Pop-Up Magazine - The Sidewalk Issue


Mike, Bicycle

Obie-winning actor Larry Owens stars as a bicycle, in a story that explores internal monologues of time, self-doubt, and belonging familiar to us all. The yellow bicycle is missing its seat and locked to a bike rack. Its accompanying text says, “Sometimes, I feel like a part of me is missing.” In collaboration with Ian Chillag and Everything Is Alive.


Larry Owens: I’m Mike, uh, short for Michael. I’m a bike, short for Bichael. Yeah. My person? I haven’t seen him in… a while. [Curious and sparse violin music.]

Hmm. Carrie? Chris? No, that’s not it. Cragley? I don’t think that’s a name. Chili’s? No, that’s a restaurant. I’m starting to forget him.

Sometimes I feel like a part of me is missing. [Curious and sparse violin music fades out.] Literally, like a part of me is missing. One of my parts. I tend to nap a lot, and I took my midday nap and when I woke up, I didn’t have a seat. I just wish they would have asked. I would have said, “Here, take my seat. No one’s using it right now, obviously. I’m just left here on the side of the road.” So, uh, yeah. [Curious and sparse violin music returns.]

Thinking back to my first night locked here. Um, it started getting dark, and I was like, “OK, what is this about?” I mean, you have to understand, I had only been out in the daytime. I had never seen a single night before, and I did not even know that this was a thing that happened. I was like, “Is everyone else seeing this?” I was just, like, so scared. I remember worrying that this nighttime thing would last forever. But then when people started to line up to get coffee again, I realized, “Oh, that’s, that’s just what separates the coffee times.” So I’ve just been keeping the time like that. Just whenever someone gets coffee, that’s another day. [Curious and sparse violin music fades out.] So I guess that means my guy has been gone for 120 coffee times?

I would say around coffee 78, I said he’s not coming back. Of course, I still believe and I don’t want to verbalize a lot of negativity. But I don’t think he’s coming back

[Upbeat string ensemble music]

I love gossip, so any time I hear anything juicy on the sidewalk, I am all gears. I’ll tell the other bikes what I hear, and then they will give me other facts if their owners were talking. And you should know that if you aren’t good to your bike, your bike will talk trash about you. There was this bike that was at the rack today and just could not shut up about all of the backpedaling that their owner does. [Upbeat string ensemble music fades out.] And I’m not talking about the actual pedals on the bike. I’m talking about making commitments and then saying, “Oh, no, I can’t do this because…” They’re just backpedaling all of the time. And it just shows a really inconsistent person with really, really malleable values. And it is so funny to see this person come out and get on the bike not knowing that we’ve heard everything.

So, yeah, I think that it’s helpful to have this new community of the bike rack. We just call it the rack with a Q, q-u-e. From I would say like 7:30 a.m. to about 2 p.m., the raque is lit. [Curious and sparse violin music returns.]

You know what really hurts about this? I’m a mountain bike. Who never got to see a mountain. I’ve never been out of the city. I haven’t lived. No one’s even tried to steal me. Do you know what that’s like? To be a bike that no one even wants to steal? I mean, I didn’t even get, I didn’t even get to see the guy who stole my seat. I was taking a nap. If I had seen him taking the seat, I would’ve said, “Baby, OK, just hit the lock, OK? You can take me. Take me!” I think about it a lot. It’s actually for me, it’s kind of how I’m plotting my way out. [Curious and sparse violin music ends.] You know?

[Upbeat string ensemble music]

Haley Howle: Pop-Up Magazine’s Sidewalk Issue is presented with support from Google. Millions of people around the world have speech impairments, which can make face-to-face conversations challenging and voice-activated technologies frustrating to use. To help, Google launched project Euphonia, which is centered on analyzing speech recordings to better train speech recognition models. You can support the project and help everyone be better understood by recording your voice at g.co/euphonia. That’s g.co/e-u-p-h-o-n-i-a.

This story was a co-production of Everything Is Alive and Pop-Up Magazine. It was produced by Ian Chillag and Jennifer Mills and edited by Haley Howle and Maureen Towey. Mike, the bicycle, was played by Larry Owens. Everything Is Alive is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, with executive producer Julie Shapiro. To learn more about Pop-Up Magazine’s Sidewalk Issue, go to popupmagazine.com/sidewalk.

Accompanying audio tracks