NY Times Article about the Club
The New York Times ran a story about my unicycle club this week (July 2, page B2). This is the club I founded along with Joe Merrill back at the beginning of 2001. Co-founder Joe rarely makes it to the club these days. If he comes out twice in a year, it's a treat. He's got his own things going on in his life, including some cool muni'ing that he organizes. So at this point, the New York Unicycle Club is essentially a one-man operation, and I'm that dude.
In addition to attending almost all of the 150 get-togethers of our group, I've written up a 'minutes' of every meeting, discussing which people attended and what those people did. Through my chronicles, fellow riders could read about their own successes and could follow the successes of others. There are people on the list who haven't been to the club in over two years but who still want to stay on my email list, just so they can read about their friends' exploits.
I've always been a publicity whore, so when the writer from the Times contacted me about a potential article, I was happy to oblige. We've been featured on an early morning NBC show ("Today in New York") and in a weird article in Time Out New York, and each time, we've garnered new members as a result. I figured a piece in the Times would be great for the club and might be a nice for me, too. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the club on the day the writer came -- Emmett had a dance performance at about the same time. But I figured that after our long interview on the phone, the writer would include me in one way or another. I even forwarded him some great photos of me and the kids on unicycles.
Instead, the article turned out to be about my brother and a few others, but there was no mention of me. I was disappointed not to be mentioned. Oh well. next time I'll insist. It would also have been nice if the Times had included our website address. In any case, I look forward to a few new members joining us at Grant's Tomb.
Here is the article:
JOHN STONE is a composer and an athlete in Manhattan, and he has never been in a circus. This last fact is an important but often misunderstood aspect of his life, but perhaps one of the drawbacks of commuting to work in Midtown from his home on the Upper West Side on a unicycle.
“It gets tiresome that people see me on my unicycle and they only think of that,” he said on a recent Sunday while holding a tall black unicycle with special features to accommodate long-distance rides. “Sometimes people will see me riding and start singing circus music at me.”
Mr. Stone, 37, was with others who understood his plight. Every other Sunday, unicyclists who call themselves the Unatics and say they are New York City’s only unicycle club, meet at Grant’s Tomb in Riverside Park to ride, learn new tricks and bond with others who share their love of balancing on top of one wheel. The club, which was founded in 2001, has more than a hundred members.
On this particular Sunday, about 30 unicyclists rode along the concrete entrance to Grant’s Tomb. Club members arranged metal barricades into three rows, so that beginners could find their balance with handholds.
James Sui, 14, impressed other riders by hopping down a set of four stairs at once and remaining upright. Ted Piltzecker, a jazz musician and professor, traced lazy circles while juggling three balls. And Shane Hope, an artist who lives in Brooklyn, glided by on what he called a BC wheel, which is essentially a unicycle without a seat or pedals.
For club members, these Sundays are one of the few chances to feel as if their hobby is a mainstream sport. “This is a friendly world,” Mr. Stone said, adding that riders often know one another’s names and share stories. He said that asking to borrow someone else’s unicycle was understood and encouraged.
But those who don’t ride unicycles also orbit this one-wheeled community. So, Mr. Stone said, unicyclists must sometimes curtail their space when tour groups descend on Grant’s Tomb, where it is generally frowned upon to ride on the monument.
Throughout the afternoon, two rangers from the National Park Service stood at the door to Grant’s Tomb and watched the Unatics. “I thought they were part of the circus the first time I saw them here,” said one ranger, who did not give his name because he said he was not allowed to speak with reporters. “I think they should go down to the trapeze school on the West Side and put a hat out and make a mint.”
Club members have often offered to teach the ranger how to ride a unicycle, he said, but to no avail. “I would break my head open,” he said.