Thursday, September 22, 2011

Critical Angst

For MOST participants, I think, last night's Critical Mass was an unqualified kick in the pants. According to the Hungarian news agency, MTI, about 30,000 people turned out, and the closing bike lift at Heroes' Square was one for the ages: Perched on the steps of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Budapest Festival Orchestra rewarded finishers with a short but sweet concert starting at 8 p.m. The selections included Tchaikovsky, Dvorák and Brahms.

Co-organiser Károly Sinka told MTI that it had been the best attended Car-Free Day Critical Mass ever. The free-style mode of organisation -- with no cordoned off parade route -- would be "the future" of the event, Sinka added.

My own experience of the ride was less of a success -- partly because there were just so many people this year. We got caught in a jam on the kiskörút and ended up missing the bike lift as well as the BFO's serenade. As I pulled up to the square, Maestro Iván Fischer was taking his bows before an ecstatic crowd, and wishing them "many car-free days." But having missed the performance, the moment was lost on me.

Things started out promisingly enough at the Feneketlen tó, as I finally got hold of some CM 2011 stickers to keep the series going on our refrigerator. Some other activists were passing out stickers for free-range eggs or something, and I got this snap of Lance in front of their giant pink chicken.

It was something to do with "bio" eggs or humanely produced ones or something along those lines.
We stopped in at the Transit cafe to check out a photo exhibition ("Me and my Bike"), and then we met some cycling acquaintances and settled in for a couple refreshments. Then time sort-of got away from us.

It was past 7 p.m. when we finally clamboured back onto our bikes and I knew we were cutting it close with the bike lift scheduled at 8. Sure enough, we got caught in one of the worst Critical Mass jams of all time. Honestly, I don't think it'd been that bad since the giant Critical Mass in the spring of 2008. You'd be in front of a traffic signal and sit there through four cycles of the light before finally getting through the intersection. (The irony of me complaining about a traffic jam that we deliberately set out to create is not lost on me. But damn -- I was getting nostalgic for the CMs of recent years, when there were enough of us to make an impression but not no so many that you couldn't move.)

Damn this traffic jam!
After creeping down the kiskörút for a half hour, Kristin suggested that maybe such a long exposure to traffic fumes (from cars, not us, obviously) wasn't the healthiest thing for our kids. And me, being the stubborn arse that I am, insisted on riding the thing to its conclusion. CM is evidently more important to me than protecting my kids from black lung. What kind of monster am I?

Sequoia was a good sport for awhile, but after we got past Szabadság Bridge,
she started to squeal.
At least Kristin, who was carrying Sequoia, did the right thing and bagged on it before the turn at Andrássy. Sequoia was getting crabby by that point anyway, so it was time to get her home. Lance was also getting crabby, but as he had the misfortune to be on my bike, he was stuck.

Restless Lance tries to frustrate my picture taking.
Poor guy. All of his suffering (and my stupid persistence) was for naught. By the time Lance and I got across Dózsa György and over to the museum's steps, the only evidence of the night's merriment were these empty seats and sheet music holders. We saw a couple musicians idling by with instrument cases over their shoulders, but no sign of Iván Fischer.

I bet that was an awesome concert.


Diana Fingal said...

Nice post, greg. And I remember that stubborn persistence.

Greg Spencer said...

Glad you liked the post. As far as my stubbornness goes, I didn't realize it predated parenthood!