You can buy weekly papers that are all advertisements. No news, no stories, no pictures. Just pages of what people in this city want to sell and want to have. Golf equipment, comics, baby clothes, fax machines, bicycles and women.

"Wanted: Cute professional Female with interest in fiction, film and fine foods by attorney/author/academic Single Black Man, 6', medium build, 43, who's read everything but likes to listen, loves to cook, laugh out loud and drive German sedans."

I watched a man read one of these papers from front to back. He read every page from air conditioners to woodwind instruments. I was amazed that this man didn't get tired of reading the ads. And that so many people know what they want.

"Wanted: Very tall bike, for a man 6'4' tall, looking for a fairly recent racing or eventually touring bicycle, the saddle tube must be 62cm to 64cm, that's about 25in. Comfortable seat preferred, nice tires, can pay a good price."

My mother answered a personal ad for a man who advertised himself as a "Workaholic Handyman." Perfect. Her old farmhouse needed some work on the roof and a new porch. You see the logic. But when she wrote to her handyman, she didn't mention repairs. She sent him poetry.

The workaholic handyman didn't write back. If my mother had asked him to fix her porch he might have called her. They might have liked each other. He might have worked on the roof and she might have sharpened his tools. It could have been a practical arrangement.

If you have ever watched the way a handyman touches his tools, you understand that there is an intimacy to practicality. But practicality is unromantic, and so are personal ads.

"Successful, independent, good looking middle-age blind man, white, 5'8" tall, 165 lbs., educated, drug free, seeks a full amazon-type woman, large hands and feet, friendly with sense of companionship."

My cousin and I disagree about where the life of a bike is. I think it's in the gears and the chain, the parts that turn. She thinks that it sleeps between the brake pads.

"Model Attitude Race, brand new, never used, extra components, beautiful, gorgeous mango color, selling cheap. Runs like a Cadillac."

There is a certain romance reserved for machines. Nice cars, good tools, well-made engines. Moving parts. My father told me that the best thing you can do for any machine is to use it. Don't let it stand still and rust because it is made to move. If you use it enough, there is very little else you need to do.

I look down at the chain on my bike turning between the pedals and I feel satisfied. I'm taking care of my bike. I help it do what it was made to do and it carries me.

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