Today was hot and humid and I woke up late. So I did a short ride, albeit on my fixed-gear bike. I had no specific destination; I just knew I wanted to get home about two hours after I started riding.
I sluiced through some of the deserted industrial side streets of Woodside and Maspeth to Ridgewood. Then I took another ski-slalom route through streets that intersected, at varying angles, Fresh Pond Road, Myrtle Avenue and Cooper Avenue, out to Forest Park. But I didn't go into the park; instead, I turned around and let my wheels spin my cranks and legs down the gradual slope of 88th Street to St. John's Cemetery, where I turned back on to Cooper Avenue to 80th Street.
Up to that point, it was a pleasant enough ride. But on 80th Street, one of those black cars that are status symbols to no one but their owners (who regard them as such only because they spent much more than they should have) tailed a van until the driver--a woman of 60 or so who, thirty years ago in my old neighborhood, would have been driving a Lincoln Continental--tried to pass the van, but couldn't. And she was leaning on her horn.
At the other end of the cemetery, I stopped for a traffic light. Her passenger rolled down the window. The driver yelled, "Waddaya doin? Ya gonna get killed out here."
"The way you're driving, yeah, I just might."
The light turned and that driver slammed the horn as the van turned in front of her. Although I had planned to turn in the same direction, I went straight just to avoid her.
That, actually, was a good turn of events, if you will, for it brought me to Juniper Valley Park. If Central or Prospect Park had been located amidst suburban developments, it might have been something like Juniper Valley. Riding in or around that park, you could forget that you are in New York City, or even Queens: The neighborhoods around them are full of houses that have real lawns and backyards where people plant flowers and shrubs. And, the park itself is pretty in the way a country cottage might be, rather than architecturally stunning as Central and Prospect Parks are.
Don't get me wrong: I love Central and Prospect, having spent many hours walking, cycling and seeing performances of one kind and another in them. But pedaling or strolling in or around Juniper Valley is somehow a less self-conscious act than cycling or walking in those other parks. Maybe it has to do with the more suburban character of the neighborhoods around Juniper Valley: They are full of families with young children, and even the parents who work in the professions or on Wall Street can't properly be called yuppies. Many who don't have such jobs or careers are union plumbers, electricians and such.
What that all means is that nobody goes to Juniper Valley to be seen. They might go to meet friends or aunts and uncles and cousins to whom they might want to show off, but, really, they can't improve their actual or perceived social status in such a meeting.
It's funny that I used to avoid such people and situations. I guess, in a way, they were like my family in a parallel universe, and the last thing in the world I wanted was Family: the institution or my own particular clan.
But now I find that the people I meet there are friendly, or at least obliging. One of them took the photo of me with my bike. It's the first photo anyone's taken of me with any of my bikes since my operation. Try not to notice the weight I've gained through months of inactivity--please!
I hope that by the end of the summer, I'll be in better shape! But at least I had a pleasant (crazy driver not withstanding) ride today.