We didn’t have much money or expertise, so we picked up some loaners from my parent’s place. They were Schwinn mountain bikes that had never been ridden out of suburbia. I was not a bike enthusiast. All I knew to do was click the gear on an incline. The less my chain popped, the better I got.
I wasn’t a health fanatic, this wasn’t for sport. Although, I did lose twenty pounds that summer peddling. We met at 11:30PM at a local shop on Allen St. on Sundays. Hundreds of people gathered for an informal workout, a class not scheduled at their local gym. Although, this wasn’t about burning calories, it was merely about getting the heart pumping. It was the crowd, the rush, the limitless roads ahead that kept you coming back every week.
One time there was a group of nearly three hundred, no lie. We rode to City Hall in unison around the circular path, avoiding the very few cars driving through the deserted business bureau. Wind in my ears, the muffled blows of hollering hooligans rang loudly. A guy with speakers attached to his cart on the back of his bike, played indie jams we could all sing along to, and around and around we went…
One night, we played follow the leader to Woodlawn Beach. It was a twenty mile ride and our plan was to throw a party in celebration of our arrival. We almost made it but, when the cops saw an abundance of freaks coming down an empty highway, they swiftly lead us back to our corroding Silo City. It wasn’t like they could do much but, we weren’t ones to argue. We just wanted to ride bikes, and back we went.
Back then, the city was still abandoned like a ghost ship wreckage, filled with rust and garbage. The Great Depression knocked Buffalo out cold in the early 1900’s, and for a while we just laid sleeping. The streets were covered in historic artifacts of abandonment; like a tin lunch box with some unsanitary fishing tackle still in it, from a summer previously passed.
At Central Terminal, we drank the vodka in our flasks. We sat on the steps of its haunting impression, while a naked man in shoes ran around with glee. Some people dressed purposefully for the event in lavish, home-made costumes. Others, like myself just showed up in our afternoon slacks, with underwear made comfortable for a bike seat.
I once saw a girl hit the breaks at the sight of an unexpected ambulance. Her face met cement, like a block of cheese against the grater. She did not move, and the same ambulance carried her blonde, bloodied face away. As hours grew into morning, the crowd would slowly start to disperse. Whoever was left would meet down by the locks, which were tucked into the lake’s armpit along the thruway, and build bonfires on a disintegrating path of cement and bushes. We ate hot dogs and canned beans, before making our last labor toward home. We made conversation with homeland security, who never felt threatened by our stay. Not like we were capable of swimming to Canada but, a few may have tried it anyway.
I was brand new and twenty, like a doll in a daze. Exploring the borders of our city, I grew to fear nothing. A social event outside a system of class, things did not make sense here; but, the high on a five speed cruising through the most desolate parts of town with some crooked, underground characters, was worth knockin the kick-stand every time.
Colorful costumes and naked ass cheeks all blended into something sweet under a summer night’s sky in Buffalo June. Roman candles popped and sprang into the dark, infinite gloom above us. Not a suspicion of chemtrails to it, this crowd feared no consequence. These were times not yet overanalyzed by the acts of earth’s creatures, just a bunch of rebellious souls pushing it to another gear.