Rides 4/6: mice

A digression of sorts.

There are two types of people, city people and country people. This is all the types of people. I didn't make the rules, but this is what they are. You're either a city person or a country person. You either marvel at the works of humanity or you marvel of the works of nature. These are the only two things you can marvel at- again, I must apologize as these rules aren't mine, but they are the rules. (You can get quite in trouble when you try to bend the rules and ask for in-between spaces. City people in the country want the amenities of the city, but build half-cities which insult both the works of nature and the works of humanity and their hybrid nature perpetually disappoints. Country people in the city want ever more country in the city, thereby asking the city to be fundamentally different from what it is). I am, unapologetically, a city person. There's nothing wrong with being a country person, but that's not me. [I wandered around an REI yesterday and my confusion/apathy/terror confirmed this.] And this is good because I live in a city.

Aside from being a city person, I am a bike commuter. Maybe I'm a bike commuter because I am a city person. I would think that I would commute by bicycle if I lived in the country, but I don't live in the country, and if I lived in the country, perhaps I would climb on my bicycle each day and take off down some dirt road by a dale and a stream and some wooden fences and I would marvel at the glories of nature and its bounty of trees and flowers and grasses and small woodland creatures and I would make my way through nature, exultant, choosing the bicycle as the means by which I would transcend distance. Or perhaps I'd find that very boring because beautiful things can still be stultifying to one who has the wrong constitution. But the long and short of it is that I live in a city and I ride my bicycle in a city and a city is what has been placed between my home and work.

And I couldn't be luckier.

Circumstance and history and human ingenuity have conspired to put an amazing place between where I start and where I finish everyday. Like nature, it breathes. Like nature, it grows and like nature it dies. But even dying things are alive and the perpetual change, change wrought of intention and change wrought of inertia, is both the setting and the plot of my bicycle commute.

If you're lucky enough to live in a city and lucky enough to commute by bicycle, you know this. And there are maxims by which you should abide:

notice the new
seek diversion
there are no obstacles
go out of your way to go out of your way

When you drive in a city, or at least any city worth the hassle, everything's a hassle and everything's an obstacle. It was Escape From New York, not Escape In New York. Even if you're an avowed city person, driving has a way of circumscribing your trips. Cars mean freedom, until they don't. Many drivers will go off their route to get to work faster. A shortcut. How many will go off their route to feel what the baseball stadium feels like on the morning of opening day? Can you even feel it through a windshield? They don't do it and it's not from a lack of heart or sufficient attachment to baseball- lord knows many more people feel that much more in their hearts than I do- but it's a structural problem. In a city you don't take a car out of the way because it's a hassle and so you just go from point A to point B, even if you're lyrical and sentimental. Maybe you drive by the cherry blossoms and you slow down a little to go 'yup, trees' or maybe you don't because they're only trees after all and there are places to be. Turning a city into an obstacle is a disservice to your soul. "That's deep," says no one.

I think it's a mistake to equate change, which is ambivalent, to progress, which sounds positive. You can stop progress, but you can't really stop change. You can observe both, especially from a bicycle and especially when riding it everyday through a city. And what a perch! At the cost of ten minutes (no cost, really) I went out of the way to see things I wouldn't normally see and at the cost of ten minutes later in the day, I went back, but a different way still. Because I could. Bicycle commuting makes things possible. There are trade- offs; namely, you have to get yourself to where you're going through your own power, but you get used to this after a while and it's faster than walking, so if you use that as a baseline, you're already coming out ahead. I wish I could walk to work, but it would take too long.

I don't really have any good way to wrap up this post. I guess I have to, but I'm allowed to start up again tomorrow with a new one. I might go past the ballpark again or maybe down by the trees or maybe I won't and that's all right too. That's for figuring out tomorrow.


  1. Sometimes it's difficult to comment on a post like this because it speaks to a person on a level that isn't always communicable in word form. There is something wonderful here and I just can't quite find the words to speak to it at the moment. So, instead I will just say thank you for sharing this and thanks to MG for linking to it from her blog.

  2. I often feel the same way. Thanks so much for writing something, even if it isn't the exact something. It really means a lot.

  3. Thanks for this. It's difficult for me (or maybe most of us) to explain why I ride. Talented bloggers like Gear Prudence do this for me, and make my life just that much easier...