YOU get a do-over!

March 29, 2020 § 3 Comments

Remember how as a kid you’d play a game and get stomped, and immediately afterwards you’d say, “I want a do-over!”

Remember that?

And remember how sometimes you’d get the do-over, and other times you wouldn’t? Or how it was the other way around and you’d be the one granting the do-over or not, as mood and circumstances saw fit?

Then remember how you got older and maybe you flunked a test or lost an important contest, had your heart broken, flushed your hard-earned cash down a toilet, and someone said to you, “No do-overs.” That moment as an older child or a young adult stuck with you forever, the iron law of life over-writing the hope and optimism of childhood: There are no do-overs.

Well, it’s Sunday and you’ve been in some sort of quarantine or restricted movement for a week or two, maybe longer. Whatever your routines were, they’ve been smashed and replaced with something else. Most of the chains that dragged you through the day have been broken and you’re mostly at the mercy of the dreaded Whatever Happens Next. Of course you always were, but now it is crystal clear, undeniable, and reinforced every moment of every day.

From the balcony of my apartment I can see lots of new routines. There’s an old guy in his 80’s on a clunker bike who pedals all the way down Old Hawthorne to Shorewood, does a u-turn, and pedals all the way back to the bottom of the hill. This is the only flat stretch around. It’s carless and he can’t get up the hill, but the quarantine has driven him out of his car, into his garage, onto his bike, and into the streets.

I watch him pedal slowly, with huge efforts because even though it’s flat, it’s not flat at all, more like a long gradual grade. Sometimes he wears a helmet, sometimes he wears a bright orange vest, but he is out there two or three times a day, a guy I’ve never seen in almost ten years of balcony-watching.

Nor is he alone. I struck out yesterday for a four-hour stroll and in the beginning the streets were clogged with walkers, runners, and bicycle riders. By clogged I mean that people were out in ones and twos for mile after mile after mile in a neighborhood where I’ve gone weeks without seeing another person in a yard who wasn’t holding a leaf blower. One old lady was perched on a short stone wall with her dog on a leash petting a cat and chatting on the phone. Another guy and his son were washing the car. Their dog loped up and sat on my feet as I bent over and petted him.

The dog, whose name was Rover, stuck his nose up at me. I bent over and he sniffed my nose then licked my chin. The more I petted him the harder he leaned on my legs.

“He will sit there all day if you let him,” the dad said. I considered letting him, but finally moved on.

The entire walk I breathed more crystalline air and shot glances off towards downtown, twenty miles distant, the skyscrapers clear and glinting even on this overcast day. That’s when I realized it: This is our do-over.

It’s our chance to change government, economy, environment, and social relations, but even more than that, it’s our chance to change ourselves. That dream you’ve always had? This is the do-over that will let you do it, and guess what? It’s never coming around again. Never again in your life or mine will things come so completely to a halt that we are literally free to turn in whatever direction our hearts desire.

Those tiny routines that have been thrust on us by a stopped world are hinting at what’s possible. Cleaner air, cleaner water, less stress, wholesome food, real interactions, and breaking the addictions to news, drugs, alcohol, #socmed, toxic relationships, terrible jobs, sedentary lifestyles, shopping for the sake of acquisition … these things have always been possible but today they are possible for everyone at once. The fabled and cliched “same page” or “same sheet of music” is finally in front of all of us at once.

Will you emphatically sit on this chance it like Rover did on my feet, seizing the opportunity? Or will you let it run, like sand, through your wriggling toes, leaving no trace at all on your life after this all ends?

My advice is simple. Return to your childhood. Take the do-over and run with it. Take it now.


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Take a minute, look around

March 27, 2020 § 7 Comments

People are asking:

  • Why do we care about celebrities and athletes? What function do they fulfill?
  • Why are the people vital to survival so underpaid and unappreciated and mercilessly kicked to the curb?
  • The earth is happier, the air is cleaner, while we are dying and alone, maybe we should look at that?
  • Why do we value wealth over life?
  • Do we need social media and is it even good for us as people?
  • Is social distancing is the right thing to do anyway? Why do we need so many superficial “friends” when we should be focusing on people we love?
  • Why have we spent so much of our lives on things that have no meaning, like professional sports, movies, restaurants, cars, luxury goods, and pointless social engagments?
  • Are our children happier when they are with us instead of at school?
  • Why do I feel healthier and more nurtured when I stay at home and make my own meals?
  • Is having less money and more time to spend in healthier ways something I want to continue?
  • What does it mean that oppressive and violent governments in other countries can affect us too? Might we all be on the same planet?
  • Do we need the products and services coming from companies who are desperate to put us back to work and risk our deaths to make money? Do we want them in our society?
  • Should we start thinking about leadership, and what character traits are more important than others? Should we think about that in everyone, including ourselves?
  • Is it possible that all of these things we thought were so important to us are not important at all?

And this final one, which is no question: The beauty of the outdoors has been taken for granted. I realize that now.


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Before you pedal …

March 26, 2020 § 30 Comments

I have greatly curtailed my riding, although not completely as it’s my sole means of transportation. What follows though is mostly applicable to driving as well as cycling. It’s not meant to admonish or advise, but simply to provide you with a real-world example of what can happen if you decide to ride during the Covid-19 pandemic and get hurt.

This particular cyclist I’m going to tell you about rode professionally for over a decade. He knows how to ride.

He decided to get out and enjoy some of the forced time-off from work, and rode over to the bike path. He’d been riding for a short while and came upon three riders, all side by side, on hybrid-cruiser type bikes.

The rider slowed and moved to the far left of the bike path to pass. At the very moment that he was about to go by, the left-most cyclist made an abrupt left swerve. The rider slammed into her and was thrown ten or fifteen feet, landing on his shoulder.

EMS came after an hour’s delay and took him to a hospital that was not a trauma center. They looked at his shoulder and sent him home. His entire AC joint had been smashed from the impact. The next day he got to his health insurer’s hospital. The surgeon told him that they wouldn’t be able to operate due to Covid-19 directives, which were that the only permitted surgeries were for patients who had internal bleeding or who had a life-threatening condition. His joint had in fact bled, but only slightly and on the day of the collision. By the time he was being examined, the bleeding had stopped and the surgeon couldn’t operate.

He was told that the next chance for surgery would be 3-4 months at the earliest, during which time his shoulder would be permanently frozen. The only thing they could prescribe was physical therapy, which of course is useless for a shattered AC joint. Moreover, he was advised that when surgery was finally done, it would require a total reconstruction and that the damage to his arm by that time would likely be irreversible and lifelong.

A friend reached out to me yesterday asking about whether or not anyone was doing the Thursday Flog ride. I told him I wasn’t riding recreationally during this time, but couldn’t speak for anyone else.

Most of us ride knowing well, and accounting for, the risk that we might fall and get hurt. But that risk is balanced by our need for exercise, our love of riding, and our assumption that if we do get hurt, we’ll have access to some form of medical care. The reality of the Covid-19 pandemic is that no matter how good your insurance, the wrong confluence of events could land you in dire straits.

For some people, that risk won’t be enough to keep them off their bikes. For others, it may be a set of facts they hadn’t yet considered.


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Tour un-canceled, new format revealed!

March 24, 2020 § 5 Comments

French Ministress of Sport, Roxana Maracineanu, announced today that yesterday’s cancelation of the 2020 Tour de France had been reversed, and that a stripped-down version of the event would go ahead in a revised format.

When asked what the stripped-down format would entail, she quickly answered, “Strippers. We will have many of the, how do you say, dances on the pole?”

Critics such as five-time Tour victor Bernard Hinault were critical of the “Tour at all costs” approach being taken by the government and ASO. “Yes, the Tour is important, and yes, it is the only place left where I can still punch people in the face and throw them off the podium onto their teeth. But we must think of people’s health.”

Maracineanu took issue with Hinault, from a safe distance. “Monsieur Hinault is entitled to his opinion, but we have a format that will protect the health of our television revenue absolutely and the health of the riders and public, somewhat.”

Detailed plans, leaked to CitSB by a letuary at Amaury Sports Organization, show that the 2020 Tour will feature radical departures from past versions of the event. First is the new “Six Feet for Safety” rule, which will be employed throughout each race, requiring riders to maintain six feet between themselves at all times.

CitSB reached out to Patrick Lefevere, boss of team Quickstep, to find out if this were feasible.

“Absolutely not,” he said in an email. “In Europe we only use centimeters; no one will know how far these feet are. What if someone is a size 45, or dog forbid, an English size 11? It will be too confusing.”

In addition to the Six Feet for Safety ordinance, riders who saw the plans questioned how it would work in a bunch sprint. Ministress Maracineanu was adamant that “Although I am not a rider of the bicycle, we can imagine the sprinting as a fashion of gentlemanliness, where riders of bicycle can offer one another to proceed before, as when a gentleman opens a door for a lady.”

More explosive than this complete reconfiguration of pro road racing was the plan’s designation of a “cordone sanitaire” that would allow racers who have been exposed to the novel Covid-19 virus to take rest breaks at health stations along the route, deducting the time spent at aid stations from their finishing times.

Maracineanu: “This seems extremely complicated even to me, a Romanian Frenchwoman, but we must understand that in truth only the few people understand workings of the Tour anyway, like woman’s anatomy. Complex, mysterieuse, tres jolie, but also filled with pleasure and desire for all to experience. The Tour must be plunged deeply again.”


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Tour de France canceled

March 23, 2020 § 13 Comments

You heard it here first. The 2020 Tour de France will not be taking place as scheduled. Riders can stow their power meters, their drug bags, and their downtube motors. Time to focus on what’s really important in life, by which I mean indoor training.

Simply put, there is no way the TdF can take place this year. The plug was pulled today on the Olympics; the cancellation of the Tour was announced in a private communique from the race’s organizers to the world’s preeminent cycling news journalism bureau, Cycling in the South Bay.

This is the only time in history that the Tour has been canceled in peacetime. CitSB sat down with Tour chief Christian Prudhomme to discuss this momentous decision.

CitSB: First off, thank you for sharing this incredible scoop with us.

CP: My pleasure.

CitSB: Can you explain why you chose to share it with CitSB instead of, say, L’Equipe, Le Mond, or even the NYT.

CP: We were looking for a publication that was respected, that had impeccable credentials, and that was at the pinnacle of cycling journalism. Naturally that left us with only one choice.

CitSB: Wow. Thank you. So with regard to the cancellation. Was it a tough decision?

CP: Very.

CitSB: Why?

CP: We had to choose public health over profits. That’s the very antithesis of professional sport.

CitSB: I see. What was the tipping point? The cancellation of Flanders, MSR, and Roubaix?

CP: No. We were swayed by reports from domestic wine producers.

CitSB: I don’t understand.

CP: During our current lockdown, people have begun hoarding wine. Wholesalers and retailers have assured us that by July there will be only limited quantities of alcohol available in France, with preferential supplies going to governmental employees.

CitSB: And?

CP: We cannot have the world’s biggest and longest outdoor drunkathon on public streets without alcohol.

CitSB: Were there any other considerations?

CP: Of course.

CitSB: Such as?

CP: We did not want to appear that we were celebrating during a time of crisis.

CitSB: That’s impressive. The Covid-19 pandemic has cost so many lives and disrupted so many others.

CP: Well yes, but I was referring to the caviar shortage that has so greatly impacted us all.

CitSB: Us?

CP: Well, not you, of course. I don’t mean the little people.

CitSB: Of course not. Some people, notably Patrick Lefevere, have said that without the Tour the entire business model of pro cycling will collapse.

CP: (Sighs) That is true.

CitSB: Does that concern you?

CP: Not so much. The cyclists are little people, too. They will find other work. McDonald’s will never go bankrupt, even in France.

CitSB: But without a functioning pro peloton, how will the Tour come back?

CP: We have made plans for that already.

CitSB: Can you share them?

CP: Of course. We are planning to invite masters racers in 2021.


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Forty days

March 21, 2020 § 15 Comments

Californians aren’t especially interested in a quarantine, and it’s not because they don’t speak Italian. The word “quarantine” is an Anglicization of “forty days,” or “quarantena” in the Venetian dialect. By 1377, when ships sailed into Ragusa (modern-day Dubrovnik), which had long been a vassal to Venice, they were first required to spend a “trentine,” or thirty days, on one of the nearby islands before entering the city.

In 1448 the waiting period was raised to 40 days by the Venetian Senate, establishing the quarantena that now stands for restricting the movement of people or goods to contain the spread of disease or pests.

As I said, though, Californians don’t really care ’bout no damn quarantine. After the governor issued a shelter-in-place order for the entire state, he admitted in so many words that he was only kidding.

The governor said he didn’t believe California residents needed to “be told through law enforcement that it’s appropriate just to home isolate and protect themselves.”

“There’s a social contract here. People I think recognize the need to do more and to meet this moment,” Newsom said.

“People will self-regulate their behavior, they’ll begin to adjust and adapt as they have been quite significantly.

“Residents can still go out for essential needs as long as they are practicing social distancing and ‘common sense,'” the governor said.

This non-order with no enforcement, coupled with a list of exceptions that includes basically everyone, was on full display today as I utilized what the governor meant by “common sense.” I rode my bike downtown from the South Bay, looped over to Venice, and took the coastal bike path home.

Although the streets were relatively devoid of cars and the air has gotten cleaner each day that the coronavirus rages, there were plenty of people out and about, in cars and out. People were walking, jogging, bicycling, shopping, standing in lines at grocery stores, sitting on bus benches, squabbling on street corners, and trolling the city for eggs. Now that toilet paper supplies have been sequestered or pillaged, people are getting down to brass tacks: Eggs.

What I didn’t notice was any social distancing, even though we stopped at the Food 4 Less on Sepulveda to snag a 10-lb. bag of sugar for my hummingbirds. Along with my lock and hoodie, I ended up with a solid 17-lb. load to haul around for most of the day, but that’s another story. At the Food 4 Less people were snugged up close, jockeying for position in the checkout line and crowded together in the aisles. I am no expert on contagion, but how does social distancing work if you force millions of people into centralized food distribution areas where they can all cough on each other?

Once in Venice, no relation to the city that created the first quarantine, I saw the other result of the governor’s stay-at-home order: Everyone in LA had left home at the same time to meet up on the bike path.

I have seen the Marvin Braude trail crowded before, such as the annual drunkathon that happens on the 4th of July. But a random Saturday in March? There were more people out running, walking, jogging, slogging, trudging, stumbling, bumbling, biking, hiking, weaving, swaying, playing, graying, skating, prating, jumping, bumping, sitting, and in the public toilets shitting, than I have seen ever ever ever.

And although it may have looked like there was some social distancing going on, what I mostly saw were people swapping germs. The biggest germholes were the public toilets, where clots of people sat around and chatted, waited, rested, drank water, and infected one another with the novel coronavirus.

I saw one guy who through his club has a made a huge deal about public safety by not doing group rides out happily pedaling along as if being outside in an overcrowded beach environment weren’t just as bad as being in a peloton. Which brings me to my point: People aren’t going to isolate until there are consequences to it. That includes me.

The whole paradox of this particular quarantine is that by shutting down the economy of LA, it has become paradise. There is no traffic, even though countless people are trolling from store to store in search of eggs. All the Uber and Lyft drivers have parked. There are no diesel trucks anywhere. The air is so clear that I can see details of the LA topography from my balcony that I haven’t ever before seen. Riding back along the bike path I could look up at the PV Peninsula and see actual green patches of lawn, individual trees, and all manner of things typically invisible due to car smoke.

Gazing out at the sea was equally breathtaking. The razored line between sea and sky was so sharp it practically sliced your corneas. Catalina was close enough to touch, and if the urban air was clean, the beach air had been run through a triple-purifier and infused with sugar, it was so sweet.

In other words, telling Californians to self-isolate when they have nothing to do and nowhere to go, when they are awash in pent-up energy, and live in the middle of a visual paradise with crystal clean air and temperatures in the 60s, minus traffic of any meaningful kind, guess what? They are, in the governor’s words, going to “adjust and adapt quite significantly.”

Only not in the way the governor thinks.

One adaptation hit me as I pedaled up Basswood. I heard the weirdest sound ever–a gang of kids squealing and shouting in a backyard. This breaks so many SoCal rules that I should probably list them.

  1. Children don’t play.
  2. Children don’t play outdoors.
  3. Children don’t play with other children.
  4. Children don’t play without adult supervision at all times.
  5. Children don’t yell raucously.
  6. Children don’t catcall passing cyclists.
  7. Children don’t do things without a smart phone.
  8. Children don’t be children.

As terrible as the coronavirus is, don’t mistake it for the bubonic plague; no one else has. That plague wiped out an estimated half of the world’s population and took two centuries to recover from. To the contrary, those not infected with or directly affected by the coronavirus have found themselves at loose ends, a/k/a vacation, and they’ve seized on it the way people do: They go outdoors with family and friends.

I saw so many families out walking and talking–complete family units, not children being shepherded by a nanny. Many of the fathers had that look on their face of, “Oh, this is what it’s like to be around that little kid who lives at my house.” These and other deeply human interactions, combined with the boredom of being at home, are making a shambles of a stay-at-home order that was dead on arrival.

The problem is that the same blase attitude of mine, i.e. “I can go out because no one says I can’t,” is going to ensure that the virus continues to spread exponentially. However bad it gets, and it’s going to get a lot worse, it will never come anywhere close to any of the major pandemics in terms of human death. But the devastation it is inflicting and will continue to inflict on the economy and related social structures hasn’t even begun to make itself felt.

In that interstice between a pandemic that hasn’t killed many in this country in absolute numbers and a torched economy that hasn’t yet spiraled into a depression, people are finding that without work, restaurants, bars, or sports on TV, it’s a heck of a lot of fun to be out and about in LA interacting with your immediate family, or simply riding along the bike path.

Could be worse. And hit me up if you know where I can get me some eggs.


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You’re my blue sky, you’re my sunny day.

Quarantine survival tips for cyclists

March 20, 2020 § 8 Comments

Like an overflowing dumpster that has been sitting out in the sun for far too long, the Internet is filled with advice about how to kill time during your quarantine. The advice mostly goes like this: Read a book, watch a movie, learn to play the zither, play a board (bored) game, take up Spanish (agaaaaaaaain), cook, do home exercises, clean, organize, dial up an old friend on Skype.

For cyclists, none of this works well because cyclist. Here is a customized list help you out in this time of great need.

  1. Fornicate. Cyclists have 7.9 times the energy of non-cyclists, which they dissipate through cycling, leaving them with 8.7 times less sexual energy than the population at large. The population at large, of course, doesn’t understand how riding a bike could be more fun than riding a person. As a cyclist you have untapped reservoirs, so to speak, that can now be unleashed.
  2. Squabble creatively. Mental health experts point to the incredible stress associated with living at eternal close quarters with someone you can’t stand who, adding insult to horror, won’t put the cap back on and never puts the lid down. For normal people there are a host of techniques and avoidance therapies available to help you cope with your soulmate. None of these work with cyclists because cyclists crave conflict. This is why they have group rides and Strava and Zwift-togethers. Use your natural inclination to fight and turn it into something creative. Don’t call your loved one an “old douchebag,” rather, ask him if he thinks men are genetically dumber than women or socially acculturated to be idiots. Open-ended, creative arguments last longer, burn more deeply, and kill time much better than simple epithets or rehashing that time he got drunk and had to be carried out of the restaurant.
  3. Unlearn a skill. Cyclists are all about doing proven things that work improperly, for example turning intervals into Strava segments that are wind-drug-motor assisted. With a pen and paper you can draw up a complete list of skills to thoroughly unlearn, made easier since you may never have learned them very well to begin with.
  4. Invent a “discipline.” Whereas golf only has two varieties, boring and miniature, cycling had thirty official variants at last count. The most recent addition to USAC’s Olympic talent program is Gravsledding, where you ride a gravel bike down a snowy slope that terminates in a mudpit. Disciplines begging for some structure and new type of bike so that we all have to get ANOTHER frame: Waterbiking (riding underwater), Spitbiking (riding on land spits that jut dangerously into shark-infested reefs), Burfing (surfboards with leg-activated paddles), Bikegee Jumping (leaping off cliffs on your bike which is tethered to a bungee cord but you are not).
  5. Design a kit. Never mind that you failed 3rd Grade art class, with Photoshop and your amazing sense of fashion you can certainly come up with something that everyone will want to buy.
  6. Reverse diet. Treat the quarantine, which is certainly going to last until August, as a winter-in-reverse. And what do cyclists do during winter? Hint: Same thing they do spring, summer, and fall–EAT.
  7. Create a new Barbie food. Why spend money on overpriced Gu’s, gels, and cycling snacks when you can invent your own? If you have a blender, some gelatin, a couple of jalapenos, and a can of Alpo you are all set to crack the competitive world of high performance nutrition.
  8. Complain to your club. Your club has a board of directors and let’s face it, they’re as bored as you are. Now is a perfect time to send a group email haranguing them about the new kit design. Well, actually, anytime is the perfect time for that.
  9. Cat down. Catting up is so 1980s. In the new century it’s uncool to race your peers and much better to race your inferiors, best of all to race beginners. Currently hold a Cat 1 license on the road? Think of the fun you’ll have and the primes you’ll snag when you show up at your first Cat 5 race in Carson.
  10. Try a new drug. One thing’s sure: No USADA testing during quarantine! What better time to ramp up your Chinese lab orders and get creative with your pharma. Got your hemoglobin covered but looking for a little more pop in the sprunt? Sprinkle amphetamines into your EPO solution! Amped up on ‘roids but need that zen-like calm before the storm? Go to town with a full range of CBD oils to take the jagged edges off your Decadurabolin.

Okay, you’re good to go! Now hurry up and subscribe!


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