Squeaking Into the Darkness

Here I am at 2:30 in the hot summer Sunday AM, the squeaks from my 300 RMB mini bicycle echoing through the empty polluted streets of Beijing, looking like an idiot, exposing my lean non-Chinese figure with tight work pants and a Banana Republic shirt raised above the belly button to limit further drenchings of sweat, Taobao fake 3M pollution mask aface, bike seat raised to the max and still not high enough. Sanlitun is buzzing as usual tonight, but within a matter of minutes I ride from bright club avenue to dark, desolate road. I’m slightly afraid, yet that feels 5x better than sitting in a noisy gay bar where I feel nothing but pop beats and awkwardness. The late night dramatics of a solo bike ride in a gigantic city kind of hit some special inner escapist note.

Here I am at 3:30 in the hot summer AM, the squeaks of the cheapest possible IKEA bed frame provided by the apartment agency resonating through my small room, capturing ridiculously subtle private movements such as taking an almond out of an almond bag, which I do one at a time, likely audible to my Chinese couple neighbors. Although I just showered, my room’s AC is not strong enough to prevent a further wave of sweat on my lower back and face and annoyingly my hammies, so now it feels like I’m getting a cold as I watch a Chinese soap opera to try to learn Chinese the way many Chinese people learn English, but I’m really just reading the English subtitles. I eventually switch to VPN’ed Netflix, whose original Star Trek episodes are loading excruciatingly slowly, and yet I guess the five whiskey sours I downed and the hookah I hit quite heavily have given me these bursts of energy and patience that are completely unwarranted for such a retrospectively lackluster American 60’s TV show.

Here I am at 4:30 in the hot summer AM, the squeaks of the desk I have switched to painfully audible as I enjoy crunchy Chinese Skippy with stolen hotel chopsticks, for some reason watching another episode of Star Trek with large headphones, which I think amplifies the chewing noise. In no way do I feel sleepy, but I decide it’s time to hit the sack now to avoid waking up in the PM. I watch recaps of American baseball games to get in the mood, and while there are 162 games, seeing the Cardinals’ loss instantly puts that mood into a depression, but more like a childish pout than a full-on adult depression, and I finally fall asleep with bad thoughts in my mind.

Here I am at 7:30 in the hot summer AM, and nothing, something something too tired think squeaks. Please coffee. Wake up. Wish more sleep.

Here I am at 8:30 in the hot summer AM, back at it again with the bike and the squeaks thing, coffee recently imbibed somewhat quickly. Severe lack of sleep and surprisingly only slight hangover aside, I am ready to get up and go on this Sunday, to accomplish meaningful things, to figure out my life before work tomorrow. I park the bike and head inside my first stop, caffeine and I walking in together with a determined smile.

Here I am at 1:30 in the hot summer PM, stumbling out of the bank trying to figure out why it’s so difficult to send $500 home, starving to the point where decision making is no longer possible, no actual meal-serving shops in sight, still many more things on the list, dinner plans being one of them, and what with transit times and the time it takes to digest food and not be in a trance, I realistically will have like 30 actual minutes to get something done, and I really miss living in a smaller city. At this point, I realize the squeaks have probably ended for the day.

Here I am at 10:30 in the hot summer Sunday PM, biking through the streets again, wondering where the weekend went, questioning my choice to live in this city, but as I stop thinking for a moment, I hear the squeaks of this silly bicycle, the ones I thought had disappeared for the day. I laugh, because the squeaks are the reason I’m here. I made the choice to be the person who gets into nonsensical adventures, the person who faces seemingly unnecessary adversity, and this place has definitely fulfilled those whims. For that reason, I will gracelessly, inelegantly, but eagerly continue squeaking into the dark night, wherever in the world that night might be.

Chicago Luck

I have great luck in Chicago. Tonight, I came downstairs from my friend’s place, at the corner of a busy intersection and right in front of apartment and business doors, to see a single wheel attached to the sidewalk bike rack with a U-lock. Yes, that was where my bike was parked. I purchased that single-speed bike new two months ago and absolutely love it. I have been using it like crazy while being unemployed / being a student. Thank you, idiot, for stealing my bike. Stupid moron.

I have to admit, the people here are really good at what they do. To be able to pull that off in front of endless people walking by, other bikers, cars stopping and going, etc. is pretty impressive. Also, are there any whistleblowers out there?? Someone had to see at least part of this happen, or the aftermath: someone carrying a bike frame with a wheel missing. Chicago is notorious for its bike thieves, and this is one of the few times I parked mine outside for more than a couple hours. Of course, I pay for it.Yes, mine could have been locked more securely, but come on, what are the chances?

This is not my first brush with bad luck Chicago things happening to me in a short period of time. Not too long ago, I drove to see my friend, the same one as today, at his old apartment. I arrived at dinner time and parallel parked right in front of a busy four-way stop and some nice restaurants and bars, with big windows. With people sitting there, looking out at the cars. I made the mistake of leaving my GPS on the windshield. I realized it while we were playing a game upstairs, and if I looked out the huge window, I could easily see my car parked right in front of his place a floor below. “Curtis, you know this city is notorious for GPS thieves, right?” “Ehh I know, I should have put it away, but what are the chances? I will go down a little later and put it in the glove compartment. Or with my luck, it will probably be stolen already. Ha ha.” And we both agreed it would be perfectly fine to get after finishing dinner and the stupid game. Long story short, we went downstairs later in the evening, and my passenger window glass was all over the sidewalk, and my GPS was gone. Folks, this is in less than two hours, at the end of rush hour, in partial daylight, on a well-lit street, in a car with an alarm. As I was checking out the damage, many people walked by on the sidewalk, and about seven cars were stopped at the stop sign literally right next to my car. Where were these people when my car was getting broken into, and where was my alarm? Well the thief bypassed the alarm system, but how he/she avoided suspicion and was able to pull this off is a mystery to me.

So is there anything else that Chicago is notorious for that I should know about (besides gang violence)? Because I will probably experience it, as quickly as possible. The laws of probability don’t work for me, and this is true in many facets of my life. Yes, I was a little negligent in these circumstances, but it’s like I didn’t even get time to learn my lesson. I had previously only left my GPS out once or twice. I have locked my bike up better almost every single time. Thank you, Lady Luck, for teaching me such abrupt lessons, without cutting any slack. I guess you hold me to a higher standard.

This is the second bicycle I have ever had stolen. The first one was back in grade school and meant the world to me, as is common at that age. And I had that one a long period of time and took it all over the city and to Utah and Colorado and Wyoming, etc. with my dad. So this is not as important of a loss. Plus, I got this for a pretty cheap price, since it is a basic model. Life could be worse. But this was a very depressing end to the night.

I got mugged in Las Vegas before. That sucked. Not really mugged, but just threatened and had my money stolen. That is another story, but it was one of the worst nights of my life. Anyway, I can say I experienced the Big Three: I have been mugged, I have had my car broken into, and I have had my bike stolen. Even though these suck, if they are the worst things to happen to me, I can’t complain about my life. I am alive and healthy, and someone in the world has a decent bike, a nice navigation system, and 80 dollars they otherwise wouldn’t. I am doing Robin Hood a favor.