The thin, thin line

November 30, 2011 § 5 Comments

“He’s been hit,” she said, her voice shaking. I just clenched the wheel and listened. “He’s in the ambulance on the way to Torrance Memorial.” She was choking back sobs. “He was in so much pain, almost screaming.”

“Thank God,” I thought.

That’s how brutal it’s become. Just hearing that one of my best friends was screaming in pain after a terrible collision caused by a careless driver is a huge relief, because it meant he was conscious, and it meant he didn’t have a catastrophic head injury. It meant he was still alive.

You will not have to exercise your memory much to catalog the people who’ve gone down or been killed of late. AR, permanent brain damage after being hit by a drunk driver on Sunday morning. DS, permanent brain damage after being ambushed by the PVE speed bumps put up the day before with no striping or signage. RP, intentionally injured by a crazed emergency room doctor who tried to kill him with his car. SN, killed a couple of weeks ago when she turned in front of a pickup. RH, killed when he lost control of his bike and hit a guardrail. I could add thirty more, easily, in the last six months alone, and just this past weekend a rider was completely taken out at Malaga Cove. The impact shattered the car’s windshield and flipped him over the car in a triple somersault.

You’re so damned lucky

It’s hard to look at anyone, but especially a good friend, when they’re all busted up and strapped to a body board. But you know what’s harder? Thinking, and saying, that despite the broken bones and long recovery and horrendous medical bills and post-traumatic stress disorder and reliance on narcotics to numb the maddening pain and having even the simplest acts become complex and agonizing and being suddenly cut off from the social world around you and losing time and income from work…you are so damned lucky. So goddamned lucky.

For the driver parked on the right side of Via del Monte, it hardly required a conscious act, almost like farting. “Duh, I need to turn around.” Never mind that it’s a narrow two-way street. Never mind that simply going to the bottom and doing a couple of left-hand turns would only cost you an extra 30 or 40 seconds, max. Never mind that your impulsive decision to swing the car out into the middle of the downhill without even bothering to look behind you, completely blocking the road, put everyone at risk.

Never fucking mind. And the Neanderthal didn’t.

For the cyclist coming down the hill, when the car suddenly blocks the entire road, something bad is going to happen. The only question is how bad. In this case, the safe descending speed, the years of skill on the bike, and the instinctive ability to pick the least bad alternative meant that the bike went down and the buddy hit the car square on with his shoulder. A fraction of a second later? A fraction less skilled? A fraction faster on the downhill? He would have made impact with his head. He wouldn’t have been screaming in pain. He wouldn’t have been saying anything at all.

So there he was, in pain, all chewed up from the crash, looking like hell as the doc went over each critical area, checking him out. Miserable, banged up, and wincing in pain, perhaps, but you know what? He was beautiful to me.

There’s always that one guy, and he’s usually a she

When disaster strikes, most of us do the wrong thing even when we’re trying to do our best, or we just kind of muddle through, halfway getting it right. And then there’s the person who waltzes in, grabs the bull by the balls, and, as the rednecks like to say, he “gits ‘er done.”

As I and my buddy’s son did our best, the phone rang. It was G3. Didn’t ask how anyone was, just this: “I’m on my way, dude. Am stopping to get food. He likes In ‘N Out, no onions, right? What about clothes? He’s gonna need clothes.”

A few minutes later, just after the x-rays and after the patient had been cleared to eat, G3 showed up with burgers, fries, a Pepsi, and awesome little In ‘N Out paper chef hats for each of us. You might think it’s stupid, but fuck you, you’re stupid. The only thing worse than being nearly killed by some idiot driver and winding up in the ER is sitting in the ER bed feeling glum and looking at your equally glum buddies.

G3 could cheer up a funeral for a mass murderer. Organized, able to assist the patient with the food, and even competent enough to help the nurse when she needed it, he did it all with the good cheer and goodwill that only comes from someone crazy ass enough to make you wear a burger chef’s hat in a room filled with moaning patients on the brink of death. In addition to the good cheer, he took stock of the entire situation just in case there were problems that we’d missed.

We may be crazy, but we stick together

By the time I left the hospital, my inbox was full to bursting with text messages and emails from friends who wanted to know how they could help. A quick FB check later in the day showed countless posts from his friends, wishing him a speedy recovery and offering to help any way they could. One friend was standing by with orthopedic surgeon referrals in case the broken shoulder warranted surgery.

It’s not a happy ending, but it’s certainly a thankful one. And sometimes, if you can say that much it’s a happy ending indeed.

Wankmeister Cycling Clinic #3: Half shag or full cut?

November 29, 2011 § 10 Comments

A buddy of mine who’s recently gone overboard into the cycling Kook-Aid vat asked me the other day about his legs. “They’re all dry and scaly since I started shaving.”

“You’re putting lotion on them, right?”

Blank look. “Lotion?”

“Yeah, like what chicks use. It keeps your legs from turning into reptile hide.” I looked at his legs, which were dry, flaking, and right up there with #4 sandpaper. Then I looked closely at the edge where his shorts ended on his thighs. “Dude!” I said. “Are you half shagging?”

“What’s that?”

“Roll up those shorts, buddy. Let’s take a look.” He did as I instructed. “Fuck, man. You’re half shagging. I knew it. Look at all that leg hair. Looks like a goddamn overgrown lawn.”

“Who cares? No one will ever see it. It’s covered by the shorts.”

“I just saw it. And it’s nasty. What about your old lady? She let you strut around in your jockey shorts half shagged? Man, I bet when you get naked you look about as appetizing as a gorilla with partial hair loss. That’s some nasty shit.”

Then it occurred to me. Like most other newbie male cyclists, he had no idea how to shave. I remembered back to thirty years ago, when I first took razor to leg, and what a weed-eating, drain-clogging, blood-soaked odyssey it had been–and on the hair scale, I’m pretty light. My buddy is an old-school man, a man built from snips, snails, puppy-dog tails, and more hair than an Aztec high priest.

So it occurred to me that lots of new cyclists may be struggling with the whole issue of how to shave properly, and more importantly, once properly shaved, how to maintain the look without hacking into a femoral artery or showing up on rides with–gasp!–ugly razor stubble.

Wussy depilatories or cold, hard steel?

Some guys think they should de-hair with depilatory creams like Nair or Veet. Don’t get me wrong; this shit works. However, it’s really expensive, especially compared to the cheap-ass razor you can buy for 99 cents and use for half a year. A tube of Veet runs up to $10 bucks (ouch!), and your wife will use most of it, trust me, leaving you scrounging around for a leg razor the night before the big race.

Bottom line? Nothing beats a razor, and I’m not talking one of those wussy girlie leg razors. An old fashioned twin-bladed Gillette or, even better, a single-bladed Schick is just the ticket. It fucking worked for your old man, so I reckon it’s good enough for you, you wuss. Just don’t make the mistake of shaving your legs and then hopping out of the shower and using the same razor to shave your face. Leg hair is composed of a protein known as steelitin, and it’s very different from the protein that makes up facial hair. Steelitin is harder than fuck and will take big, jagged, micro chunks out of your razor blade, so when you put it up against your face it will chop and tear your skin like a rusty fishhook dragged across a baby’s bottom. Ouchers! Icky blood! Tetanus!

A leg razor will last practically forever. You can leave it in the shower, where it will rust up and get all jagged, and if you look closely you’ll see a pound of nasty old fermenting hairs from six months ago all caked up under the blade with soap and shit, but no big deal. Your legs are tough and the skin on them, if you’re any kind of man, should be like leather from all the hours you spend pounding the pedals in the blazing sun, and from all the scar tissue from crashing, and from all the chemical burns from shit like embro that you glob on them all the time.

Half shag or full cut?

Some dork who calls himself “Coach Levi” has produced a 6-minute YouTube video on leg shaving for cyclists. Here’s the link, but please don’t come up to me on the ride and confide that you watched it. I’ll think less of you, trust me.

The video is sort of okay in that it tells you to start with clippers and then, once you have the lawn chopped down to a manageable length, to seal the deal with soapy water and a razor. However, it recommends, indeed demonstrates, the half shag, where the hair is only cut below the cuff of the shorts.

All I can say is, don’t be a half shagger. I can’t put up a video of how to do it right, what with this being a family blog and all, but here’s the deal: stand up in the shower and shave the hair all the way up to your nuts, and on up the edges of your thighs, and even your butt cheeks. While you’re at it you might even want to thin out your rug, or at least prune back the overgrowth. It’ll actually make your package look more substantial in case you’re planning on supplementing your meager race winnings with the odd homemade porn video, but more importantly, when you go down face-first in the field sprint and your bibs are chewed to shit or have the ass ripped out like that day on PCH when Arkansas Traveler hit a boulder the size of Dallas, you’ll be showing smooth skin, not some rat-ass looking patch of thatch.

Full cut is vastly superior to half shag if you use embro. The shag will clot up the embro and not only waste this expensive and precious unguent, but the glops will adhere to the hair and resist rubbing into the skin. Instead, they’ll stay there forever, like little balls of fire, burning the snot out of everything they touch.

Half shag also marks you as a lazy shit. What if your old lady gave you the old “come hither” and then, when she dropped the robe, was standing there with an overgrown weed garden that covered her ass and went all the way down to her mid-thigh? Would you cut her any slack when she said, “Oh, honey, no one sees it when I’ve got my bib shorts on.” ‘Course you wouldn’t. Well, in case you didn’t notice, we’re in the 21st Century, and double standards are for losers. So don’t be a loser and half shag.

You also want to avoid half shag because it shows you lack the sufficient attention to detail required to succeed as a Cat 4 racer. You don’t care enough to understand and improve your FTP? Loser. You don’t care enough to choose your race wheels based on the course profile? Loser. You don’t take your banned substances in preparation for races where there won’t be any drug testing? Oh, boy. Well, same goes for shaving your legs: master the details, i.e. full cut without nicking your balls, and the big picture will follow.

Special shaving tip for special people

There are those cyclists for whom a mere 4hp electric hair clipper simply won’t get the job done. I’m talking the guys who show up for the Wheatgrass Ride on a foggy day dripping so much dew from their body hair that they look like Gorillas in the Mist. These are the men whose follicles will melt the motor on an electric pair of clippers, and who have more hair per square inch than a Beagle.

Men like this simply cannot begin, let alone maintain, proper cycling sleekness without help. That’s why I recommend the buddy system. Get another friend who’s also covered with an impenetrable blanket of hair, go out in the back yard with a pair of mechanical hedge clippers, and have a “weed whacking party.” You take turns chopping the hair off each others’ backs, then work down to the butt cheeks, thighs, and calves.

Once the thickest part of the foliage has been removed, you’ll need a Weed Eater to further reduce the overgrowth. Use of a fully hardened plastic cup is mandatory unless you like the feel of 50-lb. test fishing line smacking your balls at 4,000 rpm. After the hair has been reduced to a manageable 2-3 inch length, you and your buddy will need to take turns with a Bowie knife or other straight blade. Be careful not to cut off a leg, and double check that the cup is firmly in place every few minutes or so. No extra points for mistakenly lopping off your little buddy’s “little buddy.”

Finally, you’ll need to make an appointment at Lucinda’s Waxing Salon, where, for a modest price, Lucinda will painlessly rip out the remaining hairs to give you that silky smooth, shiny, powerful look of UCI pros the world over. Enjoy!

The perfectly unbalanced life

November 28, 2011 § 6 Comments

I always hear people talking about finding balance, especially when it concerns their cycloholism. “You have to find a balance between work, family, and cycling,” is the way I hear it most often expressed.

Of course I always wonder what the fuck they’re talking about. None of the cyclists I hang out with are balanced, at least by normal standards. From the deadbeats who are living on a shoestring to support their bike habit to the guys who are raking in the bucks but nonetheless mentally “checked out” because all they’re really thinking about is the upcoming ride, my circle of friends is a nonstop Rolodex of people who are terribly imbalanced.

When stumped I usually turn to Dr. Google, and in this case I hit the jackpot on the first search result for “finding balance.” Turns out that Finding Balance is a faith-based 501(c)(3) non-profit health and wellness organization with an emphasis on eating and body image issues. Wow. Somebody sure stayed up late one night figuring out a way to pull together the concepts of being a tax deadbeat, religious nutjob, and mean stepmother nagging you for being fat all in one mission statement.

Which one are you?

The more I read, and the more imbalanced the folks at F.B. appeared, the more I liked them. Turns out the Finding Balance folks have categorized people with eating disorders, and if you switch out a word here and a word there and you’ll have a perfect classification system for cyclists. Here, then, is the list:

1. Gravity prisoners are terrified of gaining weight, and tend to judge frames and components as good or bad based solely on weight. They feel extremely guilty if they indulge in a few extra grams for brass rather than alloy spoke nipples. GP’s constantly weigh everything and know their bike’s weight to the half-gram. Their shit breaks all the time, though, because it was designed for 125-lb. UCI Pro Tour riders, and G.P.’s tend to weigh at least 195.

2. Secret purchasers binge on junk purchases at home, in the office, during lunch break, online, or in person—wherever they think their significant other won’t find out about the expenditure. They have separate “secret” credit cards for bike-related purchases and even separate bank accounts. They have elaborate explanations as to why something was actually “traded,” i.e. no cash outlay, and they have detailed parts-transfer systems that allow them to sell used stuff on e-Bay (sometimes through an intermediary), swap with friends, or even have friends make dummy purchases on their behalf. The significant other, however, always finds out, and a spat ensues. S.O.: “You already have four (insert name of bike component or article of clothing here). S.P.: “I got a great deal/This one is so much better/Everyone on the team has it/Fuck off.”

3. Career trainers may not know what to with their bike without a plan to follow. Despite their efforts, they’re more likely than other types to be wankers who invariably flail on race day. Career trainers are always looking for a new training plan, a new coaching methodology, or a new assistive device to enhance their performance (think power meters, power cranks, power cams, rotor rings, tilt rotors, etc.). Their great constancy is their utter inability to find something that works and stick with it. C.T.’s love to have coaches, be coached, and call someone “coach.” As young men and women they spent a lot of time in locker rooms.

4. Purgers are obsessed with ridding their body of unwanted calories and bloat by combining cycling with laxatives, diuretics, occasional vomiting, or staring for extended periods at Frankendave’s fluorescent yellow-fuschia-powder blue outfits, which will result in all of the above. Purgers see cycling as a license to eat whatever they want, never realizing that in order to cycle away that 8,900-calorie lardburger with extra-large fries and a gallon of Coke they’d have to cycle to the moon and back.

5. Motion addicts cycle to soothe stress, deal with anger, even celebrate a happy event; they think about cycling nearly all the time. Shitty day at work? Cycle to clear the head! Fight with your lunkheaded spouse who just doesn’t GET IT? Cycle to reorient as to what’s really important in life! Birthday coming up? Celebrate YOUR day with a li’l pedal! Calendar blocked off for Christmas or Thanksgiving? Hey, babe, I’ll see you after the Holiday Ride! M.A.’s view their existence as a continual pedal, occasionally interrupted by sleep, food, bathing (usually), minimal work, and pesky family members.

6. Extreme cyclists can be counted on to throw a leg over despite illness, injury, exhaustion, or even death. They are devastated if they miss a workout, and they work out seven days a week. After getting hit by a car they achieve notoriety on the hospital ward by having their wife bring their turbo-trainer into the hospital room as soon as they can hold themselves erect without the steel plate in their head falling out. It’s not unusual for an E.C. to do a group ride in the morning, hit the trails after lunch to get some high-end cardio, and finish off with a day at the track to keep their sprint sharp. E.C.’s don’t ever last long as cyclists because their bodies either wear out from the constant abuse, or they become so mentally deficient from the relentless pounding that they become triathletes.

7. Podium punks live for the glory of standing on the podium. They don’t care if it’s an old broken down three-stepper with the paint peeling off the side, stuck out on the edge of some dustblown shithole east of Lake Los Angeles, or if it’s just a makeshift couple of crates with the bronze standing on the ground. The feeling of putting their hands in the air and posting their $25 check on Facebook (it bounced) makes the 3:00 a.m. workouts, the $50,000 in gear, the tens of thousands of miles in travel, and the funny looks of co-workers all worthwhile.

8. Career cyclists immerse themselves in every aspect of cycling and actually make a living in what is euphemistically called “the industry.” This is like agriculturists who grow medical marijuana in lieu of the moniker “pothead,” and oenophiles who parse the distinctions in wine rather than ‘fessing up to the appellation “drunks.” Those outside the circle aren’t fooled: you’ve taken an immature and meaningless activity and tried to bootstrap it into something it cannot be.

Let’s get you fixed, sonny/girlie

Fortunately, the Finding Balance people don’t just identify what’s all fucked up, they have a way to de-fuck it, which is more than I can say for my Camry. Here’s the lowdown, adapted by me to begin the healing process for all my cycloholic buddies:

1. Cyclists of all sizes, wrestling with any form of cycling issue, deserve to have resources available to them to help them learn about and overcome their unique struggles with cycling and control of their impulse to cycle. Getting hit by a car or repeatedly screamed at by your significant other are effective resources, but limited in their application.

2. Cycling is addictive, and left unchecked can affect all aspects of our lives. It’s only a tiny subset of people who think 3% body fat, tiny limbs, a hunched back, and a raccoon suntan look attractive. And those Assos socks you wear with your jeans? Stuuuupid.

3. Unawareness of how much we take care of our bicycles is an unhealthy extreme. I know it cost $8,999.99, and it’s Cav’s favorite ride, but it’s never ever going to be anything more than a bike made of plastic. Please get over it. You don’t have to clean it after every ride (infamous South Bayer known far and wide for post-ride polishings and who now lives in N.M., YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) and you shouldn’t put it in your bedroom, hang it on your wall, or put it in the living room as an object. Bicycles are never considered “objays,” even old steel ones with original SR components and pantographed Campy cranks.

4. By being honest about our struggles with cycling, we eliminate the isolation of secrecy and shame, most often clothed in “pride” at our devotion to the “sport.” It’s okay to say, “One business suit and fifteen color-coordinated bib-jersey combos is a PROBLEM.” “One broken-ass old car and four shiny $10,000 race bikes is a PROBLEM.” “One pair of scuffed up Vans and five pairs of high-end carbon wheelsets is a PROBLEM.” “Anything that says Assos or Rapha is a PROBLEM.” “Cycling blogging is a massive, massive, massive, huge-ass, reputation-destroying, braincell-killing, time destroying PROBLEM.”

6. Finding freedom requires examining and addressing all areas of who we are: emotionally (undeveloped), intellectually (stunted), physically (deformed), and spiritually (Eddy was a man, not a god. Okay, not a big god, anyway). It’s okay to be a skinny weird geek, or a chunky muscled geek, but not if your idea of a good time on a sunny Southern California day is the Home Depot velodrome practicing Madison throws behind some sweaty guy with B.O. on an electric motorcycle.

7. It is possible to break free and to experience a much richer life than disordered cycling allows! To do this, however, you’ll have to get rid of your least favorite six bikes and devote one afternoon per week to non-cycling activities. Lunges at the gym to help with your sprint, or time spent memorizing the USADA list of banned substances so you don’t wind up with the wrong supplement don’t count.

So they make a living just being nice?

Fortunately, no–even spiritual, non-tax paying dieters have to eat, so to speak, so Finding Balance encourages you to send them money. You can also purchase religious, tax-free (for them), skinny-inducing books from their bookstore, and set up Finding Balance groups in your neighborhood, sharing your experiences and helping others deal with the shame, pain, rebirth, and recovery from your terrible addiction. I’ve set up a similar program to help cycloholics. Click here to donate to Wankmeister’s Cycloholism Cyber Retreat. I’ll be glad you did!

Year in review’s stellar performers: Will Chesebro

November 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

Will’s training and racing in early 2011 was focused on one goal: bring home gold from the UCI Track World Paracyling Championships in Montechiari, Italy. In four camps spanning two months and twenty-eight days his training regimen required two-a-days at the Home Depot Center Velodrome.

He arrived in Italy fit and competitively sharp, and found himself immediately taken by the rustic nature of this small Tuscan town, despite the overwhelming smell of cowshit that permeated the village. With only 23,000 inhabitants, Montichiari is home to Italy’s first indoor track that is open year-round for training and racing. Unknown to most of the world championship contenders, however, Montichiari is famed as the home of the humble peasant Pierini Gilli.

Pierina personally witnessed apparitions of the Virgin Mary on seven separate occasions in 1947. There are detailed historical records by the locals regarding the Virgin’s appearance, and even verbatim transcriptions of her words. For example, on December 8, the Mother of Jesus spake thus: “Through my coming to Montichiari, I whish to be known as the Rosa Mystica.It is my wish that every year, on the 8th of December, at noon, the hour of grace for the world be celebrated. Many divine and bodily graces will

be received through this devotion. Our Lord, my Divine Son Jesus, will send His overflowing mercy if good people will pray continuously for their sinful brothers. One should very soon notify the Holy Father of the Church, Pope Pius XII, that it is my wish that the hour of grace for the world be made known and spread throughout the world. If anyone is unable to visit his church, yet will pray at noon at home, he will also receive graces through me. Whoever prays on these tiles and weeps tears of penance, will find a secure heavenly ladder and receive protection and grace through my motherly heart. Soon one will recognize the greatness of this Hour of Grace. I have already prepared a flood of graces for all the children who listen to my words and keep them in their hearts. Good bye.”

As a side note, Montichiari is located in the heart of the Chianti wine growing region.

Will and the clock

The 3 km pursuit was Will’s first event, and he had never gone under four minutes in this test of aerobic fitness and ability to suffer. He was seeded against a Russian and consumed with the encouragement of a fellow trackie, who had texted him the night before to “Nuke the Commie Bastard.” Never mind that Russia is no longer communist; trackies aren’t known for their grasp of history or current events. The clock started and Will came out fast and never looked back. He caught and passed his opponent with two laps to go, holding on to take 7th place in 3:54, a personal best of nine seconds in competition, and a new American record.

The following day Will raced the kilometer, also finishing seventh and besting his previous PR. With these full gas efforts he was unable to unclip from the bike, let alone walk to due to uncontrolled shaking in his lower body. His coach caught him as he came off the track, and wheeled him down to the pit area where the staff unclipped him from the bicycle.

The next day led off with the team sprint, the event in which Will felt he had the best chance for a medal. The US had taken 4th in 2010 and the team was even stronger in 2011. All were hungry to stand on the podium. By the third day of competition everyone was getting fatigued, except teammate Vince, who had ridden a 1:08 kilo the night before to win a silver medal.

Will’s position was start, get out of the gate cleanly and drill it for 250 meters, then get out of the way. He was prepared for this event, as he had been training with his Olympic coach for an entire year. Will railed the warm up, and then waited nervously in that familiar spot, locked in a gate with sprint bars on and a clock counting down from 10.

He hit the start and tore out of the gate, depositing his teammates a lap later at over 30 mph, as they took up the baton and raced for a 4th place qualifying time, which put them in the bronze medal round later that evening. In the finals everything went perfectly until the Czech team had a mechanical, causing the gun not to go off until he  was in the middle of turn one.

With only minutes between starts his legs were shaking as he remounted, his coach reminding him that he could repeat excellence. With a slightly missed start he clobbered the gear, giving all and hoping it was enough. In the end they missed the medal by seven-tenths of a second. The big consolation, however, was getting to enjoy the Italian Piedmont through a fog of great local wine, enjoyed over the next four days with his dad, brother, and a teammate.

Next stop…World Championships 2012

In October, Will dominated nationals by winning a gold medal in the kilo. After this event he was third overall, and with the top five automatically qualifying for worlds in February 2012, he’s setting the stage to win a rainbow jersey. The upcoming edition will be held on home turf here at the Home Depot Velodrome in Carson. Details here, see you there!

A tale of two nutjobs

November 26, 2011 § 7 Comments

The last couple of weeks several people have asked me about the heat cream I use on my legs instead of leg warmers. I tell them the same thing: It’s made by Mad Alchemy, I use the hottest type, “Madness,” but they should start with the mellowest flavor and work their way up.

One of the problems with embrocation is that you have to put it on once you’ve already pulled on your bibs. If you put the cream on first and then pull on your shorts, some residual amount will get spread onto your chamois and from thence onto your parts, resulting in “madness,” but not just to the legs. Once you have the bibs on, the only way to get the cream higher up onto your thighs is by rolling up the shorts.

If you have massive thighs (think Critchamp or King Harold), this ain’t gonna happen without tearing the fabric. If you have tweezly thighs (think Roadchamp), repeatedly rolling up the bottoms of your bibs will stretch them out so that you wind up with the most uncool look in existence: floppy bottom cycling shorts. So there you have the problem–the bulk of your leg un-embro’d, and no obvious solution.

Over time, however, I’ve noticed that my legs acclimate to the heat cream. What was once truly hottening to the point of extreme discomfort is now easily applied to the leg. On very cold mornings I’ll rub in a layer, wait forty minutes, and rub in another. No problem. “Well,” I reasoned, “if the skin on my legs adjusts, maybe the skin on other areas of my body would adjust if it came into repeated contact with the embrocation. Plus, what kind of wuss am I? What’s a little heat to the timber and balls that a real man can’t nut up to and endure?”

All skin isn’t equal

So before yesterday morning’s ride I broke the cardinal rule of “Madness” embro application: thou shalt not spread it if there is any chance at all that it will come into contact with thy balls.” Before putting on my bibs I rubbed in a good old layer of Madness, slathering my thighs, my hams, and my cheeks. These parts, unaccustomed to the Madness, heated up rather quickly. Using a Houdini-like maneuver, lots of stretching and pulling, and carefully navigating my legs through the bibs, I cleverly whipped on the shorts.

And waited.

Sure enough, a dab of Madness had transferred from thigh to chamois to parts, and within moments I was literally on fire to go ride the bike. “Why are you hopping around so much?” my perceptive wife asked me. The reason is because there are approximately 24,000 nerve endings in an uncircumcised penis, and I can tell you for a fact that there’s not a single one in the bunch that likes Mad Alchemy’s signature product. I daresay that the morning wattage for my intervals up the Switchbacks was higher than normal not simply because of my dedication to hard training, but also because you just go faster when your nuts feel like they’re being held an inch or two over an open flame.

Happily, though, it wasn’t all that bad, and by the time my second interval ended everything was fine. It seems like even the most sensitive skin in the body will eventually acclimatize to embro. Whether repeated application results in impotence, or simply the charring, shriveling, and falling away of the member remains to be seen. For now, however, I can attest that this is a workable, go-to solution for those of you who want a more thorough embro application and who aren’t afraid of a little fire in the shorts.

The day’s adventure in nutjobs, however, was just beginning…


Fast forward to the afternoon…

Every half-decade or so I restock my jeans, just, you know, to make sure I’m in fashion. Last purchase was at Banana Republic in ’06. Someone had pointed out that my Wranglers, which stylishly ended about six inches above my navel, were not as hip in LA as they were in the Texas Panhandle, so it was with resignation that I got the jeans I wear now.

They are something called “relaxed fit.” When I bought them I didn’t know that meant “for fat people.” Rather, I thought, “Sure, I’m a pretty relaxed guy,” so I bought three pairs. The sticker shock alone put me to bed for three days. Sixty-five bucks for a pair of jeans? That would have gotten me three Wranglers in Houston and a can of beef jerky. It wasn’t until I found out that real jeans in LA can cost several hundred dollars that I started to feel less awful about the expense.

When I got home I tried them on. They were pretty baggy, but I reasoned that gangsters and hip-hopsters wore this kind of thing so, like, how bad could they be? Plus, it was kind of cool having a button and zipper below the belly button.

Last weekend at the bowling alley, however, my jeans started relaxing just a bit too much, to the point that they were downright unrelaxed as I struggled to keep them from going into full “Free Willy!” mode. So I said to the wife on Wednesday, “Hey, baby, I need to buy some new jeans.”

How to make your wife happy. Really happy.

She jumped up and clapped her hands with the biggest grin you ever saw, nothing like how she reacts when I say, “Hey, baby, I need to buy some new bike stuff,” or “Let’s bone!”

“It’s going to be your Black Friday debut!” she announced. ” I can’t believe you’re going to take me out on Black Friday!”

“I didn’t say anything about Black Friday,” I protested. “I just said I need some jeans.”

“No, it’s Black Friday, and everything’s going to be on sale. We have to do it tomorrow.” It wasn’t a question.

Feeling pretty much cornered, I threw out the old standby line. “Uh, okay, but after the bike ride.” I figured that would put a damper on things, but it didn’t.

“Great. I’ll be ready when you get back.”

“Del Amo” in Spanish means “batshit crazy shoppers with guns and pepper spray”

We got to Del Amo mall and she vanished, leaving me in the jeans section at Sears. I couldn’t believe my luck. A whole raft filled with jeans for $14.99. Roebuck & Co. brand? Never heard of it, but it looked like the buttons were under the navel, so…good to go.

It then dawned on me that maybe I should try them on. Although this is a major rules violation, and the closest I have ever come to trying on jeans was to hold them against my hip to make sure the cuffs touched the ground, I reasoned that, since I wouldn’t be seeing the wife for another twelve hours, what could it hurt?

Then I noticed that that in addition to fat people jeans they actually had something called “skinny” jeans. “Wow,” I thought. “I’m skinny. Maybe these will fit me.” So I dug through the bin, but couldn’t find anything my size–I’m a 28 x 34, and it seems like most of the Roebuck & Co.’s target market is for waists that start at 40 and go up from there.

At age 47, you’re no longer a teenager

An incoming text message told me to meet wifey at the food court, so I asked the clerk where that was and headed off. I hadn’t gone far before I passed the Vans store. Just inside the front window was a shelf of jeans. “Vans!” I thought. “They’ll have some skinny jeans in my size. Plus, I’m wearing a pair of Vans. How cool is that?”

From the look on the clerk’s face, it wasn’t, apparently, all that cool. Sure enough, they had lots of 28 x 34’s, only they were called “super skinny.” “Shit,” I thought, “I’m super skinny. Especially compared to Fussy.”

They let me into the fitting room, and it was at that point I realized all the other customers were teenagers. Never mind. I was going to be styling in about 4.2 seconds. In the fitting room I took the jeans and put a leg in. “Holy fuck,” I thought. “Is this what it’s like for a girl with a big ass when she puts on tight jeans?” I wrestled and pushed and jerked and hauled and yanked and even did a fancy little hip wiggle to get the button just above the unruly shock of curlies peeking out from the waistband of my jockey shorts. “If I don’t buy these, I feel sorry for the next fucker tries them on,” was all I could think.

Up came the zipper, and bang! I realized that this is EXACTLY how a woman feels in a tight pair of jeans, minus, I guess, the viceclamp on the balls when the fabric gets pulled together by the zipper. I hadn’t known that the diaphragm and vocal cords are connected to the testicles, but I now know they are because as soon as that zipper closed on my nuts all the air was pushed out of my lungs and I made a little whimper.

“You okay in there?” the kid clerk asked, probably afraid I was shoplifting, or worse, as it had been ten minutes.

“Yes,” I whimpered back. Pretty soon the air came back and I tried to take a step. Nut crunch, air lock, whimper. I turned to look at my legs and butt from the back, which resulted in Major Chick Empathy Moment Number Two. “These goddamn things make my butt look flat as a pancake. And what’s up with the fucking chicken legs? I can’t wear these.” A mighty wrestling match ensued and I got the jeans off. When I left the fitting room I kind of hung my head and didn’t look the clerk in the eye. I think she was laughing, at least until the little shower of curlies fell out of the empty leg.

Time flies when you’re clueless

My next stop was the GAP. I remembered the GAP from my childhood. That was the place my mom went to buy my t-shirts and jeans. Ah, Levi’s! I’d surely get what I was looking for at the GAP. I sauntered in and walked up to the clerk, a high school student. “Where are the Levis’s?” I asked.

“We don’t carry Levi’s,” she said.

“What, are you kidding me?”

“Uh, no. But our GAP jeans are right behind you.”

The store manager had been listening to our conversation. He was about my age, maybe a little older. He kind of smiled. “Sir,” he said. “we used to carry Levi’s. But we don’t any more.”

The clerk looked at him quizzically. “We did? I’ve never seen Levi’s at a GAP.”

“Yes,” he said. “We carried them until 1991. That was about five years before you were born.”

They both looked at me and the scarlet color slowly boiling up from my cheeks to my forehead. “Uh, I’m looking for some skinny jeans, 28 x 34.”

“Right this way,” the girl said. I was now so meek and docile that the sale was done. She handed me the pair. “Fitting room’s over there.”

These pulled on pretty easily, and were much looser on the balls than the Vans torturepants. I paid and left.

A model’s model

Back home the wife asked me to model my purchase. This was the first time in twenty-five years that she’d seen me wear a pair of jeans that didn’t look like denim potato sacks. “They look great!” she said. “Perfect for your long legs! How do they fit?”

I shifted a little to the right, and then a little to the left, until my body was angled just so, with my nuts positioned to keep the fabric from squeezing them. I wasn’t used to being told that something looks great. I wasn’t used to wearing pants that hurt my nuts. But she had a happy, post-shopping glow to her as she gave me the once-over. I was on the verge of saying, “They really hurt my balls,” and ruining the moment. Then I thought about the Madness and the fire I’d willingly endured just to be able to ride without leg warmers.

“They fit great,” I said. “Just great.”

Of sandpipers and the ocean’s waves

November 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

In another space and time I was a birdwatcher, and co-authored a book with two of the finest living field ornithologists called “Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.” The book was called that, not my co-authors. Their names are Robert Behrstock and Ted Eubanks. Despite my involvement in the project, it was published by the highly respected Texas A&M University Press.

I wouldn’t call it an NYT bestseller…

My youngest son has to do a project for his eighth grade science class, and Ted suggested a bird survey from RAT Beach to the Pier that counted the ratio of adult to juvenile Heerman’s Gulls throughout the four-month study period. Once a week my son makes the two-mile trek along the beach, carefully counting and recording the gulls.

Yesterday, on Thanksgiving, I accompanied him. It’s been several years since I went birdwatching, and I had forgotten what a peaceful and awe-inspiring pastime it is. At one point we stopped to watch a small flock of Sanderlings dash out with the receding waves, nab the hapless, tiny crustaceans and mollusks exposed in the mud, and run back to safety just a half-step ahead of the onrushing, incoming waves.

The extraordinary work and effort it took for each bird to get a bite made me pause. For these tiny birds there is no unemployment insurance, no Social Security for old age, not even a fridge to store the food in case they’re sick or laid up for a few weeks. Each day is the same day. Eat what you kill or starve. Lameness or sickness is certain death.

A little farther we spied a pair of Whimbrels, and then over the jetty there was a foursome of Black Oystercatchers. The final flock, just before the pier, contained the highlight of the day: a delicate Bonaparte’s Gull, with its dainty pink legs, standing amidst the much bigger Heerman’s and the oversized Western gulls. So much beauty and toughness and ruggedness passed down through millions of years in microscopically jellied dabs of DNA, waiting on the edge of a cold ocean for whatever food, if any, the waves might offer up. These creatures would survive another day with no accoutrements to assist their survival other than their wits, their instinct, and strength of their limbs.

I thought about rolling down the coast highway wrapped in every conceivable fabric, oiled with specialty creams, pedaling a machine that required the cooperation of an entire global economy to fabricate, assemble, and deliver between my legs. I froze in that quicksand moment of time, overwhelmed with thanks at being there with my son, at having the health and pleasure of an avocation like cycling, at having children and a wife who are the people they are. Through the sanderlings, dashing undaunted as they foraged in the waves, I was able to give thanks, thanks for all, thanks to all.

Why I sing the blues

November 24, 2011 § 12 Comments

It was Thanksgiving on the Holiday Ride, all right–or, as Jack from Illinois (not his real name) says, “Wanksgiving on the Holidork Ride.” Us turkeys had our insides ripped out and then got a few pounds of pain stuffing shoved up the place where the insides came out. Ouch.

“Ryote ni hana,” or “Flower in both hands.”

My strategy was a bit refined from the night before–sit on Roadchamp’s wheel and pray for a miracle. The first part worked out okay, but since he was on or near the point for the first half of the climb up the canyon, when the fast and furious launches came from UCI Pros #1 and #2, followed by the utterly predictable attack of G$, the “pray for a miracle” part only resulted in prayer…no miracle.

My giblets and gravy, smeared all over the roadside, put me about fifteenth at the top of Mandeville. Looking at all the wasted, grimacing, dealing-with-the-reality-of-failure wankers who were leaning on their bikes trying to catch their breath while simultaneously trying to position themselves close enough to G$ so that new arrivals might think they summitted with him, it occurred to me to wonder “Why did I do this?”

No obvious answer presented itself, other than “you’re a fucking idiot,” so I decided to ask others why they chose the Holiday Ride in lieu of a more traditional Thanksgiving morning. I learned a lot.

Mandeville Death Rattle

Enormous gentleman with no obvious bike handling skills on a $10,000 dollar rig: “Weight loss.”

Shakes the Clown: “What’s the Holiday Ride?”

G$: “It’s a cool ride where you get to see your friends, catch up with folks you haven’t maybe seen in a while, check out your friend’s new rides, and crush them.”

UCI Pro #1: “Public’s gotta see their idols every now and again.”

UCI Pro #2: “It’s an easy warm up.”

Before we get started, Wanky, I’d like to show you something you’ve not seen before. It’s called a “bicep.”

Critchamp: “See this new bike and the cool paint job and the aero way it looks from the front and side? You’re not going to be seeing anything but the rear wheel come March.”

Roadchamp: “I love the smell of burning egos in the morning. Huh? Did you say something to me?”

King Harold: “Pain is my strength battering your body.”

Jaegermeister: “You can suffer now or you can suffer on FTR. Or, in your case, Wanky, you can suffer on both.”

New Girl: “Even though it’s Thanksgiving and I’m with my family in Tahoe, I’m hiding in the closet reading VeloNews and Wankmeister’s blog.”

Woman in a sexy body sock: “Get away from me.”

Maui Bride: “Because after we’re done, and after I’ve dropped all the other chicks even though I don’t ride anymore, I’ll get to have an extra Shakeology.”

Don’t look tired. Even though you are.

Douggie: “Just don’t let Rodley beat me up Mandy.”

Rodley: “Just don’t let Douggie beat me up Mandy.”

Frankendave: “Hey youse guys! Let’s see how close we can get to that cop’s bumper!!”

Italian Stallion: “Chicks dig me.”

Jack from Illinois (not his real name): “No white shorts. Work together. Your group rides are lame beyond belief.”

StageOne: “See these 200 kits? I designed all of them. Except the ugly ones. They were designed by someone else.”

Blondie: “It’s not for the good looking guys, that’s for sure.”

Fuckdude: “It’s part of my 2012 program, digested from 2,587 hours in cycling coach chat forums, four terabytes of power analysis data, and this cool fucking book I’m reading about Dave Scott and Mark Allen back in the day. It’s fucking rad, dude. Wanna borrow it after I’m done?”

My secret? Lunges, dude, not “lunches.”

Davy Dawg: “I just like to see skinny people cry when I kick watts in their face.”

Fireman: “Fucking it’s so I can identify the Ironfly traitors wearing their non-Ironfly kits in public and put them on the hit list. Where’s your fucking Ironfly kit, dude?”

Tandork: “It’s a blast riding a tandem in the middle of 200 hundred people and weaving from side to side and hearing their death shrieks and the scream of screeching brakes.”

Dying man in the ditch who came off after King Harold’s pull: “Please, please call 911! And be sure to tell them I’m a donor.”

Gooseman: “See this Rapha jersey? It cost almost as much as Stern-o’s.”

New triathlete, before we hit Mandeville: “This ride is really easy.”

New triathlete, quite a long time later, at the top of Mandeville: “Where is everybody?”

Pied Piper after running red light in Marina del Rey: “Yes, sir, officer. No, sir, officer. Yes, sir, officer. Yes, sir.”

Blabbe: “Because I enjoy having you ride up to me every ride and ask me my name, you conceited prick.”

Ourrecord: “You chop me again and I’ll kill you.”

Knoll: “You’ll notice I didn’t do it this time. And there’s a reason for that.”

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