No Man (or City) is an Island

No man is an island. It took me some maturing to understand the full resonance of this expression. In my younger life (I sound like I’m 120 huh?) I understood the concept, but I hadn’t fully lived it. As I grow older, experience great joys and great pain, I see that community and its foil — solitude (or sometimes isolation) — intensify this truth, make it real for me. And knowing that I am not an island, that my existence connects with others in so many ways, makes life feel good.

An analogy to this is “no city is an island”. The places we live cannot resonate their full complexity, their fullest joy to an inhabitant, without the foil of everything else that surrounds it. In a virtual way this includes all the places we’ve lived or visited and all the memories we’ve collected in those places. In a physical, concrete way this includes the other cities that surround where we live, and all that those cities bring to or offer us in way of comparison. In other words, our life experience of other places makes our life experience where we are richer.

La Mesa is a great place for numerous reasons but one of them is its proximity to so many other great places. Last night I found a new one (to me), the San Diego Velodrome. I didn’t know that San Diego had a velodrome. I think most people don’t. I learned that it’s been around in its present paved form at Morley Field (Balboa Park) since 1976. Before that it was a dirt track, and before that it was down on Harbor Drive (in the early 1900’s). It’s the only velodrome in San Diego county, and I’m told, the only one south of Los Angeles (!)

Every Tuesday night (and sometimes Friday night) from April to September there are bike races. Admission is free. And it’s pretty spectacular. The curves are banked at 27° (which means nothing to me  — I looked that up — but when you see it with your own eyes it’s steep. And you better be going pretty fast if you don’t want to fall over on your head. I speak for myself, obviously.)

I’m lucky enough to have friends that are bike savvy beings. They are hip, in-the-know, fixie-fabricating enthusiasts.  One of them is a busy painting contractor on any given weekday, and a sleek streak on the road to Alpine and back  on any weekend morning. (I get tired driving to Alpine!) The other is even more crucial to the event – in addition to knowing how to ride a bike,  she knows everything about bike-hipster dress code and how to decode it, AND makes an extremely mean picnic. They commanded me to be ready at 5:00 on Tuesday. All I had to do was loan my cooler with wheels. I was packed into the car with the mean picnic and 2 nice children, and off we went to the velodrome.

Let me give you a tip for next Tuesday (because I KNOW someone reading this is going to want to go). There is a picnic table on the grass right next to the ‘drome. You can sit there on a glorious San Diego summer evening with your (expensive, delicious) Cabernet in a paper cup, your Boar’s Head smoked ham and Havarti on French with cream/dill spread, your salted macadamias, your ripe apricots and green grapes, your raspberry tart and dark chocolate, enjoying the children playing on the grass, the joggers and the families on evening walks, and watch sans obstruction some very finely-sculpted athletes whizzing at top speeds in exciting 60-lap tag team races around the 27° banked circuit. This is extraordinary. Do you know how many people are doing that on a Tuesday night in July in all of southern California? Well, maybe about 75 people if you include the ones in the bleachers but really only 3 adults and 2 children with a top-notch picnic. (!)

Did I mention how finely-sculpted those riders are? (I did, didn’t I?) Not only is this pleasant on the eyes, it makes for some very tough riding. In this particular race, a *”madison”, the two-man/woman teams took turns riding one lap each. The man out took a break for one lap and then swooped back into the pack as it came around the bend. The swooper slapped his behind indicating he was ready to be flung, his partner grabbed the backward extended hand then gunned it and flung his newly-joined partner forward to give him some momentum for the next lap. Then the flinger rested for a lap. And the cycle continued. Let me just say for the record that, seeing as how I would probably roll sideways at 60mph if I even thought about taking my hand off the handle bars, never mind having someone grab my hand and fling me in any direction,  this is a very cool maneuver indeed. (Also, we are going to publish a very biker-hip bumper sticker: “I slap my butt, you fling me”. No one else will get it. Which means it’ll be wildly popular. We’ll be rich. End of story.) Anyway suffice to say, there’s some sweat dripping by the 60th lap and it’s an exciting, powerful sport to watch.

All of this is a mere 15 minutes from any La Mesan’s front door. It’s part of the sea of interesting places that surround our city, and which make me feel so good, so connected, and at the same time so happy to come home to my own little (non) island…

*madison: a cycling term for a 2- or 3-rider race in which riders trade off riding responsibilities. The term comes from Madison Square Garden where in the late 1800’s 6-day bike races were common. A law was passed to protect the riders from exhaustion and the work-around by the promoters resulted in a race that could be shared by more than one rider (thus alleviating the riders’ fatigue while still offering the same exciting races).

If you want more information, including FREE riding clinics for kids, check out the San Diego Velodrome website:




One response to “No Man (or City) is an Island

  1. reading this made me happy…again.

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