06 September 2010

Labor Day: Cycling and the End of a Summer Romance

Today I did something I promised myself I wouldn't do this weekend:  I cycled along some beaches.  

If you've read some of my previous posts in this or my other blog, you know that I love the ocean.  However, I didn't want to deal with the crowds and traffic I expected to find today, which was Labor Day.

However, the South Shore beaches on Long Island and the Rockaways didn't have nearly the crowds I expected.  I'm sure that some people who go to the local beaches on other summer weekends were elsewhere:  out of the area, or at barbecues or other gatherings with families and friends.  But I think that the breezy and  relatively cool weather (The temperature didn't rise much past 70F along the beach areas, and didn't reach 80 in Manhattan.) probably deterred some people.  Even Coney Island, where I ended my ride, had fewer people than I anticipated.

It's hard to go to a beach at the de facto end of summer and not think of another feature of the season:  the summer romance.

I've had a couple of those, and one with whom I shared cycling, including some rides to the beach.   

The time was one summer in the mid-1990's.  That was an interesting time to be in New York:  the city was, in various ways, just beginning to transition out of the '80's. It was still early in Rudy Giuliani's long tenure as Mayor, and Times Square was in its last days before Disneyfication.  Even apart from that, one could sense that much that was familiar in the city would soon disappear and be replaced by edifices that are more glamorous, high-tech or simply tourist-friendly.  And while the city had eradicated graffiti from the subways and other public areas, at least for the time being, it was not hard to see that with all of the hip-hop that was playing, there was and would be other things pour epater la bourgeoisie--precisely because the bourgeoisie were taking over the city in all sorts of ways nobody had previously imagined.

OK, so what does that have to do with cycling and summer romance?  Well, it also seemed that around that time, more and more people were coming to the city, not only as tourists, but to jump-start careers and other parts of their lives.  One such person became my summer romance--and sometime biking partner--that year.

She had come to New York as a visiting faculty member and researcher at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine.  Eileen was a podiatrist who had been practicing in an area of rural Maine far removed from the vacationers of Bar Harbor and other resorts.  The college wanted her for the expertise she'd developed in treating foot problems in juvenile diabetics, if I recall correctly.  

To this day, I wonder what she saw in me back then.  Yes, I was in very good shape:  I was riding everywhere I couldn't fly and lifting weights.  But in New York City, there had to be thousands of men within a few years of my age who also fit that description.  She also said I was "erudite" and "charming."  Again, if that was true, I was only one of many.

During the course of one of our rides, she said she couldn't believe there was so much waterfront in New York City.  I told her that, even after living much of my life in New York, I couldn't believe how little respect New Yorkers--or policymakers, at any rate--seemed to have for it.

I also took her on some of the most strangely bucolic rides she'd ever taken:  the Wall Street area on a Sunday, for one.  And  we went on eating tours in Chinatown, Flushing, Bensonhurst (which still was mainly Italian) and other neighborhoods--on our bikes.

By Labor Day, she was back in Maine.  This is the first time in many years I've thought about her.  I probably wouldn't have thought about her if I hadn't gone off on the tangents you've read (if you've read this far) in this post.  It's not that we had an angry breakup or any other cataclysm:  We simply had the understanding that our relationship, such as it was, would continue only as long as she was in New York.  She was a good biking partner, and good company overall.  But, as far as I can tell, she was a straight woman to the core, although she did once say that one of the things she liked about me--and the very reason why we couldn't be long-term partners--was that, as she believed and I know, I am a woman at my core.

Then again, some things are meant to last only the summer.  Fortunately, cycling is not one of them, at least for me.

Finally, here's proof that one should take summer romances--and, at times, even cycling, only so seriously:

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