And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?

And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?

The answer to that question, at least for David Byrne of Talking Heads, was more than likely by bicycle.

As an impressionable teen at the dawn of MTV, I didn't quite know what to make of Mr. Byrne and his Pee Wee Herman persona, karate-chopping his right hand across his left arm repeating "same as it ever was".  In time I grew to enjoy the music of  Talking Heads.  The crisp, clear sound of Little Creatures set the benchmark for every future album I would play on my first CD player.

I never once stopped to wonder where the inspiration for those great songs may have come from.

After reading David Byrne's book, Bicycle Diaries, I think I have a pretty good idea.  "This point of view - faster than a walk, slower than a train, often slightly higher than a person - became my panoramic window on much of the world over the last thirty years - and it still is."

I wish I could have said that better myself.  Bicycling is intimate enough to inhale the smells, feel the air, and observe the interaction of people within their surroundings.  Yet it is detached enough to not be enveloped by the familiarity of a place to the point of losing a larger perspective.  It is the perfect observation perch.

This book is not specifically about bicycling or the feelings bicycling evokes.  It is not a travelogue, although it covers many cities in the US and around the world.  It presents lessons in history, perspectives on architecture and urban development, as well as a commentary on society - all gleaned from the saddle of a bicycle.

As the name clearly states, it's a diary.  It's one man's observations of the surroundings he finds himself in.  He tells us as much in the first chapter.  It is through his own observations and his extensive knowledge of history, art, architecture, and literature, that he forms his views on the places he travels through.

If you like the music, art, or writing of David Byrne, this is a must-read (and since it was released in 2009, you probably have read it already).

If you're interested in architecture, urban planning, gentrification, brownfields, urban renewal, public and alternative transportation, you'll want to consider Mr. Byrne's perspective.

If you're interested in understanding other cultures and their societal structures, you'll find his writing very informative.

If you're a bicycling advocate, you'll appreciate his opinions and critiques and find his style very entertaining.

For me, this book was all of the above.  It also gave me a better understanding of one of my favorite Talking Heads tunes, (Nothing But) Flowers.

"This used to be real estate
Now it's only fields and trees
Where, where is the town
Now, it's nothing but flowers
The highways and cars
Were sacrificed for agriculture
I thought that we'd start over
But I guess I was wrong"

 

 

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