Author Topic: Lessons in Life and the Humiliation of Growing Up  (Read 94 times)

Offline SGOS (OP)

Lessons in Life and the Humiliation of Growing Up
« on: September 10, 2017, 09:58:01 AM »
When I was 7 or 8 or somewhere thereabouts, I wanted a bicycle.  All my friends had bicycles.  Granted, all the kids I played with in my neighborhood were one or two years older, but I wanted a bike so I could ride around with my friends.  I still had a tricycle, the same one my parents bought for me when I was maybe three or four, but even that tricycle was smaller than most others, and I was aware of that from the beginning.  Still it served me well.

So one day, I was accompanying my mother on a trip to the corner grocery store, riding my tricycle down the cement paved alley keeping up with my mother who was on foot and me whining about wanting a bicycle, while my mother kept telling me I was too young.  Now try to picture a 7 or 8 year old riding a tricycle that was designed for a three year old with my knees out to the side so they would clear the handle bars.  I must have looked like that guy on the Laugh In Comedy hour.  We got down to the end of the alley where it joined another alley at  90 degrees, and I suppose in at attempt to demonstrate my cycling competence, I took off at full speed, and zoomed around the corner, and tipped over.  This wasn't hard to do, since I was way oversized for a three year old's trike and my center of gravity was way above what the tricycle was designed to carry.  My mother helped me up off the pavement and said, "You want a bike?  You don't even know how to ride a tricycle."

I was deeply humiliated, of course.  But I accepted it with a degree of maturity I wish I could have held onto later in life.  I did indeed make a fool out of myself, and I was all too aware of that.  I must have looked pretty stupid.  But it changed nothing.  I still knew I was old enough to handle a bike.

Eventually, I did get a bike.  It was delivered from Montgomery Ward by truck to our house.  Instead of being too small, it was too big.  They made midsized bicycles, but my parents did not have a lot of money and always applied the rule of "he'll grow into it eventually."  The second day after I got it, I started to wobble on my bike, and to keep from losing my balance, I made a sharp turn to the right, and I did regain my balance effectively, but crashed into the brick wall of a garage.  It was the only brick garage in the entire alley.  Every house on the block had an alley garage but they were all wood.  I didn't hit hard, but I bent the front fork enough so that the front wheel could not clear the lower part of the frame, and I had to walk the bike back to my yard and then suffer another humiliation when I told my mother what had happened.

When my father got home, he told me the damage was too severe and that it would require special tools to fix, and there was this man named Oscar Larson, a friend of my grandfather who was a machinist and might no how to fix it, but he wouldn't be available until next Wednesday evening, and only a guy like Oscar Larson who had special tools that did precision work would know what to do.  I suspected I was actually being punished, because I thought my father was more competent than that, and we had more tools than I could count in our own basement, anyway.

So after several days without a bike and what seemed like forever, we went to see Oscar Larson who took the bike down in his basement to see what he could do.  He was a nice guy, not overly friendly, but nice enough not to give me a big lecture about taking better care of my stuff, and he seemed to accept that it was a honest accident.  I was expecting to see a basement crowded with special industrial type machinery that whirred and whorled and bounced up and down making clank-clank noises, while shooting sparks in the air so to dazzle even a seasoned adult, but it wasn't anything special at all.  In fact, it was just like our basement.  Maybe he had fancier machines at the place where he worked.

Oscar removed the handlebars and took out the front fork and stuck it in a vice, the exact same kind of vice we had at our house.  Then he grasped each tine of the fork with two big hands at the ends of muscular forearms and pulled the bent tines back into position, and then he said, "That looks about right."  So much for precision equipment and specialized measuring tools, and I'm thinking, "Is this all that a machinist does?  What the Hell was Dad talking about?"  I thought I could have fixed it by myself, but maybe not.  Anyway, it worked and I was ready to roll with my friends again.

There's more, but I should end this.  It's just a thing that popped into my head.

Online Baruch

Re: Lessons in Life and the Humiliation of Growing Up
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2017, 10:06:57 AM »
Bicycle stories.  When I was about 12, I decided I liked the sound a stick makes when you poke it into the rear wheel spokes from your right hand while steering with your left hand.  That was the second time I went over the handlebars onto the street ;-)  If it hurts, don't do it again.
שלום

Offline SGOS (OP)

Re: Lessons in Life and the Humiliation of Growing Up
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2017, 10:37:08 AM »
Bicycle stories.  When I was about 12, I decided I liked the sound a stick makes when you poke it into the rear wheel spokes from your right hand while steering with your left hand.  That was the second time I went over the handlebars onto the street ;-)  If it hurts, don't do it again.
Did you ever try balloons?  Half inflate one of those sausage shaped balloons and tie one end to a tine of the front fork, and then tie the long leftover part of the tail below the other end and push the middle of the balloon into the spokes.  I makes a deep throaty sound like a Harley Davidson.  But it doesn't last a long time, maybe 5 minutes before the spokes wear through the rubber and the balloon deflates.  Before that, we used to bend a playing card around the tine and fasten it with a clothespin.  Not a deep rumble, but it lasted longer.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2017, 02:19:36 PM by SGOS »

Re: Lessons in Life and the Humiliation of Growing Up
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2017, 11:10:52 AM »
First bike a ever had lasted about a week before it was stolen off our front porch. Didn't get another one - ever. At least not until I was grown and bought my own.
God Not Found
"Never criticize someone unless you've walked a mile in his shoes. Then when you criticize him at least you'll be a mile away - and you'll have his shoes."
Ray Magliozzi
"Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted at all."

Online Baruch

Re: Lessons in Life and the Humiliation of Growing Up
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2017, 01:17:59 PM »
First bike a ever had lasted about a week before it was stolen off our front porch. Didn't get another one - ever. At least not until I was grown and bought my own.

Yeah ... my first 2 wheel bike ... that was the first time I went over the handlebars and landed on my face, and in the hospital ;-(  Later it was stolen.  I got another one for Christmas  a couple years later ... rode until I was 16 and started driving.  I try to ride now on a mountain bike on a rough path ... it is so hard on my behind, I weigh twice as much as I used to!
שלום

Offline SGOS (OP)

Re: Lessons in Life and the Humiliation of Growing Up
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2017, 02:15:14 PM »
Yeah ... my first 2 wheel bike ... that was the first time I went over the handlebars and landed on my face, and in the hospital ;-(  Later it was stolen.  I got another one for Christmas  a couple years later ... rode until I was 16 and started driving.  I try to ride now on a mountain bike on a rough path ... it is so hard on my behind, I weigh twice as much as I used to!
We used to ride 8 miles out to the local forest preserve in suburban Chicago, and find secluded glades in the woods and cook beans with a sterno stove, and pretend to be woodsmen taming the wilderness.  When I was 14, I asked my friend Ronnie if he wanted to ride out to Bemis Woods the next day.  Ronnie always seemed to like the woods.  As I said earlier, most of my neighborhood friends were a year or two older than me.  Ronnie was 16, and he said, "Well, I can't.  It's fun and everything, but I'm sixteen now, and I can drive a car.  It just wouldn't be cool to have one of my friends see me riding a bike."

I vowed that would never happen to me, and I owned several bikes into my 60s.  When I sold everything to buy a sail boat, I sold three bikes that I owned at the time, a mountain bike, a road bike, and my absolute favorite, a recumbent.  Now, where I live, the roads are too dangerous to ride a bike, with lots of mountain roads with blind curves and no shoulders.  It's not worth it.

When I was 16, I bought my first English racer, the forerunner of the 10 speeds.  It had only three speeds, which to me was good enough, but it had hand brakes and this weird gear system that I never understood, and never took apart.  You never hear the term English racer anymore.  It had thin tires and was very light weight, at least by the standards back then.  I planned a trip from Chicago to a place in Wisconsin 200 miles away.  My friends asked how many miles I could ride in a day, and I said, "Oh, probably 100," and they laughed at me, quite brutally too, like I was an idiot.  And they kept if up for a week.  I had never rode that far, but I knew it could be done.

I left the house at 4:00 AM or so.  The sun was just coming up.  Cops stopped me just outside of Chicago, and asked what I was doing.  I guess they never saw anyone loaded up with camping gear going cross country before.  I explained my trip to them and they smiled and told me to be careful.  By noon, I had clocked 60 miles loaded down with gear in homemade saddle bags and gear on the handle bars.  I was chuckling to myself, because I still had 9 hours of daylight to do another 40 miles and do my hundred mile day.

On my way through Woodstock, Illinois I was hit by a car.  It was a woman making a left hand turn, and I could see her talking to another woman, while she was making the turn.  I was looking at her through her windshield thinking, "Boy is she going to be surprised when she finally looks where she's going and sees me," but she just kept talking to this other woman and never did see me.  She sent me flying through air.  Totaled the bike of course, and an ambulance came and took me to the hospital.  I didn't have any broken bones, but my left leg from the knee down was swollen to the point where it looked like the leg of an elephant.  The nurses couldn't pull my pants down because my leg was too swollen, so they cut my pants off.  They kept me in the hospital for two or three days, and my parents came and got me and what was left of my bike.  I was laid up on the couch at home for at least a week.  I can't remember now, and I limped for at least a month, perhaps two.

Those two friends that were laughing at me, came by to see how I was when I got home, and I told them the details of the accident.  Then one of them asked me how far I had ridden by noon, and I told him 60 miles.  That was followed by dead silence as the two guys exchanged looks.  I don't know if they believed me.  I'm pretty sure they didn't want to believe me.  There was no further discussion about how far you could ride a bike in a day.  I think they at least reconsidered the possibility anyway.  But I really don't know.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2017, 02:22:39 PM by SGOS »

Offline Cavebear

Re: Lessons in Life and the Humiliation of Growing Up
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2017, 02:58:50 AM »
Hurrah!  Going far on a bicycle is a great thing,  I never did more than 20 miles (bst guess) around town, but I understand the idea.  There is something freeing about a bike.

We had a huge hill limiting our neighborhood.  On a good day, I made it up.  On a bad day, the chains slipped and I nearly de-balled myself.    But I never stopped trying that hill.

Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!

Offline SGOS (OP)

Re: Lessons in Life and the Humiliation of Growing Up
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2017, 07:00:27 AM »
Hurrah!  Going far on a bicycle is a great thing,  I never did more than 20 miles (bst guess) around town, but I understand the idea.  There is something freeing about a bike.

We had a huge hill limiting our neighborhood.  On a good day, I made it up.  On a bad day, the chains slipped and I nearly de-balled myself.    But I never stopped trying that hill.
Yeah there is something about it that I relate to being free.  It's different than driving a car or a motorcycle, where I don't get that same feeling, not that there aren't pleasant feelings associated with cars and motorcycles, but on a bike you are totally responsible for what is going on.  You are not delegating the physical energy requirements to an engine.  Everything required for the activity is coming from you, and not turned over to an energy providing prosthesis.  You are FREE of those things.  Well not completely, you still are using a mechanical contrivance, even if it doesn't have a motor.

Oddly, that experience of freedom would seem to be compounded if one ditched the bike and took up running, and I think for some people, that is true.  I've done the running thing, and I can say, "Yeah, it's cool... ," but it never addicted me or called to me, and I never experienced a runner's high.  I don't know how many runners have, but it is talked about.  When riding a bike, I enjoy the smoothness of the rolling motion.  It's like a lullaby.

Hills can be daunting, and there is no way to gun the bike up a steep hill and experience added G forces.  I put it in low gear and accept that I have to slow down, sometimes to an imperceptible crawl, and wait for the adrenaline rush on the other side.  It works better for me, not to be in a hurry on a hill.  And I try not to curse them, but approach them with a "sometimes we are forced to deal with life" frame of mind.

Offline Cavebear

Re: Lessons in Life and the Humiliation of Growing Up
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2017, 08:50:06 AM »
Yeah there is something about it that I relate to being free.  It's different than driving a car or a motorcycle, where I don't get that same feeling, not that there aren't pleasant feelings associated with cars and motorcycles, but on a bike you are totally responsible for what is going on.  You are not delegating the physical energy requirements to an engine.  Everything required for the activity is coming from you, and not turned over to an energy providing prosthesis.  You are FREE of those things.  Well not completely, you still are using a mechanical contrivance, even if it doesn't have a motor.

Oddly, that experience of freedom would seem to be compounded if one ditched the bike and took up running, and I think for some people, that is true.  I've done the running thing, and I can say, "Yeah, it's cool... ," but it never addicted me or called to me, and I never experienced a runner's high.  I don't know how many runners have, but it is talked about.  When riding a bike, I enjoy the smoothness of the rolling motion.  It's like a lullaby.

Hills can be daunting, and there is no way to gun the bike up a steep hill and experience added G forces.  I put it in low gear and accept that I have to slow down, sometimes to an imperceptible crawl, and wait for the adrenaline rush on the other side.  It works better for me, not to be in a hurry on a hill.  And I try not to curse them, but approach them with a "sometimes we are forced to deal with life" frame of mind.

Bicycles are pre-teen passage,   I got my first bike at 13.  Yeah late.  Dad held to the back as I learned balance.  And then one day, as I was going downhill, he wasn't holding it.  I was scared to death, but riding.  I even managed turning at the bottom of the street to the level street.  I was bicycling free. 

The under-powered Indian motorcycle at 16 was another matter.  I had to keep crashing (at slow speed) into the planted Xmas tree to stop.  I never did get the hang of the handlebar gears and brakes.  Never drove one again.
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!