Live Every Wednesday Like It's Your Last

It’s like 80 American Freedom Degrees™ here in New York City, which is like 20 degrees on The Scale Which Dare Not Speak Its Name*.

*[Not sure if you’re aware of the political climate here in the Canada’s heated seat, but it’s pretty ugly at the moment, and now that Jew-hating is back I can only assume Celsius-bashing will be next.]

Now I realize that as the sort of smug cyclist who owns (however tenuously) a WorkCycles I’m supposed to mention that 80 degrees in late October is not normal and we’re all doomed due to climate change, but whatever.  Let’s set that aside for the moment and focus on the specter of death lurking around the corner as opposed to the one that will be my children’s problem.  (My children are GENIUSES by the way, so I’m confident that if things are as dire as people say they’ll solve the problem in no time.)

Anyway, like today, yesterday was very warm.  Actually, it was more than warm.  It was hot.  We are, after all, experiencing what some people call an “Indian summer,” or others call a “Jew’s autumn,” depending on how politically incorrect they are.  I happened to find myself in Midtown, where people were taking advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures by lounging on the library stairs or taking pictures from behind sporty fixies and regal beards:

And while I wouldn’t exactly say it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, it was more than sufficiently warm to cause the fixies to levitate:

Then again the tires may just be filled with helium for extra speed.

By the way, speaking of pneumatic tires, while I may have been negligent with my WorkCycles let it never be said that I don’t take precautions with my frame pump:

The above bicycle is the storied Ironic Orange Julius Bike, which is also my Dedicated Manhattan Locking-Up Bike, and I’ve forgotten to bring a pump with me enough times that I finally just said “Fuck it” and hose-clamped one to the downtube.  (It won’t fit under the top tube.)

Of course now I have to remember to carry a screwdriver, but I figure that’s easier to improvise than an inflationary device.

And if someone wants an old, battered, wheezy frame pump enough to unscrew it from the bike, then as far as I’m concerned they can have it.  Someone gave it to me for free like 20 years ago, and honestly in 2016 I’d be surprised if anybody even knows what it is.

In any case, after I’d finished my business (mani-pedi if you must know, it’s the only reason I bother heading anymore, and if you’ve seen my fingers the fabulous results speak for themselves), I headed back uptown via Central Park, where the vibrant autumn foliage was at odds with the scranus-baking temperatures:

I have always loved riding through Central Park, and I even love it on unseasonably warm days when streams of selfie stick-wielding tourists are salmoning at me on rental bikes, which is exactly what was happening.

Also, the above picture may look serene, but what you don’t see are the roughly 30 Europeans next to me photographing the exact same tree.

Anyway, before long I left the tourists and the pedicabs behind and emerged from the north end of the park into Harlem.  I’d only gone a few blocks when I saw someone on a non-street-legal dirt bike heading up Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard–a common sight on summer days in many parts of the city.  He was a couple blocks ahead of me but I’m reasonably certain he was in mid-wheelie.  Either way, I looked around at all the kids in their uniforms coming home from school, and I thought about all the drivers I’d seen running red lights that afternoon, and I thought to myself that racing around on a dirt bike like he was seemed like an exceedingly bad idea.

Shortly thereafter I cut over to St. Nicholas Avenue, where I immediately sensed from the arrangement of the cars on the street that something was askew–even more askew than it usually is in the city.  Figuring I’d nab some bike lane-blocking porn or dumb driver behavior I grabbed my phone without really thinking about it and started shooting:

I then noticed the dirt bike, which I’m reasonably sure was the one I’d seen a couple minutes before:

And then the car in the bike lane ahead of me, facing the wrong way with a shattered windshield:

The group of people in the crosswalk had only begun to register with me as someone walked over to them on my left explaining that he’d just “hit him:”

I was still on bike blogger autopilot, rolling and shooting, as I passed the people in the crosswalk.  I’m not sharing the photo, but a woman talks plaintively into a cellphone as two men kneel over a bloodied young man.  (Teenager?  I can’t really tell.)  Two bicycles lie next to them.  The kneeling men are assuring the victim and telling him to stay down, and I think I hear the victim responding.  I’m now just standing there along with increasingly more people, watching.  There’s a lot of blood.  I feel stupid for just standing there but I also feel like it’s somehow wrong to just leave.

I don’t know what happened.  Was the victim walking?  Riding a bicycle?  Popping a wheelie on that dirt bike?  I have no idea.  I’ve witnessed nothing.  I do know that when the police arrive on the scene they’ll have no idea either, and I’m not confident they’ll take the time to find out.  I feel like I’m gawking now.  I don’t know shit about what happened, I don’t know shit about first aid.  The driver has not fled.  I look at the victim again.  A shiver goes up my back and stings my tear ducts.  I feel sick for the victim.  I leave.

For the second time since last Friday when my bike got stolen I reflect on my behavior when confronted with reality.  The further I get from the crash scene the more I think I could have done.  I could have demanded the driver’s account and recorded it with my phone in case it would be of use to the victim.  I could have waited around for the police to arrive and made sure they did their job.  I could have done something instead of just gawking for a minute or two and then leaving.  Then I feel arrogant and stupid for thinking that I could have done anything at all, and I find myself in a guilt spiral because I feel simultaneously apathetic and arrogant.

The city swallows everything.  At the crash scene a large group of people are standing around a bloodied victim, all no doubt contemplating the fragility of life, but just a few blocks away it is as though it’s not happening.  People walk, drivers run lights, and the only thing keeping everybody alive was that delicate balance of routine and happenstance.  That balance will be upset again.  It’s happening all the time, all over town.  It’s a bloodbath out there.  But it happens and gets swallowed and that’s that.

Anyway, here’s all I could find about it in the news:

For the rest of the way home I watched the brutal traffic ballet, and it made me even more despondent than it usually does.  The streets were swamped, flooded, overrun with cars.  Women clutching babies attempted to cross gridlocked intersections.  Drivers ran lights even as NYPD ticketed other drivers a block away.  It all seemed so theoretically fixable, yet at the same time so unstoppable and irreversible.

“Fuck it,” I thought, looking out over the river.  “I’m taking up boating.”