I must be a glutton for punishment. I decided to go for a ride today on the Brick around the island of Manhattan just as rush hour was starting. I don’t want my battery to die and I like cranking the bike up every day just to keep the oil moving around. At least that is the lie I tell myself to take her out. I really just enjoy being in the air and seeing the sights as I drive along. I’m not a big fan of urban driving as I have stated in earlier posts, but I live in Manhattan so it makes sense to get to know this fair city – intimately.
The K75 fired right up and I climbed aboard. I headed out of the parking garage and made my way to the Henry Hudson Parkway. The traffic wasn’t too bad and it was nice driving along the water. It’s such a comfortable bike that waiting at traffic lights is no problem at all. Yes, cars constantly try to take your space on the road, but I am getting used to them doing this. I am also getting better at casting evil glares. It works.
It was a cool day with a little sun peering out from behind the clouds here and there. As I ventured downtown I saw a sight I wasn’t ready for – the Freedom Tower. I don’t get downtown much and I guess my mind sort of fills in where the Twin Towers used to be. Long term persistence of vision I guess…
I was working in a downtown studio named City Sound during 9/11 and I never forget that day. My friends were all telling me to get out of the studio. I didn’t know what to do so I stayed put. When we were finally forced to evacuate I was hungry so I stopped by Two Boots Pizza that was located right below my building. It hadn’t hit me yet. I was living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the time and my evacuation route was right over the Williamsburg Bridge. As I walked over the span eating one of my Cleopatra Jones slices (Two Boots names their pizza after obscure icons), I remember looking back at the two plumes of brown smoke. I remember the smell. I remember seeing kids dressed in parochial school uniforms with soot on them. I remember a woman with one shoe crying. I remember looking south at the other two bridges and seeing the mass exodus of people. I remember there were barricades and people waiting for loved ones at the end of the bridge. Seeing that is when it hit me. This was a horrible tragedy, one like our country has never known in my lifetime, and seeing the faces of the waiting families drove home the intense sadness. Yet, the feeling was so surreal because even though it was like returning home from a war, my favorite pizza shop was still open on the way home.
There was no one waiting for me. I was single at the time and lived in a tiny studio adjoining a hair salon. I clicked on my 13″ TV and watched with disbelief. Relatives called throughout the day and finally reached me. They were all glad I was OK since my proximity to ground zero was so close. My life changed so much in the weeks and years following that day. I was humbled and different. In some way I have never completely healed, and in other ways I am a better person. I try not to take things for granted. I try to live a better life.
I continued my journey around the tip of Manhattan onto FDR drive. I sped a little and gunned the bike through the tunnels. The air felt good. I don’t know what it is about being on a motorcycle that seems to heal me. Maybe it’s the thoughts of my first bike I got when I was 17, a 1980 Honda Hawk. When I had that bike, my whole life was in front of me. No dream was too big, no idea too far fetched. Maybe it’s the muscle memory of being on a speeding two wheeled machine that conjures that feeling of my youth. At this point in my life I don’t question it. I just get on the bike and let it happen. It feels good to ride – so I ride.
21.34 miles around Manhattan.
The Freedom Tower nears completion.