City streets in my neighborhood are waking up, front doors opening as people prepare to travel to work or school, or both as it is for me.
I become part of the traffic moving along, grateful for the fresh air my two wheeled, blue Panasonic bike provides me. I head to the pedestrian overpass and cross the Fort Hamilton Parkway and it’s gently sloping ramps. A Panasonic bike is a heavy thing, meaning that staircases are to be avoided, and it does not play music as I think it should.
This morning, I am not dressed as Willy Wonka, for today is not Halloween, and so I will not accidentally bash my forehead on a metal post as I ascend the ramp. That will be for another day.
I glide down the other side and pass the subway entrance, my other commuting option. A few more blocks glide by and I roll up to my hitching post, grateful for this new coffee shop in spite of (or because of) its hipster leanings. It is situated on my side of Prospect Park and is the prototypical harbinger of gentrification in any working class Brooklyn neighborhood.
Moments like this, of expected satiation, my now ingrained habit of finding comfort in shops with expensive caffeinated beverages solidifies a bit more. I have long desired to be upwardly mobile; ignoring groceries at home for public breaking of fast is one way to demonstrate my disposable income to myself, to the world.
Mere morning minutes of pedaling from my own table and now I sit by this window, fueling up on coffee and croissant served in a cute basket. I try not to let my mind leap ahead to the required precision of the coming workday, but instead stay soft, enjoying the senses coddled by this shop as other sleepy people shuffle in for their breakfast or beverage.
The hands on the clock face move too fast, yet dreamy slow is this time of day. I doodle a bit and jot some words. The smartphone is not yet ubiquitous, so I don’t consider posting pithy Facebook status updates, as I would now, in fact if I have anything at this point it’s a My Space page. NPR plays quietly above my head and tells me shocking, disquieting things about the world that I will digest while I ride.
Too soon, I am back outside where pigeons and livery cars, suited people and weary people, are passing me by as I strap on my helmet, unlock my bike’s frame and climb on for the serious leg of the commute. The dreamy phase is over as I cross the street and head into Prospect Park with it’s long loop around the lower lake and then the climb to Grand Army Plaza where I will again take to the streets.
Some days, I meet fellow rider teachers at this juncture and we continue on together down bike lanes and past brownstone buildings in various states of repair. As we move along well traveled lines, that point towards ferry and bridge crossings, the energy of New York is more clearly felt. From here, I can feel the city breathing and my heart pumps in rhythm with it all, as a matter of course.
This ride is done when I have safely passed under the LIRR tracks, that occasionally heart-wrenchingly situated gateway back to childhood home, beyond my young adult responsibilities, and I carry my bike up the grey concrete steps of PS 93. Without much effort and therefore hope, I try to avoid smashing the thick metal pedal into my calf because there is no need to intentionally provoke wincing on my way into work. Onward down the hall to the teacher’s lounge, here I lock up to the ancient, thickly painted radiator for safekeeping.
And with that, another bright day with America’s youth has begun.