Thursday, May 08, 2008

Back On The Chain Gang

Monday I finally bought a bicycle.

I used to bike all over the place - I never drove anywhere. If I had a meeting at Universal or Warner Bros or Disney, I’d bike there. Those studios are close to me, and when you drive there they put you in some guest parking structure about 10 miles from wherever your meeting is. If you bike, you can park right at the building where you are meeting. Right after Clint Eastwood took a golf club to some guy’s car who parked in his spot on the Warner’s lot, I had a meeting with the company next door (Weed Road) and purposely parked my bike in his parking spot. I was hoping he’s smash the hell out of my bike and I’d end up on the news... but that didn’t happen. Eastwood was shooting a movie somewhere. I would ride everywhere though - a friend of mine had a barbeque on the other side of the valley - I rode there. There was a dollar theater in Northridge - I’d ride there if they had some movie I wanted to see. These are insane bike rides for you folks out of town. But the most insane bike ride I ever took in Los Angeles wasn’t distance, it was danger - I rode into Hollywood a few times on the very narrow, very twisty, traveled by a zillion speeding cars *and* speeding busses, Cahuenga pass. You get clipped a half dozen times by car side mirrors! I did that.

Then, my bike got mangled and stolen... and I just drove everywhere. You know, it’s easy to do - get in the car and drive over the pass - and it’s your side mirror hitting the cyclists. Hey, man, that’s on Van Nuys Blvd - I’m gonna drive there (used to ride all the time). Hey, that’s in Burbank - I’m gonna drive there! (Used to ride to the movies in Burbank about twice a week - even in winter when it can get cold.) Never replaced the bike.... and eventually, Hey, Ralphs is half a block away... I’m going to drive to get groceries. I mean, carrying them is a lot of work. Next thing you know, I’m like the opening titles in whatever season of GET SMART had the Sunbeam Alpine ROARING... across the street and parking. I would drive down the street rather than walk...

And I got fat.

I mean, my job is sitting on my ass and typing all day. No exercise involved at all. My *fingers* get a work out, I guess. But that’s about it.

My blood doesn’t circulate, it just kind of sits there. This is not healthy.

So, a couple of years ago I decided to buy a bike and start riding again... but I never got around to buying the bike. I *did* decide to do more walking. I don’t drive a half block to the grocery store anymore, I walk. I also walk here and there - and every once in a while take a fairly long walk. A couple of weeks ago, I had a meeting in Toluca Lake, and walked there. That was a real walk! And it felt pretty good. The blood began circulating again. Some of it even got up to my brain - and I could think again! Hmmm, this exercise thing may be a good idea for my writing?

That was one of the great things about the bicycle - In the old days I would skip my local Starbucks and cycle to Priscilla’s in Toluca Lake - that was my office. I would write a few pages there, then get on the bike and ride into Burbank and work at the Coffee Bean on San Fernando near the movie theaters. The great thing about the ride in between was that I got the blood circulating and had time to think about the scene I was about to write. By the time I got into Burbank, I had dialogue and actions erupting from my brain - I had to lock the bike and open the laptop quickly to get all of that stuff typed up! This resulted in the most prolific period of my career - I wrote like a madman!

Now... well, I just don’t write as much. I’m lazy. I’m sloth-like. My blood doesn’t move at all. My brain doesn’t do much.

So, Monday, I bought a new bike.

The thing about bikes in Los Angeles - if you buy a really nice bike, you are probably buying it for someone else. When I first got here I had a really expensive bike... and it was stolen right away. They used a blow torch on the pole I locked it to. The LAPD told me this happens all the time - there are guys in trucks with blow torches cutting through chains and locks and even the poles you lock it to. I replaced that bike with the exact same expensive model - and it was also stolen. Eventually I bought the cheapest bike I could find - the basket cost as much as the bike - and that bike took much longer for them to steal. That became the plan from then on - buy a cheap bike, see how long it took them to steal it. Sometimes it was years! So, this new bike? Target. Cheap. A Schwinn SunTour.

Now, in my mind I’m a bicycle guy. In my mind I can ride from here to Northridge to see a movie. In my mind I can ride all the way across the valley. I got on the new bike, and rode it about 6-8 blocks home... and my legs felt like rubber. All of those muscles required to ride a bike? I don’t got them anymore. They went away when the fat came. I thought the walking might help - different muscles. The walking muscles have absolutely nothing to do with the bicycle muscles. I went to bed Monday night with throbbing legs. Tuesday, I rode 8 blocks... and thought my legs might explode. When I got off the bike, I almost landed on my head. My legs just did not want to work. They rebelled against me. Yesterday - 8 blocks... and my legs were a little better. Today - the plan is to ride *miles*. I’m typing this from Priscilla’s in Toluca Lake...

I’m not riding into Burbank, but I am riding home from here. And when that becomes “easy” I’m going to keep expanding the ride until I am in Burbank.

Hopefully my legs won’t give out on me.

- Bill


J.J. said...

Riding a bike anywhere in L.A. is brave riding a bike down Cahuenga pass...

I have a new found respect for you Bill.

Good luck getting back into shape.

Christina said...

I agree with J.J. - riding a bike in LA is brave. I live in SF and riding a bike here is too much for me to contemplate, though a ton of hipsters do it. They're all skinny.

I'm a walker. I'm able to stay in the chair in a much more calm, productive fashion if I take the time to walk 4-5 miles a day. Lately, I've been exploring Golden Gate Park, which is only like a mile from my apartment.

The KMart bike - excellent idea! It must be so fun to walk in a place and say, I want the cheapest, most unremarkable bike you have... that will do hills.


Oasis said...

You Go Bill!

Maybe you should leave a sign on your bike:


I don't know, I'm just saying, it's worth a try.

I'm kidding, I'm laughing here. I'm simply delighted that you're doing this Bill.

We need you around for a long time...give us them script tips.


dannyboy52472 said...


Yeah, I've had two bikes stolen while living in L.A. - one *while it was chained to a tree*. It's tough being a biker here.

Congrats and good luck!


ObiDonWan said...

...and there's probably a good script in those bike experiences!

Emily Blake said...

Hey you've inspired me. I haven't been able to run lately because of a foot injury but I could ride a bike. And with gas as expensive as it is and the fact that I could ride to Hollywood...

I'm buying a bike too.

wcmartell said...

Because the bike is new, I'm considering buying a can of flat gray spray paint and messing it up.

I used to bike/BART from Concord to the city to get my 16mm film processed - there was no place to park at the lab. Walking in Golden Gate Park sounds great - exercise, and the park has so many different elements it's like a dozen parks. I used it in my PAST LIVES script - the two windmills.

I get zero exercise - I don't kick box with my trainer, I don't go to a gym... I sit on my ass.

Last night I rode to a bar, had some drinks with friends, rode home... and my legs were fine until I got about a block from my building... then they began to hurt. All in my mind. Got home, my legs were okay. Fine today, too.

But my butt hurts - damned hard bicycle seat!

- Bill

Leif said...

Do you think there's much difference between riding a bike and riding an exercise bike? Atm, the daily exercise plan I am trying to follow is bit of walking in the morning, and exercise bike at night. Neither really pushes me to the point that my muscles are hurting though.

Oasis said...

I'm no expert...well, maybe I could be, since I've lost...
I've lost some weight.

That said, if you're walking you want to really be sweating after 20mins. I mean sweat dripping. If not, then you need to walk harder and faster.

The exercise bike (though good) comes nowhere near to giving you what you'e gonna get from a regular bike.

That's my expert opinion.

The big thing I found, was persistence. After a while, you start to like what you see in the mirror, you start to love being able to "rush over there" without giving out of breath.

And then you make a decision, that you won't let that hot fluffy golden brown biscuit with butter dripping down the side of it ruin that image for nothing :)

Speedo said...

The chain rules!
I ride about 5000 miles per year. Now that sounds like a lot - but it's only 100 miles a week or just under 15 miles a day. Great mobile meditations.
I listen to your cd's on writing on my iPhone during the trip. I've been doing this for 17 years now here in the Palm Desert area.
You are right on replacement bikes - the uglier the better.
My philosophy on traffic - if you ride fast enough they will miss you!
Welcome back to the chain Bill. And thanks for the blue books and inspiration.
You rock!

James Moen said...

Biking the Cahuenga Pass is insane.

That being said, biking is great. Good exercise and good fun. To bad I don't currently have a bike. When I moved to the outskirts of LA county my bike wouldn't fit in or on top of the van. Now I just walk everywhere. It is good... but it limits me to the outskirts, and even a bike wouldn't get me near downtown.

I enjoy reading your blog. Its very informative, creative, and fun.

scottycwilliam said...

I suggest you invest in a folding bike!

The Brompton Bicycle is pretty cool and folds in less than a minute. Very light. I'm currently saving up for one.

Here's a link to all the shops in the USA that carry it. You can order online.

These bikes are kind of expensive... $1499+ pretty crazy. But, you never have to worry about it being stolen because you can carry it with you instead of chaining it up!

I'm prolly get one when I move to LA.

Dahon's Tournado are nice, bigger, and they come with a case. But, they take about 15 min to pack and cost more... $2,200.

These bikes were made for writers. =)

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