Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.~ Albert Einstein
Keep moving. It's been that kind of week. In Boston's Chinatown this past Wednesday everything seemed to be moving. Holding balance. People crossed busy streets when traffic walk signals told them to do so. Pedestrians hummed over street vendors' bins of fresh vegetables and fruits. Chinese willows shook themselves out in the breeze. In Mary Soo Hoo Park, locals huddled and swayed around small groups of men playing Chinese chess with brightly inscribed wooden pieces. Sirens flashed and swung in the air, in transit, to and fro Tufts Medical Center.
And then there was the muted sound and movement of a pretty bicycle secured to a pole at the corner of Kneeland and Tyler, which stopped me in my hurried tracks. The gentle downward slope of the top bar of the dark frame, the woven basket, the leather saddle, and bowed fenders caught my eye. A city bike. A woman's city bike. I wondered if she, the rider, had ridden the bike to work, or if she had met a friend for dim sum, or if she was simply taking her Miniature Schnauzer, whom she had carefully tucked in her basket, for a stroll through the park. Had I seen her poking through the glossy Chinese eggplant? Was she wearing a knee-length wool skirt, cable-knit sweater and long linen scarf? Maybe she was a resident at Tufts and had come from her apartment in Fenway. In the hospital she was dressed in scrubs and listened carefully to patients.
I stayed a while by the bike, and took several photographs, feeling as if I were in a state of inertia in the center of a mob of exertion. I didn't want to leave. Yet I did want to leave. On the bike. I wanted to ride it around the whole damn city, like I'd done all those years ago on my raised-seat touring bike, racing around Beantown, through its emerald parks, or to the office downtown. On a mission. But this particular bike, the city bike, was not meant for mission. It was meant for hanging back, for diddling, for loitering, for which, I realized—simultaneously with those leisurely thoughts—I had no time.
At the Craniofacial Pain Center, Dr. Correa asked me how I slept.
Next time, we'll talk about sleep, he smiled.
And then I was off with my thrice-adjusted mouth guards, racing to my car, maneuvering the slow-lanes/fast-lanes of 93 South, open throttle toward another city where I was to pick up the kids, all the while wishing I'd done what I ordinarily do: take the commuter train.
It's a balancing act, life, though I don't feel like I ever truly keep balance. I lurch to the left, wobble to the right, and sometimes, on a lucky occasion, center myself amply enough to see a day as less than overwhelming. It's all right. I'm happy to see the day. See it right through.
* * *
And now, ballads and jingles that I like to call, well, loiter music.
About singer/songwriter/pianist Joe Purdy, from thesixtyone:
Purdy, an independent singer/songwriter from Arkansas, put in his time working at a loading dock and as a counselor at a private high school before his song "Wash Away" became synonymous with the 2004 season of ABC's Lost. Purdy left Arkansas for California in 2001, where he learned how to play the piano and began writing songs. He went on to record several homemade albums, breaking into the L.A. music scene with 2003's StompinGrounds. It was around this time that Purdy was contacted by J.J. Abrams, the executive producer of Lost, who asked Purdy to write a song for the show. Purdy, who at the time was visiting an island on a river in upstate New York, wrote "Wash Away," which went on to chart in the Top 25 on the /iTunes country charts…In addition to his music heard on Lost, his songs have also appeared on the soundtrack of the TV series Grey's Anatomy, and the motion picture Peaceful Warrior.
And, one of my favorites from Paris In The Morning:
In total, Purdy has self-released a total of twelve CDs, the latest being This American.
All of Purdy's music can be listened to for free, on his website, available on album playlists.
I like the bike, and the way you look at life. Loving every moment of it, even the ones with the bumps and pot holes.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Angela. I'm really thinking about turning my hybrid in for a city bike, but we've a bit too many bumps, pot holes and hills around here. ;)Delete
We must have just missed each other, as I was walking through Chinatown from South Station Wednesday morning because the T caught on fire. I was enjoying the walk thinking to myself that it was such a lovely morning, I should enjoy it, but had to get to work. Great minds, Jayne, great minds...ReplyDelete
Bill! When I got into the TMJ clinic this morning (a little late) they asked if I'd taken the train, and told me about the fire. Wow--crazy morning! We may very well have passed each other in Chinatown. If you saw someone snapping hundreds of photos along Beach and Kneeland it was probably me. ;)Delete
nice looking bike there...im sure with a nice price as well..anyway thats a snarky aside...great descriptive prose of the moving city and the minutiae of everyday life...ReplyDelete
Joe Purdy is purdy damn good isnt he? haha :)
Oh ya, Dan, I very proper bike. I didn't take note of the make, but tried to piece it together from the letters on the frame--couldn't find a thing. Must be veryspecial. Love that Purdy. ;)Delete
I love the idea of you lingering, taking photographs, in a reverie of sorts, all to do with coming upon that bike.ReplyDelete
Susan- I tend to get a little self-conscious in the streets with my iPhone camera, so I take as many stealth shots as possible. I really want to zoom in on a group of men playing checkers, but I thought it best not to interrupt them for up-close photos. I need a real camera with a real zoom lens!Delete
Excellent photo, excellent story, excellent music. Trifecta!ReplyDelete
Trifecta! Woot woot! Haven't had one of those in a long time. I think I was at a dog race with my brother, maybe 20+ years ago, last time that happened. ;)Delete
As I read about that bicycle, I heard Joni Mitchell singing in my head, "Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on." And we both know we wouldn't even lace up our skates, but it's absolutely necessary to have a river.ReplyDelete
That's such a pretty song, Nance. We wouldn't even need skates, we'd teach our "feet to fly" with or without 'em. ;)Delete
Your post stimulated a somewhat tangential thought regarding 'keeping moving'... a few years ago a film came out titled "Touching the Void". A friend suggested I see it; I thought it was about mountain climbing and so I wasn't interested. He wouldn't tell me what it was really about but insisted telling me "nobody dies in the film".ReplyDelete
I saw it and now "Touching the Void" is one of my all time favorite and inspirational films. Obviously the theme is about keeping moving forward even though things may appear hopeless. Actually, it's about decisions and that even though we think we have no choices, we always have choices. I HIGHLY recommend people seeing this film.
Robert- Thanks for that link. It looks like a fascinating movie--something I'd like my kids to see, too. I'd be very interested in both the mountain climbing and the decisions these men were forced to make, and the process of getting to those decisions. I will definitely be ordering it. :)Delete
Hi Jayne- Great photo and writing. I liked the Einstein quote. Also your imagery of what the bike's owner was up to. Riding has been very good to me. It's given me cardio, reflection and peace. I liked the reference to "emeralds". A vision and legacy of the Olmsted brothers. You made the culture, ethnic dishes, interesting fruit, and your thoughts very vivid.ReplyDelete
Scott- I do tend to get caught up in fictional stories of others. Riding is fantastic exercise. Good for the soul, too. I like it as much as I do skiing. I haven't gotten my hybrid tuned yet this season, and I need to do that before I get out on the road or in the woods.Delete
Oh, the Olmsted brothers--how fortunate we are to be the benefactors of their careful attention to the preservation of land!
When I lived in Boston, I was in Chinatown occasionally. Not enough, I'm realizing. Back then though, there were more fabric stores, fine silks, etc. that I'd hunt down with my sister. Now, it seems there are more restaurants and I'd like to dine in every one of them. I'm working at it. ;)
those old bikes are fine on flat roads but i wouldn't want to ride one in city built on hills.ReplyDelete
Billy- True! Boston's not too hilly, except for certain areas around the State House. Um, actually, that would be the Beacon Hill, area. ;)Delete
cool metaphor Jayne - I do find Chinatowns rather fast moving and envigoratingReplyDelete
Thanks, David. Haven't been to a Chinatown I didn't like. ;)Delete
It's a balancing act . . .ReplyDelete
Your last paragraph says it all; I am glad that you, on balance, manage to welcome each day and get through it, on the whole, the odd wobble included, reasonably intact and maybe, at times, even happily.
You can't ask for more.
It's what the human condition is all about.
Friko- Yes, the human condition. Sometimes I think we're such a sorry lot, but as a whole, we're quite remarkable the way we are able to make the best of everything. The alternative is very dark. :)Delete
you have a great gift to make the city visible for me - I like that very much - the bike "transports" atmosphere and life. Happy Easter to you! Britta
Britta- I'm so glad to hear that, as I know how much you appreciate a good city. Hope you had a marvelous holiday. :)Delete
This is a stunning photograph, Jayne! The color, the tunnel of focus, (I don't know any of the proper names for such photographic things)the bright yellow in the background, the bike at rest in the shady foreground. I just love everything about it. I can see why it stopped you in your tracks.ReplyDelete
And all with my iPhone, Leonora! It helps to have the Hipstamatic application, but I do want to invest in a good digital camera, although I don't feel like I'm ready for that learning curve. It's the time that I can't quite factor in just yet. :)Delete
That is a neat bike! And it ties in so perfectly with the Albert Einstein quote and my life! Lol. Probably most everyone feels that way. Great post.ReplyDelete
Isn't it though, Elizabeth? I've had touring bikes, mountain bikes and hybrids, and now I'm very tempted to try a pretty thing like the city bike, but I'm not so sure that would be a practical thing to do. The bike does conjure fancy, though. ;)Delete
A human being on a bike is the most energy-efficient way of transport. I need to buy a new bike this spring, since my old bike was stolen last year.ReplyDelete
Cold As Heaven
You got it, Cold. Too bad about your bike being stolen sorry to hear that. What a pain. Especially if it was a really good fit. I'm wondering if you're also on the mountain with your bike? I used to do a lot of mountain biking, but not so much anymore. I feel more comfortable hiking along rocky paths. ;)Delete
fantastic bicycle image, jayne. i used to get into boston all the time (i grew up in south hamilton on the north shore) and then my son went to BU. the city has changed a lot.ReplyDelete
ah, the challenges as we wobble and lurch—you're not alone in trying to stay on. i'm attempting to type and grasp the handlebar, too.
My sister went to BU, m. Great school. I used to visit her there and I remember, especially, some pretty wild parties at the Zoo. She was happy to find an apartment in her junior year.Delete
It's comforting to know I'm not alone. So much to balance! So much more than ever! I hope you're not attempting to type and keep hold of the bars while you are actually in motion on that bike of yours. Metaphorically speaking, though, the image, with the wheels spinning, is pretty entertaining. ;)
I would have stopped in admiration for the bike too. Actually it looks like mine but I hardly have an opportunity to ride in the rural mountains of VA. I'm soon to visit my mom in Hull, MA and keep a bike there for some wonderful beach town rides.ReplyDelete
I also wanted to say in regards to your poem "Dysfunctional Winter" that I was in Holland in the 90's and was looking for the canals of my ice skating dreams. I was told that they haven't froze since 1960!
Signed, friend of fragment feed's
Colleen- Can I tell you how thrilled I am to have a "friend of fragment feeds" poking in here at SS? I just love that part of the world. I'm ripe for a trip to the Country Store. I'm thinking maybe around Fest time, but I'm not so sure I'm ready for those crowds.Delete
Today, I spent an hour poking around online bike shops looking for a bike like the one I saw in Boston. Then, I remembered I have a bike. But, you know, don't I need a bike for leisurely rides, as well? You're lucky you already have that bike like that! And Hull is the perfect place to take it for a spin.
Thanks so much for coming by. When it is not so late in the evening (and you wouldn't know by the time stamp on this comment thread, as it's 3 hours behind--I can't figure out how the heck to set it to eastern time) I will poke back into your blog for a longer visit. :)
I love those bikes! In fact I'm looking for something like that myself - for a gentleman obviously.ReplyDelete
Dicky- Good to see you here! I'd imagine you'd put a bike like this to good gentlemanly use. And good stories from it, as well. ;)ReplyDelete
yep, keeping in motion. even if one foot trips, the other is liable to catch the rest.ReplyDelete
You've got it, Pearl! ;)Delete