My bike got a flat,
but I had great sets tonight.
What’s broke can be fixed.
I made myself go
to class tonight. I had to.
Routine keeps me sane.
I stepped on the mat
for the first time in two weeks.
I felt tall again.
The other day, my friend told me he hoped I would write an insightful blog post about Thanksgiving. Now, he doesn’t know this, but the Holden Caufield in me immediately rejects ideas that other people want me to write about. My response is usually something flip like, “Sounds like you want to write that blog post.” However, here I sit at 3:07 in the afternoon on November 29th with absolutely nothing to do except indulge in some reflection.
But this isn’t, like, really about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is fine. I usually have fun on Thanksgiving. This is more like a statement of appreciation dedicated to my cousin, Noah. Noah is among my homegrown heroes. He stands as an example of someone who takes risks, who is curious, creative, and industrious. He loves the people in his life wholly and can connect with anyone. Observing Noah maneuver through his life always makes me want to step up my game. I admire him tremendously.
The thing is though, Noah is also a giant goofball. This quality might be as important to me as his industriousness. Noah and I come from people who make horrible, cringe-y puns and our joke-telling delivery is influenced by grandfathers in recliners. So while Noah and I can easily spend hours discussing how different cultural narratives can impact art and literature, we can also spend hours engaged in our own two-man vaudeville show while those around us roll their eyes and quietly leave the room.
Since Noah is equal parts Renaissance man and goofball, I can do anything with him and it will be awesome. Noah currently has a art piece in the African American Museum in connection with one of their exhibits. I missed the opening, but I wanted to see Noah’s work. I told him I was going to ride my bike down to the museum and check it out today since I had this nice four day weekend. Noah immediately responded, “I’ll go with you!” Now, it is 4.1 miles from Noah’s house in the suburbs to my apartment in West Philly. Then, it is 4.4 miles from my apartment to the African American Museum. On a crisp autumn day, this bike ride to and from the museum could be just perfect. However, I picked a day where it was going to be 28 degrees when we left in the morning. When I saw how cold it was and thought about our bike ride, I was relieved because I knew that among all the people in my life, Noah is the least likely to call me up and say, “Man, Lori, it’s freezing out today! It’s too cold to ride bikes. I’ll pick you up and we’ll drive down.” I knew that Noah, like me, would stay committed to the plan, whether or not it was a good plan. When Noah showed up, I laughed to myself because he was dressed like someone who was going to an art exhibit and I was dressed like someone going on a bike ride.
It was a pretty, quiet grey ride to the museum. We rode over the South Street Bridge, which is my favorite bridge to ride over. Although Noah is a grown-up man–husband, father, career person–he rides his bike as recklessly as a 13 year-old. He made me nervous at first, but then I decided to channel his freedom and audacity. I relaxed. We got to the museum and I felt ashamed that it was my first time there. Noah has been working with the African American Museum in some capacity for as long as I can remember. I shook it off though so I could take it all in. It was great to see Noah in this part of his world, gliding confidently through the building and introducing me to his co-workers. The exhibit itself was powerful. Then Noah showed me his piece. The African American Museum sits right across the street from Philadelphia’s Federal Detention Center. Noah’s piece takes up about 3/4 of the expansive second story window which faces the detention center, evoking what it means for an African American cultural institution to share public space with a prison. Seeing Noah’s work made me feel small, but not in the bad way.
Afterwards, we went to the Reading Terminal Market. We drank fresh pineapple, ginger, spinach, and kale juice while talking talked coffee and all the things we like to eat (both reoccurring topics), which developed into a conversation about Ferguson, Black Friday, and the power of the Black dollar in capitalist America. Then we grabbed coffees for the road, and I soon had to abandon mine because I quickly learned that I’m not coordinated. We reached my apartment, gave each other a massive a hug, and Noah sped away on his bike, which used to be my bike when I was in high school, and therefore is way too small for him since I am 5’0″ tall and Noah is, like, 6’2″.
By 12:00 noon, I’d already had a fulfilling day. I stand 1,000% content. I feel the way you feel after you spend time with someone where neither of you has any expectations. You’re just in it together because you both know that any experience, large or small, can be an adventure. Maybe that’s part of the reason why Noah and I each have a compass tattoos. We are family, but we are bound by our sense of adventure.
Mocking others’ pain
when they feel an injustice
shows an empty mind.
Whether large or small,
I never finish the tea
I pour in my cup.