Cyclist-on-Cyclist Crime & Carnage!

OK, we’re finally into the bike-riding portion of this blog … and I’m going to start with an anti-cyclist rant…

I’ve been riding the Olentangy multi-use path a lot lately, and have noticed that way too many of my fellow cyclists do a lot of rude, dumb and downright dangerous things out there. You know: All the things we hate and fear from the drivers or cars and trucks when we ride on the road.

Here are some of the dangerous/dumb things I see bikers doing, and how I respond…

Too fast:At about 5:30 p.m., the path starts to get busy and crowded as people get home from work, and lots of hammerheads try to get in a long workout in a short amount of time. To do so, they ride fast, really fast, 20 miles per hour. Sometimes faster when they have a tailwind.

This is too fast. And too dangerous. Slow down. The path is a multi-use path, not a bike path and there are walkers, joggers, rollerbladers, parents pushing strollers. If you want to go fast, really fast, go fast on the road where the speed limit is 25 mph or more. The speed limit on the path is 15. OK, I admit it: I sometimes go a little faster. It’s hard not to. But only when there’s nobody around me. And then I slow down when I pass people.

Response:I’ve started holding up my hand and saying “slow down” when people fly by me in the other direction. Especially when I know there are a bunch of people around the bend. I don’t like being a traffic cop when I’m out on a ride, but perhaps cyclists should educate and police one another. But in a polite way. If not us, then whom?

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Too close:Don’t you hate it when you’re out on the road and the car behind you squeezes through a too-narrow, fear-inducing space between you and the car coming in the other direction? Of course you do. That’s why there’s now a 3-foot passing law in Ohio. So, why do you do it on your bike? On the path?

I’ve seen this happen way too often: I’m riding down the path, and a walker/jogger or two are coming in the other direction, and someone on a bike tries to squeeze between them and me as he passes them. I’ve even seen, on more than one occasion, a cyclist do this and squeeze past someone pushing a baby stroller. Are you kidding me?

Response:I politely, but firmly, say: “Don’t do that.” And try not to startle the innocent walkers.

Can’t see … don’t pass:I’ve even seen some cyclists do the above (Too close) around a blind corner. Not only have I seen it, I’ve almost been hit by them. Are you stupid? Actually, your actions have already established the fact that you’re stupid. The only question is: How stupid are you?

Response:The same as Too close, but even firmer.

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On Your Left:I’m shocked by how many cyclists don’t say “on your left” or ring a bell when they pass someone. That’s just rude. And startling to the people they pass. Try this some day: Walk down the path for a mile or two and notice how many cyclists say “on your left” as they pass. It’s maybe 50 percent. And notice how intimidating it can be when one of them – or a group of them – flies by you unannounced.

Response:When someone on a bike passes me and fails to say “on your left,” I say it to them: “On your left.” Maybe it will subconsciously sink in and they’ll start saying it. Or maybe not.

One more thing:No matter how right you are, and how wrong and dangerous the other person/cyclist is: People don’t like being told what to do. It’s just the way it is in our modern society. So, never yell or scream at people. No matter how much adrenaline the near-crash experience just created in your body. Be polite. And don’t get in an argument. I learned a long time ago as a newspaper reporter: You can’t argue with an idiot. Just say what you’re gonna say, say it politely, and keep riding.

Anything else? Fill us in on the other annoying and dangerous things cyclists do out there on the paths.

 

 

It Was 20 Years Ago Today: The Seinfeld Chronicles

Where were you on May 14, 1998, the day the final episode of Seinfeld aired? I was in New York, hanging out with Al Yaganeh and several hundred other Seinfeld fanatics. Here’s my column that ran a few days later…

IMG_7653Before I tell you all about the Soup Nazi and my crab bisque and chicken chili, I have an important message for anyone contemplating a bus trip from Doylestown to Manhattan: There’s no bathroom in the 8:45 a.m. TransBridge bus.

And the ride takes 2 hours and 35 minutes!

I felt like Jerry and George in the parking garage episode. Uromysitisis!

We finally arrived at the Port Authority, where there’s a bathroom. Then it was a short walk over to Al Yagenah’s Soup Kitchen International on 55thand Eighth, where I took my place in the long – and getting longer – line that would eventually stretch all the way around the block.

It was the day the final episode of Seinfeld was set to run and all of New York was in a Jerry, George, Kramer, Elaine and Soup Nazi frenzy. “He’s real, he’s really real,” shouted an annoying guy ahead of me in line. I felt like Jerry in any of the episodes with Bania.

The annoying guy was right.

The Soup Nazi and his soup are real, and he was inside his little shop preparing crab bisque, chicken chili, lentil, mulligatawny, veal goulash, chicken broccoli, gazpacho and borscht. I felt like Jerry and George in the Soup Nazi episode, which, BTW, was where most of us learned what an armoire is. Right?pexels-photo-209540.jpeg

Melissa and Anne, two New Yorkers and regulars here at the famous soup shop, were in front of me in line … and gave me a quick education.

“I’m worried,” Melissa said of all the media types, which included scores of reporters (including me) and a crew from the Home Shopping Network. “He could get mad at everything and not even open. He’s done that before.”

“He has to open,” I said confidently. “He’s selling his canned soup on the Home Shopping Network tonight and isn’t about to toss aside thousands of dollars.”

“He’s totally sold out,” Anne said.

“That’s OK, as long as the soup is still good,” Melissa said.

A second later, a guy in an old Volvo stalled right in front of us. As he tried again and again to start his car, Melissa, Anne and I laughed and made fun of him. I felt like Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine in the final episode (after I watched it later that day). We did not get arrested.

After waiting for more than an hour, I was finally at the front of the line.

I was nervous, afraid to offend the infamous Soup Nazi and have him shout “No soup for you” at me. And so, in a firm voice that belied my nervousness, I said, “small crab bisque, small chicken chili, p-p-please,” handed the Soup Nazi a $20 and got back $5 (that’s right, $15 for two small soups) and quickly moved all the way over to the left and waited for my soup.

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He never even looked at me. But he gave me bread. And fruit. Sorry George.

Clutching my bounty, I headed to nearby Central Park, where I found a seat on a bench and opened my crab bisque. Holy crap, Jerry was right. This stuff really does make your knees go weak. It was chock full of succulent crab meat and the broth was seasoned to perfection.

The chicken chili was equally magnificent.

The people in the park stared as I kept mumbling, over and over, “Oh my God, this soup is so good.”

Next stop was the Museum of Television & Radio, which was continuously showing the pilot episode all day. And, as all you Seinfeldexperts know, back then it was called The Seinfeld Chronicles.

It cost $6 to get into the museum, which meant I paid $6 to watch a Seinfeldrerun. Oh well. As I walked into the theater, to watch the pilot, a guy in a postal uniform walked out. I swear, this is true.

“Newman!” I shouted.

It wasn’t.

I hadn’t seen the pilot in years, and it was quite interesting. George had a lot more hair, Kramer had a lot less hair, and he had a dog. Jerry was pretty much the same. Elaine wasn’t in it.

Then it was time for the long bus ride home.

And, guess what?

Yep, no bathroom. And I was full of soup.

My T Cells Are Bigger & Better Than Your T Cells (Unless You’re a Cyclist)

I love cycling: The challenge, the adventure, the sense of freedom and accomplishment.

Little did I know, all the way back in 1990, when I began cycling, that it would boost the T cells in my immune system and give me the muscles of a much-younger person. Cycling is like the fountain of youth … on wheels.

lastChapterThen again, deep down, at the cellular level, maybe my body knew all this scientific stuff and passed along endless DNA strands filled with subliminal messages to my brain that encouraged me to ride, ride and ride some more. Riding is addictive, maybe this is why.

So, a couple of recent studies from British scientists have shown that cycling is chock full of healthy benefits that slow down the aging process. For example, the first study concluded the “the relationship between human aging and physiological function is highly individualistic and modified by inactivity.”

Huh, what?

What this means is: Inactivity (you know, couch-potato tendencies) is bad. Very, very bad. And activity is very, very good.

The study looked at 125 British long-time cyclists (84 men and 41 women) who were 55 to 79 and rode 400 or more miles a month. Here’s what they found, according to a New York Times article: “The cyclists proved to have reflexes, memories, balance and metabolic profiles that more closely resembled those of 30-year-olds than of the sedentary older group.”

OK, that’s just one test. For the science to be real, it has to be duplicated in subsequent tests.

Test number two biopsied muscle tissue from the same 125 cyclists and found: “…that there is little evidence of age-related changes in the properties of VL muscle across the age range studied. By contrast, some of these muscle characteristics were correlated with in vivo physiological indices.”

I know: Why can’t scientists write in simple English?

What they mean is: The older cyclists they studied had muscles that were larger, stronger and more supple than older people who were physically inactive. The muscles of the older cyclists were like those of 30-year-olds.

steve&JustinAnd, the cyclists led much happier lives than the non-cyclists!

I made up this last part. It wasn’t in the studies. But, based on my own studies of hundreds of cyclists over the past couple of decades, I’m pretty sure this is true. Any day that includes a bike ride is a good day, is something pretty much all cyclists think. And say.

Another study drew blood from the older cyclists and found that their thymus glands produced more T cells than inactive people of a similar age. I know from my work at the James Cancer Hospital that T cells are one of the immune system’s most powerful weapons. They detect foreign bodies in the body, flock to them and wipe them out. The more T cells you have, the healthier your immune system will be. The older British cyclists had similar numbers of T cells as people a heck of a lot younger.

Check out this video from one of the scientists who did the studies. Not sure if she’s a cyclist, but she knows what she’s talking about.

So, in conclusion: Ride more if you already ride; start riding if you don’t already ride.

Picking the Proper Toothpaste is More Painful Than a Root Canal

 

It was 20 Years Ago Today (almost) … Here’s my More Stuff column from April 5, 1998:

If you’re anything at all like me, you brush your teeth.

That’s the easy part.

The hard part? Buying toothpaste.

The choices are mind boggling, and selecting the right toothpaste is more complicated than filling out your income tax forms.

Do I want one with baking soda? One with extra tartar protection? Or one that will make my smile dazzle?

And so, I called my dentist, Dr. Richard Bash (and yes, my dentist’s name really is Bash) and asked him to go toothpaste shopping with me.

“No problem, that sounds like fun,” he said.

And that’s how Rich and I came to be standing in the toothpaste aisle at the supermarket.

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We began with the Crest section, which offers the following choices: Sensitivity Protection, Gum Care, Tartar Protection (which comes in smooth mint gel, mint paste with baking soda, fresh mint gel and regular), Cavity Protection (mint paste with baking soda, icy mint and regular), Multi-Care (cool mint and fresh mint – as if anyone could tell the damn difference!) and Extra Whitening.

Whew. And help, which is where Rich comes in…

“The Sensitivity Protection has 5 percent potassium nitrate,” he began, taking a deep breath (which was quite minty fresh). “When you have sensitive teeth, the gums are exposed, and the potassium nitrate prevents them from getting excited … The Gum Care has stannous fluoride, which is more of an antibacterial agent than sodium fluoride (the fluoride found in most toothpastes) and prohibits the growth of bacteria that causes gum disease … The Tartar Protection has pyrophosphate. When tartar forms, it’s tenacious. And this helps prevent the formation by inhibiting the matrix formation.”

I have no idea what a matrix formation is (and the Matrix movies with Keanu didn’t start until 1999), but sure as heck don’t want any on my teeth. Not even the back ones. It’s tenacious.

“The Cavity Protection has sodium fluoride,” Rich continued. “The Multi-Care has sodium fluoride for cavities, baking soda, which helps adjust the Ph levels in your mouth and makes it inhospitable for germs, pyrophosphate for tartar control, but it doesn’t have stannous fluoride for fighting gum disease. And, the Extra Whitening has silica, a polishing agent.”

Rich let out a sigh of relief and collapsed to the floor.

But wait, there’s the Colgate section. Come on Rich, get up.

Here we go for Colgate: Total, Baking Soda & Peroxide Clean Mint, Baking Soda and Peroxide Fresh Mint, Tartar Control with Micro-Cleaning Crystals (even Rich didn’t know what these were), Baking Soda & Peroxide Whitening, Regular Cavity Protection, Tartar Control Plus Whitening, Cavity Protection Gel-Winterfresh and, finally, Baking Soda-Natural Mint Flavor.

But wait, there’s still my old favorite: Aquafresh. I love the way the separate red, green and white swirl together in perfect harmony on my toothbrush. How do they do it?

And yet, after all this, I was still no closer to an answer to my all-important question: Which toothpaste should I buy?

“Steve, let me tell you a story,” Rich began. There’s no stopping Rich once he starts storytelling … and drilling. I was hoping his story would be less painful.

“One day in dental school, a teacher walked into class with a glass of water, a bar of Ivory soap and a toothbrush and proceeded to brush his teeth with them. Then he told us, ‘It doesn’t matter what toothpaste you use, as long as you brush your teeth properly.’”

“Oh no!” I shouted. “Rich, there are as many different kinds of toothbrushes as there are toothpaste. Which one do I get?”

I’ll get to this all-important question in another column.

PS: It’s 20 years later and even more confusing to select the proper toothpaste. 

Johnny Oakland: Squirrel Detective Chapter One: The Case of the Missing Nuts

“OK Phillip, we can do this the hard way or we can do it the easy way … (pause for dramatic, fear-inducing effect) … it’s up to you.”

Johnny was so darn proud of himself for coming up with his tough-guy line, and he used it every chance he got. He said it real slow, and in as deep of a voice as he could muster, which, truth be told, wasn’t an especially deep voice. Even for a squirrel.

It didn’t matter.

All the squirrels from Elm Street to Church, across Maple Avenue and over to Poplar, and even as far as Elm and Hillcrest, knew better than to mess with Johnny Oakland, the world’s greatest squirrel detective. And a well-known master of the nuggie.pexels-photo-681178.jpeg

And yet, they messed with Johnny. Time after time. After time.

Why?

Simple: Squirrels are stupid. That’s right, I’m using the stupid word. I know, it’s really mean to call any creature stupid, even cute little furry ones. But in this case, it’s just so darn true that to not call squirrels stupid would be intellectually dishonest. And an insult to smart.

FYI: Same goes for chipmunks. Maybe even more so.

And, when you combine stupid with a heaping helping of stubbornness and selfishness, especially when it comes to their nut stashes, well, you can sorta understand why so many squirrels insisted on doing it the hard way with Johnny. Their nut stash – and the quantity and quality of the nuts in their stash – is the difference between surviving and starving during a long, cold winter. Thousands of years of genetic conditioning, the whole survival-of-the-fittest squirrel thing, and the never-ending encroachment of civilization – not to mention cats – have combined to make squirrels totally obsessed with their nut stashes.

And, on top of all this, squirrels have terrible memories. Which, when you think about it, is probably connected to the stupid thing.

So, at some point during every long, cold winter, when there’s snow on the ground and it’s hard to remember where you buried your nuts or sniff them out, about 87.5 percent of all squirrels will forget where their nut stashes are buried.

It’s a recipe for disaster. And starvation. In fact, it’s the second leading cause of squirrel death, right after being run over by a car while running back and forth across the street for seemingly no good reason. More on this later.

The finding of their nut stashes is where Johnny comes in. And how he makes his living. For the most part.

Johnny is smart. Or, to be more precise, he’s a lot smarter than most squirrels. He’s not quite raccoon smart, but he’s pretty darn close. Then again, some squirrels say Johnny is part raccoon. He’s not, but he doesn’t do anything to discourage this rumor. It helps his image. And detective business.

And then, there’s Johnny’s nose. His sniffing abilities are off-the-chart amazing. He can detect an acorn buried deep within the frozen tundra from 50 paces. That’s squirrel paces, which are a lot shorter than cat, dog and human paces.

***

So, all of the above is how Johnny came to be sitting atop Phillip Oakington, with his sturdy squirrel legs wrapped tightly around Phillip’s arms and chest, slowly squeezing the air out of his lungs.

“Phillip, a deal is a deal. Pay up,” Johnny growled, balling up his tiny fist and rubbing it across Phillip’s forehead.

“Stop it Johnny, that hurts.”

“It’s a nuggie Phillip, it’s supposed to hurt, you idiot.”

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The day before, Phillip had sent word that he needed Johnny’s professional help. And so, Johnny made the dangerous journey over to Phillip’s yard. He avoided two dogs, that nasty one-eyed cat on Hillcrest with the messed-up ear who had murdered Frank Oakman three days earlier, and safely crossed three streets to get to Phillip’s yard.

Seconds after he arrived, Johnny got to work.

He sniffed Phillip up and down, memorizing his scent. Let’s just say Phillip wasn’t the most hygienic squirrel, so Johnny had quite a pungent scent marker to work with. Johnny’s sense of smell is so magical that he could pick up trace whiffs of Phillip several inches beneath the surface of his yard. Sometimes, the scent from one of his squirrel clients was stronger than the nut scent, and sometimes it was the other way around. And often, the two combined to lead Johnny right to a well-buried nut stash.

Johnny started at the big oak tree and began walking slowly, in ever-expanding circles. He stopped several times and started digging, each time finding a few of Phillip’s hidden treasures.

Over the next two hours, Johnny sniffed out six of Phillip’s nut stashes; a total of 43 nuts.

It’s not overly dramatic to say that Johnny had just saved Phillip’s life. It was the middle of January and quite cold. At first, and for about 2.4 seconds, Phillip was grateful and totally planned to live up to his end of the bargain. And then, the whole deeply ingrained, stubborn, selfish squirrel thing kicked in.

It always did.

“I don’t know Johnny, 20 percent of my stash seems like a pretty steep price to pay. After all, I would have eventually…”

Johnny immediately pounced on top of Phillip. Experience had long ago taught him that an aggressive and preemptive strike would get his client’s attention. Most squirrels are meek and mild, and the mere threat of violence was enough to convince them to do the right thing.

And now, sitting atop the quivering, shaking Phillip, it was time for…

“OK Phillip, we can do this the hard way or the easy way … (pause for dramatic, fear-inducing effect) … it’s entirely up to you.”

Phillip thought about it for a couple seconds. While he contemplated his options, Johnny nuggied him again, hard and fast.

“OK, OK Johnny, I give. Uncle. I’ll give you your stupid 20 percent.”

Johnny loosened his grip and climbed off of Phillip, who rubbed his head and trembled the way scared squirrels tend to tremble.

“Johnny, that really hurt. You didn’t have to get so rough. I would have paid you.”

“They never learn,” Johnny mumbled as he collected his nuts.

***

By all rights, Johnny could have rounded up and taken nine nuts. And he could have taken any nine he wanted: the biggest, juiciest, tastiest nuts in Phillip’s stash.

“I’m letting you off easy and I’m only taking eight nuts Phillip,” Johnny said. He picked out two of the plumpest, tastiest-looking nuts, and then took three mediocre nuts and three borderline-spoiled nuts.

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You see, while Johnny could come across as quite tough and nasty when he had to, deep down he’s a softy. All the other squirrels, including the idiot Phillip, know that when push came to shove and there are three feet of snow on the ground and their nut stashes were unreachable and they were losing weight and shivering and things looked bleak, Johnny would share a few nuts from his considerable – and well-hidden – stashes.

And this is why Venus Oakingham, when she found herself in more trouble than any squirrel should ever find herself in, came to see Johnny.

“Johnny, I need your help,” Venus said.