Monday, August 31, 2009

Anonymous luxury car drivers: why are you so angry?

It is a commonly known fact that commuting in Miami is an all-you-can-eat buffet of garbage. If you've ever been to one of those economy pan-asian buffets in the strip malls with ugly beige paint scheme (a.k.a. all of them), you've experienced that everything looks pretty edible from afar, but the closer you get to the food, the more repulsive it actually is. Forlorn, you return to your table with a plate adorned with 3 lumps of the least disgusting options, but once you sample each, you realize it's exactly as bad as you feared. This again could be paralleled to using Miami's roads, and even more so if you're doing it on a bicycle. The main difference is buffets have trans-fats, and Miami has road-rage.

I'd love to showcase a class of Miami drivers who are particularly good with road manners, but I've yet to identify any. However, it is very easy to notice which group is the worst: the luxury car driver. Specifically if the car they drive is a German sedan, you can typically expect their reaction to your very existence to be an attempt to end it, preferably with your blood neatly splattered accross the Audi logo.

One of the most successful research opportunities for evaluating drivers' abilities to:
a) keep their cool
b) understand the law
c) share
is to participate in your local Critical Mass. Critical Mass is a cycling event which occurs once a month in cities accross the nation. Every individual rider has their own definition and purpose for it, and here is mine:

Critical Mass is a radical attempt to create awareness and dialogue between cyclists and motorists about the rules of the road, about the fact that cyclists need to use it, and about how both cyclists and motorists can step on eachother's toes unless something serious is done to improve road usage for everyone. It is done so by a leaderless gathering of cyclists who meet at a pre-determined time, and set off on a group ride on city roads. If there is a sufficiently "critical" amount of cyclists on the road together, they can easily occupy a lane or two of traffic, if not the entire road in attempt to get wherever they are going. Clearly, this gets the attention of motorists, who are forced to wait, slow down, or find alternate routes: the same challenges that any individual cyclist faces on the road every day.

This being said, let us put in perspective what cyclists may excpect on the road with some statistics.

i) Bicycling Magazine recently listed Miami as one of the worst for cycling in the U.S.A.

ii) Although New York recently stole the crown as the city with the most road rage from Miami in 2007, we still sit at a healthy number 7.

It is no suprise then, that when over 100 cyclists took part in Critical Mass Miami: August 2009 edition, they were occasionally met with honks, yells, profanity, reving engines and general threats to their well-being. However, the relatively few offensive drivers weren't the ones driving the beat-up carolla home from work, but the guy in the suit and the brand new BMW.

Drastically violent attempts to cut off cyclists were inflicted by someone driving a Mercedez, and more than one Audi driver came within feet of a cyclist before squeeling to a stop, slamming on his horn. All in all, there were relatively few cases of irrational explosions of rage, but 9 times out of 10 they came from somebody who clearly earned far too much money to wait for cyclists. On the other end of the spectrum, cyclists were aided by patient drivers, cheered on by others, and at the very least were tolerated by the vast majority of motorists.

So, what's the deal anonymous luxury car drivers? Why are you so angry? Is it because you paid good money for your 500hp engine and damn it all if you can't use it right now? Are you afraid that if anyone saw you waiting behind a bicycle, you might lose some of the respect that your finely tuned german car has been earning you? I'm truly at a loss here, because l would assume that anyone who had the patience, maturity, and solid work ethic to get to a point in their lives where they could afford such a nice car, would have also developed the ability to get over themselves once in a while.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


"After bewilderingly challenging, diligent exploration for gloomy hell, I've just known lame Miami: Naggingly obstrusive; pathetically, quixotically ridiculous. Seriously tattered underwear. Very whiney Xantus (Yaks). Zebras!"
-Arthur the Procrastinator

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The 8th Ave Bike and Coffee House, Gainesville, FL

As I might have mentioned, I've been out of town, which has been great. Unfortunately, I'm about to be back in town this Saturday, which means we can re-commence hating everything together. Until then, I'll be wrapping up my vacation in Gainesville: A place where the drivers are friendly, the bike lanes are a-plenty, the music is non-stop, the beer is affordable, the coffee is local, and the rent is cheap. I've thoroughly enjoyed my summer here, and this next bit will be on my new favorite establishment in Gainesville: The 8th Ave Bike and Coffee House. That's right, it's a bike shop, and a coffee shop, simultaneously. Could we please get something like this started at home, Miami?

The day I visited was the grand opening party, complete with balloons, banners, and free coffee all day. After my morning teeth brushing, beer can recycling, and dishes-doing, I rode on over to check it out. When I walked in, the most strikingly awesome thing about the relatively large space was that all the walls were covered with gorgeous bicycle frames. I’m talking a mid 20th century international array of lugged beauties in paint schemes that only existed in the dreams of 1960’s Italian frame builders.

The incredibly friendly staff were quick to  share  stories about all the rare frames they've acquired, all while sipping piping hot cups of  Sweetwater coffee, a local brand to Gainesville. Curious cog-heads and coffee drinkers trickled in and milled around the shop all day, test riding the vintage rides, as well as bringing their own bikes in for a little service.

The shop’s focus is vintage road bikes, but they also carry a small selection of new bikes by a company called Gavin, which is based out of St. Augustine, FL. On the coffee side the shop, the commitment is to buy local, which they do so for all their coffee and chocolates. Complete with a generous amount of chairs and tables, free wi-fi access, and all the vintage-bicycle-eye-candy anyone could ever want, it's no surprise that this place was an instant hit for me.  To quote one of the customers, "It's like a dog park for bikes." 

Between snapping bunches of pictures and drinking mug-fulls of coffee, I had a short conversation with Musa Blount, a co-owner of the business, and with Eliza Lutz, one of the baristas. Mr. Musa Blount, a friendly guy with a constant smile, greeted me with a hug.

Arthur: What's your favorite aspect of this shop?

Musa: I think it's meeting new people, sharing stories, and seeing cool bikes.

Arthur: What are the challenges of opening up another bike shop in Gainesville, a place with so many already?

Musa: I guess the challenge is to not impede the business of the other local bike shops. But they all have their own niches and target markets, so that gives us room to do what we do.

Arthur: What are you most excited about achieving with 8th avenue bike shop?

Musa: Giving people what they want: More choices. If they want discounts for buying bulk they can have it. I want people to have cool bikes for the money. I want to pay people well to work here, and I want this place to be a nice place to hang out and talk about bikes. 

Arthur: What do you have to add to the city that Gainesville is missing?

Musa: I’m not sure there’s anything missing from gainesville, actually. We’re just adding more of the same good stuff.

Arthur: Can customers of 8th Ave expect events and attractions besides bikes and coffee?

Musa: We hope to be a venue for local musicians, artists, and poets. Probably more. We want to give people a place to do the things they like to do. It  should be a fun place for races, events, and rides. 

Arthur: What got you into bikes?

Musa: It’s the sense of freedom. As a kid, it’s the only way to go anywhere on your own. It’s something that you have a lot of control over, too. When you're young and don’t have money, you could still figure out how to fix your bike. You can pick the colors you want and the components you want. It’s definitely the freedom.

Arthur: What should potential customers know about this shop?

Musa: They can expect unique bikes and components at good prices, with good, fast service. They should also expect a level of professionalism here. Bicycles are serious vehicles, and you can die on them, so we believe it requires a level of skill and professionalism to maintain them properly. We’re here for everyone, so we want to cater to whatever ideas our customers might have. Maybe they have an idea for their bike that other shops would scoff at, but we’re willing to give anything a try.

 After speaking with Musa, I headed over to the coffee bar. Eliza had just finished talking to a customer about the locally prepared chocolate they sold when I came over to ask for an interview.

Arthur: What's your name?

Eliza: Eliza Lutz

Arthur: Lutz like the “triple lutz” in ice skating?

Eliza: I'm a single Lutz.

Arthur: What's the philosophy of the coffee shop?

Eliza: Well, I wasn’t in Gainesville when 2nd Street Bakery was around, but the guys always said that the environment was what made it great. Very laid back, and comfortable. I think that’s the kind of environment we want here. Also, everyone there was into bikes. Bikes are big part of Gainesville culture, so I feel like the two shops are nautual fusion here at 8th Ave Bike and Coffee House.

Arthur: Coffee shops and bike shops are both very aromatic establishments. What do you think about the mix?

Eliza: I think that the coffee aroma definitely overpowers the bikes, which is a good thing. Doesn’t actually smell much like bikes here, which is good for most customers.

Arthur: Is there anything about the shop that you think potential customers should know?

Eliza: It’s a great place to get bikes that were assembled by people who really care. Same for the coffee. It may not be the absolute best you’ve ever had, but it will be really solid, and something most people can afford.

Arthur: What would you like to see the coffee shop grow into in a year from now?

Eliza: I would hope that eventually we can expand and solidify the menu. Im not big on iced drinks, but we’re in the south and its hot, so its gonna be a fact. I’d like to have all the standards and basics, but to always improve our products, and keep our purchases local.

Arthur: What’s your favorite aspect of the shop?

Eliza: The fact that I can get super caffeinated and work on my bike.

So, next time you're in Gainesville, and you're on 8th Avenue, and if you have a bike, or if you like coffee, stop on by the 8th Ave Bike and Coffee House.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I Really Hate Miami's Official Music Review: Jacuzzi Boys

We all know that IRHM's true purpose is to issue little blocks of hateful html periodically, only to be read occasionally by Arthur the author, who will giggle to himself as he dreams about being famous for his razor sharp wit and his devilishly good looks: A dream with as much potential for transcending into reality as Miami does of ever becoming a cool place to live. 

With this goal, along with being an excellent source for paragraph-long-sentences and hyphen abuse, IRHM rarely achieves anything else...until today. 

As was mentioned merely one post ago, we are about to enjoy a few lines of adoration towards something great. Moreover, something great which, against all odds, rose from within the fiery hell-sphincter which marks the border of the Miami-Dade County line. This unexpected fresh breath of air is a band called Jacuzzi Boys

All of the talented writers here at IRHM (all zero of them) like to listen to good music, so it was pretty obvious that when Pop Mayhem made its yearly occurrence at Gainesville, Florida, I was there. This is where I saw the Jacuzzi Boys. 

A band which I can only describe as pop-tastic surfer-rock n' roll, Jacuzzi Boys definitely put the "Mayhem" in Pop Mayhem. Somewhat reminiscent of The Cramps, Vocals ranged from achey to antsy to downright wailing, all backed up by 100% grade A guitar licks,  easy going bass, and constantly clashing drums. Jacuzzi boys made music that would be equally at home at a late night club show, or on the beach during a sunny day. The music was fun from beginning to end, with a sort of nolstagic simplicity, harkening to a time when the summers were long, the beers were cheap, and the guitar solos were fucking awesome.

The band is comprised of Gabriel on guitar/vocals, Diego on the drums, and Danny on base. After the show, I did a short interview with Gabriel. Here's a picture from that night.

Arthur: How would you classify your music?

Gabriel: Rock n' roll.   
Arthur: Your music has a distinctly summer feel to it. Is touring during the winter something the band is capable of?

Gabriel: We've played shows in January once, but it's too fucking cold. We're just not built for it. We even got Asthma attacks.

Arthur: Your performance as a band was tight. What's the secret?

Gabriel:We're a pretty close group. We're all latino, and we're like family. It's a latino thing.

Arthur: I noticed you've got some pretty crazy facial expressions on stage. Anything to say about that?

Gabriel: Yeah. We call it the "doc eyes." Or the "Florida Lizard King." 

There may have been more, and the questions might have been different, but I was really drunk, and I'm having a hard time reading or remembering what I wrote in my notebook. In any case, I'm pretty sure there was a part that went like: 

Arthur: Thanks for your time.

Gabriel: Thanks. Check out our myspace to listen to our music, and check for upcoming shows.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Miami: Out of sight, out of mind.

It's been months, and I'm sure that as the days of your lives slowly pass through the trim waist-line of the hour glass of your existence, you've discovered knew reasons to hate your unfortunate Miamian location with a regularity only otherwise found in a well-fibered diet. Normally I would sympathize. Normally I would blow it out of proportion. Normally I would write about it in the world famous "I Really Hate Miami" blog. However, I've been hate-free recently.

This state of being is certainly not credited to Miami, but only a result of my being away from the dreadful place. I couldn't be happier. I wish it could last forever. To be frank, the fact that I have to return makes my insides grow cold in a fashion most akin to refrigerated milk ingested by my virus-stricken stomach; a wretched organ, ready to hurl back anything offered to it via my bile-soaked esophagus. To be doubly frank, it is only a recently acquired food born illness that has reminded me that life does suck sometimes, and therefore brought my attention back to Miami's existence.

On that note, I'd like to apologize for the lack of posting here, and to explain that it has been my hate-free-ness which has led to me astray. I'll back in Miami shortly, and until then, you can expect a small series of articles showcasing  a city that doesn't suck nearly as hard, and expressing my adoration for things that are awesome. I hope that this temporary bout of positive-mindedness doesn't disturb any of my die-hard, hate-wracked readers. Please stay tuned!