Skippy R's picture
07.09.2008 | Comments(8)

I lost my shorts downtown

I've been riding my bike to work lately. My eight-mile route goes right through downtown Dallas, and it allows me to take the pulse of the city, not to mention its temperature and humidity levels, estimate its ozone pollution and gauge the mental state of its citizenry.

I can often taste its urban grime in my mouth, too.

The other day I waited at a light behind an old pickup truck driven by a spikey-haired middle-aged woman. As I breathed her exhaust, I read her bumper sticker: "My body's not a temple, it's an amusement park." Hmm. She did look sort of like a Coney Island carny.

My own body's feeling more like a junkyard of worn out parts these days. Drivers usually ignore me, but I can't ignore the terrain. Our streets are terrible for bicycles. A previous mayor vowed to fill in the potholes, but that never happened. Oh well, the ride helps me "buffet my body," as St. Paul put it, so I guess it's good for me.

Down near the soup kitchen a long line of homeless people snakes around the side of a building. On a bike, this can be an intimate encounter. I can look right into their eyes, and I wonder what they're going to do, how they got here, where they came from. They must think I'm crazy. Dallas just opened a big new homeless shelter. Why aren't these folks over there?

Our church has taken in homeless people for years, so I have no illusions. These are all humans, in dire situations. Some are addicts. Some are just on a streak of bad luck. Some want friendship and a sanctuary. Others don't.

When I got to work, I realized that somewhere downtown, a bungee cord came loose and I lost my shorts. I carry a rolled up pair of shorts for the ride back in the afternoon when it's extra hot, and they were gone. Darn! I really liked those shorts.

Maybe one of the homeless guys found 'em and they're walking around downtown, pockets filled with other people's spare change and a crumpled up pack of cigarettes. I hope so.

On the way back it's twice as hot, and slightly uphill most of the way. I'm sweating in my khaki slacks and my goofy helmet. I pass by the homeless crowd again. This time they're in the shade, trying to stay cool. Some are sleeping. Some are arguing. A couple of guys are tossing a ball around. There's a big van from the health clinic parked across the street. That's nice to know. No telling what medical problems they're dealing with on the street.

None of the guys are wearing my shorts.

I began riding my bike for several good reasons. Gasoline is too expensive. I want to fight terrorism by not sending my money to the Middle East. I'll get more exercise. I'll experience a moment of zen. I'll reduce my carbon footprint. Blah blah blah. My plan was efficient, logical, maybe even prudent.

But seeing the homeless crowd every day has become the biggest part of my new routine. They live in a world that is never efficient or logical. It's crazy and out of control. I've started praying for the ones who stare at me as I peddle by. Viewed from a car, they don't seem so desperate, so hot, or so many.

I lost my shorts downtown the other day.

Maybe I'll lose my heart next, who knows?

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Comments(8)

Droslovinia | 11:40 am on 7/09/2008

Skip!

That was a great article!

that calvinist doug | 01:09 pm on 7/09/2008

Not your usual comedic fare. I liked it.