I know who he is, but the boy had never met him. Years ago, I volunteered at a drop-in off of Commercial Drive and he came by every once in a while. I doubt he would remember me. The boy sees his bicycle from up the street and says, “Look at that motorcycle.” “That’s not a motorcycle, it’s a bicycle,” I say. “No. It’s a motorcycle.” “Well, let’s ask the man who owns it, then.” We approach him and I say, “May we look at your bike?” “Sure,” the man says. He shows it off enthusiastically. “Why do you have a cone?” the boy asks, pointing to the remnants of a pylon attached to the bike. “That’s where I keep my roof?” “Do you play hockey?” A bladeless hockey stick is peeking out of the pylon. “Ahh, that’s for beating away pigeons and rats,” he says while swinging the stick in the air like Robin Hood. “What’s that for?” The boy points to a closed umbrella in the pylon. “That’s the roof. Do you want me to show you how it works?” The umbrella attaches above the seat to a series of discarded bicycle parts. The entire bike is made up of salvaged junk.
“He’s recycled it,” I say. “I’m reusing,” he corrects me. “It’s better than recycling.” My son keeps asking what every piece is while the owner patiently and even enthusiastically explains how his bike works, showing us how the battery on the side powers an LED light system on the frame, a projector that shines images out of a plastic skull onto cars that he rides by, and even an old GPS system that attaches to the handlebars. While giving us the tour he lets us know that he was evicted just yesterday. He doesn’t give a reason why and doesn’t give much time to think about it because the tour continues. I would say that the bike is a work of found art, but he corrects me again, without me having to say anything. “You see, everything on this bike is here for a reason. It all does something.” “What’s that for?” my son asks, pointing to two glass dolphins perched on the front of the stem. “Well, you got me there. I just like the way those look. But everything else. . .” “What’s that for?” “Well, you got me again,” he says with some resignation. “Well, no, that’s a cherub, and in the Catholic religion, they. . .” he pauses. “Do you know about angels?” “Yes,” says my son. “Right, well they. . . the practitioners of the religion. . . they believe that they. . . the angels keep you safe. And, well. . .” he pauses again. “What’s that for?” “Aha. Well, you see I have a trailer and that is where I hook it on. And it attaches to this seat belt, too. For extra protection.” “Okay,” I say. “Thanks for the tour. We need to get home for some lunch. We’ll see you around.” “Yeah, no problem.” On the way home, my son keeps talking about the bike. “That’s so cool. If you’re riding along and you find something, like a ball or something, you could put it in that little box.” He was referring to a box attached to the front of the bike that pops open by a button. “And then you could just keep going. That’s so cool.”