The Gray Lady wonders this morning if New York can truly (re)vert -- or reinvent -- itself into Neue Amsterdam via bikes. Her focus du jour is the Dutch "It" bicycle , and the question is that of how to look delicious(ly continental) while doing so.
It suggests looking like the guy pictured here... in which case I heartily approve.
However, trembling under those textiles is the unSPOKEn (10 point pun, don't you agree?)dialogue in this aestheticised vision of a psuedoeuropean paean to fashion a la bicyclette: that is, that bicycling leaves one... shall we say... moist?
The ">LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards from the USGBC (United States Green Building Council) -- the official granter of "green" status to all things architecture and design -- award points to both commercial and residential with bicycle parking facilities. So too does its pragmatism include SHOWERS in these aforementioned parking facilities, so as to allow one's workers to... freshen up... before a day in the office.
But few of our offices have such amenities, and not everyone is going to stop at the gym before work. Besides, let's be honest -- many who bike do so for both environmental as well as financial reasons, not to mention to forego the sterile hamsterwheel-meets-club-con-meatmarket environment of many such facilities.
Which leaves us -- even if we are riding lovely $1000 bikes and are nattily dressed -- a little, well, RIPE. Remember all the things one hears about Europeans? In addition to fashion and food, there is also: unshaven women! wantonness! bidets! Yes folks, the Europeans [stage whisper]: touch themselves in that private place. Every day. To WASH. Which means a whole slew of things involving accepting dirt, sweat, autosexuality, the human production of juices and so forth and so on.
The real question to pose is: are we ready for the sweaty, higher libidoed, pungent masses? For it's not something that turns me off -- or most Continentals I've met, for that matter (don't forget the wantonness!) but its something we at least keep the illusion of keeping out of the offices, schools, and other fine establishments. Restaurants, your patrons may comingle with your tantalizing aromas not only in their eau d'homme et femme avec cologne et parfum, but so too with eau de... homme et femme. Eau de NOUS. The smell... of US. And we may find that after dinner we want to... take someone home for dessert.
Walter Benjamin, writing in Paris in the 1930's, queried:
"Who still knows, nowadays, where it was that in the last decade of the previous century women would offer to men their most seductive aspect, the most intimate promise of their figure? In the asphalted indoor arenas where people learned to ride bicycles. The women as cyclist competes with the cabaret singer for the place of honor on posters, and gives to fashion its most daring line."
For Benjamin, and many of his contemporaries, the image of the fairer sex astride a bicycle was akin to the switch from sidesaddles to that same, er, mounted position in equestrian riding -- a not only novel but radical, sexual one. And irregardless of which gender you might admire, there is a notably erotic element in the rosy cheek and heaving lung of the cyclist: when paired with a natty get up (for which Paris then as now was never lacking) the effect is nothing short of arousing.
The mood on the street as these two-wheeled darlings of athleticism and aesthetic aplomb change the pattern of our walking, the speed of our gaze, the rhythm of our breath and theirs -- is undeniably HUMAN. They alter the staid concrete and breathe life into our humdrum hours -- for there, amongst the mechanical carriages and caverns of steel and glass they move, darting in and out like sparrows, foxes teasing through the hunts' hooves. And so begins a fissure in the financially-fashioned fabric of America.
When one visits Europe one can't quite put a finger on what tickles the nose, the skin, what rides in the air of the cities there -- is it to bold to suggest this invisible energy is directly linked to the long time tradition of the streets filled with bicycles? To put it shortly -- yes. There is an unspoken, unmapped humanity that is exuded from masses of persons who are in very fact "auto-mobile": a populism, a hint of revolution, an acceptance and demonstration of willed physical exertion. The biker says without a word: in my calves lies the power. Independence of movement releases one from the grid, from the preordained paths, from the nodes of mass transit and the standardized mapping of Place -- and so too does the fabric of "knowledge" (what we know and how we know it) further unravel.
The question, then, is not only what to wear to the Ball of Ourselves, but, are we ready for the party?