28 August 2015

Mama Mechanic

This afternoon I took a ride out to the Rockaways on Tosca, my Mercian fixie.

The weather was lovely, as it was yesterday:  warm, but not overly so, with high puffy clouds floating across expanses of blue sky.  And, as luck would have it, I rode into the wind on my way out to Rockaway Beach and Far Rockaway.  That meant, of course, that on my way home, I could pedal about 20 RPM faster without trying.

Anyway, I was coasting through an area of Gateway National Recreation area frequented by bird-watchers and wildlife photographers--in plain view of JFK International Airport!  My external reverie seemed to embody the one that was playing out within me at that moment:  I am still in the afterglow of my trip to Paris and of the wonderful late-day ride to Connecticut I enjoyed yesterday.  I have been doing some writing away from this blog (I don't want to give too much away!) and I'm feeling optimistic about the semester that's about to begin. Now all I need is to hit the Lotto jackpot and meet the love of my life.  Hmm...I'm not so sure about the latter.  Being single isn't so bad after you've been in an abusive relationship or two.

Wouldn't you know...a cute young guy approaches me from behind.  "Sir!"  "Sir!"  He sounded distressed, so I turned to look at him.  (His distress was the only reason I looked at him, I swear! ;-))  "Do you...Oh, I'm sorry, Ma'am."

"Don't worry."

"You don't see a lot of women riding here.  And, from behind, you were pedaling like a dude."

I said nothing. (I didn't want to give too much away!)

"Do you have an allen key?"

"Yes, I do."

Just then I saw the reason why he asked:  His handlebar slipped and rolled inside the stem.

"We can't let you ride like that," I said.

"I swapped this handlebar today.  I guess I didn't tighten it enough."

"Well, let's hope it's the right diameter."

"I thought they were all the same size."

I shook my head and, from the corner of my eye, saw the source of the problem.  He had a stem with a faceplate that bolt in the four corners. He'd tightened the top two bolts much more than the lower ones.  So, in addition to the usual hazards of a loose handlebar, he ran the risk of shearing off the faceplate and, possibly, taking an even nastier spill than he might have had he only leaned on loose bars. 

Before I tightened the stem bolts, I asked him to move the bar to a position he likes.  Good thing: I noticed that his grips slipped on the bars.

He said he'd used water to slide the rubber grips onto the bars.   I grabbed the edge of the right grip and rolled it up to the end of the bar.  Then I unrolled it, and the grip--an Oury--stayed as if it had been epoxied to the bar.  I did the same for his left grip.

Then I told him to grab the grip and try to roll it, and to try to move the bar in the stem.  Everything was as firmly in place as the pyramids.

"Lady, I don't know how to thank you enough."

"Just be careful," I said in my most maternal tone.  Really, he's a nice kid--he's been working as a lifeguard--and want him to live and ride long.

07 August 2015

It's Not About Privilege. It's About How She Uses It.

OK, I'll admit it: I haven't watched "I Am Cait."  Then again, I haven't watched anything on television in a while because I almost never watch TV.

That said, I want to address remarks I've heard about it, and about Caitlyn Jenner's very public journey.  Those remarks have a common denominator:  privilege, or at least the word "privilege."  As in, "She's exploiting her upper-class privilege."  A few others have said she is using her "male privilege":  in essence, denying her transition and current life.  

The "male privilege" accusation comes mainly from TERFs and their allies:  After all, any man or any conservative who refused to see Caitlyn as female wouldn't see males as having privilege.  And, perhaps not surprisingly, the "white privilege" or "class privilege" whine doesn't emenate from the lips those who are darker or poorer than Caitlyn:  Those echoes of resentment come mainly from rich white cisgender heterosexuals who took a gender studies course or two.  Ironically, they are no different from white male conservatives in that they cannot see themselves as having privilege, but they can find it in a millisecond in someone else, whether or not that person actually has it.

There is no question that Caitlyn Jenner's celebrity--garnered mainly during her life as a man named Bruce--gives her more privilege than most people will ever enjoy.  And, if she's not part of the "one percent", she's close to it--which, of course, is another source of privilege.  Of course, being white doesn't hurt her standing, either.

Every male-to-female transgender I have ever known--I include myself--has lost some sort of privilege she didn't know she had when she was living as male.  This is especially true if said trans person is white:  As one black trans woman told me, "I don't feel I lost privilege because I had so little to begin with."  Whether the same thing will happen to Caitlyn remains to be seen.  Many of us are rightly celebrating her courage and integrity and, not surprisingly, some are mocking and hating on her.  Some of the haters probably own, or run, the companies that sponsor the programs on which Caitlyn has appeared, so it's hard not to wonder whether, after the attention she's now receiving has shifted elsewhere, she will lose some of her television work or be asked to make fewer public appearances in other venues.

I hope that nothing like that happens to Caitlyn.  As much as I'd like to have some of her privilege, I don't begrudge her for it.  If anything, I think she is using it well to call attention to such things as the suicide of a transgender teenager no one would have heard about if Caitlyn hadn't mentioned him.  Perhaps someone could knock her for taking a cross-country trip with her own entourage but, hey, if it helps to make us and our stories and struggles more real to the public, I have no problem with it.  If nothing else, such actions--and almost everything else she's done from the time Diane Sawyer interviewed her--has helped to break some of the old stereotypes about trans people.

If you're going to denigrate someone for having privilege, go after someone who's using it to bully or exploit people--especially if he's running for the Presidential nomination of his party.  But don't knock someone like Caitlyn, who's been using it for our betterment. 

06 August 2015

Shin's Tricycle

On my other blog, I have written several posts about bicycles, and the ways they have been used, in war.  It may surprise you to learn that the reason why I am interested in such things--and in military history, with an emphasis on the history--is that I am anti-war.  In fact, I believe that the only chance the human race has of surviving-- let alone becoming a better, more enlightened species--is to render war obsolete.  Only then will we be truly able to address issues of environmental degradation and economic injustice.

That last sentence also explains why I am anti-war and pro-veteran:  To me, few things show how pointless war is than seeing a veteran sleeping under a bridge, highway overpass or train trestle, as I sometimes see on my way to work. It also explains why I see bicycling to work and school, and even for recreation --and not as a self-conscious fashion statement or a callow attempt at irony (Can it really be irony if you're trying to achieve it?)--as an instrument for attaining peace and justice.

So, in that spirit, I am posting this photograph:

Why?, you ask.  Well, on this date 70 years ago, a boy named Shin and his best friend, a girl named Kimi, were playing with it when--to paraphrase Albert Camus in The Plague--death rained on them from the clear blue sky. 

When Shin's family found him under a house beam, he was too weak to talk.  But his hand still held the red grip of that tricycle.  And Kimi was nowhere to be found.

Shin would not survive that night.  Nor would Kimi, who was found later.   Shin's father could not bear to leave him in a lonely graveyard, so he was interred--along with Kimi and the tricycle--in the family's backyard.

In 1985--forty years after the first atomic bomb leveled their home town of Hiroshima--his father decided to move his remains to the family's gravesite.  He, with the help of his wife, dug up the backyard burial ground.   There they found "the little white bones of Kimi and Shin, hand in hand as we had placed them," according to the father.

Also present was the tricycle, which the father had all but forgotten.  Lifting it out of the grave, he said, "This should never happen to children.  The world should be a peaceful place where children can play and laugh."

The next day, he would donate the tricycle to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where it is exhibited with other artifacts, as well as drawings, photos and stories from survivors of the first atomic bomb, exploded over the city 70 years ago today.

The tricycle inspired a children's book written by survivor Tatsuharu Kodama.  Published in 1995, Shin's Tricycle is narrated by Nobuo Tetsunani, Shin's father.  It's as painful as it is beautiful.  I urge you to read it--and to take a good look at those stark drawings!