It’s summertime, summer school is over, and this is the time when I tend to get restless and glum. I work best when I’ve got stuff to do, so if I’m not careful, unscheduled time can get the best of me, stealing from me this valuable time to let my mind range freely, read new things, and make new connections. I’ve learned this over the past zillion summers, so I make sure to schedule things work, writing, and relaxing-related. Today’s schedule featured a bike ride over to the Be Free Floating in West Baltimore for my second trip in their sensory deprivation tank.
It’s that time of the summer when it’s just too damn hot and humid for bike riding to be all that much fun. The ladyfriend even gave me her car for Monday so I wouldn’t be huffing and puffing in dangerous 100 degree temps. Last summer I rode my bike 350 miles in the Adirondacks at temperatures like this, but it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity, or maybe I’ve just gone soft. At any rate, I left my house on Tuesday with a plan to just ride three quarters of a mile to the gym and exercise in the relative comfort of the YMCA’s air conditioning.
Thursday was my birthday, my first one without an expected text from my dad telling me how proud he was of me and suggesting that maybe my 41st birthday ought better be thought as the start of my 42nd year. Coming into the day fresh off his memorial service in Boise didn’t make that any easier: I am acutely aware that he is gone and not coming back, and that’s still really, really sad. But then I woke up Thursday morning feeling celebratory–I’m alive, it’s great to be alive, I’m living an incredibly lucky life, and I wouldn’t change mine for anybody else’s, no way, no how. That’s a pretty great feeling, one worth celebrating by going out to breakfast with a friend, picking up a fresh flower gift from the local florist, writing a little about my dad, and then taking a bike ride.
It was a beautiful sunny summer weekend, the ladyfriend was on a much-needed out of town adventure with herself, and I had absolutely no plans. That’s some perfection right there, and I spent the Sunday of it riding my bike around. I left my house at high noon, all lotioned up with sunscreen and nowhere in particular to go. I had it my mind to maybe hit SoWeBo Fest, so I rode south and west and west to avoid my regular work commute route but to be heading in generally that direction. And then I was pedaling through west Baltimore on an old commuting route I used to take when I first moved to Baltimore. I decided to see if that bridge on Old Frederick Road had been replaced, and once I got there and saw that yes, it had been, I was on the Gwynns Falls Trail, so why not take it to the end?
School’s out for summer–or until summer school, anyway. I’ve still got plenty of grading and summer course planning to do, but I started the week jubilant with the feeling that yes, I made it through that tough semester, the students survived and learned some things even if I wasn’t at my best, and I’ll never have to do the first semester after my dad was killed ever again. That part is both happy and sad–happy because days are so much better than they were at the start of the term, and sad because as time passes, he’s still gone. It’s nuts to me that he’s dead and doesn’t even know it. But I digress.
The sun finally came out out on Wednesday, and after a bunch of hours at home trying to catch up on email, I pulled myself out of bed–my office, when I’m lucky–and hopped on the bike to head down to War Memorial Plaza. I’d read on the internet that Nick Mosby was making an unexpected announcement at 1:00pm, and that would get me out of bed and on my bike, and then I’d be almost at that Chipotle and I still have that coupon they mailed everyone for a free burrito, so, given this tight calculus, I found myself waiting for Mosby to emerge and get all official in front of the cameras.
My dad was full of advice. If you knew him, you are smiling right now because you know how much advice he gave you. And sometimes it was really good advice, though I rarely admitted that, especially not in front of him. One of his best pieces of advice was to never start a bike ride in the rain. You’ll end plenty of them in it, he said, so why start out like that? I thought of that advice as I hopped on my bike on an early Thursday morning. It was raining, and there I was, starting a ride in the rain. If I could talk to him I’d suggest he amend that advice–never start a bike ride in the rain, unless following that advice would mean having to take the bus in Baltimore. Continue reading