Give me the one with the scratches and scars and worn leather seat

Give me the one with scratches and scars and worn leather seat.

You may be able to replace a physical thing, but you cannot replace your stories or experiences with that object.  And the new object, even if an exact replica, cannot own the same stories.  Objects are alive because of the people attached to them - because of the triumphs and failures they’ve been through.  The scratches, scuffs, marks, rips, tears, mends, and patches are marks – similar to our own scars and achy joints – of use, of existence.

The lack of those scuffs and scars doesn’t connote a lack of life, but of a different path, sheltered perhaps, or coveted. Protected. Loved too much, or not at all.

I’ve recently been re-united with an object of much affection… my old Western Flyer.   A number of years ago now, a friend told me that he needed to get rid of a bike because he never rode it.  He said it had been his grandfathers, and that it had been sitting on their property, a farm, for a number of years.

I stopped by one day to check it out.  Tired old tires and cobwebbed wheels.  Rust, and seized metal parts.  A few feeble attempts at repair.  Oh, but what a lovely patina, scars of life, and locks; marks of journeys, and time.  I bought it off him on the spot. 

Later, at various flee markets and velo-swaps around San Francisco I found a few new parts.  Well, not new, old really, but fitting.  A leather saddle and an original Western Flyer seat bag among the best.  I swapped out the handlebars for some low slung café style horns and there she sat.  Mean, fast, and heavy.   A bruiser from the past; green, black, and worn-leather brown.

Then things came to pass, and my time in San Francisco drew to a close.  I was moving to Texas, and everything I owned had to fit in my recently purchased pickup – an old beast all her own.  I was already bringing two other bikes – the practical ones – my road bike and my city bike, and I thought there was no way to justify bringing a third.  Not to mention the motorcycle jammed back there as well.

Man was I wrong. Practicality is the least emotional form of justification.  It can be justified. But justifiable decisions are fucking boring…  Void of stories, and life, and smell, and taste. They make sense, at times when perhaps sense should not be made.

I realized my mistake shortly after arriving in Texas and settling down.  While I liked the bikes I had brought I missed the Skip Tooth.  I looked around on Craigslist, and the usual blogs, trying to find me a vintage bike.  But the reality was simple: I didn’t want a vintage bike.  I wanted my old Western Flyer.  I wanted the one I used to cruise the mission on, the one I bombed 17th street on in a reckless drunken haze.  I wanted the one with the stories.

One night, I decided I was going to try to get her back.  I sent a text, to the man I’d sold it to when I left SF.  On the off chance that he still lived there, he still had the bike, and that he gave a shit.  No response. I called, no response. An email? Nothin’.

A few months later, I’m sitting at the bar, and out of the blue my phone goes off.  A text from the guy with bike – he was leaving the country and wanted to know if I still wanted the bike. FUCK YES was the text I sent back.  Almost 6 months later, after some logistical confusion, a forgotten combination, boltcutters, and various friends help, the bike made it’s way to Austin, TX.  One more story on her sordid past.  She’d spent the last few years, locked up mostly, in the parking garage of a fancy apartment building, waiting.

And now, I’ve got my old bike back.  She’s wobbly, and scratched up, scarred, and tattered, but she’s here now, baking in the Texas sun, flying down S. Congress – with me, wide eyed at the helm, piloting the old steed through traffic and madness; introducing her to new bars, new friends, and new watering holes.

And that my friend, is something you can’t just buy at the bike shop. 

Observing

Cigarettes are the perfect excuse,

to sit idly by, observing;

I only need to talk to people 

when I bum a light,

he said.

Jobs are the perfect excuse,

to sit idly by, observing;

I only need to be like them

in meetings and at Christmas parties,

she said. 

The value of an idea.

A friend sent me a link today to a Porsche design competition ‘call for entries’ here.  I thought it might be interesting to enter, but what caught my eye was the slew of comments below the competition rules. 

I came across one in particular by Michelle Berryman whcih you can see in the thread.  She lambastes the idea of the competition on under the premise that Porsche is using the competition as a front to gather new design ideas. Berryman says: 

This is a very clear case of crowd-sourcing free design
work. Professional design organizations such as the International Council of
Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid), the AIGA, the Graphic Designers of
Canada (GDC), the International Council of Graphic Design Associations
(Icograda), the International Design Alliance (IDA), the Design Institute of Australia
(DIA) and others have all publicly spoken out against this practice and
discourage their members from participating in any competition in which
participants must waive their intellectual property rights to the work upon
entry.  Several professional design
organizations consider participation by members in competitions such as your to
be an ethics violation.

This practice is further frowned upon when it is engaged in
by a for-profit entity and the outcomes are not intended to be products,
services or solutions for the public good.

I entirely disagree. 

I don’t actually believe ideas at this stage hold much value. Yes, they inspire, yes they can lead to great work…. but they are not to be confused with ‘the great work itself’! 

My response to her comment as follows (also live on the competition site):

Interesting stance, although when the facts are clearly laid out: you might win 20k, you don’t get rights…  there’s not much to argue about.  

You don’t have to enter if you don’t want to, right?  You’re free to keep all of your ideas in that old sketchbook, up on the shelf where no one will ever see them; totally fine. You’re free to not like it… not submit your doodle. 

And I’ll go a step further and say that ideas aren’t worth much in the first place - only executing them is. Follow through is.  I’ll give you all of my ideas free of charge - then challenge you to build companies around them.  Vision, team, and ability to execute… that’s what matters.

No one is at a loss for ideas…  we are at a loss for makers, do-ers, people who have vision then actually go and make interesting, beautiful, meaningful things happen.

I’d say, submit a doodle if you like, have fun with it over a cup of coffee with a good friend… and if your concept gets shown, you make 20k, and are featured at the auto show booth, awesome!  If not, at least you had a cup of coffee with a good friend and exercised your brain a bit.

With nothing but the humblest intentions and love for our craft,  

Alex 
 
Think, make, share, rinse, repeat.

I’d be very interested to hear what others think.

Make things.  We could have just gone online and ordered shirts… but you can’t replace the feeling of making something yourself.  Big props to Joannie for helping us get set up and teaching us how to screen print. More pics here.  Ink onto paper.  Make your mark.

Make things.  We could have just gone online and ordered shirts… but you can’t replace the feeling of making something yourself.  Big props to Joannie for helping us get set up and teaching us how to screen print. More pics here.  Ink onto paper.  Make your mark.

literally.

literally.

"

It is time to purge.
To trim the fat of winter
To slice away that which has accumulated, ‘the unnecessary’ that is our day and age
Do not go lightly with knife, do not with trembling fingers splay
Strike, with everything; split, part, hack, tear sinew from bone
Emerge new, for it is spring

And spring is, to use a word and cheapen the feeling,
violent

"

Alex Pappas

To know a machine, to keep it alive, to feel its moods, to understand its needs, to smash fingernails and scrape knuckles, to curse, to laugh, to smell gas - and grit, to drink beer with friends…. and then to open it up, to max it out, to let it take you… that’s what Sundays are for.

Photos from my @HourSchool class on Sunday: http://www.hourschool.com/courses/motorcycle-repair-carbs-in-austin-tx#.TxyrnqVSSnk

The brother is looking for a new tattoo…. so I’ve started doodlin’ 

Return of the 3 inch ollie. Vid by Josh Izenberg.  Skating by me.  My 14 year old self would be embarrassed, but hey, I can still land a heel flip so eat it. 

Psychogeography…. NOLA via the blank map

 Recent innovations in technology have enabled us to always know where we are.  Global Positioning Systems are in our phones, laptops, and cars.  Traveling to an unfamiliar city?  No problem, download the local transit App, plug the address of your hotel into your phone, and you never need to ask a stranger for directions.  I believe that this convenience is drastically changing the way people interact with a city.  It removes the random element, that beautiful moment where you discover a little café at the end of an alley you never meant to walk down.

The most creative people I meet are often those who are able to constantly manipulate the way they look at the world.  They are people who use their experiences and thoughts to continuously regrind the lens through which they see the world.  “Designer” it is not a job you have from 9-5.  You don’t show up to the office and apply “Innovation” to anything.  “Design” is an interest in the world around you.  It is a constant search for a new point of view, a new understanding, and a new relationship.  It is through this search that we find the context in which we can create meaningful new experiences.

For this reason, I have started traveling with blank maps.  Before a trip I purchase a large poster size piece of heavy paper.  Something that looks like it will last the journey. 

And then I start walking. 

Once thoroughly confused, I unfurl the large piece of paper, walk up to a stranger, and ask them to point to our location on the map.  A blank stare.  I repeat myself, and assure them that no matter where they point, they’ll be correct.  They hesitate, then point, looking up for affirmation almost immediately, fingers tentatively pushing against the paper.  Then as I begin to draw in our surroundings they start to smile.  Buildings go up in seconds, intersections, street signs, the stray cat on the corner, and suddenly… they look up and see their surroundings in a new way. 

Then they ask the next question: “Where are you going?”  Now it’s my turn to point to a blank spot on the map, “here” I say, “don’t think I’ve been there yet, any advice on how to get there?”  Most of them look at me strange, but they’re starting to understand.  They point down the street, and tell me about the little hole in the wall bar where the regulars play dice, or the café where on Tuesdays Frankie plays until 11, and on and on. 

Before I walk off there’s often one last question: “Can you send me a copy of that map when you’re done?”  And with that a local has a new way of looking at their neighborhood and I have recorded the slice of a city inspired by conversations, interactions, and experiences.  The glass is re-ground, and the lens refocused.