Sunday, June 10, 2012

Take Him To The Rack!

So, you may be wondering why the promised new Fridays With Hitchcock was *again* delayed...

A coupled of weeks ago I rode my bike to Big 5 Sporting Goods to buy a new backpack. My old one - a couple years old and an ugly powder blue - was starting to tear. It was still usable, but why not get a new one? When I pulled up at Big 5, there was a banner announcing a bike sale. Though my trusty Schwinn is about 3 years old, it’s in okay shape (one of the shifters is loose) and I just replaced both tubes and even took some furniture polish to the frame to make it look pretty. No reason to replace it. Rides well. Broken in but not broken.

But at Big 5 - no place to lock it. Though they had that big banner announcing a bike sale, there was no place to lock a bike outside. No bike rack. The best you could do is lock to the pole announcing that this space is Handicapped Parking. There were two of those... and the other one had two bikes locked to it. When I began locking my bike, the couple came out of Big 5 and I joked about the bike sale banner but no place to lock up... and as fellow members of the chain gang, they joked back... and we had a conversation about all of the places where they don’t provide anyplace for you to lock a bike... yet they’ll gladly sell you one.

And that makes no sense.

Here in Los Angeles we have pollution problems (you may have heard) so there’s this thing called Ride Share Thursday. You see, the smog was so bad at one point that 7% of all natural cause deaths in Los Angeles were directly related to auto pollution. So the EPA demanded the city clean up their act - which is where this toy subway came from. But also a bunch of voluntary things like Ride Share Thursday, where people are encouraged to car pool and bike and use public transit to work. I don’t think anyone actually does it - but the city is promoting the idea of people bicycling... yet many business have no place to park your bike once you get there. Imagine driving to the mall in your car... and there being no parking at all! Slowly the city has begun putting up these upside down U shaped “racks” all over town, so there are now some places to lock up. Still some sections of town where you have to lock to a light pole or something.

I often go to the AMC theaters in Burbank... which have no place to lock a bike at all. A couple of years ago at the AMC North, I locked my bike to the little fence that separates the parking lot and sidewalk - and a Security Guy told me I couldn’t park there. I asked him *where* I was supposed to park, and he said not his problem. So I had to take my bike off the mall property and lock it to a light pole. The problem with that is - locked next to the cinema is safer than out on the street.

When I went to see AVENGERS at the AMC 16 (the big new cinema in its own outdoor mall) there were at least *60* bicycles parked around the outdoor mall - locked to light poles, trees, stairway railings, etc. Because there are hundreds of parking spaces for cars and not a single place to lock a bike - anything you could lock to was taken! I ended up parking my bike way down the street on one of Burbank City’s bicycle shaped “racks”. But I wondered why the mall didn’t have anyplace to lock a bike, when obviously they have plenty of customers who ride there? One of the other malls I go to regularly (an uncrowded Starbucks) has a section of their parking lot designed for bicycles and motorcycles. A couple of okay bike racks (there are good bike racks and basically pointless ones) - and they are always filled. But the AMC and mall have no place to park cycles of any kind. It’s not uncommon to see motorcycles sharing a space between a couple of parked cars. Just seems short sighted... and unfair, if not somehow illegal. I mean, if the city *requires* so many parking spaces for the mall - when they built the new cinemas they had to build a new parking structure to get their permit so that all of those people who go to the movies will have a place to park... and it’s still mega-crowded on Friday and Saturday night and you have to park your car in the city structure a few blocks away and hike - why doesn't the city require places for bikes and motorcycles to park? And why doesn’t the property owner do it without regulation? Nobody does *anything* without regulation and laws! If there weren’t health codes, you’d be eating plate scrapings from the last customer... and some places, you still might. But with bicycles - nobody cares. So, well over 60 customers on opening night of AVENGERS get screwed and have to fend for themselves.

I was there once and saw two Bike Cops trying to figure out where to lock up when they went into Chipotle to get a burrito. They ended up handcuffing their bikes to a tree!

7 DAY STRETCH

So, at the end of week before last I go to see BATTLESHIP at the AMC 16, and there are about a dozen bikes locked to light posts and stair rails, and I go to lock up on a tree and a passing Security Guy says I can’t do that. I ask where I’m supposed to lock, he says not his problem... and I wait until he leaves and lock up to a light pole. I grab a burrito and see the wonderful fabulous imitation Michael Bay movie and go down the stairs to grab my bike... and it’s not there. I look around - maybe I parked it somewhere else? The problem with somewhere you regularly go to is that your memory may play tricks on you - so maybe I parked it on that pole last time and this time I parked it on the other side of the outdoor mall? Nope. No bike.

So I call Mall Security on my new phone - which has problems - and get them to send a guy over so that he can take down my info and tell me I wasn’t supposed to park there and there isn’t a place to park bikes at the mall and I should file a police report... and that *maybe* they have the thief on tape, because I managed to lock to a light pole right in the line of sight of a security camera. None of this makes me happy.

I go home (an adventure!) and the next day take the bus to Target and buy a new bike (driving one vehicle to buy another vehicle makes no sense to me... and then I have a bike hanging out of my trunk). Because I was stinging from having my bike stolen, I bought a cheap bike and an expensive lock. One of those $100 Made In China bikes. As soon as I rode it away - heading down Victory into Burbank to the police station - I regretted not just buying another Schwinn - because even if Schwinns are all made in China now, they are better made than the $100 bike... which was heavy and sluggish and the brakes and gear shifters were too close together and difficult to operate. You don’t really want brakes that are difficult to use.

So I get to Burbank Police Department, where I wait 45 minutes for an officer to come out and fill out a police report... only to tell me I should have reported the theft immediately after it happened, because they may have pulled over a truck filled with bicycles and recovered mine. I asked if they *had* pulled over a truck full of bicycles the night before, he said no. So, um, why are you giving me a hard time? Yes - I said that out loud. I’m lucky I got out of the police station without being arrested. Oh, by the way - no place to lock a bike at the police station. I locked to the stair railing.

The officer told me they seldom recover bikes... even though the mall had video of the guy stealing my bike! He also told me bikes get stolen from there often.

Oh, and this was *right before* the Great American Pitchfest.

CALLS FOR HELP

Meanwhile, my new phone is a piece of junk. After working fine for a month, it suddenly has begun freezing and getting stuck in a reboot-loop yelling DROID! constantly. One night the phone wakes me up yelling DROID! over and over again for almost an hour... then just dying. The problem is - my phone is now my watch and my phone book and my calendar and all kinds of other things. When my phone dies, I’m lost. This new phone replaced my old one that accidentally went swimming. It was just a regular phone, this new one is a *smart* phone.

The old phone came with an instruction book. The smart phone came with a quick start guide... and the instructions on the phone itself. Some instructional videos, too. The problem was - there were no instructions on how to find the instructions on the phone. I found them once, and then couldn't find them again. So some things the phone could do... I didn’t do because I couldn’t figure it out.

Okay, here’s the problem: when the phone starts going crazy and yelling DROID! all day, and you want to look at the instructions and see if there’s something simple you can do... the instructions are on the phone. You know, the phone that isn’t working.

Before I went online and found the instructions and read them (not very informative when it comes to things going wrong, but *really* informative when it comes to buying aps), I pulled out the battery to force it to reboot. And *sometimes* that worked... and sometimes it got caught in the DROID! cycle again. Then, my phone wiped all of my contacts and phone numbers and past texts and everything. This happened overnight without me pulling the battery or playing with it in any way. I can’t call anyone - I don’t know their number! And the damned phone still keeps yelling DROID!

Meanwhile, that new backpack I bought? Begins tearing like crazy. The fabric is cheaper than the old backpack, and every seam begins to tear open. Guess what? I threw out the old backpack! So now I need to get a new backpack and a new phone and...

RACK ‘EM UP!

I ride the cheapo bike all week, and don’t like it anymore. I have drinks with friends in downtown Hollywood - where you wouldn’t want to park your car - and lock my bike on a U on the street with the expensive lock and my phone yelling DROID! from my shirt pocket. I have to pull the battery to shut the damned thing up, and when I come out of the bar my bike is still there by some miracle... and not gang tagged or defaced in any way.

A couple of bikes back I had a side-saddle basket on back, and when I parked it on the street I would return to a basket full of trash. I’d ride to the nearest trash can and throw it away... then find someplace to wash my hands. But no one left garbage on my bike that night.

I need to take my mind off the phone and backpack issues, so at the end of last week - seven days after my old bike was stolen - I park my crappy new bike outside the AMC 16 in Burbank, using that super-strong lock to lock it to a light pole... my phone yelling DROID! the whole time. This time I pick a light pole in front of a restaurant, where people might notice someone with bolt cutters or a torch stealing bicycles. I go see SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, pull the battery fron my phone so that it will stop yelling DROID! Two hours later I leave the cinema and go to my crappy bike... and it’s gone. The lock sliced by some freakin’ industrial boltcutters or something. I walk directly to the police station and report it stolen to a cute Aussie or NZ female officer, and have another exciting trek home by bus.

Two bikes stolen in one week!

My phone completely screwed up!

My backpack falling apart!

The next day I go back to Target and buy a fucking new Schwinn and a kryptonite lock *and* a cable lock. Oh, and a can of flat gray spray paint. When I get the bike home, I deface it with the spray paint. Then I go to the Verizon store where they tell me my DROID! yelling phone is just stuck in a loop and they can do a factory reboot... but my contacts are gone forever. I have a old phone somewhere that can be used to transfer them... whenever I find that old phone.

They fix the phone, I get on my defaced bike (not stolen) and go home.

I am awoken in the middle of the night by the phone yelling DROID! over and over again. It’s still broken.

That was my week. This one *has* to be better. It will begin with me buying a new backpack and then shoving my phone up the butt of someone at the Verizon store.

I will never see another movie at AMC Burbank again, and plan to boycott all businesses that do not have bike racks.

- Bill

PS: On Saturday - with my DROID! yelling phone turned off - I spoke to the Scriptwriter's Network on the Universal Lot along with Zak Penn. It went better that the week that had preceded it... almost anything would have.
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