Brooklyn Bridge Biking

Just for the record, Brooklyn Bridge biking can be done--calmly, genteel-ly, sensibly even, as this Thoreau You Don't Know-related biker shows...

But Seriously...

From the Opionator:
The Dow crossed 10,000 Wednesday (and held that level Thursday, closing at 10,062). Thursday morning, Goldman Sachs announced a quarterly profit of $3.19 billion. Neither number would have seemed believable a year ago, but now that these results are in, what do they say about the state of the economy? Also, who should get the credit, and what on-going academic feuds can Dow 10,000 be a datapoint for?...

Robert Reich doesn’t think there’s much wisdom, collective or otherwise, behind the Dow: “This is all temporary fluff, folks. Anyone who hasn’t learned by now that there’s almost no relationship between the Dow and the real economy deserves to lose his or her shirt in the Wall Street casino.”

PS: H.N.T.G.R.

Why Is This So Fun?

If Thoreau were Carl Sagan.... Ah, forget it!

last seen on the Daily Dish


Q: Is there anything better than Bike Snob?
A: No.

As you may be aware, there is a genteel, non-competitive cycling conspiracy (GNCCC) afoot (or awheel) in New York City, and to a certain extent Robert Sullivan is its literary voice, giving it ready access to media outlets such as the Times. Furthermore, David Byrne is the conspiracy's celebrity spokesperson because his rock star status appeals to the youth (in the context of the GNCCC, the "youth" means people 55 and under), and the Dutch city bike is its de facto symbol and totem. While ostensibly the GNCCC is pro-cycling and works in our favor, there runs beneath it a sinister undercurrent of elitism, strange helmets, and pro-Dutch propaganda.

The Battles on the Brooklyn Bridge

We at the Thoreau You Don't Know propose the following truce...
ONE of the great battlefields in the war between bicyclists and pedestrians in New York City is the Brooklyn Bridge. Pedestrians think all bicyclists are out-of-control maniacs; bicyclists — the majority, anyway — are just trying to avoid cars and not break a sweat. The stripe painted down the center of the elevated Brooklyn Bridge walkway, to separate bicyclists from pedestrians, has become a line in the sand. We need to erase that line once and for all.
via the New York Times


There's permafrost, permaculture, and, of course, permanence, which is the opposite of temporary, which brings us to the increasingly average American worker, which brings us to permalancers:


Over at the Thoreau You Don't Know, we are counting the days until Look Down/ Shoot Down, photographer Jeremiah Dine’s exhibition at MAD Gallery, 520 W. 27th Street. From the release, just released:
The imagery is the visual language of the streets - traffic cones, signs, garbage, walls, curbs - the detritus of the urban environment, the whole making up a pattern of textures, colors and shapes.

More from the release, quoted above, shortly after it was released:

Look Down/Shoot Down refers to the process of photographing on the street, the literal act of looking and shooting. LD/SD is also the term for a modern fighter jet’s radar capabilities to acquire, lock on and destroy a target. The act of photographing can be thought of as “hunting” for images, and these images in particular are often shot looking down at the pavement or curb. The photographer’s eye is constantly acquiring and targeting new information.

Rest for the Weary That's Not for the Leery

While we at the Thoreau You Don't Know were on hiatus, the people over at LIFE have gone and put up a lot of Woodstock photos. We know that the Woodstock anniversary is officially over, but does that mean that we have to refrain from posting photos from Woodstock that we had really never seen before, such as this one? (It is for the Leary, of course.)

A Float

We at TTYDK can only guess where the Jeremiad is Jeremiading from, or at, now.

A Reverse Canoe Commute; or, Pointed Portage

This piece in the Times describes the conceptual reverse commute of two artists, on their way (back) to the Museum of Natural History.
Four days ago Mr. Starling and a fellow artist, Tyler Rowland — accompanied in a second (regular, nonart) canoe by another artist, Kasper Akhoj , and Dante Birch , a production manager at Mass MoCA — began enacting a kind of reverse expedition, taking not rare animal trophies but a load of complex cultural baggage and post-colonial inquiry back to the history museum. In May Mr. Starling put his canoe into the Hoosic River, whose south and north branches run through the Mass MoCa complex, and paddled and drifted to the Hoosic’s junction with the Hudson. Then, last Thursday, he picked up the journey in Albany, relying on tides, elbow grease and the kindness of strangers as he and the three other men made their way to Manhattan. (“Last night we had sushi, in Beacon,” Mr. Starling said when asked how they had been sustaining themselves along the way. “It’s been quite civilized, actually.”)
We would like to canoe the Hoosic someday. (Via D. Diehl.)

Island Camping

Just in case there was any question or any doubt or any anything, really, let it be known that we are completely down with, for instance, this:

via and

Above San Francisco

If you are one of those people who find themselves wondering what San Francisco looked like from a balloon in, say, 1901, or 1902, shortly after the Great Fire, then this is the Library of Congress site for you, or 4 U. The balloon was owned and (perhaps) operated by Professor T. S. Baldwin, who, on a previous balloon trip, freaked out his eight passengers, when the balloon broke from its moorings and traveled 50 miles south to Pescadero, though nearly floated west, out to sea. Another of the "aeronauuts" is listed as Edward Dudley. The long shadows suggest, according to the Library of Congress, that the trip was one of the last of the day. Up to twenty people could get in the balloon at a time, each person flying for a dollar.


Here's a debate that may or may not still be raging over at The Year in Pictures, a most excellent photo blog: Ali v. Jacko. (The photo of Ali is by Danny Lyons, who is the Muhammed Ali of photos of the about-to-be-destroyed South Street Seaport, seen here.)


Man playing flute in a bubble on a pond on Twitpic
"Man playing flute in a bubble on a pond," a new photograph by Sam Amidon.


There is in fact a Thoreau twitter, no relation and quite for months, but there is also a Roland Headley twitter, begging the question: what are you to do?


It always amazes us that so few people know that Thoreau was a huge fan of the Feelies, in the '80s, when Hoboken was the Concord, Mass. of New Jersey.

Mercurial Skies

Summer in the city means the weather is always changing, as we here at TTYDK can attest. Why, just the other day we entered the subway in Brooklyn, and the weather was sunny and nice, with just a few clouds, but by the time we got to Manhattan, we could see that it had begun raining bagels. Lox of luck trying to find the right umbrella!

Long Nights

Via You Look Marvelous

When You Are Too Tired to Blog You Just Show Off a Postcard Which Contains a Photo Containing the Wild Where It's Not Necessarily Expected!

This just in over the Thoreau You Don't Know's e-transom:

hello friends!
greetings from copenhagen. today, at 7 AM, i saw two people asleep in a tent, which they had set up literally on the platform of the central train station! wow. this is a great idea. i am going to go camping in the train stations of the world. it looked like this:
if you know people in copenhagen, or malmo sweden, i'm playing in copenhagen tomorrow Tuesday at 9 PM at Huset, and wednesday in Malmo somewhere i forget at 7 PM.


1. I made two videos of a new song. you can see them here. Video A is necessary for comprehending the full implications of
Video B, but Video B is way more amazing.

Video A:

Video B:

2. There is an amazing honkytonk band called the Sweetback Sisters. This band includes one Stefan Amidon on drums and some singing. They have a KILLER new record out. You must buy it. Order a hard copy:
Or download it from iTunes:

okay bye!

We wish we got more postcards featuring people camping in train stations. As it is, we will make do with this one.

What If Al Stieglitz Had a Cell Phone

For All

On the Fourth of July, you have to spend a little time speculating, when it comes to deciding exactly how cool Jefferson and Adams and all those guys were, but you don't have to wonder about how cool these two women are. They are completely cool, obviously.

Speaking of Metaphors

Here's a very HDT review by Ginia Bellafante, TV critic extraordinaire, with a mention of the little know International Bureau of Metaphor, as well as a sci-fi situation related to this.

What Did You Do on the Solstice?

Here at TTYDK, we took in Scandinavian fiddling, and a maypole dance, down at Battery Park, where the view is very nineteenth century, if you forget about the stevedores. Below is a snippet of ASI Spelmanslag, the fiddling group of the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who flew in to play the so-called midsommar festival--waltzes, polskas, marches and schottisches. As noted fiddler recently told us, "Scandinavian fiddle music is one of the few fiddle musics where there more fiddles you have the better it sounds." This seems very true, and we wish it were a metaphor for more things, though not everything, of course.

Frank Sees

Here's this on the cross country explorations of Robert Frank from the excellent photo blog The Year in Pictures. We would say something about landscape and memory at this point but the photos are so wonderful that, for the moment, we can't remember where we are.

That's The Sound of the Soundwalks Ending

Did you hear that? A visual vestige (left) on The Rest is Noise.

Keeping Up With the (Homeless) Joneses

OK, now I have seen it all: people who have homes are upset that people without homes are allowed to live in the expensive homes that did not sell because they were too expensive. Follow that? Yes, the homeless have been allowed to live in condos and the neighbors aren't happy. The homeless don't deserve this, says a neighbor:

To walk over there and see that folks in a shelter are living better than we are, it's not fair.
It used to be that people were against shelters on their street because the shelters were unattractive, the homeless homeless. Now, the argument is that the shelter was snuck in. But the shelter is a luxury condo--was a luxury condo snuck in? Does this mean people will be more wary of luxury condos? Does this mean that people will hope non-luxury shelters will be sought out in gentrifying neighborhoods? It's complicated.

Can't we just be pleased that someone got some people who needed help a place to stay?


Thoreau was big on the question that asks you to look at whether you are using technology or the technology is using you. Our car industry has long driven us in the wrong direction. We are now, whether we like it or not, at the wheel. Let's turn Detroit into a transportation capital, rather than a place that makes machines that pollute our air and our water as well as our downtown and our generally activity-less lives. Let's mobilize ourselves, a la the New Deal, perhaps (see photo), to turn Mo-town into T-town, which doesn't sound as cool but is. Imagine turning the interstate highways into interstate high speed busways, just for instance. Michael Moore is onto this, and here are a few points of his multi-pointed plan:
1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion took no time at all. Everyone pitched in. The fascists were defeated.
2. Don't put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce - and most of those who have been laid off - employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now.

3. Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years.

4. Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories. And hire local people everywhere to install and run this system.

5. For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.

Organic Farmers are Suffering

Organic farmers are suffering, and they are questioning whether they can go local—i.e., sell their milk in their communities, rather than have it trucked off out of state. Which raises the question: is local the most organic? Here is a photo from the New York Times' report, with the following caption: "Last month’s meeting of the Maine Organic Milk Producers drew worried farmers seeking solutions to a post-boom bust."

To Stay or Slay?

With newspapers and television news reports using the word "staycation" over and over again, it's maybe a good time to recycle the newspaper and explore your neighborhood, where, if you are us, you will find things like this. Or you can go on what Bike Snob calls a "slaycation." What? You don't know Bike Snob? You've got to get inside more. Or schluff.)

View nothing in a larger map

'The Thoreau You Don't Know' by Robert Sullivan - Los Angeles Times

'The Thoreau You Don't Know' by Robert Sullivan - Los Angeles Times

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TTYDK Takes to the E-Airwaves

See here, for a podcast by a prominent member of the Thoreau You Don't Know staff.

Broken Up

If you need images of cracked concrete, then this is where you can get them, thanks to

Many Mannahattas

If you have not heard about the Mannahatta Project yet, then we envy you—the thrill of first Mannahatta contact is nothing to be sneezed at, even on an Air Action Alert day, precipitated in part by pollen, in part by everyone driving around in cars. Here the Bowery Boys, America's number one New York City history blogsite, takes on Mannahatta, seen, with the outline of the current Manhattan surrounding it, below.

Bike Rules

Readers of this site know that (a) they would likely be better of reading other sites, or reading; and (b) that the staff here at TTYDK is very interested in the idea of bike etiquette, which can sometimes seem like an oxymoron though not always. On that note, here is this from Transportation Alternatives. It;s a new series of bike rules--the most important being the first, which reads as follows: "Pedestrians always have the right of way. PERIOD." Icons are below, explainations at the T.A. site,

Write On

The New York Times Book Review's blog, Paper Cuts, makes some good points about Thoreau's pencil, pun intended.
Photo here.

A Few Words for a River

Let's say a few words for a river, our river over here, near the Thoreau Your Don't Know's basecamp, the Hudson. But let's not use the name "Hudson," and let's not just say any words. Let's repeat the words of Seamus Heaney, who the T.Y.D.K. staff happened to see last night, at the first annual (most likely) Princeton Poetry Festival. Let's repeat the words Heaney used when he read a poem called "Saint Kevin and the Blackbird," which we have in a collection called "Open Ground." One thing that the poem is about is Saint Kevin, who, while in his cell in the Wicklow Mountains, had extended his arm out the window, when a blackbird landed in his hand. Saint Kevin, not wanting to injure the bird, or the nest, or both or anything, held his arm in place. Said the poet: "Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked/ Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked/ Into the network of eternal life,/ is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand/ Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks/Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown."
We love this poem, always have, love it more now, as we likely will when we next spend time with it. One of the many things we like about it is that it puts a positive spin on not doing, on standing ground, on holding still: it takes a lot of work to hold still, to hold back in life: "A prayer his body makes entirely/ For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird/ And on the riverbank forgotten the river's name." But what have we done? Just in saying that much we said too much.

Rethinking the Forest

Here's another way to look at trees, brought to you by the staff of the Thoreau You Don't Know.

Exceptional Explanation of Exceptionalism!

In Cape Cod, a book by Thoreau that is popularly thought of as a travel book, Thoreau goes a long way in changing the notion of American exceptionalism, emphasizing that the country is great not because God says it is, but because it is constantly recharged by people looking to reinvent America, to make their own exceptional voyage into the future of a new place. Here is a related take on what makes, or maybe ought to make, American exceptionalism, exceptional:

(via Professor G. Brewer, via the Daily Dish)

A Mere Muir?

The Thoreau You Don't Know staff was recently buttonholed at a party, and presented with the following statement: "I heard that Thoreau was never went out in the real wilderness, that he was no John Muir." There is a lot for the staff to say about this, including, bt not limited to the following: Thoreau was writing about a "partially cultivated wilderness" (i.e., his local farming, lumbering, village shop- and artisan-filled community); Thoreau hiked with friends; Thoreau did in fact do a little Muir-like time in Maine; Muir liked Thoreau, or his work, anyway. But what should also be pointed out was that Muir was no Muir, or at least not what we might call the Pure Nature Guy. What we mean is he dealt with the corporate interests in the world at the time, which were substantial, to create parks, the first National Parks, in essence. Here's this from an excellent piece, by Robert Pogue Harrison, on Muir in the March 12, 2009 issue of the New York Review of Books, which seems to indicate that conservationists might work more closely with economic interests to fashion new kinds of 21st Century conservation:
Muir became a fixture of the steady tourist traffic to Yosemite in the early 1870s, an eccentric guide and congenial raconteur who impressed Emerson and P.T. Barnum, just as he would Theodore Roosevelt many years later. Part of the fascination of Worcester's account ["A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir," by Donald Worster, Oxford University Press] is to see how Muir's concerted conservation work emerged only in 1889 when he was already in his fifties, as part of the sudden wave of progressivism that swept America toward the end of the Gilded Age, and how this conservationism oddly sought corporate allies during its first flush of grassroots organization, accommodating itself to pragmatic, utilitarian, and commercial pressure, utilitarian, and commercial pressures of many kinds.

Muir's life and work is an example of how quickly things can change, how much affect a small group of passionate people can have on the government and society, how a good idea (national parks) has legs. Something Thoreau used to say, by the way, was, "[T]hank God they cannot cut down the clouds."

Dumpster Diving

Here's this via Swissmiss, via we don't know...

The World's Best Music Videos Featuring Bicycles

Speaking of bicycles, the good people at Streetsblog, America's #1 public space reporting team, have posted a list of The World's Best Music Videos Featuring Bicycles, including this one by the New Zealand biking team, Flight of the Conchords.

This one is too:

(Recorded) Live!

If you have been having trouble getting out of bed, if you have turned to your friend or co-worker or significant other and said, "[Dude/Co-worker Bill/Honey], what is there to look forward to?"--well, the answer is here, in the form of a recording of the Book Court reading of the Thoreau You Don't Know, which prominently featured the Washington Square Harp & Shamrock Orchestra, as well as a special guest appearance by the How Not To Get Rich Orchestra.

Learning How to Not Work

From a debate in the New York Times today, over the effectiveness of cutting salaried employees' hours during a recession featured this commentary by Corinne Maier, the author of "Bonjour Laziness":

France has the ultimate weapon for fighting the economic crisis: free time. Long live the 35-hour week, though it was once sentenced to the scaffold by President Nicolas Sarkozy. The law reducing work hours, known in French as R.T.T., today is like a shock absorber of the crisis. Businesses in trouble are using the R.T.T. regime to avoid layoffs. The proof? Last Christmas, none of my salaried friends in Paris were working. Several of them told me, “My company pushed us to take the R.T.T. between Christmas and New Year’s Day.” Translation: since there’s no work, mandatory days off. France’s law reducing work hours has been a shock absorber in this latest economic crisis. So what, then, of that favored slogan of President Sarkozy, “Work more to earn more”? Mr. Sarkozy himself still seems to believe in it, though perhaps he is the only person who does, and the 2007 changes to the R.T.T. law that reduced overtime costs for business remain in effect. But considering the current recession, it’s unlikely that many businesses will need to take advantage of them. Indeed, the Japanese employers’ organization is studying R.T.T. as a solution to the crisis in that country.

Here's my favorite part, where she wonders if the Americans are up to not working as hard on work and working on enjoying life:

I wonder, though, if the French model can work everywhere else: What would Americans do with close to two months of vacation a year? When you’re not used to it, it can seem like a LOT of free time. But perhaps that is indeed the future of capitalism. My American friends, make an effort to be lazy!

Word of the Day--Today Only!

A new feature, which may only last for today, depending on the mood of the Thoreau You Don't Know staff: hurdy-gurdy!

Franklin's Dream Come True

Lord Franklin's Lament, a great old ballad, is referenced, in a sense, at the close of Walden. Franklin was looking for a Northwest Passage, and things took a turn for the worse (death). Things are clearing up, passage wise, at the poles, which means old maps may become new again, or maybe not. Either way, here's this:


At Thoreau You Don't Know headquarters, we count ourselves fortunate to often find ourselves in the company of excellent photographers, such as E. Etheridge, who captured the Washington Square Harp & Shamrock, playing at the Brooklyn reading of The Thoreau You Don't Know, at Book Court, in Cobble Hill--neƩ Poinkiesbergh, which, in old Dutch, apparently means, cobbles hill--the place was named by farmers who saw a lot of cobblestones in the area. The orchestra was on fire! The crowd tuned up with them: mmmmm! The author was, as his wont, a little out of control. But then what do you expect? Music, friends, family, seemingly interested strangers, professionals of a relaxed sort--the author was pretty happy, especially as pictured here.

The Wild

Holy cow!

Where Tonight's Reading Is


In Spite of Ourselves

This is it! Tonight's the night. This is what you've all been waiting for. Well, maybe not all of you have been waiting for it. OK, maybe some of you have been dreading it, but still, nonetheless it's here—the Brooklyn reading of the Thoreau You Don't Know, featuring the Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra. Why an orchestra, when talking about Thoreau? Because Thoreau is not a stick in the mud. He's really about joy, which, for him, is nicely epitomized in music, as some of these notes would indicate—he seems to be saying that we can be happy, in spite of ourselves, to kind of quote John Prine:

When I hear music I fear no danger, I am invulnerable, I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times and to the latest. (From his journal on January 13, 1857.)

A thrumming of piano-strings beyond the gardens and through the elms. At length the melody steals into my being. I know not when it began to occupy me. By some fortunate coincidence of thought or circumstance I am attuned to the universe, I am fitted to hear, my being moves in a sphere of melody, my fancy and imagination are excited to an inconceivable degree. This is no longer the dull earth on which I stood. (From his journal on on August 3, 1852.)

What is there in music that it should so stir our deeps? We are all ordinarily in a state of desperation; such is our life; ofttimes it drives us to suicide. To how many, perhaps to most, life is barely tolerable, and if it were not for the fear of death or of dying, what a multitude would immediately commit suicide! But let us hear a strain of music, we are at once advertised of a life which no man had told us of, which no preacher preaches. Suppose I try to describe faithfully the prospect which a strain of music exhibits to me. The field of my life becomes a boundless plain, glorious to tread, with no death nor disappointment at the end of it. All meanness and trivialness disappear. I become adequate to any deed. No particulars survive this expansion; persons do not survive it. In the light of this strain there is no thou nor I. We are actually lifted above ourselves. (From his journal on on January 15, 1857.)

What the Heck?

Can't hurt, even if some commenters are going nuts about it.

Also, this is cool:

The Ecology of Shopping

The staff of the Thoreau You Know is on the radio today, across the United States of America. Next stop, Raleigh, N.C., and the Alvin Augustus Jones show, on WCBQ and WHNC. Raleigh is coincidentally where one of our favorite bands is based, Chatham County Line, who are seen here performing this song, a great song that is just a great song but is also a song that could be used in a university course about how roads and consumption affect the stuff in our lives that we don't necessarily think of roads and consumption as affecting, if that makes any sense at all.


The view from the Brooklyn window around this time of year, last year.

Other Winds

This morning, I drove through the California desert and saw this excellent wind farm, which is captured here by a cell phone that is very old but still kicking.

Winds Changing?

Because the staff of the Thoreau You Don't Know is in Los Angeles, we are reading the Los Angeles Times, and the other day, while on our way to, yes, a movie, we ran across this column by Michael Hiltzik, entitled "The belief that the wealthy are worthy is waning":
With financial crisis and scandal as backdrop, Americans are questioning whether plutocrats are either indispensable or deserving.The notion that the poor always will be with us has been ingrained in our culture ever since the sermons of Moses were set down by the anonymous author of Deuteronomy. The financial crisis of the present day raises a rather different issue, however: What should we do about the rich? That the point is even open for discussion suggests that a sea change is taking place on the American political scene. For decades, the wealthy have been held up as people to be admired, victors in the Darwinian economic struggle by virtue of their personal ingenuity and hard work.
Here is the rest of the column.

The L Train, as in Labrador

Thoreau famously said, “I shall never find in the wilds of Labrador any greater wildness than in some recess of Concord...” I think that an art exhibit on a subway platform of stuff on a subway platform is an example of the Labradorness that can be found in some recess of New York City.

(via Swissmiss)

Schluffing Wars

Things are getting pretty intense, viz a viz schluffing, over at Streetsblog. Bike Snob has attacked the Thoreau You Don't Know--though it is not clear he thinks of us as that, since Bike Snob, when referring to us, uses as a moniker the word dork. The word snob comes from the Latin sine nobilitate, or without nobility. Dork comes from--well, we're not going to say where dork comes from because we run a family blog here, but it's a not a bad thing, the thing that dork refers to, and Bike Snob seems to be attempting to show people that he has one.

Green House

The White House was green, as in Irish, or more specifically, Chicago Irish. (In Chicago, they die the rivers green.) The How Not to Get Rich Orchestra was there, as described in this blog post on the Powell's Books website, where the staff of the Thoreau You Don't Know blog is camping out temporarily, snoring too much at night, hogging the camping stove, singing too loud at the campfire singalongs that go on at the Powell's blog headquarters. To wit.

A Review!

From Barnes & Noble here.

Saint Patrick's at Powell's

More guest blogging here.

The Daily Beast

is all Thoreau-ed up today!

Guest Blogging, as Opposed to Resident Blogging

The staff of the Thoreau You Don't Know is guest blogging on Powell's blog this week, at's being the Portland, Oregon-based book paradise. We won't waste your time here, blogging on what we blogged about over there. Rather we will recommend you to the blog therein, or thereover, or over there, which is here.

The Clothes That Got Away

This afternoon, the staff of the Thoreau You Don't Know, on break, stepped outside to happen upon this rack of clothes, which is not just any rack of clothes but a rack of clothes at a dry cleaners—a rack of clothes, in other words, that no one ever picked up, whether by accident or on purpose. It's almost to much to bear, the rack of clothes that no one picked up, by accident or on purposed. What were people thinking? What were these clothes to them? Nothing or everything, and they were, in the case of the latter, momentarily forgotten, or forgotten for the alloted three months, the time period in which one is typically required to remember clothes that mean at least something to them? Which reminds us of something that people always say about Thoreau, which is that he brought his clothes home every day, for washing, which is a problematic assertion in many ways, not the least of which, it paints a picture of the Thoreau You (Maybe) Know, which brings us to Richard Smith:

We’ve hear this comment many times: Thoreau was a hermit at Walden Pond. Of all the mythology and stories that surround Thoreau, this one story is the most persistent. And no matter how much Thoreauvians protest, the story continues to circulate. I even had a teacher say to me recently, “You know, Thoreau was a hypocrite – he told everyone he was a hermit, but he came home every day to get his laundry done!”

It should be obvious to anyone who’s read Walden that Thoreau was not a hermit. Just the chapter called “Visitors” is enough to put the myth to rest. So the question in my mind is not “Was he or was he not a hermit,” but how did the rumor start in the first place? In Walden itself, Thoreau declares, “I am naturally no hermit.” So if someone tells me Thoreau was a hermit, I'm inclined is to suspect that this person hasn’t read Walden very closely.

Thoreau On Friendship

Here Thoreau is quoted on the influence of friends. The passage comes from his river book, "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers."
After years of vain familiarity, some distant gesture or unconscious behavior, which we remember, speaks to us with more emphasis than the wisest or kindest words. We are sometimes made aware of a kindness long passed, and realize that there have been times when our Friends’ thoughts of us were of so pure and lofty a character that they passed over us like the winds of heaven unnoticed; when they treated us not as what we were, but as what we aspired to be.
Photo from Library of Congress, here.

Trying to Capture the Vortex

The staff of the Thoreau You Don't Know is always trying to film our local vortex--the circle of wind that comes up on the corner of Court Street and Montague in downtown Brooklyn--but we never have the right equipment, or a film crew. Here is a very lame attempt, a video that does not capture the exquisite circle of blowing newspapers that we saw spin and spin and eventually ascend into the downtown Brooklyn sky... shortly before we executed this lame attempt. We will not stop trying.

A Break for Shakespeare

The markets are up, the markets are down! Here at the Thoreau You Don't Know headquarters, we're confused, as usual. Time for a break--this time for the Beatles, because the Beatles are in the air for at least two reasons: (1) people are complaining about the ticket prices to see Paul and Ringo perform together in NYC coming up some point soon; and (2) a Liverpool University announced that it will offer a Beatles degree or a degree in Beatles, or something like that. The important thing is that Thoreau dug Shakespeare, seen here:

This Just In

Whether it was inevitable or not seems like the inevitable question. See it for yourself here.

Flight Lines

powerlinerflyers from wes johnson on Vimeo.
as seen on the Daily Dish...

Streetsblog and The Thoreau You Don't Know, the Thoreau You Don't Know's favorite place to read about public place and street issues, posted the essay on biker civility that the staff here typed up. A lot responses came in, some discussing the Thoreau You Don't Know's age, some discussing really cool ideas about how bikers can break through their bad p.r.—bad p.r. that has nothing to do with the fact that bikes are cool and the way to go and will eventually take over the car world, or perhaps some huge portion of it. I mean, we do like to drive once in a while. Photo from Fliker, here.

Why They Hate Us

Here is a piece that the staff of the Thoreau You Don't Know worked hard on. It's about why they hate us, us being bikers, they being everyone who is not a biker at the moment. The intention of the piece, as far as the staff here is concerned, is to highlight a political Achilles heel of the pro-bike community--i.e., people hate bikers when bikers aren't really the problem, as far as air quality, global warming, mortality, public space deprivation, obesity, and personal debt goes. Also: Schluffing!


Biking is the best way to go in the city if you are not walking. We at the Thoreau You Don't Know believe strongly in this proposition. Meanwhile, as far as bike etiquette goes, it's tough to stay off the sidewalk even thought the law and courtesy says we ought to. (A friend of the staff recently went to court for a sidewalk bike riding ticket and served some community service time.) Sidewalk bike riding is like jaywalking--who among us cannot resist, once in a while or more. Bikes, like people, are vehicles of compromise. Thus, we draw attention to the schluff, for when you absolutely have to move on the sidewalk and absolutely won't actually "ride."

More on schluffing: an alternate way to use your bike on the sidewalk that is faster than walking and yet is not biking. Intended for short distances only (obviously). What is a schluffing situation? When a biker goes from street biking to sidewalk biking and the bike lane (or bike-favorable street) has ended and the biker still needs to go some distance to his or her front door or destination. Or when the biker just needs to go one block against the direction of traffic and doesn't want to walk. Ideally one would walk, but unfortunately people tend to bike on the sidewalk, which is problematic and illegal and, when there are a lot of people, dangerous and clueless. We present schluffing as an alternative to riding a bike on the sidewalk. We present schluffing as a Third Way, a particular kind of compromise that bikers are great at, as opposed to car drivers, who you would not to see pushing a car down the sidewalk or on the sidewalk at all, pedestrians or not.Schluffing takes advantage of the bike as a scooter-like implement to shorten your trip--and as something that is human-powered and, thus, capable of being NOT used, just walked, walking being human. Brought to you by the staff at The Thoreau You Don't Know, located at (No pedestrians were injured in the making of this video.)

Taking Stock

We, the staff of the Thoreau You Don't Know, are watching the stock market dive down deeper and deeper, and wondering what it all means. We often turn to these words that Thoreau wrote to a friend. Lately, they have been sounding exceptionally true:
The merchants and company have long laughed at transcendentalism, higher laws, etc., crying ‘None of your moonshine,’ as if they were anchored to something not only definite, but sure and permanent. If there was any institution which was presumed to rest on a solid and secure basis, and more than any other represented this boasted common sense, prudence and practical talent, it was the bank; and now those very banks are found to be mere reeds shaken by the wind. Scarcely one in the land has kept its promise…. Not merely the Brook Farm and Fourierite communities, but now the community generally has failed. But there is the moonshine still, serene, beneficent, and unchanged. Hard times, I say, have this value, among others, that they show us what such promises are worth,—where the sure banks are.
(Photo, Library of Congress on Flicker: Farm auction, Derby, Conn.; 1940, Sept.)