Monday, November 16, 2009

I’ll have one frame, two wheels, and a handlebar please. Let’s feast!

I look at my hands and they’re covered in grease. Scooping out a green goop from a tub that looks innocent enough to lube up any moving part. The green turns to a black grime coated in every crease of my hands through to my fingertips, under my nails and etched into my calluses for the next week. I love it: A sign that I’m physically working, “wrenching”, fixing bikes with my own two hands and a set of tools. What a lovely visual reminder and a rarity these days.

After several recommends and even one visit long ago (when I still felt like an utter newbie to LA) to check out a place called “The Bicycle Kitchen”, I have finally applied to be a “shadow” at the Kitchen and learn the tools of the bicycle repair and creation trade.  This has become my home for mechanical refuge. A kitchen you say? Why yes, of course. The name truly fits. You see the Bicycle Kitchen provides an incredible workspace and learning environment for the bicycle clad and bicycle needy population of Los Angeles; The kitchen looks like any co-op; scattered “ingredients” (i.e. bike parts) form an organized chaos: washers, bolts, bearings, derailleurs, gear shifters, things I don’t know how to pronounce (and much, much more) fill an assortment of drawers. Tubes, rims, and frames hang from the ceiling. Wrenches, wire cutters, screwdrivers, allen wrenches and other various tools wallpaper the walls and racks provide the cooking area.; It’s utilitarian but artistic, a gritty and charming kitchen that awaits to cook up another unique bike creation. And it only makes sense that the official workers are termed “cooks”; I aspire to graduate to cook status one day in the bicicleta concina. We even wear aprons.

People can come in and search around for their needed part, hook their bike into the rack and use the Kitchen’s tools (including the cooks) to their hearts desire. Others’ come in needing serious help. We do not take bikes and fix them. We do, however, teach you how to fix your bike and assist you when you need assistance of course. There is usually a small charge for a part, sometimes it’s free and a $5 per hour charge for using the kitchen.  Some people even come to the kitchen to create a bike from scratch using all donated parts. It’s all about learning how to do it. In this case a price is agreed upon from the beginning, anywhere from $20-$60. Bicycle Kitchen runs entirely on volunteer and donation power so no one will ever be turned away due to lack of funds. We’re always open to bike and part donations. Not to mention plain and simple $$ donations! I have only just started out, feel like I’ve learned so much, exchanged bike stories with cooks and customers alike, met some really awesome people and am truly excited to help bring bicycles, bicycle knowledge, and bicycle culture to the masses. Did I mention the Kitchen sits amongst a cute little community of a vegan restaurant, a gelato parlor (vegan options available!), and a bike shop? Let my people ride bikes (and eat delicious vegan food)! And don’t judge me cause my fingers are a bit greasy.

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