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A weatherman would have described the weather during the day as “scattered showers.” I would have chosen “dreary.” That same weatherman would describe the weather in the evening as “mostly cloudy.” I would choose “fuzzy.”

I stand under the Morrison Bridge in nothing but my undies, a bottle of champagne in my hand. I have been told by people who had done the naked bike rides in the past that it was a good idea to get buzzed before the ride. That is my mission. I am surrounded by a half-dozen of my friends, all of us stripped down to our underwear. Drums thunder in the distance (or within close proximity, the bridge’s acoustics muffling the thumps).

I take a pull from the bottle of champagne, and somebody recognizes me from the pizza shop where I’m a cook. Champagne dribbles down my chin, and I confirm that he is correct. Around us are thousands of other riders, all in the buff. We finish off the bottle and decide that it’s time to get a move on it.

Everyone is so naked that the mind is desensitized. When I ride out from under the bridge, accompanied by all of my nude friends, it is shock to see spectators fully dressed. There are a lot of people watching. Some take pictures. For no reason at all, I am okay with a man who has a Nikon fully decked out with zoom lens and flash, but I am unsettled by the guy with a camera phone.

It’s the ancient old art versus pornography debate.

I shrug it off. Police block every intersection for us. I wonder how all of the drivers feel knowing that they’ll be stopped at that corner for nearly forty-five minutes in order for thousands of naked people to cycle past. The police line the streets, because technically, we are protesting the use of fossil fuels. Although, I hear more shouts of “show me your tits” than I do “no blood for oil.”

We ride down MLK Blvd. and up and over the Burnside Bridge. The air is crisp over the river. I look around and see my friends smiling. It is a good feeling to know that we are all having such a good time. When we get downtown, there are spectators everywhere. Many reach out, either searching for a high-five or hoping to cop a feel.

Their actions bother me. Clearly they knew about the ride, but either out of insecurities or unwillingness to face the chilly evening, they chose not to participate. Instead, they thought they would enjoy the show, free of charge. I shake it off. It is nothing I hadn’t expected. I had read that the previous year’s ride had been full of this frat boy mentality.

Soon, we are on the Broadway Bridge. It is stop and go, but mostly stop. I run into a couple of coworkers, and no one seems bothered by our nudity.

When we are cycling down Broadway, a truck sneaks past the barricade and is riding among the thousands of riders. I stand up directly in front of him, baring my ass tattoo and flashing him the finger.

We ride down 28th Ave. and naked skateboarders buzz by me, hitching a ride by grabbing on to fellow cyclist’s seat. By now, the champagne is working its magic, and I’m yelling with everyone else. Next, it’s Cesar Chavez Ave (formerly 39th) and I can’t believe that I am naked on one of Portland’s busy byways.

Hawthorne is our final stretch. Everyone else will be returning to the river for festivities, but we have agreed to turn off at 34th, where our friend lives. It is strange to be the only naked ones on the street. But it only feels strange when I think about it.

We get off of our bikes and carry them to the porch. Instantly, we are bubbling about the ride. Several people proclaim it as the most fun they have ever had in Portland. I have to agree. I use my friend’s bathroom and come back to find that I am the only one not wearing clothes. For the first time all evening, I feel awkward.

I get dressed. We continue drinking for the rest of the evening, the conversation moving between subjects, but the bike ride continues to come up. It hovers over our thoughts.

It has been weeks since the Naked Bike Ride, and I still think about it daily. It was certainly the most fun I have had in Portland, at least as far as I can remember.

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There is a risk that all artists take. This is obvious. We take a risk the second we send out a submission email, the moment we hand a story over to a friend, the day the book reaches the bookstores.

The risk is unimaginable. You don’t understand it until you have experienced it. The amount of work that goes into a single story, song, painting is often mind-blowing. The moment after you have released your work and are waiting for the impact or lack thereof to be known is agonizing.

As I have discussed before, writing is not easy.

And neither is cycling. There is a large amount of risk that commuting cyclists take on a daily basis. To expose yourself, in many of the same ways as an artist, to remove any sort of protective casing, and to rely on the sheer cooperation of traffic around you is astonishing.

Yet, accidents happen.

The brain firing millions of electrical currents a second, all in the name of breathing, steering, remembering to turn off the stove, reflecting on the movie from the night before, it is no wonder that we often find ourselves distracted. We forget turn signals or to check our blind spots.

Opening an email to find another editor who is going to have to pass on a story is never easy, no matter how many times it has occurred. Similarly, I was hit by a car early last week. The man who hit me recognized his fault and drove me to the hospital. It was nothing serious. I spent four hours in the ER only to leave with stitches in my chin and elbow.

The hospital room smelled the way that only hospitals can. As I lay on the exam table, the doctor suturing up my chin, I had the type of reflections that often come with visits to the ER. I wondered why I didn’t simply ride the bus. Why didn’t I become a pharmaceutical salesman? Why did I seem to go out of my way to take such risks?

I came to understand that I write and ride because the payoff is worth it. The feeling I have had everyday for the past six years of cycling in Portland well outweighs the single visit to the hospital. And the hundred or so rejection letters are outweighed by the feeling I get when I see something I worked so hard on finally make it to print.

In fact, the risks I take don’t even seem like risks when I consider the outcome of my work. I may be more conscious of my actions and the risks that I am taking, but my behavior won’t be changed. I must still write like there are no risks.

There is a grand sense of connection that I have with my bike. It helps me navigate through my errand-riddled day. Because of it, I can travel anywhere in the city without ever worrying about filling up a gas tank, waiting for a bus, or finding a parking spot. But sometimes, my bicycle and I become bored with each other. Like lifelong lovers, we need to be reminded how lucky we are to have one another.

When this occurs, I open my closet, wipe off the excess dust from my toolbox, and I make some changes to my bike.

Sometimes, I just need to get my hands dirty. I need to feel the chain between my fingers. I need to feel the weight of a wrench in my hand. This helps break the monotony that comes with riding the same bike every single day. By working on my bike, I am opening myself up to it. I am digging up the emotion I felt when my bike and I first met.

It is a lovely feeling when you are reminded why you love something.

I love writing, but there are moments when I need to be reminded of this love. When this happens, I dig up an old story, and I tear it apart. I make anywhere from minor tweaks to sweeping changes, all in the name of improvement. Reading old words helps restore the feelings I had when I first wrote them, the excitement I felt when I was creating. I grow optimistic with my art, and I can move forward into new worlds with new characters.

When my bike has been worked on, improved, it is always the best time to ride, not only because it physically rides better, but because I feel more attachment to it, a revisited honeymoon. I do my best writing when I have torn apart a piece. I feel the excitement that comes with creating alongside the sense of hard work.

Let me tell you, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world. The rush that comes with being a writer who loves writing is unrivaled. Don’t get me wrong, it is a lot of work, and I often wonder if it is worth it. It can be likened to being a cyclist who loves riding. When the sun is just right, the chain has been greased, and the hill is behind you, there is nothing left but the feeling of doing good work.


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The sky is not clear in the world of Fiction Writers. I have found a fairly nurturing environment here in Portland, OR, but I am lucky. We live in a world where manuscripts aren’t accepted for publication not because they are poorly written but on the terms that they are unmarketable. So what do we do?

Most of us still write. And we work second and third jobs. These jobs are shitty. They are shitty, because if we worked better jobs there would be no reason to write. These shitty jobs keep us inspired.

And they pay some of our bills.

I am reminded of the transition from Summer to Fall here in Portland. In the Summertime, I am joined on my commute to work by hundreds of other cyclists, who are all riding into the city. But as the skies turn from blue to grey that number drops rapidly. The good cyclists aren’t the ones sticking with the wet commute, But the most persistent ones are.

The same goes for the writers trying to make a living in this world. The Writing World has become overcast and rainy, weather in which no sane person would choose to ride, but there are some of us who still do it. We still ride through the downpour of rejection letters (I’m currently covering the walls of my office with mine), and we still trudge through our two shitty jobs just to do what we enjoy doing, writing.

Because of the bleak conditions in which we ride, we are joined by a small number of colleagues. Both the year-round cycling community and the writing community here in Portland is small but tight. (Of course, the number of cyclists here are much larger than the number of writers.) It is always nice to run into someone who is a writer and still writing despite the conditions, in the same way that it is nice to see another cyclist barreling through the downpour for no reason other than the ride itself.

The wind and rain may be a buzz kill for many writers, but for me it is part of the challenge. It helps remind me that I don’t write to become rich in money. I write because I enjoy the trip.

Cycling would not be nearly as enjoyable if it was Summer all year long. Then, anyone could do it. I enjoy being a part of a smaller faction of Portlanders, who ride all year long. We ride for the sake of riding, for keeping up our stamina, and for the opportunity to enjoy life just a little more than those who merely drive cars in the winter.

We write for the sake of writing, for the opportunity to see the world differently, and because we love it too much. Like our fellow year-round commuters, we throw on our rain-proof jackets and write, despite the weather.