Friday, January 01, 2010

Twenty Jerseys - Twenty Days
A New Year's Resolution

As 2010 begins I feel blessed, and not just with material possessions. So many people, though, have so little in this world, so little food, such little safety, and just a few possessions. They look forward in this new year to a grim future, if a future at all, and the view is the same far, far down the road for them. (On the other hand, that's not to deny that life, even under difficult conditions, can be worthwhile, and can be enjoyed on its own terms, whatever those terms are.)

Therefore, given that so many of my fellow humans live in want, I must make an embarrassing admission: I own twenty bike jerseys. That's probably about 19 jerseys too many. Many if not most of these articles of fashion, largely neglected by me, hang forlornly in a closet, waiting without complaint in darkness and silence to clothe me in their bright colors and creative designs.

Showing some of the most overlooked jerseys to my daughter and her boyfriend yesterday, I told them I was contemplating giving the jerseys away. "They don't take up much room, Dad, why don't you just keep them? I'm sure they are tied up with some great memories," my daughter said.

It's true, all my jerseys are are at least tinged with memories of rides, or hold sentimental value because they came from someone special to me. Yet is this reason enough to support such sartorial gluttony?

I don't know the answer to that. I know I don't do enough to help those less fortunate that I am. Yet charity, carried to its logical extreme, would leave me as destitute as those I would help, and certainly make those close to me unhappy. But I know, too, that 20 jerseys are too many jerseys, even if they've been collected over more than the past three decades.

Perhaps, for now, I have found a middle ground. If I admit that twenty jerseys exist to be worn on bike rides, then I resolve that twenty jerseys will ride with me, one each day, for the next twenty days.

Yesterday, the first day of the new year, the first day of my resolution, I rode in the first jersey. But before I could do so, before I could glide through the city on my first ride, there was the little matter of a parade to get through, specifically the Rose Parade, in Pasadena, California.

The last time my wife and I went to the Tournament of Roses, in 2006, was the first time in 51 years that it rained on Pasadena's parade. We had fun but we, along with everyone and everything else, were drenched by a torrential downpour of biblical proportions.

I made my wife wait four years for a return engagement; this time we brought along my daughter and Lee. Our day began in the dark, about 5 a.m. Kathy turned on the coffee maker while I walked the dog. We drove to beautiful Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, and took the Metro's Gold Line, crowded with other people headed to the parade, to Pasadena, arriving in plenty of time to walk about a mile to our grandstand seats.

I was a little sorry - but only a little - that we didn't spend the night on the sidewalk, camped out as so many others had done, in sleeping bags and blankets. If they were a little less than toasty warm that night, at least the campers didn't have to put up with rain this year.

The sun rose to shine on the fire-scarred, San Gabriel Mountains, and then the light reached down to the tops of the buildings along Colorado Blvd., and then washed over the thousands gathering along the parade route. We had seats on the top row of our grandstand. When the winter-low sun finally cleared a building behind us, it felt good on our backs, as we drank coffee from our thermos and munched on apples and coffee cake and trail mix from our beloved Trader Joe's market.

We were seated not far from the start of the parade, which lasted about two hours. There were gorgeous floats, and magnificent bands, equestrian units, the Boy Scouts, the Army and the Marines, bob-sledding dogs, the Tuskegee Airmen, and an astronaut.

And there was Chesley B. "Sully" Sullengerger, the pilot-hero who cooly guided US Airways Flight 1549, to a crash landing in the Hudson River in New York City, on January 15, 2009. Sullenberger's calm control of the situation saved the lives of 155 people on the plane. From her office window on the 40th floor of the building she worked in that day, my daughter watched the partially submerged plane towed down the river after everyone was rescued. Now she watched Sully glide by in a vintage motorcar.

After the parade, we shared a Mexican-style hot dog - the dog wrapped in bacon, with onions and mustard and ketchup and mayo and chiles - purchased from a street vendor. (We skipped the mayo, as I'm the only one of us who likes it on his hot dog.) Then we took the Gold Line back to Union Station, noticing a contingent of police, Sheriff's department officers, and TSA and Department of Homeland security officers and a bomb sniffing dog, all guarding the Metro platform. (What price freedom, what price safety?)

From the old train depot, we walked across Alameda Blvd., and ate Mexican food for lunch on a patio in one of the old builings along historic Olvera Street. While we saw nary a Duck fan in sight, there were crowds of Buckeye fans, dressed in red, walking along the narrow street, really just a wide sidewalk, its center crammed with stalls selling Mexican wrestling masks, leather purses, posters of the Virgin Mary, and a cornucopia of other wonderful items designed to purchasing habits of the residents of Ohio and Oregon and the other visitors from around the world.

We returned home by way of the Frank Geary-designed Walt Disney concert hall, which, from the photograph below, makes me think was created as an homage to Picasso and Cubism, for I think I spot Mickey Mouse in the design.

The dog needed a walk, there was some of the Rose Bowl game to watch on t.v., and I needed a nap. Meanwhile, my jerseys waited for me to make my first pick.

I chose the black Specialized jersey my brother gave me some years ago. I don't wear it often, so it's in excellent condition. I do like to wear it when it's cold. I like to think black soaks up whatever heat is available. Of course cool temperatures doesn't occur often in Southern California.

Darkness was perhaps 30 minutes away when I finally stopped scratching the cat's neck and started turning the pedals on my bike (it's equipped with lights). As I'd begun the day in the dark, ending it the same way seemed appropriate.

The last light of the day, poking out from under a cover of clouds that drifted over the city in the afternoon, lit up some of the taller buildings along the Miracle Mile district, north of my home.

The building above, pulled in with the telephoto setting on my Panasonic Lumix TZ 5 camera, is more than half a mile from my home.

The stretch of Fairfax Blvd., above, is home to several Ethiopian restaurants, the legendary Hansen's Bakery, a pawn shop and the Jewish Woman's Thrift shop, among other enterprises.

The sky turned a bright red for a few minutes. As the day turned to night, I rode past Chinese restaurants, Jewish delis, past trendy shops along Robertson Blvd., and the "Trashy Lingerie" shop on La Cienega Blvd., I sprinted by the lines of cars piled up at stoplights, I cranked it through dark residential streets, and I made it home, after a fast-paced ten mile loop, just a few minutes too late to catch the final play of the Rose Bowl game.

"Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailor's delight." It was true, at least for last night. This morning, the second day of the new year, dawned bright and clear. I need to choose another jersey, and think about the world around me.

Note: Click on photos to see larger version.


Autumn Leaf Photography said...

Great blog post Dave. When are we gonna go do some shooting in Downtown L.A.?

Grace and Bradley said...

Thanks of taking us with you through such a great first day of 2010. Grace was alone in Taiwan, I am in DC taking care of our granddaughter and my daughter is taking care of our brand new grandson.