The Existential Cyclist
During the fall of 1990 I returned home from grad school to visit family and friends. The visit also coincided with the birthday of a friend and one night a bunch of us took him out for dinner at his favorite Italian restaurant. As those evenings go, there was a fair amount of wine and beer. Talk of bicycles turned to talk of motorcycles and one of the guys shared that he had a Harley. Another guy at the table asked a few questions about the hog and it came out that the motorcycle was, at that particular time, in pieces on the floor of his garage. He was in the middle of a rebuild.
“So you don’t have a Harley, you have the parts for one,” the questioner stated.
It seemed a semantic point to me, but this was the South, and you simply don’t tell a good ol’ boy that all the parts for a Harley is not the same thing as a Harley. There was shouting. Back and forth. There was a departure.
Later, it occurred to me I’d just witnessed a fight over Existentialism, by two guys who didn’t know the term.
I offer that as a backdrop to my next thought:
I’ve got seven bikes in my garage, two unfinished posts on the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, a whole dresser devoted to cycling clothing and three rides in my legs in the last four weeks. I have no clue if the illness I’m currently suffering is a relapse of the flu I thought I had recovered from just before leaving for NAHBS or something fresh I caught while there. I’m so off, I can’t even tell what better is.
What I know is this: I don’t currently feel like a cyclist. I’m a month from one of my favorite rides of the year and am questioning the wisdom of even entering the event. Scarier still is that I’ve been far less disturbed by my inability to ride than by the fact that most days recently, when I sit down at the computer, I can compose nothing more complicated or insightful than an email. This bug has left me in a cognitive haze.
By Existentialist standards, I’m not a cyclist. I’m not much of a writer either (though this existence of this post creates a paradoxical problem in me disproving my existence as a scribe). All my life, the things I hated were things that were. Things that existed. Now, I hate nothing. That seems pretty strange. How do you hate the nothing of not being something? I don’t know, except that I do (hate the nothing not riding makes me).