Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Cursing Man

Years back, when living in Massachusetts, I was bicycling to Northampton from Sunderland for work.  I just now checked (map below) and it was about 11 miles each way.  The job had awful hours and awful pay and although it did not require me to have a car if I drove my car to work I would end up having to use it which I hated.  I remember thinking, "I bet I could bike in.  Then there would be no way to make me use my car and besides....bicycling!" 

My ride was an old Trek hybrid purchased for cheap not beauty but it was entirely serviceable.  This was before bicycle lanes but the roads were pretty quiet and despite having only the money (or the brains) for a tail light I had no serious accidents...River Drive where there were lots of farms was exceptionally pretty.  In Sunderland my usual companions in bicycling would be the very poor seasonal farm workers who were imported in to pick the tobacco crop and then exported at the end of the season but closer in to town the level of traffic picked up adding in college students and some fellow bicycle commuters and hobbyists.  The most memorable of these bicyclists was The Cursing Man.

The Cursing Man was always on his bicycle and usually clutching a small brown cigar between his teeth.  He was always cursing, a long steady stream of bad language, and not the casual bad language stuff like "damn" or "bitch" either.  As he pedaled up the side of the road he let loose with a string of incredible profanity with the speed of machine gun fire:  "you filthy shit-eating motherfucking cocksucking asshole piece of shit you're going to get your ass kicked reamed torn apart you fucking.."

You get the idea or I hope you do as I can't really do it justice. 

Also, the bad language was delivered at high volume.  If you were bicycling along from far away you'd hear "stupid bitch suck my dick you disgusting dog-fucker" and the volume would grow and grow until this blast of profanity flew by you on your left.  Did I mention that The Cursing Man was very fast?  He was.  He could simultaneously curse and pedal an easy 28mph on the flat. 

What else?  The Cursing Man was very tall, with long legs, and his chosen steed was a big road bike with thin steel tubing.  He wore only tennis shoes and shorts, nothing else.  He was incredibly fit and powerful.  His every muscle stood out and he had the legs of a three time Tour winner.  Always he was on that bicycle, riding down route 9, up through Florcence and back into Northampton and always the ceaseless shouting. 

After the initial surprise he became part of the landscape for me, just another person.  I never heard of anyone being attacked or hurt by The Cursing Man and although he frequently flew by me it was always at a safe distance and his words never felt as if they were directed against me personally.  I started to kindof like the guy.  The word on the street was that he'd been a high-powered lawyer and that he'd been in a car accident and then in a coma and when he came out of it...voila.  The Cursing Man. 

This story has a sad end.  After being away in Washington DC for several years I returned to the area.  I didn't see The Cursing Man for weeks and when I did he was sitting on a bench.  The bicycle was gone and he was wearing a shirt.  He no longer looked angry, he looked dazed and subdued.  His buff body had been replaced by a wide soft heavily medicated body and he had the characteristic Thorazine slump.  With birds they clip the wings, with bicyclists they take away your wheels.

I like best to remember him as I first knew him.  His strong legs churning the pedals up route 9 at high speed, cigarillo between his teeth like a horse who has taken the bit, and always delivering that steady paean of invective. 

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  1. I had a bug fly straight into my eye last night, and I believe I sounded like him for a couple of minutes.

  2. @JRA I think that's a lovely tribute to a person who was a very interesting bicyclist. Made me a little teary to think of it.