On August 10, 2018, Richard “Beebo” Russell, an overworked, underpaid ground service agent at SeaTac, stole an empty Horizon Air Q400. After seventy-five minutes in the air, he crashed on a desolate part of Ketron Island in the south of the Puget Sound killing himself. There were no other casualties.
The mainstream media reported this incident as a security failure because Russell was an employee of Horizon Air and as an employee, he had cleared the security perimeter that day. Airlines were also addressing the possibilities for psychological evaluations for airline employees. They scrambled to cover any and all the security holes. Only the alternative press wanted to discuss the subject of Horizon Air’s horrible working conditions and the airline’s poor work culture and to suggest that maybe the dehumanizing working conditions could have contributed to Russell’s decision to steal the plane he did not know how to fly.
In 2013 Alaska Air Group (the parent company of Horizon Air) lead the fight to suppress the City of SeaTac’s $15 minimum wage increase. The result was a confusing patchwork of wage minimums–many of the workers on the ramp, like Russell, worked for less than a living wage while all the employees working inside the airport were at the new $15 an hour minimum wage. (To be fair, Horizon Air employees get free or discounted airline tickets, which Russell appeared to take advantage of. Whether he used his stock options benefit at a $12 wage is doubtful.)
While most of what Russell said when he was up in the air talking with air traffic controllers and pilots was about flying the plane, not wanting to land, and that he had vomited in the cockpit and felt light-headed, he did give a reason why he stole the plane: “Minimum wage, we’ll chalk it up to that. Maybe that will grease some gears little bit with the higher ups. Maybe, uh. Yeah.” He also called himself a “broken man.” That last comment could have come from somewhere other than his work, but other past and current employees empathized with him.
Former Horizon Air co-worker, and friend, Robert Reeves explained to KIRO-TV, that Russell was one of the hardest working people Reeves has ever met at the airlines. Reeves also said that they were overworked and underpaid. “As the years go by and they are expecting more and more and more out of you,” Reeves said. “You could be at the end of your shift but they still want you to go work another flight.” Coincidently, this is what happened to Russell at the end of his shift on August 10.
The airline industry used to be heavily regulated and unionized. Workers were respected. But after forty years of restructuring and cost-cutting workers are now treated with about as much respect as a screwdriver.
Jacobin Magazine’s Joe Allen interviews writer Todd Bunker, who worked with Russell at Horizon Air. Bunker wrote a guest editorial for the Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger. The short interview for Jacobin’s blog is linked below.
On August 10, a Seattle-area airport worker stole a plane and crashed it, killing himself. Because his working conditions were so miserable, his former coworker says in an interview, the act wasn’t a complete shock. Getty Images The US workplace produced another devastating act of worker violence on August 10, when Richard Russell stole a…
Mike, my now retired scooter mechanic, once told me, “Most of my customers have owned a bike (motorcycle) sometime in their past. They are usually the ones who later buy a scooter and stick with it. It’s the ones who started out on a scooter that usually step up to a bike.” I was inquiring of this dusty old Triumph parked among the scooters at the Barber’s Automotive, the place I used to go to get my Vespa serviced. Mike might have thought I was pining for something bigger, faster. I wasn’t. I was just curious. Even with its equal parts rust and dust, the old Street Twin still looked good–better than some bikes when they are on the showroom floor. But I am content being a scooterist, and yes, I have had motorcycles in my past, albeit that was forty years ago and none of them were Triumphs. I have to admit I have a love for Triumph motorcycles. Any model will do, but I have an affinity for Bonnies. Will I ever graduate to a motorcycle? I seriously doubt it. Perhaps, if I someday win the lottery and become obscenely wealthy and can have a mini version of Jay Leno’s garage. Then I can buy me a Bonneville. I would probably take it out about one-tenth of the time I ride. The other ninety percent of my riding time would be split between a half-dozen or so new and vintage Vespas and Lambrettas. Even with my Triumph’s low odometer value, it would hold a special place in my garage. The spot that would remind my guests and me that I’m man enough to straddling a Tramp, but confident enough in my sexuality to prefer riding scooters most of the time.
Not everybody understands my love of the scooter over the cruiser or the sportbike. While receiving a food delivery at home one Saturday afternoon about five years ago, I was going over the invoice with the driver. He was a formidable looking guy, over six-feet tall with forearms the size of my calves. He had on black jeans that had seen plenty of action, tucked into knee-high steel-toe, black boots, and a waffle thermal shirt I would call heather but don’t tell him that. The sleeves of the shirt were pushed up revealing some busy, thick black tats.
At one point he gazed over the motorcycles in my garage: a Kawasaki Vulcan 800 Classic cruiser, a Suzuki SV650 sportbike, and a Vespa GT200L scooter. He told me he had a Harley Hard Tail and rode with an MC (Motorcycle Club–I don’t remember which one). I swallowed hard knowing what was coming next. He asked me which bike was mine, implying, I’m sure, the cruiser or the crotch rocket. I told him the scooter was mine. I finished the self-castration by saying that my son rides the Kawasaki and my wife rides the Suzuki. “Oh come on, man!” He exclaimed backing up a half-step as if he was afraid some of my pussy would rub off on him. I wish I could remember exactly what he said next, but it had something to do with being a man and “representing” or something like that. As if I had a duty to let everyone know who had the stones in this house or on the road. Before the delivery was finished my son and wife can out to the garage dressed for a very rare weekend spin together. They mounted their rides and took off leaving the Vagina GT200L there with its cuckold owner and an intimidating, Harley-owning, truck driver. The guy then handed me the clipboard and shook his head in a half-mocking disgusting manner. This guy was what I would call a typical Harley rider or at least a typical motorcycle club member. He had a very narrow idea of how masculinity should be exhibited and that there is no room for a feminine element for anyone with a Y chromosome.
It’s true that Harley-Davidson has one-uped Triumph and all other motorcycles in the macho department when the manufacturer is closely associated with tough-looking MCs–especially the 1%ers, but in the youthful macho/stylish department, the Triumph is matchless. Hell, Paul Newman rode a Triumph, for Christsake! You know, the guy in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid who opted to pick apples with Katherine Ross rather than half sex with her. Triumphs have always conjured up youth, freedom, and a fair enough amount of machismo. “Tramps” as my dad and others used to lovingly call them are without a doubt the coolest motorcycles on the road. My father rode a Triumph, and so did my uncle–the sexiest, manliness man I ever met. I’m not sure about my uncle’s ride, to be honest. I’m saying he rode a Triumph for the story for convenient continuity, but my uncle may have actually ridden a BSA–which were nearly as sharp as Triumphs, but the now-defunct motorcycle company’s product has been relegated to vintage-bike collectors’ objects.) I can’t find any pictures of my dad and my uncle on their Triumphs. The only vision I have of that is contained in an 8mm home movie of my dad and uncle wearing their badass black t-shirts, Newport soft packs sticking out their breast pockets, cigarettes dangling from their lips as they manhandle their top-heavy thumpers through some dunes. Neither of them looked very graceful, but there is plenty of machismo between the two of them! A few years later my dad would get into two-cycle dirt bikes. He would show far more finesse in the dirt with these lighter bikes, winning himself an impressive trove of trophies to go with his boat- and car-racing trinkets.
Perhaps my dad and uncle got the idea to ride Triumphs from the movies–there sure were a lot of examples of cool guys riding them. My dad was in Marlon Brando’s and
James Dean’s generation who rode Triumphs on screen and (at least for Dean) off. But my dad seemed to have the highest degree of respect for Steve McQueen. McQueen raced cars and dirt bikes and in The Great Escape did virtually all of the tricky motorcycle work short of the famous jump and spill which. Due to insurance regulations, his off-road racing buddy Bud Ekins performed those stunts. The motorcycles used were not the historically correct BMWs, but more nimble Triumphs. McQueen indirectly sold a lot of Triumphs. Triumph Motorcycles Ltd. returned the favor and named apparel and even one of their motorcycle models after him.
So Triumphs are closely linked to men like James Dean, Steve “King of Cool” McQueen, and, on a personal level, my dad, and my uncle. I might enjoy riding a Triumph Bonneville, Scrambler, or Street Twin, but I wouldn’t be forwarding the brand any, and that’s okay. My love of Triumphs is more of unfulfilled love–a shiny object in the window I look upon from time to time with a distant longing. So, when I literally saw a gun-barrel grey Triumph Bonneville T1200 in the window of the store where I buy my calcium and vitamin D (pills I’d rather not take, but I need to because of my old age) the irony stung a bit. And, with return visits, it is the sting that kept on hurting.
First, it reminded me of how unobservant I am. I have been getting my supplements at that place for a couple of years now, and it wasn’t until about six months ago that I noticed the 450-pound motorcycle in the room. When I first started buying my supplements there, I immediately saw the bright-yellow Fuji road bike hanging very high in the shop. The shop’s owner gave me a reason he hung the pricey road bike in the shop, but I quickly forgot. That’s fine, I guess. I ride a hybrid and have never felt I needed a road bike, so my envy was checked. I’m such a selfish bastard that if I wanted a road bike, it would have drove me nuts looking at that nice bike up there every time I walked into the shop. He introduced himself as Gabriel and said he recognized me walking my dog in our neighborhood. (It turns out we live on the opposite ends of the same street.) During a later visit, I even noticed the yellow LeMond Fitness spin bike right next to the still unnoticed Triumph. I never asked him why his spin bike is in the shop. I would like to think if I had that bike in my house I would use it, but you probably know how that story goes, right? It would end up a coat rack. I could see Gabriel moving the LeMond out of his house and into a store that pushes pills and potions that are or claim to be beneficial for you–like regular workouts on a spin bike have proven to be. That would be a good sales hook. But it took me months of return visits to realize “The Bike of My Dreams” was less than two feet from that spin bike.
I don’t recall why Gabriel placed his Bonneville in the window. I know he gave me a reason because I shot him a heavily filtered version of, “What the fuck are you doing with a Triumph Bonneville in the window of a supplements shop? Are you crazy? You could be riding that Tramp to work every day. There’s free motorcycle parking right across the street, too!” Whatever the reason he gave me, I recall thinking the answer was grossly insufficient. He was especially nuts ruining the iconic logo on both sides of the gas tank by adding black decal lettering “Total Body Nutrition.” I also wanted to weep when I saw he added in decal lettering “Est. 2015” on both battery covers. Sacrilege!
While I could see he cared more about pushing Ginkgo biloba than riding his motorcycle I just felt pathetic. I was in this joint because my body is disintegrating and the stuff I needed from this shop was kind of the opposite of a Triumph Bonneville. The spin bike or the Fuji road bike would have been more appropriate window dressing for this kind of shop. The discovery of the motorcycle was a surprising slap in the face. Like going to see my doctor about my low T levels only to have Heidi Klum bust through the door on a black Triumph wearing sexy underwear and telling me, “I got your Testosterone test back. Not good. Poor little man. Well, I’ve got to go. I have a date with my boyfriend. He’s a stud, not like you.” and then peel out the door. When I was first diagnosed with Low T and requested hormone therapy, my doctor at the time (a man about ten years my senior) told me that we should “enjoy this phase of our lives. The eunuchs lived for a hundred years. They were happy people…”
In the meantime, I started seeing targeted online advertising for products like Nugenix, HighT, Steel Libido, T-Up, T-Blast, everything short of Mr. T. WTF? Did my HMO sell me out? I incidentally got the soft sell from Gabriel when, by accident, I bought a bottle of Vitamin B Complex, thinking it was my calcium fix. (Same company, similar box color, and design.) When I brought it back for an exchange, Gabriel tried to sell me on the stuff. “Are you sure you don’t want to keep it? You know B is the sex vitamin and for guys like us getting on in age we can use all the help we can get.” He also started in on the wonders of Zinc, Ginger, and stuff I doubt I could pronounce back to him if I gave a shit. I wanted to snap, “Hey, who’s the one treating a Triumph Bonneville T1200 like it was a box of ginseng tea?” I exchanged my unwanted Vitamin B for calcium and walked out glancing at the big, firm, erect, sexy, seemingly self-confident Triumph as I exited.
To be fair, adding the words “Low T” and “Overweight” as tags to this post will only intensify the targeted advertising. What can I say, it comes with the territory of being a whore for hits on my blog!
Some experts say that low T also brings on weight gain or is it difficulty losing weight. Yeah, I like that excuse! I am at one of my heaviest. I’ve long forgotten the post-marital epochs; times where I would mount the scale in my 53rd Street bathroom, my wife standing there to officiate the new high and offer support with a dash of criticism. I only remember one time when my youngest son was running around in diapers, and I knew the pregnancy and infancy of the new addition had brought on a lot of joy, but also a lot of food consumption especially late-night snacking. I also was becoming more sedentary than ever before. After the analog scale whirled like the tach on a revving Street Triple, the number rested on 222–like Room 222, the 70’s TV show that was a belated answer to To Sir With Love. I began sardonically humming the theme song during weigh times. The only correlation here was that I felt as big as a room. I would love to inform the reader that this was the all-time heaviest, but I only got out of the zone about four times in the twenty-five years that followed: two times after vacations when I weighed in at a whopping 235 and two times I somehow, some way dropped slightly below two centuries.
My relationship with Gabriel and supplements is not all frustration. There is also some hope, albeit most likely false. I like to think while walking the back aisle of the little store I will discover something that will be the cure to my ails including my chronic weight problem. You know, a shaft of light from the heavens shone on a golden box beckoning me to pick it up. Alas, it never happens, but on one sad day, feeling the waist of my jeans tighter than usual, I blurted out in faux humor, “Is there anything in your shop that will make me skinny?” God, did I just say that? Take it back, take it back! Shit, too late. If Gabriel were brutally honest his reply would be, “Yeah, these magic words: Eat Less, Exercise More” but he didn’t say that. “Hey, I’ve got something for you,” disappearing from the other side of the center aisle. I walked around the corridor with dread, expecting some herbal weight loss gimmick in a pill with green tea extract or cactus. He hands me a book. I sighed with relief (at least I wouldn’t feel pressured to buy refills.)
He first called the book a loaner, which was a drag. I didn’t want responsibility for the book. Whenever this happens, I visualize bringing back whatever was loaned to me looking like a dog’s chew toy or with a conspicuous coffee ring on it. It’s not that I treat other people’s property like shit, I just stress over the responsibility. I planned to take it back to my cube glance over it. Take a picture of the cover (in case I actually liked it) then returned it to Gabriel before I accidentally dump iced tea on it or something. Just before I left the store, he changed his mind and said I could have it. That was probably a business investment towards a regular customer, but Gabriel is really a nice guy despite my complaining here. Regardless of his motive, his change of heart changed things with me and the book. I tucked it under my arm and thanked Gabriel and took off before he started chucking ketones at me or some other diet “solution.” Outside of the shop, I glanced once again at the Triumph. What the fuck is that doing there. What is the connection between a classic motorcycle and green tea tablets? The more I want to look at that beautiful bike the more it frustrates me. And hey, I wasn’t this fixated on Tramps until I saw the motorcycle in the window. I’m sure (I hope) time will pass and I’ll ignore the window dressing and stop looking up Triumphs online and how much they cost (too much, by the way).
The book went from my armpit to my bag, then to the trunk of my bicycle. It wasn’t until I got home that I got my first good look at the cover: “You on a Diet” by Michael Roizen and [Dranatic silence here] Mehmet Oz. Dr. Oz?! The guy who is beloved by overweight housewives everywhere and hated by anyone who makes even the slightest attempt to research his latest “miracle” weight loss drug. The guy who, in 2016, was rightfully raked over the coals by Dean Heller and Claire McCaskill, among other U.S. Senators, during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing.
My wife has been railing against this guy for years for peddling snake oil. The fact that he is an M.D makes it far worse in her eyes. He’s in it for the cash, apparently. When my wife came home that night, I made the mistake of showing the book to her in the spirit of a joke. She wasn’t amused. After I told her about how I got it, she thought I should not patronize that store anymore. (I never got to the part about the Triumph in the window.)
Now nearly every time we are in a grocery store, she will point out the supplements section and tell me in a humorless tone, “You probably could get a better deal on your vitamins here.” Months after I showed her the book we were shopping at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. As we walked by what probably is the most expensive aisle of supplements in town she said, “Maybe you should buy your vitamins here.” Damn, women don’t forget! Yet I still buy my “bone pills” in Gabriel’s shop. I’m not sure why I’m loyal. I know there are a few places I could get cheaper pills while staying true to supporting independent shops. Maybe it is because we are neighbors and I want to avoid the awkward moments of running into him.
I finally got around to browsing the Dr. Oz diet book the other day. It is long-winded and speaks almost exclusively to women. I even looked up “Testosterone” and “Low Testosterone” in the index. (As stated above there is supposed to be some correlation between low T and weight gain.) No reference to Low T and only a few references to Testosterone, but exclusively on how it relates to women. I brought the book back to Gabriel, making sure to conceal the title on my walk to his shop to prevent any cracks like “It’s not working!” from any smartasses on the street who thinks a fat guy holding a book that says “Diet” on it is fair game. When I placed the book on the counter and said in so many words thanks but no thanks, it’s more of a diet book for women he understood. I then turned to the Triumph and asked why the iconic bike was in his shop window. He told me he is a collector of motorcycles. He has a couple Hondas one or two other bikes that I can’t recall and a Ducati. A Duck? Damn it: “the Ferrari of motorcycles.” He told me placing the Triumph in the window is for business purposes. He also added, “while the Triumph depreciates in bluebook value it increases in collector’s value because it’s a Triumph.” I wanted to scream, “Yeah, but it’s in the fucking window of a supplements store! Deface one of your lousy Hondas and put it up there among the tablets of fish oil, chromium, and Omega-3 Fatty Acid, but not your Tramp”! He continued that placing a motorcycle in the window is a tax write-off. “Macy’s and the other big department stores have been doing this for years and saving money.” Okay, so you’re a shrewd businessman, but Macy’s isn’t placing Triumphs or Ducati’s for that matter in their windows. (Well okay, I haven’t been to every department store in the U.S. Maybe some stores do, but they are faceless, impersonal corporations. You are a cyclist, man! Act like one!) He, apparently, doesn’t think of the bike the way that I do.
We continued to chat about motorcycles then he wanted to talk about our neighborhood and local real estate prices, how he recently set up a trust fund, and how trust funds are better than wills. He’s talking about death and I’m stealing glances at the gun barrel grey Triumph Bonneville T1200. He says he sees me walking my dog from time to time. “She’s slowing down now, isn’t she.” “Yes, my dog is a senior citizen, just like me,” I reply sadly. One day he might quit the elderly talk and I’ll see him riding a wheelie down our street on that Ducati of his. Or better yet, after freeing his Big Twin from its Protein Shake Purgatory, I’ll see him ride by my house (sands the advertising on the tank and battery covers) when I’m watering my lawn in my old-man shorts. Just a passing glance. Pull in the clutch and let’s hear that throaty rev! Yeah, that’s the Elixir of Life!
I’m the worst person you want on your debate team. A couple of years of Toastmasters didn’t make much of a dent in the problem. This person pitfall is made worse when the subject is politics in general and advocating socialism and criticising capitalism specifically. I get anxious, frustrated, angry when my listener thinks socialism won’t work here in the U.S. (presumably because it has never been tried and my listener does not have the imagination to seriously consider a society without the free market and the social architecture of capitalism). I lose my thread. Hell, I lose my thread nearly every time I tell one of my long-winded stories. Just ask the few friends I have who will attempt to hang on for dear life as I jump subjects like a train in a switching yard until someone asks, “What do cats have to do with California’s GDP?”
This brief piece from Kevin Drum’s column in Mother Jones’ website does a better job explaining how the Democratic Socialists of America want to change one aspect of health care.
I’ve been curious for a while about just what a democratic socialist really is. An FDR liberal on steroids? A Swedish style social democrat? I’m not very clear about this. Meagan Day clears things up for me: Here’s the truth: In the long run, democratic socialists want to end capitalism. And we want to do…
I have had some bad luck lately when it comes to commuting vehicles. My bicycle has been in the shop for two weeks with many problems to be resolved including replacing parts the shop does not have in stock. I made the fateful decision to surrender it to the shop thinking that I would always have my scooter to fall back on. Two days after handing over my bike I found that my Vespa had a flat back tire. My bad luck was compounded by my scooter mechanic not being able to fix my ride until the first week of August.
Lucky for me I come prepared! I have a stash of bus tickets I have been using while I have been in this state of congealed personal transport. It’s like the good ole days riding the bus in the morning. Jockomo, jockeying for the best possible seat as the bus begins to fill, upgrading my seats as the bus starts to empty. After getting an encouraging progress report from the bike mechanic, I was hoping that Friday (yesterday) would be the last day of taking mass transit to work. Standing at my bus stop, hearing the bus downshift to clear the hill in front of me, I knew I had a whole hour to burn until the next coach. I could have gone back home and made another cup of coffee and listened to another podcast or two, but instead, I looked at my phone, launched the Jump Bike app to see if there was a bike close by. There was–sort of. I walked to the closest Jump Bike.
In case you don’t know what a Jump Bike is I’ll let Wikipedia explain:
Jump Bike is a dockless electric bicycle sharing system operating in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. The bikes cost $2 for the first half-hour to rent (then 7¢ per minute) and are located using a companion smartphone app. They are neon red and weigh seventy pounds (32 kilograms). Each JUMP bike has a 250-watt electric motor which powers the front tire. JUMP employees swap out the battery packs every three days. At the end of a ride, the bikes have to be locked to a sidewalk bicycle rack. A pilot program began in February 2018, allowing certain users of the Uber app in San Francisco to access JUMP’s fleet of electric bicycles. Here’s the link: Jump Bikes.
Before the bright red electric peddled-assisted bikes were omnipresent in downtown Sacramento, there was the Tower Bridge Bike Share. I saw the white bikes parked on R Street as I rode into work every morning. I believe the fledgling company was bought out
by Jump Bike. There have been other bike share companies. When my wife and I were in London in 2011, there were plenty of ride-share bikes that we couldn’t use. (Damn chipless Yankee debit cards!) Barclays Cycle Hire (now Santander Cycles) nicknamed “BorisBikes” after former mayor and Brexit figure Boris Johnson, who launched the idea were everywhere. Currently, there are other ride-share bike companies in Northern California, but I think Jump Bike has a monopoly in Sacramento. LimeBikes can be rented in some Bay Area cities, and I am sure there are many other ride-share bike companies in America.
When Jump Bikes first came to Sacramento, my wife and I downloaded the app to our phones then drove around looking for two available bikes that were close together on a sunny Sunday afternoon. When we found two bikes across the street from one another, we reserved them. Wow, that was easy! (Beginners luck, I would realize later. Read on.) We rode around the California State University, Sacramento campus until we got the idea how the bikes work and handle. After we were satiated, we hooked them back up near our car. Wow, that is cool.
Quickly forgetting how uncomfortable the ride was compared to my Giant hybrid or my Vespa or, hell, a bench seat on public transportation, for that matter, I was kind of on a high thinking about our little ride on the red electric bikes. I also failed to ask myself, “Why do the bikes have to be electric? What does that buy the rider after the cheap thrill of the first ride?” But that wasn’t the point–it was an adventure. Still, when the euphoria would subside–and it eventually did–I had to ask myself what good the Jump Bike is to me, personally?
The only application I could see for me is riding a short distance in town (and a nonelectric bike would be just as effective and, ultimately, cheaper). This would be tested a couple of times. Each time I wanted to ride to 5-One-5 Market, a small grocery store/deli located in downtown Sacramento only ten blocks away from my office. I’ve been walking there once a week since it opened its doors in May to buy lunch fixings and to treat myself to lunch at the deli, sit back and enjoy a meal out once a week. If I took a Jump Bike there or take one coming back to the office that would cut down on travel time and considering it’s summer in Sacramento and the walk in 90 degree-weather invariably makes me sweaty, a Jump Bike would come in handy. Each time I eyeballed one of those red bikes or found one on the app close enough to make it worth my while the bikes were reserved. No biggy; if walking both ways to the market was time prohibitive I wouldn’t have done it or brought it up here. So I walk. Anyway, I usually ride a bike to work so why not ride that? This was just a test, remember. Later, I would find out I was not alone in this problem. Other people I know wanted to use these bikes often to find they were reserved by someone else.
The idea of commuting to work (or back) on a Jump Bike seems indulgent–but I almost did it a few days ago, anyway. Someone in my neighborhood decided they didn’t want to respect Jump Bike’s boundaries and rode one to their house about a third of a mile south of the thick red line on Jump Bike’s GPS screen. I nearly walked over there but thought better of it before my bus came and picked me up. Then, as I stated above, I missed my bus last Friday–I mean I was twenty feet away from my bus stop and the bus shot by. So, I ended up weighing my options: sit around for about fifty more minutes and catch the next one or walk to the closest Jump Bike and ride the Big Red Bike in.
I don’t live within Jump Bike’s Sacramento sphere, so I had to hoof it to the closest bike; about 2.3 miles. Not ideal, but at the time I guessed I’d make it into work faster that way than sitting around for the next bus. It’s absurd that any metropolitan mass transit system has buses that run only once an hour during rush hours, but that is the reality here in Sacramento with our Regional Transit District.
So I walked over two miles to the nearest Jump Bike reserving it when I got within .2 miles. When I arrived at the red electric peddle-assist bike I enter my PIN, the U-lock pops free, I dropped the U-lock in its holder, my bag in the big red handlebar basket and start peddling. I turned onto Riverside Boulevard–a busy and occasionally dangerous street for both bicyclists and motorists. Immediately I felt the thrill of the new bike/service dissipate. I was now doing calculations on my way to work: Why is this lug on wheels so damn heavy? Well, there’s a computer onboard to assist the customer and to track the company’s asset. This isn’t your bike, by the way! But did they have to make the product electric peddle-assist? No, but it sure helps to lug the ponderous piece of shit around, doesn’t it? Circular thinking!
I rode 2.5 miles. I wondered how long the average Jump Bike ride for Sacramento customers is? If it is over two miles it is a rough two miles if it is under I have to reiterate, why does the Jump Bike have to be an electric peddle-assist bike? Those lonely and ill-fated Tower Bridge Bike Share bikes would have been ideal. There needed to be a lot more of them and a lot more publicity (and for God’s sakes, any other color but white. Who wants to ride what looks like a ghost bike. It’s as if you are asking for it!).
Of course, one could ask why is there a demand for the Jump Bike. I wouldn’t have thought there would be such a demand for the fancy bike until they arrived now the red bikes are all over downtown. Perhaps the answer can be found in the rise in popularity in ridesharing and smartphone applications. A few hours of this posting my wife and I were toggling between an A’s vs. Giants game (A’s won in extra innings!) and a Cubs vs. Cards game (alas my wife’s Cubbies lost). She looked at her Jump app at least two times commenting on how close a couple of Jump Bikes were. We were in for the night. She had no interest in going for a ride at 9p.m. Still, I wanted to ask her if she had an app that located her Cannondale EVO forty feet away in our garage. She won’t have found that funny. Seriously though, why do we get so excited about this stuff–especially when there are more straightforward solutions already available? I want to revisit the Jump Bike phenomenon a year from now to see if the fascination is still there; will the streets of downtown Sacramento have more or less of the big red bikes? One happy ending (beginning) to this is the Jump Bike encourages more people to buy and ride bikes. Somehow, I don’t think bicycling has much to do with the rage. I just had s shudder: would if the evildoers at Uber creates a fake event like “June (or some other month besides May) Is Jump Month.” God, shoot me!
I’m not trying to make too close a comparison between Jump Bike and its parent corporation–Jump Bike doesn’t exploit worker insecurity. I don’t think any struggling cab drivers will be hanging themselves thanks to Jump Bikes. Nor do I think bus drivers will lose bargaining power thanks to those red bikes. I just can’t fully appreciate the business model. The first time I had the Jump Bike Experience (tracking a bike down via my smartphone, performing the transaction, riding the peddle-assist two-wheeler, and locking it up damn near wherever I choose), it was exciting. And that’s precisely because it was the first time–it was new, novel, fresh. The second time I rode a Jump Bike, it was uncomfortable and inefficient. I thought up a bunch of improvements to the thing, first one losing the wasteful electric peddle-assist feature, but I suppose that and the app are the hooks.
Last night I received a call from my neighborhood bicycle shop. My commuter bike was ready to go. Actually, I need a new derailer, but that’s being shipped, so they asked me if I wanted to pick up my bike now with the option of replacing the derailer on the spot when the new one comes in. It had been two weeks without my bike and one week without my scooter. Hell yes. From work, I took the trolley to the station only a couple of blocks away from the shop, paid the bill, and rode my bike home. A much better ride.
As I peddled back to the house I wondered, if I didn’t have my own bicycle, if I lived a little closer–inside Jump Bike’s area of service, and if missed my bus would I ride a Jump Bike in? No. There are too many ifs in the above situation. The Jump Bike is a desperate last resort. I can always have another cup of coffee at home.
I like coffee. I probably average about two to three cups a day. I’m not a connoisseur: my tastes are wide-ranging–I’m not too picky. I prefer higher quality beans prepared expertly at high-end coffee houses, but I don’t mind drinking my wife and son’s more common beans from Peet’s or Peerless. The brewing systems are wide-ranging as well: pour over, French press, drip which I order at Temple Coffee Roasters I frequent; immersion drip, which I use at work; drip via Mr. Coffee and even (don’t hate me) Keurig I use at home usually with more pedestrian beans.
I do aspire to drink from only the best coffee beans though my domestic situation makes it hard to stick to top-shelf beans unless I buy my own, and I don’t want clutter up my freezer with an additional bag of grounds just for me. Also, I am too lazy to grind my coffee as I go so when I buy my gourmet coffee beans for my immersion drip system at work and have them grind the beans: convenience at the expense of degrading the quality of premium beans, I know, but making coffee via immersion is time-consuming enough. Add grinding and my entire break is consumed by the making of a single cup of joe.
So I think I have rammed home the fact that my taste is not impeccable. I might pick Folgers over the finest Esmeralda Geisha in a cupping, and maybe I wouldn’t mind if I did. I don’t buy the higher grade for the taste–though I always feel like I am drinking excellent coffee when I fork out the extra coin for it. I buy the stuff because it is Fair Trade, and yea, I feel like I’m not drinking shit that has been sitting around in some warehouse forever.
Then I read Dave Eggers excellent The Monk of Mokha, about Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a twenty-four-year-old Yemeni-American hotel doorman and coffee lover who leaves San Francisco and travels to his ancestral homeland to tour terraced farms high in the country’s rugged mountains. It is there he meets the beleaguered but determined coffee farmers. When civil war breaks out and engulfs the nation, Alkhanshali smuggles himself and some of Yemen’s beans with him. Like the other books by Eggers I have read, The Monk of Mokha is a page-turner featuring three main characters: Alkhanshali, some priceless coffee beans, and the coffee farmers of Yemen. A while later, Alkhanshali creates Port of Mokha, Inc.
But what about the coffee?
I ordered the four-ounce bag of “Al-Jabal Single Farmer Lot 7” beans from the Port of Mokha website for $45. (FYI: Google translates Al-Jabal as “Sea of the Mountain.”) When the product arrived, it came in a fashionable lime-peel green box with a stylish foldout of the Port of Mokha story, mission, and plenty of pictures of the homeland with Alkhanshali in most of them. There is also preparation instructions (see below), and the beans in an elegant vacuum bag and a band with the terraced farm on it.
As mentioned above, at home I usually either brew my coffee via an automatic drip, or I use a Keurig. For this cupping; however, I am going to hand-brew this cup of “Al-Jabal” to control the water, dose, and brewing. Not all steps in this cupping use best practices of handmade pour over brewing, but it’s better than dumping the grounds in mein Herr. Kaffee!
Usually, tap water is good enough for my goose-neck kettle, but this night I opted for bottled water. Optimally, one should use purified water. We never got around to installing a filter, so it’s straight City of Sac Tap.
As stated above, the coffee comes with instructions for five popular brewing methods. I don’t have any of these methods, but Chemex is the closest to my plastic cone. Yeah, I know, I should be using a ceramic cone. (Hey, is that a hair on the instructions? Eww!) Per the two notes at the bottom of the instructions, I am grinding as I go for this cupping though this humble philistine usually asks for his expensive beans to be ground before he buys them. Too, he will commence with the pour over directly after the water comes to a boil. He’s not going to mess with a thermometer.
Yeah, I know, it’s not a burr grinder. I didn’t buy it.
Perhaps a little too fine, but it will have to do.
Fold my #4…
And pour the grounds. I didn’t catch any of the grounds dropping in the filter. I need a third arm, damn it!
The same goes for the blooming and brewing processes.
The pour over process time took around two and a half to three minutes. I’m sure I got the volumes correct, but that seems like a small amount. Perhaps it is my giant mug.
After doing the math, it comes to a little less than $6 a cup, which was less than I initially thought when the 4 oz bag costs $45.
So, how does it taste? Hmm, in aroma it’s delicate but high-toned, richly sweet. I sense caramelized apple, honeysuckle, baker’s chocolate, tangerine zest, frankincense. In taste: a balanced structure with bright, juicy acidity; buoyant, syrupy mouthfeel. The deeply sweet, flavor-laden finish leads with notes of cacao nib and honeysuckle in the short and rich frankincense with hints of bittersweet citrus zest in the long. Ha ha ha. I hope I had you going for a while! Fifty years of food laced with hot peppers, horseradish, wasabi, hot Chinese oil, and all kinds of Mexican hot sauces have dulled my pallet. I really cannot describe the coffee I just sipped other than to say it’s tasty, acidy, full-bodied, but that could represent hundreds of coffees when prepared correctly or at least made as well as I could with the tools at hand–including less expensive beans.
I am drinking black coffee more and more these days. This is mainly because of how pour overs are presented at my favorite coffee house: in a Hario v60 Range Server and a cupping bowl–that holds less than six ounces of coffee–delivered on a tray. To add cream to my pour over would mean walking over to the station every few minutes to add my dairy. The first time I ordered a pour over, I nearly asked for a cream dispenser and then thought this might be a good time to learn how to enjoy coffee without cream–the way my two ex-barista sons drink it.
Also, while reading Eggers’ book, I decided I would take coffee drinking even more seriously and drink the stuff black each time I made or ordered a cup. As I write this, I am almost exclusively a black-coffee drinker, reserving the right to adulterate the brew when the swill is too bitter for me to take straight.
Recently, I started buying an extra bag of coffee in bean form and–when convenient–started grinding coffee as I needed it and using the pour over method. I have also bought a few new gadgets, and I am checking out some more. Recently, I signed up for a Palate Development & Tasting class at Temple Roasters. If things go as planned, I will be an insufferable snob to my friends and family alike!
My friend and fellow blogger Chip told me as we were driving out of Downtown Sacramento last Wednesday night that the taco stand we were passing served his favorite hamburger. I looked at the sign as we drove by, Taqueria Jalisco. His statement and the stand’s name were incongruent. Did he mean his favorite Torta? Nah, if he said the hamburger, he meant it. Anyway, there are plenty of ethnic restaurants that serve other types of food.
As it turns out, Taqueria Jalisco states it is a Mexican and American food restaurant. When I pulled up to the stand the following Saturday it as much right on the sign, I just couldn’t see it when we were going past it at forty miles an hour. The menu didn’t have very many American-style items, but it did feature five different hamburgers. None of them exotic: Burger, Cheese Burger, Bacon Cheese Burger, Double Cheese Burger, and Pastrami Cheese Burger.
I ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger (I can’t handle the parsing!), along with fries, and a Diet Coke. Unless I missed it, their french fries are not on the menu. I did find Carne Asada Fries and wondered if they are as good as the Flaming Grill Cafe’s offering, but didn’t want to go there today.
Someone told me Taqueria Jalisco sells the only real tequila in town. I don’t drink and when I did, I only had one shot of tequila and that was enough! I don’t know what”real” tequila is–I’ve seen enough bottles of the stuff and have never seen a label that said “fake tequila,” “imitation tequila,” or “synthetic tequila.” I asked a drinker of the stuff, and he told me Taqueria Jalisco serves Tequila Tapatio, Casamigos Reposado, and Cazadores Reposado. My drinker continued, “Like champagne, true tequila is made only from fermented blue agave. Unlike champagne, tequila isn’t specific to any one region, as agave plants are fairly hardy.” He also sent me this nugget of Mexican trade law: “Mexican laws state that tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco and limited municipalities in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.” So, I got educated on something that I really don’t care about and I question whether anyone who reads this post cares, as well. Aside from tequila, the joint also serves Irish whiskey, various alcoholic drinks, Voss, that ridiculously over-priced Norweign spring water, and fountain drinks, like the Diet Coke I’m drinking. Okay, enough of the booze interlude. On with the review of the burger.
Taqueria Jalisco’s Bacon Cheeseburger consists of what I believe to be a 1/3 lb. beef patty, cheddar cheese, bacon, mayonnaise, Thousand Island dressing, lettuce, tomato, pickles, on a “specialty bun.” If it sounds pedestrian, I would typically be with you, but wait until you taste it. The beef has a high-fat content (translation: it is juicy and flavorful).
Sure, there isn’t anything ground-breaking or experimental: no Gruyere cheese, no smoked paprika, no cilantro aioli, and the burger isn’t topped with a fried eye. And while I don’t think it matches Scott’s Burger Shack’s Fat Boy–another not-so-fancy burger that hit’s it out of the park–it is an excellent traditional burger. This burger is the kind of you would be served in a small backyard barbecue hosted by someone who really loves the traditional hamburger, loves it big, and doesn’t skimp on the ingredients (though I wonder why no onions). The bacon looked and tasted like the buyer bought it for himself–he didn’t skimp! It was thick, not fatty, and probably not cheap. The bun–specialty or not–was rugged enough to not dissolve by all the juices. There are fancier burgers available in Sacramento, but this was one of the best at least in the None Designer Catagory. (Yeah, I just made that up.)
Finally, a word about the fries. I didn’t ask the guy at the window, but the fries seemed to be battered. They had that crunchiness that is reminiscent of the way Cod, or Calamari is prepared at a good fish and chips place. I love these kinds of fries. There was no need for ketchup.
I will definitely return to Taqueria Jalisco–it is close enough to my house I can get my family in on this. The dilemma is, do I try the Mexican food that looks so good (street tacos!) or maybe I order the bacon cheeseburger again. Decisions, decisions!