After work today I flew to San Francisco and have been taking in the Bay Area hills and wind from my bike. And, yes, I rode by Stanford:
All right. So I wasn't in the Bay Area. I was really in Hollywood. Well, kinda sorta. I was actually in a neighborhood called Holliswood, which isn't far from where I work. But I had never been in it before. At the intersection of Palo Alto and Palo Alto, a car pulled up to me. A woman whom I would have guessed to be a few years older than me leaned out of her window and asked whether I knew where the Holliswood Hospital is.
"Sorry, I don't. Have a good day."
Well, I took a right at that intersection, and two blocks later, there was the hospital! I felt bad for that woman: For all I knew, she drove miles in the opposite direction.
Anyway, as it was an utterly gorgeous, if somewhat windy, afternoon, I just rode wherever Arielle took me. Much of the time, I didn't know where I was. I didn't mind, really: Along the way, I stopped at a drive-in convenience store for a drink and snack. Two men worked there: I got the impression they were the proprietor and his son, and they had lived in the town--Lynbrook--all of their lives. And they seemed especially eager to help me--even more so than the other customers, for some reason.
Then I took my Diet Coke with lime and Edy's dixie cup to a schoolyard/playground a block away. I went there because I saw benches in the shade: I'd been in the sun for a couple of hours and wanted to get out of it for a few minutes, even though the weather wasn't hot at all. There, another black woman a few years older than me started a conversation with me upon seeing Arielle. She started riding again "a few years ago," after having both of her hips replaced and back surgery. She says that even though her rides aren't as long as those of some of the cyclists she sees, it's "what I enjoy most in my life, apart from my grandchildren." I'll think about her the next time I'm whining (even if only to myself) about feeling subpar.
When I got on my bike again, I finally knew where I was when I had to stop at a grade crossing for a passing Long Island Rail Road (Yes, they still spell "Rail Road" as two words.) commuter train.
I had stopped at that same crossing, which was on Franklin Road, the last time I cycled there. That was eight years ago, at this time of year. Then, as now, I didn't get there intentionally, but I didn't mind being there.
I took that ride eight years ago at about this time in September, if I recall correctly. I probably do, because I also recall it as being around the time I started teaching at La Guardia Community College, which begins its Fall semester around this time of the month. And it was also about three weeks after I moved out of the apartment Tammy and I shared, and into a neighborhood where I knew no one.
Even though it was less than an hours' ride from where Tammy and I had been living (in Park Slope, Brooklyn), the block to which I moved--which is only seven blocks from where I now live--seemed even more foreign to me than Paris did when I first saw it. So, for that matter, did most of the rest of Queens, not to mention the Nassau County towns through which I pedaled then and today.
I think that day at the railroad crossing, I knew--or, perhaps, simply accepted the fact--that I was entering a new and very uncertain stage of my life. I knew what I wanted and needed to do: In fact, a year earlier I had the experience that taught me I really had no choice but to do it. And I also realized something I didn't quite understand at the time: that I wasn't going to be riding "as" Nick for much longer, and that also meant that I probably wouldn't be riding with the racers and wannabes.
Why didn't I know what all of that meant? Well, I did know one thing: that the difference between cycling as Nick and cycling as Justine would not be just a matter of wearing different clothes, having longer hair and possibly riding a different bike. But how else, I wondered, would they differ? I even asked myself whether I would continue cycling. After all, I didn't know any other cyclists who were transitioning, and I didn't know (or didn't know that I knew) any who were post-op. Would I even be able to continue?
Well, of course, I found some of the answers through my own research (This is one time I was thankful for the Internet.) and from women cyclists I know. And, since my operation, Velouria and others have given me some very helpful advice.
One thing hasn't changed: I often end up by the ocean even when it isn't my intent.
I was happy to go to there, though: Only a few people strolled the boardwalks, and even fewer were on the beaches. I didn't see anyone swimming.
And then there were the couples that remained after the summer romances ended:
Actually, I know nothing about them. I took the photo because I liked her skirt.
And, once again, I ended up in Coney Island, where I rode down the pier to take a couple of photos.
The young man who was just hanging out was the only other person there. He asked me what I was doing tonight. Now that's something I wouldn't have anticipated at that crossing eight years ago!