Tuesday, February 28, 2017

That which does not kill you makes you stronger

Kanye wrote those lyrics. Totally. That is my story and I am sticking to it. Ok maybe some german guy stole them for some techno song. I don't know. I am going with Kanye. He knows suffering. I mean look who is married to. But I digress. The point is no truer words about cycling have ever been rapped. Kanye was probably rapping about the GAME. Not sure what the GAME is but that is probably what he was rapping about. I mean the GAME could be basketball but I think he's too short for basketball. Boxing? Hmmm nah his wife could kick his ass. Anyway. For our purposes the GAME is the Biker Life. I came to the Biker Life a broken man. I never rode bikes past the age of 16. Once I got my license it was all mustangs and what ever other car I could beg borrow or steal from my family. Even the nerd kids (who I was one of) never rode bikes post 16. Ok that one kid did. The same one who wore a helmet when he rode (WTF?), ate a macrobiotic diet and his family composted. Yeah you can tell he was really popular in a town all about hockey, keg parties and muscle cars.

I played hockey. And lacrosse. Got into martial arts and windsurfing. Went to college. My college (RISD) had ZERO sports. But did have a cycling club. I thought they were weirdos. No way I was joining a cycling club when I could sneak into frat parties at Brown. So how did I end up in the Biker Game? After college my girlfriend and I packed all our belongings into my jeep and headed west to SF. It was the summer of 1989. We made it out in one piece and still together. There was a dicey moment in Colorado where she almost ditched me but we stuck it out. We found a place in the Marina in SF. Cute little place with a  deck. Rent controlled. This was before the whole dot.com disaster so rent actually wasn't that bad for two twenty year olds with entry level jobs. We lived a very simple lifestyle. I sold all my windsurf stuff. Ironic because I was now 5 minutes from a world-class windsurfing location but you have to eat and pay the rent. So I took up surfing. Much cheaper and still a lot of fun. I worked three jobs. Sometimes four. I had a job as a clerk downtown for a law firm. I say clerk but it was really gopher. Go get lunch. Drop off fed ex. File stuff into boxes. Total glamour job. But they were nice so I stuck with it. 

On October 17 I got out of work a bit early to drop off some things for the office at Fed Ex. It was a gorgeous day. SF is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. As I was walking towards to the Fed Ex office it was like a wave rolled over the city. I am sure it was some trick of my brain or something but I swear I saw the road come up in a wave like you would see in the Matrix. Then the buildings started shaking and all hell broke loose. Like I said we had just gotten to SF. In one of my jobs they had given us "Earthquake Training" That consisted of a pamphlet with panicked office workers hiding under desks or in doorways. I am one of those people who value safety so I pay attention to that stuff. For some reason one of the graphics in the pamphlet clicked in my brain. As the buildings were shaking and people were running my only thought was run for a doorway like the stick figure in the pamphlet and live!

Well, this of course was 100% the wrong survival mechanism. Yeah, if the whole row of buildings had collapsed maybe that would have been smart. And while the buildings weren't collapsing stuff was falling off the buildings. Facades, some glass. As I was running back towards the Fed Ex building a piece of brick about the size of a football went by my head and smashed into my leg as I was running. I was sure I broke my leg but I was running so fast I was able to dive over the counter and tuck myself under the counter with all the workers. Totally surreal moment. The shaking went on for a while. My leg was pretty jacked up. I couldn't walk. I think I held the hand of one of the Fed Ex workers as the building groaned above us. I was pretty sure I was going to die.

But then everything went quite. Then sirens and car alarms kicked in and it sounded like a disaster zone outside. I convinced the nice worker who's hand I was holding to drive me to the ER because my leg was broken. She put me in her car and drove me out to the Sunset. When she dropped me off a whole triage unit rushed out to see only me. They literally said are you the only one? I told them my story and they examined me and took X-rays. Somehow I did not break my leg. I walked home to see the Marina engulfed in flames. My apartment was fine and my girlfriend was in our living room eating all our survival supplies. You are supposed to have 7 days of food and water. We had a cocktails party worth. It was gone by night fall. The following weeks were something out of a dystopian novel but in no time things were back to "normal" I however was not "normal" I was suffering from pretty serious PTSD. And my leg was pretty messed up. While it wasn't broken I had a bruise from my femur all the way to my foot. I couldn't really walk.

I ended up losing my job downtown because I couldn't go into a building downtown. Felt like my whole world had collapsed no pun intended. I found a good therapist. Her office was on the outskirts of downtown. She was a super nice lady. We would take little walks towards the office buildings and then talk and sit down. I used to make her cry in our sessions. Therapy worked but it really didn't fix me. To help with my leg the PT suggested bike riding. I thought that was silly but borrowed a bike from a friend and rode over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin. And that is when my life changed. I fell in love with the Marin Headlands and mountain biking. I found a job at a small rag called California Bicyclist. The crew that worked at Cal Bike were the most rad people I had ever met. And it set my life in an entirely different trajectory. The Biker Life saved me. It took years to shake off the PTSD. But it finally went away. The Biker Life continues to boggle my mind. It is not easy. It seems to be the hard way. But the rewards are endless. All my friends are bikers. I have more friends than I deserve. I have a community that I can count on and that gives so much back. I am so lucky to have been hurt that day. If that hadn't happened I don't even know how my life would have turned out. Thank you to all of you who have made this life so great.

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