It’s been all wedding, work, and post-election hellscape, so I was happy for the confluence of a day off work and died-down winds to just spin my wheels a bit and clear my head. I started the ride heading up to Roland Park for an appointment with L., my magical acupuncturist. We talked about my sleep, my lower back, and the surprising resilience that you discover in yourself 11 months after your dad dies. An hour later I was back on my bike, treating myself to a late breakfast out, and then riding over to the park to get a break from my daily riding with cars. I wanted to just spin without that alertness that’s so normal, and so exhausting.
I haven’t blogged in awhile, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been biking. It’s absolutely biking season in Baltimore–cooler temps, still light out after six, and besides, biking is the best way to get around. Most of my rides have been to and from work or to and from the place where I get my haircut, but at least once a week I’ve managed to take the long way and get just lost enough.
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.
Friday was a hard day. Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police while selling CDs outside a convenience store. Philando Castile was shot at a traffic stop, his girlfriend filming as her 4 year old child sat in the back seat. These were the latest two in a year that has already seen over 500 people shot and killed by police officers. And then shots rang out in Dallas, more people dead, more lives plunged into the heavy ocean waves of despair. Layers upon layers of loss, each one all about politics, and also about the individuals with lives cut short, the people who loved them left, after the cameras turn off, with the void of death. It’s so very permanent, and the grief will never ever fully subside. It is so, so sad, and angering, and it makes me want to melt down all the guns and freeze time until we can figure out how to uproot what Judith Butler calls schematic racism: the settled notion that all Black people are a threat and all white people need constant police protection from them. There’s a lot of other stuff we need to do, too, but that’s what was on my mind as I headed out on a bike ride on Friday.
Thursday at 10am, that’s what time the judge in the bench trial of Caesar Goodson was set to rule. Thursday at 10am, the third trial of the cops indicted in Freddie Gray’s murder. Gray was walking around his neighborhood that day in April 2015, and then he was chased by cops, dragged into a van, driven several stops, and arrived at the police station with a neck that “felt crumbly, like a box of rocks.” And yet here we are, more than a year later, a mistrial and an acquittal, and nobody thought this next decision would be anything but an acquittal. Folks are blaming the prosecutor, the police, the media, “the system,” and here we are, another acquittal announced 23 minutes late.
It was my birthday last Thursday, and I was a bit apprehensive about it, my first without my dad. Firsts are tricky, or so I’ve heard, so I didn’t make any big plans for the day in case what I wanted to do was sit in bed and cry. That’s not what I wanted to do, waking up in a celebratory mood instead. I decided to keep it going on Friday with another vacation day, this time for a bike ride. I set out without a real plan, except a vague desire to collect my free Birthday Burger at Red Robin down in Canton. I zig zagged my way there, got a burger that I ended up paying for–don’t worry, the free one’s on my card for later this week–and then decided on a whim to bike over to Dundalk. Getting there’s a bit of a pain–Holabird Avenue’s not exactly bike-friendly–but once you’re there it’s a dream of wide bike lanes and quiet streets. I made my way slowly over there and took the lane on Holabird to avoid that close-call feeling as cars imagine they can pass you even when they can’t. I went past the Amazon warehouse where all the magic happens, noted its ample bike parking and wondered if the company doesn’t have the clout to get a bike lane in front, and talked my way through the truck traffic before making my right on Dundalk Avenue.
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?