i have a bicycle. it's a Gary Fisher Wahoo. it's my preferred form of transportation around this big screwy city, which can be quite versitile, especially when combined with marta. with having a bike comes having bike wrecks. i have come to the conclusion (after many many trials) that bicycle wrecks are good for me.

no, this isn't a what doesn't kill you can only make you stronger-type thing. bike wrecks mess up your knees, cause dermal abrasions, lacerations and can even break bones or kill you. after you have a bike wreck you feel like shit. bruises slowly come up, your joints feel stiff and ache, scabs peel and you bleed even more. i have rearranged my face by using some asphalt at college. i still have gravel imbedded in my face, knees, palms and arms. i know the nurses in the health center all too well. bike wrecks do bad things to your body.

so what good do they do? it's psychological. when i have a bike wreck, it's as if someone (or something, in this case) is saying to me "don't get too arrogant. don't forget that you're just another animal. there's a million things out here that can kill you. you may be my master, but i'm taking you down with me if i go down."
bike wrecks make sure i know my place in this big screwy world.

after a bike wreck, i may just curse, pick myself up off the ground, make sure the bike is still rideable, brush the gravel out of my fresh wounds and ride on to my destination, but there's a lot going on in my mind. i've just had a small dose of my own mortality. i ride on, seemingly undaunted by the blood trickling down my leg or the pain in my shoulder, but a lot is going through my mind.

i am not invincible.
i bleed just like anyone else.
there are a million things out here that could kill me.
i am never promised a tomorrow.

the psychological effect is what is good for me in a bike wreck. i need this reminder from time to time. the physical pain is also good in it's own way - it's refreshing. it lets me know i'm alive. it leaves scars, most of which have interesting stories behind them. it's good to know i won't die without any scars, but it's better that i listened to what the bike wreck had to tell me.



well, now. i've now had the Second Bike Wreck of the Apocalypse - on my way home from Thermodynamics on Friday, 16 March 2001, i was hit by a car. more accurately, i hit him. the driver turned in front of me while i was moving at a high rate of speed down a hill. my bike crashed into his front passenger side fender, causing me to flip off the bike, land on the car's windshield (completely crushing it in) and do 2 or 3 flips in the air to finally land on my back, 10 feet away on the pavement. the miraculous thing is that i walked away from this wreck. my bike was totaled and i did a signifigant amount of damage to the guy's car. other than some road rash, i was ok, albeit a bit shaken. he was at fault & i have since settled with his insurance company and purchased a new bicycle. and yes, i still ride on the streets.

They say TV is desensitizing its audience to violence. Perhaps this is true; when you see someone die on the screen, you feel nothing. The episode is clinical, sterile, devoid of emotion. This desensitization only extends so far, though. Tonight, I saw a man hit pavement at 70 KPH. In the helicopter shot of the crash itself, true, I felt nothing; this could have been a scene from the latest Hollywood production. But then the shot went to the aftermath, and it was deeply disturbing. I, along with the rest of the world, heard him scream in pain, pain like most people will never know. There was no studio touch up here, no special effects whitewash to make it more palatable. This was human agony, flesh rent from bone, live from the dirt of some nameless roadside in the French Alps.

................................

In the final kilometers of the 190-k stage 9 of the Tour de France, Kazak Alexandre Vinokourov launched himself into the front of the stage with an attack off of the Côte de la Rochette. Afraid of losing their places to the upstart, race leaders Lance Armstrong and Joseba Beloki flew down the mountain in an attempt to catch the young rider. This fast descent must have been a welcome breeze for the racers; the temperature was in excess of 100 F on this day, the heat adding the finishing touches to an already hellish stage. No sooner had race commentator Phil Liggett mentioned that the scorching sun had melted the road's pavement did we see his words played out before our eyes.

Beloki and Armstrong were coming into a right-hand turn, one of the final bends in that decent. Armstrong would later say that they had been probably been traveling too fast for the turn, nearly 40 MPH. Beloki had realized this, using his brakes to slow himself just enough to make the turn. He braked too hard, though, locking his back wheel. The wheel slid in the liquid pitch, though Beloki kept control of the machine as it fishtailed across the road. Until, that is, the tire blew, the rubber coming completely off the wheel's rim. This left the Basque star riding with two thin strips of metal on the road, a situation he could no longer manage. The bike fishtailed one last time, then threw Beloki to the ground. He hit the pavement still moving at about 40 MPH, instantly breaking his right wrist, elbow, and most importantly, his femur, the strongest bone in the human body. He skidded for a few meters, coming to rest at the roadside. In that distance, the asphalt stripped his shorts away from his right leg, shredding as much meat as it could grab, leaving his thigh bright red and bleeding.

................................

If I close my eyes, I can still hear him scream, still see him cry. This is hours and hours later. Perhaps I feel this connection because of my own cycling, my own wrecks. Perhaps, though, it means that some bit of humanity has survived the media glorification of violence.

They say TV is desensitizing its audience to violence. Perhaps this is true; when you see someone die on the screen, you feel nothing. The episode is clinical, sterile, devoid of emotion. This desensitization only extends so far, though. Tonight, on a screen, I saw someone come so close to death. This time, however, there was nothing clean, nothing heroic, about it; bits of rock took the place of muscle, skin was replaced by hot tar, all bound together with new blood. This time, however, I felt. I felt a deep, inhabiting sadness. I felt myself shudder every time the camera panned over his contorted face. As Beloki's leg broke, so did the illusion, that American creation, that violence in all its forms is to be glorified and fawned over. For this, for the return of a bit of myself that I let slip away, I am grateful.


Typo catches: Damodred, sloebertje

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