The Florida sun pierced my eyes as Swisher (Jaimie’s 7 pound dog who looks like Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) tramped over my face. Not my first choice of an alarm clock, but it did the job. Time to commence the ritual I know all so well of fitting all my rubbish into four dirty bags. It’s always such a bittersweet endeavor. Leaving somewhere is tough, especially when you’re actually quite fond of the people you’re staying with. But it also means new sights, new faces, and new memories. So I said goodbye to Jaimie and rode towards the Skyway Bridge to Palmetto. Two flats in a row were not a good preamble to the bridge, particularly because I only clocked 5 miles on the road. At this point I am robotic when it comes to changing a tube. It’s something I hate but am good at. Kind of like every single job I’ve ever had, ever.
As I approached the bridge I began repeating everything people warned me about it in my mind. It’s illegal for cyclists to ride over the bridge. It’s illegal to walk your bike over the bridge too. So my only choice was to hitch a ride at a rest stop. Or even call a cab. But that’s no fun. I wanted to cycle over it. Luckily I met two cyclists who told me their friend rode over it once. He pretended not to speak English so the toll guards would leave him alone. Apparently he rode over it undisturbed and successfully. That was all I needed to hear. So instead of walking around asking people for a ride at the rest stop, I instead ate five candy bars, achieved the desired sugar rush, and booked it over the bridge. On a bike. Because I can. And because most things in life that are fun/worth doing are illegal. No one died, no one was arrested, and no one cared that I rode over this bridge. Except for me. It was so satisfying to defy the order of things. Even if it is on such a minute scale like this, I become inundated with a sense of accomplishment and pride in doing something so few people have done before.
Eventually I made it to Dale and Joyce’s home in Palmetto. Dale is my Uncle Alan’s brother who moved down to Florida a few years ago. I always gravitated towards my Uncle Alan as a child. He taught me how to properly fire and maintain a handgun, how to be a better craftsman, and how to play the guitar. I obtained much of my sense of humor from Uncle Alan and knew that spending time with Dale and Joyce would bring me closer to him.
Dale and Joyce are very interesting people. We talked all things family, education, politics, and religion. Dale is a staunch republican who’s not afraid to voice his opinion. While I don’t necessarily see eye to eye with him politically, I admire his unabashed ability to speak his mind without hesitation. We stayed up for the majority of the night discussing religion. Because Dale is an organ player, he has much to say on the topic. Spending every Sunday for the past few decades listening to a preacher has provided him with quite a voice on Christianity. We never branched out into discussing more Eastern paths of thought, but his input on Catholicism was rich enough. We ended the night with a story. I’ll address that story later on in the post.
I had planned to stay for only a night, but it didn’t take much to convince me to stay for one more. I enjoy the company of Dale and Joyce and I never have to worry about a lull in conversation, as there is always something worth discussing. I learned the ins and outs of leasing a car as Dale and I spent the lot of the day on a lot. He traded in his leased car for a new one and I knew nothing of the process, so he invited me to join. I can safely say that after that experience, I want nothing to do with buying a car. Words like financing, options, and credit check don’t jive well with my vocabulary. I’ll stick with the bike. I grew tired of talking about cars rather quickly so the sales rep and I discussed more urgent matters like Henry Lewis Morgan and Anna Coleman Ladd. As it turned out, he had acquired a large sum or her sculptures and various other works. We flirted with the idea of shooting a documentary about her life and I actually think it’s an incredible idea. I mean, this is a woman who literally and figuratively changed the face of sculpting. She sculpted masks for disfigured soldiers returning home from war. Because of the times and the fact that she was a woman, we agreed that she did not receive the credit which was deserved of her. It’s much easier talking about things unrelated to automobiles at an automobile dealership than I anticipated.
Later on I attended a choir rehearsal for Dale and Joyce’s church. It always feels weird for me to walk into a church. I can stare at all the stained glass and bible verses I want, but I still feel nothing for the religion. Eh, it’s just not for me. I still respect it and comprehend it, but it’s not for me. Still though, the choir was astounding and I’m glad I am able to stumble upon little nests of curious beauty like that.
Alright, back to that story. Before bed, Dale paraphrased a sermon to me that had a profound resonance with him. Now I’m going to paraphrase an anecdote which was already paraphrased, but given the spirit of its religious context, and how most stories were passed down verbally, it seems fitting. Alright so a little crippled boy is sitting on a stool in a subway system in England sometime near the early 20th century. He has all his trinkets sprawled out in front of him which are for sale. A man hastily runs to reach his train and collides with the boy, knocking him over and destroying most of his trinkets. The man turns and yells at the boy, scolding him for being in his way. He jumps on the train and rides on. Another man observes this and helps the boy up. He collects the boy’s trinkets for him, brushes him off, and hands the boy a 5 pound note. As the man walks away the boy yells out “Are you Jesus”. The man stops in his tracks, turns to the boy and says “No son, I am not. I just do what I think Jesus might have done.”
At this point the minister pauses for a moment, scans the congregation and simply asks “When was the last time anyone mistook you for Jesus?”
Now I understand that people have qualms with the church, organized religions, and Jesus. It’s an easy thing to do, and I fully agree that anything with such influence needs to be questioned and challenged. But I think there’s no denying the fact that the ‘idea’ or the representation of ‘Jesus’ is simply a good person who is trying to do good things. It’s reaching a point on this blog where I have emphasized this notion so frequently, it’s becoming my new mantra. But Jesus doesn’t even have to be the apex of benevolence. We’ve all done something in our lifetimes equitable to what that stranger did for the boy. You just did it because you knew it was the right thing to do. There was no reward in mind for motivation. The motivation was to do the right thing. So, when was the last time anyone mistook you for your benevolent self?
Total Ascent: 850 ft.