There was some point during last night’s Critical Mass ride when Brian – recently moved from Jackson Hole, now living in Culver City – turned to me and said, I don’t have any idea where we are.
Last night’s ride – my first – had a lot of those moments, even for someone who lives in the area. For people who came in from other parts of Los Angeles, their heads must have been spinning by the time we finally ended up in the parking lot of the Rite Aid at Hollywood and Vermont. That was about the time that I peeled off, but the two hours’ ride we took last night curled through Koreatown and up into the eastern verges of Hollywood, down empty streets and streets thick with families leading their kids out trick-or-treating, along back roads (as much as any exist in Los Angeles) and through the thick of traffic heading west on Sunset or on Melrose.
I mapped out the ride this morning, and what struck me was the way in which the map confirmed a feeling I had when I was riding: We didn’t really go anywhere.
Check that: We didn’t really go anywhere in the way that I usually think of going places in this city. When I get in my car, get on the bus, or even (usually) when I get on my bike to commute home from campus, I have a very destination-oriented approach to what I’m doing. Sure, there are different modes of moving, but they are all teleological, in that they’re inflected by my desire to arrive at a specific place as efficiently as possible. That’s not Critical Mass. While there’s an ultimate destination, the ride is everything. While there’s a route, it’s not so much about getting there efficiently as it is about having FUN while doing it.
And that’s kind of daunting at first. Coming from an experience of riding in the city where I’ve always been going somewhere specific, it was a little confusing to figure out how to fit in with the group. I don’t think I quite managed it, but you can reach a point where you just settle in and ride for the sheer pleasure of the experience.
You ride because you can, and though I don’t know much of anything about the ethos behind Critical Mass, that way in which it lets you ride for no other reason than that you can strikes me as something rare and something worth fighting for. See you next time.