June 27, 2016 § 20 Comments
Old bicycle racers focus a lot on their physical fitness but don’t pay as much attention to their mental faculties, which decline even faster with consequences even more dire than losing the 55-50 KOM for 225-lb-and-over on the Garbage Can Alley .01 Mile Segment.
Here is a quick test to see if your mind is rotting due to senility:
- You often forget things you’ve just read. T/F
- You often forget things you’ve just read. T/F
If you answered true, you have memory loss.
Rather than going out and doing a bunch of hill repeats, the best thing to beef up your soggy neurons are brain intervals. What is a brain interval? It is something devilishly, fiendishly difficult that will leave you gasping for air after a mere 2-4 minutes of effort.
The important thing is that you select something you used to be good at rather than something that you always wanted to try but never did. For example, when you are an old dude and you take up math, even though you were always horrible at math, you will quickly give up. So even though the fierce brain interval caused by trying to, say, add up five numbers in a column, will cause a great increase in brain sharpness, you’ll quickly give up by day three and be back to the same old, same old.
If you were one of those people who liked to study foreign languages when you were young back in the 1920’s, my advice is that you study Chinese. Now, a couple of qualifiers: If you’re already Chinese, this won’t help. Also, if you’re not already Chinese and you try to learn Chinese, you’ll sound like a complete fool no matter how many years you study it.
This is because Chinese has tones that completely change a word’s meaning. Problem is, you can’t hear the tones. Only Chinese people can. And while you’re sitting there smiling into your video cam while you do your online lesson with a cute teacher in Shanghai, and you think you’re saying, “I ate a hamburger last night,” because you got the tones all garfed up you’re actually saying, “I licked the dog’s butt last night.”
You’ll never know that, of course, because your teacher is very polite and she doesn’t give two hoots whether you ever learn Chinese or not as long as you keep paying the monthly lesson fee.
Still, even though you will never learn Chinese, it is so terribly hard that you will spend the rest of your life struggling with it and making practically zero progress, so it’s a lot like bike racing. Plus, each time you memorize a kanji (even though you forget it the next day), it will build approximate 200 new synapses. Example: Memorizing the characters 互聯網圖片is the neurological equivalent of growing three new brains.
Perhaps you don’t want to learn Chinese and figure that instead of three new brains you’d be happy learning Spanish, or Russian, or Igbo, and only getting the equivalent of one new brain’s worth of synapses. Regardless, you should visit www.italki.com, a language learning web site that offers instruction for pretty much any language in the world by native speakers at incredibly cheap rates. Its tag line is “Become fluent in any language!” which is of course a complete lie. You can also use the web site to do a free language exchange (these never work, by the way), where you swap a half-hour of conversation with an English learner who already speaks English better than you do, for a half-hour of murdering your target language with the fluency of a cat.
Check it out. You’ll soon be chattering away, and even though no one will understand you, you’ll be synapse-rich and doing crossword puzzles backwards while your bike racing compadres are drooling in the Alzheimer’s ward. If they aren’t already.
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June 25, 2016 § 10 Comments
If you want to be a successful profamateur leaky prostate bike racing dope taker, it is crucial that you get a good night’s sleep. For me, that means sleeping on Mrs. WM’s pillow. “You get offa my pillow,” she always says with a forceful kick. “You stinky head.”
Mrs. WM has the best pillow in the world. It is firm but soft, and covered with a crisp cotton pillowcase. Then, to top it off, it is wrapped in a snow-soft gentle towel that is so clean and always smells so fresh that the minute your head touches Mrs. WM’s pillow you drop off into sleepyland.
Wanky’s pillow is a different bike racing pillow altogether. First, no matter how many times you wash it, disinfect it, or plunge it into a bucket of Lime-Plus Flea, Tick & Mange Dip, it smells like an old bike racing pillow. Second, it is kind of sour smelling, like a dirty head, and it’s lumpy, too. Third, some places are soft like a rotten tomato, and others are hard like a piece of brick. No matter where you put your head on it, it’s the wrong place. You wake up in the morning from a hard night of Wanky pillow feeling like your head has been beaten with one of those giant twirling bristle things on the bottom of a street cleaner.
Mrs. WM won’t tell me where she buys her pillow and she certainly won’t buy me one. “You onna ruin it with stinky head,” she says when I beg for one. “Your head touch onna anything, stinky head. Bikin’helmet, stinky head. Bikin’ beanie head thing, stinky head. Baseball cap even though you ain’t playin’ any baseball, stinky head. So why I’m gonna buy you a nice Japanese pillow, smells all good and then stinky head?”
Since Mrs. WM has pretty sharp bedroom elbows and a solid set of 40-grit sandpaper calluses on the soles of her feet to keep away unwanted pillow snatchers, I have to get my pillow on the sly, which means during nap time. On the weekend I will wait until she’s out shopping, then sneak into bed and take a quick catnap of 2-3 hours snuggled up against her pillow. I wrap my head in a towel first to prevent anything from rubbing off and luxuriate in the deepest and best sleep known to man.
So the next time I’m standing on the podium and you wonder what my secret is … now you know.
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March 26, 2016 § 45 Comments
Everybody quits racing eventually. I know I will. Like Keith Richards, who seems to have the expiration date of irradiated food, THOG is still racing, but he’s gonna quit banging bars one day, just like Richards is going to quit banging bars on the neck of his guitar.
Most bike racing quitters wake up one day and say, “Fuck this, I’m done.” All of the facts that were so obvious to the rest of the world for so many years suddenly become obvious to them. The scales fall from their eyes. The blind see.
Bike racing travels the arc of the human relationship, which studies show is this:
- Wow, she is hot.
- Wow, I want to spend all my time with her.
- Wow, let’s move in.
- Wow, my life is now complete.
- Wow, I wish she wouldn’t complain so much.
- Wow, how come she has cellulite?
- Wow, I guess we’re just not right for each other.
- Wow, I’m so done with you can I stay here until June because I can’t afford the security deposit on a new place yet and will you take the dog?
When you quit bike racing it usually starts with money or doping or existential angst or a big crash or all four, to wit:
- I can’t believe I paid $130 to race San Dimas, spent three days away from home, tacoed a $1,500 wheel, had my 45-minute “race” shortened to 35 minutes, and watched Konsmo win the overall, the TT, the road race, the KOM, and the green jersey still fail to cover his entry fee.
- Everyone is on drugs except me, and I am, too.
- I’m a grandfather now and my legacy is going to be … 42nd at Castaic Road Race in the leaky prostate 50+ category?
- I won’t be able to walk again until November after going down in the sprunt for 12th. WTF am I doing?
Unlike the Rolling Stones, though, who do a farewell tour every few years, or the Eagles, who retire by dying, bicycle racing quitters quietly sell their excess baggage on eBay and slink away. It’s a lot like retiring from the porn industry. One day you’re swimming in three bodily fluids at once, shimmering on everyone’s cell phone, and the next day you’re wearing baggy faded jeans, a floppy hat, and joining the Sunday birding walk over at the botanical garden. You’re fucking done, or more literally, you’re done fucking.
Me, I see the handwriting on the wall. I’m never going to win a big race, and even if I did, at age 52 THERE ARE NO BIG RACES. I might win a really tiny, little, itsy-bitsy race if I can get Nick Brandt-Sorenson to make me some of his really “custom” bibs and maybe get me on a program of “ultra-custom” jerseys.
But before I quit I’m gonna do just one more race. Yeah, that’s it. Just one more.
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March 24, 2016 § 45 Comments
I rolled out of the apartment and onto Hawthorne, heading downhill towards the Tuesday night training crit that no one takes seriously except everyone.
I was in the right-hand lane as I went through the light. There was a lady in a red hybrid, not a Prius, so don’t go hating on my Prius. She thought to move over into my lane, saw me as she started coming over, and jerked back into her lane.
Then she gunned it (yeah, you can gun a hybrid, B.B. gun anyway), passed me, chopped into my lane, slammed on the brakes, and made a hard right into the Pavilions parking lot. I was pretty pissed almost being mowed down and then re-pissed at having to keep from slamming my face through her rear windshield, so I followed her.
She never noticed me behind her and kept gabbing away, hands free, not only from the phone, but from the steering wheel, too, as she periodically threw up both hands and hollered into her speaker. I followed her past the Pavilions, past the Rite-Aid, past the Starbucks, past the Jamba Juice, down the little driveway, down the ramp, and into the Spectrum parking area. She found a space and whipped in, yakking the whole way.
Her window was halfway down so I pulled up next to her and didn’t start screaming, which is almost a first for me. “Hi,” I said.
She gave me a blank look then remembered who I was. “Hello.” Her face was stiff.
“You almost killed me back there when you swerved in front, cut me off, slammed on the brakes, and turned into the lot while you were talking on the phone.”
“Well,” she said, “you bikers are so hard to see and you are so unpredictable.”
“That’s true, but you saw me when you first tried to change lanes and I was going at the speed of traffic in a straight line.”
“You bikers … ”
“Us bikers are just like you,” I said. “Except in my case; I’m older. And all you have to do is slow down, let me pass by, and then change lanes just like you’d do if you were next to a truck or a bus.”
“But you’re not a truck or a bus.”
“True, but I’m entitled to the protection of the same laws they are.”
She nodded. “Yes, I see that.”
“It might slow you down for a few seconds, but actually it probably won’t.”
She nodded again. “Next time I’ll give you room. I’m really sorry.”
I smiled. “Thanks. I really appreciate it.”
“Have a nice day,” she said hopefully.
I rode off thinking that I’m not angry enough anymore. Probably time to quit bike racing.
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March 18, 2016 § 18 Comments
I’ve never overslept for a bike ride.
“Wanna come over to the firehouse and have a cup of coffee?” Fireman texted me.
“Sure,” I texted him back.
Fireman now works around the corner from my apartment. Unlike the Inglewood station, where he made 20 runs in a 24-hour shift, up here on the Old Folks Peninsula he makes about one, and it’s usually to get a cat out of a tree or help someone find her bifocals.
I hopped on my bike and rode over but showed up at kind of the wrong time, which was dinnertime. The firemen were all seated around a big communal table eating the most delicious pot of Mexican meatball stew that one of the guys had made.
“Help yourself,” one of the firemen said, kindly shoving a big bowl over towards me.
“Thanks but I have dinner waiting at home and probably can’t go home full.”
One of the guys shrugged. “Have two dinners then.”
I looked at their broad shoulders, thick forearms, and powerful hands and realized that this wasn’t a manorexic dinnertime with cyclists munching a lettuce sandwich and half a glass of water. It was dinnertime with a bunch of men.
My buddy Fireman came to the rescue. “He was just swinging by for a cup of coffee.”
Everyone stopped eating and looked at me. One of the guys casually said, “There’s still a cup or two left.” Something was happening but I didn’t know what. “If you want it.”
“Sure,” I said before glancing over to the counter. The coffee, and there wasn’t much of it, was in a beaker with millimeter gradations. Everyone watched.
“It’s pretty strong,” said the guy.
I shrugged. “I like my coffee strong. Is this coffee special?” Stupid question. Of course it was. It was made in a fucking beaker. And what was the first thing they taught you in science class? Don’t ever, ever, ever drink anything out of a fucking beaker.
“It’s my firehouse espresso,” said the guy. “It might keep you up.”
A couple of the guys cracked slight smiles behind their concrete veneers. “Just a little,” one fireman said.
“Yeah,” said another. “You might be extra alert for a little bit.”
“What they’re saying,” said the captain, “is that you’ll be hearing hummingbird farts on the other side of the hill.”
Now it was a flat out dare. “Shoot,” I said. “I’ve had plenty of strong coffee. I can drink two or three espressos and go straight to sleep, no problem.”
“Well then, let me pour you a cup.” The blue-clad barista picked up the beaker, sloshed it once for a stir, and poured out two thimblefuls in a tiny, tiny cup, which he then microwaved for a few seconds.
“That’s a pretty small cup,” I said.
“There’s enough for seconds,” he said.
Everybody pretended to go back to dinner as I threw down my coffee in a gulp. “Man,” I said, “that’s good stuff.”
“Let me pour you another,” said the fireman, and he did, and I drank that, too.
“How do you make this?” I asked.
“Oh,” said the fireman, “I don’t really ‘make’ it. It’s more of a process.”
I nodded. After a while Fireman finished eating and we went outside. “Dude,” he said, “you won’t be sleeping tonight. Or tomorrow.”
“It does feel kind of strong.” I reflected for a moment that I’d just downed two of something that alert, professional, large dudes who do dangerous shit for a living and who stay up for days at a time drink in order to stay awake, and that when they drink it, they only drink single servings.
I went home feeling kind of antsy. Bedtime rolled around at ten and I still felt antsy. Everything seemed really loud. I opened my Chinese book and memorized fifty kanji in about ten minutes. Then I cleaned out Mrs. WM’s desk and my bike and wrote a blog. It was only 10:30.
By eleven, a time of day when I can’t stay awake under any circumstances, I crawled into bed. I could hear the neighbors talking three units over. At twelve I got up and worked for an hour, completing a day’s work in sixty minutes. At one I lay back down and listened to the sounds from another neighbor’s video game. At 1:30 I got back up and read two magazines cover to cover. At two I ate an apple and red fifty pages of Ulysses. At three I went to bed again, and at four I went to sleep.
Note to reader: I have stayed up an entire night only once in my life. Now, twice.
My alarm went off at five but I didn’t, and I missed the Thursday Flog Ride. First time for everything.
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March 5, 2016 § 50 Comments
Sitting up here high and mighty atop Mt. Palos Verdes, I look down upon you in the South Bay and can say that I am truly worried for your souls.
Not your immortal souls that are going to be consigned to the hell of eternal angel harps and no coffee and a ban on masturbation, or those immortal souls that are going to burn in the other hell where I’m told we will have to watch the Republican candidates debate naked for eternity, no …
I’m worried about your mortal soul. Yes, yours. It’s the one that gets cobbled together by nerves and genes and environment, and then crumbles and dies with the rest of you at an average age of 82.1 for women and 78.3 for men.
Your mortal soul, after about age 12, is fed on and grows by only two things: The books you read and the people you meet. And I’ve concluded that you’re not reading many books these days. This is the only reason any of us could have watched any of the proceedings affiliated with the current presidential campaign. We simply don’t read enough books.
Not just any books. Hard books. Wrinkle-in-your-forehead-forming books. Books with long words, complicated ideas, and page numbers that go up to 600 and beyond. Those books, dear friend, are the only possible salvation for your withering mortal soul, a soul that is slowly drying, cracking, and peeling off like an old scab from the incessant diet of Facegag, Instaham, Netflix, and, yes, insipid little blogs like this one.
There’s a fix, though. It was offered up to me by a 11-year-old. Here it is:
About a year ago I stopped reading. The book on my nightstand, Darwin’s “The Origin of Species,” was so boring, dry, dense, and crammed with tiny print that each attempt to complete it was like the third lap of Boulevard RR in the snow on two flats.
The problem was simple. Even thinking about plodding through that book to the end made me want to never read anything again. Of course I couldn’t throw it away, admit defeat, and move onto “40 Years of Mad Magazine: Anthology.” Nope. I’d paid for it, started it, and put it next to my bed. So I kept it there, lying to myself that I’d finish it one day.
A year passed and that day never arrived. And the problem was that I had a big Rubbermaid storage container out on the balcony filled with books, unread. And I couldn’t open it up and grab a new one until I had evolved through Darwin’s albatross atop my nightstand.
Everything ground to a halt. I even began reading Internet news.
Then one day I was coming back from the Tuttle Creek Road Race with Attila the Hun. We were talking about his precocious daughter, who is twelve. “She writes down in her diary every day that she read 25 pages. That’s her daily book diet. 25 pages a day.”
It was so brilliant! I didn’t have to finish Darwin, or Ulysses, or Gravity’s Rainbow, or any of the other 3,000-lb. books lurking in the rubber tub. All I had to do was read 25 pages a day.
So I did. And the beauty of 25-a-day is that since everything is a multiple of 25, you always know where you left off. After a very short while I’d read all of Darwin, understood a tiny fraction of it, and moved on. Meursault: Contre-Enquete followed, then Le Feu, and finally I mounted Ulysses for the first time in almost thirty years. In 28 days I’ll be done with that, too, and it’s all thanks to a 12-year-old daughter of a bike racer.
We can do this. Your mortal soul is worth it. I’m even thinking about coming up with a new app called “Vellum.” It will have KOB’s (King of the Book) for people who have read the most in a week, and will have KOP’s (King of the Passage) for people who have read a particularly gnarly segment in the least amount of time. I could even have Joe Yule design some loose-fitting reading kits with “Seth Davidson Book Injury Lawyer” emblazoned on the pink smoking jacket lapels, and get FastForward to come up with some full carbon e-Readers that are 100% carbon.
It sounds crazy. It is crazy. But force-feed yourself those 25 pages, starting today. You’ll grow muscles in parts of your brain you never even knew you had.
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