November 28, 2015 § 22 Comments
Claudio Chiapucci, the retired doper and Francesco Conconi protege, recently raged against the pro peloton, claiming that only Peter Sagan has character, and that the rest of the riders are “dull machines.” One of the peloton’s dull machines, Phil Gaimon, showed his dullness by penning a riposte that displayed humor, humility, and a sharp fucking pen–but I guess having a brain doesn’t cut it for Claudio, who claims that the lack of exciting, dynamic, aggressive, attacking riders (i.e., Claudio) is a big reason why the public is no longer enamored with the sport.
This raises an important point, however: The public isn’t enamored with Pro Tour cycling because it is beyond boring to watch. It’s the only event where hours pass and nothing ever happens, at least nothing that anyone would care about who wasn’t in the race. The phrase “He’s taking a dig now” says it all. A dig. He’s taking one. Kind of like what that woman behind me in her SUV was taking out of her nostril when I checked my rear-view mirror.
And then of course there is the “thrilling” sprint finish. Well, it is thrilling … but only if you’re in it. How many times has this happened with your S/O as she’s staring bleary-eyed at the television at 6:30 AM?
“Okay, here comes the sprint!”
“There! All those guys bunched up! See? There’s the red kite! Patrick Brady’s nowhere near! Now they’re stringing it out! The lead-out trains are forming!!”
“The lead-out trains! There’s Team Pooky hitting the front!”
“Team Pooky in the orange-black-red-green-purple-hexagon kits with the brown stripe down the back and the lightning bolts! Their guy McDingleberry has the green jersey and he’s fighting for sprint points with Van der Anus, who is seven points down in the sprint classification!”
“Which one is that? They’re all clumped up. It looks like a big mess.”
“That’s because they’re sprinting! Oh my dog, look! Look! Here comes McDingleberry up the left-hand side!”
“Which one is he? Everyone’s on the left side. And why is everyone falling down?”
“Oh shit! Van der Anus has crashed and taken out half the peloton!”
“What is going on?”
“Seamus Uff wins it! Holy cow! Not Uff! Here, honey, let me replay that for you. Wow, that was the most exciting sprint ever. Oh, man.”
“Is it over?”
“Yes. I mean, no. There are still eighteen more stages.”
“Wake me up in August, okay?” S/O says as she staggers back to bed.
Maybe Claudio is right. Maybe what cycling really does need is more guys like him, guys with multiple doping positives, guys with no tactical brains, and guys who only made the big time under the tutelage of the godfather of EPO doping. Maybe dullards like Mark Cavendish, Fabian Cancellara, and Tom Boonen have killed the sport with their thrilling and tactical racing. Maybe we just need to get Tommy D. one more season back in the pro ranks.
But I don’t think so.
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November 27, 2015 § 39 Comments
So, there’s this weird thing every month where PayPal notifies me of each $2.99 subscription. When I browse through I see people I know and people I don’t. The whole thing is so impersonal, people sending me money and me just going on about my business without acknowledging it.
Here’s why I feel guilty every time I see one of those notices and just go on about my day: Every single subscription is a personal affirmation that what I’m doing matters somewhere, to someone. You may not think $2.99 is a lot, but it is to me because it represents your voice that you’d rather pay than read for free. I struggle with this—how do I let people know how grateful I am?
So I take a stab at it from time to time, randomly emailing people what I hope aren’t form “Thanks you’s” even though they pretty much are, trying to let them know that I appreciate their support. It’s support of the financial, emotional, and spiritual kind, and even the Catholic-Jewish guilt kind because when I get bogged down in “What am I going to write today?” I get sustenance from the guilt of knowing that people expect me to produce something since they’re paying me to do it.
Yesterday I sent out a form thank-you to a buddy whose identity I’ve sworn not to reveal but who used to ride with a white baby harp seal under his seat. “Hey, Baby Seal,” I wrote, “thanks again for your support. I really appreciate it.” Then I hit “send” and went on about my business of carefully picking around the scabby edges of my road rash.
A couple of hours later I got an answer. It’s not the best email I’ve ever gotten–it’s the best email ever written in the history of the Internet. And I’m sharing it with you now.
You kidding me? You have any idea how much nonsense I’ve learned thanks to that blog?!?
I mean, despite every rational judgment telling me otherwise I’ve gone through periods of eating nothing but kimchi, only breathing through my nose, being made fun of at the gym, weighing my food to the gram, loving power meters, hating power meters, spending thousands on carbon, selling hundreds in carbon, re-buying thousands in carbon (this time ensuring it was the correct 100% carbon-carbon kind of carbon), riding only at the front, riding only off the front, realizing there is no off season, refusing to take any recovery days, learning to hide in a group, pulling through without ever pulling through, learning the importance of recovery days, caffeine only diets, 3 meals a day – no snacks! And of course, finding glory in the time I dropped Stathis…while he was on a beach cruiser in a pooofy jacket and jeans.
I’ve also learned to be a better partner, a better friend, a better father than I was planing on being and the best grandfather with a strained ball sack.
And the very best part has been watching you find your sobriety.
One day I’ll sue you for all those 2.99’s but for now, thank you.
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November 26, 2015 § 38 Comments
I’m not much of a milestone or anniversary type guy, partly because I’m lazy. The other reason is that my old debate partner in high school, Jimmy Huang, wrote a really good essay on his successful application to Harvard. The essay asked him to talk about one (or more) of his successes, and he essentially wrote something like, “I’m only 18 and nothing in my short and insignificant life could possibly be called a success.”
It was longer than that but you get the point.
Facebag reminded me that one year ago I changed my profile pic to “No beer today!” which was what I wrote on my arm with a Sharpie the day I quit drinking. Then my pal Dan K. sent me a thoughtful email linking to a post I’d written about climbing on the wagon.
I read the post and was impressed with the author. He had a solid writing style, made some good points, was serious but offhand at the same time, was willing to tackle a tough subject without wallowing in too much self-pity or self-adulation, and he even made me smile a little bit. Mostly I was impressed with how well he knew me and his familiarity with the minutiae of my life.
This is how it is, you see. After I write stuff I forget it, delete it from my brain, wipe the slate clean because that’s the only way I can make space for anything new. People will occasionally come up to me and say, “Hey, that was really funny what you wrote about [x],” and I will nod and smile and say, “Thanks!” but in truth I don’t remember any of it. If enough time passes, say a year, and I re-read something I’ve written then it is truly as if I’ve read it for the first time and as if it was written by someone else. And thanks to my Blogbot and team of ghostwriters, it often is.
So it was fun to read about this guy and his decision to quit drinking, and to reflect that the guy was me and that I never really have quit drinking. In my mind every single day I’m on the verge of grabbing a cold one, but my motto is, “Let’s get good and drunk but not right now.” Works for me.
Here are some of my drinking stats:
- Average annual alcohol cost: $3,444.33
- Average annual work hours lost to drinking: 1,095
- Number of family fights per week: 2
- Number of days per year spent mildly depressed: 365.25
- Average body weight: 167 lbs.
- Estimated times per year I almost hurt myself while CUI: 30-ish.
- Number of children I indirectly encouraged to abuse alcohol: 3
- Number of wives I mistreated: 1
- Number of bike races I won: 0
- Days I woke up feeling rotten: Most
Here are some of my non-drinking stats:
- Number of days per week I do the dishes: 6
- Number of days per week I cook for the family: 2-ish
- Amount of money I’ve saved for fun trips: $3,444.33
- Number of bad bike falling off incidents: 1
- Number of bike race victories: 2
- Average pounds lost and kept off: 17
- Number of wives mistreated: 0
- Number of friends I’ve lost who don’t like me because I don’t drink anymore: 0
- Number of friends I’ve made because I don’t drink anymore: Lots
- Increased work efficiency: 300%
- Number of days I can totally forget my problems: 0
- Number of people who have quit or cut back drinking because of me: 2
- Extra hours per year that I have to read and learn: 2,000+
- New languages I’ve learned: 1
- Old languages I’ve really brushed up on: 5
- Grandbabies I don’t have to worry about dropping: 1
- Number of times per day I can blame my problems on alcohol: 0
- Mornings per year I can remember the night before: 365
- Days I wish I could drink normally like other people: All
- Hours per day I’ve appreciated the support and love of family and friends: 24
So in the spirit of my old debate partner I can’t really call it a success, especially since each day starts with a grand and glorious design to go enjoy a beer. But it is a process that has generally meandered in the right direction, with its lows and unhappy moments as well as its stubborn refusal to regress to the mean.
And if that’s as close as I can get to success, well, I’ll take it.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
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November 25, 2015 § 20 Comments
So I have this totally lame injury to my groin. It’s super minor and only hurts when I move, and it has none of the cachet of a broken hip, bleeding brain, or a Full Prez.
Unfortunately, even though YOUR injury is a lot worse and hurts a lot more, and even though YOU were in the ICU for a month and even though the doctor said you’d likely never walk again (the following year you won nats), none of that reduces even one tiny little bit the agonizing pain that shoots up the right side of my nutsack every time I breathe.
Lots of friends have given me super advice about how to fix my pulled or strained or torn groin. One friend said that what I needed was to let her get at it with her pro thumbs, to dig down deep and relax the muscle with some deep tissue massage. I imagined myself splayed out on the couch with a cutie cupping her hands around my nuts and wondered if we were talking about the same thing.
Another friend said that the only real way to reduce the swelling was by icing the groin. We have a big blue ice thingy in the freezer so I figured it was worth a try, so I took it and jammed it down into my shorts. In about four seconds my balls froze and in about a minute they went numb and in about five minutes all swelling was reduced to the size of a couple of hairy gray raisins. I don’t know if that helped the groin muscles, but after the water in the blue plastic thingy melted I hobbled over to the fridge and popped it back into the freezer.
A couple of hours later Mrs. WM came home. “How you onna balls?” she asked.
“My balls are fine, it’s my groin, and it hurts.”
“Doctor tol’ you onna medicine and reduce bigness.”
“I think I got the swelling down some.”
“How you onna do that?”
“I iced it up real good.”
Mrs. WM looked at me funny. “What you icin’ it with?”
“That blue thingy in the freezer.”
The muscles around her eyes got all tight like they do before she filets a fish. “Thatsa my food cooler pack. Where you puttin’ that on?”
“Hell, honey, I had to put in on my nuts. My groin muscles are next to my nuts.”
She started yelling. “You better had put it onna towel!”
“Hell no I didn’t put a towel around it. That would make it less cold.”
“An’ where you puttin’ it now?”
“It’s back in the freezer, so I can freeze it and use it again.”
“You puttin’ my food cooler pack onna your shrinklies and stickin’ it back in a freezerator? What about my food?”
I hadn’t thought of that. “Well there’s nothing in the freezer but ice. And plus it’s cold enough to kill the germs. Not that I have any.”
“You puttin’ shrinkly germs inna freezerator! An what WE DRINKIN’ every dinnertime? Tell me onna that?”
“Uh … ice water … ”
The next thing I heard was a bunch of stuff getting yanked out of the freezer and thrown in the trash.
I think we’re all going to have milk with dinner.
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November 23, 2015 § 49 Comments
There are a lot of things that happen when you fall off your bicycle because you are stupid, or because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because you forgot to wear your lucky banana.
- Every cyclist will sympathetically inquire about your alleged injury and conclude with “It could have been worse.”
- “How are you?” is always followed by “How’s the bike?” even if you’re bleeding out of the ears and still in the middle of the road.
- Ambulance drivers are pros at hitting all the potholes.
- It is humiliating to be stuck in the ER corridor for an hour while they find room for people who are actually in need of serious care.
- All your biking toughness evaporates the moment you realize that the blood you see is yours.
- There’s something satisfying about a pretty doctor checking out your scrotum, even though she’s wearing two sets of gloves and staring at your junk like it’s the most unexceptional thing she’s ever seen.
- Having the deeply embedded bits of asphalt scrubbed out of your road rash falls into the “New Category of Pain” category.
- There is a lot going on in your groin, but until you injure it you have no idea.
- The best pharmaceutical painkiller in the world pales next to a big aluminum tin filled with take-out lasagna.
- People who bring you cookies and cheesecake either love you or hate you.
- No matter how agonizingly the person in the room next to you is screaming, it doesn’t diminish your own pain one little bit.
- Doctors hate you for refusing painkillers. It means you’re not really hurt and it means you’re lying when you say “I’m not in much pain.”
- The seriousness of all injuries is defined by the ease with which you can sleep, eat, shit, and piss.
- Seeing a friendly face in the hospital make you 100x stronger.
- The only thing Valium does is it makes you not angry at having missed the Donut Ride.
- The only thing ibuprofen does is nothing.
- The only thing Norco does is make all your friends envious and gets you lots of requests for “the leftovers.”
- The worst way to get sympathy is to describe your injury.
- The second worst way is to describe your pain.
- The third worst way is to post hospital bed photos on Facebag.
- The best way is to say “I’m fine” and then when people ask you about riding, getting together, etc., to tell them you can’t do anything until they remove the feeding tube.
- Always keep a spare wheelset, and always keep a dozen spare sheets of Tegaderm.
- Your real cycling friends don’t care how you got hurt, they already know you’re stupid.
- Bodies heal, but broken bicycles are much harder to pay for.
- It really could have been worse.
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November 22, 2015 § 70 Comments
From the tires:
We had been in the box for like a year. Are we ever getting out of this stupid closet? Then the light comes on and woooosh–uncoiled! So rad! And he stretches us out and pops us on the rim, oh baby that felt sooooo gooood! So we were like, “Hey rims!” and they were like, “Oh, you’re the new guys, huh? Hope you last longer than the last ones.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” we asked because we were nervous. “You’ll see, just don’t fuck it up.” We were stoked to be on these rims they were 100% carbon and made of full carbon, FastForward F4R’s, bitchin’! He aired us up and stuck in new tubes, so rad!
Then a couple of hours later we’re on the road! Contact patch! Felt soooo gooood! Then the full carbon frame was like, “Easy on the hairpin, you idiots go flat you’ll get aired up again, but I snap,” and we were like “We got this!” Sooo awesome! Whoooosh! We are the rubber that meets the road then we hit the hairpin and oh shit holy shit no way not our first day aw fuck and now we’re in the air which by the way is NOT where tires do their best work and he’s on the ground spewing blood and the rims are screaming and the frame is hollering and the derailleur is ground off and next thing you know we’re stuffed into the back of a car and he’s hauled off in an ambulance and we’re unloaded into the living room and everyone is PISSED. The rims are like, “You had one job, assholes,” and the frame won’t even talk to us. Then the rims are like, “Hope you like the dumpster and the junkheap, assholes, because he’s never going to ride 23’s again. At least the German guys never slid out.”
Now nobody will even talk to us. Will he really ditch us after one ride? We’re really scared. What if we wind up on that guy Cobley’s rims?
From the rims:
I knew it was gonna be bad. First off he puts a 23mm French dude on the back. He never uses 23’s. Then he puts a fuggin’ 25mm on the front. Who does that? I’ll tell you who, someone scrounging around in the closet for leftover tires who isn’t paying attention, that’s who. Match the tires for dogsake. And if you’re not gonna match ’em, put the skinny one up front and the fat one behind. Any idiot knows that, even him. We tried to tell him but he’s so busy not prying his thumbnails off with the tire lever he doesn’t listen.
Then we talk to the new guys, who are French. I got no problem with French people but they were so fuggin’ cocky and my French isn’t that good. I told ’em that there was $10k of real equipment riding on a hundred bucks of rubber, so be careful, especially your first day out. I told ’em not to try anything trick until the silicone coating from the factory has had a chance to wear off but they wouldn’t listen. No one ever listens to the rims, even though we see everything.
Plus I told them he’s very aggressive on the first hairpin so be ready. Just be fuggin’ ready. But nope. They sailed into it full bore. We all knew what was coming it was just a matter of how bad was it gonna hurt and would we all wind up at Predator Carbon Repair. But we really felt sorry for the rear derailleur because it was a right hander. Him and the right bar end and the right shifter were gonna get shredded. And they did. And who gets off scot-free? The tires, of course. The stupid cocky French tires.
From the groin:
I don’t pay any attention to the whole bike thing. I’m a muscle/ligament devoted to standing and ambulation and the whole bike thing is frankly stupid. Now if I were a collarbone I’d be a nervous wreck. I don’t know how those guys stand the stress. Every single day they are on the front line, and all it takes is a stick or a crack in the road or Joe Yule and bam you are in surgery with pins and bolts and knives and a catheter.
Or a hip. They have it worse. No flesh covering, they’re the first ones to hit the ground and when they break it’s nasty, not to mention elbows. Have you ever seen his elbows or his skin? Yeccccch. But me? Dude, I’ve got it pretty good. If you’re a groin and you get hurt on a bicycle you are doing it wrong.
So we’re sailing down VdM like we always do and the collarbones are whining “Back it off” like they always do and the hips are saying, “Brake a bit, dummy,” like they always do, and everyone’s all nervous while he acts like he’s the Master of the Universe zooming into that hairpin so leaned he could practically drag a knee but we’ve got these new French dudes down below and they don’t give a single fuck until they start sliding then we’re all airborne, but I frankly am not worried. Sucks to be them, maybe now he’ll think about golf. Then “Wham!” we hit and whoa! Right leg is latched in the pedal and left leg drags behind the bike and oh my dog I start to stretch and I’m like, “Hey, what the hell is THIS?” then I keep stretching and then tearing as he does the splits and suddenly I’m unconscious.
The next thing I remember this cute doctor is looking at his nuts and poking me. Are they going to splint the banana? What the hell do they even do for me? A groin sling? It hurts like hell. They stick a needle in his ass “This will relieve the pain” they say and it still hurts like hell. I’m like “Why is the ass getting the shot? It doesn’t even hurt.”
Everyone’s all happy, of course, “Glad nothing’s broken!” and shit like that and all I can think is, “Wait until you try to stand up and walk, you bastard. I may hang out around the sweaty nuts and the bruised banana and I may not pedal a bike but when it comes to walking, you’re gonna find out who’s boss.”
And he does, the big baby. He starts moaning and whining like a little girl and they have to put him in a fuggin’ wheelchair and then back home he hobbles around on crutches, every step I jab him so hard he breaks out in a sweat and pants. You ought to see him hobbling around like he’s got a four foot stick up his butt. So lame. I don’t even glance over at the stupid bike and tires, sitting in the corner all dejected. Serves them right.
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November 21, 2015 § 58 Comments
People like to make fun of lawyers, and there are some pretty good lawyer jokes out there, but the humor drops off pretty quickly when people have a serious problem and they want it solved without resorting to fisticuffs or bullets.
“I don’t believe in lawsuits,” is an introduction that every plaintiff lawyer has heard more times than he can count, immediately before, of course the client hires him to sue someone.
My daughter Cassady passed the California bar yesterday on her first try, which is more than I can say; it took me two whacks to get my bar card. There is no public record of how many times it took you to pass, so naturally every lawyer I’ve ever met says they “passed it on the first try” even though the statistics show that about 46% of the people who pass in any given year are repeaters. Lawyer joke: Bar results help attorneys get started lying early.
As a bike injury lawyer I’m immune to such humor unless it’s good, in which case I laugh at it. But as a “lawyer” lawyer, i.e. someone who sees his job as something more than a meatgrinder for insurance transactions, I can tell you that we’re entering a period of history when we need more courts, more judges, and a lot more lawyers.
I’ll point out that the alternative to living in a place that is governed by the rule of law is Russia, Uzbekistan, or Syria. And I’ll point out that most of the founding fathers of the USA were lawyers. But mostly I’ll point out this: Our country faces the single greatest political threat to its existence since the Civil War, a war that was fought, by the way, when one side fired its legal defense team and brought in the gun nuts.
This threat is Donald Trump. Many people believe that he has zero chance of winning. Others think that he has some good ideas. People who are paying attention are profoundly concerned, most especially the “moderate” wing of the GOP, which spent decades screeching in lockstep with the southern GOP about abortion, god, and gun rights, and is now amazed that most of their party can talk of nothing else.
To be brief: Everyone who believes in the rule of law needs to print this in bold black letters and place it on the fridge: DONALD TRUMP WON’T RULE OUT A NATIONAL REGISTRY OF PEOPLE BASED ON ETHNICITY AND/OR RELIGION.
First, let’s look at the policy. Trump, like a lot of Americans, thinks that Syrian refugees pose a security threat to this country. Second, let’s look at the strategy, as delineated by Trump in an online interview with Yahoo News:
Yahoo News asked Trump whether his push for increased surveillance of American Muslims could include warrantless searches. He suggested he would consider a series of drastic measures.
“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” Trump said. “And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
Yahoo News asked Trump whether this level of tracking might require registering Muslims in a database or giving them a form of special identification that noted their religion. He wouldn’t rule it out.
“We’re going to have to — we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump said when presented with the idea. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.” Trump has never shied away from saying what he described in this instance as the “frankly unthinkable.”
Balled up in these three paragraphs are the complete destruction of the rule of law. Highlight them if you need to:
- Consider warrantless searches for Muslims.
- Track Muslims in a database or give them ID cards that note their religion.
- Do the “frankly unthinkable.”
If this doesn’t scare the hell out of you, it should at least make you think, because an ID system that registers people by ethnicity and denotes their religion is exactly how Germany approached the “Jewish Problem” in the 1930’s. Leaving aside the fact that such policies would upend more than 200 years of constitutional law, the language of the U.S. Constitution itself, and the very essence of democracy … wait, let’s not leave that behind.
The Republican Party now has as its undisputed frontrunner a person who, if elected, will be required to take an oath to support a constitution that he has already promised to tear into pieces.
Unlike the claim made in NRA propaganda, the first thing dictators go after is never the guns. The first thing they go after are the laws, then the judges, then the lawyers. Only after the rule of law has been hung by the neck until dead can you go after everything else.
Got any more lawyer jokes?
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