Sunday, June 10, 2007

By the time you read this, somewhere on the Internet there's a photo of me naked...

I headed out this evening, shortly after ten, to a party here in the neighborhood, at the apartment of a pastry chef who works at a somewhat prominent Portland restaurant. Now this particular pastry chef has been burned by food bloggers before, and as such I think it only appropriate to protect her idenity. So we'll call her Ingrid. My friends John the Irishman and Jon the Architect met Ingrid at the Bonfire a couple nights ago, and invited me along to her party. I figured this would be interesting, as I'm into food and all. But I ultimately let her off the hook. I don't really like to talk to people at parties about sleep disorders, so I figured, why make her talk shop? Ingrid was a very cool gal. She reminded me a little of my friend Char, and I must say, she had a very sexy Bettie Page thing going on... She was also a great hostess, and turned out, interestingly, to be a collector of tattoos, bowling trophies and weird squirrel memorabilia. And she offered me some very interesting Guatemalan rum called Zaya. I'm not much for the hard liquor, I mostly stick to beer. But this was pretty good. Very sweet, with a pronounced smoky caramel flavor.

Now I could have stayed at this party for the rest of the night and had a very good time. But I had bigger fish to fry. At about 11:35, I got on my bike and headed about 25 blocks west, to the Organics to You warehouse, the jumping off point for Portland's installment of the World Naked Bike Ride. By the time I got there, the ride was about ten minutes away, and the pre-ride dance party had spilled out onto the street. The police escort (yes, that's right, in Portland the Police don't arrest naked bike riders, they give them an escort!) was in place, and a number of folks were already naked. I leaned my bike up against an adjacent building, set down my messenger bag, and proceeded to stuff every stitch of clothing I was wearing into it. Now clad in the proverbial birthday suit, I mounted my steed and waited for the insanity to begin.

The ride was actually a bit longer than I expected (Over the course of the ride, we must have passed every bar in town; and every one of those bar patrons was out on the sidewalk with a camera phone...). We crossed the Hawthorne bridge into downtown, rode up into the Pearl District, came back into downtown, headed up into Old Town, back to the Pearl and on up to Northwest, riding up 21st and coming back down 23rd. From there we rode along Burnside, hung a ralphie on 3rd and crossed back over the Hawthorne bridge. But we didn't stop at the starting point. The ride proceeded up Hawthorne. I bailed at Hawthorne and 18th. At this point I'd been riding for about an hour. It was cold (yes, there was some, uh, "shrinkage," but we won't get into that here...), and I kind of wanted to get back to Ingrid's party. And Hawthorne and 18th is near my house, so it made for a good exit point. I put my clothes back on, called my friends to make sure they were still at the party (they were), dropped my bike off at the house, got in my car and made my way back to Ingrid's. On my way, I passed some of the riders coming the other way on Belmont street. I honked. They raised their fists and shrieked like banshees. I knew, REALLY knew, just how much fun they were having (and just how cold they were).

And that's ultimately why I chose to do this: It was fun! Idiot fun! Mental patient fun! The kind of fun you can only get from totally breaking free of your everyday routine... My friends all think I'm nuts (they're right, of course). Jon the architect was on the fence, and has promised that he'll do it next year. My friend Ole was also a "definite maybe." And Jenni was pretty into the idea, but ultimately wound up staying home with her ailing cat (hang on just a little longer, Nichiro!). Portland, incidentally, has for the last few years had the highest turnout in North America for this event. Last year we had 500 riders, and this year the estimate was 700. It was hard to judge the number of riders exactly, but 700 definitely seems plausible.

I am so glad I live in this crazy town! I'm hoping to see a few of you at next year's ride!


The Pastry Pirate said...

you know, this in no way makes cycling more appealing to me. in fact, the only thing i can think of worse than being naked on a bike in public would be peddling alongside one of my chefs. shudder.

tommy said...

I can't believe how long it took to get a comment on this post! Thanks for stepping up to the plate, Pastry Pirate!

The ride was hilarious (trust me on this one). Yeah, it takes a bit of nerve to ride around town naked, but having 800 people doing it with you makes it a little more do-able. And really, the notion that you're naked just sort of disappears after about 30 seconds and it turns into a big, noisy, insane thing that takes on a life of its own. Anyone who's ever been to Burning Man will probably agree... And hey, someone's gotta keep that Lady Godiva nudity-as-social-protest tradition alive!

Now here's something that you'll no doubt find extra horrifying: I was looking through some photos of the event on Flickr a couple days later, and I actually found a photo with me in it! Luckily, I was almost entirely off camera, and all you can see is one leg and part of my messenger bag. Next year I may actually have to get in shape before doing this...