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06/14/2009: "No Junk Miles"
Today is Sunday, a day for gratuitous riding for me: riding for the hell of it, because pedaling feels good and I like to watch the world go by. I followed probably the most capricious route ever today (possibly because I wasn't too hungry so didn't have a culinary destination already chosen...).

First I wandered along a maze of quiet side streets that I use to get to my mother's old folks' home without having to put up with the noise, smells, and hurry of the motorheads. That's not really an issue on the weekend, but the houses and gardens, slight hills and lazy turns, are much more pleasant than the fairly banal commercial districts that dominate the area between home and Home...downtown or Hollywood this ain't!

After a half hour with my ancestress, I left and, on a whim, decided to follow Palms Boulevard till it ended. Palms begins at a puzzling five, or perhaps seven, way intersection where it manages to cross Roberston twice--or seem to--in the space of a block...I think. You get the picture...and if you do, you're ahead of me. However, after over forty years on the road in LA, I now manage to get through there without ending up someplace shabby and strange, with two suns in the sky and large footprints in the muddy alleys....

The other end of Palms winds through pleasant little neighborhoods where it looks as though no one lives--what I call "neutron-bomb suburbs," except that they have been absorbed into the city--and debouches into the gangland side of Venice Beach, where however the neutron-bomb effect still held.

Once I got to the more-beachy side of Venice, pedestrians, cyclists, dog-walkers, and other manner of indigenous species began to show up, and the sidewalk cafés were crowded for brunch. Although I still wasn't hungry, I cruised north on Main Street, enumerating restaurants for future exploitation, till i got to Santa Monica, went two blocks right to the beach, and began a slow ramble down the boardwalk.

Yes, in express violation of the "no bikes" rule there--but with the "no peds" bike path full of waddling tourists, I had little choice, and the incoherent parade of tourists, street vendors, con men, buskers, and bums is always exhilarating.

The street people of Venice may be addled--some by accident of birth, many more by the cornucopia of intoxicants openly available there--but they live within a gritty reality that winnows out the unresourceful and dull-witted. They know they constitute a sort of open-air zoo in the tourists' minds, and are wiling to play their parts in a drama that is both desperately real and highly scripted at once. (The ones that don't enjoy that in some way don't stay in Venice; there are easier places to be dirt-poor, though they may lack the vivid community of the boardwalk.)

From there I wound my way to Lincoln Boulevard, which I followed through Westchester (the city) to Westchester (the street), which in turn led me to Pershing, which runs along between the western edge of the airport and the El Segundo Dunes. A quick right at the sewage treatment plant (which smelled a bit riper than usual today), and I was back to the bike path to head north again, for a stop at the Bridge, a chat with some fellow riders, and a fast spin home along Ballona Creek.

Some fast miles, some slow miles, lots of stop-and-go miles, but no "junk miles" whatsoever. Every turn of the pedals brought me contentment, and sometimes joy.

The heart's as much metaphor as meat, and does more than just push blood around, after all.

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