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Bike Wracked

I biked up to New Rochelle. “Biked” meaning bicycled. I went from my house near Prospect Park, over the Brooklyn Bridge, up the West Side Highway bike path, over the Broadway bridge, then east on the roads bordering Van Cortlandt Park, to Lincoln Avenue, to North Blvd. etc., all the way to Main Street into New Rochelle, which becomes Boston Post Road, beside the Long Island Sound.

A folding bike. Photo by Ray Schwartz.
A folding bike. Photo by Ray Schwartz.

The ride was exhilarating; not least because it was a beautiful day, and I was able to do it. I was able to get on a bicycle and ride from one county, Brooklyn, to another, New Rochelle. Unfortunately, it also became an isolating experience as I moved east across the Bronx, because people became frightened and hateful.

At one point, east of Van Cortland, I—a little lost—asked a woman in a Lexus with her windows rolled down if I happened to be near Gun Hill Road. Looking straight ahead, she fingered the buttons to her windows and automatic door locks. Nothing changed, not her breathing, nor her expression, nor her fixed, blank stare. I don’t believe she blinked—I’m not even sure she had eye lids—but the windows slid noiselessly closed. Flustered, I rode on. Later, a driver honked at me several times, and then passed, gesticulating in rage. That was to be expected, I suppose. Car drivers typically act rabid around me on my bike when I venture into the suburbs; but I hadn’t expected the odd, deathless stares. As I passed, people would simply stand like pissing fountain statues and follow me with their eyes. I despised the lot of them—and myself as well—just for continuing to be alive at 50 with little to show for it but feces, cum, and of course, miles and miles wasted on my folding bicycle, which, by the way, looks like a child’s bicycle.

When I arrived at the day camp where my daughter was unhappily ensconced, even the children in “New Roc,” as they call it, stared in sour contempt as I rolled up on my small-wheeled bike, sandwiched in the child-pickup queue between a Mercedes suv and a bmw something-or-other arriving to collect the brats.

While the parents stared in blank—I don’t know…fear?—the fattish boys gathered in clusters to look at me with glee. What could be more laughable than a grownup on a child’s bicycle?

“What kind of bike is that?” said one young plug. “How much you sell it for?” posed another child, of flattish features. “If you bring it tomorrow I’ll buy it. I’ll give you two pennies for it!” “Okay,” I replied. “I’ll give you a thousand dollars!” said another boy. “No,” I smiled with fake condescension. “He was first.” “Oh,” replied the boy, now gloating in lawyerly fashion. “You must be pretty stupid to sell that bike for two cents.”

A fine boy, I thought. The group turned on me then as one, punchline thrown, and walked off to chapel, laughing at me over their shoulders. I wanted to kill the lot of them, but of course, being in the vicinity of a church, could not.

So, I was in unusually caustic spirits the next day when, once again on the return bike ride, I found myself being stared at, this time by a man—oldish in a chemically preserved way—absently watering his patch of lawn with a garden hose in one hand and a dog on a leash in the other. I slowed then and stared back just to see if he might say something to me or change his posture, or fart, or blink, or smile or even breathe. For Christ’s sake, even reptiles blink, don’t they? But he merely followed me with his eyes in the manner of a box turtle. Suddenly I was unable to merely ride past in silence. For God’s sake I’m a human being, aren’t I? Doesn’t that warrant some customary twitch of a hand, a casual flip of the wrist, a nod, something?

I rode up to the man, stopping the bike on the road not five feet from him and stared right back, inches from his face! I said nothing, just stood there, just stared. And he stared back. I realized then, that we were now competing, that his completely unconscious response of suspicion to my presence on his street had transmogrified into conscious open hostility. Well, obviously I couldn’t stand there all day staring at him, I had places to be: I needed to be home within two hours to masturbate (a means of relieving the bile through ejaculation, I suppose), so I said “Boo,” and rode off. His response died on the wind: “You...and get...fucking...cops...if see you here again.”

I decided to avoid the Broadway Bridge on the trip home by aiming for the Henry Hudson Bridge, which has—had, I mean—a sidewalk. It took me quite a long time to even get to the bridge because I first had to find a way over the spine of the ridge between Riverdale and the rest of the Bronx, and then a way over the Henry Hudson itself. Finally, I found a road that backtracked north and lead to a crossover path with steps, over the Henry Hudson Parkway. I was enraged by now, though. I was damned angry with humans in general, hating them for their loutish, brutish, slavish stupidity.

I arrived at the sidewalk to the Henry Hudson Bridge, if that is indeed what the thing is called, only to find that that fuckers at dot, or whichever department of sidewalk maintenance, were charged with writing fluorescent orange signs in 12-point Times New Roman informing cyclists that they might have been better off not crossing the fucking ridge at Riverdale and sticking with the Broadway Bridge. To punctuate, the gate to the hhb sidewalk was locked. There wasn’t a gate the last time I had done this ride. And, by the way, repairing the sidewalk will take some three years. Don’t like it? Buy a car.

Back in Brooklyn, I left my bike outside and grabbed a Hefeweizen. I went out for something to eat and decided that I will never be getting back on that bike again. I’m sticking to travels to Farrell’s Bar.


Karl Greenberg


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2008

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