Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Biking While Podding

For a few minutes today I joined the nation of podpeople. You know who you are – can’t go anywhere or do anything without electronic devices feeding into your ears.

Someone gave Lindi an iPod as a gift. After loading some music onto it, she handed it to me this morning and said, “Here, try it out.” My eyes lit up and I said, “I’ll try it on my bike!” Her worried look answered, “Not.”

Compromise. Music on the side streets, turn it off when I get to Broadway. So I’m pedaling through the blocks with the mellifluous sound of Cesaria Evora in my ears and I’m dancing in a café in Brazil – although I realize Cesaria is not from Brazil, she’s from Portugal, but anyway – I’m dancing around in a club in Brazil. I’ve never actually been to Brazil, but I almost don’t want to go because I have these images of it in my mind that are probably not at all accurate and going there might ruin them. I don’t speak the language either, and though I love the sound of it more than any other language in the world, I don’t think I should learn it. It sounds like the people are all making the most sensuous comments, and if I learned the language I would then find out they’re saying things like, “Where’s my sweater?” or “Who left this moldy sandwich in the fridge?” and that would be disappointing.

I'm sure that’s not what Cesaria Evora's songs are about, though, and I’m dancing with Lindi in this club or out on some tropical patio surrounded by palm trees. And on a wall of the cafe, this soundless movie is playing, and I’m wondering why they’ve chosen to project film footage of denuded winter trees lining the cold shiny streets of a northwestern American city in this tropical haven where Cesaria evora in singing.

And even though I’m immersed in the ambience of the music, I’m also feeling strangely deaf – because I can’t hear any of the right sounds that should go with the scene, like birds, far off traffic, breezes, and the occasional clicks and grinds of my bike that needs a tune-up. Besides deafness, I can’t focus on my tactile sensations either because the nature of the music has nothing to do with mist or fog, or cold air, or wet bark smells. So in the end I feel mostly deprived, because besides coming back to the reality of not actually being in Brazil, I realize I haven’t been here either.

At Broadway I pull the little phono-corks out of my ears and drink in the sounds of cars and the sounds are so right. An enormous truck trundles by, way too close to the white line of the bike lane, and just when I think the danger is over, fools me by dragging behind it a silent trailer of equal size dangling on the end of a twenty-foot pole. Two fire trucks scream past. Sun breaks through the mist for its first visit in thirty days, and the cool wind drenches me in the organic smell of hops from the breweries across the river.


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