Arts Lab Writing            The Arts Lab: Writing            Arts Lab Photography

Steam Cycle
by Sterling

New Orleans is the Devil's workshop, and more often than not he's building bikes. Daiquiri driven inspiration has propelled many a sloshed pedestrian to mount an iron steed and swerve down Bourbon Street, averting tragic collision with stalled garbage trucks, retching tourists, and human statues.

I was driven more by dilapidation due to heat fatigue after my first mile under the noon day sun. Figuring it was better to sit down than fall down, I opted for a bike. Which was perhaps the most decadent thing I could do to my forty year old self, after all those years of fancy footwork on the sidewalks of Boston. I am quite nearsighted and have never owned or driven any sort of vehicle. I took the subway rather than join the suicidally sports minded cyclists sailing over the Charles.

But here in New Orleans it was different. Which was the reason I'd come here, to evolve and grow a new, if not slightly mottled skin. I found my bike on the back wall of a sports bar. It was a used, purple Huffy, priced right, fifty bucks. Better yet the bike had been ridden only sporadically by the mentally challenged son of a Cajun couple on the West Bank. It was as heavy as a ton of bricks. I attached an Easter Bunny in a gingham pants suit to the front handle bars to lighten the psychological load.

Thus began my Sunday cycling adventure through the Bywater. The potholes were deep, the roads rutted, but the traffic was thin and I made it to my first café.

I wrapped my bike with a yard of metal links to the chainmail collection already bent into the bike rack. Rust never sleeps and neither does the club crowd in NOLA.

I spiked my caffeine with coffee and began following bike messengers into the Quarter. With its narrow maze of one way streets, swill waterfalls raining off the wrought iron balconies, and everpresent mule cart tours; the SUV's slammed the brakes on and off just to make it Uptown. Soft or slow pedestrians were known as road kill. And I was magically on autopilot. Suddenly feeling the speed rush of a pinball. The city opens up and absorbs you into its pandemonium on a bike, only to spit you out into your pricey Marigny flat, complete with rats, heroin dealers and the compulsory air mattress.

I played slice and dice with the working crowd in the business district to get Uptown. It was worth the stress to tour at my leisure that lush tree-cradled expanse of mansion sprawl. There were also friends in Mid City. Bars, bands, and poetry readings. I'd often find myself on the banks of the Mississippi at midnight listening to the slow jazz croon of wayward youth, panhandling and selling their jewelry made of string and pebbles.

Riding sans helmet was admittedly stupid. Sillier still my bank account was draining faster than the orange daiquiris I spent my money on. Then came the announcement of Hurricane Isadore. It was time to go, sink what remained of my capital into real estate and settle down. Sort of. Which is how I ended up hauling ass over the New Mexican hills of Highway 180 on a blue and white Sorrento Diamond Back. Aluminum never felt so good! Besides, there's no turning back for me. I couldn't walk this terrain if I tried. Sometimes you've just got to give the devil his due.

Written by Sterling
24th January 2003.

Arts Lab Writing Top Arts Lab Photography
Created: Feb 2003 © Paul Kinder Last Updated: 9/2/03