Instructions for making asparagus to come, but first an amusing story and a little advice for nyc cyclists.

Yesterday morning on her way to school, riding down central park west, a police car pulled over to the side of the road in front of Hillary and a fellow rider, without the employment of lights, a siren, or even a turn signal.  Perhaps it was an emergency donut stop.  Hard to know.  When hill began to ride around the stopped car she was met with flailing arms and the shouted instruction to STOP.  Hill had been riding down the street as normal, sticking to the right side, far enough from parked cars to avoid getting doored, etc.  She had not run any red lights (more on that shortly), or done anything else she could think of to warrant being pulled over.

“what seems to be the officer, problem?”

“You need to be riding over in the bike lane!”

I should pause here to explain to folks who aren’t familiar with central park west, that there IS a bike lane.  It is a one way bike lane headed north, on the north bound side of that avenue.  Hill was traveling south.

Hill explained the idiocy of his request quite patiently and diplomatically.  Pointing out that to ride south in the bike lane would be, first and foremost, illegal!  but also that it would be incredibly dangerous, to ride into oncoming bike, AND car traffic (especially given that the speed limit on central park west goes un-enforced).  Further more, she explained to the officer, bicycles are not confined to bike lanes.  They are, in fact, allowed anywhere that cars are in the city with the exception of some bridges, tunnels, and highways.

The officer mumbled something about upcoming changes to the bike path that he had heard something about, and the fact that there was a bike lane on columbus, and that he could really use a donut and some coffee, and finally let her off with a warning.  A WARNING!!!!  for what!??  Riding a bike legally?  Naturally Hill rode away from this encounter fuming (and late for an appointment).

We have heard from quite a number of friends who have been pulled over recently for red light violations.  There was even a NYtimes piece in the paper this morning about a couple of officers who were making the rounds to apologize one by one to a group of riders that they had caught in a speed trap in central park, at the bottom of a big hill.  They were going 25 miles an hour.  This is the speed limit that is set for cars in the park, but apparently, in a 2o year old parks regulation guide, bikes are limited to 15 mph.  (most of us could run that fast if we were being chased by something scary!).

What on earth does all of this mean?  I don’t know for sure, but it is my distinct sense that there has been a mandate passed around the NYC police department to hand out more violations to cyclists.  Period.  Clearly this mandate has been stressed powerfully enough, that police officers are going out of their way to meet it.  In Hillary’s case, the officer saw a couple of cyclists, and figured they MUST be doing something wrong, but was so completely uneducated on the rules regarding cyclists, that he was unable to come up with anything.  To his credit, he backed down, instead of pulling some sort of power trip and writing her a summons for not having a bell on her bike (or maybe he just didn’t know that it was a violation not to have one!)

What to do?  There are those of us who miss the good old days, when we were a select few renegade cowboy cyclists who flew under the radar and could do whatever we pleased, because we were invisible, insignificant to the cops.  This was the New York that I arrived in some 15 years ago.  No one paid any attention to a guy on a bike, and without your head on a swivel it was easy to end up under a bus.  I loved riding in that NYC, but it wasn’t a version of the city that particularly encouraged cycling as means of transportation.  We all had to know that with increased infrastructure and increased ridership, would come increased legislation, and increased enforcement.  That has clearly come to a head.  There is a small but very vocal percentage of the population who are vehemently against the bike lanes.  There are pedestrians that complain vociferously about renegade cyclists.  It is my hunch that the police department is cracking down in order to show that they are doing something about this problem.  The effect on us cyclists however is akin to what it would feel like to pedestrians if suddenly the police started handing out tickets for jay walking.

But this is my advice.  This is my plea, to all NYC commuters.  Suck up and deal.  Ride conservatively for a while.  Avoid red light violations (they’re very pricey).  Be polite.. courteous.  If you ARE pulled over for something that isn’t illegal, stay calm and explain the situation so that the officer may piece by piece learn the law as it pertains to people on bicycles.  I strongly believe that this is something that will blow over.  It is the flavor of the month at the NYPD, and it will get old.  For the time being we all need to just turn sideways and let it blow by.  In the mean time, we can be pleased that ridership in the city is growing so fast that it is being noticed!

Now.  On to important things.  This one is for Scott.  Asparagus season is almost on us.  In some parts of the country, I’m sure it has already arrived.  Last summer I came up with a way of serving it that I really like.  Asparagus is lovely just steamed with a bit of butter melted on it..  some salt and pepper, or even with hollandaise sauce, but this is a less rich, more refreshing type of preparation.   Easy easy.

Blanch the asparagus until it is fork tender.  Err on the side of al dente.  Immediately shock it in an ice bath.  This will stop the cooking and retain the beautiful bright green of the stuff.  Once you’ve pulled it from the ice bath and dried it off, toss it in a bowl with roughly equal parts of olive oil and sherry vinegar.  A little bit of mashed up garlic.  A goodly amount of lemon rind..  Use a vegetable peeler to slice off thin strips of lemon peel and then julienne them until they are skinny little strands.  Salt.  Pepper.  And finally, just a tiny dab of whole grain mustard.  Toss it all together and let it sit.  You can prepare this an hour or so before you eat.  It will NOT suffer.  Rather, it will just keep getting better, as the asparagus slightly pickles.   Try it.  Like the spinach salad that I posted ages ago, this one is much more than the sum of its parts.  You could serve it for instance with a nice big bowl of orange fish pasta!  Enjoy.

As for my state of health:  The strange un accounted for pain that I’ve been having the last bunch of rounds has continued.  This round it lasted until yesterday.  A record.  Today, finally, it’s not so bad.  It’ll still be a day or so before I feel well enough to do a little work on my bike, however.  I pushed the erbitux treatment from monday until yesterday, because monday’s weather was dreadful.  Yesterday on the other hand was so nice that I walked all the way home from treatment (blissed out on benadryl).  A beautiful walk through central park.  My doc, announced yesterday in a sort of abrupt way that he wanted to do a petscan as soon as possible.  I’m scheduled for tomorrow.  (“no vigorous exercise the day before or the morning of”  “don’t worry, I won’t”).  This, naturally is a little scary.  From now on, petscans will be how we gauge my state of health.  It’s pretty simple.  The cancer metastasizes and shows up as tumors in new and interesting parts of my body, or it doesn’t.  I’m a little troubled that he wants one during treatment.  I mean, if anything has developed DURING brutal chemotherapy, my guess is that I’m a dead man.  It would have to be one mean and tenacious cancer to actually DEVELOP during the sort of beating that I’m taking at the moment. The upside, of course, is that I could walk away from these last three treatment cycles!! (“well shit, doc.  Clearly it’s not working!”)  I don’t think that will be the case.  My petscan at the beginning of treatment was clear, and unless I truly am in BIG trouble, nothing will have developed during a period when I’m being bombarded with cancer killing drugs.  Still, just the scheduling of the test provokes some anxiety and gear turning.  Please do whatever mojo you do for me tomorrow.

Big love.

Stay calm.

0 Replies to “asparagus”

  1. Yum yum yum asparagus!

    I try to ride politely at all times. That said, it’s really, really easy to become infuriated by both stubbornly inattentive pedestrians and the audacity of other cyclists. (Cars, oddly enough, are generally not my problem. There’s the occasional irate and wrong-headed driver who does something stupid and aggressive, but that’s the exception. Riding smartly means anticipating most potential conflicts.)

    Given the crackdown, I’ve secretly and not so secretly wished, in a fit of “That’s not FAIR!”, that peds would get their comeuppance. And, it’s an understatement to say that I’m pissed to high heavens when I see bike salmon force right-of-way cyclists unexpectedly into traffic, cyclists blowing through reds & crosswalks filled with right-of-way peds, etc, be able to carry on without repercussions. That’s the cyclist behavior that should not be tolerated by any of us.

    I too believe that this will blow over, though. There’ve been suggestions that, in addition to demonstrating that they’re doing something, police have been instructed to retaliate against JSK and her (supposed) Eliot Spitzer-esque relentlessness and seeming indifference toward political tact, particularly when she laid blame for the December clean-up blizzard disaster at the feet of Ray Kelly.

  2. good advice ez. and good asparagus recipe too! i will have to try it once the season is upon us. last year i got hooked on roasting it in a bit of olive oil and salt. we go through a pound or two a week when it’s plentiful.

  3. some very good and humorous writing about cycling in the big apple. love it!

    best of luck tomorrow. and on a lighter note that salad looks delicious. muah!

  4. Just saying hello, I’ve been lurking and following your blog for some time. I think about you often, wondering randomly throughout the day ” I wonder how Ezra’s doing” or “I think today’s a treatment day, I hope it’s not too rough”. So just letting you know that here’s one more person thinking and worrying about you from across the country (Portland OR). And cooking your recipes! Can’t wait to get my hands on some asparagus.
    You might like the book “Tartine Bread”. Even if you’re not a baker it has some wonderful recipes for things using bread, or things to spread on it. It’s a lovely and inspiring book.

  5. Yum asparagus…grew our own last yr…if we get some this yr I’m gonna try your recipe. We just used butter, black pepper, lemon juice and parmesan. Thinking of you as always Ezra…good luck for the scan and sending lots of hugs and positive thoughts over the Atlantic for you!!! Cx

  6. I think the fight is between the police chief and the transportation commissioner. The latter made the mistake of blaming the police chief for some aspect of the brouhaha in Brooklyn over bike lanes in front of Sen. Schumer’s house (or specifically, in front of Sen. Schumer’s wife’s favorite parking spot,) so of course, the police chief has responded by directing precincts to write tickets to cops for everything. I’ve been talking to the cops in Central Park as often as possible as I do my laps, and very few of them are overly enthusiastic about this. The rules in Central Park are a mess, being a mashup of city park regulations (criminal court) and traffic regulations (traffic court.) And no one, not even the cops, can tell you exactly which is which. Your advice is perfect though. Be polite. Overly polite. The main concern of the cops is threats to pedestrians from cyclists. It doesn’t matter if the pedestrian is drunk, on fire, stealing a purse, and waving a gun while crossing mid-block against the light without a crosswalk, give them the right-of-way. As long as cops see you acting responsibly (and they understand what the laws actually are) they seem willing to leave you alone.

    Enjoy your asparagus! Best of luck tomorrow.

  7. The thing about us cops is, we are professional assholes. Some born, some made, but….that’s who we are.

    We were never intended to interact with regular humans, which is why we are so bad at it most of the time. We are like grizzly bears trying to dance. We might get a few steps into a waltz, but we’re really embarrassed about it and we’d rather be focusing on something, well, meatier.

    On behalf of all of us, I offer a sincere apology.

    And not just to you and Hill, but to everyone, really.


    (Okay, not everyone, but you guys know who you are. And the funny thing is, you never hold it against us.)


    Sardines again tonight. Love you, man. LOVE YOU!


  8. love. breath in, exhale long and deep. the shining orange of sunset, the pink hues of dawn. the first daffodil. love. and calm.

    from indiana

  9. A similar backlash against cyclists is happening here in Los Angeles. An above commenter was correct: Janette Sadik-Kahn’s personality and decisions do not mesh with the mayor’s “no-infighting or disagreeing” unspoken policy for his staff and commissioners. Since her projects are nearly 100% data-driven, there are few legitimate arguments that her opponents in city government can attack with. Henceforth, the underhanded, by way of the NYPD enforcement, response. Additionally, the “intrusion” of cyclists into the spaces that drivers assume belongs solely to them has finally increased enough that residents of the city have begun to fight back against bike lanes and other infrastructure projects.

    To me, this feels like a mighty push from drivers (read: baby boomers) who believe that the right of way on roads is just theirs. It is a violent push against a sea change in city planning, infrastructure design, and the idea of what a livable city is. As urban populations swell, there is a finite limit on the number of vehicles that can share the road. The freeway/car-only streets model is beginning to break down.

    Honestly, this is a good sign. Cyclists were never even in the law books or civil code, let alone having enforcement regulation levied on them. Legitimacy as a vehicle, and, dare I say it, a legitimate mode of transportation, is on its way!
    Sorry for the essay… That asparagus looks great, and I’m definitely going to make it. The ice bath trick is great. Mushy asparagus=not so good.

    My fingers are crossed for you tomorrow at the doctor’s. Best.

  10. maybe he just needs to test his petscan equipment and you are such a nice fellow, he natually chose you. now go blow up his machine with your good vibes and scarred, yes, but radiating strong innards!

    i love asparagus. more than ever. its like a delicacy that i eat every chance i can.

    sorry for the messy bike stuff. i dont handle that kind of thing well, and know hillary was probably very diplomatic, more so than i tend to be (i get emotional and whiney like a putoff teenager being told something stupid by an adult) – but still completely understand her miffedness and fuming. ride strong friends. xo

  11. My commute to work takes me from Williston to Waterbury without encountering even one red light–mostly dirt roads. Because of this, I hardly know the rules of city riding and scare easily when riding into town. In spite of that, I still catch myself thinking how nice it might be to ride in traffic.

    I guess it all boils down to this: Clearly, I can’t be pleased.

    Mojo from me and my coffee-table-lovin’ dogs.

  12. to Raspa up there, baby boomers ride bikes too. just sayin.!!! you make it sound like a dirty word to be over 40.

    anyway! Ez– M!ucho Mojo and I love asparagus, thanks for the sprightly springy recipe, I like the idea of chopped up lemon zest with it.

    Im riding a bike every day in New Orleans, and there are very few bike lanes. People are somewhat tolerant of cyclists, and the cops completely ignore us, which i like.

    strength and perseverence to yah, which you have a mighty amount of already,


  13. cops’re weird and asparagus makes my urine funky. that’s all. sounds like yer feelin’ ok. good to know. give a tarheel hi to yer lady.

  14. I wish I had seen this before I cooked asparagus tonight! Will keep it in mind for next time. Yum. Sending positive energy and hugs from Wisconsin.

  15. Haha! I stand corrected! Sorry, I got a little overzealous! A lot of the public comment meetings are filled with NIMBYers who are almost universally in their late fifties, and against any kind of livable streets infrastructure changes. Many for the reason that “I just don’t like it.” It is VERY frustrating, but I should definitely not have brought that with me.


  16. Love your recipe idea. But, check this out–lay it flat on a sheet pan. Drizzle with xv olive oil, S+P, and grated reggiano. Broil like 3 minutes. Your blog got me down in the basement looking at building up my 80s Basso Columbus SL frame back up. I haven’t ever left a comment here. But, wanted to let you know that the five of us here in Seattle are rooting for you. Hang in there.

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