October 24 was a day of downpour. The rain would let up every fifteen minutes or so, only to rush back in stronger deluge. My first trek into the wetness was to print out letters to our neighbors from George, telling them that we had the appropriate permits for the show and promising that we’d be finished by 12. Huddled under an umbrella, I shoved the damp papers under fancy doors bordering the west of Hudson Street. And then the craziness began.
Clean off the display case, rearrange the helmets, line up the show bikes. Shawn and Nick crouched up on the elevated catwalk, powerdrilling wooden panels into the floor. Steve cleaned off his workbench, flipped it over, and cleaned it again. “Look at that,” he said with a laugh. “One, two, three, and we have a bar.” Lindsi sat at the front of the shop on her black Macbook, typing out the program for the night, calling to me occasionally to check the model list for what someone was wearing. Matt taped together bamboo poles to create the ‘mirror’ that each model would pose in before descending the first ramp. George was everywhere. The HUB was in a state of cacophony. The mechanics already moved all of the bikes into the basement next door the day before, but there was still a lot of work to be done before the HUB would be transformed into a venue worthy of New York’s first bicycle fashion show.
Around five, things were starting to come together, and the rain had fallen into one of its lulls. George handed me the key to his flatbed and gave me the address to The City Bakery on 18th and 6th. It was time to pick up the catering. Maneuvering Ge0rge’s extended tricycle through Manhattan’s cutthroat streets is never anything short of exciting. To a road bike gal like myself, mounting the flatbed is like moving to a Mac Truck when all you’ve ever ridden is a motorbike. Instead of worrying about getting thrown off of my wheels, I had to be careful not to sideswipe SUVs or plow down pedestrians. And the flatbed has a tendency to take on a mind of its own. My first time riding it, I figured out the hard way that steady pair of biceps are necessary to keep it from veering into parked cars. But the ride over went smoothly. I parked the flatbed on the sidwalk and walked into the chocolate-chip-cookie air of City Bakery.
“That’s what you’re transporting it with?” a worker asked, craning her neck to look up at the front window. I was used to getting surprised reactions when I showed up ready to strap things to the flatbed.
“Yeah.” I shrugged. “It’s pretty easy actually.”
The girl looked at me and raised her eyebrows. “There’s a lot of food. I’m not sure it’s all going to fit on there. ”
It didn’t fit. George had told them about BIKE STYLE– that we were trying to make bicycling more accessible to everyone, to show people that biking could be fashionable. But I don’t think he realized that they would be so generous. Twenty minutes later Shawn arrived riding our two-wheeler with the big carrier in front. Emma from City Bakery had covered the flatbed with boxes of fancy pizza and platters of fresh veggies. The towers of boxes reached just over my head.
Shawn pulled up and snapped down the kickstand on his bike. He looked for a moment at the loaded flatbed. “Is that all of it?”
I shook my head.
The rain was starting to pick up again. Shawn unloaded some of the food onto his own bike and Emma grabbed the rest of the egg salad sandwich platters. She taped plastic over the cookie boxes on top to keep them from soaking and, after we invited her to come down to BIKE STYLE when she got off of work, she waved and disappeared back into the dry haven of City Bakery. Already doming close to being drenched, Shawn and I stretched old bike tubes over the platters and boxes of food and went back to the street. Time was running short.
The brim of my fedora was just barely keeping the rain out of my eyes. Shawn tried to keep behind me to make sure nothing fell off, but ended up jetting down seventh ave. A spray of streetwater drenched my shoes while heavy raindrops saturated my pants and jacket. The rain blurred out the streetlights and made the breaks on the flatbed slip. I glanced over my left shoulder and pulled into the lane next to me, to avoid having to stop behind a city bus. Shawn, hooded and zipped in his Gortex jacket so that only a square of his face showed, was waiting for me at a stoplight. He glanced over at me when I eased to a stop.
“This kind of sucks,” he yelled to me over the rain patter. I shook my head and smiled at him, “This is awesome.” But then the light was green again and we were off. The whole experience of biking changes once the rain gets heavy enough to flow rivers down the sides of the streets. It’s like skating on ice instead of pavement; you don’t roll, you glide. You expect to slip, and embrace it when you do. And that’s how you get through it.
All eyes were on us once we pulled into the HUB with a flatbed full of food, but only for a moment. Everyone was busy doing something, and time pressed them to get back to it. I peeled off my jacket and threw it onto the couch at the front of the HUB. I would find a better place for it later. With some help from Shawn and Laraine, I unloaded the food and started to set it out.
A model came up to me. “Where can we keep our bags and stuff?” she asked. I opened my mouth, and then realized I had no clue. “You should ask Juliet,” I said, glancing around the shop. I found her and pointed her out. “She’ll know.”
Juliet had joined our team pretty early on, recruited through Kaveri because of her job as a professional stylist. She was there at Nick Bender’s house when BIKE STYLE changed from an idea into an event. Through the model fittings and rehearsals, Juliet shared her fashion knowledge. Now she was running around in her stilettos, making sure that the models who had arrived were properly dressed.
The egg salad sandwiches were waiting for me. I turned back to the food, told Laraine to start bringing some of it back to the bar, and began an attempt to make everything look delicious and professional. My pocket buzzed. I put the box of “green pizza” that I was holding down on the counter and fished my phone out of my stick-to-your-skin wet jeans. It was Lindsi.
“Would it be horrible of me to ask you to run over to NYU and print out the programs?” she asked. “All of the printing places are closed.”
I looked at the flatbed full of food, and the messy attempt of organization on our counter.
“It’s ok if you can’t,” she added quickly.
But Lindsi had graduated from NYU last year and there was no way for her to take advantage of its free printing services. Molly and Julia go to NYU too, but there was no knowing where they were. And they were models. They couldn’t be sent off on errands.
“I can. It’s fine, I’ll go.”
“Cool,” Lindsi said. “Nick and I are still working on it. We should be finished by the time you get there and I’ll e-mail it over.”
And then it was back into the rain, this time zipping down Morton on my mom’s old Kabuki road bike. Dripping, I entered NYU’s printing lab, nodded at the desk girl who said that they’d only be open for another fifteen minutes, and jumped onto a Mac.
“Just one more second,” I said twenty minutes later. The desk girl was not happy. But after figuring out how to paste Lindsi and Nick’s PDFs into a Word doc, I was having trouble getting the margins right. And the list of models kept printing upside down.
“We really need to close,” the girl said.
I set the printing quota to 200 and clicked print. “I’ll be out as soon as these are finished printing, I promise.”
She made me close down my computer. The printer churned out one double-sided document and then another. I leaned against it and stared at the sheets filing into the pile, ignoring the glares that the desk girl sent me every few minutes over the next ten that it took for all of the programs to print. “Thanks!” I said with a quick smile, grabbing the stack after the last one fell into place. I shoved the programs into my binder and booked it out of there.
The rain was still hard enough to splatter off in little droplets when they hit a puddle and fill the buildings around NYU with soft splashing sounds. My bag was cloth, and so, with my right hand on the bottom of my handlebars (where the brakes are stronger for a road bike) and my left hand balancing the umbrella pole between my fingers and clutching my bag to my chest, I headed back to the HUB.
Twenty minutes until the event started and an hour more until the show was on. The models were in the middle of their run through when I dropped the slightly damp programs on the table at the front of the HUB and collapsed onto the couch behind it. Noah strutted to the frame at the center of the catwalk, threw back his long jacket, and thrust his chin forward. A spin, a step, a glance over his shoulder, and he was walking down the ramp to the platform where his bike was waiting for him.
Tune in again for the next installment!