Friday, July 11, 2008

A Boy and His Bike

A couple of weekends ago we were awakened early on a Saturday morning by a loud motor racket -- a jerk across the street was power washing the sidewalk at 8 am. Nice.

When I had looked out our third floor window to see what the noise was, I glanced down below and my heart sank because I saw that my beloved bicycle, which had been locked to the stair railing, was gone.

It was a brown Suburban Schwinn and I had had it for I bet eight years. There is literally no room in the building or our apartment for it so I had to lock it up outside below. Someone had somehow unlocked the lock, taken the bike, and locked the lock again. The chain hung forlornly off the wrought iron railing.

I've been a bike rider in New York since 1987. I'm not a serious bicyclist, but I toot around the neighborhood, I scoot over to the gym, sometimes I ride up to Central Park. Riding a bicycle makes me feel free. It gives me freedom to go where ever I want in the city. I'm not bound to walking, or motor transportation. My spirit breezes along unbound. I feel like I felt when I was about ten years old, bombing around Morris Circle where we lived in New Hartford, New York, and my bike was my friend.

I've had numerous bicycles in New York City and had numerous bicycles stolen. Once Ted bought me a brand new bike and the very first day I had it, it was stolen from where I had locked it up in front of Paragon Sporting Goods. When we lived at 35 Jane Street, someone came into the building and tore the balustrade out of the stair banister to take my bike which was locked there. Once I stopped at a deli and asked the man working outside to watch my bike for a minute while I ran inside. I loved that bike -- it was apple green and had a white patent seat. When I came out, I saw someone riding away on it, up Eighth Avenue. Do not ask a deli man to watch your bike.

All my bikes I buy, used, at the flea market. I like old-fashioned bikes with fenders and upright handle bars. This last brown Schwinn was big and sturdy. I'm a tall guy and it fit me well. I was crushed to lose it, and was a bit out of sorts without a bike. I found it hard to get around, having to walk everywhere. It takes me about 25 minutes to walk to the gym, and about seven minutes on a bike. I felt strangely earth-bound. And, of course, in the summer-time, you want your bike.

The guy at the flea market didn't have any big bikes so I looked on CraigsList and saw that someone would be selling several bikes outside of Gottino, a new wine bar around the corner on Greenwich Avenue at 4:00. It said, "vintage 1977 bicycles." I thought, "1977 is now vintage??" I was college in 1977, and that doesn't seem like antique history.

I went over and found a nice looking woman in Persol sunglasses lining up bikes on the sidewalk. We love the Persols. She said, "I just talked to my aunt in New Hampshire and she said it's cool up there!" I knew I could work with this woman. I instantly eyed a large shining blue Schwinn bike that I liked. How much? $200. That was more than the $100-$125 I usually spend on a bike but I liked this bike and I wanted to solve this dilemma. I rode it down the block, and she lifted up the seat higher for me. She said, "Chain the seat to the bicycle because this is an original Schwinn seat and they will definitely steal this seat. Also these are original pedals and they'll steal the petals. You can't buy these petals anymore." I offered her $180. "For you, ok," she said, "You look so cute on it."

I rode my new bike home and picked up my lock and chain and rode up to the bicycle repair store on West 22nd Street. This is the store that used to be on West 14th Street where I once saw Leonardo DiCaprio, but they were forced out because of high rent. I've been coming to these guys for twenty years. I asked them to raise up the handle bar, and I bought a little bell ($5) because I had a bell on my last bike, and once you have a bell on your bike you can't live without it. Then I asked them to chain the seat to the bike ($5). I pointed to my lock and chain and said, "This is a good lock, right?" When I bought it years ago for $75 (it cost more than the bike), it was the best lock available. The guys laughed. "They can open that now with a Bic pen, it was in the newspaper." I missed that article. They recommended a new lock ($45).

$235 spent on a used bicycle today. Love the bike. Hope they don't steal it. Every time we look out the window I say to Ted, "Is my bike still there?"

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