Pigeon walks across street

I’m standing with Jean outside her work. In my hand is a little voice recorder. I talk into it, leaving the note, “Why I like my black bike and take photos of it dirty.”
Jean laughs. She’s not just laughter because the scene is funny, but more because she is embarrassed to be seen with someone who talks into a voice recorder. We walk down towards Fremont for lunch. A bird walks across our path. Jean talks into her hand in her secret agent voice: “Pigeon walks across street.” Smartarse.

I got a voice recorder from Amazon (an Olympus DS-2). I use it to make notes of stuff I want to write about. Otherwise I’d forget. Since I can’t rely on my memory I am forced to write down all the details in my mind. This helps me manage projects. When accosted by some random request I tell people “send it to me in email” or “if it isn’t written down I will forget it” and I mean it.

Yesterday morning was grey and damp. I rode up to Kenmore and changed the routine a bit by crossing the main street there and going into the little mall at Lake Forest Park. I found Third Place books. I’d heard of it, written up in a book about the ‘Third Place’, the place that isn’t work or home but where you can have social interactions with peers. The British use the pub for this. Other places use cafes. I’m not sure what Americans use. Pubs like Cheers are the exception.

Someone decided to build a bookstore that serves the purpose. Inside it is a little tattier than a hospital-clean Barnes and Noble but there is a food court and a lot of seating, both at tables and on sofas. Any bookstore with a food court has got my vote. And there was a quieter area where you could sit and read for ages. I don’t normally go for bookstores as a place to read but there’s no Bubba’s BBQ in the library.

I went to the bakery and they had no milkshakes. So I went to the BBQ place and stood there for a few minutes while the guy was making some baked potato dish. I got bored and wandered out. I guess service isn’t going to be top notch when you are a smelly and unshaven cyclist with a funny accent.

I’m riding back to Seattle and the road is still damp. I’m riding my black Gunnar because it has mudguards. The riding position is comfortable even though it has drops. The long fork tube is long and the stem raises the bars a little more. I could ride that bike all day, if I only had somewhere to ride to that was a day away.

I’m zooming under the trees and riding through the puddles and flying through stop signs when I ask myself – why do I disobey all these traffic signs? I have stopped at a stop sign twice. Both times I could see an officer nearby, watching. I do pause and look around, which is no defence in court but does make life safer. I ignore all sorts of signs. I go the wrong way down one way streets, go through no entry signs (at least 4 on a day’s commute). I enjoy going down the concrete ramp in the work car park that says “No Cyclists”.

I’m not alone in this rule breaking. There’s a hundred meters on the bike track at Elliot Bay that tells cyclists to dismount and walk. I’ve seen about three cyclists do that in the last year. And several hundred ride through. Still I’m one of the more conservative cyclists – I stop at red lights. Most of the time. It would feel off to obey all the signs. I’d get thrown out of the bikers union.

I think cyclist habituate with all these stop signs on the burke-gilman trail. There are a pile of them and rarely do you see a moving car. If you put too many of these stop signs in then cyclists learn to pay them less attention.

At one point in yesterday’s ride the path emerged from the trees just as the sky brightened and my mood lifted. It felt magic to be in the open on a bike, with the air all humid and warm and the sun trying to break through. I looked over Lake Washington at mist on the far bank. My voice recorded has the line “It looks like a cloud embedded in the trees.”

I pass the Skansonia. It is an old small Seattle car ferry that is now used as a function space. Jean and I were married there. Each time I ride by I am reminded how we picked the only sunny day in January. A good omen. It was our second wedding, the formal white one with all the family. The first wedding was the legal one and it was a few months earlier on October 31st. We crossed dressed for the Hallowedding. I’m the only guy I know who walked down the aisle in a little black dress, fishnets and high heels to Michael Jackson singing “She’s Out of My Life”. I can’t believe we did that but this is what happens when you marry a performer.

When we get to the pub I make Jean record her pigeon comment on the recorder. This is what she says: “Is this thing on? A pigeon walks across the street. Reminds me of an essay I should write. Hundred words.”


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