After A Bike Ride, Paradise Is Lost
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Like Adam and Eve, commentator Mark Allen has experienced a rude encounter in Eden.
MARK ALLEN: Everyone has a paradise on earth. It's a secret place they visit in their daydreams or perhaps once in a while on a special vacation. I, keep a satellite picture of my paradise up on Google or on the computer in my home office. It's always in the corner of my desktop screen. It's very reassuring keeping an eye on it, making sure it will always be there for me.
Recently, I was lucky enough to actually go there. It was my third trip and this time, I decided to rent a bike to explore some of the nooks and crannies I might have missed in a rental car. The last day of my trip started out blissfully. But I'd been riding since the early morning and had misjudged how far I'd gone. Now, it was late afternoon and I was trying to make my way back. It was taking forever. I had blisters, I was exhausted, dehydrated and sun-fried. I was still a long way from my hotel. But, what did it matter? I was in paradise. I just put both feet on my bike pedals and pressed forward, full speed. And that's when it happened.
There was a large crack in the sidewalk that I saw too late. My front wheel fell right into in and the bike slammed downwards. My body kept floating forward, my open palms scraping along the rough surface of an adobe wall to my right as I flew beside it. While airborne, I realized I was about to greet the pavement cranium first. So, it's amazing how fast your mind works here. I rapidly jerked my head down to my chest and bent my knees hoping I would roll. I did. And in a flash I felt the pavement smash hard into my ass. At least my skull was safe. I decided I really just wanted to get home. I walked over to my bike, stood it up and moved it forward, one inch, crunk. I turned the bike upside down and tried to wrangle the wretched chain back into place. It was impossible to untangle, like demented macrame. I put the bike upright and tried to move it along again while pressing down on the pedal hoping the chain would pop back in, nothing. I noticed my nose was now running. I checked to see if it might be my brains. I was getting really angry. Just as I was about to transform into the Incredible Hulk, the chain suddenly popped into place. Without stopping to contemplate, I hopped on the bike, peeling off towards home.
I pressed down on the bike pedals the way a child stomps up the stairs to his room in a tantrum. I couldn't go fast enough. I was in the worst mood I think I've ever been in. I zoomed past everything I cherished in this special place. A week later when I returned home and was unpacking, I was amazed to find the towel I'd wrapped around my hand after the bike crash. In my confusion, I must have thrown it in my luggage instead of the trash. I took it out and uncrumbled it. Ugh, it was rank. I held it up to the light. It was stained with blood, sweat and bike grease. I hung it above the mantle in my home office right next to my desk where my computer is and where Google Earth is always available to pull up that satellite view of my favorite place in the world. It's hard to figure out if the towel looks like an abstract painting or a dirty diaper. I think it's a trophy and I love looking at it. When I need reassurance, when I need a reminder that there's really no such place as heaven or hell.
SIEGEL: Mark Allen lives in upstate New York.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.