They come in pairs

February 6, 2003 — 4 Comments

Got pulled over by a cop while I was riding my bicycle today. The conversation went as follows:

cop: “Pull over.”

me: “OK”

cop: “You go to school here?”

me: “Yes”

cop: “They teach you how to read at this school?”

me: “No, I learned that a long time ago.”

cop: “Perhaps you can tell me what S.T.O.P. means?”

Let me interrupt this conversation by saying this: I’m a stickler for safety. In the bike world, I guess that means I’m a geek. I wear a bright yellow helmet, a bright yellow and reflective jacket, my bags have reflective tape, I wear gloves, I don’t exceed the speed limit–even on downhills, I put on both front and back lights even if there’s a little sun left in the day.  I generally stop at all intersections, particularly in residential neighborhoods. That I didn’t stop at this one was a lapse in judgement caused by the fact that there were no cars around. Except for the cop, I guess…I have no idea where he was hiding. We return to our regular programming:

me: “It means to cease forward movement.” OK, I didn’t really say this, I kind of mumbled it.

cop: “huh?”

me: “It means to stop.”

cop: “That’s right.”

me: “Look, officer, I’m dressed in yellow, I’m wearing a helmet, I’ve got gloves and lights on my bike…obviously I’m not unconcerned with safety. I signaled to indicate my turn even though there were no cars around.”

cop: “…”

me: “There was a mountain biker in front of me. He didn’t stop either.”

cop: “Yeah–he did the right thing, he jumped the curb and made a right using the dirt path.”

me: “? OK”

cop: “Come to a stop next time.”

me: “I usually do.”

cop: “Thanks for pulling over for me.”

me: “Sure.”


The owner of a bookstore downtown has a book set aside for me.  Coming to this store almost always involves a nice, cordial chat with him, and quite some time has passed since I was there last. As I lock up my bike to the post outside his door, I think I hear shouting in the store. The windows and door are closed, so the sound is muffled, and I write it off as an idiot in the sports bar above the bookstore.  The bookstore sells only academic books.  While they probably have a philosophical text on shouting, it’s about as far from ‘a rowdy joint’ as Dubya is from ‘smart’.

I walk in and David, the owner, looks pretty stressed out. A man who vaguely resembles a portly Rasputin is leaning over the counter, staring at David intently. David utters an exasperated “Hey.”

I say “Hi, David.” I pause, thinking he’ll remember he has a book on hold for me. A few seconds pass. He remembers.

“Ah, yes, Marx. Just a second, it’s in back.” He gets out of his chair.

Rasputin chortles. “Marx! Marx! That’s a laugh!”

I think, “Oh great, he’s a psycho.”

David tells him very calmly, “Get out,” then wanders towards the back half of the store to get the book.

Rasputin starts lumbering towards me. “I love that idea and I love you, man. In fact, I love you so much I want to kiss the bottom of your shoes. In fact I’ll do it right now!”

He really does look like Rasputin.  He’s got those eyes. I say, “No thanks, I’ll pass.” I look towards the back of the store for David.

The next thing I know, Rasputin is on the floor, grabbing my leg tightly at the calf, trying to lift it up. The fucker is serious. He really does love me so much that he wants to kiss the bottom of my shoes. I start losing my balance and I say, with increasing volume, “Let go of my leg. Let go of my leg!…LET GO OF MY LEG, GOD DAMN IT.”

He doesn’t let go. David rushes back to the counter and tries to pull Rasputin off of me.

I’m not a violent person.  I’ve never “kicked anyone’s ass”, though I did fracture some guy’s ribs with a croquet mallet once (it was in third grade, he was a bully, and he had beaten me up many times before that). I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a punch. I’m about as far from ‘violent’ as Dubya is from ‘articulate’.

But I’m hopping on one leg, the other leg in Rasputin’s over-amorous grip, and I’m pretty close to falling over. I see that my shoe is right smack dab in front of his dirty puckered face.

It’s at this moment that I realize I can literally shove my foot down his fucking mouth, and I’m not abusing the term ‘literally’. As Rasputin muscles the sole of my shoe to his lips I visualize–really, I do–my foot retracting from the bloody aftermath of his kicked-in face. The image starts to suck me in, like a daydream, but in his boundless love for me, Rasputin is twisting my leg in ways not conducive to me remaining upright.

David pulls him off by the coat and shoves him out of the store. He apologizes to me for having to deal with it. He says, “The guy’s a psycho and he comes around here all the time. I don’t have the heart to call the cops on him. He doesn’t know what he’s doing most of the time.” I tell him as he rings up my purchase that it wasn’t a big deal, that I just hope the guy doesn’t come in here and cause some real trouble.

I leave the store and as I’m unlocking my bike, the bloody face image comes to mind again. It occurs to me that I think I would have done it, I would have gone mad-stompy on his visage if the scene lasted any longer than it did. I didn’t think I was in danger, really. It wouldn’t have been an act of self-defense.

This thought is a very sombering one. I have to walk my bike down the street to the corner before I feel like riding it.

4 responses to They come in pairs

  1. There is a lot of Marx online.  I find his work very hard to stay with.  I believe the translators may be dedicated but not as talanted as those who transalte Greek or French literature.  Either that or Marx was a wholly humorless man well capable of flogging the obvious to a long tedious death.  My paranoia has even suggested to my more level-headed self that there’s a capitalist conspiracy afoot to transalte Marx boringly.  I have intended to read his analysis of the American Civil War but that is a back-shelf item.  Right now I have Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations out from the library.  Gotta beat the due date, then it may be time for Karl’s counterpoint. 

    Your stories are harder than your rants.  The rants have apparent structure.  The stories make me feel inadequate.  I can never find the parable, the connecting link between the two parts, and I go off as ignorant as before, saying all I saw is the guy telling two disconnected stories.  Ruins my whole day.  One woman in first year law school, in the middle of analyzing through the connectedness of the federal discovery rules, asked, “Is this one of those things that is important for itself, or as an example of something else?” Everybody laughed.  A wholly inappropriate question to everybody but me, the instructor and the woman who asked.  After acknowledging it as about the best question from a student all semester, the instructor gave the honest answer, “This is one of the few times it is really both, but more the former than the latter.  Usually it has been much more the latter than the former.” I’m not sure why I recall that incident today.  Finally, I think you give Wubya too little credit – there’s creativity beyond the obvious in taking office as he did, whereas Mugabe and Saddam merely rigged their most recent elections, winning by over ninety-five percent, straightforward as Macbeth but without the haunting guilt, while Wubya is a cross between Richard III and Hamlet, at the gentleman’s C level.  Condoleza Rice, were it to have been her election would be one who would have taken the straight Saddam-Mugabe route, with a pinch of Musharif for flavor, all as subtle as a bludgeoning, like a black Jean Kirkpatrick figure.  Powell I will not insult, since Belafonte already used a bludgeon there, and that from a guy who made his life’s cash singing the Banana Boat Song, and for the wrong reasons.  The scariest thing to have to say about Powell is that he’s well in the middle of this dog-pack while keeping the appearance of not having their fleas.  And it is not just the press cutting way too much slack as with Reagan and Bush the elder, it is an inherent trait of the man and a truly fearsome thing to see in a politician.  The capacity to maintain through all events of contrary fact, an appearance of genuineness, honesty, judiciousness, and restraint in the execise of overwhelming power.  It is like the difference between Buckley and Buchanan.  Skilled evil vs. simple evil.  Anyway, like Trudeau explains, neither of those events in the last post will happen to you again, nor anything like them, once we just put in more tax cuts for the wealthy.  It’ll fix everything back to truth, justice and the Amerikan way.  No bootlicking psychos anymore (Ari will step down and Franks will take his place – I didn’t say no psychos, I just said no bootlicking-psychos).  And cops will simply give tickets to youngsters who misstep, or misbike, without conversing.  Amerika will be on an even keel again.

  2. Ah, invisible hands. Wish I had me a pair.

    You’re right, Marx isn’t very funny. I don’t think that makes him a bad writer, though. I’d agree that he “flogs horses to death,” but Marx isn’t necessarily flogging a capitalist horse, as is most often misunderstood thanks to high school curriculums that portray Marxism as the force behind Soviet nuclear arsenals and any nation’s proclivity for lots of red. I don’t think Marx was an economist or a politician. I think he was a historian, a storyteller. That his histories have politics and have to do something with economies is secondary, I think.

    Regarding _my_ stories…well, to me they’re just posts, same as my rants. My rants have a telos: thing XYZ sucks ass. My stories, not so much. “These things happened to me today” is about the extent of any intended message. Looking for parables, structure, or any sort of ‘larger meaning’ in my posts is, in my opinion, a waste of time, though of course anyone’s welcome to try. Maybe that’s why my stories ruin your whole day?

    I find your proposed recipes for dictatorship compelling.

  3. Man. California just gets more and more fascinating. Very rarely do I laugh out loud at a screen but your description of the foot-kisser had me in hysterics.

    I don’t think you should beat yourself up too much about the urge to protect yourself. Unwanted invasion of personal space is pretty hard to bear, especially if you know the guy is unpredictable to say the least. Moreover I think you should feel proud of the fact that your first reaction to your instinct was one of compassion for an unfortunate soul.

    I don’t have a clue as to how I would have reacted.

    Most importantly, glad you’re still riding the xo.

  4. All very intriguing, thought provoking, and stilted.  My question is:  what was the cop’s mode of transportation?  A cruiser?  What would he have done if you’d tried to get away?  Typical “World’s Scariest Car-Bike Chases” material, with spike tracks and ramming and sparks and helicopters with search lights, even in the light of day.

    These, my friends and virtual acquaintances, are the truly pressing issues of our day.

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