For all things Tooks, and some things, er, relating to other people. As well as to other things. You get the picture.

14 January 2005

well, sadly, i drove away my meager readership by not posting for about six months. talk about fair-weather friends. oh well. anyway, here's another missive from the occasionally interesting, always weird world of ATX (this one is dedicated to lyd stein and the collectible--it'll do your subversive heart proud):

yesterday, i began to build a bike in the austin anarchist cycling collective. it's called the yellowbike project, and the idea is that people build bicycles, paint them yellow, and then leave them around town. if you see a yellow bike and it's not chained up or anything, there's a good chance it's a yellow bike, which you can borrow for a while--ride it somewhere, and then leave it for the next person. you shouldn't steal it or try and make a schedule for it; that's not very anarchist. you just take your turn and pass it on. mind you, i've only heard tell of these yellow bikes, never actually seen one in action (or in inaction). but my friend said they exist, and he offered to initiate me into the wacky world of yellow bike. so he gave me a bike for christmas, this wonderful, horrible red beater i have tentatively christened the "red devil," and he brought me down to the collective (or "collectible," depending on what grade we're currently in). it's this great big warehouse up north, off 51st st, by the old airport (for those of you who know austin). you go through this big gate on foot or bike, but unsurprisingly you can't drive right up to the door in your car--duh. you go in, and there's bikes everywhere in various states of repair and dis-. wheels hang from the railings around the indoor porch on the second floor, frames and handlebars line the walls, some for sale and some reserved, and all along the floor are buckets and bins and canisters and tubs full of bike parts: derailers, chains, pedals, brake wires, gears, shifters, tubes, seats, baskets--on and on. most of it i couldn't name. there it all was, a glorious combination junk-yard/scrap-heap/yard sale/warehouse. it reminded me of the planet junk from the transformers movie; i half expected to hear eric idle and weird al yankovic singing "dare to be stupid." the really cool -- and ironic--thing was, it was all surprisingly organized for an anarchist collective. each bucket and bin and tub was labelled: "axle bolts," said one; "scrap steel," another; "small nuts," a third. my friend and i rolled the red devil to a workstation, complete with clamp (so you don't bust your back bending over to wangle the gadget off the thingie) and sets of color-coded tools on those pegboards that anal people have in their garages. each tool has its spot, marked by the outline of its shape, so even if you don't know that the watchamacallit that you just used on your chain is called a chain tool, you can still figure it out by matching it to the picture. ingenious. in case you have difficulty remembering that the blue tools go on the blue pegboard, there're signs that remind you--nicely: "dude, please put back the tools where they belong." the awesome thing about it all is that it's free--or pretty much so. you leave the parts you don't want, take the ones you do. you can work on a bike for yellowbike or for your own self--no biggie. leave a donation if you have some money--or don't. it's a volunteer-run, grassroots, local collective. my kind of place.

all this makes for some great people-watching, incidentally. they come in all shapes and sizes, mostly noncomformist ones. there are your expected anarchists, with thrift-store and other scrounged clothes and alternative t-shirts; also, your die-hard cyclists, always in spandex pants, a yellow jersey and funny shoes; and me, a square in a hoodie and a red sox hat. but there i was, taking off my chain, and my tire, and my derailer (which i now proudly include as part of my bicycle vocabulary: it's the thing on your rear wheel that changes gears). i found a new derailer in a bucket with hundreds of other ones. this in itself was quite an accomplishment, as i am one of the least mechanically inclined people i know; i struggle to operate a can opener at times. but i found this derailer, and a flat nut to go on top (for the gears--don't ask) that my new derailer was missing, and then another nut to finish off the tiny little assembly. i was wielding my color-coded wrenches with confidence, and, if i may say, aplomb, when i hit one little snag: my nut was stuck. i tried and tried to first get it tight and then loosen it, but no dice. then the yellow bike volunteer came and tried to wongle it--nope. finally after about fifteen minutes of struggle, he said, "dude, there's a whole bucket of derailers--try and find one with all the pieces you need." i started to explain to him that this had been my derailer, that it was my first yellowbike experience and that it was a really big moment for me, and i just wanted it to go right. my hands were blackened and greasy from rust and oil and grime, my hair was suffering serious hathead, and my hand throbbed from where i got it caught in the clamp earlier. but i just smiled and said i guess so, and wandered back over to the bucket of derailers. i found another one pretty quick.

the thing is, it's just the start of my bike. there's no hurry; there's no deadline; there's no charge. at closing time, the dudes said bye to me, and nice to meet you, and come again. my friend and i washed our hands with this goopy, gritty soap that got most of the grease off, but i still had some under my nails at work this morning. i was secretly proud of my newfound grit, my better-late-than-never initiation to the world of fixing-stuff-in-the-garage. there's lots to do--that derailer's not going to put itself on, nor will the brake cables replace themselves or the shifters or the wheels or gears. luckily, the swelling has mostly gone down in my hand, and i know what kinds of nuts to avoid (the rusty kind). in no time, the red devil will be tearing up the pavement of central texas, and perhaps after that, other devils--blue, green, fuscia, etc. watch out, hummers, ford expeditions, and lincoln navigators: your days are numbered--in yellow.

get eco-anarchist-earth-crunchy-on two wheels with me,


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