Friday, March 29, 2013


the commute by bike up north williams boulevard can be hectic, frustrating, blood-boiling, and dangerous.  the busiest bike lane in portland, williams pushes straight north next to two lanes of vehicular traffic.  cars swerve into the bike lane; slow bikers take up the entire bike lane, demanding that i swing out into traffic to pedal past them; and fast bicyclist breeze past, leaving me in the dust, leaving me jealous and slow feeling and inadequate and tired.  cyclists in this town comprise some of the most self-righteous people i’ve ever met.  having just lost your bike light - they’ll let you know how difficult they think it might be to see you even on the most well lit street.  not wearing neon yellow - they’ll let you know how your dark clothes are inappropriate.  biking too slow - they’ll let you know how much this inconveniences them.

on clear days, spring and summer and early autumn, the bike ride up north williams seems quicker than the trudge through the winter gray.  north williams carries a lot of bicyclists north through portland every afternoon, but the spring seems a significant increase in traffic up the bicycle lanes.  sunnier days, the weather fairer, the other cyclists seem more placid, less aggressive.

the air smells damp, but dirty and vegetive, the trees above light green with new buds.  i smell the diesel fumes from a passing bus.  i smell coffee as i past the waypost.  the smell from pizza-a-go-go makes me hungry.  then weed, someone smoking a joint as they walk down the street.  i laugh and shake my head and continue pedaling north.  too early yet in the season, i'm waiting for the days i smell jasmine growing as i bike through the neighborhood.  my favorite scent, i love the tiny white star-shaped flowers.

the bike ride in the afternoons can be uncomfortable this time of year.  a sudden rain shower can drench me as i bike home.  or the day can become warm enough that i sweat under the raincoat i still wear most days.  it's almost time to start biking in shorts and a t-shirt - almost warm enough.

i have made this commute down the river from my house to john's landing and back every morning and evening for over four years.  i'm not loosing weight with it.  it's become static, cardiovascular maintenance at most.  but i love it.  i love the thirty minutes it gives me to bike in silence, maybe with a bike of music, introspective, unobligated to entertain, to talk.  meditative, i like running into other friends on the road, but i cherish the brief time alone.

i slowly bike through the fields of so many agents - that man smoking a cigarette, those boys on their skate boards, those two women embracing as they meet on the sidewalk, the grandmother waiting to cross the street with her grandchild.

the days when the cherry blossoms bloom on the waterfront, a fat pink cloud that floats over the river, may be some of my favorites.  i love the delicate white and pink blossoms of the low trees, the dark bark striking underneath. i love biking down the path to the steel bridge under the branches, the sidewalk soft rose colored from the fallen petals.  men with big stupid grins back up into my path as they try to frame in the view of their cameras their girlfriends sitting under the blossoms.  the women preen themselves and do not consider that the cherry blossoms might overshadow their beauty.  annoyed by their bliss, i still love seeing portland happy like this.

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