**The historic Uline Arena was restored and is now home to REI. The Uline Arena hosted the first Beatles concert in the USA in 1964.
This morning, I fell in behind a smoker walking to work. He was smoking a cigarette, which is unusual these days. As a frequent pedestrian in DC, I’ve noticed the trend leans toward vaping or smoking weed. There’s no in between. Cigarettes are passé, like greenbacks. If a Washingtonian is not in possession of Apple Pay or plastic, his or her nutritional capabilities quickly dissolve into attritional liabilities.
In short, they will starve.
The man held the cigarette between his thumb and forefinger, his arm long, swinging by his side. The thin line of smoke snaked back and forth, as if his fingertips smoldered, like an evening campfire recently extinguished. He raised his hand to his face for a moment, before the arm resumed its tick-tock, a thick plume of smoke trailing behind him.
The guy walked just fast enough to stay ahead. The mushroom hung in the air behind him, dispersing like ash. I drifted, first to one side and then to the other, but it was no use.
I was reminded of all the times stuck behind eighteen wheelers on the interstate, in the pouring rain, driving the truck and horse trailer, which wasn’t as easy to maneuver in traffic. Sheets of water sprayed from underneath their multiple tires, churning at the pavement, their mouths wide open like the writhing snakes adorning Medusa’s crown. My windshield reduced to that of frosted glass, before the blades wiped it clean, an erasure across a blackboard, cycling continuously for as long as the rain.
Commuting is a bitch sometimes, regardless if you’re a wayfarer, or behind the wheel.
The news just reported awards of $4,600 to volunteers willing to undergo injections of the coronavirus. They are seeking human guinea pigs. After taxes, that’s roughly $3,400 in your pocket to be a specimen. Russ put his hand up and said, “Me! Me! Me!” I shook my head.
How much is a body worth?
The coronavirus feels oddly similar to the government shutdown of 2018/19. This is a pandemic, where the other was more of a…paleoendemic. Regardless of whether you fell victim to a forfeited income, or not, or whether you fall ill now (God forbid, die), or not, the trickle down effect is real, and it affects all of us.
Washington, like other urban areas, is pulling the shutters together and latching its doors. Cancelling plans is the name of the game, and teleworking is the latest cultural movement. When the Houston Livestock Show and rodeo is cancelled, not to mention SXSW, we are up to our neck in the weeds. Living concealed, in complex life-support systems on Mars, the artificial environments necessary to sustain life, is no longer a remote concept. We are moving ever closer, complete obligatory participation looming, here on Earth.
A new book arrived yesterday, Writing Down The Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. This is her most popular work, the one that first put her name on the board. I ordered both of her books on the same day, but Wild Mind arrived two weeks ago. I buy my books from Amazon, but usually from third-party sellers, used. Any purchases I make elsewhere, using my Amazon Visa, accumulates a nice sum of points I then exchange for books ordered. The books feel free, which abates my guilt for ordering so many.
I cracked open Writing Down The Bones to find an inscription on the title page. It said, “Kelly, Happy 14th Birthday! Wishing you a life filled with writing! Best Wishes, Ruth and Michael O.” It made me smile. I thought to myself, “Kelly, you are one lucky kid, and Ruth and Michael, if you don’t know it yet, you are awesome!”
Flipping through it, I found a bookmark on page 119. It’s from Provincetown Bookshop in Provincetown, MA. My curiosity piqued, I pulled up the invoice, reviewing its tracking route. The book originated in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX. From there, it shipped to Glendale Heights, IL. The next leg of it’s journey took it to York, PA. It hopped over to Annapolis Junction, MD., before jumping to Washington, DC. Then it arrived to its new home.
I wonder, where in the copy’s travels did Provincetown fit in, and where else did it go?
I don’t know why Writing Down The Bones took the scenic route, but I’m glad it did. Wild Mind read with a quick rhythm. So far, Bones has not. It’s a tougher slice to chew. Reading a lot of different books is not unlike riding a lot of different horses.
Toward the end of my equestrian career, I had clocked enough hours and experience in the tack to look back and understand the serendipity of timing. I earned an appreciation for why certain horses showed up in the barn and when.
They seemed to appear at just the right time. They were progressively more talented as time went on, but a few were exponentially more difficult too. The degree of difficulty presented was slightly beyond my proficiency. This challenged me, stretched my limits, and took me to the next level, right along with them.
My own story would not read so well had some of them arrived much earlier in my career. Others wouldn’t have made such an impact on my riding if they had showed up much later than they did. It’s the same with books. They possess the same mystical talent, to surface at just the right time, when you need them most.
I picked up my new bike today. It’s been a year, and three and a half months, since I’ve ridden a bike or owned one. Not since Go Go Girl was stolen. It took that long to save up, especially in the midst of the unexpected medical bills last year, a brief chronicle of the times we find ourselves living in.
I picked it up at REI, the same place I purchased Go Go Girl. It wasn’t quite ready, so I went next door and ordered a beer at the local brewpub. I was nervous after not having ridden in so long. I thought a beer might help.
The tech tried to point out some of my bike’s features, such as the fact it only has one set of gears, versus two, like most bikes. (This supposedly equals efficiency).
White noise filled my head, drowning his words. This natural reaction occurs when someone directs tech-speak my way. Standing in REI, listening to this guy drone on (bless him), I thought back to the time a friend asked me a million questions about the car I had just purchased.
“Does it come with GPS installed?” she asked.
“Umm, I don’t know…”
It blew her mind. I knew nothing about the car I bought. What I did know was the car was small, it was diesel, super efficient, and it was fast.
All of my criteria were met.
Just like the bike. It’s orange, comfortable, and has fat tires. That’s everything I need to know.
After the beer, I rode my bike home, my new Cannondale trail bike. I smiled the entire time, just like someone who drank a beer on an empty stomach, and was riding her new bike for the first time. It’s been so long. I forgot how much I missed the wind in my face, the freedom. I can’t wait for our biking adventures to start this spring. It’s one of the things Russ and I love doing together.
Russ asked me when I got home, “So what did you name the bike?”
Without missing a beat, I sang, “StrangerDanger!!”
Some things are just meant to be.