The art of biking

Pub date October 13, 2009
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink

CHEAP EATS Earl Butter and me decided there was one thing we wanted to see at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. So I stole my downstairs neighbor’s bike, borrowed a lock from another neighbor … who had to figure out the combination on the Internet … which took time … me thinking …

Can bike thieves get online?

Banking on probably not, I put the heavy lock in my purse, raced to BART without a helmet, almost falling every time I stopped because the seat was so high, carried it up the steps and onto BART, which became crowded, and 45 minutes later had to carry it up even more steps than before.

And when I came up from underground I was almost blown over by the wind. My handlebars were bent at a weird angle to the front wheel, but I managed to make it to Earl Butter’s house without veering into any busses or anything. Then we rode to Golden Gate Park.

The sun was setting. The temperature was arctic. Elsewhere in the Bay Area, houses were falling down. (Well, one did, I heard later on the radio.) On north-to-south streets we would have been blowed sideways into parked cars were it not for the ingeniousness of spokes. As long as we were aiming west, the wind was merely pushing us backward. Which seemed safe enough, except for the blinding sun. I couldn’t see Earl Butter in front of me, and wondered how in the world car drivers would see me.

Still, that’s the way you gotta go to get from the Mission to the park: west. At every other corner or so, Earl Butter would wait for me to catch up. I was so surprised: I’m supposed to be a soccer player. I can play three games in one Sunday, but I can’t ride a bike up a hill.

Six hours later we arrived at the festival.

There was nowhere to lock our bikes. I wished I had a camera, it was so beautiful, bikes totemed onto, around, and up every single signpost and pole, clinging at impossible angles, colorful and Seussian.

"I suggest you lock them to trees," the guy at the gate suggested, but even all the trees were taken, bikes hanging from every reachable limb, strange fruit. It was so pretty. I tried to think of this as an art exhibit, and my reason for coming, since I knew the Flatlanders, the last act of the evening, were already halfway through their set.

We had to do a little bushwhacking, but we eventually found some uncharted trees to lock onto. It was getting dark by then, and I realized I would need two things I didn’t have to get my bike back later: a flashlight and reading glasses. There was some solace in the thought that a bike thief would need at least one of those things, plus Internet access. Or, I guess, a saw.

We found our stage in time to catch four songs, none of which were particular favorites of mine, and then, thanks to full moons and the glow of my iPod, we found and even unlocked our bikes. By this time I couldn’t feel my toes, my fingers, or my nose. And it finally occurred to me that my borrowedish bike had not one single reflector anywhere on it, let alone a light, and that I was wearing all black and was about to die.

Now if there’s one thing you know about me after all these years on the toilet, it’s that I absolutely positively hate to die on an empty stomach. And that’s where Chiang Mai comes in. So once again, my fear of dying hungry saved my life.

Because this cute little Thai place on Geary Street was warm in more ways than one: 1) it was warm; 2) it was sweet and cozy, all a-clutter with plants and cute things and shit, which restored my will to live; and 3) tom yum.

"Medium?" the waitressperson guessed.

I shook my head, said, "Hot as you got."

Side a noodles, cause I knew I’d need the carbohoohaw just to get back out to the sidewalk, let alone home. And now I have a new favorite restaurant.


Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5 p.m.–10 p.m.;

Sat.–Sun. 5 p.m.–10 p.m.

5020 Geary, SF

(415) 387-1299

Beer & wine


L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.