Like I mentioned before, being short by a wheel is no fun. Yesterday, I was finally able to repeat the simple act of stepping on to the unicycle with my left foot, putting my body weight on it and swinging the right foot to the front of the unicycle and get off. In normal life, it won’t be that easy for a learner. I used a prop so that the uni could not move backwards.
The Youtube video suggested doing this many many times and then try to tap the right pedal with right foot before getting off. This part is very tricky since while tapping, if I managed to put any pressure, the wheel would move forward and fall under me. And that is exactly what happened once.
Finally, I was able to do the right foot touch right pedal routine once.
The biggest achievement for me though was that I put the helmet the proper way this time 🙂
On an aside, do you remember how, in January, I had gotten out of Doha airport for an hour to meet my friend Natasha Balseca? And I met her mother Gina who was visiting her from Ecuador?
Well, I found out that she is also learning how to ride a unicycle during this stay-at-home period. I think she is way advanced than me at this point. But I might have somebody who can give me company in learning this and some pointers as a recent learner!
In a bit of sheer lunacy, I find myself to be an owner of a unicycle. Not exactly a proud one, mind you. More like a very fearful one. This thing looks weird, feels weird and frankly, there is a reason it conjures up images of a circus when you look at it. Because it is weird. The first reaction you are bound to have upon seeing it will be “Hey, you are short by a wheel”.
My younger daughter has gone one over CDC and imposed a rather punishing 20 feet social distancing with me now!
The genesis of this lunacy harkens back to a bar in Dallas. Yes, all my stories start from a bar somewhere. That is how I committed to the Mongolia trip (at a bar with Roger) and that is how I committed to riding motorbikes (at a bar with Magesh). This particular bar involved John Mcgehee – my friend, philosopher and guide when it comes to running. Sitting at that bar on Nov 28, 2015, we discussed (as you can see in my blog of that day) “how to bend the curve for my 50s”. I distinctly remember discussing how we lose balance (the reason old people fall down so much) and what we can do to not lose that rapidly.
I had been thinking about that problem for some time – undoubtedly sitting in bars – how to keep the sense of physical balance intact. The part about simultaneously coming across as having lost my mental balance was sheer brilliance from my side. Come on! I am 54. If I cannot afford to look like an idiot now, when will I ever?
A unicycle topped the list. Balancing on a dolphin’s nose came close second. But finding a co-operative dolphin in the rural parts of Georgia is only slightly easier than finding somebody who wants to accompany you to a Chinese wet market these days.
This contraption is very tricky. You just can’t sit on it. If you try, it will simply roll away from under you – forward or backward. Regardless, you are highly likely to find yourself having a painful tryst with the hard ground below.
I am realizing that learning something new at the age of 54 is hard. I must have gone thru 20 youtube videos on how to get on to a unicycle. My first day was all about keeping the unicycle against a brick (so it would not move), press on one pedal and just step over to the other side. No movement of the bike involved at all. All I had to do is clear the seat and step on to the other side. If I fell, it could not have been for more than a couple of feet. Yet, you will be surprised, how I froze up every time I tried to transfer my body weight from the ground to the pedal.
After about five minutes of desperate attempts, managed to get it done once. Mind you, I was not even attempting to sit! Just go over to the other side. Did a couple of times more successfully and decided to call it a day. I was shaking for a clear fifteen minutes after that. I was so scared.
Most experts say it will take me 30-50 hours of constant practice to figure out how to stay on top of a unicycle. At the rate of 15 minutes practice, 4 days a week, I am thinking it will be around next year I might figure out how to go around a few feet on my unicycle.
The astute amongst you have no doubt realized the irony of my risking falling down at this age… when that is exactly the risk John and I were discussing how to reduce.
It is going to be a long journey. Hopefully, I will not hurt myself too much.
If only it came with another wheel!
(I realize you are laughing now, but once I become an accomplished clown on a unicycle in a famous circus, we will see who laughs then)
Well, I am not exactly famous, per se. But now, I know somebody famous!! As my friends from Hollywood tell me when they call me up – it is not who you are, it is all about who you know.
Well, I really do not have any friends in Hollywood either. But I had read something to the above effect once in a torn magazine that a thoughtful passenger had once left in the back pouch of my airplane seat. I think. 🙂
So there I was, with all my new teammates in our Portland office and had just finished addressing all their questions when something very intriguing happened. After the general body address, we gathered around the room for lunch and I was chatting with the individual members when somebody put up a video on the TV in that room.
It was a recording of a Jimmy Kimmel show. And presently, you could see a guy come on to the stage with one of those Darth Vader looking masks on and then he went on to do an amazing thing. He got onto his unicycle, kept cycling around – on that single wheel – all the time playing on bagpipes simultaneously!! And then in between, he would make fire shoot out of his bag pipes!! I thought that was too cool. You can check out the YouTube link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7InLDhchTVU
Like you now, I was wondering then what was all that leading to. Till I saw the guy on the show take off his mask and talk to Kimmel. I looked at the guy and then I looked at the guy sitting in front of me. A couple of furtive glances between the TV screen and the guy in front of me and I made the connection. I was sitting in front of that guy all this time!!! And that is how I was introduced to my new team mate Brian Kidd!
Obviously, I had too many questions for him. Found out that when he grew up in Virginia, he realized that somebody actually gave bagpipe lessons in his school and not knowing anything better, he signed up. And the unicycle? Well, he came across somebody in Portland who was throwing his unicycle into the dumpster. With that person’s permission, he picked it up from the dumpster and started teaching himself how to ride it. Now he rides it to office every day – 4.5 miles each way! And then one fine day, he put both of them together and started unibiking and playing bagpipes at the same time!
And how does he shoot the fire out? I will let you watch the video and hear his explanation. I saw some videos of he doing the same in various streets and marketplaces in Portland. Evidently, he is something of a celebrity here in Portland. He is known in this city as the “Unipiper”!!
And then other teammates caught up with me with more questions about myself and our business. As I was going thru those exchanges, I could hear the bagpipes again. Instinctively, I looked to the big TV screen. It was blank! I looked the other way – sure enough, Brian was coming down the office floor on his unicycle playing the bagpipes for us!!!
That is how life ought to be lived. Pick something from the dumpster and figure out how to make something out it…. enough to get you onto national TV.
Is that cool or is that cool?