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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   bario bike shop
Sunday, July 16 2000

My readers, as usual, have been most helpful with suggestions on how and where to get what I need in terms of bicycle transportation. This morning I mapped out the strategy for how I would get either a new wheel or an entirely new bicycle. This involved heading east down Venice Blvd. and stopping at two bike shops along the way.
The first of these was in the general vicinity of Culver City at a place called Palms Cycle. It had a reassuring spread of used bikes for sale out front, but none of these were suitable for my needs. As I eyed them one by one, here the super-cheap-looking ten speed with sissy brake levers and there the overpriced vintage Schwinn one speed, I found myself feeling closer and closer to my own tried & true Huffy. So I went inside to see if I could find a replacement rear wheel. But yet again I found that what I was seeking, a 26 by 1 3/8 inch wheel, was an item of scarcity. None could be had.
Meanwhile Kim and Sophie were busy checking out a shiny new retro blue and white one speed, not too dissimilar from the fussy yellow bicycle belonging to Jenna the German girl. The salesman probably could have sold it to us had we been driving a pickup truck, but with nowhere to put such a monstrosity, we said we'd check back later. It was just as well, because at the other bike shop we visited later, we managed to find a nearly identical (but used) bike for less than half the new bike's price (this didn't solve the problem of how to get it home, however).
The other bike shop, following a tip sent to me by a reader, was shop much nearer to downtown: LA Bicycles at 2250 Venice Blvd. The neighborhoods in this area are widely regarded as shady, so real estate prices are fairly low. But to the car-dependent commuter, this region is also centrally-located and would be a fine place to reside if only you could be sure no one would break into your home to steal the toys you're off at work earning the money to make payments on. The solution to this geo-demographic conundrum is gated communities, and you can see a lot of them abutting Venice in the 3000-7000 blocks. Behind the stout iron fences are happy little white bread communities with rich green grassy lawns, lots of pretty flowers and unusually healthy palm trees. But outside those fences you find the usual trappings of LA's breed of urban neglect: rotting storefronts, graffiti, concertina wire, vandalism and sidewalks so flecked with black chewing gum spots as to resemble Dalmatian hide.
By the time I realized we'd overshot our destination by a block or more, Kim's blood sugar level had dropped into the blue and we had to make an emergency food stop. There was a convenient traditional grab & go Mexican restaurant on a nearby corner, and while Kim went in to handle the business of ordering lunch, I waited with Sophie out on the Dalmatian-patterned sidewalk. I looked up and down street at all the sunbleached single-story commercial buildings and could see that this was what some folks call "the Bario." All the faces going past were cheery brown Mexican faces speaking Spanish to one another and smiling and talking Mexican cute-dog talk to Sophie. (In general, I've noticed that Mexicans react more positively towards Sophie than the other ethnic groups. Conversely, I've noticed that Arabs, Chinese and Orthodox Jews look upon Sophie with nothing short of contempt.)
Most of the people on the Bario street looked like they were just getting home from church. This particular part of the Bario abuts Koreatown, and there were a good many signs in Korean, but I couldn't see anyone walking around who didn't look Mexican. You can tell a little something about the property values of a neighborhood by the expense of the billboards lining its major thoroughfares. The only billboard I could see was facing east down Venice. It was just a fragment of an old public service announcement and was gradually pealing off in the rainless weather to reveal earlier public service announcements.
Lacking a better place to dine, Kim and I sat down on the hard Dalmatian sidewalk and ate our burritos like grubby homeless people without mortgages to pay.
At LA Bicycles, I found a reasonably good selection of bikes, though there was no perfect replacement for my old Huffy. After considerable deliberation, I wound up buying (for $70) a strange hybrid consisting of a small (but well built) Raleigh frame, expensive cotterless cranks, a robust mountain bike handlebar/headset and inexpensive steel wheels with full-knobby mountain bike tires (so unnecessary!). It wasn't a particularly comfortable bike to ride, but at least all its functions worked, there were no broken spokes and the tires held air. Kim briefly considered buying a three-wheeled tricycle because of how frightfully cute Sophie would look riding in the basket in the back. But, on giving it a test drive, found it was too much of an effort to pedal.

The Simpsons tonight was just not up to standard. (This was the episode where the drunk Barney gives up beer so he can be sober enough to learn how to fly a helicopter.) Much of the humor was of a distinctly different sort than I've come to expect from the show. It seemed to be geared towards a different audience, one with a shorter attention span and a lower average intellectual quotient. It didn't even help that I was stoned.

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