Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Sep 16 2003

Tall Paul’s bicycle, which he straps to the back o…

Tall Paul’s bicycle, which he straps to the back of his car and rides around Taipei, is an old, beat-up thing. But I could still make out the familiar font on the frame: RALEIGH.

When I was growing up in the early 70’s, I learned to ride a bike using a bright yellow Schwinn. My brother Kevin, eight years my senior, was riding one of those low-rider 3-speeds, a green thing with a black banana seat and a clunky gear shift mounted on the center bar. After we moved to Texas from Florida I got a “bandit” bike from Sears that was all orange plastic and black metal at first, then just black metal as the plastic bits fell off. Around that time, though, my brother got the most beautiful bike I’d ever seen, a metallic red Raleigh Grand Prix 10-speed. It was gorgeous, and he always kept it in pristine condition. When I was ready to graduate to a ten-speed, my parents found an old yellow bike held together with black duct tape at a garage sale, but after we moved back to Florida (you’ve probably guessed that we moved around a lot), I got a new brown Huffy Santa Fe 10-speed with a rack on the back I could use to carry my trumpet, strapped on with bungie cords, to band practice. Back then we all identified with our bikes, and you knew exactly what everyone rode. The Huffy was ok, but my brother’s Raleigh was still, to me, the pinnacle of bicycledom. After he went off to college he left the bike for a time, and when I “borrowed” it I felt like nothing could touch me. It was light, much lighter than my bike, and luciously smooth. My Santa Fe was deteriorating rapidly from daily trips to school and around the neighborhood, but the Raleigh still looked and felt brand new.

Kevin took the bike with him when he was stationed at a Naval base in Charleston, South Carolina, and it was stolen soon after that. I’d forgotten all about it until I saw the etching on Paul’s bike. Now that I’m living at the edge of town, I’m thinking of getting a (cheap) bike to ride around the paths down by the river.

In case you’re wondering, I’m quite happy with my new place. It’s not quite in order yet, but it’s getting there. I love being able to open up my doors and windows to see and hear the mountains, and I love having the space. The sudden quiet of the alley always surprises me after the noise of the main road that runs in front of the MRT station. The people in the area are different, too. When I lived behind Sogo Department Store simply walking out my door felt like walking onto a catwalk, but in Xindian it’s more just ordinary folk, on their way to or from work, vendors hanging around shooting the shit, gaggles of students, etc. On weekends there’s a lot of tourists, sure, but they all head down to the river and the swan-shaped paddle boats. There’s paths leading up into the mountains I’m itching to try out, and of course there’s Wulai, which I’m not familiar with at all since most of my previous exploration was directed north of the city.

The neighborhood where I live is definitely not monastery-quiet. Someone in the building is learning to play piano. They’re digging up the yard in the place behind me. The school on the hill is always ringing its bells, playing music and making announcements over the loudspeakers. But somehow I don’t mind any of it. Maybe I will someday, but they just seem like reasonable neighborhood sounds to me now, whereas the music and noise behind Sogo seemed irritating in the extreme.

So, for all of you who are insane enough to look forward to me complaining about my apartment: Sorry, you’ll have to go elsewhere for that kind of thing now.

posted by Poagao at 3:56 am  

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