On Saturday, I drank the proverbial Redbull, and gave myself wings. Unfortunately, those wings still needed the rack installed and some steel pedals to replace the insufficient, plastic ones which would not have survived the force of my hairy legs pressing my feet down into them, SO I had to come back and pick it up the next day.
But oh, what a day.
When I mounted that sleek, red and black, smooth-rolling ray of glory, I felt at peace and overwhelmed with excitement all at one. The salesperson had tried to sell me a hybrid bike with flat handlebars and generic derailleurs and shifters. He said that every single person he sold that bike to had been very happy with the purchase and had a wonderful trip. Well, no thank you, Village Bicycle (that insult loses something when it is directed at an actual bicycle). I prefer to fulfill my dreams atop a more unique, special, and hardcore piece of equipment.
And I found one. One with an aluminum frame, a carbon fiber fork, Sora shifters and derailleurs, steal pedals, 28 tires with a sweet, red line on the treads, 18 speeds to enjoy the ride at whatever level of effort/velocity one prefers (and when I say “one” I mean Stu Chipman, because this is his ride), rear and front reflectors, and not one, but TWO water bottle mounts. All that, with a 10% discount that barely cancelled out California’s heinous sales tax or 9.75%, came to $1,134. Actually that’s inaccurate. All that, plus a helmet, a rack, saddle bags, spare tubes, tire tools, multi-tool, new pedals, a pump, a tire gage, and a flat repaid kit—THAT came to $1,134.
And what did that money buy me? It bought me freedom. It bought me miracle grow for my personality. It bought me the Silver Surfer’s Surfboard and Amelia Airheart’s plane. It bought me King Arthur’s Excalibur and Gandhi’s diaper. It bought me a microphone for that voice inside me that needs to be expressed in order for me to be me, that anybody needs to express in order to be themself to the world.
Which brings me to the name of my bicycle. Lionel Owens Ryder. Three parts, equally important.
The flight to San Diego has always been a hazardous experience for me. I once slept one night in the Mexico City Airport, watched a sandstorm engulf Phoenix for just long enough to prevent me from making my connection, spend that night in Phoenix, and then had my replacement flight to San Diego the next day delayed for 6 hours. All in all, it took me 2 and a half days to get from Guadalajara to San Diego. Had I a bike, I could have made it faster that way.
But this one was good. It was uneventful, apart from a food vendor picking his nose in the Chicago airport. And on the flight, we watched The King’s Speech. Lionel is a protagonist of this story, a speech pathologist who assists the King of Britain with controlling his stammer. He is cheeky, Aussie, witty, and more importantly, the catalyst for allowing the good King, Bertie, to find and be himself in life. Bertie’s fear and calcified conceptions of the possibilities of his environment had become barriers between that valuable spark of humanity inside him and the world of people around him. Lionel helped him reduce that fear.
Fear forces an ugly silence on all that it touches. It silences our confidence. It silences our hope. It silences our compassion, our love, our curiosity, our joy. All that makes us human. All that makes us the individual work of art that we are. What Lionel did for Bertie was to liberate him from an indentured servitude that we all face, some to a greater degree than others. We step through life to the rhythm of a tune that somebody else has composed. We focus on finding ourselves, our own special dance that will give us the satisfaction of having been a person, not the caricature of a job description. The charge of our indentured servitude is to exist in that inescapable dichotomy, to dance or stand still, to live or die.
What happens when the tune does not support that dance invented by our hearts and minds? Or when the floor is a shitty surface on which to bust our brand of move? Or when the smell of the dance hall suffocates us and provides no air for our acrobatics? Or when our dance partners are woefully unfit for complementing our style of shimmy? What happens when what is inside of us cannot take the form that it should, because twisted, indifferent fate has allowed a seed to fall in the desert? For many, like a song in a foreign language, they make a noise that is never fully appreciated. For the fortunate, Lionel happens, and they translate themselves into a fit expression of their being to an appropriate audience.
The fear hits us because we begin to doubt that we can do our dance in this hall, on this floor, in this air, with these people, in these shoes. It leaves us when we becoming willing to tear up the floor so that we can cut a rug, open a window, find a new partner, and step sin zapatos, if need be. The fear begins to subside when we realize that we are not stiff, rigid object thrown through the world to be deflected unforgivingly by the preexisting obstacles of life, and we enjoy the epiphany that allows us to see that we are more a current of liquid energy that warps and bends and becomes more complicated with each object it hits, soaking each of those objects in the essence of its composition, making that object the perfect means of expressing our soggy song.
The fact is, all of us have a little John the Bartender in us (See Billy Joel’s Piano Man). We all decide on daily basis which parts of ourselves will live and which parts will die. If people are not careful, they may find that their favorite parts of themselves have died and all they have left are dirty dishes to wash and fake smiles to flash. Get a bike. Or a plane. Or a college degree, or a canvas, or pair of dancing shoes. Or someday, some musician may sing of how you died slowly behind of bar serving small shots of yourself to unforgiving practicalities.
My sister Sally is also a speech pathologist. So I am quite proud of her and glad that my bicycle is named for a major player in her profession.
The second name is burrowed from Jesse Owens, Midwestern athlete extraordinaire who stunned Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympics with his 4 gold medals and three world records. The Aryan race was forced to accept that poverty, not genetic superiority, is responsible for a group of people becoming dominant in athletics. Power to the people. L.O. Ryder is sleek, agile, and fast. Jesse Owens was also a long-jumper, but I do not intend to compare my bike to its namesake in that regard. Also, my bike is black. It would not have been right to give it the names of three white men.
The last name, Ryder, is borrowed from Jack Ryder, the 2nd President of Saginaw Valley State University. This is name that bears personal significance for me, as Ryder was responsible for the massive growth of SVSU towards what it has become today. The opportunities, support, and overall wonderfulness of SVSU as an institution leave me with much to be thankful for. It has been the stepping stone to my future, which looks pretty sexy at the moment. It occurs to me that because I am talking about a university, that people may assume my appreciation is limited to the professional realm. Not the case. The friends and mentors I have acquired in my 4 years at SVSU will remain integral parts of my life for as far as one can predict, and that takes no backseat to my admission to the University of Michigan Law School. Being a lawyer and having the chance to go to an elite school will certainly develop and satiate aspects of my person that need development and satiation, but all that would be for naught if I did not have such special people to share my life with.
So thank you, Jack Ryder, for helping SVSU become the place where I could grow enough to be worthy of the University of Michigan Law School, and the place that attracted Alyssa Tarrant, Caitlin Cooper, Shannon Davis, Bryan Crainer, Cortland, Rose, Jess, Moni, Topo John, Jamie, Courtney, Brady, MJ, Kathy, Bob Lane, Mark Nicol, Julie Keil, Dan Cook, Judy Kermin, the Gilbs, Diane, Helen, Noah, Brian Thomas, Steve Sherlock, Janna Kern, Stephanie Sieggreen, Eduardo y Santa, Paul Teed, Melissa Brown, Kayla Thompson, Dan Stone, Joel Thorne, Elson Boles, Rodbod, Vance, Joe Chrysler,
And all those other people that have made SVSU what it is. It is for all of you that my bike is named Ryder.
The LO Ryder.