Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Woodpecker on Robinson Street


Today I rode my bike in to the office for the first time this year. It was a little chilly -- 43 degrees according to my GDesklets when I sat down at the office. But only my fingertips and earlobes got cold. I didn't ride for the exercise or some altruistic motive like making the environment better. I rode because I love to ride.
When I woke up the first thing I did was look out the window like a kid on Christmas morning looking for snow. The roads were dry. That was all I needed. I got dressed, took care of the necessities, stuck an orange in my coat pocket, and set forth.
See, you can't really say things like "and set forth" when you're getting behind he wheel of your Dodge Caravan. Well, you can, but only to amuse the kids.
A quick check of the tire pressure on my old Giant and I peddled out of the driveway. I left the pressure at about 80 pounds for this first ride, not the usual rock solid 110 or so. My behind needs the little cushion this early in the season.
I took the scenic route in. When I'm in a hurry I'll hop on the main drag and infuriate traffic by riding along with them. But today I was in it for the experience.
A block down from my house was an older guy, sitting on his front porch and enjoying the morning in his way, just as I was enjoying it in mine. We exchanged a wave, and a knowing glance. The fools were inside, or in their four-wheeled metal isolation traps, the glance said.
On Robinson street I heard a the hollow pounding of a woodpecker searching for his breakfast. I stopped and examined the direction the sound was coming from until I saw him, perched high in a tree just beginning to bud. His head was a blur as he dug away for breakfast. I always wonder how they can stand the noise. Are their skulls somehow immune for it? Growing up we'd search out woodpeckers in the forest after hearing the sound resonate through the trees from thousands of feet away, just to be able to point up and say "There he is!". Woodpeckers, in my stories, are always he's.
I saw of pair of chairs thrown out with the trash. They were worn, and had no finish, but they didn't look like the pre-made particulate garbage you can buy these days. They were real, solid wood chairs. But there they were, on the curb, waiting for the garbage truck and the dump.
Behind Cahills I saw a big outdoor grill. Smoke rose from it as a man stood there, apparently just getting it fired up. I wondered what breakfast they could possibly be cooking on the grill. I caught the scent of campfire further down the block, but no food. They must be getting it ready for lunch.
I watched as a couple and their young children came out of a Habitat house. I noticed the way the last child out shut the screen door with care, instead of just letting it pull back with a jam-rattling bang. It gave me a vague sense of hope.
As if for the first time I saw a little lot with three pine trees, immaculately kept, next to a lovely small house.
I saw the giant roll-off garbage bin next to the house with the boarded up windows that was gutted by fire. The bin was full. There were construction and electrical contractor signs in the front yard, so life may be coming back there. I hope so.
I noticed again the child's Batmobile sitting on a shelf, attached eight feet up the side of a tree. Before I'd always thought it some strange token, an odd marker. Today it looked like punishment, a plaything set out of reach for some childhood crime.
I rode through the Renaissance district, and saw the amazing change that is still taking place there. How many people that complain about the cost have actually taken time to go through the area, and look closely at the houses there, and the change that has taken place?
I sat at a stop light, next to a guy in a maroon four door. I was grateful for the respite from sitting on that narrow racing seat. I've really got to find something more comfortable. He was eating a bagel that clearly had just come from the Java Hut. It was still partially wrapped in aluminum foil. We waited while the south side got to turn left, and thought we'd then get a green. But the light did not turn for us, it turned again for the folks going east-west. I threw my arms in the air, and he did the same. I could have just hopped off the bike and walked it across, as the traffic was clear. But I coasted over to the stop light and hit the 'Cross Main Street' button, and moments later we both went.
I saw one other bicyclist on the way in, a young man on a bmx - style bike who would not meet my eye. What was his problem? Wasn't he aware of the brotherhood? A smile and perhaps a wave, or at least a nod of the head, were required. But he looked like he was coming from somewhere, and not really going anywhere. He rode by in silence, staring at the ground in front of him, missing the morning.
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