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Grant’s Statue Was Not the Only Thing to Topple in the Park

Grant’s statue was not the only thing to topple in the park on Sunday
The San Francisco Chronicle is part of our Sunday morning ritual, with breakfast on the deck in nice weather. Nice weather means taking our bikes to Golden Gate Park because no cars are allowed there on Sundays. This Sunday the Chronicle was filled with tales and photos of statues toppled or painted by protesters.

As we drove over the bridge, we wondered what we were going to see, hoping our favorite Cervantes bust, that included Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, was intact. You have to walk past it on the way to the De Young Museum. We always stop and reflect upon the time we saw a Latino man standing in front of it. As we passed he looked at us like we were old friends he could open up to and wistfully remarked to us, “I would give anything for the friendship these two men had.” 

We found a parking space with little difficulty and felt blessed by the Gods. We unloaded our bikes and started peddling down JFK Drive. It was a crisp day, unlike the 80 degrees temps we left in Marin. Turning onto Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive we noticed a cluster of people with iPhones out taking snaps of Grant who was toppled to the ground the night before, along with Francis Scott Key. I looked to the right and exhaled – there was Cervantes, Don and Sancho unharmed.

Rounding the circle we head back towards Robin Williams Meadow and I notice two little guys peddling away with their dads. The younger one doesn’t seem as steady on his little bike as his brother a few years older. 

I alert myself that the younger one swerves back and forth between lanes quite a bit. I take it as my cue to pass these kids so I don’t get in their way. I stop to take a photo and before I know it they get caught up to me. I decide I better head more to the left and get out of their way again. I make eye contact with the dad and he notices how unpredictable his son is riding and says, “Jordan, stay to the right.” Jordan immediately goes right. I exhale. I’m safe and in the clear, and as I’m heading down the hill I’m speeding up on the descent, when out of nowhere, the other son jerks in front of me. I swerve to avoid him, hit the brakes and begin to feel the bike topple over. I hear the thought inside my head, “You’re going down –  shit, this is going to hurt!” BAM!

I’m laying on the pavement, bike on top me. I see the contents of my basket spew all over the ground. Sunglasses and cap knocked off me.

Without skipping a beat 3 men are at my side, along with several others who have come to attend to me. Hugh, assuming I was right behind him, is already further down the road to the Meadow.

I am then met with questions, “Are you OK?’

“Don’t move, take it slow.” 

“Did you hit your head?” – “No, thank God,” I answer.

“Do you want me to call an ambulance? ”

Grateful to know about trauma I KNOW I’m in shock! 

“Are you OK?” I am asked again. 

“I don’t know! I’m in shock,” I reply. 

They all take a breath and just wait for me to respond with what’s next. I hear a kind voice say,

“Whenever you’re ready we are here to help you up.” 

All I want is Hugh to put his arm around me, so I can let out the big cry building in my body. 

“What do you need” I hear someone say. 

“I need my husband.”,  as I try to focus on the road ahead and can’t find him in the crowd.

“Where is he?” one guy asks.

I point – “He went that way.” A man jumps on his bike.

“What’s his name?”

“Hugh” I thought, wow, what a smart thing to ask. 

I look around and I see that I am surrounded by a circle of about 20 people of diverse ethnic and racial faces who are not leaving my side till they know I am OK. I feel their love and concern. I was being held by a diverse community whose commonality is our shared love of biking – and that we’d all at some point unexpectedly landed on the ground with bike wheels spinning. I feel held, not gawked at. I am grateful that after 5 years of being an avid biker, this is my first fall. It could have gone very differently. I am struck by the irony that 59 years ago today was the last time I ended up on the pavement and well, it didn’t go so well for me that time.

“Are you ready to get up?” I’ve taken inventory, I feel some hurts and scrapes but nothing broken and nod yes, as 2 men left me up. I am able to stand. They walk me to the curb and set me down. They gather all my belongings and fill my basket back up. Hugh arrives and gathers me up in his arms and I let it rip. I burst out crying and bury my head in his chest. My safe place. He looks at all the concerned faces around us and says, “Thanks everybody, she’s good. I can take it from here.”

The crowd slowly disperses. I finish my good cry, feeling so grateful for how deeply I was cared for in the moment I needed it, by the humanity of strangers, who share the love of biking and know the trauma every biker experiences at one time – hitting the pavement.  How blessed I am to live in an area of diversity that in a moment of freak out for me, I was met with the oneness of multi-colored faces who wanted the best outcome for me – and I got it. 

When we come together for the good of each other we are unstoppable. What would it be like to live in a world where we surrounded those who were hurt, not leaving them until we knew they were ok? Surely this can’t just exist in Golden Gate Park.  This is the world I want to create. You in?

✌️Voge Smith

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