YEARS HAVE PASSED AND I STILL LIVE ON A BIKE, ONE OF WHICH I TOOK TO DENMARK AND SWEDEN

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I throw horns at the world, I throw horns at my bike, and I would have thrown on Scandinavian black metal if I hadn’t instead thrown on Mozart, or, more than likely when this photo was taken, …Haim.

Preamble: I haven’t updated this blog since late 2009, when I shut my laptop for a while and rode off on my bike. I interviewed hundreds of people, published a book, rode enough miles in New York City to circle the globe, and now I’m returning to “Crust+Commerce”, a questionably named blog I maintained during my year in San Francisco (2007) and my first year in NY (2008). During the interim I cross-posted pieces I’d done for Thrasher or Street Carnage or my own site “Word on the Street New York.” Those posts create a nice buffer between now and the earlier posts that are so cringe-worthy to me I don’t dare revisit. I see younger-me almost as I might a younger brother (I don’t have one): I know him better than anyone; we came from the same place and the same parents, but he’s going through some weird phase and I don’t really want to deal with him. I guess now is when that kid (26) and me (31) snap back into place, on this blog. Or something.

I hadda get outta deh.

Summer in New York City is my third favorite season; better put, it’s the season I second-hate the most. We have heat, tourists, humidity, .0425 trees per person (I made that up but you considered it), tourists, hangovers hurt more, and the amount of idiots on bicycles–which says nothing of tourists on Citibikes–apexes. Did I mention tourists?! I figure the only way to beat them is to become one, on a bike–my own–somewhere far away yet familiar: Denmark and Sweden, countries where I have gobs of family but are so prohibitively expensive I only afford to visit every three years. The plane ticket, not including the $200 bike-checking fee each way, was $1400. Fuggit, I hadda get outta deh.

Oof: Exactly.

IMG_1680Buckled into my window seat, I stared at this screen, unblinking, until we landed. Actually I stared at this screen, drained my iPod, and zonked myself with Heinekens before reclining my seat into some guy’s stickered laptop, causing him to yell at me in some curious brogue. Actually, I’m very mindful to look before reclining, so that didn’t happen. I always stash reading material in the little cargo net at my knees but I’m too impatient to read on planes. Wait, that’s not true either–why am I fibbing my way through a blog post? I read Bad Day magazine and Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams with such vigor I littered the floor with their pages until my seat partner complained to a stewardess. Again, I’m making stuff up to amuse myself, something I’d do if I was stuck on this 8 hour flight and was typing this in real time. I am typing this in real time. STOP IT!

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Finally we landed and look how beautiful my sweet fatherland is! Just squint.

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Now, my cousin Jesper, a Dane who, like the rest of our family, never erred in moving stateside, had sent me this photo: two cans of Denmark’s finest suds and keys to his apartment. Why his spare tag said his name instead of mine was not important: I knew what my reward was once I figured my way to his place. I had intended to assemble my bike and ride to his place in grand fashion but the baggage claim office explained that my bicycle stopped off in Frankfurt for no apparent reason. “Don’t worry! We know it’s there and it should arrive sometime tomorrow.” Ok, ok, I told myself, this is why I bothered to insure my bicycles before I left. I looked at my phone and figured I might as well just walk to Jesper’s place. Judging on Google mapsit looked like a 30 minute stroll.

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Hmm. I was thirsty, though. I hailed a cab, which was a late-model Mercedes Benz draped in a rather sharp black and green swoosh along the sides. I gave the hack the address and he said it was about 7 miles away. Good thing I didn’t walk. I gazed out the window at a beautiful summer day: It was 75 degrees, I smelled the sea in the breeze, and plenty of people strolled in beachwear. When I got to Jesper’s, the meter read 380 kronors. Savvy traveler I am, I had the exchange rate figured before I left; this, I knew, was roughly a $48.00 fare–a little pricey, but that’s what an NY airport fare goes for, more or less. “Oh,” I asked, “is it customary to tip a cabbie in Denmark?” The hack turned around, placing his arm on the back of the passenger seat, smiled broadly and nodded, “Ooh! Yeeees!” Ok, weirdo. I tipped him 20%: 76 crowns. He took the money and thanked me no less than five times. I got out and call Jesper, who bounced down his apartment’s staircase carrying a stack full of garbage. “Cousin!” We embraced while he was still holding the trash, which bounced against the back of my white-trousered knee. (More on those trousers, later.) “Welcome to Copenhagen!” The first thing he introduced me to, naturally, was his dumpster.

Upstairs on his balcony, he and I knocked back Carlsbergs–his noon was my six a.m. so I had the advantage (think after-hours)–and I asked him about the exchange rate: It’s 1:8, right? “No, no, it’s more like $1 is worth only 5 kronor. I’m more than sure, man.” I recalculated the fare on my phone and learn I just tipped $17 on a ~$70 cab ride that in NY would have only taken me from the top of Central Park to Houston Street. “Øøøøøøøøøøøøøøø fuck.” My cousin laughed, telling me people rarely tip in Denmark, and if you do, it’s only a couple crowns and even that goes a long way. I hadn’t even had a meal nor been there an hour and I was practically out one hundred bucks. I helped us to another round of Carlsbergs from Jesper’s fridge.

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I’ll continue this post and others about my trip throughout the week.–Peter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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