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I have been riding my bike through the streets of Chicago since the early 1990s. So, I guess it was bound to happen. Eventually, some day, somewhere, I was going to get hit by a car. Friday, the car that I knew had my name on its grill, finally found me less than 2 blocks from my house.
Of course, I was in a hurry. I was supposed to be someplace ten minutes ago and I had been dawdling at home: playing with the rabbit, talking to the cats, wiping a counter. When it was time to go, I didn’t even notice that it was time to go, and when it was well past the time to go, I grabbed my bike helmet (thank the universe I wear one) and hopped on my bike, very aware now that I was late.
So, the preoccupation with not being where I was supposed to be no doubt kept me from making smart choices when I hit the intersection. I usually go straight through to the other side of the street and then enter the crosswalk and take a left — you know, like I wasn’t a bicyclist but a pedestrian (it’s cheating, I know, and now I won’t do it anymore, I promise). But, that day, the street was empty of cars on my side and I thought, “heck, let’s be a car and just take a left in the middle of the intersection.” So, I stuck my left arm out to signal and gestured to the car facing me that I was turning left. She was turning left too and waved me forward.
Now, here’s where the problem comes on. Because I had initially planned to go straight through the intersection and not turn left, I was on the far right edge of the lane. I was not on the left side of the lane, but the right. If you’re driving a car that’s three feet wide (okay, I don’t know how wide a car really is, but let’s just say ‘wide enough’), it’s not a big deal because every one can still see you. On a bike, however, you’re pretty invisible even when you’re visible, so as I took that left I was actually crossing across the width of her car and making a left at the same time. Is it any surprise then, the on-coming car which was coming around the other car that was turning left, didn’t see me? For him, it must have seemed like I came out of nowhere.
For me, it went like this:
Grunt. Pedal harder. Turn left and then speed up. Oh shiiiiittttttttttttt. It’s a car. “UGH!!” [said outloud]. Speed up speed up speed up get out the way get out of the way. Shiiiiiittttttttt!
My body braced for the impact on my right side. My right leg and arm expected to be slammed by a couple tons of car. But, in the eons of years that it took for me to speed up the car also managed to brake and when impact occurred, the car hit my back tire and pushed my bike out from under me sideways. I managed to stay on my feet anyway and was still moving.
Traffic came to a stop. But my brain said: keep going don’t stop keep going keep going.
So I did. I was still on my bike. I just pulled it underneath me more and kept pedaling. The car pulled over and I heard a man get out and shout, “Hey! Are you all right?”
What? Who? My brain said.
“Hey! You forgot your bag!” The man shouted.
That’s when I turned around. Oh yeah, my stuff. In the impact, the car had pulled off my pannier bag which hangs on the back tire.
The part of my brain that said, “keep going,” slowed down and I and My Brain recognized that I needed to get that pannier bag because it had my bag and wallet in it. That’s when I got off my bike and slowly, as if nothing had happened, I walked back to the corner.
When I got to bag which was in the middle of the intersection, the man, who looked pretty worried, said, “Are you okay? I didn’t know you were taking that left.”
“That’s okay. I’m fine. Next time just look for bikes.”
“Sorry — about that.”
“‘Z’okay.” I muttered and got back on my bike.
It was only about 5 hours later when I realized that I had wanted to say that it wasn’t all his fault. That I screwed up too and that I hoped it didn’t wreck his day to think that he could have hurt someone. He looked upset about it, but I kept going. That part of my brain that said “keep going” was in command and I didn’t find the space in that moment to say, “Hey! Don’t worry about it! Nobody died! Have a great day!”
I think of this now because there was a Dharma Talk today at the Temple about the Infinite that happens in a moment. “Imagine,” he said, “your breath. There’s a moment at the end of your exhale, right before your inhale, when you’re not exhaling and you’re not inhaling and you’re not rushing to inhale. That moment is infinite.”
I don’t understand all the Dharma Talks, but I got that one. In that second when I saw that car grille and felt my right side tense to expect impact, it felt like a year or two. That second was long enough for me to see what’s happening, consider my options, and act. But despite how quickly my (and the driver’s) brain and body worked to avert a disaster, I still wish I had done more with the time after, those 2-5 minutes afterwards when I could have said, “Hey, it’s okay. We’re all okay.”
But, I missed that moment. I hope in another future moment, I will see that infinite space and utilize it to say to someone else, “Hey, it’s okay.” Well, I’ve said it here, and maybe, if the guy driving the green SUV ever happens to find this post, then, hopefully, he’ll know it.
We’re doing a last minute fill-in at Hotti Biscotti tomorrow night (Thurs, March 20) at 9:00 PM.
It will be a quiet, acoustic kind of show. Brian will be playing his new Seagull acoustic guitar which he got for “free” because he traded a bunch of pedals for. And I’ll be playing just snare. No kit. This is the kind of show we used to do two years ago when I first started playing.
I used to frequent a coffee shop called Red Eyes Coffee on Lincoln and Balmoral and one day I noticed they had a small stage in the corner. I asked if they do shows and instead of asking me if I have a demo or a press kit, the owner asked: “When do you want to play?”
“Uh…how about this weekend?”
And that was one of our first gigs. At that little coffee shop I played just snare on Tuesday nights while Brian played guitar. I barely knew what I was doing, but I was up there doing it.
Tomorrow night should be one of those quiet, early nights. When you’ll be home by 11 PM and your ears won’t be ringing. If you feel like a mellow evening, stop by and say ‘hello’!
Life has been intruding in my budding career as a rock star. Immediately after the show I thought I would upload the pics, write pithy comments, and then post it for our adoring fans. A week later I still haven’t charged the batteries in the digital camera and I’ve forgotten all my witty comments. Another lifetime has passed since that show and I’m trying to remember what happened last week.
Memory is a frail thing. What did I wear? Jeans and some sweater, I think. What did we play? The usual set. Brian has written two new songs, folk-like tunes that I’m still learning so I probably played hand-snare. Oh right, hand-snare. I asked the Sound Guy if he was miking the snare because I would be playing hand snare. He said, “I never heard that before. Did you come up with that?”
I said in a voice that I hope wasn’t condescending (but probably sounded like it), “Uh no, John Bonham did … and Max Roach.”
That’s when I realized there was an age gap. This kid didn’t know who I was talking about. I tried not to think about it.
We played second, because one of the bands had people coming later. We were happy to go on second. I should explain now some booking etiquette. Short Punks booked the show and we were the most “well-known” band (ha!) so we were technically the “headliners” (chortle), therefore we should perform last. You know, save the best for last. But here’s the problem with going on late for people like me: if I go on too late, I get tired. And there’s that age thing rearing its head again. Brian and I like playing first or second because we’re brighter, cheerier, and, in general, a lot happier. Then we can enjoy the other performers without worrying about our set.
And the other performers were:
and us … oh yeah, and I forgot, I wore a red sweater.
We were pretty happy at this show (and with a few exceptions, we’re happy at most of the shows), but we were especially pleased at the maturity of these bands. Let me put it this way, Brian was the youngest one in the bunch instead of the oldest. And I was — hurray! — one of the other youngest ones. We appreciated that everyone was on-time and eager to play. There were no complaints about the “draw” (band lingo for “audience”), the lack of drink tickets, or the absence of a cover taker (i.e. guy who takes your cash at the door). Everyone was just happy to be out on Sunday night playing for someone. And the turn out was good — thanks to Jungle of Cities and their supporters.
So, that was the show. I may not sound as eager about the shows, but, in many ways, because we have done so many, my feeling about shows has changed. They used to terrify me — feel me with alternating waves of dread and anticipation. But, after two years, they have begun to feel like teaching. I walk on stage now with the casualness that I walk into a classroom several times a week. This ease, this lack of effort or anxiety, could seem like apathy, but, I think, it’s more comfort and confidence. And that, after two years, makes me extremely happy.
Before I go, here’s one more pic. Later that week, Ben fell asleep on Brian (as he does every night and at every nap) and it was too good not to post.