September 5, 2015 § Leave a comment
“Here’s your dinner,” I said to Woodrow.
He stared at the plate in fear. “What is it?”
“It’s a sloppy Joe.”
It hit me like a stubbed toe: My kids have never eaten a sloppy Joe. “You’re kidding, right?”
He angled away from the plate. “No. It sure looks sloppy, though.”
“Wait ’til you taste it,” I said, having already sampled it and confident that it was probably the best sloppy Joe ever made in the history of poor people.
“Can’t you tell me what it is first?”
“What, you’ve been going to Chester Karras negotiating seminars? It’s a fuggin’ sloppy Joe, the finest cuisine known to redneckdom. It’s cheap hamburger meat grilled in a pan and mixed with onion, green pepper, garlic, cayenne pepper, some more garlic, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, a bit of garlic, and tomato sauce.”
“That sounds nasty.” He sniffed the plate. “How do I eat it?”
“With a fuggin’ fork, for fuck’s sake! Sloppy Joe days used to be the best day on the school lunch menu back at ol’ Jane Long Junior High. That is some good eatin’!” I cut off a slab of toasted wheat hamburger bun that was groaning under the weight of the sloppy and jammed it in my mouth. “MMMMM, mmmm!” I said. And it was awesome. There is nothing like the rubberized gnawing on cheap ground beef to take you back to your childhood.
He cut off a tiny corner and placed it on his fork, then he sniffed it and carefully put it into his mouth. I waited for him to swallow and got ready to enjoy the explosion of satisfaction on his skeptical face. He swallowed. “Well?” I said triumphantly.
He cut off a slightly larger piece and ate it. “It’s okay,” he said.
“Okay? That’s it? Here you’re eating dog’s gift to American poor folks cuisine, loaded with ketchup and cheap fatty gristle meat smothered in ketchup with extra ketchup and the best you can say is ‘It’s okay’?”
He ate some more. “It’s not bad, Dad. Really.”
“Let me tell you something, Mr. It’s Not Bad Dad Really. I got a friend who is a fuggin’ expert at taking sloppy, messed up shit and turning it into filet mignon.”
“Really?” He knew what filet mignon was = I’ve failed as a parent.
“What’s his name?”
“Charon. Charon Smith.”
“That’s a funny name.”
“He’s a funny guy.”
“You throw him into a nasty, messy, sloppy, fucked up shark tank of idiots and supercharged bad bike handlers and he pounds the motherfuckers into a smooth slurry of fine cuisine and slices through them like a sharp knife through a soft eyeball.”
“Gross,” he said, polishing off the sloppy and getting up to make himself a second one.
“And I’ll tell you something else,” I said. “Ol’ Charon doesn’t let it get him down when someone says It’s Not Bad Dad Really, no sir, he does not.”
“People been telling Charon that he’s a fast old fart crit finisher but he can’t road race and he can’t outsprint the pros.”
“You should have seen him on Sunday. He skipped the leaky prostate race because he knew his teammate Leadout would be with him and he did the pro race. Talk about sloppy fuggin’ Joe. There were 122 sloppy-assed idiots on the line who were messy and aggro enough to eat nails and broken glass.”
“Hundred dollar primes, also known a biker chum. But Charon didn’t give a damn.”
“Nope. He hung on for ninety minutes while the shrapnel flew, the body parts banged, the shit stains squirted, and everyone threw a Hail Mary pass every five minutes.”
“Then what?” The second sloppy Joe was much reduced.
“He took all that sloppy shit and cleaned it up with one whisk of his snot rag. Blew through the youngsters so fast that instead of cash primes, next time they’ll be offering those tykes diaper primes. He won by a country mile, clean as a whistle.”
Woodrow scraped up the last of the sloppy and licked his fork. Twice. “Sounds like an awesome dude.”
“Damn straight,” I said. The plate, it sparkled.
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September 4, 2015 § 11 Comments
Ol’ Cracks doesn’t call me often, but when he does I drop what I’m doing and take the call. Thank goodness I wasn’t holding my future grandbaby.
“How the hell are ya?” growled Ol’ Cracks, his Texas accent thicker than bacon grease on a Southern hooker’s shirt sleeves.
“Can’t complain,” I said.
“Yer a lyin’ sack of rotten oats,” he said. “All the hell you ever do is complain.”
“Now that you mention it,” I said.
“Now lissen up,” said Ol’ Cracks, which was not an invitation to flesh out my nascent complaint. “‘Cuz I got a story for ya.”
I moved from my office desk to my office bed and stretched out. “Shoot.” I knew I wouldn’t even need a notepad.
“You ‘member Gizzards?”
“Gizzards? Was he the guy who was blind in one eye and couldn’t see too well out of the other? Kind of rotund?”
“Naw, you got him confused with Big Piles.”
“Which one was Gizzards?”
“He was the dumb bastard.”
“That doesn’t narrow it down much.”
“Well anyhow, Gizzards got one of his buddies into cycling and started bringing him along on the Sunday Gutterfuck Ride.”
“How’d that work out for him?”
“We gutterfucked him coming out the dogdamn parking lot every time, but he kept coming.”
“Okay. So what?”
“Well, Gizzard’s pal’s name is Stumpnagel but everyone calls him Sags.”
“Hell, first off, his belly hangs down onto the top tube, so that’s your Sag Number One. And then when he gets tired, which is after the first five minutes, his head droops over the stem like the bend in a vulture’s neck. That’s Sag Number Two.”
“Sag Number Three?” I was almost afraid to ask.
“He’s allus the first bastard in the sag wagon.”
“Sag wagon? Since when did you guys start riding with a sag wagon?”
“Aw hell, never. That’s what we call the cars he flags down after we’ve gutterfucked him offn a ditch fifty miles from home.”
“Okay, so back to the saga of Sags.”
“So one day Sags and Gizzard come up to me and they say ‘Ol’ Cracks, how can we get better? You’ve been winning races for thirty years and you never train and you’re drunk half the time and you’re lazy as a post office supervisor. What’s the secret?'”
“What’d you tell ’em?”
“Same thing I tell everybody. I said, ‘Listen up you dumbasses, you suck and you always will. You’ll never win a race because you’re slow and stupid, in that order.'”
“They got all mad but next week they come up again and were just as sassy as a sixteen-year-old with big boobs and Gizzard says, ‘Ol’ Cracks we’ve signed up for Big George’s training camp in South Carolina and we’re gonna ride with some pros and get fast and come back here and stomp your ass.'”
“I bet you didn’t take that lying down.”
“No, sir, I did not. Told ’em they were just as slow and stupid as they’d been last week and that the only thing they’d get throwing money at a lying, cheating, doping ex-pro was poor.”
“How much did it cost?”
“Five grand for the first sucker, I mean trainee, and $2500 for the second one.”
“Big George has a good gig going. Ride around with a couple of hicks for $7,500 bucks? Hell, it couldn’t be any worse than riding around with you, which I do for free.”
“You’re just as big a fool as Sags and Gizzard. You think Big George rides around with these yahoos? He escorts ’em out of the parking lot to the base of a climb and leaves ’em at the rear like a dingleberry on a horse’s ass. Then five hours later he circles back to the hotel, pats ’em on the back, cashes another check, and goes home to his wife and EPO.”
“So they’re out there all alone?”
“Oh, no. Big George ain’t dumb. That’s what all those washed up pros and masters national champs are for. He pays THEM a pittance to ride around with Sags and Gizzards and change their diapers.”
“So what happened? They came back and kicked your ass?”
“You got a good imagination,” he said. “But not quite. On the first day Gizzard gets put in a lodge that has a housecat, and he’s deathly allergic to cat hair, and the housecat has layered the place with six inches of fur, so Gizzard swells up like a pumpkin and winds up in the ER on an inhaler.”
“Sags starts at the bottom of Big Corkscrew Mountain, a twelve-mile climb with sixty-three switchbacks and an average pitch of 23 percent, and when I say ‘starts’ I mean ‘almost tips over.’ His nursemaid is Cardboard Box O’Houlihan.”
“Cardboard Box O’Houlihan? Last year’s 35+ masters national road champ? The guy who lives in a … ”
“Cardboard box. Yeah, that’s him. So CB rides off and then about halfway up he stops to wait for Sags. Way off in the distance, here comes Sags, head down spinning at 4 or 7 rpm, tacking like a catamaran, all 235 lbs. of him grunting and groaning and grinding up that fuckin’ hill.”
“O’Houlihan’s phone rings and he pulls it out to see who’s calling. About that time Sags, whose head is still down, t-bones O’Houlihan at about 3 mph.”
“Thank goodness he was going slow.”
“You ever been hit by a piano going 3 mph?”
“Guess what? It fuggin’ hurts, especially when it lands on your leg, which Sags did, and it snapped O’Houlihan’s femur like a matchstick. O’Houlihan is writhing on the ground saying ‘You dumb motherfucker you run into me going UPHILL you dumb bastard!’ They fly him out or more likely drive him out in a pig manure truck.”
“Then what happened?”
“Sags comes home and I tell him man, you are one stupid sonofabitch. Couldn’t you make something up so’s you don’t look like such a brainless rhino? Running into a national champ going uphill? How the fuck does that even happen? And of course he says, ‘I dunno, but it was O’Houlihans’ fault.'”
“Yeah, for stopping on the side of the road, to which I said, you dumb bastard he stopped because he was waiting for you because that’s his fucking job!”
“So did his fitness improve?”
“I don’t know, he was only in town for a couple of days after that.”
“Where’d he go?”
“The Levi Leipheimer training camp somewhere in California.”
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September 2, 2015 § 41 Comments
When my eldest son Hans went off to college a few years ago I wasn’t sad. I was happy. He was embarking on adulthood and you could tell from the way he dashed up the escalator at the airport to board the plane that he couldn’t get to college a minute too soon.
We didn’t go out there with him and move him in or check to make sure he knew how to do his laundry, eat his dinner, wipe his ass, or put on condoms. We just waved goodbye and watched him go. My wife was sad but I wasn’t. I knew what kind of great time he was going to have, and how much better, infinitely better, it was going to be than it would be staying.
And it was.
I visited him in Philly twice, once during his freshman year and again when he graduated. We weren’t exactly helicopter parents. More like deep space probes.
When he returned to California after three years with an infinitely valuable degree in philosophy, he moved back home, got a job tutoring high school kids, and began saving money to retire his share of the college debt. He worked eight hours a day, often six days a week. He paid $300 a month in rent and slept on the living room floor on an old futon.
He never complained, but he never waxed exactly eloquent about sleeping on the floor and having one corner of the couch as “his” hang out space. He commuted to work on his brother’s too-small bike and learned just how fucking deadly it is trying to “share the road” when the other sharers want you dead.
He got harassed by the PV cops for being a shade too tan and looking poor with an old backpack pedaling that too-small bike, he rode in the rain and he rode in the heat. Every month he got stronger going up Hawthorne, and many was the night he came home lathered in sweat but grinning.
All the while he was plotting his escape, of course, a teaching stint through the Fulbright Commission at a public high school in Austria. He got waitlisted for the program, causing me to wonder this: How can a kid named “Hans” with great grades from a great school who studied a semester in Berlin NOT get the first job on offer in a country where they speak German? Answer: That’s how the world is.
When the call came he was ready, but the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Postal Service were not. His paperwork only barely arriving in time thanks to the ineptitude of bureaucrats who truly, deeply, and profoundly do not care, he packed up his thing, singular, and I drove him to the airport.
In a year’s time we had talked, walked, laughed, listened, hugged, disagreed, drunk our morning coffee together, eaten home cooked meals of varying quality, hustled down to Baskin-Robbins for late night ice cream, and even had a couple of slugfests on the bike. I had so much I was going to tell him on the way to the airport, but suddenly we were there and it was all unsaid.
An angry limo driver crowded us as a scowling cop motioned him to get his bags and me to move the hell on. Hans reached over and gave me a hug. “Love you, Dad,” he said, and hustled away from the car, across the island, and towards the terminal’s doors.
The strapping, loping, graceful, beautiful man glanced back over his shoulder and smiled. I warmed from the inside out in a giant pulsating wave, then had to bite my lip hard to fight back the tears, which, like all good rivers, flowed anyway.
September 1, 2015 § 16 Comments
Although I generally despise the “off season” let me say that I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, which is the first day of September, which in turn marks the first day of my off season.
I need a break. For the first time in more than 30 years I didn’t flame out in early April, to which I can only credit having finally learned that you can’t keep training hard once race season starts, and to this little pearl of wisdom: The older you get, the less you recover.
It was an exciting year of racing even though I only fell off my bicycle once, at the BWR going around a turn with my head down into a cactus. A smattering of top-ten placings hint at even more mediocrity to come, which is encouraging. Best of all, I have no idea how many miles I rode this year, but it was at least 500, maybe even more.
In addition to the euphoria of not having to lace up my cycling jockstrap for a while, there was the sad news about my sobriety. “What sad news?” you ask. “The sobriety,” I answer. “That’s the sad news.”
But every sad occurrence is balanced by something not totally awful, and in this case for the first time in four years I won’t be entering September with the awful, heavy, painful dread of cyclocross hanging around my balls. I sold my ‘cross bike and won’t be buying it back. Thank you Major Bob for cutting the seat post so low that I couldn’t ride it even if I wanted to.
Will I miss not racing for a few months? Probably. What joy compares with having “Payday” Johnny Walsh, alleged teammate, chase me down in a breakaway with two laps to go so that he can score a $20 prime? Johnny, next time just come up to me after the race. I will give you the twenty dollars and a spare inner tube.
What thrill compares with bridging to the monsters of the crit peloton, Pat Bos, Derek Brauch, and Thurlow Rogers, with two laps to go in the 40+ race, only to get mown down and discarded by the hungry peloton and finishing so far back that they didn’t even put me on the results sheet?
What joy compares with getting dropped at Boulevard, dropped at Punchbowl, dropped at Lake Castaic, and dropped at Bakersfield? I know! It’s the joy of having my saddle fall off with one lap to go at the Poor College Kids RR and the super, super, super joy of having pro photographers like Danny Munson and Phil Beckman take exciting photos of me whizzing around a corner looking fast when actually I’m in 78th place with one lap to go.
And of course 2015 is ending with a sort of sputter, as all years in profamateur cycling end. The great SPY-Giant-RIDE p/b GQ6 team is merging with Monster Media to form … what? SPY Monster? Media SPY? Team Blurge? And then the best of all reasons to take a break in September is so that I can properly evaluate the high dollar offers pouring in from masters teams around the state who want my services. Perhaps I’ll hire an agent.
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August 29, 2015 § 10 Comments
The South Bay Cycling Awards are fast approaching, and a number of questions are begging to be answered.
Question: Where do I vote?
Who said anything about voting?
Question: What are the rules for selection of finalists?
All questions regarding all procedures can be found by clicking on this link, which takes you to the South Bay Cycling Awards Rule Book.
Question: There were, like, a zillion nominees. Are they all contenders for a Wanky in their category?
No. Three finalists have been selected from each category.
Question: How will we find out who the finalists are?
Check your mailbox every three hours. Notifications were mailed out today.
Question: I am pretty sure I am a finalist and am going to win but I have my second cousin’s wedding in Lancaster that’s on the same day as the awards. I’ll still get my Wanky, right?
Question: By riding 30,000 feet up Scheuren Rd. today in 17:45:56 hours, is Head Down James going to get some special kind of award?
That depends on what you mean by “award.”
Question: I heard that there is a secret committee comprised of Brauch, Martin, and Spivey. What kind of bullshit is that?
Complete, fresh, stinking, steaming bullshit. With flies on top.
Question: I crashed all year plus I’m the best male racer and the most fun to ride with and I’m a great advocate. There’s not a limit to how many Wankys I can win, is there?
One Wanky per wanker.
Question: That’s total bullshit. Where is that in the rules?
In the Rule Book.
Question: I told all my friends and club members and FB friends and Twitterati to email you votes for me and my club and tell you cool shit about me so I can win, plus I’ve been giving you hints and making suggestions to you on rides and on Facebag. Does that help or hurt my chances?
A billion times zero is still zero.
Question: Who’s paying for all this?
Have you ever wondered who’s responsible for all those Nigerian prince emails?
Question: Will there be food?
There will be food trucks, with a $5 discount for the first 500 guests.
Question: Will there be beer?
At the Strand Brewing Co.’s new 34,000 square-foot brewery? No, definitely not.
Question: Who is Steve Tilford, why is he the guest speaker, and why should I give a shit?
He is a curmudgeon, Eddy Merckx was busy, Google him.
Question: I’m not a bike racer. Can I still come?
Question: I hate bicycles and drive everywhere but I like beer. Can I still come?
Yes. But you might want to Uber home.
Question: I heard there is also going to a South Bay Cycling Hall of Fame. WTF is that?
Ask Brauch. It was his idea.
Question: Who’s going to be inducted into the Hall?
Nelson Vails, Marilyn Sonye, Ted Ernst, and Tony Cruz.
Question: Who are those wankers?
Question: Is Martin making those incredible, bad-ass horseshit trophies again?
They are horseshoes, not horseshit. And yes, they’re bad-ass, and yes, he’s making them again.
Question: I heard there was going to be a really crazy, off-the-hook trophy for the Crashtacular Fred trophy. Is that true?
Let’s just say, “J. Marvin Campbell” and that should answer your question.
Question: Can I get one of those cool Wanky Awards t-shirts designed by Joe Yule?
Question: Can I get one for free because we’re pals?
Question: What is a fucking jar?
You’ll find out on October 17.
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August 27, 2015 § 44 Comments
When I decided to contribute some cash primes to our backyard CBR crit, I figured that the first week I’d donate to the P123 men’s race and the master’s 40+ category, and then the following weekend I’d donate to the P123 men’s race and the P123 women’s race. It made sense to donate equal amounts to the men’s and women’s races because I’m an old school feminist.
But everyone didn’t see it that way. A few people suggested to me, privately of course, that it was silly to give equal amounts to men and women. “Women won’t show up, you’ll see.”
A variation on this theme was, “Prizes should be awarded in proportion to participation. The men’s field will have 120 racers and the women’s field, if you’re lucky, forty. Prizes should reflect that.”
This is the way prizes are apportioned throughout cycling. ‘Cross Vegas puts up half the prize money for women that it does for men.
Aside from the participation “issue,” people — almost always men — will tell you that women’s racing is boring, that it’s slower, that it’s less tactical, less exciting, less EVERYTHING than men’s racing. This attitude is entrenched on the pro level and it is a given on the amateur level, where women are lucky to have a category in many races. And since it’s so “less” everything, the implication is that it deserves less money.
I’ve often wondered how people would react if you substituted the word “women” for the words “African-American” or “Hispanics.”
My take on women racing is different. Women deserve the same opportunity as men to compete regardless of the numbers who show up. This is such a basic principle that if you are a university and you don’t offer equal opportunity in athletic dollars to women pursuant to Title IX, which was passed in 1972, you will lose all of your federal funding and essentially be forced to close up shop. Universities long ago dispensed with the canard that women don’t want to compete in sports and focused on doing the one thing that matters most in increasing women’s participation: Funding.
Naturally, as the funding ballooned, so did participation at the college level of women athletes across virtually every sport. In other words, you can’t use participation to justify low funding because it’s the funding that holds back the participation. It would be like going to a country where women don’t receive an education and denying them funding for schools because they don’t go to the school. This is the kind of circular reasoning at which cycling excels, not limited to women’s racing.
Cycling hasn’t yet caught up with August 26, 1920, when U.S. women got the right to vote, so of course cycling still thinks that participation can be addressed without providing equal opportunity. They are wrong. One elite woman racer told me that when she sees a flyer offering half the men’s purse to the pro women, she crosses that event off her list. Her list must be covered in black marks.
Truly equal opportunity means that funding isn’t contingent on equal participation. If there is $1,000 in cash primes on offer and only four women show up, the small turnout doesn’t diminish the opportunity or mean that the people who raced got more than they deserved or justify excluding equal prizes from future races. To the contrary, it emphasizes that people who make the effort to race are treated the same regardless of gender.
As Title IX proved, over time equal opportunity in terms of funding means that participation will grow exponentially. It will be nice when cycling graduates to the early 20th Century, but even better when it reaches the modern era of 1972.
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August 26, 2015 § 20 Comments
About a month ago I stopped to help a fellow flailer change his flat. By “help” I mean “stand there and watch.” It was an amazing flat. As he was stuffing the new tube into the tire, I looked at the one that had flatted. It had been patched at least twenty-five times. “Waste not, want not,” I thought, looking also at the tire with the threads showing. “Wonder how long that’s gonna last?”
He aired up the tire and then pfffffffffft.
“Crap,” he said. “That was my only spare tube.”
“No prob,” I said, handing him my spanking new one. I hardly ever get flats because I always replace my tires when they start to wear. It’s expensive and I’m cheap, but the tiny little strip of rubber holding you in a precariously delicate balance on just this side of oblivion, that’s a place worth spending a few extra bucks. The main use to which my tubes get put, it seems, is on other people’s bikes, which is cool. Pay it forward, right?
I grabbed his second tube that had flatted as he was airing up the tire with my new one. This tube, too, had about twenty patches on it and looked like it had been used as slingshot rubber back in the 50’s. He finally got going, and that was that. When I saw him the next day he never said anything or offered me a replacement tube, which I shrugged off because even though I’m a petty bastard, I’m not that petty. But it’s not like he was one of those people you never see. He’s around all the time.
It started to get under my skin after a few weeks every time I saw him I’d yell out, “Where’s my tube?” He’d pretend not to hear and would always dash off, which guarantees that I will never, ever, ever stop asking about that tube. In fact, if he tried to give me one I’d refuse it so I could keep up the heckling.
About two months ago I was going down a hill on a coffee ride and a gal who gets everyone’s share of flats double flatted. She is a flat magnet; two giant thorns, one in each tire. Her tires are always new, and so are her tubes, but she only had one spare. I gave her mine and we continued on. That was a Sunday, and I usually see her on the Thursday Flog Ride.
That Thursday she wasn’t there, but a few hours after the ride she sent me a message. “Did you get it?”
“The coffee and the tube!”
“What coffee? What tube!”
“No way!” she wrote. “I put a pound of good coffee beans and a new inner tube at the top of Via la Cuesta this morning with a note for you; left it there about 6:20 and rushed home because I couldn’t make the ride because I had to take my daughter to lifeguard camp.”
“There was nothing. Just a bunch of broke down old farts coughing up spit, blood, teeth, and shards of broken ego.”
“Some bastard stole it,” she wrote. “It had your name on it.”
“It’s the thought that counts,” I wrote back, smiling, not only because she’s such a good person but because she cared so much that the one small favor get repaid.
Today when I went out to get the mail there was a package for me, and inside the package, this. And there weren’t any patches on that inner tube, believe you me.
Then I thought about the guy I see every weekend who’s madly pedaling away from a six-dollar inner tube. One person pedaling away, another eagerly pedaling towards.
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