September 30, 2012 § 13 Comments
Aging is like driving an old car. We try to make the best of a deteriorating situation, hoping that the failures are incremental rather than catastrophic. My Camry is in fantastic shape for its 195,000+ miles. It’s got a character ding on the rear bumper, a character gash on the passenger door, and a driver-side window that won’t close all the way.
The window makes a huge whooshing sound once you hit about 40, a whoosh that drowns out radios, cell phones, directions from your spouse, screaming kids in the back seat, and sirens. I’ve been meaning to get it fixed for the last 30,000 miles or so. Meaning to. A great concept.
A brief psychlocross instructional
I left at 5:30 AM to meet up with MMX in North County to borrow a pair of ‘cross shoes, do the Swami’s ride, and get some pointers on how to succeed in my first psychlocross race, which is Sunday. I whooshed all the way to Encinitas, where MMX handed me the shoes.
They were covered with a thick crust of dried mud. They were battered, torn, and had dried mud shoved up into areas where you wouldn’t have thought there was anywhere to shove, like up under the sole. “How do you get mud up under the sole?” I wondered. “So,” I said. “What do I need to know for my first race?”
“Hmmmm. ‘Cross is a lot of fun. After it’s over. During the race you pretty much feel worse than you’ve ever felt your entire life for every single pedal stroke.”
“Oh. Okay. So, like, what do I need to know, technique-wise and stuff?”
“That’s kind of it.” There was an uncomfortable silence as he looked at me. “And don’t crash.”
“B” is for “Babies”
We rolled off to the world-infamous Swami’s “B” Ride, which was founded as an alternative to the leg-shattering, soul-destroying, lung-incinerating Saturday fuckfest now known as the Swami’s “A” Ride.
“You can’t hammer on the B Ride,” MMX said. “Or they’ll kick you off it.”
“Because if you want to hammer, you do the A Ride.”
“So why are we doing the B Ride? Isn’t that kind of like repeating kindergarten after you’ve graduated from high school?”
“We have a race tomorrow, so we’ll just spin our legs, that’s why. And whatever you do, don’t go to the front. That counts as hammering.”
“Even if I’m just soft pedaling?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Yes.”
Karma Strike One
The B Ride really was a flailfest. Even when they were pedaling hard, they weren’t going very fast. Before long I was up at the front. MMX kept waving me back, but by the time we got to Elfin Forest, the herd had thinned a bit. After the church sprunt, it was just MMX, Mark Nagy, and I, rolling along.
Although I thought I’d done a reasonably good job of not hammering, Karma Bitch was unimpressed. She keeps very accurate records, and knows every detail about you, right down to your Social Security Number.
A hero’s welcome
Up ahead as we climbed by the lake was a very old dude. He kept looking back, and was hustling hard to stay away.
“That’s John Howard,” said MMX.
“The John Howard?” I asked.
“Yep. Four-time national champion, three-time Olympian, PanAm Games gold medalist, Ironman winner, four-time RAAM finisher, former holder of the land speed record on a bike, and all-round badass. That’s him. He’s sixty-six, and still rides better than most guys in their 20’s.”
I put my head down, and it took three of us working together to chase him down. We caught him on the bottom of the final ascent. He swung over, MMX pulled through easy, and I came through hard, keeping the gas on until I’d shaken off one of the greatest American cyclists ever, without so much as showing him the respect of saying “hello.”
Karma Strike Two.
Caloric value falls with distance from home
Much like cheating on your spouse, the farther away you get from home the less it counts if you eat chubomatic food when you’re on a diet. After finishing the ride, I got in the car and prepared to swing by HapiFish and get a bowl of cold oatmeal with non-fat milk.
However, I was now 104 miles from home, and the smell of the carnitas wafting out from the open window of Kojita’s Jr. Burrito Palace and Lard Kitchen was overpowering. Doing the caloric math, the 1,500-calorie burrito would probably only be worth 300 or 400 calories this far from home, so I bypassed the healthy oatmeal and went straight for the lard log. Oh, yummmm!
Karma Strike Three.
What’s a whoosh plus a screech?
Tummy pleasantly distended with crunchy, fried bits of fish and tortilla and burrito sauce, I headed up Leucadia Ave. to catch the 5 and return home. As I waited in the left-hand turn lane to get on the freeway, I realized that the window whooshing was caused by the window closing at an angle. It had taken thousands of miles and several years to figure this out.
“I bet I can fix that!” thought the guy who once almost lost his thumb trying to lube the chain on his track bike.
I lowered the window to try and straighten it, and as I raised it I slightly pushed the glass outward, trying to slow the rear part of the window so that the entire edge would seat properly. But I pushed too hard, and the glass popped completely outside the door frame.
The light turned green, and as I turned left I frantically tried to push the window back down with my right hand. That didn’t work, so I even more frantically hit the “down” button with my left hand, temporarily taking both hands off the wheel.
The window jerked down slightly, and sucked my thumb down into the crack along with it. I yowled a curse as the window, now hanging entirely outside the door frame, still wedged my thumb. I had to reach over my right arm to grab the wheel as I entered the freeway. The window began flapping in the wind and whacking against the outside of the door frame.
Each smack smushed my thumb, which felt like it had been caught in a door that was slowly opening and closing on it, over and over. It was Simon’s Hand in the Electric Gate all over again. I was afraid to push the button while driving, thinking that it could get my thumb caught up in the door motor, but at the same time I was afraid the window would shatter into a million pieces. The passing traffic looked amazed, as if they’d never seen a screaming madman with his window flopping outside the car, banging the side of the vehicle at 50 on the freeway while he drove with one hand stuck in the door and the other hand crossed over it while wearing a bicycling outfit and knee-high pink socks.
The only good thing was that everyone could see the SPY sticker on my bumper and the SPY logo on my kit, so my sponsors will know that I was representing.
The next exit took forever. I got off, pulled over, and gradually worked my thumb free. Then I sank into the seat and passed out.
Window repair 101
Upon reopening my eyes, it took a minute to remember why I was parked on the side of the road with my front window hanging out of the car. By the time it all came back, the Karma Bitch had gone. Her work was finished. With a little ingenuity and pushing and angling, I got the window back into the door and seated it properly.
Best of all, when I closed it for good the window sealed perfectly, and the whooshing was completely cured. I drove home listening to my only CD, enjoying music in the car for the first time in years.
Karma may be a bitch, but she can be a good bitch, too.
September 29, 2012 § 16 Comments
I recently, as in “today,” crashed while riding through Portuguese Bend. Several of my riding buddies said that I did great because I didn’t break anything or get hit by oncoming traffic or knock anyone else down or get my head run over by the rider behind me. I’m still not sure I did it properly, though.
You are correct to be concerned. Eyewitnesses say that when you lost control, you flew over the handlebars and did a “superman” onto the pavement, fully extended, smacking the side of your face.
Crashing style points are typically awarded as follows, and generally speaking, faceplants of any type score very low, if at all.
Tuck and Roll, concluding in a full standing position, bike unharmed: 10 points
The Sergio, where the full catastrophe is caught on film, you are twelve feet in the air, and don’t leave the scene in traction: 9 points
Collarbone Crack, where there’s little to no external damage to kit or bike: 8 points
First Day of School, where you crash your new ride on its maiden voyage, but only scratch it: 7 points
Psycho Mike Biketoss, where you flip yourself over the bars from a standing start for no apparent reason, flinging the bike forward so that it clips the recently-mended broken elbow of the rider in front of you without taking him down: 6 points
VeloCenter Warmup Takedown, where you clip the wheel in front of you during a warmup behind the motor and take down seven other riders: 5 points
NPR Glide & Slide, where you take the wide, easy, uncluttered, open turn from Pershing onto the Parkway but nonetheless slide out and torch your bike: 4 points
Canyon Leap, where you ride off a cliff on Piuma going uphill at 4mph because you’re staring at your wattage display: 3 points
Stern-O Pussy Riot, where you flip off a motorist, who flips out and beats up your friends while you stand off to the side and watch: 2 points
Ricky Rocket Garage Crawl, where you beat up the motorist, then run off into a neighborhood hiding in someone’s garage while the police troll the streets looking to charge you with a felony: 1 points
The Frankendave, where most of the face and all frontal teeth are removed on impact: 0 points
PS: Glad it’s just scratches and bruises! Heal up!
September 28, 2012 § 11 Comments
The first time I heard the patrol car bleep his horn, we were headed towards the turn to begin the last lap on the NPR. “We’ll be seeing him again,” I thought.
Lap four played out in all its glory: Vapor leadout, Wike the Bike spanking all pretenders in the sprunt, and the Belize Bullet making a last minute acceleration from too far back. We reached the red stoplight at Pershing and the cruiser pulled up next to us. The cop was highly unhappy. “Who’s the leader of this ride?” he yelled.
Each of the seventy riders knew that the answer to this question was, “Write ME the ticket, officer.” So no one said anything.
“That’s okay,” I thought. “I’m surrounded by the crew. There’s nothing that one cop can do against this phalanx of mighty warriors.” So I hollered back at him. “I’m not the leader, but I’d be more than happy to talk with you.”
“Pull over there!” he ordered as the light turned green.
We 70 badasses aren’t scared of no damn cop
I pulled into the turnout and dismounted, confidently approaching the policeman. Well, more deferentially than confidently. My father had always said that the only proper answer to a person in a bad mood with a badge, a gun, a pair of handcuffs, mace, a radio, a riot shotgun, and a fully armed partner on alert was “Yes, sir.”
“You guys can’t ride like that,” he said.
“Yes, sir. Like what, sir?”
“You’re spilling out from the far right lane and filling up the entire second lane as well. It blocks traffic and is incredibly dangerous.”
“Look, I totally respect what you all are doing out here. You’re in great shape, you’re doing a healthy workout, and it’s good. We have no problem with that. But when you block the entire road, someone’s going to get hurt.”
“Now, what’s your name?”
“Perez. Dave Perez.”
“Okay, Mr. Perez. What’s your phone number?”
“Ah, 867-5309. Area code 310.”
The cop looked at me funny. “I’ve heard that number before.”
“It’s, uh, common, sir.”
“I’m not going to cite you, but I’d appreciate it if you got the word out in your club that you can’t block both lanes.”
“I’ve talked to this group before. What’s the name of your club? South Bay something?”
“Wheelmen? No, we’re not a club. This is just an unorganized ride. It’s…”
“Look, I know you guys are a club and this is a club ride. Which club is it?”
“Yes, sir. But sir, we’re a bunch of different clubs.” I held up my SPY armwarmers. “I ride for club SPY. And all these other people,” I jerked my hand over my shoulder, “ride for various clubs. There are people from all over the U.S. and even the world, and even Australia, who join on this ride.”
I was thankful that Caveman James from Colorado had joined us today, as I could pull him out from the throng as proof that we weren’t just one big club ride but rather an amalgamation of unrelated idiots. Caveman had his best American Flyers’ Russian full facebeard and really did look like a foreigner, or a space alien, even.
The cop was scowling now. “Well, why’s everyone wearing the same outfit then?”
“Same outfit? There are at least a dozen different…” I turned around to start pointing out the different kits and teams who were represented on the ride, but stopped mid-sentence. The massive gang of supporters had melted away. No one but Sparkles, New Girl, Mr. and Mrs. Diego, Mel, Hines, and a couple of other wankers had stayed. The only team kits were Ironfly and…South Bay Wheelmen.
“Mr. Perez, those outfits clearly say South Bay Wheelmen.”
“Yes, sir. I can explain, sir.”
“I’m sure you can. Just like I can write a ticket.”
Mercy is the hallmark of justice
“But I’m not going to,” he continued. “I’d like you to get the word out. We want this to be safe just as much as you do. If it spreads out into a long line because you’re going fast, so be it. But when things bunch up and start blocking both lanes, we’re going to have to intervene.”
I couldn’t explain that he’d seen us just before the turnaround, and that with few exceptions we did a pretty good job of stopping for lights, stopping for oncoming cars, checking before we u-turn, and being safe except for the last 400 yards when people risk everything for the glory of winning the sprunt. So I just said, “Yes, sir.”
“And what’s with those socks?”
“Yeah. Why the tall pink socks?”
“It’s ah, breast awareness, sir.”
“Cancer, I mean. Breast cancer awareness. Think pink breast awareness,” I mumbled, blushing.
“Okey-dokey.” He shrugged. “You guys and gals be safe out there, okay?”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
“Now go catch up with your group. Have a good day, Mr. Perez.”
“Yes, sir!” We looked at each other, knowing full well that everyone was already back at CotKU quaffing their third latte and taking bets on who had gotten the ticket.
New Girl rode up, grinning. “Coffee’s on me, Wankster. Thanks for taking one for the team.”
“Oh, it was no big deal. He wasn’t going to give me a ticket.”
“How did you know that?”
“I’ve already gotten one ticket this year. That’s my limit. Now if this had happened in 2013, I’d never have stopped.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m buying your coffee anyway.”
And she did.
September 27, 2012 § 36 Comments
Me: “I’m just not very introspective.”
Friend: “But you seem to write a lot about your life.”
Me: “That’s not introspection. It’s narcissism.”
One afternoon at the Coffee Bean and Gossip Leaf
I had stumbled in, mid-morning, to get a big black triple shot of get-me-through-this-fucking-day. The nice girl poured my coffee and I sat down at the giant wooden table they’ve recently put in to make the nationwide franchise look more like an indie coffee shop. I stared at the coffee in the big ceramic mug and remarked at how sad and lonely it looked, topped off as it was with non-fat milk (an oxymoron) rather than with the gooey, fat-studded chunks of heavy cream that, like pink unicorns, populate my dreams nowadays.
Two very pretty women sat down at the far end of the table. One of them was troubled. They glanced at me to make sure I was minding my own business, which made me stare even more listlessly at my coffee and listen with all my might.
The pretty blonde asked her friend, “So what’s on your agenda today, Janey?”
The pretty brunette answered, her face contorted in pain. “The usual stuff. Laundry. Gonna meet this afternoon with the girls from book club. Then fix dinner. Check the kids’ homework. Listen to Brian complain about his job. It’s all so stupid. God, my life is so stupid, Anne. It’s so stupid.”
Anne reached across the table and grabbed her friend’s hand. “It’s not stupid. Why’s it stupid?”
Janey didn’t say it, but a huge wave of my-life-is-passing-me-by swept over the table. “All these things, what’s the point? I’m just taking up hours in the day. It’s all so pointless. And stupid.” She was crying now.
“It’s not stupid!” the other woman answered, and she spoke with the warmth and passion of a friend. “Janey, think of all the people who love you. Think of all the people for whom you’re a ray of happiness and light! Think of your kids who love you and to whom you’re the world, Janey. That’s not stupid! That’s as far away from stupid as life gets.”
Janey was crying so hard that her shoulders shook.
I gripped my coffee cup tightly, feeling it burn my palms as I tried to keep looking listless. But what I really wanted to do was jump up and give that crying lady a hug and say, “It’s not stupid! Listen to your friend. If your life is stupid then all of our lives are stupid. There aren’t any stupid lives, Janey, only people who don’t have someone sitting next to them when they need it most to remind them that it’s not stupid, that their lives have meaning and are important even if they don’t feel it at that very second!”
My hands were trembling from the pain of the hot coffee, and from Janey’s pain, too, I guess. I’m kind of a pain conductor that way. I was frozen with fear for this nice young lady and her sadness. I wanted to say to her, “Janey, my brother thought his life was stupid, too, but after he took it, it just proved how stupid his life really wasn’t. We’re destined never to see who and how and why we are what we are, but don’t mistake that for a stupid life. Please, please, don’t.”
I was sweating now, and took a bored sip of coffee.
The two friends had stopped talking. Janey had stopped crying, and the other woman was saying something that made her smile. It was a beautiful smile, and as the corners of her mouth turned up, her eyes crinkled. She had the prettiest eyes I’d ever seen. I couldn’t hear what they were saying any more; the sounds inside my own head had drowned out everything else.
Suddenly, I had to go, and couldn’t even finish the coffee. I would have hugged her if I’d dared, and thanked her, and told her that she’d helped a stranger, a stranger who loved her anyway.
September 26, 2012 § 10 Comments
It’s been simmering for months now.
One group of idiots wants to take the bike path. Another group of idiots wants to take the alleyway.
And today, it all boiled over.
Advocates for the bike path
The bike path has everything going for it. It allows for a slow and measured pace out to the dickstomping grounds of Westchester Parkway. It provides panoramic views of the beauty that is Santa Monica Bay, with Malibu, the mountain peaks, blue skies, and gently breaking waves as a backdrop. It meanders. It is devoid of angry drivers seeking to start their day with a bit of fresh cyclist roadkill. It’s traditional, and it lets you start your day, whether winter, spring, summer, or fall, with a crisp reminder of all that is good and lovely and wonderful about Southern California. If there’s a swell working at El Porto, you may even get to see one of Dan-O’s Danc surfboards shredding the glassy face of a tidy little beach break.
Advocates for the alleyway
The alleyway has nothing going for it. It’s ugly. Cars dart out of garages and cross streets with only inches to spare. Gnarly drainage culverts whack your rims every few hundred yards. The landscape is a gloomy ass-end of homes and condos, blotting out the sky, the sun, the ocean, and the early morning thongage. The occasional pack of grim-face runners will swoop by, looking like runners everywhere look: miserable and in pain.
Like a cheap whore, the alleyway is fast, boneshaking, and gets straight down to the business of going from the Pier to the beatdown in the shortest possible time. At the end of the alleyway, there’s a short jaunt over to Vista del Mar, where the peloton picks up a mashing head of steam, blasts down Mt. Chevron hill, and pounds it hard all the way to the Pershing death launch.
Why would anyone choose the alleyway?
First, because people are sheep, and they will follow where led, even, and especially, to the slaughter. Second, the bike path is often strewn with sand, which creates ickyness inside the links of $250 Campy chains and fancy Chris King freehubs. Third, although the drowsy morning commuters lurching forth pose certain hazards, the bike path features large numbers of the dreaded pathalete, a species of biker/runner/rollerblader/walker/stroller pusher/surfer/skateboarder/razorer who careens along the narrow strip of asphalt, often threatening to bash head-on into the rolling peloton.
Of course, the bike path is luxuriously wondrous for viewing if you’re on the point, but everyone else (except Hockeystick, who’s always got his head turned sideways) has to focus intently on not crashing due to slowing, extremely tight quarters, and the numerous turns that are studded with sand.
But the biggest strike against the bike path is that it’s pleasant and leisurely, so when the nasty reality of the Pershing bump appears, numerous wankers find their kneecaps blown off by the sudden hard surge.
When the voice of the South Bay speaks
…you listen. And this morning, G$ began the ride thus: “Assembled wankers! Today we ride the bike path! It is spoken!”
No one’s voice has the strength of G$’s, and when he pointed his bike down the path, all but six of the massed riders followed. I headed for the alleyway with SBW Eric, Patricia, Canyon Bob, Jens, Pistol Pete, and one or two others. I wasn’t trying to make a statement, I was trying to fuel a controversy. There’s a difference.
By the time we reached Dockweiler, we could see over onto the bike path from Vista del Mar, and the wankoton was far ahead. Eric and I rolled steady, trying to make up ground, and apparently we succeeded, attested to by his deep gasps and the strings of snot trailing along my upper lip and around my neck. At the Pershing launch site, Canyon Bob sprunted up the hill. Bucks and a handful of others saw us coming and wrongly assumed we were the main group.
Canyon Bob kept mashing, I clung to his wheel, and by World Way ramp at LAX we had a flailaway group that included Chris Stewart, Dan Luzier, Chris Cooke, and four or five others who all died an untimely death by the time we dropped down back onto Pershing. At the turn onto Westchester there were just four of us. The main peloton was far behind and apparently not willing to chase. After a while Dan crawled into the gutter and rolled up in a fetal position. We soldiered on.
One for the record books
Of the many incredible benefits of doing a clusterfuck like the NPR, none surpasses this: If you flail, you can blame it on the lights or on the speeding peloton working together to rein in your heroicism. If you prevail, you can chalk it up to your general greatness and wonderfulability on the bike. Conversely, if you’re in the pack and someone escapes, you can blame it on the lights you had to stop at, or the traffic you had to wait for at the turnarounds, or on the unwillingness of the dawdling peloton to work together to rein in those OTF wankers.
In short, there’s a plausible excuse for everyone, and you can always tell your wife how awesome you were and how everyone else sucked.
Today saw the first time in the history of the NPR that a breakaway stayed away for the entire four laps around the Parkway. The victors chalked it up to their speed, their ability to work together (as Jack from Illinois [not his real name] would say), their canny sense of timing, their hardness into the wind, their incredible ability to endure pain that would destroy mere mortals, and their fancy bicycling outfits.
Grumpy wankers in the peloton saw it differently, as this menu of comments suggests:
Prez: You were off the front the whole time? I thought you had a flat and got dropped.
Black Sheep Squadron: You didn’t win the NPR, dude, you cheated by taking a shorter route.
Hoss: No one bothered to chase. Didn’t you see us soft-pedaling and laughing at you each time you passed on the other side of the Parkway?
Stathis the Wily Greek: We let you have it.
Ol’ Bollix: Dude, you sneaked away on Vista del Mar and hammered before anyone even knew you were gone. Then you ran all the red lights except one, and you only stopped there because of the cop car. Finally, it’s the fuggin’ off season and the only people on the point were the schmoes who use this as their one chance all year to go to the front. What a fuggin’ joke. You guys are a sneaky bunch of cheatbag wanktards.
As I said, there’s a plausible excuse for everyone. Which begs the question, now that the wankoton has seen that a well-timed, well-placed, well-stoplighted breakaway can p*wn the group, when faced with the choice of bike path vs. alleyway on Thursday…
…which one will it be?
September 25, 2012 § 33 Comments
I hate to say it, but “Rough Ride” by Paul Kimmage isn’t a particularly well written book. It’s rough, slogging, workmanlike prose, stuff you have to pound your way through with a fair amount of effort and an even fairer grasp of the subject he’s writing about in order to appreciate.
As a domestique, that makes sense. He was a rough, slogging, workmanlike rider who fetched, carried, chased, and did his labors before falling off the pace and letting the leaders go about their business of winning races and glory. Raised his whole life to race bikes, it’s a bit unfair to expect that he’d be a master storyteller as well.
Some books, though, make their mark not because of the stylish turn of phrase, but because they write about the raw, bleeding chunks of hard-to-digest truth. In 2012, Kimmage’s treatment of doping in the peloton reads like a tame little bedtime tale, but at the time it sent cracks and shudders down into the bedrock foundations of the sport. Kimmage talked about drugs and he admitted to being a doper.
The truth hurts
In Kimmage’s case, the person who mostly got hurt by the truth was him. Icons like Stephen Roche, and compatriots like Pat McQuaid let it be known that they considered him a liar and a loser and a cheat. Kimmage, so the blowback went, took drugs because he didn’t have the ability to compete fairly with legitimate athletes. He was a whiner who learned that the toughest of sports had no room for quitters and cheaters like him. He became a pariah of sorts among the pro peloton, and ultimately the bane of the UCI and Lance.
In his methodical, plodding, workmanlike, dogged, domestique fashion, Kimmage refused to back down from his allegations of drugs and cheating in this dirty and crooked sport. While fanboy rags like Bicycling and VeloNews continued to praise the miracles of the drug cheats, Kimmage, along with David Walsh and a handful of others, relentlessly spoke truth–if not to power, at least to the stooges running the show.
When Floyd Landis burst the dam, Kimmage took the opportunity to hear Landis confirm what had long been suspected by those who followed pro cycling. A conspiracy had existed to cover up positive drug tests; the highest levels of the UCI were complicit; pro cycling was a meat market of drugs, cheats, and lies.
Why I hate cycling causes
I care zip what happens to pro cycling, to the UCI, or to the people/businesses/manufacturers/media who believe it’s their job to promote and publicize a crooked sport without trying to clean it up. The world has so many real problems that matter, and pro cycling is such a niche within a crevice inside a microcosm that the shenanigans of a few weasels is largely meaningless.
Clean up pro cycling? I’d be better served cleaning up my room.
Likewise, Kimmage of all people knew what he was getting into when he chose to continue his career as a cycling journalist. He could have returned to Ireland and done something else…anything else.
Instead, he chose to be the gadfly, to reveal the corruption, and to keep stinging even when the fat and powerful slow-moving hand came swinging his way. That he’s now getting squashed is exactly what anyone could have predicted. You swim in the septic tank, you’re gonna bump into turds.
Why we have an obligation to help him
Kimmage has now been sued by Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen in a vindictive lawsuit designed to punish him for vigorously pursuing the truth. RKP and Charles Pelkey lay out the hideousness of it in brutal detail.
Whether it’s good for cycling or bad for cycling; whether the UCI have cycling’s best interests at heart are or its worst; whether Kimmage is a dope or a great journalist; whether cycling is an important sport or a weird fetish; whether you like Kimmage’s prose or think it sucks…whether any of these things and more, we have a duty to help this guy out for a very simple reason:
No person, for pursuing any truth in any sphere in any degree, should be persecuted for that pursuit without those who believe in freedom of speech coming to his aid.
The lead has been taken by people who believe in cycling (I don’t) and who believe in free speech. Cyclismas, NYVelocity…people who write and think and promote and criticize and agitate about bikes for a living have said that if Kimmage gets the shaft, he won’t get it standing alone.
This isn’t about cycling. It’s about whether or not you’ll defend free speech with the vigor that you claim to respect it.
To me, Kimmage’s fight is worth $25.00 in this first round. If everyone who professes to believe in the free pursuit of truth also thought it was worth twenty-five bucks, Kimmage would be able to buy the entire UCI and every pro team with the proceeds of his defense fund. For those who think a few bucks don’t matter, you’re wrong. Kimmage has been empowered as a result. He’s gone from glumly contemplating a default to actively thinking of a legitimate legal game plan.
Maybe he’ll quit and go home without contesting the suit, but it won’t be for lack of moral or financial support. Maybe he’ll pick up the lance and run it through the nutsacks of Verbruggen and McQuaid, shriveled and hidden though they may be. Maybe he’ll fight and lose, but do justice to free speech in the process. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll fight and win and buy his first celebratory beer with the $5 you donated.
You want a fucking legacy? That’s a legacy.
September 24, 2012 § 7 Comments
“It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a bird on a plane! No! It’s the space shuttle Endeavor on a plane! Okay! Everybody knock off work to snap photos!”
Life in LA came to a halt on Friday, which wasn’t odd, because nothing ever gets done on Friday anyway when the weather’s good and people are poring over their ride plans for the weekend. What was odd was that people were obsessing about the space shuttle, a rusted out bucket of bolts that cost an estimated $200 billion over its 30-year lifespan.
Quick: Name ONE FUCKING THING the space shuttle ever did for you. Right? Nothing. Squat. It didn’t even give us velcro or Tang.
Quicker: Name 50 THINGS you ever got from a teacher. Right? Reading. Writing. Spelling (some of you). Math (fewer, but okay, it’s still a lot).
Quickest: Explain to me again why we had $200 billion to dump on a fucking engineer’s handjob, but don’t want to pay teachers a living wage?
The flyover hangover
Facebook, Twitter, and the Interwebs overheated with all of the “Go, USA!” and “Proud to be a Merkun!” cell phone photos, as most of Los Angeles paid homage to something they never knew about, cared about, or that ever helped them in any way. I still remember driving out to Ellington AFB in Houston in 1979 with Rick Ellis and his family to look at the shuttle.
Rick’s dad was an engineer and extremely proud of all things American, especially if related to NASA. “This is American ingenuity at is finest!” he proclaimed.
“Wow,” I thought. “A plane strapped to a plane. How dumb.”
Then I remembered the Challenger tragedy. “Wow,” I thought. “What a terrible waste of life.”
Then I remembered the Columbia tragedy. “Wow,” I thought. “All this for NOTHING.”
On the plus side, initial estimates for the shuttle’s operating cost (adjusted for 2011 dollars) was only $54 million per flight, but with hard work on the part of the government and sole-source private contractors, economy-minded planners were able to raise that to $450 million per flight, ten of which would have funded the entire 2013 state educational budget for the state of Oklahoma. Which begs the question, would the nation have been better off with another ten space missions, or with the first generation of Oklahomans able to read on a third grade level?
The infection spreads
Among South Bay cyclists, the contagion of Shuttle Nostalgia began as a minor chest cold, and quickly laid low some of the Bay’s fixtures. First, New Girl was infected and forced to actually miss a group ride. Next, Junkyard himself got sick, with specialists theorizing that the vector was a nick in his titanium elbow that allowed the dreaded disease to attack.
By Friday late afternoon, Shuttle Nostalgia had ripped through the peloton, with Jay Y., Hockeystick, and countless others in full blown shuttle fever. By Sunday, the worst symptoms had dissipated, and I showed up on the Kettle Ride.
It’s been months since I last did the Kettle, and the group was full to busting. Tink was back from her muscle tear; Kimmy had been released from her 36-hour stints as a resident at the ER; Elron, G3, G$, MM, Johnny W., Nick P., Wankomodo, Major Bob, Prez, Jonathan P., Lisa C., Psycho Mike & the Bike Palace Boys, Dan-O, Pistol Pete, Shon the Bomb, Surf City Justin, Suze, Mike and Julie L., and a host of others were at CotKU, later joined by Knoll, Bucks, and a bunch of others at the Ocean Park toilets.
It’s not daaaaaangerous anymore
After a nasty dustup a few blog posts back regarding running the light at Vista del Mar and Grand, the group hauled ass through the stale yellow light with the battle cry “Rolling!” so that those of us at the back of the wankoton got to blow through a light that had been red so long it was about to turn violet.
This bothered me not at all, as it was good to see that the other idiots, when in charge of the insane asylum, were just as inept as I was.
A few hundred yards later, with the group kind of bunchy, a certain individual who will only be named if you send $5 to my PayPal account, decided that rather than going over the hole in front of him that no one had bothered to call out, he would slam on his brakes with about 20 riders immediately behind him.
Everything suddenly shifted into “Fuck, I’m going down mode,” as I too hit the brakes and swerved, with the idiot in front of me rocketing backwards into my front wheel. My back tire locked on the damp pavement and my front wheel skidded as things began to get sideways.
If music is what happens between the notes, bike accidents are what happens between the idiots, and I saw it all happen in the blink of an eye. Me, hitting Idiot. Me, flying over the bars. Me, hitting my shoulder or head or forearm or all of the above at once while the other hapless schmoes behind used my face as a braking surface for their tires or as a landing pad for their giant asses.
The hard whack of the asphalt, the grinding sound of snapping plastic, and through it all the grunts and “fucks” and yells as mayhem ensued.
There it all was, in the blink of an eye.
But it never happened.
My bike straightened, Idiot released his brake and moved just enough so that I didn’t slam into his back wheel, and the other idiots somehow straightened out the mess with no one going down. It was a ballet of club-footed imbeciles, and it was beautiful, as I was the biggest imbecile of all, having chosen to ride in the back third of the wankoton for the only reason anyone ever chooses the back third: The lovely, hunky, sexy, gorgeous, luscious draft created by sixty moving bikes in front of you.
Now, of course, I was awake. Eyes wide open. Heart pounding. Adrenaline gushing. Balls sweating. So grateful to still be upright that I didn’t even bother to curse at the idiot who slammed on his brakes. Another rider was less courteous. “Don’t slam on your brakes in the middle of the pack! Just go over the hole! It’s not that big and won’t kill you!”
Most of the serious racers in the South Bay are done racing by the end of September. This is why I begin my build in August, so that I can peak when no one else is even going hard.
Today’s Kettle was denominated a “noodle ride,” which meant that unofficial orders had been passed out that there would be no hammering.
As soon as the light turned green at Temescal, I hammered. When you’re a wanker, the best time to be fit is when it doesn’t count. This lets you crow about how you spanked 60 of the best (“They were minutes behind! Minutes!”), and more importantly, it sets the stage for proper excusifying when racing begins in 2013.
“Fuck man, I was flying in September and October. Just missed my peak, you know, otherwise I’d be killing everyone like I was doing on the Kettle, beating those wankers by minutes. Minutes!”
Even on a noodle ride, there are always a handful of idiots who can’t resist the challenge of a throwdown, and today was no exception. Pistol Pete, Knoll, Major Bob, Rio Dan, Dan-O (for a while), Treebeard (from Colorado), Hammer Nutrition (Hammernut for short), and a gang of others joined in the stretched out line on PCH while the bulk of the wankoton shook their heads in contempt.
Before long, Pistol Pete, Knoll, Rio Dan, and Hammernut had ground everyone else up into little pieces of biker dung. Roaring into Cross Creek, Knoll jolted away, but soon exploded like a water balloon attached to a 45- jigawatt transmission line. Hammernut and Major Bob sprunted by as I wheezed and watched. Finally Pistol Pete, after having pulled for three days without rest, closed the gap with me somehow finding the energy to suck his wheel as he blew past Bob and Nut. Just as he smelled victory at the bridge, my wheelsucking ways paid the dividend of allowing me to sneakily sprunt by him at the end.
We turned around and rode back to Santa Monica Peet’s where Knoll treated us to coffee. Major Bob and I then returned to the South Bay. The plague seemed to have passed. Whew.