Posted tagged ‘bikes’

“The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets.”

April 15, 2016

The day is windy and cold but still lovely with lots of sun and a blue sky that even Crayola can’t duplicate. I really have nothing to do today. I spent the morning playing around with my MAC which was a bit feisty. I couldn’t use it until I solved the problem. I seem to be getting much better at healing my MAC.

When I was a kid, today was a big day because at the end of school April vacation started. We had the whole next week off. I don’t remember if the week was warm or not. I just remember my bike was out of the cellar, and we were all over town. We didn’t have a specific destination. We just rode. I remember we went to the zoo a couple of times and through parts of town we didn’t know well. Sometimes we brought our lunches while other times we went home for lunch and a bathroom break though we didn’t really need an inside bathroom. One of my favorite rides was to the farm. The cows were always out in the field and we’d watch a long while. I have a couple of milk bottles from that farm. It is still there, but it sells sod and fertilizer and stuff like that. The cows are long gone.

We’d ride to the next town and around its lake. It was to us a huge lake, and we loved that it was right in the middle of a town. Sometimes on our rides we’d end up where we started while other times we’d only go about halfway around, leave the lake and end up in a different town. That town also bordered my town but on the other side. It was a boring town but it did have a great diner. When I was older and visiting for the weekend, my father would sometimes take my mother and me out for breakfast there. I still love diners. I also still love going out for breakfast.

Every day we did something. Five days away from school were never to be wasted. I don’t remember a whole lot of walking, but I figure we must have gone into the woods and walked to the swamp. We kept careful watch on the seasons at the swamp. We knew when it was warm enough the tadpoles would be there darting away from our fingers. I remember the sun shining on that swamp and warming my back when I was lying down on the grass beside where the tadpoles were. That swamp was one of the neatest places I have ever known.

“I go running when I have to. When the ice cream truck is doing sixty.”

September 28, 2014

Summer has stayed another day. The birds are flying in and out of the feeders, the red spawn has been soaked by the hose a couple of times, kids are riding their bikes up and down the street and the insects are singing. It is a wonderful day.

When I was a kid, my street was visited by so many people doing so many different things. There was the milkman whose bottles clanged in his metal holder as he walked to the back door, the sharpener man who rode a bike with a pedal driven honing wheel and who stopped to sharpen knives and scissors, the trash men who came once a week who carried their barrels behind their backs with one hand, the garbage man who also came once a week, the summer ice cream man who came every day, the junk man who shouted for rags and newspapers from his horse-drawn wagon and the mailman who knew everybody and always stopped to talk. The only name we kids knew was Johnny the ice cream man.

My favorite was the sharpener man. I loved to watch him sharpen knives as the wheel whirled. He pedaled fast and turned the knife from side to side then checked sharpness using his finger across the blade. He never cut himself. That amazed me.

Only the mailman is left, and he uses a truck. I take my own trash to the dump and the newspapers get recycled. My knives are quite dull, but I just bought a new sharpener so I’m hoping for the best. I’m also hoping I don’t cut myself prone as I am to self-inflicted injuries. There used to be an ice cream truck with bells playing a tune, but I haven’t heard or seen one on a while.

My neighborhood is a good one with lots of kids, friendly neighbors and dear friends, but I bemoan the loss of these men from our childhood. They provided services but most of all they provided color, smells and sounds to our lives. I still remember the sound of the wheel and the knife, the clop of the horse on the street and Johnny’s bell, that last one most of all.

“A bicycle ride around the world begins with a single pedal stroke.”

May 2, 2014

The sun is breaking through the clouds. Today will be spring.

This shoulder season is my least favorite time of year. Of late, I have been tired and bored. The cold and the rain have made exploring less inviting. Afternoon naps while away the time but make me no less lazy. A few errands force me out of the house, and even though I complain, I am grateful for the change. Today is one of those days.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have decks or porches or patios. We just had backyards, unfenced expanses of grass dotted with clothes lines close to each house. The little kids mostly stayed in those yards. My sisters sat on the back-steps right outside the door and played with their dolls. My mother could hear and see them, but she never really worried. They wouldn’t stray and the whole neighborhood kept an eye. We older kids would never be caught playing in the backyard during the daylight. We had the freedom of bikes. My mother would do her parental duty and ask where we were going. We seldom had an answer as we seldom had a destination. “Just around,” was our usual reply, and that was exactly where we went. We never had any money, not even the wealth of a dime or a quarter. Sometimes we made lunch, mostly a sandwich and some Oreos, and we’d stop somewhere to eat at no given time just when we got hungry. If something caught our eyes, we’d investigate. We’d stop, use the kickstand on our bikes and walk to see what was around. Sometimes we’d ride uptown, walk our bikes on the sidewalk and look at store windows. My favorite window was at the fish market. A tank took up most of the window and lobsters took up most of the tank. We’d stop at the Woolworth’s window and Kennedy’s Cheese and Butter Store where barrels sat out front and the window had chunks of cheese which was foreign to us. My mother never bought cheese in chunks. We’d usually end our uptown tour there and head down the street pass the fire station, the town hall, our school and church and the convent. By then it was late afternoon, and during this time of year it was getting cooler as the sun set. We’d get home, maneuver our bikes down the stairs into the cellar and go up stairs to watch a bit of TV until my mother had dinner ready. I remember lots of westerns and hot dogs, beans and brown bread.

“There is no easy way to train an apprentice. My two tools are example and nagging.”

April 13, 2014

The morning is cloudy, but I don’t mind because the sun will appear later. It is chilly but not cold. I love saying that. I think of it as the difference between winter and spring.

The kid down the street rides a four-wheeler. He went from a tricycle to a bike with training wheels. I have no idea how extra wheels train a kid to balance on a two-wheeler. It is one of the mysteries of life. I didn’t have training wheels when I was a kid. I had my mother. She held on to the back of the bike as it wobbled, and I pedaled for all I was worth hoping to stay upright and moving. I remember my mother rode my bike first to show me how easy it is to ride. I was amazed. My mother could cook and clean but I never really thought too much beyond those. That she could ride a bike was a revelation. We were on the side street in front of my house. I was afraid she’d let go, but she didn’t for the longest time. When she finally did, I just kept on moving. I was a bike rider.

Okay, next I’m talking feminine undergarments. If you want to leave now, please do. Just hop on down to the next paragraph. Remember you were warned. I never had training wheels on my bike, but I had a training bra, the purpose of which flummoxes me even now. What was I training them to do? No tricks ever came to mind. Later, when I was much older and out of training, I did think of tassels but that’s a whole different conversation and profession. How long we had to train was arbitrary. Each mother made that decision. I didn’t train for too long. I must have been a quick learner.

My first job was at a Woolworth’s, the summer after high school, and I had to be trained. It was ridiculous. I was shown how to work the cash register and had to prove I could make change. The right way to stock shelves was explained and demonstrated. I was glad for that because I probably would have put the articles upside down or backwards on the shelves except for that in-depth training. I really hated that job, but I lasted the whole summer.

I had to student teach my senior year in college. Nobody called it training though that’s exactly what it was. There I was standing at the front of the room facing an entire class of kids who knew I was inexperienced and suspected I was scared. They were right. My lead teacher watched for a few weeks, gave me pointers and then she let go just as my mother had. I had no trouble staying upright, but I still needed to pedal for all I was worth.

“One of the most important days of my life was when I learned to ride a bicycle.”

July 5, 2010

The day is already hot. The breeze has disappeared. I sat outside under the umbrella, the coolest spot on the deck, to drink my coffee and read the papers. This morning, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I only had one cup of coffee, a sure indicator of the heat.

In the heat of summer, when we were kids, the boys never wore shorts around where I lived. Little ones did, the ones whose mothers dressed them, but older boys, those around nine or ten, wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of shorts. My brother wore dungarees every day. He did wear a short sleeve jersey, a Beaver Cleaver type of jersey, but that was his sole concession to the heat of summer. Black high tops were his sneakers of choice. Girls were different. We wore shorts and sleeveless blouses. Our sneakers were white and no higher than our ankles. They were worn with socks, usually white socks. Clam diggers were popular for a while. That’s what we called them. In the 50’s, they were called pedal pushers, and, in the 60’s, Laura Petrie brought them back as Capri pants.

It never occurred to me that the name pedal pushers was literal. They were pants wore higher than the chains of bikes so the pants legs wouldn’t get caught. I wish I knew that back then. I didn’t have a chain guard on my bike. It had disappeared or fallen off. Many times my pant leg bottom would get caught and eaten by the chain. Getting it loose was a process and it took forever. I’d have to try and figure how to get off the bike with one leg caught without the bike falling, the best place to sit down and how to untangle my pants while one leg was immovable. I usually freed myself, but my hands and pant leg were always covered in grease. I usually wiped my hands on the back of my pants and left strange looking prints.

When I was much older and riding to work became quite common, I used to see guys bicycling with their pant leg folded up and held there by a rubber band. It looked a little silly, but I never laughed. I knew exactly why they did it. They had all grown up with greasy right pants legs.