Friday, May 15, 2009

Deacon Amos Tells a Story - My First Brush With Bicycle Heaven

It's amazing how hard it is to make friends when you live in a church building. In my mind I thought it would be the ultimate cool. I mean, hide in seek is so much fun when you can take cover under a pew or in the baptistery, games of tag can be played completely indoors, and then there's the epic adventure I liked to call "what creepy things can we find in the basement." But alas, much of my time while living in that building was spent alone, save for the occasional game of mini-hoop basketball with my co-dependent friend, Michael. Top this all off with that sad fact that, in a small town like Sutherlin, the options for a grade-school boy's entertainment were pretty much limited to egg and toilet paper based sports in your teacher's front lawn. Yes, things were getting a little stale until I found the bike.

It was there all along, a black Diamond Back mountain bike with knobbies and grip shifts, complete with rear rack (which I later found out, through a great deal of yelling and spankings, was not a suitable passenger seat), but for some reason I had never considered it. Maybe because my dad was quick to remind us that, in a household supported completely by the considerate donations of old ladies and homophobes, $250 was a lot of money, and any destruction of property that costs that much was cause for hanging. This nagging fear of a parental-administered death penalty, combined with the knowledge that I had last ridden a bike at the age of 6 kept me away from that corner of the back yard and it's giant, menacing cable lock.

I did eventually take it out for a ride one sunny summer day when all of the other kids were at the lake. It was unstable and intimidating at first, the shifting was confusing and the steering wobbly, and I nearly ran into a parked car on more than one occasion. But after an hour of swerving and skidding I got the hang of it, and soon I was addicted. I flew through town with the grace of Clyde Drexler, jumping curbs and diving into potholes. My heart raced as I attempted to keep pace with cars and shot down steep hills at blazing speeds, my dad's enormous Bell helmet rattling around on or near the top of my head. I was free. This little hick town had never felt so wild and exciting.

On my way home one evening after a long ride out to Oakland I was motioned to pull into the Abby's Pizza parking lot by a cop. I thought for sure I had done it this time. What did I do wrong? In my nervous frenzy to set my kickstand I ran my front tire over the officer's foot. I nearly cried out of terror. In fact, I might have, that wasn't terribly uncommon for me back then. The officer glared at me over his t-shades and, after a brief pause said "Hey kid, we just wanted to say thank you for wearing a helmet, here's a free pizza coupon."

I was so excited and pleased with myself that I ran back to the church and immediately told my neighbor and classmate Robert Roper about what had just happened to me. I told him all about the wild turkeys I saw in Oakland, my top speed (65 mph, of course) on the hills, and how the Police had stopped me and given me a free pizza. Take that, Robert! I bet your day sucked compared to that! I bet you've never even ridden that far in your life!

"Whatever, mountain bikes are for fags."

And just like that I was once again a loser who lived in a church building. The Diamond Back was soon a pile of rust, and I spent the rest of the summer watching Pacific Blue.

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