28 August 2015

Mama Mechanic

This afternoon I took a ride out to the Rockaways on Tosca, my Mercian fixie.

The weather was lovely, as it was yesterday:  warm, but not overly so, with high puffy clouds floating across expanses of blue sky.  And, as luck would have it, I rode into the wind on my way out to Rockaway Beach and Far Rockaway.  That meant, of course, that on my way home, I could pedal about 20 RPM faster without trying.

Anyway, I was coasting through an area of Gateway National Recreation area frequented by bird-watchers and wildlife photographers--in plain view of JFK International Airport!  My external reverie seemed to embody the one that was playing out within me at that moment:  I am still in the afterglow of my trip to Paris and of the wonderful late-day ride to Connecticut I enjoyed yesterday.  I have been doing some writing away from this blog (I don't want to give too much away!) and I'm feeling optimistic about the semester that's about to begin. Now all I need is to hit the Lotto jackpot and meet the love of my life.  Hmm...I'm not so sure about the latter.  Being single isn't so bad after you've been in an abusive relationship or two.

Wouldn't you know...a cute young guy approaches me from behind.  "Sir!"  "Sir!"  He sounded distressed, so I turned to look at him.  (His distress was the only reason I looked at him, I swear! ;-))  "Do you...Oh, I'm sorry, Ma'am."

"Don't worry."

"You don't see a lot of women riding here.  And, from behind, you were pedaling like a dude."

I said nothing. (I didn't want to give too much away!)

"Do you have an allen key?"

"Yes, I do."

Just then I saw the reason why he asked:  His handlebar slipped and rolled inside the stem.

"We can't let you ride like that," I said.

"I swapped this handlebar today.  I guess I didn't tighten it enough."

"Well, let's hope it's the right diameter."

"I thought they were all the same size."

I shook my head and, from the corner of my eye, saw the source of the problem.  He had a stem with a faceplate that bolts in the four corners. He'd tightened the top two bolts much more than the lower ones.  So, in addition to the usual hazards of a loose handlebar, he ran the risk of shearing off the faceplate and, possibly, taking an even nastier spill than he might have had he only leaned on loose bars. 

Before I tightened the stem bolts, I asked him to move the bar to a position he likes.  Good thing: I noticed that his grips slipped on the bars.

He said he'd used water to slide the rubber grips onto the bars.   I grabbed the edge of the right grip and rolled it up to the end of the bar.  Then I unrolled it, and the grip--an Oury--stayed as if it had been epoxied to the bar.  I did the same for his left grip.

Then I told him to grab the grip and try to roll it, and to try to move the bar in the stem.  Everything was as firmly in place as the pyramids.

"Lady, I don't know how to thank you enough."

"Just be careful," I said in my most maternal tone.  Really, he's a nice kid--he's been working as a lifeguard--and want him to live and ride long.


Anonymous said...


I (Leo) just recently ran into your articles on HuffPost Queer Voices. And I felt this would be a better place to comment than your bike blog.

Sad that this blog is, as far as the comment section is concerned, a virtual Sahara. Why don't people comment and discuss? Are they afraid?

But anyway, one of your things, "My Job: 'Coming Out'" resonated. Basically the idea that sexuality and gender identification can be disconnected. I myself am a hetero man, but have always identified more with women. I had girls for friends almost exclusively all through school. And I have always felt more comfortable in women's' company. Women seem to reciprocate and most sense me as a "safe" person. I have had several good friends who were lesbian. A joke of mine is that I am a male lesbian. Could this be construed as a sort of soft disconnection? I call it just good sense, as women are more interesting people in general than men.

The above idea was a sort of enlightenment. I have known several trans people, M to F, who were before the change gay men. I guess I have maybe assumed that this was the "norm".

I should introduce myself. I am an American expat who has lived in this Northern European country now for 45 years. I have been a teacher, but i think of myself as a visual artist. I have art school training (MFA). My art deals primarily with women: body image, media image, victim.

Thanks again for a very good read indeed.


PS: I tried to comment yesterday and it did not go through.

Justine Valinotti said...

Leo--I am sorry you had difficulty in sending your comment.

I once dated a woman who referred to me as a "male lesbian." It's funny that you call yourself one. Maybe you are more self-aware than I was (or are?)!

When I was living as a male, I had male riding buddies and such. But it seemed that my friends--the ones with whom I could share confidences, or who could share theirs with me--were usually female. And, when I was a teenager, I was closer to my mother's female friends--all of whom were around her age--than I was to any of my peers, or to any male.

I am glad that you shared that aspect of your life with me. I'd be very interested to see your art!