Sunday, July 26, 2009

unhinged on a bike

No, 'twas not I that was unhinged, but someone else...

Late this afternoon I was walking home and had just crossed the construction mess that is Bank St. I got onto James St. and saw what looked to be an older East Indian couple sitting on some steps, perhaps waiting for someone. What drew my attention was that there was a guy with a bike saying something to them in a loud voice, and I realized he was insulting them (stuff like "f-ing immigrants").

They tried to ignore him, and I was wondering what to do. I was across the street, and it was one of the moments that can happen where you have to decide very quickly whether or not to get involved with people you do not know. I thought what he was doing was pretty awful, and after he walked away from them I thought it was over, but then he went back and started in on them again, and they looked pretty nervous and got up to leave.

I then decided that if this guy thought he was so tough he should pick on me, not them, so I shouted "hey, it would be good if you left them alone!". He looked my way and then got on his bike and cycled into the middle of the street, shouting more abuse and I basically said "look, leave them and me alone and just go home". He stared at me briefly and I realized he would probably not try to attack me, and instead he just pedaled slowly as I walked and shouted general abuse my way. I thought "well, the other folks are safe so I'll just let him do this for a bit and then get away from him at the next intersection". I didn't know whether he was mentally ill or high on drugs, but also did not really need to find out.

As we both got to James and Kent he accelerated and turned left, the wrong way onto the one-way street. Problem was, he was riding down the middle of the road with three lanes of traffic heading straight for him! He half fell / half jumped off his bike, and made a motion at the traffic like "come and get me" and started waving his arms and shouting as the cars slowed and dodged around him. Then he grabbed his bike and threw it at one car, and that's when I remembered that I now have a cell phone and that this would be a good time to use it!

I called 911, describing the situation as he threw the bike at yet another car (he missed both times), and they asked me to stay until Police arrived. Just as they said that, the guy, after wandering around for a few moments, threw his bike for a third time and finally hit a car. The driver slowed and stopped for a moment, then turned down James and did not come back.

Just after this a cruiser arrived, and as it pulled up I saw the guy walking off southbound on the opposite sidewalk, with his bike still in the middle of the road. I pointed him out to the officer and she ran after him, and she was joined by another officer at Gladstone Ave. They all disappeared around the corner for a bit, and while I waited a fellow came out of a nearby house, sating he had seen most of what had transpired and that he had also called 911.

Then a third cruiser arrived, and the officer go out to talk to us, and as he did yet another fellow walked up - the driver of the car that had been hit by the bike. From there it was just talking and filling out statements, and the officer said they had grabbed the perp. The original officer returned, the perpetrator was in the back seat of the second car, and they then double-checked our statements (I was the only one that had seen it all from start to finish).

Just as I was leaving the scene I heard the driver of the damaged car say to the officer "my car is over at James and Bank because that's where I was going to pick up my parents". I asked him "were your parents sitting at the apt. building there?" and he said Yes. This was bizarre - I had called the perp. away from them, and then he manages to hit their son's car with his bike; only after trying to hit two others. Now that's one of those Twilight Zone moments...

And this is all on top of the three separate incidences this past week where cyclists were hit (and in at least one case killed) by motorists.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


A profile of the amazing bike collective known as Cyclecide. I love all of it, especially the Rimshot Bike, because "your joke can be lousy but you still get the rimshot". The "pedal-powered carnival" may be the ultimate in HP fun:

Now there's a job description: "Artist in Residence at the Dump". :)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Propeller Dance gig gear

June 19th saw the annual fundraising gig for Propeller Dance. In past years this event took place at the NAC's Fourth Stage, but this year it was moved to the new home of the GCTC.

The show had performances by all of the weekly classes, plus the main performing group. That meant around 70 performers! I've been providing the music for the Monday classes with Renata for many years now, and for this event I was also asked to help out the Saturday morning kids and youth classes. This was because Jason Sonier, the regular Saturday musician, was not going to be available for the show, and so I had to take over the final four weeks so the two classes could put their shows together.

(This meant getting up far earlier than I am used to on Saturday mornings, then having one hour to pack up, load out, trike home, unload, grab food, and get to the re-Cycles shop for 1pm!)

Over the years my equipment for these gigs has evolved. After buying a bigger amplifier and adding other gear, my current set-up uses:

The Behringer keyboard amp, Kawai K4 synth, Boss looping pedal, Roland Handsonic 10 percussion pad, an older Mac iBook, and my very latest tool, a Korg Nanopad. The laptop has been great because I can set up various loops and fade them in and out or make them do interesting things, and the Nanopad is an interesting (and very cheap) MIDI controller that I'm mostly using to trigger soundfonts. For the Sat. kids class I also added my "street drum", originally put together for Grasshoppa Dance street performances.

In past years Propeller Dance's accompanying musicians have tended to be in the shadows for performances. This year we were right onstage, though due to space limitations we needed to tuck ourselves into a corner.

The other guys, Dominique Saint-Pierre (main performing group) and Mike Essoudry (Thursday group), are also using varying degrees of technology. Here's a view of my rig:
Dom uses a Yamaha synth, microphone (sometimes run through a delay unit), djembe, the same model amp I use, and he recently bought an older Roland Handsonic 15:
Mike had an interesting set-up using a mix of acoustic and slightly more "primitive" digital technology:
Yes, those are Discmans! Mike loaded these with loops he'd burnt onto CD, then ran each through its own mixer channel to be faded in and out as needed.

A closer shot of my gear. The Nanopad is right in front of the laptop:
A rear view of the collective gear during dress rehearsal:
This event was a lot of fun, though we musicians did not help each other / jam along during pieces as in the past, because the performances have gotten a bit more structured. But Dom did invite us to jam along on the final performing group piece, which, after a run-through during dress rehearsal, came off quite well.

David Scrimshaw has a ton of performance photos on his Flickr pages. I really like this one of our Monday group during the show:
And yes, as always I used my cargo trike to get to this gig. ;)