I’ve had plenty of shit burglarized from me since I’ve been living in Israel. When I was in the army doing basic training I was less than careful with my M-16 and woke up one morning to find just the barrel with a note from the CO advising me that I’d be spending the next few Saturdays on base. My Nokia e66 mobile phone was stolen from under my nose at a video store I was working at on Yermiyahu Street. My suitcase full of dirty clothes was stolen from Ben Gurion airport on the tail end of a business trip to Frankfurt. I still keep expecting to find my underwear the subject of a bidding war on Ebay. Perhaps the most egregious act of burglardom I’ve suffered here was the theft of my bicycle. It made me feel like the protagonist in that classic Italian film, The Bicycle Thief. Every foreign worker, every junkie, every Israeli Arab kitchen worker on a bike, every one of them was a suspect in that tantalizing mystery that has since gone cold.
I bought my first bike, a GW Whittenbike for 450 NIS from a bike store on Pinsker street a few weeks after I moved to Israel. Since I didn’t have a car, that single speed girl’s bike (resplendent with wicker basket and flowers) was my only means of transportation. Never mind the Sisyphean task of pedaling up hill. It was worth it. I used it to go food shopping, to go to the gym and to go to the base. I looked kind of like a circus bear on a tricycle but I didn’t care. Tel Aviv is one of the greatest cities in the world when you have a bike. I would ride up and down the Tayelet at sunset. I would tear up Rothschild Boulevard, weaving past the homeless beggars and the Hipsters. Ibn Gvirol Street was always the most fun thanks to the dedicated bike lane.
A few months after I met M. I surprised her with a bike of her own. It was also a GW Whittenbike (the girl’s model). Since she is pint-sized we had to replace it with one of those folding bikes. The two of us would ride up and down Dizengoff Street like we were starring in a Truffault film. Our life was in Black and White and had a soundtrack by Dalida. Life was grand until that wretched Saturday when we walked out of the Lev cinema in Dizengoff Center and found a few busted chain links where our bikes used to be.
We moved to Florentine after we got married and I treated myself to a new 12 speed bike (this time I opted not to go with the wicker basket and flowers). I rode that thing up and down Rothschild Boulevard to and from work. I rode it to the gym on Shenkin Street. I would get hella stoned and ride it down to Jaffa and spend the sunset overlooking Andromeda’s Rocks. Those fleeting moments of singular beauty reminded me how truly amazing this country could be and how miraculous life really was.
Alas, all good things must come to an end and so it came to pass that as I was whoring myself from nine to five in an office building near Maariv House, some miscreant came and stole my bike in broad daylight leaving nothing but an oil stain where my pride and joy used to be. I took the bus home and vowed, in my best Liam Neeson from ‘Taken’ voice, that I would tear down the Eiffel Tower if I had to (in this case scour the enclaves of the old central bus station)
We moved to Ramat Gan after D. was born and my next bike was a used Gary Fisher model that my parents gave me as a gift. I harnessed a baby seat on the back and took my little man D. on some crazy adventures. We discovered every playground, jungle gym and park within a ten kilometer radius. It was quality time which we had developed a code word for: Wheeeee! I would say, D. you up for some ‘Wheeee!’? He would always smile, grab his helmet and let out a Mohican style “Wheeee”!
Unfortunately the previous owners had ridden Gary Fisher pretty hard and not a day went by that a spoke didn’t fall off or a link in the chain would break. I knew it was time to replace it when I got a flat tire and the owner of the bike repair shop just shook his head. Not worth it Habibi. Cheaper to just buy a new bike.
So I left the Gary Fisher tied to a post on the corner of Talpiyot street and watched it slowly decompose over time. Well, it didn’t actually decompose like a carcass would. It just slowly became less and less of a bike. At first someone stole the child’s seat. Then someone stole the frame. Finally someone stole the handlebars and all that was left was the flat tire. Matter of fact I think it’s still there.
I spent the next few years bikeless. I took the bus to work. It was a sad and desperate time. Worst of all I couldn’t take D. on any more “Wheeee!” adventures. Let me tell you, there’s nothing sadder than seeing your son hold his yellow helmet with pictures of a dog on it and you, his father, can’t do anything about it. Wheeeee?
I received a sign from the Universe a few months ago. M. and I were coming back from the mall on the bus and as we descended at our stop I saw a child’s seat that had been tossed. Mysterious are the ways of the lord, let me tell you. So I decided to sell everything I could on Ebay and Yad2 to save up enough money for a bike. I made just enough to buy a single speed orange and black girl’s bike with all the bells and whistles. Literally.
So if you happen to see a large circus bear (with Boo Boo in tote) riding a shiny new bike up and down the mean streets of Ramat Gan with a huge smile plastered on his face please don’t call animal control or think me mentally deficient. It’s just that for now, the entire cosmos seems to be aligned just right. Wheeeeeee!