Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Happy Pi Day

That's pronounced "Pie Day," not piday (as in bidet). Just thought you should know. Ahem. Well, on to more sophisticated things. Boy is my job shadow today, so he'll learn why Dilbert is so popular in the office. I was thinking t'udderday how miraculous it is that I made it to adulthood. Specifically because of a long and storied history with bikes. I never thought at the time of my youth that bicycles hated me, but as I review the pattern, one could get the distinct feeling that they really thought I should be dead. Malicious little weasels, all of 'em. My first memory of myself on a two-wheeler has me zooming down the sidewalk, Dad holding the back of my seat to make sure he didn't have to explain howcome I came home all bloody. We went back and forth down the sidewalk a dozen times, and finally I could keep the thing upright. Until I got to a heave in the sidewalk, which I could have navigated except for a brief moment of panic. And a tree, which jumped out in front of me. Luckily, I was going slow enough to cause very minimal damage. Little did I know, this was only the beginning of the Cold War between my bikes and me. My friends and I would terrorize the neighborhood, being as cool as little Christian Reformed Dutch kids can be. We weren't allowed to ride bikes on Sundays, but we made up for it the rest of the week. Clothespins and playing cards in the spokes, homebuilt ramps and obstacle courses, and reenactments of Emergency 51 made up my neighbors' soundtrack. We'd ride up to the Gene Meyer Pharmacy and spend our meager allowances on candy and "fireworks" - smoke bombs, snakes, snap-pops, and ladyfingers. Back at the ranch, we'd wreak whatever havoc could be wrought and invent ways to play with fire. A favorite trick was to stick a smoke bomb in the frame by the back wheel, light it, and cruise up and down the street like a motorcycle gang, belching macho exhaust. Once my aunt came back from Kentucky and handed me a sack of fireworks she got from a roadside stand. I don't think my dad knew she did this. I reached in and grabbed a smoke bomb, installed it in the frame, lit it and waited for the fuse to burn down. Next thing I knew, I couldn't hear, my tire was flat, a buncha spokes bent and twisted, and I was on the ground. That was my first experience with an M-80. In Little League, there was a kid named Ernie who had an amazing BMX-style dirt bike. It was Hulk Green and had knobby tires, a bottle holder, and motorcycle grips. I broke the 10th Commandment all over that thing. Ernie let me touch it once, but he'd never let me ride it. Then, one early May morning, I came downstairs. It was my birthday, and Mom had made breakfast (which was special, we lived on cold cereal most days). There, in the living room, was the Green Monster. I was an odd little kid, because my first thought was, "We're not supposed to have bikes in the living room," and my second was, "Dad stole Ernie's bike! Sweet!!" The truth was that Ernie was getting a new bike, and our dads worked a deal that got me his old one. I was ecstatic, and immediately took it out for a test drive. It was heavy and hard to pedal, but I looked like Evel Knievel on the thing, except for the tight white jumpsuit and broken bones. For now. As I practiced coasting downhill on my new bike, I hit a bump in the road. I remember watching the pavement come closer to my face, and then nothing. I heard some kid crying, and began to realize it was me, as I was standing in my doorway with the neighbor who had scooped me up to bring me home. The first thing my mom saw was, I'm sure, not a pretty sight. Where her boy's face should be was a gooey mess of hamburger and gravel. I had skidded to a stop on the right side of my face, and remember showing up to church unable to open one eye for 2 weeks. That bike and I never got along too well after that. Different bike, different time, same hill. I was cruising on my purple sparkly chopper with the banana seat and a 3-speed gear shifter on the crossbar. It was a total badass 70's bike, and I would ride around like one of Heck's own angels. On the way home from school one day, enjoying a long downhill coast toward a normally busy intersection. There was no traffic, and I really didn't feel like stopping. I picked up speed through the intersection, certain there were no cars approaching. Suddenly, my chopper and I were airborne, but in different directions. The bike was launched half a block to the north, while I rocketed south - into the windshield of a magically appearing car. I slid off the hood and onto the pavement. I crawled to the side of the road, thinking it was a bad idea to lie in the street because you could get hit by a car like that. Another memorable event for my mom. I got out of it with a nasty bump on the head and a gash on my leg. At the time, they weren't able to detect any brain damage; it must have been present before the accident. There are many, many more stories. Fortunately I had a little more brains and skill by the time I found myself riding through mountains and next to logging trucks and sheer cliff faces, and the rest of the stories seem pretty tame. Remind me to tell ya some slow news day in the future. ============= Sometimes I think about things, and this is one of those times: Is there a Chinese restaurant anywhere that has hot water at the sink?

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