Cycling, especially done in twos, is a pretty amazing way to talk. You are whizzing along and the blood is coursing through your veins and brain, things occur to you, and out pop all manner of subjects.
I’m not sure if cyclists are talky people or if cycling makes you talky, but whether the egg came first or the Easter Bunny, the fact is that riding and conversation go together like spit and spanky muffins. And this is one of the things I miss about not riding my bike.
On the other hand, quarantine appears to be a pretty amazing way to make people talk if they’re so inclined, and yes, I know that it is also a pretty sick way to generate more domestic violence and child abuse, sicker even than getting likkered up to watch The Big Game. But still.
I think people in general and cyclists in especial are turning to conversation far more than they did before the quarantine. Anecdotal comments about people reaching out to friends and family far-flung, the boom in Zoom, and the sheer quantity of anti-reality phenomena spewed out by the news on an hourly basis all push us to talk, to share, and, incredibly, to listen.
Stathis recently commented that “Walking in the South Bay” doesn’t do it, and he’s right. I think “Walking in the South Bay” might work for someone trying to fall asleep at night, but it’s hardly the slug you want to see to motivate, excite, encourage, or otherwise stimulate you to ride your bike. But for now it’s Walking in the South Bay indeed, and I have to say that the conversations I’ve been having on my walks have been incredible.
For example, last night I got into a discussion with a great horned owl. It was hooting from a nearby tree. The ambient noise in LA has dropped by more than half since the quarantine, and at night it has dropped 95% or more in my estimation. The owl was telling me that since the pandemic he’s now able to communicate better with his owl friends.
“My calls go farther and so do theirs. We can hear each other better and there’s less miscommunication. Also, more owl gals have been flying into my neighborhood to check things out because my hoots travel farther,” he chuckled.
Another morning I got into a similar discussion with a Cooper’s hawk, who analyzed it simply. “Less murder.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“So many of my relatives get murdered in the morning by cars.”
“Ah,” I said, recalling that accipiters hunt by flying low and fast and straight to pick off smaller birds perched in foliage, making them perfect targets for cars rushing to work.
At that moment a chorus of bunnies chimed in. “Less bunny road mash!” they squeaked.
Not all of my conversations have been so brief; in fact most of them have been quite in-depth, for example, the friend in Houston who called up to say that she and her husband had, on their numerous daily walks, begun hauling trash out of an abandoned construction site and throwing bird seed in the mud.
After some rain and time, up sprouted flowers and along came bees and birds, then predators, and finally a family of pileated woodpeckers. “Nature,” she said, “doesn’t need instructions,” and we talked a lot about how when people go away nature comes back. There’s no such thing as “cities devoid of nature,” only “cities where people refuse to let wild things flourish.”
My best conversations? I hate to admit it, but they’re the ones I have with myself that begin, “So … when do you think you’ll be able to ride again?”
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