03 August 2010

Blood Under My Cleats

"Le sang coule dans les rues..."

Yes, I've ridden my bike in Paris--but not in 1572 or 1789 or 1871.  So I never got to see blood running in the streets, at least not in the City of Light.  

However, I did see blood running on the streets--and sidewalks--here:

To be precise, it was underneath the viaduct that I saw a thick crimson current.  Back in those days, the street scene looked more like this:

And one could see things that would turn him or her into a vegetarian on the spot:

I found this photo, and the one before it, on one of my favorite websites:  Forgotten NY.  The neighborhood shown in these photos is the Meatpacking District.  Ironically, it's now home to some of the trendiest shops and cafes in the city, as any fan of Sex and the City knows.

I rode down there today.  Actually, my doctor's office is a few blocks away and, after having my blood drawn, I ended my fast in the nearby park with tea and a corn muffin from The Donut Pub.  (I also bought a cherry donut for later in the day. I guarantee you that if you ever go there, you'll never even look at a Krispy Kreme again!)  

Fortunately, I didn't see any animal offal before or after consuming my impromptu brunch.  But, as I rode, I recalled a time when I was riding back from New Jersey.  Just after I got off the Staten Island Ferry, it began to rain.  The rain grew heavier as I pedalled up West Street and, finally, when I could barely see where I was going, I ducked underneath the viaduct you saw in the first photo.

I had just begun to ride with Look road pedals.  Those of you who ride them know that those cleats, like most road racing cleats, aren't made for walking.  I unclipped my left foot and touched down on the sidewalk--actually, in a pool of blood on the sidewalk.

The cleat at the bottom of my shoe was nearly smooth and flat.  It could just as well have been covered with grease.  My foot slid out from under me and I landed on my side--in another pool of animal blood.  When I got back up, I saw that my left side was covered with it, and it had spattered me on the front.  

Being covered with blood that is not your own is disconcerting enough. But what really upset me was that it ruined my favorite jersey I owned at the time:  a replica of the one Bernard Hinault and Greg Le Mond wore in the 1985 Tour de France.

In those days, I was skinny and could get away with wearing it!  

When the rain let up, I continued riding.  Eva had been visiting some friend of hers who didn't like me, and I didn't expect her to be back at the apartment when I arrived.  

"What the hell happened to you?"

All I could do was laugh.  Trying to explain it made me laugh even harder.  Soon, she couldn't help herself, either.  And, in one of the nicer surprises of the time we were together, she actually bought me a replacement for it.   

Every once in a while, she'd go for a ride with me.  I can guarantee you, though, that we never went to the Meat Packing District.  And we never walked or rode on the viaduct--which,in those days, never looked like this:

Now it's called The High Line.  It's supposedly inspired by the Viaduc des Arts in Paris, which, like the High Line, is an abandoned railway.  The High Line does have some nice flora and fauna tucked in among cafes that serve hundred dollar plates of spaghetti.  And   cycling isn't allowed on it.

Back in the day, one might have seen something like this on the Line:

When I was young (believe it or not!), the New York Central, which gave its name to Grand Central Station, was the second largest railroad in the country.  The Pennsylvania Railroad, for which Penn Station was named, was the largest. (It was once the largest company of any kind.)  But they, like most American railroads after World War II, were in decline.  So, someone had the bright idea of combining them into a company that would be "too big to fail".  The marriage was consummated, so to speak, in 1968; it lasted all but two years.  When Penn Central failed, it caused a crash on Wall Street and nearly brought down the US economy with it.

I know, banks and brokerage houses are different.  But you'd think that among all of those people with fancy degrees, someone would've remembered at least that much economic history.

After I finished my corn muffin and tea, I continued riding.  At least that's one thing nobody forgets how to do.  And there was no blood to clean afterward!

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