Last week, an apartment complex downtown cleaned out a bunch of apartments and left a heap of stuff sitting in the alley, destined for the landfill — what was left of it, that is, after anything of value was pillaged and plundered by savvy scavengers. My neighbor is just such a fellow. He had an errand to run, and so begged me to run down there as quickly as possible in his stead and grab whatever looked usable, repairable, or otherwise valuable. Whilst loading up chairs and vacuums for him, I found a motorcycle luggage rack and trunk and knew it to have the potential for making money from my days of riding those kind of bikes. I posted it on craigslist straightaway and a few days later had an extra eighty bucks in my pocket.
This same neighbor has five kids. The fourth, Baxter, occasionally kicks around the block on an old Ross Europa that he was given by the school custodian after it had been abandoned for a number of months. It still has what appear to be the original tires on it, which means they’re hard as rock and likely to explode any day. So yesterday afternoon, Baxter, my daughter, and I took a field trip to the local bike shop and blew the wad of cash secured through the sale of that motorcycle trunk on tires, tubes, rim strips, tire levers, and a patch kit (with plenty left over for some other bike-related stuff in the future, like gear, or grease, or ice cream). We put new rubber on those old wheels, and Baxter learned how to repair a flat and replace a tube in the process. We polished the chrome a bit while we had the chance, and it looks like we took twenty years off the bike. We diagnosed a handful of other small problems, agreed we’d get together to work on them soon, and also talked about taking a ride together in the near future.
You know what they say about one man’s trash being someone else’s treasure. Baxter’s dad was quick to deduce that I was doing this as much for myself as for Baxter. Yes, I confess, I used the poor kid and his nifty old bike as an excuse to feed my addiction. Have I no shame? It felt pretty cool hanging out in the basement with him and my daughter wrenching on that old bike together. I just don’t have it in me to apologize.