Nostalgia is laziness wrapped in pretty wallpaper ...Or, is it a constant reminder of your better self? -- From whence you came, so to speak. Back when you were a good human. Well before things hijacked you.
Our brains are wired to track motion. Our empathy built to covet nostalgia. Struck by the gleaming-yellow glow of a Schwinn LeTour, steaming down the bike path -- Canvas Chuck Taylor's trace small circles around a shiny chrome chain-guard. This Bike's custodian mashing a pair of sharp steel rabbit-trap reflector-pedals... The clacks of its maxi freewheel winding down to pause for pedestrians. They are smiling. You are staring. You become lured by your past... transported to a cozy cave with your power animal. THIS, perhaps was your power animal, but you can't see it. The chattering background of the city softens to a numb murmur. Vision vignetting as you stare through a road cone of softened edges towards your past. Tunnel vision, indifferent to surroundings. Time silently slows, and then seems to rewind like magnetic tape. A moment ago you were considering your watts, and that nagging leak of air from your front Tubeless. Now we cut close to your soft eyes coddling something you used to cherish. An old friend perhaps?, confidante?... No longer considering the watts?, your watts?, their watts? No you are not doing douchy calculations. because there are no watts at this moment; Just a bike. Like a tree you'd carved your name into ages ago. An Oprah moment.
"Can you recall where it was when you met your first real bike?," She asks? A second hand store?, a Rummage sale?, Another hand-me-down?. You contemplate. You consider being locked in your safe place... In your cave trapped with two others, perhaps they are your brothers, and you are wearing hand-me-down jeans, and a plaid shirt with pearly snaps for eternity. Stuck for eternity without a bike, without a road, without an exit. Huis Clos / No Exit... Because you are a dick -- You've become a dick.
Summer Fades like facebook, as dusk falls nearer to Six than Nine, A buzzing cicada, like a dimming fluorescent sets the back-track. Banana Popsicles melt into the shirt of a kid you used to be. Soft buzzing, leaving your conscience like adrenaline --So subtle you nary notice that you are a dickhead, as autumn colors your daydream drifting to a skinned knee, climbing trees, and the awkward parkour you mastered to climb aboard this yellow bike which you could hardly even stand over. That magical day you developed a technique to dismount your hand-me-down bike, while in motion. Look!, I'm rolling through space aboard a time machine. A Banana-Yellow Schwinn LeTour, or was it a Collegiate Sport? Spokes increment a mechanical odometer bolted to the fork.
Nobody counts watts from a LeTour, right? But this one counts the clack of the hub rotating. Details are smoky, and vaporize in fits and starts like a choking lawn mower. You're contemplating the wide 5-pound, 5-speed chain -- Maxi Cranks ratcheting around, while static cogs latch, click after clack attached to a fifteen pound chrome wheel. Glazed orange brake-pads chatter textured rims to a halt... As you (the one you thought was the better you) sip your electrolyte punch daydreaming in a pit-stop upon Memory lane, squeezing some boutique energy gel between your clenched teeth automatically. Like a gagging force fed bird.
And there she is... The "Roller Girl" dressed in clothes you'd expect from when you were Ten or Eleven. Her brown suede skates with orange urethane testing tricks, and twirls, distracting you momentarily from the bike. The Vintage bike you may have actually ridden. She drops to one skate, leg extended bobbing to the rhythm of some track enveloped by giant closed headphones. Both of you isolated in a daydream, until she rolls past, and touches the pavement, losing balance. Headphones slipping sideways as she regains control over a tumble -- And you catch the slightest bit of the track escaping her open ear. Did you hear that right? No way! she is actually listening to "Cruel Summer", by Bananarama, as she swiftly skates past. They/Them, (Bananarama) cementing your crush on this moment, and all its participants.
Moments ago you were admiring your Matte Carbon Stealth fighter-bike, Contemplating Wattage, VAM, Pace, or some other triviality robbing joy from a bike ride. Now, you are just staring at the better traits you'd left behind when you moved out on your own. When This bike was handed down, SoulTrain, Roller-skates, and Generic's lined the stage of your youth. This crude but elegant bike you'd loved and then spurned when you began to climb the ladder of smug.
At 19 you knew that you knew everything.
At 21 you swore "to have one of those too".
At 30, you began collecting stuff.
Now you have more stuff than free-time, and more vices, than friends. Have you bothered to check yourself? THIS nostalgic pause should certainly take you someplace simple. Someplace beyond your self, as you consider this classic -- Your banana yellow ghost of cycling past... Whiiiiissssstt!.... It just Passed you by. This, your allegiant ghost bicycle; Your loyal 45 year-old 65 Lb. steel contraption asked nothing of you, and it would have taken you anywhere -- And it did (perhaps), before you left it for dead in your parents garage, along with your better self.
Today you are too good for this braised bionic banana. This is your past life, encapsulated. Your last hand-me-down. Fueled by adventure, selflessness, and joy, and now someone else is using it excellently. This steel transporter of happiness is perhaps superior to what you are riding today, as it is certainly more durable... than your fragile carbon ego. And yet, you will not concede this until you come of age. Your old Schwinn, LeTour, Raleigh, AMF, or Huffy after-all, is not cast aside annually for another piece of carbon jetsam. Today, last years tech is no longer holding your gaze, so you keep flipping the page and searching for the next one. "N" Plus One, and over again... But you failed the gobstopper test long ago. you are now indifferent to loyalty. Perfectly content to shed those who don't share your point of view? Capable of tending to oneself, but not to others. A pile of stuff tossed to the curb, perhaps a new bike every year? -- But never enough friends. Concede, fold, give up, You've lost.
Being true to 'oneself', means that if you were actually a good soul you'd be enjoying whatever 'bike' you own. The scrap-yard that you'd thought became the forever custodian of your first ten speed, did in fact spit-up the bike you'd forsaken.
Your Parent's call to '1-800-F'CK-JUNK' gave a new lease on life to your cryogenically frozen Banana Solo. Old yeller Bike loved you, and today you nary consider it's welfare, let alone feelings. Then BAM! you realize you -- You are a piece of shit, not simply for having cast aside your first real friend, but for doing it over and over again. This bike keeps time, and keeps-on keeping-on without your bad energy. But then, you knew that. This bike is going no place gently, and has more lives than your college futon. Today, You really DO need to take a moment and marvel at how it could be that the bike you struggled to straddle, now fits just as awkwardly beneath a far taller and more awkwardly upright version of yourself. Drifting back in time to when you were kinder, gentler, and without judgement. It is a battle with existential demons. As with all things "Terminator" from the slag-heap comes a groovy re-visited & re-wrapped Benotto festooned robot of white hot burning metal. It is here to destroy you. Melt down your carbon toys, like charcoal. Your bike is here to destroy you...? Wait!
For me it seems to have taken forever to realize one maxim of adulthood... That After one first learns to ride a grown-up bike, it will take another forty years to get over oneself. Wisdom it seems, means coming of age when a person comes to terms with the fact that oneself is not the center of the universe. Shedding ego, awkward ideology, and misguided consumerism will take an average human more than 40 years. Men far longer than women. Of course, If you've never yelled at another driver through the mute glass of your own motor-coffin, then you can stand and take a bow now, and sit this one out. If you are like the rest of us, you are but a pushing, drinking, munching, pill-popping, yelling, toiling misanthrope. You will find this fact out only slightly before you make the final Grande Departe.
"Give it away Give it away Give it away now..."
We cannot mend the fence of our own selfishness until we are either too weak to maintain the pickets, and it falls down -- Or we begin to leave the gate open. There seems to be three events in life worth remarking upon at the end of this "Cruel Summer".
1 The first time you learn to ride a bike, and find freedom.
2 The First person to love you, whom you love as well, (After your own mother of course).
3 The day you realize that you've become a selfish prick, and then this person fades into your rear-view.
For a cyclist finding and battling demons often means riding beside them, with them, or right on past. Pushing pedals through hardships, clawing back up the proverbial hill toward friends and fulfillment can be one's epic journey.
Age and Treachery will overcome youth and skill.