Recently, I arranged a semi-professional meeting with another grown up. Due to my child being on summer break from pre-school, I gave the aforementioned adult the choice to meet while I had kid responsibilities during the day or late at night when my wife could tag team into the wrestling ring against the pre-schooler. Upon settling on a daytime meet up, I suggested the Echo Park Boathouse for the location because I am an expert at occupying children.
Hubris is the downfall of many a great man...
Instead of playing with one of the Hot Wheels/Crayola markers/construction trucks/books I had piled onto my overstuffed bike in order to distract my four year old long enough to conclude my meeting, the Little Dictator insisted on joining us at the table...
The whole time.
Where he steered the conversation toward fire trucks, LAPD helicopters, and Southwest Airlines jets circling downtown on their way to LAX. Since I was stuck with the kid all summer due to the career choices my wife made over a decade ago, I decided to deposit my resentment over being the solo caregiver into my passive-aggressive savings account to be withdrawn at a later date. If you make mistakes as often as I do, you need to be able to shift blame at a moment's notice.
For instance, let's say (hypothetically, of course) that you were the type of person to store wine bottles in the drawer under the stove unaware that other people referred to that drawer as a "broiler;" and thanks to you attempting to cook a frozen pizza in the above-mentioned oven, your infant son got the opportunity see a real, live fire truck parked right in front of the house you had just purchased NINE DAYS before...
If you were like the guy in that (obviously fictional) example, you might want to keep some solo parenting martyrdom stories in your back pocket to throw out as a diversion when your wife comes home from a 24 hour shift complaining about the third week in a row of salad-in-a-bag and frozen pizza (cooked in the toaster oven because the big oven was mean to me).
I know what you're thinking...
You wish you were married to me too.
And broilers should be labeled.
Anyhow, following the Little Dictator's opportunity to practice public speaking to a captive audience of two, our meeting ended. On the way across the park to find children to play with him so I wouldn't have to, I received a gift from the Gods: A text from another parent desperately trying to sub-contract entertaining his child till nap time. My friend recommended that we head over to Pershing Square together to check out an art installation.
If I had driven my car to Echo Park, my answer would've been an immediate "Hell, no." - masked as a "Maybe another time." Parking around Pershing Square is an expensive nightmare which would simply precede the displeasure of crawling home at rush hour. No, thank you. But, since my friend had succumbed to my relentless propaganda, we were both on bikes...
All the cool parents are doin' it. The little one is strapped into a Yepp Mini bike seat.
Prior to leaving for Pershing Square, we came upon another art installation in Echo Park:
Then more serendipity: We discovered a demolition crew tearing down a building, which gave us the opportunity to discuss construction vs. demolition. Why did the boys think the excavators had grabbers instead of buckets? Teachable moment. Critical thinking. High-five.
As soon as we arrived at Pershing Square, I was enchanted by the exhibition. It was like standing under an ocean wave made of metallic streamers. If you didn't check out the video at the top of the page, definitely go back and check it out. The video below is from another angle to give you an idea of how it worked:
This got me thinking about other times serendipity was made possible by riding our bike:
Thanks to CicLAvia, our family happened upon the above scene in MacArthur Park.
Our fire truck addict got to watch his heroes in action. Which also meant someone in that building was having a very bad day, so we tried to unpack empathy along with the excitement.
Below is the light sculpture we found at the Anaheim Metrolink Station. Bummer we weren't stuck on the 5 in Norwalk right about now...
It's not just art. One of my favorite memories from the year and a half we biked to Atwater Village for daycare, was the day we pedaled under a great blue heron swooping low over West Silver Lake Drive on the way to its nest in a nearby tree. The Little Dictator had a front row seat for that one.
Below is a picture that I didn't take.
I didn't take it because I wasn't there. Following a truly shitty ninety minute traffic jam, we spent twenty minutes hopelessly searching for parking that did not exist. Then I was stuck in the driver's seat of our illegally parked car while my wife rushed the Little Dictator four blocks to see the space shuttle fuel tank getting unloaded in Marina Del Rey; stayed long enough to snap this picture, then immediately dragged him back to our car, so we wouldn't get a ticket. Then we got to enjoy the 90-405-10 all the way home.
Prior to leaving for Marina Del Rey, my spouse and I had discussed loading our bikes onto the car rack, driving to Culver City, then riding our bikes along the Ballona Creek Wetlands the rest of the way to the shuttle fuel tank, but we decided against it due to the lateness of the hour...
Twenty years ago, I used to think nothing of driving from the westside to Old Town Pasadena to meet friends for dinner. Then traffic congestion hit some tipping point that made even the thought of it unbearable to me. It's not just long distances either. How often have you considered taking your kid to a local park or library or visiting with people you love who live just a couple miles away before realizing that it's almost rush hour and internally vetoing the idea before it even forms in your head?
Yeah. Us too.
There is a "conversation" taking place in this town where people who don't wish to be trapped in gridlock any longer are accused of being "collectivists" or "making the problem worse" or "impractical idealists" or "car-hating nazis" who hate the freedoms that driving our own personal automobile bestows upon us.
The shuttle fuel tank night certainly didn't feel like any definition of freedom I know. Rarely having dinner with close friends who live in West Hollywood because it takes a half hour to drive five miles doesn't feel like freedom. Public transportation that sits in the same traffic isn't a real alternative. I was under the impression that freedom is the opportunity to choose more than one thing.
Sometimes my family has to drive. Whenever we don't have to, we will choose to be free. We will have to take longer, twisted-pretzel routes across the city due to a paucity of safe cycling infrastructure, but there will be moments of serendipity along the way...