Removing and inserting a rear wheel

Cycling is fun no matter how bad you are. Unlike, say, the life-altering public humiliation of sucking at soft ball, on a bike ride you can fall over 10 times and still finish with a bigger grin than the rest of your friends. Even so, the better you get on a bicycle, the more fun you have–and vice versa. Alison Dunlap, reigning XC World champion, and member of the LUNA Chix Mountain Bike Team, says that having more fun while riding is a simple thing. “There are hundreds of riding techniques and subtleties,” she notes, “but everything you do oalnn a bike can be boiled down to two elements: balance and momentum.”

BALANCE

“When I won the ’99 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba, there were all these really tight switchbacks,” Dunlap says. “Riders without good balance were falling down the hill, but I rode them without ever coming off the bike. That was the key to my win.”

First you need to read more about user manual and reviews of the bike. Here are two simple ways to help you how to balance the bike.

1. Learn to track stand.

After 4 or 5 practice sessions of 5 to 10 minutes each, you should be able to trackstand for 20 to 30 seconds. Here’s how: Ride onto a slight incline and slow to a stop.

  1. Level your cranks so they’re horizontal.
  2. Turn the front wheel slightly toward the foot that’s in the 9 o’clock position (the rear foot).
  3. Apply enough pedal pressure to keep from rolling backward, but not so much that you roll forward. (If you do creep up, straighten the handlebar until you roll back.)
  4. Practice maintaining equilibrium between forward and backward momentum.
  5. Use the front brake for more control.
  6. Move to flat terrain when you get good.

2. Ride the narrow.

To pedal steadily atop curbs, parking blocks and painted lines, you need to do all your “steering” with your body instead of the handlebar. This teaches you to balance your bike by shifting your weight from side to side and pointing your hips in the direction you want your bike to go.

MOMENTUM

The 2000 Olympic mountain biking course in Sydney, Australia, included a section dubbed “the Cauldron,” an immense rock staircase that left little room for mistakes. “If you messed up and fell off the side, you’d drop 12 feet straight down,” says Dunlap. “The stakes were enormous. I hesitated–and walked that section–the first three days of practice.” Dunlap knew she’d have to clear the section in the race, so during the next practice, she followed competitors who were better at descending. “I cleaned it perfectly–on race day, too–because I stopped hesitating.”

Following someone faster–shifting when they shift, changing lines when they do, mimicking their body position–is one of the best ways to put more momentum in your ride. Here are two others:

  1. Start linking moves. When rock climbers perform two simultaneous movements–like springing upward as they grab a new handhold–it’s called a dynamic technique. Good cyclists do the same thing. The most basic example: lifting the front wheel and shifting it to one side while it’s still in the air. Dynamic moves preserve momentum; there’s no break between your actions. Practice linking whatever skills you already possess into new combinations.
  2. Ditch the brakes. Find a trail with at least two consecutive rollers–short, steep rises that don’t put you above 15 mph on the way down. Practice riding up and over without braking. This helps you feel that magic sensation of being pulled along by the trail like a fish in a current–and helps you find that, current.

A New Leaf for A Good Life

Forget lettuce. Salad should be an improvisation, a riot of greens, herbs, peas, shoots, and edible flowersless an opening act than a main event.

The anise hyssop plant that my wife and I were given one weekend at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, lasted less than six months. During our return trip to New York, we cared for it as if it were a petwatering it, keeping it upright in the car, bringing it inside with us for lunch if the parking lot looked too hot. As soon as we reached our weekend cottage in the Catskills, we planted it in one of the four raised beds I’d built. It didn’t survive the winter. Instead, it jumped.

 

I give credit to the bees and the breeze: A seed made its way to the corner of another bed, where it found exactly the sun and water it wanted. It flourished, which presented us with a problem. What do you do with so much anise hyssop? We steeped the leaves to make tea (the plant is native to North America and is known as a gentle cure-all), tore it into a garnish for grilled lamb, and made it into a cocktail with simple syrup, club soda, lemon juice, and a splash of gin. Anise hyssop tastes like dusty mint, a flavor less powerful than it is distinctive; it’s so unusual, you need only a little bit to make an impact. One afternoon, I added a few leaves to a salad. I thought it might be interesting.

It was stunning.

The heart-shaped hyssop leaves transformed a bowl of greens from a pretty side course into a dish with so much personality that it became a topic of household conversation. Part of me thought, Really? We’re talking about salad? But another part of me wondered what other overlooked plants might find a place in that bowl. That summer I harvested pea shoots, baby sorrel, the yellow blossoms of wild arugula that went to flower, fennel fronds when they were still pale and soft and tasted sweet. The radishes were sad that year, but their greens were tender and peppery. Every salad became an improvisation. Sometimes the flavors were explosive, sometimes teasingly subtle. By the height of the season, I wasn’t even bothering with lettuce. I thought I was just messing around, getting to know my garden; it turns out I was making a field salad.

“A mesclun salad was really a field salad,” Alice Waters told me recently, remembering the first time she came across one in Nice in the sixties. “They snipped whatever was growing in the fields that day and brought it to the market in a kerchief. You just picked up a handful and put it on the scale.” She explained that you never knew what was going to be in the mix that week, what flavors you were going to find. Every time it was a surprise.

There are no surprises in today’s boxed or bagged mesclun, a supermarket composition that has become so uniform, and so universal, it’s more like a franchise than a salad. It’s always the same combination of bland, hardy lettuces (one red to justify the price) because a jumble of ten or 20 different kinds, each with its own life cycle, wouldn’t last long on the shelf.

I never set out to rethink supermarket mesclun or re-create what Waters found in Nice. I wasn’t trying to follow anybody else’s path. Instead, I was figuring out what strange flavors I could foster in our short Catskills growing season. The following year, I planted chervil, chickweed, miner’s lettuce, italiko rosso, and Russian kale. A neighbor just back from Japan gave us packets of seeds, one of which was shiso (I recognized the drawing), the rest botanical mysteries. I planted them too. I tasted one of the clovers behind the cottage and identified it as wood sorrel. That year, purslane was the It plant at New York City green markets, and I realized that Manhattanites were paying good money for what I had been weeding from my garden beds.

Soon every salad I made was a riot of flavors and textures. Even though I knew what went into the bowl, I didn’t know what was going to be in each bite. I wasn’t in controlnobody is in control of a field salad. Every weekend I harvested what we had and wondered what I was going to find next.

There are two ways to dress a field salad: Go light or go heavy.

Christopher Kostow, the chef of Meadowood in Napa Valley and one of two California chefs (Thomas Keller is the other) to be awarded three Michelin stars, is delicate with his purslane. (He favors the French word pourpier and uses two kinds, Golden Goldberg and Red Gruner.) “Some of it we just grab from wherever, as it grows everywhere,” Kostow told me. “Some we cultivate in the greenhouse to be able to control the size a bit more. For me, the thickness really determines how much acid it needs. The small, wispy stuff doesn’t need much, as it wilts pretty quick and has a great minerality to it.” Kostow dresses his purslane with a vinaigrette made with pickled limes from the Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley and serves it with lamb baked in Calistoga clay.

Purslane’s crunchy leaves have a pleasantly lemony taste, but the more mature plants have spindly stems that call for a little denaturing. Usually I’ll dress the plant separately and drizzle it with vincotto (sweet, syrupy, and made with grape must), then add the leafy greens on top. Since purslane stands up to strong flavors, I’ll sometimes add slices of nectarines or plums, a pinch of sea salt, some toasted hazelnuts, a little blue cheese if there’s any around.

It’s a good salad to have in the arsenal. Because almost any kind of fruit, nut, and strong cheese will do, it adapts to what you have on hand. One summer, my wife and I were spending the weekend with friends in Brookhaven, New York, and I noticed some purslane growing between the flagstones by their pool. “Want me to make a salad?” I asked.

Kostow uses richer flavors with red and green orache, which have arrow-shaped leaves that taste like seasoned spinach. At Meadowood, he serves them with lardo and caviar warmed over a fire as a part of the 20-course tasting menu. Carlo Mirarchi, the chef at Roberta’s (the ascendant Brooklyn restaurant that was one of the pioneers of urban gardening) and Blanca (which earned its first Michelin star shortly after its opening, in 2012), also plays with stronger dressings. “A lot of people consider leafy vegetables to be a light flavor, but you can get some deep flavors that make them as satisfying as anything else out there,” Mirarchi told me. “There are a lot of ways to think about vinaigrettes. Like, I love nut milk. Nut milks can take on a good amount of acid. Use whatever you want Banyuls vinegar, lemon juiceand some olive oil. It thickens almost like a buttermilk.” Mirarchi makes his own nut milks for his dressing, but then he would; you can use a shortcut and buy them fresh. (Try Organic Avenue in New York City.)

Sometimes Mirarchi will dress a salad, then dot it with a quick salsa verde made out of shiso, garlic, white balsamic, and olive oil, so that the tiny, explosive touches of flavor play off the strong flavors of dogtooth violet or chrysanthemum or celery-like lovage. Or he’ll sneak in fruit: green strawberries, ripe strawberries, huckleberries, blueberries, ground cherries, persimmon. Roberta’s has a fig tree that Mirarchi drags indoors during the winter, and in the late summer he will freeze ripe figs for an hour, then shave them over the salad with a microplane rasp. “It gets fig flavor everywhere,” he said.

These are strange combinations, bright and herbaceous flavors you find on the other side of the spectrum from pork belly, 21-day aged burgers, and the other meaty, chest-thumping dishes that are understandably popular right now. Anise hyssop, purslane, orache, lovage? Not macho. But they’re originalat least they are at this moment in foodand they will dazzle even the most seasoned palate: They remind you that there are still flavors out there you have yet to experience.

“When you have a salad like that, it’s like you’re some woodland creature jumping around eating all this weird stuff,” Mirarchi told me. “It’s really fun, and it gets you excited to have your next course.”

If the ideal shelter-magazine kitchen garden is as crisp and stylized as a new haircut, the garden outside the house that Madeleine Fitzpatrick shares with Evan Shively north of Point Reyes Station, California, is what happened to your hair after a motorcycle ride on the coastal highway in the sixties, before the helmet laws. It’s not so much overgrown as it is untamed, a sensual bounty. You want to run your hands through it.

Many of the plants look like weeds, which is exactly the idea. “I teach the plants to become wild again,” says Fitzpatrick, who worked at the Farallones Institute in Sonoma County in the eighties (it’s now called the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center), when it supplied Chez Panisse and other Bay Area restaurants. “I encourage things to become a weed, because they’re all weeds somewhere in the world. MAcentsche is a weed.” She lets some plants go feral, saves the seeds of others, and takes note of which ones play well together. “There are some plants that are happier around other plants, and you’re not sure what plants they’re happier around until they let you know. There’s always a mystery in the garden, which I love, but it’s a cultivated garden, so there’s some control.”

Fitzpatrick grows hundreds of different plants (though she’s never stopped to count), many with names so fanciful they sound made-upbuckhorn plantain, curly mallow, Iranian cress, oxalis, red-veined dock, salad burnet, smallage. (When I asked her to try an inventory, she sent me a list of more than 100 she uses in salads before signing off, “Believe it or not, there are more, but I’m pooped.”) We tried to remember what was in the salad she made for a dinner at her house last year, but we kept losing our way. Were there 35 different plants? More, probably. It was a good year for the garden.

Shively puts it more succinctly: He calls it the What the Fuck Did I Just Eat? salad. Fitzpatrick and Shively have emeritus status in the food world, as former professionals who did the heavy lifting during the Bay Area culinary revolutions of the eighties and nineties. (Shively was at Oliveto shortly after it opened, worked in the kitchen at Postrio during the go-go nineties, and then became cochef at Manka’s Inverness Lodge.) Now they cook mostly for their friendsand receiving a dinner invitation means instantly clearing your schedule. When I was at their house last year, the other guests included chefs, artists, writers, patrons: Susie Tompkins Buell, the philanthropist; Russell Chatham, the writer and painter; David Kinch, the chef of Manresa; Pim Techamuanvivit, the jam-maker and food writer; Michael Tusk, the chef of Quince. The house, which is two metal barracks joined by a two-story tropical greenhouse with a restaurant-grade kitchen, is in the empty hills that rise behind Tomales Bay. It’s a stunning drive, and lonely.

First we had pizzas outside from Shively’s wood-burning oven, maybe eight different kinds. After it was too dark to see, we went into the kitchen and snacked on steamed spot prawns, striped bass tartare with salted lemon, chilled mussels with absinthe mayonnaise, steelhead roe with chervil and crA[umlaut]me fraA[R]che. Then we sat down for dinner.

The salad course arrived in tall, unruly piles. The house rule: You eat it with your fingers. “It allows you to eat the salad a leaf at a time, or to combine specific flavors, in a way that a fork does not,” Fitzpatrick told me. If you need a utensil, she said, try chopsticks.

What were we eating with our fingers? Some flowers (variegated nasturtium; calendula; cherry and pear blossoms), herbs (five kinds of basil; two kinds of chives; golden marjoram; tarragon; mint tips; silver thyme), small, sweet cooking greens (beet leaves; four kinds of chard; five kinds of kale), and many, many other leaves, stems, and pods.

Cataloging them is useless; it’s like trying to identify what individual instruments are playing when the orchestra warms up. At some point, a field salad stops being a saladit’s a brain-twister, it’s a foreign country, it’s memory. The flavors are so vivid you almost see them as you taste them. Soon we were as silent as woodland creatures at Evan and Madeleine’s table, eating all this weird stuff with our fingers. It was just part of the meal, a course between courses, but none of us wanted it to end.

Food facts: home truths about healthy eating

WHY IS A GOOD BREAKFAST THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY?

Study after study shows that you’re running on empty when you wake up in the morning. As Donna Hennyey says, “you wouldn’t jump in your car and go on a big trip without a full gas tank.” So why would you even consider starting your day without a good breakfast?

Break away from the expected, and eat leftovers from last night’s dinner. Pizza, a tuna melt or leftover roast chicken are just as nutritious in the morning as they were the night before. Or throw a banana, yoghurt and orange juice in the blender, accompanied by cream cheese on toast. Grain products like muffins, whole-wheat toast or enriched cereals are not only convenient, but also rich in iron and fibre.

The key is to “include at least three out of the four food groups,” recommends dietician Sheryl Conrad, communications manager for the National Institute of Nutrition.

IS TOO MUCH SALT BAD FOR YOU?

If you’re sodium-sensitive, too much salt or other sodium in your diet could put you at risk of developing high blood pressure. Because all the sodium you need is available in ordinary foods, Health and Welfare Canada recommends we reduce our use of this mineral. It’s a component of most cheeses as well as most processed, cured, pickled and canned foods. Avoid using salt on food, and, if you know you’ve got to watch your sodium intake, read labels on all packaged foods. Some mineral waters, for instance, contain sodium even though they don’t taste salty,

CAN CAFFEINE HARM YOU?

Strictly speaking, caffeine is not a food. It’s a chemical found in coffee, tea, chocolate and milk as well as many drugs. It acts as a stimulant, increasing alertness and raising blood pressure. In excess amounts, caffeine can cause heartburn or indigestion, increase the rate of calcium loss from bone (a serious side effect if you’re suffering from osteoporosis) and put you at risk for cardiovascular disease. Health and Welfare Canada therefore recommends no more than four cups of regular coffee daily.

IS ALCOHOL HARMFUL?

alcohol-and-disease1Alcohol in moderation is not harmful, but it has no nutritive value either. Health and Welfare Canada therefore recommends that your diet include no more than five per cent of your daily calories as alcohol, or two drinks daily, whichever is less. Avoid it entirely if you’re pregnant, because researchers don’t know the safe level during pregnancy. And because it actually dehydrates your body, don’t use it as a thirst quencher during hot weather. Replenish your body fluid with water, fruit or vegetable juice or milk.

 

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ORGANIC FOOD AND NON-ORGANIC FOOD?

Organic fruits and vegetables, which are considerably more expensive than non-organic produce, have been grown from soil that has not been treated with pesticides or chemicals for at least three years. But there’s nothing to stop the farmer in the field next door to an organic farm from using pesticides on his or her crops. In fact, there’s no official regulatory process to protect consumers of organic products and no standard definition of “organic.”

There are no additives, preservatives or coloring in fresh Canadian meat. Although low levels of antibiotics are sometimes given to livestock to control or prevent disease, the antibiotics are stopped for a period before slaughter so the meat is clear of it, says the Canadian Dietetic Association. Since animals naturally produce hormones, there’s no such thing as hormone-free meat. However, hormones are given to some livestock to add to the animal’s natural hormone production, to promote growth and to reduce the fat content of the meat.

Additives, preservatives and coloring found in packaged or canned foods have been stringently tested for safety by Health and Welfare Canada. Though you should try to use fresh food as much as possible, don’t hesitate to use packaged foods to add convenience to your nutritional intake. After all, if the only way you’re going to eat a salad is with salad dressing and you don’t have time to make it, “it’s time to consider using bottled dressing,” advises dietician/nutritionist Rosie Schwartz. It’ll make the salad taste better and you’ll get the nutritional benefits of the fresh vegetables.”

WHAT DOES THE LABEL “LIGHT” OR “LITE” MEAN ON A PRODUCT?

It depends. “Light” soy sauce can be low in sodium; “light” olive oil is light in color; other products could be light in alcohol, texture, taste, fat or calories. Furthermore, one “light” product isn’t necessarily the same as another. One company’s “light” cheese slices have a seven per cent milk fat content, for instance, while another company’s “light” cheese has 16 per cent. Says the National Institute of Nutrition’s Conrad: “Whenever you see ‘light’ on a label, read further to find out why they’re making this claim.”

WHAT ABOUT THE LABEL “CHOLESTEROL-FREE”?

This label means that the food has no more than three mg of dietary cholesterol per 100-gram serving, and that it’s low in saturated fats. However, the product could still contain unsaturated or some saturated fats. All vegetable oils, for instance, are cholesterol-free.

ACTIVE LIVING: MAKE IT PART OF YOUR DAILY LIFE

Find activities that you enjoy,” says Elaine Burke, coordinator of the Vitality Program for Fitness Canada. “That’s the only way you’re going make them part of your life over the long term, and you’ll derive mental, spiritual and emotional benefits from them in addition to the physical ones.”

Do the gardening or build the deck at the back of the house instead of hiring someone else to do the work.

  • Bicycle to work instead of driving.
  • Play hockey with your kids instead of sending them to little league games.
  • Use a regular broom instead of an electric broom to sweep floors.
  • Walk your children to school in the morning.
  • Go skating, play ball, take a stroll or go to the park with your family.
  • Find a “buddy” who will join you on a morning walk or run.
  • Take a five-minute “fitness break” every day.
  • Walk or run up the stairs to your office, deliberately get off the bus a stop early and walk to work, walk to the grocery store instead of taking the car.

FIVE-MINUTE STRESS-BUSTERS

You can do the following exercises sitting at your desk, waiting in line at the bank or in your car at a stoplight. They come from Toronto yoga instructors Wendy Cole, Esther Myers and Lisa Schwartz, authors of Lesstress, a practical guide to stress relief.

  1. Walk away or at least turn away from your desk for a few minutes. Then either go for a short walk or take a quiet look out the window at scenery other than your computer monitor. Think about something calming — your child’s last birthday party or the most beautiful day of summer, for instance.
  2. Shut your eyes and take a few slow quiet breaths. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Press your lower back into the back of the chair and sit straighter with every breath.
  3. Rotate your shoulders around and around. Lift them up to your ears, squeeze them higher, then release them down, feeling the difference in the tension.
  4. Roll your head around a few times, stretching the neck muscles as much as possible. Take the time to feel where you’re tense, and try to relax those areas.
  5. Gently close your eyes, then relax and soften all your eye muscles. If your eyes are especially fatigued, rub your hands together to warm them, then gently place your warm palms over your eyes and let the heat of your hands relax your eyes. Keep your breathing soft and regular.
  6. Let your lower jaw drop down, wiggle it and relax your chin.
  7. If you’re in a meeting, relax your hands. Consciously still them, letting your palms go soft and the fingers curl.

RELATED ARTICLE: Staying Fit When You’ve Got no Time for Exercise

We all know that regular exercise can reduce stress, cut your risk of heart disease and diabetes, improve your digestion, keep your muscles working efficiently and just plain make you feel better. But if you’re like most working people, you can’t carve an extra 20 minutes out of your day three times a week for any kind of formal exercise regime.

Fortunately, researchers are now discovering that even relatively low levels of activity can be beneficial. “Variety and consistency are the keys,” explains Elaine Burke, coordinator of the Vitality Program for Fitness Canada. “If you do something every day or at least every other day, it’s going to be good for your health.”

In fact, according to the Campbell Survey, a study conducted by the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute in 1985, the average 71-kg person will derive health benefits by expending a mere 500 extra kilocalories every week. (If you’re heavier, you need less time at these activities.) When you consider that the following activities expend 500 kilocalories, how hard would it be to incorporate one of them into your weekly routine?

* One and a half hours of walking at a normal pace.

* One and a half hours of gardening–hedging.

* Forty-five minutes of swimming–fast crawl.

* One hour and 50 minutes of leisure bicycling, at 5.5 miles per hour.

Hot mix: coffee, tea & the Internet

FOR THE PAST THREE decades, Marshall Smith, 63, has had his fingers on the pulse of how to retail and market technological and learning products. During this time, he has founded several chains: Paperback Booksmith, which sold paperback books; Videosmith, which sold videotapes; and Learningsmith, which sells a range of educational products from books to rays. Because of his connections with the book world (he Still owns Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass.) and his prescience in picking up new trends, anytime Smith tinkers, people listen. Now he’s set up yet another type of store, which he may expand. It’s called Cybersmith, one of only a handful of stores that feature opportunities for customers to try out CD-ROMs and software games as well as surf the Internet. Customers can also eat and, true to Smith form, buy a few books.

Smith himself said there’s a certain logic that led him from paperbacks to the Internet. In 1961, he was intrigued by the advent of the paperback book and opened the first Paperback Booksmith. With 75 outlets at its height, the chain contributed to the paperbacking of America and helped change the way books are shelved: by category instead of by publisher.

After Paperback Booksmith went out of business m 1978, Smith opened Videosmith, a video rental chain. to capitalize on an invention many thought would revolutionize the book business. (He sold the chain in 1989.) While video never became a bookstore staple, from there it was just a small leap to the Learningsmith stores, with their mix of educational books, videos, software and toys. Founded by Smith in 1992 in conjunction with Boston’s public TV station WGBH, Learningsmith is already among the most successful specialty store chains in the country with sales per square foot comparable to those of the Gap and Brookstones, according to Forbes magazine.

So when Smith, who acknowledges that his strength is “getting a crazy idea and putting it together,” gave up the hands-on running of Learningsmith in April 1994, it didn’t take him long to create his newest venture, Cybersmith. Opened early this year, Cybersmith allows customers to rent time on its machines to explore today’s emerging technologies.

“I had no idea of starting a store,” I said Smith, who spoke with PW at a leather-lined Cybersmith booth as far as possible from the noise of workers who were installing additional computer stations m the store’s downstairs entryway. ( There are already more than 40 computers upstairs on the second floor.) “When I stepped back from operations at Learningsmith, the Internet was on the front page,” Smith said. “I asked led [Smith’s younger son, who is completing his masters degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration and is Cybersmith’s vice-president of technology] to explain what the Internet is, and I didn’t understand. So I asked my older son, and I still didn’t understand. And they said, ‘Why don’t you just do it?'” Realizing that “here’s your classic case of supply and demand,” as Smith put it, he set about creating a place where curious minds can explore CD-ROMs, games and on-line services. Smith, who is chairman and CEO of Cybersmith, brought in Carl Rosendorf, former executive vice-president at Barnes & Noble and a 22-year veteran of the book business, as president and COO.

Old and New

Located just a few blocks from the Harvard Square Learningsmith, Cybersmith, a two-story store, is carved out of what once was a portion of the Harvard Square Coup and the Book Case, a used bookstore. In this space, where the new, in effect, has pushed out the old, Cybersmith brings together books, CDRUMs, virtual reality and gourmet coffee via Smitty’s On-Line Cafe to create a new type of literary coffeehouse. The place sports lots of windows, high ceilings, dark stained wood, comfortable booths and chairs and fiber-optic cabling that shimmers like neon as computers transmit data. The ambience, as in all Smith’s ventures, is an integral part of the store. “I wanted it to be comfortable—with the technology in the background,” he emphasized.

Smith said his core market consists of people who have already embraced the technological revolution. Referring to those who don’t have a computer as “the last vestige,” he rapidly separates himself from them by stating that “whatever the new technology is that’s going down the road, we’ll get it.” And he’s not afraid of new technology destroying the old– i.e., the book. To illustrate his point, Smith tells one of his favorite stories. “When Bennett Cerf took Random House public, someone in the audience said, ‘Aren’t you afraid TV will destroy reading?’ ‘Oh, no,’ Cerf answered, ‘when kids see Africa on television, they’re going to wonder about Africa and read about it. It will open up a new world.'” For Smith, that’s the point: to explore new worlds via technology.

Casting a Net Before the store opened, friends told him, “you’ll get a lot of kids, you’ll get a lot of college students.” But in fact what he’s found is that a techno-cafe is very “middle America. If you watch the families come in with the little kiddies, it’s like Learningsmith.” At the height of Saturday afternoon, it does indeed look very much like Learningsmith, with many families playing computer games, experimenting with virtual reality and exploring morphing.

The pricing structure is simple. Customers buy a six-month membership for a dollar, and then pay 17.5 cents for each minute on line. Virtual reality is more expensive: five dollars for a five-minute session. If, after trying out a CD-ROM, a customer wants to buy it, the first 20 minutes of use go toward the purchase price. Thus, for less than the cost of an afternoon at the movies, a family can explore the latest computer technologies. And, if people get hungry, they don’t have to get up for food. They can order a meal on-line. “Technosmiths” both serve food and answer computer questions.

Display tables feature such computer book staples as The Internet Starter Kit and Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital, a Cybersmith bestseller. The latest CD-ROMs, paraphernalia with morphed images (hats, T-shirts, and mugs) and glossy computer magazines are also part of the store’s stock.

But the heart of Cybersmith is the Internet connection, as witnessed in the tagline “Building Community with Technology.” Cybersmith tries to humanize the links between old and new through atmosphere and through signage, such as the Lao Tsu poem dating back some 2000 years that is inscribed on the steps from the entry way to the second floor: “I do and I understand / I see and I remember / I hear and I forget.”

But Smith’s “community” is more farflung than the usual bookstore community, and technology, particularly e-mail, is key. “E-mail has brought back the art of letter-writing,” he remarked, referring to aradio interview in which Wired magazine columnist Nicholas Negroponte was questioned about publishing his E-mail address. “Don’t you get cranky letters?” queried the interviewer. Negroponte replied, “No, i get interesting letters.” Smith finds this to be the case in his own family. His daughter in California sends long, thoughtful letters back East–via the Net.

When asked whether the creation of more Cybersmiths would facilitate the exchange of e-mail, Smith acknowledged that adding more stores makes sense. However, he will not commit to whether new stores are in the offing, despite rumors that 12 more Cybersmiths are in the works. Instead, he commented, “We’ll see what the revenue is like. It’s a very complicated store. I come in here six days a week.” He worries that if Cybersmith were to open another store in the next logical spot, San Francisco, it would be too hard to do the kind of tinkering necessary to fix the store’s rough spots. As the hammering gets louder from below, it’s clear that Cybersmith still has a few kinks, both technological and otherwise, to work out.

The store is still finding the balance between people and technology. Attempting to attract a lunchtime crowd (the place is relatively empty before 3 p.m.), Smith is moving some computer stations for people who don’t want to eat with a screen in front of their face. He’s also added a cafe by the downstairs entryway.

In the meantime, many people are happy with Cybersmith just the way it is. A technosmith estimates that the store has a 35% repeat customer rate. And for those eager to explore cyberspace but still a little scared, Cybersmith provides just the right degree of hand-holding to venture forth into that brave new world.

PLAYIN’ GUITAR ON THE MTV

A ROCK CONCERT is hardly what you’d call interpretive art–except in the narrow sense that it imitates rage or sexual rush or some such dilated emotional mode. Rock gigs are pure dance: sort of an aerobic workout for your cheapest sensibility. This isn’t Frank Sinatra telling me about his way. Verbal life in rock has been reduced by amplification to the mere emphatic. Robert Hass, writing about poetic meter, said that “rhythm is always revolutionary ground . . . the place where the organic rises to abolish the mechanical and where energy announces the abolition of tradition. New rhythms are new perceptions.” But by 1980 or so the rock beat was about as radical and new as a union checkoff privilege. Its range of statement had contracted. And then came MTV.

In fact, rock needed a visual backup. Historically, the force and peculiar enchantment of music came from openness, from deep, abstract suggestion. But rock had turned repetitious and indeterminate: one gross mouth or other sucking a microphone head. It no longer suggested very much at all. Worse yet, the marketing was imprecise. Video adds image and plot–and a close-up, missing from row Z, of personality. With video, tension and resonance are drawn from visual narrative, as sudden bass chords in the horror film, no matter their intrinsic musical value, will be charged with suspense. Rock has become, well, program music. Since, however, a video is made, in most cases, after the song, that program content will tend to be both meretricious and barely germane. Like playing Swan Lake over Frankenstein.

Celebrated singers, evidently, can get by on performance footage alone. The rock concert, after all, has an in-built if hokey dramatic structure: it is shaped to approximate some pagan religious sacrifice–and videos express that form better even than live participation can. Stage and altar. Ecstatic victim on the hem of physical disintegration. And a rock audience concelebrates: it is not passive. Arms stretch toward the juking Eucharist up there. Clearly a rock performer is meant to be in danger. His voice has shredded. He is approaching a nervous catastrophe. The rubber-neck camera gossips about perspiration, glazed sight: it can isolate on that worshipful, ominous crowd. A rock star, at least symbolically, is singing to hold back death.

But, in the more typical video, concert film clips are intercut with some trumped-up fictional story line: romance or adventure or cartoon surrealism. Not a tone poem: tone prose instead, and most of it fifth-rate at that. Videos have caused a major adjustment, one that might roughly parallel the silent/talkie filmtransition. With all this melodrama around, your rock honcho has had to become a competent actor as well or die. We’re encouraging the new generation of singer-pantomimes (since MTV dialogue is just lip-synced lyric). Several–Sting, Madonna, Prince–have gone from their video apprenticeship to stage and film success. Today, when producers are more interested in box office and TV Q than in talent, rock people, because they dominate the largest ticket-buying age group, have crept and will continue to creep into every area of pop performance art. As if they weren’t pervasive enough as it is. A dismal prospect that ranks with casting Norman Mailer as King Lear.

The durable impression is one of spiteful grossness. Male rock faces are ugly and swollen. A cauliflower nose with rotted septa. Pocky, cheesecloth skin. Lips that belong on an uninflated swim ring. You wonder if constant exposure to loud sound will blunt the human visage. Long hair can make a rock star look like some aged (they are often old) and tasteless transvestite: or better yet, like Tony Perkins in his mother wig rushing down to stab Janet Leigh.

But then, rock has no traffic with traditional comeliness. Rock attitudes crystallize in the leer: savage and crass and self-mutilative. Rock is the one performance medium that will consistently sass its audience. And yet his pose is attractive in the extreme to young women. Underneath all lies the presumption that rock is inexorable, a creative and constitutional need, a prophet’s cry. Face will distort: voice is more shriek than sung line. These people are in pain for us and should be cherished. A rock star suffers.

Because, of course, he has more sensitivity. The prevailing theme in all rock videos is alienation. Rock star as rejected child or lover. As solitary, misunderstood innovator. As benevolent threat to a mechanical state (fascist police who look rather like Ed Meese patrol the set). Violent on stage, he is passive in video drama. This image, though masturbatory, has some aspect of truth. Never have artists been more separate: their inordinate fame, wealth, drug use have driven them into luxurious purdah. Rock people probably cannot (who coul?) square this privileged rank with real worth. There is little comedy on MTV. In part because humor requires surprise and the video requires rote repetition. In part, too, because self-irony would jeopardize seriousness–and a rock singer’s frail status as passionate and misprized naif.

But the production value is elegant: holographics, computer animation, special effect without any particular special cause. The skill and cunning drawn from a quarter-century of TV commercial-art design have been diverted into rock video. These are selling tools: the singer is a brand-name product. Indeed you can seldom tell where MTV commercial and MTV video begin or end. Both advertise. Both package and promote. And, for that reason, MTV announces the death of rock as an important social influence: whether to corrupt or shock or teach. You do not ally yourself with TV and espace leveling. What Iggy Pop, say, could do in his semi-private concert is unthinkable when this message has been brought to you by Coke or Tampax. The rocker is a TV star first now. You know his face (before MTV I presumed most of these people were black). And rock is just another mass-media staple–engrossing, well engineered, more pleasant perhaps, but essentially sterile.