Thursday, September 5, 2013

Are Bikes My Friend?


Today I’m excited but also a little bit scared, because I’m going to buy a new bicycle. My last one spent several years in back of our old house, leaning against the trashcans, rusting and covered in vines. Eventually we had to throw it out. I don’t remember exactly why I stopped riding my bike, but it was no longer necessary to get to work via bike, and I was just as happy to walk or drive or take public transportation. There were also a few encounters and incidents that I’d rather forget. I’m not even going to mention the trauma I experienced when a miscreant absconded with my back wheel! But it was the feeling that I had been violated that was much, much worse.
For some time, however, it served me well. My red men’s 3-speed was about $200 when I bought it new back in the early 1990s.  My next bike will cost about the same, but it will be used.
I recall the devastation I felt when someone stole my back wheel. I didn’t know at the time that using two different types of locks, one to secure the frame and the other the back wheel, is ideal to deter thefts—it requires thieves to use multiple types of tools. Of course some thieves come prepared, with a tool kit, so it just makes it a bit harder. I wonder if anyone would actually intercept an ongoing bike theft in Philly; probably not. I’ve noticed, on the other hand, that most bikes I’ve seen locked up on the streets only have one Kryptonite lock through the frame or one of the wheels, so perhaps the double lock precaution is only necessary if your bike is going to be in one place for a longer period.
My state of mind while riding my bike, circa 1995.

I’m older and wiser now; will this maturity help me become a responsible and safe cyclist? I’m counting on it. Years ago I crashed into a stationary pole because I was cycling while daydreaming (rule number 1: keep your wits about you at all times). I also rode on the sidewalk a lot because there were no bike lanes back then, and Philly streets are very narrow. Unsurprisingly this pisses off pedestrians because, well, that’s their turf and they’re not expecting you. That’s changed; the city has created many bike lanes by eliminating parking on one side of major city streets. At least I never got into an accident with another cyclist, a pedestrian, or a car, so that’s something to be happy about.
As a pedestrian and motorist, there are a lot of things about cyclists that I don’t like, such as the inconsiderate ones, who simply do what they want rather than following the traffic rules. They ride through red lights, narrowly avoiding pedestrians who have the right of way on green. Some still ride on narrow sidewalks where they have no business being. And still others insist on riding in the middle of the street on roads—here is where I silently and/or audibly curse the cyclist as I unwillingly cruise behind them at an infuriating 10 mph—where there is no bike lane, when there are multiple streets with bike lanes for them to choose from. I hope I avoid these lazy pitfalls as a beginning cyclist. And what is up with the hipsters who have no brakes?
UPDATE: Got a sturdy girl’s bike for $300. The bike is sturdy, not necessarily for sturdy girls. The only downside to it is that the frame is adorned with pink and purple circles; a hit with my daughter, not so much with me, but isn’t that what spray paint is for?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The New Definition of "Vacation"


I’m sitting here watching the rain fall incessantly in Avalon, NJ whilst getting my red wine on. Going on “vacation” with my two children ages 5 and 3, Ayla and David, and my husband Tim has forced me to re-evaluate my personal definition of the word. Needless to say, its meaning has evolved. I must say it’s not much of a vacation for Tim and I—we get more relaxation and peace of mind back at home when they attend preschool. This is sheer work, plus a good measure of irritation. We don’t have to worry about filling the day with enough activities that will make everyone tired by bedtime, because the nonstop whining wears one down to the nub. We herd the kids from the playground to the Cape May Zoo, through the perilous grocery store or five and dime local outlet as they paw pretty shiny objects on the shelves. I successfully usher them through the place with only three Kit Kat bars and two useless trinkets. We’ve also gone through several bottles of red wine this week, but I refuse to divulge the exact number (the kids drank milk).

I don’t want anyone to think that I’m unable to enjoy time with my children. But before we had kids I had gotten it into my head that going away to a sunny beach destination with (my future) adorable kids would be more idyllic, or at least relaxing. As it stands now, we are considering going home early for some rest before the school year starts after Labor Day.
Lest I make it sound as if being a parent is utter drudgery—it’s not—I can say that I have noticed that my children are growing closer to each other and building the foundations for a healthy, fun relationship that will hopefully last into and through their adulthood. They are actually playing together! Entertaining each other with the nascent beginnings of scatological humor! We successfully weaned them from their strollers. We also had more time and opportunities this week to grow closer to one another. I got climbed over, fart-kissed (don’t ask, but it’s really cute; they fart-kiss me with their mouths on my cheek, just like grownups do to their kids’ tummies), and kept Dave company as he initially stolidly refused to venture even his toes into the edge of the ocean’s waves. I accompanied Ayla into the sea as she twirled and pranced on the wet sand, lying flat on her belly as the waves approached faster and closer. We watched a touching, random act of kindness as another little girl fed a seagull chick tiny wriggling crabs that she dug up from the sand.
Waiting for the Big One.

The time I spent with them this week has actually inspired me to venture into new activities with them. I have one week with Ayla before she starts pre-kindergarten at a new school—my old school, Friends Select, in Center City Philadelphia. Before I used to dread open stretches of time with my kids: how will I make the time pass, how I will entertain them, and more importantly how will I maintain my sanity without resorting to the red wine at 3PM? I’ve learned by watching good moms in my life, like my friend Karen. She gives her kids varied experiences, like visiting a farm, beautiful gardens, and many museums and outdoor play spaces. She does it with good humor and grace. My inclination to be a homebody is changing. It has to. I want my kids to maintain open minds when it comes to the possibilities of life and what opportunities it has to offer us. I need to expand my own world to show them that taking risks can be fun.