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Saturday, June 07, 2014

Critical Mass May '14

I'd really needed this, the week I'd had.

In case you're new, I'm a pretty regular participant in Critical Mass. It's basically half party, half parade, half protest, half not very good at fractions.

I don't generally think of my job as stressful, but there are circumstances where it can be and those circumstances abounded this week.

Then there was the medical front. After a ten month wait, I finally got in with the guy who is supposed to the man when it comes to my crazy, heart-disease-causing lipids disorders. He was recommended to me by my cardiothoracic surgeon, the one who did the double-bypass I needed at 43, elven years after my heart attack & stent at 32. The surgeon said, Look, you have an inherited condition, I know a lot about it because I have it, too. I'm one of his patients. It won't be quick to get in to see him, but make an appointment.

I went expecting to hear nothing I hadn't heard before. Eat less, move more. More rabbit food, less pogey bait. Statins, beta-blockers, fear the salt-shaker.

But apheresis? I knew I had eleveated LP(a), a relatively unknown issue that's strongly correlated with early onset heart disease. It's a treatment that amounts to donating plasma to yourself, they suck your blood, filter out the lipoproteins and whatnot, return plasma and red blood cells. Two to five hours, twice a month. With an umpteen gauge needle that hurts enough they will give you lidocaine to put on the target an hour before your treatments.

I hate needles. But this treatment is apparently the only thing the FDA has approved that's got a track record of preventing cardiac events in people like me. It seems like the choice, if my insurance will pay for apheresis, is do I want to live long enough for retirement savings to matter? Because I might as well start partying with my Roth contributions if I'm not going to see 59-1/2. Camera lenses and gear, bicycles, a new iMac, temperature controlled cylindriconical fermenters, get them while the getting's good, and don't buy any green bananas.

So all this was percolating through my brain in I went to Mass. Sorry, Julie, I know you asked for my text to have some bearing on my photos and I tried but this post is a fail on that point. It was a great Mass, with lots of first-timers, and probably the biggest field I've ever seen turn out. I shot some video with a used Powershot I picked up off Craigslist, but it really didn't capture the size of the group. I'm guessing 250 riders total. We had a small amount of drama when a cop on the Paseo decided to try and single-handedly stop 250 cyclists holding a protest/parade/party/bad-at-fractions ride, who bizarrely raced ahead of us and then parked his car across the lanes.

To my astonishment, a substantial number of people stopped, but at least as many decided to try going around, and the next thing I know the cop had retrenched in the opposite side of the street. If I'd been close enough to talk to him, I would have simply said, We're exercising our First Amendment rights to free speech, to petition the government for redress of grievances, and free assembly. Happy Friday, if you want to provide us an escort, that's great, but this isn't Hell's Angels swooping into town to steal and rape. Well, I would have said some of that, I've never met a cop who will sit there while you speak in carefully constructed paragraphs, backspacing and re-phrasing everything.

Since he seemed to have given up on stopping whatever we were doing, we all joked about how many bike racks they'd need on the paddy wagons if they arrested the whole Mass, and about how if we were going to take an arrest, this was the people we'd want to be arrested with, all that. But as we went down the hill toward Troost Lake, the cop came screaming down with his siren on again, and when I looked over my shoulder as I tried to get out of the way (250 bikes, it's not like we can all get out of the road simultaneously), I see the cop jump a curb and jump out of the car and tackle one of the riders.

I'm thinking, I don't know what that guy did, but whatever it was, bad idea. I later learned that the cop let the guy go, but I guess it started with the cop thinking he'd told this guy to stop and the guy didn't stop, at which point he cop decided he was attempting to elude. With so many of us, I don't know how the guy would know he had personally been targeted to halt, and that may have been part of why the cop didn't go through with arresting him. The other thing I heard after the fact, and I don't know if it was factual, was that there was a high speed chase proceeding through that part of town the cop was afraid we were about to run into. That sort of makes sense, but the supposed high speed chase was, according to legend, a grand theft auto incident, and I thought most police departments had quit doing high speed chases over stuff like that. It gets people killed, especially when your foolish chase runs through a big, buzzed bike parade.

Hell, when my car was stolen, the police could barely be bothered to fill out a report. An expensive car, one that qualifies as a 'grand theft,' the owner probably has insurance and resources galore, so if anything there is less justification to endangering people in the pursuit of justice.

But you know that old saw about how you know it's a good party when the police get called? Well, when the police interfere with Mass, you know it was a good one.

Yeah, well anyway, all my pictures are pretty much from the tailgate because the first stop, by NDS this time, it was starting to look a lot like rain so all my electronics went into dry sacks. The rain didn't materialize, but the cameras were done (in any case once the sun goes down, hand-held street photography is pretty much not happening).

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