Keith Snyder
Door always open.

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Night ride

Is Lance innocent or guilty?

Clubbers do get the munchies, and the halal cart is positioned to intercept them. I'm on the sidewalk in bike shorts and reflective stuff, eating a $3 chicken kabob, and I assume without really thinking about it that the sight of a serious cyclist has sparked this walking conversation between the trim, fashionable guy and his date. I'm busy uploading a picture of the cart to Twitter with my other hand and I'm not really paying attention to the scatter of sexy people on this sidewalk. It's Friday night, two A.M., and I've seen more round-skirted bottoms and twinkling legs in the last hour than in any month since I played Afropop.

Is Lance innocent or guilty?

Aimed at me after all, repeated, wanting a response. I don't really look, just glance up from the iPhone as I say They're all guilty, and the trim guy nods without breaking stride past me and says, "That's true," in a tone like he actually knows. He's built like a racer. I'm not. Wonder who I just random-guy-on-the-streeted for.

I learned to thank cooks and servers from my Liberian friend Nyema. The moment of human connection from the kabob guy suggests he doesn't hear it much. I'm pushing off toward the Empire State Building for the next picture, but it looks like they turned its lights off while I was teasing chicken off the skewer.


Ladies, you're looking very, very beautiful tonight.

A bike ninja is somebody wearing dark clothing, with no lights, riding at night. They appear out of nowhere and getcha—ha!—before vanishing back into the shadows with their chains squeaking. This one's a black guy, too. On a black bike. We're on Canal Street, heading into Chinatown and stopped at a crosswalk, where three lovely female forms have just badump-bumped by. This was his attempt to...I don't know. Get shot down? Does anything say I'm not that interesting more clearly than Ladies, you're looking very, very beautiful tonight? Without even looking, you can hear the thumb and forefinger assume their sophisticated cup of the chin.

I tilt back to see what he thought was beautiful. Way too young for me, but yes, very nice. He's in his twenties. We share a glance that for him is just-us-guys, and for me is all-of-you-are-raw-material-so-do-something-else-now-please.

"They're mean, though," he says as the light changes.

"I don't know about mean," I say, and make my tone the-world's-pretty-funny as I talk back over my shoulder. "They just don't want to talk to you."

"Hey, I was..." and I lose the rest of what he says in traffic noise, but it was just being nice, just saying how good they look, just looking for a chance. And then it's "Who wouldn't..." and I lose the rest of that, too—want to give me a chance, want to make me feel suave, want to hear that I think they're beautiful?

I grin. We're okay guys and the world's funny. And I actually do like him. He doesn't seem mean-spirited about any of it. "Somebody who's already heard it fifty times tonight," I answer.

He's really slow on the pedals. Not a messenger or delivery guy. Not being able to peg him makes him interesting. Guy on the way home from work? I break the law for a block or two and ride very slowly two abreast to find out what he's about. It's his first time coming over from Brooklyn just to see if he could do it. No lights, no reflectors, no helmet, visibility near nil, but if you ride across a bridge in the middle of the night to see if you can do it, you're one of mine. He came over on the Brooklyn Bridge, couldn't find his way back to it, so he's taking the Manhattan back. Bridge entries are harder to find than you might think. They can be a block away from where the cars go on, hidden behind a fence and a construction barrier.

The lack of pace is making my legs impatient, though, and I don't like riding two-abreast in Manhattan. And I want to get a picture of Chinatown when it's shut down. "This is me," I say. "Ride safe," and bump it up onto the curb near a shuttered restaurant and some trash.


Man, you got more balls than me!

She's been behind me for two blocks in Gramercy, ever since I went around a taxi she was stopped behind. She passed me a block before that, while I was stopped to take a picture of a diner. All lighted diners are The Nighthawks.

Some nights your body and the street and breeze and traffic work in concert, and the taxis have a rhythm, though it's not the kind that flows naturally. It's the kind you've learned from dealing with them a lot.

Can you tell me where there's a Six train station? I thought I'd just trail you, but...

She's here from Baltimore, where (her hands indicate narrower passageways--streets she can navigate). She's around my age. No helmet, smart enough to decide she doesn't know the traffic rhythm, Friday three A.M. in an unfamiliar city with those taxis doing things she can't predict yet, and pack it in.

Thought I'd just trail you, she says again. You're really good. But...

I guess I am, but mostly I'm just feeling it tonight.


There are night fishermen up in Harlem and down in Battery Park, with poles lined up leaning on the handrail. Asian and Hispanic.


Sleeping boys.

No photo.

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