Category Archives: Things That Are Not Bikes

Oh.

Hello from a changed world.

small_vistaI’ve tried a couple of times to start writing something, and it all seems…insufficient. In March I took my last bike ride for a long, long time. It had been getting increasingly scary out there, nobody distancing, nobody seeming to care that we were in the path of an invisible tsunami that would certainly — and still will — kill many, many, many of us.

And…the government here is still acting as if nothing’s wrong, as if one can fight a deadly virus with PR.

I still don’t feel safe riding my bike. And I’m finding that if you take away that one (main) reason for moving here, my connection to this place dissolves. Maybe.

It may be that I’ll move to a different part of this country — someplace a bit less crowded, a bit less surrounded by young people who think they’re immortal, and don’t give even a sliver of a damn about the fact that the people around them are very much mortal, thank you.

It may be that I’ll move back home, where things are on fire in at least sixteen different ways, and it’s still terribly dangerous to just move around on a bicycle, even before you add in the pandemic. I’ve been feeling the strangest sort of patriotism, though, watching my fellow Americans come alive with fury and fire to create a more just society. And…that kind of place, that kind of fight, is one I want to be a part of. So we’ll see what happens in the next little while.

In the meantime, here are some excerpts from a journal I started intermittently scribbling in, a week after my (self-imposed) confinement began. I started it after seeing a historian request that people write down their thoughts in physical journals, so they can stitch together a record of what this all felt like.

I find it hard to write in it more than once in a while, but it’s sometimes valuable just to see what comes out on paper.

Here’s hoping I get to ride my bike again, sooner rather than later, but mostly I just want to survive, you know? I have so much to do, and more that I want to say, and be, and create.

****from the pandemic journal****

15 March

The first thing you learn in a pandemic is how very fucking much you want to live.

The next thing you learn is whom you love the hardest. This is a thing you’d never say. But it’s who you’re most scared of losing.

24 March

Several hard days. Hard to eat, hard to brush teeth, hard.

Later…

Washed 4 oranges & ate a hard-boiled egg. This was progress.

13 April

3:30 am, I just happened to look out the window and saw a flock of seagulls, twirling, glowing, above the steeples — lit, I think, by the golden half-moon.

14 April

One of the weirdest things about living in the pandemic is how much dread ordinary tasks create.

16 April

The juxtaposition of fear of imminent death and the potential deaths of everyone you love, with…puttering around.

29 April

Intermittent long peals of church bells.

2 May

Perhaps the most surprising things about the pandemic are the sharp little moments of joy pricking through like stars in the dark.

19 May

Gulls with their bellies turned gold and pink by the setting sun. A chickadee came to visit on the chimney.

20 May

Some days the shadow has you. This is one of those.

27 May

More than anything, coping with this is about staying in the moment. In the moment, I can be okay — or better than okay, even. It’s when I start to spool out beyond that, that things return to bald terror.

So I try to stay now. It’s always about the now — we just aren’t usually aware of it — like living on a sharp pinpoint. One moment in time, and then, if we’re lucky, the next.

So there was this SUV…

“So there was this SUV…” he said. I nodded, “Yeah, I know.” And it occurred to both of us that he didn’t even need to finish the story, because we both knew how it went. If you’re a bicyclist, you know the rest without being told.

I went on a little adventure this weekend that involved a great deal of unavoidable, intense freeway driving. It was a remarkable experience, and not in a good way. Eight lanes of cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, and so on, traveling at speeds of 65 to 80 mph (or more), bobbing and weaving from all directions, as drivers flitted in and out of tiny gaps with an apparent suspension of belief in the laws of physics.

I seemed to be the only one on the road who was aware of how fast we were actually going. When I met up with my friends and choked out my horror at the gauntlet I’d just been through to get there, this impression was confirmed. Everyone looked at me and shrugged. “Yeah, it’s the freeway.”

bumps!What it was, was dystopia. The air was hazy with smog, the road surface was chewed to pieces by constant battering with multi-ton vehicles, there were huge chunks of torn-up tire like driftwood along the margins. I narrowly avoided a pothole that was at least 3 feet deep, wide enough to have trapped my rental car like a hunting snare.

It struck me, both during the nightmare driving, wiping sweat off my palms every few minutes so I could maintain grip on the wheel, and later, while I was looking down from the airplane window at our small, fragile planet, that none of this was necessary. That we are killing ourselves and our one and only home, for no reason other than an inexplicably stubborn dedication to traveling in single-occupant vehicles, rather than in safer, more efficient, less-polluting public vehicles, and on completely non-polluting bicycles. For the sake of “saving” minutes and seconds made artificially precious, we have normalized carnage to an extent that is shocking, if you step back and look at it from a human scale.

So there was this SUV whose driver decided it would be a good idea to split lanes with the car I was driving. It happened too quickly for me to honk, and there was nowhere to go, since I was in a lane next to another car on the other side, and I’m lucky to be alive. And that was just one moment of a hundred terrifying near-disasters. But that’s just “normal” car culture.