Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Yea, I got my bike back…

Oh, this was a big deal. Bigger even than I thought it would be. I mean, it was an emotional thing when I came out of the house back in May and saw my ride gone from its customary spot on the banister. Bicycle theft to me should be a hangable offence. This was forever the case back in the days of the old west when horse thieves would end up swinging from trees- and rightly so. But in the case of bikes it is much worse because with bikes YOU ARE THE HORSE! Stealing a man's bike is stealing his legs, his heart, his lungs- maybe even his forward progress. Not to mention the monetary setback when one must replace it. And my bike is not replaceable!

Especially in Belarus.

Have I ever mentioned that the bike had previously been stolen and recovered three times? This is a true fact. They tried to grab it in Vancouver one time. I found it one day later in a pawn shop. The owner agreed to sell it back to me for the same money he gave the junky who stole it: $6. A survivalist freak swiped it from out in front of the library on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound. I did a little dragnetting and followed his neighbor's paranoia straight to his door. He took me all the way to the other side of the island to a deserted spot out in the woods. This is where he had stashed the bike. After we loaded the bike into his truck and as he was preparing his own smack syringe (Heroin seems to run hand in hand with bike theft for some reason), he told me that he saw me as a kindred spirit. Obviously I was either CIA or at the least, a Navy SEAL. I guess you take a compliment when you can get it but believe me, I was more than happy when we finally parted company and I was back on the road again.

The third and most dramatic story came from New York when a quick thinking professional bike thief unhinged a horizontal bar on the scaffolding in front of the bank I was depositing my check at, and simply slid my locked bike off the bar and rode away. I swore by my life to my fellow riders that I would indeed someday find my bike again. "Manhattan is an Island!" I went on, "There is no way for the thief to leave." "There are 11 bridges, Goodman!" they said to me, laughing at both my discomfort and my fortitude. "Don't worry," I said, "I'll find it; it must me here somewhere." I had the last laugh when, while riding across town I spotted a Chinese food delivery guy on 7th avenue, bags of chow fun and bean sprouts hanging from the handlebars, my beloved ride. Once I stopped him and started screaming about how it was my bike, our threatening each other with our boat-chain locks drew a crowd and eventually the police. "No, I didn't make a police report." I told the cop, "You guys are the New York City police, do you think I believe you are going to find my bike?" The winning ticket though was when I pointed out that one of the stickers on the seat tube came from a bike shop called Sun and Spokes from Sierra Vista, Arizona. "So?" asked the cop. "So what do you think of this?!" I said, lifting my jersey and revealing a Sun and Spokes tee-shirt which I happened to be wearing under my jersey. "How likely is this 2000 miles from Arizona?" The eventual deal called for my paying $10 for the cold chow fun but I did get my bike back. And believe me, when I stuck my head in and showed the others that I had actually found my bike, I think this was one of those "priceless" moments the credit card people like to tell you about.

But this fourth time was really unnerving. I have been very, very depressed this summer and have probably made several choices I would not have ordinarily have made had I been keeping with my normal riding schedule. Bicycling is an addiction, make no mistake, but it is an evil that I am happily tied to. But what sorts of gesticulations I had to go through to get another pair of wheels was really a bit too much. We have bikes here in Belarus, now, but there is a certain level of quality I sort of felt I had earned over the course of my career. All of that riding I did over the last decade has made me a little too conscious of the details to be able to enjoy a crap ride. I used to speak with a friend in New York about bike pedigrees and what it takes to earn the title of real rider. I think when you take into account the courier career and the cross country trek in 97/98, I think I have earned mine. This is not to say that the bike I had to share with Egor was all that bad. It is ok, or at least it became ok after I put a new set of cranks on it. But it was simply not my bike. It didn't feel like my bike is supposed to feel. It was just… well, it just never gave me any pleasure. Maybe this is because I knew that it was only a replacement. Or hell, maybe it is just a crap bike.

But what was worse is that we knew who took it. We had been visited at exactly this time by two narco-maniac friends of our downstairs neighbor Vadik; one of which was his toothless hag of a girlfriend, the other one of the all-time loser of losers of this or any community; smash-nosed Sergei. They had come looking for enough money to get them heroin fixes one weekend and when Nina, Vadik's mother, refused, she received a broken window and I lost my bike. Now Vadik was not here at the time (he was in jail- of course), but the connection to these low rent Bonnie and Clydes has soured me on any association with the man ever since. One either wonders what is wrong with Vadik for going with these idiots or one blamed one's self for giving the guy the benefit of a doubt. But really, these are very bad people. Sergei is drug addict and thief is as far as I can see universally hated in this town. Every time I mentioned his name while looking for him people responded with disgust and vitriol. The police though refused to arrest him saying there was no real evidence. They wouldn't even pick him up for questioning, I had to find him myself but even then nothing happened. So basically nothing happened except that I got a little fatter from going the whole summer without going for even one real ride. Life goes on, but sometimes it is just less than it can be.

But then there I was up at the train station getting ready to go to Minsk to pick my dad up from the airport. Looking back, I see the events that led up to that moment as a series of choices, each of which needed to be precisely as it was in order to insure my being in exactly the right spot at exactly the right time. And then I stopped under a lamp to read which car I would be riding in, and when I looked up, there was the red horseshoe of the rear triangle, the unmistakable signature of a Schwinn Moab Elite. Wow!

I had that very day, while riding on the new bike, been thinking of what I would actually do should I ever come upon my real bike again. This thought had a lot to do with how soft I have been feeling lately. Would I still be tough enough to make a confrontation? Or worse, would I even be in the sort of shape needed to even catch the guy?

But these were just worries; I am who I am and the same nervous system which clunked an off-duty cop in Poland for hitting me with a car is still in functioning order. Hey, hey!" I yelled and started after the guy who, straight away started to try and peddle away. He was quick, but I was quicker. I got a hold of his shirt with my right hand and grabbed the seat post with my left and literally pulled the bike out from under him. Interestingly enough, during the subsequent discussion, which had a little pushing and shoving in it, the alkash was pretty determined to say that he was somehow in the right. I am not sure from which of Sun Su's philosophies he felt any particular right to make this claim, but for reasons which I am sure will forever remain a mystery, HE began shouting that he wanted the police. Not only was this ridiculous to me but it was also ridiculous to one of the young men who watching the fracas near by because by way of voicing his opinion of the situation, the young man landed several sharp rights into the face of the stunned alkash before his friends pulled him away. But even still the alkash demanded to go to the police.

Probably he was thinking he was going to get some money from me for pulling him off my bike or maybe because I kept calling him a bad name; alcohol and life in Belarus tends to make one short sighted I guess. Actually, later I recanted calling him what I did and clarified that it was his mother who should best be called by that word, but this is not really part of the story.

But the police were great. They understood what I told them, yes, I had made out a report, and within less than five minutes I was given back my papers and ticket and allowed to go on to Minsk. I was told that I could pick up the bike when I got back.

Now technically, I still do not have the bike back which, unfortunately was not treated well by the alkash or the original thief. The reasons for this have been strictly police bureaucracy. TOMORROW FOR SURE, they told me, but you know it has been two weeks so I am sort of taking it as it comes.

But I have saved the best part for last. Despite the alkash's iddy-biddy let's-use-the-American-for-some-cash extortion attempt, when asked where he got the bike, the alkash responded by saying that it was not even his bike, he had just borrowed it from a friend. "Which friend?" the police asked quietly and calmly. It is possible that the dim bulb of understanding might have ignited at this moment, despite the clouds of greed and whatever recreationals he has been employing, and the alkash realized that he had been a little hasty in demanding to go to the police. But then again, it is doubtful that anyone owes old smash-nosed Sergei any favors either. In any case, our alkash gave the million dollar answer and as far as we know, with yours truly as a witness along with any number of my neighbors, there just might be a penalty attached to trying to steal my bike. The police in the end summed things up pretty well: He wanted to use me, but I ended up using him.

Anyway, this is the story except that in addition to having had to wait a bit, it seems that I will also be having to spend some money to put the bike back together. This list will be including a new bottom bracket and rear wheel. This first item is going to be tough to find because of tax restrictions on European things coming into the country. But then again, every biker knows that the real cost of riding is always an unknowable figure. The only thing we do know for sure is that we do the work ourselves.

More soon…

2 Comments:

Blogger politiques USA said...

Hi Adam how are you doing?
I love riding bike and I ride bike for many reasons: I try to stay in shape and I boycott the oil. Anyway here is the story. When I go to work, I usually lock my bike and this day I forgot to put the lock on; somebody had stolen my bike. But the thief got the idea to swap his bike, and he gave me the same model/year bike with flat tires. So I was outside looking at the bike and my boss looked at me because I was puzzle and I told him "this is not my bike" and he looked at me like I was crazy.
So the following day on my way to work, I decided to ride my wife's bike (it is a mountain bike for women, imagine a male riding this bike in Vegas...) and while I was crossing the blocks, I found my bike attached to a pole. So I went back to work to drop my wife's bike and I decided to call the police so that I can get my bike from the thief. On the phone with the police, I explained to them the story, and it sounded crazy: because my bike had been stolen the previous night and I had no filled for a police report so it was harder for me to claim my property. They could hardly believe me and at the end I told them "you know what? If I was a bike's thief I don't think I would have called you guys and I would have stolen the bike instead". So 1 hour later finally the police showed up. The policemen asked me a few questions, they asked me if it was sure this was my bike and not somebody's else. Since the bike was attached on a pole with a lock, the cop had to find a way to remove the lock, and everybody else in the streets, while they were driving close to scene, were looking at us, as if I was a thief.
Then a few minutes later, under the scorching sun, they finally removed the lock and gave my bike back. I went back to work with this bike, and as i was approaching my workplace what did I see outside? A brand new bike, the same exact copy of my bike attached to a tree. A friend of mine had bought me a new bike.
So here we are, my bike had been stolen at work the nite before and now there were 4 bikes at work.
My coworkers were completely lost and they were asking me where these bikes came from. I had to explain to them which one had been stolen, which one had been offered to me, and which one was the bike's thief. This day I really felt I was in a "twilight zone", it was one of the craziest moments in my life.

Thursday, August 23, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

Wow, great story. I also had a friend come through with at least the offer of a new bike. The problem was that shipping a bike to Belarus is really expensive. I mean REALLY EXPENCIVE. The deal eventually hinged on finding someone traveling between here and the states and we actually got there and were ready to make the deal, but this just happened to be the day I found mine. Probably though, I would have gotten the replacement before I ever got my own ride back. Read the next post to hear more about that. And I am going to replace some parts that were broken when the druggies had my bike all summer. And no, they still don't have them here because I was not allowed to open that bike shop five years ago!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007  

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