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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury

We hoped he'd live forever. And in his stories, he certainly will. And in the lives of all the countless people he's inspired to tell their own stories. He looked into darkness and light with wide-eyed wonder and delight and lived a life of amazing joy. Rest in peace, Ray.

I will mourn his death a bit, it is hard to type through tears, but it is what you do. Here's a bit from one of Ray's books, Green Shadows, White Whale. It's about Ireland and bicycles and God's truth and a pity.

"But," I said quietly, confused, "I've never heard of an accident like this in all my life. Are you sure there were absolutely no cars? Only these two men on their bikes?
 "Only?" Mike shouted. "Good God, man, a fellow working up a drizzling sweat can pump along at sixty kilometers. With a long downhill glide his bike hits ninety or ninety-five! So here they come, these two, no front or tail lights --"
"Isn't there a law against that?"
"To hell with government interference! So here the two come, no lights, flying home from one town to the next. Thrashing like Sin Himself's at their behinds! Both going opposite ways but both on the same side of the road. Always the wrong side of the road, it's safer they say. But look on these lads, fair destroyed by all that official palaver. Why? Don't you see? One remembered it, but the other didn't! Better if the officials kept their mouths shut! For here the two be, dying." 
"Dying?" I stared.
"Well, think on it, man! What stands between two able-bodied hell-bent fellas jumping along the path from Kilcock to Maynooth? Fog! Fog is all! Only fog keeps their skulls from bashing together. Why, look, when two chaps hit at a cross like that, it's like a strike in bowling alleys, tenpins flying! Bang! There go your friends, nine feet up, heads together like dear chums met, flailing the air, their bikes clenched like two tomcats. Then they fall down and just lay there, feeling around for the Dark Angel."
"Surely these men won't..."
"Oh, won't they? Why, last year alone in all the Free State no night passed some soul did not meet in fatal collision with another!"
 "You mean to say over three hundred Irish bicyclists die every year, hitting each other?"
"God's truth and a pity." 
"I never ride my bike nights." Heeber Finn eyed the bodies. "I walk." 
"But still then the damn bikes run you down!" said Mike. "Awheel or afoot, some idiot's always panting up doom the other way. They'd sooner split you down the seam than wave hello. Oh, the brave men I've seen ruined or half ruined or worse, and headaches their lifetimes after." Mike trembled his eyelids shut. "You might almost think, mightn't you, that human beings was not made to handle such delicate instruments of power."

Ray Bradbury never bothered to learn to drive an automobile. He saw what the car offered and said "no thank you." He lived an amazing, amazed life and made his way through the world (including many years in his beloved Los Angeles) by foot and by bicycle. And he changed the world by telling tales of amazement and wonder. His life reminds us what can be done by soul with a machine, be it a bicycle or a typewriter. Bradbury described himself as being "drunk, and in charge of bicycle." He drank deep from life, was drunk on life, and wielded its power with astounding grace.

Good bye, Ray. Thanks for all the stories. We're lucky to share in your drunken bicycle ride.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA

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