I grew up in a dead mill town called Waterbury, Connecticut. Like that place, throughout my life I have tended to lose more than I win, yet I keep on going.
My house was on a hillside, crawling up the Naugatuck Valley, trees and houses pockmarked all the way up from the baseball stadium. In the summer there was fireworks. In the winter there was sometimes sledding. There were no kids in my neighborhood. I was my own friend.
I don’t remember what my first bike was, but I remember riding it. The hill was too steep for me so I zigzagged up, pushing until I was halfway, then turning and going far faster than my mother would have approved of, all the way down to the curve at the bottom of the hill where the snow plows sometimes crashed into the woods in the winter when it was too icy.
The hill was my friend. It was a difficult friend to have.
I climbed straight up it when I got older, all the way up and beyond, past the projects at the top of the hill where later a classmate of mine would shoot and kill another classmate. Up the hill to where the playground was, and the pharmacy across the street where I would buy sodas.
When I bought a car, I still rode my bike.
I grew up in Waterbury.
We called it The Dirty Water.
What can I say. The smell of bike grease and the promise of a long hill turns me on. I lose more than I win, but I always have two wheels.by