Bicycle Diaries: It must be spring!

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15.3.07

It must be spring!

the puppet bike is back

Despite our sudden dip in temps (from 70 degrees two days ago to 36 today) the little signs of spring are here. The most obvious are tee-shirts and sweatshirts instead of sleeping bag coats and parkas. Also, there's a definite improvement in the mood of the odd passerby. Even the cagers are giving me a pass on my new commute downtown.

The one that excites me most though is The Puppet Bike! HAND JOB Artist Jason Trusty and his Puppet Bike friends consider it their civic duty to make you smile. A couple of days ago I saw his mobile stage when my route took me past the Museum of Contemporary Art.

A six-foot playhouse, built by Trusty and his brother Eric, sits on the back of a cargo tricycle. It pops up at neighborhood festivals, or on corners up and down Michigan Avenue. The wooden contraption has a bright cityscape painted on one side and an image of a rotund puppeteer pig in a Shriners’ hat on the other. The stage is trimmed with sagging crystal fringe, flashing mini theater lights, red velvet curtains and a collection box.

Trusty rescued the lovable Steiff puppet cast from eBay. They look like heirlooms from your grandmother's attic and have grown from two to 16 including Namy the one-eyed kitten who went AWOL and once hijacked the Puppet Bike to the lake; Monkee, a Buddhist yogi chimp whose personal hero is Uma Thurman; Lefty the Tiger, a trust-fund baby who’s a classically trained Shakespearean actor and snappy dresser; and Trusty’s favorite, Amtrak, the cowboy and “crackpot philosopher” dog.

Unfortunately, not everyone loves the Puppet Bike. It's been shut down by Chicago's Finest and Park District security for violating city ordinances. But it’s still welcome on many a street corner. Says Trusty:
The bike has an important role as a public service to me; as a child I liked to come down to the city and hear the street musicians play. I know I would have been awestruck if I ran across it as a kid, and I’m happy to provide that type of experience for our fans and visitors from around the globe.

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