Saturday, March 1, 2014

Night Rider

Lately, I have been feeling lethargic, fatigued, and exhausted. When I'm moving, I'm fine. But I have to sit down. A lot. Like for work, and because my daughter is in school. Things like that.

Tonight, after James and I had set up D's computer and played a game of Scrabble, he was ready to settle in for his own computer stuff and I wanted to ride my bike. I sat at the table, pendulum ready to swing to "get a head-start on sleep" and "take a ride."

I knew I'd feel better once I got out, so I did it. The sun was mostly down, so I turned my obnoxious flashers on and headed out, planning to ride just a couple of miles, just to knock the cobwebs out.

The night is clear and beautiful. Today started off very foggy and was warm and humid. With the sun down, it was pleasant. I easily made my way up a hill that is exceedingly more difficult when it's sunny and hot.

I drove down a West Campus street, where students were converging for a night out. It's warm enough that many have broken out the cut-offs and tank tops. I saw one already-drunk pretty boy wearing cowboy boots and Daisy Dukes stumble-skipping across the road in front of me. Good thing I drive defensively!

Then I hit "The Drag," enjoying the newish bike lane. Again, lots of students out and about. The bars and restaurants were packed, including Kerbey Lane. When I got to where I needed to turn off to come home, though, I wasn't tired. I felt like I needed a better workout, and the night was so gorgeous. I kept riding until I could see the downtown buildings popping up over the tops of closer parking garages. I drove past the lit-up courthouse.

Approaching 2nd, I realized that something was going on. The whole street was cordoned off and there were
security guards manning the sidewalk "entrances." Since I was on my bike, I got to zip past lines of cars trying to figure out where to park. I drove only about a block on 2nd before getting out of the way so as not to endanger pedestrians.

Heading toward Congress on 4th, I passed Fado's, which had live music spilling out into the street. Another bar was blasting Michael Jackson's "PYT" and the next Guns and Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine." Also, there was a pedicab in front of me booming "Thrift Shop." The trailer had a life-sized Darth Vader attached to the back of it, and picturing him singing "Thrift Shop" kind of made my night.

When I got home I found out that an Alzheimer's fund-raiser called "2nd Street Sound Check" was what I happened upon during the ride. Most of downtown was packed. I love seeing all of the people out, and experiencing the energy... quickly, and in passing, on my bike.

There are rooftop lounges with white billowing curtains and all blue lighting. There are construction tunnels and trees strung with white lights. There are upscale restaurants, a CVS, and a 7-11. You can't "type" the people on the street. There are kids in helmets riding bikes with their parents. There are DINKs going out to dinner. There are indigent people, likely relieved that tonight is so mild. There are pedicabs and horse-drawn carriages. Oh, and, of course, buses. Lots and lots of buses.

I drove up Congress, literally smiling, enjoying the cool breeze as the Capitol neared. Then it was up the hill past the Governor's Mansion, particularly enchanting at night. After that, I was ready to head home.

As I drove in, I realized that when I moved here almost a year ago (actually, eleven months ago to the day), I started calling this "my" neighborhood. At the time, I just meant the area around where I live. But now, I feel like it is truly mine. I know its personalities... It does change. It's different at lunchtime on weekdays, and on weekends when students' parents are in town. It's different on weeknights and on weekends. It changes, but it's all so familiar to me now. We have legitimate neighbors like "Grandma" (who has recently appeared on two occasions, after having holed up most of the winter) and "Grandpa," whom I learned is called "Santa Claus" by the attorney on whose stoop he frequently sleeps. And Crazy Guy. There are all of the cops who frequent Taco Cabana. There are the business people who walk past the house to Chick-fil-A at least twice a week. There are the Jimmy John's bike delivery drivers.There is the lady who stands in front of the Scientology building selling carnations (Daphne asks, "Where does she get those?"). Oh, man, and there are dogs. The dog across the street whose owner brings him out every morning, lets him do his business, and never ever cleans it up. There are the dogs that belong to homeless people... those dogs are super well-behaved and most of them are pit mixes. There are dogs that are apparently too delicate to walk across a busy street because the owner picks them up in his arms to run the crosswalk.

This place is my home. I love it. I'm not intimidated by traffic patterns I don't understand anymore. I'm never worried about going out alone after dark. I know this place, and it knows me, and we belong together. Now if only our landlord would let us buy this house...

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