Long Beach. Much to the surprise of the Santa Monica Airlines Skateboards owner, his pledge amounted to $7,000–and he sold his car to make good on his tweet.
I dream of a car-free city. One full of people who agree that cars aren’t necessary. One where people are healthy, happy and resourceful. We use trailers to transport large items. We have a delivery port for external goods that are delivered. We act, think and live locally.
The more I think about it, the more I find myself surprised that there isn’t at even one small town in the entire United States that hasn’t established itself as such. I’ve heard voices from Los Angeles express this sentiment. I’ve heard lifelong New Yorkers vocalize the same. When Hunter S. Thompson presented his bid to run for mayor of Aspen, banning cars was among his proposals as well. And that was decades ago.
Ever since cars have come into existence, the voices of dissent have always circulated. They haven’t been the majority, but the voice of reason hardly ever is.
The weekend-long closure of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles, aka Carmadeggon, had the unintentional effect of demonstrating that the current car-centric status quo isn’t as efficient and adequate as most people have assumed ever since their first trip to the most hellacious place on Earth–the DMV–to obtain their cherished license to waste their life away behind the wheel.
CicLaVia has been a paradigm-shifting force ever since the proposal was uttered above the screech of car tires and obnoxious honking of impatient horns. Reacquainted with the details of the streets they had never seen before–passed through, sure, but never actually seen–masses of people began to embrace the revelation that there’s something critical and human and alive that they’ve been missing: interactions, awareness, experience. Life.
Safety and quality of life have gotten lost in an endless sea of motors; the five senses numbed inside the metal and glass bubble that has become more familiar than the drumming sensation of placing one foot in front of the other and progressing organically past the scents of charbroiled chicken and hot tortillas, the whoosh of market doors, the sounds of golden effervescent laughter of small children and the warm huff of panting dogs, and jingle of keys hanging off an old man’s belt. In a car you can miss all the prettiness and ugliness that makes life real. It all becomes a blur. Now I’ve gone and gotten romantic about something practical, but the truth is it all goes hand in hand and it’s all part of the same heap of reasons why a car-free city should be more than just a fantasy.
The Los Angeles City Council has taken another step in embracing life outside the car by passing an anti-harassment ordinance protecting cyclists from hostile motorists by instituting a $1,000 fine for harassment incidents. Now the frequent intimidation tactics such as tailgating, passing too fast or too close, swerving toward a cyclist, aggressive honking and revving an engine behind a cyclist actually hold consequence. I hope that this will hold real weight in the minds of drivers, and that the point can be driven home effectively and not simply be an ordinance of language sans action. Ideally, it would be approached much in the manner that the anti-cell phone law was, in which there was an immediate crackdown and a flurry of tickets issued when the law first was established.
What is interesting to note is that the anti-harassment ordinance has brought up the discussion of car-free areas once more. In an L.A. Times discussion on the new ordinance, commenter StatusQuoAntebellum writes: “I believe we need to remove cars from some streets. Make them bicycle and pedestrian only throughfares … The problem with bicycles and cars, is the cars. Bicycles don’t have problems with other bicycles and pedestrians.”
And with that last line this commenter has his the nail on the head: The problem is the cars. Creating danger, a surreal sense of entitlement, detaching people from the world around them, and robbing the population of its vitality–cars do not make people healthy, happy or whole. And there’s lots of other ways to get around.
I want that car-free city, so bad.
A tiny succulent in a bottle at Everyman Espresso, my too-favorite, too-local coffee shop on 13th Street.
3 hour cheese. Plus an hour of dripping. Seems to have come out better than the first time. Firmer at least. I think this may be because it got hotter, but it may also have to do with the fact that this milk was older. Not sure, but I’m leaning towards hotter since I let it take on a low boil for a brief time (less than a minute). The milk wasn’t sour, but it was past the sell-by date by a couple days. Either way, it’s nice and firm and gooey and didn’t quite produce the same milky whey I got the first time. I think this will become ravioli cheese. For more of an explanation for what I just did and what else I’ve got cooking in the sunrise hours…go here.
New York has kept me well-stimulated and quite busy!
Friday I went on a group ride organized through Time’s Up!, a biking organization that describes itself as a “direct action environmental group” which also runs bike repair workshops in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Fellow L.A. rida Rambod is also in New York right now, so we’ve been going on many adventures together; this was the first New York group ride we both attended. The ride met in Manhattan at the Brooklyn Bridge and was headed for Coney Island–13 miles from the starting point.
Well, things got a little wacky…
Rambod and I had gone out to have a picnic with Michelle, his girlfriend, who is working for the High Line Park. After the picnic, which consisted of a virtual fruit-and-veggie feast composed nearly entirely of dumpstered goods, we locked our bikes up and went to explore the specialty foods mall of sorts known as Chelsea Market. We spent about an hour tasting fancy rum and salts, olive oils and vinegars. On our ride home I realized that my slightly untrue rear wheel had somehow become now rather untrue since our ride out there. But it was a short ride home, and I didn’t quite realize how horrendous it was. On our way out to the start point for the ride, I realized how much extra force I needed to exert to keep moving. No bueno!
So we arrived at the foot of the bridge and attempted to loosen my (only) brake to alleviate the trouble. I gave my bike a test ride and found that now I had no braking power. Readjust. Less rubbing, more braking. Still kinda iffy on both counts, but we decide to make a go of it. So we take off with the group of about 15-20 riders, and move at a very casual pace along the Brooklyn Bridge. Our first time on the Brooklyn Bridge, wooo!
Then we realize that the Brooklyn Bridge sucks to ride on. It’s a series of small wood planks and a million tourists who just want to stand around and point their camera at the wire ropes that hold up the bridge and really just take up space and breathe too much.
As we made our descent down the Brooklyn side of the bridge we all picked up speed and I shifted into my largest gear–and then as I’m pulling my lever as to not pass the woman ahead of me on the narrow bikeway–SNAP! I have no brakes. I’m rolling faster. Shitshitshit. I pull to the left and whir past a few cyclists, uttering “watch out” in the calmest voice possible. 50 feet. I consider my options, looking at the meaty wire roping holding up the bridge. No, that won’t work. Another 50 feet. Now we’re beside an iron railing. No, can’t grab that either. My speed is increasing. OK, I think, OK, here we go. I take my flip-flop equipped foot and reach back past my rack and press my shoe against my wide 2 1/4″ tire. Whhhzzzzzzzzz. About 300 feet after I hear that dreadful SNAP! I come to a stop. I pant; I laugh; my leg buckles as my hamstring coils into the most wretched cramp I’ve ever known. I can’t stand, but I am unharmed, and so is everyone else. Rambod stops with me and we investigate what we both expect to be a snapped cable, but apparently the noodle just slipped out of the V hinge. Damnit, how the heck does that happen? I can only assume that in our previous adjustments it didn’t get reset correctly. Yay, I can keep riding! So we continue on with the ride (which is slow and boring, except for the new scenery through a very pretty part of the city) until the Brooklyn meetup point. We meet up with Jeff, one of the NY polo players, and here I determine that continuing to Coney Island is not in my (or my bike’s) best interest. So we head to Jeff’s, play Race for the Galaxy, a game I’ve quickly become slightly addicted to, and I give my bike the attention it’s been crying for. Rear wheel gets trued. Front hub gets tightened. I make a brake adjustment, which turns out to be not-so-adequate due to the fraying of the cable. On Saturday I visit Continuum Cycles for cable (and keep abreast of the Wolfpack v. Jetblue race, won by the cyclists of course!), go home and tear apart my housing and noodle attempting to remove the frayed cable without a wire cutter, and then take a trip on Sunday to NYC Velo gather all the pieces I had destroyed the day before. Finally, I get my brake back in working order on the sidewalk of 2nd Ave, and head off to polo to catch the NY v. Richmond bench match and get in a few good pick up games.
And here is some fun coverage of Wolfpack v. Jetblue and the Carmageddon silliness:
BBC Audio: Wolfpack Cyclist Roadblock on BBC
KPCC Audio: Why Can’t Every Weekend be Like Carmageddon?
P.S. A note about the bike shops: Everyone at both bike shops I went to was very friendly. No snobbery. Only one visit to each, plus a walk-back-in-after-my-exit to each. Continuum is the more scrubby, down to earth spot and NYC Velo is more “shiny,” but the mechanics and cashiers and both places were helpful and welcoming. It was nice, very nice, considering I averse to bike shop trips simply because of bike shop snobbery.