Milk and Cat food vs. THE WORKS OF GARY AKER

or, “I ride my bike to ride my bike.”

I forgot to crawl along in Friday rush hour bumper to bumper traffic today. Too busy floating around aimlessly, like a summer wish, on the seat of a bicycle.

Down at the carnivore promenade celebrating Cinco de Mayo, some high school kids held up a sign saying, “Smile you masterbate.”

“TU!” I yelled, gliding by, proofreading life by the seat of a bike.

Up at the park, everyone over 12 seems to be hiding from the sun, like it’s just too much too soon. So dry out, can’t even coax any sweat, parking myself in the low slanting sun. Put on a baseball hat to shade the old face, writing down the day, just like it’s been going on for forty six years.

My first memory of chasing down summer days on a sheet of white paper was way back in Pittsburgh when I was 14. I had a sort of shop girl girlfriend—in addition to the Turkish violinist girlfriend and the regular Sosh girlfriend—who typed up my scribbles and bound it.

THE WORKS OF GARY AKER,” she capped and  bolded on the title page.

I remember one afternoon, I was over at her place, when her regular boyfriend dropped by—as opposed to the-kid-from-the-neighborhood boyfriend. He was so old, he wasn’t even in high school anymore!, and drove his own car.

Who cares. I’ve got my very own book your girlfriend—and mine—typed up for me.

She gave me some money to go to the store and buy her cat food and milk, while her boyfriend settled in. I owed her at least that much, on account of all her typing. She was 14 or 15 going on 25. Cheryl Carnahan. She already had frosted hair, pink lipstick, painted toes. I came back with her cat food. She walked me into the kitchen the size of a potholder. As her much older! boyfriend was lounging out in the adjoining living room, never suspecting a thing, she suddenly grabbed me, French kissed me, and ground her lean hips against me.

Shit! Tent city! Now what?!

“I’ll get your book,” she said, eyeing what she had just done to me. “Hold it in front while you walk out,” she whispered hot in my ear.

“All right,” I stammered.

She came back, while I fed the cat, and handed my book, “THE WORKS OF GARY AKER,” to me.

I followed her out into the living room, holding my book at a clever angle to conceal her work.

Christ, I was 14. You would have had to step on that thing, then beat it with a baseball bat to make it go down.

I skated past him, as she practically jumped in his idiot grease monkey lap.

“Bye Cheryl!” I sang out, lunging for the front door.

“See ya, Gare,” like you would say to the neighbor kid who runs errands for you.

So you see, the first good use of my very first book was to hide the result of an illicit carnal act between consenting teenagers.

That was my first full summer after my parents’ divorce. Sadly, I had to give up my dog and my bike when we moved from the 4 bedroom house on Longwood to the projects on Knoedler road. Lucky for me, there were the girls, Sara and Cheryl, my warm and inviting new neighbors, to ease the pain.

Sara was a concert violinist of one hundred percent Turkish decent. Her parents sent her to a private music school that was a joint venture between Carnegie Mellon and the Pittsburgh Symphony. She attended on a scholarship. But she still had considerable expenses. Sara was as refined as Cheryl was rough. She called me Donald Morrison. I had taken to using my middle name, owing to how much I missed my dad, Donald. Also, I identified more than somewhat with the poet/Lizard King, Jim Morrison. So, around Sara, I assumed my moody other persona as Donald Morrison—my first real alias. Using an alias was something I felt I needed to do up through my twenty-first year.

Sara’s parents were strict Muslim, so she and I had a cooler relationship—innocent kisses on her exotic, double-fold eyelids, sweet hand holding, caressing her raven-black waist-length hair. And, of course, I would listen to her play her violin. Sometimes Sara would play while I read my poem aloud that Cheryl had typed up for me.

Tucked away in my back pocket was Jan—a nice, smart, pretty, Protestant girl (Cheryl was Catholic) who was the kind I would have dated had my mom, my sisters and me not moved into the projects. Still, we were friends and remained so up until my sophomore year of college. That’s when I almost caught her apartment on fire, boiling seeds and stems down into a tea on her stovetop, while I wandered out for a stroll in the middle of the night . . . and got lost!

Girls, women, and poetry all took the place of my dog and my bike—not-to-mention reading all summer long. Between tenth and eleventh grade, I took up road running, and ran all summer long. I ran myself onto the cross country team. Then it happened. Around the time I was taking Driver’s Ed’, my mom, an ER nurse, bought a turquoise Galaxie 500 from an ER doctor. It had a white top, white leather bucket seats, chrome console, and a 390 4 barrel V-8.

Projects?! What projects!? Look at my car!

That’s when Joyce saw me for the first time, and we fell in love at sweet 16. The things we did in that car…

I didn’t own a bike again till I parked myself out west in Boulder, Co. In my 22nd year, I inherited my first 10-speed from my girlfriend’s roommate. A Peugeot. Thirty eight years later . . .

Women, wives, cars, poems, pets, friends and best friends all come and go. But on the seat of a bike is and always will be the way I prefer to be and to be known in this life.

He rode a bike. Everywhere. Everyday.

Or, as the Buddhist saying goes, “I ride my bike to ride my bike.”


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