Monday, April 24, 2006
A Full Five Months
Like many a recovering alcoholic in Saint Paul, when the weather gets good, the drunk get cycling. Unlike the West Coast where I grew up, cycling in the Midwest has seasons. There’s only one A.A. that cycles all year round here and he’s a few clowns short of a circus. But many of us embrace the new spring freedom and happily mount up.
Lately I’ve tried combining two modes of transportation with mixed results. Our buses have bike racks. Being the procrastinator that I am, I’ve become quite the racer when it comes to buses. If you can’t catch the bus you want, why wait for it? Just run it down! I’ve discovered that the two modes of transportation have three comparative points worth mentioning:
1. Buses must stop at red lights where bicycles can negotiate them,
2. A bicycle is like an express bus in that it doesn’t make all stops,
3. Buses power up and coast down hills where bicycles crawl up and race down.
This gives the cyclist several advantages and disadvantages when it comes to racing the bus you’re interested in using to terminate your spring ride. Unfortunately, it meant never catching the bus that would take me to my one meeting that I know would score me a five month medallion. Saint Paul lies several hundred feet below surrounding suburbs, being that the Mississippi River runs through it. Although I was only five minutes late, and could easily make up the time by taking advantage of the first two points, it’s the latter that botched my efforts.
You have to dig your way out of the river front communities. I caught up with the bus by taking a few short cuts that the bus had to avoid in order in order to pickup as many fares downtown as possible. I was yards away from the bus when it made its critical turn out of town and up a steep hill. No problem, I thought, I’ll just catch up on the downslide. But there was none. In its place was another hill. That combined with the fact that I don’t really pay close attention to all the turns a bus makes while I’m riding it (and the fact that Jesse Ventura was right, drunk Irish men really did design the streets of Saint Paul – I’m Irish so blow me all PC types), I lost the bus, along with my sense of direction. It being an overcast day and all, I ended up heading south on a street I clearly intended to be heading north. Thankfully, a local fireman who happened to be out for a stroll pointed me in the right direction. He must’ve thought I was a drunken Irishman.
So, what planned on being a short bus/bike trip lasting only twenty-five minutes became a healthy hour and a half bike tour. Alcoholics are punctual and unforgiving folks when it comes to disrespecting meeting start times. Suffice to say, I didn’t earn a medallion for my efforts. Five month medallions are difficult to attain. They’re rare and I thought because I received a four month there that it would happen today, but alas it was not to be. Either it’s rarer than I’d thought or burbs don’t respect cycling: I parked in an empty bike rack.
Short but sweet; I did make the meeting’s tail end. You do tend to get more out of meetings when you can hear everyone speak. This will not repeat itself.
The bus rides that followed the rest of the day were typical for milestone days. I over heard a young man discussing the Camel Club, a since deprecated dry bar for A.A.s. I asked him about it in a way that wouldn’t reveal to a non-A.A. our true subject matter in order to respect what anonymity he felt like protecting. The way in which he responded did appear to be anonymous. We mourned the loss of the Camel Club.
On my way back from the meeting, after mounting my bike on the front of the bus, I’d taken the seat on the mostly empty bus near the front usually reserved for elderly, handy capped, and the full-legged lady in short skirt that any decent gentleman would care to relinquish his seat for. Such an opportunity presented itself when an older lady stumbled on the bus. Distracted by tying up my gear I failed to notice her getting on the bus, but couldn’t miss the waft of Whiskey breath as she passed. Being that she was voluntarily disabled and elderly, I offered my seat. This compounded her perplexity as she turned to confront me and promptly fell flat on her patootee. I reached down to help her up at her rejection, which quickly turned to comfort as I forcefully righted her to standing position rather quickly. In her drunken state, I believe it the most erect position she’d attained in hours; she thanked me. In an inebriated slur, she said, “I forgot my bag,” which was brown and promptly retrieved, she took my seat. From my own drinking days, I could easily identify it as a 1.75 liter plastic bottle of cheap bourbon, brown bag molded by grip around its neck.
I have a gift for guessing a woman’s age. I had initially thought her in her 70’s, but after closer inspection, discovered her to be much closer to my own age. Horribly aged by booze no less, she made a fool of herself. So much so that the young man I’d just been having a discussion with early regarding the Camel Club who was closest to the action said nothing when she fell just left of him. He didn’t bother to help her at all when he clearly was in range. I smiled gracefully, treated her like a lady as I helped her up, while giggling all inside. Most people don’t find alcoholism as entertaining as I do I guess.
I interviewed a new sponsor. I like him. We spent an hour in The Café and he agreed to endure my existence.
After nearly falling asleep at plasma, I decided against my better budget judgment to treat myself to a shopping excursion at Wally World. I bought only staples: hotdogs, milk, etc. It was my attempt to recharge my cell phone’s minutes that brought me to the counter that I made my next purchase. Loitering around this big bin filled with old and unwanted DVDs for $5.50 a pop was a beautiful young blue-eyed lady from Europe; excuse enough to play in the bin. There I found North Dallas Forty, a movie I grew up with and coincidentally was just thinking about buying the day before. It ads to a growing list of traditional seasonal movies: The Music Man for Fourth of July, A Christmas Story for well, Christmas, and American Flyers for spring cycling. This last one I just broke out of storage because I’m getting back in shape for cycling season.
It was this old movie that made me think of North Dallas Forty, you know, for football season. ‘70s drug culture meets the corporate world of football and all it’s politics; it’s a classic. The story is as true today as it was during the sexual revolution. Professional football teams pump their star athletes with drugs just to get them out on the field, and then penalize them for using recreational drugs. It’s the dramatized auto-biographical novel of a Dallas wide receiver made into a movie. It’s “far out.”
Five months is a lonely milestone I guess. No one remembered; no one called. I simply went home, popped in North Dallas Forty, and crashed on the sofa.