On this eve of bike to work day, I have a sore throat and have been taking it easy. I have also been reflecting on several things.
Maurice Sendak and Adam Yauch passed away this week. I heard and read the phrase 'the Beastie Boys were a soundtrack to my life' several times since then and this is true for me as well. Between high school and college, there were many road trips and life events narrated by those three. And now they are two.
Maurice Sendak was on Colbert recently and I loved listening to him speak. While he sounded thick, as if we was difficult to speak or breathe, he jabbed in the most charming way with Stephen. And my boyfriend and I listened to an interview with Terry Gross last night where he spoke of people in his life dying and I just cried and cried.
And tomorrow is bike to work day. I feel emotional and reflective and grateful for what my life contains.
I don't know if I have ever put down on paper exactly what the bicycle represents to me. Lately I feel that I have found some new joy in that I have a completely different kind of bike. It is fixed. It is very fun.
I hear tell it that my father rode me around on the back of his bike when I was a little girl. I find that story very cute. My father taught me a lot, he wanted me to be self sufficient, so he taught me how to fix things. There were many days when I was dragged to GLERC at Lockheed, where my dad needed me along to sit in the driver's seat and pump the brakes on the car. I can't remember doing much other than pumping the brake, then the gas, then the brake again.
It was incredibly boring, but neat. He never treated me like I couldn't do things because I was a girl, so I became very self reliant. I was different than a lot of other girls my age, that was a gift and yet also difficult. The smell of oil and orange hand cleaner makes me think of him.
My dad also taught me to ride a bike. That 'ah ha' moment where he was no longer supporting the bike and it was all me is still right there for me. I can recall it right at this very moment.
My first bike for school was a fucking tank. It was bright blue and he insisted that I have a huge basket on the front for practicality, I think of that bike and frown.
The first day that I rode that bike to school it had a drivetrain issue about 3/4 of the way. My friends drove by and their father forced them to help me, it's a sad story as they used that incident to tease me for years. During the 80s, they had sexy ten speeds with white brake lines, I don't recall what I rode at that point, but remember being jealous of their slender geared frames. I believe that they were green and sparkly.
In college, a friend bought a green vintage Schwinn with baskets on the back. She used to ride on the back and I would drive us around town. We had a lot of fun doing that. It was also green and sparkly.
On my 21st birthday, my parents bought me a BMX. I was infatuated with low riders and BMX bikes at the time, I thought they were SO COOL.
When I moved to SF I had a car. In 2006 it failed the smog test, so I gave it to my parents. I bought a hybrid bike in 2008 with the intent to start commuting, but then I got scared. I could not conceive of how I would safely ride down Market Street.
I thought surely that I would die and that it would be painful, and that everyone I knew would be sad. And then I met a girl who rode her bike all the time, and I started to ask her questions and really consider it, and then I started riding.
And it changed everything.
I used to give an hour to get anywhere in the city because MUNI is unpredictable. Now it takes me 15 minutes to get to work.
I used to have problems with my asthma, now I can breathe.
I have become obsessed with bicycles, because they are absolutely beautiful machines.
I ride distances of 70 miles and meet up with people whom I barely know to ride these rides. And then we tell each other stories of our lives. And I learn new things all of the time.
Bike riding, i.e. cycling, feels very important to me. I feel that it is a cultural movement. There is a self organized protest ride every month in San Francisco (critical mass). It is controversial. Riding bikes is sometimes political. Sometimes unpopular, sadly hated by some. It makes me sad. Of all the ways that I can move my body around this city, the bicycle is my most favorite.
I hope that more people try transporting themselves by bicycle in a regular basis. I wish that everyone (cyclists, drivers, peds) would slow down and be safe and respectful.
My dad riding my BMX.