Riley was 22 when he first met Greg. Introduced by a wild blonde named Emma who had great legs and who was an equally great kisser. Greg was older, wiry and lean, dark featured with a sharp beak and narrow teeth covered by a thick mustache. He was a wily street creature, rising from some small town muck with a conniving smile and selfish intent. He was Riley’s first foray into Scotch whisky, homemade videos and crystal methamphetamine, all while inside an apartment on SE 162nd and Stark. Emma, who also frequented the sparse, dark cheaply built flat, had also recently felt the subtle grip of street living and hard drugs on the throat of her youth. They both explored, suffered, learned and though only one of them eventually got out, they both never forgot the sibling-like romance they shared with each other.
The Bianchi was a late ’80’s road bike, simple yet state-of-the-art, and newly painted flat black with a rattle can by Greg behind the apartment complex. The fresh paint was like an alarm, or more accurately, like a disguise. Riley had stayed the night the evening before and had a hundred-dollar bill stolen out of his shoe while he slept (never made that silly mistake of hiding cash in a damn shoe again). He was sure it was Greg but had no evidence and all he heard were the pleas of innocence from the half dozen dope heads and dirty squatters around him. There was an older lady who actually lived there, a fat, spandex wrapped meth queen, middle-aged, strangely sexy like Roseanne Barr but saggy jowled like Jabba the Hut, hauntingly attractive to a boy with no mother but on the surface she was shockingly vile. She may have been not only the culprit but likely one who orchestrated the late night larceny alongside Greg. Riley was quite upset when he woke and found his shoes empty but was too soft of a young man to really do anything about it. Later that afternoon Greg then showed Riley the bicycle hoping to ease the tension.
“Go ahead, take it. It’s yours,” he said slyly.
“Take it? Like, it’s mine? Really?” Riley truly was just a boy, attention spanned stretched thin, barely enough to soak in owning a new bicycle. He was however, experienced enough to know why it smelled like fresh black Krylon spray paint but was awed at how it looked totally bad ass. Flat black on black on black. Riley had that bike for the summer and put hundreds of miles on it. He eventually then broke the rear part of the frame by drunkenly smashing it into a curb one hot September night. Lost a tooth and an important chunk of metal that held the wheel hub in place. Luckily, he had a friend who was handy with a welder, so he still has the bike to this day, stronger than ever, healed with hell of a bead.
Riley also loved mountain bike riding during this time. He loved Powell Butte with its quick, winding single tracks and close proximity to his East side neighborhood. The days he bombed down the hills nestled in the big, grassy watershed, he escaped the relentless loneliness of school and the brutal detachment of his immediate family. Grinding up the hill, breathless, driven and exhausted towards the peak to then be able to rocket down the other side, barely staying on the trail, the front suspension bouncng as he held on for dear life, wide-eyed and loving it. One of the dirtball kids in the neighborhood who rode the butte sold him a silver Giant mountain bike with front end hydraulic forks for $100. It was worth 5 times that and Riley rode that bike as much as the Bianchi but the Giant was cursed. Plagued with the air of being stolen and Riley knew it. It hung over him for the two years he owned it. Riley then outgrew it and while working as a waiter the first big purchase he ever made (paid for with a stack of 5’s, 10’s and 20’s) was a Kona mountain bike. With rad high-end suspension and disc brakes, it rode like how a girl felt and was as fast as any wild animal Riley could ever imagine.
A few months later, Riley rode to the little corner store and slipped in for a six-pack of Fat Tire beer. A straight walk directly to the cooler along the back wall and then back up to the check stand. Not even 60 seconds. Not even 60 seconds for him to come out to no bicycle. Gone. Had he thought he would have been in the store for more than 2 minutes he would have locked it. Holding a six-pack in the doorway of a tiny quiet store, just him and the guy behind the counter and no bicycle. A bunch of beer with a picture of a bicycle on it but no bicycle. He sat down on the curb, opened a beer, and learned to let go of it all.