Bicycling While Rome Is Burning

For a while now I’ve been sitting down at the computer on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings to write a blog post. Often I have a topic in mind, usually something that’s come to me from my daily bicycle ride, walk or yoga practice. Sometimes I think of it afterward. Then I publish it so that a few readers in Europe can see it first thing, and maybe some night owls in the US see it, too. I try to get it done quickly, in the 30-minute time-frame that I’ve come to break many things down into. But a decently written blog with photos and links can sometimes take me hours. Especially if I start late, and the later it gets, the fuzzier the brain. Clarity on a national scale seems a bit more hopeful. After the American horror story that was the last four years under the raging, narcissistic, assholian tyranny of POTUS #45, it seems like maybe things are sorta kinda starting to get back to normal. Except the problems #46, good ol’ Scranton Joe, has inherited are serious: the economy tanking due to the still raging coronavirus pandemic, with no quick end in sight to either. It feels to me as if I’m bicycling while Rome is burning.

After five years and over 550 blogs, I’m not running out of ideas or opinions so much as I am running low on steam. With shorter bike rides and that whole “stay away from other people or you might die” thing, there’s not quite as much to get excited about. Or rather, to write about that I think might excite people. For example, today I bought two innertubes at The Peddler Bike shop. While waiting outside for my turn, I chatted with a young woman who was getting a brake job on her vintage pink Schwinn. It was a forgetful and innocuous convo, which was just about right for the mood of the day. Greyish skies with a little sun, light breeze, not warm or cold. She left, and two of the shop guys recognized me. So much for wearing my mask. I joked with them and a very large guy who was standing by the door. There was a glitch with my payment, and they’d picked the wrong size tubes,.so I said, “Pay the man.” I enjoy joking with strangers, but he didn’t find it so hilarious. Oh well. Not exciting, but that’s life sometimes. Maybe I’m having a case of the Fridays.

Later, I crossed paths with a group of people in the swankier part of West (aka White) Austin. They were standing outside one of their houses (probably worth at least a million bucks), while their dogs were playing. As I passed I said, “I want a play date, too!” And they all laughed. Again me with the kidding. Earlier in the day on my walk, an older rather portly dog had rushed out to the curb to greet me while the owner blabbed on his cell phone, unconcerned. She moved with surprising speed for her size, which I admired, being a fathlete myself. I held my breath anticipating a bite, and kind of froze a little. Having had some unpleasant canine encounters last summer, I knew better than to run. Fortunately, she was a friendly old gal. Yesterday, a cat that I’d met once before came trotting up to me as I squatted on the ground and literally jumped on my back! She then demand attention for a solid 10 minutes. Usually cats get bored after a short while, and try to bite you. She only did that once but was super nice, unlike many American humans these days. When I apologized for needing to take my leave, although I was happy for the attention, she even followed me for a bit. Maybe oxycontin is so popular because oxytocin is in short supply. If you have pets and kids during quarantine, consider yourself fortunate.

How a Pedal Strike Can Start a Wildfire | Bicycling
Source: Bicycling

Other strangers — passing pedestrians, runners, skateboarders, gliders, and cyclists ignored me and each other, but a few waved or said hi. I saw utility workers, mail carriers, a homeowner working in her garden, bus drivers smoking it talking on their phones at rest stops, and the ubiquitous delivery people. It’s almost as if Rome isn’t burning and life just keeps going on like normal. Like there’s not really pandemic that’s decimating families, health care workers, hospitals, workplaces, and whole economies. It’s all over the news all day, every day. The lockdown in Texas didn’t last too long thanks to our idiot right-wing governor who picks and chooses what science and public health officials to listen to. Maybe he’s right and the economy had to stay open, but with the ongoing illness and death, I doubt he is. Or the foolish tools who refuse to wear masks (aka maskholes). We could have ended this plague by now if we were smart. But we’re not; we’re stupid. Time and historians will tell if the sacrifice front-line workers went and are still going through was worth all the needless and avoidable suffering and death. I doubt it.

Living in my little bubble, as I suppose we all do to some extent, some days the coronamonster is bigger and badder than others. I’m fortunate to not have any co-workers or roommates to worry about their possibly exposing them or them me (for the moment). Last year was scary in both those regards. I follow the health advice since we’re in Stage 5, so all gatherings should be avoided except for essentials like grocery shopping. So I see almost no one I know. Not being a social media participant, and not liking to complain, I don’t tend to call or video chat with people. I attend some job search webinars, although they don’t excite me and my camera doesn’t work. Being alone is great for an introvert, yoga student, and writer like me, but it can get a bit old. Exhausting, actually.

At times it feels like we’re all like ghosts walking through this brave new world, which has been reduced to a shadow of its former self. What can we do? Just keep livin’, in my case, by going about my daily activities. I bike, walk, read, write, count calories, and if I feel like it, practice music and do stretchy bands. Go to the doctor for this or that problem or some maintenance, hopefully nothing serious that radically shitifies my quality of life, such as it is. I make some food; I eat it, probably too much. Exercise makes me hungry. Sometimes it’s healthier fare, sometimes not. I’ll watch a series on TV (aka boob tube or idiot box) then when it ends, I’ll start another. At least those friends are reliable, until the show ends or gets cancelled, of course. I try to be grateful for my situation; I could be much worse off. I could also be doing a lot better. Or could I? Rome is burning, after all.

Lately, “my program” (as my beloved, long-departed grandmother used to call her favorite TV shows), is called LEGION. It’s about a guy in a mental ward diagnosed with schizophrenia and haunted by a lifelong monster. I started it because it’s by Noah Hawley, a fellow Austinite who does the TV show Fargo, too. But — and this is not really a spoiler alert since it’s clarified in the second episode — what’s really happening is that he’s a mutant telepath. Interesting escapism, but not very relatable. Here in the real world, there are no super heroes. Our real progressive heroes keep dying or getting killed: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Senator Paul Wellstone, Martin Luther King, and the second half of Seigfried & Roy (the one who got mauled by one of his Vegas circus act tigers).


The days blur together. Someday maybe sooner than later I’ll get the vaccine. Maybe my book will get published and make me gobs of money. After that I could afford some things I’ve been doing without, like getting the car fixed, regular massages, organic food, a new bike, and maybe even some new underwear. I have to find yet another place to live soon, so money would let me upgrade. We could all feel safe and go to restaurants, movies, the gym, even hire a personal trainer. I’ll get super fit and shredded, and the ladies will take note. Start to see old friends, maybe make some new ones, and perhaps find a romantic friend as well. We’ll shack up, buy a house in the country, ride our bikes, hold hands taking sunset walks down by the lake, get a dog and a cat (no babies for me), go on vacations, retire, volunteer, do needlepoint, and live happily ever after. Hey, who are you to say that’s just a dream? It could happen. It seems like we’re in the Matrix (which will have a fourth movie next year and maybe even a TV show). In this version of apocalypse lite, maybe pigs will fly.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth in reality, my 30+minute writing timer just went off. It still took me over an hour to finish this damn post, not including editing. My point is that we’re all tiny, insignificant mortals. Our petty personal problems pale in comparison to those of the planet and the cosmos. Maybe we’ll get back to some version of normal. But do you remember normal before coronavirus? It involved poverty, homelessness, famine, wars, partisan political bickering and gridlock, traffic, pollution, rape, murder, human trafficking, white supremacists, the rise of racism, anti-Semitism, mysogny, trans- and homophobia, slavery (still!), and global warming, So yeah, we humans have some things to work out, if there’s still time. All empires must crumble. I’m bicycling while Rome is burning.

But one can still pretend and dream it’s not, right?


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9 thoughts on “Bicycling While Rome Is Burning

  1. Let me propose a few current real-world superheroes who have not yet died or gotten killed (though of course there is still aging and death threats) (because I tend to give hugs in the stereotypically male way of offering advice):
    -Bernie Sanders (still pushing the same equality, anti-poverty messages; still not corrupt)
    -Alexandria Occasio Cortez (also not corrupt, and a great educator)
    -Anthony Fauci (getting good stuff done, even working for Trump)
    -Greta Thurnburg (using her superpower, Asberger’s, to harass the powers that be about the facts of the climate crisis)
    -Stacey Abrams (organizing to fight voter supression)
    -all those people who have “come out” to help us want to fight for the rights of people we ordinarily might not think much of

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All progressive leaders. We tend ;bloom for heroes but they’re still human, just with platforms. What everyday things can we do ourselves? Something I’ve been asking myself lately. Jury is still out.

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      1. There are plenty of everyday things we can do ourselves. For some people, just staying out of bars and gyms during the pandemic is heroic! I’m sure you’ve heard of a bunch of other stuff, like eating less meat, subbing your own power for fossil fuels, buying less and buying used, and calling out biases we witness.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, that’s true, I agree. Unfortunately we live in a society that is split in terms of even agreeing on basic facts like climate change science, the need for recycling, or maybe not running over bicyclists.

        For exampl, I was car-free for 15.5 years (and more before that), but many people live in places without good (or any) transit and have to drive to get anywhere. I used to be a vegan when younger, and a few years ago I tried eating no meat again, but got sick, for another example.

        So yes, there is hope of positive change, and yet, there are forces that obstruct change. Some (many? half the country?) people will resist progress even when it’s good for them. Remember the people who wanted to get rid of Obamacare but were on Affordable Care Act? They didn’t know it was the same thing.

        In the end we can only be responsible for our own karma (and even that may be affected by nature and nurture, genes, environment, etc.). And we all aren’t perfect. But I like your point that we can all do something to make the world a slightly better place. Maybe our blogs do that in a small way, if they touch one person.

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      3. Ah well, I definitely don’t understand how to deal with the whole fantasy-reality thing. Of course we are all tempted by it, and it’s been shown that somehow showing people facts that disprove what they believe actually makes them hold on to their beliefs even more strongly, so what the hey? I don’t know how to do magic.
        As far as what we can do ourselves–no one can do all the good ideas. Maybe you can’t be vegan right now (me–I haven’t even tried), but we can do some of the good idea, and maybe even just a few extra of the good ideas than we would do naturally if we weren’t trying.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What is normal anymore? I have no idea either. There are things that have changed that I like and I hope to hold on to as we come out of this global quarantine. Stay safe, Dude. You are inspiring me to write more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bike Goddess, you’re right. Normal is, well, no one knows.

      Write what you know, right? Tonight what I wrote came out a little dark, but so be it. I’m glad it (and I) have inspired you. Maybe millions aren’t hanging on our every word, but if you help one person (which you may never know about) and even if that person is you, by all means, write! Tell your story, because only you can.

      I’m sending you a cyber hug, which if you do not consent to I of course withdraw.

      And by all means, find what feels good and hang on (loosely), but don’t let go. If you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control!

      Liked by 1 person

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