Category Archives: Safety

Dear 34th Precinct

August 24, 2012:

I’m leaving this up because I wrote it and meant it. However, I’ve learned more since then, so I can’t stand behind it. There may be another blog entry coming—not sure yet.

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Filed under Being a grownup, Civil rights, Community, Inwood, NYPD, Safety

A maturing relationship with Pyrex

WE HAVE THIS lousy Pyrex saucepan.

Purple Pyrex saucepan

It has three problems. The two most obvious are the bileous mulberry hue it casts on food and its passive-aggressiveness in pouring. But those are just physical things. If I loved it, I could get past them; no pan is perfect. But there’s something more subtle, which I find much harder to deal with:

It doesn’t show its emotions.

WE ALREADY KNOW how hard it is to know what’s going on inside other people. We have slogans for it: Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides; You never know what someone else is going through; Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. But it’s something we don’t always think of when we relate to cookware. For the most part I’m glad all that heat and conflict stays inside the pot—but I’ve been thinking how impossible it is for a Pyrex saucepan to understand that all anyone else can get a grip on is its handle.

Which, regardless of maelstrom or meltdown in the pan, remains at room temperature at all times.

So is the pot hot, or is it cold?

Hot, says the pot. You just don’t know.

Cold, says anybody who holds the pot. That’s right, I don’t.

ANOTHER THING ABOUT this saucepan is that—violently and with very little warning, as though it suppresses and suppresses and suppresses and saves up and saves up and just can’t anymore! and FOOM!—the seething stuff boils over, unexpectedly, while it’s over a LOW FLAME, if you can believe it, and then if you grab the burner and turn it down, or yank the pot off the stove, it just KEEPS GOING, eructations of oatmeal all over the stove and the floor, which it does not apologize for and does not volunteer to clean up.

See, says the pot? Hot. Passionate, even.

I HOVER WHEN my kids use it, waiting for the moment when it takes a shot at their confidence. You did everything right, I told one of my boys today after I grabbed it off the burner while he was whisking. It’s not you, sweetheart; it’s the lousy pot. You didn’t do anything wrong. This pot—you just shouldn’t trust it. It’s just a bad pot. You can’t tell what’s going on with it until it’s too late.

Yanking it off the burner doesn’t work. Giving it a little more care and attention doesn’t work. Lowering the heat doesn’t work. By the time it gets to the point where you can see what’s about to happen, it’s sucked up so much energy that a second later, it’s already erupting. You can’t stop it. You can’t soothe it. You just have to wait until it’s done spewing.

What did you expect? says the pot.

Well by now, I expect that.

LIFE GETS MUCH simpler when you accept your cookware for what it really is, and let go of what you wish it was. Especially when it keeps showing you. Especially when your kids are getting old enough that they’re starting to learn to judge temperature themselves, and you don’t want to confuse them.

Much simpler, that is, unless you’re the cookware.

In which case your life’s going to get harder as soon as the economy improves a little more.

Pretty pot


Filed under Being a grownup, Cooking, Family, Fatherhood, Favorite, Food, Safety, Whatever

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

The Vigilante

RECENTLY I WAS referred to in a news story as the guy who organized some community bike rides at night in response to an uptick in nighttime sexual assaults in the area. Now, something you should know is there have been two whole rides so far—we’re busy, I’m sick, we have kids, the economy sucks—so if the story were just about that, it would be a little premature.
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Filed under Being a grownup, Bicycling, BikeNYC, Community, Favorite, Inwood, Safety, Whatever