21 June 2011

Something I Didn't Know I Missed

I just remembered the stars
I love them, too
whether I'm floored watching them from below
or whether I'm flying at their side.

Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet wrote those lines in his wonderful poem, "Things I Didn't Know I Loved."  Think of what "My Favorite Things" might have been like had Julie Andrews been Turkish, lived in Russia and spent a decade or two in prison for opposing her government and advocating world Communism.

This evening, you might say that I experienced Something I Didn't Know I Missed.  I took an early evening ride with a new friend--yes, the new riding partner I've mentioned--and got home invigorated.  

Back when I was at Rutgers, I used to ride a couple of evenings a week with a group of cyclists from the local club. We finished our day's work or classes at around the same time and, since we were within a few-mile radius, it was fairly easy to meet early enough so that we'd have a couple of hours of daylight, or non-darkness, at least at this time of the year.  We'd put in anywhere from 20 to 40 miles, depending on when and where we started and what kind of pace we kept.  

Sometimes the rides took us along the turbid river; other times, we pedalled up the foothills of the Watchungs, which poked out like the aged but not dulled edges of the teeth of an old woman who had lived through anger and melancholy.  I had some vague notion, then, that I was looking at the future, if not my future.   A few times, we even took late-Friday rides to the ocean, where, if we were lucky, we'd see reflections of stars on darkening blue waves, and we'd spend the weekend with someone or another who had a rental or time-share in one of the nearby bungalows.

I didn't merely enjoy those rides at the end of the day; they were a kind of jeu d'esprit for me.  Perhaps that is the reason why they would, in time, become the first rides I would ever lead.  

Then I graduated, moved, moved on and didn't think about those rides for a long time.  I did not get into the habit of late-day or early-evening rides again for another two decades or so.  By then, I was living in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I was training regularly in Prospect Park, so I was always hooking up with someone or another.  In those days, I rode mainly with other male cyclists because I was still living as male and was in the best condition of my life, so it was difficult to find a female cyclist who could challenge me. The exception was Tammy who, of all of the people with whom I was ever in an intimate relationship, was the only one who even came close to sharing my enthusiasm for cycling.

I didn't know, until today, how much I missed those twilight rides with someone who shares my enthusiasm for them.  I have taken such rides by myself, as I like to ride alone sometimes.  But a ride into the sunset, if you will, becomes even more interesting with someone else because it allows you and the person accompanying you to let down the defenses, or simply release the stress of that day.  It's sort of a healthier version of taking a cigarette break with someone.

Tonight Lakythia and I met at the little park with the big statue where we'd met for our previous two rides.  Near the end of our ride, I half-jokingly pointed out that we had done le Tour de Brooklyn Juif:  the tour of Jewish Brooklyn.  We'd pedaled through back streets of Williamsburg that would not have looked out of place in the Warsaw stetl during the 1930's; from there,  between rows of grand houses on and near Eastern Parkway that, as elegant as they are, seem to reflect the graying post-Hapsburg skies of Mittleuropa. From there, we rolled down a couple of streets with long, slow inclines to  the modern homes of modern Orthodox Jews in  Midwood and Flatbush.


After all of that, we ended up in Sheepshead Bay, which looks more like a New England fishing village.  And we'd done about 30 miles, all told. 

I never knew I missed ending a day in this way.

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