The man calling himself Timber pedals slowly up Market. There are good reasons to take it easy; this isn't exactly a racing bike. It has gears, but Timber benefits little from them. His second-hand handlebars have no shifters. In fact, he doesn't have any brakes, either. Ingeniously, he rigged up a cable attached to the rear calipers; in order to stop he must yank on it like a coachman pulling on the reins.
Also, there's a dog perched, precariously across his back. That'd be God.
Timber found God, so to speak, in Texas. He'd never wanted to have another dog after his St. Bernard was poisoned by a neighbor who took umbrage with its propensity to devour goats. But when your friends hand you a five-week-old puppy from the litter of the abused, parvo-riddled dog you hopped a fence to liberate and then foisted on them -- well, duty calls.
That was seven years ago in Fort Worth, and, ever since, Timber and God have been pretty much inseparable. "She's a perfect traveling-sized dog," he says of the Queensland Heeler/Chihuahua/Your Best Guess mix he hoists onto freight trains. "A five pound bag of dog food lasts forever."
Timber pulls on his bike's reins and slows up to make the turn off Haight and onto Scott. God remains inert on his back; she's so motionless that pedestrians only realize at the very last moment that the man on the rusty bicycle isn't toting a stuffed animal.
This is the first time he's ever tried this.
Prior instances of draping God over his back have only come on escalators; Timber's friend swears that dogs' paws can get sucked into the machinery. That sounds logical. Logical reasons to avoid piloting a bicycle unequipped with lights or brakes around San Francisco with a live animal on one's back enter your humble narrator's mind as well. They stay there.
A bicycle's all right, but Timber is still pining over the loss of his skateboard -- "the only skateboard I ever paid for" -- just days prior. A "woman with black dreads" made off with it when a Goodwill security guard insisted Timber leave his board at the door. The guard didn't lift a finger to prevent this from transpiring, but he did at least notice the color of the miscreant's dreads.
Sans skateboard, Timber exhumed the bicycle he had earlier buried in Golden Gate Park : "I'm not a big believer in keeping all your eggs in one basket." If you've got a skateboard, you don't need a bike, after all.
God blinks and cocks her head as a gust of wind forces Timber into a serpentine pattern. He emerges from the Panhandle and heads toward the spot across from the McDonald's where cyclists with dogs on their backs convene.
The man and his dog do occasionally feel the itch to visit locales more exotic than Haight and Stanyan and travel further than this makeshift bike can carry them. But they always come back. "This city, man. It ain't like any other."