Wednesday, March 5, 2008

My last defense

The bicycle was blue, like a summer sky. Its handles were black from the grip tape. The components were a mixture of metallic silver and black. It weighed about 17 pounds. I could pick it up with one finger. Being made of aluminum made it light. It had been hit by a car yet its structure was undamaged. It was a strong bike.

The rainy season had ended. It had not rained in over two weeks. The sun was rising earlier in the morning and setting later in the evening. The morning's were cloudy but the sun would burn through the clouds by early afternoon. The temperature was slowly rising, day by day. But like in the winter it was still warmer in the sun. I stood in the in the sunshine on the corner of 40th and San Pablo. I held onto the top tube of my bike so it would stand motionless next to me.

The traffic wasn't heavy. It was 2 o'clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday. There were a few people walking up and down the street. Most of the pedestrians were either coming from or going to the Oaks Card Club a block up from the intersection.

The card club had been around for over 20 years. The building was shaped like a cube and made of brick. Outside people would smoke cigarettes and talk about their losses. There was a security officer in a small hut by the parking lot. The parking lot was west of the building. The officer's hut was 50 meters from the building.

I could see the security officer from where I stood in front of Black and White market. The officer looked bored. The market was a liquor store. It sold a variety of microbrewed beers, chips, cigars, and magazines. Most of its sales came from malt liquor, lottery tickets, and the last minute beer purchases. It sold liquor later than any other market in the area. The market would sell alcohol until 1:45 am. Law dictated that purchasing alcohol ended at 2am Monday through Sunday. Most markets stopped selling alcohol at 1:30 am or were closed by midnight.

I waited another five minutes at the intersection then checked the time on my cell phone. At 2:15 pm I got back on my bike. I rode down San Pablo. San Pablo is a major north-south route connecting Oakland, Berkley, Albany, and El Cerrito. The buildings this far south on San Pablo were beaten. The brick buildings on the west side of the street were run down. The occasional shop on the east side of the street looked liked they'd seen better days.

My pace was slow. I was in no hurry. The air was clean, despite being so close to downtown Oakland. I breathed in evenly. My legs moved in an regular cadence. There is no bike lane on San Pablo. I rode five feet away from parked cars, far enough that I could avoid getting doored.

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