Inspired By Actual Events, Part II
Biking home in the rain at night was foolish. Idiotic. Fourteen miles to ride and he was already fully saturated by the time he’d taken side roads to get off the gridlocked and waterlogged main avenues up to Ballona Creek where Sepulveda Boulevard passes over it.
That the bikeway gate was locked was a given. It had been raining soldily for four hours, turning the practically dry concrete drainage bed of the creek into a churning nastiness that had already risen enough to submerge the bike lanes that drop down beneath the overpass. And in the dodgy darkness it was easy to mistake a swiftly moving palm frond for an arm. But even if it was for real, it was way too late for whoever the arm may have been attached to.
So onward he pedaled along Lucerne that bent around to the north and brought him past a soccer field where he was heartened to see the deluge hadn’t dampened the drive of those who were still on the field playing. Soccer players, he thought. They’d play if lightning was striking.
Up at Culver he turned right and got smacked by the first of what he expected would be many gusts coming out of the west as he headed east. Eight miles an hour my ass, he thought as the rain went horizontal and one prolonged blast almost stood him still in his tracks.
It was nice to see the cars passing him give him a little more room than normal. There are really only two times when L.A. motorists will show a cyclist some love. The first is the week before Christmas when maybe you’re wearing a santa hat over your helmet and you’ve got your bike all rigged up with lights and shit; and the second is during a rain storm. Sometimes it seems it’s Christmas that comes more often to Los Angeles than the rain. Maybe not, but definitely it’s the rare thing to be pedaling in the stuff so far between points A and B.
Across Overland, he missed the green at Motor Avenue and stopped with Sony Pictures over on the left and a local watering hole on his right called The Backstage or The Soundstage, or something like that. No doubt the bar was a place where a lot of the film crews had hung out at the end of long shifts. Outside stood a portly patron who must’ve stepped from within to grab a smoke because it’s illegal to smoke in bars in L.A. It’s kinda funny how you can go somewhere and get hammered enough to get behind the wheel of a car and go kill someone and maybe yourself, but damned if you’ll work yourself to such an impaired state with cigarettes because that second hand shit can cause birth defects.
So the guy’s puffing on his cigarette and looking surprised at the drenched cyclist like he’s one giant defect.
“You got far to ride?” he slurs at him through the downpour.
“Near downtown,” the cyclist replies, his feet already feeling frozen in their soaked shoes.
“Downtown? Shit man, that’s insane!”
“Yeah man. This weather?”
“I dunno. I kinda like biking in the rain,” which on the whole was true, but for the most part didn’t apply to hurricane-like conditions such as these.
And the smoker snorts out a “Yeah, sure you do!” as the light turns green and the cyclist bears down on the right pedal to get going while trying to clip into the left. When you’re riding on the streets you always want to get your left foot off the pedal and onto the ground at a stop. That way if you lose balance at least you’ll fall away from traffic. Embarrassing, yeah. But also very helpful if you don’t want to get run over.
Cranking forward and feeling the left cleat snap into the pedal’s clip, he heard the barfly chuckle and could imagine the guy shaking his head, finishing his smoke and pitching the butt into the gutter where it would fizzle out and be carried down into the sewer system that would empty out into Ballona Creek and ultimately Santa Monica Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Then he’d go back inside for another round only this time with a story to tell of the latest nut he just encountered.