Archive for August, 2008
We just got back from a vacation full of exercise fit for an athlete training for the Olympic Games. Well, that’s what it felt like to me anyway. First leg of our trip — a few days in Chicago to see family, topped off with a 22-mile bike ride along Lake Michigan. What did I learn? I am grossly out of shape. Never mind the headwind pushing us back south in the direction of Florida. Never mind I was tugging my five year old niece, who kept telling me to pedal faster because she couldn’t see the others up front. My 70 year old cyclist Dad had to sweep me into Navy Pier. Then we were off for hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Moose Country. I spotted more Obama 08 bumper stickers and nary a moose. It was beautiful with even more beautiful viewing from the summits. I trudged up the mountains with The Big Guy, who wasn’t even breaking a sweat, Our Favorite 14 yo and her school chum. The mountain air was clean and ripe with pine. We were on the trails everyday. And they were pristine. We slept well and ate well. No car alarms, no Mr. Softee jingle at 10:30 pm (I think everyone in town was tucked in by 8:30), no airplanes overhead making their descent into the airport. All our Bronx creature comforts far away.
Now back home, ready to keep the momentum, we decided to get me a bicycle. We put on our riding gear and headed to local bike shop Westchester Bicycle Pro Shop on Westchester Avenue. We were going to get the bike and then ride out to Pelham Bay. The shop had a decent selection. We picked out a couple of models, adjusted the seats, had pedals put on. I rode three feet in the crowded store. But the owner wouldn’t let us take the bikes outside for a test run. What?? It’s a bicycle. I need to ride it. We offered to leave him our credit card. We promised to stay on the sidewalk in front of the store. We were ready to spend money. “It will get dirty. No. No. I can’t do it. Then everyone here (he made a sweeping gesture with his hand) will want to take a bike out”. He turned to busy himself with customers needing a child’s bike seat, a rim trued, i.e. small jobs.
The Big Guy called this the “Uno Maneuver”. Eating at our neighborhood Pizzeria Uno almost always led to a discussion with the manager regarding the lacking service. Nice staff but inefficient. We always left frustrated, but told ourselves that after all we were patronizing a local business. Then once we noticed a 15% gratuity added to our bill. We were only four. The manager explained that this was their new policy, a move to protect themselves from folks that didn’t leave a tip. The 15% gratuity would apply to all parties, no matter the size. We were turned off and have not been back.
I can understand that a business, especially a small one, will have to find some way to deal with customers who consistently don’t tip, who try to return damaged merchandise or who find some other way to get over. But why implement a policy that shows distrust of all customers that walk through the doors? The bike shop owner could not see beyond his own rule to recognize that the two people standing in front of him were ready to buy a bicycle. He chose to ring up a child’s seat and rim repair job instead. And Uno’s with its “mandatory” 15% gratuity, is equally as distasteful.
It’s too bad because these businesses are in our neighborhood, they are local. I don’t, however, see them as my allies, as my neighborhood go to spots. We will keep walking by.
My bike search continues…
A couple of Fridays ago, I was lolling on the lawn at the Andrew Freedman Home on the Grand Concourse. The sun was up, the heat was feeling good on my skin. It was a perfect summer Friday in the city. And I was listening to DJ Chris Annibell of Afrokinetic spin tunes at The Bronx Museum of the Arts First Fridays! event.
Folks arrived with blankets, fold-up seats and snacks (the more prepared ones) and others found places on benches by the flower beds.
Then Michael Markus and Magbana Drum and Dance brought the sounds and rhythms of the djembe, the kalimba and the shakere.
Their featured dancer was a principal with a troupe in Guinea and she was kicking high until the sun set.
Against the back of the Andrew Freedman Home, we watched the films “The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun” and “Mambety” presented by the The African Film Festival. I have not sat outdoors at night to watch a film in a very long time. And it was great. That night The Andrew Freedman Home was glowing. I stayed on the lawn for as long as I could bear the mosquitos nibbling all around my bare ankles.