You won't miss the bike. You probably don't use it anyway. Unused
bikes are dangerous, like old girlfriends. We even call them 'her'.
I have one - a bike, that is - that taunts me from the garage, beckoning
me to haul her out, dust off her fenders, oil her chain and ride her off in search of our misplaced youths. It's probably
an hallucination experienced once a guy turns 50 but sometimes I swear she swishes her tassels at me.
The bike and I have a lot in common. We've both experienced periods
of neglect, but we still have all our parts. Except for her slightly distorted front wheel (caused when you-know-who pinned
the car against it) and my slightly protruding belly (which coincides with the mid-life crisis - and may in fact be the cause
of it), we're both in remarkably good shape considering what we've been through together.
I keep her around because no one throws a bike away just because it's
useless. Besides, the grandkids might like to ride her someday. My own kids, raised in the days of Sting-Rays and banana seats,
wouldn't have anything to do with her. Pride prevented my sons from being seen on such a corny old crone, made especially
anachronistic by her wire-spoked wheels, wrap-around handle bars with tassels dangling from the grips, chain guard, once-chrome
fenders and "that basket thing", as they called it.
So, she just folded her arms and leaned back against the garage wall,
collecting beach towels and abandoned jackets, waiting like a memory, winking at me once in a while, teasing me with the notion
of getting a little more exercise. She aged well and, like me, only seemed to sag and bulge in one or two places. Every few
months I hear her whispering to me, usually after an overdose of Richard Simmons, and I find myself wondering rhetorically
why I don't get the bike fixed.
The tv remote control comes in handy here; if you use it properly
the temptation to fix the bike will pass harmlessly and you can avoid actually reacting to it. The fear, of course,
is that once you have a bike in operating condition you'll have surrendered your principle excuse not to use it. It's not
mere laziness. It's worse. It's pride - the same patronage I passed on to my sons. Maverick though I may be in other ways,
I'm reluctant to be seen on such a carlin myself in this neighborhood, a beach enclave populated by yuppies and their
titanium 36-speed mountain bikes that cost more than a semester at Stanford and which go places you couldn't drive the lunar
rover. Plus, consider for a moment what one of those iridescent Spandex bicycle uniforms would look like attempting to span
the girth of a grandfather.
Nevertheless, something came over me the other day and the old cruiser
was liberated from under her canopy of castoff clothing, wheeled to the shop, renovated, and put into service.
Here's why you should get rid of the bike:
Within minutes of her retrieval from the repair shop I found myself
pushing off down the driveway like a 13 year old kid - Icarus in t-shirt and shorts, escaped from the doldrums of middle age,
seeking the sun, soaring from the labyrinth of mortality.
The adage is true. You never forget how to ride a bicycle. So is the
corollary. You never remember until it's too late Lyndon Johnson was president the last time you were actually on a bicycle.
It's too late at the point where the velocity of the wind feels like
a spray of cold water on your face and you awaken to find yourself on the back of an accelerating bike, launched like Evil
Knievel down a rampish driveway, which t-bones in 100 feet at the Esplanade, a local euphemism for the Pacific Coast Highway.
This is no time to ask how you got there. It is now time to make an immediate and necessary decision: should you turn this
into a slalom event and perhaps save your life by taking the sidewalk route, or do you just surrender to the obvious and barrel
straight into the road, cashing in all your remaining chances on the hope there are no vehicles in the vicinity?
Taking the sidewalk happens to require the execution of either a blind
90 degree downhill right-turn past the corner of a thigh-high brick wall or a radical uphill left between two menacing cactus
gardens. ("THE BODY OF A 55 YEAR OLD REDONDO BEACH MAN WAS FOUND EARLIER TODAY IMPALED ON THE BARBED SPINES OF A LARGE PINCUSHION
CACTUS ...") By the time your analytical mind - unprotected by either helmet or common sense - comes to grips with the realities
at hand, you have accelerated past that option and it is now too late to turn in either direction.
Besides, you have just discovered a series of facts a more prudent
person might have learned before shooting off down the slope like a crazy man:
The bow in the front wheel causes her to wobble like Stevie Wonder,
precluding the completion any turn with certainty;
The bike couldn't turn that sharp anyway because the handlebars are
too wide, and so are you;
And this just in - there seem to be no brakes.
The next decision is therefore less complicated. Now that your destination
has been determined all that remains is to decide whether to scream while you lay the bike down and leave your leg tissue
imbedded in the asphalt, or plunge silently into the street, to become the first man to die of apparent suicide by propelling
himself into the side of the mail truck.