March 31, 2016 § 22 Comments
We have a training crit called Telo. No one is sure what it trains anyone for, but on Tuesday at 6:00 PM we do it anyway.
Telo, pronounced “this really fuggin’ sucks,” has one main feature, wind. Huge buckets of it sweep off the coast every afternoon without exception. Yesterday the buckets were Rubbermaid Industrial Sized; I’m guessing 25 mph.
The course is a long tailwind section, a short right-hander, then a long headwind section, a chicane, more headwind, another right-hander, and back to the tailwind part. You would think that the headwind section is the worst part and you would be right.
One of the great things about the Internet and being really famous is that when you announce you’re going to be at Telo a ton of people show up. So I announced my presence and got to see what kind of weight I pull in the South Bay as a tiny group of maybe twenty-five riders appeared.
The only thing that makes Telo harder than huge wind buckets is a small field. Yesterday the field included Evens, Smasher, Fireman, Destroyer, Surfer Dan, SB Baby Seal, Hair, and Family Jules. Clearly the worst thing to do would be to attack from the gun. All I had to do was mark Destroyer and I’d make the split, which is exactly like the old Aesops’ fable of Belling the Cat. All the mice have to do to stop the cat from eating them is put a big bell around his neck. Yep, that’s all.
Junkyard, who showed up to flash lap cards, waved us off. By refusing to participate, he once again proved himself the wisest person there, although as he scampered back and forth across the course with riders whizzing by he almost achieved the Trifecta of Bike Crashes: Falling on the Road, Falling on the Track, and Getting Run Over at a Bike Race While Not Even Riding.
I attacked from the gun, if “attack” is what you call dangling 50 yards ahead of everyone on the neutral lap. However, it served its purpose, which was to make sure I felt droopy and lacticky when the real attacks began, of which there was only one, and which came from Evens, and which was into the headwind, and which everyone could simply look at and drool hangdoggedly “You go.” “Nuh-uh. You go.” “Fugg tha, you go.”
The field had about fifteen people left and they all appeared to be small and thin and useless for my purposes, which was finding a good wheel to gasp onto.
I followed a couple of hapless moves and never slipped back more than fourth wheel, all the while wondering “Where are Destroyer and Smasher? Where are Smasher and Destroyer?” Nothing would happen without them, except what had happened, which was that the winning break of one had morphed into the winning group of five and I wasn’t in it.
Fireman, though, was. He had told me before the race, “Just follow my wheel and you’ll make the split.” So I followed several other wheels while he made the split and I didn’t.
As I took a few ineffectual pulls I kept wondering, “Where are Destroyer and Smasher? Gee I’m tired and exhausted and tasting that salty sour bitter stuff in the back of my throat and my legs have that ‘stop’ feeling but where are they? What are they doing? Smasher is always patient and waits until the first 30 seconds to attack but not today. Is he tired? Weak? Sick? Too much Cal-Mex queso before the ride?”
Of course I could have looked, but it’s hard to turn your head when you’re rollicking through massive pavement cracks dodging oncoming angry cagers and delivery trucks whipping out of industrial park driveways and 25-mph gusts that stand you up when you slam from the sheltered short top section into the wind and your eyes have switched sockets.
If I had looked back I would have seen D&S chillily sitting in the back not having yet pedaled. Which would have been a bad thing to see.
“When are they going to attack and bridge?” I wondered. So I slipped back and got on Smasher’s wheel, who was on Destroyer’s wheel. “Okay fuckers,” I said. “Do your worst and drag me up to the break.”
On cue, Destroyer hopped hard on his pedals and Smasher hopped with him. Surfer Dan slotted in ahead of me and it was just the four of us. First we went fast. Then faster. Then really fast. Once we hit the apex of this-hurts-so-bad-if-we-go-any-faster-my-face-will-come-off, Destroyer started going fast.
Surfer gapped, which was great because now I had an excuse. IF ONLY HE HADN’T GAPPED ME OUT I WOULD HAVE MADE IT. REALLY, MOM!!!
I watched the two of them pedal merrily off, satisfied that I now had an excuse and, since we’d slowed down, could breathe again and uncross my kidneys.
Ten riders came up to us. Everyone else who hadn’t already been dropped got dropped.
We rode the next forty minutes in a single line. Each time you got within three riders of the front the pain was unendurable. My pulls went from weak and ineffectual to lightning-brief cameos where my pull consisted of one pedal stroke, a 5-mph decrease in speed, and a wildly flapping elbow.
One by one the group shrank. Every couple of laps someone shuddered and quit. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6.
This is what it must have been like to be stuck in a life raft with nothing to eat but each other, and nothing to drink but blood, salt water, and urine. When SB Baby Seal melted into a wet stain and slithered off the back with only a couple of laps to go I knew things were bad. With Hair, Boozy P., Jay L., and Surfer Dan the only people left in our pitiful chase group that wasn’t really a chase group so much as it was a don’t-get-lapped group, and with us all broken the only thing left of the glorious dreams from 60 minutes earlier, we each struggled across the line, downcast, downtrodden, filled with futility, defeat, and the reality that no matter how bad you are on a bike, racing will make you worse.
Up ahead the shenanigans had been vicious. Heavy D. and Brokeback Brokeleg had been ridden out of the break. Fireman had been worked over. Family Jules had been denied his second Telo victory despite cagey wheelsucking, sagging, pull skipping, and work avoidance of every kind. Evens had ground everyone up into fine powder. Destroyer and Smasher had attacked every lap the last five laps until one of them beat everyone else.
However, I finally realized that I had gotten it all wrong. Telo isn’t a training race. It’s a funeral train. And you’re the guest of honor.
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March 29, 2016 § 34 Comments
Another example of how Specialized doesn’t get it. Women are cyclists and customers, not sex objects. Of course tucked away at a trade show in Berlin, maybe Specialized thought they could do their thing under the radar. Talk about a company that represents the worst in cycling. I guess if you can’t sell your bikes because they’re good, rip a page from Budweiser and sell it because you think your customers might be dumb enough to think that buying one will get you laid. By a Playboy Bunny. Right.
What I thought was a goodnight kiss to my echo chamber turned out to be anything but. One poster defended the two models by saying that it was the German subsidiary who made the decision, implying that Specialized’s HQ in the liberal, equal-rights supporting Republic of NorCal would never have done such a thing. The same person also pooh-poohed the problem by saying that other companies in the same situation have done worse, then threw down the old Litmus Test for Social Commentary: If you’ve ever [—–] before, you have no right to comment on [—–].
His defensive reaction was not out of place. One person happily commented on how he loves “tits,” another about how he loves gazing at attractive women, one about “Uptight Yanks” (he’s an American), and the old standby whenever we’re criticizing Specialized, “Cannondale does it, too.”
The women who joined the conversation mostly had in depth, thoughtful, and strong opinions on the matter, like this one, but who cares about them? I got some mansplainin’ to do, so STFU.
And my mansplanation begins with this: I’ve done and said sexist things before, I’ve purchased products from sexist companies with sexist marketing campaigns, and if I had to make a list of times that my dick has overridden my brain it would be a very long one. So you can call me a failed feminist or a hypocrite or a bored late-night blogger or whatever else makes it easy for you to discount my criticism of Specialized. But even though (you think) that chops off my credibility at the knees when it comes to making this argument, it doesn’t take away the argument itself, which is this:
Whether it’s Peter Sagan groping the woman on the podium, whether it’s the practice of having women on the podium, whether it’s unequal prize lists, whether it’s events of unequal duration, whether it’s advertising that shows sexy women on bikes who are obviously not bike racers versus men on bikes who obviously are, whether it’s Specialized’s sexist product marketing and sales, whether it’s unequal team sponsorship, whether it’s unequal junior rider development, and whether it’s unequal support at the local, state, and national level, cycling is doing a poor job of providing equal opportunity and equal respect for women.
I’ve had people tell me that women only race bikes because they’re “looking for a guy.” I’ve been criticized for offering equal prize money when I’ve put up cash primes because “women’s fields are smaller.” I’ve seen guys on group rides aggressively push women who “dared” to contest the sprunt. And I’ve heard every possible criticism of women as participants, from casual riding to big-day racing.
With an environment this gnarly, it’s unfair to pretend that Specialized’s sexism stands out. If anything, their sexism is pretty ordinary. If you want to find a company that really doubles down on sexist marketing and the objectification of women you need to look at the company founded by Anthony Sinyard, the son of Mike Sinyard, who is the founder and owner of Specialized.
Anthony, in his 30’s and not what we’d call a super successful dude, has invested in a venture called Supacaz. Supacaz makes handlebar tape, and has taken Specialized’s sex-symbol sales approach and doubled down, then tripled down.
The apple didn’t simply fail to fall far from the tree, it never even hit the ground.
Of course none of this is really surprising, as noted by another poster on my thread, a woman who wasn’t shy about slapping down the justifications offered up for Specialized’s playboy bunnies as a “mistake of the German subsidiary.”
Studies have shown that sex doesn’t sell. Many, many, many studies. What selling sex does, however, is allow the dumbasses in marketing to go home at 5pm and stop thinking about how to market a shitty product with very little appeal. And THAT is why people use sex to sell. They use sex to sell objects because they’re lazy motherfuckers with no big-picture thought patterns, no understanding of sport sustainability and zero respect for the gender they’re so apathetically objectifying and dehumanizing. Marketing departments use sex to sell stuff because they have little respect for themselves and absolutely no respect for their audience; there is no art, no creativity, no meaningful engagement. And why should there be? When so much of their audience stands up and defends such useless existence, that means that Specialized (and Maxxis and 661 and Colnago and Sidi) don’t have to. They have mindless consumer drones who will do the PR for them.
Of course, when you get right down to it, I blame Lance. Because at the very moment in time that Amgen is offering better and longer women’s events, at the very time that European classics are offering more comparable women’s races with rumblings of equal prize money, at the very time that women are becoming a bigger and bigger part of cycling and its fastest growing segment, Ol’ Yeller teams up with a sexist blowhard gambler to time-trial from Vegas to Hollywood. That what cycling’s biggest story is for the non-cycling public.
Specialized, it looks like you’re going to have to up your game, by which I don’t mean succumb to more of the sex-sells-bikes myth. People who own Specialized bikes, and companies who compete against them, recognize that Specialized makes good bikes. It beggars belief that anyone who’s making a purchasing decision says to herself, “Hmmmm, Tarmac or EVO Super Six? I guess I’ll go with the Tarmac because, bunnies.”
Nor do I believe that Specialized’s focus groups show a customer base longing for “more images of scantily clad women to go with my bike.” What they want on the road is a better product, and if they also want something better in bed, well, they’re not going to get it from a full carbon frame, even if it’s 100% full carbon.
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March 27, 2016 § 27 Comments
New doping meats Michael Buckley of Reno, Nevada, accepted his four-year doping suspension for doping as a doped doper with grace, courage, humility, thoughtfulness, and optimism tinged with regret.
Buckley’s masters cycling profamateur agent, Hoydinck van der Leyen van Poppkorn, issued the following statement:
“Michael wants to apologize to his Specialized-Touchstone Masters teammates, none of whom dope or knew anything about doping in general or his doping in particular, his wife, his kids, and of course his mom and dad and brother Biff. This doping suspension for using dope and being a doper in no way defines who he is, his ethics, or his character. He plans to move forward to put this one-time mistake behind him and work to foster an environment where doping does not have to be an option for California masters profamateurs trying to achieve their dreams and win the 35+ Festersore RR in East Stonefuck, which has twelve entrants and a $12 prize list.”
CitSB caught up with Buckley, the doping doper meats who doped, and got an exclusive interview.
CitSB: That was a pretty heartfelt statement written by your agent.
Meats: Yeah, he’s good. Fuggin’ Belgians know how to say “sorry” for doping, y’know?
CitSB: What’s next for a washed up masters profamateur doping meats like yourself?
Meats: I’ve had a long time to think about this since December, that’s a full three months.
CitSB: One full “cycle.”
Meats: Exactly. And I want to make the sport better. It’s not right that we profamateurs have to choose, in the quest to actualize our dreams of winning the local training crit, between racing clean and being loaded to the meats on doping meats. I want a sport where you don’t have to choose. Where it’s not meats or nothing.
CitSB: Wow, that’s really impressive. How are you going to achieve it?
Meats: I’m going to start a web site.
CitSB: A web site?
Meats: Yeah. It’s called Gastrocnemia Patients Group.
CitSB: Is that even a word?
Meats: Yes. It comes from the gastrocnemius vein, one of the veins of the leg. There are a lot of people out there with gastrocnemiitis, a rare disease of the leg veins that inhibits the uptake of things you put in it.
CitSB: Uh, okay. And what does one do on this web site?
Meats: It’s for informational purposes only. How to obtain maximal uptake for the leg vein in case you’re really ill and need to put something in there.
CitSB: I see.
Meats: And I’m also going into cycling apparel.
CitSB: Do tell.
Meats: There’s a high demand for custom, bespoke, made-to-measure cycling clothing, high end stuff that is clean, fits well, lasts forever, and stands out on the group ride.
CitSB: Do you have a name for the line?
Meats: Uh-huh. That’s trademarked, by the way, so shoot me a copy of this interview before you publish it so I can have my lawyers proof it to make sure you don’t infringe on my Meatsmark.
CitSB: So why the name “Meats?”
Meats: Because it takes a lot of power to, you know, make the big meat sing.
CitSB: Are we still talking about cycling?
Meats: You know, the big meat. The big ring. That’s what we used to say when we were drilling it in the 53 x 11. “He’s making the big meat sing.”
CitSB: Got it. Singing meat. What are the first product offerings on this … Meats … website?
Meats: We’ve got the red “Extra Watts jersey” for $631 per vial, the “Recovery bibs” for $589, and the “Race Day speedsuit” for $1,550 in two monthly treatments.
CitSB: Are you on Strava by any chance?
Meats: Yes. That’s part of my marketing strategy.
CitSB: It is?
Meats: I’m going to get lots of KOM’s using my Meats to raise Meats brand awareness and awareness of gastrocnemiitis.
CitSB: Do you think people might actually be turned off by Michael Buckley, a doping meats doper who doped and got caught cheating by doping against other people who also might have been doping?
Meats: No way. People will understand that you make mistakes. Ask forgiveness, never permission. Toss in a few rebel alleycat unsanctioned races and talk a little smack, maybe get a few tatts, I’ll have a whole new career turning my life around just in time to age up for 45+ masters nats.
CitSB: Hasn’t this all been done before?
Meats: Not that I know of.
CitSB: What’s your Strava handle, by the way?
Meats: “Meatsquatch.” But you can’t write that. It’s trademarked.
CitSB: Of course.
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March 26, 2016 § 45 Comments
Everybody quits racing eventually. I know I will. Like Keith Richards, who seems to have the expiration date of irradiated food, THOG is still racing, but he’s gonna quit banging bars one day, just like Richards is going to quit banging bars on the neck of his guitar.
Most bike racing quitters wake up one day and say, “Fuck this, I’m done.” All of the facts that were so obvious to the rest of the world for so many years suddenly become obvious to them. The scales fall from their eyes. The blind see.
Bike racing travels the arc of the human relationship, which studies show is this:
- Wow, she is hot.
- Wow, I want to spend all my time with her.
- Wow, let’s move in.
- Wow, my life is now complete.
- Wow, I wish she wouldn’t complain so much.
- Wow, how come she has cellulite?
- Wow, I guess we’re just not right for each other.
- Wow, I’m so done with you can I stay here until June because I can’t afford the security deposit on a new place yet and will you take the dog?
When you quit bike racing it usually starts with money or doping or existential angst or a big crash or all four, to wit:
- I can’t believe I paid $130 to race San Dimas, spent three days away from home, tacoed a $1,500 wheel, had my 45-minute “race” shortened to 35 minutes, and watched Konsmo win the overall, the TT, the road race, the KOM, and the green jersey still fail to cover his entry fee.
- Everyone is on drugs except me, and I am, too.
- I’m a grandfather now and my legacy is going to be … 42nd at Castaic Road Race in the leaky prostate 50+ category?
- I won’t be able to walk again until November after going down in the sprunt for 12th. WTF am I doing?
Unlike the Rolling Stones, though, who do a farewell tour every few years, or the Eagles, who retire by dying, bicycle racing quitters quietly sell their excess baggage on eBay and slink away. It’s a lot like retiring from the porn industry. One day you’re swimming in three bodily fluids at once, shimmering on everyone’s cell phone, and the next day you’re wearing baggy faded jeans, a floppy hat, and joining the Sunday birding walk over at the botanical garden. You’re fucking done, or more literally, you’re done fucking.
Me, I see the handwriting on the wall. I’m never going to win a big race, and even if I did, at age 52 THERE ARE NO BIG RACES. I might win a really tiny, little, itsy-bitsy race if I can get Nick Brandt-Sorenson to make me some of his really “custom” bibs and maybe get me on a program of “ultra-custom” jerseys.
But before I quit I’m gonna do just one more race. Yeah, that’s it. Just one more.
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March 15, 2016 § 14 Comments
People used to ask me directly to promote their stuff. “Could you do a story about …” they would say.
“Sure,” I’d say. Then they’d tell me the topic with their slant on how they wanted me to publicize it and puff it up and I’d go home, sit down on the computer, and do the exact opposite.
It’s not that I was trying to be mean, it’s that I am, like Herr Settembrini in Thomas Mann’s “Der Zauberberg,” a contrarian. If you tell me to go to the front I will slink to be back and shirk. If you tell me to sit in and wait I will dash to the fore and shove all the timber in the fire in the first five minutes of the race. “Go up!” and I’ll go down. “Go down!” and I’ll go up. Etc.
Being perverse in this way meets very basic dictates of evolution. I once read a study, or perhaps I just imagined it, about how if you left a certain kind of trout in a tank he would eventually try to jump out of it. That never ended well for the trout in the experiment because outside the tank was dry ground.
“Why did the trout always try to jump out?” the researchers wondered as they penned another grant application for $5 million dollars. The answer seemed to be that in the wild, a trout stuck in a river pool could only escape by jumping out. There was a chance he’d jump onto dry rocks or dry land, but as often as not he’d flop onto a rock, flop some more, and flop his way back into a neighboring rivulet and then swim happily on his way to spawn more trout babies.
Contrarianism is this way. It will often land you in hot water in the artificial world of marketing and blogging, but in reality, flopping out of the tank into parts unknown is the only way anything good has ever happened or been invented. A committee didn’t invent the light bulb.
Bike racing at the professional level in the USA simply doesn’t exist, if by “professional” you mean “steady job and steady paycheck that you can live on.” If you are a pro racer in America you are living with your parents or girlfriend-boyfriend or slumming on a couch. There’s no way you can make ends meet racing your bike unless the ends are very, very, very, very close together. Which they never are.
So this weekend, March 18-19, there’s the first iteration in the modern era of a US pro track racing series. It’s being held at the Carson/Home Depot/Velo Center/Velodrome and it’s going to showcase some of the country’s best track racers in a race series. Details here.
Whether or not this will work is a very open question because it depends on people caring about something that no one in America has cared about for a hundred years: Bicycles going around in circles on a track. There are all kinds of explanations as to why no one cares, but my favorite is this: People grow up watching pass-ball on TV and watching their parents go apeshit over pass-ball and listening to hours and hours of blather about pass-ball and so they, too like pass-ball. People don’t grow up watching track racing on TV (or curling or badminton or ping-pong or toenail shaving) and they don’t grow up watching their parents go apeshit over track racing and listening to hours and hours of blather about track racing and so they, do, don’t give a crap about track racing.
You certainly can’t fault the mechanics of the sport. Racers speeding by inches from your face dressed in colorful underwear as they sprint for money and glory while bumping and gliding and occasionally falling off their bicycles in thrilling smashemups is about 10 billion times more exciting than watching grown men standing on Astroturf chewing tobacco waiting hours for someone with a stick to whack a tiny ball.
Nor can you fault the sport’s complexity. Unlike stick-ball and pass-ball, which require advanced degrees to even begin to understand what’s happening, bike racing is simple. Fastest guy pretty much always wins. Sure there are points and stuff to clog your brain from time to time, but after a few beers who cares anyway? Keep your eyes glued on your favorite colorful underwear and watch ’em go.
And this is the main point. At a velodrome like the one in Carson you can hang out with friends, have a drink and a bite, and watch some pretty thrilling stuff, and at $25 a ticket it’s slightly cheaper than the $123.40 average ticket price for watching the New York Giants lose another game of pass-ball while drinking a $15.00 cup of beer and eating a $9.00 hot dog and paying $30.00 to park your cage.
I plan on going to the races this Saturday and hope you do, too. We can watch these guys and gals flop out of the tank together.
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March 3, 2016 § 18 Comments
I hope you sign up for the Vlees Huis road race that takes place in Bakersfield this Saturday, even though none of us can pronounce it.
Here is the sign-up link. Just do it.
Why should you do this race?
- If you win you get a meat cleaver trophy. The only thing cooler would be a piece of pave. Or maybe a severed head.
- My law firm is offering $1,000 in road primes, $100 each, with primes in almost every category. You can be “one and done” and still go home with cash in your pocket.
- It is a hard and hilly road race. Crits are fine, but every once in a while you owe it to yourself to show up and get humiliated, sent home with your tail between your legs, smacked around, ridden into the ground. Why? Because you’re a road racer, not a track racer.
- Your participation is crucial to the race’s continuity. My club, Big Orange, has 50% more race entries this year than any other club. Imagine how vibrant the racing scene would be if every club provided similar levels of cannon fodder. This means you.
- The race is in Bakersfield, a port-o-potty of a town filled with rednecks, pickups, and guns. Oops! Triple redundancy. Anyway, the Bakersfieldians need to be exposed to bicycle culture somewhere besides the hood of their F-350 diesel.
- Simply finishing will be a huge accomplishment. What else are you going to accomplish this weekend? Another group ride where everyone gets to declare himself the winner? A PR on Strava?
- The promoter, Sam Ames, puts on the very best events. This one comes with free Belgian fries and a free beer to everyone of drinking age who shows up, racer or spectator.
- The course has little traffic and the road is in very good condition. Mostly.
- There’s a 4-corner CBR crit on Sunday in Compton if you simply must get your industrial park fix for the weekend.
- You’ll be part of the solution, not part of the social media chorus who complains about the lack of good races but is somehow always busy on “that” weekend.
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February 29, 2016 § 19 Comments
The 2016 Boulevard Road Race was very, very, very hard, but for me it was only very hard. It was a windy day and on the 55+ mph downhill with the twist that often sends the unwary hurtling off into the barbed wire fence on the far side of the road, we were only going about half that speed.
As we got near the turn to the Green Road of Vomitus and Death on La Posta, we passed a rustic meth house whose sofa-and-junker infested yard was filled with cop cars. A woman had been knifed to death an hour or so earlier and the meth house was the scene of a “guns drawn” Q&A session that included a helicopter.
We pedaled on because it was a bike race and we ain’t got time for that.
On the Green Road of Vomitus and Death there were attacks and various old fellows had their internal organs rearranged as we fought to the death not to get dropped at such an early point in the race even as most of us realized that we were going to get dropped eventually and that no one cares one way or another so several people just whimpered off the back, perhaps searching for the murder weapon so they could turn it on themselves.
We hit the climb on Highway 80 and reality ripped off her mask and revealed that there is nothing new under the sun, what happens every year to the old fellows at Boulevard will continue to happen, i.e. the fitter and faster and meaner and better riders rode away from the weaker and slower and kinder and worse ones, all of whom shared this thought in common: “What am I doing here?”
The answer was obvious to the handful of spectators: “You are losing.”
I watched the race leave without me in the feed zone, where Jan and Dean were calling my name but it wasn’t having the effect they hoped it would. They thought that by encouraging me my legs would magically absorb 1,000 watts of power and sprint up the road, catch the leaders and do heroic things, but instead their words only reminded me of the futility of life, the hopelessness of hope, and the meaningless of leaky prostate bicycle racing where the same old slow people get abused by the same old fast people week in and week out, like Groundhog Day with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre instead of an afternoon in Punxsutawney.
Anyway, the race was very, very, very hard for the old fellows who had to do three laps, but it was just very hard for me because I quit after one. Then I sat on the roadside in a comfy lawn chair and marveled at the similarity between old fellow racing and old fellow sex. Finish before the end; those who came to support you are disappointed and unsatisfied; lots of anticipation for not much excitement; and the vague boredom of trying to conjure 20-something fireworks out of a 50-something damp wool sock.
On the plus side, I hadn’t been stabbed to death.
On the way home, Attila the Hun, who had actually finished, and G3, who had also finished, did their best not to remind me that I had given up and quit.
“Quitting isn’t as bad as not starting,” said Attila.
“Right,” said G3. “When you quit it’s like giving up after having done your best.”
With many hours left to go, and lots of traffic on the 405, Attila asked us if we wanted to learn Hungarian.
“Sure!” we said in unison.
“That’s what I like to hear,” he said. “What do you wanna learn?”
“Nasty words!” we shouted.
“Even better,” he said.
So we practiced really hard for a couple of hours until we could describe the basic acts of reproduction and the utensils-extensions involved.
The next morning my son and I went fishing. I am the worst fisherman in the world and he is the second worst. “Hmmm,” he said after we got to the pier. “I don’t have any bait.”
We tossed the hook in to see if any fish would jump on it but they didn’t, so we engaged the Second Rule of Fishing: When You Can’t Catch a Fish, Screw with Your Pole and Tackle and Stuff.
Pretty soon we were both wearing a fishing line suit, having somehow managed to transfer all of the 10,000 yards of fishing line from the reel onto us. It is very hard to put all that line back on the reel once it has come off. Thankfully, I had brought my binoculars so I could birdwatch off the pier while my son tied himself into a running bowline with a double half-hitch.
Right below us were a trio of surf scoters, and the pier was chock full of western gulls, adults, juvenals, and young birds of various winter plumage. Off on the rocky jetty I even found a small mystery gull, gray-backed, white head, black legs, red bill. Out beyond the surf scoters was a buoy with a pair of fat harbor seals on it. A baby harbor seal kept trying to clamber aboard but he couldn’t get onto it. His mom watched patiently as he scrambled, fell, scrambled, fell, then gave up and swam away.
“He’ll make a good masters bike racer,” I thought.
There was something so peaceful about being there in the early morning, watching my son wrap himself up like a fishing line mummy as the seals cavorted, the brown pelicans skimmed the surface of the gently rolling water, the scoters dove and popped up again like little brown corks, and the cormorants stood on the rocks holding their wings open to dry in the early morning sun.
My son eventually cut the Gordian fishing knot and packed his things, and we drove to a diner and had pancakes, eggs, sausage, and lots of hot coffee.
“Thanks for coming fishing with me, Dad,” he said. “Next Sunday lets ditch the fishing and go birding, okay?”
“Yep,” I said.
“Oh,” he hesitated. “Do you have a bike race that day?”
“Not anymore,” I said.
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