Author: Esther Meroño

Hey guys, this is my last Beautiful Godzilla column. I’m moving to New York City to dedicate my life to pizza.
I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to write here, in this space, for the very last time—something smart and meaningful and funny, of course, but all I could think about was how much I’m gonna miss this city.

So, those of you who claim your home elsewhere (even if you only lived in California for six months back when you were two years old), pick up a trusty ole beater from the Bicycle Collective, sign up for some volunteer hours while you’re there, and let me lead you through a verbal tour of Salt Lake City as a precursor to your next bike adventure. The next time someone asks you where you’re from, I hope you’ll jump up and down screaming “SLC!” after proving you’re not hiding a Mormon demon tail.

Everybody’s Salt Lake is a little different, waxing and waning as you meet new people, get a good tip on a restaurant you’ve never been to, or fall asleep on TRAX one day and end up adopted by juggalos. Mine runs the square area between 2100 South to about 4th Ave (too lazy to ride up that hill any farther), 900 West to 900 East (ditto). The mountains sure are pretty to look at, but there’s fucking snow up there, you crazy bastards!

I felt like an outsider for a long time in this town—not ’cause I had anywhere else to call home, but because I felt a disconnect with my surroundings, especially living in the bubble that is university life (one in every four college students has an STD, FYI). That all changed the first time I hopped on a road bike (I did get saddle sores, though …). Cycling makes a city feel like it belongs to you, like you know and understand it in a way that maybe you didn’t before. I’m sure that there are other things that can contribute to a true sense of residence, like fireworks and an inbred pioneer heritage, but there’s nothing like the bicycle—the perfect machine.

Salt Lake City became mine the first Midnight Mass I ever attended, about six years ago in the middle of a dry winter day. We rode all the way out to Sugar House, bombing hills on our way back as I gripped the handlebars in silent terror, thinking I was sure to fly over them if I were to hit the smallest scar in the asphalt. Chris Ginzton practiced his Spanish on me the whole ride, and as the adrenaline numbed my fear, I thought, “This is beautiful.” Or maybe it was, “He is beautiful … ”

As I attended more and more events, I felt my confidence grow, and not just in my cycling abilities. Critical Mass, as chaotic as it seemed at times, provided an outlet for the peaceful protester inside of me that I had been too scared to express before then, because you know that prison bitches would go apeshit over my butt—just ask my lil’ lesbo sis, Carla, who shares my “jeans” and is practically rolling in vaginas. I always looked forward to riding through the Gateway, a tall bike at my side, Zed’s boombox spitting cheesy ’90s rap, and bike bells ringing like a hundred wind chimes in a maddening gust as pedestrians gawked at us and cars honked impatiently. Those days, rides would often end at the top of the Walker Center as the sun set, with anyone we hadn’t dropped off at a bar passing around flasks of wine and whiskey, taking turns testing out the freak bikes among us. The view alone—an eyeful of historic buildings and dirty alleyways juxtaposed with contemporary architecture and modern street art, tinged by this city’s many Instagram-worthy sunsets—makes you feel like you’re doing something right.

Then there was the afternoon I came face to face—or perhaps frame to door—with my mortality. It was one of those days when the air hits your face like ice water, but the sun’s so bright it reaches under your skin to warm you from the inside out—the only appropriate outfit for that weather is one of those fluorescent green, full-body suits. Had I been wearing mine that day, perhaps things would’ve turned out a little different, but I was conveniently wearing a helmet, otherwise this column would just be a slobber smear. I hit the ground hard on my back, facing a car whose door was cracked wide open, gasping for breath as pedestrians rushed to my side. I’ve always been a careful cyclist—though perhaps a bit insane riding two years without brakes—but always aware of my surroundings, and that experience shook me even more than when I found out Santa was my parents, and they were broke. Riding hasn’t been the same since, and sometimes my back seizes up, but that motherfucker had to replace his entire windshield, and the spooked look on his face makes me believe he’ll be glancing at his side-view mirror before he gets out of his car for the rest of his life.

I’m excited and nervous about riding in NYC. I think my FBG status will go over well with the cabbies, but I’ve heard the pedestrians are a nightmare—a plague of pede-philes, so to speak. Still, when it comes to cycling, this city will always be home, whether I see it again or not—whether, at the end of my life, I’ve spent more years in other places that aren’t here. The bicycle community here has raised me into adulthood, supported me and helped me turn a life that would’ve felt like I was holding my breath for eternity into one where I breathe real deep and make that “refreshed” sound as I breathe out. So annoying.

I’ll be cruisin’ with Bike Snob soon, and won’t be around to push you down the hill, but there are plenty of fine people in this community who can help you out. In addition to the obvious, the adventurous James Miska is out to start Salt Lake Bicycle Tours, with the mission to show residents and visitors around this city and its magical spots. “My inspiration for it came from having consistently biked around this town for the past nine years, always going to cool places, and wanting to show those cool places to cool people,” he says. Hit him up over at The SLCo Bicycle Ambassadors Program is another relatively new way to stick your toe into cycling, providing one-on-one mentorships that are like commuter training wheels, and you can find them at Jack Lasley, the BA’s Program Coordinator, summed it all up real nice, saying: “When you ride a bike, you fully inhabit the city. Everything becomes familiar as you begin to notice the details. You might avoid the same daily pothole as you did in your car, but on your bike, you notice that it has a yellow lighter inside and you have time to wonder how it got there. You learn that certain blocks have distinct smells and sounds. That every street and intersection feels differently. You start to navigate by names and faces, rather than by numbers and distance. You begin to develop rewarding relationships with strangers, even though most only last seconds or minutes. You have time to wave and smile as you pass another bicyclist or have a quick chat as you both wait at the traffic light. You start to feel like you have friends you haven’t even met yet.”

Come send me off in style on May 17, celebrating Velo City Bags’ grand reopening with the Clue Cat IV, some Blue Copper coffee, live music and the world premiere of Salty Spokes’ Bad Girls. See details at It’s been real. #FBG4LYFE

Photo: Helen Leeson

In 2008, on the corner of 2nd and 2nd in Downtown Salt Lake, a beautiful bike shop opened up alongside the booming bicycle community with a definitive name: Salt Lake Bicycle Company. The shop was a little intimidating at first for a newbie cyclist like me, with fancy, expensive-looking road bikes hanging in the big windows and a sprawl of gear I knew nothing about, but its staff immediately jumped into the community to prove they were there to serve us little guys, too. My first time inside was during a Ladies Night, where I learned how to fix a flat without getting grease on my hands, met one of my best friends, and bought my very first racing saddle.

You may have noticed that the historic Second and Second building is no longer home to SLC Bicycle Co., but its heart and soul have simply moved a few blocks up! Their new location at 247 S. 500 E. (sharing their north wall with Urban Lounge) mimics all of the shop’s previous designs and aesthetic in a space that feels more integrated and accessible. “I’ve looked at probably 20 different buildings in Downtown Salt Lake,” says owner and founder Brent Hulme. “We found this place and it seemed more homey than we were used to, and it seemed like it would work out really well.” Hulme was determined to stay Downtown after the decision was made to move out of the building, though relocating to the ‘burbs would have been more economical. “I’ve always liked it Downtown: I like the urban feel—I like the urban environment. I think that Downtown Salt Lake City is one of the finest cities for riding bikes in the urban setting that I’ve seen anywhere,” he says. “A lot of it is that we’ve had great customers here that we want to continue to help and serve. They’ve been good to us, and we’d like to continue to support them and their riding. That’s really what it comes down to.”

Hulme’s dedication to this city and cycling is apparent in the fact that he commutes daily via train and bike from Provo—I’ve run into him myself a few times in the morning, riding up 200 South. He’s been working in the bicycle industry since he was a college kid in the ’80s, where his degree in Psychology was pushed aside for his passion for cycling. “The only other job I’ve had in my adult life was making bagels, and it was so I could save up money to buy another bike,” says Hulme. In 2008, he founded the shop after an opportunity presented itself to “change again and invent my own thing,” he says, and though the challenges of owning a business in the post-9/11 economy are great, Hulme finds the role worthwhile in itself. “It’s not about wealth—it’s not really about prestige: If you’re gonna do something, do it right, and that’s what’s been rewarding about this. Everything you see here has something to do with some effort that I’ve made,” he says. Of course, it’s his dedication and passion for the perfect machine that drives his business and work ethic, regardless of the long hours and little recognition. “One of the neatest things about the bike industry is that sometimes you see somebody’s life just completely change from a bike,” says Hulme. “There’s a bunch of different ways of riding a bike, but there’s very few things in the world that help so many problems. It’s such a great solution to so many things that plague our society right now. To me, that’s the best thing about bicycles.”

Hulme can count all of his passions on one hand, and art is one of them. May 16 marks Salt Lake Bicycle Co.’s sixth annual Bicycle Art Show, running alongside Gallery Stroll in celebration of National Bike Month. “It was a hare-brained idea I had before I even opened the store,” says Hulme, who saw the open space of the old location as a perfect venue for a pop-up gallery. He explains that SaltCycle founder Zed Bailey served as a catalyst for the first show, which has since been curated and organized by Hulme himself during the busy Bike Month.

The Bicycle Art Show, or Gallery Roll, as it has also been called, provides the bicycle community an outlet to showcase their artistic sides, and for the artistic community to showcase their bicycle sides. Alongside entries from local, amateur visual artists and photographers, highlights have included the large, bold bicycle oil paintings of Steve Smock, imaginative sculptures composed of bike parts by Joe Norman, charcoal drawings by Sarah Mannion and even masking tape murals by Chad Farnes—all in celebration of the bicycle. Those interested in submitting to this year’s Bicycle Art Show should contact the shop at Hulme’s email or phone number.

Salt Lake Bicycle Co. has supported this community in a big way over the years—Hulme has never turned me down for sponsorship of an alleycat race or group ride. Alongside the national brands, you will always see local products like Velo City Bags and Tüb, and not every business owner is willing to open up their space after hours to advance community and art. Head up to their new location on 247 S. 500 E. and give them some love in return, and don’t forget to include the Bicycle Art Show as a stop on your Gallery Stroll, May 16. More info at


Salt Lake City has seen a sizable increase in bike-friendly programs and infrastructures the past few years, thanks to pedal pusher Mayor Ralph Becker and his team of cycling enthusiasts. You won’t see Mayor Becker preaching the bicycle’s many benefits to our city and its residents, and then riding off into the sunset in a Hummer like you’d expect from most politicians, though. Salt Lake’s Mayor lives his word as a dedicated bike commuter himself, riding 2.5 miles to work every day! We picked up some bicycle-commuter tips from the city’s pedaling hero himself—and don’t miss out on your chance to ride alongside him on Mayor’s Bike to Work Day, Tuesday, May 7, meeting at the north end of Liberty Park at 7:30 a.m.

SLUG: What’s your favorite part of commuting via bicycle?
Becker: Exercise, outdoors, interaction with community members, developing better understanding of our bicycling infrastructure and needs going forward.

SLUG: What kind of bicycle do you prefer to commute with?
Becker: I’ll take two-wheel, non-motorized transport of any kind, happily.

SLUG: What are three must-have accessories/gear for your commute?
Becker: Helmet, lights and not doing anything to get me distracted.

SLUG: Are you a ride-in-a-tie kind of guy, or do you change when you get to work?
Becker: I wear my suit (my uniform) to work and home, but have the advantage of a downhill ride to work. When I get home, I’m usually sweaty, so I strip off my clothes quickly to try to avoid ruining them. I’d wear more suitable biking gear to work and shower and change, but often have meetings to start the day or end the day away from the office.  

SLUG: What’s the most challenging part of your commute?
Becker: Staying alert and being prepared to make changes based on driver behavior.

SLUG: What advice can you give to other commuters, or those who want to start commuting via bicycle?
Becker: Please be careful and follow the rules of the road. And, please give us input on how we can make Salt Lake City the great bicycling city it should become.

Find out more on the bicycle initiatives Mayor Becker and his team are working on, along with details on events that they have planned for Bike Month over at or

Illustration: Ryan Perki

There aren’t a whole lot of female bicycle activists out there, so the moment I found out Sarai Snyder, founder of the website Girl Bike Love ( and the worldwide Cyclofemme ride (, was due to speak at the Utah Bike Summit on April 25, I knew I had to pick her brain. Snyder’s figured out, like many of us, that bicycles are a tool for female empowerment, but unlike many of us, she’s made herself a leader in the community so that others can benefit from her knowledge and slowly change the world, one lady cyclist at a time.

BG: What inspired you to start Girl Bike Love?
Snyder: I ran a bike shop for about four years and I just kind of recognized that, not only did I want to share my knowledge with women all over the place, but also, I really wanted to help bike shops. I really wanted to be a resource to help them make that connection with female cyclists.

BG: Can you remember the “aha!” moment you had when you realized what cycling was doing for you?
Snyder: I think it was kind of a gradual process for me … I’d always been a really creative person—I went to art school, I have like, an idea a minute, which is really dangerous—but the thing that riding a bike did for me was that it helped me to focus, and all of a sudden, I was able to really hone in on what I wanted to do, how I wanted to communicate better. I started to notice how riding a bike affected my relationships positively, connecting with people in my community more. Having the passion changed my life.

BG: You talk a lot about how, historically, bicycles served as a gateway to the emancipation of women starting in the 1800s. A lot has changed since then—how do bicycles empower the modern woman?
Snyder: The application has changed a little bit, but it’s still the same principle. It’s still independence, access, connectivity, mobility … independence from relying on a car or public transportation or other people for transportation. If you think about how many women are unable, especially single mothers, to afford a car, but they still need to get to work—the bicycle provides that potential. In a lot of areas it provides access to healthcare, economic development and access to resources you might not have otherwise.

BG: What challenges have you come across as a leader in the cycling world?
Snyder: I never really intended to be a leader … My passion inspired me to be where I am and to say the things that I say and to do the things that I do, but it’s not that I have the skills to be a leader. While I’m trying to share this message and work with other people and build this community, at the same time I have to teach myself these leadership skills, like public speaking— it’s scary! But it’s just something you have to do once you get put in this place. For me, I’ve been empowered by the bicycle to be a leader, to develop those skills and to be a voice.

BG: As an event organizer myself, I find it really difficult to get women to show up. I’ve tried everything from announcing slow rides, changing the time to accommodate as many people as possible, and I even started bringing treats to every ride, but they would always die off—what advice can you give to those of us trying to get women to events?
Snyder: I think a lot of women don’t quite figure it out for a while. You can’t always be like, “Well, this is going to change your life.” It’s usually a gentle message, ‘cause people are afraid to change their lives—empowerment’s kind of scary because it means that you have to do something.

I believe that Cyclofemme has been successful in keeping everything simple and easy, and not having a lot of rules and expectations. In general, women tend to be a little busier than men, and it’s not always that they don’t want to come, but they feel more of a responsibility with families and stuff like that. The important thing to remember is, as women, our gender is a very small part of who we are, so trying to create an event for all women related to riding bicycles, that makes it really hard because we’re not all the same—some of us have different interests … Remember that we’re cyclists, too, and that there’s going to be different types of rides that bring women together. I think that promoting the community aspect of it is really important, and making sure you give women a chance to connect on the ride, or after the ride or before the ride. It takes time, too—you have to be committed to it. Once that community starts to develop, it’ll flourish on its own.

BG: One of my favorite parts of the Cyclofemme ride is the pledge everyone signs: “I swear to invest my energy, strength and passion to inspire one more woman to ride a bike…” What inspired you to create it, and why is the pledge important?
Snyder: The one thing that you can say, generally speaking, about women, is that we’re social creatures, and when we start getting involved in something that we’re passionate about, we tend to want to bring someone with us. I believe that female cyclists are generally created in groups of two or more—it’s kind of rare for a woman to decide that she wants to start something new and then go at it by herself—so I guess the pledge was encouraging that a little more, and using the social skills that we have and saying, “This really can make a difference. This isn’t just you wanting to bring your friend along, this is making a difference in the world.”

This year, what we’re working on right now, is having the pledge translated into as many languages as possible, so right now it’s in English, Spanish, French and Chinese.

BG: What’s the ride count up to?
Snyder: We’re about [63] rides right now in [10] countries. This year’s goal is 500 rides, all 50 states [and worldwide].

BG: What can we expect to hear from you at the Bike Summit?
Snyder: The title of the presentation is “The Power of the Pedal.” I feel like in advocacy a lot of times, we get so busy thinking about safety and infrastructure and funding and working with the government to get the resources that we need, but sometimes we forget that getting more people involved is one of the main things that’s going to help us in getting those things that we need, and the way we get more people involved is in telling better stories. So, I’m going to tell some stories and I hope that other people are going to tell me some stories.

BG: Where do you think you’d be without the bicycle?
Snyder: I’d probably be an entrepreneur doing something else, I’ve always been an entrepreneur—I used to have my own business designing and making clothes, but I don’t think I’d be nearly as driven. The issue I always had with designing clothes and with drawing, which is what I went to school for, I just wanted to do something that had a positive impact on my community, and I never felt like those things in themselves were powerful. So, I don’t know where I would be without the bicycle—walking, probably.

You all know how I feel about walking … Register to attend the Utah Bike Summit and hear Sarai Snyder’s “The Power of the Pedal” in person by going to Salt Lake has its own Cyclofemme ride, organized by Christy Jensen, on May 10 at noon leaving from Saturday Cycles. It’s an all-inclusive ride, for all levels, and refreshments will be provided at the end. I would also like to invite all the ladies of the cycling community to a special “Bad Girls” ride on Saturday, April 26 at noon, meeting at Mestizo Coffeehouse. Details over at—this is one you won’t wanna miss.

Illustration: Ryan Perkins

I don’t know what to write my column about anymore.

I haven’t been to a bike event since last summer, I haven’t ridden my bike in three months, and the only time I get on SaltCycle is to hound its brainstorming capabilities for what to write this goddamn column about. At first I felt guilty: God, what would people think if they knew “Beautiful Godzilla” was a phony? I’m living a lie! But after writing 600 words in defense of my pedaless lifestyle, my wise righthand man and Editorial Assistant Alexander Ortega told me to quit apologizing. So, I’ve opened a blank document and have decided to “get real.”

Bicycles became my “thing” quite by accident. Before bikes, I was into books and TV—and I was kind of blah. Not that I didn’t have a personality, but I wasn’t really doing much with it other than writing a lot of passive aggressive blog posts about ex-boyfriends and some terrifying poetry here and there. I’ve joked about it before, but honest to god, what attracted me to cycling was that it got me off the street as a pedestrian. I fucking hate pedestrians almost as much as I hated being one. The life that resulted, though, goes much deeper than my aversion to sneakers on the sidewalk (crossing the street when they’re not supposed to!), and it reaches further than even the bicycle itself.

I fit into the bike community in a way I’d never really fit in anywhere else because those people are all a bunch of freaks. Seriously, have you ever witnessed Critical Mass in Salt Lake? Sure, there were fixie cliques and roadie snobs, but as a whole, the bike community is the most welcoming group of people I’ve ever come across because it’s made up of the oddest assortment of human beings. But when you find someone who lets you be yourself in every way possible, who trusts you to be a leader without trying to micromanage your every move, who shows up for every party you throw and volunteers to help with every crazy idea you come up with—well, you don’t give that up ’cause not even your momma’s gonna be that person for you. So maybe they welcomed me in a little too enthusiastically because of my (then) single-lady status and my (still) voluptuous booty (if I’ve learned one thing from Goddess Beyoncé, it’s that butt equals power), but the love and support of the bike community has done more for me than I’ve ever really acknowledged, and certainly more than I feel like I deserve.

So, wrapped up in this little bubble of bike love, with a big push from SLUG, I’ve been incubating that personality and developing an identity and a voice, and the confidence to use that voice. I’ve kept my foot in the bike community through this column, my friendship with Debbie and Nate of Velo City Bags and my resulting friend obligations to help them with events (though they pulled off Velo Weekend last year without me doing anything remotely helpful), but the rest of me has slowly stepped outside into other things. I don’t do a double take when I see a boy on a fixie anymore, and I’ve lost track of what phase of life BikeSnobNYC is publishing books about these days—I imagine his next will feature the Lone Wolf in an Olympic-themed recumbent—but I think that’s OK. I wouldn’t be here in this moment, ready to make a big, risky jump into the future, without the bicycle.

Oh my god, what am I saying?! All I wanna do now is go ride my bike in this beautiful weather. Nevermind—just go home and hug your bicycle real tight. Oh yeah, and Friendship PSA: Velo City Bags just moved next door to SLUG on 341 W. Pierpont Ave. Come check out the new shop ’cause it’s rad—I’ll be there on my lunch breaks, talking about myself, in case you haven’t read enough here over the past three years.

Photo: Ryan Russell

“Sometimes I wish I could play drums way more technically better from a drummer’s standpoint, but I don’t think that would help me in The Coathangers. We have our own styles because we kind of just winged it—we just made it up,” says Rusty Coathanger (Stephanie Luke), drummer and vocalist for The Coathangers. “I think that’s what rock n’ roll is all about: It’s not necessarily conforming to this idea of rock n’ roll—it’s actually just who you are, presented in a musical fashion.”

This sentiment is spot-on what makes the Atlanta-based, post-punk, garage-tinged Coathangers so attractive. I came across them on accident at a SXSW Suicide Squeeze showcase a couple years ago, bouncing and yelping on a makeshift stage in a bar that looked like an Al Hirschfeld illustration come to life. Their no-shits-given attitude, paired with DIY style, infectious melodies and fun-poking lyrics led me to their merch table after the set, where I was presented with an armful of 7”s decorated in equally amiable art. I followed them around SX that year like a puppy looking for a best friend until I got an interview, which only proved further that these are the kind of people you wanna be friends with on the weekends.

The trio’s comprised of the fierce Rusty Coathanger, usually found behind the drums, whipping around her whatever-colored hair and singing in a voice that sounds like she’s been taking shots of Drano; Crook Kid Coathanger (Julia Kugel) picks up the guitar with simple but effective hooks, smoothing out the harshness of Rusty’s vocals with her own sugar-sweet melodies and perfectly placed yips à la Kathleen Hanna; Minnie Coathanger (Meredith Franco) rounds out the group, playing it super cool on the bass with a stage persona that screams “Rizzo”—but loveable. The day I was mistaken for a Coathangers band member while wearing their shirt was just about the best day of my life.

This year, The Coathangers are dropping by SX for the “sixth or seventh” time, en route to an opening slot on the Black Lips tour, toting a brand new album released on their longtime label, Suicide Squeeze, on March 18. Suck My Shirt is everything you want from The Coathangers: poppy goodness that sticks in your ears like a broken Q-Tip with just enough punk to keep ’em dirty and wanting more—but it’s a lot more refined than their previous full-lengths. “That was kind of the goal on each album: to get tighter and tighter and better at what we’re doing. I think this album was a lot more straightforward as far as making it still us, but it’s still rock,” says Rusty. Even the title, Suck My Shirt, is reflective of their personality, stemming from some spilled tequila at a recording session.

Some of the tunes on the album will sound familiar—“Merry Go Round,” “Adderall,” “Smother” and “Derek’s Song” were all featured on 7” splits with Heavy Cream, Audacity, Davila 666 and Nü Sensae, respectively, featuring artwork by The Thermals’ Westin Glass. The format is a Suicide Squeeze favorite, and Rusty says that, along with vinyl being preferred by the band, splits give them a chance to work with friends. “Everyone’s out for themselves; everyone’s out to make that one hit song—people forget the point of making music … more important than this immediate ‘idea of success’ in the music industry,” says Rusty. “We’re all in this together—all the bands that we chose are just as hardworking and talented as we are … It’s about keeping the community going and supporting each other.”

The spirit of camaraderie has carried on into every creative outlet The Coathangers indulge in, including their music videos, which Rusty says have been made in collaboration with more friends. The videos are as eclectic as the band members, from the dark and weird to more gritty and lo-fi. “What you see is what you get in those videos … It’s just capturing a little moment in time and how we’re feeling,” says Rusty. “We try to be as creative as possible, and try not to be too corny.”

Their latest video for “Follow Me” is reflective of The Coathangers’ fun-loving sense of humor, featuring fellow Atlanta band Mastodon in … Well, just go look it up on YouTube. “It’s hilarious and it’s awesome … We’re always trying to reinvent the wheel, but basically, it goes back to friends helping us out and trying to keep that community alive,” says Rusty.

The band’s super stoked to set out on tour with the Black Lips, who are also part of the Atlanta music scene and were crucial in The Coathangers’ early days in the mid-aughts, helping them get on bills “we should not have been on at all,” says Rusty. “I think it’s gonna go together really well, a full-circle kind of idea …They are nuts, but in a good way—those motherfuckers go hard.”

Right back atcha, Coathangers. Pick up their new album (maybe they’ll have one of the 100 custom mint green records still available) at their show on March 31 at Urban Lounge, opening for the Black Lips, or pre-order it right now at Oh yeah, and don’t forget to follow them around SX if you happen to be in Austin.
Illustration: Ryan Perkins

Holy shit it’s cold! Of course, I’m still biking in this abomination—they’d probably take my column away if I didn’t show up to work with a scarf tied around my head, crying icy tears through the fabric—but what’s motivating me to keep pedaling is the thought of thawing out with a nice cup of tea and a bike movie! So, for those of you who have opted for rollers this winter, I’ve compiled a list of some entertainment options that don’t include frostbite or icy asphalt scrapes. We all know the classics—American Flyers, RAD, Breaking Away, Quicksilver, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure—but I reached out to the trusty ole SaltCycle community for some of their favorites, which turned up an eclectic list of titles I’d missed.

With film festival season just around the corner, I decided to prep by watching the trailer and/or bike scene for each of the following, and am providing you with a short review and my very own version of a Tomatometer: The Crankometer. Personally, I don’t watch anything under 70 percent, so you can definitely trust my opinion, at least as much as that of renowned film critic Jebidiah Atkinson.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (suggested by Joshua W McCarrel—who is apparently the leader of “Team Clammy Chamois,” so you know this guy enjoys the small things in life): This movie’s been in my Netflix queue for, literally, years. I don’t think you can call yourself a Utahn until you’ve seen it, but I finally got around to watching the bike scene. First thoughts: Oh my god, someone put shoes on that girl! Riding a bike, whether you’re pedaling or not, without something covering your fragile little toes, is absolute insanity—I’m talking to all of you Twilight cyclists wearing flip flops in the summer. Once I got past that, and the fact that she looked way too comfortable sitting on the handlebars for such a long and bumpy ride, I was faced with another moral dilemma: the show-off trope. There’s one in Quicksilver, too, but that includes some dancing, and it’s indoors, so I give it a pass. Guys doing dumb tricks to prove their machismo in front of girls is getting old, and it hits too close to home in a male-dominated bike scene. I give this one a 20 percent on the Crankometer.

The Stars and The Water Carriers: The 1973 Giro d’Italia (suggested by Ryan Wade McCalmon): OK, I totally understand why Ryan genuinely digs this movie—available in its entire 1.5 hours on YouTube—because he’s the most hardcore, die-hard cyclist I know. I’m sure a bunch of other people would raise their hands and tell me they liked this film, too, if I asked. However, unlike Ryan, it would only be for hipster points, and guaranteed, if given the chance to watch it, they’d talk through the whole thing as they sipped PBR. I got through a few clips, and woke up half an hour later, only to be lulled to sleep again. If watching a bike race isn’t already a total snoozefest for you, by all means, try it out. For the rest of us, it’s a great cure for insomnia! I’ll give this one a 50 percent on the Crankometer, purely for vintage charm.

Rising From Ashes (suggested by Davey Davis): I cannot believe I missed the Salt Lake screening of this documentary. It’s about the first Rwandan National Cycling Team, and not only does it look like a beautifully shot, tear-jerking doc, it’s narrated by Forest Whitaker, who’s the next Morgan Freeman, in my humble opinion. The only thing that bugs me is the whole “white man saves Africa” motif, but someone’s gotta pay for all those expensive bikes. There’s no release date on this yet, so we’ll all just have to watch the trailer over and over again. This one gets an anticipated 90 percent on the Crankometer.

The Triplets of Belleville (suggested by Shanna Ford): Who doesn’t like an animated film with a killer soundtrack? This one’s a far cry from Frozen—though the latter seems more fitting for the weather. The Triplets has been on my watch list for some time now, but it keeps getting passed up ‘cause it seems like the kind of artsy film you’ve gotta be in the right mood for, especially since the animation looks a little vintage (which isn’t a bad thing, but I’ve been spoiled by CGI). Still, it’s a fun concept and I’ve been conditioned to love musicals—thanks, Disney—so it gets a 75 percent on the Crankometer.

There were a number of other films suggested to me, if none of these strike your fancy: With My Own Two Wheels, Bicycle Thieves, Return of the Scorcher, Still We Ride, The Road From Karakol, Dead Fucking Last, Ride The Divide, Jour de Fête, A Sunday in Hell, Le Vélo de Ghislain Lambert, The Paper Brigade. Sounds like someone needs to host a few movie nights this winter! I’ll bring the popcorn and my Crankometer.

Photo: Russel Daniels

Over 100 years after Cinématographe was invented and used by the Lumiére brothers in France to show the first paying audience a projected film, Edward Norton looks directly into the camera as he explains the job of a projectionist in a scene from Fight Club. “Why would anyone want this shit job?” he asks as his alter-ego Tyler Durden splices pornography into family cartoons. “Because it affords them other interesting opportunities.”

Brewvies' Scott Farley acknowledges that going digital will make film projection a bit more environmentally friendly.
Brewvies’ Scott Farley acknowledges that going digital will make film projection a bit more environmentally friendly.
Walking up the steps to the projection booths of the Salt Lake Film Society’s Broadway Theatre, I imagine what it would’ve been like, watching that scene from Fight Club when it showed in theaters in 1999, from a projection booth—like looking at a reflection, perhaps. Lance Walker, SLFS Head Projectionist, has been working in the booth since 2001, just before the Salt Lake Film Society came into fruition to save the Tower Theatre from demise. “There really wasn’t anyone else who could come here and do it, so they trained me and the other guy who was working the concession stand at the time … They showed me really fast how to do it, and everything else I’ve had to learn on my own,” he says. Walker speaks slowly and affirmatively—he reminds me of a more subdued version of Wallace Shawn’s character in The Princess Bride—a little bored, a little cynical, and his rare smile reveals an endearing gap in his teeth behind a full beard.

We walk through the hallway to the projection booths and Walker apologizes for the smell, but the overwhelming aroma of popcorn that fills the lobby below doesn’t seem to penetrate the dark upstairs. Instead, the winding hallways contain a light scent of dust among the organized clutter of boxes, tables and machines—very few people come up here, which is part of the magic. “I like the projection booth because it’s like a dark hole that no one really wants to go into,” says Walker. “It’s loud and dark and it’s not a place for people to go.”

Lance Walker has been SLFS's Head Projectionist since 2001.
Lance Walker has been SLFS’s Head Projectionist since 2001.

Tyler Durden defines the employment opportunities of a projectionist as creative mischief, but speaking with Walker—and having worked in the movie theater business myself for nearly a decade—I realize that, though most projectionists aren’t using their position to terrorize children, there’s a certain character trait needed to draw someone to the booth: those who find solace in solitude. Walker tells me he’s not much of a film fanatic, citing The Shining as a favorite, and admitting he prefers B movies he can watch and be done with in the comfort of his own home. “ … I can pause [the movie], get food or drink, go to the bathroom and never miss any of it. I can have the lights on or off. I don’t have to come into work or any of the other movie theaters, now very demanding of you knowing exactly where you want to sit. I’m not into that,” he says. “I guess I might be a control freak.”

A few days later, Scott Farley of Brewvies Cinema Pub, and I sit in a booth at Juniors discussing his own film interests: “I think I have a fairly deep knowledge of film for a pedestrian, but not for a film buff,” he says. “I would say that I am an autodidact and there were times when it was necessary for me to know film … I sort of tried to surround myself with people who were real cinema heads and try to get them to educate me, but … I am pretty absent from my own personality, and what people tell me to think, I’m pretty easily convinced of … ” Having spent a few years’ worth of Friday nights with Farley closing up Brewvies when I worked there, I can personally attest to his above-average knowledge and understanding of film, having benefitted from a number of his recommendations—and anyone can call the Brewvies Movieline at 801-355-5500 to hear his forcibly optimistic and concise reviews for the current lineup.

Farley’s history in the booth starts in Logan, when he was attending Utah State University in 1985. “You try to have jobs, and since you can’t make a lot of money because there isn’t a lot of money to be made unless you’re having a miserable life, you come up with jobs where your perks also fill your social needs,” he says, explaining what led him to start working at a movie theater. “Dates were free, and I could hook up friends on any number of levels, so I had entrées of social significance greater than just my charming personality.” Farley eventually ended up at the Tower Theatre, working under Greg Tanner before the SLFS took over, making his way to Brewvies in 1997. “I kind of left being a projectionist when I came to Brewvies,” he says, admitting that the years he’s been at the cinema pub have been more fruitful as a bartender. Though it’s true that the job is now predominantly accomplished by the bussers, they’re trained at a very surface level, making Farley’s nearly three decades of projection experience crucial when it comes to troubleshooting impending film disasters—soon to be antiquated memories.

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

“I love getting lost in a place I don’t really know—it’s something very freeing. Instead of anxiety, like some people have, I feel so free to be lost,” says Jim Jarmusch. “I like to follow instincts, and oddly enough, it’s a kind of discipline. My little game of ‘get lost and don’t know where you are’ is a process for me that is very helpful for my imagination.” Most know Jarmusch as an influential writer-director of American independent cinema, boasting an interlacing filmography of artistic, counter-culture films like Dead Man, Ghost Dog and The Limits of Control since the release of his debut full-length, Permanent Vacation, in 1980 as a 27-year-old grad student at NYU. The man is a sub-cultural icon, eschewing the mainstream to create rewarding works of art that long to be close read. Raised on Jean-Luc Godard and New Wave cinema, nurtured through adolescence by Kenneth Koch and the New York School poets, and slow diving into the future with the support of ATP Recordings and a handful of relevant musicians, Jarmusch’s intellectual repertoire is expansive and continuing. Much like his films, the man has the ability to lose himself in the present details, while retaining an impressive understanding of the past. Perhaps it was subconscious self-reflection that materialized the filmmaker’s latest character creations: a couple of incisive, decades-old vampires in his upcoming release, Only Lovers Left Alive.

“My interest was, ‘Wow, if you could be alive that long, imagine what your perceptions would be like and all the experiences you’d have.’ Your knowledge of things would be incredible, if you could remember it all … Just having an overview of history that way was very attractive to me,” says Jarmusch. Only Lovers Left Alive is the filmmaker’s addition to a long history of vampire mythology in both literature and film, and he’s versed on the great and obscure. Jarmusch links his characters’ British roots to “The Vampyre,” a poem written by Lord Byron’s physician, John Polidori, in 1819, the first time vampires appear in literature. Film-wise, he cites Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr, first and foremost, claiming it’s more of a poem than a monster movie. “I like the ones that walk outside the margins, that follow the genre in a way, but they’re not just following the Bram Stoker Dracula idea,” he says. “Of course, Nosferatu is an incredibly great film as is the universal Dracula with Bela Lugosi as well, but those are the ones that meet the expectation, and I like the ones that are traveling outside the mainstream.”

Only Lovers Left Alive, before anything else, is a love story between Adam (Tom Hiddleton) and Eve (Tilda Swinton). “Ours isn’t a horror movie … they just happen to be vampires. The thing I love about vampires, too, is that they’re not monsters, they’re humans that have been transformed,” says Jarmusch.  “Even Nosferatu is not purely a monster—there’s a sophistication to him.” Adam and Eve are such altruistic vampires, in fact, that acquiring blood the more traditional and fatally seductive way is considered retro and obscene. He describes his characters eloquently, calling them both wild, but saying, “ … [Adam’s] the guiding sunlight of the film, [Eve] the golden light of reason and intelligence … She’s very happy to have the gift of her consciousness—it’s something very fragile and beautiful to her—and he is too, but he’s a little more romantic in a way, tortured a little, somehow.”

The filmmaker is known for being somewhat incestuous in his use of cast and crew members, and Swinton is quite obviously a favorite actor, and a good friend. According to Jarmusch, Only Lovers Left Alive might have remained in the shadows had she not kept the project going despite the film’s languid start and precarious financing. The part of Eve was written with her in mind from the beginning. “It’s good to work with people you know, but you’ve always gotta remember there’s people you don’t know who are amazing that you might get a chance to meet and work with, too,” says Jarmusch, who also gushed over French cinematographer Yorick Le Saux, production designer Marco Bittner Rosser and editor Affonso Gonçalves, all of whom he worked with for the first time on this film.

Other than using children’s digital cameras from Toys “R” Us for The Raconteurs’ “Steady, As She Goes” music video in 2006, Only Lovers Left Alive also marks Jarmusch’s introduction to shooting digitally. “I’m a film person. I love the magical thing of film, which is, first of all, light affecting chemistry on the surface of the film material, and then light passing through the print when you project it that creates this magical world of light and shadow,” says Jarmusch. “Now, digital is a different kind of magic: It’s numbers being translated. So, my first thing is that I don’t like digital, and I don’t like MP3 sound, and I like analogue sound and vinyl and cassettes … but at the same time, I believe in these things as tools, and I love technology—I just love the old stuff, too.” However, all of his qualms about digital, including the neverending depth of field and unnatural skin tones in daylight, didn’t end up applying when shooting Only Lovers because it was mostly shot at night. Shooting digital ended up being more efficient, as the desired effect in a scene could be achieved with very minimal lighting, among other benefits. “I found great strength in [digital] even against my own prejudice,” says Jarmusch. “So it turned out to be quite a magical tool for what we were doing and very helpful. It changed my preset dinosaur obsession with film, and now I’m more open.”

Jarmusch’s creative process is incredibly free-flowing, reflective of his self-proclaimed motto: “It’s hard to get lost if you don’t know where you’re going”—which is one of the many reasons why his films stand out. When beginning production for 2009’s The Limits of Control, for example, he didn’t even have a script—just a lot of ideas that were collected along the way. Only Lovers Left Alive started with a full script, but veered from it often. “I have this one chance in my life to be in this place, shooting this thing, with these people, so I’m going to shoot as much as I can think up,” says Jarmusch.  “I have to do that because I don’t know what I’m doing—I know that I will figure it out in the editing room … You have to listen to the film, and that’s just my way to capture everything I can … ”

Illustration: Ryan Perkins

Before SLUG copy editing meetings swallowed up my Wednesday nights, I was a dedicated attendee of the Salt Lake Bicycle Collective’s Women’s Open Shop Nights. I even have a collection of digital posters I made—with very rudimentary Photoshop skills—to advertise the bi-monthly event. The Collective has always been a welcoming place—it’s where I got my (already 90-percent assembled) little green Kilo up and running, and she hasn’t needed much maintenance since—but walking into a room full of guys rubbing greasy elbows and talking shop can be intimidating. So, I was thrilled when I heard that the Collective had decided to make Women’s Night a weekly event and hired Meara McClenahan to head it.

Meara and I were actually roomies at one point, and she took me on my first (and last) mountain bike ride. She’s the most experienced lady mechanic I know—she’s friendly and patient, and my quick interview with her revealed what I already knew: She fits this job like greased handlebars into that post thing on the front … Obviously I’m in need of some Women’s Night.

BG: Tell me about Women’s Night, and what your role is going to be.
Meara: It’s like the do-it-yourself night on Tuesday and Thursday, but it’s Wednesday and women only, and that’s all it really is … My role is to follow the mission of the Collective. I’m taking cues from what Luke [MacFarlane] does in the open shop to see what to do, too. Currently, I’m asking everyone who shows up what they want to get out of it and hopefully, out of that, I can see what direction I want things to go in and try to find a balance. Every week I’m going to do a demo—some skill that I know how to do that I can show people how to do in 5–15 minutes. Davey [Davis] made me a Facebook admin so I can go on there ahead of time and say, “This is gonna be my demo this week.” It gives something for me to put out there, to be an invite for people to come out.

BG: What makes you qualified to head Women’s Night?
Meara: I’ve been working at bike shops for about seven years: a month at Guthrie, a year at Contender, three years at Wild Rose and one summer at Saturday Cycles … I have a lot of skills and knowledge … I find out what I know just from being around bikes and people talking about bikes and listening to other mechanics whine about their problems and different parts and what they do. I like teaching. I like showing other people what I know. My dad was a really cool dad in the way that he showed me things, and I like doing that also. I think it’s a good fit, because I don’t know the answer to every bike mechanic problem, but I have enough basic knowledge to know where to look for it, and I think that can make me a pretty good helper as far as helping other people with projects they might want to do.

BG: Why is Women’s Night important?
Meara: That’s another thing I’d like to ask the other women—why it’s important to them. I wanna keep an open mind about it … [Joining women’s groups] hasn’t been an experience that I’ve really sought out in my life, but I think everyone’s had the experience where you’re trying to do something by yourself, but you can’t do it by yourself, you need help, and when you ask for help, someone takes it out of your hands and does it for you. When I’ve worked in a bike shop, there will be a problem with a bike and someone will be like, “I can’t figure this out,” and everyone will crowd around and start jockeying for who’s going to figure it out first—I always stayed out of that fray. I always felt like it was hard to talk if I was the only woman at a shop. I think they could tell I wanted to do it by myself, but I couldn’t find that easy point where I could get the help I wanted, but not the help I didn’t want.

BG: What’s your goal for Women’s Night?
Meara: I’d like people to come and enjoy it, and get what they want out of it—where it goes will be determined by the women that come. Another goal would be to have it be a more comfortable, welcoming place on all do-it-yourself nights, which I think makes more sense. Both women and men have a responsibility to make that happen.

Ladies, join Meara at the Collective’s Women’s Night every Wednesday from 5:30–9 p.m. and find them on Facebook for updates. Ladies AND gents, don’t miss the Collective’s Valentine’s Dance Party on Feb. 14 for a screening of Lifecycles and some socializing: 1135 S. West Temple at 10 p.m. Who knows—you might meet your next tandem partner!