Wheels

In the week gone by, a broken chain and a lost key seemed like more of a challenge than it really turned out to be. The chain has been replaced, and today, I went to see if my personal bicycle repairman had a spare key, so I could make my spare my original. He’s going to try to order it, and if that turns out not to be possible, for a few extra euros he’ll switch the rear wheel lock for one from which you can remove the key—whether it’s unlocked or locked. This way I wouldn’t have to remove it from the chain every time I unlock it (there must be some logic to this), which is one of the reasons why I lost it. Other reasons would be my gloves, the cold weather (hence the gloves), and my carelessness.

Anyway, on my way home, I couldn’t help but notice how much traffic was on Gruenberger Str. With so many vehicles, and so many bigger family models with only one person on board, I ask myself if the cause is lost, and what with the debate over the summer about the fine-particle pollution overload a scant three blocks away on Frankfurter Alle, I wonder if we’ll all just drown in our own pollution before the effects of global warming influence any change in personal behavior. It seems too many lay blame on the big corporations and influential governments, expecting them to be the solution to our environmental problems, while at the same time they swallow what those same institutions are serving. Well if that just isn’t the piglet calling its parents pigs. Global warming is just a red herring anyway, isn’t it? Isn’t the real problem the fact that we’re making ourselves sick?

I have to try to stay positive regarding this traffic situation, because it’s not going to disappear. I’m reminded of Ed Begley Jr. lending his voice as himself to/on The Simpsons. He drives a car that he says is powered by his sense of self-satisfaction. On my way to the library I had to weave in and out of standing traffic on Friedrich Str. This is one of the several, yet few chic shopping strips in Berlin. The lanes—if you can call them that—are indistinct at best, and the drivers therefore line up a bit to the right and left, rather than directly behind one another, as if they are jockeying for the lead. I have to admit to a smug exhilaration as I coasted in and around the vehicle checkerboard. Navigating the gridlocked intersections was indeed breathtaking; because of the feeling of flight, not the stench of exhaust, though that was certainly motivation enough to get out of the mess.

Vini still rides his bike from his place near Fullerton and Western, to the college near Narragansett and Irving Park, which, if my calculation is correct, is about five and a half miles, one way. This doesn’t seem to be very much to me now that I’m used to riding everywhere all year around myself, but he’s in Chicago, and has to deal with even worse weather and traffic. He must take Elston, or whichever one of those northwest running streets has a path painted onto it. Anyway, it was at one of Vini and Eileen’s parties that I met a guy named Marco, who was also an avid rider. I remember it being so damn cold, and him in his leather pants, and somehow or another the subject of his and Vini’s transportation habits becoming a topic of conversation. I felt so lame, in that I had not taken by bike out once that previous summer.

When I remind myself to relax and enjoy the ride, it’s such a pleasant experience. I truly believe that human energy is the solution to all of our energy problems. It’s just a matter of harnessing it. Or maybe just using it.

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