Swine flu certainly wasn’t the only thing to debut in NYC this weekend. Throw Down Your Heart debuted at the International Film Center and NYC’s very own Pedal-Powered Stage was put to the test for the first time at Central Park’s Earth Day Celebration.
This double debut turned into a weekend of Never B4’s for me.
Bringing the Banjo Back to Africa
My Never B4 weekend began when I caught the radio interview with Sasha Paladino and Bela Fleck about how they took the Banjo back to its home in Africa to record an album and make a documentary about their experiences with the local musicians. I never knew the Banjo originated in Africa so right away my Never B4 ears were perked. Then, when I didn’t hate the sound of the banjo playing with the local artists, I knew I had to see this movie. You see, I normally hate the sound of the banjo, but not his time. The ear-piercing twang I thought I’d hear, wasn’t there. Instead, the plucky string sound accented the heavy rhythms of one African country and perked up the bluesy sounds of another.
Throw Down Your Heart was not only the first movie premiere I ever attended, it was also the first movie I ever saw with the director and star sitting in the audience. At the end of the show, Sasha and Bela took the stage for a 20 minute Q&A and then Bela opened his banjo case and played us a song from the show. One Never B4 followed another all night long (ending with getting Bela’s autograph).
Pedal Power Rocks Central Park
Central Park’s Earth Day Celebration on Sunday was also debut day for New York’s very own pedal-powered stage. Rock the Bike, inventors and bike advocates from Berkeley California, conceptualized and built the "Multi-Person Biker Bar Pedal Power Rig" which consists of 4 bikes tethered to each other and to a sort of cylinder that generates the precious current while we pedaled (don't quote me on that science!). When I heard the Berkeley group was working with a team from Brooklyn to build a special pedal powered rig specifically for NYC, I was determined to put my feet to good use and be one of the first to give it a go.
I read about a similar bike-powered engine used in Times Square last New Year’s Eve that powered part of the ball drop at midnight. What was different about this pedal-powered engine was that it couldn’t store the power. Our power was all live, so to speak. In other words, if all the riders stopped pedaling for a minute, the power would die out.
I didn’t realize the pressure that would put me under as a rider until I was up there, pedaling away in the midday sun, and the bike next to me broke down. That left just 3 bikes to power the mic the singer was using to entertain the hundreds of people gathering in front of the band shell.
The line of people who were willing to rotate in and relieve us was long but because the “engine” was down one bike we couldn’t risk stopping even for a second to switch riders. We pedaled harder. We sweat faster. Thankfully, though, volunteers were nearby with spray bottles of water to cool us off.
Bike #4 was fixed quickly (although it seemed like a long time under that 85 degree sun) and soon I was sitting on a bench taking pictures of my replacement bikers and the Fender Blenders, bike-powered blenders that were making smoothies in the shade (well, at least my bench was in the shade).
I highly recommend giving both of these Never B4’s a try if you get the chance.
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