Walking Chinese amazement to church

October 20, 2015 § 18 Comments

Before I go to a foreign country I like to try and learn to speak the language, or at least enough of it to make a complete idiot out of myself. You’ve all been there; boning up on French, arriving in Paris and asking the waiter while your heart is pounding like an 8-year old on the piano, “May please good morning eggs of soft nice weather,” and he replies in perfect English “Could you repeat that in English, please?”

I’m never deterred by coming across like a fool. If I were I wouldn’t practice law or ride a bicycle in my underwear duded up like superman without the cape or the special powers or the muscles or the good looks. And since we’re going to Taiwan next year I decided to crack out the ol’ Chinese textbooks I’d used in college. Unfortunately, they had been tossed somewhere between Move #12 and Move #35, so I ordered a new set of Practical Chinese Readers and got to work.

You may have heard that Chinese is difficult, but that’s only if you want to appear non-imbecilic. Otherwise it’s not that hard. Each morning as part of my masters bicycle racing workout I walk around the complex for an hour or so, listening to Chinese tapes on my iPhone 2 (gonna upgrade to 3 any day now!). We have a lot of Chinese neighbors and it’s been hot so they all sleep with their windows open.

I bet it’s weird to hear someone stomping around outside at 5:00 AM muttering, “My name is Ma Da-wei. I am Canadian. I met a beautiful girl. Are you busy? Let’s have cake. She is my sister. He is my grandfather on my mother’s side. Beijing is very big.”

Walking every morning is good exercise, too. It builds bone density without destroying the bone like running does. It’s also not filled with pain, as running is. Because walking is good exercise I have a longstanding habit of parking on French Street when I have court in Santa Ana. That’s about a mile from the courthouse, so I save on parking and get to stretch my legs before getting abused by judges and opposing counsel.

This morning as I was walking to court I came up to the stop light at the same time as a group of people. I immediately realized they were speaking Chinese. They were staring at a map and arguing about how to get to the Methodist Church, which was a block away. I knew this because they kept gesticulating at the map which said “Methodist Church French Street” in English.

They ignored me of course.

“Excuse me,” I said in my best Chinese. “There house walk walk to go.”

Shit got quiet pretty quick. “What?” said one of the tourists in Chinese. “You speak Chinese?”

“Yes,” I beamed. “My book teacher every day talk walk Chinese practice. Taiwan go.”

They began smiling and laughing and congratulating me on my complete mastery of this rather complicated language. It didn’t hurt that I was wearing a suit and carrying a fancy leather briefcase. “See you later!” they said, waving as they marched off to the Methodist Church. “Thank you for your help!”

“You’re welcome Thursday!” I blurted out. Then I checked my Timex and hurried off to court.

END

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Widening the circle

September 28, 2015 § 22 Comments

The first time I cycled with my wife was in June, 1987. I’d been in Japan for five months and my mom had just shipped over my pink Tommasini. It was heaven, pedaling through Tochigi-ken, climbing the mountains around and behind Nikko, rolling through the rice paddies on the coastal plain towards the sea.

“Hey, honey,” I said one day, “let’s go for a bike ride!”

“Okay!” She loved to ride her bicycle and had commuted on it throughout high school. It was a cute little red mama-chari with fenders, a rack, a basket, a kickstand, and a wide padded seat.

“Let’s do an easy pedal,” I suggested. “Then if you decide you like it we can do more.” Everyone knows that “do more” is biker codespeak for “buy a really expensive race machine that you can hunch over on, strain your back and neck on, and ram a sharp hard saddle up your ass while you suffer for a few hours.”

She didn’t know that. “Okay!” she said, and even today I remember the happy, pretty smile.

I picked a course out to the prefectural driving license center that was almost totally flat except for a couple of hilly sections, and it was so short you wouldn’t have even needed legs. I was kind of bummed because I knew I wouldn’t get a workout doing a measly 25 miles, but it was worth it to spend time with my sweetie. Plus, once we got going I could kind of pick up the pace a tad so I’d at least break a sweat.

We got most of the way there before she began to really complain. When we got home four hours later she was livid and her parts were raw.

The next time we cycled together was in 2013. It had taken her a while to get over the earlier ride, I guess. We rode down the Strand from Rat Beach to Manhattan Beach on the Fourth of July. It was just us and twelve million other people.

Then in Germany this summer with my youngest son, straddling bicycles as we crossed the country, this occurred to me: Why had I failed so signally to share this thing that has given me such joy with those I love the most? Why has cycling always been a kind of hex that shoos away everyone in my family? Why haven’t I ever been able to widen the circle?

The answer is simple, and as I’ve looked at my friends, I’ve realized I’m not alone. I’ve always presented cycling as something that only an insane person would want to do. Arduous. Time consuming. Expensive. Combative. Dangerous. Populated by other, equally insane people clad in weird and ugly clothing that shows your tummy and haunches in the most unflattering of ways.

Who the hell WOULD want to do it?

So I came back from Germany and set about a stealth plan to get Mrs. WM back on a bicycle. The key was to never mention cycling. Instead I offered to take her out to breakfast.

“Oh, that would be great!” She loves chatting and breakfast. “When?”

“How’s next Sunday?”

“Perfect! Where are we going?”

“Let’s go over to Java Man in Hermosa. You’ll love it. We can ride our bikes there.”

She looked suspicious. “I don’t have a bike.”

“You can use Cassady’s.”

“I can’t pedal back home up the hill.”

“We’ll drive down to Rat Beach and pedal from there.”

“I’m not going to wear those stupid bicycle clothes with the big maxi pad seat.”

“Me, either. Shorts and a t-shirt.”

She brightened. “Okay.”

At Java Man, Manslaughter, Hair, and Emily were waiting for us, dressed like normal people. We chatted and ate and laughed for over an hour, and no one mentioned bicycles or cycling or, dog forbid, bicycle racing. It was one of the best Sundays of my life.

“That was fun!” she said as we pedaled home on the bike path. “Can we do it again?”

END

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Post it up

September 18, 2015 § 9 Comments

wanky_poster

I’m pretty excited about the upcoming South Bay Cycling Awards, slated for October 17 at Strand Brewing Co.’s new facility, 2201 Dominguez Street in Torrance. In addition to having Steve Tilford as our guest speaker, and in addition to having four inductees into our newly built Hall of Fame (constructed entirely of zeroes and ones on land borrowed from Mark Zuckerberg), it’s going to be a rollicking good time.

There are already enough RSVP’s to make it a capacity crowd, so if you don’t get there when the doors open at 5:00 PM there’s a chance you’ll be turned away. Normally, putting together an event of this size–20 awardees, almost 70 finalists, fancy invitations, several hundred drunks–takes an incredible amount of time, hard work, and attention to detail.

Unfortunately, those are my exact three weaknesses, so as in years past we’ve just made shit up and hoped for the best. This year will be no different, although with an executive committee of highly questionable abilities, it could potentially be even sillier than it was last year, when the high point occurred at 2:00 AM after everyone had been kicked out of the bar and survivors were staggering through downtown Manhattan Beach with a giant, 6-foot, inflatable pink penis.

Did I say this would be a classy event?

No, I did not.

Still, as things come together in their sloppily drunken sort of half-crazed way, people have lurched into the breach to help make things happen. Whether it was Chris’s invitation assembly team, or Joe’s amazing t-shirt and poster design, people keep stepping up to help.

So it came as another happy surprise when Tony Manzella offered to print up a batch of the posters designed by Joe Yule, another example of people pitching in to make a fun community event even more so. Unfortunately, my lousy photos don’t do justice to the artwork or to Tony’s high-end production of the prints, but if you show up on Oct. 17 you’ll be able to see these beauties in person, and maybe even get one for yourself!

wanky_posters2

END

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It takes a village (idiot)

August 29, 2015 § 10 Comments

wanky_seal

The South Bay Cycling Awards are fast approaching, and a number of questions are begging to be answered.

Question: Where do I vote?

Who said anything about voting?

Question: What are the rules for selection of finalists?

All questions regarding all procedures can be found by clicking on this link, which takes you to the South Bay Cycling Awards Rule Book.

Question: There were, like, a zillion nominees. Are they all contenders for a Wanky in their category?

No. Three finalists have been selected from each category.

Question: How will we find out who the finalists are?

Check your mailbox every three hours. Notifications were mailed out today.

Question: I am pretty sure I am a finalist and am going to win but I have my second cousin’s wedding in Lancaster that’s on the same day as the awards. I’ll still get my Wanky, right?

No.

Question: By riding 30,000 feet up Scheuren Rd. today in 17:45:56 hours, is Head Down James going to get some special kind of award?

That depends on what you mean by “award.”

Question: I heard that there is a secret committee comprised of Brauch, Martin, and Spivey. What kind of bullshit is that?

Complete, fresh, stinking, steaming bullshit. With flies on top.

Question: I crashed all year plus I’m the best male racer and the most fun to ride with and I’m a great advocate. There’s not a limit to how many Wankys I can win, is there?

One Wanky per wanker.

Question: That’s total bullshit. Where is that in the rules?

In the Rule Book.

Question: I told all my friends and club members and FB friends and Twitterati to email you votes for me and my club and tell you cool shit about me so I can win, plus I’ve been giving you hints and making suggestions to you on rides and on Facebag. Does that help or hurt my chances?

A billion times zero is still zero.

Question: Who’s paying for all this?

Have you ever wondered who’s responsible for all those Nigerian prince emails?

Question: Will there be food?

There will be food trucks, with a $5 discount for the first 500 guests.

Question: Will there be beer?

At the Strand Brewing Co.’s new 34,000 square-foot brewery? No, definitely not.

Question: Who is Steve Tilford, why is he the guest speaker, and why should I give a shit?

He is a curmudgeon, Eddy Merckx was busy, Google him.

Question: I’m not a bike racer. Can I still come?

Yes.

Question: I hate bicycles and drive everywhere but I like beer. Can I still come?

Yes. But you might want to Uber home.

Question: I heard there is also going to a South Bay Cycling Hall of Fame. WTF is that?

Ask Brauch. It was his idea.

Question: Who’s going to be inducted into the Hall?

Nelson Vails, Marilyn Sonye, Ted Ernst, and Tony Cruz.

Question: Who are those wankers?

Sigh.

Question: Is Martin making those incredible, bad-ass horseshit trophies again?

They are horseshoes, not horseshit. And yes, they’re bad-ass, and yes, he’s making them again.

Question: I heard there was going to be a really crazy, off-the-hook trophy for the Crashtacular Fred trophy. Is that true?

Let’s just say, “J. Marvin Campbell” and that should answer your question.

Question: Can I get one of those cool Wanky Awards t-shirts designed by Joe Yule?

Yes.

Question: Can I get one for free because we’re pals?

No.

Question: What is a fucking jar?

You’ll find out on October 17.

END

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Some people

August 26, 2015 § 20 Comments

About a month ago I stopped to help a fellow flailer change his flat. By “help” I mean “stand there and watch.” It was an amazing flat. As he was stuffing the new tube into the tire, I looked at the one that had flatted. It had been patched at least twenty-five times. “Waste not, want not,” I thought, looking also at the tire with the threads showing. “Wonder how long that’s gonna last?”

He aired up the tire and then pfffffffffft.

“Crap,” he said. “That was my only spare tube.”

“No prob,” I said, handing him my spanking new one. I hardly ever get flats because I always replace my tires when they start to wear. It’s expensive and I’m cheap, but the tiny little strip of rubber holding you in a precariously delicate balance on just this side of oblivion, that’s a place worth spending a few extra bucks. The main use to which my tubes get put, it seems, is on other people’s bikes, which is cool. Pay it forward, right?

I grabbed his second tube that had flatted as he was airing up the tire with my new one. This tube, too, had about twenty patches on it and looked like it had been used as slingshot rubber back in the 50’s. He finally got going, and that was that. When I saw him the next day he never said anything or offered me a replacement tube, which I shrugged off because even though I’m a petty bastard, I’m not that petty. But it’s not like he was one of those people you never see. He’s around all the time.

It started to get under my skin after a few weeks every time I saw him I’d yell out, “Where’s my tube?” He’d pretend not to hear and would always dash off, which guarantees that I will never, ever, ever stop asking about that tube. In fact, if he tried to give me one I’d refuse it so I could keep up the heckling.

About two months ago I was going down a hill on a coffee ride and a gal who gets everyone’s share of flats double flatted. She is a flat magnet; two giant thorns, one in each tire. Her tires are always new, and so are her tubes, but she only had one spare. I gave her mine and we continued on. That was a Sunday, and I usually see her on the Thursday Flog Ride.

That Thursday she wasn’t there, but a few hours after the ride she sent me a message. “Did you get it?”

“Get what?”

“The coffee and the tube!”

“What coffee? What tube!”

“No way!” she wrote. “I put a pound of good coffee beans and a new inner tube at the top of Via la Cuesta this morning with a note for you; left it there about 6:20 and rushed home because I couldn’t make the ride because I had to take my daughter to lifeguard camp.”

“There was nothing. Just a bunch of broke down old farts coughing up spit, blood, teeth, and shards of broken ego.”

“Some bastard stole it,” she wrote. “It had your name on it.”

“It’s the thought that counts,” I wrote back, smiling, not only because she’s such a good person but because she cared so much that the one small favor get repaid.

Today when I went out to get the mail there was a package for me, and inside the package, this. And there weren’t any patches on that inner tube, believe you me.

tube

Then I thought about the guy I see every weekend who’s madly pedaling away from a six-dollar inner tube. One person pedaling away, another eagerly pedaling towards.

END

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Manties and armies

August 13, 2015 § 13 Comments

All in a day’s riding …

  1. One stop swap shop. I was coming back from REI in Manhattan Beach, where I’d purchased a pair of manties with a little pad to put under my regular shorts to reduce the incidence of cheesegrater ass. Dude on a fixie pulls up to me at Rosecrans and Inglewood. “Where are you riding from?” he asked friendlily. “Where did you get my arm warmers from?” I retorted.  Confused pause. “Are they yours?” “Used to be.” “I got them at a bike swap.” We had a good laugh.
  2.  armies
  3. Crustacean ride. Before going to MB I rode to San Pedro with two very old South Bay hermits, Crusty and Crusty Jr. Coffee was had at the Starbucks where Perez’s bike was stolen and he commandeered a vehicle from an old lady in order to (unsuccessfully) give chase. Every now and again you should take an old bikie crusty out for a ride. They need the sunshine and someone fresh to lie to.
  4. crusties
  5. Celebrity spotting and re-spotting. In MB I had to stop at the Center of the Known Universe for a crucial subcommittee meeting of the Wanky Awards support staff. Big planning secrets were discussed in detail. At that moment in walked Fireman and Soundman. “We were driving by and we saw the trick racing bike with the big stupid purple pedals and figured we’d stop in and say ‘hi.'” An hour later at REI someone yelled at me in the parking lot, “Get a helmet you idiot!” It was them. Everyone goes to CotKU and REI on their day off, I guess.
  6. Flog terror. It’s not often that I get a pre-apology for not coming to a ride but the Thursday Flog Ride is so terrible that *someone* felt compelled to send me this missive after being gently reminded of his long-running and noted absence from the ride: “I will be high altitude training in Mammoth until next Monday. Next week I will be in Holland working on my punchy-cobbled climbs … the following week… the FLOG is MINE!!!” My cred-o-meter rates this one at a -77.9.
  7. Check eBay for a cheap laptop NOW. After winning the TELO training crit eight times this year, Aaron W. received the grand prize of a Samsung laptop from teammate Prez. This looked suspiciously like the laptop that Prez was going to donate to the Wanky Awards, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.
  8. South Bay Cycling Award categories. Here they are. Submit your nominees by email, as a comment on this blog, or on the bathroom wall at the Ocean Park toilets by 5:00 PM Friday.
    1. 2015 Greatest Advocate
    2. 2015 Best Bike Shop
    3. 2015 Best Young Rider
    4. 2015  Best Old Rider
    5. 2015  Most Improved
    6. 2015  Best Club
    7. 2015  Best Event
    8. 2015  Wanker of the Year
    9. 2015  Belgian Award
    10. 2015 Group Ride Champion
    11. 2015 Best Sponsor
    12. 2015 Best Male Racer
    13. 2015 Best Female Racer
    14. 2015 GC Award
    15. 2015 Crashtacular Fred
    16. 2015 Strava KOM
    17. 2015 Most Happy to Help others
    18. 2015 Most Fun
    19. 2015 Best Spouse/SO
    20. 2015 Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year

    END

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The Wanker of Wall Street

July 9, 2015 § 11 Comments

I recently made a terrible investment, but let me back up: I have never made a good one.

I am pretty sure I am the only person I know who has made lots of terrible investments. How do I know? Because people talk about all kinds of things–failed marriages, bedroom embarrassments, drug addictions, jail sentences, and children who missed a question on the SAT–but they never talk about that.

In fact, during the eight hundred thousand hours I’ve spent riding bikes with people, none has ever said, “I just lost a ton of money in a stupid investment.” And if they’re unwilling to say that, imagine how much more loath they are to say, “I just lost a few hundred bucks on a stupid investment.”

The only thing more reprehensible than stupid decisions with huge sums is stupid decisions with small ones. You’re not only a loser, you’re a small-time loser.

So anyway, back to this stupid small investment that I made, which is the only kind I can make because all I apparently have is small money …

I used to have a cyclist friend who is still the one if not necessarily the other, and he recommended that I put my money with Ol’ Bill. I didn’t know that money managers like Ol’ Bill would open up an account with a bunch of pennies and nickels crammed into an old gym sock, but Ol’ Bill was happy to take me on as a client.

As time went by my investment shrank, but it shrank gradually rather than being erased all at once, so I could tell he was a pro. We hit the Great Depression of 2008 and when I checked in with Ol’ Bill to find out how things were going and to ask if maybe we shouldn’t put my money back in the sock and stick it under the bed, he vigorously assured me that the market was going to go up any day.

It did, but just before it started its meteoric ascent I demanded that he put it back in the sock, which he did, and there it sat while the market roared up, up, and the sock just sat there.

A few years later I checked in with Ol’ Bill and asked him to put the pennies back into the market and to keep the nickels in the sock, which he did. The market continued to roar, but somehow each one of Ol’ Bill’s picks was an underperformer. He had great hopes for Bonehedz, a social media site for archeologists, but that fizzled and we barely got our money back.

I say we but it was actually just I, because every time Ol’ Bill bought a bucket of shares of Rancid, Inc., or Stinkworthy Amalgamated, he got a little commission, and all I seemed to get was fewer pennies, but since it was a gradual reduction in value I figured he had a master plan, which he did, and its focal point was Ol’ Bill’s Retirement Fund.

One day Ol’ Bill called to thank me for my continued confidence in his acumen. “What?” I said.

“Thanks for your continued confidence,” he said. Ol’ Bill had called me once in ten years.

“Was there some reason you thought I wouldn’t be confident? I mean, you’ve reduced my net worth in a perfect mirror image of the current bull market.”

“Oh, you know, I just wanted to check in … ”

That sounded like a lie, so for the first time in forever I told him to send me copies of the statements he’d been sending for years but that I never looked at and always tossed in the shredder, figuring they were either great news and I was rich, or they were terrible news and I was broke and didn’t want to know. I’ll let you guess which one it was.

I glanced at the PDF’s he sent over. “Wow,” I said when I called him back. “We’ve underperformed the market by eight zillion percent like clockwork. Whenever the market does something good, we do something terrible.”

“Amazing, huh?”

“Yeah, but almost in a bad way.”

So I fired him and put all my pennies in an S&P index fund.

“Don’t do it,” he advised.

“Why not?”

“Because retail investors always buy high and sell low, which is a losing strategy.”

“Like we’ve been doing the last ten years?”

“Yes, but if you do it I don’t make any money.”

He had a point, but I wasn’t sure it was a good one.

After two days the market continued to tick up and suddenly, for the first time in ever, my penny portfolio was growing right along with the market. I don’t have to tell you that I felt like a genius, so I immediately decided to quit my job and become a day trader.

“You’ve lost your fucking mind,” said the Destroyer while we were out riding bikes.

“No, I’ve got it figured out. I’m moving everything into German stocks.”

“You are a complete idiot,” he reiterated.

“Nope, I’ve been listening to the German news every day and the DAX has fallen on Greek worries and everyone is pretending they’ll boot Greece and sacrifice the euro but at the last minute they’ll all agree and the DAKS will skyrocket and I’ll be a millionaire or a trillionaire.”

“Listen, dummy,” said the Destroyer. “Every clown who makes fifty bucks at the tail end of a bull market thinks he’s a genius. But no one can predict the market, except for The Rule.”

“What’s The Rule?”

“The Rule is this: The market goes up and down and down and up.”

“I can remember that.”

“But you can’t master it. No one can. If they could, that person would own all the fungible funds on earth. Instead, some two-bit halfwit like you gets lucky three days in a row, makes a string of terrible decisions, then the market drops, and the sucker holds his breath waiting for it to come back up, but then the market is down 30% and there’s no way he’s taking that bath so he decides he’ll hold his positions for the next thirty years to recoup and then in a midnight moment of panic he sells everything just when the market bottoms out. THIS IS HOW RETAIL INVESTORS LIKE YOU ALWAYS BEHAVE.”

“The market hasn’t started going down, though.”

“It will. And you will get ground up by it. Ol’ Bill was terrible at stocks but he was great at saving.”

“Saving what?”

“Saving you from yourself.”

“You think so?”

“I know it. It’s just like poker. If you sit down at the table and don’t immediately recognize the sucker, YOU’RE THE SUCKER.”

“I’m no sucker.”

“QED.”

A few days later the market started to go in the wrong direction. My thirty-cent gain became a ten-cent gain, and after a few more days it became no gain at all and then a couple of days later I had thirty cents less than I’d started with. Did I mention that I’d stuck the nickels into the fund as well?

As I was pondering all this late one night I started listening to the Chinese radio station. I don’t speak Chinese, but they were excited. The more I listened, the more I could divine what they were saying. China’s stock market had tanked. I know this because in between the howling strings of Chinese, every few minutes someone would say in English, “The stock market has tanked.”

I switched on the German radio station. No mention of China. It was all about Varoufakis and his no-tie Harley Davidson approach to negotiation with the EU.

I flipped on the Internet. China had indeed tanked, but it would have zero effect on Western markets, the analysts lied. “Whew,” I thought, “because I’ve already lost two more dollars.”

Then it hit me. I really was the sucker. First thing the next morning I cashed out, just as the Chinese markets froze into a congealed mass of debt, panic, and government intervention that only made the catastrophe worse. You mark my words, it ain’t over yet and if China’s economy has no effect on ours then I want to sell you a training program that can increase your FTP 50% with no drugs, exercise, or weight loss.

So, yeah, another bad investment. But you know what? A sock full of nickels under your mattress isn’t as uncomfortable as you think.

END

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