Hell on wheels

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Art by Kevin Carter

I was dead last and undaunted. Being passed by everyone didn’t bother me in the slightest. I was pedaling hard on a hot summer day about 15 miles outside of Wilmington, NC on my beach bike. The cyclists whizzing past me were bedecked in aerodynamic brand name cycling clothes and sleek $100 helmets. Many wore bicycle shoes that locked into their pedals for maximum push even on the upward cycle of their legs. I had no dream of winning the 50-mile road race, only finishing.I liked the idea of cycling on the long flat country roads among other cyclists.

I had some vague notion of being part of the cycling scene. I also wanted to push myself to see how far I could go under adverse conditions. The miles rolled by. I sat upright on the bike holding the high-up handlebars proudly. The bike was designed for leisure. Not speed. Geared for maximum wind resistance, I got exactly that. Other cyclists passing me with more aerodynamic helmets and tight-fitting cycling shirts and pants hunched over their bikes, gripping the lower-placed handlebars and making minute adjustments in their gears. I had just the one gear, no hand brakes and a $15 helmet a local superstore that I imagined cracking open like an eggshell if I fell off my bike.

I saw miles of countryside, a beautiful river and none of my fellow cyclists after the first 15 miles when the last of them disappeared over the horizon. But it was nice. I pedaled on doggedly. I stopped briefly at a country store at a desolate crossroads to buy a drink. Other riders had water bottles lodged on their bikes or drank from complicated contraptions that included a tube that ran close to their mouths. This reminded me of astronauts drinking in space and invalids in hospital beds who had lost the use of their hands. I had no use for such expensive efficiencies on my beach bike.

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Hell on wheels

Island time and contemporary dramas

Art by Andrew Hackley.
Art by Andrew Hackley.

I unhitch myself from the Manhattan express. Uncouple from the moving circus of light and sound. Go south. I’m on island time. Which is to say, slow-to-hardly-moving-at-all-time. I’m not on an actual island. We lived on Pleasure Island in Carolina Beach, a tiny beach town, for five years before moving to NYC. But I’m visiting my relatives in North Carolina during my son’s Spring Break. My father-in-law’s new home is not on Pleasure Island. It’s five miles up the road in Wilmington. So, technically, I’m on Southern time. Close enough to island time for me.

I was already on island time when I visited my sister and her family Sunday in Kannapolis, which is nowhere near the ocean. I sat bolt upright in bed around 6:30 a.m. No one had to go to school or be anywhere. The dog didn’t even have to be walked since he stayed in New York with my wife for this vacation. He did actually have to be walked. The walk just wouldn’t involve me for once. So, since I was up, I went to an early contemporary church service with my niece.

She gave me the straight dope on her church, painting a vivid picture of ongoing intrigues. The church has an interim-interim pastor due to a series of unfortunate events. The interim-interim pastor is about a thousand years old and refuses to sing along with the cheery newfangled gospel songs at the contemporary service. He stares glumly about the congregation while popish hymns are sung and played on an acoustic guitar. During each service, he recites an old Testament verse and a new Testament verse at great length that correlate only in his own mind.

Continue reading “Island time and contemporary dramas”

Island time and contemporary dramas