Thursday, January 3, 2013

Beware of the Warm and Cozy

Bikeyface, Soma Buena Vista
Watching Bikeyface ride around the studio in circles as the sun shone weakly through frost-covered windows, I had a terrible realisation: If we weren't careful, we could fall prey to the Cozy Neighbourhood Winter Madness Syndrome. Ever since I moved to the Cambridge/Somerville area it's gotten me every year. 

Not to be confused with the Winter Doldrums or Seasonal Depression, the Cozy Neighbourhood Winter Madness Syndrome is characterised by the claustrophobia of becoming trapped by winter in our immediate surroundings. Particularly vulnerable are residents of certain urban yet peripheral neighbourhoods like ours. On the one hand, our neighbourhood is self-sufficient and has everything we need: Cafes, grocery stores, shops and a multitude of other services are within walking distance or just a short bike ride away. On the other hand, it is village-like and does not feel altogether connected to the outside world. This makes it both convenient to stay close to home once the freezing temps and snow set in, and frustrating to feel yourself trapped in a pattern of doing just that. Soon, Boston proper begins to seem as distant and foreign as Hong Kong; the outer suburbs as desolate and forbidding as Siberia. Sure, we know that it's all in our heads, that we could and should venture out beyond our shrunken travel radius. But the 'ville keeps us firmly in its clutches with its cozy cafes, charming shops and poorly plowed roads leading out of town. "Stay put, baby," the neighbourhood whispers seductively, "it's cold outside." As the winter progresses, we slowly begin to go mad from lack of contact with the outside world. Before we know it, we are speaking a dialect that only the local coffee shop baristas understand. When we finally emerge in spring the folk across the river can sense we're different.

Well, not this year. I was worldly now. I was tough. I would not be deterred by the warm, inviting glow of the Wine and Cheese Cask whilst attempting to ride past it on my way out of town. 

"Bikeyface," I said, my voice ringing with festive  determination. "I am prepared to go anywhere for lunch! I have donned many layers of wool and my bike is geared for adventure." Bravely, we bundled up and stepped into the cold. Things were going well, until we happened past a new coffee house down the road. We tried not to look directly at it. But oh how tiny it was. How comfy the people inside looked. Through the fogged up window we could make out a small unoccupied table with two chairs, just waiting for us...

Next thing I recall, I was sitting across from Bikeyface, chewing on a delicious spinach pie and sipping a hot cappuccino. A David Bowie song played in the background. Humming along, the barista glanced in our direction meaningfully, as if to say "You see ladies? No need to go anywhere; we got everything you need right here." A customer approached the counter and ordered a hot beverage. It was only January, and already he spoke in the local dialect. 

37 comments:

  1. In Paul De Vivie's rules to cycling he cautions us to never ride for vain glory, sometimes thought of as never ride just to ride. Maybe setting a scrumptious destination, especially one that requires reservations, with that unsaid obligation to be at a certain place by a certain time, is more the "winter" riding mantra, rather than "let's go somewhere."
    Or maybe not....

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  2. I loved the story. Coffee houses and the cold of winter remind me of "Coffeeneuring"

    http://chasingmailboxes.com/2012/10/01/2nd-annual-coffeeneuring-challenge-7-shops-6-weekends/

    Happy New Year,

    Rod

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  3. Count your lucky stars.

    My NW Chicago neighborhood is predominately Latino and North African. Even though many of my neighbors hale from Central American countries that produce a lot of fine coffee, the one local Latin American coffee shop closed a few years back. The only bars are the beer and shot varieties. Let's just say Latino restaurants for the most part have a different definition of vegetarian than I.

    Some of the North African restaurants are good and have decent vegan offerings but variety - least ways for the English speakers - is limited. Coffee is a very sweet syrup with grounds on the bottom.

    There are no local movie theaters. The few grocery stores are pretty low on quality.

    I am about the same distance from either the Logan Square and Lincoln Square neighborhoods.

    As an outsider splitting time between the two the difference between the strong local vibes is very notable.

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    1. In reality we have fairly few coffee shops for an area as densely populated as ours. We just mostly go to the same one over and over again.

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    2. As long as they are good and you can find a place to park your bike and sit probably for the better.

      Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood has so many coffee shops I often have trouble deciding which to patronize when I visit the area.

      Usually comes down to whichever has available bike rack space - not always an easy proposition in Logan Square.

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  4. I think we were just meant to hibernate this time of year. I have stopped fighting it. A short ride to a cafe or friends house works for me. Exploring my old haunts in the spring will be that much sweeter.

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  5. I've never heard that term before but I kinda like what happens as folks in my neck of the woods battle cabin fever. The season produces dynamics which do not happen during the other seasons and enriches my life in unexpected ways. I still have to get to places and I still have no car, so no choice. Soon bicycle touring season will start and 'warm and cozy' changes to something more challenging :)

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  6. Yeah, just rub it in, why don't you?

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  7. Why not dance with the seasons rather than dominate them? Sounds good!

    My favorite rides, long or short, involve a turnaround at a cafe or bistro--in any season. Even better if I meet friends there, or ride with them.

    "Eat to ride, ride to eat."

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  8. A thermos of hot beverage , a snow angel and thou!

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  9. The mistake I see is the cappuccino with the spinach pie. Not only should milky coffee drinks be restricted to first thing in the morning, but a glass of wine would have made the whole experience compelling and inarguable, particularly if followed by a nap. :-)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foqgaD6-ERI

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    1. I am more of a gin kind of gal than wine. But at any rate, I am off of alcohol again after the holidays; trying to get in shape.

      Also, if I only had coffee in the morning, how would I even get my 10 cups a day?...

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    2. Yeah, the cappuccino and spinach pie thing bothered me a bit too, kind of like putting your bike on your sofa : )

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    3. You people are so closed minded. Be thankful I did not dip the spinach pie into the cappuccino.

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    4. Velouria inquired, "... if I only had coffee in the morning, how would I even get my 10 cups a day?"

      Espresso, Cherie. Espresso.

      After a day or two of abstinence, perhaps it'll be time for a post dedicated to gin and to the proper mixing of a traditional martini.

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    5. Cappuccino in the afternoon?? You know of course that if it were Paris, no waiter would honor such a request.

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  10. Those tires are totally wrong for that surface.

    Spindizzy

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    Replies
    1. Tell me about it. I am trying to persuade her to get those chains everyone's been recommending.

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    2. Chains should be required for winter riding!

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    3. Actually I think it would take whips rather than chains to get me out right now on ya'lls roads in ya'lls weather.

      It's winter, time to tear all our bikes apart, mix all the parts up on the floor and eat pie while trying to put them all back together again. That's why you always see fat people out in April on titanium 3 speeds with upside down north roads, they just haven't finished sorting things out from winter.

      Spindizzy

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  11. Theme and variation...love it. Making little circles in winter riding, all bundled up, taking breaks for warm soup or coffee. Perfect!

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  12. Life is too short for winter.

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  13. This comment is not about your post but, rather, the photo...I totally do not get the handlebar thing. Why? The position looks wrong as does the set-up. The studio, however, looks fantastic!!

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    1. I know, it's a disgrace. But I'm powerless. You should take this up with the upside down North Road overlords.

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  14. 'Setting a bicycle up with upside-down North Roads is the best method I know of achieving an aggressive yet ergonomic hand position without resorting to drop bars. I am curious what your thoughts on them are.'

    does this make you the overlord?

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    1. No, that makes me a mere mortal with an opinion.

      The overlords are legendary forest creatures who dwell along the coast of Antrim, I am surprised you've never heard. After the golden era of the pathracers gave way to the era of the 3-speeds, they would emerge in the night, seek out unattended bicycles, and flip over their North Road handlebars. At first the bicycle owner would be outraged, running around their yard and shaking their fist at the invisible prankster. But then they'd try the bike, and their frown would be turned upside down. Therein lies the origin of the upside-down North Road trend.

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    2. okay, it's confirmed, i'm ignorant, clueless, without insight, and not worthy of posting any more.

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    3. Oh don't be like that. Since when have such things stopped any of us from using the internets.

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  15. I think Bikeyface's flipped North Roads look swell, and if she likes the way they work, that's what's important. If you know somebody who's handy with carpentry, he/she could build up some nice oval banked turns. A studio/velodrome would be a beautiful thing.

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  16. Is her saddle up high enough? I envy people who have a longer reach, which I don't have. The upside down handlebars look great but I can't ride them because I need a high saddle height and a shorter reach handlebar or higher handlebar.

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    1. The saddle is the right height for her. B is a couple of " shorter than me; in my test ride report of her Buena Vista the bike as shown was set up for me and not her.

      Whether the upside down position works depends on the bike and rider. It's not for everyone. She wanted to try it so we set it up this way; seems to like it so far.

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    2. The bike looks like it fits Bikeyface quite well especially when you look at all of her pictures on your Flickr account. It is surprising because of how the bike looks by itself but we all have different reaches, inseams, etc.

      Re: winter - there is a reason most civilizations did most of their work, and fighting, in the summer in northern climates. Even with the right clothes and equipment it is still harder to be outside than in the spring/summer/fall.

      Local is great, when you have something local.

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  17. imho, you don't need the "Winter" in "Cozy Winter Neighborhood Madness" ;)

    I tend to find it afflicts a fair number of Metro Boston residents to some degree and just gets amplified in winter. Whenever new people move to Boston and ask about the virtues of living in, say, Jamaica Plain vs. Somerville, I point out "well, what you'll find is that your social circle will be primarily dictated by the people who live close to you and on which side of the river you'll be on. If you are already going to have a pre-established peer group (of co-workers, classmates, etc.) then figure out where they live and if you want to hang out with them, stay on the same side of the river and/or the same T-line."

    With that said, I spent New Year's riding from Somerville to a party in JP then over to another house in Newton to mark the turning of the year. Friends were saying that sounded forbidding and I simply replied that a "feature" of New England winter is that it has the potential to turn any calm 12 mile ride into a bit of adventure.

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  18. same sentiments here south of the river - except there's better food down here.

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  19. Been feeling the same in NE Minneapolis, trying to take my bike out in the snow on occasion. Just wrote about getting out bike shopping: http://dailytimetrial.blogspot.com/

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