All your roadway is belong to us!

•April 9, 2010 • 2 Comments

Douchebags, getting ready to hop in their Audis

So this week, Prague was “honored” by a visit from various and sundry heads of state who gathered in this fair hlavni mesto to sign some bullshit about nuclear weapons. What’s worse than a Honza on Red Bull in an Audi A8? World Fucking Leaders, that’s who. Are these people born with a mandate to complicate the lives of regular people who work for a living?

The treaty under discussion is named “START”, or START AGAIN, or some such sillyness. The plan is for America to give at least 15 nuclear warheads to Israel, who will deny they have them, thus negating the things from the realm of truth by disappearing them into the black hole of denial. In return, Russia will deposit at least 15 of their warheads on Chechnya (at varying velocities) and at the bottom of the North Sea. The world will sort of be safer, they assure us…  Here’s the news, Chicago boy: there’s only one START in the Czech Republic, and its unfiltered goodness does not share power! As a smoker, I figured he would be aware of this longstanding precedent.

Anyway, rather than facing the typical hordes of harried Honzas racing home from their offices at the crack of 6 to drink beer in the garden, I was treated to a near apocalyptic scene yesterday evening. A line of parked and idling cars, spidering out along every road in Holesovice, inhabited by bizarrely sedated driver-things. As I plowed between the manager mobiles, wondering when one of the commuters would throw his door open to spite my progress, I pondered the possibilities.  A derailed tram? An enraged pack of pensioners dragging their shopping trolleys down the middle of the road in protest at the ricing price of leek? A scene from Resistance 2 played out in all its 720p horror atop Hradcany??

Prague Castle - We have set your presidents up the bomb

I reached the front of the queue and was immediately ordered off my bike by one of Prague’s gorilla-like policemen. What a let down. The world wasn’t burning – shit, Greece hasn’t even collapsed yet. The cretins had closed EVERY STREET within a kilometer of wherever Obama’s motorcade was passing. My bike obviously posed a security threat too severe to contemplate. “Obama do prdele!” an enraged Honza howled at the cop. Right on – you tell him.

Sorry, but this is not security. If someone needs security that causes a “free” city of “Europe” to close down half of  its public transportation and block all traffic for an hour so that they can get from point A to point B, it means too many people want that person to “lead” in another plane of existence. The mania for VIP security that started in the Bush era and on the charmed streets of Putin’s Moscow has been taken to the ridiculous extreme here. Imagine, your entire city brought to a standstill AT RUSH HOUR and at great expense to you, the taxpayer, all so that a couple of tossers can scribble their names on a meaningless piece of paper named after a substandard Czech cancer stick?

The cost of this 2-day disruption is rumored to be about 55 million crowns. (Plus 500 Czech Crowns for the kolek)

Would it not be cheaper to make these “leaders” get in a bloody stealth helicopter and just fly to wherever they need so badly to go at 6pm? Even better – what about the governments of the world chipping in to buy a Greek island where nobody but “leaders” can go? They can have all their dumb meetings there and ride unescorted Segways naked to meet their Very Important Counterparts, for all I care. Solve the Greek debt crisis, solve the problem of leader-jams. Bam. Done. If Iran ever gets a bomb, maybe we can be rid of the whole lot of them at one go and return to the days of being lorded over by lesser men with lesser motorcades.

As for me, I obeyed the grunts of the Czech police-thing and continued my ride up to Letna on the sidewalk. I managed to make it up there just in time for the sunset – helicopters dotting the sky like a prison break. What a nice warm bath I’m in, said the frog.


Pitiful Mass

•March 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The meek and mild will protest as usual, but it has to be said:

Critical Mass is a bicycling event typically held on the last Friday of every month in over 300 cities around the world.[1] While the ride was originally founded in 1992 in San Francisco with the idea of drawing attention to how unfriendly the city was to cyclists,[2]the leaderless structure of Critical Mass makes it impossible to assign it any one specific goal. In fact, the purpose of Critical Mass is not formalized beyond the direct action of meeting at a set location and time and traveling as a group through city or town streets on bikes.

A whole gang of us went on the Prague version of Critical Mass last night – the “cyklojizda”. Of course, they can’t just call it “Critical Mass” here. It has to be different. And oh, but it is. Last night’s ride was disorganized in comparison to a cicada colony high on ketamine. To start with, they “organize” the thing to start at 6pm on Namesti Jiriho z podebrad – which is super, if the school bell rings at 5:45, they let you out of the turkey farm early, or if you live on JZP and your mom agrees to wake you up. What about people who have actual jobs who ALSO ride their bikes and are concerned with the state of road safety and cyclist awareness in the city? Aren’t these the people we are trying to reach? Or is Critical Mass really just an anxious benchfor the benefit and theatrics of the converted?

Groundhogs display more singularity of purpose and long-term planning than this group. They got lost every two blocks, pausing in the middle of the road (the only time they actually managed to get on the road to begin with) to examine a 1940’s era map under the light of their mobile phones. In response to a friendly “Anyone know where we’re going?” in Czech, I got a grinning twat telling me in horrible English that it’s good to have a bell and a helmet. Why is that? So you can ding your twatty bell to alert the caretaker he-nurse that I’m making fun of you and not fear repeated blows to the skull??

I’ve never seen anything like it. After about 45 minutes (during which time we covered maybe 4 kilometers and actually gave way to people WALKING SAUSAGE DOGS faster than us bikers, a few of us gave up and split. The near-manic level of indecision in effect last night was contagious. We bumbled around a few dark streets, talking about maybe going to a bar or something, before finally slinking off home and, in my case at least, falling asleep in my socks and snorkeling gear.

So what’s the answer? God forbid we risk harming “solidarity” with fellow bikers, but the folks leading that ride were a danger to themselves and others – a good reason to keep cyclists off the road, rather than a demonstration of the benefits of the opposite.

Is it time to organize a “real” critical mass in Prague? Anyone interested?

Why I haven’t been posting…

•January 11, 2010 • 2 Comments

When it’s hard to ride, it’s harder to complain. When it’s hard to complain, there’s nothing to write about 😉

Enjoying a little holiday from the insane drivers – it looks like it’s going to be a long winter.

Ghost Bikes and Childish Behavior

•December 7, 2009 • 8 Comments

Every urban cyclist has had, at some point during their cycling life, a rather unwelcome vision. People describe it differently, but the most prosaic say, “ your life flashes before your eyes.” For cyclists, these flashes are concluded by the image of a plain white bicycle chained to a rusty lamp post or dented guard rail. These are “ghost bikes” – modest monuments to the people who’ve been killed while rushing to work on a rainy morning or pedaling back from visiting friends. There, in the middle of traffic islands or at the neglected, dusty corner of an intersection, they slowly fuse with the concrete and asphalt and pose unanswered questions to bored motorists sitting in traffic.

There’s always a twinge of guilt that accompanies admitting when one has acted like a child, so please believe I’m not bragging when I say that I beat up a taxi driver and smashed up his car over the weekend. It’s a childish business when we feel that we have no other means of expression – it’s a failure of language, of self-control, of maturity. I ripped open his door and threw a few punches at his face, which was already twisted with whatever curses he was preparing to throw out at me. A couple connected. He shrunk back when more of my friends approached his car and I slammed the door shut on his outstretched arm, ripped off his taxi sign and smashed it on the window. My friend Patrick ran up and ripped open the door again and threw a few more punches. Patrick was a little late to the fray, as thirty seconds before he had nearly been pinned under the wheels of the same driver’s car.

I won’t apologize to anyone but my friends who were there with me, even though they applauded my hysterics and laughed about it hours later over beers. For no apparent reason, the taxi driver ran Patrick into a row of parked cars while we were all riding together down a quiet road in the center of town. When Patrick picked up his bike and tried to cross over to the sidewalk to get out of the driver’s way, the man accelerated into him, knocking him back onto the street. That’s when I jumped in.

In the past years, I’ve been appalled by the growing, uncharacteristic aggressiveness of drivers in Prague. More and more people lose their tempers, honk horns, cut each other off, even jump out of their cars to confront each other over a few meters of asphalt gained or lost. Once a bizarre rarity I thought only happened on the gridlocked freeways of the United States, road rage, against all logic and reason, has found a home here – in a city where the average commuter spends perhaps ½ an hour daily in traffic. A city, by the way, which boasts one of the most affordable, efficient and well-designed public transport networks in the world. It’s laughable and shameful; sitting in gridlock is an inconvenience to be suffered willingly in exchange for the mere status of arriving to a full parking lot in your own car.

By now, news has probably spread among the taxi “mafia” of a rogue gang of cyclists. If anything, my outburst probably made the daily ride that much more dangerous for all cyclists in this city. As I said, I’m not going to apologize to anyone aside from my friends, but I would like to make an offer to the driver of the car we vandalized: if you can explain why you felt it was your right to intentionally run a cyclist off the road and then threaten his life with your automobile, I will buy you a new taxi sign. It’s that simple, really. Contact any of the publications where this is printed and offer your explanation. They will contact me and I will deliver a shiny new taxi sign to them for you.

In the meantime, I hope you’re haunted by the experience of having your car smashed while you cower inside, fearing for your safety while some maniac screams at you in English. I hope you instinctively lock your door and are afraid in your own city. I hope you think twice before using your car as a weapon again. However, I truly doubt any of that will happen until you start shuddering at the sight of little white taxi signs glued to smashed guard rails and hanging from signal poles. How disgraceful that it would take such extremes to convince people emboldened by a ton and a half of steel that the rest of us sharing the roads in this city are living human beings.

Our journey, frought with perils

•December 3, 2009 • 1 Comment

The Guardian has a bike blog, which is a pretty cool resource for those who like to have a semi-public forum for their complaints (can’t imagine someone so self-centered, but hey, to each their own…) Today’s entry goes on at length about some new study which indicates that bikers are more likely to be hospitalized because of an injury than car drivers. File under “no shit, Sherlock” and forget? No chance.

Pass the PhD, please...

“There is considerable current interest in obesity and in encouraging people to take more exercise, including making journeys on foot or cycle rather than by car,” they write. “There is also an obvious environmental case for increasing the number of journeys made by non-motorised modes. However, in some circumstances, when people feel that it is unsafe to cycle or walk they may be right.

It goes on and on. I don’t know what’s worse – the fact that someone felt the need to conduct such a study, or the fact that the Guardian printed it as though it were news. Is this all you have to do to get a degree these days? Cars are dangerous to cyclists, the public can now be told. Good lord, Britain, is it any wonder you’re about to lose your shorts in the bloody desert slave pit called Dubai?

As the article states, there is considerable interest in obesity, but not from this corner. I myself have no interest whatsoever in obesity, and wish the fatsos would stay inside eating chips and watching television where they belong. The only place better for them would potentially be Dubai, where they can lose weight staggering between shopping centers and die a quiet death along with all the Russian mobsters and twiggy sluts we also don’t need. There’s nothing more alarming than the sight of a puffing, perspiring muffintop blocking the cycle path with its girth  – well, there is the sight of a woman driving a Jaguar, but that’s another can of lipids. The fact is, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and cycling in the city ought only to be undertaken by those who are at least able to achieve an aerobic state when they exercise. Sweating because of exposure to the sun doesn’t count.

A close second to the blubbery barges of the bikepaths is a prize belonging to the group responsible for the largest number of trips to hospital in this fair village: pregnant women. Or rather, post-pregnant women. For some reason, there is a reproduction boom on in the Czech Republic. They’re popping them out over here faster than you can say, “can I buy you a drink?” with the resulting spawn immediately ensconced in the largest strollers known to man and wheeled about in the busiest sections of town, to the dismay of all but the chattering swarms of women who serve them. Honestly, how big does a stroller need to be to hold one baby? All the specimens I’ve had the misfortune of seeing at close hand are rather small – compact, even – which works out to be their most positive character trait (until they’re old enough to drink). So what gives with the Hummer carriages? Spindly little women who not 9 months ago would’ve balked at carrying a plastic bag of groceries up two flights of stairs now clamber around behind the handles of machines that wouldn’t be out of place in a forward base in Helmand province.

Support our Spawn

They block the sidewalks, they clog the crosswalks, they howl up a perfect storm of complaint if you even look like you might want to go where they intend to go over the next five minutes. I, for one, have had it. Ban the cars, ban the fatsos, ban the babies. Ban them all, before we all end up in the hospital.

Buy Nothing Day

•November 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I might have mentioned somewhere that I recently purchased one of these things:

The Mouth Breather, City model

I’m not sure why I did it, to be honest, so I’m going to take some time to explore my motivation. I often buy stuff I don’t need when I’m feeling particularly bored or helpless in other areas of my life. Like all of us children of the white devil capitalism, I know it’s wrong but it feels so right. On the way to Gattaca every morning I suffer through at least three places where the traffic is backed up and the late model Czech made behemoths spew out fumes blacker than Obama in a Glenn Beck nightmare. Now, I’m a smoker, so I figure those fumes to be about 1/100th as dangerous as the damned cigarettes I suck down while staring at the gray skies outside the edifice of my torment, but it still makes me feel better to know that I’m protecting my delicate, pink lungs from the fumes of traffic. And of course it made me feel better to order the damned thing and have it arrive in my mailbox as I bid. “Come hither,” I said with my Visa Electron card, and the bitch slunk on over, tail between her legs. That’s progress. That’s gettin’ her done. That’ll show whoever (certainly not me) is responsible for my weak-willed submission to vapid underemployment in the name of compromise and rent money.

Now, it’s been pointed out to me on our forum that the only other person who wears a pollution mask like that is this guy:

Now I know why he’s so damned grumpy all the time.

This bloody mask is a catastrophe for me, really. Here’s why: The little metal nose gripper constricts my breathing passages (AKA nostrilways) to the point that only a steady drizzle of snot runs out. It’s weird. If you ever had a cat, you’ll know the peanut butter spot – the place in the small of its back which, if scratched, causes the cat to madly lick anything put in front of it. Well, this damnable contraption has found a similar spot on my nose which causes me to produce snot.

The next reason is much more prosaic, but nonetheless irritating. I wear glasses when I ride. This keeps the wind from causing my eyes to blur with the tears of impotent frustration I shed on the way to my occupation every morning. The glasses also provide a handy barrier between my eyeballs and the random weird shit thrown up from the Czech roads by overzealous Audi pilots in their hurry to pass me on their way to their own, equally meaningless occupations. The mask is designed in such a way as to channel the warm, moist air up and over my cheek bones and directly onto the lenses of the glasses, causing them  to fog up. Really, this happened to me this morning and I found myself dead blinded trying to cross a critical intersection where the Honzas are plentiful and distracted. Strike Two, affected looking shredder mask!

The third and final reason is that the mask has a particular odor. I won’t say that the odor is bad, but it reminds me of an activity best not contemplated whilst riding to Gattaca on a fixed gear bike at 8:30 in the morning. I honestly don’t know how they did it – if the thing was infused before shipping (a likelihood the specifics of which I’d rather leave un-contemplated) or if it is some peculiar property of the material.

These three reasons lead me to want to shelve the mask, which was got to the Inland Grumpire of Czechia with much trouble and expense, but I just can’t do it. Call it stubbornness, call it pride. Call it an inability to sort out what I want from what I need – the ubiquitous dilemma of all those laboring under the Christ-endorsed system we rule our affairs by. Call it hope; hope that the properties of the thing will somehow change with use and time, rendering the dingus somehow more suited to its purpose of making me breath cleaner air. Call it masochism. Call it perversion. I love the smell of pussy in the morning.

Free to do what you want

•November 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Well, it’s been a long while, probably since I’ve been busy pretending to be a community over on Praha fixed. It’s hard to be a community for more reasons than the obvious singularity of myself. My tendency is to bitch and moan, as evidenced here on these pages, but if one is expected to be a community, one cannot constantly bitch and moan about those around him. It’s trouble, but I’ve somehow managed to pull it off thus far.

Me myself and the community were cycling around a packed Old Town on Tuesday, enjoying a day away from the steely swine-flu furnace of Gattaca in honor of the celebration of the Czech march down Narodni trida, which somehow triggered the end of the Dark Days ®. I was hoping to catch the “art action” of Guma Guar, who planned to release 1000 rats onto Narodni trida in the middle of the party, but it turns out they canceled the akce. Maybe they thought the rats would be at a disadvantage in that environment and thought better of the plan. Maybe they thought nobody would “get it”. I dunno. I would have gotten it, but I was rolling around hoping to see it in vain.

With all the whooping and back-patting in the media over the fall of the wall, I figured that there’d be something notable happening. There was nothing. There was a day off, which most people used either to get drunk or to go for an extended weekend in Austria to get drunk and ski. When the Berlin wall was dismantled, I was skateboarding. Twenty  years on, I’m riding a fixed gear track bike through Prague. The more things change, the older I get, I guess.

After reading Buford’s “Among the Thugs” earlier that day while trying to get out of bed, my secondary hope was that I might lead my community into a head-on 30 km/h collision with the Czech Nazi community, who were also planning some sort of akce that day – all 13 of them:

These men love the cock.

Alas, that dream was also not to be, and I ended up rolling through the docile crowd doing skids to frighten the kids, thinking how much different all of our lives would have been had the Czechoslovak government in 1989 had the brainpower to wheel out a few free kegs of beer that November long ago.

It’s all about community, I thought, as a couple of sorry little “floats” were rolled past the Tesco – an oversized roll of toilet paper (evidently unavailable during the Dark Days ®) and a bunch of oversized Tuzex coupons, which the Czech used to have to use if they wanted to buy hairspray, Nintendo games and Bangles style hoop earrings. They could barely squeeze the damned things past the crowd of mobile-chatting observers, who’d parked themselves in the middle of the street with warm cups of Gambrinus and their ubiquitous sausages. This is what history has come to, I suppose – a cursory qualitative comparison of two failed systems delineated by the relative availability of soft paper to wipe one’s ass with. Again, Bike Snob is up on top of the zeitgeist, rogering it in the ear:

I rolled around for another hour looking for Nazis to antagonize and ended up at the Two Cats, drinking tank Pilsner and talking about the swine flu with some friends. It started with swine flu, then moved to peak oil. Christ, I thought, if the end of days is upon us, why can’t they just hurry it up so I don’t have to go to work tomorrow?