Sunday, August 4, 2013



Allowing your mind to wander while riding a bicycle, despite the obvious dangers of doing so--what with the cars and the pedestrians and the stop signs and there only being two wheels and all hence the name--is a fairly common practice around the 5300 block of the Onion City (1), where pedaling passionately while letting one's mind wander, which let's face it is about as pondersome as anyone bothers to get most days these days, is usually accompanied by helmet-less and headphone-not-less bobbing and weaving such that the pedaling and the pondering, being a function one of the other and not an inverse one at that, coalesce to evoke a milieu of  general distaste and discomfort not only for the biwheeled but for the bipeds who encounter them whether on foot or headphoning, cell phoning, or pondering themselves behind the 14" diameter wheel of a much larger vehicle, one having in almost all civilian instances twice as many ground-touching wheels(2) as the foot powered wheel rotators prove are necessary.  For a head prone to overanalysis--one that tends to find meaning in every single event, no matter how minute or coincidental, and that has on more than one occasion turned e.g. a shared experience into a literary symbol or (more broadly) a passing fancy into fallacious epiphany--thrust moreso toward solicitude by the aggregate events of Y.H.D.A.V.L.L., this head itself helmeted and devoid of phone, head- or hand, but in unfamiliar territory, at least in regard to living situation, for such a head in such a state the expanse of time and attention dedicated to such reflection works out, mathematically speaking, to 99.4 percent on the dime, the fraction of time represented by the remaining percentage points being more or less accounted for by only the most critical and periodic blips of alertness necessary to focus on route- and life-saving maneuvers.  Yet somehow in this thorough dedication to so-called pondering this particularly meaning-seeking cyclist manages never in all of the complex but wildly accessible neuronic cavities to come across the advice he got when he was but first touching the fragile paper skin of this my kind of town: "You've got to discipline yourself to talk out of the part of you that loves the thing, loves what you're working on.  Maybe just plain loves.(3)"

He doesn't pedal all that fast.  Still, given his high lost-in-thought to moment ratio and that peculiar familiar-process / disappearing-hours time dynamic that even still doesn't make complete sense to physicists and psychologists alike, time folds ("passes") and Berwyn ends at the elevated Metra tracks that lead both north and south but definitely to less populated areas.  Unlike with the urban elevated trains, the concrete that supports the Metra tracks is solid, a Great Wall marking the Ravenswood corridor and separating, e.g. this cyclist from his temporary home four blocks away if not for said construction.  The tunnel running through them is covered in graffiti he won't later remember but that will nevertheless strike him in the moment as significant.  He wore headphones while cycling for a month or so of Y.V. but stopped after two acquaintances lost their lives in bike accidents.  In a textbook example of hypocrisy, he thinks it would make him happier to bike with headphones on and gets noticeably tense and irritated when he passes another cyclist doing the same.  This epiphany did not occur to him during this particular absent minded cycling bout, nor has it ever.  He isn't unhappy.  The first seven months of this new year (4) seem from his perspective on that saddle--left toe on the asphalt for stationary balance, right on the corresponding pedal as a reminder of momentum, helmet a little too loose, eyes focused on the tunnel--very promising indeed.  He didn't know there was a tunnel here.  It was constructed before he was born.  He takes its presence, especially the fact that it seemed to open (5) just as he was regretting his choice of route and knowing just knowing he would have to pedal an extra mile south then later north again to get around the monstrous suburbanite-shuffling luxury train, as a sign, almost a God and the Bible and Burning Bush, just for him, divine will, someone is listening, knock and the door will be opened kind of thing.  Pass!  For an urban area, the Ravenswood corridor strikes him as remarkably still at night, excepting the rabbits which really do breed, he thinks, as described in the idiom.  There's no one behind him or ahead of him, nor is there anyone in the tunnel, nor does he encounter another human soul in the remaining four blocks between tunnel and temporary home.  After he takes the dog out and closes the door, he rests peacefully, wrapped in warm imaginings on an air-conditioned couch that struck him yesterday as too cold but now just right, likewise on a too hot just right beach a week in the future and without sand in irritating places, likewise on a bike trip to Calumet Fisheries, likewise devouring a hamburger and a book, likewise on a flat stage before 150 seats, likewise in a country where no one speaks English and "they don't even want to," surrounded now by a sense that the young couple and baby he draws into the house next door are as real in every sense as he narrates to himself, believing now in better days and for once having some sense of what the hell people mean when they say that.


(1) A reference not only to the little-known origin of the name "Chicago," but also to the recent relocation of the well-known comical rag.  Also, no one but John refers to "Chicago" as "The Onion City," and even he only in this blog entry. 

(2) Notable exception:  the short-lived and ill-designed Hyundai Uni

(4) During the pre-tunnel trip, his mind doing most of the cycling, the operating reserve of his cerebral wind turbine was able to all-but-casually label his first year in Chicago the Year of Volunteerism, a period stretching from August 1, 2011 (a) to the obvious and marked by a rampant willingness to give away his time with the unspoken expectation of future rewards and followed by a period of an equally obvious duration with equally obvious bookends he would now call, he decided, the Year of Harsh Disappointment and Valuable Life Lessons.  
                         a The literal  first month of his time in the Windy City--July--was a period characterized by 
                           back-in-Boston absenteeism, settling in, and a general lack of real focus on starting over
                           and was stricken from his mind's record.  Call it playing God, but where better to play God
                           than in one's own mind, a place where one simply has to have dominion, if  anywhere.

(5) a Red Sea kind of thing

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