It was 2:30 pm on a Sunday, I’d just woken up with bloodshot crusty eyes burning and lungs full of tobacco. My stomach was rumbling with the usual deep crave for a foot long Subway club on flat bread. I’ve convinced myself that despite the fact that the “flat” option is made with enriched white flower, it’s still less carbs because there’s less bread and will therefore make me less fat than any of the other bread options, even honey oat wheat. After my usual 5 minutes of laying in bed filled with self loathing and judgment for the pain I felt as a result of what I’d done the night before, I mustered up the strength to begin my pre-Subway ritual: putting on my dirty clothes and looking at my hair in the mirror to decide if it was the good or bad version of bed head. It was the bad one. After the 2-3 minute shoe hunt accompanied by total confusion as to how I could possibly hide my shoes from myself in a new location every time, I had to deal with the dilemma of deciding what socks to wear: dirty or clean. Yesterday’s dirty pair of socks were out of the question, yet I still find myself considering it every time. Using a new pair of socks would deplete my sock reserve and advance the deadline of laundry day. Or just say fuck it and freeball, feet style – which is what I ultimately chose to do despite the fact that there were inevitable remnants of sand still left in my shoes from yesterday’s beach adventure. Sweaty, dirty feet, and sand.
While it sounds like some sort of sexually transmitted disease, CicLAvia (you have to emphasize the LA every time so it’ll be cute) is actually some sort of exercise in freedom. “The Historic” Wilshire boulevard is shut down from Fairfax to downtown. All of the cars parked on that street and on several other side streets seemingly at random, are towed and people ride their bikes. It sounds pointless and disruptive as fuck, and it is – but it’s also really really great. And I only live one block from Wilshire blvd, i.e. one block from the long stretch of road that houses the event.
“Ciclovías” started over thirty years ago in Bogotá, Colombia, “as a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets. Now they happen throughout Latin America and the United States.” http://www.ciclavia.org/about/
Finally, I managed to pull myself together enough to leave my apartment and make the walk. Head down, sagging shoulders, Charlie Brown signature style walk of shame. Just when I’d accepted my fate and began mentally planning my day of recuperation involving the soon to be had sandwich, my couch, and Netflix (it’s very frequently one of the Harry Potters – I’m not sorry), I was snapped out of my hum drum to witness the glory of hundreds of rando’s gliding down the usually congested blvd. “Oh yeah, that’s today! Fuck yeah!”
I wish I could say that at this point my posture straightened up as a result of a shift to a positive mental attitude and the resolve to be better in general, and then ran to grab my bike in a fit of glee – but the Subway thing was happening.
Once my sandwich crave quelled, I grabbed my bike, obviously pre-loaded with my #TurtleShell (not so shameless plug) and entered the flow of cyclists. Effortlessly gliding along with the rest of the brood, I can only describe the sensation of community and oneness with the fellow man as a “zesty enterprise”. The street was ablaze with excitement and happiness. I even managed to ride by a Korean Church overflowing with parishioners rocking Jesus Loves You shirts without feeling my usual pre-installed Jewish twinge of anger toward the religion that shunned me.
The only thing more amazing than the feeling of our glorious act of freedom was the swiftness and efficiency in which it was shut down. The formerly smiling, friendly police officers that guarded each major intersection had now turned back into the oppressive and scary force of judgment we know and love in LA. It started with 4 motorcycles spanning the entirety of the lane in a perfect horizontal formation sirens blaring, driving against traffic towards us. A man on the megaphone yelled, “The event is over, all regular traffic laws now apply. Move to the right hand side of the road.” This was misleading. Technically, the laws in LA dictate that a bicycle has the same rights as a car, which is why they can give you a ticket for riding your bike on the sidewalk. (But, that’s where you’ll generally find me out of fear for the fact that every single driver on the road in LA is mid text.) I contemplated bringing that up with one of the many police officers who’d been giving the task of corralling our momentary alleged freedom, but ultimately decided that it would likely only spur some sort of negative reaction from the cop followed by me explaining that I wasn’t trying to “start shit.” I was simply bringing up the issue and asking his opinion. So, I decided to just play it cool and ride my bike on the side of the fucking road. Herded with the rest of the flock.
As I watched the police disperse and corral the crowd, I started to wonder how quickly this whole scene could turn into a violent protest/ riot. It would probably only take a few people acting at the right moment and striking a tone that resonated with the surrounding crowd. Get 50 or so people and you’ll have a chain reaction that could potentially rival what happened last time. The thought of a cadre of LA’s finest unloading tear gas and rubber bullets at the once peaceful families sprinting toward them in rage is enough to give me a 2/3rds erection. And it all started so peacefully. That didn’t happen though.