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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

First Friday of 2011

Made another First Fridays with the Poet Laureate. I was late getting downtown, then it took forever to get my bike ready to ride, and then to find her. The 'rolling bicycle based health fair display booth' should be pretty easy to spot, especially with the helmet fluff and on a night when the cold and wind kept most people home, but I finally gave up and called her cell.

The cold wasn't that bad, but the winds were epic. I was impressed that she was able to ride with the banner in place. I'm pretty sire if she'd caught the wind just right, she could have gotten pulled over for speeding without even pedaling.

Inside the Bad Seed, the folk band was playing, and I went over to watch and listen, but the singer told everyone to turn around and check out who just walked in. And I realized as I was ready to snap what had been intended to be a picture of the band and its audience that what I really got was a shot of my own audience getting a load of the guy with the Hawaiian shirt on over his wools and half a tutu coming out of his helmet.

I suppose I do cut a figure, but yikes. I didn't mean to upstage the band. A really adorable little girl came up to me a minute later to tell me she liked my helmet and that it was 'awesome.'

We ran into some of Corinna's posse, a group of urban cyclists, including a couple I remember from the Chocolate Dumpster and from Cranksgiving.

A gent was handing out what felt, in the dark, like money. I looked down to see it was a million dollar bill, one with a message about going to hell on the back. It's Jesus money, which means it saves but doesn't really spend that well. I've been carrying it around ever since and enjoying the expressions on cashiers' faces when I ask them if they can break a million.

I also saw a dude in a skirt. Not a kilt, though it had the appearance of maybe being a Slavic equivalent. Maybe that was the hat, a big, gorgeous fur thing I coveted shamelessly. A hat like that, who'd even need a helmet?

I asked if it was an ethnic type thing and he said no, it was a look of his own devising. And the folk singer thought I was worth comment, at least I was wearing pants. I've always wanted a kilt but I don't see myself wearing it on a night like this, especially what with the risk that the wind would expose my bits and pieces. If I'm going to show the arts district my junk, I definitely don't want icy cold temperatures making it a study in minimalism.

Back when I met Corinna, the first thing I asked was if she knew which street turned into the Heart of America bridge, which has a famously new bike-pedestrian lane. I didn't really need to get to the other side, but trying to chart out certain trips I'd come to realize that getting across big rivers was a major problem. Most bridges over such things are Interstate highways, and I can't legally ride them even if I wasn't too risk averse to do so.

So we bombed the HOA. The hill leading down to the bridge is fantastic if you wait for a fresh green light at the first intersection you can break 30 miles per hour with a 30 mile per hour head wind. We only rode about halfway across, it was cold, it was windy and we didn't really need to get north of the river. We did want to check out what kind of free food was on offer at the Mayor's headquarters. Funkhouser's lackeys had been handing out leaflets in the Crossroads promoting the event.

Oh, after I put that YouTube up, I got to thinking perhaps a soundtrack:

Heart of America Bridge from Chixulub on Vimeo.

Funk is hard for me to figure. He's as close to a straight shooter as anyone I've ever seen attain an office as politically significant as Mayor of Kansas City. And I've maintained for a long time that he's the best mayor KC has had in thirty or forty years: for once there aren't a bunch of crooked TIF deals going through to rob the handful of unfortunate taxpayers that city still has to pay racist developers to build money-pits in the name of the City Beautiful. The million bucks or so it's cost to deal with Mrs. Funk's antics is a bargain compared to having another Glover Plan or Power & Light District.

What I can't figure out with Funkhouser is not why he insists on bringing his wife to work, it's why someone as wonky and basically descent as he seems to be would want anything to do with politics.

I felt weird being there because I don't live in the city so I can't vote for or against him. Then again, I pay the stupid Earnings Tax, truly a case of taxation without representation, so I guess I have a dog in the fight after all. Not that Funk is, as far as I can tell, against the Earnings Tax, but he does seem to be against pissing it away.

We did pay a brief visit to the grate I ate back then. I'm now officially a litigant against the city, by the way. I complained through the city's web site and was told to fuck off in polite terms, that I have 'a duty' to pay attention when 'driving' my bicycle on their streets. My attorney then sent them a lawyerly version of that complaint and they told me, politely, through him, to fuck off.

So I filed suit. I'm certain I have a winnable case, that I'm right and they're wrong. I'm told I shouldn't take it personally, but I have real damages and continue to suffer real pain, and it's not my fault if the KCMO public works people suck at their jobs. I want the city to at least realize that it would be cheaper to replace a few hundred dollars of steel grate than to keep defending an indefensible piece of infrastructure. At least they could fix the street before someone going faster than I was ends up crippled or killed.

I'm sure these things move at a glacial tempo. I won't try waiting under water.

I'm told by the Poet Laureate that the city has done a lot to improve its bicycle friendliness, and I'm relatively new to urban cycling so I have to take her word for it that Kansas City could have actually been worse at one time. From what I see, Olathe has more bike lanes and no homicidal grates in their streets, this paid for by a population a fourth the size of KC's, so KCMO would need to do more than put a concrete divider by the shoulder of a bridge and paint a few 'sharrows' on Armour to win me over.

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