I ride my beloved beach cruiser Mathilda, most everywhere these days. When I am riding her, I feel free and cheerful. The wind on my face and in my ears lifts my spirits completely. I also love that the street scape perspective that riding a bicycle provides (and driving in a car does not), allows me to relate to my environment as both an observer and an active participant but at a greater velocity than that of a pedestrian.
In fact, my new favorite method of movement has influenced me so greatly, that I now get 'bike legs' like the boating set get 'sea legs'. I walk about my house with paces that resemble revolutions rather than steps, the sensation of two feet directly on the ground so foreign.
So it's very sad to report that after a terrifying drama was over, and I got back on my bike and back on the horse to go and get some chocolate cake and tea (the natural remedy for any crisis that has caused one to be shaken up), I did not feel good on Mathilda anymore. The wind on my face and in my ears meant that perhaps I would not be able to properly hear if someone was dangerously approaching. The comfortable speeds at which I usually travel just not fast enough if I needed to make a get away. The immersion in street scape no longer charming but dangerous, a bike frame not providing the protection that the cabin of an automobile could. Tonight I didn't feel free and cheerful. I felt vulnerable and paranoid.
The other night, against the wishes of my now-proven-to-be-wiser other half, I took myself on a fifteen mile, solo bike ride to an event I'd wanted to go to. The journey was to take me on a two hour ride on streets previously un-chartered by yours truly. Not a problem if you're in a car. Quite a problem when you're a little lost, it's dark (the darkest area I've come across in LA), the streets are desolate, you've run out of foot path and the road you're on has turned into a four lane highway filled with uncountable cars, all traveling as if a dying person in the backseat was in need of immediate medical attention.
As my predicament started to make clear its direction, I began to formulate plans of escape from hypothetical scrapes. My main concerns were how to get assistance if someone were to try and violate or harm me and how to move on along my foot pathless, bike laneless journey without being run over.
Looking around me, I realized that Bel-Air was filled with houses whose gardens were moats, and gated driveways were drawbridges that provided the only access through impossibly high castle walls. There was no human activity on the streets, no neighborhood, no community, no corner store, no one walking the dog or taking an evening stroll, no one busking on a corner, no neighbor chatting to another over a fence, not a whisper of life, not a trace of humanity. Just long, dark, lonely streets and walls. Walls and walls and thick, spongy, suspiciously green, wet grass lining the perimeters of these walls. I decided that if I screamed here in Bel-Air, there's no way a single soul would hear me. And I somehow very much doubted they'd come looking for me if they did.
I started to panic out there on this road in the very dark dark, when, unfortunately my panic was immediately justified. Cars began slowing down alongside me, with men inside peering and leering at me out their windows. I rang my fella - quite afraid by this point - and conceded to ask if he could come and get me. I explained that I had seen an estate a little way back that appeared to have a security guard at the gate. I said I'd go ask to wait with the guard. My fella said he knew exactly the house I was speaking of and that he would come and get me there immediately.
I about faced to make my perilous navigation through the traffic to the only 'safe' house I could think of. That's when the truck came. It was an enormous, four door, utility truck coming toward me with two men in it. Leering at me over the dash until they slowly passed me. I heard something change in the engine and looked back over my shoulder to see them reversing toward me. It appeared they were taking advantage of the lack of traffic â€“ the road suddenly deserted.
The man on my side had popped the door open so it was ajar and they were calling out to me and following me backwards. Terrified now, I jumped back on my bike and, with no regard for the fact that I was riding the wrong direction in a lane on a busy road, I proceeded to ride like the wind to escape the scary men in pursuit. They were gaining on me and I was so very terrified I was shaking like a leaf. I was shaking so much, my hands couldn't even hold onto the handle bars anymore and I fell off my bike.
Luckily, a wave of traffic emerged at the top of the incline and started moving toward us. I managed to drag myself and my bike off the road, avoiding a head on collision with a car, and the evil men following me were forced to abandon reverse and move on, leaving me behind. Trying to get my bike back up and get myself across the road to the 'safe house' before the men had a chance to come back, I fell over a few more times. Just like in a horror movie, I was so shaken I couldn't seem to physically control anything.
With great relief, I finally made it across the road and headed directly for the security guard in his little booth at this imposing front gate. As I drew nearer, something about him seemed amiss. Wary, I approached slowly, only to realize that he wasn't real. It was a statue! My mind was hurled into psychotically petrified turmoil again. I didn't have a protector. I was alone on this desolate street again and those men might come back looking for me.
There was nothing for it but to hide. So, wedged in the bushes alongside the castle walls of some ridiculous Bel-Air mansion I hid, weeping, cold and terrified, waiting for my FiancÃ© to come and rescue me. And so he did.
Warm and safe, driving away from that lonely neighborhood and my ordeal, I couldn't help thinking about the lines from Kahlil Gibran's 'The Prophet'.
"And tell me, people of Orphalese, what have you in these houses?
And what is it you guard with fastened doors?
Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort,
that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and becomes a host, and then a master?
Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires.
Though its hands are silken, its heart is of iron.
It lulls you to sleep only to stand by your bed and jeer at the dignity of the flesh.
It makes mock of your sound senses, and lays them in thistledown like fragile vessels.
Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.
But you, children of space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed.
Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast."
I thought about an incident that occurred in my neighborhood of Venice Beach when I arrived home on my earlier that week.
I pulled up onto the sidewalk next to my apartment building and noticed my neighbors in the building next door were out in the yard with my boyfriend (a 4 month old English bulldog called Winston). Mathilda doesn't have a stand at the moment so I laid her down on her side on the footpath and wandered into the yard to play with Winston. After my little visit, I went back out onto the street, picked up my bike and wheeled it next door to my front gate.
Looking up, at my quaint little apartment block, I noted all four Juliet balconies at my building's faÃ§ade occupied with my neighbors. They were all smiling and waving and saying, "Oh you're okay! We were just on our way down."
One neighbor who had been reading on his balcony had noticed my bike strewn on the pavement but me missing, and called out to a neighbor in an adjacent apartment, with a clearer view of that side of the street, to have a look from her balcony to see if she could see me. It looked like I'd taken a spill and was out of sight and they were worried. It appeared that they were on their way down to see if I was okay. Obviously I was, so one of the neighbors threw a foot ball down to me instead and, between the three levels of ground, one and two, we - all three neighbors - played a game of tri-level catch at dusk, while we discussed our day's happenings. This ladies and gentlemen is what you call community. And this is what neighbors are for.
The moral of the story? Don't ride your bike alone at night on streets unknown and don't live in Bel-Air. A shanty in a street where children play in the street, over a mansion that has its own street any day if you ask me. The King of the castle presiding over a lonely kingdom is no place I wanna be.
WORLD - CITY LIVING
Copyright © 2010 V
The Fresh Princess of Bel-Air
Copyright © 2010 V
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