Barter economy

September 21, 2018 § 6 Comments

I’m not sure the global economy has worked out all that hot for most people, and by most people I mean “most people in the world.”

You know how they always describe a total breakdown of a nation as “degenerated to a barter economy”? Like during a civil war?

Well, I think barter economy can be pretty cool. The people tend to know each other, and even if they don’t, the transactions are personal and face-to-face. My goat for your carpet, twenty drachmas.

One of my friends has a lovely family and a very nice life, and many years ago she was a hairdresser. And she has never been crazy about my hair, mostly because I shave it over the sink with a pair of electric clippers.

Sometimes there are tufts sticking out. Okay, always.

And nose hairs, and ear hairs, and those funny eyebrow hairs you get when you’re old that are white and stick out about four inches so that if you get too close they can put someone’s eye out.

“Let me cut your hair,” she said one day.

“Okay,” I said, “in exchange I’ll bake you a loaf of bread.”


I baked a loaf of sourdough, 1/3 white, 1/3 wheat, 1/3 rye, stuffed it into my backpack, and my wife and I rode over to her house.

She did an amazing job cutting my hair, and I handed her the loaf. We were both really happy. Me because now I no longer look like I shaved my head in the sink, and she because there was a honking loaf of warm sourdough on her kitchen counter.

We three talked and laughed the whole time, and even fed a couple of dog biscuits to Dakota, who lolled in the kitchen and let me pet her. The whole thing, it was more than just a transaction.

Back to the global economy

On the way home I flatted. A wire went through my tire. I changed it, but the bead on the cheap-ass Schwalbe ‘cross tire came apart when I put it back on the rim, and blew out, so I rode on my flat over to a bike shop.

I bought a couple of tires and the mechanic put them on. We didn’t know each other and it was pretty impersonal. The owner stood in the back and gave me a perfunctory nod.

I paid with my credit card and we left.

The price was fair and the mechanic did a great job, but it was different, paying money versus swapping something for bread. I know what it was: No one really cared. And no bodaciously cute, happy mutt munching dog biscuits, either.



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Shit you hear on the bike ride

August 23, 2018 § 25 Comments

We weren’t technically on the bike ride, but rather sitting at the coffee shop afterwards. Close enough.

It was somewhere between jokes about Starbucks’ supposedly superior pour-over coffee and ruminations on wedding rings that Fred Mackey let loose with the manliest sentence I’ve ever heard anywhere, and in less than twenty-five words at that.

One point assigned for each manlyism.

“My dad (1), who used to play hockey (2) as a goalie (3), once broke his wedding ring (4) when he caught a puck (5) with his hand (6).”

Top that. True stories only, please.



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That Guy

August 9, 2018 § 13 Comments

What do you do when That Guy shows up to your ride? And by “your” I mean “no one’s,” because no one owns a ride.

Surely this has happened to you before. You are going along doing things the way you always do them, which is often the wrong way but it’s your way nonetheless, and That Guy magically appears out of the mist.

Sometimes he is riding a bike with giant aero fenders, sometimes he is riding an e-bike, sometimes he is riding a pogo stick, sometimes he is riding a cruiser with a 2-stroke bolted to the frame.

Regardless of what he’s riding, he’s still That Guy.

And what do you do?

Don’t go away mad, just go away

That Guy has all sorts of tools in his box to announce his arrival. Sometimes he simply does it the old-fashioned way, with a booming announcement. “Hello, everyone, my name is That Guy. I’m from Thatguyville, Thatguystate, and I’m so glad to be here and to get to meet each of you!”

That Guy is exuberant, effusive, loud, and wherever the sunbeam of attention is, That Guy will find it, strip down to his skivvies, and bathe in it for hours.

Other times, That Guy will simply approach cringing women in the peloton. “Hey, there! I’m That Guy!” he might say from a distance of six inches. “What’s your name?”

That Guy’s bag of tricks is endless. One day a Strava fan, another day a Facebag follower, yet another day an informal coach screaming at people who are already pinned, “Go harder! Dig deeper! YOU GOT THIS!” Screaming advice as he himself gets dropped, mind you.

Show up for the ride on time? Not That Guy! Look, listen, learn? Not That Guy!

When faced with That Guy’s force of will soldered to his outlandish behavior, others wilt, then they simply stop showing up.

No nerve endings here

That Guy can’t be offended. “Shut the fuck up, you jackass!” doesn’t work on That Guy; it’s simply another spotlight being shined on him, an opportunity to be the cynosure.

“Hey, relax, willya!” That Guy will answer with an impish We’re-All-Best-Buds grin. “I’m just happy to be out here on my bike!”

Don’t bother saying that thanks to him, no one else is. His perceptions of what those around him think have been cauterized.

That Guy is like a giant, 165-pound puppy that hasn’t been housebroken and is sitting on your lap. Hope you brought a shower and a change of clothes with you.

What’s a fella to do?

You can’t tell That Guy to go away. The roads are public, and who are you, anyway, owner of the ride? Rides, yo, are free.

You can’t give That Guy a list of Rules and Regulations. There aren’t any. People who ride together year in and year out develop an understanding of what’s cool and what isn’t. And with few exceptions, cycling in small groups isn’t a shoutypantsing activity anyway. When people get crosswise, they may holler every once in a rare while, but mostly they talk it over.

You can’t pull That Guy over and give him a talking to. That’s exactly the attention he craves. It’s like chumming the sharks and expecting them to go away.

If only there were a public, but sort of roundabout way, to let That Guy know he really needs to tone his act down. Something like a publication, or a newspaper, or some kind of blog that a person could use to spread the word so that That Guy would get the message.

If only!



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Bike thief!

May 31, 2018 § 6 Comments

I was in Santa Monica, ground zero for bike thievery, waiting for a cup at Dogtown Coffee. I had timed it perfectly wrong so that the massive morning throng poured in the moment I arrived.

I was riding my very bright, very orange Giant TCX ‘cross bike, resplendent with its full carbon 100% carbon disc brake FastForward wheels that are made completely of carbon and all carbon.

I didn’t have a lock, which is like going to the South Pole without a jacket, and I leaned my blazing orange bike up against one of the outside tables that line the sidewalk. To make up for not having a proper security device, I took my helmet and ran the strap through the spokes of the front wheel, figuring that whoever tried a hop-and-run would clunk over, giving me a chance to dash out and wrest my bike back.

I ordered, and went over to the front door, standing just inside while waiting for my coffee to get made, keeping my eyes glued on the bike, which was on the other side of the door no more than five feet away.

While staring at my bike, a guy came screaming down the sidewalk on a beater bike, stopped in front of the coffee shop by laying the bike on its side and dragging it to a halt. He didn’t even glance at my bike, and he burst into the second entrance down at the other end of the coffee shop.

The place was packed and he pushed his way towards me, glancing right and left quickly as he tried to figure out who owned the orange bike. Seeing me, dressed in orange and standing right next to the door, his face fell.

“Hey, man!” he said. “That your bike?”

“Yes,” I said.

“C’mere,” he said, urgently. “Gotta tell you sumpin.'” He pushed open the front door and beckoned at me to follow.

“I’m good,” I said, ready to spring at any moment. “I’m waiting on my coffee.”

“No, man, this is really important. I gotta tell you sumpin.'” He was twitchy and kept darting looks at my bike, so I followed him out the door.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“There’s a bike thief out here gettin’ ready to swipe your bike, his name’s Little Eddy, short little dude in a green shirt and a Dodgers ball cap, there he is, right down there at the end of the street!” He pointed.

I looked but didn’t see anyone.

“Aw crap, he just went around the corner. But he’s infamous, man, only swipes high-end bikes that people leave around unlocked, you know, just for a second, they’re gettin’ coffee or a coke and bam, he swoops in and he’s gone. I’m looking out for you, man.”

I looked at the dude. “What did you say he looked like?”

“Little dude. Green shirt and a Dodgers cap. There he is!” He pointed down the street again but no one was there. “Dang! He just went around the corner again.”

I noted that the guy was himself a little dude, wearing a blue shirt and a Dodgers cap.

“That Little Eddy dude is quick,” I said.

“Lightning fast, man, only swipes the good stuff. Not junk like that.” He pointed to his beater bike. “That way you got your helmet snapped around the spokes, man, Little Eddy would make short work of that. Dude uses a pocket knife, like this.” He pulled out his pocket knife and opened the blade. “Cut that thing off in a jiffy.”

“Thanks for looking out for me,” I said.

“Oh, yeah, anytime, man. I saw that sweet ride and I thought man, Little Eddy would have that in no time if you had been in the bathroom or sitting at a table or sumpin’, Little Eddy, man, he is quick.”

“Well thanks for the help,” I said, and gave him five bucks.

“Oh, you don’t owe me nothin’,” he said. “I’m just lookin’ out for you, man.” In the same breath he took the fiver and stuffed it into his pocket. He folded the blade, picked up his bike and pushed off down the sidewalk.

“See you later, Eddy,” I said.

He waved without looking back.



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Just beneath the surface

April 27, 2018 § 3 Comments

Team Lizard Collectors is a pretty big outfit. It has about three hundred members, most of whom I’ve never met. There’s another contingent who I kind of know by sight but have never ridden with, or I’ve ridden with them briefly and talked to them briefly-er. Especially there’s a dude who sometimes shows up at Telo and rides around in a TLC jersey and a floppy black pair of shorts.

Last night I was at the Team Lizard Collectors Prayer Circle, which was being held in the Chapel of Beer at Strand Brewing Co. One of the dudes there was Floppy Black Shorts Dude. He was normally attired. As I nursed my craft water we started talking and exchanging the pleasantries that bike riders always do. “How’s the riding going?” “Got any carbon?” “Are we friends on the Stravver?” and etc.

It started out pretty normal but then took a hard left turn.

“I’m going pretty well,” he said. “Upgraded to Cat 4 and I’m pretty pleased with that.”

“You should be,” I said. “It’s hard to be that deranged and that old all at the same time.”

He laughed. “Well, I’ve come a long way.”

“We all have,” I agreed. “I came from Texas. I bet you haven’t come that far.”

He laughed good-naturedly. “Thirteen years ago I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever come out of the ICU.”

“Really? What happened?”

“I was at work one day in my boss’s office and I felt something go pop in my head, then I felt kind of light headed, and then I sprawled across his desk, cleared it off like a broom, and collapsed on the floor.”

“Dang. I bet he was surprised. Most people just say, ‘Can I have a raise, sir?'”

“Right. I lay there and fortunately he was ex-military and in a few minutes EMS was there and the next thing I knew I was in the ICU.”

“Not the best ending to a Monday.”

“Or any day. Because I had something called an arteriovenous malformation, or an AVM.”

“I’m no doctor, but anything with ten syllables or more sounds real fuckin’ bad.”

“Yeah, it is. It’s basically a malformed network of blood vessels in the brain, and if it’s your unlucky day, a vessel breaks and you stroke out.”

“Dogdamn. I guess you lucked out then?”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You didn’t have a stroke. I mean, you look fine and everything.”

“I totally stroked out. When I woke up I couldn’t move the left half of my body. The docs said I’d never walk again.”

“How long ago was this?”

“About thirteen years.”

“Then what?”

“I said ‘fuck that’ to the prognosis and decided I’d come back, even if I had to learn everything over again, which is what I did. First day of rehab they put a ball in my hand and I couldn’t even move my fingers. It took hours and days, man, just to be able to close my fingers around a ball, and once that happened, I had to learn the other thing.”

“What other thing?”

“How to let it go.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“I’m not. It was like that with everything. Standing, walking, using the left half of my face to talk, every possible use of my fingers, arm, hand, leg, foot.”

“How long did it take?”


“But I saw you out at Telo the other day, hammering like a madman. You look great.”

“I’ll never be 100% on my left side. My ankle is all messed up and never really recovered, so I have a bit of a limp and can’t run anymore. But I don’t care. I can walk. I can ride. I got my life back.”

I looked at him for a second. He had this incredible smile on his face, the smile of someone who has been where you never have, and returned from it alive. Someone whose toughness and fortitude go out to the very limits of human endeavor. Someone who appreciates the simple act of breathing in and breathing out, the true gift.

“You know the best part?” he asked.

“What?” I said.

“I work for the government, so in order to really get up into higher management, some degree of significant brain damage is mandatory.”


“You know it!” he grinned.

After a few minutes the Prayer Circle started and we all began praying to the deity of Leibert. But Floppy Shorts Dude, I’m pretty sure, was praying to something else.



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What’s in a name?

April 26, 2018 § 17 Comments

My family has a long tradition of weird names. My grandfather Frank’s first name was Nahum. How many Nahums have you ever met? I’ve never met one, and I grew up in the Bible Belt.

My dad’s name isn’t exactly weird, but it isn’t exactly normal, either. His name is Chandler, which is not too unusual as a last name, but I’ve never met another first-name Chandler. Apparently it means a dealer in equipment for ships and boats, or it means the head of the “chandlery” in medieval households who was responsible for wax, candles, and soap.

My name, Seth, may not sound too weird now, but in the 1960’s and 1970’s it was way weird. Like Nahum, it is an Old Testament name. Seth was the third son of Adam; he was one of those early biblical types who did lots and lots of begatting and lived to be 912. So I got that going for me.

What I didn’t have going for me growing up was a regular name like “Billy.” I wanted to be called Billy. In Texas, no one looked at you funny when your name was Billy, and no one called you “Beth,” “Death,” or said that your name rhymed with “Bad Breath.” Basically, if your name was Billy, people left you the fuck alone.

A few of the bible beaters I ran into growing up knew that Seth was an Old Testament name, which never helped. “Which Baptist church do y’all go to?”

“We don’t go to no church. We’re atheists.”

“That’s a good Christian name, boy,” they’d say and then I’d get an ass beating, one for not believing in dog and two for going to hell.

Nor was I named Seth for any good reason. I had been born a day or so, all jaundiced and with one ear bent over, and people kept asking “What’s his name?” and my parents couldn’t think of anything, so my dad pulled the bible off the shelf that he never read and saw “Seth” in Genesis.

“His name’s Seth,” my dad declared, and that was pretty much that. My mom didn’t care either way.

My wife doesn’t have a weird name, or rather she didn’t until she came here from Japan. Over there, “Yasuko” was like “Jane,” but over here it’s like “Ozpltaxifmp.” The only people who can spell it are East Asian Studies Ph.D. students and baristas, which are often the same thing.

We carried on the odd name tradition with our daughter, Cassady Sakura. I thought I was naming her after the Grateful Dead song, “Cassidy,” but I 1) misspelled it and 2) had never read On the Road.

Our first son got a weird name too, but not as weird as my first choice, which was Wolfgang. I was in my Early German Phase and wanted either a Wolfgang or a name not Xavier that started with X. I was sold on Xenon for a while but got off of that after reading Der Zauberberg by Thomas Mann. “Hans it is,” I decided, opting for the novel’s main character, and it has been so ever since. He liked the name so much that he learned German, moved to Austria, and married into a German-speaking family, where he has the best conversation starter in bars known to man:

Stranger: Your name is Hans? Do you have German family?

Hans: Nope.

Stranger: Then why is your name Hans? It’s not really your name, is it?

Hans: Yep. It is.

Stranger: But why Hans if you’re not German?

Hans: My dad read a German book one time and liked it.

Etc. etc. etc. as the conversation crumbles and dies.

Then of course there’s my third child, Woodrow Shu, named after Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, the singer, along with a middle name that means “he who will be honored” but is written with the Kanji for “Takashi,” which means his name will eternally be mispronounced in Japan. However, as my friend Jeff Fields said 21 years ago upon learning of the christening, “Well, at least he has the category of presidential footwear names locked up.”

My daughter Cassady, she of the misspelled Grateful Dead song, had her first child with her husband, Torazo. Torazo is a completely weird name, even in Japan from whence he hails. It means “Tiger Elephant,” which is completely badass, and it translates exactly like it sounds: “Hi, my name is Tiger Elephant Jones.”

Whoa. Don’t mess with that dude. He’s either gonna win a golf tournament or beat your head in with his trunk.

Of course when you cross a Tiger Elephant with a Grateful Dead song you are going to get something special, which is my first grandson, whose name is orders of made-up magnitude far beyond large mammals and psychedelic songs: His name is Ringoro, which in Japanese means Magic Dragon Protecting Man. Yeah, say that three times fast backwards after a couple hours of beer pong. When people meet Magic Dragon Protecting Man in Japan, they pretty much freeze in their tracks, whereas in the U.S.A. they don’t even know how to begin pronouncing it so they just say, “Can we call him Ringo?”

I mean, being called the name of a member of the greatest rock and roll band of all time is pretty boss, right? Almost as boss as his middle name, Alfaro, paying tribute to our non-existent Hispanic heritage through the name of Alfara Siquieros, the great Mexican muralist whose work adorns the entrance to the Santa Barbara County Museum.

So I knew when my second grandson was born two days ago, he was going to have a humdinger of a name. And he does: Kohaku Marshall Davidson. The name means “amber gemstone” in Japanese, and no one has ever heard of a person in Japan having that name. But I’m saving the best for last, because his middle name was a twofer: Named after Marshall Taylor, the bike racer, and Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court Justice.




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Kicking and screaming

March 15, 2018 § 6 Comments

I get all kinds of email. Letters from Nigerian princes, potions that can make my parts young again, natty neckties and charming colognes, screaming discounts on Conti clinchers, you name it. Yesterday I was lucky enough to get this email from a friend:

“Every day I get a suggestion from FB to friend you, with a prompt that tells me how many mutual friends we have. And every day that number rises.  Today we’re up to 37. Apparently these people don’t know that this is the Seth who is only here to host a work-related Facebag presence.

“As I was cruising around the golf course yesterday I was thinking about how, as you have observed, people come into and depart from the local cycling scene. They also come into and depart from the somewhat similar cycling #socmed world. The entries into these worlds can be temporary or intermittent, or in some cases lifelong, like a really bad prison sentence.

“And these people’s presence can be loud, with lots of contributions, being outspoken, driving the front, posting lots of selfies from coffee rides, or quiet, sitting in, sucking wheel from the posts of others. Their contributions vary as their cycling or #socmed time and emotional illnesses ebb and flow. And of course some of these “contributions” are not positive, those who glorify unsafe riding, being a dick, racing triathlons. Thankfully you still pillory such people, such as Rider X, whom you described in a blog post a few months ago. I hope the defamation suit comes out okay.

“But there way more good eggs than rotten apples. EA Sports, BoozyP., the Chocolate Rocket, Mr. and Mrs. Hair, Manslaughter, Smasher, Wily Greek, Surfer Dan, G3, Shirtless Keith, The One And Only Michelle, the French Connections, Skier Girl; enough to fill a madhouse. They all show up on occasion for bike rides or #socmed rides, sometimes they are consistent, but they can be gone for months or years. For me, when they’re around, I like it. They add a lot to rides, two-wheeled as well as the rides made exclusively from 1’s and 0’s.

“In the #socmed cycling world, some show up and can add a lot, and it’s generally a positive influence. Like JZ. For some reason Team Lizard Collectors really pulls people in, where people are so suddenly and addictively a part of this scene that it’s almost like a drug. They feel accepted and part of a group, a group that has common interests (lizard collecting, chasing down teammates) and often they discover new interests such as Strava, riding in PV or along PCH, Strava, enjoying beautiful scenery, getting fitter, carbon, 100% carbon, pure carbon, Strava, and getting to hang out with Greg Leibert, or at least claim to. (Please don’t let Yasuko join Strava.)

“Team Lizard Collectors isn’t like a club of IT support employees or an AA group; there’s too much exertion involved, so people get excited about it and go whole hog. It’s a common pattern, and it’s generally not sustainable, like doing intervals past the age of 50. You can’t spend four hours a day doing rides and taking pictures from the lookout on Del Monte as well as from Yellow Vase, and then three hours more on Facebag uploading and liking and commenting and emojiing. We’ll call that a verb.

“Toss in hours spent hitting the gram and more hours working the Twitter and pretty soon you are flat out #socmed overtrained.

“I say you can’t do it, but some people apparently can. However, the candle, not very long to begin with, shrinks quickly, burned as it is with a blowtorch on both ends. So eventually people get to a more sustainable place, or at least they gyrate to a sine wave with lesser amplitude. And that wave may be a large amount of ride time with minimal #socmed, or less-to-hardly-any ride time with bagsfull of Facebag. Or neither. I mean, there are other things in life like family, work, hobbies, and other interests. I’ve been told this by people I trust, even though I googled “other interests” and frankly FOUND NOTHING THERE.

“So does that mean that you, Wanky, have found your right mix, with a healthy amount of riding and no #socmed? Maybe. Or maybe for now. But it can change. You are nothing if not predictably unpredictable. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In your case, you departed with a bang, a grand announcement and some pretty impressive blogfare, moralizing, chest-thumping, and grand pronouncifying. So does that make your return rather shameful? I hope not. I for one wouldn’t think any less of you if you were to have some #socmed presence, and let’s face it: Hardly anyone thinks anything of you to begin with, so what have you really lost? If a Wanky vanishes from Facegag and no one cares, did it really happen?

“Is it possible you could Facebag in a non-binary way, more measured, kind of the opposite from the way you ride, write, talk, travel, read … live? I don’t know. You’re a pretty big character, and you tend to throw yourself into things fully, even though it does sometimes seem that you don’t always recognize the difference between a swimming pool and a septic tank until it’s too late. But I don’t see you often, and I wish I saw you more. Maybe your “new old new Facegag” presence will give me a little bit more of the Wanky that I crave. I’m not really a stalker, but I think about you a lot. I think that’s what they called a friend way back when.

“My other point is the old “out of sight out of mind.” In the case of your blog, I fear that it is out of people’s minds if they don’t see you on #socmed.  Of course, you have the data, and are probably aware that with only seven readers, an additional three or four aren’t going to put you on the list of America’s billionaires. You know how many page views you’re getting. I hope. Of course, you also are intelligent, your blog notwithstanding, and you walk the walk as a cyclist, a racer, a lawyer, and an advocate. And your financial support of the local racing and cycling community is exceptional.

“So would some #socmed involvement for you be better than none? Maybe. Can it fit within the jet-setting life you live, hopping from one desolate hellhole and a cheap motel to the next, always flying coach? Maybe. You’re the best judge of that. But if you do flow back a bit into #socmed world, it might not be all bad. My $0.02, which you can add to my $2.99. And with that, it’s off to PV for some cycling.”



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