Friday, December 07, 2007

Rollin' Snowmen...

Nothing like a snow day to bring out the not-so-much-hardcore bike commuters as those who simply like to have fun. Even when the snow is little more than a dusting.

Ran into shivasteve on my ride into work yesterday along the Custis Trail, both of us running fixed as usual (the only way to ride snow). Three or four miles later another rider—the first we'd seen—appeared ahead in the distance, a dark sliver that slowly separated itself from the ghostly white landscape all around us. A few pedalstrokes later, and the rider's identity was apparent. It was Butch, smiling like a truant and weaving his way through the slick chum of snow that coated the trail. True to form, he was riding the same skinny treadless tires he runs every day, and doing fine on 'em.

We stopped to shoot the proverbial shit (and a few pix), three fixed-gear riders who "get it" without "it" having to go through the usual thought channels. Motorists dread the threat of snow; cyclists (some) dream of it. A nice snowfall is like a gateway to youth, a chance to roll back the years and have fun, the kind of fun that defies analysis, resists assay, and thrusts a finger in the face of wrinkled maturity, all the while leering like a lecher.

It's these kinds of random encounters, along with the simple joy of metabolically powered travel, that make bike commuting so damn much fun. I was late, shivasteve on time, and Butch a bit early, it seemed. I wondered about the likelihood of such a convergence; I've been commuting by bike every weekday for almost a year and a half now, and it hadn't happened once before in all that time. (I don't mean to imply that the odds of such a meeting are astronomically low, but they are sufficiently slim to suggest something else—be it kismet or cosmic—is at work behind the scenes here1. Something beyond mere chance. And beyond the realm of our blunted senses to absorb. I think it should remain there, just out of reach, invisible to telescope and microscope alike. I dig the unfathomable precisely because it resists understanding. It's what makes life interesting. The end of speculation, that stillborn time when everything is known, nailed down, pinned to a specimen pad, forced through a filter, torn apart and hastily reassembled, echoed in endless schemata, and rendered instantly accessible, means the death of mystery and intrigue, two qualities that let each of us define the world—our own world—any way we wish.)

Shivasteve and I bade farewell to Butch and continued on along the same slippery path to our respective dungeons. We passed only two other cyclists; their opposing attitudes presented a quick study in contrasts: a chick trundling over the Humpback Bridge who flashed a snow-white smile that added points to her already attractive countenance and ballsy demeanor, and a guy carefully escorting his bike across the 14th Street Bridge, his steps hesitant, his face a mask of dejection, as if he'd been caught unaware in a spat between Lady Nature and Mother Earth.

Here's to the first snow of the winter.

1. The annotated copy of Vladimir Nabokov's masterpiece (a superlative that falls far short of adequate when referring to this novel) Lolita points out to the less-than-supernaturally-astute reader places in the text where the author's presence can be perceived, where Nabokov—sometimes playfully, sometimes malevolently—intrudes in the plot, where "the mask slips". Characters know things they cannot possibly know otherwise, there are shared behavioral traits—parallel proclivities—among the protagonist and antagonist that stretch coincidence to a silky filament, and numerical recurrences crop up at a rate pushing well past the boundaries of believability, of possibility even. And yet, in the "real" world, such phenomena occur more often than we sometimes realize, prompting the rhetorical "what are the chances?" query when we do take notice. Not talking about god here, but a strange mix of fate and chance and nature, with a pinch of the preternatural tossed in after the boil, and garnished, finally, with a wilted sprig of will. May the enigmatic forever remain.
"It's a pity one can't imagine what one can't compare to anything. Genius is an African who dreams up snow."
— Vladimir Nabokov


crankedmag said...

Great post. I long for some substantial snow in Seattle for once. It is always fleeting in miserable ways, i.e. washing the few settled piles of snow away with wretched rain. Hardly ever a recurrence of the youthful memories of real snow from the east coast.


gwadzilla said...

many years ago
before the blog
I would write letters

there were several people who I was pen pals with

one friend was in the Peace Corps in Africa

it was interesting the effect my photos would have upon his African friends

they would see the shots of me snowboarding
when they had only seen snow on the mountain top in the distance

they would see me holding and embracing a dog like parent holds a child when to them the dog is a dirty animal that you kick out of your way