Natalie Goes to Japan

40 year old very married blonde woman having a midlife crisis who heads to Japan alone to follow her dreams. Be careful what you wish for ... you just may get it.

Friday, September 23, 2005

It's ALL About the Bicycle

Did ya know I had a bicycle? Well, me neither until a couple of weeks ago. When I got here my predecessor had a bicycle, a collapsalbe bicycle. But she said she was giving it to her boyfriend when she left. Okay. Fine. Whatever. So shortly after she leaves I am talking to Junko (she is now one of my private students). I mention I am going to have to buy a bicycle. She tells me that my predecessor had a big fight with her boyfriend just before she left the country. My predecessor decided to give her the bike instead. Then she says "Maybe I don't need it. Maybe you could have it". Oh, how nice, that would be very nice. So the bicycle doesn't get mentioned again. Until a few weeks ago. Junko asks me how I am enjoying the bicycle. What bicycle? My predecessor's bicycle. I don't have it, she gave it to YOU. No, no, it is still at the apartment. It's what? So it turns out I have had a bicycle all along. It also turns out Japanese people say "maybe" when they mean "I think" and various other times. So I check out the bicycle the next day. Both tires are flat. The chain is sooooo rusty. I can't get the kickstand to work. And the wheel and brakes are seriously out of alignment. This is all more than I can handle. So I contact the Suzukis to help me out. I have heard there is a bicycle shop in the neighborhood, but I hadn't found it. And it wouldn't matter anyway, because pantomime and my pathetic Japanese wouldn't really get me an estimate or the tune-up my bike needed. They said they actually knew the owner and a week later they whisked my bike away for an estimate. 3 days later the bicycle showed back up under the shelter and I got an email saying their grandmother had sweet talked the bike shop owner into tuning it up for free. So the bicycle is back. But it still needs some tweaking. I took it to the grocery store a week ago and was really miserable for the whole 8 blocks and back. The seat was too low and it didn't have a basket, so my groceries were in my backback (2 liters of pop included). So my knees and back were killing me. I didn't have to work today and I planned to take the bicycle to the river. So today I worked on getting out the kinks. But that took a lot of figuring out. I had to figure out how to raise the seat. I had to buy a basket and figure out how to attach it. I had to figure out how to get the seats to fold down in my car. I had to figure out how to collapse the bicycle. I had to find my way to the Tenryu river. I'm amazed I even got out of bed with all that uncertainty ahead of me. But I got all the puzzles solved. By the time I got to the river it was 2 o'clock. And really too hot to go riding, but that was not stopping me. So I hopped on the path and started riding. I had read on the internet that at times the path just disappeared but to stick with it. So I did. That advice worked well for me the first 2 times. But the third time the path just seemed to stay unpaved and strewn with baseball sized river rocks. When I finally came to a dam that would require me to pick up the bike, carry it up 2 dozen stairs, ride along a busy highway for a hundred yards, then carry the bike down more stairs just to go and continue on the dirt road I gave up and turned around. The river ain't exactly pretty. There are no trees and there is lots of garbage dumped all over. But I knew this ride wasn't really about enjoyment, more about logistics. So I can't say it was a bust. And it might be more enjoyable riding down river at a cooler time. So I came home. I had planned to meet Magda for coffee at 5:30 downtown, but hadn't really thought about how I was gonna accomplish that. When I got home I decided I would try and ride the bike down there. Now that was a wonderful bike ride. I road along the bike path adjacent to the little unnamed river down to downtown. It only took me 5 or 10 minutes longer than to drive. The sun was setting and the street lights were starting to come on. Magda and I had a great time trash talking. When I rode home it was completely dark, but just so wonderful. The temperature was perfect, the crickets and frogs were singing. I even rode passed the apartment down to the convenience store and picked up a saki cooler (it might be wine, what do I know? It's all in kanji) and some popcicles. When I got back I didn't really want to stop. I just wanted to keep on riding. I can't really explain how liberating it felt. But to know I can hop on my bike at anytime just made me feel so free and giggly. I am now mad at all the time I have lost up to now without a bicycle. What was I thinking?

I've christened her "Aunt Bea". She's a Be Club, whatever that is. She does have a Shimano gear shift, for all you gearheads (ie Mark). She is a little like Aunt Bea. She's short and squat and I'm pretty sure the first time I moved her she squealed Aaaaannnnn-dy. Although the bike is black and Aunt Bea was just about the whitest woman ever.

This is what she looks like when she's all curled up asleep. Ain't she sweet?


At 6:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice. It must be so nice to be able to ride downtown. I am watching the X-files. They just dug up dead Mulder and he is ALIVE, ALIVE! Mum


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