Photographer, artist, dandy contributor and friend-of-dandyhorse and longtime cycling advocate Martin Reis has just written a book about how a young cyclist’s life is changed after witnessing the death of a bike courier.
dandyhorse is pleased to publish Martin’s thoughts on writing the book and an excerpt.
Title: The Other Side of Grace (Fiction)
About: A young female cyclists’ life in Toronto is changed forever when she becomes a witness to the death of bike messenger.
Written by: Martin Reis
Length: 36,000 words / 150 pages / with photographs by Martin Reis
Release date: August 28th (Online only / eBook / Free)http://othersideofgrace.blogspot.ca/
Launch Party TBA but at there will be some promotional fun at Critical Mass at on August 31.
Future releases: Print on demand version with illustrations by Stef Lenk. Fall 2012.
dandyhorse asked Martin Reis:
Why write this book?
I had the idea for a book about cycling in Toronto well before Darcy Allan Sheppard lost his life. My work as photographer has taught me the value of documenting events and circumstances, so a book seemed like the logical extension after the tragic events of August 31, 2009. I started writing the book soon after that day. Certainly, when I found out that Michael Bryant was releasing a biographical book about the events, it made even more sense to finish the project and release it on the same day. My hope is that my book will provide some balance to the high-priced spin coming from Bryant’s camp.
Ultimately, the book (of fiction) was written for my partner Wendy and anyone on two wheels in Toronto or anywhere. It is intended as my document of a time in Toronto when riding a bicycle was still intentionally placed in direct conflict with road users. And certainly, I tried to give an alternate version of events and what led up to them, one that is in my view far more accurate and respectful then the one offered at the time. This is where B., the main character of the book, can offer a third party account of the tragedy and hopefully a fresh perspective.
For various reasons, I chose to self publish the book. The main reason for this was creative control and I wanted the book to come out on the same date as Bryant’s book.
Also, I have had the great fortune to have the help of a loyal group of proofreaders and a professional editor. The final print version of the book will include illustrations by ex-pat Canadian/German artist Stef Lenk from Berlin.
HERE’S AN EXCERPT (Chapter 2) from the fictional work: The Other Side of Grace by Martin Reis:
When you get on your bike in the morning, you don’t remember a bad ride home the day before. The macho revving off the engine behind you or that near miss. All is forgotten. Washed away overnight or sufficiently wrestled with in dreams. You look forward to just hop on your bike and going where you need to go. B. unlocked the garage door and grabbed her bike pushing down on the seat making sure the back tire had enough air in it for the ride. Good to go. Lock door, swing courier bag over her shoulder, mini-lock tucked away in her back pocket. Her friends tell her she looks like a bike messenger. In response, she would laugh and usually tell them she is just ready to do battle. OK. Let’s ride.
The sun kissed her pink face and a rush of joy began to circulate through her veins in anticipation. Better take the rail path she told herself. Bloor Street is murder during rush hour. Roadkill roulette.
Traffic was light on the side streets since the soccer moms had all finished dropping their precious ones off at school or day-care. Only the Portuguese and Italian moms still walked their kids to school but even that was starting to change. She sailed down Perth and hung a right onto Wallace past the new condo developments and left onto the peaceful rail path which was bathed in a spectacular warm and golden glow. She took a deep breath and sped on the ever so slight downhill toward Bloor. Bliss. Freed of the constant worry about her safety and traffic noise she was able to think.
B. weaved carefully around early morning shoppers and dog walkers then crossed the brightly painted orange bridge at Bloor throwing a dismissive glance at the gridlocked traffic below the wooden boards rumbling beneath her tires. The rail path was now empty before her and she took her feet off the pedals letting her bike roll. She felt like yelling out a childish “Whee!”, but instead she just smiled from ear to ear and let out a little laugh. She deeply inhaled the chocolate-scented air from the adjacent factory and rode on toward the Dundas bridge eager to test herself on the short curving incline at the end of the rail path. B. sped up again just before and stood in her pedals as she climbed the ramp. As the climb got steeper she reminded herself to pull on her handle bar for extra leverage. Good. She felt like she was flying. As she slowed on the loose but compacted clay and gavel surface made at the end of the path, she felt very content with herself.
Coming to a full stop at the corner of Dundas Street and Sterling Road she realized that her fun was over. The Dundas Street overpass was choked with predators, dust whipped up from the bone dry streets like mist in the early morning sunlight. B. frowned, got off her bike and stood at the corner staring into the earsplitting traffic. More predators were idling in front of her at Sterling Road. She walked her bike across to the East side of the street. She briefly considered using the crosswalk to get to the bike lane on the other side but chose against it. Even more streetcar tracks to cross that way plus a very intimidating left turn onto College Street, too daunting. Having learned long ago that the safer move is not always the legal move, B. hopped back on her bike and rode on the deserted sidewalk. The road will teach you if you are willing to learn and the mean streets of Toronto were no exception. Though in her heart she wished things were different. She wished that someone had had the foresight to design things with the safety of cyclists and pedestrians in mind. “Makes no sense putting in a perfectly good rail path, and then not connecting it properly to nearby bike lanes and bike routes.” She thought as she crossed the streetcar tracks carefully and turned onto the shortest bike lane in town. That is, the South side of the College bike lane that extends from Dundas to Lansdowne and if you blink, you miss it.
B. picked up speed on the downhill and veered slightly to the right onto College. She was just about to start pedaling again when she noticed in horror that a predator was inching closer and closer to her on the left side. Here comes the right hook, she thought. The side view mirror of the predator touched her squeezing her to the curb. The predator was turned right into the parking lot of the small strip mall. Her survival instincts kicked in. Placing her hand on the side of the predator as it slowed to make the turn and tried to match its speed. She glared at the driver who was surprised to see a cyclist stuck to the side of his vehicle. B tried hard to hit the brakes but it was too late. She crashed hard into the curb, her pedal scraping against the cement and her bike falling on its side with her on top of it sliding on the sidewalk. She cried out as she fell.
The predator came to a halt blocking the entire sidewalk. She lay on her side, her heart pounding wildly and her face beet red with anger. But she was okay. Time to have a word with the driver. She got to her feet quickly, the adrenalin still pulsing through her veins and knocked on the passenger side window. He reached over and lowered the window. He stared back at her from his seat.
“Excuse me, can I ask you what the fuck you think you are doing?”
“What’s your problem?” The young man in the sports jacket snarled right back at her, realizing he was talking to a girl.
“You just cut me off.” B. blurted out, the anger swelling up inside her. “You could have killed me.”
He thought about it for a second and looked into his rear view mirror. He made up his mind.
“Oh, fuck off, bitch.”
The driver rolled his window back up and the back tire squealed as the predator shot forward and made a sharp right hand turn into the parking lot coming to a stop in front of the doughnut shop. She watched him jump out of his predator without giving her as much as a second look. He disappeared inside the doughnut shop. B. said nothing. Clenching her fists tight. Fucker.
She did not consider going after him. It was of no use. The guy was obviously a nasty customer. She checked her arms for cuts and bruises. Road rash and a painful bruise on her elbow. Other than that she seemed to be okay. No. She was not okay. Not even close. B. was shaking and she did not know how to make it stop. She sat down beside her bike on a cinder block dividing the parking lot from the sidewalk. She buried her head in her hands and tucked her knees under her. Her eyes closed tightly. She paid no attention as the driver came out of the doughnut shop with a light brown paper take-out bag and got back into his predator. He started his engine and left the parking lot turning right onto College Street.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”, a female voice said above her.
B. looked up at a middle-aged woman with curly brown hair, a bicycle by her side and big brown caring eyes. She was thankful that someone cared enough to stop and offer support.
“Yeah, I am all right.”
“If you’re sure. I can call the cops and an ambulance for you. I saw what he did.”
“I saw that asshole cut you off. Impressive bike handling skills on your part though.” She smiled at her.
“No thanks. I am good.” Her head sank into her hands again.
“Hey, I don’t mind walking with you for a while. If you need someone to talk to. It might help settle your nerves.”
The woman picked up B’s bike and rolled it over to where she was sitting. B. got on her feet and glared at the predator parked in front of the doughnut shop. She thought she could see him inside having a coffee.
“It’s okay to be angry.” The woman said grabbing her own bike.
B. nodded. They walked in silence pushing their bikes toward Brock Street. They blocked out the sound of the predators whipping by, but instead focused on their front tires and the pavement. Just after Brock Street she turned to B.
“Hey, I got a funny story that will make you laugh. True story.”
B. looked up and a faint smile formed in the corner of her mouth.
“Sure, I could use a laugh.”
“OK, this really happened. This wacky artist guy in Kensington Market was walking with his boyfriend on College. He had just gotten himself a Latte from the coffee shop at the top of Augusta. It’s rush hour and the bike lane is packed with cyclists heading home. So this rich bitch in a super expensive convertible parks in the bike lane along College. That pissed him off since he is a cyclist himself. So he says to her: “Hey, you’re not supposed to park there. It’s a bike lane. That’s really dangerous.” She looked at him and just waved him off. “Oh, I’ll just be a minute.” Right. She disappeared inside the convenience store. So guess what he did? He took his large caffè latte and poured it all over her black leather seats.”
B. laughed out loud.
“Holy shit, no way.”
“You know, fine Corinthian leather! Haha. He told me this story himself and he is crazy enough too for it all to be true.”
“That’s awesome. Did he get caught for that?”
At Dufferin, they stopped to wait for the traffic light. B. was starting to feel better.
“I think I am going to be okay. Maybe drop into The Common and have a coffee. Sit down for a while. Chill out.”
“Sure, I’m glad you’re okay.”
B. locked up her bike to a ring post in front of the small Café which was as usual packed with the a Macbook brigade composed of female vegans and the odd nerdy guy trying to keep calm in a sea of female charm.
“Thank you for taking the time to stop and walk with me.” B. said with all her heart.
“I hope it’s the last time. And remember, you’re a hero.”
“How do you mean?”
“You ride your bike in this city filled with predators, making it a better place for all of us. The strength is in our numbers and we depend on you.”
B. was speechless. No one had ever thanked her for riding her bike. Quite the opposite, she had been mostly ridiculed and criticized for it.
“Hey, have you ever been to Critical Mass? Last Friday of the month. 6pm at Bloor and Spadina. Super fun.”
“No, but I have heard of it. A friend of mine rides now and then.”
“Well, come join us some time.” B. reached out her hand and touched her shoulder affectionately.
“Sure, maybe I will see you there.”
The nameless cyclist straddled her bike and waved good-bye.
“Hey, thanks again!” B. said with a smile.
“Sure thing. You never ride alone.” She watched her roll onto the street and pedal away. B. opened the door and stepped into the café, found a chair at a table in the window. The door closed and for a while all that noise stopped. B. took off her courier bag and ordered a cappuccino. She sat down and leafed through the newspaper. In the Toronto section there was an article that caught her eye. The headline read: “Time to stop waging war on predators.” B. put the down the paper and stared at the traffic on the other side of the window. She could no longer hold in the tears.
Download the ePub here:
More info here:
Printed version available in September.