To say that my week got worse (and surreal) would be an understatement, particularly when you are sitting in a clinic for homeless and street-workers and your "last resort" GP doctor suddenly reveals that he has a “personal conflict” with people who take birth control. Okay....you are at an inner city clinic, you treat sex workers but you won’t give birth control or treat people who take it?
At times like this I like to focus on the good things, which was Monday’s ride through the autumn foliage. It was Canadian thanksgiving weekend and I was determined to have a) a bike ride b) sex and c) not at the same time. While rain came all Saturday and Sunday, Monday was overcast, but not liquid, which was close enough.
Linda was trying to find “nice rides” which meant short rides where I didn’t end up screaming later from pain. Bah! I told her I wanted a “real ride” and we choose The Goose, which is a bike trail that follows a green corridor through and behind the city. We had to bike through downtown first to get there (I did of course, later end up screaming in pain at night, but hey, that's what home care workers are paid for, right?).
Having a handcycle or wheelchair bicycle, particularly an upright one definitely makes you stand out, as you have to pump your arms like loony tunes to get going. And when you have to take your hand off the bike arms to shift, there is a lot of momentum lost. Do not fool yourself; legs are way more efficient than arms. If you don’t believe me, just trying walking around on your arms for an hour or so.
The good news was the sun came out, the leaves were turning the colors of death, I mean picturesquely turning orange, yellow and red. Linda says that my idea that this is a leaf’s cry for help, a desperate flashing of color to scream; “I’m dying! Save me!” is the product of an overactive imagination. The Goose crosses wooden bridges, goes along streams and generally makes you think that you are not in the city at all. Not to mention, the sides not in fall colors are filled with the end of summer blackberries. Linda picked some and we ate them.
In some of the overpasses a few people were tented out. Victoria recently was part of multi-city survey in which cities are rated 5 in areas for "awesome" and 1 for “do something!” Our city didn’t get a single 5 rating but the paper patted itself on the back for the things we scored well in; things which only demonstrate the ever increasing have/have not divide in the city. We spend more on concerts and volunteer a lot (at like...art gallery openings), the median household earning was 67K. I said to Linda, “I didn’t realize we were “poor” until that came out." Geez, when “average” is 67K......what kind of city is this? Anyway, there were six areas the city got a 1.5 (which is supposed to be a kick up the butt – only the paper didn’t really cover them as they had headlines like “We go to more concerts!”). Victoria as a city has the LEAST percentage visible ethnic minorities of cities in Canada. White to the core! I guessed that the one time we went to church last month and they met afterward in a tea room which had a wall long display of Golliwogs (caricature dolls which were originally taken from blackface in the 1930's). We also have the highest rate of child abuse; we have the highest rate of teens who don’t finish high school (over 30%!), we have a lack of affordable housing and wait lists for subsidized housing for people with income shortage and disabilities dating back to 2004. We also have over 10,000 women who could work, if there was affordable daycare…but there isn’t. And we have a huge (over 1,000 downtown) homeless population of which the only thing the city has done is recently pass a law making “loitering” a $115 fine. Ironically, someone giving me a ride in my wheelchair was charged because their car was parked over the time limit (essentially vehicle “loitering”) and paid: $20. So, if you are going to be homeless here, please bring a LOT of money, so you can pay the fines. Yes, Victoria, BC is a city of rich, mean, white, smug assholes. Sorry.
Yesterday, a Victorian who rents apartment was telling me about a friend of his who was very distraught about what is happening in what used to be Burma. This Victorian pointed out that life was pretty tough for the homeless right here. His friend said, “I don’t believe the homeless issue.” He and I both sort of repeated that line, “I don’t believe the homeless issue?” I assume you need to cover your eyes and do “la la la la la la” while saying it. So, yes, even on the green belt we saw people, mostly guys, with tents or bags. One of them offered to take our picture together by a row of trees planted by the river. We have hardly any pictures of us together because we are always taking pics of each other. So while the idea was welcome we admitted to each other later that our first thought was “Is this the last time I see our camera?” Instead he got a nice pic, wished us a happy day and we all went back to enjoying the sunshine.
I was pretty nauseous and Linda eventually convinced me that it might be good to try and save some energy for going back. Actually it was the fourth time she suggested it but the other times I was still strong enough to get a wild look around the eyes and mutter; “Never give up; never surrender!” So we had our hot chocolate and junior mints (it was a very 7th grade sort of picnic) and then came back, again, loving the downhills and the scrunching sound of all the fat dried brown leaves. It almost made me feel like jumping into puddles, if that were possible; that childhood autumn experience where suddenly everything makes noise....when you stomp on it.
I had almost made it to the wooden slat bridge when I looked around and Linda was GONE. So I waited and finally she rode up holding some fallen leaves. She thrust them toward me saying, “It’s Thanksgiving!” (Canadian Thanksgiving). I just stared at the leaves. “If you hold them,” she told me, “and we take a picture, people will know it is Thanksgiving.” I wasn’t exactly following the logic but since a) Linda loves taking pictures of stuff and b) I love Linda; I ended up posing by the water holding the ‘thanksgiving’ leaves in what I would consider an “artful” pose (would have been a lot more “artful” if she had let me pose nude like I wanted – that’s what says “thanksgiving” to me; dried leaves AND nudity).
I bounce along the wooden bridge, up the platform and down the other side when I realize something rather important. I don’t have brakes anymore. Eventually I find an uphill, inform Linda and we check out the bike. There is now a cable which connects to....nothing. We think this and the ‘no brakes’ are more than coincidence. Linda goes back to look for a bolt. I try to figure out possibilities. The bike still has an autolock when it rolls backward. Linda returns having found nothing. We forgot the cell phone at home. While Linda has been away I have been trying to figure out a route to get back home which involves going slightly uphill the entire way. This is because we have to go through the downtown to get back home.
We route a path that has minimal lights and is mostly slightly uphill. And we start back. It is pretty terrifying to realize that anyone who steps in front of me or a car who pulls out or ANYTHING and I will hit it, and probably break both ankles and a few other bones. Plus, due to the nature of the bike (three wheeler) if I try to make a sharp turn, it will do a flip which will plant my face right on the cement before skidding it along awhile.
Of course, long weekend, us having to go through the most populated streets (as they are slightly uphill) and with the tourists I am the central attraction of every street. Literally, hundreds of people staring at me. I have been using my all leather gloves on the off-road tires, using hand friction to slow the bike down (see pic), alternating my hands to keep the tire from burning my hand. A city tour-bus slows besides me so everyone can get a look. Inside I am screaming; “I HAVE NO BRAKES IDIOTS! Not a tourist attraction!” (although in this town…who knows). Linda was riding ahead and then waiting at each intersection to literally catch me if I couldn’t stop. Another tour bus decides to pace me sitting parallel to me in the car lane, I pump arms like mad to leave them behind, they speed up, I slow, they slow. I am sure there is a Monty Python skit in this somewhere.
We make it home. I say to Linda, “I know my motto is, ‘Nothing is Impossible’ but.....let’s not keep pushing that motto EVERY time." She agrees. Still, it was a great ride through the sun, trees, water, nature and of course, crazy tourist buses. So for those who have had it and those who are looking forward to it, Happy Thanksgiving.
14 hours ago