August 24, 2019 § 1 Comment
Barbecue for 250 people is no mean feat, it is a meat feat. And the only way that it happened at the 2019 All Clubs BBQ and South Bay Cycling Awards is through the application of the genius of some seriously professional pitmasters.
Between Harry McQueen, Patrick Barrett, Reggie Walter and his buddy Mike, and Geoff Loui, this crew cranked out 13 briskets, 224 sausage links, 120 chicken breasts, 30 slabs of ribs and about 176 boneless thighs. In other words, if you showed up for this event you were going home full as a tick, and that’s not counting the sides for each plate (six of ’em) prepared by the Flawless Diamonds catering crew.
Sam Selfridge, Chris Miller, and Patrick showed up at 6:00 AM and quickly began to cook the day’s ribs. In order to pay his volunteers and skate the state’s labor laws, Patrick cooked Texas breakfast tacos on site, with a pot of scalding hot coffee that left everyone’s mouth and tongue in ruins, as camp coffee should.
It would be a long day, and since the pitmasters were also pitted against each other in a contest that would be judged by three highly qualified barbecue experts or whoever could be culled from the crowd vaguely sober, the tension was so thick you could cut it with beer and whiskey, which is exactly how it got cut, reducing the tension to the point that it was nonexistent.
Pitmasters always compete and eye each other over every detail, and nothing is more keenly eyed than the way the fire gets started. While Reggie pulled out a gallon of lighter fluid to start his fire, Harry unleashed his full-fledged propane flame thrower and lit his charcoal with Tim Allen gusto. Several small trees were incinerated in the process, and a large granite stone was reduced to magma.
Pitmaster Geoff was nowhere to be seen unless you happened to be lying next to him in bed.
Things went very smooth for everyone, at least as far as any of them could remember, and mostly, they couldn’t. Some pitmasters started with chicken, others with ribs. Geoff started with toast and jam as he fumbled for his trousers somewhere at home. At this point the picnic grounds were pretty empty except for Ken, Kristie, and their one-man helper team Seth, who basically did all the work, at least that’s what he said.
The cooks enjoyed each other’s company, carefully making sure that no one sabotaged the other guy’s meat with a gasoline rub. As more folks came to help Ken and Kristie set up, lessons from last year were applied such as threatening people with beheading if they tried to sneak food off the grill. Later in the day a few irate guests returned with charred bits that looked like fingers and thumbs of people who’d tried their hand at grill larceny and failed.
Geoff showed up at 11:00, fresh, rested, and almost ready for his noontime nap. He had cooked everything ahead of time, gotten a full night’s sleep, and was ready to boogie or nap, whichever came first. The pitmasters met and prepared the process for getting the food to the people and also to the judges. After the initial 12:00 PM feeding frenzy, with problems including Patrick’s uncooked/unchoked chicken, confusion with the food runners, and general startup disorganization, the pitmasters all sat back and waited for the next batch of food to come off the grills. Once the kinks were unkinked it was a well oiled and a well smoked machine.
People lined up, brisket on the line first, then sides, and then ribs and chicken. The Flawless Diamonds would call out when food needed replenishing, and you’d either hop to it or face the wrath of Toni. Every once in a while a guest would come over and thank one of the pitmasters with a plate of happy food. Together they shared a cold beverage and took a bit of time to relax while the assembly line did its thing.
Once cleanup was done, the pitmasters began to hang out in the front area facing the stage. Except for Harry … because he gathered his band of merry musicians, looking like he’d exerted no energy despite cooking for two straight days, and tore the place down with his music. Harry made everything look easy, kind of like the food cooked itself, the harmonica played itself, and he was simply along for the ride.
Someone (not from Texas) once asked, “What is the significance of BBQ to the universe?” It’s a good question if you’re not from Texas, but basically, sonny, it goes like this:
Everyone eats food, which falls into two categories, fast food and family dinner food. But barbecue, you see, is so far from either of those because it takes forever to make. What it means to the universe, and especially what it can do to help Los Angeles, is SLOW THE FUCK DOWN.
Yeah. SLOW THE FUCK DOWN.
Have patience. Get together with people you know, people you don’t know yet, people you like, and people you’re going to like, and SLOW THE FUCK DOWN. Serve yourself a big plateful of patience. Bring other humans together for hours and hours, resulting in a big payoff, a payoff of food and a payoff of camaraderie, and hopefully not a payoff of a nasty hangover the next day.
But it’s not easy, because after twelve hours of cooking you have no guarantee of success. The connective tissues in the meat may not give up after all that time and be tougher than granny’s bra strap, the flavor may taste like boiled ass, or it may be so over cooked that you can use it to patch potholes. So to get it right, you have to SLOW THE FUCK DOWN, pay attention, care, and don’t overreact when things aren’t going just right. With barbecue, like life, you’re not really in control, you’re just tending the garden while the sunshine and water do all the real work.
Hopefully Los Angeles is on the heels of a BBQ revolution and can learn from this slow, delicious meat candy, can learn to STFD.
Barbecue can also educate you. Mike, Reggie’s assistant, shared his encyclopedic knowledge of jazz when the DJ powered up his system. Some musical phrase triggered Mike into a passionate discourse about modern jazz artists. It came out of nowhere and the passion that he had was incredible. That’s part of the barbecue magic, too.
The contest came and went, with judges Sherri Foxworthy, Alfie Sanchez, and Jon Regnery making the hard decisions about who would win top honors. Thanks to Patrick’s rigged system he won again, but no one really got too upset because even though Geoff showed up late and perfectly groomed, he also showed up with several cases of ice cold beer, which studies show alleviates aggravation almost instantaneously.
Jon donated one of his beautiful True Au Jus barbecue cutting boards as the grand prize winner, a work of art that is almost too pretty to deface with raw meat.
August 17, 2019 § 11 Comments
When Junkyard sold all his shit, crated up his dog and flew to Seattle, a little bit of the South Bay died forever. Okay, a lot of it.
And it died in about as crazypants a fashion as you could ever imagine. With almost no planning, no logistical support, zero physical conditioning, and a love all things comfortable and soft, Junkyard embarked on a 2,600-mile journey to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
All of his fake Facebag friends #kudoed and #attaboyed and #shit, but privately more eyes got rolled than dice in Vegas. It simply wasn’t possible, everyone agreed, and the question wasn’t whether he’d complete the hike but whether he’d ever even find the trailhead.
Junkyard was directionally challenged, and the first warning they give you about hiking the PCT is “take a compass because your GPS signal will fail.” This same Junkyard, who got lost for an hour in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara finding the Gibraltar climb that he’d been up on a bike 20 times, was now going to strike forth with his dog and cross the continent.
But he wasn’t simply going to cross it the easy way, a 2,600-mile hike of the most brutal sort from Mexico to Canada, a holy hiking grail for which people train for years and that only a few who begin ever complete, no, not Junkyard. He was going to hike first from Washington to Canada, flip a uey, and then hike to Mexico from north to south … in winter.
That’s a route, everyone remarked, that simply doesn’t exist. So deep and treacherous is the ice and snow that you can’t make the logical checkpoints for provisioning. No one does it because, save for a tiny minority perhaps of the very best, no one can.
Of course Junkyard was undeterred, which is the beauty of having neither plan nor experience. You simply go. Fate will deal out what fate deals out, and you will deal with it, whether you will or no. I’d tried something similar to Junkyard’s sojourn in 1985, starting the PCT outside of Medford. I lasted four days and would have died were it not for a very, very good Samaritan.
The thought that a 58-year old creature accustomed to comfort would be able to make that trek never seriously crossed my mind, to say nothing of the impossibility of the dog making it. For a few days we followed his newly created IG account, @jnz_onthe_pct, until it became clear that the only person more skeptical than the home crowd was Junkyard himself.
In short, he took forever to even get to the trailhead at Hart’s Pass, and then, when he was supposedly on the trail, there were no pictures of the trail save one jolly video segment showing him hiking along a fire road. In glorified sneakers. Surrounded by green lush low-elevation vegetation.
When the humble brag posts about successive hikes of 16.5, 16.5, and 10 miles popped up, I stopped rolling my eyes and simply shrugged. You and I both know that an untrained 58-year-old flatlander with a 45-lb. pack can no more backpack those distances than he can ride with the peloton during a stage of the Tour. Shortly thereafter, he went silent. As far as I know, no one’s heard from him since, and wherever he is, you can save yourself the effort of looking on the Pacific Crest Trail. A donut shop in downtown Seattle, maybe.
And yet …
Buried right near the surface of this crazyquilt non-plan, this folly writ large, there was something amazing. First and most impressively, Junkyard had gotten everyone in the South Bay talking about him instantaneously, non-stop.
Every party, every gathering, every ride was punctuated with questions, comments, opinions, declarations and declamations about WHAT THE FUCK WAS JUNKYARD THINKING?
He became and has remained the single most talked about cyclist in the South Bay, ever. And he isn’t simply the focal point of attention, he’s pulled it off without even being here. The fame and notoriety of Junkyard, a man who had already invented a presence far larger than his actual life, had surpassed even that work of fiction and projected his existence into the stuff of legend.
Because as incomprehensible as it seems, he has struck a blow for humanity. Although it may be Into the Donut Shoppe more than Into the Wild, the act of cashing in, moving out, and hitting the road with your dog, unencumbered by the weight of the past, is a beautiful and inspirational thing that strikes a chord deeply within us all.
You can negatively analyze his reasons for the walkabout, but you can’t deny the monolithic fact that he has gone. On his terms, on his time plan, and for reasons that, fully private, only he will ever know.
Based as it is on the fake social media of Instagram and Faceboooooook, he has nonetheless left those things behind and wandered into a primeval land of man, animal, hunger, path, and the uncertainty of even getting one’s daily bread. Who among us can do that, and who among us has not wished they could?
It matters not whether he ever finds the trail, hidden as it is in the Internet, in GPS coordinates, maps, guidebooks. It matters not whether his camp is high on a ridge or snugly nestled in a county park, just ’round the corner from an In ‘N Out. It matters not whether he dies in a ravine, returns lean and fit, or returns 20 lbs. heavier with a groaning credit card balance from weeks of living off the fruits of the land and Denny’s.
Inventive, imaginative, creative, and driven by the Muse, he simply went. What matters is that he walked out the door in the time and place of his choosing, and no one else’s.
And you know what? I, and a whole lot of others, wish we had what it took to walk out, too.
June 20, 2019 Comments Off on A heartwarming story
Generally, I avoid these. My heart is cold, icy, bloodless like a stone, and I like it that way. Wonderful stories of good people doing good things are my Kryptonite.
A couple of days ago I was driving my son home from the finish of his junior year in college. We were talking about things. “Dad,” he said, “your outlook on life is pretty Hobbesian.”
I flushed with joy that any child of mine would have exited a year of college having read Hobbes, not the stuffed tiger. But it bummed me out ever so slightly–and I do mean slightly–to think that the outlook of this rather grim philosopher was being applied to me. Life and the state of nature?
There is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and shortLeviathan, Thomas Hobbes
A few hours later my son was on a plane, destined for a small village in the Balkans where he would spend the summer teaching English and learning Croatian. I returned home to work.
And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, was a beautiful story about a stolen bike that had found its way home. I hope you click on this link, especially if you are even a little bit Hobbesian, as no matter if your heart is as flinty as mine it will kindle the tiniest spark of warmth when you read about how good people can turn a really rotten bit of thievery into a strong human connection of people doing the right thing BECAUSE IT’S ALWAYS THE RIGHT TIME TO DO THE RIGHT THING.
There is so much goodness to the story that it’s incredible. The obvious stuff is amazing–stolen bike in California gets found on the East Coast. And then the buyer, after buying the stolen bike and having no hope of a refund, checks Bike Index, confirms her suspicions, and alerts the true owner. The bike gets reunited, and then the true owner “buys” the bike back from the person who bought the fenced item even though she doesn’t want the money.
Best of all, there’s no true crime story where a bad person gets hung up by the thumbs and sent to Trump’s immigration prison. Instead, the true owner recognizes that we’ll never know who stole the bike, and that’s okay. What matters is that a unique ride was brought home to live in quiet and harmony happily ever after (albeit on a trainer), and through a dastardly act a profound friendship was made.
I felt something inside when I read this story. Hope it doesn’t spread.
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May 19, 2019 § 14 Comments
Some people can’t get their day started right without a big ol’ confrontation.
I was sitting on my bike yesterday waiting for the Donut to start, idly and somewhat carelessly blocking the entrance to a coveted parking space in front of the Starbucks. On the one hand it was thoughtless of me to block it, but on the other hand it was pretty awesome because I was acting like a valet, saving the space for the next car.
As I chatted, the next car drove up and honked, the angry driver motioning me to get out of the way of his shiny, white, new Rage Rover. We laughed and moved, and as we did I imitated his hand-waving motion. I suppose it never occurred to him to roll down his window and say something like a human rather than blast on his horn.
For the next five minutes I kept yakking until the ride started to leave. That’s when I noticed that the driver had been standing off to my side the entire time, glaring at me. He was a short, pudgy dude with a scorched-earth hairline, and he was livid.
We made eye contact. “You think you’re so smart?” he snarled.
It took me a second to connect the raging dude with the Rage Rover. “What?” I said as riders slowly rolled by.
“You don’t know who you’re messing with,” he said.
“I’m not messing with anybody.” I clipped my other foot in, amazed that the guy had been standing there for at least five minutes. Why hadn’t he said something earlier if he were so eager to fight?
Then as various very large and muscled cyclists like Davy and Petrucci rolled by, I realized that he’d hopped out of his car eager to take on the skinny, aged smart-ass with twiggly arms only to find that he was in the middle of a group of about fifty well muscled mostly young people, any one of whom could have broken him in half with minimal effort, and all of whom seemed to know me.
Worse, no one paid any attention to him, further intensifying his pain at being small, slighted, and ignored. It sucks to stand there all puffed up, ready to take on your enemy, and have exactly no one notice. Foxy rolled by and took in the situation. “You touch him and I’ll kick your ass,” she said.
“You don’t know who you’re talking to,” he said again, begging us to ask.
“Whoever you are,” I said, “you still have to stand in line for coffee like everybody else.”
Unhappy Dude didn’t know what to say at the prospect of getting punched out by a woman or at being reminded of his ordinariness. He spun on his heel and stormed into the Starbucks.
“His dog is in for a rough day of it,” I said, and off we went.
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March 19, 2019 § 10 Comments
I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!”
What do you mean somebody else is gonna do a profile on Greg Leibert? Is there another Greg Leibert I don’t know about? Greg Leibert the CEO at Mesmerize? Greg Liebert the engineering consultant? Greg Leibert the helicopter pilot who crashed in Antarctica?
‘Cuz I mean if it was one of THOSE Greg Leiberts I would sort of shrug and say, ah, well, okay, write whatever you want, dude. But on the other hand. IF you are talking about Greg Leibert the bicycle, then I am offended and challenged all at the same time.
There is no bicycle, there never was any bicycle, there is never gonna ever be any bicycle like Greg Leibert bicycle. And it’s not like people haven’t tried. Oh yes, they have. And when they try to bicycle like Greg Leibert bicycle, most generally all they get is a mouth filled with their own puke. The greenish yellow kind that burns like battery acid and eats off your teeth.
Just the facts
People have been writing and videoing and oohing and aahing over Greg Leibert bicycle a long time and generally it is the same old thing. Let me rehearse. The fax.
- Greg Leibert bicycle kicked your ass in a bike race.
- Greg Leibert bicycle kicked that other dude’s ass in a bike race.
- Greg Leibert bicycle kicked a bunch of people’s asses on a training ride.
- Greg Leibert bicycle kicked all those same people’s asses who he kicked on a training ride all over again in a bike race.
- Greg Leibert bicycle kicked your ass and that dude’s ass again in a bike race.
- Greg Leibert bicycle did a workout on VdM so hard it broke the hill down into a flat street.
- Greg Leibert bicycle is a very nice fellow.
- Greg Leibert bicycle never cusses (much).
- Greg Leibert bicycle helped a granny over a mud puddle once.
- Greg Leibert bicycle was kind to a puppy that one time.
- Greg Leibert bicycle tore some grown men’s kidneys out backwards in a bike race and made them weep.
- Greg Leibert bicycle used to be Greg Leibert Kansas foot runner who was real fast but not fast enough.
Okay, those are the facts and you don’t need to memorize them because the next story that comes out about Greg Leibert bicycle in a couple of months will tell them all over again, rearranged. You know what I say to that? Shoddy pumpernickel. That’s what I say.
I liked the way it sounded so I said it again.
Listen up pillow-babies
I don’t care about any of those facts because they are just facts. What I care about are the pillow-babies and the Faceblab babies, the folks who see Greg Leibert bicycle and all they think is “There goes tall wrinkly Yoda in a Speedo,” or “He ain’t that fast for a motorcycle,” or “I was gonna come around him but.”
Yes, all of you pillow-baby Flaceblab concept kit wearing team turkeys, listen up because I am going to tell you what Greg Leibert bicycle is, was, and will always be, no matter how many preen laps you do around CBR getting hooted at by three drunk homeless people, no matter how many selfies you take in your newest $800 Dopefinn Dopesquatch kustum kit, and no matter how many #fakewatts you generate in your Zwift cave bathing in your own stink and sweat.
What Greg Leibert bicycle is, is a benchmark. If you want to make the needle move on the badassometer, you will need a time machine, and you will need to go back to when Greg Leibert bicycle wasn’t a brokedown old Yoda who is still faster than 98% of the riders out there, no sir, you’ll need to zip back to the late 90’s or early 2000’s when he had more hair on his chest than a grizzly bear, yes, you’ll have to go back in time to those days when there wasn’t no Garmin, wasn’t no Stravver, wasn’t no power meters except for the right one and the left one, wasn’t no carbon bikes or electronicified shifting, when most racers was too flat fuggin’ broke to dope, you go back to THOSE days and try on Greg Leibert bicycle for size and see if you can swallow back the puke when he stomps it because unless you was one of the few, the cagey, the talented, the mean, the living-in-the-backseat-of-an-old-BMW Chris Walker, you wasn’t gonna do anything except tail off the back like an old cigarette butt getting pipped and flipped out the car window.
In other words, benchmark.
Gnash your teeth, pillow-babies, because the mark that Greg Leibert bicycle set wasn’t in 0’s and 1’s, it was in broken manhood and shattered egos.
There’s marks and then there’s marks
Greg Leibert bicycle set the benchmark for bicycle but he set the benchmark for human being, too. There were plenty of really, really good bike racers who beat Greg Leibert bicycle, but many were also really, really big unpleasantness. Doper unpleasantness some of them, arrogant unpleasantness some of them, you get the point.
What set Greg Leibert bicycle apart was his legendary Let Me Walk Your Dog Across the Street Ma’am attitude, his willingness to tear out your kidney on a climb and then put it over a mud puddle so some little old granny didn’t get her tennis shoes wet.
Greg Leibert bicycle invented bicycle friendliness, and it’s why road cycling in his back yard is pretty darned friendly. And when he gets mad he actually does say “Darn.” And he never calls anyone a “sorry maternal fornicator,” even the sorry maternal fornicators, which is pretty much everyone on the NPR.
There are lots of other benchmarks that Greg Leibert bicycle set, for example benchmark of sincerely laughing at your stupid jokes.
Benchmark of nodding sympathetically at how you almost won that race but got 58th.
Benchmark of stopping to help you fixaflatfillawaterbottlechangeadiaper.
Benchmark of driving the van to races. Or the Prius. Or the dog cart.
Benchmark of helping you stragetize how you was gonna upgrade from Cat 5 to Cat 1 next year.
Benchmark of coming to your party and never making an ass out of himself.
Benchmark of towing your maternal fornicating self to the finish line and gifting you the win.
Benchmark of being polite when he met your parents.
Benchmark of doodling a hilarious cartoon that you loved so much you tattooed it on your undercarriage (not me, really).
Benchmark of listening to the tale of your epic training ride/gigantic power numbers/29th spot on the Strava leaderboard for your age-weight-gender/new bicycle gewgaw/question about training that you have zero interest in hearing his answer to.
Benchmark of supporting his club and new riders.
Benchmark of encouraging instead of discouraging, clapping instead of slapping, cheering instead of jeering.
Benchmark. Of. Friend.