07 February 2010

What Was Happening Then

Rode about 12 miles today: to Bicycle Habitat and back. Hal was doing a bit of work on my three-speed for which I don't have the tools . The trip there was also a good excuse to ride into SoHo. I still like the energy and some of the architecture, even if Broadway was long ago turned into a mall and there don't seem to be natives of the neighborhood anymore. There don't seem to be artists, either: Their time in SoHo passed about twenty years ago.

I once worked around the corner from Habitat, which is how I found about the shop. Hal was working there then; later, he would leave for a few years. Charlie, the owner, wasn't there today, but he always seems to be there. I guess that's normal when someone owns a store for more than 30 years.

Sheldon was also there. He was an old riding buddy, along with "Crazy Ray" and a couple of other co-conspirators. Back in the spring, I encountered him at the shop. He had just started working there; it was the first time I saw him in a decade or so. The interesting thing is that I find myself talking with him in ways I didn't back then. As you can imagine, he's learning things about me that he couldn't have suspected, much less known, back in the day. And I'm learning that there's more to him than I thought there was. There would have to be in order for him to remain married to Danielle!

Anyway, somehow we got to talking about travel and, specifically, France. He knew that I'd taken trips to France, but didn't know that I'd taken as many as I have, or lived there. And I didn't know that he spent time there when he was a young vagabond musician. He was playing the music of his native Trinidad, which made him and his band something of an attraction over there. He spoke fondly of his time there: He had, as I had, happy experiences with the country and the French people. And he has never spoken any French: He said he simply "met people." And I'm sure they were taken with his smile, which is friendly with a charming little touch of mischievousness.

And I talked about my bike trips. I took two of them, if I recall correctly, during the time we were riding and hanging out together. I don't know how much he knew about the last one: It was around the time we lost touch, I think.

That was the trip on which I was pedaling up the same Alpine climbs that the Tour de France cyclists, led by Lance, scaled. I prided myself on my climbing back then, and I was happy to see three stages of the Tour. However, I felt that I was spinning my wheels--OK, it sounds like a terrible pun, but it fits--during that trip.

The last major climb I made--on a bike laden with full panniers and handlebar bag--took me up le Col du Galibier. It is one of the most renowned climbs. Unlike l'Alpe d'Huez, one of the first climbs I made, the road didn't reach the top via a series of virages. Instead, the climb was almost straight--and steep. Plus, depending on where you're coming from, you have to climb either le Col du Lauteret or le Col du Telegraphe to get there. Neither one is terribly difficult--or, at least they weren't given my conditioning at the time and in comparison to other climbs I'd done. But either is enough to take something out of you before you start on the road up Galibier.

I told Sheldon a story I've related elsewhere (When you open the link, scroll ten paragraphs down.) about my ascent and descent of Galibier, and how it started me on my present journey. I mentioned the message I received and how it foreshadowed what I would experience at the end of that day, when I saw the woman who made me realize I simply had to begin my gender transition.

What Sheldon may realize is that I may have learned as much about him--and myself--in telling him the story as he learned about me. Not to aggrandize myself, but I feel that, these days, when I tell such stories about myself, I can gauge not only what a person is actually thinking (which may or not be what he or she is saying) but also something about how that person relates to his or her own experience. In Sheldon's case, I realized that he has had to be willing to learn things about himself that he could not have imagined--and learn them at a much earlier age than I did. Maybe moving to another country when you're twelve years old will do that to you. And I thought that moving to another state at age thirteen was an education--and letdown!

Anyway, it wasn't just happy or satisfying, it was invigorating, to have that conversation with Sheldon. But it was strange to talk about something that was happening at a time when we saw each other nearly every day and he didn't know about. Some language must have a word for such an experience.

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