Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Radar Love

I love riding motorbikes.

Until I moved to Vietnam, I'd never been on one. I'm a cautious person at heart. Riding motorcycles looked fun. It did not look fun enough to risk cracked ribs, a cracked skull, a square yard of road rash--let alone death or paralysis. So I'd gone through life, content with the prospect of dying, decades hence, without ever having ridden a motorbike.

It's not a matter of if you have an accident, all my motor-cycle riding friends assured me, it's a matter of when.

Yet why travel, what good are new experiences, if we don't find the opportunity for change? Why move around the world and stay home inside your head, with the same long-constructed notions of self? (See: tomatoes.)

Riding scared me at first. Now I love it. Especially at dusk. After sunset, when the air has cooled, with a long straight stretch of newly-laid pavement ahead of me. People don't find cars liberating for only practical reasons. Something in the human psyche--the male psyche especially, it seems to me, though this is a generalization from personal experience--responds to moving fast.

Riding those straight stretches at dusk, after sunset, the cool air rushing past, the world collapses into a tunnel of speed, as though velocity was some newly-invented toy.

Coming home, the last bridge before my building is my favorite. Cau Rach Dia is a smooth arc of concrete, flanked by orange streetlamps. At night, the water vapor rising from the channel halos those lights. The stink of smog is washed from the air. A sweep of up, then down, and beyond, the towering apartment buildings dazzle with white paint lit by a hundred white lights.

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