October 18th, 2010

Cyclespace and Chuck Connors

I am the man I am, fearless, hungry for danger, all thanks to the 1973-74 TV show Thrill Seekers, hosted by Chuck Connors and shown every afternoon after school in the seventies. Latch key kids of my generation were raised on a gore fest of motorcycle bus jumping, tribal rituals, blindfolded knife throwers terrorizing their spinning assistants, and weights getting lifted from skewers through the biceps of poor souls with no other means of getting on telly. Today, there are whole FBI bunkers, top secret of course, dedicated to keeping this ugly chapter in history under a lid. That is why, every time I look, my 14 page wikipedia entry on Thrill Seekers has been edited back to one line. Why, not even ourchuckconnors.com dares give a page to Thrill Seekers. "They", the feds, Uncle Sam, well they know a class action by the Thrill Seeker generation will make the whole Stolen Generation debarcle look like a trial run. Hence the silence.
But for those of us who survived our older cousins' acting out of stunts, with us as assistants, Chuck's opening words at the beginning of each show, make us the proud Chucks we are now. He would pull up to the camera on his Benelli motie-sickle and say: "Hi, I'm Chuck Connors. Most men fear danger. For the next 30 minutes, you're going to meet men who thrive on it. They seek it out. They are, the Thrill Seekers."

Well I'm a thrill seeker and proud. My friends all are too. Truly, a close friend of mine changed his name from Charles to Chuck, such is his dedication. We are those men who seek out the hilliest routes to cycle to work, and don't understand conversations such as I overheard at the end of last Wednesday—that being "Ride to Work Day"—among a group of cream puffs debating the least hilly way home. Admittedly, one had recently had a knee construction, another a heart bypass, and one other was 18 months pregnant. Still, I could not see why they could not toughen up.

Chuck the lover                       uncle                                   teacher                                             statesman                            and spirit

But then I think of the many sides to Chuck Connors. Chuck the lover. Chuck the uncle, the teacher, and statesman; Chuck the spirit looking over us all. And it dawns on me, how Chuck, if he were alive, would look at the network of brownfield sites I am saying will join up to make cyclespace, and ask if they should not also be flat. "Flat! Flat?" I would protest. Then I hear Chuck whisper, "Dr. Behooving, we can't all be what Nietzsche called superman, or what you and I have been calling Thrill Seekers. Think of the kiddies. Think of the, l-ladies."
Rome hilly,                                                              Milan flat                                                   Newcastle, partially flat

I hearby pronounce cyclespace to be flat. Hell, there are no bicycles anywhere near the seven hills of Rome, but millions of them up near Milan. Same culture. Different terrains. And look at the Dutch, who embraced car culture in the 1950s, but only so far as it could be pedaled (click here for a classic old piece of footage). Sydney hilly, Melbourne flat. Sydney, sports bikes; Melbourne, all bikes. (Watch this space for a Dr. Zeus version of Cyclespace the musical, on ice, the complete manifesto). 

Pre war and interwar development in my own city, Newcastle, filled up the flat lands with gridded suburbs and industry. The middle classes moved to the hills, in their cars, after the war. In Australia the great reset is seeing the flat lands once again becoming more valuable. Yes, I can see it Chuck. Thanks!

Dr. Behooving wishes to acknowledge the administrators of ourchuckconnors.com, source of many of the rare photos used in this post, and an invaluable resource for scholars of Chuck's formidable filmic oeuvre.