Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Book of the Road by Bicycle: A Reading

Let's begin in the middle of the story: this is the turnaround point

It's Books and Bikes Week here on OSG. 

Open the pages and dive in. First a word, then a sentence, paragraphs, pages, chapters, sections, book, all are devoured as the words pull you farther and faster through the story. You hear the characters' voices, their actions and predicaments take on a life of their own.

Uncertain sections arise, populated with strangers who move in unpredictable ways

Sometimes the story drags a bit. Slows down. Experiences headwinds, friction, sudden changes in temperature. Or else mechanical issues: run-on sentences, inept phrasing, clumsy diction, cliche. Transitions with air leaking out until they go flat. Chains of thought that run off the gears and tangle in the derailleur, or worse, get jammed between the chain ring and frame.

Power through. Head down. Press on. Seek a sweeter line. Keep your weight back, stay loose, and look where you want to go.

But, slow a bit. Do not travel oblivious, not here. Avoid auto mode.

But slow a bit. It could be that a major plot line, obvious, well traveled, springs up, and most readers herd that way. Most people hop into the high-speed lane, turn up the stereo, and travel oblivious, as fast and superficially as possible, skipping chapter to chapter six lanes wide, just moving in auto mode, on cruise control, to get to the exit they seek. 

However, there may be a side plot. A small twisting path, less traveled, somewhat slower, and requiring more effort to transit. At sunset, with the desert off to one side, the long shadows of afternoon. Slow a bit. Turn the page. Stop. Flip back a few pages and re-read. Ah, that's better.

There are details you were meant to see, up close, and not rushing past

There are details the author wanted you to notice up close, but which you must linger to appreciate. Details, angles, colors and juxtapositions meant for savoring in their own right, not as means to an end, but as ends in themselves, moments of mutual respect between maker and seer: acknowledging the human mind as worthy of the effort to cross the gap, and capable of feeling things it cannot exactly express, but knows that are valuable, as insights into the machinations of another mind. The mystifying familiarity is inexplicable. The fragility is palpable, too, but its mutual recognition and acknowledgement is strengthening.

The man uncomfortable contemplating his own fragility may be more at ease with it when it is held at the ironic distance between his eye and the ink on the page. This irony is a ghost that sneaks away as the story rolls on down the road.

The bridge enables crossing over the common route, to get to the less-traveled way, under your own power.

Cross the bridge at your own pace, linger but do not loiter: the sun is setting soon, and you've forgotten a light to read by. But, no worries. The end of the story is almost here. You haven't even noticed, but there's only a thin sliver of pages left to go, and you are sprinting along to find out how it ends. The words melt off the page lit by golden sunsetlight. You've forgotten you're even reading. Pure semantic transparency kicks in, you forget yourself as reading becomes living, ink transforms into clear meaning, for a few magic human moments. Two pages. What are the last words that will be left echoing in your mind to close out this book that has pulled you in so deep?

You reach the end feeling that anything is possible, that the world is open before your will.

Final page. The main character has finished his ride, leaving you to continue yours. You have the sense that he is not you, but that you've been privileged to have shared a view from the inside for a few turns in his life, and those feel all-too-brief now. As the story finishes, and you close the last page, the final two words on the page stay with you, and you've pinned to them a flood of emotion and experiences that have floated off the paper to blend with your own, and are now yours. You close the cover on words, and drift back into the world in a happy fade as you look down the road. 

Just ride.



  1. Wonderful words and thoughts....!!


  2. Can you tell me where some of those locations in the pictures are? I'm still somewhat new to the area and getting sick of riding the same city routes through Phoenix over and over...

  3. raublekick, at the top is the Dreamy Draw Pedestrian Bridge, 311 feet of glorious ocher steel, by Vicki Scuri Siteworks, The rest of the photos down to the rusty bridge are all at or near Dreamy Draw park, which has an entrance at Northern and the 51 freeway, or, you can ride there on you bicycle like I did, up Dreamy Draw street, from the Arizona Canal at Glendale Ave, which is where the last photo is taken. Great paths all along the Arizona Canal, and most other canals for that matter, although some are paved, some not. Welcome, and have great rides!

    Trevor and cycler, thank you for your compliments.


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