The Hunt for Pen November

November 28, 2017 Comments Off on The Hunt for Pen November

Well, here I am, happily seated with my reasonably fancy fountain pen and reasonably fancy paper, and one thing is certain: Fountain pens leak. However, in the same way that shaving with a straight razor has left me with a couple of nice scars, and the same way that roasting coffee beans in an iron skillet has charred a bit of hand meat, it appears that writing with a fountain pen is going to leave a few marks too, albeit of the kind that will eventually wash off.

In fact, my November hunt for a reasonably fancy fountain pen began exactly three years ago, on the day I quit drinking. I didn’t know it at the time, but the decision to go from being an active drunk to a passive one was going to free up a whole lot of time, and if you had told me that in a couple of years I’d have enough time to write my blog in pen and ink, I’d have offered to buy you another round.

I know it was three years ago, not because I remember that kind of thing but because my friends do, and one of them emailed me a quick note to say congratulations. I’ve always resisted commemorating the date because all the years of sobriety in the world don’t matter if I fail to get through today. However, after three years of bare knuckling it, I reckon I can let myself feel a little satisfaction, and maybe even allow myself a little hope that this is forever, and then put a dollop of dream on top and imagine a life where one day the craving is gone, like a distant dead relative you always hated who’s been gone so long you can’t even remember what he looked like.

On Saturday, when I decided to get a reasonably fancy pen, the shop was closed, so we returned on Monday, pushed open the dusty sliding glass door, and entered a tiny room where the kindest looking grandfather was sitting behind a big desk eating Caesar salad out of a plastic container. “Are you the fellow who called the other day?”

I figured he didn’t get a lot of calls. “I am.”

“What kind of pen are you looking for?”

It was a reasonable question since I was in a pen shop and had driven all the way there not once, but twice, and on a holiday weekend no less. “I don’t know.”

I could see that the next most reasonable question was, “Why are you here, then?” but like any good grandfather he started telling me stories, beginning with his time in the Far East. “Here’s my photo album from when I was in Japan.” He pointed proudly to a picture after pulling out an old sheaf of faded photos from the 70’s and early 80’s. “That’s a stack of used Japanese car motors.”

I tried to appreciate the Japanese aesthetic of ten pallets of old motors and two or three workmen in hard hats, but failed.

He continued. “First time I went to Japan was in 1978. And it was a weekend so I wandered into a store and bought this pen, a Pilot ‘Vanishing Point.’ He reached into the display case and pulled out an old fountain pen.

“That’s nice,” I said, unsure if it was or not.

“Thank you. And from then on I started collecting them until I retired a few years ago, and my wife said, ‘You still have your old office and it’s filled with junk, why don’t you throw away all that junk and get all these danged pens out of my house?’ She had a point because I had hundreds and hundreds of them, so I bought a couple of display cases and bought myself a web site and moved these big leather chairs around to accommodate visitors and here I am, in business after retiring from business.”

I could see that his pens for sale were mixed in with pens from his personal collection and it was hard to tell which was which. Each pen appeared to have its own rather dramatic and detailed life history, and I wasn’t sure but that I might somehow be obliged to hear them all.

“I don’t know anything about pens,” I said, which was exactly the wrong thing to say to a kindly old fellow who was filled with facts and information and tales from long ago. “I’m kind of getting away from doing all my writing on the computer and decided to try writing the old-fashioned way.”

“Well, here’s one you might like. I wouldn’t advise you to start at the high end of the scale, $45,000 is a lot of money for a first time fountain pen user.” He bent over and pulled out a pretty green one and showed it to me.

I had to lean against the wall to steady myself when he said “$45,000,” so I shakily asked, “How much is it?”

“This one is $70 but I’ll give you a 20% discount.”

I exhaled, sensing something in my price range that would even leave money over for a carton of milk. “Wow, thanks.”

He scrunched his eyebrows. “Tell you what, let’s make that 25% off.”

“Really?”

He shrugged. “Better yet, you can have it for $40.”

This guy was a tough bargainer, but he needed to do the bargaining against someone other than himself. “You don’t have to do that.”

“It’s okay. You seem like a nice young fella. What color ink do you want?”

This seemed easy. “Black?”

“We can do that. Now I also have a cannabis ink, made with cannabis. First one in the country. I’ve been working hard to get it into those, what do you call ’em?”

“Dispensaries?”

“Yes, those. Cannabis ink. Next year it is going to be a best seller. Not a smoker myself, but the young folks sure seem to puff it up like crazy. But for now let’s get you some black ink. I’ve developed several different blacks. Let’s go check ’em out.” It sounded like we’d be hiking to an adjacent building over at the Ink Development Plant, but actually we just took two small steps which put us on the other side of the office, in front of a cluttered table covered with a dozen different ink bottles. “I recommend we don’t go with the waterproof black, as a beginner you will be glad about that. Let me show you how to fill your pen up.”

He performed what seemed like a simple operation were it not for the fact that every move threatened to pour black ink everywhere. He finished and handed me the pen. “Here, try it out.”

I put it to paper and the ink magically, smoothly, beautifully followed the nib without the slightest effort. I grinned. “This is great!”

“Yes, it is,” he said, handing me a giant wad of tissue paper to wipe off the giant black smear that covered most of my hand. “You might want to hold ‘er a little higher up. And I’ll throw in a bottle of this.” He gave me a white plastic bottle.

“What is it?”

“It’s my own proprietary ink remover, it will take the ink right off a starched white cotton shirt. But don’t drink it.” Finally he handed me a couple of stacks of Japanese writing paper. “I can’t give you these but you will like this paper,” he said. “You know, kids anymore can’t write cursive.”

“That’s true.”

“And they can’t read it, either.”

“Yes, that’s a fact.”

“And they are atrocious spellers because the spell checker does it all for them. We used to use our brains a lot more when we had to write stuff down with a pen and paper.”

“Yes, we did.”

“So what kind of stuff are you going to be writing about with your new pen and all this nice new paper?”

“Stories about bicycles, mostly.”

“Bicycles?”

“Yes. And maybe even one or two about fountain pens.”

He nodded sagely as if I’d finally said something that made sense.

END

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Foolscap

November 26, 2017 Comments Off on Foolscap

Last night, while reading Stefan Zweig’s memoirs, “Die Welt von Gestern,” I came across his description of Maria Ranier Rilke’s style of writing. Not the poetry itself but the actual way that he wrote with a beautiful hand, on only the best paper, with an excellent pen, and with never a cross-out. When Rilke made a mistake, he simply started over. He refused to send a letter marred by an emendation of any kind.

Naturally, I reflected on my own terrible script, and worse, that it had been years since I had written anything of length with pen and paper. In fact the last time I remember quite well, July 2008, when I took the California bar exam … with a pen. It was such a memorable experience that I took it again, only this time with a laptop. Thankfully, I did not have to repeat the fun a third time.

Reading about Rilke, and also about David Vogel, who crammed 75,000 words onto fifteen sheets of paper, made me remember that once upon a time pen and paper were the only writing tools that I owned. It wasn’t until 1983 or 1984 that I got my first computer and gradually dispensed with a practice that was cumbersome to employ and that resulted in a mostly illegible scrawl.

“What would happen if I tried to blog in ink?” I wondered. “And where would I even find any decent writing paper? Or a pen?”

The answer was too obvious: Del Amo Mall during Black Friday weekend. My first stop was a shop called “Typo,” certainly anathema to me; so much do I hate typos that I have a typo elf who reads my blog and faithfully corrects every misspelled word. Happily, Typo, a store devoted “all things writing,” had not a single notebook of quality paper and not a single decent pen.

It did, however have many laptop carrying cases, as well as diaries and journals with cutesy titles like “Write That Shit Down!” embossed on the faux leather cover. Having someone else’s slogan on the cover of your journal is like buying a canvas with someone else’s painting on it.

After leaving the shop for all things writing we went to a store guaranteed to have a huge selection of at least half the pen-and-paper equation, as the name of the place was “Papyrus.” Just imagine all the writing paper I would find at a shop named “Paper”!

Disappointment is of course the driving force behind any good shopping experience, and this one was no exception. Papyrus was indeed filled with paper, but only the greeting card variety. When I asked the clerk if she had any writing paper, she was confused. “Writing paper? For what?”

“For writing,” I replied.

“You mean writing writing?”

It was hard not to say, “No, I mean writing singing,” or “writing dancing,” but I simply nodded.

“The only thing we have are those little notebooks over in the corner. Unless you want a diary. Here’s a nice one.” She handed me a heavy thing with a lock on it that said “My Most Private Thoughts” on the front. I suppose it was for people whose most private thoughts were destined for publication, if only by a nosy little brother.

I selected the notebook she had pointed to, after paying the extraordinary sum of $11.37, and left. My next goal was to find a pen. As we wandered through the mall we passed a giant series of screens where children, mob-like, were playing a Super Mario game of some kind. Their parents enthusiastically egged them on, and as they did so I tried to imagine the same level of excitement when the kids brought home a book from school.

I couldn’t.

The mall was devoid of nice pens, and people were surprised by the question, “Do you know where I could buy a nice pen?”

A lady at Nordstrom’s crinkled her brow and shrugged; I’d clearly won the Batshit Crazy Stupid Ass Customer Question of the Day. “I dunno, hon. Have you looked over by the sunglasses?”

Finally I sat down at one of the strategic rest areas, where burned out husbands and boyfriends sat slumped over, utterly defeated by the shopping intervals that their wives and girlfriends were getting in prior to the main Christmas season shopping decathlon. I took out my phone and searched for “fine pens Torrance,” and immediately got the perfect hit: www.Scribespens.com in Lawndale, a mere twenty minutes away, which obviously wasn’t Torrance.

“World class pens and luxury brands!” it boasted, which was weird because Lawndale is most definitely the ‘hood, and not a major retail location for luxury items. We turned off on 156th Street into a densely packed residential neighborhood of small houses and burglar bars and curbside cars that didn’t look like they had many miles left on them.

“I think we’re in the wrong place,” my wife said.

“The Internet says it’s here.”

“The Internet is sometimes wrong.”

I ignored the blasphemy, because just as we reached the end of the street it curved around to a tiny industrial park, stuck behind a massive security fence and security gate. In the corner was a tiny building with a sliding glass door, which was itself covered in dust, and on the front was a poster that said “Scribe Pens.”

“They’re out of business,” Yasuko proclaimed.

“How do you know?”

“Look at all the dust. That door hasn’t been opened in years.”

“The Internet says they’re open right now.”

“Does the Internet say how you’re supposed to scale that ten-foot fence with the concertina wire on top?” She had a point. So I called the number on the poster. “Can’t you order this from Amazon?” she said while the phone rang.

“Gotta support the small local businesses.”

“No one else seems to be.”

Then someone picked up. “Yes?” he said, and sounded worried.

“Is this the pen shop?”

“Who is this?”

“A customer. I’m standing in front of the barbed wire fence. The Internet says you’re open.”

His suspicion turned to surprise. “A customer? Really?”

“Yes. I want to buy a nice pen and the Internet says you sell nice pens.”

He thought about it for a moment. “Well, I’m really sorry. I took the weekend off so I could spend Thanksgiving with my family.”

“No worries,” I said. “When will you re-open?”

This totally unexpected question threw him for a loop and a long pause. “Uh, Monday.”

“What time?”

“Uh, ten.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

“You should really buy your fancy pen off the Internet,” my wife said.

“Nope. I’m coming back on Monday.”

Back at home I took out the notebook and this really crappy pen, and began to write. My hand ached after a while, so I rested. I noticed that with a pen, which is slow, your thoughts run ahead, forming with plenty of time to write them down.

It felt wonderful. And as I looked back, I noticed that I’d crossed nothing out.

END

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The good times rolled

October 16, 2017 § 14 Comments

The 2017 South Bay Cycling Awards are in the books. The Academy voted on a slate of incredibly worthy nominees with the following results:

2017 Greatest Advocate, Lynn Ingram
2017 Best Bike Shop, ShiftMobile and Jason Morin
2017 Best Young Rider, Makayla MacPherson
2017 Best Old Rider, Keith Ketterer
2017 Most Improved, Thomas David Rennier
2017 Best Club, Velo Club LaGrange and Patrick Barrett
2017 Best Event, Belgian Waffle Ride and Michael Marckx
2017 Wanker of the Year, Greg Seyranian
2017 Belgian Award, Dan Cobley
2017 Group Ride Champion, Eric Anderson
2017 Best Sponsor, BonkBreaker and Greg Leibert
2017 Best Male Racer, Jay Williams
2017 Best Female Racer, Megan Jastrab
2017 GC Award, Rahsaan Bahati
2017 Greatest Recovery, Debra Banks
2017 Strava KOM, Meagan Jones
2017 Most Happy to Help Others, Pablo Maida
2017 Most Fun, Michelle Landes
2017 Best Spouse/SO, Sarah Butler
2017 Steve Tilford South Bay Rider of the Year, Charon Smith

This year’s award ceremony was dedicated to the life of Steve Tilford. Steve’s wife Trudi Rebsamen and her sister, Susan Ohlman, traveled from Chicago to attend the awards, along with a contingent of Midwestern friends of Steve. Steve was posthumously inducted into the South Bay Cycling Hall of Fame and Trudi was presented with the induction statuette, hand made and hand painted by an artist in England. It was an emotional evening for everyone who had known Steve, and his presence was strongly felt.

But the fact is that these were also the Wanky Awards, and like the event from 2015 when Steve attended and gave the keynote speech, it was a night of celebration mixed in with a healthy dose of silliness and a massive dose of good times. Those good times weren’t immediately apparent to Academy member Derek Brauch and his teammate John Abate, who found themselves feverishly assembling the famed Wanky backdrop with broken pieces of PVC piping, missing nuts/bolts, all with a few minutes to showtime. A quick trip to Lowe’s and some more feverish duct-tape engineering resulted in a shoddy backdrop perfectly appropriate for the proceedings that never collapsed on the stage or the crowd but at all times appeared as if it might.

Academy member Dan Martin pulled off another stunning year of twenty hand-made Wanky plaques, beautifully painted and mounted horseshoes to signify the incredible stroke of luck and confluence of astrological alignments that it takes to win an award. Winners fought like vicious dogs to keep people from pilfering their hard won trophies and swag bags, but it was only when Jon Paris slit the throat of the pinata baby seal, spilling out hundreds of dollars in swag from Performance Bicycles that things went berserk. No one died, thankfully.

The event continued with Rahsaan Bahati co-hosting the awards, and he actually carried the day with witty commentary and impeccable delivery. One of the most important things to deliver, of course, were words of thanks for the numerous people and organizations who prevented the award ceremony from being a complete failure. In no particular order:

  • Strand Brewing, via Joel Elliott and Rich Marcello, who made the best brewery in the South Bay our home for the third year in a row.
  • Yasuko Davidson, who baked the most prestigious awards of the entire night … the magical loaves of bread! Recipients James Cowan and Greg Leibert looked pretty stoked!
  • Patrick Barrett came to the awards with pounds and pounds of smoked brisket, making himself a true champion of the people.
  • Velo Club LaGrange donated $1,500.00 to defray expenses, and believe me, otherwise we would have been quite frayed.
  • Big Orange Cycling kicked in $1,000.00 to further defray the frayees, and it was awesome.
  • Long Beach Freddies gave $1,000.00 to this august event, meaning that with a bit of creative accounting and skulduggery and cooking-of-the-books, we would almost end up in the red, instead of being drowned in red ink.
  • South Bay Wheelmen gave $300.00 to buy flowers for the wives of the Academy members.
  • Pedal Industries, via Todd Brown, donated custom race-day bike gear bags to three lucky recipients. The bags were custom-designed with the Wanky logo for 2017.
  • Wend Wax, via Ryan Dahl, donated Wend chain wax kits to every recipient. It’s the best lube for your chain; I won’t use anything else.
  • Echelon Color, via Tony Manzella, donated the printing for our posters and for the memorial poster we presented to Trudi.
  • Metadzn, via Joe Yule, donated design services for our logo and for the poster design.
  • Law Office of Seth Davidson, via me, donated South Bay Cycling socks to every recipient, Steve Tilford memorial socks to every recipient, 20 signed copies of Phil Gaimon’s “Living the Cycling Dream,” and 12-oz. bags of Groundworks whole bean coffee to all winners.
  • JoJeBars, via John Abate, donated awesome energy bars–fresh baked, delicious, and healthy food to fuel your ride.
  • Methods II Winning, via Ken Vinson, donated killer pint glasses to every recipient.
  • Mammoth Gran Fondo, via Caroline Casey, donated another set of killer pint glasses to every recipient.
  • BeachBody Performance, via Denis Faye, donated recovery drink mix and energy drink mix to every recipient. Denis also showed off his French insults on stage, which were the best!
  • Origin Clothing, via Marco Cubillos, donated clothing to every recipient and also provide models Bailey and Flint to work the room and be generally awesome.
  • VeloFix, via Matt Brousseau, donated tire repair kits to all recipients.
  • Special shout-out to Hint Water via Kevin Salk, for providing several hundred bottles of  Hint Water which made a huge difference as the night wore on and thirsty cyclists began thinking about the next day’s ride and getting hydrated. Talk about saving the day!
  • Extra-special shout-out to Jami Brauch for getting customized swag-bag stamps with the Wanky logo and hand-stamping all of the bags for that extra custom look.

Of course a ridiculous event like this could never have happened without lots of people flailing around and making stuff up at the last minute. Again, in no particular order …

  • Chris Gregory, who’s been with us since the beginning and is the inventor of the world-famous hashtag, #ewaw, Everybody Wants a Wanky! Chris designed and made the necklaces for past winners, designed and sent out all of the finalist invitations, picked up all of the Charmin for butt-hurt runners-up, survived Costco to get water, and of course served as podium presenter for the fifth year in a row.
  • Sherri Foxworthy, who’s also been on the podium from Year One, providing guidance laced with a bit of profanity, and lots of laughs on the stage. “Batteries.”
  • Stephanie Lin, podium presenter who never misses a chance to dress up and make us all look better than we otherwise possibly could.
  • Kristie Fox, who for the third year has done the hard work of ordering and designing and getting the cake, the cupcakes, the coffee vendor, organizing all of the e-invitations, completing the database, moving huge amounts of junk from pillar to post, serving as shipping terminus for things as varied as lamps, socks, and drink mix, and then of course dancing until the very end.
  • Tara Unversagt, who managed all of the winner signatures on the poster and made sure that the right thing was in the right hands at just the right moment.
  • Delia Park, who managed sign-in and traffic flow.
  • Lynn Jaeger, who showed up as a guest but ended up getting conscripted to the sign-in table.
  • Marc Spivey, Academy member who lined out the sound system and the killer playlist.
  • Derek Brauch, Academy member who built the backdrop under great pressure.
  • Dan Martin, Academy member who made the world-class trophies.

Additional thanks to Bjorn Snider for the great write up! I’m sure I’ve left lots of people off who donated time and money to make this event happen, but hopefully you’ll remind me so I can add them in! Already planning for 2018!

Awesome thank you to Jay Yoshizumi for the fantastic photos below!

END

I hear it’s your birthday

August 13, 2017 § 13 Comments

What’s the essence of cycling?

People.

What kind of people?

Friends.

Pablo Maida, West Side legend, all-round nice guy, and champion sporty goatee wearer, celebrated his 50th birthday on Saturday with a party. A rolling party. On Pacific Coast Highway.

Between a hundred and four thousand people showed up to celebrate with him, and we didn’t simply ride down PCH and take the fuggin’ lane.

WE TOOK THE WHOLE FUGGIN’ LANE.

I have never seen a group ride go three abreast (four abreast in places) along the world’s finest bike path, but we did today. The pace was steady but not too quick in order to accommodate the various abilities out on the ride. I got to enjoy the thing about cycling I love best, which is yelling at people to “Slow the fuck down!” and “Call that shit out, fer fuck’s sake!” and “Quit half-wheeling, dogdammit!” and “Get your ass back there!”

What should have been a free-for-all down PCH turned into an orderly, disciplined mob that cruised all the way from Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica to The Rock and back without shattering into a billion slivers of pain and broken dreams. Head Down James never attacked, if that tells you how orderly it was.

When we got back to Santa Monica, Pablo’s beautiful and awesome wife May May had put together a massive party at the S&M Brew Works, where tired baby seals feasted on mackerel, beer, and the amazing food truck parked in front. Free beer? Free food? Hungry cyclists?

YES.

Pablo and I got to spend some time preening and showboating on the front as pro photographer Steve Cohen snapped away throughout the ride. Friend Dan Mitnick also shot a huge number of great on-the-bike pictures, which he’s generously shared and which are posted below. It’s no accident that Pablo is beloved. He’s taken some hard knocks in life and instead of becoming bitter, has used those experiences to become a more compassionate and understanding guy. It shows in the people who surround him.

We talked about the team rider who was killed during a race several years ago, and about how that death completely changed his perspective on riding a bike. Instead of riding to be first, he began riding to appreciate the things around him. Pablo told me about what it was like post-epiphany to climb Latigo, a ride he’d done countless times, and how with new lenses he saw the landscape, the sky, the beauty of the earth … all things that had been invisible when his face had simply been shoved down against his stem.

We talked about how randomly lucky each of us was to simply be there at that place and time. And then, the 80-mile ride ended in a flash, washed down with a delicious burger, fries, and a Coke.

Happy birthday, Pablo. You’ve made each one of us a little bit better. Thanks for taking us along on your ride.

END

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Chinese drivers

August 24, 2016 § 19 Comments

I’ve heard this phrase a lot, usually prefaced with the colloquial equivalent of “fornicating.” Never heard “black drivers” or “Mexican drivers” and certainly never heard “white drivers.” Used to hear “women drivers” a lot back in Texas.

I can’t testify as to whether Chinese drivers are worse than the general driving public. Traffic collision reports, from which collision statistics are generated, have a place for race but not for nationality. Also, my wife, who is a terrible driver but is Japanese, might get lumped in with Chinese drivers by angry cagers who witness one of her famous swoop-and-brake maneuvers.

What I can testify to is that I’m a really bad driver. I know this by process of elimination. I know about three good drivers — Manslaughter, Evens, and Derek — and I have nothing in common with any of them. Good drivers are like good bike handlers. They are fully aware at all times of the vehicle, its capacities, its limits, the road conditions, and the positions/behaviors of everyone around them.

That isn’t me. All I know is that shit is happening way too fast on the freeway and someone’s going to get hurt. And that’s at 65. Seventy mph is crazy, speed demon stuff.

So I slow down. Going slow, I’ve been told, is just as bad as going too fast. But since the people who say that are always in the passenger seat, I ignore them. If you want to go faster than 65, get out and walk.

On city streets I’m not a defensive driver, I’m a defensive fortification. Tons of room between me and the idiot in front. Turn signals. Hamster-like apprehension that there’s a hungry cat around every corner. Enough insurance to cover a major earthquake. And so although it’s possible that Chinese drivers are extra awful, I wouldn’t know since I’m always focused on staying alive, which means dealing with idiots of every race, color, creed, and bumper sticker. Careless, distracted, inattentive driving doesn’t seem to discriminate based on nation of origin. Everyone is distracted and angry and wants to kill me, and there’s only one of those three problems I can affect.

So you can imagine my surprise when I finally got to Chapter 25 in Book 2 of the New Practical Chinese Reader, 2nd Edition, and saw that the title was “The driver drove us to the hospital.”

Turns out that in addition to learning about the high speed trains in China and the Chinese New Year and how to ask for toilet paper when the roll runs out, the editors thought we’d also benefit from learning about traffic collisions.

Lina, an exchange student, was coming home from a movie with her pal, Xiao Yun, and they were coming home on bicycles. As soon as I saw “bicycles,” I knew how this story was going to end.

Lina and Xiao Yun were chatting and not paying attention and having a good old time when, making a right turn, Lina slammed into a parked delivery car. Fortunately, the kind driver took her to the hospital, paid for her medicine, and made sure she was okay before leaving his business card and returning to work.

Of course Lina’s admission of liability raised all kinds of questions. Was the driver legally parked? Did he have his flashers on? If she hit him immediately after turning, isn’t that prima facie proof that he was parked too close to the intersection? Was he in an unloading zone? Was there a local ordinance requiring him to put cones out? How long had he been parked there? Was he insured? Did he have a commercial license? Was he in the course and scope of his employment? Had his coverage lapsed? Did Lina have adequate UM/UIM coverage? Were there MedPay provisions in either policy?

The textbook didn’t say. Lina just made a big deal about how lucky she was that she’d hit the car rather than the other way around, a typical cyclist ploy. The injured rider is all stove up with a rod in his spine, a dick broken in three places, and a titanium plate in his skull, and all he can feebly say through his breathing tube, aside from “How’s my bike?” and “When can I get on the trainer?” is “It could have been worse.”

Well sure it could have been worse, that’s because you’re a cyclist and you’re terminally aware of the ultimate worst-of-all outcomes when you pedal a bike. But that doesn’t mean the jerk who was parked in front of a hydrant to unload a carton of condoms had the right to be there, or that your injuries are somehow better because they could have been worse.

Then Song Hua, the helpful chaperone who’s been squiring Lina through the textbook (I think he’s a government spy and they’re having a torrid affair), comes to see her at the hospital and praises the valiant driver for taking her to the hospital, as if there’s something special about having a shred of, you know, humanity.

One thing’s for sure, though, and this was the original point I wanted to make: When you’re riding a bike on the streets of Beijing, you’d sure as hell better watch out for the Chinese drivers.

END

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Dirty drawers

August 8, 2016 § 6 Comments

In the world of Profamateur™ cycling, nothing marks you as a B-lister like having one bike.

I have one bike.

And of course if you want to play the Profamateur™ game, or even sit at the table, you need a garage to put your bikes in.

I don’t have a garage.

Finally, in addition to your Profamateur™ bike quiver and Profamateur™ mancave, you gotta, absolutely gotta, have massive amounts of unused ProfamaStuff™.

ProfamaStuff™ means lots of wheels, lots of parts, lots of tools, lots of tires, lots of tubes, lots of indoor trainers, a Zwift™ training system, lots of car racks, lots of wall racks, a potion cabinet for Profamateur™ supplements and doping products, pulley wheels, derailleurs, bike stands, truing stands, hand stands, chains, a lube cabinet, Cintas weekly cleaning rag home delivery service, free hubs and clusters for every contingency (including that 12-17 Regina from 1979), and a curled-at-the-edges Photosport poster of the Badger duking it out on L’Alpe with Greg LeMond.

I have a bike stuff drawer, singular. In my bedroom. Beneath the drawer that holds my four t-shirts. And it looks like this.

drawer

Every couple of years or so I open up that drawer and get overwhelmed by how much bike stuff I’ve accumulated since 1982, and I clean the darned thing out. You’d be amazed at how much stuff fits into that drawer. Nonetheless I make the full-day commitment, usually when they’re running MBGP or Dana Point or some other crashfest I’m afraid to race, and get rid of all the junk.

It can fill up 3/4 of a plastic Von’s shopping bag, that’s how bad it gets, and yesterday was no exception. I excavated several receipts, some old camera mounts, seven empty SPY sunglasses bags, four half-eaten BonkBreakers, a flat tube, two tube extenders, a Band-Aid, a baggie of safety pins, some empty CO2 canisters, and a sock.

Then at the bottom there was an envelope with my name on it. “Seth,” written in graceful, ladylike script. “Hmmm,” I thought. “Must be a secret love letter I was hiding from Ms. WM and didn’t want her to find. She’d never think to look in one of my drawers.” As I fished it out and turned it over for clues I saw a brown coffee stain on one corner.

Then I opened it up and found money in it. Now, if it had contained $20 I would have pretty much considered myself the luckiest man on earth. Who finds $20, aside from that dude who found my Jackson when I was going into Pedro seven years ago to get coffee with Caron and Chief and that bill slipped out of my jersey and I spent two hours combing the roadside and never found it.

But as I fished into this envelope, imagine my astonishment when instead of a couple of fives and some crinkled ones, there was a fresh, uncrinkled $50 bill.

My heart stopped. None of the liquor stores I’d recently robbed had anything like that. $50 whole U.S. dollars? From where? With my name on the envelope in a pretty girlish hand? That I’d forgotten about? “Seth forgot money” is rarer than a graviton in the Large Hadron Collider. And that Mrs. WM hadn’t sniffed it out and taxed it at the legal rate of a 100% levy on all found funds lacking a specified origin?

I carefully put the envelope back where I found it and buried it under my passport, some helmet pads, a couple of empty baggies, and an old pair of underwear for good measure. She’ll never find out about it now.

END

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Adieu, amis

July 14, 2016 § 5 Comments

One bummer thing about cycling is losing good people. Later in August two of the best, nicest people in the South Bay are packing their bags and moving to hell or Michigan.

Eric and Patrizia Richardson made every ride better, and in the leaky prostate crits at Compton, Eric was a regular. Never flashy, often hanging on for dear life with his ankles slapping his spokes, Eric was always good for two or three superman efforts to get you up to the front, help you position in the pack, and most importantly, commiserate with you at race’s end about how much you sucked.

Eric never complained, never talked smack, was a steady wheel and one of those people whose presence in the peloton was a quiet gift except for that time on the way back from the Holiday Ride when he hit some root-buckled pavement in Brentwood and splatted. Thankfully, he was fine.

We’ll miss you two, and hope that your new lives in hell fail miserably and you’re shipped back to sunny SoCal so that we can flog ourselves together again on the NPR.

At the same time we’re losing these two fine people and hell is gaining two great cyclists, we also lost the one and only David Miller. Who is David Miller?

David Miller was the Cat 4 who became a Cat 1 in six months, but who cares about that? What made Dave the man who everyone wanted to be like was his unmatched ability to hammer, recover, hammer some more, drink a keg, hammer some more, keep everyone in stitches with a wit drier than gunpowder, slam another keg, race some more, and post the world’s funniest Facebag comments ever.

He may be a Canadian, he may have returned to Calgary, he may be able to squat my apartment building, but he’ll always be Cat 4 Dave to me.

END

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