by Linda Quinby Lambert
Hell, no. I’m not going to “bide my time.” That’s not how you start a revolution. Sure, “Every Revolution Begins with a Spark” but somebody needs to jerk the fire into being. It’s gonna be me.
Then he remembered, but was glad he hadn’t said anything out loud: the quote wasn’t Lenin’s. It was from Katniss in Hunger Games. That girl could fight. And I have to figure out how to fight.
Astride his bike, he thought about how he could transform the museum into a center for social and environmental justice. He paused. But maybe I should ask what kind of museum the people in my town want. Maybe I should stop stereotyping everyone as bourgeois complacents. Listening might help me in my next run for office.
Despite the lingering light of early evening, most people were already home. Who should I interview?
Five minutes later, he slipped his feet from the pedals, wrapped a lock around the rear wheel and attached it to a parking meter. He reached for the door at Subdued Brews. What luck! Only one customer hovering over a laptop in a corner booth, and Sunburst Fawn-Flower behind the counter. He knew exactly what he was going to say:
“Isn’t this strange? I heard you were working on a sci-fi romance novel that takes place under the city of Atlantis and the name of my bike is a Rivendell Atlantis.”
* * *
Ted Davis’ full name was Theodore Chandler Davis, III, the only child of Angela Marie Smithfield, a high school language teacher, and T.C. Davis, Jr., the owner of a string of profitable One Dollar Only stores.
On the day of Theodore’s birth, T.C. said, “We’re not calling him Teddy and never Theo. With a handle like Theodore, he can be anything—a judge, a stockbroker, or a doctor”—which happened to be the wish list he’d had for himself before discovering the work his gifts matched. People needed inexpensive, well sourced products and he found low rent buildings to house them way before dollar stores became a “thing.” Like all parents, he wanted a wide range of choices for Theodore.
In early childhood, Theodore was a minefield of hyperactivity: fidgety, impulsive, belligerent: a clever, precocious preschooler with a tear-drenched face when his Jenga blocks toppled, the Gameboy was extracted from his hands, or he lost a Big Wheel race with his best friend Chase Morgan.
Neighbors were not spared Angela’s reprimands: Theodore’s first name shouted in three elongated syllables. Or if her son’s wildness expanded into a tantrum, she upped the decibels in an extended expression of all seven syllables: “Thee…Oh…Door..Chand..Ler…Day…Vis… Stop it!”
“He’s normal, Angie,” T.C. said, dismissing his son’s behavior with the wave of a hand. “It’s just a stage. You know, terrible twos.”
“Yeah, honey, but he’s four and you know that and I’m going crazy. I used to be able to coax him into laughter with his Tickle Me Elmo, but now all he does is get loud and restless and angry. I’m afraid there’s something wrong with him.”
T.C. wasn’t having any of it. “He’ll grow out of this. Boys are like that.”
Frustration drove Angie to do something she, a well-educated woman, did not approve of: she followed the lead (albeit a more reasonably priced version at ten dollars a minute) of President and Nancy Reagan.
“Hi, Welcome to the Astrology Help Line. What is your date of birth?”
“March 31, 1990, but it’s not my date of birth. It’s my son’s.”
“Ah, an Aries. Aries are full of fury. An explosive Mars is the ruling planet.”
Angie didn’t know what that meant, but she didn’t interrupt.
“Aries kids are always on the move. They hate waiting around and doing nothing. Does that sound like him?”
“Oh, my, yes,” said Angie.
“Aries children grow up to be motivated and confident,” she continued.
“They can be relentless, imaginative leaders.” The astrologer, tabulating the number of accumulating ten-dollar bills, rambled on, padding the conversation.
“Let’s consider the context. George H.W. Bush was president in 1990. Pope John Paul II was leading the Catholic Church. Michener’s best-selling book was Carribean. Did your son turn out to be interested in any of those things—politics, religion, reading?”
“He’s four! We don’t know what big topics he’s interested in.” Why do I have to hammer this into the hard T.C.-like head of a so-called professional to whom I am paying good money.
She calmed herself.“He’s unmanageable.”
“I see. Is he strong? Athletic? Does he like playing Spider-Man and Captain America in Dr. Doom’s Revenge?”
Obviously, this individual was uncredentialed as a parent. Angie imagined her flipping through a pad of pat questions and pat answers. Maybe her name was Pat.
Angie reinstated composure. “No Nintendo. He has a Game Boy with one Super Mario cartridge. And he’s energetic. He never stops running.”
“I suggest you get him into sports. Aries people are excitable. You know, they’re rams! He has a lot of energy to expend and will be willing to try almost any sport.”
“Thank you. I’ll do that.” She declined to ask what list of sports existed on the astrologer’s pad of paper and decided to interpret the only practical advice she’d wrested from the conversation: increased activity.
Angie hung up the receiver, resolved to hide the phone bill when it came, and, before her next step of calling a child psychologist, she took Theodore to Wal-Mart to buy him the Huffy Dirt Dog bike advertised in the Sunday paper.
Biking turned out to be the psychologist.
The Huffy was the first of many bikes to become the supreme channeler of his childhood, teenage, and young adult energy. Next came a BMX 2000 Millennium Interceptor and a vintage Schwinn he took apart and rebuilt. His buddy Chase kept the parts organized, assisted with replacement of brakes and handlebars and tires. Together they found a couple of beat-up Gary Fisher mountain bikes at a garage sale.
“Gary Fisher—the guy who invented mountain bikes and got suspended from racing because his hair was too long!” gasped an excited Chase. “Those people didn’t know what they had.”
Ted and Chase polished ’em up for a couple of road races because the county chapter of Chicks Who Ride Bikes had signed up. They were there—all flashy, sporty females in their twenties—but paid no attention to two fifteen-year olds.
For high school graduation both the Morgans and the Davises bought the boys bikes and tickets to northern California on the Green Tortoise Bus to pick them up. The Tortoise, dubbed as ‘Woodstock on Wheels,’ ‘a highway hostel,’ ‘a rolling commune’ featured meals cooked alongside the bus and stops at hot springs. Bathers “stripped down to their smiles,” an activity unadvertised in the company’s brochure. At night the bus was transformed with weird platforms with mattresses and hanging bunks. After four days, the Tortoise arrived at the San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal in a dim, deserted back alley at 6:00 a.m.
“Let’s hitchhike to Walnut Creek.” Thumbs up on the short access road to the Bay Bridge, snagged a ride in an old Deux Chevaux from an SF State student on his way to hike the wilderness trails near the bike factory housing a Rivendell Atlantis for each.
Grant Petersen himself, the owner! the founder! the guy who got his company’s name from The Lord of the Rings! greeted them. “Hey guys, you’ve had a long trip, and you’re going to have a longer one riding home. This your first long ride?”
They nodded, showing him their copy of Bicycling the Pacific Coast and mentioning that they had three months before school started in the Fall.
“You’ll love riding the Atlantis. It’s all steel, been pumping these out since 1994. Green and cream colored only. Nothin’ better than serviceable steel.”
“Be safe. Have fun…like when you were little.”
“By the way”, he added, I’ll send you a copy of my book when it’s published. Watch for it: Just Ride. There are a couple of gravel grinder races on your way home. Might check them out. Like the Oregon Coast Epic.”
“Being in a gravel grinder is like riding a road bumpier than your great grandmother’s washboard,” he said, “but you’re young. Try it.”
Neither knew what a washboard was, but they took the challenge, levitating over exposed rocks and a pothole that necessitated a crawl to a first aid station. Chase had a two-inch scar over his eyebrow, a visual medal for his bravado.
“I’m looking forward to some smooth tarmac,” he said, smoothing out the row of butterfly-bandages holding his skin together and ignoring watery dribbles of blood seeping at the edges.
* * *
In spite of parental objections, in college, Theodore became Ted. The casual brevity suited him. Four years later with a new environmental policy degree, he spilled out into the job market with hundreds of other environmental enthusiasts. His unrelated experience (waiter, summertime roofer) and no internships, qualified him for a half-time starter job.
The company’s noble mission was “to transform sewage infrastructure into public health observatories.” Though he worked with pee and poop each day, he was impressed with data scientists tracking the use of opioids and other effects on community health. Working with fetid pollutants wasn’t his long term goal, but the job gave him freedom for other pursuits.
He signed up for an online certificate program at Arizona State, Social Entrepreneurship and Community Development, and ran for city council, sure that he could be an informed player in environmental decisions affecting his community.
His schtick as a bike-everywhere, working-class hero held little persuasion for voters. In a town trying to beef up its arts district, he was aced out by the middle-aged maestro of the local symphony who had a sprawling network of contributors to the arts.
“You visited all those crazy museums,” his mother advised, “sign up for the museum board. There’s a vacancy.”
The UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico, and the Bordello Museum in Wallace, Idaho, were not intentional destinations—just diversions on long haul rides. So, he sprinkled his application with his weird museum visits and ended up with a seat on the board where he was a strident voice. He needed the cooperation of other board members and community members too. Perhaps “No shit Sherlock” should watch his language and appear to be more professional.
But he wasn’t going to be called Theodore.
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So fun! “He’s four!” Love it – too funny. Great job with this.
“Sunburst Fawn-Flower”? I love it! And the bike research of course. Well done, Linda!