11 April 2010

How Many Degrees of Separation?

Today I went for a ride with Barbara and Sue, my sometime riding buddies.  I first started riding with them during my second year of living as Justine.  I met them, ironically enough, through the now ex-wife of  a guy with whom I used to ride "back in the day."

Funny how "back in the day" is--in terms of my own life, not to mention the greater continuum of time--not so long ago, really.  About ten years ago I was riding with Sheldon and a few of  his friends on some days, and on others I was riding with Mark, the husband of Carolyn, who introduced me to Barbara and Sue.  A few months ago, I learned, Carolyn left Mark because of another woman.  And Carolyn is the reason why Mark's first ex-wife left him.

All right:  I'm not going to write an expose on the secret lives of cyclists or some such thing.  Mark and a few other men I know give lie to a rumor that circulates every ten years or so:  that cycling causes male impotency.     If anything, it makes real men out of would-be men.  I know:  After all, as they say, it takes a real man to be a tranny.  Or, at least, it takes balls to be a woman.

Anyway...Barbara, Sue toand I rode from the Brooklyn Bridge Plaza out to the Canarsie Pier, by way of Ozone Park.  Yes, that way is not "as the crow flies."  But none of us were crows the last time I looked.

The Canarsie Pier itself offers quite the panoramic view of Jamaica Bay as it opens out to the ocean to the east and toward Breezy Point, Coney Island and Sandy Hook, New Jersey to the west and southwest.  You can forget that you're in Brooklyn, or any other part of New York City when you're on the pier--and looking toward the water.  Only a few hundred yards in back of the pier is the Belt Parkway and, on the other side of it, Rockaway Parkway and the neighborhood for which the pier is named.  And, near the entrance to the pier is one of those buildings that really looks like an oversized gazebo and is found on boardwalks.  Hot dog stands and such usually operate from such edifices, but the one on Canarsie Pier looks as if it's been vacant for about ten years.    At least I don't go to the pier for the architecture.

I sent Barbara and Sue on their way from the pier.  Actually, Barbara had to go to some family function and Sue had her business to take care of, and I didn't want to keep them. Plus, I wanted to spend some time on the pier, to which I used to ride at least a couple dozen times a year but hadn't seen since well before my surgery.

The first time I went to the pier was about twenty-five years ago.  I rode there with Mike and Gregory, with whom I worked at American Youth Hostels.  Gregory had lived in Canarsie all of his life and could recall when truck farms near the pier supplied stores and restaurants in the city.  He also took me on the one and only sea kayak ride I've ever experienced.  It's something I'd do again; I haven't only because I haven't had a friend or even riding buddy who has a kayak and access to a launch since I lost touch with Gregory.

As for Mike...I wonder whether or not he's alive.  I hadn't thought about him or Gregory for a long time until now.  Gregory was about ten years older than me; Mike was about my parents' age.  The last time I saw him, he was not much older than I am now. Last I heard--about ten years ago--he was on dialysis.  I heard about it from Holly, who worked with us in those days and whom I didn't see for about fifteen years until I bumped into her in a bookstore on the Upper West Side.  I have absolutely no idea of where she is now.  

I once introduced her to Morris, whom I met while working at AYH.  After they split up, Holly declared herself to be a lesbian.  Of course, there is absolutely no cause-and-effect relationship there! Still, I have made no attempt to be a matchmaker since then.  

It's really odd to think about those times.  I did a lot of things I enjoyed, and I did them with people whose company I enjoyed.  But I was still dreadfully unhappy.   It got to a point that I would warn people who wanted to develop friendships or other kinds of relationships with me that no matter what they did, they couldn't make me happy, so they shouldn't even try.  

I will probably never see any of those people again.  It's probably just as well:  Resuming friendships, much less love relationships, after a long hiatus has never worked for me.   I guess people never can do things they did "back in the day."  Or, at least, they can't do those things in the same way, with the same people as they did the first time around.  Then again, they may not want to.  I wouldn't, simply because of the price that my past extracted from me--and, sometimes, from the people who were involved in it.  

After I sent Barbara and Sue on their way, I sat on a wooden bench on Canarsie Pier, among fathers and sons who cast hooks and lines or cages with chicken necks inside them, and among the young lovers and old reminiscers.  None of them know me now; none knew me "back in the day."  I am happy for that.