June 25, 2018 § 6 Comments
I got up at my usual time, 4:30 AM, and headed straight into the kitchen. If you’re gonna have a great ride you need to start early.
There is a big colander on the counter filled with pan-roasted coffee beans, and I scooped out three big spoonfuls and dumped them into the little Kitchen-Aid grinder. We bought it in June of 2000 and it has ground up several hundred thousand tons of coffee without ever so much as a burp. If you’re gonna have a great ride you need a great cup of coffee.
While I waited for the water to boil I took out the loaf of bread I had baked the day before, a creature called Landbrot according to the Brotbackbuch I bought a few months ago. Sourdough purists will turn up their noses, as it’s a simple white flour bread with spelt, but you wouldn’t turn up your nose at 4:45 with a rumbling stomach and a slab of butter begging to be slathered. If you’re gonna have a great ride you need have a great breakfast.
At 5:00 AM pointy-sharp it was time to start my two-hour iTalki German video lesson with Leo. Leo is a character. He is a young guy in Germany studying Russian about to move to Ukraine so he can learn computer programming. He is also a fantastic teacher. For two hours we talked about the old houses, this one, in Galveston, and this one, in Houston, that I grew up in. Both are still standing and look infinitely nicer than they ever looked when I lived inthem, a coincidence, I’m sure. If you’re gonna have a great ride you need to sharpen your mind first with some German grammar and vocabulary.
I took out my bike and cleaned it end to end. I spit-polished the chain and lubed it up with a fresh coat of Wend wax. If you’re gonna have a great ride you need a clean chain.
At 8:30 there was a knock on the door and my daughter came over with her two kids. My oldest grandson was ragingly hungry and he had heard that grandpa was cooking pancakes. Grandpa wasn’t, but now he was, not only because when a grandson needs pancakes you’d better whip up some pancakes, but also because if you’re gonna have a great ride you are gonna need some sourdough whole wheat pancakes to go with it.
Once the second breakfast was done, Ringoro wanted to watch Ultraman on the computer. Ultraman is the best tv show of all time including Speed Racer, and Episode 2 in Japanese is a humdinger. I was easily convinced to watch Ultraman do battle with the aliens trying to take over the earth because if you’re gonna have a great ride then you need some great mental inspiration about fighting space aliens and stuff to stiffen your spine.
Episode 2 turned into Episode 10 somehow, which meant it was time for lunch. Yasuko pulled out the leftovers from dinner last night, which consisted of fried chicken dipped in Bull-Dog Sauce, rice, salad, miso soup, and more Landbrot. If you’re gonna have a great ride you need a great lunch.
The only problem with the great lunch was the great diversion of blood from brain to stomach, necessitating a healthy nap. If you are gonna have a great ride you need great rest.
I had a couple of interesting dreams during that nap, so when I awoke I went over to the couch and picked up my copy of Freud’s Die Traumdeutung. This is a great book and fascinating, and I picked up where I’d left off the night before, reading up on how dreams about having your teeth pulled are repressed desires to masturbate and be homosexual. I didn’t recall any dental dreams from my nap, but it was interesting reading nonetheless. If you’re gonna have a great ride, you need to be at one with all your repressed desires.
The next time I looked up it was three o’clock, and Yasuko was working on her first batch of homemade French bread. I helped out a little bit. If you’re gonna have a great ride, you need to know there’s gonna be a great dinner when you get finished.
Once that was all done it was pushing five o’clock. I went into the bedroom to change and realized that since dinner was at six it probably made more sense to read some more Freud, eat dinner, and call it a day. Plus, that French bread had just come out of the oven and man did it smell good. If you’re gonna have a great ride, you can always have it tomorrow.
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June 23, 2018 § Leave a comment
The best thing about the Donut Ride is that like all group ride #fakeraces it is a brand new day. The sun shines. People mill around in front of the coffee shop commenting on each others’ new appliances.
“Hey, Wanky, is that a new frame?”
“When did you get it?
“I thought you rode a Cannondale.”
But more than wondering about frames and wheels, most of all everyone wonders, “When will I get dropped?”
The Donut is pretty easy for me to figure out. If riders show up who I’ve never dropped before and who have always dropped me, then it is a certainty they will drop me again. I think all group #fakeraces are this way. For some reason, though, because today is by definition a new day, hope copulates with delusion giving birth to the fantasy child that the same thing that happened the last hundred times maybe won’t happen this time, too.
In addition to the boundless optimism of the Saturday Ride, the Donut has a tradition of new old people showing up. New old people are riders who used to ride the Donut and then quit. Some of them got jobs, some of them lost jobs, some of them had too many birthdays, some of them stopped having birthdays, some of them had a particularly memorable bicycle-falling-off-incident, some of them graduated from high school, some of them graduated from single life and some of them got promoted to single life, but for the most part they got tired of Donut comas.
The Donut coma is what you are left with after the Donut. It is only 48 miles and 5,000k of climbing but when you get home you have the thousand-Donut stare, the Donut droop, and you can’t do anything except stare at the tv, or in my case, if you don’t have a tv, at the wall.
Anyway, new old people continually pop up on the Donut. They are in town for a few days, or they dusted off their ’95 Colnago, or they decided to get in shape again, or they never got out of shape but have been living in Biloxi and are back in the South Bay on business/vacation/visiting family, and for whatever bad set of reasons they decide to come have a bite of Donut.
It is very bittersweet seeing these new old riders, like today when the Irish brothers showed up. On the one hand it makes you happy to renew acquaintances and see old friends. On the other hand it makes you sad to know you are going to rip their legs off or, in the alternative, that they are going to rip off yours.
Would you like the blood glaze or the puke glaze?
This morning it looked bad and got worse. Frexit was there, Alx Bns was there, Rudy was there, Fukdude was there, Hop-in was there, Surfer was there, and so were a bunch of other Donut aspirants. Lately the Donut has become so punishing that there is even a group of pre-Nutters, riders who used to always mix it up at the front who have decided that life is too short and there are too few Saturdays left to spend them drooling on a stem while gazing into the barely-covered butthole of some dude six inches in front of your nose for three hours.
I think we started a bit hot, as I was later told that we hit 37 mph launching through Malaga Cove Plaza to the base of the climb up to Pregnant Point, and Surfer, my partner in crime, set the fifth fastest time ever up to Bluff Cove, a 3-minute something effort.
A bunch of other things happened, none of which mattered, except that when push came to shove came to smash came to crush came to blow came to flail came to gasp came to drop, I watched Rudy attack our front group on the Switchbacks as Alx Bns, Strava Jr., and Fukdude pedaled away on the chase and everyone else self-immolated, me especially.
At the college preen point (you know, the part in every #fakerace group ride where people stand around and preen and flex and fluff), the 60-strong peloton was much depleted. I shrugged because it had been a tad sporty and there was for sure more sportiness to come, so I descended ahead of the group, something I like to do because bombing a 45 mph descent on a narrow, twisty, two-lane road with forty people barely in control of their bikes doesn’t seem like the rational move it seemed ten years ago, when you could literally watch your life flash before your eyes in slow motion as Prez took the final turn at 50.
I made the right-hander at the bottom of the descent and pedaled super slowly, waiting for the group to catch so we could throw another bundle of matchboxes into the furnace going through San Pedro.
The boys of summer had already gone
Unhappily for me, the group never caught. That’s because with the exception of Frexit, Joe, John, Chris, Luke, and Kristie, everyone else quit and went home, which is the first time that an entire Donut Ride has simply folded its cards and quit.
The seven of us finished the ride, and when I got back I texted a few friends, not that I have any. “WTF happened?”
“That shit was too hard.”
“I got a flat.”
“I am too full of beer and sloth to hang these days.”
“Only one climb in me today.”
“I went pop early.”
Evens and John van Gilder took turns smashing our faces in for the rest of the ride. In other words, another Donut fried and glazed to perfection.
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June 21, 2018 § 24 Comments
Anyway, FOR SALE: Less than one year old Fuji SL1 frame with e-Tap and new FFWD F3 all carbon clinchers, mostly new Conti 25 mm front/rear with tubes, along with 12 size S jerseys, most of the jerseys are the last two years of Team Lizard Collectors, great condition, a couple of La Grange jerseys, 12 size M bibs (TLC/La Grange/plain black), 3 TLC skinsuits, 3 Wend Wax combo short/bib one-piece size M, 2 long-sleeve TLC jackets, 3 Pearl Izumi tights one of which is old and ratty, 1 pair Giro Empire road lace-ups (white), 1 pair Giro Empire (cross), 1 spare set of new Shimano cleats, 32 pairs of CitSB socks, 1 Giant TCX 2017 (size L) with FFWD disc wheels, SRAM Force,, 4 pairs long-fingered Giro gloves, assorted bike tools (lightly used, you can bet), assorted arm and leg warmers, 3 pairs of shoe covers, 2 rain jackets, one Stage 1 and one Specialized, two vests (one Rapha, size S, one TLC size M), full light set including Diablo 1300-lumen headlights x 2, ApaceVision rear lights x 2, Cygolite 150 rear x 1, 2 wheel bags, 6 tubes, 6 tires (25 mm, Conti and Vredestein), 3 Wend Wax sets with wax and cleaner, Cask Proton helmet size M, G3 tripod bike stand, 1 gallon of Simple Green, 3 rolls of shop towels, 25 shop rags, 1 Lezyne steel floor pump, assorted water bottles, 5 CO2 cartridges.
Yours for one dollar.
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June 20, 2018 § 17 Comments
As I have followed the meandering bicycle path these last few months leading from the Dogtown coffee shop to the Villa Aurora and its connections to Germany here in Los Angeles, I ran across an extraordinary ray of light yesterday, one which has illuminated my whole year.
When I say darkness, I mean not simply our descent into the Trumpian dystopia, but I mean the concentration camps that our nation has erected to incarcerate and torture immigrant children.
If this is not wrong, nothing is wrong.
A friend of mine who mediates complex commercial legal disputes now begins each mediation by reminding the parties that we are a nation of laws and that children are being tortured in concentration camps here, in the U.S.A., and she reminds them that no matter how deeply they care about the outcome of their commercial matter, this crime against humanity, committed on our shores under the seal of our president, matters much, much more.
She is not the only one so profoundly disturbed.
The president of Germany
I recently received an invitation to go listen to a speech by the president of Germany. I told a friend about it, and he chuckled. “I think you mean the prime minister,” he said. “Germany doesn’t have a president.”
“No,” I replied, “it does.”
Although the president has no legislative or judicial authority, he signs all legislation, accredits all diplomats, and has the limited ability to veto laws, a power rarely exercised. More importantly, the president of the Federal Republic of Germany is invested with moral powers. He is the person who speaks to the higher aspirations of the nation, who speaks on behalf of his country in times of great tragedy or crisis. Elected last year, Frank-Walter Steinmeier is serving a five-year term, and yesterday he magically appeared in Los Angeles to speak at a symposium called “The Struggle for Democracy.”
Why Los Angeles? Why democracy? And why Germany?
Thomas Mann and the authoritarian state
Thomas Mann is hardly a household name, but this Nobel prizewinning writer fled Germany in 1933 when Hitler seized power, then sought exile in the U.S. when war broke out in 1939. He agitated ceaselessly here in Los Angeles, along with other exiles such as Lion Feuchtwanger, generating propaganda, books, and radio broadcasts criticizing Hitler and the Axis.
Hailed for his work in the fight against fascism, America’s love for Mann faded in the 50’s when Joseph McCarthy falsely labeled him as a communist sympathizer and hounded him from these shores. Mann died in Switzerland in 1955, but refused to renounce his American citizenship. His belief in American democracy and American values were stronger than the lies and hatred directed against him by the very government he had so ardently defended.
Mann’s home, which is located just off Sunset Boulevard near PCH, had fallen into disrepair until it was recently purchased and restored by the German government. It was officially reopened in a private ceremony two days ago, and one of the guest speakers was Michelle Obama. The following day, yesterday, President Steinmeier came to the Getty Museum to give a speech about Mann, about America, and about democracy.
The shock of a great speech
I have to admit that the fellow who introduced President Steinmeier kind of botched it when he talked about the president’s membership in the Reichstag. I’ve come to expect a certain level of nincompoopism when Americans talk about anything related to a foreign country’s institutions, but confusing the Reichstag with the modern Bundestag was a big enough blunder that you could feel a shudder run through the numerous Germans present, quickly replaced by their generous realization that Americans are pretty dumb even on their best of days.
But what really was astounding was to sit and listen to a head of state discuss books and literature. President Steinmeier launched into a discussion of Thomas Mann’s life, and he began unflinchingly with a quote from Mann, who as a young writer had espoused monarchism and was quite contemptuous of parliamentary democracy. This ability of Germany to confront its past is not limited to literature, of course, it is part of the entire postwar mentality that has courageously dealt with its war crimes in a way that the U.S. still cannot do with respect to its history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.
The comparison between Steinmeier and Trump couldn’t have been more brutal. Can anyone, even Trump’s most ardent brown shirts, imagine him talking about an author’s body of work, or making reference to important protagonists, as Steinmeier did when he referenced Herr Settembrini in Mann’s “The Magic Mountain”?
Can anyone imagine Trump discussing the main character in a major novel set in biblical times as being a referent for the New Deal and FDR? Anti-intellectualism has and will always be part of the American fabric, but no president until Trump has ever made willful ignorance and blind stupidity points of pride, a fact that Steinmeier highlighted without ever mentioning the word Trump, and instead quoting from Walt Whitman and Abraham Lincoln.
The moral fiber of a nation
As Steinmeier spoke, he reminded us that our nation was founded on the highest principles of democracy, and he quoted Walt Whitman saying that “America and democracy are convertible terms.” More importantly, he reminded us that our country can only develop democracy abroad when we defend it at home, and that our interests abroad lie not in strategic or economic alliances, but in alliances with nations who share our democratic ideals.
As great as America is, he reminded us, we need partners, and the implication was that we don’t need partners in crime along the lines of Kim Jong-Un, Putin, Assad, Netanyahu, and King Salman, but partners who share our commitment to a nation that is build on laws which respect the dignity and worth of every human being.
Steinmeier recounted how he had stood at Dr. Martin Luther King’s graveside with John Lewis, and asked this titan of civil rights how he found the strength to persevere in the face of all that was and all that continues to be wrong. Lewis’s answer: “I am daily driven by the words in our Constitution, ‘to form a more perfect union.'”
Our job, as Lewis said, is not perfection, but to fight for a more perfect future. We have a future, there is hope, and I’m grateful that the leader of a foreign land destroyed by fascism and rebuilt by democracy took the time to remind us of it.
Steinmeier’s speech ended in tears by many and a rousing, standing ovation by all.
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June 18, 2018 § 19 Comments
I used to smile when I heard people complain about writer’s block. “What in the hell are they talking about? All you gotta do is start writing.”
I am not smiling now.
I have got the biggest, nastiest, stinkiest case of writer’s block that anyone anywhere ever had since the first Chinese dude drew signs inside a tortoise shell. I’ve tried to write today’s blog a dozen different times and each one has petered out like a Trump promise.
Here are today’s dead blogs:
- The incredible reading experience I’m undergoing as I weed my way, slowly, through Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams.”
- The incredible eating experience of making my own sourdough bread.
- The incredible ridiculousness of cycling as a path to longevity.
- The incredible lameness of the four lameheads who rode a 44-minute TTT last weekend.
- The incredible credulity of people who still don’t believe that we live in a corporatist police state built on prisons and slave labor.
- The incredible awesomeness of my new carbon fiber wheels which are made exclusively of.
- The incredible depressive effect that TT bikes have on bike racing.
- What I had for breakfast.
Yet no sooner did I set down the basic first sentence than each topic withered on the vine, childless, unable to procreate little baby sentences so that it could grow up into a proper blog about bicycling and something.
The writer’s block had me by the throat as I chewed my way through dinner. Dinner tastes awful when you still have a blog to write, and the more I procrastinated the worse it got. Suds in the sink as I washed the plates, a couple of trips to the dumpster, a few dispirited checks of my phone, but the fear and loathing only increased.
You would think that after seven years of more or less daily scribblings and scrawlings I would have a pattern, a tried-and-true method, a formula into which I could dump the parts and out would come the sausage, but no, I don’t. Each day is a new Sisyphean struggle. The boulder is right back at the bottom of the dogdamned hill and the only person who’s gonna push it back up is me.
Somewhere between the forks and the broccoli bits stuck to the colander, it hit me: I would lose this round to writer’s block. For the first time since 2011 I’d sit down and will the words to come, and none would. Sure, I’ve skipped plenty of days, but never once have I tried to get something out and failed.
There’s a first time for everything. Today will have to be the first day I wanted to publish a blog and couldn’t.
Whoops! I did it again.
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June 17, 2018 § 7 Comments
I always love it when people talk about the health benefits of cycling, as if punishing your internal organs to the brink of failure is somehow good for you.
Yesterday’s Donut was filled with about as much cholesterol, fat, sugar, enzymes, dextrose, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, xanthan gum, karaya gum, wheat starch, cornstarch, sodium stearoyl lactylate, artificial flavors, sodium propionate, and food dyes Yellow No. 5 and 6 as the finest Dolly Madison Little Gem.
Before we started, Destroyer looked around. “You can win today, Wanky,” he said.
“Yes. But you can’t attack at Kilometer 1.”
“In the race to the radar domes, every single pedal stroke counts. But there’s no one here today who can beat you. With cunning and wheelsuckery you’ve got this.”
“What about Sausage? He’s ripping legs at the Flog Ride.”
“One-off. He has peaked for the state ITT and won’t be a factor.”
“Ivan the Terrible? He is so fit right now.”
“Yes but he’s focused on crits and honing his sprunt. The climb to the domes will be a bridge too far.”
“But look over there. Medium Banana has brought his wrecking crew from D.C. They are lean and look like they just had a bucket of chum for breakfast.”
“D.C. is flat. They won’t digest their first Donut very well.”
“What about Goggle? He’s in razor sharp form.”
“He’s competition, but smart riding from you and you could collect your first Donut victory since that last one you fake lied about in your blog.”
I spied Tinkerbell as she rode up, resplendent in her pro outfit. My heart sank. “There’s Tink,” I said.
“Conserve every stroke. Do not attack. Wait until the climb. Today is your day.”
Conservation and wheelsuckery
We bit into the Donut at 8:00 AM pointy-sharp, an 80-strong phalanx of ill-tempered cyclists dreaming of glory, savoring that first taste of sugar and soy lecithin as our mouths watered from wrapping our tongues around the glory hole of fresh donut.
As we approached the starting gate in Malaga Cove at Kilometer 1, I reflected on the wisdom of Destroyer’s words. To eat this Donut I would need to nibble around the edges and only chomp when the final ramp was in view. Restraint was the key. Cold calculation. The young man is strong, but the old man is wise.
I thought of the countless years that Surfer Dan and I had attacked at Kilometer 1 and even earlier, out of the parking lot, and of the futility in which virtually all such moves had ended. I reflected on my recent Km 1 accelerations and how they always flamed out early, a soggy lump of donut clogging my windpipe and arteries as I went down in paroxysms of indigestion.
This time would be different.
As we rolled past Km 1 an uncontrollable urge surged over me and I attacked, exactly as Destroyer had enjoined.
“This is futile,” I told myself.
“Don’t do it,” I told myself.
“Ease off,” I told myself.
So I pedaled harder and didn’t look back until I had passed Pregnant Point a couple of miles later. The wankoton was invisible, and my passengers were three: Dennis, Tinkerbell, and Goggle.
Tink and Dennis had no appetite for any more Donut at that point and were steadfastly chewing; only Goggle crammed more donuts between his teeth and began sharing the load.
I figured we’d get caught soon but that perhaps we could at least make it to Golden Cove. Dennis took a couple of pulls but Tink declined the invitation, masticating her chunk of Donut into smaller and smaller easily digested bits while Goggle and I stuffed ever larger pieces into our maws.
Dennis tailed off and then it was us three. Tink took a couple of token pulls, seemingly amused at our faces, which were covered in white donut powdered sugar.
We hit the bottom of the Switchbacks and Tink accelerated with the ferocity of a rider who had won the QOM at last year’s Tour of California, which she had. “Rest day,” she smiled as we struggled back to her wheel. She slid to the back and we pushed on, littering the way with crumbs and the gummy spew that lines your arteries and creates artheriosclerosis of the aorta.
Goggle and I took turns, passed the flat spot on Crest, and began to get that feeling like maybe we shouldn’t have downed the whole sleeve at once. Maybe we shouldn’t have punched it at Km 1. Maybe this was a bad idea.
At exactly that moment Tink jumped us like a schoolyard bully, her rear wheel waving wildly from side to side like a flounder on the deck of a fishing boat. Goggle conveniently had a flat tire, or so he claimed, and I was left to respond with two flats of my own, a right one and a left one.
Somehow I latched on. Tink relented once she saw my shadow. We were only a hundred meters from the final turn, and she took a quick look back to check my temperature.
What she saw was the twisted rictus of a gasping, heaving, choking, shuddering, worn out old shoe, and she stood once more on the pedals, gleefully chewing her Donut and leaving me to twist in the wind, choking on mine.
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June 16, 2018 § 20 Comments
There is a guy in our community who used to regularly tell me, apropos of nothing, “I don’t read your blog.”
I always applauded his discriminating literary taste, although he did strike me as a person whose lifetime exposure to long sentences and big words was a bit on the thin side, just as I was struck when he recently advised me that a particular (unread?) post here was “garbage.”
It is quite a phenomenon in the South Bay, where hardly anyone reads this lowbrow, badly written blog, yet somehow its contents are known by all as soon as I hit the “publish” button. I am researching how this occurs without resort to the technique known as “reading” and will let you know what I find when O.J. learns the identity of the real killer.
In addition to the aforementioned discriminating reader of the Great Books and Twitter, it is rumored that another presumed assiduous non-reader of this ratty publication copied and posted photos from here onto his Instabrag account. Perhaps he skipped the text and went straight to photos?
As another example of non-readership, I predict it will instantly be known and howled about when I remark on the absurdity of a four-man TTT at districts today reportedly putting about nine minutes on second place and recording the fastest time of the day among all categories by six minutes, when all of the riders on the winning team were over 50, and two were closer to 60.
One sad and plainly unfit rider averaged a measly 421 watts for 53 minutes, good for third place.
Please move along, folks. It is a scientific fact that the older you get, the faster you go. That is why 80% of the field in this year’s Giro was over the age of fifty, and a quarter of the field was over sixty-five.
Non-reading readers can always post comments anonymously, of course.
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