On The Road.
I accompany my friend Bernie on his daily five-mile morning bike ride from little Armenia to the Grove for work. En route we stop at a red light at the intersection of June and Melrose. A man is standing on the sidewalk with his little daughter in his arms. He calls out, “Hey, can you please help us? My daughter dropped her ball in the street.” He points to the median and we turn around to spot a small plush Dodgers baseball resting on the double yellow lines adjacent to a growing line of cars. The opposing cross-light counter is dwindling indicating an imminent change of light so we act without thinking. The light becomes green; I toss my bike over my shoulder and run to the middle of the road, grab the plush baseball and run to the sidewalk before an onslaught of cars pass.
The man and is standing on the opposite side of the street from us so we patiently wait for the lights to yet again switch before we cross and return the ball, at which point the man cheerfully declares, “Look baby girl, he found your ball, God sent you an angel to return your ball.” He expresses his gratitude once again before the light changes and we continue biking, leaving behind the thankful man and the little girl with her plush Dodgers baseball.
Bernie heads into work and I continue biking to a local Jewish diner where I sit alone at the bar and order Corned beef hash and a side of fruit and cottage cheese.
While Sipping coffee I reflect; the man actually referred to me as an angel. In my lifetime only my mother has ever called me an angel and even then it was only during my young and pure adolescence. Sure, this experience may in fact be trivial in the grand scheme of life, but I realize this event would have never occurred had I slept in an extra thirty minutes or had my supposed scene today not been cancelled. I don’t know if I necessarily believe in fate but I most certainly believe that things tend to happen for a reason. Today I did a good deed, I put forth positive energy into the world, and I made a child smile. I was rewarded with a divine compliment and a new story to tell, not to mention it’s a Sunday, so that has to account for something, right?
Later, My friend Hank invites me to accompany him on an extended bike ride along the coast of Huntington Beach and up toward Marina Del Ray.
We plan to begin our journey Monday morning at 10am but have to make adjustments due to unforeseen scheduling conflicts, that is, I meet a new friend and this wonderful young lady is kind enough to spend the evening and sleepover. In the morning I have to drive her home, well, back to her respective model house in the armpit of the valley, but for all intents and purposes, home. This leads to Hank and I getting a slow start to the day and we end up leaving towards the shores at 1pm.
We alter our plan accordingly. I bike to his apartment in Hollywood but forget to pack my lights; together we bike back to my apartment and while there I realize I have some uneaten edibles so we both eat 10mg chocolate cookies. Then we begin our sixteen-mile back-road trek using Bernie’s exact route to bring us through West Hollywood and further to the Santa Monica Pier all in mid-day traffic. Needless to say we have our work cut out for us.
Upon reaching the sand we ride leisurely along the bike path taking in the near setting sun before getting a table at a respectable restaurant where we can have an indulgent meal. We settle on Barney’s Beanery in the promenade so we can have a couple beers and watch the first quarter of the Eagles game while eating Reuben sandwiches and Mac N’ Cheese bites.
After, we are homeward bound. We decide to alter the route back in favor of a more direct approach. Biking Wilshire is akin to riding alongside the shoulder of a gridlocked highway; we are weaving in and out of four lanes of standstill traffic. We turn left onto Veteran and it then I discover my headlight has burned out; meanwhile Veteran turns out to be a three-mile long pothole ridden hill cast in complete darkness.
We turn right on Sunset. West of Beverly Hills Sunset Boulevard becomes a Hot Wheels racetrack. We fight and pedal like beasts up and down winding roads and unrelenting inclines. I can’t even see twenty feet in front of my face but I continue wrapping around the bends.
Ten miles later and we find ourselves in the heart of the design district of West Hollywood with flooding memories of the previous year.
Five miles to go and the rest is a cakewalk; I bike this neighborhood on an almost daily basis, in fact this is Bernie’s work route, from here on in the remainder of the journey is mere muscle memory.
East on Beverly then north on Fairfax then east on Oakwood then north on Orange then east on Rosewood then north on June then east on Melrose then South on Wilcox then heading east on Clinton we come to an intersection where the adjacent street has a stop-sign but Clinton does not. I am leading and as I pass through the intersection so does an oncoming van without turn signals. In a split second I saw the blinding headlights turn into me and I heard Hank scream, “Yo!” The van and I simultaneously slam our brakes – theirs creates an ear-piercing screech and mine sends my bike into a nose wheelie. Then we kiss. My front tire gingerly bounces against the van’s front bumper in a gloriously anti-climatic fashion. Recollect, Deep breath, crisis averted. The driver and I lock eyes – he is pleading, “Oh my god, I am so sorry!” In complete shock stare at him and utter, “You are so fucking lucky.” Then we part ways. The van disappears into the night and we continue biking; traffic resumes, business as usual. Shortly thereafter Hank and I say our goodbyes and go our separate ways.
I return home and recollect. I honestly can’t believe I survived tonight. Head on collision aside, the second half of this trip was not meant to be biked, we were not supposed to be on these roads in the dark. We should have quit and we should have submitted, but we didn’t, we kept pushing forward until there was no other option but to succeed and we preserved through it like men.
I like to think on this night I looked death right in the face and with a shit-eating grin I commanded, “Suck my dick.”
Or maybe that’s just my arrogance, my human condition, and my hubris talking. Maybe I am the one who is really fucking lucky and somebody was out there tonight watching over me, for whatever reason I can't even begin to imagine but you just never know...stranger things have happened.