During one of my recent post midnight cigar strolls about Philadelphia I came upon two street punks. Night-preyers. They were ‘break’ dancing rather poorly – stomping, kicking and swinging at a tall, good-looking fellow of about 30. Apparently they were attempting to separate the man from his blue, Schwinn, 10-speed bicycle.
Otherwise the street was a blank – devoid even of those sinister octopus shadows that pulse menacingly in our haunted minds. And, as usual during these late night walks, I was adrift, pondering the incompatible destinies chosen for me by my genes, my dear Lord, and some meshugga thing known as my existential free will.
Obviously, once again, I didn’t know where duh heck I was, here and now.
For a second I gazed at the escaped zoo animals in their feeding frenzy. Then I pulled out my machete-size switch blade. I clicked it open and closed a couple of times and strolled over to where four of those legs carting two future pork-bellies were hopefully not forearmed.
The clicking, metallic sound of that switchblade has been known to generate the same intense bone-chilling effect of a raiding policeman’s pump shotgun. As the cop slides the 12-gauge shell abrasively into the chamber he doesn’t need to be redundant and yell: Freeze!
But apparently not this time.
So in my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ Pappy’s best stentorian voice I demanded: “Are the negotiations over?!”
Don’t misunderstand me: I am a natural born coward. In no way was this even a caricature of a Dirty Harry moment. My armpits were cloud bursting. My mouth was clouds of cotton. I was battling Elvis in my knees. And no matter which time, in which place or which country I have waded into such forays even my reptilian mind is always screaming: Idiot! When are you ever going to get around to writing a Living-Will?!
At that the obsidian eyes of the anthropomorphic punks paused to ache over the interruption. Then their expressions went to what-duh-heck.
I am definitely not an imposing figure. Slim. Trim. Even with a knife in one hand and cigar burning in the other I probably seem as daunting as Tweety-bird without steroids. Only thing going for me is they gotta think this crazy white-boy must have a death wish.
And I do!.. But for others.
Fortunately, just then the caramel-color tall owner of the bicycle took advantage of the momentary pause in the action. He started wailing on one of his assailants. While duh utter guy — in a certifiable moment of insanity – actually jumped in my face.
I mean, this guy must have been blind, dumb AND deaf. Didn’t he hear my pig sticker?!! What did he think I was: A bleeding heart liberal?!
So… I made him bleed a little. Not too much, just enough to dawn on his undersized mind that we’ve only got about six pints in the system.
And before the other night hawk was in need of a few more Tooth Fairies from his upper-cutting intended victim, they both howled and scampered off, darting somewhere south. No doubt to the dirt-filled caskets for wounded vampire bats.
The tall bike owner and I quickly did a greet-and-meet. We realized that we vaguely recognized each other from around center city. I said I definitely needed to salve my nerves with one drink — but I didn’t know if it would be the 13th or 14th one.
My new, best-buddy said he’d buy duh drinks, but that he didn’t imbibe.
Hmm… If he had said he also was a vegan I probably would have stuck him until he bled a little kosher.
So we promised to ‘do-lunch’ another day.
A few months later we bumped into each other at a spontaneous pot-luck dinner at what turned out to be a mutual friend’s apartment.
Go figure! Philadelphia is a big small-town.
It was then that DeLeon announced he was moving. To Los Angeles. His talented girlfriend had landed a great gig with the high-fashion industry. All I could say was: Ride that pony til she drops!
At that he wondered if I wanted to ride his bike…forever. That very same blue dish special we shed teeth and blood over.
Hmm… But of course!
But since he is over six-foot-3, and I am vertically challenged, I had to walk the blue, Le Tour Tourist all the way home — or pummel the family jewels — since I could barely reach the pedal power.
Which is all my way of telling you that if you see me in Philadelphia these days, you’ll probably see me on my oversized, but well-adjusted bicycle, riding furiously between a city bus and a taxi cab – pounding one of them on the side and barking at the other.
And all the while wondering what duh hell took me so long to jump back in the saddle again.
Indeed, I am no longer one of those tired, old, fed-up and annoyed curmudgeons who smiles first thing in the morning just to get it out of the way. I have not only found a grand new abode — as I chirped about in my last two columns — but also a great new mode of transportation… not to mention lodes of utter renewed and revitalized pleasurable bits and pieces we ain’t be talkin’ bout right now.
Biking is the right stuff. Especially in the city where you need a car about as much as a fish needs a bicycle. I don’t even change gears. But, of course, like a 10-speed bike, most of us have gears we don’t even use.
And I’ve got to wonder about you folks putting in overtime with a fork, or dragging your spreading gluteus maximus in a car to a gym. What is wrong with you? Riding a bicycle is about getting back to basics. It’s good for the waistline and it’s good for the wallet.
Okay, I admit that in Philadelphia, while invigorating its bike friendliness, you’ve still got to fight duels with the 4-wheeled gas guzzlers. I’ve been honked, pushed and shoved into the door mirrors of parked cars and light trucks. In case you didn’t know it, they account for about half our oil usage. The fact is the
But now Philadelphia is not only walkable it has a plethora of bike lanes, bike paths and a promising plan for a bike sharing program — like some 35 other cities across the USA. In fact, Portland, Oregon, won’t build a mile of road without a mile of bike path. Gives them something to do during its two dry days.
Okay, so Philly ain’t no Paris which has done it right by making it awful to get around by car and awfully easy to get around by bike or public transportation. And Pennsylvania certainly is no Holland where nobody thinks about trading their two-wheeler in for a car. (Guess that’s what comes out of sticking your fingers into too many dykes…)
Hmm… I wonder what I meant by that?
Anyway, with bikes and car-sharing and buses, trains and subways – not to mention a country verging on obesity — I don’t get why folks are still driving themselves enormously nuts. With parking tickets alone.
It’s understandable that some of us want to be alone-to-think in a car. But who has time to think with the way most of us are fighting, fingering, snarling, barking and shooting at one another while crawling in traffic these days? And do I need to remind you that gas prices ain’t getting any saner.
Apparently what we lack is tolerance for the change. Particularly that biking brings. And that is apparently because we aren’t in shape to show tolerance. A healthy body means a healthy mind. Biking gets your heart rate up and your blood flowing through your body to your brain. And utter vital parts of the anatomy, too.
Hey, look at Albert Einstein. He rode a bicycle. I once heard (perhaps in my grandmother’s brothel) that he was a Charles Atlas at pushups. With his shirt off, the e=mc-squared guy had a six-pack for abs. Or so it was said.
Anyhow, toleration is the greatest gift of the mind. I’ve been told that it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle.
Perhaps, in part, because-of and in-spite-of Lance Armstrong, this former child’s toy has been elevated to icon status; mostly because it can move the human from pillar to post without damage to the environment.
And, in truth, these days, every time I see an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the future of the human race.
Obviously I love my bike. I would probably sleep with it if it had the right color gloss on. Like a bull elk in a field, I have no shame.