Okay, huge humiliating admission: We get a magazine called “Money.” I don’t know why it comes to our apartment. I’ve never paid them a dime, but it comes like clockwork, and always with some stupid cover story about how to do the one thing I’ll never be any good at: Taking what I’ve got and making it into more.
Each month it’s like a nasty nag from a surly spouse. “Retire early!” “How to save money on college!” “Stocks that will make you rich!”
To which I say, “Fuck that shit. I gotta go [ride my bike] [check Facebag] [drink some beer].”
This month’s issue got my attention, though. It boldly shouted “Best Places to Live 2013, America’s Top 50 Small Towns.” This got my attention because I think the best place to live in 2013 was also the best place to live in 2012, 2011, etc. In other words, the best place for me to live is the place I’m at, since wishing I was somewhere else is about as satisfying as watching someone else eat chocolate.
I flipped open the mag and skimmed the list of “best places.” It looked funny. Sharon, MA? Louisville, CO? Vienna, VA? Chanhassen, MN? Sherwood, OR? WTF? The whole list was like that, but it wasn’t until I saw Pflugerville, TX (No. 44) that I got it.
You see, Pflugerville is a shithole. It’s north of Austin, and even before Dell it was a sleepy little redneck town of gun nuts, Jesus freaks, and lycra-hating pickup trucks. Oh, and it was white. White, white, white.
Now I understood. The phrase “best towns in America” is, like so many other things, code for “no blacks or Mexicans.” You know, good schools and middle class values, that is, “white people.” To confirm what I already knew, I meandered over to http://www.census.gov. Yup.
Sharon, MA is in Norfolk County. 551,487 white folks, 38,148 black ones.
Louisville, CO is in Boulder County. 257,889 Dog-fearing white people, 2,532 black ones. Place is so white you’ll need two pairs of shades.
Vienna, VA is in Fairfax County. 677,990 white people, 99,218 black ones.
Chanhassen, MN is in Carver County and a portion of Hennepin. 84,450 whites, 1,124 blacks.
And so on down the list. (Pflugerville was 709,814 white, 87,308 black, but as with all the census data, these are county-wide numbers. These “top” towns themselves are much whiter than the county as a whole. So, should I note, is my own RPV, a mostly-white-and-Asian community in the South Bay of LA.)
You get the message without trying very hard. If you want good living in the U.S.A., go to where the white people are.
Bikers of color
One of the things I loved about riding in Houston is one of the things I love about riding in L.A. We got everything. Show up any morning on the NPR and you’ll get your pick of ethnicities. Show up for the Tuesday night Major Motion ride and if you’re white you’ll understand how it feels to be a minority. Do the Mexican 500 in Carson and you’ll be mixing with a whole lot of people who speak Spanish. Asian faces on our rides are commonplace.
Regardless of what you think about race and racism, people from different backgrounds tend to get along better when they spend time together, and more importantly when they depend on each other. There are few things that require more trust than sitting on someone’s wheel at 28 mph in a tightly packed bunch.
As a society we argue a lot about race, but not so much on the bike. When we’re pedaling, we’re just trying to stay upright, to not get dropped, and maybe to whip the rider next to you in the sprint — or even give him a push. Color doesn’t mean as much in the context of cycling together.
When Rodney King said, “Can’t we all just get along?” he voiced a very basic human desire, to put aside the bullshit, accept our differences, and move ahead with the business of living and making a living. It’s what we do on the bike.
I’m sure many of these “best places to live in 2013” are nice enough towns. But as far as I’m concerned, the best places are the ones where different people can mix, and do. Viva L.A.