What shall we do with a drunken sailor?

August 30, 2016 § 13 Comments

I sometimes run across drunk cyclists. Some of them are sober for life, some are in between drunks, and some of them are going to die drunk.

The sober drunks I don’t have much to say to. They have found their way and it was usually by wandering through a lonely forest along an unmarked, overgrown path where each blade of grass was a razor in camouflage. They don’t need any advice or support or companionship from me.

The drunk drunks I have even less to say to. They have also found their way and they don’t want to hear any atheist psalms. Plus, I’m a lousy preacher because I cuss too much and say reassuring things like, “We’re both going to be dead for a zillion billion years no matter how much we do or don’t imbibe.”

And extra plus, the most useless piece of advice is the one no one asked for.

A few days ago, though, I butted my head into someone else’s problems, unwanted and unasked for. This Terrible Drunk didn’t care what I thought but listened politely, the way words flow around a person’s outer being and elicit only a kind, understanding look, with the corners of the mouth slightly upturned, the eyes saying “Don’t try to intrude on my hell.”

I spoke a river for half an hour and never said a single dog-damned thing.

My words must have been powerful, though, because no sooner had I finished delivering my fancy soliloquized philosophized rationalized Theory of Sobriety™, than Terrible Drunk went home and got terribly drunk. I thought about that and wondered if maybe I shouldn’t go to New York, invest my entire $500 savings, and tell the stock market to go down really, really low.

It was a good lesson for me. I may be sober, but you can’t teach sober. Some people are flat fucking out to find the bottom and there’s nothing you can do to stop them. Maybe the bottom is lying face-first in a pile of someone else’s puke on skid row in DTLA, or maybe the bottom is being dead, but the elevator’s going down lickety-split and it’s not stopping on my floor.

I suppose I should be happy that I was able to get off where I did, and I suppose I should accept the fact that everyone chooses, but it’s still sad to see, looking over my shoulder, walking quickly away, afraid of what I’ve seen.

END

180 degrees

August 28, 2016 § 38 Comments

It’s hard to admit you’re wrong.

It’s harder to apologize to the people you’ve wronged.

It’s hardest of all to affirmatively do something about it.

The last couple of weeks have seen a slew of attacks on cyclists. Mason Katz, a professional baseball player, used his Twitter account to attack people who ride bicycles and suggest that their mere existence made him contemplate harming them.

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Then there was the woman who I’ll just politely refer to as the Charlotte Nutjob. After assaulting a peaceful group of cyclists she was portrayed in the first news stories as a victim.

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At least one follow-up story confirmed that she’s actually an idiot. Maybe that makes some people feel better.

And then there was the San Diego Easy Reader story, peddling lies and absurd analyses from the Cato Institute trying to argue that bike planning is irrational and we should spend more time and money helping the poor beleaguered car industry.

 

All of this followed hot on the heels of stories in which Peter King, Sports Illustrated flunky, and his flunkette driver Jenny Vrentas, made a ha-ha-ho-ho joke about driving their cage in the bike lane on the way to a football game, which in turn was contemporaneous with a tweet by NFL Network analyst @HeathEvans 44, which highlighted the irrational rage that so many drivers feel at simply encountering an ordinary bicycle rider “clogging the street,” i.e. “riding lawfully.”

But then the story line changed.

One of my Big Orange club members, Delia Park, reached out to @HeathEvans44 and invited him to come apologize to our club before the Sunday ride. “Sure,” I thought. “Like he’s going to show up at 6:30 AM on  Sunday to get berated by a bunch of old farts in orange underwear.”

“Sure,” @HeathEvans44 responded. “I’d love to.”

“Believe it when I see it,” was my cynical thought.

Yesterday morning at the Center of the Known Universe a/k/a CotKU a/k/a the Manhattan Beach Pier Starbucks, @HeathEvans44 showed up as promised. Delia, Joann Zwagermann, Greg Leibert, Steve Utter, my youngest son Woodrow, and I were all there.

I had prepped my son about what to expect, prejudiced as I am. “The guy’s going to be some insincere asshat who’s been hassled on social media and probably by his employer to make this right. He’ll be condescending as shit.”

What we found was something so far away from that. @HeathEvans44 was, first and foremost, appalled that he’d tweeted something that condoned violence. He was more than apologetic. His voice, his manner, and his words evinced nothing but regret of the sincerest kind. You got the feeling that here was a guy who was gentle, kind, and who wanted to right a wrong. You know the old saying, “People make mistakes”? Well, they do. What they often don’t do, is apologize for them.

In addition to profoundly apologizing, Heath admitted to not having known the law. He asked forgiveness. He praised cycling as a sport, and he had obvious, unfeigned respect for the riders who were getting ready to roll forth for the day. He was an athlete who respected fitness and athleticism.

As if all that weren’t enough, he agreed that something further needed to be done to help educate the motoring public and to help counteract the gut reaction that many people have when they see a rider “in their way.” In our short pre-ride meeting there was no time to nail down specifics, but he shared his private cell phone and promised to work together with us to help get the word out.

Finally, he stood out at CotKU while iPhones snapped and popped. I’d had no idea that so many cyclists loved football. One rider asked him where he went to college. “Auburn,” he said.

“My daughter goes there,” said the rider, rolling up his sleeve to show an elaborate War Eagles tattoo. Football talk quickly ensured. Far from rushing away as soon as he could, he hung around to chat until the cyclists themselves clicked in and rolled out.

@HeathEvans44’s Twitter tag line is “Don’t dish if you can’t take it.” Pretty admirable to see someone turn a negative into a positive, and be adult enough to reverse course when the initial tack was just plain wrong. It’s a lesson we should all take to heart.

[EDIT: The original post neglected to mention that this would not have happened without the work of Joann Zwagermann, who helped spotlight the problem and who relentlessly engaged. It also omitted to recognize the work that Matt Miller, also of Big Orange, did to make sure that our efforts were positive, peaceful, and dedicated to rapprochement rather than acrimony and recrimination. Thank you to all.]

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Lighten up, dummy

August 28, 2016 § 44 Comments

Dear Wife of Cyclist:

Your husband is a dummy. Not a bleeding idiot or a complete maroon, but a dummy. That’s actually a good thing because dummy is repairable. Dummy can be taught. To be sure, he can’t be taught much, but a few simple tricks are within his feeble mental range.

And this trick will keep him alive.

Wife, I’m writing you because he has read this lecture a bunch of times but it hasn’t sunk in because after scanning the first couple of paragraphs and seeing that he’s not mentioned, he goes back to http://www.allcarbonstuff.carbon.com. This inability to focus is related to that thick layer of concrete surrounding the somewhat smooth cerebral cortex which in turn covers his pea-sized brain.

Wife, here’s what happened yesterday, and it’s the same thing that happens every day. I showed up for a bike ride and I was the only one with headlights and taillights. That probably doesn’t mean a lot to you because it was, you know, daytime, and we know that no one ever gets hit during the day.

But consider this: Among the countless cyclists I’ve represented for being hit by cars, only two were ever hit while Christmas treed. That’s right. Except for two people, all the others were hit while riding without lights.

That’s an ersatz stat, I know. Personal experience. Anecdotal. But it is common knowledge that most bikers get hit because the cager doesn’t see them. And you know what? It’s a lot easier to be seen when you’re riding a Christmas tree. Please don’t send me links to lit-up riders who’ve been hit and killed. This is a question of probability. Just like you’re more likely to smash into something when drunk, you’re more likely to get creamed when the cager doesn’t see you until the last second, i.e. the moment your head is coming through the windshield.

If your hubby drank a fifth of bourbon and then asked for his car keys, would you let him drive? If he loaded his 2nd Amendment Accident Device and suggested that the family sit down for a fun game of Russian roulette, would you agree?

But that’s what happens on practically every ride I’m on. Your husband shows up without lights. What’s worse, he gives me shit for having them.

What’s worsty-worst, when pressed he admits he actually owns lights!

“I use them when I ride to work,” he proudly but stupidly says.

“I use them when it’s dark,” he explains, even though he only rides during the day and even though he ignores the fact that dusk and dawn are notoriously dangerous times to be cycling.

Why is your husband such a dummy? It’s simple. He doesn’t ride with lights at all times for these reasons:

  1. He is cheap. He’d rather buy $2,000 wheels for the races he’s never going to do than spend $500 on something that will keep him unmaimed, alive, and able to waste the day watching football.
  2. He is lazy. Lights require charging. He can barely keep gas in the car. How’s a dummy like that supposed to keep a front AND back light powered for bike rides? He’s almost always late to the ride anyway, scurrying around like a crazy person trying to find the other matching armwarmer and skidmark-free chamois.
  3. He is a sheep. The people he admires and fears don’t ride Christmas trees. Why should he?
  4. He is an aero nut. Lights aren’t aero.
  5. He is a weight weenie. Lights add precious grams and he’s already pouring out his water bottles at the base of all the climbs.
  6. He is vain and lights look goofy. (Remind him that feeding tubes and wheelchairs are even less fashionable.)
  7. He is a dummy. Dummies would always rather pay a lot more later than a little bit now.

Wife, can you help me in this endeavor? Before Dummy leaves the house can you please say, “Hey, Dummy, where are your lights?”

When he retorts with “It’s daytime,” tell him to either lighten up or he’s not going.

Better yet, the night before can you please say, “Hey, Dummy, are your lights charged?”

Best, can you please put your foot down and refuse to let him out the door unlit? He may be smelly, talk too much about bikes, be inconsiderate, drink a bit too much, be occasionally impecunious, etc., but he’s your dummy and he deserves to live. More importantly, you deserve to not have to spend the next year rehabbing him out of a fucking wheelchair and teaching him how to walk again and not having to carry his turds out of the bedroom on a tray.

In the event that he really doesn’t own any lights, make the next birthday the equivalent of receiving socks and a tie. Buy for him:

  1. The Diablo headlight, made by Exposure.
  2. The Serfas Orion taillight, made by Serfas.

Lights work, honey. So help a brother out, willya?

END

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Old marines never die, they just dig in

August 27, 2016 § 4 Comments

I haven’t done Eldo in several years because it’s too far away in Los Angeles County miles. A Los Angeles County mile is unrelated to the standard English measurement of 5,280 feet. An LAC mile is measured not in distance but by the hour of the day.

For example, a Texas Panhandle Mile measured between Pampa and Canadian (this unit is kind of like West Texas Intermediate Crude, the world yardstick for oil), which is also 5,280 feet (the mile, not the oil), takes roughly one minute if you are traveling 60 miles per hour. There is some math here but I can’t explain it. Ask your father.

However, the same “mile” in Los Angeles County, although theoretically the same distance as a Texas Panhandle mile, changes drastically based on the hour of the day. An LA County mile between Palos Verdes and Long Beach on Tuesday around 5:00 PM has a time value of about 10 minutes rather than one.

I can’t explain that math either but I can explain this: I haven’t done Eldo in Long Beach in years because even though it’s only 20 minutes away measured in standard Texas Panhandle miles, it take about 300 years in LA County miles. Plus, here in the South Bay every Tuesday at exactly the same time we have the Telo crit which, I’m real sorry to inform you, is a lot fucking harder than Eldo. You can laugh all you want, but that just means you’ve never done both.

Eldo has gone through some changes in ownership, but what has continued without interruption is a first-rate bike race that stretches back decades. The difference in the new management and the old management is that unlike old management, there’s no screaming and cursing and hollering and berating, and more importantly it’s a USAC-sanctioned race where you can get upgrade points and huge bragging rights, and most importantly it attracts some of the best crit racers in SoCal like Charon Smith and Dave Koesel, and most-most importantly it has categories for Cat 4’s who can have their own forum for massive braggage and victory salutage and Facebag postage. Cf. Ivan Fernandez.

But most-most-most importantly, the Eldo Under New Management has, for the last three years, provided a forum for the development of junior bike racers, for which we have two people to thank.

One of them is Gil Dodson, a very old marine who is old enough to be your grandfather’s grandfather. He’s so old that when he takes off his helmet you wonder if he remembers the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But then he puts his helmet back on and drops about half the riders who are one-fifth of his age and you STFU. Gil’s foxhole buddy has been Steve Hegg, gold and silver medalist at the 1984 Olympics and current holder of the Genuinely Nicest Guy in Long Beach Award.

Gil has poured money into Eldo by paying for every single junior rider’s entry fee for three years and ending each season with a free bike frame giveaway to the junior at the top of the standings. It’s been a huge investment and it has paid huge dividends. Eldo provides the only regular venue for young riders to compete, earn upgrade points, and sharpen their skills before being tossed into the shark pit. Thanks to Gil, or rather no thanks to Gil, we now have a crop of young riders who show up at other group rides and smash their elders with glee.

The other person who has made Eldo a success is David Wehrly. Like Gil, he has provided significant financial support, without which the race simply couldn’t continue. Unlike Gil, Dave is so far in the background that you might think he’s with the Israel cyber ops NSO Group. But like all of the good works that David does, although he himself may be deep cover, the results and the beneficiaries are out in the open for all to see.

I’d better stop here. This is starting to sound way too happy.

END

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Giant of a man

August 26, 2016 § 24 Comments

Marshall Perkins has been around a long time. “How long, Wanky?”

Well, one time we were sitting around and I asked if anyone remembered when coffee became part of cycling. In Texas there sure as hell weren’t any coffee shops in 1982 where you could swing by and get a quick cup before or after the ride. The closest thing I remember was Sweetish Hill Bakery in Austin, but nobody sat around drinking coffee pre- or post-ride.

Marsh remembered, and he even remembered the first couple of shops that served espresso, some joint in Santa Monica back around the time they invented tectonic plates. I got a great education about coffee-shops-back-in-the-day and we all agreed that they were a massive anomaly, but then again, so were bikers.

Marshall is a giant of a man and not just physically. He’s always stood up for the downtrodden, always been ready to lend a hand, always taken the side of the underdog. In our cycling community, he and his wife are pillars of support for those who wind up in need, especially when winding up in need is the result of a biker winding up on someone’s bumper.

I always wonder about what makes people good. Then a few days ago I saw a magazine article from 1982 about a guy named Captain Jim Perkins, California Highway Patrol commander of the Ontario office.

Here’s the link to the story, which is even more relevant today than it was in 1982. The entire article by Captain Perkins is typed out at the end of the document for easier reading. Captain Perkins is, of course, Marshall’s dad. The apple stayed pretty close to the tree.

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No short cuts to mediocrity

August 25, 2016 § 16 Comments

A buddy sent me the recent sad news about Robert Baatz (rhymes with “snots”) and Kimberly Ciolli, the two unfortunate Texas bicycle racers who were caught cheating. It appears that they used anabolic steroids around the time they were racing their bikes and, what’s worse, around the time that the USADA dope testers were wandering around with empty pee cups looking for someone to fill them up.

It’s really awful that a couple of sagbottom masters hackers are taking dangerous pills for little to no performance gain because they aren’t simply cheating their competition, they’re cheating themselves.

Mediocrity isn’t as simple as getting a nice race bike, joining a fancy club, and doping. Any poseur can do that. Flash-in-the-pan half-assedness is as common as your nearest Corvette dealer.

True mediocrity takes a lifetime to achieve and there are no short cuts. Sure, you can dope up and get 15th and people will recognize you as pack fodder. But is that real mediocrity? I say “No.”

Real mediocrity isn’t just shrunken testicles and male-pattern baldness, mediocrity is a lifestyle and it takes decades to perfect. In bike racing, it means getting shouted at, year in and year out, for sucking wheel in the break the entire race only to get last in the break.

Mediocrity means not simply borrowing money from everyone and never repaying it, but never putting in more than $5 for gas when your friend is driving his Sprinter van across the state. You may feel a twinge of ordinariness when that package of syringes arrives from Thorfinn-Sassquatch or from Joe Pappsmear, but the long game, the long buzz, the steady burn of not-really-worth-a-shit only comes from spending years, years I say, of forcing yourself to eat powdered drink mixes that contain kale and beets and still only manage to eke out 37th place.

Drugs are never a short cut to worthlessness. They get you the fame of being a cheating douchebag, or a douching cheatbag, but never with the consistency of having the most expensive stuff money can buy only to get dropped on the easy part of the group ride every single time. To be truly mediocre it takes years to develop the inherent suckiness that is you. It can’t be bought or imported or injected through a needle.

So do yourself a favor the next time you’re wrestling with the “Dope? Not dope?” quandary.

Think about what people will say when you get busted. Instead of saying, “That guy sucks. He is the worst bike racer ever. Why doesn’t he quit?” they will say, “That guy sucks. He is the worst bike racer ever. Why doesn’t he quit?”

The choice is yours. Do you want to earn mediocrity through the slow plodding of a lifetime riddled with failure and decay? Or do you want to achieve instant lameness through a couple of injections and your own clothing line? Will you be able to look at yourself in the mirror when, after getting busted, you get selected for the U.S. Olympic track squad? Will you?

Be inspired by the words of our most famous First Lady, who singlehandedly won the war on drugs with the slogan “Just Say No.”

Go on, say it. We’re listening.

END

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Chinese drivers

August 24, 2016 § 19 Comments

I’ve heard this phrase a lot, usually prefaced with the colloquial equivalent of “fornicating.” Never heard “black drivers” or “Mexican drivers” and certainly never heard “white drivers.” Used to hear “women drivers” a lot back in Texas.

I can’t testify as to whether Chinese drivers are worse than the general driving public. Traffic collision reports, from which collision statistics are generated, have a place for race but not for nationality. Also, my wife, who is a terrible driver but is Japanese, might get lumped in with Chinese drivers by angry cagers who witness one of her famous swoop-and-brake maneuvers.

What I can testify to is that I’m a really bad driver. I know this by process of elimination. I know about three good drivers — Manslaughter, Evens, and Derek — and I have nothing in common with any of them. Good drivers are like good bike handlers. They are fully aware at all times of the vehicle, its capacities, its limits, the road conditions, and the positions/behaviors of everyone around them.

That isn’t me. All I know is that shit is happening way too fast on the freeway and someone’s going to get hurt. And that’s at 65. Seventy mph is crazy, speed demon stuff.

So I slow down. Going slow, I’ve been told, is just as bad as going too fast. But since the people who say that are always in the passenger seat, I ignore them. If you want to go faster than 65, get out and walk.

On city streets I’m not a defensive driver, I’m a defensive fortification. Tons of room between me and the idiot in front. Turn signals. Hamster-like apprehension that there’s a hungry cat around every corner. Enough insurance to cover a major earthquake. And so although it’s possible that Chinese drivers are extra awful, I wouldn’t know since I’m always focused on staying alive, which means dealing with idiots of every race, color, creed, and bumper sticker. Careless, distracted, inattentive driving doesn’t seem to discriminate based on nation of origin. Everyone is distracted and angry and wants to kill me, and there’s only one of those three problems I can affect.

So you can imagine my surprise when I finally got to Chapter 25 in Book 2 of the New Practical Chinese Reader, 2nd Edition, and saw that the title was “The driver drove us to the hospital.”

Turns out that in addition to learning about the high speed trains in China and the Chinese New Year and how to ask for toilet paper when the roll runs out, the editors thought we’d also benefit from learning about traffic collisions.

Lina, an exchange student, was coming home from a movie with her pal, Xiao Yun, and they were coming home on bicycles. As soon as I saw “bicycles,” I knew how this story was going to end.

Lina and Xiao Yun were chatting and not paying attention and having a good old time when, making a right turn, Lina slammed into a parked delivery car. Fortunately, the kind driver took her to the hospital, paid for her medicine, and made sure she was okay before leaving his business card and returning to work.

Of course Lina’s admission of liability raised all kinds of questions. Was the driver legally parked? Did he have his flashers on? If she hit him immediately after turning, isn’t that prima facie proof that he was parked too close to the intersection? Was he in an unloading zone? Was there a local ordinance requiring him to put cones out? How long had he been parked there? Was he insured? Did he have a commercial license? Was he in the course and scope of his employment? Had his coverage lapsed? Did Lina have adequate UM/UIM coverage? Were there MedPay provisions in either policy?

The textbook didn’t say. Lina just made a big deal about how lucky she was that she’d hit the car rather than the other way around, a typical cyclist ploy. The injured rider is all stove up with a rod in his spine, a dick broken in three places, and a titanium plate in his skull, and all he can feebly say through his breathing tube, aside from “How’s my bike?” and “When can I get on the trainer?” is “It could have been worse.”

Well sure it could have been worse, that’s because you’re a cyclist and you’re terminally aware of the ultimate worst-of-all outcomes when you pedal a bike. But that doesn’t mean the jerk who was parked in front of a hydrant to unload a carton of condoms had the right to be there, or that your injuries are somehow better because they could have been worse.

Then Song Hua, the helpful chaperone who’s been squiring Lina through the textbook (I think he’s a government spy and they’re having a torrid affair), comes to see her at the hospital and praises the valiant driver for taking her to the hospital, as if there’s something special about having a shred of, you know, humanity.

One thing’s for sure, though, and this was the original point I wanted to make: When you’re riding a bike on the streets of Beijing, you’d sure as hell better watch out for the Chinese drivers.

END

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