Community gardens by foot & bike

Did I tell you that I joined the board of a wonderful organization called the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust (BQLT) this past spring? I didn’t? Well, that’s probably because I spent approximately half my waking hours between then and last weekend helping to plan our 7th Annual Bike & Walking Tour!!

Happy people in bike helmets looking at plants

Happy bike tour participants inspect foliage at a BQLT garden

But I get ahead of myself. Let me first explain that BQLT owns and stewards over 30 community gardens in NYC’s two most populous boroughs. This means these public green spaces are permanently saved from development and cannot be sold. It means we apply for grants and hold fundraisers to keep them in raised beds and water systems. It means the resident gardeners who put their blood, sweat, and tears into transforming many of these plots from abandoned wastelands into lush oases for the whole neighborhood to enjoy 20, 30, and 40 years ago can confidently pass them on to the next generation. I’m so proud to be part of all this work, and so excited to learning about everything from tree identification to city council budgets with the committed and good-humored BQLT crew.

Group photo in community garden

Select BQLT board and staff members giddy with relief at the end of the tour

That’s why, after many months of planning, it was so thrilling when our big day finally came. Last Saturday, September 15th, 60 awesome people showed up to tour a handful of our beautiful community gardens in Bushwick (apparently the 7th Coolest Neighborhood in the World, according to Vogue), and eastern Bedford-Stuyvesant. We started the afternoon at Concerned Citizens of Grove Street Garden with remarks by a community affairs rep from the office of our Borough President, Eric Adams (who is himself a vegan bicyclist, didn’t ya know?), and by the garden’s founder Jaime Alvarez, who started it 37 years ago.

From there, tour t-shirts donned and branded water bottles filled, we bikers embarked on our ride to check out six more gardens, while the walking group ambled off to four. We saw bitter melon growing and chickens scratching. We heard stories of gardens’ origins as ashen lots in the bad old days of 1970s NYC. We whizzed by stoop sales and farmers markets and a motorcycle washing station with hand-lettered signage set up in someone’s garage. I learned that my husband has the same birthday as one of city council member Antonio Reynoso‘s staffers, and that La Finca Garden was established way back in 1986.

Guy in bike helmet and glasses next to guy in blazer

Birthday twinsies!

Woman in bike helmet next to man in baseball cap

They even have embroidered hats!

After a few sunny hours of pedaling, peeping, and chatting, we arrived at the truly fabulous People’s Garden for plant-based Dominican snacks by woman- and worker-owned catering cooperative Woke Foods and music by a band from Haiti Cultural Exchange. Kids pushed each other around in a wagon. People waiting for the bus outside peered in and bopped to the tunes. And apparently a reporter was there from Our Time Press, because I just saw this article! Nice. As dusk approached, I finally took off my fluoro yellow tour leader vest and headed out the gate, mad tired but wicked satisfied.

While I can’t say I’ll exactly miss the scores of hours the little BQLT events committee spent in after-work meetings at the library, the email chains about flyer printing that grew to 50 messages deep, or the mosquito-filled crepuscular trial rides I took part in over the past handful of months, they were all totally worth it. See you for the 8th!

People on bikes in urban America

Sure Signs

Drive on left airport sign Dublin Ireland

AKA: These sure are signs!

Many exciting things are happening around here.

So many of them, in fact, and so exciting, that I don’t have the time or energy to report on them before August is over!!

Therefore, please indulge in the following selection of funny signs collected on Arthur’s and my second annual work-related pilgrimage to Ireland, plus this time Scotland:

Anteater sign outside museum in Dublin Ireland

Dublin National History Museum making everyone feel welcome

Beware of Cyclists sign Dublin Ireland

Usually good advice

Thermos Museum poster Edinburgh Fringe

My kind of culture! (off the beaten path at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival)

Good work

Good work, team

Flour and eggs exam sign University of Edinburgh

When I finished my exams, I usually just went home

Choking to Death on a Currant Bun

How did we miss this show??

Just Falafs funny falafel sign

One of the better food-related puns we came across

Last but not least, a reassuring sign of the times:

Drag nun with round glasses

???

A drag nun performing at the Frankenstein pub during the Edinburgh Fringe!!!

As you (hopefully) do some gallivanting around this Labor Day weekend, keep those eyes peeled for fun in written form. Send me your faves and I’ll post ’em on the blog!

Pleasant surprise: My favorite interview gets the royal weirdo treatment!

One of the coolest things about freelancing (and about life on earth) is that you never know what’ll happen next. Sometimes, you can go through days or weeks without anything much unpredictable taking place. But sometimes, you walk out of an event at Carnegie Hall and go to get your bike and there’s a plastic cup of wine sitting on your bike seat.

Plastic cup of wine on a bike seat

True story.

Or sometimes, you wake up and there’s a nice email in your inbox that says, “Hi, April. I came across your Medium story and would love to republish it on our site pionic.org. What do you think?”

What did I think? I believe my exact thoughts were: “Cool!” followed by, “What is Pionic.org?”

If you’re a Luddite who lives under a rock (like me), you might not have heard of Pionic, either, but it turns out it’s a pretty cool website that posts stories with names like, “Can There Be a Theory of Everything?” and “Squirrels Have Long Memory For Problem Solving.” I’m glad to have joined their club.

The Secret Lives of Vinyl Hoarders pionic story headline

You can check out my favorite interview given new life on Pionic right here. (I mean it’s my favorite interview that I’ve done. Of the ones I haven’t done, this 1995 New York magazine article that features a vaguely interview-like conversation between Martha Stewart and David Letterman might be my favorite.)

Two Shameless Feminists

When my friend Angela Altus—of Bushwick Daily and Shameless Photography—spread the word that she was looking for volunteers to man up in front of the camera for a project called “This is What a Feminist Looks Like,” I was all ears.

“The purpose of the project is to showcase the many faces of feminism, and how shared values span gender, age, race and so much more,” she wrote. While my combined characteristics peg me as just about the most predictable feminist in the world, I still wanted to represent! Thankfully, so did my fabulous husband.

Feminists in bike helmets

In our bike helmets, OF COURSE

The shoot took place at Shameless’s awesome space in an old industrial building in Dumbo earlier this month (site of countless body-positive boudoir photo sessions!), and has so far resulted in some gorgeous documentation on the studio’s website and Instagram; I wouldn’t be surprised to find some of these brilliant shots on billboards soon!

Big ups to all the ladies and dudes involved in this uplifting creative project. The organizers said it best themselves: “No matter our differences, if we can come together around equality, we can accomplish great things for the world.”

***

Also: My friend Kaitlin Archambault of Incendiary Designs recently redesigned Angela’s website. Wonderful, isn’t it?

How my wedding was like The Rocky Horror Picture Show

No, not the outfits!

Well, maybe.

Happy wedding couple with smiling officiant

We got all the colors?! Yay!

Initially, I was thinking about the Time Warp factor.

For many months, I’d known I was going to take two solid weeks off in mid-October to host family and friends from out of town, do the nuptial deed itself, and spend a handful of days chilling out in Canada on our honeymoon. All of which I did and enjoyed! However, I did not expect that also:

  • My fiance would get his right pinky finger shattered by a blindly-opened car door while riding his bike a week before the wedding; that we’d spend half that day in the emergency room and another whole day at a surgery center on the other side of NYC; or that we’d have to employ two friends with sewing skills to modify his dress shirt and suit jacket so he could fit into them on our wedding day.
  • My Gay of Honor—who was slated to do my hair and help us with about 1,000 other things—would burn the crap out of his left hand (and of course he’s a lefty) while making dinner the night before flying into NYC to stay with us.
  • The kind soul who offered to ferry our wedding clothes to the venue would unknowingly drop Arthur’s suit pants off their hanger, and no one would notice until approximately an hour before photos were to start being taken, and Arthur would wind up getting married in a pair of Uniqlo jeans.

So I guess all of that accounts for some of the time-suck. But how did I not write a blog post for a whole month? How have my first few days back to work flown much faster than usual, even though I’m still ramping back up to full work capacity? How is it that one day, I’m eating delicious maple cookie ice cream in sunny Montreal, and the next, I’m warming up leftover green beans in my kitchen in rainy Brooklyn??

Clearly, we’ve been busy. But I do think there’s also a psychic time-warp element to this experience… Perhaps not unlike the one portrayed in The Rocky Horror Picture Show??

Rocky Horror Picture Show time warp

With a bit of a mind flip / You’re into a time slip / And nothing can ever be the same!

Indeed, as the song goes, I have felt “spaced out on sensation” for much of the past four weeks—which I suppose is kind of the point. While it’s been a little disorienting coming back to normal life and work, it was a very worthwhile and gratifying experience to plan, execute, and now come down from such a ginormous, once-in-a-lifetime affair. I know I’ll be drawing on it in a myriad of ways for many moons to come. Especially after reality sets in and I’m fully able to believe it wasn’t all a dream.

***

p.s. I owe a hat tip to the aforementioned Gay of Honor, who brought Rocky Horror to my attention back in high school, and who recently attended a live screening in our native Colorado looking like about a trillion dollars in this homemade Madonna getup:

noah-as-madonna

Go, babe!!

 

Russia! For those with and without their marbles

Guys on a bench in Moscow

If the heat waves and presidential election tomfoolery have spared you any of your marbles this summer, you probably won’t want to trudge through my 857 photos of Russia, the country I was recently fortunate enough to hang out in for two weeks. Then again, if you find yourself sweating, anxious, and entirely sans marbles, it might be pleasant and calming for you to see some objectively beautiful architecture, funny signage, and delectable Russian meals featuring beets, beets, and more beets. If that’s the case, then by all means have at it!

But assuming you are retaining at least a couple of those precious mental stones and would rather spend your time elsewhere, I’ll do you the sanity-solid of offering a brief summary of this epic excursion in words and pictures below:

Left: Our friend Oleg’s favorite cathedral in Moscow. (What was its name??)
Right: Arthur reads in a barn in the “historic rural locality” of Kholmogory.

Left: A cow parade in Kholmogory. (Not pictured: The sample Dixie cups of fresh milk).
Right: Arkhangelsk’s last living angel?

Left: Warning: This club uses Face Control. It doesn’t sound like we should go there.
Right: Man, this is a long story. Let’s just say we were “strongly encouraged” to write and perform a skit about the birth of our country for a group of Russian villagers on the 4th of July… while wearing Putin party t-shirts. God bless the USA.

Putin dog statue at the Hermitage

Putin dog

And finally, rub this one for good luck: A little sculpture of a dog at the Hermitage that bore some immediately-apparent resemblance to you-know-who.

Readers! As you can see, my Russia was chock full of bright colors, international whimsy, and universal good times. Have you spent time in Mother Russia? Tell me about your trip.

The Montauk Century: 108 miles, two wheels, no chamois cream

We did it!

Montauk Century 2016

Sunrise in Babylon

We got up at 2:30 am, smeared peanut butter on bagels outside the Barclay’s Center, boarded a minivan to Babylon, Long Island, and proceeded to ride our bikes 108 miles to the end of the line. It was Saturday, May 21: the Montauk Century 2016.

Known to some nipple balm endorsers who shall remain nameless as “an old man’s ride,” this hundred-ish mile pedal-fest to the tip of Long Island has been happening in some form since 1964 (and I’ll have everyone know we only overheard one conversation that referenced “taking fiber”). Seeing as how I got just about all the physical exertion I can imagine wanting in one day from this experience, I say you can take your longer, hillier, spicier, juvenile delinquent-age rides and go ride them yourself, hot shot.

As for Jonathan, Andy, Arthur, and I, we soaked in the sights as we made our way eastward, sights that included:

  • Mansions
  • Potato fields
  • Mother goose and fuzzy baby geese!
  • Signs offering free mulch and mulch at a price
  • Guys in full spandex with beer guts passing us
  • Mansion-dwellers getting their new Lamborghini (or something) delivered off a semi truck whose hubcaps were decked out with six-inch chrome spikes
  • One or more of us belting out Twisted Sister lyrics to keep the energy up

To be honest, much of it is already a blur. The hypnotic effect of spinning mile after mile, enveloped by the twelve-foot-high, super-coiffed hedges of Amagansett, Water Mill, and Southampton turned much of the day into one great green undulation. Even at the 50-mile rest stop, we were getting pretty dopey!

Montauk Century 50 mile rest stop

We’re not even halfway there yet?! Should I laugh or cry…

But when we pedaled through to the finish line—which on this posh ride meant beer, massages, ice cream, and a mobile shower unit—the stiff knees and sore bum readily gave way to excellent new feelings of accomplishment, relief, and the various chemical buzzings that result when you put things like beer and ice cream into your body. Ahh!

Would I do another one? Sure. Would I use the free sample of chamois cream next time? Maybe.

Finally, Victoria’s Secret gets it

Arthur and I dropped our passports off at a Russian visa expediting service in Herald Square last week, in anticipation of our June trip there (godspeed, little passports!).

When we walked out of the building, I saw these ads beaming out from the nearby Victoria’s Secret:

Happy women in unpadded bras

Woman in unpadded bra staring

Woman twisting in unpadded bra

VC: This is what I BEEN sayin’!

For how many years have I wondered where all the honest-to-god, regular bras are? Ones that aren’t lined with three-quarters of an inch of memory foam?? For as long as I’ve been in the market, American Apparel has been my only reliable source for such sensible garmentry. While that’s a decent scenario if you’re only given one option, it’s just blown my mind that there haven’t been more.

Maybe now, VC will help set the tone for more Natural Woman hippie breakthroughs in unmentionable-wear? And we can repurpose all those foam getups into nerdy, useful bike shorts??

Yeah!

Ooh mens padded bike shorts!

See? USEFUL.