Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mountain Bike Mini-golf

As my readers know, I got a new mountain bike not too long ago. Today I took it to Highbridge Park up in Inwood, one of the two places to legally take a bike off-road in New York City. Highbridge Park runs from 155th St. to 200th St., and fits between Harlem River Dr. and Amsterdam Ave., generally a widthbut it's only a block or two wide along its length. The elevation change between the two streets is close to 200 ft. and they're usually about 500 ft. apart, although one section is only 250 ft. wide. By comparison, Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz, where I learned to ride mountain bikes, ran over three miles from the entrance at the top of one road to a couple of exits along another, and was over two miles wide.

The trails in Highbridge Park are folded back and forth like a small intestine. They're marked in places and some work has been done to prevent erosion and clear brush from these, but for the most part they've just been allowed to be packed by use. The north section of Manhattan Island actually has significant bedrock under it, which is exposed in places in the park. The trails run through deciduous forest and undergrowth and over rocks, roots, and packed berms. There are also some very steep sections. In a more open environment, it's rare for a mountain bike trail to simultaneously switchback, climb or descend, and involve clearing an obstacle. These trails do, and they're frequently off-camber, just in case they weren't hard enough already.

For me, mountain biking has two appeals. One is that there's a sense of peace in the woods, where there's more landscape and fewer people. Another is that I enjoy the problem-solving involved. Like off-piste skiing, it's about looking ahead and planning moves over, around and between things. These trails have problems stacked on problems. They'd even be difficult to walk. Awesome. And the park is so wild that it doesn't feel like I'm in Manhattan.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Another new toy

When I was in Lake Tahoe during the winter season, I was reminded how much I like being in the woods. As long as I can also be traveling quickly through space. In order to keep doing that during the not-winter season, I promised myself I'd get back into mountain biking. After last week's ridiculous work schedule, I could afford to buy another bike, so I did.

It's a pretty basic model, but totally trail-worthy. Good quality frame, modular components, tunable suspension. I'm going to swap the pedals for my old mountain bike pedals as soon as I get my shoes from California, and I may do something different with the stem to put the handlebars lower and further from the saddle. I find I'm quite amused by having disc brakes, but they're pretty cool. They really do provide better braking power. I've already had it on some trails and singletrack, and it's a fun ride.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Free month of Netflix

If anyone's interested, shoot me an e-mail and I'll forward you theirs. It's a pretty good service if the USPS doesn't hate your neighborhood.

The Biggest Small Town

If Reno is the "Biggest Little City," Manhattan is definitely the biggest small town in the country. I did a gig the other day working on a fashion show. Fashion Week was a lot of work, so afterwards I decided I deserved a haircut, and went to get it done at my usual place on Monday. The hairdresser and I were talking, and it turns out she worked on the same show.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Save the Tyvek

Today's work was at a big tent where some charity thing was happening. Lots of money being poured into rich people feeling good pretending to care about something they really don't. Cynicism aside, I thought that the way that the lights washing the ceiling were shooting through the banners there was pretty cool. The charity's supposed to be pretty good too, so I suppose that's good.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Saved from a Guilty Pleasure

My roommate and I just watched the tail end of American Psycho. It's hard to categorize the movie - it's not really a horror movie, although that's probably the closest it comes to a genre fit, and it's certainly not a thriller or a traditional action movie. It's not an action movie at all, in fact. The point is that the pleasure of watching the movie is that the main character, played by Christian Bale, is so likable. Watching the movie, kind of a Catcher in the Rye for the 1980s, I identify with his hatred of all the phonies of the world and his desire to kill them. What appear to be his lived actions mirror our own fantasies on a more annoying day. Like Holden Caulfield, Patrick Bateman is an anti-hero we can't help but like.

The same guilty pleasure applies to many action movies. While the hero is an important part, it's really the villain that makes the movie. James Bond can't function without Ernst Blofeld. The Die Hard movies all had their efficient, professional and yet fatally flawed terrorists. The Rock has Ed Harris fighting the good fight and threatening to wipe out San Francisco. What makes these movies work is that we all have a part that wants the villain to succeed. The villain's success is, of course, detrimental to thousands, even millions of innocent lives, which is unacceptable to a moral world view. Our desire threatens our view of ourselves as moral people.

The tension in an action movie is finally resolved by the hero's defeat of the villain, saving vast numbers of innocent lives. More importantly, he saves us from the illicit desire to see the villain succeed. In American Pyscho, the resolution of the movie is partly a disappointment and partly a relief for this reason.