Monthly Archives: January 2012


A man was playing kora on a subway platform a few months ago. I found the recording on my iPhone yesterday and did this today.

Best in headphones.

If the playback widget isn’t working, click here to go to the track.

Kora: Guy on the platform at Columbus Circle
Orchestration: Me
Consider this piece an amuse-bouche before the next big course.

Like it? Give a buck to a class project you like on donorschoose.



Filed under Favorite, Music, Senseless acts of beauty


Announced January 14, 2011


(Was March 31, but that seemed too tight.)

RIDE 2 will be published in print, as well as Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.

The only requirement is that a bicycle or bicycle culture must feature significantly in the story.

Any genre, any length up to about 12,000 words, any setting, any time period, any kind of cycling. The more diversity—of locations, cycling cultures, story genres—the better. Don’t look at RIDE (the original) to give you an idea of what I’m looking for—all I’m interested in is the best eight or ten stories I can find, regardless of genre or style.

PAYMENT: Authors and artist receive equal splits after any I recoup any hard costs, which I’ll state clearly on the first royalty statement. Royalties are paid via PayPal only, so author/artist must have a PayPal account.

Previously published OK. World rights must be available. Fiction only. Submit in Word, Pages, or RTF, using standard manuscript formatting.

Questions and submissions: noteon | at | mac | dot | com



Filed under Bicycling, Bikes, Books, Call for submissions, Senseless Acts

The beginning of “Night Ride,” my story in RIDE: SHORT FICTION ABOUT BICYCLES

THE PRINT VERSION of RIDE: Short Fiction About Bicycles is now for sale at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and I don’t actually know where else. Hopefully I can find an indie source to link to, as well.

RIDE is now available in these fine formats

It includes “Night Ride,” my first crime fiction for sale since Ellery Queen’s published “Dead Gray,” which you can get for free if you’re an Amazon Prime member (or for 99¢ if you’re not).

Night Ride is long for a short story, about 50 pages, and it takes place in Inwood, where I live. (Inwood’s at the top of Manhattan.) It’s about fathers and sons. Here’s the beginning:

AT THE TOP OF THE RISE he waits for the signal from the bottom, and when he hears GO! he lets off the brake and pushes the pedals. It’s not a big chainwheel he’s got, so his feet are spinning at top speed in about three seconds—but by then he’s already flying.
      Last weekend he flashed past the dip at the bottom and got twenty feet up the other side before he had to stand out of the saddle. You had to stand when you climbed because it gave your legs more power.
      This time he’s going to hit the uphill with great strength, pump right up it, even the steep part, and then take the curve at the top without stopping, all the way behind the trees where no one can see him.
      GO GO GO GO the words whip past his ear and make him grin, sun and shadows strobing in his eyes, and then he’s ten feet up the shallow grade, twenty, thirty, the bike slowing so soon on the steep part and he’s up out of the saddle, fists clamped around the rubberized grips, King of the Mountains, polka-dot jersey. He chants:
      Bobby is six.
      His daddy’s cheering for him. He climbs, climbs, climbs, conquers the little part where it’s steepest and you have to push your legs hard instead of just riding your bike, and then he’s out of sight where Daddy can’t see him, which is a great joke.
      Walking up the paved pathway toward him is an old man.
      “Hey, Bobby,” the old man says. “Remember me?”
      Bobby’s still looking at him when he hears his daddy’s bike come rolling up behind him.
      “Dad,” his daddy says.
      “Bob-by!” says his grandpa to his daddy.
“HOW’S HE DOING in school?” the old man asked, leaning in the kitchen doorway with a beer dangling.
      “All right.” Robert rinsing a pan.
      “That it?”
      “His teachers all love him. They call him ‘The Cool Kid’.”
      “Cool kid, huh? Sounds like he’s getting more pussy than you.”
      Robert set the pan on a dish towel and unscrewed an orange sippy cup. “He’s six, dad.”
      “Never too young. Less there’s something funny about him. You getting any?”
      “Me? I got a kid.”
      “Oh I dunno.” Robert Senior’s voice took on a lilt. “Didn’t slow me down…”
      Water ran, dishes clanked. His father looked at the walls—the messes of water damage and the gulleys of cracks along the corners.
      “So,” Robert said, “where you thinking you’re gonna stay?”
      The next voice was Bobby’s, saying, “Grandpa, this is my bike wrench.”
      “Oh yeah?” the old man said as Robert turned to check the interaction. “No shit.”
      “What,” his dad said, and the direct confrontation he’d been waiting for flared in the beered-up brown eyes. “Dad what.”
      A keg waited to be touched off.
      “Dad what.”
      Robert said, “Hey Bobby, whyn’t you show your Granddad all your tools?”
      “Yeah! Grandpa, come on!”
      “He carries ’em all around.” Turning back to the dishes. “Knows lots of stuff, how to fix a flat. He’s a strong little dude, but his hands are little so I gotta help him get the bead off the rim.”
      “Yeah, I’m a strong little dude.”
      “Yeah really, Buster Brown, you think so?”
      “Yeah, I’m really strong.” Bobby looked up at his Grandpa, so loving and happy, and Robert Junior’s heart broke.
      “You’ve made a friend today!” Bobby said.

I’ve been talking up the anthology as a whole, but that’s my story in it.

RIDE: Short Fiction About Bicycles

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Filed under Anthologies, Bicycling, Bikes, Books, Family, Favorite, Inwood, My writing, Self-promotion, Senseless Acts, Short stories

Riding bikes with twins

IN WHICH maybe four people in the world go ohhhhhh! once or twice, and the rest of you close the browser after two paragraphs.

MY SEVEN-YEAR-OLDS and I ride our bikes to school and the greenmarket. We’re not political about getting around on two wheels; we just like it. No matter how much we’re pissing each other off when we leave home, it’s smiles and hugs when we get where we’re going: It’s hard to stay pissy riding bikes with your kids (or your dad).


  1. Stay right.

  2. No racing.

  3. Watch out for the people, and go waaaaay around them.

  4. Look where you’re going, not down.

Come to think of it, #3 might work better as “No buzzing.” I’ll try it out this week.

There are also two locations where I stop them and say, “What are the rules?” That means the rules for those specific locations.

  • THE BUS STOP is forty feet from the subway entrance, on Broadway, and we’re usually through there at rush hour. People streaming from the crosswalk, from arriving buses, and toward the subway. (We live in a neighborhood that people leave in the morning.) The rule is: Go slow and watch out for the people.
  • ELWOOD STREET is a descent along a row of apartment buildings. The rule is: Stay left (this keeps children on bikes away from people exiting blind doorways) and stop at the end of the buildings, NOT at the end of the sidewalk. This is because if someone steps out from behind the building, they could get hit. On the second block of the descent, the rule becomes “Stop at the end of the red metal,” which is a railing against some vegetable bins.

Now that they’re better and safer riders than last year, I’ve started riding in the street while they’re on the sidewalk. Which allows the additional fun of little boys cackling and blowing past Daddy at T-intersections when he gets stuck at red lights.

THEY’RE AWESOME LITTLE bike guys, and they use bike club chatter correctly (“Bike up!” “Car back!” “Hold your line!” “Clear!”) and know lots of rules for responsible cycling in the city—

But it is easy for little monkeys to forget.

And for that reason, I find myself yelling too much, because all it takes is giving 30 seconds of my attention to the slowpoke, and the zippy one will be a couple of hundred yards ahead, doing something he’s not supposed to do. Like, on the greenway, he’ll be over on the left. I have no love of rules for their own sake, but if you’re a seven-year-old going the wrong way where giants are known to whiz around corners, you need your little butt moved to the right. Like, now. So there’s lots of STAY RIGHT! STAY RIGHT! THAT’S NOT THE RIGHT! STAY RIGHT! YOU’RE NOT STAYING RIGHT! GET OVER TO THE RIGHT! Which not only sounds like anger just because it’s YELLING, but starts feeling that way, too.

And then if he’s so far ahead he can’t hear me (or is ignoring me, not an unreasonable response to somebody who yells at you all the time), I have to leave the other one and go sprinting up there to correct his position.

And then I don’t know what’s going on behind me with the slowpoke.

I STILL HAVEN’T solved that particular problem—but when I learned that one of the boys’ teachers was making little books of rules with him, to help with his focusing, I asked whether they could start one about being a responsible cyclist, and I could review and adjust it to fit how we do things.

They did a great job with it together.

I always ride on the sidewalk.

Today he and I sat down in the dining room and added to it.

Except when we go on the greenway, or Daddy says to ride in the bike lane.

I didn’t coach him on the lane-marking diagrams, except to remind him what the sharrows on Dyckman Street look like. He doesn’t like sharrows, though, so he declined to include them.

None of us like sharrows.


I check for cars before crossing a street.

STRICTLY SPEAKING, THIS caption isn’t true.

It’s Daddy’s job to check for cars. It’s a kid’s job to listen for what formation we’re going to cross in, get his bike positioned, and walk when it when Daddy says WALK ’EM. That all sounds like this:


We walk our bikes in formation when we cross the street.

These formations are my main reason for this post.

Crossing a busy street with two kids and three bikes, the potential for a very fast cascade of errors is frightening. You can’t hold their hands, you can’t let go of your bike, the WALK signal is blinking and the livery cabs are creeping. You can’t stop in the crosswalk, and you can’t patiently explain anything.

Our basic crosswalk formation is SCHOOLBUS:

Schoolbus formation

We get more or less in formation while we’re waiting for the green, and no part of a bike is allowed in the street until I say WALK ’EM. If I have to skip a red/green cycle because somebody’s being sloppy with his front tire in the gutter, I do. We don’t go until it’s right.

When I say WALK ’EM, front boy keeps his front wheel lined up with Daddy’s. Back boy stays close behind him, not allowed to bonk tires.

Those are the only rules. It has to stay simple and unambiguous; we’re in a New York City crosswalk with the seconds ticking down.

Commands like “SPEED UP!” or “SLOW DOWN!” or “YOU THERE, THE ONE WITH THE HAT!” would be confusing—which boy am I talking to? To what degree are they supposed to execute the concept? Does a helmet count as a hat? Without exception, the wrong child will hear and follow the order—and now I’ve got two problems, and both boys are confused. So unless there’s an emergency, the only thing I need to say in the crosswalk is this:


I have to say it a lot, because little monkeys have forgotten, but everybody knows what to do.

AN EXPLANATION HAS just been demanded for why there’s no trailer attached to the parent’s bike in that diagram.

If you would like, you may add a trailer.

THE OTHER TWO formations are used less often.

  • LINE FORMATION is all three front wheels aligned, and is really just for not making anybody take up the rear.
  • SINGLE FILE is for when the available space is too narrow for walking abreast—most recently when we had downed trees from storm winds.

THE DAD I had in my head, before I became a father, might have worked out if it hadn’t been twins. He listened more than he talked, he was available and patient, he probably dressed well. I’m not him. I bark orders and wear five-year-old clothing that sort of fits.

But as long as that’s what it is, these barked orders work pretty well.


Filed under Bicycling, BikeNYC, Bikes, Commuting, Family, Favorite, Kids, Safety