Street by Street

When I got my Evil Knievel bike for Christmas, I set a goal. A monumental goal. I would circumnavigate my subdivision. Now, I was not an instinctive explorer as a kid. No. Not at all. Hell, I was an overly cautious kid. But I was an overly cautious kid full of deep curiosity. So, I was gonna have to take on this task street-by-street.

I started with my street, Anson. I rode up and down its hills, got accustomed to its landmarks, took note of the dogs to avoid and the teenage boys working on their hot rods to stay away from (while smiling at their girlfriends). Once I got comfortable with Anson, I took a left onto Numerator and rode its hill doing the same. I eventually turned left onto Foxtrot (the main, lengthy road into our subdivision) and explored its side streets like Tango and Samba.

With each street explored, I’d return home with a bit more confidence. I had gone out into the world. On my own. And, I had made it back. Things were proceeding apace until I turned right onto Foxtrot and rode up to Quadrant.

Quadrant was unlike any street I had come upon before. It wasn’t a side street. There was a Quadrant on left-hand side and right-hand side of Foxtrot. And, I was certain that if I rode down one side of Quadrant I would have to ride and ride and ride around the entire planet Earth to get to the other side of Foxtrot. That was too much, too soon. So, I retreated home. And, I stopped taking a right down Foxtrot.

I’m not sure how long it took; but, at some point, the curious part of me that was needing to take a peek down Quadrant Street said “Let’s ride.” Of course, the cautious part of me said “Let’s stay put.” But, the curious part of me won out and I rode the hills of Quadrant. Indeed, I made it all the way up to the stop at the top of Foxtrot. And, from there, all I had to do was take a right onto Shady Lane.

Shady Lane was a cut-through street with a 35-mph speed limit. So, I did not take that right turn right away. But, sooner or later, I did. And, once I did, I pedaled hard. I pedaled fast. I pedaled with adrenaline-fueled fury. Leaning right, I pedaled through the first curve. Leaning left, I pedaled through the second curve. And, upon seeing the sign for Anson, I pedaled even harder. I took the right onto Anson without slowing and glided down its hill all the way home.

Slowly, street by street, I had circumnavigated my subdivision!

I still take life street by street. But, nowadays, instead of streets, I expand the boundaries of my existence with new ideas, people and experiences. Now, like the kid I was, I still struggle meeting the new. There’s still the cautious part of me that likes its knowing and wants to stay put. And, there’s still the curious part of me that wants to explore beyond the edges of my knowing. This part of me knows that there are things out there worth knowing. Not necessarily better or more important things. Just different things. It may take some time; but, my curious side wins out. So, I keep adding streets. And, true to form, there’s been more than a few occasions when I’ve come upon another Quadrant.

Indeed, a few years back, I got invited to a conference for creatives in Brooklyn. It was a first for me in many ways. And, it was a great experience. But there was lot of double-cheek kissing, no bourbon, and when I stepped out to sit on a bench and nestle my boots in a bit of green this dancer leapt into my peripheral vision, tucked her body and rolled around on the ground in front of me. Not really sure what to do, I smiled and waited for her to roll on along. And she did. Now, I assume her role as part of the modern dance troupe in attendance was to ignite our creativity; but, honestly, it all made me feel like I’d gone a street too far, too soon.

Moments like these still happen. And, when they do, I sometimes feel in danger of losing my self-possession. On these occasions here’s what I do:

I close my eyes.

I’m in my garage. It’s dark. But not too dark that I cannot grasp the garage door handle. I give it a hard twist to the left and yank it open. Sunlight pours in. I straddle my bike, push off with my foot and take a rolling left out of my driveway and onto Anson. I take another left onto Numerator. The pedaling is slow but I make it to the top. I take a right onto Foxtrot. Foxtrot’s flat and full of easy riding. I pedal past Quadrant, Quintet, and the mini-mall that’s missing two white pines from its hillside. I pedal up to the Stop. I anchor my left foot into the pavement, balance my bike and look both ways. There’s no traffic. I push off from the pavement with my left and thrust my right foot down into its pedal. The first few pedal rotations are thick with awkwardness; but, I gather momentum, settle into my saddle, and take a right turn onto Shady Lane. I pedal hard. I pedal fast. I pedal with adrenaline-fueled fury. Leaning right, I pedal through the first curve. Leaning left, I pedal through the second curve. And, upon seeing the sign for Anson, I pedal even harder. I take the right onto Anson without slowing, glide down its hill and let the wind run its fingers through my teased-out-curly-ass-freaky-white-boy-seventies-afro with a full smile on my face.

I open my eyes.

I’m grounded.

And, I’m ready to take on what’s in front of me with openness and confidence.

Growing up, I cannot tell you how many times I overheard my Mom say with vehemence and warning to the universe “I will not lose this house!” Nor do I know how close we came to losing our house (or how many times). But we never did.

That house.

That circuit of streets and their landmarks, people and pets.

They anchor me into time and space.

And, honest to goodness, it’s that anchor that allows me to be out in this great big beautifully diverse world in a way that I never could have imagined as a kid.


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Thanks. – shawn

PS I’m currently riding along transcendentalism street and one of my former students (I’ll only share his first name “Ben”) wants me to take a ride down psychotropic mushrooms street but I’m pretty sure I’ll need my Mom’s permission for that.