When I was growing up, Mikey was a fixture in the neighborhood. About five years older than me, Mikey was severely retarded. I mean in the literal sense. Mikey was a nice enough kid and everyone knew him because all he did was ride his bike. It was usually a cheap toy store BMX bike in various states of disrepair. I’d ride around with him once in a while but I’d see him all the time. We lived on top of a giant hill. The kind you coast down for over a mile and can hit 50 if you tucked down. Getting up it was always a bear. I only rode up it a few times before I realized it wasn’t worth it. That never stopped Mikey from riding down the hill daily. He’d meander around with stops at the occasional Turkey Hill store for iced tea or a snack. I’d always wave when I rode by Mikey and he’d give a wave and hearty smile back to me. Once as I was driving up the monstrous hill, I passed Mikey. He was riding up one handed eating an ice cream cone.
About 15 years ago I became aware of the Goob. I never picked up his real name as he has got to be close to twenty years younger than me. My younger friends knew his sister. The Goob is a nice enough kid too. He’s a bit slow and has glasses so thick you’d think he could see next week with them. He’d walk or ride around the neighborhood as well. You’d see him pop up all over the place, anytime of day. In fact, I just saw him on his orange bike today in the shopping center parking lot. I looked over to him and raised my hand. He kinda stared in my direction but didn’t seem react in any way. Even though we have spoken in the past, he never seems to remember me.
I can remember talking to my dad about Mikey. He said he felt sorry for Mikey because all he did was ride his bike. He couldn’t hold a job. It was hard enough to hold a conversation with him. Mikey’s life was riding up and down that hill, day in and day out. I looked at the Goob today and thought the same thing. He just cruises around the same square mile everyday. Always has and always will. I told my dad not to feel sorry for Mikey because he has the bike and it opened the world to him. Without it, he’d have spent his life in front of a TV or maybe in a some kind of home because he couldn’t find his place in the world. Mikey found something to do, met everyone within a mile of his parents’ house, stayed healthy and strong. It never occurred to my father that I viewed Mikey as a peer. He and I rode thirty years ago. We still ride today. Mikey is the only guy I know from those days who stuck with it just like me.
This blog is usually about things that happen to me when I am riding and my reflections upon them. Today it was the Goob. How could I judge him for leading his harmless little life? I was in my corner of the parking lot doing my tricks when I saw him today. I was in the same corner of the same parking lot doing my tricks when I first saw him somewhere around 1996. Everyone who writes about bicycles talks about the glories and defeats, the simplicity and the metaphysical transcendence. While those highs and lows do stand out, sometimes it is just another day. Another day for Mikey, the Goob and me.
Ray was walking through the airport when he saw a celebrity. Not just some local guy people kinda knew, this was the real deal. This was a guy who was known around the world. American royalty. He was being hounded by the paparazzi as he tried to make his way through the terminal. As they passed each other, Ray caught his eye and said, “Remember, these are the good times.” The celebrity looked at Ray and acknowledge the sentiment. Ray told me that was his dad’s line. Ray Sr. was a wise old man.
About ten years ago my friend had an accident. He got electrocuted and the charge basically evaporated all the moisture in his feet. They burst and had to be amputated. I remember one night a couple of months later I went over to his house and sat out in the yard by his fire pit. He explained how difficult it was not being able to do anything. He needed help getting around his house. He said that in a couple of months he could get fitted for prosthetics but his wounds had to heal and take their final form. I told him that he was just going to have to grind through the wheelchair time and soon enough he’d but up and around by himself. His reply was that everyone told him he’d have to be patient but by this point his “patience was on fire.” That line was probably the most accurate way to describe his angst that anyone could have ever come up with.
I was at a huge BMX contest and I was talking with my friend Mike when I pointed out that Bob Haro was there. Mike wasn’t impressed with that at all. I told him that he had to respect Bob because he invented freestyle riding. He was responsible for what we did. Mike told me “If he hadn’t done it, someone else would have.” There was some truth to what Mike said.
When I got engaged I worked with a married couple at a restaurant. I asked Bob who the boss was in his marriage, him or Mary. He told me Mary was and he believed that’s the way it is in most marriages. When I asked him why he told me “Because, Brett, most of the time men don’t give a shit.” That line rang in my ears as I was in Bed, Bath and Beyond and being asked my opinion on what color towels we should choose for the bathroom.
I heard Jack and Kelly arguing in the next room. Jack told me he had gotten hurt and Kelly was laughing at him. He asked me “Why do girls always laugh when boys get hurt?” I wrapped my head around that and spent the next couple of days asking the women I knew. Almost without fail, their answer was “Because boys are usually doing something stupid when they get hurt.” Pretty much hit the nail on the head with that line.
I came home from a funeral when I was still living with my parents. My dad asked where I had been and I told him about my friend who had hanged himself in his parents’ basement. “I wonder if he is happy now” slipped out of my father and cut into me.
Everyday we hear things. Some of them will stick with us throughout our lives. Choices of words, profound, succinct, honest and provocative. I’ll never forget any of these lines. I carry them with me. What are yours?
Yesterday I was out riding when I ran into my former next door neighbor. She is around 70 and saw us raise a family and blow up a marriage. As she is old enough not to give a damn what she says, she proceeded to fill me in on what is going on at my old house. I heard about my ex, the new guy, the kids and a bunch of other stuff I really didn’t want to know. I tried to stop her but she kept gossipping. I guess that is about all there is in her life since her husband, my friend, died a few years ago.
I got pretty tweaked about all of this. Lots of somber introspection. I spent a good bit of time listening to music as I rode, drove and did chores around the house. It gave me a distraction and sometimes a little solace. I sat down about four times trying to write about the emotions and thoughts in my head. Then I realized the words have already been written. Enjoy.
I gotta shake this feeling. Then I remembered about a friend who lost his girl way back. He called me for a pep talk. I didn’t know what to say but again, someone else already figured it out.
Tomorrow foot will be put to ass.