Sunday, July 20, 2008

Saving gas and having fun

I have long done some grocery shopping on my bicycle, but I buy in bulk and packing oversized bottles of grape juice, multiple tubs of yoghurt and several bottles of wine into my backpack was proving difficult. Just before departing for Singapore, I invested in two capacious ‘saddle bags’ that could easily snap on an off my bicycle’s rear wheel. Now twilight shopping excursions are becoming a regular part of my routine.

The Tenleytown district of Washington DC is ideal for this purpose. It is an easy three mile or so ride from my Anderson Hall apartment. There is a Whole Foods Market featuring organic produce, hormone-free range fed beef, a great selection of cheese - in fact, everything one who loves to cook, eat and entertain could desire. Nearby are a pharmacy, hardware store and, for more mundane grocery purchases, a Giant Food market. Food shopping patterns in the neighborhood seem more like daily visits to local markets in Europe than America’s world of impersonal, homogenized megamarkets, surrounded by parking lots.

Last Thursday night I dropped computer, books and files in my apartment, attached my saddle bags and rode off down Nebraska avenue into the deepening twilight. Tenleytown was thronged with people walking about or relaxing at sidewalk cafes. There was only one other bicycle at the Whole Foods parking garage. I purchased shrimp, crabmeat, tomatoes, a freshly baked mini-baguette and two bottles of Muscadet. Former AU Provost and Interim President, Milton Greenberg was stopping by for lunch the following day. Greetings were exchanged with several acquaintances who were shopping or walking in the neighborhood.

I loaded up my saddle bags, flicked on my strobe flasher lights and ventured out into the evening. Fortunately the ride between Anderson and Tenleytown is virtually all on sidewalks. The day’s near-tropical heat had subsided. The night air was cool and fresh. Lines of cars sped by me on Nebraska Avenue. Passing the Swedish embassy, I could smell fragrant shrubs that lined the compound’s protective wall and see fireflies blinking.

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