I was surprised and pleased the other day to have a new ad arrive, over the transom*, from Rivendell Bicycle Works of California. TOP, of course, is a photography site, and we haven't gotten very many ads from companies that don't have much to do with photography. Rivendell sells handmade bicycles, made in America,...
...As well as a not-inconsiderable selection of clothing. Clothing with a difference, though. Take a look, for instance, at the "railroad shirt" and its write-up: "...This is the shirt that built the whole country, and you've seen them before, most often on railroad men (never railroad women), and all kinds of craftsmen. I've worn this shirt for about fifteen years, after pal Jeff reintroduced me to them. He's an ironworker, and this was the shirt of ironworkers...." It goes on to describe in detail all the hoops they had to jump through to get a functional replica of an authentic American workingman's shirt made in America, in this day and age. Hmm. Definitely something more going on here than pure profit motive.
Mr. and Mrs. Hill's hearth. (Note book on coffee table. The one on the right.)
I'm not a bicyclist myself, despite having tried to get into it several times. (My brother teases me about the fact that he inherited one of my disused bikes and my son inherited another. He told Zander, "So you got this one? I got the last one." My bikes never seem to fit me, although I am man enough to entertain the notion that maybe it's the other way around.) Can you get into biking at age 52? In Wisconsin, where the roads are covered with ice for, seems like, ten out of every 12 months? (You'd think, as a guy who likes to wander around taking pictures and wants to be both a golfer and a cyclist, I'd move somewhere where they have more sun and less snow. I digress.) Anyway, I contacted my friend Mr. Hill, who is a devoted, veteran bicyclist (as is his wife, Catherine), and he tells me that Rivendell bikes are "very high-class rides" and "have a reputation for craftsmanship." So I went off to read more, and ended up perusing the write-up about the A. Homer Hilsen. The essay—for that's what it is, not advertising copy—defines a "country bike," apparently a new category, then wends onward like a long country ride, finally settling like a bird on a description of the naming process: "We considered names from the usual sources—Middle Earth, geography, birds, fish, and mammals. The good ones were all taken, and besides, they all get lumped together. I never liked combo-computer names, like Lexuva&Futura&Diamante, that sound precise, smug, and high-tech. As bike names go, A. Homer Hilsen is their antithesis, and that's why it won. It's kind of a filter, actually. That may not be a great thing, but it's a useful thing."
I find I fall right through that filter with a hard plunk.
Finally, as if just for me and the needs of this post, it turns out there is a Rivendell Bicycles group on flickr! And we wend back to photography again.
*A transom, in this case short for transom window, is a window, usually wide and not tall, set above a door. They were much more common in the days before air conditioning, when they were needed for ventilation when the door was closed. Since they were often open when the door wasn't, mail, gifts, borrowed items being returned, and other sundry deliveries might come sailing over at any time. So in editorial circles, something that arrives "over the transom" is a submission or anything else that arrives unexpectedly, without being commissioned or encouraged or sought.