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Believe it or not, it was my bike. This one I had bought at Madison Square Garden, at the end of a six-day race. It had been made in Chemnitz, Bohemia and the six-day rider who owned it was a German, I believe. What distinguished it from other racing bikes was that the upper bar slanted down towards the handle bars.

I had two other bikes of American manufacture. These I would lend my friends when in need. But the one from the Garden no one but myself rode. It was like a pet. And why not? Did it not see me through all my times of trouble and despair?

Yes, I was in the throes of love, a first love, than which nothing is more disastrous, as a rule. My friends had become disgusted with me; they were deserting me, or  vice versa, one by one. I was desolate and alone. Whether my parents knew of my said plight I don’t recall, but I am sure they knew that something was bothering me. That “something” was a beautiful young woman named Una Gifford, whom I had met during my high school days.

As I have told elsewhere we were such naive creatures perhaps we kissed two or three times– at a party, for example, never elsewhere. Though we both had telephones we never telephoned one another. Why? I ask myself. (Because it would have been too bold, perhaps.) We did write each other, but out letters were far apart. I remember how each day when I came home I turned first to the mantel piece, where letters were kept, and it was almost always a blank absence that greeted me.

It was a period when I spent most of days job-huting (presumably). Actually, I went to a movie or the burlesk (if I could afford it). Suddenly, I stopped doing this and did nothing. Nothing but ride the bike. Often I was in the saddle, so to speak, from morning til evening. I rode everywhere and usually at a good clip. Some days, I encountered some of the six-day riders at the fountain at Prospect Park. They would permit to set the pace for them that led from the Park to Coney Island.

I would visit old haunts, such as Bensonhurst, Ulmer Park, Sheepshead Bay and Coney Island. And always, no matter how diverse the scenery, I was thinking of her.
—from Henry Miller My Bike and Other Friends (Capra Press, 1978)


Photograph, “Fort Greene Gloryhole: Grand Opening!” by Amber Tides, courtesy the LTV Press

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