Well it’s October and, suddenly, summer seems in jeopardy. Since it’s often slow to arrive in these climes, I complacently assume that it will be slow to depart as well. However, celestial mechanics do not observe such sentimentality, and I found myself for the last 2 weeks departing the house for my bike commute in pitch dark, whereas it was nearly broad daylight at 5:15 in July. We’re having a nice weekend, though, and I’m counting on a couple more before the wet and cold takes center stage.
October is significant this year for at least a couple reasons. First, it’s my birth month, and this year’s cumpleanos is a tad more significant than others: I become a fucking Senior Citizen. I went on Medicare effective 10/1, and while my health insurance drops from around $700/month to $78, I noticed a marked sea change in the language of my coverage. While my prior coverage (mainstream individual coverage as a self-employed person) emphasized contraception, well-baby programs, maternity and sports medicine, my Medicare-based plan document deals in the language of decline: end-stage renal disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm screening, cardiac rehabilitation services, prosthetic devices, pulmonary rehabilitation. It’s a sobering (hahahanotreally) boundary to cross, as my self-image is back there in the sports and impregnating people thing. Someone here needs a reality check.
This October is also significant because it’s the month that, 40 years ago, Mrs. Perils and I were sitting in our rented digs on Church Street in Bowling Green, Ohio, having gotten married the previous June, and we looked at each other and, with great trepidation, said, “let’s get the fuck out of here!” We loaded up a 5×8 U-haul, hitched it to my sweet ‘67 Pontiac Tempest and, Huck Finn-style, “lit out for the territory”, the territory in this case being Seattle.
Seattle had been whispering in my ear for 2 or 3 years before that. Mrs. Perils had flown with her mother to the Northwest a few years previous on a mission of family imperative, and she returned with tales of lush green wilderness and imagery that excited her artist’s soul. Then one of my co-workers at the CPA firm I worked at in my first job out of college had taken a position on the Seattle University accounting faculty, and his correspondence was tantalizing.
By 1974, I had left the CPA firm, finding the business of public accounting not to my liking, and had tried, unsuccessfully, to remake myself as a writer and academic English professor. While taking classes at Bowling Green, I worked as a philosopher/bicycle mechanic alongside perhaps the only soulmate friend I’ve ever had, and that summer a petite woman pulled into the bike shop with some needed repairs to her Raleigh International. She was a schoolteacher in Nome, Alaska, and had purchased her bike in Seattle and proceeded to ride it across the country and into our fervid imaginings. The sticker on her bike from the shop she bought it from said, “Aurora Cycle”, and it conjured fantasies of a pristine launching place for a bicycling and life adventure that we, I and my bikeshop buddy, both hungered for.
Then, later in the summer of 1974, Mrs. Perils and I and a mutual friend of ours undertook to drive west to Seattle for a visit to our friend the accounting professor We brought our bikes, of course, because they were our identity. Our Seattle University friend had planned a bike trip that went west to Port Angeles, took a ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island, proceeded through the San Juans and south down Whidbey Island back to Seattle.
We followed this bike trip up with a backpacking weekend in the Olympic National Park. I was absolutely hooked; all I had to overcome was the inbred notion endemic to midwesterners that, while we know those places and experiences are out there to be had, the act of detaching ourselves in order to pursue them was unthinkable.
So here we are. Nearly 40 years in the same house, scions now of stability when, in 1974, you would have predicted chaos and perfidy.
October, you’re an unenviable month, saddled with the conflicting responsibilities of staving off loss and embracing winter, but we’re in this together.