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SLO bikes get blessed at Salon 544! 

click to enlarge HOLY ROLLERS!:  Robert Norton (left) took care of the bike blessing, and Mark “Gizmo” Grayson acted as Master of Ceremonies at the inaugural SLO Blessing of the Bicycles on May 18 at Salon 544, at 544 Higuera St. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • HOLY ROLLERS!: Robert Norton (left) took care of the bike blessing, and Mark “Gizmo” Grayson acted as Master of Ceremonies at the inaugural SLO Blessing of the Bicycles on May 18 at Salon 544, at 544 Higuera St.

It’s Sunday, May 18, and my wife, Anna, and I are peddling against a breeze to get to Salon 544, at 544 Higuera, where owner Sherry Jiminez has organized the inaugural SLO Blessing of the Bicycles as part of Bike Month.

I’m not too sweaty by the time we arrive, and it doesn’t matter anyway as Sherry greets us with some tasty chai-flavored beer from Central Coast Brewing. Bikes are rolling into the parking lot and lining up in extra bike racks brought in for the occasion.

There’s Sherry’s daughter Sevryn, who I see almost daily when she peddles up Madonna Road on her way to the junior high as I walk my dogs home from the dog park.

“Got a profound quote about bikes?” I ask.

“I like bikes!” she squeals.

“What’s an important safety tip?” Anna asks.

“Always wear a helmet!” Sevryn says.

“What’s the weirdest thing you ever saw while biking?” I ask.

click to enlarge BLESSED! :  The Jiminez family—(left to right) Mario, Sevryn, and Sherry—collectively get their bikes blessed. Sherry owns Salon 544 and organized the free family event. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • BLESSED! : The Jiminez family—(left to right) Mario, Sevryn, and Sherry—collectively get their bikes blessed. Sherry owns Salon 544 and organized the free family event.

“A dead deer in the bike lane,” Sevryn says.

“I know! I was there,” I say before Sevryn runs off and climbs the big tree in front of her mom’s salon.

There’re about 40 people here, and about 25 have brought bikes to be blessed. I’m watching a group of jugglers give free lessons when I meet the holy man himself, Mr. Robert Norton, who’s looking sharp in white and black striped pants, checkered Vans, a black shirt, black vest, and extra pious black cap. Sherry’s husband, Mario, has made Robert an aspergillum to sprinkle holy water on the bikes. It’s really just a showerhead on a stick sitting in a cup of water, but it will do.

Mario gets up and says a few words, recalling his childhood Schwinn Stingray and explaining how everyone looks at bikes differently. “I saw my Stingray as a motorcycle, but my mom saw it as multiple trips to the emergency room. Just love what you ride and ride where you love. Now I’d like to introduce Mark Grayson. If bicycles were a religion, Mark would be considered one of the most faithful.”

click to enlarge JUGGLERS!:  A group of jugglers demonstrated their skills in between giving juggling lessons to anyone who wanted them. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • JUGGLERS!: A group of jugglers demonstrated their skills in between giving juggling lessons to anyone who wanted them.

Mark “Gizmo” Grayson, the guy who basically invented the weekly Thursday night bike happenings in SLO Town, is the official Master of Ceremonies, and takes the microphone and starts waxing nostalgic about the connection we have with our bikes.

“If you’ve ever had your bike stolen, you know it’s not about the money to replace the bike. It’s about that bike. How many of you have names for your bikes?” he asks. “It’s the ‘sparkly pony’ or whatever. We grow to love our bikes.”

The he calls Robert up to the podium.

“How do you make holy water?” Gizmo asks.

“You bless the Hell out of it,” Robert quips. “Whoever invented the wheel realized it was a good idea, so he made two of ’em, and the bike was born.”

Then folks lined up and walked their bikes past Robert, and over each one he said some encouraging words, sprinkled some holy water, and sent them on their way.

click to enlarge SMALL BIKES!:  There were bikes galore, including this kid on a small bike, which he brought to the bike blessing on the back of a normal bike. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • SMALL BIKES!: There were bikes galore, including this kid on a small bike, which he brought to the bike blessing on the back of a normal bike.

I rolled my bike, Elvis, before him, and he blessed it, and I thought warmly about the question I asked him earlier when we first met: “Is there some kind of guarantee that I won’t have a bike accident?”

“From what I’ve gathered from your writing and your attitude, it would be very much an aberration. If I put a blessing on your bike, it’s a powerful thing.”

Man, that’s a relief!

 

Glen Starkey takes a beating and keeps on bleating. Keep up with him via twitter at twitter.com/glenstarkey, friend him at facebook.com/glenstarkey or myspace.com/glenstarkey, or contact him at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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