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
We’re reading this book for one of my classes right now, Queer Phenomenology by Sara Ahmed, and in it she writes about the lines we follow, the ways certain bodies tend toward other bodies and objects, and the worlds we make together. It’s a dense book, and we’re all reading the whole thing, because it’s college, and that’s what we do. Once I leave the classroom and the close reading, though, what the book has mostly made me think about is why some of us take up the bicycle as an extension of the body, as the tool that enables new lines to be followed, new worlds to be made. What is it that makes me feel like I can ride a bike in traffic with cars, in any neighborhood in Baltimore, at virtually any time of night, and others just say nah? What imaginations are opened and closed when we ride bikes, walk, take buses, drive cars? Same thoughts I’ve been thinking for a long time, but the book offers a different language, and I like languages.
Oh, thank goodness the deep freeze has lifted, at least for now. The past couple of weeks have seen lots of bicycling, mostly to and from work, but even a ride or two for no good reason on streets I don’t know like the back of my hand. Last week even featured a ride on streets that didn’t hold the snow amidst trees that did–and it was so beautiful. I remembered this ride I did with my dad years ago in his tiny town of McCall, Idaho. Continue reading