Monday, April 28, 2008

Bizarre Market @ Chop Suey Books!

The Bizarre Market was held at Chop Suey Books this past Saturday. The weather was warm, the Frito Bag 3 alarm 5 bean chili that Ward made was really good, a whole bunch of vendors came out to sell their goods. Books on Wheels had a great pit crew helping with repairing bikes, and the bike race went over without injury. I didn't catch her name, but the little girl who was the only girl racing in the kids bike race was a champ, and I was really stoked to see her fall down and pick herself right back up and finish the race. Really cool! Overall, thanks for the support and everyone who came out and contributed donations to Books on Wheels. Richmond Rules!!!!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Little dudes, Little bikes

For as much as Books on Wheels hangs out with kids, I am still clueless. I don't really know how to talk to kids and the biggest accomplishment I have as far as interacting is watching my mouth, but I do know that kids are funny and way awesome to hangout with, especially like 30 preschool age kids ALL ON BIKES!!!!! Bon Aire Pre-School has Bike Week every year and our friend Abbie invited us to attend. The kids bring their bikes to the school, or the school provides bikes, and they just chill outside, make decorations for their bikes, blow up balloons, and enjoy the spring after spending so much time in the classroom all winter.

So I went to work on the little bikes, give away some books and hangout. The kids were amped, and so stoked to ride around in circles all morning, check out the bus, push some buttons, open and close the bus door 5 thousands times, and use the bike pump to inflate their cheeks. Adorable.
Major Hi-fives to the kid wearing the tye dye shirt, cruising all morning on the metal tricycle that I'm sure is older than I am, and the three-year-old who rode the wooden bike with no pedals and pushed himself around for like an hour straight. It was hot out there today; these kids are troopers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bibliob├║s of Probigua (Chicken Bus Mobile Library)

A professor of mine who spends a lot of time in Guatemala brought this to my attention the other day, saying I should check out some photos of Antigua Mobile Library. SWEET! This is so tight. If Books on Wheels ever goes to Guatemala (yeah right), I want to hang out with these dudes, and chill with Carlos at Maya Pedal. Chicken bus photos courtesy of, Bicycle Project Maya Pedal photos by me, from when Erin and I went in December of 2006. Always stoked on people doing cool stuff, especially having to do with books or bikes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

BOW Comment Box

I guess it is human nature to improve upon the efforts of others, and who am I to complain? If we weren't programed to assess an item, find it's faults or short-comings, and then advance said object to a more desirable state, I could never post this "web-log." You would be reading this as a series of dots and dashes. Or worse.

That said, sometimes people just want to complain or offer suggestions that seem to be about improving what you are doing, but are really just ways for them to one-up you in a game they are playing alone. Here are some pretty funny stories about such people.

1. Bible Belch- This is one of the better Books On Wheels stories, one in which we are presented with a complaint but somehow redeem ourselves without doing anything. We were set up outside of a food Co-Op in Pittsburgh last Summer not really working on bikes but trying to give away lots of books. We already had someone attempt to take a paperback and our toolbox (in all fairness, he did ask if the tools were free before walking away) and had a man tell us that if it were up to him, he would burn most of our books (more on that later). So the mood was set for the woman who, when I told her that all of the books were free, told me that she wouldn't be interested because she only read religious books. "Great! We just put out a bible." Not to be outdone, she asked incredulously "Why would you give away a bible?!?" I can only guess that she didn't get to the part about Jesus and charity and all that. In any case, this boggled her mind enough so that she glanced over the books for a moment. After checking out our selection, she bent down to pick up a book. "I'm just going to take this," she said, showing me the book. The Sex Trade in Eastern Europe.

2. Free Books and/or Free Bike Repair- We recently were packing up from a long event when I was approached by a man who was wondering who he needed to talk to about book repair. Oddly enough, this is not the first time we have had this request. I smiled and apologized to the man. "I'm sorry, we don't repair books, just bikes." He held out the Webster's Dictionary, insisting "The sign says 'Free Book Repair'." "I'm sorry, what sign is that?" He pointed to the sign that Kate painted us. "Free Book and Bike Repair" he answers, still offering me the book and growing a little frustrated. "Oh, that's Free Books and Bike Repair. We give out free books, and we work on bikes for free." I was sympathetic to the grammatical vagueness, one which I hadn't noticed before, and again apologized. "You should be more clear. That is false advertising!"

3. I Know Our Bus is Called Moby, but It Can't Swim- During an event last Summer, a man stopped in to see what we were all about. We gave the general spiel of how we drive our bus around as a mobile free book/free bike repair (is that clearer?) service. He nodded as he assayed our project. "You know what you should do? You should go to Africa. They really need this kind of thing there."

4. What Shelley Doesn't Know Won't Hurt You- While set up in Rochester for a nice afternoon event, this guy comes up to ask what Books On Wheels is all about. He had seen an article about us in the paper and wanted to meet us. Shelley was working on a bike, but stopped to explain our non-profit. The whole time, however, the man seemed anxious, like he wasn't really listening but just waiting to talk. When she was done, he holds out a package containing a nylon strap about 4 inches long with snaps on either end and a reflector in the middle. "Do you have any idea what this is?" he asks. "I don't know" she responds. "Looks like some kind of reflector." "Nope" he answers. This was confusing, as it obviously was a type of reflector and she assumed he was asking because he didn't know what it was. In a moment it became clear that he was testing her. "It's a hub cleaner" he announced, clearly proud that he had stumped our bike mechanic. "You snap it around your hub to keep it clean as you ride!" Shelley went back to working on the bike, not impressed, so the dude walks over to the bus where I was buried in the engine, trying to figure out an electrical problem. He ran through the same cat-and-mouse game with me. After positioning himself for triumph, he says "I just wanted to see if you guys knew your bike parts."

5. An Old Fashioned Muppet Burning- Ok. Back to Pittsburgh. Shelley and I had just set up for the day and were preparing to get some video footage of our presentation when an older man, decked out in full bike gear and a fuller beard than mine, rides up to us on a really nice road bike. He had paniers on the front and back, looking as if he is about to ride to a commune in California. I innocently ask him if he would mind if I filmed him, you know, as good press. This question unnerved him, and he says he would rather not as he is against modern technology. Fair enough. But then he launches into this lecture: "Actually, if it were up to me, I would burn most of the books you have here. These books, they're a real mind trip. They put children in a la-la-land, give them all sorts of crazy ideas. I mean, muppets can't talk, but here they are, talking. That kind of thing really screws up a kid. Gets in their minds and fools it all up." Missing my cue to ask how he thought muppets communicated if they didn't talk, I was on point with this: "Oh, so you grew up on the muppets?" "Yeah, and that stuff is full of lies."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Peaceful Warriors

Shelley has gotten me really excited about writing down some of the funnier stories from our pre-blog events. Here are a couple:

Last Summer, we were asked to participate in a non-violence festival put on by Not With These Hands. This is a great organization started by Kristin Hott, Heidi Abbott, and Carter Carpin, all close friends with the Harvey family. The event was held on a beautiful Saturday and featured different organizations dedicated to preventing violence. Unfortunately, Shelley and I witnessed two events that involved different degrees of violence. Well, I guess it's more honest to say that we were directly involved in each event.

The first involved the son of a friend who had just come over to hang out with us with his new balloon. For some reason, he decided that he was going to practice kung fu kicks on my lower leg. It was somewhat playful, and after growing tired of dodging his kicks, I decided to grab his foot and hand so that I could spin him around. He was laughing as he spun, but, as I dipped him towards the ground, his balloon hit the grass and popped. This really upset him, and despite my attempts to replace the balloon right away, he crossed his arms and sulked away behind a tree. It kind of made me feel like a chump to make this kid cry. Shelley and I were trying to figure out how to deal with this when he storms over. "I'm not talking to you!!!" Ok. He walked back to the tree. A moment later, my back was turned and he came over and punched me in my leg. I tried to tell him that while violence is the lowest form of communication, it still is communication and technically the punch didn't jive with his claim not to be talking to me, but by that point he was running to get another balloon.

Just a few minutes later, we noticed a 10 year old decked out in a Braves uniform. He had the full get up on. I told Shelley "I bet I know who's kid that is." Shelley didn't get the joke until she turned around and saw a full grown man in the exact same uniform, number and everything. The funniest part was that this man was fully asleep, leaning against a tree with his mouth hanging open. This cracked us up, but I think the kid though we were laughing at him, so he carefully eyed us and walked over to his dad. Still looking at us, he tried to wake dad up by hitting him on the head. Since he wasn't watching what he was doing, he ended up sort of hitting him in the face. But dad didn't wake up, and we started laughing harder. The kid smiled, getting that we weren't laughing at him, and encouraged our laughter by hitting his dad harder and more frequently on the head. By the time dad woke up, confused as to why his son was smacking him, Shelley and I were close to tears.

It was around this point that a young woman brought her bike over to have the brakes fixed. "Is this going to take long" she asked with the tone of someone who was really bothered. Later I regretted not immediately apologizing for wasting her time, but at that moment all I could do was hope the two boys we had just dealt with would set their sites on this girl.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring Bada-Bing!

Yeah! Despite some crazy rainy weather, the Richmond Craft Mafia's Annual Spring Bada-Bing was crowded, exciting, and so crafty. Plant Zero looked beautiful, and I was stoked to be hanging out in the South Side two days in a row with the bus.

They were lovely enough to hold a raffle to benefit Books on Wheels and Art 180. Ward and Kate hung out all morning, and Erin and I came by in the afternoon to check out the happenenings. Thanks to everyone for their support!!!

And... The Bizarre Market is coming! We are holding mini bicycle races outside of Chop Suey. All ages welcome, we provide the bikes and the helmets, winner take all, fight to the death (or finish line). We will be giving away prizes and I swear it won't be a free book. It will be two free books!!!
10% of sales go to Books on Wheels-this should be really fun!


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Earth Day!

Today we were booked for two Earth Day celebrations, one taking place on Mayo Island and the other at Three Lakes Park in Henrico. We arrived at the first event, and hung out for a while, seeing what earthy things that others had to offer, enjoying some free samples of trail mix, and chasing this crab around desperately trying to get a photo. We couldn't stay long and packed up after only about 2 hours to head out. We made it over to the park at about 1, where after driving around in circles in the parking lot for a while, set up right outside of the nature center where our friend Josie works. She was telling us about how they just got a new turtle and its name is Shelley, and Shelley the turtle shares an aquatic living space with Kermit the turtle. Amazing. So we poked around, a bit, asked Josie what they considered a seabiscuit to be, looked at the taxidermy animals, avoided the snakes, and was generally really stoked to know about this awesome FREE beautiful park. They had a lot of neat stuff going on for the day, like pygmy goats to pet, and ice cream, and free caricature drawings. Ward and I asked to have ours done while riding on segues, but she said she couldn't do it. I plan on adding them in later myself, only after I find a cop to ask what a segue looks like.
"I look like Steven Segal"

RVA Article Out Today!

RVA Magazine again has been amazing enough to let Ward and I write an article telling our stories of this past Spring Break '08 Tour. Check it out online here:

Hey Ward! You should tell the story about how we were at the peace festival last year and that kid hit you and then you made him cry, and then we watched this other kid, whose father was sleeping against a tree, hit his dad to make us laugh. Did I mention that the father and son combo were dressed in matching baseball gear? Did I mention that this was all at a PEACE festival?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Moby, and dog, get bathed

So i think it is kind of ridiculous to wash a vehicle, and very wasteful, but Moby was looking rough, and it was a great excuse to give my roommates dog, Ash, a bath. Don't worry, I used as little water as possible and organic soap. We are super busy this time of year, and Moby needs to look her finest for festivals, events, and toting around town. Reminds me of a few stories from last spring around this time...
Ward and I were asked to participate in a festival last spring, over email, that was taking place in Richmond and I replied saying we would be more than happy to be there, just let us know when and where. We received a response back from the organizer immediately saying that it was great that we could make it, and that we should just send in our application and the $50 fee for setting up and we would be good to go. I didn't realize that the event cost money to attend, so I wrote back explaining that since we give away everything for free and make no money (with the exception of wonderfully appreciated donations) that we could not afford to pay to be there, but asked if they would they be willing to waive the fee considering the circumstances. After not hearing back from anyone for a while, I asked Ward to write as well, just to make sure the lines of communication were as open as possible. Ward wrote, requesting the same, and again, we received no response. A few weeks before this event was to happen, Ward ran into the organizer and asked him if he had gotten our emails, and he said, yeah, and had written back-twice. Thinking that was sorta weird, but not dwelling on it, Ward asked him in person if he was willing to let us attend without paying, and after a round-about discussion, a straight answer never came up, other than that he still wanted 50 bucks from us, and we took it as a no, we are not welcome if we are not paying to be there. Ward and I decided that we would pass, and not worry about not getting a break, except that two days before the event we find out a friend of ours had their fee waived and were going to be working, making some bucks for charging people for their services. Discouraged, we decided to take matters into our own hands and we gracefully crashed the event by showing up in the bus. We arrived and asked a dude in the parking lot where we should park, and he pointed to a location directly next to the a stage where bands were playing and a few hundred people were hanging out watching, dead-center in the middle of this massive festival. So we set up and immediately people start crowding around the bus, taking books, and asking us what we are all about. After about an hour, Ward and I decide to take a walk and find some food, and as we moved past the crowd that was watching music, Ward sees the organizer, who had yet to see us OR the bus, and the guy very excitedly comes up to Ward and says "Thanks for being here!" and reaches out to shake his hand. Ward takes his hand, and with a firm grip, looks him in the eye and says, "No, thank you for having us".
Oh, and check this out on missed connections about Ward:

"Did you get rid of your beard hair after you shaved it off? I know this is weird, but can I have it? I'll pay you."
Erin actually does have the beard in a glass jar at home. She wants 500 buck O.B.O for the beard hair.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Looking for parts

My old truck at the dump. Thanks to this incident, we had an excuse to buy a bus...

Today I went to Chesterfield Auto Parts to see if they ever have buses come through. I didn't think they did, and I was right, just a couple box trucks that didn't have what I was looking for. The difficult thing about having the buses is that it is really hard to replace stuff like weird lenses that look neat when lit up, but aren't something that auto stores just have lying around, or even truck stops a lot of the times.

The first time we ran across this issue and realized that it is not a quick one to remedy is when Ward and I were picking up a very large donation of books right outside of Richmond at an office complex and a few people were helping us load the books into the small bus. There is this small lens that covers a break light that is this wacky shape, like half an egg but longer and clear. This thing pops on and off with ease because it is not screwed onto anything, its just sitting there. So this little plastic lens pops off and starts bouncing all around the parking lot, and this guy helping us quickly reacts by trying to stop it from motion- with his foot. So now instead of one whole lens we had many many small lenses. The guy was super apologetic and felt real bad (I would have probably done the same thing had I been closer to the scene at the time) and I causally lied to him and told him it was no problem and that they were real easy to replace.

Anyway, entry to CAP is only a buck, and it was kinda nice just wandering around looking at the old cars, with their hoods and trunks popped. Its surprisingly quite and serene for so much metal and dudeliness.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

VCU Bike Round Up!

Today Ward and I spent the morning at the VCU Bike Round Up! giving away books to co-ed's that commute between classes via the commons, which is probably something like a quad, but with very little grass involved. Along with us was the VCU police department registering bicycles, which I guess is like giving it a license plate number, so if you do anything illegal on your bike the cops can track you down. Fixing bikes was Evan and Erin with Richmond Re-Cycles, and Chip with Pibby's Bicycle Shop. This was our second year attending the event, thanks to Martha, who lets us set up with the bus and distribute books even though we weren't needed to do bike repair at this event. They had free water and were conveniently located a short walking distance from Nate's Taco Truck which served us up delicious TVP tacos for lunch.

I arrived a little later than Ward to the event, and as I'm settling in a position behind our table, a Chinese ESL student is trying to ask Ward a question, but she knows very little english, asking Ward for "funny" books. Ward digs through some boxes, shows her what we have, and leaves her to choosing what she wants to take with her. Her choice ended up being " Down Home Talk", a humor book about learning southern dialect. Ward and I were amused, and almost felt kind of bad, thinking about this girl reading the book and learning English with a southern drawl and trying out weird "redneck" slang.

bt dubbs, We have decided on our summer tour dates. Look out for the big blue bus in the North:
June 21th: Baltimore, MD
June 22st: Philadelphia, PA
June 23rd: Philadelphia, PA
June 24th: Philadelphia, PA
June 25th: New York
June 26th: New York
June 27th: Pittsburgh, PA
June 28th: Harrisonburg, VA

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Who really wants to drive around in the summer heat? Not me! So if anyone is looking for some free books, you can find us and the new Books on Wheels cart at Randolph Public Pool during our time off from scheduled events, becuase that's where we will be relaxing. The pool is free, the books are free, and I will be there as much as possible, eating popsicles and doing cannonballs.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Twin Hickory Library Book and Bike Donation Drive

Whoa! Insane.

We were donated thousands of books and 31 bicycles today!

We arrived at the library this morning a little before 10 am to Adrienne's enthusiasm after she had done an amazing job of making posters and promoting the event. Along for the ride was Steve, our newest recruit, the Books on Wheels cook, equipped with all the necessities to make us burritos for lunch. We set up along side Phil, the Henrico County Bookmobile dude, who happens to be awesome and seemed to get our sense of humor, which happens very rarely.
We had people coming by immediately to drop off books, bikes, and check out the bus. Within the first hour of arriving, the weird weather really kicked in, and when we saw lightening off in the distance figured it was a pretty good idea to move everything a little closer to the building where we could get some cover from the rain. It rained sideways for a bit, the bus got a bath, and we worked on the donated bikes to distribute over the course of the next few weeks at some of our events located in neighborhoods that may not have the same "disposable wealth" as where the library is located.

At one point I was standing in the bus, getting some things organized to make room for the donations that we going to be loading in, and a woman and her young daughter came to the door so her daughter could see the inside of the bus. The woman and I chat for a moment about Books on Wheels and the bus, and she talks about days when she traveled. As they both walk away, I hear the woman say to her daughter, "Do you think that maybe you want to do something like that when you grow up?". I think that defined endearing for me, and was one of the most flattering comments I wasn't supposed to hear come from another person.

Props to Lexi, the eight-year-old who made flyers and handed them out in her neigborhood, and in two weeks collect 815 books just for Books on Wheels. I'm 25 and her flyer looked way better than the crap I make.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Books, Bikes, and PARTIES On Wheels!!!

While there are some people who think that Mojo's, one of Books On Wheels favorite strategy centers, is just a neighborhood Phil-a-Deli, I sincerely believe that it is a magical place. Some of the best things that I've seen in Richmond have either occurred there (Punk Rauction, Dance Competition, Guitar Hero Wank Off, etc), been developed there (Books On Wheels' Richmond Library Tour, Municipal Waste stage antics, ART 180 Fundraisers), or have been re-capped there (pretty much anything that happens in Richmond).

And now I have something else for the list: The Books On Wheels Party Bus! This is an idea that Shelley and I have talked about for the past year, but so far nobody has taken us up on it. Basically, we thought that as a fundraiser we would rent out our bus for the night, driving a group of 10-12 people around from bar to bar. In exchange for a donation to Books On Wheels, they would get a "clean" and decorated bus, food and drink specials at each restaurant, and the best jokes that Shelley and I could come up with. Sounds great, right? Well, it is. I mean, not only are you allowed to yell out the windows, play loud music, and throw balloons at the bus driver, you are encouraged to. It is everything that middle school couldn't offer. But, for some reason, we have not had any customers.

Which brings me back to Mojo's. On Wednesday night, I went out to welcome our good friend Tobbe back to Richmond. It being his first night back, he naturally chose Mojo's to celebrate his return. While there, I ran into Ben Cronk, who asked how he could make a donation the BOW. It seems that Katie Lamberta, one of our biggest supporters, was having a birthday this weekend, and she told all of her friends that instead of buying her presents, they should just make a donation to us in her name. Well, that not only made me tear up a little, it got me really excited: "If you're all going to make donations to us," I told Ben, "then why don't we drive you around in the bus?!?"

I'm not sure if Ben mistook my slurred enthusiasm for a promise that I would regret the next day, but he gave me his number and encouraged me to call him the following morning if I still wanted to do this. Even Murty wondered "Are you writing a check that your sober self can't cash?" Well, Ben got a call the next morning, and we set it up: we would pick Katie up at her house as a surprise, and then hang out with them until midnight. I spent Friday morning calling around to local businesses and, thanks to the generosity of locally owned and fantastic businesses, was able to get them specials at DeLux, Mojo's, The Commercial Tap House, and New York Deli.

The night was perfect! Shelley and Steve blew balloons and hung streamers, and we made our way to Northside with a bus full of great people. Katie wasn't sure what to make of the fact that I was at her house to pick her up until she walked up to the bus and her friends jumped up to surprise her. The rest of the night was very chill. After a great dinner with some free appetizers at DeLux (thanks Harold!), we drove the group down to Mojo's for half price pitchers. Knowing the allure of Mojo's, I did suggest we go there last, but Katie was amped on going, so we headed down Cary St. Three hours later, I drove them over to Cous Cous (after a great tour through VCU), wished them a great night, and headed home. Not that I wouldn't have wanted to stay, but more because Shelley was picking me up at 8:45 for an event at The Twin Hickory Area Library. Which is where I am now, blogging while Shelley and Steve are fixing the 20 bikes that have been donated to us. I guess I should get back, but I did want to thanks Katie and her great friends, Mojo's, DeLux, Commercial Tap House, and NY Deli for being great supporters of what we do.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Spring! We are going to be busy...

We are packing it in for the Spring! Look out for us around town at these fine events,
all in Richmond:

Saturday April 12th: Twin Hickory Library Book Drive 10-4 p.m.
Tuesday, April 16th: Bike Round-Up at VCU Commons, 11 p.m.
Saturday April 19th: Earth Day, Manchester District 10-4 p.m.
Sunday, April 20th: Spring Bada-Bing Craft Show at Plant Zero, 11-4 p.m.
Thursday, April 24th: Bon-Aire Elementary School Bike Week, 9 a.m.
Saturday, April 26th: Bizarre Market, Chop Suey Books, 11-4 p.m.
Saturday, May 3rd: Sacred Heart Center Street Fair
Saturday, May 9th: TBA w/ HEADSTART
Saturday, May 1oth: Neighborhood Resource Center, Fulton Hill

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Where is the love? (THIS BLOG IS RATED NC-17!!)

Seriously everyone. I really want to know. The sequence of events that has occured over the last week has really made me wonder.

Joel informs me that a kid that came into town for Slaughterama asked him why we had so many shitty books at the event in Austin, TX. Really? We provide free books and you really feel like it is appropriate to tell the Intern that they are shitty? Maybe they are, but I bet if we were giving out free 40's you wouldn't ask why the beer was so shitty.

I moved the bus into my backyard the other day in order to load it with my furniture the next morning to move out of my house. Upon waking up and beginning to get to work, I notice a note on the windshield of the bus that says "Thank you note". I open it to find that it was quite a thank you note as it read:

"Hey! Thanks for running over my f--n' trash can and not picking it up, you worthless douche! If you ever do this again I'm going to break a beer bottle off in your a-----! xoxo, Jim".

First, I think I would have notice if I hit a trash can. It was NOT the first time I have ever driven the bus. And what?, did Jim my friendly neighbor find evidence of his trash on the wheels of the bus and know it was me? Its not like I'm the only one that uses the alley. And if I did it, I promise I would have picked up the trash can and every piece of Jim's trash. Sigh.

And then today was the tops. I get to work and the first email I read, sent by "Annoyed in Richmond", says:

"Please move your buses. They are right in front of my home and are not only taking up all the parking spaces for those who actually live here, they are blocking my morning sun. Do you live in these buses? Why did you park buses full of broken furniture and other such crap in front of my house? Move them or I will ask the city to do so."

Unfortunately, said emailer doesn't realize that I am a new homeowner on the block and soon to be their neighbor for life. I know the buses are huge and I swear I'm try to get unpacked as soon as possible so they can go back to their home at the Bike Lot. This is an awkward start to the new home.

I'm sad, folks. Sorry for all the profanity in this one. Sorry the buses are so big. Sorry there are so many passive aggressive people in the world who really like to write notes without their names or giving the option to communicate in person. My phone number is on the website CALL ME IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM! Seriously!! I love talking! I love real live human interactions! We can chat, relax, get to know one another....that's so much nicer.