Ghost Bikes and the Value of Human Life

One year ago today I attended the dedication of a ghost bike honoring Alex Cordero, a seventeen-year-old who was killed when his bicycle was struck by a tow truck. I had seen ghost bikes before, and even helped maintain a couple by clearing weeds and touching up the paint, but this was the first time I’d attended a dedication. Alex was the sixteenth cyclist killed in New York City last year; ultimately there would be twenty-nine deaths. [Note that the link indicates 28. Even transportation-safety minded journalists had a difficult time keeping up. There’s a note at the end of the article that it was updated to show twenty-nine deaths.]

2019-09-05 Ghost Bike Dedication - Alex Cordero SAM_2980
I didn’t realize it when we assembled for the dedication but I was standing near Alex’s aunt (the woman in the grey t-shirt holding a bouquet). Photo © 2019 Karen E. Lund

I was drifting off to sleep the night before, thinking of the day’s news and of my plans for the dedication of the ghost bike to honor Alex. Half asleep, my mind attempted to find a connection between the previous weekend’s gun violence (nine people had been killed in Dayton and twenty-three in El Paso) and Alex’s death while riding his bicycle.

Eventually it fitted together. Not with an answer, but with a question: When did we decide to give more rights to steel than to human flesh? Was it a conscious decision? (Probably not.) Who decided? Continue reading

On the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

My Girl Scout troop did a beach clean-up on Earth Day.

“What year?” some of you will ask. But that’s my point: it was the first year and we didn’t really think about whether there would be another.

With the 50th anniversary approaching, I decided that I would mark the day, in part, by taking a walk to that same beach. As it turned out, COVID-19 means New York City is “hibernating” (as I’ve chosen to call it) and there aren’t any other events happening today, except virtually. That’s just one of the things that’s changed since 1970. There was no virtual or online back then.

The biggest thing that’s changed is that the neighborhood that used to be there is gone. It was washed away by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and all but about a dozen homeowners took a buy-out and left. Someday it will be a New York City park (incorporated into Great Kills Park), with flood mitigation (PDF) infrastructure, but for now it’s just open space returning to the wild and a great place for a socially-distanced walk.

Paved driveway in foreground. Behind, Canada Geese on grass, trees, telephone wires. A house barely visible in the distance.
A few driveways remain, but nature is reclaiming the Oakwood Beach neighborhood. Canada Geese are making themselves at home.

To some this return to nature is beautiful, and in time I’ll agree, but for now my feelings are mixed. Hurricane Sandy made landfall in October 2012, but it wasn’t until June of last year that I worked up the courage to see it for myself. Aside from that first Earth Day clean-up project, a friend in Girl Scouts had cousins who lived in Oakwood Beach. We used to visit occasionally on our bicycles and we had pretty much cornered the market on Girl Scout cookie sales.

Continue reading

The Last Beach Boys Cover Band, circa A.D. 2030

Recently I’ve been bitching about the hot weather, which admittedly is selfish, as New York City hasn’t had anything close to what the western and central United States have been experiencing. But I’ve always preferred cool to hot, so even our recent heat wave has left me feeling like wilted lettuce.

By the way, there is no official definition for a “heat wave” among meteorologists, but in the northeastern U.S. it is generally agreed that three consecutive days with high temperature of 90°F or above is a heat wave. In Phoenix they call that “May.”

Anyway, I was in the grocery store a few weeks ago when I noticed that the background music was a song by the Beach Boys, one of their classic odes to young love and Summer days at the beach. As I browsed the shelves my thoughts turned to some of the dire predictions I’ve read about global warming: increasing temperatures making Summer heat deadly and rising sea levels causing coastal flooding. The future doesn’t look good for beaches. It doesn’t look good for Summer, either. Meanwhile, California burns.

Continue reading

Replies to My Spam

My spam folder gets more mail than I do. It amazes me what strange comments are offered up from “readers” with names like “best trash removal” and sharing dodgy links to YouTube and Polish websites. Most of them are not worth reading and a few are downright unreadable, as if a dictionary had gotten hideously drunk and puked up random words.

But once in a while there’s something that is almost worth sharing, despite the non-name name and dodgy links. So I’ve collected the highlights from my spam folder for the past few months and will reply to them here.

Hi! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

I’m happy to oblige. This is a WordPress site.

First of all I want to say great blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing. I’ve had a tough time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Continue reading