Saturday, June 28, 2008

June 24th: Philadelphia, Ben's House

We arrived in West Philly around 9 in the morning and pulled up to our friend Ryan and Chance's house who we would be staying with. We grabbed some coffee from across the street at this great little coffee shop called Satellite Cafe, and as I napped in the park across from the house, Ward read and made sure no one messed with me. Chance came out of the house around 11, announced that this time (meaning this summer tour) he better not read an "shit talking post cards" about him when he visits Richmond. I guess at some point last summer Ward and I wrote postcards home about our trip and managed to mention something about staying with Chance that he didn't find too flattering, and ended up reading later on. We laughed about it, trying to figure out what we possibly could have written and to whom, and then went in the house to unload our stuff and get ready to get over to our first event at Ben's house.
Ben works for Neighborhood Bike Works, an amazing bike project in Philly that helps kids and adults learn to work on their bikes, and the kids programs involve opportunities to earn bikes or bike parts and such in exchange for hours working. Really awesome. Chance and his roommate Sara decide to come along to the event with us, which is great because Chance ended up staying and working with us the whole time which we really really needed, and he is great with the kids, showing them how to patch flats and change tires, with his handy adjustable wrench attached to his belt with a phone cord dangling so it doesn't get away from him.

We had set up at Ben's house the year before and had had a really busy day, so we anticipated a lot of kids coming out. We bring out our tools and stands, and immediately kids are rolling up, or more like pushing up, because they all have flats. The neighbors are playing music from outside of their house, and immediately the setting is energetic and feels welcoming and fun. Ben's neighbor Mike brings out some bikes to work on, and donates us some bikes and wheels from his basement, and seeing that we are super busy, helps work on bikes as well. At one point, Mike sees Chance using a chain breaker to take out a link on a chain, and he says to him excitedly , "They make a tool for that?!?! THANK GOD!!!". Supposedly, Mike has been breaking chains and putting them back together with a hammer and a nail. WTF? It amazes me what people come up with to make things work and get the job done.

Other people were helping out a quite a bit, kids that had "graduated" from the NBW program who knew how to work on bikes, which was wonderfully helpful. With some advice from Chance, Ward and I realized how important it is to provide tools for people at our events to use, because it is amazing how many people are willing to help out and are able to help out given the means to do so, like tools and parts, or new tubes. All afternoon there were kids in an out of the bus, getting parts they needed, or just checking out how we set up the bus for traveling. Ward and I have this combination lock that we used to use that hangs on from our rear view mirror, which is this cool lock that instead of numbers it is letters, so you can spell a word. Ward and I chose "CHODE" as our combination, but then the lock rusted and didn't shut anymore so we had to switch it out. Anyway, I was walking out of the bus after having gotten something for a bike and notice that a very small kid is looking at the lock hanging, awkwardly trying to pronounce "CHODE" out loud to himself, as though he is asking a question, and all i can do is shake my head and think, wow, we are assholes.

After working for four hours straight, we were pretty beat. We got rid of a ton of books, mostly having summer school teachers coming by after work and taking boxes of books for their students. We packed up and headed back to the house to enjoy an evening of Roti's, which is like a Jamaican burrito, and a little QT with some Philly bro's.

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