Monday, October 03, 2005

Midsummer's Night Dream

There was one night in Berlin that I was able to do something I haven't been able to do in California for many, many years... ride a bicycle.

Don't get me wrong, there are many opportunities to ride a bicycle in California. You just need a helmet and knee pads and shit. And the front tire on my ten speed busted years ago and I don't know how to fix it.

In Berkeley, there was this thing called Critical Mass (I know it happens elsewhere, but my experiences with it were all in Berkeley). Basically, a group of bicyclists (like, hundreds of them) would meet at one place, and then ride through the city, taking over streets as they passed through, stopping traffic, yet proving that they were a viable source of transportation while following the rules. I don't know how much fun they were having while they were busily trying to make their point.

When I was growing up, I had a pink and white bicycle with a banana seat. My friends and I (there were six of us) used to ride to the top of our street, stand on the seats of our bikes, hold the handlebars, and ride... ride... ride to the bottom of the hill, turning a curve which could have presented us with a zooming car but never did... and slow to a successful and thrilling stop in suburban San Diego.

My night ride in Berlin was around a lake. Two lakes, actually, in Wansee (I think, Warren - you'll correct me?). I had a nifty girl's bike from the 60's that my friend had recently acquired, with a weak headlight which made me freak out once we were off the city streets and onto the lake trail at 10pm on a Tuesday. My friend kept saying, "It's not far!" And then I would remember that he once rode his bicycle across the United States (the Rockies included), for fun. "Not far" for him could be 200 miles... It wasn't. The ride around the lake consisted of me thinking this: "Okay... there are no fences or guardrails, so if I fall to the right, I hit trees. If I fall to the left, I'm in the lake. Or I just get scuffed up on the dirt road, and hope no wild boars come out for me." (Berlin has wild boars.) Instead, I cruised on the bike, seeing people having bonfires along the lake, coming to a lovely restaraunt on a wide shore opening, seeing the stars unobstructed by a gazillion street lamps, and feeling the same kind of thrill I felt as a kid... whzzing along the open roads, pedalling, pedalling, pedalling...knowing nobody was going to kill you with their cars.

In LA, if you jaywalk, you could die in a second. No cruisy bike rides here. But hit the Venice Boardwalk, and cruise for days... Not the same though, I have to say.