An NYC Phenom: Pequeño y raro hombre sobre una bicicleta

Posted: March 13, 2012 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Life, Me & Mine, Observations
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While riding home from school today and cursing out the gypsy cab drivers who seem to delight in almost hitting me on my bike, or the geniuses who feel the need to double park as far from the side of the road as possible, I saw another one of them. It finally dawned on me today after living in NYC for 20 plus years that there is one in every neighborhood. What I am writing of are little old Latino men riding strange and decked out bicycles while playing loud music from a radio mounted somewhere on their tricked out mode of transportation and attention grasping. The guy today had a very new looking maroon Schwinn Sting Ray from the 1970s adorned with pin wheels and Puerto Rican flags. I envied his sparkling, candy apple red banana seat. If I had one of those I could ask pretty girls at school if they’d like a ride home, and look like “The Man” casually pedaling away with some cute mama on the back of the Gray Ghost. Other kids would stop and ask…”Man, how does he do it?”  Or they’d just give me the thumbs up sign to which I’d casually and coolly nod.

How do you NOT notice?

What fascinates me is that literally every New York City neighborhood I have ever lived in or visited has one of these odd little men gallivanting about. They seem to pedal south for the winter, as I never see them in inclement weather. They are generally all the same age, which to my best guess is in their mid 50s. They often wear strange little outfits to go along with their eclectic bikes. These outfits are often based on flags or the colors of their national flag whether it is Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban or what have you. Perhaps the weird little men have a strong competitive nature and are trying not to let their countrymen down. The music they play is always upbeat and lively Latin music at a high volume…sometimes the volume is so high that it pops and crackles through their decorated boom boxes.

After having lived in major cities for most of my life I have come to learn a few things about Latino culture, but I don’t know much about the Bicycle Papi’s; which is what I have dubbed them. Are they the Latin equivalent of the Fiddlers on the Roof of the Jews? Pequeno y raro hombre sobre una bicicleta  Translation: ‘Weird little man on a bicycle’. It’s odd that I never noticed them before as a phenomena, because they all kind of scream “look at me!!!”. Maybe there is some weird annual Bicycle Papi competition every year that I am unaware of. Perhaps when they are riding around waving, it is their way of showcasing and being political.

Some of them ride around smiling brightly and benevolently waving to no one in particular, like a person elected to office. Others have lecherous and malevolent sneers and make unwanted commentary to women they find attractive. They never ride very fast, or with any directional purpose, and I can’t even begin to image where they get those odd and old bicycles that are always in pristine condition.

It also makes me wonder where they live. What does their domicile look like? I am picturing an immaculate and sparsely furnished room. Do they spend evenings accessorizing their bikes and polishing them up?  This would make sense as I said before their bicycles are always shiny and spotless. Is there some kind of apprenticeship program for the Bicycle Papis? They don’t seem to be gainfully employed as I have seen them at all hours pedaling along. Perhaps they aren’t so strange after all. Maybe the rest of us are off our rockers sweating out jobs and lives that are so stressful, while they decided long ago to spend their time riding along at a leisurely pace, waving at no one and everyone and listening to their manic-happy Latin music.

Their wardrobe and the condition of their bikes show that they seem to take something seriously. I suppose what they do is more constructive than say being the neighborhood or town drunk. I have also seen many Latino men here in NYC take tremendous, almost obsessive pride in things like their cars or their yards. Most of these men are very poor, and some don’t even work, but their car is of showroom quality at all times.

I am now tempted to try and capture one of them and ask them what gives. Maybe they are elusive when pursued and posses some rare wisdom or some other kind of prize that only gets bestowed if they are caught like a leprechaun. I have always been a fan of the concept of catching people with a big butterfly net. That would be a truly excellent New York moment to see a middle aged dork like me chasing a pre elderly Hispanic man on a goofy bicycle with a butterfly net. Maybe they have some weird built in defense like skunks or porcupines. I have written before about how I wish that people from the Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene would drive around in a converted ice cream truck and catch the semi harmless NYC crazies in a net while wearing bright and clean starched white uniforms and black bow ties. I have never captured or caught anything or anyone before, but my grandfather would delight in setting up anti-personnel traps for me and my cousin in his yard when we’d play guns or army. After we stumbled over his trip wires or got caught in one of his snares, he would say “You’re both dead. I went to commando school during the war y’know?  Now pick up that rope and your teeth and come inside. Yer grandma says dinner is ready”.

  1. […] pride in things like their cars or their yards. … Read more from the original source: An NYC Phenom: Pequeño y raro hombre sobre una bicicleta « The … ← TECH HEIGHT: Russia's first supercar Marussia B2 in […]

  2. dollbaby says:

    😀 I enjoy unusual neighbours too. Your Gramps sounds badass.


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