“What is the name of that great play about the newsroom … it’s called Front Page. I think they’ve made it into a movie a couple times. That’s how the civilian has the image in their mind of what it’s like to work in your world. You know, breaking news! Everybody fighting about what the headline’s going to be!” This was Matthew Modine, who called us up—oh, did he ever—to talk about the first annual “Bicycle for a Day” at South Street Seaport, an event he devised to keep people away from their cars. “When I first moved to New York”—in 1978—“that was how a young struggling actor got from place to place.” But then he booked Flowers for Algernon! Though he still preferred to ride around on his “orange Raleigh Beach Cruiser. It had whitewall tires. And I rode it up to about two years ago and I was on my way to see a play—that Tracy Letts wrote, downtown, what was the name of that play, Scott Glenn was in it with Amanda Plummer … Killer Joe! And I hit a pothole big enough to park a Smart Car in, and it cracked the frame of my bike and chipped my tooth.” And now: “I have a new Beach Cruiser that has been stolen from me by my son.” Back in the day, continued Mr. Modine, “I lived in a rooming house on 73rd. That neighborhood is so chic right now, that sounds like I was really living it up. It was not so pleasant back in 1978.” So what’s with bike day, bub? “When people hear ‘global warming,’ when they hear ‘carbon footprint,’ they feel helpless,” said Mr. Modine. “Bicycling is something that each of us can do every day that has an immediate positive affect on the environment. … It makes them feel that through self-propulsion they can be a part of the change that needs to happen. Unless you’re Sarah Palin, who doesn’t believe there is any global warming and that the world is 3,000 years old. That’s what we’re up against. I mean, what happened to separation between church and state. What the fuck happened, man? That was supposed to be an impenetrable wall. And now it’s like a chain-link fence. It’s like the levees in New Orleans that don’t hold water. For our parents’ generation, it was ‘The Russians are coming.’ For ours, it’s going to be ‘The Christians are coming.’” Here he—somehow—paused. “I’m going to get in trouble.” But that didn’t stop him! “Religion is the end of the world. … It was one thing when we had swords and spears and rocks to beat one another to death, but now that nuclear bombs and chemicals are within the reach of extremists …But I’m off point. Jimmy Carter is one of the most maligned presidents in the history of our country…He told us in 1978, because we were experiencing the first energy crisis, that what we were facing was the moral equivalent of war. And it is the most prophetic speech. He is like Nostradamus.” Definitely.
[First Annual “Bicycle for a Day,” South Street Seaport Concert Stage, Pier 17, Fulton and South Streets, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., http://www.bicycleforaday.org]