Thanks for y'all's help

December 11, 2019 § 3 Comments

I went to breakfast in the motel lobby and sat down next to a group of guys from Dallas. They were split into three tables and talking about the upcoming day.

I love Texish. It’s the language I grew up speaking and even now, after all these years in California, people will, after listening to me for a while, ask carefully, “Are you from Texas?”

To which I always say, “Why do you ask?”

They politely try to engineer the right words, which usually come out thus: “Oh, just wondering. You say a few words different.”

“Like what?”

“Lowyer. Awl for oil. Arn for iron. And y’all. You say ‘y’all’ a lot.”

“Nope,” I say. “I was born in Jersey.”

Which I was, and upon turning two we moved back to Texas, where my parents and brother, grandparents on both sides, ancestors back to the mid-1800’s, and relatives of every stripe, color, felony conviction, and misdemeanor of every sort were all from.

I never tried to clean up the Texish out of my speech, but I never did like Marvin and Mea, either, who husband their Arkansasish with the care and devotion of a Christian protecting his Good Book amongst the heathens. Eventually, it mostly has faded away, except for the occasional times it pops up strong.

One time I was riding with Jeff Konsmo and he started laughing. “What are you laughing at?” I asked.

He mimicked something I’d just said. “‘I reckon.'”

So there I was at the table listening to my language being spoken properly. It is slow and considerate, a polite language mostly, not in a hurry, much.

The guys all stood up finally and at the third table there was a woman, I guess she was their boss or coordinator of the trip of something. They asked a couple of questions about billing and she answered.

As they left, the largest guy tipped his gimme cap. You don’t see a man tip his hat in California unless he is falling down. “Thanks for y’all’s help,” he said.

There it was, pure Texish gold, the plural y’all. This separates the speakers from the fakers because y’all is already the plural possessive pronoun and everyone knows that “your” doesn’t take an “s” when modifying a noun. “Thanks for yours help” says nobody.

That’s when the fake “y’all” users in California, and there are a bunch of them, white and black, and the New Yorkers who’ve lived in Texas for 20 years revert back to “your.” It’s too much form them to tack on that pesky “s,” sticks in their throat like a burr in your foot or a wet sock. But if you want to speak right, you have to. The plural possessive of “y’all” is, has always been, and always will be, “y’all’s.”

That’s y’all’s lesson for today. Carry on.


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Water bottle primes

December 10, 2019 § 10 Comments

Does anybody remember Joe Bentley? He’s dead now. But he used to be a bike race promoter in Houston. He, along with Tom Boyden, also dead, was one of the mainstays of bike racing in Texas in the late 70’s and through the 80’s.

Joe had a bike shop in Houston, I think it was called Daniel Boone Cycles. It was one of the few places that spoke Campagnolo.

I did a crit one time in Hermann Park in Houston my first season of racing, in 1984. It was a Joe Bentley special, by which I mean there was hardly any prize money and he literally gave away water bottles for primes. On close inspection, they might not have been new. You only hoped they had been washed.

I did pretty good in that race and got enough points to upgrade to a Cat 3.

Joe and Tom Boyden always caught a lot of grief because, well, things never quite happened the way they promised when it came to money. But in retrospect, what money? You had to have a screw loose to promote bike races in Texas back then. It was the ultimate get-rich-slow-I-mean-never plan. Kind of like today.

People like Joe loved bikes and bike racing even though they themselves weren’t any good at it. Joe liked being in the thick of it, and it was a hell of a lot of work putting on a race. Like now, racers were ungrateful, entitled, bed-wetting, and always looking for a free entry. Like now, race turnout was highly dependent on weather. You could go to all the effort to put on a race and the pillow babies would take a pass if it rained. The promoter got stuck with the bill.

Unlike now, fields were huge. It didn’t cost an arm and a leg to get a race bike and gear, only an arm. You could race in a hairnet and the average schmo didn’t dope. There were no masters racers. We called them “veterans” and they were so old as to barely be considered alive. I think they were 35-40 years of age.

I was thinking about Joe as my Lyft driver, stuck in Houston rush hour traffic, slowly trolled past Hermann Park.

“I won that race,” I remembered. It was a good memory whether it was true or not. And I wouldn’t have had it were it not for quirky old Joe Bentley, may he rest in peace.


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Silent night

December 9, 2019 § 7 Comments

I was down at the Third Street Promenade last night at a time when I am usually well into winding down for the day and getting ready for bed, that is to say 5:00 PM. There weren’t many people there because we had had horrible weather all day Sunday. Several hundred rain drops, a couple of puddles, four clouds, a light breeze, and shuddering temperatures in the low 60’s had shattered the normally calm and pleasant weather of LA.

A few sturdy Angelenos were walking up and down the Promenade in their $500 North Face Sub-Zero parkas, or huddled together sipping steaming coffee to get heat to their frozen limbs.

I walked down the Promenade, pushing my bike. There were several buskers, all hooked up to various amplifiers that blasted their music out much farther than their thin voices could ever have done. Something about amplified music is so much uglier than the naked human voice.

Towards the end of the street there was a choral group clad in conservative Christian dress. The women had their hair in buns and were wearing pretty, long dresses. Most of the men had beards. They were singing Christmas music.

I remember when we had Christmas programs in class. I was an atheist, we had two Jews (Robby Bluestein and Joy Silverstein–I thought all Jews were named “Something-stein”), there were two non-Christian Chinese kids, Wei-Ling Wei and Lou-En Hua, and everybody else was an old school Texas Christian.

I loved Christmas even though I didn’t believe in any of it. I loved the Jesus story, the Christmas play, the decorations, and especially the music. We had a Christmas program up through junior high, and Ms. Givens, the chorus teacher, made us sing, in public schools, 100% religious music.

None of it ruined me or caused irreparable harm to my constitutional rights, near as I could tell. Instead, it taught me how to sing.

I loved all of the Christmas songs, but especially the deeply religious, non-secular ones. They had a beauty and power and musicality that “Frosty the Snowman” didn’t. Fifty kids praising the lord with “In excelsis Deo” has an effect that no other music has, not even a little kid on a mic on the Promenade dancing and belting out Michael Jackson hits into a huge amplifier while his dad hustles for tips.

I stood and listened to the singers in Santa Monica.

At first their voices sounded small compared to the other howlers, but if you stood close they actually drowned out every other singer and every other SOUND. You could hear the fine, beautiful harmonies between trained singers hitting different pitches, the bass of the men, the soprano of the women, all tied together with deeply religious words that had been passed down over the millennia, not manufactured in a studio.

Everything else was quelled, became silent, as their voices filled the night.


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South Bay #fakenews 12/8/19

December 8, 2019 § 3 Comments

I was looking for news to make up but couldn’t find any. The below will have to suffice.

  1. Hometown cocaine smugglers return from Colombia. Baby Seal and a host of other San Pedro ne’er-do-wells came back from Medellin yesterday, where they spent three weeks riding huge miles (allegedly), climbing huge feet (allegedly), watching Broomsy Brooksy collapse daily in the broom wagon, defending Baby Seal from a concerted gang of bikenappers, and doing dumptruck loads of pure SoAm coke. Nose reconstruction surgery has been scheduled for all.
  2. SoBay blog reader gets revenge. After an unflattering portrait of Jon P. appeared in these august pages, Jon, who was not wearing either of the new Origin Seizure Suits designed in conjunction with a monkey on LSD, showed up at the Donut yesterday and tore everyone’s fuggin’ legs off.
  3. New selfie spot discovered in Seal Beach. SoBay’s fastest finisher and most accomplished self-lover, Charon the Beautiful, revealed yesterday that he no longer hangs out at his Huntington Beach Starbucks Selfie Office. “It got too crowded with all the women getting my digits and the Cat 5’s asking for sprinting tips. You want to know my sprinting tips? I got 1,800 of ’em.” The Beautiful’s NEW selfie and self-admiration spot is at an undisclosed location in Seal Beach, “where your followers can see your calves better in the sunset and shit.”
  4. Brokedick donutters quit, form new #fakeride. After one time up to the radar domes on yesterday’s Donut Ride, the remnants of what was already a pretty sad group threw in the towel and did repeats up to the Domes, leaving Wily Greek to ride the rest of the Donut solo. “What’s wrong with those fucking idiots?” was Wily’s insightful comment.
  5. French champion gets lost on Peninsula, logs 20,000 miles finding way home. Local mystery rider Evens Lastnamemorefrequentlymisspelledthan”rusaitis” made a wrong left turn yesterday on his 57th interval up Ganado earlier this week and set numerous new KOMs, PRs, and tripped the Neighborhood Watch Volunteer Program in Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills Estates, and the dumpster behind “Bill’s All Vegan and Breathanarian Eatery.”
  6. Guru finds form, gets multiple team offers. Venice-based octogenarian Guillermo G. was spotted on the peninsula yesterday displaying 345 threshold climbing watts and flicking Wily on the climb like a crusty booger. Veteran observers were pleasantly surprised, as the last time they’d seen this local legend he’d been riding with a box of donuts strapped to his midriff. “I got two team offers and am doing nationals,” Guru said as he vanished in a foggy haze of delusional mastersdom.
  7. CBR end-of-year Sunday crit sells out. Kidding.
  8. Big Orange releases not the ugliest kit ever. After careful planning and obtaining the consent of Dear Leader, Big Orange has released what all agree is not the ugliest kit ever. Quotes from club members: “I’d wear that sometimes, for sure!” “It is not the ugliest thing ever, mosdef!” “My toddler will love it!” and “I kind of have to wear it now that the Super Masters Big O renegade team from last year folded like a paper house in a typhoon and it’s either this kit or riding around alone with Heaviest Dee.”


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Motor pacing

December 7, 2019 § 2 Comments

A couple of months ago I decided to add motor pacing into my riding routine for 2020. It’s kind of silly, okay, completely silly, because the only races I do anymore are #fakeraces, but who wants to get slower? And motor pacing will for sure not make you slower.

Deciding to do something and actually doing it are different, though, so nothing really happened. Then I read an interview with Stijn Devolder in which he discussed his career and his non-use of watt meters, heart rate monitors, or “scientific” training. He didn’t even know his VO2 max.

How did he train to win the Tour of Flanders twice? Drugs (he didn’t really say that), and motor pacing.

Yesterday I rode over to Telo bright and early where Boozy P. was waiting for me, all bundled up. We started at 6:00 doing loops around the Telo race course. The first few laps were hard. I haven’t motor paced since 1986 and there is definitely an art to it. You gotta get just close enough to get the maximum draft, but not so close that you touch the bike and have a horrific fall.Variations in the motor scooter’s speed as it goes through the corners mean you have know when to drift back so that you don’t slam into it, and as it accelerates out of the turn you have to know when to push enough to get back into the draft without having fallen so far back that you’re fighting the wind.

Even though it was early, some guy was yelling at us as we went round and round.

What was most impressive was Peyton’s motor skills. An even pace is crucial, and although you can’t keep the speed 100% even on a course with turns, avoiding sudden speed changes is the hallmark of a good pacer. That said, a couple of laps he gradually brought up the speed in the straightaway to make it harder.

In the beginning I was not too fanatical about getting right on the wheel, but as you tire, you get desperate for each and every shred of draft afforded by proximity to the motor. It’s just like riding in a pace line. The faster it goes, the more risks you’re willing to take to keep from getting dropped.

I had planned on an hour but cratered after fifty minutes. Motor pacing is like being a frog in a pan of water gradually brought to a boil. By the time you realize how bad you’re hurting, you’ve already done a mountain of work, and suddenly you think it’s the worst pain you’ve felt your entire life.

I cycled through every excuse to quit I could come up with, and when I hit on the right one, I pulled the plug. Here it is. You can use it, too: “I don’t want to overdo it my first time.” Unfortunately, this excuse expires after your first ride and cannot be used with other coupons.

The rest of the day my legs hurt as if they’d been rolfed. When I got home I found out who the guy was who’d been yelling; it was fellow Big O rider Abraham Mohammed. He’d even snapped a few pics and texted them to me.

It almost looks fun.


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December 6, 2019 § 15 Comments

I finally found a solution to my excess hair production problem. There is a local business that specializes in scalp sanitizing. It only costs $30 (tip included), and they were able to completely eliminate my messy, unsightly, tangly, muli-hued mop in less than an hour.

The hair engineer advised that the solution is temporary, although there are people who will experience a permanent end to unwanted, continual hair growth. He suggested I return in six months if the problem persists.



Today's weather

December 5, 2019 § 3 Comments

I stood in line at the post office. I had parked my bike in the foyer, lights still blinking. My hi-viz rain jacket was dripping a bit, making a little puddle around my feet.

I recalled something I’d once read. “There are no successful people at the post office.”

Like that part in Alice’s Restaurant where everybody on the jail bench moved away from Arlo when they found out he’d been arrested for littering, the patrons were giving me a wide berth and looking through me.

I thought of the corollary to the above rule: “And people at the post office on bicycles aren’t people.”

I got to the window. “How’s your day going?” I asked the lady as a raindrop splopped onto the counter.


“How come?”

She nodded at the window. “The weather. I hate the rain. Just hate it.”

She was so big that there were two of her. “How come?” I asked.

“You can’t do anything on days like this.”

I was standing there in my rain gear, rolled up pant leg, and bike visible in the foyer. “You can’t?”

“Nope,” she said. “Days like this all you can do is sit inside and drink hot cocoa. Which is EXACTLY what I’ll be doing in four hours’ time.” She said it with the sadness you’d expect if someone had told her that Sara Lee had gone bankrupt, or was now vegan only.

I loved the way she made it sound like the rain was preventing her from engaging in her normal active lifestyle, all that bungee jumping, rock climbing, and hang gliding she normally did after work when the sun was out. As if her today wasn’t the equal of her every day, always indoors or wrapped in a steel cage, shuffling from chair to sofa and back again from the moment she awoke to the moment she went to bed.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Days like today you just have to stay put.”

She nodded without looking up, weighing my letter and slapping on a stamp while breathing heavily from the effort of existing. “You said it, my friend.”

I kinda did.


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