Lately I’ve been riding my bicycle everywhere. Something about using my body as a machine to get from one place to the next has helped me process all the things going on in the world. Riding to work from Brooklyn to Manhattan reminds me what lawless opportunists New Yorkers are — no space is too small or too dangerous to weave through, as long as we keep moving in whatever direction we’re headed. And that goes for anybody on the move: walkers, skaters, baby-carriage pushers, motorcyclists, food-cart operators, delivery men, bus, truck, ambulance, and car drivers. People on the streets of New York feel entitled to whatever little patch of pavement they happen to occupy at any given moment. Biking here requires total focus and wells of patience that I can’t summon otherwise.
I love seeing my fellow bikers’ choices — like that of the gray-haired man I pass every night with the helmet that looks like a watermelon. I love catching snippets of flirtations between strangers under scaffolding and gliding like a ghost through neighborhoods I used to inhabit. I love how some riders yell “ON YOUR LEFT!” while others ring a bell or gently say “Excuse me” when they pass people. I even like the man eating mangoes on Chrystie Street who throws the peels into oncoming traffic. Why would he do such a thing? He has his reasons.
Biking around the city, I’m reminded how we’re all enmeshed with one another, and at the same time we’re all so absorbed by our own realities. On my way home, I ride slowly on the flat center stretch of the Manhattan Bridge, dragging out that feeling of flying over the water. I like to fantasize that my whole commute could be that section of bridge. The breeze up there feels so unbelievably good — like being high and weightless at the crest of a trampoline jump.
It’s finally summer, and the weather is a reprieve. I’m usually happier in the summer, but I haven’t been during this one so far. I’ve been biking, yes, but I can’t stop thinking about families and loss. How do people process the trauma of losing their kids? How do kids cope with losing their parents? That’s been on my mind constantly, with the nightmare unfolding at our borders. But it comes up with other tragedies, too. Several weeks back, I learned about the death of the musician Stewart Lupton, whom I met when we were teenagers. I haven’t seen him since one debauched night at Cherry Tavern about 22 years ago. I texted an old mutual friend — both of us now parents — to see if she’d heard the news. “Think of his parents, who lost their only child,” she texted back.
I’ve thought a lot about Stewart as I’ve been biking around. Like many influential, talented people, he never became as famous as it seemed he might — but he left an indelible impression on everyone who knew him. At the age of 17, he once described a July night to our assembled friends as “inky and reptilian.” The phrase has crawled around in my heart on many dark, humid evenings over the years since. I’m sure he would have found a perfect way to capture the low sun reflecting off the buildings on the Bowery at dusk.
This month, we chose a happy photograph of our cover woman, actress Marisa Tomei. It’s the first Cut cover with a proper smile. Maybe this was wish fulfillment on my part, searching for something to cheer me up, but it was also the picture that truly captures what it’s like to be around Marisa. A lifelong New Yorker with a healthy sense of perspective, she’s often laughing — not because things are always great, but because they aren’t.
There’s only two months of summer left. Enjoy the fireworks, try not to take your freedom for granted, and remember: dissent is patriotic and families belong together.