Garage Days

Firstly, I apologize for my spotty presence this week. However, as the school year winds down the child party scene starts heating up, and therefore I’ve been busy flitting from fête to fête. So I’ll be back just as soon as I finish nursing my juice box hangover.

Secondly, even in my sickly-sweet inebriated state, I couldn’t help but notice that David Byrne has bought himself a new spread…with a motor court and a three-car garage!

Upon approaching the gated estate, guests can park in the motor court or in the three-car garage before stepping up to the red brick patio, which teases visitors with leaded glass windows peeking inside the dining room, photos show.

“So what?,” you may be wondering. “Wealthy entertainer buys himself a fancy house in LA, big deal.” But it is a big deal! See, in the heady days when the paint on New York City’s bike lanes was still tacky and candy-colored fixed-gear bicycles were on the ascendant, the Smugness Industrial Complex held up David Byrne as the very embodiment of urban (and urbane) cycling:

Furthermore, David Byrne and others constantly reminded us that he didn’t own a car, which I admit I found irksome, inasmuch as a successful musician who lives in downtown Manhattan noting that he doesn’t own a car is kind of like Prince Charles saying that he doesn’t own a plunger–it’s simply not something he has to trouble himself with on a regular basis, and on the occasions he does actually need one there’s always someone else to do it for him. For this same reason, the manner in which the bike advocacy community always seemed to put forth David Byrne as the paradigm for New York City cycling always vexed me, which is why I often poked fun at him. Unfair? Maybe. But understand that, back in the aughts, bike advocates hadn’t yet figured out that they were supposed to be ashamed of their privilege, so at least give me credit for shaming them over it long before it was fashionable.

Still, I do regret giving him a hard time, since after all it’s not like David Byrne needed to go around and tell people to ride bikes. No doubt he only did so in order to help make the world a better place. Hey, what can I say? I was young and I was angry. Actually, having just typed that, I realize I can’t even say I was young–I was already in my 30s, and I was quite unsuccessful in my job, which explains why I was so angry. In fact I was so angry that when a cycling dilettante leveraged his career as a journalist to undertake a Tour de France fantasy vacation back in 2008 I made fun of him so hard I totally ruined it for him:

“A lot of those people almost ruined that experience for me,” notes Robert Mackey, a writer for The New York Times website, referring to writing The Climb, a blogged account of his time riding much of the Tour de France route this summer as a novice cyclist. While the overwhelming number of comments were positive, Mackey found that a group of self-described “bike snobs” kept sparking dozens of “weird, angry” comments that he had to edit, including the bizarre contention that he had no “right” to do what he was doing, or even that he should hand over his bike to a poorer, more “worthy” cyclist—a demand made by the cyclist himself. It was a black-hole conversation, one that produced infinite heat and no light.

“It was an unbelievable experience—like editing graffiti,” remembers Mackey. “It makes you feel awful about the world.”

I found this funny at the time, but now I find it profoundly sad–not necessarily because he had to endure some nasty comments, but because now that social media has become ubiquitous pretty much everybody feels awful about the world every single day. Back then at least you were still mostly safe–unless, say, you decided to publish a cycling blog on a widely-read newspaper’s website.

Anyway, all of this is to say that David Byrne has been something of a stream measuring gauge for me over the years by which I attempt to quantify my relationship with the world. At the same time, David Byrne himself is not a constant, which means his acquisition of a motor court and a garage has left me feeling confused and adrift. Oh sure, I should have seen it coming–after all, he’s been threatening to leave New York for years. Still, I wouldn’t have thought that, dismayed by modern New York’s ostensible lack of “cultural ferment,” he’d depart for…Toluca Lake? Could it be then that even Byrne has reached the point in his life at which you make your lifestyle decisions based not on ideology, or a search for inspiration, or some identity you’ve build up for yourself, but rather on something completely basic–like, you know, the weather?

But fear not, Smuggies. While at first glance Byrne’s acquisition of these banal motor-vehicular amenities may strike one as akin to Morrissey buying a meat smoker, I have no doubt Byrne will transform them into something that instead makes a profound comment about America’s pathetic addiction to the pernicious automobile, while at the same time reminding us all that he remains far, far above it.

Until it’s time to go to an award show, that is, at which point I suspect someone will send a car to pick him up.

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