Department of Defense
Friday, May 25, 2012 at 10:06AM
Elena Taurke in Atonement, Feelings, Healing, PsychoZen Meets Life

Three bikes already stolen, and yesterday, one mangled beyond rideability.   If I knew who the enemy was, I'd sign up for the war!

Moving to the city last winter from our little village of Nyack, the family warmed to the sight of all the bicycles zipping around the city.  So, we brought our bikes over, chained them to a fence near our apartment in Washington Heights.  No dummies, we purchased good city locks and worried a little but not too much.  Well....first, mine was taken by someone who cut the fence to which it was attached.    I was hurt, put a sign up saying "hey, if you really needed a bike, you could have asked me for it."   But I got a new one--it was an old bike anyway.  Chained the new one to a better pole, where it survived one day before disappearing without a trace.  Next, my daughter's mountain bike fell prey to the dark force of greed.  

So, after some serious meditation, reflection, yoga, and conversation, I decide to get new bikes for both of us.  We're not going to let them get us down!  We will fight back with abundance!   Bike shop guys very nice, cut us a good deal--absurdly we almost feel like we're coming out ahead.   My daughter decides to store the bike, but I am determined to actually ride it, so I park it outside where it is convenient.  I find a spot where there is plenty of bike company, a crowded corner near my studio in Greenwich Village--a safe neighborhood by anyone's criteria.

It survived 2 months.   The remaining parts of the formerly winsome vehicle are still securely attached to the pole.  Everything that wasn't chained is gone.  Handlebars and gear system have vanished into the void.  

I discover the sorry condition of my dear transportation partner as I hop out during my lunch break to take a quick ride to the farmer's market.  By the way, the ability to do this was giving me good cheer all morning.  Imagine!  It's November 22nd, 60 degrees, I live and work in the greatest city in the world, and there is a gorgeous farmer's market within a 5-minute bike ride.  

First, I am numb, unable to comprehend.  I continue moving, removing the lock, not realizing my universe has changed, then somehow decide I should take it to the basement, then remember I still have to go to the market, so I'm turning around and around in sad lost circles with my deformed dance partner.  I lock it back up, proceed to take public transportation to the market, where, by the way, they are out of the turkey sausage I was seeking, and end up almost late for my next patient, all the while trying to absorb this very new very unwelcome state of affairs.   I find myself humming a little tune, as if I could minimize the catastrophe with a diminutive melody.  

When it finally lands in my consciousness, my mood becomes very dark and my mind asks impossible questions.  DON'T tell me I'm not being punished, or it's not personal, or that most people are not evil, or all about interdependent causation, because I KNOW it all.   Not only that, but I am fully aware, thanks to effective psychoanalysis, of how this mutilation triggers issues about my mutilated body.  

What I don't know is how to stay physically open when I've been attacked.  I'm scared; I want to huddle in a tiny ball.  I'm so angry I want to hurt something.  And then I'm so so so sad, and actually I notice as I sit with my afternoon clients that I have more empathy, more patience, less of that expert feeling that keeps intimacy away.   I remember a zen story about the teaching of a strange monk  who eats all the food and breaks all the dishes.   

But I'm not done here!   While my beheaded bike may be excellent fodder for my buddhist practice, I still need to know what to do!   Do I give it up?  Put its remains away?  As I think that, I start to despise all those people happily riding bikes that were not stolen.  So that doesn't seem right.   Do I get it repaired and then figure out how to lock down the handlebars?  As it is, I've spent almost as much on the locks as the bike itself.   So now I understand defense spending.  Forget about funding arts.  I have to protect the f*&^%$ing bike from the f*&^%$ing hooligans who have no respect for personal property!

And most important, how can I walk that narrow path between depression and helpful vulnerability?   I have an idea.   I think it has to do with being understood.  After the event, I pathetically tried to tell passers by what had happened.  They were nice, ok?  but you know how it is…  Later, I got some satisfaction when I told my partner and my daughter.    I wish I could say it was enough.  It wasn't.  I need you.  

November, 2010

Update on Friday, June 8, 2012 at 4:52PM by Registered CommenterElena Taurke



Dear Yuuka,

I was so struck by the way you allowed this experience to bring forth and explore so many feelings, and the way your sadness helped you to empathize with patients.
I hope this doesn't sound like a ;pollyanna gloss -- I would also feel all the helplessness, rage, etc that you feel .... but I am struck also by the idea of the path between helplessness & vulnerabilty.
You're in the saddle,kid -- keep riding!



The Mutilated Bike, submitted by steve tajo on Thu, 11/25/2010.

I was so horrified when I learn about the bike.  I lived through the disappearance of three other bikes in the past 4 months.  A few months ago, I thought, at first, that it should not have been left out.  The other three bikes were uptown.  Would this bike suffer the same fate downtown in the Village?

But, with everyday seeing the bike in its ready to bike state, and even surviving the Halloween Parade, my confidence and hope swelled.  I thought, finally, a neighborhood that respects its bikes.  Maybe other things in the Village are stolen, but not Elena's bike.

But seeing the picture of the bike taken apart was almost worst than having the bike stolen.  I was struck by the word "mutilation".  A few days earlier, I was running along the side of the road near my office in Franklin Lakes, and saw a dead dear.  Its entire body was intact, with some blood dripping outside its mouth.  At that point, I was still able to see the expression of terror that the dear had as it met its moment of untimely death.

By Tuesday (four days later), the dear was still there, the face still intact, but now expressionless.  Its soul completely abandoned.  The carcass was completely removed.  Between the legs and the head, the only thing left was the blood stained skeletal cavity.  Mutulated.

And today is Thanksgiving.  Yesterday, I was listening on NPR on the problem of cooking a turkey, and how to solve the problem.  The turkey cavity does not lend itself to even cooking so the thing to do is to just buy the parts, and cook them instead.  Now, with that, the big problem is that we would not have the Norman Rockwell moment of carving up the turkey; being able to enjoy this experience of mutilating the animal beyond recognition.

So, I come back to the bike.  The handle bars and gear now removed.  The wheels are waiting for the next opportunist.  I can only now ask on this Thanksgiving Day, who will these bike parts feed.

I can only hope.


I really appreciate the way you put this piece together, Steve, and the meaning that you took from the events you describe. Your post, and Ikai's persistent optimism about human nature, despite all odds, helps me keep my faith, too. And thanks, Elena, for getting us all to think about this.

I am deeply appreciative of your comments.   The bike still stands broken but I feel repaired.  Ikai nailed the pain of questioning what we humans are made of.  Bokushu, I just don't know if caution is in my nature--maybe I should consider working on it.  Mum, thank you of course.  And other comments on FB and elsewhere helped me remember the vast capacity for love, coexisting with all that destruction. 

Dear Yuuka,

I am more than sorry about your bike.  I am incensed. 

I remember when I was a kid, my dad always told me never to grieve over the loss of a physical object.  He claimed they could always be replaced. (Not always so, I learned).  Still, I took the lesson to heart.  And when I opened my wallet at a store I stopped at on the way home from school to discover that all the money had been removed, I was cool.  I said a little prayer hoping the money went to a good place and was grateful that I did not have to steal.  I found myself going through this ritual very often when I was in middle school.  It seems I was marked as easy prey.

Somehow I lost this lovely sentiment when I moved to NYC.  I had my wallet stolen (twice) and my wrist watch stolen.  I felt so violated.  I was incensed.   Realistically, these things are replaceable (wallets are a hassle because of cards and drivers license, etc) and I suppose I should be happy that I have never been mugged.  These were surreptitious thefts. 

As I think about it now, I think what was stolen was my belief in human decency.  Though I can't really say that.  I return to my true gullible nature.  So I am shocked, sorrowed and enraged all over again by your story. 

I don't know how to fight this sort of thing, which of course makes it even more annoying.  A friend of mine got a used beat up bike after his new one was stolen and has had good luck so far.  I notice that he uses two locks: one for the bike and another for the front wheel.

What a world!!

Glad that it has lovely people like you in it though.

This situation is very frustrating.  It is amazing how quickly bikes get stolen in this city.  While traveling in Japan recently, I noticed many bikes with little to no security -- the contrast with NYC could not have been more glaring.

It sounds like a cliche, but maybe you should take this as a sign.  Riding a bike in NYC is actually very dangerous.  I knew a person who was killed riding a bike, and vowed then never to ride one in NYC myself.  Later I met a couple other people who suffered very serious and painful injuries while riding bikes, reinforcing my conviction.

The freedom and flexibility of a bike has to be measured against the risks.  Though it isn't very enjoyable, perhaps it is time to think more deeply about safety and security.

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