by Ted Gargiulo – I’d like to say that my dad taught me to ride a bicycle. Truth is, I was neither teachable nor terribly coordinated. I suspect I’m missing a crucial circuit in my brain that keeps a person centered. Not that I was any better at learning the piano, but at least I didn’t fall off the bench and bust my face when I failed. How I eventually transcended the problem, however, remains a mystery.
My two-wheeler came with a set of “training wheels” whose function was to help me balance myself till I learned to ride without them. Instead, they became a crutch, the left one especially. For some reason, I’d favor that one side and ride at an angle. Sorta defeated the purpose of having trainers. Every so often, the wheel would collapse under the constant strain, and I’d wipe out. Then I’d curse the wheel, curse the bike, and storm into the house.
When I was 8 or 9, my dad decided it was time I learned to ride a bicycle properly. First thing he did was remove the training wheels. I was petrified. He held onto the bike while I sat on it, showed me how to balance myself in the seat, then walked with me a distance while I peddled. Once I got up to speed, he let go. Sensing no trainers to lean on, I panicked and lost control. Crash! We tried this several times, but I kept toppling into things. Finally, I told my dad I’d had enough. So the bike went back into storage and sat idle for the next few months.
Now, check this out. One night, I dreamt I was riding my two-wheeler without the training wheels. In the dream, I was perfectly centered, confident, and peddling as though I’d been doing this my whole life. For once, I KNEW what being balanced felt like! Where this sensation came from, I couldn’t say. Yet, when I awoke, it was vivid as ever. I told my dad that morning, “I’m ready to start riding again!” Together we retrieved the bike and pushed it to the local gas station to re-inflate the tires. Soon as we were done, I hopped on and rode off, exactly as I had in my dream. No training wheels, nobody holding on to steady me. I just DID it! How incredible is that?
Sadly, I had no such enlightenment regarding roller skates—only visions of annihilation and defeat. Whoever bought them did NOT know me at all! I couldn’t understand how people glided around so freely on those insane things without killing themselves. Friends tried to show me how to skate; made it look and sound so easy. It wasn’t. Heck, you’d think those clunky metal wheels would have provided greater stability, if less speed, than today’s more dynamic rollerblades. Not so. I attained breakneck speeds (literally) every time I struck the pavement, which happened very suddenly, and very often. It’s a wonder I didn’t shatter my kneecaps.
Only once in my life did I receive a revelation in my sleep. Why, of all things, did I dream about riding a bicycle? Why not something more profound, more creative? I have no explanation. All I can tell you is that once I learned how, I never forgot it.