Somewhere in Olneyville, I start trading small-talk with a giant banana.
“I’m enjoying all the 20-inch wheels on this ride,” says the banana, laughing jovially.
I also laugh jovially. We’re both riding compact bikes with tiny wheels. His is a candy-colored fixie. Mine is a Dahon folding bike.
“I gotta say,” I say, “I love the costume.”
“Thanks, man!” chortles the giant banana, and he pedals away, lost in a river of cyclists.
A banana outfit is hardly the goofiest thing I’ve seen tonight. I’ve pedaled alongside vampires, disco dancers, superheroes, and living skeletons. One burly guy is dressed as a Beany Baby, another as a chicken. Beetlejuice and Jason Voorhees pop in and out of vision. One woman wears the regal dress and powdered wig of Marie Antoinette. A guy is wearing a giraffe costume so unwieldy I can’t believe he’s upright. Spokes and frames are dotted in Christmas lights, and trailing behind are wings and veils and tresses. But the vast majority are zombies — pale, haggard, and spattered with blood. This is the Zombie Ride, after all. Undead is in.
And then there’s me, dressed as — myself.
Fall jacket, scarf, helmet, jeans. An ensemble so functional, I can’t even pretend it’s a costume. In the middle of a vast, mobile Halloween party, I’m the odd man out, the one who hasn’t made any effort.
In my defense, I didn’t known I could attend the PVD Bike Jam until a few hours before it started. Evenings are hard to predict in my household, especially on chilly Friday nights. I fully expected to read my son to sleep, then slump in front of Netflix for a few nondescript hours. But when I casually mentioned that the Bike Jam was happening tonight, my wife exclaimed, “Oh! I can put him to bed. You should go!”
K.’s enthusiasm was a pleasant surprise. Ever since COVID’s Delta variant started spreading, we’ve been conservative about our movements. But cycling is one social activity that feels low-risk. So I threw on some clothes, tossed my folding bike in the car, and drove to downtown Providence — completely forgetting that this was Halloween weekend…