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The Tibetan 500

Most weekdays in winter when the lakefront path is often dangerously iced over, I commute by bike from the North Shore down Clark Street to the Millennium Park bike station, otherwise known by its sponsor name, McDonald’s Cycle Center. (My film-making friend from New York, Clarence Eckerson, made a nice short video about the bike station for a great blog on urban commuting around the world called

As I pass the Chinese consulate at the northwest corner of Erie and Clark, an older man, probably in his mid-60s, waves me by with a big smile and his giant Tibetan flag, as if I’m finishing the Indy 500 in Tibet. He often shouts something as I ride past, like, “Good for you for wearing a helmet!” The man stands across the street from the consulate along Erie most days, protesting Chinese policy in Tibet.

A little Googling led me to this post by Tenzin Dasel about my flag-waving friend. His name is Phil Berkman. And I must say, he’s a dedicated protester. The past week or so, the temperature in the morning as I ride by Phil has been in the high single digits or the low double digits (Fahrenheit). In addition to Phil, there are often one or two other people seated in the Lotus position along the wall of the building facing the entrance of the consulate, meditating in silent protest.

Now, I don’t mind the cold. I have the right winter gear and by the time I reach Erie and Clark, I’m toasty warm, sweating, even. But Phil’s friends are meditating in frigid temperatures! Even Phil, with his occasional flag-waving, is standing in the cold.

I think tomorrow I will stop and say hello to Phil, now that I know his name. I will also take his picture and post it here.

In the meantime, I look forward to my continued success at wining the daily Tibetan 500.