The Boston Marathoners have inspired me. I am working harder than ever on my Hood to Coast Training and am taking my bridge phobia recovery more seriously — I have a new strategy.
I am walking overweight dogs over all the bridges in Portland. Win-win. They get fit, I am in a position of absolutely-have-to work through my panic attacks on the briges.
So I rounded up eight of my finest fellows — all best buds of other other bikes I know down at the Girlz Will Be Boyz Bike Shop. A great community center, by the way, for the bi-tire set. A toast cafe has opened up next door to them — “Just The Toast, Ma’am” is the name — all the toast of every kind you could possibly want — and only toast. Although, if I may say so, they are a wee bit limited on their beverage menu. Only one or two mainstream javas and teas, and the traditional cafeteria jugged o.j. It’s okay, we were all just starting out once.
On the day Barista was helping OPB with their report on frog population decline, I leashed up Chip, Simon, Queenie, Miss Tips, Zooch, Playbill, Mach I, and Derby to my handle bars and we headed for a walk/ride over the Hawthorne Bridge.
It was like unleashing the gates at Pimlico.
Woosh — all eight pulled weight and I sailed so fast over that bridge I didn’t have time for a panic attack.
Then we did the 205 over to Vancouver — a dreaded bridge for panic sufferers because of it’s length — and the only way to escape if you get a panic is into the river. And I don’t come with James Bond attachments of quick eject jet skiis and parachutes and inflatable power raft edgings. Plus, I’ve got eight hefty pups I am responsible for.
This trip was not as steller as the first. My canine compadres pooped out in the middle of the bridge. Both kinds of pooped out. And, me, out of baggies.
Panic attack set in. My tires started to hyperventilate and my GPS fogged up. I froze, then their leashes got tangled, and wrapped around my pedals. But they were encouraging me! “Stay cool, man” and “No worries, gotcher back, bike” and, “I’ll watch for cars, you just take care of yourself, Free Range,” and, “Just pant like a dog, bike, and you’ll feel better!” were the affirmations coming from my pack of hounds, whom I was supposed to be helping. The leash was on the other way, out there in the middle of the 205 bridge.
(What Would Barista Do?)
1. Contemplate the earth. It is bigger and more in charge than you.
2. Stay in the Present Moment. Present is the safety zone.
3. Examine your feelings and put them in a philosophical context. Meaning might not make it easier, but it will make it worth it.
So, we all sat in a circle — as best we could forge a circle in the bike lane in the middle of the 205 bridge — and all nine of us worked those steps, although only one of us needed them.
By the time we were done, we were totally bonded as a recovery-support group. And we made it off the bridge back to Portland.
At Boyz WIll Be Girlz I cooled the dogs down with water and a garden hosing. I limped to the back rack and kicked my stand up. Inhaled deeply from the air compressor hose. My brakes were still shuddering.
Although we will do this bridge panic Recovery Support group again next week, I did not wish to think about it.
When I was steady again, I rode over to the library steps and found the poet Laurette of Pioneer Square, William The Homeless. We talked of Walden, Wild Geese, and Maya Angelou. Slowly I got my bearings back after the harrowing panic attack on the 205.
We went over to Pioneer Square and listened to a guitar gal singing tunes that she made up as she went along. We watched people go by and drop coinage into her guitar case and Will’s hand-crafted artisan empty coffee mug (it has three layers of bisque and has developed a resonating petina over the year since Will found it. It had been broken, outside an art shop. He glued it back together — it’s a little off here and there, as far as the pieces go, but always gets compliments and coins).
Will The Homeless took out his spiral notebook and wrote in it. Something about the guitar gal and the dog tied up to her left boot.
It’s his book he’s working on, called “The Compassion Chronicles.” (You can see the title right there in sharpie marker on the green cover, even though it’s been folded and creased to fit into his coat pocket).
“I’m writing down every act of compassion I see every day,” he tells me. “Even the ones people don’t know are acts of compassion. Because it’s not just the acts. It’s the passion. Portland is a city of passion.
“Y’know, Free Range,” he said, as the twilight stillness crept over the city, “Compassion passion make this a tropical city. Lushy colors and sun and zigzagy rainbow fruit stand palettes. Most people think this is a gray rainy city. No sir. It’s tropical colors. The colors of compassion’s passion.
“One time, I was hurting bad, and someone stopped and put me down two tall cans of mango and tangerine soda. Ice cold. It gave me courage when I drank it. The taste and refreshment of those flavors was electricity hope. I felt like all orangy and zesty and creamy and yellow and sweet and juicy and delicious, like I could have the courage to be someone delicious to a parched land. And I went on. That’s what compassion passion does, it gives you the Go On.
“Look around, close. Portland’s got passion for peoples of all kinds. Trees are peoples, dogs are peoples, heck, even bikes are peoples. And then there’s peoples like me — and hers (he nodded to the guitarist, who was counting her income and nodding to her dog which was still tied to her left boot and sniffing her face as if saying something to her).
“We wants living things to really be alive here. Like music, and stars delivered on a smog-free night sky, water along the freeways and under the bridges that bounces light. This city wants books and theater to live as peoples with Go On. Compassion Passion. Life gets brave with compassion. That’s what we got. It’s not gray in this city, it’s tropical juice. Refreshing, alive, Go On juice. And that’s what my book is about, Free Range.”
And suddenly I missed my Barista.
In my mind I was alone in the middle of the 205 bridge while the frog population was declining and I had to race to find my Barista. I said a quick goodbye to Will — good luck with his book — and raced over to Boyz Will Be Girlz. Barista was there, waiting. Radiant from a full day’s work along the river, counting tadpoles.
I took her out for toast at “Just The Toast Ma’am.” My Service Bike vest got us all the way inside. And while we let the spring night drape itself gently around us, I had a creative burst. Using a napkin, I wrote down an exclusive invented signature beverage item just for this new toast cafe. Exclusive for their menu. A Portland novelty drink to bring in business.
Here’s the recipe for “Compassion Passion Juice:”
1 part guava juice
2 parts mango juice
1 Tablespoon coconut milk
8 quamquats, squeezed in
I tangerine, squeezed in
1 wedge of lime, squeezed in
Stir slightly and pour over ice. Top with sliced starfruit and garnish with lilikoi.
With a little help from my friends, I made it over one and one-half bridges. William The Homeless has something to write about. Guitar Gal’s dog will have a hot supper. The frogs in this area have a better chance today than they did yesterday. Heads full of color slams for tommorrow.
Portland’s got Compassion Passion.
copyright2014HeidiDHansenFreeRangeBike. All RIghts reserved.