Monk and the Yellow Bike

One day back in the 20th century I found my bike had been stolen from the garage of the clocktower house. I wandered sullenly through the neighborhood, down here in Bouldin Creek, looking for it, of course to no avail. I did find something, though... I found the Yellow Bike Project house just a block from my house. It was a ramshackle affair on Johanna Street right by the creek. Inside the chain link fenced back yard was a bicycle graveyard of sorts, with disembodied bike frames and parts strewn about. A white, leaning clapboard shack housed a little shop and an ancient live oak canopied nearly the entire property. The ground slanted down towards the creek and there was a fire pit with stumps for sitting.

Over the next few nights, I used the shop to build a new bike from the heaps of rusting parts. I got lots of help from a homeless neighborhood denizen named Monk. He had a long, caring face partially hidden by a long braided beard. I wrote about my meeting him in Chapter Two of my book. My last memory of Monk was seeing him loping gleefully through a crowd at a music festival some years ago.

I hadn't seen him in years and figured he had maybe moved on to somewhere else, until Thursday. We shared a bus stop in the rain and I didn't recognize him because he had cut his beard and hair short. "I know Texas is rainy in the spring but Lord," he said, addressing the sky with palms turned up, "Enough already! You can turn off the damn spigot!" I remembered that voice and reintroduced myself. We sat waiting for the #10 and lamented its sparse schedule. "The #10 is slower'n a damn turtle going backwards!" he exclaimed. We had invested enough time at the stop that we knew we couldn't walk over to Congress for the #1, because as soon as we'd leave it was sure to show up. Soon enough it came, and I told him about the book and how I wrote about him. He asked me how I was on funds and unfortunately all I had was my bus fare.

Later in the afternoon on my walk home from work, I was happy to find Monk sitting in front of David's convenience store. Twice in a day! I asked him what I could get for him and he leapt to his feet to guide me to the icy bin of 24 oz Icehouse beers. I needed wine for dinner so Monk helped me make a selection. "Well, let's start with what you're planning on having for dinner," he said. "Barbecue chicken," I said. We operated on the principle that crappy white wine isn't as bad as crappy red wine, thus narrowing our selection. I picked up a bottle of chardonnay and Monk looked first at the price and said, "Of course, you're gonna wanna do your comparison shopping." I was reminded of a section in A. J. Liebling's Between Meals, where he considered the Bohemians of Paris to have sharpened decision-making skills because they couldn't afford both good wine and dinner, so they must carefully select how to budget their funds... cheap wine and dinner or good wine and no dinner (of course just dinner was not an option).

We settled on a single-digit bottle of pinot grigio and went our separate ways. I've enjoyed walking a bit more than biking lately. With biking, you just whizz right by everything. I sometimes walk through the grounds of Green Pastures restaurant on my way home and get to see the peacocks. In the past few weeks, they cut down a bunch of relatively large cedars to give their live oaks a better hold on the ground water. But they left the stumps up to eight feet tall and hired someone to carve peacocks into them. The rain started again as I neared my house. I hoped Monk had caught the #16 because he said he was awful tired of getting wet.