Life Cycles, pt. II: Human kickstand

When I was 9 I found my kickstand rotting off; it seemed to have crept under my bicycle. I asked my brother John to fix it.

“There’s two types of people in the world, Mart,” he said, using an abbreviation of my name that means shop or store. “People who need kickstands and people who don’t.”

I didn’t know what he meant, but he fixed my kickstand anyway. I rode away wondering which group Judas Priest belonged to, not knowing at the time that Judas Priest was already a group.

John is no longer around for me to ask, but it occurred to me at the time that he might have thought less of the people who needed kickstands, and therefore me.

Over the years I have determined that the world isn’t so easily divided and, while it might be polite to not argue when someone says Democrat or Republican, fried or flame-broiled, Rob Halford or Ronnie James Dio, sometimes the only thing you can drink while listening to “Mob Rules” is a Pepsi, not a Coke.

“But there aren’t just two kinds of people in the world, John,” I might say.

“Really?” he’d reply. “You’re alive and I’m not. You use a kickstand and I don’t. Q.E.motherscratching D.”

“But you’re dead. You don’t need a kickstand.”


Three weeks ago, the kickstand on my 11-year-old bicycle fell off in the middle of Wilshire Blvd. For a moment I experienced a feeling of otherworldliness, as if I were passing from this realm to another.

“You won’t need that kickstand anymore, Marty Barrett,” Our Lord Jesus Christ said.

I thought of the inspirational poster Footprints, in which a man’s life was represented by two sets of footprints on the sand, one his, and one Our Lord’s. In the difficult times, the man noticed that there was only one set of footprints.

“What’s up with that?” the man said to The Lord.

Thinking fast, The Lord said, “It’s because I was carrying you.”

Because of the Inspirational Poster Spatial Limitation Act of 1977, it is not widely known that the man didn’t believe The Lord’s answer for a second, noting that the footprints were clearly left by the man’s shoes, not The Lord’s sandals, and that the man weighed at least 220 lbs. during the time of his diabetic coma, and had Our Lord been carrying him, the footprints would have been indented farther into the sand.

“Fine,” The Lord said. “I abandoned you for someone who ate right. You going to go be Jewish now?”

I thought briefly that my brother might have meant that losing one’s kickstand means that one is not truly alive. If this is true, I have been traveling through the realm of the undead since July.

In the first summer I had my bicycle I traveled to Martha’s Vineyard with my friend Todd. We stayed at a hostel run by a nice Bavarian couple.

“The showers are open until 1 a.m.,” the wife said, handing us towels, “and the kitchen is open at 5. We just had the showers redone so the water pressure is better than a hotel.”

“I don’t like it when German people tell me how good the showers are,” Todd, who happened to be Jewish, said.

Come to think of it, I, who happen to be Irish, have never ordered potato latkes from a British deli. Why should I pay for what thieving absentee landlords stole from my ancestors?

What I’m saying is that to make choices is to be alive.

The upside of being no longer alive and riding a bike is that my calves are huge. The two types of people in this world are people who get calf implants, and people who don’t.

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