I just got back from a long weekend in Pittsburgh where I learned a lot. For example, I did not even know that Pittsburgh had an 'h' at the end. I went to meet the call of "Bike!Bike!"...an annual meeting of community and collective bike projects from around the Americas (activists from Guatemala and Winnipeg were present). Bike!Bike! started after Hurricane Katrina when the NOLA bike collective decided they had to call on the resources of their sisters and brothers from around the country to build "plan-B"...maybe it is just a big hot bike party? or maybe a fixed gear masturbation circle? or maybe an excuse for dirty anarchists to act like they can actually get anything done?
All these things were suspected, but unclear from the safe haven of Chicago cycling...a city that has more bike programing than any other city in the USA (I happen to have keys to over 70% of the shops).
I got to go with three men I absolutely love to represent Chicago. I accidentally took the night bus with a bunch of suburb christian community bikelists. They were cultish, one had a baby I bet she didn't want, they had packed special food, planned to sit all together, kvetched that other people were rude, etc...I took a sleeping pill and the 11hour bus ride was fine by me.
For all my complaining about the suburban christian cult I must say they mildly saved me because upon arriving in Pittsburgh we were all ridiculously lost (the city planning makes little to no sense compared to the chicago grid). We all got a cab together, and I must admit I might have thanked "יַהְוֶה" aka Yahweh they
took me under their wing...it also made me want to say more stuff in yiddish and wear lots of gold jewelry with stars of david and hebrew letter charms about health and wealth.
I had contacted the organziers of the conference earlier (3days earlier) and they had asked me to lead some of the conference workshops on youth programs and bikes! I may have presented myself as a bit of an expert..but holy smokes they believed me!
I worked with 2 other teachers (one from Cali and one from Phili) and we led presentations and discussions on how to work with kids and bikes. The bikers were confused as all hell. They thought because you know how to fix a bottom bracket you should be able to lead a group of kids from the projects through your shop no problem. They complained about everything from bikes being stolen, wrenches flying through the air into someone's head, to the plain belief that children simply are little monsters.
I like to think I kicked their hippy hipster anarchist asses by telling them they had to be fascists and that you have to be tough for kids to like you, punish them! It was hard for a lot of the gentle revolutionary hearts to handle, but I think they'll realize I'm right after having 20 bikes stolen and then finally calling the cops.
That said, the divide was split pretty evenly between hipsters, anarchists, and hippies. The crowd wasn't too stratified, I went to a diversity training, where the hottest thing said was one fool man who said he'd been accused of racism several times said he was oppressed by women and the fact that lunch was vegan and he was a meat eater. The best people there were the ones who work with kids more than they work with bikes...and everyone from Arizona seemed to be too fabulous for words.
There was a Spandexxx party which I might have been to last year either in chicago or madison...the truth is the crowd was really nerdy and people really just wanted to talk about bikes, community, equity, and education. People had to get REALLY drunk to start the dancing. I left early because, as a serious dancer, I like to start tearing it up before my coordination is wreched...I also done my first ever alley cat race, which was ridiculously hilly and confusing, even though I came in 3rd for women (there were only three women in the race, even though I only did 2 of 6 check points I also happened to be staying with the girlfriend of the race organizer...so I nepotized that prize).