6.18 The Blue Angel

Alright, I’ve been in a bit of a fog the past two weeks, but fuck that, I don’t really want to talk about it. I’ve talked about it enough, it’s kinda time to get over this stuff. Really, like for real, I’m getting too old for it and my mind can’t take many more instances of walking back into the fog, descending into the darkness of depression, and sending me into a downward spiral of feeling goddamn so sorry for myself. Let’s talk about something positive: The Blue Angel.

The Blue Angel is my bike. It’s an awesome bike and I just acquired it second hand. It was well taken care of but I still brought it to a bike shop and had it retrofitted with some fenders, new lights and a rack over the back tire. Yeah, I badass rack so I can strap things to it. Of course, it’s blue and although it’s a bit too big for me, all I have to do is not lean to my right side and I’m fine.

Lemme tell you, when I picked it up from the bike shop, I rode that bike home in style. I forgot what it’s like to ride, I forgot about the freedom.

When I was a kid growing up in Ottawa, we lived by the river. There were tons of bike paths all over the place. You could go from out in the suburbs to downtown in no time. I’d go out for hours, for the entire day. Moved to Toronto, had a little hiatus while living up at York University. Moved downtown, brought my bike from Ottawa. Biked everywhere. Hit the lakeshore and just kept riding, all day on my days off.

Then I hit a snag. I ended up living near Dufferin and Lawrence for a few years, a kind of self-exile. Tried to bike up there, but damn, you take your life in your hands. Give me Queen Street at rush hour with all its streetcars, pedestrians, drivers and rollerbladers any day over Lawrence Avenue. First, the streets are too narrow for bikes and they’re not used to having you on the road. And, they don’t want you there. You are not welcome. This is car country.

I found myself back downtown, but it was September already and instead of getting a new bike, I opted into the bike share program here. Yeah, it was a pretty good system for my needs during those two months before the snow hit. But there is a flaw in the system, just look at a map of where the bike docks are located. I’m just lucky I live around Queen and Shaw because bike docks pretty much don’t go west from there. It’s like they started building bike docks in the east end, moved across the city, hit Shaw Street and said, “Well, that’s enough. No one in the west end needs to use the bike share.”

Enter The Blue Angel.

I was certainly winded with that first ride from the bike shop. I took more rides, a little bit further everyday. It’s damn windy by the lake. Riding to my office is mostly uphill, but Toronto uphill. Not so much big hills, but a steady incline. Coming home is easy though. Coming home is the best.

The lake is very accessible from my place and I’ve been riding down there almost daily. Everyday I go a bit further. It can be hard to motivate yourself when you’re in the fog, when you’re heading into that downward spiral. There’s a moment when I feel it click into place and I know I’m going down. Just as I feel the switch happen when I come out of it and a day later I look back at that what I was thinking and wonder where it all came from.

Instead, I jump on The Blue Angel and start pedalling. When I hit Exhibition Place and cross Lakeshore, it’s all bike lanes that go on forever. No cars, no traffic lights. I pedal away from the fog, far away, leave it behind and don’t even think about it. The only thing I think about are my feet, the pedals, the handlebars, which way the wind is blowing. I pass by the inukshuk by Exhibition Place. An inukshuk is a stone landmark that may be used for navigation, point of reference or marker for travel routes. I keep going. The fog is long behind me. The motion of my feet becomes meditative and the muscles in my legs burn. It’s a good burn. As I get further away from my place and think thoughts about how far I will have to get back home, I try to dismiss these thoughts, push them away, pedal them away and just see the path in front of me, feel the sun setting behind me. I pass by the giant windmill and wonder why don’t we have more of these, we should really have more of these windmills. The fog creeps in, but the motion of my feet and the burn in my legs pushes it back away. I don’t care if the fog comes back, I don’t care how or why, if it comes back. It comes back and I’ll deal with it. Because at this moment, I can deal with anything. As I ride and it gets darker and I feel invisible, but a good kind of invisible, an invisible where I am finally whole again to myself and out of the goddamn fog.