30 June 2010

Hair and Tatoos

Today I rode the LeTour to work for the first time.   I was running a bit late--or, at least, I left my place a bit later than I'd planned--and forgot to bring my camera with me.  So I have no photos of myself or the bike or the commute.  But I'll tell you a bit about it.

First, fashion:  I feel as if I cheated a bit here.  I didn't ride in a skirt and heels.  Rather, I wore a sundress and my Keen sandals.  In a tote bag I stashed in my rear basket, I carried a short cardigan from a dusty blue twinset.   When I got to work, I slipped it over my dress, which was black with a hibiscus flower print in varying shades of blue.  One of those shades matched the sweater from the twinset, more or less.  And I also brought a pair of somewhat dressy black wedge sandals.  

I was glad to be wearing the sundress, as it was hot (though not as humid as yesterday).  And, of course, the Keen sandals were very comfortable.  

I didn't have any wardrobe malfunctions.  But the bike had a bit of a mishap.  Actually, it wasn't the bike itself; it was the rear rack.  The bolts that fasten the body of the rack to the arms that connect it to the seat stays fell out.  That caused my rack to flip backward and land on my fender.

Fortunately for me, I had just passed a hardware store, where I bought a package of screws and nuts, some lock washers and blue Loctite.  I've stopped there a few times before, as it's along one of my routes to and from work and other places.  Sometimes the guy behind the counter is an oldish Russian Jew who looks the way Alexander Solzhenitsyn (sp?) might have had he shaved.  But today I got this guy who is covered with tatoos and whose yellowing white hair  is longer than mine and beard is longer than mine ever was.  It's really odd to find him in that shop because it's at the corner of Metropolitan and 71st Avenues in Forest Hills, which is possibly the most resolutely bourgeois part of the city.  But he knows his stuff and is very helpful, which is one reason why his shop stays in business.

At one time in my youth, my hair was almost as long as that of the man in the hardware store.  And my beard, while not as long as his, was thick around my jaws and chin.   With all of the anger I felt in those days, I didn't need tatoos (which I've never gotten and probably never will get) or studded jacket to help me project an aura that said, "Stay the ---- away from me!"  I was like a cross between Charles Bronson and a hippie without the charm of either.

One hot day, I was riding my bike to my parents' house.  At the time, I was living in the town where I attended college (New Brunswick, NJ) and my parents were living on the Jersey Shore.  It was a thirty to thirty-five mile ride, depending on which route  I took.

Well, on that day, I peeled off my bike jersey before  I passed through Milltown, after which one of the early sedative drugs was named.  At that time, it was noted in the area for cops that were rumored to have been recruited in Alabama or from the KKK.  

One of those redneck officers actually pulled me over when I was riding along one of the streets.  In those days I didn't carry ID with me; most people didn't. 

"What are you doin' here?"

It took everything I had not to answer him sarcastically. But, fortunately for me, I managed to check that impulse.  

"What are you doin' here?"

"Riding my bicycle, sir."

"To where?"

"My mother's."

"All right.  Have a good day."

I haven't thought about that encounter in more than twenty years.  Now I wonder:  What would it have been like if I were covered with tatoos.