Published on: May 9, 2008
Say what you want about Washington DC, where so much seems to go wrong. They appear to have gotten one thing right … by copying a program already quite popular in places like Paris and Barcelona.
According to the Washington Post
, the program is called Smart Bike DC, and it makes bicycle rentals available to anyone who has signed up for a $40 annual membership that gives them "access to a network of bikes stored at computerized racks around the city. To unlock the bike, users simply scan their access cards. The bikes can be used for up to three hours at a time and can be returned at any SmartBike station. In the beginning at least, there won't be any hourly charges.
"The District of Columbia program is starting small, with just 10 stations and 120 bikes. In contrast, Paris started its service last summer with more than 10,600 bikes at 750 stations. But D.C. officials are eager to expand it quickly if the response is good. Proponents say the program easily could be expanded to more than 1,000 bikes at more than 100 stations within a year."
When I was in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago, these bikes and bike racks were ubiquitous – and it was one of the most charming things about the city. And anything that gets people out of their cars is a good thing – not just because it reduces pollution, but it can't help but have a positive impact on the city's obesity levels.
This is a case in which being more European is a positive thing. One of a number of cases in which Americans could learn much from out brethren across the ocean.
Had a chance yesterday to spend a rainy afternoon at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates defeated the San Francisco Giants 5-4. No special occasion – after leaving FMI in Las Vegas, I flew to Columbus, Ohio, to pick up my son Brian from Ohio Wesleyan university, where he's just completed his freshman year. It long has been our goal to visit every major league baseball stadium together, so we're grabbing every possible moment…Pittsburgh was located between Ohio and home, there was a game, and so we got tickets. (If that meant I wasn't going to have time to read all my email and do "Your Views," well, that seemed like the right priority.)
Anyway, going to PNC Park makes us feel even more anticipatory about next year's opening of Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets. Like Safeco Field in Seattle, which we visited last summer, and Camden Yards in Baltimore, which we did shortly after it opened, these new stadiums are wonderful places to watch ballgames….expansive yet intimate, with far better sightlines and food than their predecessors.
But forget the baseball. This goal of visiting stadiums is a terrific way to spend time with a young man who increasingly amazes me. This is my Starbucks barista, and I've always been proud of him…but this year, as he has embraced the college experience, he has blown us away. He went off to school a student of uncertain skills and dedication, but he's gotten very good grades and (this really gets us) has declared a double major – sports marketing and history. We spent yesterday talking not just about baseball, but internships and where he would like to study abroad, and just had a great time. No surprise, because he is a great kid. No, check that. He's a man. And I'm proud of him.
Robert B. Parker has a delightful new young adult novel out entitled "The Boxer and The Spy," which is a great way to introduce to the man who created the Spenser and jess Stone mystery series of novels. The book has all the elements that Parker likes to explore in his books – a young man learning to be autonomous and self-sufficient in the boxing ring, a deepening and respectful romantic relationship that shows the potential for lasting forever, and a general disrespect for institutions and affluent people that put their own needs first. (Wait a minute. Except for the "young man" part, this begins to sound like my life.)
"The Boxer and The Spy" is a great gift for the teenager in your life, and if you're like me, you may even read it before handing it over. Good stuff, and an entirely acceptable way to pass the time before Parker's next adult novel, a western entitled "Resolution" that is a sequel to "Appaloosa," comes out in a few weeks. (There also is to be a new Spenser novel, "Rough Weather," out in October…and one of these days there will be a new CBS movie, "Thin Ice," about his Jesse Stone character, starring Tom Selleck.)
I had a couple of wonderful Italian wines over the past week while in Las Vegas – the Ruffino 2004 Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico (which went great with shrimp and penne fra diavolo that I had during a wonderful dinner at Rao's with Marv Imus), and a 2005 La Mozza I Perazzi Morellino di Scansano (enjoyed with Mrs. Content Guy and our good friends Jim & Joan while having a delightful pizza lunch at Mario Batali's Enoteca San Marco in The Venetian).
In both cases, I was eating like an Italian. Another case in which there is much to learn from the other side of the Atlantic.
This seems like a good moment to take note of the extraordinary emails that I received during the past week in response to my "Bank Of Good Habits" piece about having gotten into shape, losing 34 pounds by eating smarter and exercising more, taking boxing lessons and just deciding to change my life.
I was overwhelmed, not just by the sheer volume of email, but the way in which so many of you shared your own stories – the frustrations and successes of getting older and trying to do the right thing, even when it is difficult.
I feel your pain. It's always tough and never gets easier.
But we're all in this together, and that does, in some ways, make it easier.
Thanks, also, to all of you who congratulated me on my 25th wedding anniversary, and who went out of your way to commiserate with Mrs. Content Guy when you saw her at FMI in Las Vegas.
You were right on both counts.
That's it for this week. See you Monday.