by Jim Provenzano - December 9, 2004
"All I wanna do is thank you, even though I don't know who you are; you who let me change lanes, while I was riding on my bike."
I'm sure the band Geggy Tah won't mind the slight change of lyrics in their song "Whoever You Are" as an intro to my write-up of the similarly good-spirited event, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's annual WinterFest, a fundraiser and party Dec. 5 that filled the SomArts space with hundreds of cyclists and their supporters.
Starting off with the efficient valet bike parking in the performance/gallery's outdoor area, attendees paid a nominal fee and (like me) finally joined the Bicycle Coalition, in part as mere thanks for all their years of work getting bike lanes on busy streets throughout San Francisco.
Perusing the main gallery's hundreds of silent auction items was made tastier with sandwiches provided by Left Coast Catering, and beer on tap, including the refreshing micro-brewed Fat Tire Beer, an appropriate name for such an event.
Bike parts, clothes, books, helmets and gear filled tables, as unusual art and cycling-inspired posters adorned walls, most of it getting several bids (I bought new brake pads for a mere $2 each.)
Pretty much every cycling-related shop in the Bay Area donated stuff, as did dozens of accomplished artists, local businesses and individuals.
Aside from the bike with a miniature Golden Gate Bridge, perhaps the most innovative wheeled wonder was the Byerley Bike Blender, a pedal-powered device that lets wheels make tasty dips and blended drinks. While most may not see the need for margaritas in traffic, the Bike Blender is available for parties and company events. People couldn't stop marveling at it and enjoying the hummus.
In the performance area, local circus acrobat company Circo Zero delighted an appreciative audience. Keith Hennessy sang about war and spun out an Alan Ginsberg poem, with local additions.
"Holy, holy, holy bike seat and butts on those seats, holy peace marchers, holy everybody," he chanted to cheers, as contortionist Jade-blue Eclipse showed off her body dexterity.
In the center, other performers swirled around in circular flight in a mesmerizing aerial duet. Then others hung from ropes held by audience members, symbolizing a rare trust in the midst of so much global suspicion.
Live auctions items were also impressive, including an Itzy Folding Bike (perfect for commuting during BART rush hours), a big Surly Long Haul Trucker bike with a Down Low Glow lighting system and an OnGuard Beast Chain lock (perfect for hauling lots of stuff, or even a few friends). These and other upscale bikes all garnered a few thousand dollars for the Bicycle Coalition.
An auctioneer in a stovepipe hat with a saucy demeanor ran the auction, while Circo Zero performers showcased the items with amusing flair.
"No, folks, that guy doesn't come with the bike," the auctioneer joked, as Circo Zero's Butterskotch outdid Carol Merrill in genderfreak style.
Among the celebrity live auctions were dinner engagements with mountain bike pioneer Joe Breeze and muralist Mona Caron. Both will share their innovations in conversations with the lucky winners of those prizes.
Among the other notable folks: District 5's Supervisor-elect Ross Mirkarimi, who sported a dashing trenchcoat.
A more unusual fashion statement was worn by Christine McQuiston and her partner Zoe Puckett. The two wore skirts made of bicycle tires! Avid bike commuters for years, the two have also ridden in Muscular Dystrophy bike fundraiser Waves to Wine to support that cause, and specifically, a friend who has MS.
Why all the accolades? Well, the cycling movement to me defines alternative culture at its most sensible, and epitomizes the best of San Francisco practical environmentalism. If not for those bike lanes, and the concept of cycling rights and awareness, yours truly, and thousands of others, might have been "doored" or floored by unaware auto drivers.
Members of the SF Bicycle Coalition work on issues facing all people, from the violations of Prop. J in Golden Gate Park (more roads for cars are not what they want), to ensuring a bike lane on the new version of the Bay Bridge.
Even riding home, I got to enjoy a virgin trek across the new stretch of street along the under-construction Hayes Valley Octavia Boulevard. Some of the old-fashioned streetlights were even working. All this because San Francisco, as wacky and strange as it may seem to outsiders and cynics, sometimes just simply works.
All I wanna do is thank you.
For more columns by Jim Provenzano, visit www.sportscomplex.org