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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Life on Two Wheels

I ride a bike. How much horsepower, you ask? Well considering I have the leg definition of a pre-pubescent girl, I’d say somewhere in the neighborhood of zero rounded to the nearest ten-thousandth. Yeah, that’s right. I ride a bi…cycle. And that may not seem like such a big deal until you realize that it’s my sole means of transportation. In a city as motor-crazed as Los Angeles, problems arise.

I really don’t know how to classify myself as a biker. I’m not the casual rider, the kind who goes around the block for fresh air or to clear my mind, nor am I the hardcore-I-dress-like-an-extra-in-a-Devo-music-video type. I’m in a biking limbo of sorts. I guess you could call it a crisis of identity.

But I make the best of my situation. I can’t match the thunderous machismo mating roar of a Harley Fatboy twin-cam engine, but that laminated nametag stuck in my wheel spoke sure makes a pretty menacing buzzing sound, so much so that if the Santa Anna winds carry the sonic vibrations just right, and you listen closely at 7:12 pm PST on a Wednesday evening, you may hear a faint hum in the distance. Resist the temptation to write it off as a hummingbird pollinating a salvia flower. That’s me peddling my ass off to Competitive Strategy.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have insecurities as a car-less college student. To compensate for these, I ride my bike cool. Two-handed, one-handed, NO HANDED, you name it, I can do it. Sometimes I even pop my front wheel up 5-inches to reach a curb (GASP: That’s practically a half-foot of air!).

Getting groceries is a real adventure, especially the ride home. Cool Ranch Doritos and 2 percent milk, two staples of my rigidly disciplined diet, don’t exactly balance out the scales. Consequently, which side of the handlebar I hang my milk from tends to determine my directional trajectory. I have two separate routes for left-and right-side milk placement. But as you’ve probably already figured out, unless I want to go around in circles all day, I must eventually go against the white stuff. This is when things get interesting. Instead of making 90-degree right turns, I make 270-degree left turns. And when your doing 270s in the intersection of Sepulveda and Manchester, you don’t have much time to explain yourself to the honking Hummer driver giving you the finger that your milk is on the LEFT side and so must do 270s instead of 90s. Some people just aren’t very understanding, Hummer drivers in particular.

The one benefit of riding a bike is that because I don’t have a motor, I don’t consider myself bound to the codes of the road, or a better way of putting it, I ignore all things red.

Now with all the biking I do, I must wear a helmet, right? Wrong. I refuse to because I cling like death to the few remaining morsels of dignity I may or may not have left. Sure, it’s certainly possible that I may suffer a fatal head injury but at least they won’t laugh at me at my hospital bedside saying, “Dja hear this guy was wearing a helmet? What a dweeb.” The latest statistics on bicycle accidents estimate that 698 bicycle-related deaths occur annually nationwide. If this figure jumps to 699 between 9:00 and 9:10 tonight, you’ll know I didn’t make it back from Ralphs. Divide the Doritos amongst yourselves.

But the pinnacle of social impediments when it comes to the bike is anything and everything involving the fairer sex. Let me direct you through a little scenario that most definitely resembles in no way my life:

“Hey what are doing tomorrow night?"
“Nothing, you want to get together?”
“I’m down.”
“Alright, you want to come get me around 7?”
“Yeah, I have a handlebar with your name on it.”
“Haha you’re too funny.”
“No, seriously. Me bike. You handlebar.
“O, you know what? Darn, I just remembered. My mom is battling this whole terminal illness thing so we should probably do this some other time.”
“O… ok.” (*Cue one or two something’s-in-my-eye tears).

But don’t let this entirely fictitious scenario discourage you. For those of you in similar situations, there’s reason for hope. Regrettably, it is true that most girls are unimpressed with guys rolling up to their places on single-speed beach cruisers. The trick is to find the one girl who is. Because she’s the one worth taking for a ride on your handlebar, even if you do have to peddle a little harder.

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!

~Ian M. Johnson


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