You can set your watch by certain events in the neighborhood. Spontaneity is not entirely welcome. Deviation from established norms and patterns causes undue stress on the 10th Ave gang. It is “Wapner 4:30” around here for the most part. If the world ever comes to an end, it better not happen on a Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday, and sometimes Saturday, because that is the gaming schedule and it will take more than a bomb, hurricane, earthquake, or a wild pack of zombie dogs to disrupt 10th Ave. Similarly, as sure as the sun rises, I am easily found on my back porch, muttering curses about gaming nights (I don’t play). Those of us who ride, actually just me and Bushyhead these days, we eat, ride, drink some beers, and pass out. Not a lot of energy or enthusiasm for the charming variations available in life. A whole Saturday can be planned as follows?
“Everything with hummus.”
“Sure- Pork Chops”.
Not this past weekend however, I really mixed it up out there.
A bonfire party over on MLK Jr. BLVD, where I met a man with many facial tattoos. He is moving to Barcelona to busk with his 13 year-old son like gypsies. I think he plans to be a statue. Not sure about the son’s talents.
The following morning it was a vegan benefit for farmworker’s rights ( I made an omelet before I went). Youthful vigor and idealism abounded, I had forgotten about idealism and vigor.
After that it was off to the Unitarian church to hear my octogenarian, Jewish neighbor play jazz standards from Fats Waller to Bill Evans. He was slick. Mood Indigo, I Get a Kick Out of You, Ain’t Misbehavin. Some Unitarians, who believe in nothing I reckon, could not resist attempting to get me to join them some Sunday in their unfettered lack of belief. I declined.
“I’m with the band man.”
When I finally returned to the hood after my adventurous day, the 12 sided dice were clicking, and the porkchops were marinated. Yes, you can set your watch by events around here, and for the most part, I really like it that way.
-I hope it is understood that I rode my bike too- duh.
The bike is always an understood character!
Thank you. Amen.
O.K., I guess it’s time for some thoughts concerning my latest foray into the biking literature, which is “Need For The Bike” by frenchman Paul Fournel (translated by Allan Stoekl). This is a slim volume of short essays on growing up in France and loving the bike from first consciousness.
My first thought reading this book is that cycling countries whose babies cut their teeth on the crank arms of their fathers’ bikes must HATE Lance Armstrong for dominating a sport he wasn’t even raised to think of as a sport.
Following is an excerpt I particularly liked:
“My world as a child was always more vast than my village. As soon as I knew how to ride I grasped the idea of the greater world. When I left to do a circuit, everything inside the circuit was ‘home.’ In that way I traced ever larger circles as my strength developed…”
“My village is lodged in the valley of the Loire, in a little flat area, and to get out you have to go up. Curiously, the six or seven climbs that let you out have very different landscapes: if the Tiranges climb is a beautiful ascent up the side of the valley that opens out as it approaches the summit, the Saint-Hilaire climb is shady, regular, deeply hidden, and smells of moss and mushrooms. The ascent via Thezenec is clear, hot, steep; its upper part opens onto the spectacle of the rounded volcanoes and plateaus of Velay. In the distance, Mount Mezenc.”
“Little by little I enlarged my circles, on my father’s wheel, faithfully; he sheltered me from the wind and silently taught me the cycling virtues.”
Of course, growing up in Ellenton, Florida, my first circuit in the greater world involved leaving Highland Shores subdivision and braving a 1/2 mile stretch of sketchy sidewalk that ran along Highway 301, all the way to the “Lil General” convenience store. Once there, it was a plunge into air-conditioned heaven for the bit-o-honey, Bazooka bubble gum, now-and-laters,cherry blowpops and the frosty 6 1/2 ounce coca-cola. That was the ride to the village market. There was one way out of the subdivision, my dad was at work, and it smelled a lot like truck exhaust.
Even so, it was a sublime experience of pure, sugar-promised freedom. I put my head down and rode as fast as I could, and the wind from the passing semi-trucks on that short stretch of 301 always made me feel drunk with courage. It’s all I’ve got, and I’m calling it a circuit.