By Chris Miskiewicz
It’s a warm night, warmer than a New York winter should be, which tends to bring images of shattered glaciers and polar bears swimming through miles of ocean to my mind. I’m in a light jacket with my tie flapping behind me trying my best to turn the twenty-minute bike trip I’m taking into fifteen.
Still, I coast along enjoying the warm breeze in place of the usual frigid cold. Radiohead’s “Reckoner” plays in my headphones as I make the turn onto Flatbush Avenue passing Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I speed by, longingly glancing inside its gates and wondering when I’ll be in there again.
I tend to ride everywhere I go in New York for two reasons. The first is that I can get anywhere on a bike in twenty minutes. The second is that I go a little bit crazy staring at all the sad on any given train. And if I were pressed for a third reason I’d have to say that I’m awesome and I’m keeping my carbon footprint to a minimum while staying in rock hard shape.
What can I say? I’m a narcissist.
It’s right then that a carting truck speeding down Flatbush Avenue purposely weaves into the bike lane while blowing his horn. There isn’t much time to react, but I get lucky and pop onto the sidewalk avoiding the tree, the bus stop, and the milk crate, before jumping back into the bike lane without missing a beat.
My eyes are full of rage. My knuckles go white from holding the handlebar so tightly. For some reason a memory from a few years ago comes to mind when punk rock drummer Ozzie Martinez said, “I was watching you ride away the other day, bobbing and weaving by cars and people like they weren’t there. Man, you ride your bike like a fucking New York bike messenger.”
“Well man, that’s what I used to do through college,” I had said as a reply.
“You fucking bastard!” was my reply this time as I screamed as loud as a bullhorn while speeding to catch up to the truck.
Now I know that it’s pointless, but in these situations I tend to chase after whoever tries to kill me with their car and scream at them. I’ve been known to elbow side windows, throw bottles, spit on windshields, and of course there was my favorite all time moment when I cut the car off at the next light, got off the bike, picked it up above my shoulders and began slamming my tires down on the guys hood.
I know that reads badly, but again, I don’t go riding my bike at cars trying to kill them, so I don’t see why they don’t return the favor.
Anyway, I gain some speed and squint my eyes to read the name that’s painted on the back of the dumpster he’s hauling. It reads “Independence-Carting” with a giant American flag and a bald eagle. It’s a terrible graphic. As I get closer I start to see half a dozen bumper stickers under the eagle, each politically, or religiously charged.
The first one I read is that old slogan, “America Love it or Leave it.” Except that the A has peeled off before America, spelling Merica instead. I nod to myself only because I’ve taken to calling my fellow Americans from the middle crazier states, Merican’s since W was president and seemed to slur the A away during several public addresses.
“My fellow Merican’s…” came out of that guys mouth more than anyone cared to notice. I used to think that he was changing the name of the country to save on printing costs, while imagining him in meetings going, “Lets just take off the A for savings.” That kind of thing.
As I get closer I start to make out the rest. There’s a McCain – Palin 2008 sticker. Then a “Jesus is my co-pilot” which makes me roll my eyes because I doubt Jesus co-piloted him into the bike lane to take out the Polish guy who was cycling there. Then there’s something with Osama Bin Laden’s face centered in a target graphic, but the text is washed away. And then my favorite, “Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could be an ASSHOLE!”
I mutter the word “hypocrite.” But when you think about it, he’s really not. He’s probably more of a Merican than I’ll ever be.
You see, I have a theory about this country. Well, at least about the current crop of Republicans. The early Republicans, who were most of the founding fathers, were more like the Democrats than anything else. But, somewhere along the way all of the crazy repressed white people found their way into that fold. The middle, trapped and crazy and addicted to Jesus and gasoline, came together under W and thought they had a voice. A crazy voice, but still a voice. They believed that he was a good man. An honest man, when in truth he was a puppet murderer.
I’ve often thought that they should leave the Republican party and form their own. Something called Republica, or Crazy People USA. But what do I know? I’m not a Merican. I’m from Brooklyn, and we’re an island, and that’s a good thing cause it takes a bit to find us, except through media. Thanks to televisions I get to see Mericans talk about God, and being good hard working honest people. Except that when you boil down the facts, most of their party leaders lie, cheat, steal like everyone else, and hide behind the idea that they’re good people, simply because they say they are.
Think about it. On January 20th 2001 George W. Bush became the 43rd President of the United States of America. Things like that make you think twice about who your neighbors are.
I have a Republican friend who recently said that Fox News broke the mold when they hired hot female newscasters. He followed it by saying that they could all be Maxim models. Now, I don’t watch Fox News, and this comment frightens me to no end. My friend who is a Republican in his forties from Queens New York frequently talks about hookers, how he used to be a male stripper in college, and the many women who offered him blowjobs as a thank you for how well he danced at their private parties. This I can get with. But when he speaks about being a good member of the country, I just can’t. You must automatically have to doubt a person who’s brandishing the “I’m a good person” card.
Then there’s the soccer mom nation who got behind Sarah Palin. Honestly, the most memorable moment of her entire campaign for me didn’t even come from her. It came from a Youtube clip of Matt Damon talking shit about her, saying something about how her entire political career was like a bad Hollywood movie where the soccer mom becomes president and gets the nuclear codes.
I pedal harder but I’m at my limit and sure that the guy is going to get away when he just so happens to get stuck at a light at the end of the Navy Yard. I coast around to the drivers side and stop my bike to see who this good man is This god fearing man from a magical land of opportunity called, Merica.
He ends up being a bald overweight Italian looking fellow in his mid forties with Merican flag bandanas hanging from his rearview mirror. He has a bit of a moustache and beard in that style that fat men who have lost their hair and are now in their forties tend to sport. He’s dull eyed, riding with the window open, tapping his fingers on the wheel to a John Cougar Mellencamp song. It couldn’t be more perfect. He’s a hero for the heartland.
“Hey,” I scream up to him.
He looks at me with automatic anger in his eyes. I think of a dozen curses to say but know in my heart that not one of them will stick. He’ll just go buy another sticker, one that says “One less bike on the road” or something awesome like that.
So instead I smile and make the peace sign and say, “God Bless You, Brother,” and with that I ride off leaving him confused and waiting for the light.
I get to my meeting at Fornino’s with a few minutes to spare. My back is slicked with sweat and I’m a bit out of breath as I chain the bike outside spotting Seth Kushner and Dean Haspiel walking towards me from the next corner. Jef UK makes his entrance from behind me with a “Hey man,” while wearing another one of those sharp hats he always wears.
“Hey, Miskiewicz. How was your ride?” Seth asks me.
–Photo by Chris Medrano