On Sunday (two days ago) we went to Coney Island. We had a blast, though I was grumpy at first because it took us a long time to get there from Scott’s house. We ate, then we tried to leave but had to buy shoes since Lennox’s Crocs were too small. So we ended up buying each of the kids a pair of new beach shoes.
Here’s the latest installment, though I’m getting long winded, and distracted by bike racing, my real fear is that this shows my bias towards Anglos. If you ride, formally, with clubs and packs check this for realism and send me a line. And of course, if you want to start from the beginning, go here.
At thirty Mike had become a sort of domestique for the guys on his club because he has the strength to pull but not the stamina or speed to win sprints afterwards. He was sad about his diminished skills, tough he trained harder than anyone else on the team. The other guys just fell out of bed from around the park and rode a few laps to keep their pack together. Mike was the only one who didn’t live near the Central Park, or even in Manhattan. Three times a week he’d ride in from Rego Park before dawn as the Russians all over his neighborhood who spoke Farsi stocked their stainless steel stands for the day’s coffee, donut, egg sandwich and gyro dispersal. They’d look at him in his lycra Café de Columbia kit in yellow, red and blue with the matching helmet cover like he’d landed from another planet. One guy, Grisha, whose stand was in his driveway right next to the service entrance of Mike’s building had noticed that he had different bikes. “Today you will lead the pack,” he knowingly chided every other day or so; usually when Mike took out his carbon fiber bike with the pursuit geometry that made him really look space aged.
The ride, along Queens Boulevard before dawn, was fast and dangerous. The service road was a staging area for jaywalkers, while the six middle lanes were a highway with stop-lights that worked like the banderillas that picadors use to rile bulls before the fight: the drivers were resentful, tired and angry because there was a city going on outside of their cars. Mike always imagined that the cars were bought with some perfect ideal of an empty California road before them, while they were driven in the rat-maze of Queens as an evil psychological experiment. This made the ride to Manhattan a 100% focus affair, where his senses had to work overtime in the dark on the Boulevard of Death. This hyperawareness flowed out to his body and he always rode hardest here: fast, silent, aggressive.
So when he joined the pack of Manhattanites, in the rolling hills of park before the dawn jogger infestation, there was no stress. Though he could always beat them up a hill, and could lead most of the time, he didn’t have the interpersonal competitiveness of the Manhattan professionals with whom he rode. His life lacked the structure that the college educated reindeer games foisted upon the officegnomes who used this as a high-cost stress reliever that could be boasted about around the water cooler: “…eighteen miles around the park before dawn.” It impressed the coworkers, but Mike did five miles before and five miles afterwards in a state of prey-like awareness of the outer-borough traffic.