Bikes = Unity

August 28, 2019 § 6 Comments

One of the best things about bikes is that you can use them to be alone, to get solitude, to take a break from society and the world.

One of the other best things about bikes is that they bring people together.

I met Nancy Linn in 2008 or 2009, I think, when the PV Bike Chicks were first getting started. She was an early subscriber to this blog, accepting its wayward, outlandish opinions along with its legitimate ones, and supporting a voice that was needed, whether or not she agreed with it 100% of the time, or even 10%.

Last year Nancy helped out with the All Clubs BBQ/South Bay Cycling Awards by stepping in as a sponsor through her foundation, Race for RP. I wrote about her, and about relapsing polychondritis, here.

This year, Race for RP sponsored the event again, and in addition to cash on the barrel head, we got a couple of hours into the event and Nancy came up to me and said, “I think a TV crew ought to see this.”

“See what?” I asked, looking around for a dead body.

“This,” she insisted, spreading her hand at the park filled with people talking about bikes.

“Us?” I shook my head. “The only news here is that there isn’t any news.”

“I’m calling the TV station,” she said.

I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it because I was involved in some really important work standing around arguing with someone about something, so off Nancy went.

A bit later, as the awards ceremony was in full swing, someone rushed up breathlessly. “Can you go talk to the TV crew?”

“What TV crew?” I asked.

“There. ABC is here to film the event.”

“What event?”

“OUR EVENT.”

“Oh. Yeah, sure.” I went over to the news truck, where Channel 7 was doing interviews, getting footage, and coming up with a great story about how cyclists have put together an event that showcases diversity, unity, camaraderie, and barbecue. A couple of hours later it was on the six o’clock news.

Afterwards I tried to find Nancy to thank her, but it was late and she had already left, after propping up the event with a generous donation and getting us TV coverage throughout LA County, if not the galaxy.

I later reached out to her about the event. She had a few words I thought I’d share, because they say more than anything I could ever write.

A week ago today, I experienced the greatest feeling of togetherness that I have ever felt in my life.

Kinda says it all.

END

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Watts going on?

August 26, 2019 § 4 Comments

A picture is not worth 1,000 words, it only has meaning in the company of words.

Words, on the other hand, need no pictures because they generate them in your mind the moment you read them.

So, to recap: words > pictures.

Still, there are times that pictures do things that words can’t. One of those times was yesterday, and another one of those times was in July, when Yasuko and I joined the monthly Feed the Hungry Ride put on by John Jones and his East Side Riders Bicycle Club in Watts.

Although it’s called Feed the Hungry, the hungry aren’t necessarily the people who receive the food. The hungry are also the people handing out the food, and we’re hungry for the humanity that comes from connecting, even for a few seconds, with other people.

The other people who are hungry are the parents in Watts who see the difficulties and dangers faced by their children, and who want alternatives to the well-worn paths of drugs, violence, and disrupted education. Feed the Hungry rides exist so that kids can participate in something meaningful and fun.

Bikes can transport you to other places than the supermarket. They can transport you to a better life as well. When you see a kid interface naturally with a stranger, handing out a sack lunch and water, you understand that if the world you’re trying to build doesn’t incorporate children, you’ve lost the game before you’ve even begun.

And just when you start to get downhearted at the sight of so much poverty, you get uplifted when you see what relentless organizing and advocacy can achieve. In a few short years, groups like John’s have brought significant redevelopment to some of the poorest parts of Watts. New low income and market-rate housing is being built along Century in conjunction with the kind of businesses that attract growth.

None of these changes happened overnight, and most of the people who advocated for these changes were simultaneously operating on the micro-level of individual assistance as well: the churches and non-profits feeding the homeless, fighting addiction and homelessness, were the same groups politicking for structural changes in their corner of the city. Through the small picture, the big picture takes shape.

But the biking?

Although not a beatdown in the traditional cycling sense, these rides are a total beatdown. It’s hot, the pace is slow, and you continually start, stop, dismount, remount, watch for traffic, talk with people, keep a razor sharp lookout, and crawl along the blazing asphalt. Nor are the rides quickly over. Expect to drink a lot of water and spend a solid three hours on your bike. If you aren’t beat to hell at the end … well, don’t worry. You will be.

There’s a lot I could say about participating in these rides. But you know what? I think I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me.

END

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Break ’em on down

August 20, 2019 § 8 Comments

Music brings people together, that’s one of life’s unifying truths. But sometimes it’s easy to forget the truth, and it takes musicians to remind us of it.

I don’t remember the exact sequence of events that led to the creation of the Average Biker Band, but suddenly there they were doing a sound check at the All Clubs BBQ and 7th Annual South Bay Cycling Awards, and if it hadn’t been outdoors they would have blown the roof off.

The organic creation of the group was much like the organic creation of a group ride. Somebody said, “Let’s play,” and voila–Ellen Shinogle, Gary Cziko, Sly Joseph, Don Sachs, Jaycee Cary, Todd Bernhardt, Tony Johnson, Thomas Ward, Harry McQueen, Dasha Orlova, and Yasuko Davidson had formed a band, rehearsed religiously, and showed up polished and ready to play.

Play they did, with blindingly good renditions of Superstition, New Sensation, Brick House, Play that Funky Music, Sex Machine, and a loaded set of other killer tunes.

But … even though you can’t pick out the best, I can sure as hell pick out my favorite, and it was Harry McQueen owning the stage with Muddy Waters’s Hoochie Coochie Man. I’ve seen lots of live blues performances in my life, heard lots of the greats, but have rarely been treated to such a tremendous foot-stomping, hand-clapping display of musical genius. Not only did Harry turn his harp into something living, but the rest of band sank their teeth into it with cutting, slicing, professional abandon.

The musicianship of the entourage was an intense punctuation mark to the event because it showcased band members helping each other out, making space for each other, putting egos aside to get the hard work done of making great music. And make no mistake, it was incredibly hard work, whether judging from the rivers of sweat pouring off the players, or from the sheer physical labor of setting up the stage.

And of course it was worth it, worth it in the extreme because it brought a level of entertainment, excitement, and unity to an event whose entire reason for being is to highlight unity.

Nor was the Average Biker Band the only sound in town. Before they took the stage there was a major eruption of percussion. Dave Worthington and David Pulliam on the box cajon and bongos, Rahsaan Bahati on the bongos, Queen Bahati on the congo drum, Al Shorts on the bass drum with wood mallets and Congo, and the ace ringer percussionist and Prince of the Polyrhythm, Orlando Hutcherson himself on congo, Will Holloway on djembe conga, with Jaycee Carey drummer Tony Johnson, both of the Average Biker Band, pitching into the drum circle. Other cool rando peeps rotated on the egg-shakers, blocks, maracas, sticks, and tambourine, and all of this incredible sound was BEFORE the main musical event.

Drawing people together, initiating friendships, sharing common bonds, that’s all yet another outgrowth of this event that was dreamed up by our very own Ken Vinson. And draw people together it did.

Don’t worry if you missed this tight and righteous performance–Facebag is breaking with the videos floating around, and guess what? Plans are already underway for even more music in 2020. Stay, as they say, tuned!

END


The Not-So Average Biker Band!

Talk + Walk

August 19, 2019 § 8 Comments

The All Clubs BBQ and 7th Annual South Bay Cycling Awards finished last night.

It was fun.

The organizing was a lot of hard work, done mostly by Kristie and Ken. I stood around a bunch.

There were a lot of good connections made along with exceptional live music, the best barbecue anywhere, and a dazzling, shiny show of glittering low rider bikes.

Upwards of 400 people came and went throughout the day, with 300 plates of barbecue and sides dished up by the Flawless Diamonds.

There was so much going on and there were so many people to talk about that I’m kind of overwhelmed; I really don’t know where to start. So I figured I’d jump in and begin and see where it led.

Last year we met John Jones and the East Side Riders Bicycle Club. John came to the BBQ last year and won the award for Greatest Advocate. His club focuses on giving kids healthy lifestyle choices, everything from diet to cycling to community service. Once a month they tour Watts on bikes and hand out food to homeless people, or to anyone who’s hungry.

John invited me to his annual club picnic last month at Ted Watkins Park, and that event re-connected me with Will Holloway, founder of the South L.A. Real Riderz, whom I had met last year at an event at Jesse Owens Park. One thing led to another and I ended up doing one of John’s rides, touring Watts and helping distribute food and water on a boiling hot day.

The ESR folks came to our BBQ and Awards this year and hosted a bike show. The bikes were beautiful, but what was more beautiful was the number of people who got to connect with John’s group and their powerful mission. If John got paid per smile generated, he’d have been able to retire after yesterday.

This is the basic building block of the All Clubs BBQ and South Bay Cycling Awards: Create opportunities for people who never cross paths to stop, say hello, get to know each other, and commune over great food.

A lot of people judge events by numbers. How many attendees, how many plates of food, how much money it cost–not to mention how many people swore they’d show up and didn’t. But actually, the only number you really need is 2, which is how many people it takes to forge a new connection. If you put something together that connects two like-minded people, you’ve thrown the biggest event of the year.

Coming to this event was a huge effort for ESR and for the bike show participants. Some of the bikes, such as G-Man’s extraordinary green machine, weigh well over 200 pounds and have to be trailered. Loading, driving LA weekend freeway traffic, unloading, and then packing it all back up is a huge commitment and an expense.

Yet making those efforts is what it takes, and now it’s our turn to return the favor by making the effort to get off our butts and attend the amazing events that get thrown in John’s corner of LA. Whether it was Henry, OG, John Jr., or the rest of the East Side Riders who showed up in force and with energy, they were showing us how to do it right. With goodwill, effort, commitment, follow through, and open hearts.

When’s the last time you went to a barbecue, bike show, and award ceremony … and got all of that?

END

Photos taken by ESR!


More All Clubs BBQ love

August 13, 2019 § 1 Comment

Among the sponsors who have generously donated to this year’s All Clubs BBQ and South Bay Cycling Awards, Big Orange Cycling has been a part of the festivities since the beginning.

In addition to being extremely well represented in a number of award categories, that is, one category in especial, Big O has repeatedly broken new ground in its approach to promoting cycling. And I’m not just talking about kit design.

Big Orange was one of the first clubs to adopt bike safety as an ongoing and integral part of its club operations–not as an informal emphasis on safety, but by using instructors and a proven curriculum to protect its members on the streets of LA. In conjunction with Cycling Savvy, Big O continues to lead in its approach to safe use of urban roadways.

Among other innovations, Big O is the perhaps the only club in the history of cycling to welcome Brad House with open arms. It was a sad day for cycling in the South Bay when this titan of something left the sunny skies of SoCal for the arid, windswept steppes of Dallas.

In addition to structured rides every weekend that calibrate with the off-season in racing from July through May, Big Orange promotes rider education and has been a key entry point for countless riders who have gone on to become successful racers on local, state, national, and international levels.

For another year, Big Orange puts its money where our mouths are and has donated generously to help promote unity, diversity, and community in cycling.

Thank you!

END


Wanky boycott!

August 9, 2019 § 10 Comments

I read that a white supremacist who is throwing a white supremacist fundraiser for the white supremacist president of the United States recently got boycotted because he owns shares in businesses where few of the customers are white supremacists, and the customers who are not white supremacists didn’t want to spend their money any more on a company that supports white supremacy.

Now a couple of things.

First, one of the companies being boycotted is Soul Cycle. If you’ve never heard of them it is because you are a cyclist. Soul Cycle does something called “spinning,” where you can, or rather you must, oxymoronically, ride your bike indoors. I went to their web site and couldn’t find any cycling on it anywhere, although there was a bunch of PG porn, i.e. sweaty hot people barely clad.

Second, the white supremacist who sits on Soul Cycle’s board and is the object of the boycott has no fucking idea how to tie a necktie. Neither does the White Supremacist in Chief.

Billions of dollars, zero tie-tying skilz.

The sine qua non for making your necktie look like it was tied by a gentleman instead of a baboon is the “dimple.” A necktie without a dimple is like a TT bike without a front wheel. Looks stupid, doesn’t work. And no, that gash off to the right of the WSIC’s tie is not a dimple.

Sartorial considerations aside, there’s a third issue with the billionaire white supremacist and his Trumpy fundraiser. Ross desperately needs a workout at Soul Cycle, Equinox (another fitness club he owns), or better yet, on the Thursday morning Flog that leaves from Malaga Cove. Dude looks terribly unfit and like he would benefit from a beating on the bike, if only to wipe that smug little racist bullshit grin off his sappy face.

But I know you’re wondering whether boycotts really work? Do they?

Like any good scientific answer, the answer is “It depends.”

Take the Wanky Boycott, for example. This is ongoing, and here’s how it works.

Someone comes across the Wanky blog and blows coffee/snot all over the keyboard. “That dude is hilarious!” they say. “That dude tells it like it is!” they say. “Go get ’em, Wanky!” they say. So they sign up for the $2.99 subscription, which is actually more expensive than the New York Times.

The Wanky subscriber goes happily along, getting his occasional blog to help him through the morning stool, when suddenly a very disturbing blog post appears, usually something like this, which results in this screaming ass-rash email threatening dire financial consequences:

So what is your point today Seth? People shouldn’t do charity rides for organizations such as JDRF? Why are you attempting to discourage people from participating in events that serve as fund raisers? Organizations use these events to help offset fewer charitable donations because of the tax revision starting this year. Why are you not doing the opposite and encouraging riders to participate in these events so funds can be raised to help find cures for diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes? Funds raised by JDRF in their rides help fund research and financial support, I think you should get your head out of your ass on this. I don’t get it, Did you not get enough swag from some charitable ride organization, did some wanker piss you off through doing a fund raising ride and boasted about it? I don’t get it. And yes I’m pissed. Do you prick your fingers multiple times per day to test your blood sugar? Do you receive insulin through a pump attached to your body? Do you wear a continuous glucose monitor to help ensure your blood sugar is neither too high or too low? Do you spend hundreds of dollars per year on insulin, test strips, monitors, and doctor appointments, because there is not a cure yet? So yeah, if some wanker gets to boast about the ride they did, but collects a few thousand dollars in donations, then that is good.

This kind of ass-rash usually results in an even bigger dose of ass-rash because I always take the time to respond to idiots.

Hi, Pudsy

I totally disagree. The only way that treatment for serious diseases comes about is through research that costs billions. For cancer/diabetes, hundreds of billions.

The only mechanism for that is federal funding for research grant funding through NIH et al. Anyone who wants these problems addressed should be advocating higher taxes and supporting AAS as the government slashes funding, not riding their stupid fucking bike to raise $1000 to make someone feel good.

What’s worse, people who donate think they have made a change. Remember Lance and cancer “awareness”? Millions pissed away.

You are wrong, people should not be encouraged/congratulated for harming research as they crow about themselves on Strava. The only solution is higher taxes and earmarks for general and targeted scientific research. The “I’m curing cancer” stuff is bullshit, a lie, and I’m tired of all the phony spam.

It’s as if I pointed out that “healing quartz stones” was a joke and you accused me of hating your kids.

But there’s more!

Tax deductions for charities are also a scam, diverting tax dollars so some spoiled rich white braggart can go on a beautiful bike vacation.

If you want to discuss in person I’m up for it anytime. Conversations are harder, but usually more rewarding, than emails.

Seth

Naturally, idiots hate it when you actually respond to them, so they hit you where they know it hurts most, that is, smack in the middle of your $2.99. See Pudsy’s well-thought out reply regarding heads and rectums.

I understand what you are saying. We are so far from that happening though. So I still think you got your head up your ass. I am thinking of cancelling my subscription as well. Just to be upfront, I stopped reading your blog, the day after the charity ride tirade. So I have canceled my subscription and payment for it.

In other words, “I will continue to read your blog and love it but no longer am going to pay for it.” This is eerily similar to the John Candy Trump dude who NEVER reads my blog and boycotts it religiously, exceptions being made for posts that go live on days of the week that end in “day.”

But back to the Wanky boycott. Does it work?

HELL YES IT WORKS. The best way to silence people with differing opinions is by making them starve to fucking death. You can’t blog when you are dead. Not well, anyway.

Ever since that dude canceled his subscription and John Candy quit reading, I have gone bankrupt(er), stopped blogging, and begun keeping a low profile. For example, I quit riding fast on the NPR, quit not wearing a helmet (lost a horse dentist subscriber over that one), and no longer say “fuck.”

But what about Stephen Ross and Soul Cycle/Equinox? Will that boycott work, too?

I’m not sure. White supremacy is what made America great and what is making it great again. But if the people who support white supremacy have to take a hit in the wallet, even if it’s only the equivalent of $2.99, well, it’s worth it. I’d cancel my gym membership, too. If I had one.

END


And now a word for our sponsors …

August 8, 2019 § 13 Comments

One of the worst things about crawling around on your hands and knees begging for money to fund the All Clubs BBQ and 7th Annual Wanky Awards is that sometimes people take pity on you and crack open their wallet. Then you become what is officially known as a charity recipient, or worse, a debtor.

It’s a lot easier when people spit in your eye or hit you with a stone. That way you can curse the world and be self-righteous and shit. Plus, you don’t have to do anything. You sure as hell don’t have to say “thanks.”

In my various begging phases for the All Clubs BBQ and 7th Annual Wanky Awards, there is no place I have begged more piteously than at the feet of Velo Club La Grange. That is because from Year One they have been unstinting in their support of this august event.

For example in Year One at Naja’s, Sausage had a video camera on a tripod and captured not only the infamous Brad House “I love to wank” speech, but a host of other career-ending behaviors by all and sundry. To show how much he loved us, he later claimed to have “forgotten to turn the camera on.”

Whether we can expect those videos to resurface in a plain wrapped package demanding all the money in my bank account or $25, whichever is greater (Hint: it ain’t the bank account), or public release to TMZ is something that keeps many of the original Wanky Awards attendees up at night.

Since 2013, Velo Club La Grange has come through again and again as a steadfast supporter of this dubious event, each time committing precious resources, money, and manpower to add to the general level of embarrassment that accompanies adults riding plastic bikes in their underwear. But there’s more!

The last three years La Grange has put up serious cash as a major sponsor of the event in addition to loaning us the prestige of being associated with beefcakes pitmaster Patrick “Rockets” Barrett, who last year swooped in and produced a BBQ contest that will not soon be forgotten.

This year too, VCLG has donated major money, has re-donated Patrick, and also donated board member Jaycee Carey in the role of live music organizer. Working with his fellow cyclist musicians, Jaycee has formed the nonpareil Average Biker Band, which will debut at the BBQ/Awards to close out the event. In preparation for their SRO performance, VCLG has also fronted the costs of renting the studio for their rehearsals. No word yet on whether Jimmy Page has been sitting in as the studio guitarist.

What’s really amazing about La Grange’s support is that they have continued to be steadfast despite the fact that I have angered and/or personally insulted virtually everyone in the club at least twice, some folks five or six times. What explains such loyalty? Fear of getting smeared in this online rag?

Hardly.

La Grange has supported the broader cycling community for fifty years, and as our event has morphed from a series of misdemeanors into an event with a meaningful social purpose–that of bringing together the diverse world of LA cyclists into a single big celebration–La Grange has provided money, manpower, and moral support. It’s no coincidence that the best race of the year, held on the Porsche test track, was put together by VCLG.

Nowhere has the club’s support been more evident than in the actions of its new president, Rich Hirschinger, a guy I have pissed off more times than you can possibly imagine. Doesn’t matter. When push comes to shove, Rich has taken the high road (I dwell in the lower one) and lent the club’s prestige to an event that promises to benefit the entire community. It’s no coincidence that the club’s 50th anniversary year has been its most successful ever, and that it’s happened on Rich’s watch.

If every club in SoCal did a fraction of what La Grange does to support grass roots racing and social cycling activities, we would live in a completely different world.

Thanks again. WE APPRECIATE YOU. (And sorry for that time I said that thing to that dude about that stuff.)

END


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