Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Gates

It was bitter cold though she still danced without her cane on the sidewalk outside the bodega. Somehow we inspire others to act out. It’s contagious.

She was dancing to our boom box while some guys were inside buying beers. Her foot didn’t look so good, wrapped in dirty gauze. She didn’t look too good in general, maybe drunk already. We were getting there and we must have been dirty too, the way playing with chopped bikes always gets dirty. We’d stopped a cross street, in the hundreds, on the west side. Wherever we go, its a parade and a party. Some of us danced with her, then we left her, and her dirty wrapped up foot.

Earlier, the day had led us up Manhatten upon choppers, a swing bike, some talls and the double tandem. We were going to see The Gates, the orange nylon and steel structures that were placed on the walkways all around Central Park by Christo and Jean-Claude. The thick fabric hangs off the top crossbar, from on high to about head height. We rode up to have a look of our own, to ride through them, what gates are made for.

We became part of the show there - cameras turned onto us. Photographed ten thousand times, until we tired, oh, and kept riding to the top of the park.

We rode through the rougher places that ramble on in ways that seem close to natural, as the land of Manhattan allows. In truth, each and every part of the park was planted and combed. The Park was once woods (before it was city), then low farmland (when the city sprouted around docks in the bay), and then a ramshackle of squatter villages, Irish and black (as the downtown city swelled and boiled). The city then became too big for its britches, and the squatters were kicked out and the workers came in with stones and trees and birds and ponds.

We rode on, and out of the park.

It was a biting cold clear day. February is the ass of winter. It is neither the entry into the season, nor the exit. It’s just Dark. Extremities were numb. Too much costuming and not enough practical gear while riding a bike is never a good way to keep warm as it seems only the legs are worked, making for a sweaty chest and butt crack, frigid neck and hands. The feet are on their own. We stopped for those cold drinks and the dancing lady, despite all the amputations you could just dance to a rock ‘n roll station.

We pushed on over to the Hudson River where the temperature dropped again with the wind off the open water. The chuck wagon - a double tandem bike - was unveiled in all its glory - the way way back housed a barbecue grill, which was loaded with scrap wood. Behind the grill was a milk crate full of lighter fluid, hot dogs, buns, ketchup and mustard.

What the fuck? The obvious task was completed; wood doused with fluid, lit, then hosed with more making small bridges of fire. The scrap wood caught, air vents opened, AC/DC was found on the boom box and we rode down along the river, towards the bay. The bike was a controlled burn. Joggers and walkers and babies turned their necks to try and wrap their heads around a long bike with a small camp fire on the back, convoying with tall bikes and choppers and metal. Quite a sight along the Hudson River, Jersey gushed in appreciation and jealousy. The sun set and the fire flared up, stoked by the air pulled into the moving bike.

We rode on down to the finish line of a fixie race on a boat. We parked the bikes in the dark and crowded around the fire to warm our hands like transients around a burning barrel. Others joined us. The night ended later, with the fire still burning and smoking through the city.