Sunday, November 16, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day Weekend is essentially the high water mark of Cleveland events. On the shores of the mighty Cuyahoga is the Taste of Cleveland Festival, an $8 cover followed by a series of vendors serving $8 carnival food. Spanning the Cuyahoga, the Detroit-Superior Bridge opens its disregarded lower level to pedestrians, free to explore the remnants of the city’s subway lines. From a short airstrip bordering Lake Erie, jet fighter planes weave in and out of one another, break the sound barrier and stage phony dogfights, display American superiority. Of the smogasbord of downtown happenings, the Cleveland Air Show best drew our attentions.

We, Burning River Bikes, six cyclists, with jeans cuffed or cut-off, T-shirts from H&M or Thrift or American Apparel or of Irony, and no helmets plotted our course through the green city to the blue lake. Specifically, we sought an abandoned Howard Johnson at the terminus of East 5-5, a pre-cast monolith, frames of busted out windows jutting out like a bellows, the building a relic of an earlier, more Brutalist era. The roof, in particular, equated to a $21 seat, had we been one of the saps who actually paid money to get into the show. We were to infiltrate our seats.

After a morning of coffee and pooping, I set out to rendezvous with Ted and Aaron on Euclid and 5-5. We biked up to the lake, turned down a dirt road and snuck up behind the abandoned HoJo, staring blankly back at us. We cut through a field and stashed our bikes beneath a tree along the fence.

Aaron went over first, using the tree as support. I threw the bags over to him. Then Ted went, slowly and completely without grace, eventually landing, but not before actually sitting on top of the fence. The sharp, twined links jabbed into the skin of his ass. That his pants seat remained intact still amazes me.

--Ow. Ow. Ow, Ted said.

I leapt over efficiently and without incident.

--There’s a Fox 8 guy over there, said Aaron.

--Shit, I said.

The Fox 8 News Station sits directly next to our derelict abode. I caught the last of a direct glare from a prominent local news anchor as he disappeared into his building.

Our spot was no secret, regardless of being identified by the news media. Bad graffiti bespeckled the uppermost reaches and it became apparent that we were not the only Urban kids that hit it up. I retired my malaise in the hopes that Mr. Fox would not bother us if we did not bother him. I also vested a lot of hope in his thinking that we were not responsible, which we were not, for the scribbled swastikas and mentions of ‘white power’ that appeared sporadically on the building’s exterior.

Aaron, Ted and I entered through a voided wall of the lobby. Uprooted trees had been placed in the foyer. Piles upon piles of apples spilled out into the overgrown parking lot. We passed through the lobby, took stock of the detritus: overturned velour couch; pornos; dusty front desk; insulation hanging from the ceiling. In the kitchen, a sign read: Please Excuse Our Dust. We are undergoing a facelift. A cartoon man with a hat and a push broom kicked up all sorts of mess. A section of roof in the food prep area had collapsed, allowing a ray of sunshine to illuminate the many holes in the floor. None of us had remembered a flashlight, but I did have the headlight to my bike and we used its weak beam to navigate the darker regions beyond the freezers, long vacant.

Soon, we looped back to the entryway from whence we had entered. The place appeared brighter than it had earlier. I noted to Aaron how much the eyes adjust to the darkness, as those hallways had seemed pitch black before. We could discern objects in the abyss: a stack of PVC pipe, the few remaining wall studs, electrical wiring dipping like ivy from the ceiling.

We climbed the stairwell, reached the second floor and were greeted by a sparse floor plan, for all that remained were the cages of wooden studs and some plumbing. The windows had been removed or busted out, covered at some point by plywood, which had subsequently been blown out by the wind or pulled down by transients. In the interest of respect, my friends and I tried to affect as little change as possible on an abandoned site, treating it as relic, a ruin, a museum. More appropriately, it was a mausoleum – a casket that contained some general idea of commerce, long deceased and in the late throes of decay.

Through one of the voided portals, we caught sight of a red biplane circling outside. The barnstormer spat smoke as it climbed and fell, stalled, then kicked its tail out, caught the air and zipped past at very low altitudes. Aaron asked that we forgo exploring the other 12 stories and skip to the top. Ted and I agreed. The long climb to the roof was arduous and we passed remnants of bottle rockets and some more poorly executed graffiti. The site may have served for someone else’s July 4th. Near the top, the stairwell began to reek of stale piss and we came across a copious amount of bird droppings. The vacant hotel did seem to acquire a few tenants, which, unfortunately, did not share our respect for the site. As we passed the door for the 13th floor, the stair treads were no longer visible as the dung covered them wholly. I tried to tread lightly as to not kick it up on those following me. Up in the rafters, a lone pigeon, obviously bothered by our presence in his home.

-- I hope this isn’t the work of one pigeon, Aaron said.

-- I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t, I said.

We escaped the Bird Den with harsh interactions with its denizen, though I have to admit that I was a bit surprised that Ted did not slip. We passed out of the stairwell and into the dim rooftop utility room that let outside. Another pigeon, possibly a roommate, fled from behind a huge shit-covered propane tank, passed in front us, then through a door to the roof. We followed, out into the glowing day with not a cloud in the sky, optimal for illegal viewing of an air show. We settled in between the two stair towers, an area of about 150 square feet that provided defilade from the street. About a mile to the northwest, the Red Baron continued his dekeing of an imaginary foe. I walked out to the roof’s edge, stared North at the blue horizon, the lake dotted with dinghies and yachts. This view presented itself as a fleeting luxury, for the freeway pulsed below, and the authorities frequented onramps. Still near the edge, I grabbed an empty 10-gallon bucket to use as a seat and brought it back to our cubby. Ted and Aaron took up residence upon a cement ledge between the stair towers. They said they wished they had buckets. I said they should have grabbed it before I had.

I wished the barnstormer to be done with his shenanigans. That sort of classic aeronautics is entertaining to a point, but he had stayed out too long, and it became quite frustrating to see him buzz the landing strip as if to land, but then pulling up into a steep climb, then corkscrewing into some fancy loopdiloop. I wanted to see supersonic jets. I wanted some muscle.

Some time passed. My rolling took close to 20 minutes. The clatter of the biplane engine had ceased and Ted’s voice took its place. He was on the phone with someone, relating to him or her our coordinates. Then he was done.

--Who was that? I asked.

--That was Jake, said Ted.

Jake was his roommate.

--Him and Austin are meeting us here, Ted continued.

Austin was his other roommate.

--Five bucks, said Aaron, that they get here before Mike Sokol.

Mike Sokol was an old friend of mine. We go way back, as I liked to say. Originally the intent was for Mike and I to ride down together, that he would come to my place in the late morning and we would both meet Aaron and Ted. However, Mike often became lost in World of Warcraft binges on the PC and as a result was very unreliable in circumstances outside of that game. Promising, though, was that I had reached him on the phone before I was about to leave. At 11 a.m., when I last talked to him, he had apparently just woken up but did seem to possess intentions to meet up with us at some point, though not ride down with me directly. Still, that was 3 hours ago, and a very real possibility existed that he hopped on WoW and that was effectively the end of his day. Still, I had faith in Mike, my old friend.

--I’ll take that bet, I told Aaron.

We hadn’t talked for a while and nothing of interest was happening in the air around us. Down on the airstrip, we could make out some sort of jet-car demonstration. We could not really see the car, but the jet plume stood out well. The horizontal torch went straight, then turned, went back the other way.

--I was thinking, I said, that back in the 50s, the government envisioned the atomic bomb as something to use at air shows. Before they knew anything about radioactive half-life and all that, they would demonstrate this bomb at the Cleveland Air Show.

By their lack of response, it seemed a terrible idea. Which it was.

--Picture this, I said and gestured broadly at the lake, at dusk, right when the sun sets, on the Sunday before Labor Day, they would set off the bomb in the middle of the lake. Right there.

I pointed at Lake Erie. Slightly down and to the left, a bulbous tuft of smoke wafted up from the air strip.

--And boats would be lined up near the shore, as far down as you could see. Kids in innertubes start swimming toward the middle, saying they want to be closer to the heat. And then it would go off and this huge wave would knock everyone over. The kids would be rushed onto the shore and float down Marginal Rd. You could see the mushroom cloud from Sandusky.

I was in the act of imagining more fully when my thigh began vibrating. Actually, it was my phone. I pulled it out. Mike Sokol called. As I went to answer it, the air around us exploded with jet thunder. An F-16 flew past and we leapt from our perch, ran to the edge of the roof.

--Did you see that, yelled Aaron giddily, you could see the flame coming out of the back, it was that close!

--What do you want Mike? I yelled.

--I’m here dude, Mike yelled back.

The jet sound echoed between my phone and his. He was close.

--We just got buzzed! I said.

--I know, I’m right here! Mike said.

--Oh. Ok, I’ll be down.

I hung up and ran through the utility room. At the top of the stairwell, I glanced for good measure down at the fence. Mike Sokol was on the other side, walking his mountain bike toward the tree where ours were chained. I ran down the stairs taking each step rapidly but never skipping one. It took quite a very long time to get to the bottom. In the process, I realized that Mike had won me $5 from Aaron. The F-16 and the run down the stairs had my adrenaline flowing.

I made it to the bottom and ran to the fence. I told Mike to brace himself on the tree and climb over but first throw me the bag. He lobbed his backpack over. I looked up and could see Ted and Aaron poking their heads over the ledge. I pointed to the fence and yelled.



--You owe me five dollars.

The F-16 flew overhead again. I feared that the hotel might crumble. But it was made of concrete and steel and would stand for probably hundreds of years.

Or not, what did I know?

--That plane is so fucking loud, Mike said.

--I know, I said, we are really fucking close up there. It flew right past us.

--Awesome man, Mike said.

He jumped over the fence.

--You know, I said, that took Ted like ten minutes. It was terrible.

--Ey! Ted yelled down. Jake and Aaron.

He pointed over us, beyond the fence. Through the vines and chain link, I could see two figures stepping off bicycles. I waved at them. Told them to use the tree for everything. Quickly they were over.

--I heard that took Ted ten minutes, Mike said to Jake and Austin.

--It was the worst thing I’ve seen in my life, I confirmed.

I led them straight to the stairwell and we made the long climb back up.

We reached the piss and shit of the pigeon.

--Guys, I said, be careful. There’s a pigeon up here.

--Is he crazy? Jake asked.

--No, he’s just a pigeon, I said.

But the pigeon was not there. The F-16 must have scared him off. We went onto the roof and tried to track down the circling fighter. Aaron pointed to a small dot just below the sun. We shielded our eyes.

--What’s up Mike, Ted said. Longtime no see.

--Yeah, Mike said, I heard it took you ten minutes to get over the fence.

While I had been downstairs, Ted had removed his shirt.

--Jesus Ted, I said, you’re going to give up our position. People from the street will think it’s a ghost. Your nipples are the eyes.

--I need my vitamin D, Ted said.

The fighter had entered into a long horizontal turn around the East Side of the city, to the South of us. Just slightly ahead, a P-51 followed a shallower turn. The two intersected and locked into formation directly above us, turning high overhead and heading back toward the airstrip. Then another jet came, seemingly from nowhere, and shot right past them and us. It was an F-15 and it was moving very fast. First we saw it, then heard the sound and then felt the fury. We turned to look back at the F-15 and were met by three other dudes, none of whom we knew. They had come up the way we had.

--Sup, I said to one who appeared the most accessible. He had on a winter cap and it was 85 degrees out.

He nodded back. Instantly, both groups sized each other up. The six of us were the urban cycling sect – the bike messenger crowd though none of us were actual bike messengers. They were skateboarders, and pretty laid back about running into 6 guys on an abandoned rooftop.

--I see you guys found the best place too, one of them said to me.

--Yeah, I said, have you guys ever been here before?

One of them climbed a ladder onto the top of the stair tower. Another disappeared around the corner of the utility room and out of sight.

--Nah, said the guy in the cap, we skate. Heard that there was a pool here so we came to check it out. Turns out the sides are too steep.

These were some guys that could apparently appreciate an abandoned building. I introduced myself.

--I’m Ryan, I said, shaking his hand.

He introduced himself to me but I don’t remember his name. We turned back to air show, as the F-15 had linked up with the other two planes.

--I think this is called the ‘Old/New’ demonstration, Jake said.

The two fighter jets had flanked the old propeller-driven P-51 and escorted it gingerly around Cleveland airspace. As we were now used to the flash-bang entertainment of the newfangled jets, this display seemed dated and tame. I turned back to check on the skaters and they were gone. Though they were good people, their presence did prove a little unsettling, as we all realized how fundamentally insecure our spot was. Still, the afternoon was young and although we were running out of water, we decided to stay put until the Blue Angels, which were due in the air in about 2 hours.

The space around our building grew quieter, as the jets had gone back to headquarters. Ted had stolen my bucket seat but I didn’t ask for it back because he didn’t have a shirt on. I tend not to draw my attention to guys without shirts. Call it a rule. I sat down in the doorway to the utility room. My five friends and I formed an impromptu circle.

--The Blue Angels are going to be so tight, Aaron said. They’ll be right over top of us.

--Wouldn’t it be funny, I said, if the Blue Angels decided to do a new routine and bomb an abandoned building.

-- The headlines would read, Jake said, Cleveland Air Show a Success! 6 derelicts killed during Blue Angels Demonstration.

--Or 6 hipsters killed, Austin said.

--Local eyesore razed, Ted said.

--We should get the fuck out of here, I said jokingly.

--I don’t know, Aaron said, those skater kids did kind of surprise me. I turned around and was like, hello.

--Yeah, Austin said, at least they were cool though.

--They were just like, whatev, Jake said.

--There’s some shit falling out of a plane, Mike Sokol said.

He had bunched his gym shorts up around his crotch.

--Jesus Mike, I said, you look like a fucking conquistador.

--What? Mike said incredulously.

He hung his arms out.

--Parachute pants, Aaron said.

--Is that what that is? Mike asked.

He pointed east. True to Mike’s word, an Army plane dropped smoking objects attached to parachutes. They spat multicolor smoke – hyper neon, a streaking rainbow through the atmosphere.

--Paratroopers? I asked.

--No, more like paradudes, Jake said.


--I am getting so hungry, Aaron said.

No one had thought to bring food, and most had forgotten water, so our stores were running low.

--We should order a pizza, Ted said.

Mike laughed.

--Make him come all the way up here? That’s hilarious!

--Mike, seriously, I said, fix your shorts.

One of the pigeons performed a flyby of the roof, dipping dangerously close to our heads. I believed that it wanted to go home, but was scared off by us interlopers. It looped back around to the other side of the stair tower.

Just then, from behind me, in the utility room, I heard a girl’s voice.

--Hello? she said.

The tone was confident and vouchsafed that she knew we had been up there and was obviously unafraid. The girl stepped out of the stairway. She wore a scenester haircut, large plastic sunglasses, a tight-fitting purple longsleeve t-shirt and some jeans. She was a stalky girl, with thickness in the waist and thigh area, not necessarily complimented by her jeans. Everything about her was completely unremarkable. Closely behind her trod a meathead-type guy, broad shoulders sheathed by a baby-blue baby-sized striped polo. Popped collar. Backwards fitted baseball cap. He was a dozen or so yards away and the utility room was quite dim, but I could estimate the placement of 3-5 terrible tattoos on his biceps, neck, and/or calves.

Behind them, two scrawny, wan figures emerged from the stairwell. I did not get a good view of them at first, for I quickly turned and stood up from the doorway. I walked straight to Aaron.

--We need to get the fuck out of here, I murmured.

This time I was more serious.

I grabbed my messenger bag off the deck and slung it over one shoulder. The six of us exhibited a stirring motion. By the time the kids had reached the doorway most of us were standing.

Mike flattened out his shorts.

Ted put his shirt back on.

The wiry, nerdy boys had decided to come out first. They were mall punks, most likely from the outer ring suburbs, and shopped at the same mall as everyone else, but had branded themselves, or had been branded by a corporation, I suppose, as outsiders. One wore flannel with a retro-retail punk band Tee underneath, skinny jeans and some bulbous skateboarder shoes, laced but not tied. His buddy sported nearly the same shoes, slightly more worn, with cargo shorts and a baggy T-shirt which read: Poo York. Mall Punk 1 had his hair in a swoop, emo-scenester-style, and multiple piercings in his face, which appeared dumb and genuinely uninterested. Mall Punk 2’s hair was long and curly and parted down the middle. His face, specifically the way the far corners of his eyes curled upward like serif commas, led me to believe he liked breaking shit and setting it on fire.

As they stepped into the light, my sizing-up of the other two proved correct. The guy was a douche and the girl was plain jane for the most part, marginally punk because of the gauged ears, lobes roughly the circumference of shower curtain rings. Douche guy also carried a long metal flashlight. They were, all four of them, teenagers.

--Hi guys, the girl said as if we were some actors on a theme park ride.

I noticed a camera case dangling from her wrist.

--Hey, I said and smiled.

Somehow I felt that I should act as a steward to this building, and should represent politely the subculture of those who respectfully infiltrate abandoned structures.

--So do you break into a lot of buildings? she asked.

--A few. We do it from time to time, I said. I’ve been up here before so I thought it would be a good place to watch the air show.

--That’s cool, she said.

Then she pointed at Aaron and his bright red shirt.

--Yeah, we saw you all the way from the street.

Aaron gave me a look as if he accepted all blame for their presence there.

--Which way did you come in? I asked.

--Through the front, douche said. The gate’s open.

--Right, I said.

The mall punks strayed over to the roof’s edge. Mall punk 1 picked up an old cigarette box and tossed it over the side. He did not watch the descent. Mall punk 2 seized a shingle and lofted it, spinning, off the building. This was all done with an air of utmost ignorance, both in regards to our frigid reaction upon their arrival and that tossing sharp objects off a roof draws a lot of attention.

During the length of occupation, about 3 hours and counting at that point, a great many spectators had gathered in fields and parking lots near the hotel. State police patrolled the area every 10 minutes or so, but focused their attentions on the freeway. We held the belief that they could see us, probably quite easily, but would not fuss about it so long as we were not flagrant in our trespassing. Whereas trespassing of derelict spaces is generally benign, the act of vandalism on said spaces is significantly less respectable. It is just plain obnoxious.

Mall punk 1 climbed the ladder onto the top of the stair tower.

--Wow, he said after hopping onto the roof, it’s like really soft up here. I don’t know about this.

--Don’t jump, said the girl.

I could tell by her voice that the kid jumped off stuff all the time. It was probably his thing.

--Yeah, said Mall Punk 1 from the top, I don’t know about this. I should come down. This is dangerous.

While he was climbing down, Aaron said to me that we needed to get the fuck out of there. I concurred, but felt a tinge of defeat, as we had essentially been run off our spot by a bunch of youngsters. The girl and the other Mall Punk had found a half-full two liter of pop and proceeded to drop it over the other side. Douche tried not to touch anything, lest he smudge his shirt.

Just then, a bright blue jet seemed to appear out of thin air and zip over top of us. The Blue Angels had arrived. Or at least one of them. The others would be along soon enough, I thought. And so, in the throes of evacuation, we opted to stick around momentarily and share the experience of precision aeronautics. We sat on the ledge as we had all day. The presence of weapons of mass destruction did not faze the youngsters. The Mall Punks and the girl disappeared around to the other side of the stair tower.

Douche tried to make conversation.

--Where you guys from? he asked.

No one said anything. Then Ted spoke, as he was closest to the question.

--Cleveland, he said. Pretty much all over, East and West.

The girl came running back from around the corner.

--Ew! she said. [Mall Punk 1] just broke a pigeon egg on his hand.

Mall Punk 2 came next then number 1, holding his hand away from his body. He stood before us as if we were his audience.

--Aw man, this smells so bad, Mall Punk 1 said. This is like the worst thing I’ve ever smelled. It smells like--

He paused, contemplative.

--It smells like a dog’s breath, he said. Here, smell.

He offered his hand to us, we looked around and past him, as two of the Blue Angels were running exercises over the lake. Mall Punk 2 smelled his hand, began wretching. Then he picked up a large rock and chucked it at a pair of pigeons sitting at the far edge of the roof.

--I’m not smelling it, the girl said. That’s gross.

Questions abounded our camp, mainly: How do you break an egg on your hand? The answers are quite simple: You pick it up and squeeze. And: You are an idiot.

--Where are you guys from? I asked the girl.

--Mentor, she said.

As Mentor was one of the outer-ring suburbs, and had a high school of about four thousand kids, it made sense that these kids would be from there. Obviously, they had been the kids that were passed over, those left behind, skipped through the program. Maybe labeled as ‘headstrong’ or ‘different,’ but really part of the same commercial machine. They all shopped at the same mall, it was just a matter of frequenting the retail punk boutique or the retail surfer shop. It was all so commersh.

The four of them stepped behind us, entered into a private counsel. I tried as best I could to focus on the Blue Angels. Four of them had assembled into a tight diamond, while another skimmed along the lake, maybe twenty feet above the surface.

I heard the girl say that one of us would probably take their picture if they asked.

--There’s us, the young punks, she said, and they’re like the old school underground.

Old school underground. I heard her step up behind me. Her camera, in hand, came between Aaron and I.

--Excuse me, she said, would you take our picture in front of the Cleveland skyline?

Aaron agreed to snap the pic, because he was old school underground and because the ten of us, young and old, were obviously kindred spirits in that we were both ‘alternative’ in the face of conformity.

And so the four of them lined up in front of us, slung arms over shoulders and cheesed the biggest smiles they could muster. The Blue Angels performed an amazing stunt but we missed it because these kids needed proof that they had been on this roof. They wanted a little something to give back to the social network. Because unless there isn’t video proof, an event might not have happened. Which is why every single thing needs to be documented. And documented perfectly.

--Look, douche said to his three friends, you guys are like Hot Topic and I’m Hollister.

They laughed. Aaron took the picture. He gave the camera back and the group dispersed. Then the girl came back and tapped Aaron on the shoulder.

--Um, she said, that picture didn’t turn out, can you take another one?

He did. Again they cheesed it. Another amazing feat of aeronautics went unrealized in front of us.

This time, she checked the photo before she went away.

--Looks good, she said. Thanks.

An air raid siren sounded. Aaron just shook his head. The four teenagers spread out on the roof. They stepped away from us to reveal the Angels, flying six wide, directly at us. They buzzed us about 30 feet overhead and our hair brushed back. But something was off. I noticed some ordinance strapped to the wings. They split into two squadrons, arcing in echelon to the north and south. The kids still paid no mind. Mall punk 1 and the girl were yelling down at the FOX 8 staff below.

--Our building’s bigger than your building! they screamed.

Mall punk 2 tried to rip out a scrawny tree that had rooted itself underneath the roof shingles.

Douche casually played with his cell phone.

Aaron and Jake both got my attention. It was time to fucking go. The Blue Angels buzzed us again, even closer and it was the loudest thing in my life. And those were definitely bombs. I gave us maybe 3 minutes to get out of the range of fire. Like clockwork, we filed into the utility room and made toward the stairs. I brought up the rear to make sure all were accounted for.

Douche looked over at me as I was about to step through the doorway. I flashed him a sideways peace sign, said the Burning River Bikes call letters.

--BRB, I said.

He seemed to understand.

--Okay, he said.

Then, to his friends:

--He said they’d be right back.

I was spiraling down the stairs at that point, but I assumed those kids did not care. On the way, I contemplated if I was that dense when I was a teenager. It seemed so long ago and was a tough call. Was this just the fate of the young and the old, to never be able to even remotely comprehend how each other lives day-to-day. The young punks versus the old school underground. I thought of an alternative headline: TRAGEDY AT AIRSHOW: Four gifted Mentor teens perish in demonstration gone wrong.

We reached the bottom as the Angles pulled their next to last fly-over. Then would come the strafing runs. We briskly walked over to the bikes. We made sure not to run, as the panic might alarm the teens above. Mike and I knew about a spot that was easier to get over, as the fence was not attached to the pole. Mike stepped up onto the chain link and braced his weight on the post. This bent the fence over enough for us to essentially step onto it and jump down to the other side. Like a finely tuned machine, we were over and unlocking the bikes.

--Ahoy there mateys! someone yelled. It was Mall punk 2, emerging from a stairwell like a pirate from a crow’s nest. He dropped my bucket down onto the pavement. It busted into tiny chunks of plastic.

The sound of afterburner accrued in the airwaves. It swallowed whole any thoughts that may have been lingering. They strafed the building in two waves. The first wave launched incendiary missiles into the ground floor which set the structure ablaze up through the sixth story. The heat was immense, though at that point, we had reached the dirt road and only felt it upon our backs as we rode away.

Riding past on East 5-5, we saw the second wave struck with rockets into the meaty center of the building, spraying liquid hot concrete fragments onto the bystanders below. They loved it and cheered.

--It’s just like Iraq!

I heard someone yip with joy. The hotel teetered, though was not out for the count. Two of the F/A-18s circled back and at exactly the same, they released their five hundred pound bombs onto the roof, which caved in. A tremendous plume curled out and into itself. Flames licked out from behind the smoke. And all the while the cement is cracking and the steel is giving under the heat and the building is falling falling falling and notions of trespassing and vandalism are all moot when confronted with such
spontaneous acts of violence.

I wished transiently that I had had a camera to capture this graphic display of American Air Superiority. But of course I didn’t. The six of us, Burning River Bikes, slightly dehydrated, a little singed, and very tired, made our way back to Ohio City, weaving through traffic and generally pissing off motorists. Then we had a Labor Day picnic.