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.
If you liked this post, click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
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.
If you liked this post, click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
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.
February 2, 2019 § 21 Comments
I glanced at this magazine cover on the coffee table, and it struck me. Oh, yeah. The Super Bowl is coming up. Then I looked at it a little harder and realized that I had no idea who was playing. Ignorance sure was bliss, but I puzzled over the headline for a second. The Rams? 35 years? Then I shrugged and moved on with, you know, life.
The thing that cycling saved me from was football. Not that I ever played it or followed it, mind you, but growing up in Texas if you didn’t follow football, it followed you.
Every idiot starting at about age six talked about football, and no matter how disinterested you were in it, unless you were deaf you had to listen to the endless, mindless chatter about the game. And when you got older, it was “the big game.” There was always a “big game.” Every weekend.
I learned early that football was for other people. Sandlot and schoolyard football were brutal excuses to pound people’s faces into the dirt, and the smaller and slower you were the harder you got pounded. At some point I came up with the strategy of always lining up on the end, going long, and dropping the ball. This ensured that no one ever threw it to me, and no one ever tackled me.
On defense it was always the same suicidal order from some big dude who had hair on his nuts four years ahead of everyone else. “Everybody rush!” And you’d smash into some immovable meat hunk who would knock you on your butt or run over your head or both.
“Why?” I wondered, “should I spend my time outdoors voluntarily getting my head staved in when my brother did it to me continually at home against my will?”
The brutality was compounded by the fact that any boy wanting his boy badge had to sign up for Pop Warner no later than four, so by the time you were scrapping in the schoolyard during gym at age 12 or 13, half the kids were semi-pro. They ran fast, they threw accurate spirals, and they tackled not simply to knock you down, but to make sure you didn’t get back up.
I hated football and still remember the first time I rode my bicycle to San Marcos on Stupid Sunday. Roads empty. No one out. Best cycling day of the year except for maybe Christmas, and of course none of my buddies gave two squirty shits about football. By late January or February we were already speculating on Flanders and Roubaix, wondering who would open hostilities at Het Volk, eager to see if the Badger was going to to dominate Lemond again, or whether Fignon would make a comeback.
Football fans? Losers.
Still, in the real world you still had to hear the drivel about the big game and see it in the papers. Even though I never watched TV, my roommates did, and game day, always the “big game,” was an orgy of drunkenness, pot, and hysterical screaming.
One neighbor, Joe Vessowaite, was so tied up with the success and failure of the Cowboys that their performance on the field actually had the power to put him into six solid days of solid depression or manic euphoria. “My ‘Boys!” he’d say, as if, you know, they were his children or his friends or his family or his lovers or all of the above.
Then and now I wondered how an adult could have any portion of his identity wrapped up in the sporting success of interchangeable athletes? What difference did it make if Michael Jordan scored another touchdown, or if J.R. Richard kicked the baseball through the uprights?
And although friends knew better than to mention “the big game” to me, strangers and acquaintances didn’t. “How ’bout that game?” they’d say with satisfaction the day after, assuming I knew, assuming I cared, and assuming we’d both settle into an “intellectual” “discussion” of whether the Oilers’ two-minute game was any good, or whether Barry Switzer’s wishbone was what had made the difference in the incredibly important annual “shootout” between Texas and OU, and what this meant for the Southwest Conference standings.
Usually I would simply say “I didn’t watch it and don’t give a shit,” and thereby make a lifelong enemy.
But one day I was having my car worked on Cecil Cashman, a recalcitrant, misanthropic car genius if ever there was one. His garage was inside a fortress off of US 59, and in order to be one of his customers you had to be introduced, which I had been, by his equally misanthropic brother Dan.
It was a Monday and Cecil was ridiculing the grown men who cared about football. “Fuckin’ stupid ass big game,” he said. “It’s always the ‘big game.’ But you know what? I can’t tell ’em they’re a bunch of grown babies. If I did, I’d have zero customers.”
“So what do you do?” I asked.
“Pretty simple. Customer comes in all grinning and ready to talk fooball. ‘How ’bout that game?’ he’ll say. Always the same. They fucking assume you watched it so they don’t even need to say which one.”
“And I just look at ’em with a big old grin, shake my head, and say, ‘Yeah, boy!”
“Yep. Works like a charm. Fucking idiots then rattle on about it while I fix their car and charge them double, once for the work and once for having to listen to their drivel.”
Ever since then I enjoy Stupid Sunday as much as I always have. Empty roads, and a truly peaceful, easy feeling. And when people ask me “How ’bout that game?” they always get the perfect answer.
January 31, 2019 § 7 Comments
Mrs. Takahashi died last month. She was in her mid-80’s, and lived across the street from us in Utsunomiya. She was what folks in small town Texas call a “character.” She smoked and didn’t care who saw it or if was unladylike. She said what she thought, even when it mostly pissed people off. And she dressed up.
When I say “dressed up” I don’t mean formal clothes, although she would have been equally at home in a barn or at an inauguration ball. Mrs. Takahashi had that one thing that hardly anyone has, and that can’t be bought.
She had a sense of fashion and a sense of style, and let me tell you, friend, she didn’t get it out of a magazine.
Nope, Mrs. Takahashi was more likely to get her fashion items out of a trash can or at a rummage sale or as pre-teen hand-me-downs than she was to buy something fashionable from a store. Two days after we’d thrown away some of my daughter’s purple-and-star-spangled pajamas (daughter was ten), we saw Mrs. Takahashi wearing them with a red turban, bangles, and a sweeping orange cape. She was on her way to the vegetable stand. In bright red, CFM heels.
Mrs. Takahashi always looked stunning, too, and beautiful even with her busted up nicotine teeth and her nine decades of life. Because beauty comes from within, whatever she wore radiated, and she wore whatever. No detail was too fine, no unusual or strange item was unworthy of at least being considered as clothing or an accent piece.
Cyclist fashion of the Rapha-roadie-group-ride variety is about as fashionable as any of the things you buy at a department store. It’s boring, uniform, and tailored after a “look” that is not very attractive, i.e. the look of a 25-year-old male climber on the pro tour with an eating disorder.
By definition it’s unfashionable because everyone else does it, but it’s also unfashionable from an aesthetic angle as well: There is no attempt to cobble together your own eclectic items, scavenged out of a dumpster or bought at Goodwill, and press them into something that is uniquely you. With conformity comes boring anonymity.
But the mores of bike fashion that get handed down within bike clubs don’t represent the great mass of people who cycle. Most riders wear whatever, down to the flip-flops or bare feet they use to push the pedals. Shirtless Keith? Cutoffs, work boots, and a bare torso, yo.
It’s only when you poke your head out from under the covers that you see, for example, the crazy variety at a Los Angeles Ciclavia, some 100k riders strong. Variety, imagination, beauty, fashion, and style run amok when cyclists are freed from the disapproving frowns of those who cannot countenance socks (white) with cuffs less than six inches, not to mention the pathetic fashion douchebaggery of the Velominati.
Here in the South Bay we are as cursed with the monotheism of bike clothing as any other cycling clique. Although my helmetless form is a kind of blow for freedom of cycling as well as for freedom of fashion, it pales in comparison to the Wily Greek.
Once a slave to the smallest details of #fakepro fashion, Wily took a sabbatical from cycling, discovered his inner freak, and now shares it with us every time he rides, which is a lot.
Ski goggles. Yellow nose ring. Ear studs. Down Jacket. Backpack. Bleach blonde hair. No helmet.
One day I asked him about the ski goggles. “Are you trying them out to see if they are better than glasses?”
“No,” he said, just before he rode me off his wheel.
“Why are you wearing them, then?”
“Because they look fucking weird, dude.”
The heir to Mrs. Takahashi. We need more of that.
January 29, 2019 § 13 Comments
I got on my bike and glided all the way downhill to the post office, leaned it against the glass windows and went in. I didn’t lock my bike. The average post office patron is the last person on earth who is going to want to pedal a getaway bike anywhere, much less up a long hill.
The minute I walked in I was hit with the Post Office Gloom. Everyone was angry. The people in line were angry. The clerks were angry. Even the people checking their p.o. boxes were angry. Angry, angry, angry.
It kind of makes sense. The only reason you go to the post office is because you are cheap. If you wanted it done right the first time you’d shell out an extra twelve cents for the UPS store right around the corner. When you go into the UPS store it’s like that part in The Wizard of Oz where it goes from black-and-white to Technicolor. Walking into the post office is like walking from Technicolor into a slow buzz saw, eyeballs first.
Nope, you’re at the post office because you are a cheapass and you are now in a concentrating tank of other cheapasses. It’s like being at a flea market. No one is there for any reason other than they are a cheapass. And everyone knows everyone else is a cheapass, so no one dresses up. The women are in house slippers. The men are wearing slouchy workout pants and sweatshirts. Everyone notices, no one cares.
The lady in front of me was really angry. I mean, she was steaming mad. She wasn’t holding anything, she was just tapping her foot and fuming. If I’d had eggs in a skillet I could have made lunch laying that thing atop her skull.
There were only two clerks and a bunch of customers, which spread the mad because there were three other clerks milling around in back. “Next,” said the dude at the counter. He said it the same way you say “Fuck off” to someone whose existence you barely even notice.
The lady didn’t move. Instead, she said in a very loud voice from the head of the line, “I want to talk to the supervisor!”
The clerk didn’t bat an eye. He yanked out a piece of scratch paper, scrawled on it, and shoved it over the counter. “Here’s his number, lady.” You could tell he was about as scared of his supervisor as he was of a cockroach. “Next,” he said in that fuck you voice, and next was me.
Every bullet has a billet
People hate the post office because the employees there don’t give two squirty shits about the customers, but that’s what I like about the post office. Why should people have to put up with your bullshit just because they have a job? Why should you have to trade off your dignity for money, ever, for anything? Charles Bukowski used to work at the post office. What more do you need to know?
I pity Starbucks baristas, catering to every spoiled little PV brat who throws a tantrum because she got pink sprinkles instead of green on her juniper spiced latte. “Oh, you wanted green sprinkles? I’m so sorry! Here, let me make you a whole new drink! Sorry about that! Can I lick the spaces in between your toes while I’m at it?”
At the post office, it’s basically “Fuck you” in three flavors, and they are the same ones that have been on the menu since about 1928. Post office clerks have job security and they don’t need you. Don’t like it? Fuck you. Going to trade at UPS or FedEx instead? Fuck you. Going to tattle to the super? Fuck you. “Next.”
“Hi,” I said to the clerk. I’d show him that I wasn’t like the other annoyed, toe-tapping jerks who were angry the minute they walked in. I’d be a little ray of sunshine.
He glanced up and his face said, “Don’t pull that ‘hi’ shit on me.”
His voice said, “What do you want?”
I handed my certified mail to him. He had obviously been at the post office since the 70’s, but it might as well have been the first piece of certified mail he’d ever seen, which is another old hand post office trick. The people in line fumed. “Oh, a certified mail wise guy?” they were thinking. “Now we’re going to be here until February.”
Of course post office customers are cheap, but they also come in with the most complicated transactions, arms full of badly wrapped boxes, purses overflowing with forms incorrectly filled out, or wanting seventeen stamp denominations with certain pictures on them and by the way, what is the postal code for this tiny village in Afghanistan? And since they know their own business is going to take forever, it boils their brains to think that someone else is taking more than twelve seconds to finish up.
The clerk took forever but I smiled stupidly. He messed it up then started all over again. “How’s your ‘hi’ shit doing now?” he seemed to say. I didn’t smile but I didn’t frown.
He finally got it done. Then he reached over and grabbed a giant stamp and slammed it down on my receipt. It was an angry slam, a fuck you slam, a get-your-shit-out of my face slam. Then he shoved the receipt over the counter like he was passing a basketball through heavy traffic in the lane.
“Thanks!” I said. “Have a nice day.”
The clerk’s eyelids raised to the three-quarter mark. He eyed me for the briefest of moments, just long enough for me to get the fuck you loud and clear. “Next,” he said.
My bike was still there when I walked outside.