How hell boils over

February 7, 2018 § 9 Comments

A long time ago I lived in Miami. From where we lived it was about 1,660 miles to South Beach, because the Miami we lived in was in Texas.

Stuck up on the High Plains, Miami had less than 600 residents and was the only town in the county, which itself was almost a thousand square miles in size. The closest big town was about twenty miles east, Canadian, Texas, with about 2,000 people. The closest big city was about twenty miles west, Pampa, Texas, with about 20,000. There was nothing to the north or to the south worth driving for, unless you were looking for some extra dust to go in your bowl.

Had my family not finally shaken their heads in disgust and left, I’d probably still be there. In a lot of ways, Miami had everything I ever wanted in life. Neighborly people, cheap living, clean air, stunning panoramas, fantastic birdwatching, and endless miles of empty roads.

I had a loop that went due south out of town, up a little hill out of the valley and onto the flat farmland, then left after about six miles, then left again after about another six miles, and then finally back down to U.S. 60 so that I wound up with an even 25 or so. If I saw one car on the road it was a pretty busy day. Most days I saw no one.

In the winter, when northers blew down from Canada, it could get down into the single digits, but usually it never got much colder than freezing, and in summer it could be in the low hundreds but it was never humid. The part of the weather that made you decide whether or not you were a cyclist was the wind, because up on the High Plains, the wind blows and it blows hard and it doesn’t ever let up.

I can still remember just bending down over the bars and pushing into that wind, alone, crawling along at six or seven miles an hour, wondering what in the world I was doing out there. Of course the answer was never any farther than the next turn where you’d go from vicious headwind to slightly less vicious crosswind, and then finally to howling tailwind, at which moment it was big ring, small cog and I could no more remember the pain of the headwind than I’ve heard women say they can remember the pain of childbirth.

I was the most famous cyclist in Roberts County, that’s for sure. And the fastest. And the best climber, sprinter, time-trialist … I was also, of course, the only cyclist in Roberts County.

The reason I would have never left Miami unless my family had made me was because I was also its only openly avowed Democrat and therefore had a permanent job as the local contrarian. The town had seven churches, apparently because in such a small town so far from the big city, one or two churches weren’t enough to cope with all the sinning. And from my perspective, the folks in Miami sure knew how to sin. It was a dry county of course, so they sinned pretty hard with the booze.

And since it was a family values town, they sinned so darned hard with each others’ husbands and wives that I think one of the churches could have stayed busy day and night just de-sinnifying the fornicators. In those days before the opioid crisis, Miami youth loved meth, so they needed a church for all the meth sinning, too.

But the biggest sin of all was Miami’s politics. It wasn’t simply Republican. It was way to the right of Trump before American Nazism was the fashionable political philosophy that it is now. The Miamese never made any bones about hating non-whites. If you didn’t want to be white, that was your business, but please take it somewhere else. Of course we found a handful of people there who really did appear to believe in civil rights, and the rights of man, and things like that, but with one or two exceptions they were never public about it.

So imagine my non-surprise when I came across this news story about the Most Trumpful Town in America, about, where else, Miami, Texas. I watched it with interest not because it surprised me, but because I knew some of the people who were quoted in the story, and it reminded me what racism and race hate really are, however artfully they are masked behind neighborly smiles and small acts of kindness. You can help an injured kitten and still start a lynch mob.

The story tries to find out what Trump’s die-hard supporters really feel after his first year in office, and, no surprise, they love him. But the most interesting part for me is the part where they interview, extensively, Mitchell Locke and his sister, Erin Breeding. But first about how I know them.

Mitchell and Erin’s mom, Diana Locke, taught elementary school in Miami. My youngest son had her for first grade. Diana was a wonderful and kind teacher, and her husband David was a relatively intelligent guy who at least had some vague notions of a world bigger than cattle ranching. I’m not sure but I seem to recall that he hadn’t been cattle ranching for very long. Although the news story paints the Lockes as a six-generation ranching family, when I met David I think that he had only been ranching for ten years or maybe even less; I forget what had gotten him into the cow-calf business but it was most assuredly not something he’d been doing his whole life.

What was interesting at the time is that their son Mitchell was a student at Texas Tech and an English major; hardly the model for most Miami-area ranching families, where “you only needed to read one Book.” It seemed, however, that the frat life had had a significantly bigger impact on Mitchell’s intellectual development than the Great Books, and whether he dropped out or scraped through, he eventually drifted back home with a terrible resume for the real world but a perfect resume for a Miami kid: “Will work for daddy.”

The daughter Erin, who I don’t remember well, finished college and got a teaching degree, because one of the maxims in Miami is “Hate the government, love the government’s money.” As with most deep red Republican bastions, the first families of Miami invariably wind up working for the school, or the county, or as the beneficiary of government contracts.

The t.v. documentary revealed Mitchell in his late 30s, no longer an inquisitive English major, but rather a self-centered, self-absorbed, “What’s in it for me?” employee of his father’s barely profitable cow-calf operation–or at least that’s how it sounds in the documentary when we learn that the ranch, with it’s “thousands of acres” worth “millions of dollars” can only afford to pay one full-time employee.

Early on, Mitchell makes it clear that for him, Trump support is all about the estate tax. He repeatedly talks about “our land” and the risk of “not being able to pass it on” if the tax isn’t repealed. It’s easy to see Mitchell as an intelligent, dedicated tax-relief voter, and he even goes so far as to call Trump a buffoon and a blowhard.

The ironies for someone like me, who has actually lived in Miami, are almost too many to count. First is the fact that Mitchell is unable to do anything more inventive with his life or education (assuming he completed it) other than go back home and work for daddy, then hope and pray like hell that the government will give him a huge tax gift upon his dad’s death so that he can still putt-putt over the prairie and pretend to be a cowboy.

Second, and incomparably richer, is his line that the failure to repeal the estate tax might mean that “what we’ve been trying to build for six generations is over.” Newsflash, Mitchell: If you couldn’t make it work in six generations, you don’t deserve a seventh. In fact, your inability to make it a thriving, going concern after six generations ought to mean you lose the whole thing out of sheer incompetence.

Finally is Mitchell’s navel-gazing worldview: “I’m not concerned about the DACA people because they’re not concerned about us. I have to take care of me and my own and that’s what it comes down to.” In short, there is no reason to ever do anything that doesn’t support Mitchell Locke. He is not smart enough to see that “everything for me, nothing for you” cuts both ways. Until, of course, the end of the program when we learn that his hero, Donald Trump, has indeed passed a tax bill, but has left the estate tax intact. “Everything for Donald, nothing for Mitchell” doesn’t feel nearly as good.

If you’re expecting someone to be angry or disappointed or betrayed, don’t look to Mitchell Locke. “At least they’re trying … ” he mumbles incoherently at the end of the show, demonstrating what I could have told you from the beginning: Trump represents race hate for the Lockes of the world and tax giveaways for the billionaires, and as long as he delivers those two things they will never repudiate him, ever.

And speaking of billionaires, the t.v. show makes it look like the ranchers they’ve interviewed are the big shots in Miami. They aren’t. The people who run Roberts County are oil millionaires and billionaires, and they don’t live in town and they don’t care about Mitchell Locke’s tiny little shoestring ranch operation. Remember T. Boone Pickens? He has one of the biggest ranches in Roberts County, and he’s not feeding cattle from the back of a broken-down pickup. The other ugly fact about the ugly politics in this ugly corner of America is that as much as they malign Hillary, Roberts County has been deeply Republican forever. Republican county judge, Republican county commissioners, Republican congresscrook, Republican senators, and Republicans across all statewide offices, yet they still claim that Hillary was going to take it all away from them. Take away all what? Answer: Their whiteness. Because the single unifying thing across Roberts County is how deeply its white overlords hate those who aren’t white.

Mitchell’s sister, Erin Breeding, is another person profiled in the show. In Miami tradition, she is on the government dole as a schoolteacher; these sinecures are considered plum jobs for ranching families because they come with health insurance. Yet of all the people who should be most virulently opposed to Trump, teachers, Erin thinks he’s just fine. At the same time she can’t seem to understand why her health insurance keeps going up. But that’s okay because she is too busy to keep up with the news …

The only time anything approaching self-awareness crosses Erin’s face is when the conversation turns to sexual harassment and she expresses pleasure that politicians have resigned as a result of their behavior. But not Trump, because in Trumpland, everyone is wrong all the time except Trump.

The documentary is so filled with tropes and falsehoods, mindless repetition of fact-free Fox News throwaway lines, gibes at immigrants, racial slurs at Muslims, and a celebration of being white that it made me grateful beyond words that I’d actually lived there. The belly of beast should be mandatory viewing, but only if you are lucky enough to have someone eventually fish you out.

Below are a few photos from my time in Miami. Seems like a long time ago. Thank dog, it was.

END

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About Cycling in the South Bay: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.

The first time I ever punched somebody in the face

December 21, 2017 Comments Off on The first time I ever punched somebody in the face

When I was a kid my brother and I liked being able to ride our bikes downtown. Bike = Freedom, then and now.

That was about the time we started guitar lessons at the old music store in downtown Galveston. The idea was to get us out of the house, even for a few minutes a day, and guitar lessons seemed to my parents like a twofer as we might actually learn something in the process besides more cussing.

Our teacher was Mr. Pedraza, a man so ancient that we could scarcely imagine an older thing. In hindsight he might have been fifty. But he was bald and walked with a stoop and the two 30-minute evening guitar classes he taught were plainly the albatross around his neck. Ian and I were in different classes, mine from 3:00 to 3:30 and Ian’s from 3:30 to 4:00. We were in different classes not because of differing ability but in order to keep us from clawing each other’s eyes out.

My class had two other students, a girl named Sally and a dreadful little redneck bastard named Bubba. Bubba had a crew cut, thick little hands and fingers, was one year older, hated the guitar, hated Mr. Pedraza, and most of all hated me. I liked practicing at home with my Mel Bay Beginner Guitar Book No. 1, and Bubba didn’t.

Each lesson we would whang away at our cheap little guitars and Bubba never came close to getting anything right which would infuriate Mr. Pedraza, causing Bubba to gleefully mis-finger the chords even more. In between songs Bubba would lean over and say, “After this lesson I’m gonna punch you in the face.”

I was really afraid of Bubba. Those hammy little mitts that couldn’t make a G chord to save his life were perfect for balling up and punching; I knew that much from my brother’s beatings, and his hands were tiny compared to Bubba’s. “Which fist do you want me to punch you in the face with? This one is good for knockin’ out teeth,” he’d muse. “But this one is good for takin’ out an eye if you use your thumb like so.” He’d jab the air and make a little dig with his thumb. “That’s your eyeball,” he’d say, and I’d tremble, trying to focus on my guitar.

The lesson would finish and I’d race out of there, jump on my bike and speed home before Bubba could so much as get through the front door. Bike = Escape, then and now. But on days when it rained, my mom would pick me up and I’d have to stand on the curb with Bubba, waiting for my brother’s lesson to finish because we weren’t allowed to hang out in the store after the lesson. “If my dad wasn’t on his way here right now I’d punch you in the face so hard your lips would pop,” Bubba would thoughtfully advise me on those days. “You know what happens when your lips pop, doncha?”

I’d just grip my guitar case and get ready to shield myself with it when the blows came.

“When your lips pop,” he’d continue, “they stay flat for the rest of your life, like worms you done stomped on. Everybody’s gonna call you Mr. Wormlips.” Bubba loved instilling terror way more than any actual beating. He was a sadist.

One day after guitar we were having dinner. “How was your guitar lesson?” my dad asked.

“It was okay,” I mumbled.

“That’s not very enthusiastic.”

“He hates it,” my brother smirked.

“Do not.”

“Do.”

“Do not.”

“Do.”

My dad interrupted. “Why do you think he hates it?”

“He’s scared of Bubba.”

“Am not!”

“Are!”

“Am not!”

“Are!”

“Who’s Bubba?” my dad asked.

“Nobody,” I said. “And I ain’t scared of him neither.”

“He’s a fatty in Seth’s guitar class who’s always saying he’s gonna punch him in the face.”

“Well,” my dad asked, “has he?”

“Heck no,” Ian said. “Who’s gonna punch Seth? You can just yell at him and he’ll cry like a big baby.”

“You’re the big baby!”

“Say that again and I’ll punch you in the face!”

My eyes teared up.

“Boys!” my dad said. “Is that true?” He looked sternly at me.

“Kinda,” I said.

“What are you going to do about it? You can’t let this bully make your life miserable.”

I thought about it for a moment. “Shoot him?”

Ian laughed. “You don’t even have a gun! How you gonna shoot him?”

“I don’t think he deserves to be killed,” my dad added wisely. “But why don’t you haul off and punch him in the face?”

“Bubba?” I was incredulous. “He’d kill me.”

“Yeah,” Ian agreed. “He’d kill him. He prolly has a gun, too, and he’d shoot him after he killed him.”

I felt the tears start to well up again at the thought of being beaten to death and then shot.

“He doesn’t have a gun and he isn’t going to kill you,” my dad said. “Just wait until the next time he says he’s going to punch you in the face, then haul off and punch him in the face.”

“What if it’s in the lesson? Mr. Pedraza will shoot both of us.”

“Then wait until you’re outside. That’s what I’d do.”

“Have you ever punched anybody in the face?” I asked.

“Son,” my dad said, “sooner or later everybody gets around to punching somebody in the face. Sounds like it’s your time.”

The next lesson I was so scared that I couldn’t finger the C, the G, or even the D. Mr. Pedraza was pretty mad and Bubba was ecstatic. “Boy, oh boy, after this lesson I’m gonna punch you in the face for being a crybaby and then I’m gonna punch you in the face again for Mr. Pedraza. He’d punch you in the face except he’d go to jail.”

I didn’t say anything but my eyes burned and I shook like a leaf. After the lesson I walked outside, so nervous I could barely open the door. Bubba was right behind me. I walked over to my bike and set down my guitar case while I fumbled with my key. Bubba laughed. “I think now would be a good time to punch you in the face.”

I come out of my half-crouch quick as a cat, spinning around, and punched him in the face so hard that I thought I’d broken all the bones in my hand. I was surprised at how it hurt. His face was fat but also kind of hard; the punch landed right on his nose, which was wide and flat, and then glanced onto his cheek.

Unlike the movies, he didn’t go flying through the air or become unconscious, in fact his head only moved a tiny little bit, but unlike in the movies when the good guy and bad guy really go at it, he stood there, stunned. A small Ganges of blood was pouring out of his nose and dripping onto his shirt. Instead of grabbing me by the head and throwing me into oncoming traffic he touched the blood and started to cry, then wail.

He ran back into the music store. “He punched me in the face! He punched me in the face!” was all I heard as I pedaled away, saved by my bike and not for the last time.

Bubba never came back to guitar lessons, and no one seemed to miss him, even a little.

END

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A Rare Bird

December 13, 2017 Comments Off on A Rare Bird

I was driving to the Chinese consulate this morning, headed along PV Drive North on the way to the 110 Freeway, when I saw a rare sight, something that was awesome and beautiful and amazing and that made me smile the rest of the day.

It was a sunny morning and the traffic was moderately heavy, the peak point in the morning when moms and a few dads drive their children to school in enormous steel cages. Growing up in Houston, in the morning by the time I had to leave for school my mom had already been at work for an hour, and my dad had two policies with regard to getting to school:

  1. Ride your bike.
  2. If it rains, wear a raincoat.

There was no steel cage option.

That was junior high, of course. In elementary school, some kids rode, but mostly you walked. Some kids lived a mile away; they walked, too. The only kids who got driven were kindergartners, and most of them walked as well. Walking to school you always met up with your classmates, usually at the 7-11 on Renwick and Pine, where we would play a game of pinball or steal a pack of Now-and-Laters.

Walking was also the best way to stand around and wait for the big after school fight of the week, or to loiter until your favorite girl came by and you could pretend you happened to be leaving the school gate the same time as she. Then you could walk home together which was the best.

But now, at least in our neighborhood, everyone drives their kids to school, K-12 industrialized obesity education, with complex pickup/dropoff regimes, huge lines of cars puking exhaust, and the streets snarled. The main reason everyone drives is because letting a kid walk or, dog forbid ride a bike, is too dangerous. Statistics show that 99.759 out of 100 children are run over or kidnapped if they are not driven to school. I remember growing up that no one who walked or rode to school lived past the age of about twelve. Sometimes twenty or thirty kids would vanish or die each day.

Now that I think about it, there was a kid whose mom drove him to school, Karl Ward. Karl and his younger brother, Kurt, would get driven to school in their mom’s Buick station wagon, along with three or four other kids. The Wards lived at the boundary of the school zone and could have biked but they didn’t. Mrs. Ward would fill the car with her sons and a few other kids and drive them; car pooling. I think about Mrs. Ward and that station wagon absolutely jam packed with kids every time I see a massive Rage Rover able to seat seven but carrying a mere single child and a latte consumption organism.

Normally we would have made fun of anyone in junior high school whose mom drove them to school, but not Karl. He was the kid who, the first day of school, the principal stopped in the hall. “Are you going out for football?” Mr. Thompson asked him.

“No, sir,” said Karl, who was big enough and athletic enough to have formed most of the offensive or defensive line.

Mr. Thompson made a face. “Why do you say that, young man? You’re big and strong and perfect for our team.”

“This school has never won anything in football and never will,” Karl said, and continued on. He was right, of course.

Whereas Karl was huge, his little brother Kurt, or “Kurtie,” was short and small. Kurtie was always looking up to Karl, literally and figuratively. Then a few years later in high school I remember seeing this giant dude, about 6’5″, broad as a dump truck, face covered in stubble so thick you couldn’t have cut it with a diamond saw, lurching down the hallway.

“Hi, Seth!” he said in a voice that was lower than a bathyscaphe, the eager, friendly way that a younger kid from junior high talks on his first day of high school to an upperclassman.

I looked for a second before realizing it was Kurtie. “Hey, Kurt,” I said, making a mental note to never, ever call him “Kurtie” again.

Anyway, there I was, driving to the Chinese consulate, and I saw three little kids, maybe fourth or fifth graders, riding their bikes to school.

END

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Unthanksgiving Day

November 25, 2017 Comments Off on Unthanksgiving Day

Sometimes the mood overtakes me and I make a list of things I’m grateful for. I usually post it on Thanksgiving Day. But other times a different mood overtakes me and I make a list of things I’m ungrateful for. I keep that list to myself.

But not today!

  1. I’m very ungrateful for the shabby state of our democracy, led by a bully with a yeast infection where his brain should be.
  2. Super ungrateful for not winning the Latigo Hillclimb by a lot of minutes.
  3. I’m way ungrateful for the people who designed Chinese, which is basically unlearnable, at least by me, despite hundreds of hours and thousands of wasted dollars.
  4. My ungratefulness knows no bounds when it comes to the lady who sat in front of me on the way to Austria, demanding that the flight attendant remove the lady who had a crying baby. Remove him to where, lady? We’re in a fucking airplane.
  5. Lots o’ ungratefulness when I reflect on the Lunada Bay Boy on Mom’s Couch who tried to run over my wife while she was descending Via del Monte this morning.
  6. I am ungrateful for global warming. It’s not “climate change,” asshole, it’s “we’ve turned earth into a boiling cauldron and we’re all stuck in the middle of it.”
  7. Ungrateful for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all sales of every kind, everywhere.
  8. I am decidedly unthankful for the NRA and the whackjob gun lobby. I don’t like your fake rendition of the 2nd Amendment and all the dead people that result from it, like the lady today who was “mistaken” for a deer while walking her dog and killed.
  9. Big unthankfulness over here in the cheap seats for TV.
  10. No thanks whatsoever for drivers who endanger cyclists, injure and kill them, and prevent the spread of more bicycling for more people in more places.
  11. Huge helping of thanklessness for everyone who didn’t vote and is now “outraged” by the composition of the judiciary, Congress, and the executive branch.
  12. Not feeling much gratitude right this minute for “pro” bike teams that don’t pay their women racers. A lot.
  13. Zero mindfulness/thankfulness/appreciation for Serfas, who, although they keep replacing them for free, also keep sending me tail lights that don’t last very long.
  14. I am hereby ungrateful for doctors who overprescribe antibiotics. And opioids.
  15. Ungrateful, here and now, for getting weaker and slower every year. But nominally pleased not to have yet been served with the alternative.
  16. Unappreciative of #socmed and all the YEARS that I donated to #facebag, #stravver, and #thetwitter.
  17. Not very happy about the thorn in my front tire that I didn’t find until it resulted in two flats.
  18. And of course I’m ungrateful for Merkel’s failure to form a governing coalition. Adios, world’s last functioning social democracy.
  19. Okay, I ran out at 18, so I’ll finish it with the one thing I’m daily grateful for: Being alive in this amazing world … defects notwithstanding, it’s a great place to be!

END

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Three meetings

October 31, 2017 § 25 Comments

First Meeting

We had just finished the NPR on a brilliant fall day in October 2014, I think. There was a new guy from Arizona, wearing a blue-and-white kit and it was his first Pier Ride and we sat around drinking coffee at the Center of the Known Universe, smalltalking like we always do. You could tell how much he loved the vibe, soaking in the easy conversation as we splayed on the bricks and cast glances over at the cobalt waves.

“You guys doing any more riding after this?” he asked.

“That wasn’t enough for you, huh?” My legs were wrecked.

“No, man, that was crazy hard. But if anybody’s doing more miles I’d love to join.”

Surfer Dan piped up with that smirk of his. “I’m doing a little extra credit but it’s on dirt. Seth’s coming with me.” Dan’s “little extra credit” was always stupid hard.

“Seth doesn’t do dirt,” I assured the guy from Arizona. “And sure as hell not with Surfer Dan.”

“That sounds fun!” the new guy said, so I was roped in even though it sounded awful. Somehow we wound up with five or six other riders; I recall Jon Paris, Christian Quant, and a couple of other suckers following along as Dan took us up the steep trail behind the Malaga Cove library, then onto the road and over to the narrower, steeper, dirt walking path that went up and over a ledge and dumped out onto Via del Monte. Most of us fell over trying to mount the ledge, but not Dan.

The new guy got dropped hard and fell, too. At the top we waited for him and waited for the curses, but we were disappointed when we saw the new guy grinning ear to ear. “That was a blast!” he said, scraped up, covered in dirt, and kit scuffed to shit.

Surfer Dan and I looked at each other. “We got ourselves a live one.”

That was my first ride with Rob Dollar, and it may have been his first bike ride in SoCal. It wasn’t more than his second, that’s for sure. The guy was a densely packed ball of fire and good vibes. He was new to cycling, but a veteran at life. I could tell that his brand of full-gas and crazy was going to fit right in.

Second Meeting

This one happened sometime last year, I think it was in the fall of 2016, at Strand Brewing in Torrance. We were having a going away party for Rob, which was weird. It wasn’t weird that he was going away; people come and go all the time. And it certainly wasn’t weird that Rob was at Strand; he was famous for holding his liquor and a lot of everyone else’s, too. What was weird is that it was a going away party for someone who had, in South Bay terms, only just arrived.

In two short years he become Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar, or RMFD, the embodiment of camaraderie and fun and risk and inclusiveness that bike racing is supposed to be about but rarely is. That’s how he introduced himself on the starting line or to a new rider. “Hi, I’m Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar.” And he was.

He formed a hard core rat pack of beginning racers with Kevin Nix, David Wells, Josh Dorfman, Matt Miller, Mathieu Brousseau, Denis Faye, Bader Aqil, Jason Morin, and several other riders whose motto appeared to be “Go fast, go hard, have fun, and make sure the bottle is empty before you go.”

And if Rob was loved by his pals, he was adored by women for his sculpted physique, infectious humor, and for certain angles on his podium photos that more than a few female admirers swore could be seen from Google Earth. There was even a private message chain that certain women shared, providing instant notifications for when Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar’s podium shots were uploaded to Facebook. If you wanted to stop a party in a heartbeat all you had to say was, “Rob Dollar podium” and watch the iPhones come out in the blink of an eye.

I wasn’t part of Rob’s racing crowd, but I always saw his gang and hung with them at the team tent and was privy to the unique friendships that had all coalesced around this one charismatic guy who didn’t to know how to do anything but make friends. In two short years his return to Phoenix sparked an outpouring of people who packed the brewery that afternoon to tell him goodbye. The relationships were genuine and real. Like any human Rob had his flaws, but unlike most of us he was always the first one to apologize and try to do better. And “do better” he always did.

When Rob returned to Phoenix, he stayed a member of Big Orange and joyously greeted his teammates and SoCal friends when they came to Arizona for the Valley of the Sun Stage Race. Rob flew the Big Orange flag as proudly, or more proudly, than he had in Los Angeles. He stayed in touch with his SoCal friends, rode with them when they visited Arizona, and was never the one who let the relationship go flat. And Rob got better as a racer, too, even as he made the same impact on his hometown that he’d made on his adopted one.

None of us thought that goodbye in 2016 was permanent, just a pause in time until he did what he promised to do, which was to return to live and race in the South Bay as soon as he possibly could. I’d say we adopted him but that’s not true. Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar adopted us.

Third Meeting

Last night at 8:00 PM about a hundred of us stood around the surfer statue at Hermosa Beach Pier. We were just outside the circle of light from the bars and activity on a slow Monday night, and a cool breeze blew in off the Pacific. David Wells had constructed a Rube Goldberg contraption with bike forks turned upside-down that held a spinning bike wheel. Each time the wheel slowed, someone stepped out from the circle and gave it a push, keeping the wheel moving.

Rob had been killed the day before descending South Mountain outside Phoenix. A young woman, high on weed and drunk on liquor, had gotten “stuck” behind a “slow moving” cyclist in front of her. I guess “stuck” is what they say when what they mean is “she had to slow down and wait a few seconds.” Sounds more dramatic to use a verb that you associate with glue, or a mire, or quicksand.

Annaleah Dominguez and her friend were in a hurry to get to the overlook and veg out, and she veered out across the double yellow line to pass the cyclist who had slowed her down such that she’d have to wait a few seconds before getting to the place where she could, you know, sit in her car and stare off into space. At that second Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar, who was descending from the top, came around the turn and hit her square on at speed. He died instantly, no chance to do anything except, perhaps, wonder if he was going to make it.

We stood in the blackness on the edge of the strand and listened as the witnesses came forward and spoke to the beauty and strength of Rob’s life. The voices were choked and humbled and broken and soft, but we heard every word, in part because we’d each experienced the profound goodness of this amazing and decent man. We didn’t have to hear each other’s words; they’d been playing over and over in our heads since the news first struck.

They’re playing still.

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Low fidelity Podcast #2: Pumping

September 23, 2017 § 9 Comments

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away … bike pumping! Click on the above link to listen. Extra special high quality equipment and boss recording techniques approved by sound technicians used in the recording, editing, and post-production of this broadcast.

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 300 guests, so get there early.

south_bay_cycling_awards_poster_2017_final

Ode to a Japanese rice cooker

September 4, 2017 § 26 Comments

I’m not sentimental about stuff. There is a box up on a shelf in my closet that has my great-great grandfather John Turner’s powder measure in it. He used it in the Civil War; it’s made from the breast bone of a turkey. I’m pretty sure it’s the only thing I own from that side of my family, but you know what? If it got lost or stolen I wouldn’t really care because it’s just a thing.

Bikes are the same. I owned bikes that are what you’d now call “classics,” but if I still owned any of them all I’d ever call them is clutter. Good fuggin’ riddance.

Last week my wife bought a new rice cooker. Here is a picture of the old one, beat to shit.

suihanki

We bought this Zojirushi rice cooker in June 2000, when we moved back to the United States from Utsunomiya. I calculated that it has cooked over five thousand pots of rice since then, and it has never hiccoughed, much less needed repair. At the time it cost $200, which in today’s dollars is about $45,000,000, adjusting for inflation and poor arithmetical skills.

My sentimental rating for this thing is zero. The front cover has peeled off from being so close to the stove for so many years, and it is covered with more battle scars than an alpha male bull elephant seal. Since it still works fine, we’re handing it off to our youngest, who has left the dorms and signed up for apartment living in his second year of college.

Like I said, no sentimentality for that old thing. Some big corporation made it, I worked to pay for it, it did what it was supposed to do, and now it’s going off to Santa Barbara to do it some more. Most people would love to retire to Santa Barbara anyway.

But even though I’m not sentimental, not even a little, about the contraption that fed us and nourished us and did its job without interruption or complaint for close to twenty years, when you think about it, that old rice cooker marked a lot of time with our family.

When we brought it home from the Asahi Japanese Market in Austin, my youngest son was two. His brother, seven. His sister, eleven. He’s now a sophomore in college and I’m a grandfather. Time didn’t fly, it vanished. These wrinkles on my hands are tree rings, they mark the truth and can’t be obscured.

That rice cooker saw a lot of trials and a lot of tribulations. Terrible family altercations, family illness, family death. Friend troubles, school troubles, work troubles, life troubles. That rice cooker saw paychecks cashed with so little to go around that working poor would have seemed like an upgrade. Through the worst times, though, it coughed up a daily diet of hot steamed rice, nourishing food that left us with full bellies no matter how dire things otherwise might have seemed.

That rice cooker saw a lot of happiness, too. Reconciliations, mended friendships, excitement and adventure, new jobs, California, graduations, nuptials, and the crowning gift of life, babies. Whether we were making up or celebrating a milestone, that old rice cooker kept plugging away, pumping out the mainstay of every meal we ate together as a family for almost twenty years.

Those meals we ate together as a family, sometimes mad, usually happy, often hilarious, always filled with commentary about the things the day had brought, those meals were the glue that bound us, and they bound us in a way that frozen food and dinners out and ready-to-eat Trader Joe’s fare never could have. Whether we argued or whether we laughed, we did it over home cooked food whose backstop was invariably steamed white rice.

And if I’m so damned unsentimental about that old home appliance, maybe you can tell me why I’m so sad to see it go.

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