Fifteenish years ago, I got a bike – a chrome-finish, Ross mountain bike. I was still fairly new to the clean/sober lifestyle and still had five years to wait before I was eligible to petition the court for reinstatement of my driver’s license. The bike – which at some point acquired the moniker SMF, for “Silver MotherFucker” – was my primary mode of transport and, as so often happens, I became quite attached to it.
The Commonwealth of Virginia eventually decided to let me drive. I got a ’78 Ford F-150, which was breaking down faster than I could repair it and a motorcycle. I kept the SMF, of course. The Ford threw a rod. I sold the motorcycle when the Spotted Opossum was a wee babe – couldn’t justify keeping a vehicle that I couldn’t use with a baby.
The SMF was stolen. Some asshole stole it off the back porch. I couldn’t believe it. I’d had that bike for eight years or so, logged hundreds of miles on it, jumped thousands of curbs. I searched all over for it, keeping an eye always out for a silver Ross, for years. Five years or thereabouts. I did get a Giant Iguana at one point, but I didn’t really care about it. When the Iguana got stolen, I didn’t care. It was never the SMF.
I knew I had to let it go. I knew the bike was gone, gone , gone, beyond any hope of recall. I knew that – and yet, I just kept looking, kept thinking I’d spot it somewhere.
And then I did. I came in to work at the collectively owned restaurant where I work one Saturday morning. Upon arrival, I learned that the compost bins were full. We throw all of our food waste into bins which are then picked up by Christian hippies on bikes who take them to their compost field, which is in the backyard of the communal house they have about a block north of the restaurant. The Christian hippies have a farm someplace out in the county. They take in homeless people, put ‘em to work on the farm,. help ‘em kick meth, preach at ‘em. I have some quibbles with some Christian shelter-type organizations, and I don’t agree completely with the ones up the street, but I do vaguely believe they’re doing good work and are nice folks.
Anyway, when the compost bins get full, the dishers throw the food waste in the trash which I find objectionable. Whatever can be composted should be composted. And I am apparently the only person in the joint who is capable of walking a block up the street and snagging a bin or two out of the yard at the Christian hippie commune or whatever they call it. So I went up there, snagged a couple bins and as I was leaving, walked past the hanging bike rack and there was the SMF. Hanging on the rack. At the far right end of the rack. I walked over and checked the logo and yes, it was a Ross. I stood there for a couple moments staring at it. There it was, five years later.
I had to go back to work so I did and spent way too much of the day running around in my head about the SMF. I decided I’d go back, find whoever had the bike and trade them for the Trek that I got last month. The Trek is a good mountain bike. I got it used and it even came with toe clips. Looking at it objectively, the Trek is a better bike than the Ross, but the Ross was my bike. I was sure I could convince whoever had it to take the trade. And if they wouldn’t take the trade, then I could mention that when the Ross was stolen I filed a report at the police station (not because I thought the cops would get my bike back, but because I thought I might find it and there could be a confrontation when I stole it back), implying that I could bring some heat down on their little Christian hippie, stolen-bike-powered operation, which I wouldn’t actually do, but they don’t know that.
I did go back after work and spoke with a nice Christian hippie mom named Grace, who told me I had to talk with a guy named Daniel, who is the resident Christian hippie bike mechanic. During the next couple days, I returned to the commune several times without finding Daniel. Someone sent me to the Christian hippie community center on Sunday, on the theory that Daniel would be at Christian hippie church there. He wasn’t, but I ran into Grace, who told me Daniel said I had to talk to a guy named Tomahawk, who has been using the Ross. Tomahawk wasn’t there, but was expected to be around the following day, so I went home.
The tailpipe on the little red truck had rusted through and was hanging loose so I spent a bit of Sunday afternoon splicing it back together with a square of aluminum (Coke can), a hose clamp and some gasket sealant. I had a can of hunter green oil paint on the porch that I had been thinking about using to make the Trek green and less attractive to thieves before I spotted the Ross. After I fixed the tailpipe, I still felt like being outside, doing some kind of work on something.
And then I knew that I was going to let Tomahawk keep the Ross. I’m sure he didn’t steal it – the Christian hippies get their bikes through a local shop that rehabs found/donated bikes and gives them away. Whoever did steal it probably abandoned it somewhere and it somehow got to the commune.
I had a bike, a perfectly good Trek. Tomahawk had a bike, a battered, but still good Ross.
Why not just leave it as it was? So I opened the can and painted the Trek. Everyone who’s seen it has agreed that it’s less attractive (to thieves). I haven’t gotten around to wiring a small mammal skull to the center of the handlebars, but I will. The Trek is my bike and will doubtlessly acquire a name in time.
The next day, I ran into Grace and told her that I had experienced a change of heart about the whole situation and that I hoped Tomahawk enjoyed the bike. She seemed pleased that the whole thing had a happy ending.
This story is about letting go, moving on and being okay with it. It’s also got somewhat to do with living in a small world, where people are interconnected and things that are lost come back around. And I suppose there’s something here about the importance of knowing what matters and what doesn’t.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.