Eccentric Roadside Art Ride 2012


Listening to Lee Diamond

Warren Park is where today’s ride began. It lies about 6600 North on Western Avenue. The group arrived in sporadic fashion. Connie and I circled the park looking for the group and finally found it assembling at the Field House. We parked our bikes and waited. And waited. And waited.

But while waiting it was quite pleasant to find that Lee Diamond our ride leader and docent had come equipped for every eventuality. He had a spare floor pump, spare helmets for those who had either forgotten theirs or simply don’t ride with one. He had a couple dozen spare water bottles for those riders who simply were without theirs and even what looked like refrigerator magnets too!

Each attendee paid their $15-$20 fee and signed one of the waver books that was circulating in a lime green binder. And there was even “swag”. Each rider got a nicely laminated spoke card depicting the poster (also available for sale separately) announcing the ride, a route map nicely printed on the opposing side of (wait for it) a cue sheet, and a nicely printed brochure showing highlights of the places and spaces we were to visit on the ride.

(Note: One glaring inconsistency was that Lee demanded payment for this ride. He clearly stated that if you don’t pay you don’t ride”. But that flies in the face of the ChainLink notion of “auditing” rides. Why the Double Standard? If you can promote on your forum the idea of doing a ride in real time but not paying, why decide that it is not OK when you are hosting the ride?)

Ride Poster

Remembering the Origins of “CP” Time

Eighty percent of success is showing up.” — Woody Allen

I grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a deeply religious community of African-Americans. These people were a lot like Mormons. They were devout, believed in sending out missionaries to all parts of the globe and were passionate in their willingness to dispense the Gospel of Jesus Christ because it was your way to Salvation. I doubt whether it ever occurred to many that people could ever be perfectly happy to live their lives as Catholics, Jews, Muslims or Baptists without the blessings of the Holy Spirit and especially the gift of Speaking In Tongues.

They had one “fault” that they shared with every other black person whose family had migrated from the South and that was that their lives ran on “CP Time“. Colored People’s Time was always a bit of a joke. If the pastor had plans to take a busload of his congregants to Loves Park, IL and he needed to leave by 4 PM he posted the departure time as 3 PM knowing full well that no one took deadlines seriously.

There was no profanity, swearing or cussing in this group of people. Even the women did not wear makeup for the majority of my childhood. You always said “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am” to your elders and you found dressing up for Church something that was an occasion of gladness. It was all part of the lifestyle these folks had lived in the Deep South. They were proud people who either worked tirelessly for the government, a white family as a maid or servant, entered the military and often made officer rank, taught school or usually had their own businesses. My mothers sister and her husband owned several food related businesses and eventually he gained his training as a plasterer and she as a beautician. My father worked as a mail clerk and later a postal inspector for the USPS while my mother was assistant office manager of the largest black owned real estate company on the South Side.

Every man married the mother of his children and lived with them. Divorce was virtually unheard of in my childhood. Not everyone had a car or a home but my parents and my aunt and uncle did. And I took this as a normal part of growing up. It was when I entered a segregated high school on the far South Side that I learned that “Negroes were always late” and “Coloreds always stole things and hated police” and “Niggers did nothing more than swear instead of forming complete sentences”. All of these complaints were news to me except perhaps the part about being late.

Mind you we were not late to job related functions or business situations. It was simply that Church was somewhat different. People suspended their habits of everyday life and settled into a lingering pace for Sundays. It was perhaps that they really and truly wanted the day to last a very long time. But there was not doubting that if you were expecting to hear the service begin on time on a given Sunday you were going to be disappointed.

The lateness had everything to do with interpersonal communications. Folks stood outside the Church for long minutes chatting up one another and catching up on the latest gossip. This even happened upstairs in the sanctuary. Everyone was buzzing about what had been happening in the lives since last they met and the Pastor sometimes got impatient with it all. But given that most of my parents generation had migrated from the Deep South and knew church life that revolved around having to walk to the service, it was expected that the elderly and the infirm would be late. As a result everything slowed down. And Church was savored in the manner that we reserved for Tootsie Roll Pops. You licked the candy shell slowly enough that you made the moment of breaking it to expose the chocolate inside something to luxuriate in.

CP Time Has Been Resurrected

“ChainLinkers are always late”. “ChainLinkers hate police”. And most assuredly “ChainLinkers do nothing more than swear instead of forming complete sentences”. I got a full in your face reacquaintance with CP Time today. We launched the ride around 45 minutes after the announced starting time. And the other interesting bit was that the “drinks and snacks” after the ride were evidently not included in the $20 fee. Shades of Church life. The Pastor would bring along boxes of fried chicken on those long bus rides to Loves Park, IL. And he always charged for the chicken.

Now it’s no use getting upset when CP Time settles even on a white crowd. Its a bit like a Tar Baby. “The more you be strugglin’ the tireder you gets.” So you either arrange for the group to meet an hour earlier than you actually plan to depart or you find an even more elegant solution to the problem.

Merchants of years ago invented “lay-away”. You paid a little bit down each week and by the time Christmas rolled around you had enough saved to bring home that item. Meanwhile the merchant pocketed the interest on your payments and everyone seemed happy.

Smaller Bites

They always tell you that if you want to lose weight you need to develop some simple habits like eating slowly. And that means taking smaller bites. You try and avoid the Guy Fieri eating technique where you take a sandwich that is larger than you head and squeeze it as thin and possible while unhinging your jaw before taking a massive bite that fills your mouth too full and forces saliva to run down your chin. Yummy!

If you want to get urban cyclists to talk in complete sentences and to not rely so heavily on “talking smack” you avoid that habit yourself. Of course most of this sort of thing is done by males who I suppose think it makes them look and sound as tough as the “ghetto youth” whose “knock you off your bike theft style” scares them enough to force them to find alternate routes through the West and South Sides of Chicago. And in the bargain guys like Gabe decide to pronounce the areas he fears to tread as “sh*tholes”. It’s the classic case of a prisoner who won’t confront the gang leader but will “talk smack” behind his back. Talk is cheap. If you really are tough you call a “spade a spade” while he and his posse are standing in front of you. Got that Dan Brown?

Museum owners know that you cannot wait for a hundred visitors to arrive and then have them led around the galleries with a single docent describing works of art that they cannot see because the crowd is so deep. Rides like this one today could maybe benefit from the same treatment. Break the group up and have maybe a dozen riders per group with a docent and a sweep. Why?

Well it makes it a heck of a lot easier for a group of 12 riders to move through an intersection before the light turns red than is the case with 60 riders. And you avoid the dreaded stop up ahead to let the entire gaggle of riders regroup. If the docent has cards from which to read then every group gets the same message delivered. And if they are sharing the same route then everyone sees the same things. Its just not necessary to strain to speak to a group of 12 to be easily heard. And you minimize the necessity to keep asking folks to leave room for cars to pass when you stop to listen to an extended speech. A group of 12 is small enough to manage itself.

But the most important reason for breaking the attendees into smaller groups is because you can then register the early arrivers, collect their fees, pass out their swag, get them ready to roll and send them off in times intervals. As late arrivals reach the starting point they don’t have to crowd onto the grass or the sidewalk but rather have room to go through their induction process before leaving with their small group.

You can always agree to meet at a central point to link the group back up for luncheon or whatever. But frankly the waiters and lunch servers would prefer to have groups of 12 rather than suddenly be inundated by 60. But this is an idea as hard to find traction for among these CP Timers as it would have been in our Church. People hate change. And as they enter their 30s they are already as set in their ways as they will ever be. They will have moved as far as they dare to from their parents values and politics before discovering that at 30-something they have begun to nose dive into the same sullen rut of worn out values, but with a slight tune up for their times.

It’s a bit like music. You like Rock ‘n Roll because your parents hate it. But then you discover that their favorite records were just as daring in the time of their teenage years as yours and you suddenly realize nothing ever really changes. You hate “black kids who make you feel emasculated enough to ride around their neighborhoods” as much as your parents. Its just that all that swearing that “black kids” did all those years ago “white kids” are doing now and somehow feeling liberated in the effort. Go figure!

Cyclometer Info

Distance: 12.2 miles
Time: 1h 35m 25s