friday was the annual Corcoran Ball, when wealthy folks get decked out and pay $150 a head to eat, drink, and mingle with each other in the gallery, two floors above my impromptu frame shop.
it was also the day of the first in a series of alley cat races to determine the top male and female competitors in DC and raise money to send them to Dublin for the world championship races.
so i went to class at 9 am and did some work on a sculptural fountain thing until 3. then i worked on the frame for a few hours, trimming the right chainstay to length so it will fit in my makeshift fixture. the race was scheduled for 6:30 a few blocks away at Farragut Square. starting at about 5, the whole shop began to smell of wonderful gourmet food. the Ball is a big event; they cover all the hallway floors with plastic sheeting and set up 3 kitchens in what's usually our art school. an army of waiters mill throughout the building, watched closely by an army of security personnel almost as large.
i started cleaning up the shop about 6:30, changed into my race clothes (Carhartts, padded shorts, wool jersey), and jumped on the bike. Farragut was swarming with bikes and their riders. liquor was a common smell on the breath of the latter.
after a lot of standing around, lubing my chain, doing some warm-up rides around the block, switching to my fixed wheel, we were told to lay our bikes down in the grass and move to the other side of the park. AZ, the organizer, yelled go and the peloton took off. i was near the front, and right away i ran into a guy, who stumbled and fell into a bike, which nearly tripped me up but we both kept running, jumping over bikes in clipless shoes.
i didn't have a great race. i got to the first checkpoint ok, as it was near the Smithsonian facility i commute to every day. on the trip across town to the second checkpoint in Georgetown, i felt the wrath of the headwind and the harder fixed gear i had switched to. when i finally got to G-town, the checkpoint was so expertly hidden i gave up looking after a lot of frantic searching. i headed back to Farragut, now separated from the pack of riders i had been with, feeling more like a guy on a bike rather than part of a radical, rebellious messenger peloton.
the finish was at Connecticut and Van Ness, at the University of DC, a long way up a big hill. there was a raffle of some bike gear, more standing around, drinking in public, and finally all of us (30 or 40 by now) trooped over to the DC Independent Film Festival screening. this was a great scene: the crowd was mostly well-to-do older artsy types, but there was this group of dirty, sweaty, half-drunk bikers mixed in.
we finally filed into the auditorium around 9. there were four films screening. we were officially there to see one called Messenger, about a crazy courier in Manhattan called Kamikaze, which was great, but a couple of the other films were also really interesting.
all of the bikers situated ourselves in the two front rows, where we had a great time, whooping it up, laughing our asses off, shouting at the screen occasionally.
in particular i really enjoyed a funny and inspiring film called Recyclergy, about people in California who are reviving the old idea of salvaging, that is saving for reuse materials that would otherwise be thrown away. it reminded me of framebuilding a little in that it's an old idea they updated heavily.
there was also a great one called The Power of Community on how Cuba dealt with a huge oil shortage in the early 90s, showing how Cubans had to drastically change how they produced and distributed food. now farming in Cuba is the most cherished and well-paid occupation, and they produce 80% of their food organically.
feeling famished and a little drunk by now, i decided to head back to the Corcoran to pick up some things i had left there, and possibly grab some leftover food. i flew down the Connecticut Avenue hill, and at the last minute decided to take the Rock Creek Park trail instead of the more well-lit route on city streets. my light's batteries were fading, and i was a little under dressed for the cooler park air, but it was a fun ride and i managed to avoid sliding on any sand in the dark.
at the Corcoran, i had a fantastic meal of roast beef, herbed potatoes, a vegetable medley, and chocolate cake. i guess the caterers prefer to vastly over-estimate because there was food left over even after all the staff had eaten, and they were generous in offering me all i wanted, even gravy and cream sauce.