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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Regular visitors to Lobster Land know how much I love Critical Mass. I don't always make it out the last Friday of the month, but this year I have ten months in a row. Eleven if you count me dropping by on Christmas night with Mo in the car just to say hi to the few hard core maniacs who were there even though it was Christmas night and single digit Daddy's-a-mean-drunk cold out.

And I love Halloween. So much so that when we divorced, the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster didn't ask to split that holiday into alternating years. I liked taking the kids around and handing out trick-or-treats and dressing up myself and she didn't really. So a Halloween Critical Mass? That's about as good as it gets.

I had my own costume figured out early for once. Except nobody got my costume. I found a Black Death Malt Liquor (the Plague of Beers) t-shirt a few months ago, bought some cheap aviator sunglasses, and dug out a long sleeved shirt to wear over the tee unbuttoned with the sleeves rolled up. Johnny Fever, from WKRP, one of my favorite TV shows growing up.

I have to admit, when I looked in the mirror after knocking off my mutton chops to leave a bit of sideburn and molestache like the character I was trying to dress up as, I was disappointed with the effect. I had tried to find a blue zipper hoodie, which is what he wore more than long sleeve shirts, I think, but that wasn't the problem. The problem is I just don't look that much like Howard Hessman.

I was super jealous of Evel Knievel's costume. Holy shit, he even had the full cover helmet with the star-spangled #1 on the back.

But I had fun trying to get shots of all the great costumes on display. I didn't get them all, believe me. I miss a lot when people are moving around in the dark, even with speed lights and the ISO cranked up.

I think the costumes helped motorists cope with us this time, which is a good thing since we had a massive turnout. I didn't make spoke cards because I've been so stinking busy at work, but I wouldn't be surprised if we topped out over 200 riders this time. But the costumes make it even more of a parade than it already is. You always have one or two jerks who try to make an issue of us coming through an intersection together but not nearly as much when half of us are in costume.

I mean, who can get pissed off at Bob Ross, right?

We stopped at Loose Park, then by Notre Dame de Scion, then wandered through 18th & Vine before finally ending up at Grand Slam Liquors and then the river overlook. When I was first riding Critical Mass, it always ended up down at the river, but the last year or two it's been a lot more varied.

Which is how it goes in a xerocracy. Or anarchy, take your pick. But I think the former term is less laden with preconceived connotations of terrorist bombings and whatnot. Critical Mass goes where the guy up front goes. Unless the guy behind him decides that's not the way to go. In which case, sometimes it schisms a bit. In truly poor weather, I've seen it go basically from Scumfresh to Buzzard Beach for most riders, meaning a cold wet tailgate to ride across the street.

And the group tends to shrink as the ride gets longer. I had uncharacteristically parked my car in the River Market before the ride. Normally I'd have just biked to work and then to Mass and then home from Mass. But I've been working so much lately that the biking to work hasn't been working out. And I didn't get out of work early enough to make it all the way home and then bike back to the start of Mass. A guy wrecked on the trolly tracks and I was ready to give him a ride back but he decided he'd rather take an Uber for some reason. So I went down to the overlook, where there turned out to be a dance party.

I took it super easy on the duck with having my car. I've never gotten a DUI, nor hurt someone driving impaired and I don't aim to start. But I've consumed enough booze in my life that I don't trust just feeling sober entirely. I don't know it for a fact, but I might 'feel' sober enough to drive the school bus while blowing twice the legal limit. And I had a kiddo to fetch in the morning, so there was that on top of it.

There was a bit of a bummer at the very end (as there sometimes seems to be). Not related to the ride, but apparently about a block and a half from the dance party there was a police shooting in City Market and when I emerged from the overlook there were cops. Like, I think, all of the cops. And a news van, and streets were blocked off and I had to go out of my way to get my car which turned out to be only about 100 feet from one of the perimeters.

Bailee is quite the dancer. Actually so is my friend Eric, who's roughly my age and an IT guy, so talk about going against type.

I've known Eric since my days in far right-wing yellow journalism. We have fun arguing about politics, even though we have a lot of common ground attitude-wise. And some of the things I took as articles of faith back in those Nadler days, I'm not so sure about now. I love markets, and my pinko friends' attitude that markets are somehow a system rigged against justice just doesn't wash with me. Any time people are interacting, you have a market. Critical Mass is itself a marketplace of good times and conversation, all voluntary. There's no 'leader' it's not a 'system.'

And when I've told him I could go along with going single payer, national health service style as far as healthcare goes, he's like, 'you want everyone to have to put up with the VA?' And I'm like, no, of course not.

But when you look at the single payer countries in Europe, they're not police states, a lot of them have better life expectancy statistics than we do, so while an entirely voluntary, market based system might be great, we're a long ways from it and seem to be striving at every turn to get the worst of both worlds.

And to use the VA example, veterans with good private health insurance don't bother with the VA as far as I can tell. So you're saying if we were all on one national health service the way the UK or France is, we'd be settling for the VA pretends the VA would suck like it does if people with means and power, politically relevant people, also got all their healthcare from the VA. If CEOs and soccer moms meant the same thing as homeless vets when they said 'go to the doctor' that whole experience would get a lot better.

So far be it from me to assert that the American political system which, last time I checked fivethirtyeight's projections rate the risk of a Trump presidency near 20%, is super awesome. But how is it that Denmark and France can figure out how to pull off universal healthcare but somehow if America tried it we'd all die on waiting lists trying to convince a death panel to spare us? I haven't just heard this argument, I've made it, and more and more it sounds to me like an argument that goes, 'We're the greatest country on earth and that's why we can't have nice things.'

Same thing with our gun arguments. It's fine that you have the right to keep and bear arms. As far as I'm concerned, if you're an adult, you also have the right to shoot heroin. It might be illegal but you're within your rights, it's your body. This doesn't make something a good idea. If I wanted the risks inherent to keeping firearms in my house, I'd buy a motorcycle. Way more fun, nearly as likely to be useful in a self defense application in real life.

Anyway, after a few weeks of not riding, I've just been at work too much to commute by bike, it was good to get out and get a nice 15 miler in.