23 May 2010

A Little Less Than Half An Hour Forward

Today I got on my Mercian fixed-gear bike for a little less than half an hour. I got one of the saddles the doctor recommended.  I know I'll need to fiddle with the position:  That's always the case, at least for me, with a new bike or saddle.  I'm almost entirely sure, though, that I'm going to swap seatposts (the seat is attached to it, and it is inserted in the frame):  the new saddle, a Terry Falcon X, sits further back on the seatpost than my Brooks did.  Consequently, I used a seatpost that angled back a bit rather than the kind that goes straight up.

Whenever I've ridden after a layoff, I feel euphoric to the point that I don't notice the creakiness in my body--at least, for a little while. I didn't ride long enough to lose that feeling; I could have ridden longer, but I didn't want to risk anything.

The point is that I'm on my bike again.  That's what I'm telling myself.  Yes, I've gained weight, and I know it's harder to lose at my age.  But I'll do it--not just for my looks, but for my health.

 I felt good because, well, it simply was nice to be on my bike again.  But I also realize that I'm not thinking about the cyclist I once was.  I never will be that cyclist again. At least, it's not likely that I'll be that kind of cyclist.  Why?  For one thing, I'm older and my body is different.  But, more to the point, I'm not the same person as I was when I raced, worked as a messenger in Manhattan or rode up and down the Alps, Pyrenees, Green Mountains, Adirondacks and Sierra Nevada.  Or when I cycled those long, almost endless days along the ocean in New Jersey, Long Island, Florida and France or along the Mediterranean from Rome to Nice, then up the Rhone to Avignon and Lyon. 

For me, it is not simply the passing of my youth--or, as some might see it, an extended childhood.  Honestly, I probably could not have done much of my riding if I had any more responsibility than I had.  But I the reason I didn't remain married or have children, or embark on one career or another that I could have chosen,  wasn't that I wanted to avoid commitment.   The truth is that the path I took was the only one I could have taken, or at least the only one I knew how to take.  And, I probably did less damage to other people's lives--and possibly to my own--than I might have otherwise.

Whatever distance I rode today--it wasn't much--was, I hope, an integral part of my new journey.  I still haven't the slightest idea of where it might lead or what kind of a cyclist (or woman or anything else) I might become along the way.  Whatever happens, I probably won't be like Paola Pezzo or Rebecca Twigg.  Then again, I don't think I'm going to be like Angelina Jolie, either.

Wherever I go, I have those past rides as memories and resources.  But I cannot go back to them, any more than anyone can go back to any part of  one's youth.  Plenty of people have tried; I know I have.  

After I rode, I went to a new greenmarket that's opened in my neighborhood.  The smell was most enticing when I entered; as I had almost nothing beyond some cereal and cheese in my place, I bought as much as I could carry.    After that, I called Carol Cometto, the manager of The Morning After House, where I stayed before and after my operation.

I immediately detected a note of sadness, or perhaps resignation in her voice.  "I'm closing this place at the end of August."

At that time, she says, Marci Bowers is moving to Palo Alto.  I knew that she'd talked about moving there; she's always liked the Bay Area. However, Carol said she wouldn't go with her.  "I've been in Trinidad all of my life.  I was born in San Rafael"--the hospital in which Marci did my, and many other people's, surgery--"and everyone I know is here."  

I feel bad for Carol, but I can't say that I'm surprised.  I love them both, but they were a bit of an odd couple, to say the least.  Part of the reason for that is their differing histories and styles.  It's not odd to find Carol in a place like Trinidad: being soft-butch/grown-up tomboy is not at all incompatible with being a sort of modern-day pioneer woman.  Carol has worked on the railroad and performed other jobs that required her to endure extreme weather and other kinds of conditions.  In a way, she reminded me of the narrator of Stone Butch Blues, who--like the other "butches" around her--were able to find work and fashion lives for themselves in the factories of Buffalo during the 1950's and 1960's.  Years later, after the factories closed, those same women could find work only in the supermarkets and department stores, if they could find work at all.  Some of them even married men.

That leads to an interesting question that some academician might want to research:  What would happen to people like Carol if places like Trinidad, Colorado (which has never really recovered from the steep decline in coal mining) and the surrounding ranch and desert areas were to become, say, a new corporate headquarters?  What would become of a middle-aged butch whose work was mostly physical and done mostly outdoors?

Anyway...I realized, after talking to Carol that the whole Trinidad experience, as wonderful as it was, is past for more reasons than simply my own experience.  In a funny way, it reinforces what I sometimes feel:  that everything and everyone else in my life is changing even more than I am.    And, it seems, the only constants have been my writing, teaching--and gender identity--and bike riding.