The Inspirers

Actions by many people give Kangaeroo to give life a go, and they almost certainly don’t know it, and Kangaeroo doesn’t even know nearly any of them.

One of the benefits of the dark period of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the gift of being able to go for a bike ride, usually along the Tama River in the western suburbs of Tokyo, and nearly every morning.

These rides are a crucial part of Kangaeroo’s life because they provide routine.

Kangaeroo has been able to learn that routine is essential for his wellbeing and the pandemic threatened that when his office was shut down and the workers sent home in early March 2020.

Kangaeroo is a recovering drug and alcohol addict. Recovery from addiction has involved leading life in a fairly planned, structured manner. Part of the commute to the office involved riding into central Tokyo and attending a 12-step meeting before work every morning. With the office closed, this rattled Kangaeroo.

Stuck at home in lockdown, Kangaeroo’s instinct would be to pig out and laze. Or use. As an addict, to use often means to die. It was the morning rides that enabled Kangaeroo to maintain a routine and lead a healthy, fulfilling life.

Of course, Mrs. Kangaeroo is Kangaeroo’s greatest inspiration and has dragged him from the pits to the most enjoyable part of his life. And there have been many, many others. But for the early morning rides that literally keep Kangaeroo alive, there have been a number of great inspirers. (Ironically, the only one who Kangaeroo came directly into contact with, an absolutely incredible triathlete who oozes power while running and biking, seems to have been creeped out.)

These inspirers are the tall, young woman who shuffles along near Sekido Bridge around 5 a.m. Another shuffler is a middle-aged bloke in his 40s with a goatee. And then there’s “Mary,” a jogger who seems to be slow, but makes rapid progress and seems terrified by my presence. A similar jogger is “Jo,” whose run reminds me of Forrest Gump in calipers in the Academy Award-winning movie. And the old bloke who rides even earlier than Kangaeroo while wearing gunte cotton gloves. And the Gray Ghost, who used to walk in Fuchu, but now walks further up the river. “Bowie” is a guy who loves hearing Kangaeroo playing his loud music on the bike, especially when playing tunes by the Thin White Duke. Initially, Beagle Baachan (Granny) used to annoy because the mere sight of Kangaeroo would see her fleeing off the cycling road and turning her back to avoid breathing the same air, but she has since tempered her revulsion and seeing her with her dog has become a delight. “Backwards” is an old bloke who walks backward along the track and always offers a friendly greeting, while “Pru” and “Shaz” are a couple of women who stroll along the river banks, annoyingly occupying the width of the track. “Chrissy” resembles one of the actresses in Man About the House and sometimes shows up in Gyomu Super. And, finally, there is “Mumbod,” who looks totally out of place jogging, but sticks at it every day.

Kangaeroo knows none of these people, but he owes them a great deal of thanks. When he wakes and doesn’t want to move, he thinks of these people and drags himself onto the bike.

Sometimes, Kangaeroo thinks of ways to thank these people, like giving them letters or cards or stuff. But the only person he did manage to come into contact with seems totally unimpressed.

The best way to show my gratitude, it seems, is to continue to draw inspiration from them and to continue to take action. And talk about it here. To these people, thank you all. Seeing you all, practically every day regardless of rain, hail, sun or snow, or whatever, helps drag me out of bed and gets me into action. That’s part of what keeps my going and most of the time I really would prefer to give up. But getting out and onto the bike comes with a lot of inspiration from you, and I hope that maybe even me getting out there could also inspire someone else who sees the fat, loud, old gaijin ossan riding his bike. You all inspire me and I thank you with all my heart.

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