Although we have yet to meet, our relationship spans decades.
I started college shortly after More Songs About Buildings and Food was released, but the song that everyone was playing when I moved into the dorm was, of course, Psycho Killer, from your first album, Talking Heads : 77. I’ve been a lifelong fan since then and was pleasently surprised a few years ago when my daughter presented me with a copy of Bicycle Diaries, a wonderful book of essays about your biking adventures as you travelled around the world.
It is truly an inspiring book. Except for one notable omission.
You write brilliantly about your bike journeys in Berlin, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Manilla, Sydney and London. And in the U.S. you have biked in San Fransico, New York, Niagara Falls, Valencia, Detroit, Sweetwater, Columbus, New Orleans and even Pittsburg. But as far as I can tell, you have never ridden a bike in your hometown since you left it for the suburbs in 1970.
Instead, you have proclaimed this about Baltimore to the bicycling world:
“I am on a train passing through Baltimore, where I grew up. I can see vacant lots, charred remains of burned buildings surrounded by rubbish, billboards advertising churches, and other billboards for DNA testing of children’s paternity. Johns Hopkins Hospital looms out of the squalor. The hospital is on an isolated island situated slightly east of downtown. The downtown area is separated from the hospital complex by a sea of run-down homes, a freeway, and a massive prison complex. Eastern Europe and the Soviet bloc come to mind.”
Excerpt From: Byrne, David. “Bicycle Diaries.” Penguin Books, 2010-09-28. iBooks. (This material may be protected by copyright).
Ouch! Now while I don’t dispute much of your description (we have, however, advanced to using mobile vans for DNA testing), I think you missed a great biking opportunity when you failed to get off that train.
And for this reason I write in the hope that you will join me the next time you are in town and correct this oversight. I know just the trip to take because my friend Bob Wagner has been planning and leading amazing rides in and around Baltimore starting probably around the time you released Grown Backwards. He also writes some pretty good bicycle diaries at The Rando Ramble and is a really good drummer, if you ever need a fill-in.
He has designed a beautiful ride that starts in Canton and winds its way to Harve de Grace roughly tracing the route of the train ride you write about. It’s about a hundred miles round trip, with a stop for lunch and Guinness drafts along the way. It may not measure up to London or Berlin, but you will be glad you came and it will forever change your feelings about biking in Baltimore.
Hope to see you soon.
Dave Hoskins, a proud Rando Rambler and Talking Heads fan from Baltimore,