I went on a bike ride tonight, which I really haven’t done in forever. I think the last time I went biking was the spring of 2002 when I was in China for a few weeks. Beijing was the first city I really got to know. I loved the smells, dirty and savory, the reality of being on the streets with millions of other people, riding here and there.
Biking is so much better than driving, you’re out there in the air, you feel a little vulnerable, a little dangerous, like a stupid driver could hit you with their Cadillac any minute, but you are going to dodge death and make it to the public library in one piece. I don’t know, but it just does something for me. I rode today on streets I frequent in the car, and the view is so different from the bike. There’s this bridge raised about three stories up above some train tracks where I could see a bungalow neighborhood, a county park, the local energy company, some distant defunct factories, the north-side radio towers at least 10 miles away, all tinted by a gorgeous sunset.
I would never notice all this in the car where we are always going somewhere quick, insulated and safe. here’s nNothing like a bicycle in the city. I suppose this is a big reason why my dad spent several years biking 10 miles to work, from the burbs, through the city and all the way to his office on the north-side. He did it for exercise, but I am sure he loved the exhileration of being one with the bike and the road and society.
On my way home I rode some side streets passing the unbeknownst to me Working-Class Heroes bar, just a few blocks from my house, adjacent to a Big Bird yellow house with Cookie Monster blue trim. Something about this house really reminded me of Sesame Street. I’d never really noticed this block before. My trip to the library had been fruitful, resulting in the new John Grisham novel, which I will likely devour in a day or two, but the way there and back reminded me why I enjoy the city, why I loved Beijing. I think I’ll start making this a regular event.