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.]
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 →
One of my more satisfying accomplishments in 2016 was defeating a junk mailer who had repeatedly violated my credit reporting opt-out. The first part of this post comes from a draft letter I wrote, but never sent, to the three mail credit reporting agencies. It summarizes what happened between February 2015 and May 2016: at least five “pre-qualified” automobile loans sent to me in the mail, despite the fact I have never had a drivers license.
Here’s the story:
In February 2015 I received a notice in the mail that I was “prequalified” for an automobile loan by [Name Redacted] Auto, [Address Redacted].
This was a surprise, as I have never in my life had a drivers license. I called the telephone number on the letter and attempted to explain that they were wasting their time and mine, but was put on hold, transferred to voicemail, transferred to a number that rang but was never answered, and generally ignored. So later that day I called the “Prescreen Opt Out” number on the back of the notice and opted out of such notices.
A few weeks later I received another notice from the same company. Not sure if my opt out hadn’t yet “percolated” through the system or if I had not completed the process correctly on the phone, I again opted out using the Internet address provided. This time I received an on-screen confirmation, so I knew it had been completed correctly.
Several years ago I visited Charleston SC on a vacation. While there I toured the Aiken-Rhett House, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and is now a museum. I love museums and I love old houses, but the Aiken-Rhett House is unique among all the old house museums I’ve ever been to: it retains an outbuilding that once contained slave quarters (discreetly described as “servants’ quarters” in the NRHP nomination form).
I arrived at the house shortly after it opened to visitors for the day, so had it pretty much to myself. I followed the audio tour through the main house, then walked out the back door. Two nearly identical buildings flanked the courtyard—to the left, the stables; to the right, the slaves’ quarters. I went up the stairs to the second floor, above the kitchen. The small rooms, which reminded me of a bargain motel, were where the slaves had once lived. They were mostly bare—I remember a wooden bed frame without a mattress and a simple wooden table—because slaves’ furnishings were not saved as heirlooms and very few have survived the years.