Ain’t no stopping him now…

Let the record show, your Honor, that this is blog #2. Let the record further show that this is two days in a row, and that this trip for the week to Sacramento with Liam is not an excuse. A lesser man, your Honor, would use it as an excuse, would ask for a week’s reprieve because the demands of fatherhood trump the demands of this blog.


But I’m not a lesser man, your Honor. I’m what the Germans call “der gliekermanerdkinderunerobdunkerelkin”—a man of discipline, of drive, of commitment. Furthermore, your Honor—are you awake? Hey, hey you, pay attention, this is important.


Furthermore, I have vital things to write on this Monday morning. The world needs to know that on our two-hour drive this morning that began at 6:30am, Liam amused me from the back seat by fluttering his lips with his index finger and playing “God Bless America” and a medley of Bruno Mars.


So yes, I’m alone with Liam for a week, a situation I love and a situation that won’t happen many more times. There’s a thing happening to him, and that thing is called “growing up.” On our walk from the parking lot to the baseball camp I reached over to take hold of his hand. It’s been a long time since he’s held back, so this gesture fell more into the category of comedy. Sure enough, he took no more notice of my desperate hand than a twig. No, take that back. He’d love the feel of a twig in his hand, just so he could throw it at the center of a tree.


How do you think our kiss went? While we were still alone on the sidewalk I leaned over and said, “Now, I know you’ll want to kiss me when we’re surrounded by other 12-year-old boys, but that’ll embarrass me, okay, so let’s just get it over with now.”


Sarcasm. Don’t underestimate it.


So I leaned into his face and aimed for his lips but at the last second he—yes! that’s right, he turned his head. My son turned his face to offer me his cheek and not the golden lips, almost with a subtext of, “You should be happy you got a cheek, pal.”


And off he went and off I went, with all of Sacramento at my disposal for the next five hours. Excuse me if I mistake Sacramento for Rome or Istanbul or Hanoi. In truth it’s a dud of a town but its bike trail is legendary in these here parts. It runs along the American River for 20-30 miles to the town of Folsom, a winding trail through dried grass with occasional hillocks just to remind you that the world isn’t entirely flat. The river is lovely, is wild, has ripples of white that tell of rocks beneath.


For one hour I rode away from Liam’s cheek on this paved path along the river. Usually the weather in July in Sacramento is inside of a pizza oven, hot and dry and capable of turning human skin into crust—cracked and burnt at the edges. But not today. Today there is a sight as rare as a blimp above our heads, and that sight is… clouds. Yes, clouds, and with it the recollection of water, a recollection from long ago like the memories of an old lady about her childhood on a sled in Missouri. Long ago. Long ago there was rain in Sacramento though only the elders can speak of it, and those elders who speak of “days of rain that filled up the reservoirs to bursting” are laughed out of the tribe and have to sleep alone with the wolves.


So yes, today in Sacramento there is the visitation of wispy clouds, and a temperature in the mere 80s, and a boy that others will oversee while I ride my bike along a path that never seems to end.


My bike. My bike is 30 years old. Now that’s a staggering number. I bought it in 1984 after a priest broke into my cheap Datsun during broad daylight in San Francisco and stole my Motobecane. Okay, there’s no evidence that it was a priest, but there’s no evidence that it wasn’t a priest, so in the logic that Donald Rumsfeld used to attack Iraq for WMD’s that hadn’t been proven weren’t there—yes, try to wrap your brain around that logic—I hereby claim that you, kind reader, might be my bicycle thief. Can you prove that you weren’t? And don’t give me the shoddy alibi that you weren’t even born in 1984. Sheesh, you better do better than that.


Yes, one bike stolen, another bought, a Fuji that would take me across most of America in the ensuing years. I love my Fuji. I love my Fuji more than I love most of humanity—though the mullah I wrote about yesterday, the one who raped a 10-year-old girl in his mosque and then claimed she encouraged him, is still dear to my heart.


My Fuji is still running great after all these decades, though “great” is a term in dispute. I have to get off and manually shift the greasy chain when I’m going up a steep hill, but hey, c’mon, aren’t your knees a little gimpy and your eyesight a little blurry. That’s time, my friends, and time has its day with steel and tubes, too.


Do I have a problem? Do I need counseling? Do I need you to kindly pull me aside and to say, “Jim, your bike is 30 years old and your car has 400,000 miles on it and will probably gasp and die any day now, especially when you’re on a road far from home. Go ahead, you can do it. You can buy new things. You don’t have to be a slice of Guatamala.”


As my brother Joe once told me, “Jimmy, we’re poor… but we’re not that poor.”


He told me that a couple of summers ago, when I suggested that Liam and I share a hotel room with his wife and two boys. “We’re not Palestinians, sleeping 7 to a room,” he may have said, though it might have been my imagination saying something I should never say aloud. (Note: I used to be a cabdriver in Lakewood, Ohio, a city with lots of Palestinians who, sure enough, crowd into one apartment. I saw it with me own eyes.)


“Get your own room,” Joe told me. “We’re poor… but we’re not that poor.”


Will someone please utter those same words to me about my car and my bike? Will someone please tell me that new bikes have been built in the past 30 years, and that there are cars without bald tires and without transmissions slipping in a way that say, “Really? You’re expecting… what? another 400,000 miles out of this transmission?”


Breaking news flash!


There is a man at the table next to mine, a man about 35 years old with a shaved head and navy Dockers, his head resembling a thumb. He is selling medical insurance to a very old lady who spent a lot of time this morning getting her hair just right. It breaks my heart to see this snake-oil salesman fanning out brochures in front of this sweet lady, rattling off figures and dire situations: “Believe you me, you do not—I repeat, do not!—want to end up in an emergency room without this coverage. And today, well today is your lucky day because my manager—great guy, soft heart—tells me to move this coverage at a cut rate.”


Reason #4,328 why all Republicans who prevent universal medical care in America should be lined up and pelted with snowballs, or at least Twinkies.


But that’s not my point. My point is a simple one, and it’s this: Salesman and Thumb Head is wearing a wedding ring, and the wedding ring is white, and the wedding ring looks porcelain. That’s right: a white porcelain wedding ring.


Who, I ask the universe, who wears a white porcelain wedding ring?


Can you trust him? Really, I don’t care if he’s Nelson Mandela, everything about his sooty character is on display with the choice of that ring. Such things are not in isolation. A man who wears a bizarre white shiny wedding ring is a man who is apt to spend his day selling medical plans to distraught and feeble old ladies.


Am I right?


You know I’m right.




1 Comment

  1. Lainie

    Hurray for old bikes! I will be riding my 25 year old 10 speed this Sunday in the triathlon, proudly.

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