Archive for the ‘the ocean’ Category

once, and once again

Monday, August 13th, 2007

I work for a bike shop. Kind of. I work for a dot com that sells bike parts and accessories. I pack boxes and sometimes write copy. Since I graduated, it’s become less a throwaway summer job I bitch about and more a job I plan to hold for awhile and am trying to take seriously and maybe even enjoy. So I got a new bike for my 22nd birthday, in July. I started feeling more and more guilty about the environmental (and monetary) cost of driving ten miles each way to work every day, and last week I became a bike commuter. I mean, I didn’t do perfectly. I biked three days out of five. For the week as a whole, my bike miles were about even with my car miles. Could be better, but could be way worse. And I surprised myself by actually really, really enjoying the ride, even though it meant leaving my house at seven in the morning to get to work on time. I mean, I already knew that the freeway during rush hour kinda sucks, but I had no idea how many beautiful things I’d see just by slowing down and taking residential streets. Trees full of windchimes, cats asleep on front steps, other cyclists on their own way to work… I’m a convert. I fantasize about selling my car. I read bike culture and green living blogs when I should be writing copy.

Yesterday I rode my bike over every bridge across the Willamette in Portland as part of the 12th annual Providence Bridge Pedal. My dad and my brother, spandex-clad and riding sleek carbon and titanium bikes, came down from up north to ride with me. I got downtown a little before they did and hung around near the fountain counting kinds of bikes: full-suspension mountain bikes, tandems, trail-a-bikes, recumbent bikes, vintage road bikes… I was just thinking to myself, “no beach cruisers yet,” when one rode by. Later I saw a tandem beach cruiser–I swear. Also unicyclists!

bridge pedal

on the Marquam

Despite–or because of–the thick crowds of cyclists, I was in high spirits pretty much the whole time. After five or six bridges, I was getting a little tuckered out, but it was nothing a banana and a short breather couldn’t take care of. At the bottom of the ascent up to the St. Johns, I groaned and muttered about having to walk it. My dad said, “just get in your easiest gear and take it slow.” So I grannied it up past, among other things, a… uh… whatever the word is for a bike that seats three people. And I made it all the way up without getting off my bike. In fact, I only ever got off my bike when crowds made it impossible not to (like before the Ross Island Bridge). Or when free food beckoned.

You know, and a couple hundred meters from the finish, when I went over some MAX tracks at a bad angle and wiped out. I landed pretty hard on my right side. Mostly my elbow. After a few moments of embarrassed sobbing, I got back on my bike and rode through the finish one-armed. Then we tried to find a first aid station so I could get some ice and maybe a sling. I went through a couple cycles of calm and tears while volunteers pointed vaguely and mumbled that, well, they weren’t actually sure where the first aid station was… Eventually a cop called an EMT for me, which I guess was a first, but “get rescued by ambulance” isn’t on most people’s “to do before I die” list, I think. Anyway I got an ice pack, a triangle bandage sling, and assurance that my arm probably wasn’t broken. Dad biked seven miles to the hotel he and Scott (my brother) were staying at to retrieve my brother’s car, then came back downtown to pick me up and take me home.

I had preexisting plans to go to the coast with some friends and wasn’t about to let a stupid fall mess that up, so I enlisted my ex-boyfriend to drive my car (a Mini Cooper S with manual transmission–hard to drive stickshift one-armed), and four of us piled in, with a fifth following on his motorcycle, and we headed off towards Seaside with blankets and beer.

It rained pretty much the whole way, but we weren’t tempted to turn around. We’re Pacific Northwesterners; we can deal with a little wet. We listened to music and talked about relationships and people and all that. My friend Brook said something about being hopeful and idealistic, and I said, “I guess I’m going through a cynical period lately.” Maybe. In any case, as we approached Seaside, the rain cleared. It was warm, if not sunny. The beach was crowded with volleyball players–there was a tournament on. We watched for awhile, ate some mediocre yakisoba noodles, talked some more. As the evening cooled, we walked along the beach until finally we found a spot below a little ridge, away from the lights of downtown, to lay down our blankets.

As the sun set, the clouds turned pink and then, miraculously, began to disappear. The sky darkened, stars appeared–more then any of us had seen in ages. A while later, we could see the Milky Way. We pointed out the constellations we pretended to recognize, and we watched for the Perseids.

Then we went skinny dipping in the Pacific Ocean under the sky full of shooting stars. When we were waist-deep in water, I held hands with a friend and we fell backwards together into the water. We laughed and yelped and splashed, then dried off as best as we could and huddled together between our blankets for warmth. More meteors. One of those nights of beauty. I’d taken some Vicodin (left over from an ear infection earlier this summer) for my aches and passed out on the way home. Fell into bed. Woke up this morning and reluctantly (and carefully) drove into work, where I spent four hours printing shipping labels ’cause I couldn’t really actually help out much with shipping. Thing is, I won’t be perfect. I’ll fuck up, things’ll happen, I’ll drive, or I’ll fall, I’ll ache (are you getting that I’m maybe moving into figurative territory here?), but then things will be beautiful. Mostly when you keep driving even when it’s raining. Except for the driving part. Do you know what I mean? I’m not sure I do. That’s what I’m here to figure out.

Welcome to my blog; here’s what I’m (trying to be) about:

“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but … life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
–Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

Entries (RSS)