Archive for February, 2015

Today was the coldest day I can remember here; low of seven degrees in the morning; predicted high of twenty-three.  But the day was bright and sunny, with very little wind.   Just to see if I could do it, I did the fifteen mile Tootie Loop, departing about eleven a.m. when it was fifteen degrees, and coming back an hour later when it was nineteen degrees.   I had never bicycled in such cold before.

And it was really not that uncomfortable.   What continues to fascinate me is downhill skiing, which I have done a fair amount of, but not for several years.   Bicycling in the cold is not nearly as bad as downhill skiiing in the same temperatures.   People spend huge amounts of money to go out in the worst possible weather, and then expose themselves to all that wind, without that much serious exercise.    You then get on a ski lift, and sit quietly in the freezing wind so that you can do it all over again.

Bicycling on that Friday was not a big deal.


Tootie and I went to New Orleans recently.   We now have our own bicycles stored at our friend’s place there, where we also rent her backyard apartment.    I had the opportunity to bike around New Orleans, looking for interesting street names.

In Bywater and its immediate vicinity, we find pleasures of the flesh.





One block over, we are reminded to counterbalance these feelings.



Many of the names are just flat unpronounceable to most of us.  Many have heard of this tongue twister.


These are in Uptown also.


What is a Cucullu?  Or a Soraparu?





There are lots of interesting names in other parts of the city.  These are near the Fair Grounds racetrack.




They say that R.E.M. was inspired to write the song West of the Fields while laying sprawled on the grass of the substantial neutral ground of this wide street in Fauborg Marigny.


In Gentilly street names get even more obtuse.






Mardi Gras Indians are African Americans who dress up like American Indians as a carnival thing; they are “social and pleasure” clubs.   I heard on radio station WWOZ that one of the Mardi Gras Indians, “Big Chief” Bo Dollis had died, and his funeral on Saturday would include a procession of Indians.   Since we had never actually seen a real Mardi Gras Indian, Tootie and I bicycled over to Xavier University.   It has the distinction of being the only African American Catholic university in America.   It is in a part of town we had never seen up close.

Waiting for the procession to arrive, clearly only those “in the know” had come to see this.    There were various groups of artsy looking white people, many with expensive photo equipment.  It included a Keith Richards lookalike with a vague European accent.




The procession was a more party atmosphere than a typical funeral.







Air fares became so insanely cheap that I could not resist this trip; two nights in South Florida midweek in January.  I arrived Fort Lauderdale Airport at 3:30 PM on a Tuesday.   I put the bicycle together and bicycled to downtown Fort Lauderdale for the night, where I stayed in an Airbnb.   The next morning I bicycled the fifty miles from Fort Lauderdale up to Palm Beach.  I ate lunch there before taking the TriRail commuter train that afternooon all the way down to Miami.   I then bicycled late that afternoon from the train station near MIA airport to South Miami Beach.  The next morning I got up early and bicycled up from South Miami Beach back up to the Fort Lauderdale airport, in time for my 3:00 PM flight back to Raleigh/Durham.

South Florida is about an imagined life, if nothing else.    In The Godfather, Part II, Hyman Roth was a mobster who lived simply in South Florida, eating tuna fish sandwiches while discussing “business” with Michael Corleone.     His small house was one story, of stucco.



I have an overactive imagination on these bike trips.   One day on this trip, north of Fort Lauderdale, I overheard a fifty something skinny guy walking around the parking lot of an upscale strip mall, barking a strong New York accent into a cell phone “When’s the guy coming down here with the fucking money!”

When you bicycle up and down South Florida, the most pleasant bike ride is to weave through the grid of older neighborhoods much like those of Hyman Roth.  These houses are a distinctive Florida style, and they go on for miles and miles.

You find these houses in middle class and wealthy neighborhoods:

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You also find essentially the same houses in rough neighborhoods, such as the area between the Miami airport and downtown, which I cycled through (quickly!) on a Wednesday afternoon:

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That same neighborhood had areas that felt like the Third World, a Latin American country.

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There was a rugged industrial area along the Miami River.    Small ships from places like Haiti unload there directly, as well as lots of people in the scrap metal business.


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I biked into Miami Beach at 5:30 PM in time for a quick swim before it got dark.

In South Miami Beach on a winter night you are bathing in the warm humid air.    It flaunts the Florida ideal of an imagined perfect life, 1930’s style.    For only one night a year, this is a nice place to be.  Beyond one day the hedonism would get on my nerves.


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Modernist architecture is all over South Florida.   On this two day trip  I did not really seek anything out, I just took pictures of buildings that I found attractive.

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In West Palm Beach, as you bicycle you see signs of the ultra rich everywhere.   However, the minute you get off the main tract by the beach, things get seedy pretty quickly.  Still, sometimes seediness has style.

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Postscript:   The supermarket chain Publix needs recognition for supporting quality architecture.    In both downtown Fort Lauderdale, and North Miami Beach, the supermarkets were not only of quality contemporary style, but the buildings are built right up adjacent to the street.  Parking is not in front, but rather behind, or alongside.

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