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Photograph by Brian Swander.

AuthorView By Ken White

“The Bicyclist”

You never saw him without his bike. At the park, going to the bowling alley or pinball palace, on the streets, at the hospital, or back home to his mother’s house alongside Pike Park. It’s how he got from Point A to Point B. In a town of 30,000, it was practical. We all thought he was an odd duck. Of course, he couldn’t drive because the cleft palate had made him mean and angry and anti-social. But, he earned our grudging respect with his athleticism.

He was a natural. He could have played baseball, football, or run track. Except for the cleft palate. You never saw him without his bike. Carrying groceries home in the chrome basket, smoking a cigarette at a political rally in the park, going to a movie downtown, or back home to the house where his high school friend was raised and now lived and offered sanctuary. It’s how he got around. In a town of 150,000, it was hard, but not impossible. We all thought he was strange.

Of course, he couldn’t drive because he had done too many drugs and had too many DUIs. But, we put up with him because he was our classmate. Plus, he was funny. He could have done stand-up. Except for the addictions and the damage done. You never saw him without his bike. Tipping his hat to the dogs and the whores on 9th Street, delivering groceries to the seniors at Ralston Tower, handing out clean needles to the junkies in Tower Park, swaying to the beat of MoBand, or living in his tent down by the river. It was how he got from here to there and back again. In a town of over 200,000, it was dangerous riding a bike. Nobody paid attention. Nobody thought a bicyclist had the right of way. Nobody cared. We all thought he was crazy nuts. Of course, he couldn’t drive because something had happened in the Iraqi desert when he was protecting our freedom. There was no “there” there anymore. But, we accepted him because of his kindness. He could have been a saint. Except for the scars, visible and not. In a world driven by expectations, they had none. They took things as they came and made the best of them; the sad and bad situations. They lived in the moment. Right here, right now. And they were never disappointed.

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