Being a woman of great devotion to her fans, the Honorable Katie, rendered internet-less by some grievous error on the part of her cable/internet provider, has employed me, your Humble Reverend, to supply this eve’s entertainment. I shall do my best to fulfill this extension of trust on her part (envision me here slightly bowing and exiting the room, hat in hand).
With such a responsibility laid upon my shoulders, I am admittedly slightly struggling to come up with appropriate material; the contract I signed specifically outlined word counts, as well as entertainment value, lest you think this is some light task merely tossed around without the slightest foresight. But, seeing how I’ve been extended such trust, why not write about that? I’ve plenty of experience with the matter.
As a manifestation of my sheer OCD about exercising and eating healthily, I’ve lately taken up riding fifteen (15) miles every day on my bike. To be fair, this was somewhat forced upon me, as my running career has begun to deteriorate my knees. But I digress…
Fifteen miles is a fair distance, and I don’t mean that in any bragging way, I assure you. What I mean is this: to ride a fifteen mile round trip, you obviously need to ride seven and a half miles in one direction, turn around, and head home; I suppose you technically could make fifteen one mile loops, thirty half-mile loops, and so on, but wouldn’t that get a bit boring after a while?
But ANYWAY, the point is this: Living in Memphis, seven and a half miles can take you into some very strange, and oftentimes hostile, neighborhoods. For reasons I’ll never understand, there are people in this city that take offense to me riding my bike, whether I am on the street, sidewalk, or grass. By no means do I mean to speak poorly of Memphis, for I love this city! But, there are some areas that, for safety’s sake, should be avoided.
Even so, every day I strap on my tight shorts and mesh shirt and, leaving my only means of communication (my cell phone) at home, go exploring for fifteen miles, trusting my safety to the general population I happen to encounter that particular day. I trust cars to remember to give me the right of way (or at least brake a little to give me a fighting chance), and I trust pedestrians not to simply clothesline me off my bike and steal my Ipod and glasses.
Biking in Memphis, I have begun to learn, is as much, if not more, mental exercise as it is physical: in addition to cars and people, the streets themselves, pockmarked and gouged by decades worth of automobiles and heavy equipment, are unreliable. You must simultaneously keep your eyes on the ground in front of you while monitoring traffic in front, behind, and to the side of you; the second you let your guard down, you extend an invitation for disaster.
But I don’t want to paint a dismal picture of my hometown, for that simply would be unfair. A few days ago, for example, I rode my bike downtown, toting my camera and a small tripod in my bag. I was planning on a leisurely afternoon, broken up by an hour or so of (hopefully) capturing some worthwhile photographs of the river.
Shocking though this may be, I, like the rest of you, am human. As such, I do have physical limitations, no matter what my mind may have to say about the matter, and on that particular afternoon, I overdid it. Miles from home, completely exhausted, I sat on a curb catching my breath. Not a minute had passed when I was approached by a man whom, by the looks (and, to be perfectly blunt, smell) of him, you would assume is going to ask for money. To the contrary, he simply wanted to know if I was okay and if he could get me some water. Nothing in this world will ever make me feel more ashamed than this kind soul offering help as I sat greedily clutching my camera bag, expecting to be robbed.
I accepted water but conceded I had nothing to give; eyeing my bag, he simply asked that I take his picture. Eyes widening, he told me, “Make me famous!”
“No problem – what’s your name?”
“They calls me Beale Street!”
“You got it, Beale Street.” And so I snapped a shot of him.
We shook hands, parted ways, and I somehow made it back home.
Sometimes you’ve just gotta learn to let go – and trust.