A Bike Story

Sep 06 2016

2005 or 2006

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 1.09.41 PM

I’m sitting on my work bike, the Matsuri with the scavenged chrome fork. My rear wheel is worth more than the frame and the rest of the components combined. A 32 hole Phil hub laced to a 99 Campagnolo Moscva rim. Someone at Bikeworks built it, maybe Dave or the other dude that wears the grindcore shirts and the black baseball hat. This is my last job of the night. The address is 7xx President, technically Park Slope, on the edge of the hood. The work phones turn off at 10pm. She called at 9:58. It might be a compulsion. It’s definitely a common occurrence.

Norfolk-Rivington-Essex-Delancey-Allen-Canal-Manhattan Bridge-Jay-Smith-Schermerhorn-Hoyt-Union

And here I am.

At this intersection 4th Avenue consists of 2 lanes of southbound traffic and 2 lanes of northbound traffic separated by an island. I’m waiting at the island for northbound traffic to clear. There’s a deli on the southeast corner. Some blockheads are standing outside in triple fat gooses and ski caps smoking a blunt. The tobacco leaf and weed smoke looks thick drifting under the fluorescents.

A car service speeds past Union and it looks clear to cross all the way. I pedal a couple of times and then I get hit full blast. There’s a white flash in front of my eyes. I don’t own a helmet. I’m laying on the ground and everything hurts. I’m sure my left knee is shattered. I see the purple, starless city sky above me. How did I get here? I turn my head to the left. Lincoln Town Car. The car service. He reversed. He drove past Union, his fares said “you missed our turn!”, he threw it in reverse and stepped on it the way car service drivers do, all the way to the floor. I’m putting this all together on the ground.

The team from the corner are running over. “Son! Yo son, are you ok?!” “Yo!”

The car service driver’s door opens and he’s stumbling over to me. He’s pushing money into my face. “$200 dollars!” “What?””he starts talking about his family he’s supporting them. He can’t lose this job. Take the money, please.
His passengers are running away. They won’t pay he runs after them and comes back empty handed. It’s hazy.

And then there’s sirens and I’m snapping back to life and I realize I have all of my work and receipts in my bag. If the cops come this might get out of hand. First the ambulance arrives. The EMT gets me over to the curb. I’m wheeling my bike and it looks rideable. The sides of my hands are starting to ache, there’s scrapes on both sides filled with dirt, glass and gravel. My collarbone, the one that holds my bag strap is sending flashes of pain up and down. There’s a flashlight in my eyes now. My right sleeve is torn.

“Take off your bag for me”

I wince and do it holding it tight with my right hand.

“Do you want to go to the hospital?”

“No man I’m good.”

The EMT doesn’t really give a shit, easier for him.

“You are refusing medical attention correct?”


The dudes from the corner freak out. “Yooooo”” “That’s your payday, what are you doing?!” They can’t believe this. I’m walking away from a guaranteed payout and I’m hurt.

The car service driver is bubbling. “Yes thank you. My friend. Take the money. Thank you thank you my friend thank you thank you.”

The sound of air getting sucked through multiple teeth in ultimate disapproval.


I hand spin my cranks one time before the EMT stands up, my other hand is holding the rear wheel slightly off the street. Looks ok.

I stand up slowly, I can do this. I throw my right leg over my bars putting all my weight onto the left side.

The squad on the corner has had it with me. “Stupid, son.” “Stupid.”

I’m gritting my teeth, my left knee is screaming, it feels like someone is twisting metal inside of it. There are things moving in there, grinding. I could fall over, but I’m not going to let them see it.

“Why son why?” as I’m riding away.

“Cops.” Maybe that’s saying too much. I don’t want to get robbed next. I’m pushing it with my right foot. I’m doing my last job. Maybe she’ll drive me home or something. Does she have a car? I think so.

Now I’m at the corner of Union and 6th and next I turn down President. The adrenaline is wearing off replaced by sharp pain. My left knee, my right hip, my right shoulder, my left collar bone, my head, my hands. A new kind of pain for me. My chain smashed my hips. I feel it now. I ride to the front of her building and lock up. I’m shaking. I have the metal taste in my mouth. Copper like blood, but there is no blood.

I ring her buzzer, the door unlocks and I walk up the three flights of stairs. Each left step sends fresh pain everywhere. I’m holding the railing with my left hand with my foot off the ground and I get to her door somehow. She used to live on the Upper West Side but now she lives here. She used to have an elevator and a doorman too. Now her landlord has decorated her stairway with framed pictures of John Wayne, cowboys and american flags in that way where old Italian dudes love cowboys. She thinks she lives in Park Slope. There’s blue-green grandma carpet in the halls. It smells like 40 year old cigarettes and sweet decaying garbage. The park is far away lady.

She’s in her 40’s. She has peroxide bleached hair that’s curly and long. It’s parted and the middle, there’s a constant half inch of black roots grown out. She cakes pancake makeup over her face, but it still looks greasy at 10:30pm. Her shiny forehead is covered with tiny pimples coated in the makeup. She always wears this cable-knit sweater that is yellowish white and smells like Marlboro lights. I’ve known her for 5 years. Once I met her in a car by the Holland Tunnel and she leaned over to give me a kiss on the cheek and her breath smelled like fresh vomit. I think I really hate her in away you can only hate a regular customer.

“I just got hit by a car.”

“Do you have purple tonight?”

Now I’m walking back down the stairs. My vision is swimming. Pain is only increasing. I can’t take the subway home. They do bag checks now. Random bag checks.

I unlock to start my route. I put my hand on my back pocket. My wallet is gone. It must have fallen out when I got hit. I secure the chain above my smashed hips. More pain. I brace myself on a sign post and get back on. Ride back over and to the corner where I got hit. 10 minutes have passed. It’s empty. No blunt smokers, no one. No wallet. Not in the street, or under any cars. They took it. I really am stupid. I have a Festina watch. I look down at my wrist and the face is cracked and it’s broken.

I call my dispatcher on a payphone and tell him I got hit and my wallet is gone, he thinks I’m talking about my work receipts.

“I’m not so sure about that.”

I hang up on him and start my real ride home.

It’s slow and tedious. I take my left foot out of the clip and let it rest on the pedal while my right foot does all the work. I’m not looking forward to the bridge. A slow motion reverse course for me.

4th-Butler-Bond-Bergen-Smith-Jay-Manhattan Bridge

At the bridge ramp now. Grit my teeth. I pedal up with my right foot and then I pedal down with my right foot. My left leg is useless. The pain is burning now. Constant. Crossing the bridge takes forever. Up is better than down. I’m sweating and cold when I roll off the ramp. As my heartbeat slows the sweat turns colder. Vision is fuzzy around the edges. Sweat is rolling into my eyes. Burns like a chemical-Raw salt.


Chinatown lights are hard on my eyes and the familiar smell fills my nose. Shit. I have community service in the morning at Centre Street. I got arrested for tagging a couple of months ago. I can’t go. I have to handle that, I can’t have a warrant. I get up my stairs and I self medicate with whatever I got. Some customers pay partially in pills. There’s pills everywhere in New York in 2005. I have vicodin ES, valium, xanax, percocet, tramadol, some capsules we call Mary Kays, etc sitting around the apartment. No OC’s. I am a lightweight in that department. A lot of my friends are already slipping or have already slipped from OC’s into heroin. I never have the desire for the total nod but I do like being fucking tilted. The bodega on the corner of Houston and A is gentrifying fast, they have Chimay and all this fancy stuff now. I’m good for now.

I can’t walk on my left leg. I don’t want to go to the hospital. I have some aversion to it. Actually a complete distrust of hospitals. The ER is the last resort, where you go when you’re about to die. They’re just going to wrap me with a piece of gauze, give me some shitty crutches and tell me to take a couple days off. I’ll leave with a 10,000 dollar bill. I don’t know anyone with health insurance. We go to clinics, private doctors, or we eat it.

In the morning I call the Community Service office, they tell me I need to get a doctor’s note and bring it to my next court date.

Next I call the dispatcher, he still thinks I lost or stole all the work money. I inform him that I lost my own wallet not his money and he can fuck off because I got hit by a car.

He acts offended. “Hey take it easy”

Yeah play cool now. I count the money from the car service driver. $110. He stiffed me 90 bucks.

I go to the doctor couple of days later. My doctor is a little worried about me needing a note for court.

“You’re not a bad guy are you Tim?” in a Russian accent.

I give him a line about hanging up show flyers and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t believe me but he doesn’t care that much. We have a relationship. In 2000, before real pill regulation he wrote me a script for 60 Vicodins with 5 refills when my spine was jacked. That’s 300 vicodins if you’re counting. He looks out.

He writes the note.

I go to court a couple of weeks later and the judge reads my Doctor’s note out loud.

“multiple abrasions and contusions…”

He says

“ooooh what’s wrong you got a boo-boo?”

This is a Judge and he says it in a little kid, taunting voice.

You can’t talk in court like on TV. I mean you can, but it doesn’t work out for you. So i just shut up and let my PD do his job.

The judge gives me another 2 days of community service on top of my first 2.

I go over to the CS office to get my assignment and tell my caseworker what happened.

“Damn really, this is his first day on the bench, I’ll have to remember that.”