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.
February 1, 2019 § 22 Comments
I found out the other day that Julie Dilday was dead.
I met her in Third Grade at Braeburn Elementary, in Mrs. Smith’s class. Dilday came right after Davidson, and we were stuck with each other throughout elementary school.
Julie had the reddest hair and the fairest skin and the greenest Irish eyes of any person I’ve known, before or since, and from the moment we met we were enemies, enemies as only people who like each other and sit next to each other in Third Grade can be. Julie was tall and athletic; I was average height and had an extremely athletic mouth, which Mrs. Smith, and later Mrs. Owen, and after her, Mrs. Livingston, punished liberally, with help from Mrs. Goode, Mrs. Allan, Mrs. Cox, the vice principal Mrs. Riley, and later the principal Mr. Bob Bradford.
In junior high Julie and I were stuck with each other again, this time for three years in Mr. Byrd’s homeroom class. Julie still played basketball and I still played the fool, and we had gone from active enmity to simply ignoring each other. Well, she ignored me. I spent hours of my life staring at her bright red hair.
Since Jane Long Junior High was a long way from home, everyone took the bus except for the handful of weirdos who rode bicycles, and that was me for three years, pedaling rain or shine, in cold or through the brutal Houston heat, astride my gray Murray ten-speed. My route passed the Carlton Woods apartments where Julie lived, and most mornings I’d see her walking to the bus stop, very cool and very pretty, carrying a huge stack of books.
In those days no one had a backpack. Girls carried them out in front with two hands, the books stacked up, and the boys carried them with one hand tucked under their arm. I stuffed mine into an orange Wilderness Experience backpack, the most embarrassing accessory known to junior high man, and quickly became a speed master at whipping it off and stuffing it into my locker before it attracted beatings.
The mornings I rode by Julie’s apartment I always kept an eye out for her bright red hair, and most mornings I saw it. She never saw me, not once, and how could she? I was on a bike. I was invisible.
When high school started I was desperate to ditch the bike and get a driver license, and I did. My mom and dad divorced and my mom took up with a guy ten years younger than her who drove a Pontiac Firebird. Pretty soon she had bought him a very nice car and somehow the Firebird wound up sitting in our driveway, and eventually it became my school car.
My sophomore year I think it was, I got tickets to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. This was right after they came out with Damn the Torpedoes. Of course Julie and I were in the same homeroom again, and I screwed myself up one day and asked her if she wanted to go to the concert with me.
“Sure!” she said.
I was stunned and didn’t know what to say. It seemed as if she had meant it. “Okay,” I said, almost adding “thank you” but catching myself and saying “Great!”
The night of the concert it was weird. We had known each other most of our lives but had never held hands or been in any situation that anyone would ever mistake for a date, and suddenly there we were, around each other for the first time, almost. She was as nervous as I was. The concert was amazing and as we left the Summit a kid ran by and snatched her bag. I gave chase and Julie followed. She was still athletic and fast, and we closed in on the snatcher as he ducked into the underground parking and jumped into a waiting car filled with older, very tough looking guys.
“Give back the purse,” I tried to shout, but it is hard to shout when you are envisioning four people jumping out of a car and smashing your face in.
“Who’s gonna make us?” laughed the driver.
“I’ve got their license number,” Julie said. “Let’s go get the cops.”
The guy tossed her purse back out and they sped off. She picked it up and looked at me. “I can’t believe you chased that kid. I didn’t have anything in my purse. Just a couple of bucks.”
“I wouldn’t have chased him if I’d known he had his family of felons in the car waiting for us.”
Julie laughed. “Yes, you would have. I could tell you didn’t care.”
“I was scared.”
“Me, too,” she said.
We found my car and I drove her home, got out, and walked her to her door. I was shaking, I was so nervous. “Good night,” I said.
I swallowed hard. “Can I kiss you good night?”
“Of course,” she said.
Julie Dilday closed her eyes and tilted her head back, and our lips met. Then before I knew what was happening she had put her arms around me, holding me tighter than I had ever been held in my life, her soft Irish lips covering mine, her mouth “as sweet as horde of apples leyn in hey or heeth,” and her delicate tongue touching mine as she pulled me close.
I thought we kissed for twelve days but it was only for a few seconds. Our mouths unlocked and she put her hands on my chest and gently but firmly pushed me away. I looked at her green eyes, the greenest I have ever seen, before or since, eyes that said “Do you see me now?”
My throat choked up, I didn’t know what to say.
“Glad you ditched the bike,” she said.
January 19, 2019 § 14 Comments
Yesterday was my 8th bloggaversary and I was going to write something about that, tying in writing and riding, lawyering and grandfathering, physics and a bit of organic gardening, along with a dab of pan-roasted coffee and the joys of rye sourdough bread.
Instead, I lay in bed sweating hot rivers.
The day before had begun crisply at 4:00, like it always does, but this time I had a plane to catch for a NorCal deposition, only it wasn’t a plane, it was a rental Toyota Camry, and the depo began at one o’clock, and it was raining sheets, and it had been for days.
I rolled out at 4:30 and the second I hit the 405 I was white-knuckling it, as the wipers on high still only gave me minimal visibility, okay, no fucking visibility, because if a tire or corpse or overturned semi had been in front of me I would have had to chew through it with my face. Any time you leave LA for points north, you want to hit the 405 from the South Bay no later than 4:50. Because, Grapevine.
The Grapevine is your worst driving nightmare. In heavy rain it can also be your graveyard. Depending on how you calculate it, this stretch of road, which controls virtually all inbound-outbound traffic to the LA area, is about 44 miles long, beginning in Castaic and ending at the In-N-Out in Wheeler Ridge, where exhausted drivers collapse in a heap over the steaming grease and rubber buns of California’s best known and worst-tasting fast food.
Would you like trucks with your fries?
The true brutality of the Grapevine isn’t simply the way that the gentle twists and turns take you unawares, as they obviously had taken the Dodge Charger lying upside down as I plodded by at 40. The horror of this highway is the 18-wheelers. Of course from their perspective the horror is the little bugsplat passenger cars like the Dodge Charger.
In any event, if you are going 50 because of blinding rain, sleet, or snow, they are going half that, and there are a thousand of them for every one of you. It is a live video game where the lives don’t “power up” after you slam into the loaded semi.
With a max elevation of over 4,000 feet, the Grapevine often shuts down in winter due to snowfall, leaving everyone planning to get into or out of LA what is known as “stranded” a/k/a “raging blood pressure skyrocketing through your skull.” In my case, the whole point behind getting out of LA at 4:30 is always the same: Hit the Grapevine with minimal traffic, because on the return trip it is always going to be packed.
With visibility ratcheted down to nothing, fingers lizard-clawing the steering wheel, and the Grapevine already filled with trucks and cars who had hit it early for the same reason I did, I got over Tejon Pass and through the bright lights of In-N-Out feeling as if I’d just finished the French Toast Ride, minus the French toast. On the straight, flat run to the Bay Area, with the relentless rain pounding as if ordered up especially by defense counsel, it nevertheless seemed easy compared to the Grapevine.
It was going to be a 783-mile day. Glad I was healthy, in good physical shape, and not afraid of long drives.
Sick, wrecked, and afraid of long drives
Funny how quickly things change. The depo finished and in the interim the parking garage had flooded, leaving my Camry surrounded by a small moat. I started the drive home with my feet wet to the ankles.
In a matter of minutes my head felt heavy and unnaturally warm. The rain picked up. Even if I hit zero traffic it was going to be a 7-hour haul, and the minute I thought that thought, I hit traffic. Traffic in the Bay Area. Who knew?
Two hours in, the hot head had turned into a conflagration-level fever. I still had forever to drive. A 15-minute roadside nap wasn’t going to dispel the problem. Stay at a motel? That would be a two-day stay, because I could tell that what was overtaking me was the beginning of a legit cold-flu-kneecapper. Damned if I drove, damned if I stopped. What’s a feller to do?
Carnage and Culture
A few days prior I had finished reading Carnage and Culture by Victor Davis Hanson. He is a Trump-nut, immigrant hating, ‘Murrica luvvin’, jackanape, so we can get that out of the way right now. He is also a damned good historian, and he writes engaging, provocative, well reasoned history. You can disagree with him all you want, but if you don’t want to look like a complete fool disagreeing with him, you’d better know your history, because he knows his.
One of the parts of the book that popped into my head as I was trying to figure out whether to die on the highway or die in a motel bed was the part where he described the life of a galley slave. Galley slaves rowed war boats. They were chained to a wooden plank. When nature called, they did it right there. When nature called their neighbors, they too, did it right there. When they got sick and vomited, they did it right there. When they bled, they did it right there. In other words, the galley was a moving, rolling, open and active sewer.
The galley slave was beaten with a whip by the row master when he didn’t row hard enough. When the galley engaged the enemy and got boarded, the attackers would swoop in and run a spear or sword through the galley slave’s head or chest. Since he was chained to his plank, covered in open sores, and couldn’t walk anyway, to call him “defenseless” is a bit of an understatement.
So I thought about the galley slave, and about what he would do if someone came to him and said, “Hey, galley slave, we’re going to unchain you from your plank, put you in a heated, comfy passenger compartment that goes 75 miles an hour, and ask you to ‘endure’ five hours of driving on a glass-smooth superhighway. If you get hungry you can stop and eat, if you get thirsty you can stop and get a drink, we can adjust the climate to your personal preference, and of course if your wittle tummy gets too hurty-wurty, we can put you in a cozy hotel bed wif a softy-wofty piwwow.”
What would the galley slave have said? “Nah, I prefer rowing for six months at a stretch, sleeping on a plank in my own shit, getting beaten, starving, and having a sword run through my skull.”
What is happening to us?
In other words, why are we so weak? Why are the smallest inconveniences so debilitating? The Grapevine wasn’t originally traversed by a Toyota Camry. It was traversed on foot by Pedro Fages, with 73 other men and a mule train. They returned to San Diego, exhausted and near death, barely surviving after slaughtering and eating their mules. What was going to take me fourteen hours took them seven months.
I reflected on the galley slaves and Pedro Fages, and weirdly, in my feverish state, connected with them through the ether. “You are a weak and pusillanimous 21st Century leaky prostate ex-bike racer,” they said. “Collect thy gonads in one place, clear thy head, and get thine ass home. And quit thy whining.”
My head cleared, literally, and my fever subsided to almost nothing.
I leaned a little harder on the accelerator and beat through the clogged, wet, truck-strewn Grapevine as if it were my driveway.
I got home and crawled into bed, broken. “Are you okay?” Yasuko asked.
I felt the fever return with a roar. “Galley slaves,” I murmured, “don’t come home to pillows.”
December 28, 2018 § 5 Comments
It is easy to tell people to get it together when the New Year rolls around. But somehow resolutions never seem to work.
So I figured this year that instead of platitudes I’d offer up some concrete examples. Pick any one of these and stick with it for even a week or two, hell, even a day, and you can chalk up 2019 as a win. A big win.
- Be like Dave Wehrly. Take the brutal things life gives you without complaint and maintain your decency, generosity, and sense of responsibility to others.
- Be like Emily Georgeson. Compete like hell, take the victory with a humble smile, and compliment the other person when they win.
- Be like Rahsaan Bahati. Don’t be afraid to take the longest, hardest pull.
- Be like Cheryl McQueen. Give back.
- Be like Greg Leibert. Keep doing it the right way.
- Be like Michelle Landes. Let people know they are special and you love them.
- Be like Marvin Campbell. Help the world laugh, and call bullshit for what it is.
- Be like Daili Shang. Go to new places, learn new things, and excel at them.
- Be like Ken Vinson. Do what you say you’re gonna do.
- Be like Nevrik Gevrykian. Support your partner to the hilt.
- Be like Geoff Loui. Welcome people into your home, even cyclists.
- Be like Yasuko. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, even if it means riding in tennis shoes.
- Be like Baby Seal. Make other people the star.
- Be like Sherri Foxworthy. Never, ever fear the word “fuck.”
- Be like Elijah Shabazz. Be a true friend.
- Be like Surfer. Fit or unfit, hairy or smooth, finish the ride with a grin.
- Be like Lisa Clayton. Share your gift.
- Be like Lily Konsmo. Put up with the same old biking stories and do it with class, even when you don’t bike yourself.
- Be like Dave Jaeger. Talk plenty of shit, and back it up with legs of steel.
- Be like Ava Seyranian. Keep at it until your stuff is good enough to be exhibited in a major museum.
- Be like Charon Smith. Keep getting better, and turn out enough watts to fuse the cassette to the freehub body.
- Be like Kristie Fox. Let the boys win every once in a while.
- Be like Marco Cubillos. Sit on the front even when it’s windy AF.
- Be like Jami Brauch. Treat people with kindness and respect.
- Be like Evens Stievenart, Rudy Napolitano, and James Cowan on the Big Day. Put everyone to the sword, and wash it down with beer.
- Be like the Flawless Diamonds. Make a difference in people’s LIVES.
- Be like Chris Tregillis. Give your friends an attaboy when they need it. And when they don’t.
- Be like Deb Banks. HTFU.
- Be like Boozy P. Pull over, get off your fuggin’ bike, and fix the other person’s stupid mechanical even when you are completely bonked, in a foul mood, and still 50k from home.
- Be like Tink. Ride guys off your wheel.
- Be like Eric Hallander. Proofread it, even when it’s not yours.
- Be like Jess Cerra. Embrace adversity, then kick its ass.
- Be like Nelson Vails. Inspire people.
- Be like Kris Prinz. If you’re going to bother to do something, do it great.
- Be like Craig Leeuwenburgh and Bob Spalding. Look out for others.
- Be like Chris Gregory. Ditch the fuggin’ helmet.
- Be like Gus Bayle. Put your kids first.
- Be like Christine Marckx. Have the patience of a saint.
- Be like Joe Yule. Get back up.
- Be like Nancy Linn. Make people better.
- Be like Gary Cziko. Advocate like hell.
- Be like Lauren Mulwitz. Ride the NPR like it fuggin’ matters.
- Be like Robert Efthimos. Always do more than your share, especially when you’re shoveling shit.
- Be like Suze Sonye. Don’t take no crap from nobody.
- Be like Vlad Luskin. Always have a funny-ass retort.
- Be like Kate Wymbs. Go very, very fast on your bicycle.
- Be like Dan Chapman. Turn your pain into art.
- Be like Major Bob. Say exactly what you think, leave the sugar coating to Betty Crocker, don’t hold grudges, and be fair to a fault.
- Be like Trump. Just kidding. Don’t.
The list goes on and on, look around and you’ll see what I mean … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
December 23, 2018 § 5 Comments
We don’t celebrate Christmas any more, much. Our little stone pine that we used as a tree died earlier this year, and as a holiday Christmas has been on the way out in my family for years.
It used to be a big thing when I was a kid, though, mostly because it was the one time of year when you got “things.” Throughout the year you hardly ever got anything except maybe a new pair of shoes and another pair of jeans.
Nowadays of course you get things all year ’round, whatever, whenever. Schools can’t/don’t decorate for Christmas, nor should they, any more than they should decorate for Hinduism, Islam, or any other religion.
I don’t miss the consumerism, all focused on a single day, and I sure don’t miss the pressure to buy things for people, or the expense. In my family, Christmas was always associated with raging alcoholism, conflict, overeating, and disappointment. It never measured up to the hype, ever.
But there were still some amazing things about Christmas that most kids today will never experience, like singing secular and religious Christmas carols in the school choir, having a Christmas program with Santa and Jesus, exchanging Christmas cards in class, and a whole bunch of other stuff that was exciting and fun, even if you were a little bound-for-hell, heathen atheist like I was.
The whole month before Christmas was a crazy time of year; every corner lot hawking trees, the supermarket jammed up with tinsel and baubles, the radio blasting carols and Christmas music all day long, mom baking Christmas cookies, dad getting drunk on the family homemade eggnog recipe three weeks early, and the gradual accumulation of presents under the tree.
There was a tacit belief in Santa Claus even when you knew he didn’t exist, and the food coming out of the kitchen was different in December. You had ordered Christmas cards back in the summer, or you hadn’t and you bought them at the mall, which was turned inside out with Christmas everything. Everywhere you were reminded how many days til Christmas, as if after December 25 time would stop.
My grandparents, who lived in Daingerfield, would drive to Houston with a trunk full of presents. It was about the only time they ever went anywhere, and we would wait for them in a frenzy all day long. They wouldn’t get halfway up the driveway before we would fling ourselves at the car and beg them to open the trunk.
Without cell phones or computers, I think the word was “anticipation.”
My grandpa and dad would immediately start drinking, which is to say they’d continue what had started hours before, and my granny and mom would excitedly talk about things that then I didn’t understand, but that now I do. And they would cook all those marvelous things that you didn’t have any other time of the year, which isn’t quite true because we were already sick of turkey from Thanksgiving.
I’m happier now, though still bound for hell, apparently. But those days were good days in their own way, may they rest in peace.
Holidays mean “ride yer fuggin’ bike,” or they should … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
November 29, 2018 § 11 Comments
Building onto yesterday’s post about bike clothing and how it’s gone mainstream-ish and fashion-ish, I gotta say something about equipment.
Time was, a bike had brakes, cranks, pedals, wheels, derailleurs, shifters, five cogs, handlebars, wheels, tars, chain, and a saddle. Bar tape was crazy thin cellophane-like stuff that provided zero padding. Tars were sew-ups, period, frames were steel and wheels were aluminum. 32 spokes in front, 36 in back.
Two things have changed. One, there is now infinite variety in all those parts. Two, there are a whole bunch of parts that never used to exist, for example, valve extenders. There was no need to extend the valve because all the wheels were the same depth and all the valves the same length.
No aero anything.
No electronic anything.
No carbon anything.
And of course no crazy weight differentials between bikes. You want to save weight? Go with the SLX tubing. On your 23-lb. bike it will shave off a few grams.
Is “more” “better”?
Probably, but only if you know how to manage your acquisitions, and frankly, few cyclists do. Make that “few people.”
In the end, more bike things are only good if they result in more actual cycling. I have friends with road, ‘cross, gravel, TT, and MTB bikes, but it seems like they don’t ride any of them all that much. One friend who, as near as I can tell has only a single beat-up beach cruiser, seems to ride it all the time up and down the bike path in flip-flops and shorts. And of course the guy who has zero bike stuff, Shirtless Keith, rides about 18,000 miles a year.
There’s a moral there somewhere.
I sometimes get nostalgic for that feeling of nostalgia. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!