I will probably remember the past few days for the rest of my life. I had some wonder-full experiences that I hope I have the opportunity to repeat someday. I present the proceedings chronologically.
Friday night I had dinner with my brother Michael. We started this transition were we meet for dinner, just he and I, once every other month or as often as possible. It’s great to have time with him. Before we started doing this we saw each other at family gatherings or events with our kids, but it had been years and years since just he and I spent any time together.
This time we went to Fogo de Chao and it was incredible. It’s a Brazilian steakhouse, basically, you go in, there’s a salad bar, and then dudes with huge skewers of 15 different meats. You can choose what you like and can have as much as you want. We had a great conversation and finished up with a papaya cream that was topped with a black currant liquor. Awesome.
Saturday was action-packed! I had my first poi spinning class. For those of you who don’t know, poi are pieces of Kevlar on the end of chains that you set on fire and spin, creating interesting patterns. I saw it done for the first time two years ago this August and I was amazed. I have wanted to learn how to do it ever since. It’s such good fun, but it has other significance for me as well. I have had my misadventures with a stray flame or two in my foolish youth, and now, to take CONTROL of fire, move it gracefully, with intention, as I will … well, it feels like coming full circle, in a way.
The class was at Urban Lotus Yoga in the Humboldt Park area. They over some great classes there in yoga, acrobatics, ecstatic dances, and other offerings, including fire spinning. The instructor, Mark Lerro, is a great teacher and fire performer. In class, I was able to do things with the poi that I have been attempting on my own for months, unsuccessfully. Mark’s instruction made it very accessible. For the first time I felt confident about my ability to spin fire, and it was a great feeling.
After class I met up with my friend Bill and we made our meandering way to Andersonville to meet up with Carolyn and other friends at Midsommarfest. We had an interesting Korean dinner with Bill and our friend Glenda and then Carolyn dropped me off at my next stop: The World Naked Bike Ride.
I have wanted to do the Naked Bike Ride since I first heard of it last year. One night I was out for a walk when all of a sudden a couple hundred naked people rode by on bikes crying out “Love the earth!” “Love your body!” They all seemed so happy, and the bystanders on the street were tickled pink by the spectacle. It brought great energy and joy to everyone I saw along the way while the riders were in view. I even mentioned it in a poem that I will stick on the end of this entry, because why the hell not.
So this was my year to ride. I had come a long way. It was not many years ago at all that I was so uncomfortable in my own skin that I would wear sweaters and winter clothes during the dog days of summer just to keep myself covered. I would wish for invisibility, and be perpetually uncomfortable and kind of anxious. That improved gradually until finally I decided to let go of all that bullshit. The bike ride was a unique opportunity to put the final nail in that proverbial coffin. So I did. I rode naked through the streets of Chicago and I loved every blessed fucking minute of it.
Here is a link to the bike ride site for more background info: www.chicagonakedride.org. I think some photos went up today. There is also a nice 10-minute video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWoP3UZ-HvY&feature=player_embedded#!. And yes, I am in the video for a few seconds, but I am kind of hard to pick out in the crowd.
The ride is an annual demonstration to encourage positive body image and protest the wasteful use of oil, and encourage people to consider cycling and other alternatives to cars that improve health and protect the environment. The ride this year had special significance because of the horrible BP Oil Spill. The group, a few hundred of us, circled a couple of BP stations along the route and chanted words of protest before riding on.
I had a great time. The ride was about 20 miles. I didn't calculate it, but the Web site said it's usually about 20. I rode over to the starting place at the appointed out. It was quite a festival. Music was playing and there were hundreds of naked people (adults) of all ages, and of all shapes and sizes, hanging out and dancing and putting on body paint and masks and some costuming.
I took off my clothes, packed them up and painted my legs and chest with sparkly blue and red paint and then walked around. Ran into some peope I knew! HA! It was fun and felt healthy, there was no sexual vibe at all. Everyone was very respectful of each other.
After a while they started blowing whistles to mark the start and everyone mounted up. We started down Washington Street and rode to Michigan Ave, up to Walton, over to La Salle, to Division, where we circled a BP station yelling "fuck BP!" Then we road north to Clark and went down a number of streets in a kind of circuitous route. It was hard to keep track but I know we went down Belmont, Diversey, Lincoln Ave., and Fullerton. We passed Lincoln Square. If people feel beyond the group stopped and waited for them, for the most part.
The rule was "bare as you dare," some people were completely nude, some partially, some were in underwear or costumes, and some were fully dressed. One guy was made up to look like one of the creatures from the movie "Avatar," one guy was painted blue with a white hat like a smurf. One woman was skateboarding instead of biking. There were some very unique bikes as well. I was really impressed with artistry and creativity that people had put into costuming, body art, and decorating their bikes. You can see some of this in the video posted above. (I also saw some amazing tattoos.)
We had no police escort, but there were volunteer security people and lawyers. Yes ... there were lawyers in suits with briefcases riding along in case the police stopped anyone. But there was no police trouble that I saw. There were a few crashes but the people ususally got right back up and started riding again.
We took a break in Oz park and hung our there for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. People rested, had snacks or water if they had them. A big dance party broke out in the middle of the group and some people were spinning poi. Bewildered neighbors came out of their houses to marvel at the crowd of naked revelers that had suddenly appeared at their doorsteps. One woman cried out, “You woke me up, but it was so worth it.”
One of my favorite moments was when we stopped in the middle of the 6-corners intersection in Wicker Park, at Damen, North, and Milwaukee. We stopped traffic for about 20 minutes and lifted our bikes in the air, over our heads. People were shouting:
"Less gas more ass!"
"Love the earth, love your body!"
And lots of other such slogans. One guy kept yelling “Free Willy!” HA! Bystanders in the street were taking off their clothes too as we passed. People on the streets seemed thrilled when we went by. The whole event was very positive and seemed to make people happy wherever we went, with only two exceptions that I saw. In one instance, some douche was screaming at one of the security volunteers because he thought we were in his way, but that was resolved without incident. Also, in Wicker Park I saw one drunk son-of-a-bitch try to grope one of the female participants. She dodged him, turned around, and knocked him on his ass with one punch. It was fucking awesome. I think she knocked him out. I wanted to congratulate her, but she was some distance away in the crowd.
It was really funny anytime we passed a bachelorette party (We passed about five of them. It was Saturday night in Chicago). All the silly proverbial “Woo girls” would “Woooooooooooo” when the naked bikers passed. I am sure that was a wicked nifty memory for some young bride to have of her pre-wedding festoon: hundreds of naked cyclists.
I was able to ride with my friends Jenn and Ash. Poor Jenn has a hand injury and wasn’t able to ride a bike, so Ash was towing her in a burley. When Ash got tired, I had the privilege of towing Jenn for four miles. That was an adventure in itself—navigating through heavy Magnificent Mile and Rush St. traffic to catch up to the main group after stopping to switch bikes. It was a part of the ride that was just for us and it’s a great memory.
After we finished up I got dressed and rode to a rendez-vous point where Carolyn picked me up and we headed to Kuma’s. Just when I had finished every burger on their menu, they introduced four more tasty selections. So far I have conquered two of the new additions. I will be caught up in no time.
The ride was a great experience, and I very much want to do it again next year.
Oh yeah, here's that poem:
I dharma-bummed across Chicago, my home,
my city seemed spread out like jewels on a gypsy blanket.
(I love her, having seen her best and worst.)
I saw art bloom between her shimmering towers,
her hearty old share the streets with the eager young,
I saw sickly cardboard huts under the highway,
a fat rat feast on drunken puke on the sidewalk.
I felt like walking. so I did,
From Belmont to Lawrence,
to Broadway and back,
through Lakeview and Uptown,
Edgewater, and Hamlin Park,
to Bucktown, W.P, and the Uke Village.
I roamed and rambled.
By Strange Cargo
I watched the street try to be seedy,
with its sex shops and smoke shops.
O Clark St, you are not what you once were.
I hiked north past gorgeous Graceland.
even your tombs burst with life
and bleed red history;
all my words come from you,
apart too long and they wither, die on my tongue.)
I darkened the Green Mill's door,
where Capone heard his jazz
and I mind-melded a stranger with Tom Collins on the brain.
Then south and sweet west I caught a flicker
and shared a Fat Swami's golden laugh;
He said, "It is not important what you do,
it is important why you do,"
staring hungry in the windows of his joy,
I fought off tears.
The streets swelled when Wrigley gave up her ghosts.
These sprites exuded laughter and lust,
I heard no talk of winning.
I crossed the river at Damen,
(that's where the rats were)
and graffiti screamed boldly in black,
"The hunted also hope."
across a boarded window;
A sign on a building said,
"If you lived here you could walk to Costco."
I fingered the stacks at Myopic on Milwaukee.
It smelled just right--of books and coffee and cats;
the place was packed with heads that bent into books
and bobbed back up to steal looks,
flashing grins like bibliomaniacal knives.
By Bucktown I'd ruined my shoes,
onlookers spocked their brows
when I laughed out loud at my holey sole.
Passing Wolcott, I found the Happy Village
and its gorgeous garden and cheap, glorious beer.
Not knowing the backyard was closed for the night.
I found myself taking it in alone.
Back on the street, sirens and blue light
played herald to a naked nirvana.
A hundred nudes on bicycles,
aflame with laughter, calling out,
"Love your body!"
They rolled away,
breasts and balls giving salacious testimony
that they were, in fact, alive, natural, beautiful.
Like fucking after a funeral,
when Death trembles in Life's incarnate, incorruptible shadow.
I took the long way.
I took the long way back to the train.
I wanted to take it too far,
press my cheek against the deep bosom of my South Side
where King marched,
and my brother died,
where I ran for the bookshelves in preschool,
and fell asleep in a tree made hollow by lightning.