I am suddenly invited to take a hard look at a set of values I have long held dear, as my professional landscape continues to evolve and expand. For some people it's about what they eat, or where (and by whom) their clothes are made. For me, it's about how I get around. And if I am to expand my professional opportunities it is becoming clearer than ever that I will have to travel more often. That means I have to consider the way I get from place to place.
I cannot avoid air travel, and yet every fiber of my being rebels against the possibility that there will be more, not less, air travel in my life as my professional opportunities expand. The fact is that in many cases, bus or train travel will simply not be practical for getting to some gigs. I wonder if the other compromises I can make -- traveling by bicycle in my destination city, or staying within walking distance of the gig -- will make any meaningful difference; or if I am deluding myself and will have to confront the ugly truth of how big a footprint my career evolution will make.
As someone who, for decades, has espoused the ideal of reducing my hypermobility, of living more locally as well as simply, I am now facing the prospect of more air travel than ever before. Synagogues want to fly me in, not once or twice a year, but in one possible scenario, twice a month for a whole year! That amount of air travel changes the equation, and forces me to look at just how "sustainable" a life I can still make for myself if I keep following this dream.
The fact is that I cannot make the dream happen if I only do this work in Portland. I have to take out-of-town gigs in larger Jewish communities, because Portland's Jewish community is simply not large enough to provide me with enough employment -- or with the professional development and training that I so badly want and need to grow my skill set further. My partner and I are not willing to permanently relocate -- our lives and families and community are deeply rooted here. So when opportunities for out-of-town gigs arise, I have to look at them seriously. And that means I also have to look at my values about transportation and personal choice.
I have no easy answers right now. But clearly I'm going to have to look very closely at some values I've held dear for a long time, and hold them up against the dream I want so badly to follow now. How much more am I harming the world around me by following a dream that requires more unsustainable travel? Who will I be if I make certain, seemingly necessary compromises? And what will my life be about?
Seen last night on my way home, at corner of NE Ainsworth and MLK in Portland:
After I shared it on my Facebook page last night, a friend immediately responded, saying she had seen the beautiful moon but was driving and could not stop. She thanked me for taking the picture.
She was driving and could not stop.
Well, that is sort of my point sometimes, as to why I choose to ride a bicycle.
Because I am always traveling slowly enough that if I want or need to stop, I can. And do.
I felt a little sorry for my friend, and for all my friends who cannot stop because they are driving cars.
In other news, There's a very thoughtful article over at Bikeportland.org about the state of Portland's bicycle landscape these days: http://bikeportland.org/2014/05/13/something-has-gone-wrong-in-portland-105851
Frankly, now that I've done and experienced so many aspects of the scene, all I want to do these days is ride my bicycle, slowly enough that I can stop and admire the world whenever I want.
In a couple of weeks I'll be heading to a monthlong musical residency in Kansas. It had been in my contract that I was supposed to be able to bring a bicycle with me but now they don't want to pay for the shipping (it would've been one-way and I would've left the bike there), so I've been asked to accept the loan of a bike from someone there. I made it clear that the bike would have to fit me or else there would be problems. Bikes are not one-size-fits-all like cars, after all; and the loaner they provided me with last summer was so small it hurt my knees for weeks after I came home.
I have been assured that this year they will get me a bike that fits. I have decided that, with everything else going on with this gig, this is not the hill I need to die on. So the blue bike is staying in Portland.
I don't know if I will keep it or sell it.
Also, I have decided to sell my BStone racing bike. I don't race anymore, and getting out to the woods to go off-roading without a car is impossible. I haven't ridden it since the snowstorm in February, and while that was fun, it was also dicey going and not something I'm likely to repeat. So I need to sell it. So far, no bites on craigslist. I may put it on eBay this week and see what happens. If it sells I'd have time to ship it before I leave for Kansas.
Riding has been challenging this spring. The medication the doctor switched me to (for Crohn's) is not working. They don't make the stuff I used to take anymore. So now I am waiting to see what other options I have that the state insurance plan will pay for. (OHP doesn't like helping people like me with chronic, incurable conditions.) Meanwhile, I am getting up in the middle of the night to move my bowels because the meds aren't working to manage my symptoms enough for me to sleep through the night. So I have less energy and am relying on the bus more and more. That gets expensive as well as demoralizing. Yesterday I rode to all of my lessons and errands, and I enjoyed the warm wather and sunshine but by the time I got home I was pretty tired. I slept badly and this morning I didn't feel rested when I woke up. I hope something changes soon.
Bikelovejones lives the bicycle life in Portland, Oregon: car-free since 1990, she gets around town by a combination of bicycle and transit, occasionally towing her guitar to gigs with an old kiddie trailer. After two decades in the bicycle industry as a shop owner, mechanic and purchaser, she retired to pursue other creative projects. She still keeps a hand in bikey things by taking in repairs and tune-ups by appointment at her own tiny workshop; and by volunteering her mechanical services at bicycle races and citizen events like Sunday Parkways. Beth is also the driving force behind a little project called Refugee Bikes; she collects donated adult bikes and accessories, tunes them up and hands them off to an organization that helps newly-arrived refugees learn their way around Portland. If you live in PDX and want some experienced, very affordable mechanical love thrown at your bike -- or you want to help Beth's Refugee Bike Project keep moving along, drop a line here.