Day 510, August 9, 2021

When Everything Was So Right 

Tonight's soundtrack: The Jerry Garcia Band, 9/1/90 Shoreline, CA

I remember my father teaching me how to ride a bicycle. I think it was summer time and we drove out to the K-Mart or Ames parking lot in Pittsfield on a Sunday when there were no cars. It was a great expanse of unbroken pavement except for the periodic lampposts. 

My father did the traditional thing fathers have done since humans first started to traverse the Earth on two wheels. He unbolted the training wheels leaving them in a jumbled pile by the car. They were like crutches thrown off by the healed. He held onto the back of my banana seat and ran alongside me, talking, making sure I had faith. He ran alongside until it seemed like I was being held safe by the palm of his hand on the chrome bar at the end of the seat. 

Like baby birds pushed out of a nest, or ducklings goaded into a fast moving stream, I pedaled on in an ecstatic state of locomotion. 

A bicycle is the closest thing a child can get to flying. It is the beginning of independence. It is the introduction to the trance state. It is the embodiment of joy, a metaphor that has become manifest in wind and speed and rubber and furious pedaling. 

I was thinking about that this weekend as I helped my father edit his retirement announcement (for next year). Life is so strange, how we retain those memories, the bicycle in a parking lot, the sudden realization that my father was no longer holding on to my seat and was now a dozen yards away standing still. The sense of betrayal I felt as I swerved out of control and careened into one of the lampposts. My father laughed at my unlucky accuracy, to hit the only object in our general vicinity. 

I'm sure I was furious with him. I'm also sure he was smug and quietly proud that I had made the transition. Because, of course, after that moment, there was no returning to training wheels. That was the beginning of learning to fly. 

Today, as I crested Cave Hill Road, just past the Leverett Peace Pagoda, the road opens into a a lolling series of curves down the mountain. It is a good mile of gliding. Even without tucking into an aerodynamic crouch, I can hit 39 miles an hour, which in a car feels intolerably slow, but on a bicycle, it feels like you are flying. The whole commute home is worth it for this one extended glide. It is like great music. It is sex on two wheels. It is like remembering learning to ride and that very moment before you realized your father let go and everything in the world was going right.

Take care and be well,

Leo

The view as I crest the last hill leading down to campus.


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