Maybe you do, maybe you don’t

February 20, 2016 § 25 Comments

Not everyone has this problem.

It’s 6:00 PM on a Friday night. I’m alone. The one thing I’d really like to do right now is have a drink. This is different from people who just want to “have a drink.” When I say “have a drink” what I mean is “Have a whole bunch of drinks, tonight, tomorrow, and every day henceforth until blotto forever.”

There are a bunch of reasons not to do that. But you know what’s more important than reasons not to do it? People.

There are people who, wittingly or not, are my guides. Some are people I barely even know and watch from a distance, awestruck. One is a guy named David Wells. He’s from the East Coast, and showed up one day in the South Bay full of good cheer.

He did the local rides, established himself as someone who knew how to pedal a bike, got fitter week by week, and then joined Team Lizard Collectors. We all figured that the way he rode, he’d be ripping up the local races as soon as January rolled around.

But he didn’t. Instead, he took a scary level of fitness and shared it. He created a ride called “Thursday Night Thunder” where people of any ability level can get help learning the skills that we leaky prostate profamateurs have had for decades and done a lousy job of teaching.

At TNT you can practice descending, jumps, attacks, recovery, tough intervals, and friendly competition all done with kindness, encouragement, instruction, and enthusiasm. If you are riding with Dave and you’re not having fun then you’re doing it wrong.

There are so many club riders who want to improve but who don’t want to do it in the race crucible, or who don’t want to risk life and limb to learn how to maneuver in a group, and there are so few expert riders who will regularly carve out time to nurture, teach, encourage, improve, and enthuse.

What does Dave’s brand of human excellence and goodness have to do with Friday night and nothing between me and the refrigerated shelves at the supermarket around the corner?

As it turns out, everything.

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You’re so vein

January 29, 2016 § 14 Comments

Wanky training methods, scientifically tested to the highest standards of homeopathic remedies and divining rods, were recently challenged by a rider who derided my methods as “crap” and “utter bullshit.”

Of course I didn’t pay any attention to him because he was totally unable to explain the difference between “crap” and “utter bullshit.”

There are lots of technical areas around fitness and profamateur leaky prostate underwear racing, but a question I get asked a lot is, “How do I know when I’m peaking?”

Generally this is easy to answer because you’re riding everyone off your fuggin’ wheel, but most profamateur leaky prostate underwear racers get plagued by this question at night, or on the pot, or after a triple Italian sausage with pepperoni and mayonnaise extra large pizza with a gallon of IPA, so putting them on the bike and doing the “Ride ’em off your wheel” test isn’t practical.

Instead, I use the “You’re so vein” test, and it mostly only works with men. If you’re a woman and you pass the “You’re so vein” test then you should get yourself immediately to a cheeseburger.

The human vascular system is composed of veins, arteries, and stuff. The arteries take blood to your muscles, the veins take it away, and the stuff is complicated. For now we will ignore the arteries and stuff.

As you get fitter you get veinier. Sometimes you aren’t even fit and veins, like the beach thongs of spring, are popping out all over. These unfitness veins require surgery, are considered unsightly, and are called “varicose” because it is very coarse to show up with them at a beauty pageant.

Bike racer vein fitness is different. It comes from hard interval training, sprint practices, time in the gym, and a rigorous kimchi-date-broccoli-oxygen diet. Once all these things are done right, you’ll start getting veins in the normal places. But it’s not until you get veins in the special place that you know you’re really fit.

The fitness vein, whose visibility proves you are peaking and generally awesome, is called the left external iliac vein. It is a big old garden-hose blue vein that runs from your abdomen down into your junk and through your pelvis. In normal times, which is to say “putting gobs of peanut butter in your vanilla ice cream times,” this vein is hidden under a protective layer of lard.

As you get fitter and scale back on the snacks, the fat gets murdered by the muscles and carted off to the adipose burial disposal system, a/k/a “Mr. Poop.”

Pretty soon the forces of muscle have conquered the field of fat and your twelve months of abstemious living and pure hell are about to pay off because you’re going to get a top-10 in the Tuttle Creek Road Race next weekend in Lone Pine, where there are never more than ten entrants.

After enough peanut butter has been scrubbed away, this puppy starts popping out on your abdomen. It is bluish-green and when you touch it, it goes boiyong-boiyong. Your wife will say it’s gross, but when you tell her that women can never see theirs because they have too much tummy fat, she will smack you with the frying pan before sneaking off into the bathroom, locking the door, and hoisting her nightgown to see if she can find HER left external iliac vein.

Don’t say anything to her when she comes out if you value your life.

Anyway, that’s our fitness post for today. If you’re like Boozy P., who used to have lifetime franking privileges at the craft brewery next door, then woke up one day to find the brewery had moved, you may be on your way to cycling fitness. And yes, it’s okay to be vein about it.

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Healing hands

January 28, 2016 § 35 Comments

What we need are more lawsuits and more lawyers who are willing to file them. We need to have the MICRA caps lifted so we can sue the shit out of doctors. Most of our legal system is clogged with corporations suing each other. The opening in the courthouse doors gets smaller and smaller for ordinary people.

So yeah, I like lawsuits and juries. Good stuff, good times.

The other day I fell off my bicycle while going too fast on new tires thinking I was a badass until my Big Orange team asphalt magnets kicked in and I bounced and flounced on my forearm and head and hip and nutsack until resistance (which wasn’t futile) slowed me and finally stopped me in the middle of the road.

They took me to Torrance Memorial Hospital where I wondered what they were memorializing. Aren’t memorials for dead people? I supposed that’s a good name for a hospital, on second thought.

Anyway, they took an x-ray and the tech was like “Yo, dude, no fracture!” which was followed up by the radiologist who read all three films and concluded, “Yo, dude, no fracture!” and was reconfirmed by the ER doc who said, “Yo, dude, no fracture and while we’re at it that’s an awfully tiny nutsack.”

So naturally I found out a week later that I had a fracture. This pissed me off because I’d tossed all my meds and suffered like a pigdog for seven days thinking it was a nutsack strain rather than a crack in my childbearing hips. The ortho was like, “Ah, fuggit dude, nothin’ they could have done about it anyway, ditch the crutches as soon as you can and quit dragging your leg and it’ll heal up in about nine weeks and no I won’t prescribe heroin for sleeping.”

Once I got better I got madder, thinking about all that pain and suffering I went through, soaking my nutsack in a tomato juice and onion poultice when I should have been stabilizing my childbearing hips and mixing my craft water with fistfuls of Oxycodone, Oxycontin, and beetle feet.

Best thing to do, I figured, was to send ol’ Doc Hosskiller a nastygram and threaten them with a four billion dollar lawsuit. THAT’LL TEACH ‘EM.

Mrs. WM had a different idea. “Why not you just tell ’em onna what happened, nice times?”

She’s nuts, right? But she also holds the key to dinner, so I agreed. Out went the nice letter.

Couple days later I got a call from the head of the ER, Dr. Eric Nakkim. He apologized for his staff missing the fracture. He sympathetically listened to me moan and groan about the pain, and it was genuine sympathy. Then he promised to make it right and not charge me for the physician services. He also wanted to know how this could be used to improve services at the hospital.

He was polite, kind, thoughtful, and really cared about what I’d been through. I felt like a no good, dirty dog, whiny-ass pusbucket. And I respected the heck out of his approach.

More lawsuits in America? Hell, yes.

But not this time. Not even close.

END

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Are you addicted to cycling?

January 19, 2016 § 41 Comments

As someone with a bona fide addiction, I considered this question from a fellow rider as we two-by-two’ed our way up the Switchbacks today.

Here are my thoughts: First, with regard to Lemmy from Motorhead, David Bowie, and now Glenn Frey, please stop acting like the world just came to an end. These were wizened, drug-addled, head-banging, groupie-groping, career rock musicians, for dog’s sake. Did you think they were going to live to be a hundred? Most of them, especially David Crosby, are lucky they ever saw thirty. Fact is all of their work has been preserved in something called “recordings” and no matter how dead they are, their complex 3-chord arrangements and inarticulate, off-key, guttural grunts will live forever.

And here’s my big prediction: As time passes, they all will die except for Keith Richards, who has been dead since 1969. If you want to get upset about someone dying, why not focus on the children being starved in Syria?

Where were we? Oh right, rock ‘n roll, Keith Richards, addiction.

So my buddy suggested that cycling was an addiction, and I rebelled a bit at that. For me, an addiction is something that you habitually do to deal with a problem, and that effectively treats the problem, but after treating the problem it leaves you with other, worse ones.

With regard to drunkenness, its purpose is quite simple: Silence unpleasant thoughts and replace them with pleasant ones, or better yet, with slurred goop. You see, my head is full of Rated B thoughts (“B” is for “Bad”) and I would rather they were not there. Drinking makes those thoughts go completely away, replacing them with happy thoughts or goop, and it does so immediately. No foreplay, no asking permission, no beating around the bush. Drink one, buzz. Drink two, bigger buzz. Drink three, everything unpleasant is in the rearview mirror and disappearing quickly from sight.

Drunkenness is an addiction (for me) because after accomplishing its objective–obliterating the unpleasant–it runs out of steam and after each treatment session replaces the odious thoughts with even more odious ones. This requires more drinking, until eventually something breaks or someone breaks down.

I suppose cycling could fit this pattern of addiction for some people, but for me (and I think addiction is personal rather than, say, malaria, which infects all its victims under identical conditions) it is not.

To apply the same test, cycling is an activity that silences unpleasant thoughts and replaces them with happy ones, so it starts off looking like an addiction. For me, the happy thoughts are the happiness of beating the living snot out of a real or imagined adversary and watching them struggle, shudder, crack, and crater into a puddle of demolished self-esteem. There is an amazing happiness that comes from riding people off your wheel or jumping around them when they are at the end of their rope, driving a stake through the heart of their hopes and aspirations. It is a very warm, very fuzzy feeling, especially when you know the person well or they are a close friend, to see them wriggle on the end of a meathook and slowly, painfully expire as they gaspingly breathe and groan.

Of course more often than not it is the other person driving the stake through me and I’m the one getting shelled, the one spiraling backwards, legs broken like a wayward SpaceX rocket flopping awkwardly off its landing barge and into the dark, cold, bottomless sea. But even being on the receiving end of the club serves the purpose of taking away bad thoughts and replacing them with good ones: It is pleasant to give it everything you have, to empty your mental and physical tanks, to greedily grasp for the unattainable, to feel the iron bootheel on your skull after pushing yourself to collapse. It’s a glow that some call endorphins, others call “taking the bit between your teeth,” and others refer to simply as “You’re fucked up, dude.”

And yet …

It is this process that differentiates cycling from alcoholism, because after the ride, or rather the mauling, I’m a better person. I’m easier to deal with at home and at work. I’m more sympathetic. I think more clearly, especially after the 2-hour post-ride REM “nap” and 4,000-calorie lunch. And along the way there is a reduction in quantity or intensity or both of unhappy thoughts. When things are really clicking, solutions appear that were invisible before. On top of all this, there’s a residue of physical health, as long as I don’t fall off my bicycle or hop onto the hood of an oncoming truck.

In contrast, any self-respecting addiction leaves an “after the party” set of problems that revolves around the twin challenges of getting out of the gutter and wiping the puke out of your hair. Which isn’t to say that cycling can’t be an addiction for some people, as we all know the person who rode his way out of a job, out of a family, and into state prison as a result of too much cycling. Oh, wait–no, we don’t.

In other words, carry on cycling. While you can.

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Injury dehabilitation

January 13, 2016 § 34 Comments

The average time that it takes a 1mm fracture in your pelvis to completely heal is 5-6 months. During that time it is important to exercise in such a way as to bring increased blood circulation to the fracture site, yet not to “overdo it” such that the soft tissue around the fracture becomes inflamed.

The best thing to do is to let pain be your guide as to any rehab program. Moderate pain is to be expected, whereas severe or excruciating pain likely indicates further damage or re-injury of the fracture.

Full resumption of pre-fracture, intense activities should not be resumed until at least five, preferably six months after the injury.

I had all this in mind as I rode to the NPR this morning, fully aware that I was merely seven weeks into the Wanky Rehab Plan. Then I became even more fully aware as the ride kicked up Pershing and gravity plus wind resistance plus speed forced me to the tail end of the 80-plus gaggle of flailing idiots.

As we made the sweeping turn for our first lap on Westchester Krapway, a place where I am accustomed to land the first blow, I grit my teeth firmly around my small intestine, hanging by a thread to the wheel of Scrubby Carbuncle, a poor fellow who, resplendent in his new 2016 team kit, had failed to adequately prepare for the physical stresses about to be placed on the fabric when it almost ripped after Scrubby doubled to his normal size by enormous gasps, and as a result began to gap me out as the massive, spiked Baby Seal Club of Turncoat Cobley swung a mighty blow across Scrubby’s tiny seal testicles.

The gap widened and there was nothing I could do. Slow of leg, weak of spirit, and fractured of pelvis I watched the gap widen as this–MY HOME RIDE–punched me in the kidney and prepared to drop me on the first acceleration of the very first lap.

Fate intervened, though, which was bad, because the brief stop at the first red light allowed me to catch back on, something as happy as, saying, getting the opportunity to ram your dangling, bloody stump back into the garbage disposal a second time.

I skittered briefly off the front only to hear the whooshing of The Club, this time being swung by the mighty G$. It cracked me across the nape of the neck and sent me hurtling to the back, where, instead of dying on the wheel of Scrubby, who had been skinned and had his bloody carcass dripping with entrails tossed into the maw of the rear-pack sharks who gnawed his guts while spinning in the slipstream of the mighty clubbers on the point.

Now my savior was the rear wheel of Daisy O’Doodle, a nice enough person who was suffering the slings and arrows of an outrageous clubbing by Benedict Alverson, Sausage, and the gore-soaked South Bay Baby Seal, who had graduated from the ranks of the skinned into the ranks of the dickstompers.

Daisy’s skull split with the first whack of The Club, and as she sank to floor of the ice floe I felt huge shooting pains fire up into my crack, the tender fibers of barely knitted bone infused with the unholy fire of nerves being stimulated with red-hot coals. My tender nutsack, barely joined to my pelvic crack, dangled and jangled with each blow of the The Club as I shuddered and swayed, pushing harder than hard to close the four-foot gap which threatened to mushroom into a solid quarter mile.

By the final lap the monsters of the deep had taken over, with the Williams brothers, national clubber Holloway, Nutjob Pedalbeater, Dawg, Benedict Smasher, Baby Seal, Turncoat Cobley, and a host of murderers forming a final arrow that flew from the bowstring directly through the throats of all pretenders. I finished so far back I had to read about the sprunt in the newspaper.

At the post-coital lie and whopper exchange at CotKU, I required three people to help me dismount. After coffee I pedaled home at record slow pace, my tightened and aching bones barely able to turn the pedals.

Later that morning I had my first appointment with Dr. Patchumup, the bone guy who had diagnosed my strained nutsack as a broken pelvis.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Great,” I lied.

“What kind of activities are you doing now to help with your rehab?”

“Oh, just the usual.”

“What’s that?”

“You know, walking slowly in a heated pool. Stretching on my bed in the mornings. Trying not to move too quickly or to overstress anything.”

“Good,” he said. “Keep it up and you’ll be back on your bike by June at the latest.”

“Okay, doc,” I said obediently. “I will.”

END

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Brewed to imperfection

January 4, 2016 § 35 Comments

Cyclists love coffee and so do I.

A couple of months ago I started roasting my own beans, the primary motivation being cheapness, so I ordered a towsack of green coffee. There are only three or four pounds left from that original 15-lb. green coffee bean purchase from back in November. The total cost was about $4.15/lb, as compared to the going rate of about $14/lb for roasted coffee at Peet’s.

That’s not a typo. You’re paying the good folks at Peet’s about ten bucks to do something that at home takes about fifteen minutes.

Every couple of days I roast up a few beans in the cast iron skillet. It takes about minutes and then another few to shake out the husks. It’s a very un-pro operation. The beans roast unevenly, some of them burn, and when I shake out the husks off the balcony a few of the beans always tumble into the weeds below.

But you know what? I was back in Texas a few days ago at my Mom’s drinking her luxus coffee (whole bean as well as the little capsule stuff), and my worst coffee is infinitely better than her best. Mine is smooth and requires no milk or sugar. Hers is bitter. You know, it tastes like “coffee.”

And every cup of her Nespresso creates a little plastic package of waste that goes straight to the landfill. She’s a bumper sticker environmentalist, which means that although she wants to save the planet, when she needs her caffeine jolt the earth is just flat fucking gonna suffer.

What’s better than the coffee, though, is the little ritual of spending fifteen minutes every couple of days to prepare something fresh, from scratch. No machine, no fancy vacuum pack, just these little green beans gradually browning in an old iron skillet as I lazily stir them with a wooden spoon.

And the real payback is that the best moment in the day, when I drink my first and often only cup of coffee, comes from something I brewed deliciously to imperfection.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Who the hell has time to fry up coffee every couple of days and shake out the husks and shit? What a pain in the ass.”

So this got me thinking because my Mom’s other coffee machine is a very fancy deal with a built-in grinder that you can time so that when you wake up the coffee is ready, freshly ground and freshly percolated. Like the Nespresso rig, the whole point is to push a button and get on about the important things in your life, like email and Facebook and cats.

The pleasure I’ve gotten out of my frying pan and burlap sack of beans is precisely the opposite of time saving and push button convenience.

Our lives are filled with time-saving devices, but have you ever considered what it is we’re saving the time for? For most of us, it’s not to put the finishing touches on our Nobel-prize winning chemistry experiment, it’s not to rebuild the burned-off faces of Syrian children war victims, and it’s not to feed and clothe the homeless on Skid Row. Rather, it’s saving time to do absolutely nothing worthwhile, which would include Facegag, football, everything on TV and anything at the movie theater.

But the single biggest reason we save time is so that we can work to pay for all of the time-saving devices that let us work more. Think about that for a second. It should make your head hurt.

And we work to pay for the huge homes and storage spaces in which we cram the time-saving devices. (Mom was renting three units at last count.) I’m not a minimalist, but I do live in a tiny place and I am cheap. I’m not anti-capitalist, but I don’t really want to spend any more of my time making money or spending it than is necessary. In other words, Target for me is not a destination.

Like commuting by bike, roasting a few green beans every couple of days can become an important ritual that fills your time with something that’s hands-on, cheap (did I mention it was cheap?), and that results in one hell of a good cup of coffee.

It might also be good, just a tiny little bit, for my curmudgeonly old soul.

home_beans

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Be it ever so grease-stained

January 3, 2016 § 20 Comments

Man it felt good to get off that fucking plane and wait for the shuttle bus and fork over $75 for three days’ of parking and hit the freeway and dump my one backpack of shit on the bed and to finally be home.

The flight was uneventful except for the stewardess who was chatting in the galley with her friend when I came up to wait for the toilet. She looked at my hoodie and shaggy beard and limp. “Stay right where you’re at,” she commanded.

“Where else would I stay? Someone’s already in the shitter.”

“Don’t cross that line.”

“What line?” I looked at the floor. “There’s no line.”

“The imaginary plane of the galley,” she ordered.

“Like in football?”

She was moving over to the intercom, preparing to call the on-board marshal, I suppose, or maybe my Mom. “Hello, Mrs. Davidson? We have your son here in the rear galley of Southwest Flight 1006 to LAX and he’s being obstreperous.”

My Mom always loved that word. “Well you tell him I’ll be right up and he’s in TROUBLE.”

I guess the fearful look on my face occasioned by the thought that Mom would beam herself up to the galley communicated to the stewardess that she had buffaloed me, so with a stern glance that said, “Buy a razor!” she went back to her conversation about the size of another stewardess’s wedding ring.

Back at the apartment I was able to break imaginary planes right and left. I shattered the imaginary plane of the shitter, of the kitchen, of the balcony, and of my beloved bed with the indentation on the left side that, after almost twenty years, has formed one of those indelible body-forming outlines like those indentations in the sand of the high Chilean desert that are visible from the air and have been undisturbed for thousands of years.

Pretty soon it became clear that after sitting on my butt for three days in Austin I had regressed sufficiently to the mean to be able to lift my left leg over the top tube and I could therefore ride my bike. I dressed up and took it outside, with Mrs. WM running after me.

“I takin’ onna picture!” she hollered. “Don’t go fallin’ onna pavement pelvic place again!” she said as I wobbled off. “Your butt lookin’ narrow!” was the last thing I heard her say.

Which was funny because generally the only people who comment about my appearance are people who are shorter than I am. I know a guy named Ed who is 6-7 and he has never said anything about how anyone looks, ever. This is because when you are 6-7, you flat fuggin’ win. You could be wearing a clown suit and a tutu, but when you’re the tallest guy in the room and probably the county, you win. So all the shorter people peck at your ankles and criticize your beard or your old shoes or your mismatched socks, but bottom line is that they’re just sour about not having eaten enough red meat as kids, or having gotten the wrong genes, or having smoked too many cigarettes and drunk too much coffee before puberty.

 Still, I started the ride kind of worried about my narrow butt. What did she mean, exactly? That it was too skinny? If so, wouldn’t she have said it was a skinny butt? Maybe she meant that it was narrow along the east-west axis but droopy on the north-south alignment. Eccch. That didn’t sound very appealing.

After a few minutes, though, I quit worrying. I was on my bike and on the road. Again.

first_ride2

Does this bike make my butt look narrow?

END

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