Hey there, Bixi Boy, flying through the air so fancy free

Posted in Uncategorized on August 2, 2010 by drawesomeness

I will always be a Bixi Boy.

Like every great idea, Bixi is simple yet ingenious. It is a public bicycle sharing system in which users can take a communal “Bixi” bike from one of hundreds of docking stations (each station containing about a dozen slots for bikes) scattered throughout Montreal’s core, ride it to their destination, and drop off the bike at another docking station. It costs $5 to use the system for a period of 24 hours, $28 for 30 days, or $78 for 1 year. Monthly and annual subscribers are given a special key to unlock bikes from docking stations. The first 30 minutes of each ride is free. If you haven’t docked your bike within those first 30 minutes you are charged a nominal amount ($1.50) for going overtime. However, if you are going a long distance you can ride for 30 minutes and then drop off your bike at a station and take a new one for the next 30 minutes and so on (a practice known as “leap frogging”). And if a docking station is full you can enter the code on your key to gain an additional 15 minutes. It’s basically public transit on bikes. And it’s very popular. Montreal was the first city to launch the project in May 2009 and since then the system has expanded from 3,000 bikes and 300 stations to more than 5,000 bikes and 400 stations.

At first I was wary. The practicality of the whole thing was lost on me.

“Why would people use such a system? Why wouldn’t they just use their own bikes?” I asked, incredulously.

“True. I think you should use your own bike, Will,” replied La Belle Fille.

“I don’t have a bike,” I snapped. “Hmmm, I don’t have a bike…Ok, how much is it?”

The beauty of the Bixi system is that it gives you the freedom of being a bike owner without the responsibility. The best part is when you would like to take your bike somewhere but would prefer to leave it at your destination and use a different form of transportation for your return trip. Want to ride your bike to the Bell Centre downtown (much faster and cheaper than driving and parking), get shitfaced at a Habs game, and then take a cab home? No problem, Bixi it bud! Your Bixi has a flat tire? Who cares – drop it off at the nearest station and take a different one! A car smashed into your Bixi while you were putting on your helmet? Hakuna matata! Shove that mangled Bixi back into the docking station, bid adieu to the driver, and slink off without a care in the world! Bixi means no worries!

Actually, it wasn’t always that way. Although it’s neat to know that I was one of the very first users of this creative initiative which has now expanded to several other cities worldwide, I felt more like a lab rat in a poorly planned experiment when Bixi first launched. I think the creators of Bixi assumed that they would set up the stations, load them up with bikes, and watch the money roll in. Unfortunately, that was not the case at all. Bixi started out as a veritable clusterfuck because they seemed to launch it without really testing it or thinking whatsoever about any potential problems. It’s like serving a new food item at a restaurant without trying it first (“Everyone who has ordered this dish says it tastes like purified monkey anus and they’re getting violently ill. Perhaps we should have thought about using less monkey anus. Or maybe chicken would have been better. Whoops.”).

Their marketing slogan was, “Bixi is rolling it out big time.” It should have been, “Bixi is fucking shit up big time.”

The first major problem was poorly designed docking stations. There was a cheap plastic piece located on each slot where the bike tire is locked in. If this piece of plastic was damaged or removed, the slot of the docking station could not lock a bike, rendering it useless. This wouldn’t be such a problem if people weren’t dicks. But it seems that a contingent of vandals took it upon themselves to destroy as many of these pieces of plastic around the city as possible. If you inspected each station you could see tiny bits of plastic lying on the ground underneath slots where the plastic piece had been shattered as if someone came along with a hammer and literally smashed each exposed slot, presumably while screaming, “Goddamn, Bixi! SMASH! Offering an affordable and convenient form of transportation! SMASH! Helping reduce fuel emissions and greenhouse gases! SMASH! Not negatively affecting my life in any way whatsoever! SMASH!”

As more and more slots were destroyed, there were fewer and fewer places to return your Bixi bike. One day I returned home from work to find that all 12 slots at the docking station next to my apartment were destroyed and I had to seek out five other docking stations before I found a viable spot. It was like a twisted game of musical chairs where there were fewer open spots than actual bicycles.

Eventually they solved that kafuffle by reinforcing each slot with material that was actually stronger than knockoff Lego pieces. However, a logistical oversight related to wonky Bixi-docking station ratios led to even more problems. As more and more Montrealers decided to use the Bixi system to commute downtown everyday, it was no longer viable to simply rely on the natural flow of Bixis from the outskirts to downtown every morning and a complementary reversal at quitting time. By 8:00 AM each morning, there were virtually no bikes left on the outskirts and by 8:30 AM there were no slots left to put them downtown. People were starting to leave for work at 7:00 AM just to get their Bixi fix. Can you imagine – Bixi was making people work longer hours! Something had to be done!

One morning I grabbed the last remaining Bixi at the station closest to my apartment (a stone’s throw away from my front door). I rode it to the station nearest my office and found that all the slots were full. No problem – I’ll just go to the next one, I thought to myself. Downtown there are tons of stations. Many are not much more than a block apart. Well, I rode around to no less than 20 stations and there was not one slot available. I must have looked like a crazy person that day because I was erratically cycling around downtown cursing up a storm. At one point I came across another disgruntled Bixi rider at a full station. He scanned the occupied slots and heaved an irritated sigh. The deranged look in his eyes said it all. “I’m never using this fucking bullshit ever again,” he asserted. There was a strange and disturbing calm to his tone that suggested he was on the brink of committing Bixi hara-kiri which I imagine would entail him lifting the Bixi bike over his head, hurling it into the middle of traffic, and walking away. Luckily, I hadn’t gone that far over the edge. I silently rode away, determined to find my slot. Eventually, I found it – about two blocks from my apartment and starting point, a mere two hours after my original trip began. Shit. And I still had to walk all the way to work. What a pointless exercise.

So once again, Bixi riders were thrown into a frustrating game of musical Bixi, aimlessly wandering the streets of downtown Montreal trying to find a place to park or trying to find a bike to ride. It took a while but the Bixi people finally realized that they had to be proactive by continually shifting bikes from high-demand areas to low-demand areas at key times throughout the day using flatbed trucks. They also expanded the size of many docking stations which further eliminated supply and demand issues.

With the major problems ironed out, the introduction of Bixi systems should go much smoother in other cities. However, you can bet Chuck in Boston is oblivious to the fact that he’s readily able to find a docking station in front of his local clam chowder join because a city full of short-tempered Quebecois went through some infuriating Bixi growing pains.

By now, I’ve fully embraced my Bixi identity. I love the Bixi bike. It’s so bad.

During the winter months I couldn’t wait for the spring reopening of the Bixi stations. Each Bixi commute turns my 30-minute slog to work into a 10-minute pleasure ride. Oh the wind in my face! The exhilaration of zipping by idle cars stuck in traffic as I hug the curb along Des Pins, hoping not to get doored during my descent down the hill. What a rush! And I’ll never forget the time I had the opportunity to ride the mythical 8-speed Bixi – a suped-up version of the standard 3-speed model that had achieved legendary status in Bixi circles. I didn’t believe it actually existed until seeing it with my own two eyes – much like when I saw Sasquatch for the first time.

I’m also fond of the unique brother/sisterhood among Bixi users. When we see the distinct form of another Bixi bike approaching on a narrow street, we exchange knowing nods as we pass. Cordial banter is known to break out at docking stations as one Bixi rider drops off a bike and another takes one out.

“How’s she running?” an approaching user might ask someone in the midst of slotting up their bike.

“Oh, she’s a real beaut! Grips are intact. Brakes are responsive. Bell sound is crisp without being obnoxious. 3rd gear is a bit like quicksand but 2nd will knock your socks off. Go easy on her.”

It’s also not uncommon to hear bystanders shout out, “Bixi!” when you pass them on the street, particularly during weekend evenings when drunkards congregate on Plateau stoops and balconies. There’s something about the Bixi that intrigues, that inspires. Everyone loves Bixi.

I took my first Bixi ride in May of 2009. That makes 14 months as a Bixi Boy (minus 5 restless winter months when the system is inactive). On the Bixi website you can log in and look at your account info. It keeps track of all sorts of stats related to your Bixi usage. Here’s a summary of my Bixi career:
Number of trips: 329
Usage time: 47 hours
Distance traveled: 564 km
Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions: 141 kg
Gas saved: 39 L

Last Friday, I took my final Bixi voyage when I pedaled home from work. I cherished those final few strides as I coasted towards the docking station and gently glided into the slot where my Bixi locked into place, thus officially ending my Bixi adventure. When my bike locked, I heard the familiar “bee-boop” and watched as the green light above the docking slot flashed, indicating another successful trip. Typically I’d take the bee-boop and green light to mean, “Great work, Will! You’ve done it again! Can’t wait for your next Bixi trip!” But today it meant something entirely different. Today, it was as though Bixi was saying, “Bee-boooooooop. Awwww, Willy. This can’t be over! We were so good together. Please, don’t leave!”

But unfortunately, I must leave. I’m eastward bound – moving to Halifax. I only have two weeks left in Montreal. My Bixi subscription ended on the last day of July so it was my final Bixi journey.

I suppose it wasn’t just the end of Bixi that I was mourning when my bike locked into place. In actuality, that “bee-boop” signaled the end of an era – the end of Will in Montreal. I wasn’t just grieving the loss of Bixi, I was grieving the loss of an entire city.

And that’s what made that final moment on the Bixi bike so difficult. The moment overwhelmed me. Let’s face it – the moment was so much bigger than me. So I took my time. I sat on that Bixi bike, nestled in its locking station and I wept. I wept like an adolescent boy whose favourite My Little Pony was being taken away. Forty-seven minutes later, when I pulled myself together (and a nice young lady kindly asked if I was actually using the last bike in the docking station), I finally dismounted the Bixi and shuffled off to my apartment.

It’s hard to let go. But in my heart, I will always be a Bixi boy.

Mike Fagundes is….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 19, 2010 by dentald

Munsch Ado about Nothing…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 21, 2010 by dentald

I believe that I much like most children of this generation grew up hearing the children’s tales of one Robert Munsch.  Love you Forever, The Paper Bag Princess are books that I loved hearing as a child, timeless classics that will live on, retold and reread to our children’s children.  Given this I have to admit I was a little shocked when it was revealed earlier this week that  this beloved author of children’s books has been diagnosed as obsessive compulsive and manic depressive, conditions that led him to “make some big mistakes.”

The big mistakes?  Cocaine and alcohol addictions! I am shocked!  Honestly if you had told me to pick any children’s author from my youth who had been hooked on drugs and alcohol, lets just say…in that fictional draft I’m taking this guy first overall:

Even more shocking is this tasty little tidbit.  “He has been battling these addictions through various 12 step programs for over 25 years.”  Holy Schnikies!  Twenty five years?  That would put his start time at recovering from these addictions at around 1985.  If I’ve learned anything from A and E it is that a person is often addicted for a very long time before they ever seek treatment.  His first book Mud Puddle was published in 1975.    I think this calls for us to revisit some of his works to see if there were ever any clues.

We’ll start with this classic  The Paper Bag Princess

Per Wikipedia:

Princess Elizabeth plans on marrying Prince Ronald, who is practically perfect. However, a dragon arrives who destroys her kingdom, kidnaps Ronald, and burns all her clothes so that she has no choice but to wear a paper bag. Elizabeth follows the dragon and Ronald, and seeking to rescue her fiancé, challenges the dragon to burn forests with fire and to fly around the world. The dragon completes the tasks but after flying around the world a second time becomes tired and falls asleep. Elizabeth rescues Ronald, who is ungrateful and tells her to return when she looks more like a princess. Elizabeth realizes that she is better off without Ronald and sets off into the sunset to live her own life.

Alright.  Where do I even Start?  First you have a person who has been dealt a horrific personal setback.  Then they find the only insulation from the real world is inside a paper bag?

Okay, that’s just one parallel.  It’s not like he was trying to tell us that he needed help.  Except maybe for this.  It appears that Elizabeth also feels that the only way she’ll ever achieve happiness and bliss is by chasing the dragon.  I’ll admit, I’m not that hip to the street, but I have watched The Wire and that amazing guitar hero episode of South Park, and thus I believe this may be a drug thing.  As per UrbanDictionary.com

Chasing the Dragon:

Doing everything you can to obtain that same “high” you got from the first time you tried a drug, but never quite getting there due to the body developing a natural tolerance. Originally in reference to opium addiction, this term now refers to any drug.

Okay, that’s a little how we say “On the nose.”  But as this book was originally published in 1980, we can only assume that this was early in his addiction or experimentation with drugs.  He was most likely “Chasing that dragon.”  And what does our heroine do once gets together with the dragon.  Well, she gets that dragon to fire shiz up and fly around the world.  Get things blazing and get high as a kite.  I may have only been a one year old at the time of this books publication but I still  feel kind of bad about not seeing the signs earlier.

Can you believe this guy was doing drugs?

Well that book was from 1980.  One of his next books was Jonathan Cleaned Up- And then He Heard a Sound (1983)

Jonathan’s efforts to keep his apartment clean are foiled when a subway unexpectedly stops in and unloads thousands of passengers. Jonathan sets out on a surprising adventure to solve this curious problem.

It think even to someone who didn’t achieve an A in Dr. Mark Morton’s English Narrative Structures and Closed Readings* could tell you what this book is getting at.  I’m pretty sure that given the fact it was published in 1983 Robert was trying to get his act together.  The non-stop partying and drinking, plus the hard life of being on the road, and the pressure to deliver at every bookstore reading had worn him down.  Even he knew that he had to get his act “Cleaned Up”.  Unfortunately getting clean is the easy part, staying clean is hard.  The subway represents the book tours he had to do, and the people on the train represent all the hangers on, groupies (in all their MILFY glory) and similarly drugged out author friends.  He had tried to cut them out of his life, but being around their influence sucked him back into the drugs and alcohol.  It’s a heartbreaking and all too often tale heard on the children’s book tour.

Seriously, going through his entire book list it is pretty much like shooting fish in a barrel.

1986:  50 Below Zero

This would have been shortly after he had just entered his rehab stints.

This story is about a little boy, named Jason, who wakes in the middle of the night and hears a noise. Being the brave little man that he is, he climbs out of bed to investigate.
Much to his surprise, upon entering the kitchen, Jason finds his father asleep on top of the refrigerator. Jason screams

“Wake up, Papa”, and his father jumps off the fridge, runs around the kitchen three times and returns to his bed. Jason returns to bed as well, but no sooner is he asleep, then he hears another noise and must investigate again. This continues for a while, over and over until Jason finally comes up with the perfect idea! What do you think Jason does to restrain his father from sleepwalking into 50 below weather in his pajamas?

Too easy!  This story has a child who keeps finding a loved one in ridiculous and dangerous situations, a loved one who has no idea the danger they are repeatedly  putting themselves in?  Someone who is oblivious to how much stress and concern they are causing their child?  Jason’s biggest worry is trying to find a way to prevent the father from killing himself in the snow.  In mountains and mountains of “snow”.   You take this with the title, and it seems a little familiar given the film  influences of this period.

Q: What is really Less than Zero? A: Fifty Below Zero.

1991:  Good Families Don’t

In Good Families Don’t, Robert Munsch delivers another hilarious children’s tale about a risqué subject sure to have children and adults laughing for hours. When Carmen tries to tell her parents there is a big fart lying on her bed, they don’t believe her. “Good families like ours,” they tell her, “do not have farts.” But sure enough, the fart attacks them when they go upstairs to investigate – leaving Carmen to resolve the situation on her own.

Again.  We have a book trying to teach people that it is ridiculous to think that “Good Families” don’t have problems.  It’s when you deny that a problem even exists that they get bigger, and lead to the people with the problem trying to deal with it on their own.  Hmmm, this makes me wonder if Robert was slipping at the time, but his family didn’t want to believe it.  They saw the signs but the thought of going through the whole agonizing process lead them to keep their heads in the sand.

"Who Likes Coke?"

It’s chilling really how much he was trying to get us to know.  Even the titles are enough.

1987:  I Have To Go!

Someone fleeing their intervention much?

Robert Munsch's failed intervention

1996:  Get me Another One! An eight ball? Or just  a rye and coke?

2001:  Mmm, Cookies! An experimentation with Marijuana?

2002: More Pies!! It appears so.

Nonetheless the author  emphatically stated that the drug is not addictive.

"Marijuana Addiction? Puhlease! I once sucked a dick this big for crack!"

2001:  Up! Up! Down! Description of life as a Manic Depressive?

2006:  I’m so Embarassed! Another big slip/binge?

2006:  Deep Snow! Yep.

"In this country, first you write the children's book, then you get the power, then you get the women!!"

And one of his latest books.

2009:  Just one Goal! Let’s hope this goal is Clean Living!

Again, I want to thank Robert for all the wonderful works he has written throughout the years.  I think that him making his addiction and mental health issues public may really start a discussion of the stigma attached to mental health issues.   I only wish I had noticed the signs earlier.  For  as much as he was  surprised by who his  books touched, I think he will also be surprised by how much his  admission may touch others. And that my friends is…..

*I did.

Shocked? Yes. Unprepared? No.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on May 14, 2010 by dentald

What a thrilling Game 7 Victory that was last night!  And what amazing fans the Canadiens have.  Unbelievably enough, this fanbase sold out the Bell Centre (capacity 21,273) to watch the game play on the scoreboard!  When the final horn sounded these fans were rewarded with a 5-2 victory.  As shocking as this series victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions was, on the heels of upsetting the Presidents Trophy winners, not everyone was surprised.  Apparently those in charge of the Bell Centre anticipated victory.  This was evidenced by the fact that in the Bell Centre these signs::

Had been replaced by this:

However, given that we are dealing with Montreal Canadiens fans, these signs were also spotted in the building.

When Dreams Come True: Les Canadiens

Posted in Hockey on May 12, 2010 by drawesomeness

It doesn’t get any better than this. Last night the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals to force a 7th and deciding game. And so, Habs fans everywhere are elated that this wild ride continues against all odds.

The Canadiens’ miraculous playoff run has been covered from seemingly every angle so why not one more vantage point – from the streets of Montreal. And brother, these streets are buzzing. Today on my walk to-and-from work I couldn’t help but notice that things are different here in Montreal. In fact, the mood in this city has changed dramatically over the past month. The sentiments that it would be yet another humdrum hockey season without any chance of the beloved home team making a return to its former glory have been replaced with a distinctive feeling that has swept across this sprawling metropolis. That feeling, of course, is hope. Hope that something completely unexpected yet completely brilliant could occur and lift the spirits of an entire fan base. It’s a feeling that has been noticeably absent in this city for many years. I turned 13 on the day the Canadiens last won the Stanley Cup. That was 17 years ago. And now it’s the first season since that magical run in 1993 that the Canadiens have won more than 6 playoff games. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? I almost have to pinch myself to believe that it’s actually happening. Steeped in the frenzy of a Habs-crazed city, I’m cherishing every moment.

It’s indescribable. I lived in Calgary during the Flames’ Stanley Cup run in ‘04 and I was in Ottawa during the Stanley Cup finals of ‘07, yet the atmosphere in each of those cities doesn’t hold a candle to the enthusiasm on display right now in Montreal. The city is electric. You can almost taste the excitement that has spread like wildfire. People are pumped up. Everyone’s talking about the inspired play of the Habs. And the shocking possibility of a visit from Lord Stanley has captured our hearts and imaginations. There’s an extra hop in everyone’s step. Strangers clad in Habs paraphernalia exchange knowing glances on the sidewalks. Normally aggressive cab drivers are yielding to pedestrians donning the CH at crosswalks. Canadiens flags adorning the windows of vehicles have become a ubiquitous sight. And on game day ANY seat, whether it is at the Bell Centre, the local watering hole, or the living room, is the very best seat in the house.

There’s something great about cheering for this team. It’s funny that back in February I was lauding Sidney Crosby for being Canada’s golden boy at the Olympics and now I’d like nothing more for him to take his whine and cheese party back to Pittsburgh for the summer. This is bigger than the Olympics. Yes, it was a great moment for this nation when Sid scored that overtime goal to win gold for Canada. It’s a moment that will stand the test of time. But this is different. It’s not just that the Habs are such massive underdogs. It’s the scope of the Stanley Cup. It’s the most coveted trophy in sports. I’ll never forget a post-game interview with Mats Naslund after the Swedish team beat Canada in the gold medal game of the 1994 Olympics. When asked how the moment compared to winning the Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1986, he didn’t hesitate to declare that it wasn’t even close – the Stanley Cup is the ultimate title and nothing is sweeter. It’s the culmination of a loooong season and grueling playoffs. After having watched all 82 regular season games this season, I can safely say that this playoff run has made it all worthwhile. These moments define my fandom.

The Canadiens have already exceeded expectations and then some. They knocked off the venerable Capitals in the first round – a feat most considered an impossibility at the outset of the playoffs. And now they’re in a position to perform another miracle. I find myself betraying promises made not two weeks ago by once again asking the ghosts of the old Montreal Forum, “Please, if you could just let them win one more….” Maybe it will all come to an end in Game 7. Maybe the dreams of this city will finally fade away. And all that will be left are memories of an incredible month back in the spring of 2010 when it felt like anything was possible. Win or lose on Wednesday, one thing is for certain – there’s nowhere else on Earth I’d rather be right now.

Photo by Steve Troletti

A Message to Marty Gold of KickFm

Posted in Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 by dentald

The diagram explains it all.  Please keep in Mind that the blue demographic was enlarged by at least 800% for issues of clarity and scale. (Click the Dark Space below to call up the diagram)

History is Made Round 1

Posted in Hockey with tags , , on May 5, 2010 by dentald

Once again we here at WingNight wish to revisit the NHL’s playoff ad campaign.  As we had mentioned in previous posts, we thought the NHL had really outdone themselves.   However, in taking moments from this years playoffs as they happen to highlight just how “History is made” they took  it to another level entirely.    Seeing the truly memorable plays of this season’s  Stanley Cup playoffs and playing them in slow- motion reverse to highlight the special* skills of the players that made those moments possible is simply brilliant.

Their latest two efforts are shown below:

* As per the childhood chant “Special means Retarded!”**

**As per Websters Dictionary: re·tard·ed (r-tärdd)adj.

“Occurring or developing later than desired or expected; delayed”

As in “Mike Green’s defensive skills are retarded.”


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