Thursday, March 26, 2015

Stolen Bike

            No more bicycle sojourns in Santo Domingo. I dozed off for a minute on a park bench with the bike on its kickstand inches from my feet and it disappeared. Nobody saw anything.
            I went to the Tourist Police office in the Fortaleza and filled out forms. One of the cops there gave me a ride to the Destacamento of the Policia Nacional and I filled out forms there too. I walked back home through the Colonial Zone peering up and down the cross streets hoping to catch a glimpse of my bike.
            The next morning I printed up posters announcing a 3,000 peso ($70 USD) reward for the return of my bike and posted a bunch of them in the park where it was stolen. There are very few folding bicycles with 20-inch wheels in the DR which makes mine easy to spot from far away. A Haitian guy who lives in the area read one of the posters carefully and said that he had seen a limpiabota, or shoeshine boy, riding that very same bike and that he had seen me too but had not connected me with the bike. When I pinned my reward posters up on bulletin boards inside the two police stations they attracted a lot of attention. A wiry, shifty informant type who had been hanging out with the cops followed me out of the destacamento and asked for more details and a copy of the poster. He explained that bicycles stolen by limpiabotas generally wind up in either Las Cañitas or Guachupita, both notoriously tough barrios, and that he knew how to find it and get it back. I loaned him two dollars for bus fare. I haven't heard from him.
            In the days that followed I searched the streets of Santo Domingo where used bicycles might be bought, sold or traded. I was lead into back rooms of tire repair places and pawn shops where I looked for mine among piles of rusty-framed mountain, BMX as well as kid's bikes and trikes and scooters and roller skates and, incongruously, even a pair of ice skates. I visited bike stores in both fancy and poor barrios and I scanned the online classified listings for Bikes for Sale on, and I crept slowly in the guaguita through the maze of streets in Villa Consuelo where everything is for sale and piled on the street and spilling out of warehouse doorways-- from giant slaps of rough-hewn mahogany, to piles of wheelchairs, heaps of toilets and plumbing parts, tangles of used copper electrical cables, barber chairs, bales of used tee shirts, towers of cheap foam mattresses, pyramids of bolts of cloth, cut rate perfumes and gold filled jewelry. Forklifts and wheelbarrows crisscross traffic in the crowded streets carrying stacks of plywood, Masonite, 2x4's, tinacos and stacks of nested plastic chairs. Motorcycles everywhere. People say my chances are good of recovering the bike since it is practically unique here. On the bright side I have sold a few Airzounds in my meanderings.
            Two nights ago I got a call from an agitated guy asking about my bike and I eventually gathered that he had a similar one. We agreed to meet at the colmado on the corner. Santiago is short, blocky and intense with eyes that look in slightly different directions. He ordered a Bohemia beer which we shared while he excitedly related that he had just been riding his black, 20-inch wheeled folding bike through Parque Colón when he was apprehended by Sosa, the Chief of the Tourist Police in the Zona, because the bike looked just like the photograph of mine on the poster. Sosa is famous here and not for patience or compassion for thieves. It was lucky for Santiago that the brand of his bike, Bfold, was clearly decal-ed on the frame and that Sosa had a photocopy of my ad in his pocket that clearly stated the brand of the stolen bike as Retrospec. Santiago pocketed two copies of the poster and is hot to recover the bike for me and it turns out that he lives only two blocks from my apartment. I hope nobody mistakenly kills him for his Bfold thinking it is mine hoping for the reward.

            It has been more than two weeks now and I spend less time in the evenings sitting in Parque Juan Barón or Maria Eugenia de Hostos or Playa Guïbia or some other bicycle meeting spot with a copy of the police report in my pocket waiting for my bicycle to pass by. I think it may still appear perhaps months from now after all my posters have been torn down or dissolved by rain and time. I keep a scan of the poster and the police report in my cell phone just in case. Hopefully the phone will not be stolen before then

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