Don’t do anything sexual to Q-tip!
I’m tempted to name my bike, as Dervla Murphy does in all her travel books. It’s getting cranky about sleeping rough these days and is making me pay with rusty, creaking chains, slipping gears, and blown tires. On the Lower East Side, I looked up a bike shop in Vindigo to fix it up. That’s how I found one of New York’s greats, John’s Mini Bike & Bicycle Store, on East Houston at Eldridge St. It’s a combined bike shop and pet store, with pet cages balanced on top of electric scooter boxes.

    ‘Got any tyre repair kits?’ I asked, trying not to look too closely at the cage full of live Madagascar cockroaches with the cardboard sign ‘Great on a Ritz cracker!!!’ An albino snake reminded me I needed an inner tube, too.

‘Tyre kits? Nah.’ said Linda, the owner, as if wondering why the hell I would ask for a puncture repair kit in a bike store. But her husband found one in the back, behind the iguanas and the piebald rats. While I paid, the mynah birds squawked, pecking at the sign that said ‘Don’t tap on the glass…and if you’re ugly, cover your face.’

I asked about the chameleons that scuttled up and down a driftwood branch.
    ‘The color change is all mood. 90%. See that guy, his grandfather, he was born black and stayed black all the time except when he was getting it on. And the female, she’s only 75% of the size of the male, but if she gets the spots on her back, he better make himself scarce, I’m telling you. See, this guy, he’s turning brown. He’s getting aggressive.’

A brown gecko with amber eyes lazed on another branch.
    ‘That’s his wife down there. They had the little baby in the window. I just sold the baby to a guy who has two others; I think they’re adopting.’
    ‘How do you know it’s his wife? It could be his girlfriend.’
    ‘Oh no, they’re very committed. She was in the Tiffany’s catalog this year. And this guy, he was in the Tiffany’s catalog last fall. They’re celebrity geckos.’

    ‘Q-tip, that’s the chameleon, was on Comedy Central. They were doing this skit of Sally Jessica Raphael, and they had all these dogs dressed up as prostitutes. And they wanted Q-tip to be a girl chameleon brought on as a date for this chameleon puppet! So they said ‘Can we put lipstick on him?’ I said no, no way! They said ‘Can we color him pink?’ Ab-solutely not. Then they said, ‘Well, can we put a bow on his crest?’ That was okay. A bow, just the bow.
But then I went down there and they had these puppets, and they wanted Q-tip to be draped across this one puppet like they were making out. I said ‘You better not do anything sexual to Q-tip!’ And they said, don’t worry, we won’t do anything sexual to Q-tip. We just want him to walk sexy across the floor to the puppet and then just, you know, hang out.’

She handed me a video tape. ‘Here, if I give this to you, will you bring it back? It’s a scream. This is Q-tip on Comedy Central.’

We shook hands, introduced ourselves, and I took Q-tip’s big moment and my inner tube home. I may call my bike Q-tip.