Monday, February 23, 2009

Bike Lay'n

"She's so tough, she rides her bike sideways."

It's a slight deviation from the movie, but maybe it should have been called: Planes, Trains, and Bicycles.

Come to think of it Neil could have probably gotten home quicker by bicycle. Del would have never made it.

Hell, we barely made it. Me, the captain and Windy, the lazy 'toker. But now I understand those tiny lanes on the side of the road.

More importantly I get the symbol. "When being blown across the road sideways, please use this lane."

Unfortunately, it's usually INTO the lane of traffic when wind tries to turn your ride into a tandem. She's not a helpful partner.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I've Neglected My Bicycle

As some Broadway shows shutter their doors and community theatres across the country go dark, DC’s theatre scene braces for an uncertain future.

In today’s economy, potential theatre goers pull their wallets in a little closer and tighten their budgets. In times like these, entertainment and leisure are the first ones to get the pink slip.

Until the economy starts to recover, small non-profit theatres will continue to feel the pinch on all sides. With many theatres already experiencing a lull in attendance, box offices look to lower ticket prices as a way to draw in audiences.

Non-profit theatres will also see a decrease in donations and county and state granting. Bigger profit theatres either close shows early or scale back performances to save money. Often times, small struggling theatres will slash their marketing budget, which ends up in turn killing attendance.

Not so at Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo. Artistic Director, Michael Bobbitt acknowledges the importance of advertising, “Viral marketing is the best way to market period. We have cut back on ads in publications and looked to listservs, Facebook, email blasts, etc.” The internet has become a valuable tool to small non-profit theatres from marketing, to Craigslist casting calls, even prop shopping on Ebay.

Another way theatres look to cut costs is to shy away from big, lavish musicals and turn to smaller shows, with smaller casts and smaller crews. They also move away from edgier shows and look to tried and true standbys. “We pick titles that we know will sell. I call it the Hamlet syndrome,” says Bobbitt. “If you do Hamlet, everyone will come.”

In fact, community theatre just might upstage the down turned economy. As more people stay home and look for outlets to escape life at a bargain, the value of community theatre has the potential to soar.

Community theatres, like Kensington Arts Theatre (KAT), are typically run by a dedicated group of volunteers following their passions, not pensions. They are used to staging their dreams on a shoestring budget.

Jenna Ballard, whose musical production of One Red Flower just opened at KAT, points out that they are not there to make money; they just hope to cover expenses. “We don’t usually make much, but just struggle along from box office to box office.”

It’s a sentiment heard over and over in community theatres reaching from Georgia to Oregon. You can take the glitz out of Broadway, but you can’t take the heart out of theatre. “It gets in your blood,” said Brian Dettling who provided the gun props for Ballard’s production.

Turning Kensington’s Town Hall, where the Theatre Company rents space, into Vietnam and transforming a cast of unpaid twenty-somethings into believable soldiers on a non-profit sized budget was nothing short of amazing. To the dedicated cast and crew committed to their craft, it’s simply, “what we do.”

“I’m really proud of them all for taking it so seriously,” said Ballard of her cast and crew. “Last night Jon [Keeling, who plays Michael in the play] came up to me and said, ‘would it be okay for me to chew Juicy Fruit gum?’ and Brian chimed in that Chicklets would also be okay.”

When asked what they get paid for dedicating all of their free time to authenticating this one performance the actors and crew resounded with a collective, “Nothing!”

“Getting paid is more like icing on the cake than a career goal,” said Dettling.

Wendy Baird, who plays Eleanor in One Red Flower, agreed with her fellow castmates that acting is just what they do. “Sometimes running a business, being a single mom—heck, being a human being—can be stressful, routine, or just plain hard. Singing takes me away from all that; it helps rejuvenate the soul.”

Tim Adams, also in One Red Flower, echoed sentiments of pursuing a personal passion in theatre. “Just knowing you may have helped brighten someone’s day and put a smile on their face is reward enough.”

The DC area’s theatre family is scared of the future, but for now, the show must go on.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Geared Up To Go Green

In today's tight economy more consumers are focused on green. Stop, Swap, and Save is a local event providing Swap goers with plenty of it, environmentally as well as financially.

In its 12th straight year, Stop Swap, and Save offers a venue for cyclists to converge, merge, and purge. Shop owners clean out old stock while home owners reclaim their garages. Attendees can buy, trade, or barter all things bike.

A bike swap gives the consumer the opportunity to hold the products in his hands, making it a friendlier alternative to Ebay. There were many used bikes on sale for a good price at Stop, Swap, and Save. Potential buyers could test ride the bikes and talk to the previous owners first hand before deciding.

From high end Italian components, vintage frames, or boxes of half rusted nuts and bolts, the Bike Swap has plenty to offer a bargain shopper. Even seemingly unusable parts are another artist's treasure.

One vendor, The Bicycle Escape from Frederick, put that practice to good use. They sold out of cheap key chains made from old rescued parts. Scrap metal saved from the landfills and into your pockets.

Tom Rinker, a Bicycle Escape technician, says they recycle wherever they can. They buy in bulk to reduce packaging, turn old parts into other products like key chains, and donate tires and others items to organizations such as Bikes for the World. They even sold nameplates (the curved metal plate that typically displays the logo on the stem) made out of discarded bottle caps.

Bikes for the World, a co-sponsor of the Bike Swap, collects donated bicycles and ships them overseas to individuals in disadvantaged situations. Throughout 2008, Bikes for the World delivered an average of 28 bikes every day to non-profit partner programs overseas. That's over 10,000 bikes in the hands of cyclists last year alone.

It's not all used gear, however. For the gear head shopper with funds to spend, the uber-green Bamboo frame is an excellent choice, and Mt. Airy Bikes had one on display you could fondle. The Calfee frame is made from the renewable bamboo hardwood and bonded together with resin-soaked hemp.

Give owner Larry Black five minutes and he will convince the minimalist couple, shopping to reduce its carbon footprint, to join his elite tandem club by selling you, instead of two bicycles, a bicycle built for two.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Riding bike on ice while taking a picture requires special skillz. Should you not possess said skillz, please, please, please try this on a trail. There are more people there who could possibly snap a photo for flickr or even just witness the incredible show on ice. Oh, it's youtubable all right.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dump The Pump

This ain't no 19th Century bicycle and it DOES bring solutions to 21st Century problems.

1. Dump the pump
2. Save oil
3. Ease congestion
4. Lower your carbon footprint
5. Drop pounds
6. Save quarters, park FREE
7. Lower car insurance
8. Reduce stress
9. Go green
10....should I go on?

"Stop driving, ride a bike." It IS absolutely amazing, Pat. Oh, and you don't have to feed it or clean up after it, so it beats a horse and buggy!