Notes from Aboveground

August 14, 2013 § 9 Comments

  1. Mighty Mouse gold buckled at the Leadville 100, along with Jay LaPlante. South Bay hammers Mike Hotten and Aaron Dalyrmple came in just over 8:30 for amazing performances. Mrs. Hotten and G$ won “Hand-up Bitch Buckles” for their incredible performances. Local rider Cheryl Parrish gave it her all, got ground up into little pieces, and has already made plane reservations for 2014 to have at it again! Props to all who competed.
  2. My teammate Eric Anderson pulled off an impressive 3rd place at the Torrance crit behind Aaron Wimberley and Charon Smith. Props to Josh Alverson for hard work throughout the race.
  3. Kevin Phillips got bronze at elite track nationals in the 4k pursuit. The dude’s 40, and competing against Olympians. Who’s the badass?
  4. Melanie Phillips, Renee Fenstermacher, and Tara Unverzagt pulled on stars-and-stripes jerseys at the masters nationals track championships in Indy. Tara also won best all-round racer, and national titles in several other events. Coaches Roger Young and Tim Roach deserve a big share of the credit as well.
  5. Cobra Penis, our NPR devotee and videographer extraordinaire, continues to make the South Bay famous through his videos (often in tandem with Keith Howes), his video viewing parties, and his enthusiastic attitude. If we had ten more Cobra Penises, we’d all be … pregnant?
  6. Hats off to Joy McCullough of CashCall Mortgage for her win at Torrance this past weekend, and to her teammate Deven Dunn who also stood on the top step of the Men’s Pro/1/2 race.
  7. Peninsula Cycle Club and LaGrange … thanks for putting on two fantastic back-to-back weekends of bike racing.
  8. Strand Brewing Co., thanks for making your 5,000 gallons of fresh beer available to racers and spectators alike.
  9. Francisco, get your ass back out on your bike!
  10. Jack from Illinois (not his real name), I’m still working on the kitten’s tale of “Lick Me Again, Mommy!” And thanks for coming out to CA and beating up on the locals.

Thieving thieves and their thieving thievery

February 18, 2013 § 27 Comments

I pedaled over to the CRB crit this morning and it was cold. I had a cup of coffee. I bought three cookies for fifty cents. I got my number and forty-seven safety pins and began pinning it on. Armin Rahm let me sit in one of his chairs, which warmed my back. Kristy Morrow and Haldane Morris were getting ready to race instead of toting the giant cameras with which they can normally be seen.

Along with Danny Munson, BJ Hale, Brian Hodes, Greg de Guzman, PinkShorts, Christy Nicholson, and a slew of other fine race photographers, Kristy and Haldane make up the photo corps that documents the local races with such amazing quality and detail.

After I got my number pinned on I was going to go over and chat with Kristy about the photos she’d taken at the UCLA road race yesterday. At that very moment, I felt a deep and powerful rumbling in my lower gut.

A very public performance

This was unusual; although I’m a bit of a dribbler before racing, I’m hardly ever a crumper, and this was a lowdown churning sending a message to my brain saying, “Find a deep hole quick or we’re gonna need a hazmat squad!”

I clattered over to the cages, and since my 50+ Elderly Prostate race was going off in fifteen minutes there was already a solid line. Pottymouth that he is, Chris Lotts understands the importance of potties, and there were four stalls to accommodate us. As I stood in the queue it lengthened behind me. My turn came, not a second too soon, either.

I dashed in, hung my jersey on the peg (careful not to drop anything on the floor, eccch), and quickly sat down. There was action in the cage to my right and to my left. Righty was dribbling, and Lefty sounded like he was in the mop-up stages of his pre-race crump.

What happened next was astonishing. I know that it couldn’t have had anything to do with dinner the night before, which consisted of two large servings of spicy pork bulgogi, four servings of spicy kimchi, three servings of spicy cucumbers in vinegar, lots of hot herbal tea, all topped off with a big bowl of yogurt and fruit. I also know that it couldn’t have had anything to do with the fibrous breakfast I’d just eaten, the pot of hot coffee I’d just drunk, the forty-five minutes of hard pedaling to get to the race course, the extra hot cup of coffee I’d just downed, the chocolate chip cookies I’d just eaten, or the handful of dates I’d just scarfed. Nope, it couldn’t have been any of those things.

But it might have been all of them combined, because I let out an enormous braaaaaack, then a whummmmmp, then a staccato tackatackatackatacka fusillade of small arms fire, then a massive flurlurlurlurlurrrrrrp discharge of the River Ganges that sounded like a waterfall filled with raisins and dates, then a high-pitched bibibibibibiiiiii whine like a bottle rocket, then another deep whummmmmp, and then an airy, balloon-emptying blaaaaaat, terminating with a pfssssssssst.

It all happened in the clench of a sphincter, and after the racket subsided and the sounds stopped bouncing off the inside of the plastic shell, I realized that all around me there was…nothing. Righty was silent. Lefty was silent. All chatter and banter outside the cage had gone mute.

Before I had time to get embarrassed, the second movement of my public symphony commenced. This time it began with the fusillade, went straight to whump, and finished with the blaaat, which sounded like a kid trying to blow a proper note on a trumpet for the first time, and failing.

More silence.

I pulled up my shorts and bravely opened the door. Thirty or so awed and very frightened bike racers stood there, all but a couple averting their gaze. No matter that they all had to go so badly that they were tap dancing in their cleats, not a single person moved towards my potty, which was now vacant.

I looked straight at Mr. Next In Line. “Might want to give that ‘un a second or two to air out,” I said.

He nodded, pale, and didn’t budge.

Oh, the race?

Since I’d already won Pro 1/2/3/4/5/Masters/Women’s/Juniors’ potty competition, the race was anticlimactic. I attacked a couple of time, chased a couple of breaks, and went for a no-hoper solo flyer on the last lap which ended the same way such boneheaded moves always do: Caught with half a lap to go, dropped by the supercharged field, and rolling across the finish DFL many seconds in arrears.

After the race I rode over to my office in Torrance to work for a few hours. “Work” of course involved checking out the photos taken by Kristy and Haldane the day before.

There were some great ones. Me quitting the race in ignominy. Mike Easter winning in his national champion’s kit. Jeff Konsmo sprinting for the win. The local Pearblossom tweeker driving around, flipping off cyclists, and telling them to “ride on the sidewalk.” [Author’s note: The nearest sidewalk is 47 miles away, in Los Angeles.]

After a few minutes, one thing became obvious. The same thing that’s obvious after every race: People were stealing the photos.

Can we call it what it is?

When a photographer takes a picture, and you take it without their permission, it’s stealing. It’s no different from taking someone’s money, or their spare wheelset, or their wallet.

It’s stealing.

Virtually all of the local race photographers have their photos in a gallery on Smugmug or some similar site. This means you can go to the gallery, PAY FOR THE PHOTO, and then download it. It often costs a whole two or three dollars.

But bike racers being bike racers, the trend is to steal the image, remove the watermark, and then use it as  a profile picture or main feature on a team web site. Why don’t the thieving thieves consider this thievery? Because they have figured it out in their own minds that it’s not stealing. Here’s how they rationalize the theft:

  1. “I gave the photographer credit for the photo.” Nice. So you not only stole it, you rubbed his nose in it. Photo thieves think there’s this giant Photo Credit Bank in the sky, where, as long as you “give the photographer credit,” the bank rains money down on them. Guess what? There is no Photo Credit Bank. Guess what else? Just because you admit you stole something doesn’t mean you didn’t steal it.
  2. “I’m helping promote their work. It gets their name out.” Right. Kind of like how you promote Michael Jackson by illegally downloading his music without paying for it and then play it to “get his name out?” Or the way you promote Steven Spielberg by ripping off his movies? That kind of “promotion” is called “stealing.”
  3. “They don’t care. They’re just glad we appreciate their work.” Yes, they do care. And you’re not appreciating it. You’re stealing it. If you appreciated it, you’d pay for it.
  4. “It’s part of their cost of doing business. They sell some of those photos, which makes up for the ones they don’t sell.” Exactly. In retail it’s called “shrinkage,” or, more technically, “shoplifting.” It’s a cost of doing business all right, the cost of crime.
  5. “So sue me.” Glad you brought that up. Check out these links to find out the kind of hot water that can be boiled up around your tender parts for stealing pictures: Blogger sued for infringement; Company sued for photo theft; Ways you can get hosed using images without permission.

So what’s a feller to do?

When one of our local photographers takes your picture as you battle it out for 37th place in the Masters 75+ race, tags you on Facebook, and it pops up as a notification, check it out and see if you like it. If you do, go the web site and buy a copy. But don’t take it, strip the watermark, and use it as your profile picture. After you’ve bought it, it’s good form to confirm with the photographer how you plan to use it and that they approve. It’s not only polite, it could keep you out of hot water, and most importantly it will keep them coming to the races and making us the beneficiaries of their superlative work.

If you’ve got hundreds of photos on your Facebook page, take a minute to scroll through them and make sure that if they’re race photos you haven’t copied and pasted without buying or getting permission. One or two falling through the cracks might be understandable, but more than that and it’s a pattern. A bad one.

None of this is supposed to be an explanation of your legal rights, or, Dog forbid, legal counsel. Rather, it’s a plea to quit ripping off your friends, and if you’ve ripped them off by mistake, or in error…correct the mistake. You’ll find that money, timely paid, covers a multitude of sins.

If you’re ever in doubt, ask first. You’ll be glad you did, and they’ll be even more so.

And if you need a quiet place to sit down and think all this over, just don’t go into Stall No. 3.

END

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News from around the Empire

January 18, 2013 § 11 Comments

As of today I’m free at last, free at last, thank Dog almighty I’m free at last. “Why?” you ask. Because henceforth when I get asked The Question(s) about The Cyclist I get to say, after thoughtfully furrowing my brow, this: “Well, it’s a good question. I suggest you go out and ride your bicycle in order to answer it.”

Elbow testing: Junkyard thwacked his rebuilt elbow yesterday at the start of the NPR, right where the electronic circuitry connected to the shoulder bone, which was connected to the brain bone, which was connected to the new PV Kit bone, which got shredded and tore a hole bigger than Dallas. The ‘bow, however, is rock solid minus a touch of cosmetic road wear. They DID build him better than he was before.

Bellyflop: Neumann/aka Hockeystick/now known as “Belly” did a track stand at the turnaround on the NPR, had his wheel chopped, and tumbled off his bicycle. No harm done, and he was quickly helped by Rahsaan. He did, however, bounce when he hit. I’ve never seen that before. Belly, time to try the South Bay Wanker Diet. It’s painful, but it works and it’s free. PS: Track stands in the middle of swirling roadie packs = Numbskullish.

First blood: Charon Smith scored his first win of the year at Ontario last week, finishing so far ahead of the field that he had time to completely recover from his sprint effort and shave his head by the time he crossed the line. The finish photo shows everyone with teeth gritted, faces twisted, bodies hunched over the bars looking like they’re running from a zombie army, and Charon with arms raised, mouth closed, and no visible signs of exertion as he cruises to the win. I’m pretty sure there were some intense post-race team huddles at MRI/Monster Media, and they went like this:

“Don’t ever let it finish in a bunch sprint again, dogdammit!”

“I told you we’re going to have to break away to win! Only way to outsprint Charon is by making him do the 1/2 races, where he belongs.”

“We can’t have him in a break, ever!”

“At CBR we’ll attack the entire race until we get away!”

“If we work together with the other 99 riders in the race, we might have a chance!”

Etc.

By the way, good luck with that plan!

Get ready for CBR: The first South Bay crit of the year happens on Sunday when Chris Lotts puts on the Dominguez Hills Anger Crit Thingy. Please show up to support local road racing in SoCal. Yes, you’ll be pack meat, just like last year. So what?

Winter’s over: The South Bay endured seven (some say eight) days of brutal winter this month, where early temperatures got down to 39, and the highs never crested 65. Thankfully, the bitter temperatures are over, and we’re slowly returning to lows in the high 40’s, highs in the high 70’s. Don’t put away your heavy winter clothing yet, but for sure rotate it to the back of the closet.

Bad wind news: G$ is in Scottsdale testing his bike position in a wind tunnel. Great. A faster G$. Just what those of us in the Elderly Fellows category need.

Gitcher waffle on: The Belgian Waffle Ride is set for April 7, 2013. It will be the hardest one-day ride of the year, where chicken tactics, wheelsucking, and letting others do all the work will earn you nothing more than infamy and a purple card. This will be first and foremost a contest between you and the road. Finish it and you’ll know satisfaction!

Mad props to Dorothy: The 2012 cyclocross season has ended in SoCal, and it couldn’t have gone better or been done without the extraordinary efforts and work and innovation and enthusiasm of Dorothy Wong. I bailed after about ten races. That shit is hard. Next year, which I suppose would be this year, I’ll be in for the whole season now that I know what I’m in for. Thanks to Dorothy for making ‘cross such a success.

Equipment flail: After dissing on my Night Rider lighting system and replacing it with the tube-shaped Serfas light, I can happily report that the Serfas is far superior except that it shuts off every time I hit a bump, and after about four or five bumps it won’t restart without a 1-minute pause or longer. That’s a long-ass time when you’re bombing down VdM on Bull’s wheel at dark-thirty. For $150.00 you’d almost expect something that would work, but then you remember, “It’s an elite cycling product, so of course it’s a pile of shit unless you spend at least $500.00.”

Smooth looking skin: Since incorporating kimchi into my diet, Mrs. Wankmeister has advised me that my skin is softer, more lustrous, and gradually shedding the leathery, scaly, rough, scabbed-over look that comes with road cycling. Though I don’t give a rat’s ass about the  beauty aspect, I do believe that healthier skin will stave off the skin cancer in my future for at least a year or two, and Professor Google confirms that kimchi is the wonderfood for healthy skin. The downside of course are the kimchi farts. Those things are vicious, however, they too have a beneficial effect on skin, as anyone on your wheel gets an instant facial dermal peel when one of those suckers rips into their face. You have to be careful, though, because they can also melt the polarizing slits on your expensive cycling glasses.

Wankmeister goes Hollywood…kicking and screaming and suing the whole damned way

January 15, 2013 § 20 Comments

G3 told me on the Donut Ride a few weeks back that one of his Hollywood producer friends followed this blog and might get in touch to retain me as a “consultant.”

This was intended to flatter me, which it did, so I told G3 that his friend was a thieving fucking douchebag, and the only reason any Hollywood anything reads so much as the wall in a public toilet is to steal it and plagiarize it to a fare thee well.

“Not my friend!” protested G3. “He’d never rip you off!” Then G3 paused. “But his partner sure would.”

So, like Douchestrong’s confession, it was PREDICTED HERE FIRST: Now, get ready for the pilot TV show based on Cycling in the South Bay, followed by the mother of all copyright infringement lawsuits.

G3, is your Hollydouche producer hosebag listening? If he steals so much as a fucking indefinite article from these hallowed columns of honeyed prose and sparkling dialogue, he’ll find himself on the reaming end of more ass-lashing litigation than there are dickstomps on a cold, wet, windy NPR.

Next blog post: Sensitive, warm, thoughtful cycling poem.

Simple ride and punch in face

December 29, 2012 § 34 Comments

Have you ever noticed how there’s no such thing as a simple ride? Once you’re on your bike, shit happens. The reason we don’t think anything of it is because we forget most of it by the time we’re home.

Why do we forget?

Because when you’re on a bike, you’re out “in life,” where shit happens. You’re not cooped up in the car, or couch surfing, or nailed to a theater seat. You’re out in the world, going slightly more or slightly less than the speed of the world around you, unprotected from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

So much happens so quickly, and it’s all interspersed with intense activity, that when you get home all you want to do is eat, shower, and sleep. Once that’s done, the details of the ride are a distant memory, or no memory at all.

Nothing special happened today

I met up with Jeff, Harry, and Rod for a leisurely pedal from the Center of the Known Universe to Mandeville Canyon. It was California cold, which is to say in the mid 40’s which is to say that a whole lot of cyclists stayed in bed despite the clear skies and beautiful morning.

The extra effort of pulling on a pair of booties can be, like, such a drag.

After drag racing up Mandeville, with Rod playing pacemaker until he fried, and then Jeff putting King Harold and me to sword, we turned around and descended. While clipping along San Vicente’s long, fast, straight downhill at well over 30 mph, a large magnolia seed cone fell from a limb and hit me in the face.

It was such a blow that it jerked my head back. Had it not been for my glasses, which absorbed much of the blow, my eye could have been taken out. I’ve often thought that the extra wide frame of my SPY Quanta frames afforded me extra protection, but this day proved it (insert applause for shameless plug here). As it was, I was lucky to retain control and pull over. Aside from a small cut, minor bruising, and a fine string of oaths, I was unhurt.

As we pedaled on, Jeff reminded Rod of the time that a giant piece of steel had flown up and hit him in the shin. “Remember that?” asked Jeff.

As if anyone ever forgets excruciating pain! “Oh, hell yes,” said Rod. His entire shin swelled up, he’d had to dismount, doubled over in pain…it was quite epic. Pain filled. Memorable.

This of course recalled insect bites. “Remember when that dude got stung in the eye by a bee?”

“Yeah, and his whole body swelled up like a giant grapefruit, and EMS had to come and take him off to the ER.”

“Or what about the time we were riding along and almost got hit by that piano?”

Everyone nodded, recalling the near disaster when a piano fell out of the back of a truck, bouncing along the tarmac at 50 mph, keyboard, legs, and chunks of wood flying like spears, scattering the terrified peloton.

“What about when G$ went over the guardrail at 40?”

“Or when Hottie hit that giant rock going down the Switchbacks at speed?”

“Remember when the angry driver got out and pulled a pistol?”

“That was scary as hell. And the naked chick on the motor scooter?”

“Ten stars! What about the time Stern-O wrecked an entire frame by running over a stick and getting it caught in the rear triangle?”

“High tide on the bike path when that huge wave came over the breakwater, knocked Jack off his bike and took his water bottle out to sea.”

“Stern-O’s wipeout at speed going into Pedro. Rolled a new silk sew-up at 40 in the turn dropping down Western. What the hell was he doing with silk sew-ups on a road bike?”

“Strauchmann’s one-legged crash and bike toss that almost took out Yule’s recently repaired elbow!”

“That freddie who got bit by a rattlesnake while changing a flat up on Piuma.”

“That dude who stomped off in the weeds to take a leak and found a small pot farm.”

“All those condoms and underwear in a neat pile underneath the bridge.”

Pretty soon we were home. And except for the punch in the face by the falling seed cone that almost blinded me and caused a horrific crash, it was a perfectly normal day.

The horrible crushing death of anonymity

December 20, 2012 § 28 Comments

It happened on December 13, 2012, at 10:16 PM. I would have missed it entirely had Lee Slone not posted the briefest of requiems. It was the farewell of an Internet character known by his Twitter handle as Captaintbag1. Most people called him Captain Tbag. I called him Cap Taintbag.

He accepted either appellation, and many others besides. He was a genius.

And now he’s gone, vanished into the ether, or the Home for Deleted Tweeters, or the Stumblehole of Vanished Tumblrs.

He was a genius because he did something completely new with the English language. He invented a vernacular that was idiomatic, yet perfectly grammatical even as it upended all rules of speling and gramar to create something funny, and beautiful, and most of all, new.

“There is no new thing new under the sun,” it is written in Ecclesiastes 1:9, and with the exception of electronic shifting and Prez’s color combos, it’s true. Everything that is has, more or less, already been.

But not Cap Taintbag. He was beyond rare because he was truly an original writer. He left the orbit of rarity and reached the sublime by also being witty, and powerful, and able to convey the truth in his 144-character mind-and-sight-and-sound-bites.

Hope you got to enjoy him while he was around. He was the best.

Who killed Taintbag?

Sad to say, he killed himself. His last few tweets make the reason clear: His persona, his character, his wit and his art were unsustainable.

They were unsustainable, in my opinion, because of his anonymity.

The Internet’s chief promise to many is its assurance of anonymity. All of those things you’re afraid to say because of your job, your spouse, your kids, your teachers, the police, the New National Surveillance Society, whatever…you can say them on the Internet under cover of a clever handle.

Taintbag blazed a path through the lies and hypocrisy of doping in cycling. He became an interlocutor who easily cowed and trampled the false bravado and attendant falsehoods of Vaughters and his apologists. He became a knife-like analyst who could, with a few charts and a few ungramatical mispelings, slice to ribbons the claims that Racer A and Racer B and Racer C won the Tour de D clean.

He was funny as hell, and through it all he reeked of kindness and decency and self-deprecation and humanity.

He was a wanker who you just knew was smarter at the keyboard than he was good on the bike, but somehow you didn’t hold it against him, and you loved him for it all the more.

But he learned a hard lesson: When you become a masked avenger you have to forfeit the You under the mask. You become the Dark Knight, only, since it’s reality not tveality or movieality, there aren’t any super powers or smokin’ hot wenches or fantastic successes that come with it.

You’re just an anonymous slob afraid to rip off the mask and let the You fill up the space formerly occupied by the outsized mask and the superhero get-up.

Taintbag swirled down the drain of his own creation, the dissonance between his persona and his real self eventually becoming so great that he pulled the plug himself. Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle.

I imagine that he’s a school teacher or a bureaucrat somewhere, incredibly relieved at having set his burden down. Now he can go back to his beloved MTB and tech talk, only wistfully, every once in a while, thinking about Cap Taintbag and maybe even telling himself that he can pick it back up again whenever he wants, even though he knows, I know, we all know, he won’t, and more importantly, he can’t.

Once Bruce Wayne razes the cave and tosses the outfit, he’s done.

The power of your real name

I admired and envied Taintbag. I admired him because he always took the side of right. I envied him because he was an original and a brilliant writer. He was a guy worthy of the highest praise I can muster for anyone, ever: He was a writer worth plagiarizing.

But I pitied him in his anonymity. He was ultimately a coward, a man possessed of great talent and insight and wisdom and decency who was too afraid of the truth to throw himself headlong into it, to announce himself to us so that we could thank him, admire him, and put ourselves at his feet. He had all the qualities of greatness except the one quality that would have made him so: The guts to use his name.

I’ve seen the transformative power that comes with discarding anonymity. Patrick Brady used to be an anonymous blogger who wrote under a pseudonym. One day coming back from Cross Creek I told him to quit being a chickenshit, to ditch the pseudonym, and to start signing his real name to his opinions.

He took my advice and now steers the helm of one of the most influential publications in cycling. He put aside the crippling anonymity of pseudonymous writing and let the You fill the space, then grow beyond it. That’s the power that comes with owning your opinions, with signing your name, your real one, and letting the chips fall where they may.

That’s the difference between people of character, and just plain old people.

When I read the comments that people post to this blog, and I read them religiously, I feel so much respect and admiration for those who cast aside the protections of handles and monikers and fake names and come here to announce themselves as they are, with the names given them by those who brought them into this world.

They stomp around in this Internet cycling gutter and do it in the open. They know that the real currency of real dialogue is real names.

Taintbag, I miss you more than you know. You were master of the Twittersphere, chickenshit and all. The next time you step forward, if you ever do, it will be under your real name, and no one will ever know that you were he.

But shoot me a sly wink. Then I’ll know it’s you. And we can continue on our separate ways, if that’s how it’s meant to be.

The yellow menace

October 27, 2012 § 24 Comments

We have some little Asian haters in our apartment complex. This means they have a lot to hate, overrun as we are with Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and other people with black hair and non-white skin.

It started off with him and his friend yelling racial epithets at my youngest son from their balcony, which is higher than ours and which faces us. My son is in high school and doesn’t give a shit what some little kid and his friend say or do, so he just closed the blinds and ignored them.

Then a few mornings ago I was cleaning my bike and noticed a half-dozen exploded M80’s lying on the balcony. Ms. WM had told me that over the last few weeks the harassment had gotten worse; they’d begun shouting at her when she walked over to the parking garage.

I got home this evening to learn that it had escalated.

“You know little shitturds hate a Japnese?”

“Yeah. What’d they do now?”

“I’m gonna walkin to the garage and peeeeewww! Comes onna long water squirt. Little shitturds gonna sprayin me with pumpin water gun.”

“You’re fucking kidding me. What’d you do?”

“I done what you think I’m gonna done. I yelled at ’em little shitturds to stop sprayin onna water or they was gonna getta ass beating.”

“And?”

“They shitturded runnin back inna the apartment. I was gonna make a appointment and runnin late so I was gonna go by this evenin but I got too busy onna dinner to worry ’bout little shitturds.”

At that moment there was a “thunk” against the balcony’s sliding glass door.

We turned off the lights and opened the blinds. There the little shitturds were, scampering back into their apartment. We saw a big guy from another apartment next to theirs and lower down doing exactly what we were doing, only he was already out on his balcony looking up at theirs.

I went out and saw three or four other residents, all on our side of the building, doing the same thing. “They throwing shit at you?” I asked.

“Yes,” everyone chorused.

“Well,” I said. “Let’s pay them a visit.”

I felt like Tai-Pan or the white dude in Shogun, leading my band of hardy Asian warriors off to battle. They were pissed. Some had been bombarded with half-eaten apple cores, others with banana peels, and one with a tennis ball.

We got to little shitturds’ door and knocked. No answer. Then I pounded. No answer. “I’ve tried to do this before,” said a guy named Yang. “But they never answer. Their parents aren’t home. They yell things all the time.”

“When I walk beneath their apartment they say things like ‘Chink!’ and ‘Japfuck!’ and ‘Yellow bitch!’ said one incredibly lovely young girl, who was a senior in high school. It’s pretty annoying.”

A little dog emitted a fearful, muffled yap from one of the inner rooms. “We’ll smoke the little shitturds out,” I said. “Eventually they’ll come to the door and listen to us talking, thinking we don’t know they’re listening. Then we’ll have ’em.”

We kept banging and knocking for a solid five minutes. Finally the little dog was yapping right there, on the other side of the door. I held up my empty hand, pretending to be speaking into a phone. Yang and the others stifled a laugh. “Hello? Security?” I said. “I’m over at apartment building 12 and there are some kids who are throwing stuff and shooting off what look like large firecrackers. Could you send someone over?”

The dog went completely silent.

“Oh, I see. That’s a code red? So I need to call the police? It qualifies as a terroristic threat? Okay. 911, right? Thanks. And you’re sure they’ll make arrests and take these kids to jail ? Great. Thanks again.”

The door swung open.

The two boys stood there, as pasty-faced and frightened as anyone I’ve ever seen, or imagined seeing. The ringleader stood in front. He was a very fat little seventh grader with long, unkempt hair, a small mouth, and the beady eyes of a bully. His accomplice was taller and skinny, blonde and blue-eyed, and he was shaking.

Shitturd One spoke so softly, and his voice shook so badly, that I could barely make him out. “I’m really sorry,” he said.

“Listen, do you sorry little snotnoses want to go to jail? That’s fucking assault, hitting people with shit, and it’s attempted battery throwing shit at their apartment, and it’s a goddamn felony to try and hurt someone with a fucking explosive!”

They were shaking so bad that the fat kid’s blubber on his neck was jiggling like a bowl of jello. “We’re really sorry, sir,” he half-cried.

“Sorry? You think I give a rat’s ass if you’re sorry? What’s your name, you little fucking punk?”

“Billy Snipkins,” he stammered.

“And what about asshole standing behind you? What’s your name, you stupid little prick?”

“Me?” he said.

“You don’t think I’m asking the fucking dog, do you?”

“But I don’t even live here.”

“That’s an extra year in prison for being a non-resident accomplice. What’s your fucking name?” I roared.

“Thurston.”

“What’s your fucking last name?’

“Talleyrand.”

“You two little pricks go to Shady Acres Middle School?” They nodded. “Okay. Talleywhacker, I know your name now and am calling your fucking parents. I have a student guide from last year.”

“Are the police coming?” asked Snipkins.

“Fuck yes they’re coming. And they’re bringing a fucking bomb squad and drug dogs.”

At the mention of drug dogs both boys began to cry. “We’re sorry!” they wailed.

“Well get your sorry fucking asses over to my wife and apologize to her and ask her to call the cops and tell them not to come. But she’s so pissed at your bullshit she probably will call ’em just for the satisfaction of seeing you two little assholes get cuffed and stuffed and dragged off to jail. And you can start your fucking apologies here.” I gestured at Yang & Co.

They were now crying in earnest, and apologized over and over to each of the assembled tenants, all of whom were doing their best to look stern, which was a challenge. Next we marched over to Mrs. WM.

“We’re so sorry!” they wailed.

“Why you wanna do that?” she said. “You thinkin Asian people onna bad? We makin your car and TV and iPhone and Chinese noodle. What you gonna do without no car and TV and noodle?”

They apologized some more.

“Where your momma and daddy?” she asked.

The fat boy looked down. “My parents are split up.”

“Where your momma then?”

“She always goes out to bars and stuff after work.”

There were a few seconds of silence as the picture gelled. He was a bored and angry kid, ignored by his parents, and he had no way left to get noticed in the world, or noticed by the world, except through causing trouble. In a few years he’d graduate to real trouble, if he hadn’t already.

My anger and sense of righteousness evaporated in an instant. That kid was me. “Look, pal,” I said. “This kind of shit will get you thrown out of here. Don’t take your anger out on people just because they’re Asian.” I wasn’t yelling anymore, and could barely muster up my lecture tone. “Go apologize to these other families and be done with it.”

He wasn’t crying now, but he was still terrified. “Are the cops coming?”

“No,” I said. “No cops if you’ll knock it off.”

“Okay,” he said. “I promise.”

Mrs. WM closed the door and we sat down at the table. She was grateful they’d been brought to justice. No one likes to be the object of racial hatred, regardless of the reason. But she’s also a mom, and happens to be the best one I’ve ever known. “Little shitturd’s momma better quit hoppin onna bars.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“You donna worse onna things than that when you was a kid.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“You feelin’ onna guilty ’cause you yellin at those boys but their momma and dad not around, and your parents was ignorin on you all time and you know how they feelin and they anger.”

“Yeah.” I said.

“You a grown up man now and gotta be a hypocrite. That’s what a growin’ up is for. So you can tell onna kids not to do what you did.”

“Yeah,” I said.

She reached over and squeezed my hand. “Don’ you feel onna bad. Those little shitturds gonna got a good lesson tonight.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“An you got onna good one, too.”

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