January 15, 2013 § 20 Comments
G3 told me on the Donut Ride a few weeks back that one of his Hollywood producer friends followed this blog and might get in touch to retain me as a “consultant.”
This was intended to flatter me, which it did, so I told G3 that his friend was a thieving fucking douchebag, and the only reason any Hollywood anything reads so much as the wall in a public toilet is to steal it and plagiarize it to a fare thee well.
“Not my friend!” protested G3. “He’d never rip you off!” Then G3 paused. “But his partner sure would.”
So, like Douchestrong’s confession, it was PREDICTED HERE FIRST: Now, get ready for the pilot TV show based on Cycling in the South Bay, followed by the mother of all copyright infringement lawsuits.
G3, is your Hollydouche producer hosebag listening? If he steals so much as a fucking indefinite article from these hallowed columns of honeyed prose and sparkling dialogue, he’ll find himself on the reaming end of more ass-lashing litigation than there are dickstomps on a cold, wet, windy NPR.
Next blog post: Sensitive, warm, thoughtful cycling poem.
December 29, 2012 § 34 Comments
Have you ever noticed how there’s no such thing as a simple ride? Once you’re on your bike, shit happens. The reason we don’t think anything of it is because we forget most of it by the time we’re home.
Why do we forget?
Because when you’re on a bike, you’re out “in life,” where shit happens. You’re not cooped up in the car, or couch surfing, or nailed to a theater seat. You’re out in the world, going slightly more or slightly less than the speed of the world around you, unprotected from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
So much happens so quickly, and it’s all interspersed with intense activity, that when you get home all you want to do is eat, shower, and sleep. Once that’s done, the details of the ride are a distant memory, or no memory at all.
Nothing special happened today
I met up with Jeff, Harry, and Rod for a leisurely pedal from the Center of the Known Universe to Mandeville Canyon. It was California cold, which is to say in the mid 40’s which is to say that a whole lot of cyclists stayed in bed despite the clear skies and beautiful morning.
The extra effort of pulling on a pair of booties can be, like, such a drag.
After drag racing up Mandeville, with Rod playing pacemaker until he fried, and then Jeff putting King Harold and me to sword, we turned around and descended. While clipping along San Vicente’s long, fast, straight downhill at well over 30 mph, a large magnolia seed cone fell from a limb and hit me in the face.
It was such a blow that it jerked my head back. Had it not been for my glasses, which absorbed much of the blow, my eye could have been taken out. I’ve often thought that the extra wide frame of my SPY Quanta frames afforded me extra protection, but this day proved it (insert applause for shameless plug here). As it was, I was lucky to retain control and pull over. Aside from a small cut, minor bruising, and a fine string of oaths, I was unhurt.
As we pedaled on, Jeff reminded Rod of the time that a giant piece of steel had flown up and hit him in the shin. “Remember that?” asked Jeff.
As if anyone ever forgets excruciating pain! “Oh, hell yes,” said Rod. His entire shin swelled up, he’d had to dismount, doubled over in pain…it was quite epic. Pain filled. Memorable.
This of course recalled insect bites. “Remember when that dude got stung in the eye by a bee?”
“Yeah, and his whole body swelled up like a giant grapefruit, and EMS had to come and take him off to the ER.”
“Or what about the time we were riding along and almost got hit by that piano?”
Everyone nodded, recalling the near disaster when a piano fell out of the back of a truck, bouncing along the tarmac at 50 mph, keyboard, legs, and chunks of wood flying like spears, scattering the terrified peloton.
“What about when G$ went over the guardrail at 40?”
“Or when Hottie hit that giant rock going down the Switchbacks at speed?”
“Remember when the angry driver got out and pulled a pistol?”
“That was scary as hell. And the naked chick on the motor scooter?”
“Ten stars! What about the time Stern-O wrecked an entire frame by running over a stick and getting it caught in the rear triangle?”
“High tide on the bike path when that huge wave came over the breakwater, knocked Jack off his bike and took his water bottle out to sea.”
“Stern-O’s wipeout at speed going into Pedro. Rolled a new silk sew-up at 40 in the turn dropping down Western. What the hell was he doing with silk sew-ups on a road bike?”
“Strauchmann’s one-legged crash and bike toss that almost took out Yule’s recently repaired elbow!”
“That freddie who got bit by a rattlesnake while changing a flat up on Piuma.”
“That dude who stomped off in the weeds to take a leak and found a small pot farm.”
“All those condoms and underwear in a neat pile underneath the bridge.”
Pretty soon we were home. And except for the punch in the face by the falling seed cone that almost blinded me and caused a horrific crash, it was a perfectly normal day.
December 20, 2012 § 28 Comments
It happened on December 13, 2012, at 10:16 PM. I would have missed it entirely had Lee Slone not posted the briefest of requiems. It was the farewell of an Internet character known by his Twitter handle as Captaintbag1. Most people called him Captain Tbag. I called him Cap Taintbag.
He accepted either appellation, and many others besides. He was a genius.
And now he’s gone, vanished into the ether, or the Home for Deleted Tweeters, or the Stumblehole of Vanished Tumblrs.
He was a genius because he did something completely new with the English language. He invented a vernacular that was idiomatic, yet perfectly grammatical even as it upended all rules of speling and gramar to create something funny, and beautiful, and most of all, new.
“There is no new thing new under the sun,” it is written in Ecclesiastes 1:9, and with the exception of electronic shifting and Prez’s color combos, it’s true. Everything that is has, more or less, already been.
But not Cap Taintbag. He was beyond rare because he was truly an original writer. He left the orbit of rarity and reached the sublime by also being witty, and powerful, and able to convey the truth in his 144-character mind-and-sight-and-sound-bites.
Hope you got to enjoy him while he was around. He was the best.
Who killed Taintbag?
Sad to say, he killed himself. His last few tweets make the reason clear: His persona, his character, his wit and his art were unsustainable.
They were unsustainable, in my opinion, because of his anonymity.
The Internet’s chief promise to many is its assurance of anonymity. All of those things you’re afraid to say because of your job, your spouse, your kids, your teachers, the police, the New National Surveillance Society, whatever…you can say them on the Internet under cover of a clever handle.
Taintbag blazed a path through the lies and hypocrisy of doping in cycling. He became an interlocutor who easily cowed and trampled the false bravado and attendant falsehoods of Vaughters and his apologists. He became a knife-like analyst who could, with a few charts and a few ungramatical mispelings, slice to ribbons the claims that Racer A and Racer B and Racer C won the Tour de D clean.
He was funny as hell, and through it all he reeked of kindness and decency and self-deprecation and humanity.
He was a wanker who you just knew was smarter at the keyboard than he was good on the bike, but somehow you didn’t hold it against him, and you loved him for it all the more.
But he learned a hard lesson: When you become a masked avenger you have to forfeit the You under the mask. You become the Dark Knight, only, since it’s reality not tveality or movieality, there aren’t any super powers or smokin’ hot wenches or fantastic successes that come with it.
You’re just an anonymous slob afraid to rip off the mask and let the You fill up the space formerly occupied by the outsized mask and the superhero get-up.
Taintbag swirled down the drain of his own creation, the dissonance between his persona and his real self eventually becoming so great that he pulled the plug himself. Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle.
I imagine that he’s a school teacher or a bureaucrat somewhere, incredibly relieved at having set his burden down. Now he can go back to his beloved MTB and tech talk, only wistfully, every once in a while, thinking about Cap Taintbag and maybe even telling himself that he can pick it back up again whenever he wants, even though he knows, I know, we all know, he won’t, and more importantly, he can’t.
Once Bruce Wayne razes the cave and tosses the outfit, he’s done.
The power of your real name
I admired and envied Taintbag. I admired him because he always took the side of right. I envied him because he was an original and a brilliant writer. He was a guy worthy of the highest praise I can muster for anyone, ever: He was a writer worth plagiarizing.
But I pitied him in his anonymity. He was ultimately a coward, a man possessed of great talent and insight and wisdom and decency who was too afraid of the truth to throw himself headlong into it, to announce himself to us so that we could thank him, admire him, and put ourselves at his feet. He had all the qualities of greatness except the one quality that would have made him so: The guts to use his name.
I’ve seen the transformative power that comes with discarding anonymity. Patrick Brady used to be an anonymous blogger who wrote under a pseudonym. One day coming back from Cross Creek I told him to quit being a chickenshit, to ditch the pseudonym, and to start signing his real name to his opinions.
He took my advice and now steers the helm of one of the most influential publications in cycling. He put aside the crippling anonymity of pseudonymous writing and let the You fill the space, then grow beyond it. That’s the power that comes with owning your opinions, with signing your name, your real one, and letting the chips fall where they may.
That’s the difference between people of character, and just plain old people.
When I read the comments that people post to this blog, and I read them religiously, I feel so much respect and admiration for those who cast aside the protections of handles and monikers and fake names and come here to announce themselves as they are, with the names given them by those who brought them into this world.
They stomp around in this Internet cycling gutter and do it in the open. They know that the real currency of real dialogue is real names.
Taintbag, I miss you more than you know. You were master of the Twittersphere, chickenshit and all. The next time you step forward, if you ever do, it will be under your real name, and no one will ever know that you were he.
But shoot me a sly wink. Then I’ll know it’s you. And we can continue on our separate ways, if that’s how it’s meant to be.
September 2, 2011 § 4 Comments
Monday is Labor Day, a time of celebration and rest for those whose efforts and occupations keep this great country moving. It less well known that the Friday preceding Labor Day is also celebrated as “Unlabor Day,” a time when we doff our hats to those who have been able to milk the system so that they may enjoy a wonderful lifestyle without having to lift a finger. One among our small cadre of South Bay cyclists stands particularly tall in this regard (not naming any names), and today a stellar lineup including Rodley, Marcus Aurelius, King Harold, Howard Hughes of the South Bay, the Chief, and Jaegermeister spent Unlabor Day morning on the stoop drinking coffee, telling lies, and watching a dog urinate on the bikes leaned against the hitching post. My bike.
Big Mike accompanied us from Malaga Cove, but turned back at MBSB in order not to be photographed and therefore publicly associated with the unwashed. Mr. I’m In Trial was in trial, and the Honey Badger sent his regrets. Jack from Illinois (not his real name) was a no-show, but with us in spirit. A very angry and evil spirit, might I add.
Jeff K. made a cameo ride by and nodded in our direction without actually saying “hello,” “good morning,” or “fuck you, losers.” That’s okay; I’m sure at least one of those thoughts crossed his mind, and that’s good enough for me. Jeff and G$ are representing the slackers of the South Bay at Master’s Nationals in Bend this weekend, and in further celebration of Unlabor Day we gave thanks to those godlike men willing to labor in the saddle for glory even as we ordered a second round of scones. The Chief, who is in serious training for MT4, got in a particularly hearty ride by going all the way back with us to Hermosa Beach before heading home, which gave him a total of five miles for the morning. Unlaborers of the world, unite!
February 8, 2011 § 2 Comments
Who’s “hot” in the South Bay isn’t going to cut it this time–more like who’s on fire? That, of course, would be the guy with the burning orange head, the blazing orange glasses, the incendiary orange socks, the flaming orange team, the guy you may know as Greg Leibert but who the rest of us on the South Bay wanker brigade politely address as “Sir.”
Greg’s on-fire status as leader of the Big Orange cycling team was confirmed by his solo 20-mile breakaway win in the state’s toughest road competition, the 2011 edition of the Boulevard Road Race. He won it by crushing the competition and by riding on the back of a coordinated and committed team.
After you’ve had your head staved in by Sir Orange you tend to sit around post-race talking with other abused and broken wankers, and the conversation is always the same.
“How’s that bastard do that?”
“Iunno. Iuz feeling great and then bam shit. Man I’m trashed.”
“Un. Gotny food?”
Then everybody gets back into their cars and drives home, hoping that Sir Orange sits out the next weekend or that maybe he decides to sell his bike and learn to crochet.
How he does it: Cycling secrets of Greg Leibert revealed
Many point to his ideal size, long legs, background as a competitive NCAA Division I runner at KU, tremendous aerobic capacity, ability to suffer, attacking style of riding, effective use of team tactics, dedication to training, years of experience racing in Southern California, intense will to win, terror of full-time employment, and love of the sport as the key factors in his success.
I’m not buying any of it.
All you have to do to understand his path to greatness is hang around his car before the race. Suddenly, about fifteen minutes before the start, shitfaced looking, cockroach-scuttling, smelly little cyclists wearing various team jerseys begin to congregate around the open hatchback. They’re all holding seven or eight water bottles, and the conversation goes like this:
“Hey, Maggs. How’s it going?”
“Fine, Freddy, honey, how’ve you been?” Maggie the Fred Angel is always sweet no matter how loathsome the roachbag.
“Good, good, hey, can you give me some handups in the race?”
“Sure, sweetie, you got it!”
“Now this blue one is glucosamine with ginkgo extract. I need it halfway through the first lap at about mile 11.2. This other blue one, you can tell it has the amino acids because it’s not as deep blue, here, just hold it up to the light like so. I need this midway through the second lap, but not too far after the second hill. This third one, kind of with the aquamarine tint, this is the stuff I need most of all, third lap, okay? It’s got the beetle urine extract and powder of tiger penis.”
Maggie smiles kindly through the speech. “Could you do me a favor, sweetie?”
“Oh yeah, sure, anything for you, Maggs. You’re the best!”
“Why don’t you put your name on the bottles? See these other 413 just like yours? It’s sometimes hard to tell them apart with you guys coming through in a 200-man pack at 25mph.”
“Oh, yeah, ‘course, anything for you, Maggs.” Roachbag then skulks away to his team car, pleased to have helped out Maggie by putting his name on the bottle. Fortunately, Maggie will have zero problem with his hand-up because unlike Greg, we of the wanker brigade will be coming through at 12 mph in ones and twos–an easy strike for a pro like Maggie.
And of course roachbag helps Maggie out after the race, too. “Hey Maggs, got my bottles?”
“Sure thing, Hon, right here!” She hands him his nasty, smelly bottles that he’s tossed aside at the feed zone and dotted with specks of dried spit, and he gives her the one thing that she’s just dying for above all else: a big, fat, 15-second hug from a snot-encrusted, salt covered, unshaven, shit stinking roachbag biker. You’ll have to look quick–it’s the only time you’ll ever see anything on her face other than a smile.
The Fred Angel who does it all
While the rest of the wanker brigade is trying to figure out which days Sir Orange rests on, what his FTP is (he doesn’t know himself), his training schedule and diet, they are missing out on what truly sets him above mere mortals: it’s Maggie.
Without her, he’d never have won a race simply because he’d never have gotten to the line on time. Last year at Boulevard he was getting dressed in the washateria, and would still have been wrestling with his package when the race went off had Maggie not dragged him out, stuffed him on his bike, and made him get to the line. Without her, he’d never have a full water bottle, never reach the destination city, never get registered, and if, by some miracle he were able to do all those things by himself, he’d be DQ’d for racing without his number pinned on.
And it’s more than the mechanics of navigating, organizing, feeding, and otherwise guiding this Giant of the Peloverse so that he shows up ready to rage and destroy. Most of us with a significant other learned long ago to say quietly, and only at 11:00 p.m. the night before the race when she’s either asleep or almost asleep, “I’m going to the race tomorrow.” Then we hightail it out of the house at 6:00 a.m. and pray we get out before anyone wakes up.
And although wives rightly despise the activity, what they really can’t stand is having a marital social life that revolves around other cyclists. It’s bad enough that they have to hear a replay of each pedal stroke from the four-hour training ride as told by the deadweight they married in a fit of desperation, misplaced hope, or while in a drug coma, but having to “socialize” with people who rehash the rehash goes far beyond what most women can endure. Throw into the mix the gossiping, guttersniping, blogging, and preening in front of the mirror with $700 in new lycra, and it’s enough to wreck any marriage.
Not so with Maggie. No matter how lowly, depraved, misbegotten, deluded, or downright maggoty the cyclist, Maggie the Fred Angel always has a smile and a good word to spare. The toxic environment of the bike world seems not to bother her in the least, creating a perfectly acclimatized bubble in which Sir Orange can reach his maximum potential.
So the next time you wonder why he’s beaten you senseless, just take a look over at Maggie. And if you’re one of the roachbags with a water bottle, here’s a hint: See’s Chocolates takes orders online.
January 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
First time I ever saw Charon I thought, “Who is that guy? What’s wrong with that crazy guy who doesn’t know how to glue on a freaking tire?”
We were barreling into the turn before the finish line at Eldo, it must have been April 2008, and this Sho-Air guy a few wheels ahead of me rolled a tubular on his fancy carbon rims. He went down quicker and harder than a hooker on a thousand-dollar trick, bounced off the tarmac and stood there in the middle of the field with bikes whizzing by, dodging, swerving, cussing, and doing everything you couldn’t imagine except slam into him, the stink from his melted carbon wheel spitting smoke and dust into the air and that rolled tire hanging off the busted rim like a twisted old dog’s tongue lolling on the pavement.
That was Charon, he of the not-real-well-glued-on-tire, soon to be he-whose-tires-were-always-glued-on-so-hard-that-you’ll-need-vicegrip-pliers-to-get-them-off.
I did a few more Eldos that year, and never saw him roll another tire. Actually, I never saw him much at all, except at the beginning of the race. No matter where I finished, he was always across the line so far ahead of me that to have really effectively congratulated him I would have needed to have sent him a letter or called him on his cell. Thing about Charon was that he was always smiling, always happy to meet people, always in a good mood.
Sure, he was happy. Sure, he was nice. Sure, everyone liked him. Sure, he was handsome. Sure, he was a rocket on a bike. None of that mattered to me, though: I saw through to the real Charon. And I’m going to introduce him to you here.
You pays your nickel and you takes your chance
If you will do me a favor, scroll down a few blog entries and you’ll see one of my posts regarding “Who’s Hot.” It lists, down at the bottom, Dan G., who celebrated his first race yesterday with a win. See? I was right. It also lists, higher up, Charon S., and gives the inside tip: he’s fully prepared and ready to rock. On Sunday at the Dominguez Hills crit put on by Chris Lotts and world-renowned California Bicycle Racing, 90+ knuckleheads showed up to blast around in a circle for an hour in the 30+ race.
I was one of them. Charon was one of the others. I finished in the churning, heaving, hopeless middle of the pack. Charon took fourth, and would have won if Bert G. hadn’t decided to lead out the sprint by digging a pedal and launching four hundred feet into the air and onto the pavement head-first. 90 guys. Fourth place. Think it’s easy? There’s another one on February 20 where you can come out and show us how it’s done.
Charon’s placing wasn’t just impressive because I labeled him an uber-hammer in my galactically-famous Form Report. It wasn’t just impressive because he beat out 86 other idiots in a mad, high speed death scramble for a moldy snack and cheap bottle of wine. It was impressive because to get to the line he had to pick his way through an earlier mass pileup, hold his position with five laps to go, bull his way onto the right wheel in the closing lap, fight off the scavengers and jackals trying to edge him out for position in the sprint, avoid a death crash in the final turn, and do all of that without expending any more energy than absolutely necessary so that when it came time to uncork the champagne bottle, it would uncork with a vengeance. It was a risky, nasty business that required a big, fat, hairy nutsack about the size of a shotput.
Will the real Charon please stand up?
Of course he won’t. That’s because, like I said earlier, he’s got a secret side. It’s soft-spoken or utterly mute, it’s hidden behind a smiling mask, and it never, ever grins. The only prisoners it ever takes are already dead. This is Charon the bike racer: dialed in and focused on winning, and in case you didn’t notice, or didn’t want to notice, or weren’t smart enough to notice, it means he’s intent on beating the snot out of the competition, all of it, including YOU.
What makes Charon the bike racer even scarier is that he doesn’t ride dirty. No nasty moves (aside from the occasional poorly glued on tire), no cheap shots, nothing mean or sleazy or low. He rides fair and he beats you fair and whips your ass with class.
So those of you who know and love Charon the nice guy are asking, “Who the hell are you? How are you pretending to know Charon? He smacks you around in bike races like a boxer beating a legless chicken. Where do you get off with all this crap?”
Where I get off with all my crap
The answer, of course, is that I don’t really know any of those things about Charon–except that he’s the nicest guy in the peloton and he really did screw up that time by not gluing on his tire. I’m just speculating from afar, as I’ve never gotten close enough to him in a finish to see how he rides; he’s just too damned fast. Mostly I’m guessing, because even old man bike racing is fast and hard and tough, and when you place that highly in a 90-man field with half the guys going for the win, you have to be hard and smart and quick and possess a big old hairy, gnarly pair.
So where I’m going is this, South Bay Cycling Prediction Number Two for the season: Charon is going to win a whole bunch of races this year. And just because he’s smiling at you and giving you training advice and inspiring you with his positive attitude doesn’t mean he isn’t going to squash you like a bug when there’s only a couple hundred meters to the bright white line.