The sun was hot and we're both thirsty so we decided to go into the
town of Morrisburg. We rolled down the main road past the legion and post
office. We could see the water from the top of the hill where tall Maple
branches ruffled in the brewing gale. Victorian homes sprawled every corner
with turrets and bay windows and front porches and big front lawns with mature
trees. We picked up speed going down the hill where we could see white caps on
the river. There was a sign "YE OLDE BOOKSTORE," that caused us to stop.
"I'm a bit tired so let us rest here," I said. We leaned our bikes
against the limestone coach house. When I dismounted my bike and drank some
water, I felt like I was going to faint.
"Every individual has his own speed and direction," he said, sounding
old and wise like a sage. "A higher speed does not necessarily mean better
quality since each rider has their own comfort level. It is at one's natural
speed when one may have synergy of parts, which of course would have the
highest quality. Since each individual is unique, each rider must find their
preferred way and flow."
I drank more water and breathed deeply. I think he could hear rattling
in my lungs but he ignored it.
"Let's go in."
The hardwood floors in the main office enhanced the old English motif
with the antique desk and ink stills on the windowsill. Old hardcover books
covered the walls with unimposing grace. We both gravitate to the philosophy
section where I look for a book about Heraclitus.
"I see the staples of the old school here: Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas,
and maybe a Descartes or a Hume thrown in there but I'm stunned to see this."
He picked out a small copy of Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra. It's
so small it can fit into his breast pocket.
"The Kaufman translation. Score."
I realized I'm tired of philosophy so I browsed in the poetry section
where I find more than a dozen books on Byron. I looked for a copy of Walt
Whitman but instead I spotted an old painting in the corner of the poetry
section behind another smaller picture leaning against the wall. When I picked
it up I see it's a painting of a classic photo of Henry David Thoreau at Walden
"Thoreau at Walden, that's also a score. Nice one."
"Think I can fit it into my knapsack?"
"If it's meant to be I'm sure there's a way." The words sound familiar.
"I was wondering if this painting was for sale?" I asked the woman
behind the counter.
"Yes, I believe it is." When I mentioned that we were riding our bikes
to Montreal from Kingston, she asked me if I would like her to send it ahead to
"That would be easier actually, in case it rains. Minimize wear and
tear." She said she understood so I gave her the address in Montreal.
Outside, Doppel is sitting beside his bike reading through his Portable
"You don't look well," he said. "You're pale."
"Strange, I thought I had a burn."
"You do but you're pale too."
"Is that possible?"
"Seriously, what's wrong?"
"Ah, I just need some more water." I drank again from my water
"Let's have lunch at that café. My treat."
"I'm not hungry but I'll take a Coke." We sit underneath a Moosehead
umbrella and drink Pepsi. The sun shone off the bright white tablecloth that
came through in waves surrounded by the splashing aura of water. I order some
chocolate milk too for both of us.
"Good choice chocolate milk. Taste and nutrition double hit." He
flipped through his book.
"Not surprised you're still on Nietzsche," I said.
"After years of study, I've considered how each contributed a chapter
to the development of Western thought, how Hume had broken through and plainly
said that all knowledge was unsure because it was based on experience, and how
Kant contributed one of the most extraordinary sketches of how man thinks that
had ever been attempted before. And how Schopenhauer took the apparatus and
built on it until Nietzsche arrived on the scene with his hammer and smashed
the edifice down with undeniable style. But it was the anti-German German who
had a way of speaking to my soul unfettered."
"I know what you mean when you say unfettered."
"It's as if it's all a flowchart leading up to the best, the rebel who
bent the rules and wrote artfully as he put his finger on an endless string of
insights that I can see plain as day. When I first started reading him it was
non-stop jaw dropping. I saw the Viking and the monk, and how a true
philosopher was difficult business but also the only choice for those who loved
truth. Nietzsche brought rock'n roll to writing philosophy. In him I found a
soul mate that had been dead for a hundred years."
"Right around the time you went to Taiwan."
"Yes, about then. It was Nietzsche who made philosophy interesting and
almost single-handedly stretched my mind to the point of permanent damage. I
spent days, weeks reading night after night. I shut off my television and
wanted to read it all. Those were sledgehammer days."
I studied the same philosophy degree as Doppel at a different
university and came across the names he said but most of it had been forgotten,
but in Doppel's life their words were still resounding and echoing in
everything he did. It shamed me that I hadn't retained more from my
With all this talking, I ordered another coffee and was busy stroking
my unshaven chin. I looked out with Doppel at the blue sky against the flowing
water. A bright red and white sailboat passed us with the swift surety of
purpose. I open my Whitman and read some lines, remembering my own university
days as distracted with the voice of poets like Whitman and Wordsworth, Byron
"I never cared for Whitman," he said. I flipped back two pages and read
him a line:
Long enough have you dream'd
Now I wash the gum from your
You must habit yourself to
the dazzle of the light &
of every moment of your
I mulled over Whitman's words for a moment in the breeze. A family sat
a few tables away eating cheeseburgers and French fries.
"Sporting some philosophy in there, isn't he?"
"I believe you could say he is, yes."
As I was thinking of wiping gum out of my eyes, I saw another
forty-foot yacht sail by. I took off my sunglasses and closed my eyes under the
magnitude of the sun and heard melodious laughter from somewhere.
Doppel smiled. I kept looking for the source of the laughter. Then it
I paid for the coffees and we pedaled for Cornwall before the sun
became too hot. The road was quiet as we passed more islands. My twin and I
biking side-by-side on the quiet road, very slowly. Major zeitqualia. A
Cessna flies overhead puttering under the hot Promethean sun. As I changed from
low to high gear, I adjusted my sprocket gear by millimeters, enough to rid the
chain from rubbing against the sprocket changer. In the back of my mind I
thought this was the final time we would ever ride side-by-side like this is
"You have the older Deor full range adjustment gears that don't
click into place according to a predetermined grid," he said as were cycled
"That's right. They don't click. Fully manual. Not like the newer
mountain bike styles."
"The new ones you're talking about aren't as good as the old ones like
you have. These new clicking gears loosen from hard riding and flex of
the cables and of course the bending in the frame. Loosening can be very small,
like a few millimetres, so micro-adjustment is crucial to crisp gear changing."
I tried to keep up but I was out of breath. It was as if my lungs had
become solid, hardened and now totally closed like a pistachio. Withered and
dried. Hands in a permanent state of claw. Wrists swollen and purple, skin scaly
like a dinosaur. Knuckles gnarled, knotted. Upper back in spasm. Headache.
Ankles like balloons. I must have got this because I never went back for that
second tetanus shot when I was cut. Lock jaw with the lower left neck. Sinews
under attack. Knees red. Kidneys failing. Liver shot. Heart palpitations. Water
in the elbows. Downhill ride.
Must seek major zeitqualia action.
stretching causes the gears to fall just off kilter so that the gears end up
out of line with the teeth of the sprocket. That's why it makes that noise.
It's God's reminder that the machine is not in tune."
The river was out of sight. Only mature Maple trees lined the road as
we took as small hill down.
"The new clicking lever-pressing type of gear changer represents the
antithesis of artful poetry in motion."
"With my old changer, I can make the micro adjustments," I said.
"And thus achieve a coordinated flow."
We spotted another historical plaque so we pulled over.
FORT DE LEVIS
Last stand of France in
Canada. Fort de Levis, on Isle Royale, (Chimney Island), was built by captain
Pouchet in the Spring and early summer of 1760. It's garrison surrendered after
a gallant defence, on 25th August 1760, to the British army
commanded by Sir Jeffrey Amhearst. Siege batteries were established on this
point and on adjacent islands.
Near Jamestown where there was a long bridge going to the American
"The poor French lost everything, even Pierre Radisson, their shining
"That's right. I remember, when you went tree planting that summer."
The summer of Doppel's second year university he went north of Timmins in the
bush sleeping in a tent, swatting mosquitoes, a marked change. Spent time
wandering on his mountain bike with his tree-planting beard looking like Jesus
in Vancouver, and then to Australia until he was struck down with arthritis in
the ankles and knees. That was when my brother became humble.
"So where do you reckon we are?" Doppel took out his map from his
breast pocket and then checked his compass. I rubbed my knee.
"Near Prescott. Sore knee?"
"Right in the middle of the bone it feels like a bruise, that seems to
be getting worse."