Crazy eyes

April 16, 2015 § 23 Comments

I rolled down to the Starbucks at the mall after work, pretentious foreign language novel under my arm and jaunty beret neatly covering my bald spot. First, I ordered the public off-menu Sulawesi pango-pango, which I always order.

“Excuse me,” I said as the girl swiped my gift card. “The public off-menu has the tall listed as $3.00 and you just charged me $3.50.”

The barista looked at me funny. In Palos Verdes fifty cents isn’t an actual monetary sub-unit. “Oh, you’re right,” she said. Then she thumbed up at the publicly secret off-menu. “The manager hasn’t changed the prices yet.”

“Well he has on the register … ” I trailed off.

“Right,” she said, rolling her eyes and then taking out a complicated swipe card + key and getting the assistant manager’s authorized signature before refunding me my two quarters. I realized that even though people in PV don’t count quarters, the Starbucks assistant manager apparently does.

Next, I settled down at the table and took out my pretentious foreign language novel, and after that my even more pretentious issue of the Economist. It was conveniently opened to an article about quantitative easing in the EC and the way it has doused deflationary fears with mitochondrial expression of lysosomes and the mechanistic target of rapamycin.

No sooner had I comfortably propped up the pretentious foreign language novel so that everyone could see it than a crazy lady came up to me. I knew she was crazy at first glance. She was blonde and very pretty but her eyes were crazy. It took one glance at the eyes for me to know, that and the shopping cart. She was in the middle of a cramped Starbucks with an entire shopping cart from the Pavilions grocery store next door.

Beautiful women with giant shopping carts in the Starbucks are generally crazy. Inside the shopping cart was a mountain of food, mostly chips and frozen items. The frozen items were melting, I supposed, further evidence of her craziness. Atop Mt. Frozen Food she had perched her two screaming, squalling, snot-covered brats, the obvious source of her insanity.

The children had that dirty, fungal, contagious look of 2-year-olds who had been scrubbed clean at 7:00 AM but by 5:00 PM were covered in a layer of food bits, spit, dirt, dried blood, grunge from the floor of the shopping aisles, and spilled liquids whose chief qualities were brown. The children smelled sour and were full of terrible energy. I felt slightly crazy just looking at them.

The woman had that triple-post-partum depression that has morphed into edgy infanticidal tendencies, and she paid no attention to the brats as they teetered, screaming, atop the melting ice cream, with lots of empty space between their heads and the hard floor they were poised to launch onto at any moment. The crazy woman glanced at my book and snorted contemptuously. Then to no one except perhaps the kids, since there didn’t appear to be any other Slavs in the cafe, she let out a string of what I can only assume were monstrous curses in Russian.

Although I don’t speak Russian, I do speak angry mother, and the phrase “Stop doing that or I will smack the shit out of you” is the same in all languages.

Just as I tried to refocus from her breasts to my pango-pango, she said something to me. I knew it was me because the only other people nearby were two high school kids who were shrieking and laughing at some private joke. “Hey you,” said the crazy lady. “Is that your bicycle?” She pointed to my trick whip leaning against the window.

“Yes,” I said, “but I won’t trade it for the cart and the kids.”

She laughed. “They terrible little monsters.” On cue the tousle-headed boy smacked his sister in the face, who responded by smacking him back and biting his arm. We moved our lips at each other for a few seconds until we could hear dimly through the din of howling cries.

“They don’t look like little monsters,” I smiled. “More like dreadful little blood-sucking aliens.”

The crazy lady brightened, perhaps hoping I’d reconsider the kid-trade offer she had been about to make before I had read her mind and rejected it. “You bicyclist? That’s very fancy bike for coffee shop riding.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m a professional.”

“You ride for the pro team?”

“Sure. I’m with Katusha.”

She cocked an eyebrow and said something that had po-russki stuck in it somewhere. “No, I don’t speak Russian,” I said. “I’m based here in the states.”

“My friend he is bicycle racer,” she said as one of the brats hurled the tub of half-thawed ice cream out of the fort.

“What’s his name? I probably know him. Hell, if he’s Russian I’ve probably beaten him.”

“Dmitri Shostakovich. You know him?”

“Dmitri? Sure. Russian dude from Moscow, right? Raced with him a bunch in Belgium.”

“You so smart,” she laughed. “But very bad liar. You just old man with fancy bike maybe no job because you hanging out around high school girls in coffee shop chatting at housewife when other man still working hard at job for family.”

“Hey, you got me wrong. Doesn’t Dmitri ride for a Continental team? Or is he on Oleg Tinkov’s development squad? I can’t remember, but I know the dude. Really.”

“Dmitri Shostakovich great Russian composer, he is died in 1975.”

“Oh,” I said. “THAT Dmitri Shostakovich. So, you come here often?”

The two brats were in a death clench of screams, hits, bites, and sloppy quiescent treats. “Yes, sometimes,” she said. “Do you?” The crazy in her eyes had dialed up to eleven. They went up to eleven.

I looked again at the kids. “No,” I said. “I’m visiting here from Texas. Leaving town in a half hour.” I left my pango-pango on the table, the cup still hot and half-full.

END

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Young love

April 13, 2015 § 35 Comments

I hopped on my bike and coasted downhill to the Starbucks. I had been practicing my Euro-hipster look at home on the couch, skinny jeans, faded t-shirt, carefully manicured shaggy goatee with a pretentious dog-eared novel in a foreign language, and after many months of carefully adopting a seriously casual leg drape with accompanying ironically intellectual scowl I was ready to try it out in the guppy tank of PV moms and one-percent financial advisers.

I checked the mirror and decided to add a knitted cap and my trusty hoodie for an accent of locals-only surfer elan, and practiced a couple of slouches to see which one most clearly hid the title of my foreign language novel while nonetheless exposing it to anyone who took a second look, which everyone in PV always does.

As I stood in line I carefully studied the off-menu coffee menu at Starbucks, which is secretly posted on a giant hand-chalked board next to the regular menu. The thought that I could pay an extra couple of dollars to have something called “Sulawesi” rather than “Pike” made me feel even cooler. The farmers in Indonesia were doubtlessly benefiting from my fair trade organic purchase and in a generation or two would be driving SUV’s and sending their kids to Harvard. I love saving the world through a specialty drink caffeine addiction in a global conglomerate chain cafe.

With my steaming cup of earth-rescuing coffee (eco-friendly ceramic cup only please because, pandas) I strategically positioned myself on the long table and spread out my hipster props which included an aged and rugged shoulder bag whose faded color and nicks and patches suggested days alone in the Himalayas even though it was mostly a lock carrier that I used when I went to the mall. I opened my pretentious foreign language novel and tried to read a page or two before giving up, as it was in a foreign language and therefore almost impossible to understand, and anyway I don’t like to read.

It was about 3:00 PM and the high school kids were filtering in from across the street. This was kind of a bummer, because whereas the housewives would instantly recognize me as hip and mysteriously suave Bohemian who was either unemployed or living on a trust account and be awed by my thick foreign language novel, the kids would only see, and wrongly so, a wrinkly old bum who hadn’t shaved in a month.

Two boys burst in, grabbed a table, and whipped out their laptop-iPad thingies. One of them was tall and rather handsome, slim but not skinny with a shock of black hair and intelligent eyes that shot around the cafe looking for someone. The other was shorter, with high cheekbones and brilliantly white teeth. They looked together out into the parking lot, scanned it, and then went back to their phones and texted madly, never speaking.

A few minutes later in walked two girls. The one in front had light brown hair and very pale skin. Her eyes were green and her features, although plain, had the stunning beauty of youth that you only truly see when you are old, too old to even exist for them except perhaps, if you’re lucky, in the category of “Grandpa.” Her hair was tied back in long braid with a pink ribbon on the end, and she giggled when her friend said something and glanced over at the boys.

The friend had an enormous bouquet of black hair that was restrained with ties and ropes and ribbons and things, and her mouth was arced with full red lips of the most sensuous kind. Unlike the demure apparel of her friend, she was wearing a tight t-shirt with a deep vee that fought to contain her breasts, and a pair of intensely short shorts that folded around her thighs and butt with the fierce force of the world’s tightest shrink wrap.

I pretended not to notice, being concerned about various laws and being exceedingly ashamed at my high degree of observance, but being invisible to them it was hard not to stare. No one paid the least attention to my foreign language book, and on reflection I wondered if they even knew what a paperback was.

The girls sauntered over to the boys and a lively conversation ensued for a moment or two. There was electricity in the air. Then the girl with the braid pointed into the parking lot and I heard her say, “Mom’s here.” The two girls went outside as the ridiculously expensive German car pulled up with the 50-ish matron dressed and surgeried to pass for 40. The matron, I thought, would notice my book.

As the girls said their goodbyes, the gentle touch of hands became a hug, which became an embrace, which became a fully engaged kiss, the kiss of lovers, the kiss of young lovers, the passionate embrace of seventeen that you only feel once if you’re lucky, as the girl with the braid stroked the forehead of the girl with the wild hair, there in public for all to see, unabashed, unashamed, accepted by their families and the world, as young love is supposed to be.

END

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Then and NOW

April 5, 2015 § 12 Comments

I am lying in bed. It is noon. My eyes are wide open. I am extremely tired and would go to sleep, except I cannot. My legs are pulsing with pain. I am missing a toenail. My shorts have a shart in them and my dick has dried out. I get up out of bed and try to pee again. There is a terrible burning pain. It is not gonorrhea. I hope. A few drops of dark yellow come out. My dick is dry. Very, very dry.

I lie back down in the bed. Blood breaks through the fresh scab on my big toe and flows onto the white sheets. My wife isn’t angry. She doesn’t know about it yet. I close my eyes but only see my conversation from last night. Everyone sits around the table. They are happy. They are talking about school, about work, about the delicious dinner.

I nod and smile but I only think about my bike. Are the right cogs on? Of course they are. I only have one cog set. Is my helmet aero enough? Hollywood says that the right helmet saves 25 watts.

Someone asks me about the fried rice I am eating. I am not listening so I guess that they are not asking me if it is good because half of it is gone. They must be asking if they can have some. I say yes. This answer will fit both questions. They take away my plate and eat it but I do not care. Half of that plate is about 400 calories, I estimate, and I do not need them. I am a SoCal masters diet pro bicycle rider weekend hacker racer wanker so I count calories, one by one.

I worry about my handlebars. Sausage says the NOW ride planned for tomorrow is very fast. I think about Hollywood, Svein the Unhandsome, Erik the Red, Manzilla and perhaps others who are very fast. I am afraid my handlebars are not aero enough. Hollywood says that for a mere $465 I can buy 65 watts of flat handlebar. I try to remember how much money is in my PayPal account that my wife does not know about. I think it is $389.76. That is almost enough. Where can I get the extra $75.24. Where do my boys keep their wallets? They are sneaky and excellent at hiding their money but perhaps I can empty their wallets after they go to bed.

Someone is talking to me again. It must be about the bill. I know this because all of the plates look like they have been run through an industrial dishwasher. My family clearly belongs to the Acrididae and they are in their swarming phase. They are looking at me because they think I am going to pay for dinner and they have that look of the Acrididae in their swarming phase that says they will also want to swarm somewhere for dessert. I pay the bill.

On the way home people continue talking to me but it is dark inside the car and all I have to do is nod. I will wear the speed suit with the long sleeves. That saves me 15 watts, maybe 20. But the long sleeves may also kill me because the weather report says 90 degrees. Death or 15 watts? That is easy. I decide on the long sleeves.

I have an excellent plan. Cower, then hide. I only have a few matches in my matchbox. They are short matches and appear to be damp.

I wake up and pedal quickly to the corner of Catalina and Torrance. Hollywood is there. Erik the Red is there. Toronto is there. Kansas City Steak is there. Beeswax is there. Representative Murtha is there. Prez comes flying by. “Hey, Prez!” I shout. There are no cars on the street. It is a big, wide, empty street with four lanes. Prez does a 180. Prez does not check behind him. The street is empty except for a lone cyclist behind Prez. Prez and the lone cyclist now approach each other head-on.

Prez swerves again. He goes over a curb. His water bottle goes flying. The cyclist swerves and clips a car mirror. No one dies. Everyone laughs. “That Prez,” we say laughing in silent terror.

We meet the NOW Ride on PCH. I see Sausage. Sausage has 200% more aero than I do. I check his chain links, which are aero. His manicure, aero. I ask him how the ride goes because it is my first time. Sausage says we go easy until Cross Creek and the ride goes hard at Pepperdine Hill.

As soon as Sausage says that we go easy at the beginning, Miller attacks. I follow. We have a breakaway but it is only to Topanga. We stop at the light. We are gassed and our 100-yard advantage is erased. 100 riders are behind us. They foam and stamp.

Hollywood takes off. None can follow. The pack of 100 immediately becomes a pack of 50. We catch Hollywood . He is not pedaling. A strange beast on a TT bike takes off at Las Flores. Foolishly I follow him. He rides very fast and I hang on very fast. He tires like the giant lummox he is. His giant elbow swings like a barn door. I refuse to come around. He eyes me angrily. I come around, slowly and with great weakness.

The field catches us because he is large and I am slow. Hollywood splits off 15 more riders from the back with a searing acceleration. My toe begins to hurt. We have a clump of about 30 approaching Cross Creek. Everyone is tired beyond words and my shart is peeking out of the exit pipe. We are fifteen minutes into the ride.

Manzilla launches away from the pack. Foolishly I follow him. He eyes me with contempt and jumps again, but he has the draft of a fully-laden oxcart. I tuck in. He is fresh, I am spent. We zoom past the bridge for the first champion-ish sprunt which I am too weak and slow and tired and fearful to contest. In front of us looms Mt. Pepperdine. Manzilla dashes for the light. If we make the light everyone behind us will stop. If they stop we do not have to go full gas up Mt. Pepperdine. That is good because I have no more gas, full or otherwise.

We do not make the light. The locusts catch us. The light is long. More locusts catch us. Our ranks swell to 40 or 50. Some look like cadavers, only more dead. Others such as Keven look fresh and rested. They have done nothing. Perky has done nothing. They lick their chops as I lick the long string of drool and snot that dangles from my mustache. “The ride starts now,” Perky says with an evil grin.

Indeed it does. The light turns green. We launch up Mt. Pepperdine. The fresh people go very hard. The cadavers die a second death and are gone. I am the last rider over. My shart matures and the toenail comes off. I feel the squirt of blood. From my toe. I think.

Hollywood punches repeatedly along the road. Riders who are too clever to pull through cleverly get dropped. Riders who manfully pull through get manfully dropped. A tiny contingent of perhaps fifteen riders survives to Trancas. My shorts are now squishy. My toe hurts. I do not drink any water because I forget to.

We stop at the filling station and I forget to drink more water. We jump back on our bicycles. Beeswax is in the bathroom and returns to an empty parking lot. This is a cruel fate. The brief wait has allowed the group to re-merge. We are now perhaps 40 riders strong.

“This part of the ride is slower,” says Manzilla.

“Good,” says Hollywood . “That way we can roll into it gently.”

I attack as hard as I can and ride away. I come to Cher’s Alley. I have to decide whether to drop down and take the fast way or stay on PCH and tackle the two climbs. If I take the easy way and they take the hard way they will say I am weak. Then I recall that they are all weak. If I take the easy way and they take the hard way they will say I am a cheater. Then I recall that they are all cheaters.

I take the hard way.

At Cross Creek we intersect. They have cheated and taken the easy way. Of course. I am spent like the allowance of a small child.

Now Hollywood and Eric and Sam take successive pulls that break the group into a smaller group. Then Sam melts and is gone. Hollywood pulls some more and more people go away. Eric pulls some more and more people decide not to ride their bicycles fast anymore today. Sausage pulls through, and then pulls through again with prodding. Fireman pulls through. Kansas City Steak pulls through. Remaining wankers do not pull through, mostly.

There is a very fast sprunt that I observe from far away. As Billy Stone says, one person was faster than the others, who were slower. We ride down the bike path. We stop at the Center of the Known Universe for coffee and CPR. Nancy of Red Kite Bore pulls up, but she doesn’t say anything to me. She is still angry but she will calm down in a few years.

We ride our bicycles home. Hollywood needs extra miles to add to the day’s total of 90, so he pedals around the hill and climbs a lot more. I climb onto the couch.

Mrs. WM peels a banana for me which I dip in peanut butter. Then I hop around the room with very painful cramps and howling. Mrs. WM fries some eggs for me which I top with avocado and salsa. Then I hop around some more. Then I drink a lot of milk and coffee and ice cream and cookies and olives and hopping.

“What is that smell?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I say and go lie down.

END

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You’re still the same old girl you used to be

April 3, 2015 § 43 Comments

I hate doing the dishes, and in 27 years of marriage I’ve hardly ever done them. She cooks at least two meals a day, sometimes three, from scratch, and cleans up the mess. That’s the deal.

One of the most exciting things about putting down the daily drunk was the highly anticipated discovery of the new me. And it was an exciting discovery. So much more productive, so much less moody, so coherent and responsible, and so much less having-to-be-carried-out-of-the-family-restaurant-drooling-and-howling. And dare I say it, happier and better adjusted? Yes! I dare!

The new me was ready to conquer some high mountains, and he did. Then, in January, the excitement started to wear off. No more daily self-pats on the back for having put down the beer can, rather, a kind of grim gaze off into the future, a gaze that pierced all the way to death and realized, “This is pretty much it.” Instead of being the heavily self-congratulated person successfully dealing with a horrible problem I became another ordinary non-drunk, and the stripping away of my heroic, self-congratulatory status felt like what, I imagine, one-shot TV wonders feel like when they go back to the McDonald’s day job.

This I could handle until another realization started creeping in. All the little hints and signs were there, and they all said the same thing: No, you are no longer drunk, but guess what? You’re still the same old asshole you always were.

I still remember the moment it hit me. She had hauled in ten sacks of groceries and set them on the floor, then gone off into the bedroom to take a rest. “What the hell,” I thought, “I’ll unload the damn things.”

One by one I emptied each sack. Milk. Bacon. Eggs. Flour. Kale. Quinoa. Vegetable oil. Strawberries. Spaghetti. Olives. Somewhere between the cans of tomato sauce and the bags of celery it hit me. Out of all these groceries, none of the things inside were for her. Left to her own devices there would be two bags, not ten, and they’d contain natto, tofu, oshinko, gobo, miso, green tea, and chocolate … not bacon and peanut butter.

Then it double-hit me. For 27 years she’s been cooking for me, not for her. For me. I wasn’t the same old asshole I’d always been, I was worse. More than six thousand nights of her life on earth had finished with a mountain of dirty dishes, and six thousand magical mornings later they were all clean, no matter that the labor of scrubbing scalded curry off the bottom and edges of a giant pot was the cherry on top of four hours’ labor over a stove. And the next day’s round of servitude in the kitchen never started until all the things that were cleaned got put away the following day so that they could all be used again.

So, it’s not completely true that I hardly ever did the dishes. To come clean, I hardly ever even bothered to set my own plates in the sink because, man.

Alcohol, not sobriety, was what allowed me to see a better me. The un-drunken picture in the mirror, un-hungover and un-looking like a dead cat, was the real picture, and however clean and clean-shaven that face now was, it was dreadful compared to the drunken, haggard one.

So that night, I think it was in mid-February, I did three things, all of which attracted extraordinary notice and eyebrow raising. I placed my dishes in the sink after eating, then washed them, then put them away. I didn’t touch anyone else’s, but after I finished she looked up at me with a gentle smile and said, “Thanks.”

To which I answered, “You’re welcome.”

For one week I did this, and the second week I took all the plates off the table, rinsed them, and loaded the dishwasher. Each time dinner started she was waiting, curiously, to see what would happen at the end, and when it did, each time she said, “Thanks,” and that word made me shiver inside.

To which I answered, “You’re welcome.”

The third week, because I awake before everyone else and make my coffee, I set the kettle on the stove and opened the dishwasher, pulling out the clean plates and cups and glasses and silver and stowing them in drawers and cupboards, and I wondered this: Is there anything more humiliating than realizing that at age fifty-one that your narcissistic, assholic self is just beginning to acquire the slight veneer of decency that most people have acquired by age ten?

There is, of course, and easy answer to that — yes. The more humiliating thing is to realize you’re still the same old girl you used to be, and not to care. I could do that, actually, but only with the help of a good stiff drink.

END

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SoCal bikes ‘n stuff

March 27, 2015 § 25 Comments

There’s a lot going on this weekend.

On Saturday, leaving RIDE Cyclery at 8:00 AM in Encinitas, a gaggle of those who dream, pretend, hope, or are just flat out terrified will take flight for a practice ride over much of the BWR 2015 course. The ride has already been engulfed in innuendo and non-controversy, as various wankers carp on chat boards about the “secrecy” of the actual route. Although it’s never fun to deflate the psychoses of conspiracy theorists, the actual ride route hasn’t been posted because county authorities haven’t approved it yet. Saturday’s ride will, however, cover 100 or so miles of the real route, allowing debutantes and veterans alike to get a taste of the pain buffet that’s on offer for April 26.

On Friday some riders will compete in the San Dimas Stage Race, one of SoCal’s marquee race events that is likewise eliciting some controversy. Some refuse to race it because of last year’s shortened crits, one of which was pared down from an already too-short 40 minutes to actual race time of about 30. Others won’t do it because for the most part the race is decided by the uphill time trial, with nothing but scraps left for days 2 and 3. I’m not sure about this argument, because it assumes the doubtful proposition that bike racing has anything as a reward but scraps. My favorite take was the rider who said that it’s a bike race so if you like racing bikes then you should probably go race your bike.

On Facegag a huge discussion ensued about the proper age categories for masters racing after the 35+ category was mostly eliminated in 2015. One guy came out swinging, saying that there should be “Two categories: men and women. If you are old and slow then you don’t deserve to win.” Others moaned about injustice, inconvenience, or floated complicated age-category formulas that would take into account flatulence, degree of Alzheimer’s, and the number of Depends changed per day. No one bothered to ask about the best way to get actual young people into the sport or to wonder whether or not this preoccupation of old farts with the proper “age categories” was completely bizarre. You know that look you get when you tell normal people that you’re 50 years old and still riding 400 miles a week so you can win a ribbon and stand on a plywood platform in your underwear? Yeah, that look.

The Wanky Kimchi Diet is baaaaack! Although my conversion from 10:00 AM weekday drunk to all-day-long craft water sipper has had many positive side effects, leaning up isn’t one of them. I’ve declared war on the embarrassing pot belly that hangs above my waist like a gigantic goiter by carefully analyzing my food intake and realizing that the removal of alcohol carbs has been good, but replacing them with giant slabs of butter, endless loaves of Mrs. WM’s freshly baked bread, and massive bricks of dark chocolate is like swapping out a leisure suit for saggy jeans that droop below your crotch.

Have a great, safe weekend, whether you’re riding, racing, posing, or surfing on the couch.

END

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Money in the bank

March 16, 2015 § 35 Comments

The guys were standing in line to order the food and Sherri had sat down at the table on the terrace to make sure no one else snagged it or stole the bikes while we were inside. It was a perfect Santa Monica Saturday in March, sunny and warm, and the terrace was bustling. Sherri noticed the light on the rear of my bike was still blinking, so she went over to switch it off.

When she came back to the table, a tattooed and ill-tempered young fellow and his friend were about to sit down at the table, which had our helmets and gloves on it.

“That’s my table, sonny,” Sherri said politely.

“Not any more,” he answered.

“Yes, in fact, it is,” she countered. Everyone at the surrounding tables was now watching, and we had just walked out from indoors with our hands full of tacos.

“I don’t see your name on it,” the guy said.

“Honey,” Sherri said in her sweetest but firmest and oh-so-unwavering Southern accent. “If you want to get into a dick swinging contest with me, you need to know I got a drawer full of ’em at home and they’re all bigger than yours.”

The tough guy blushed to his hair roots and his friend began laughing at him as the onlookers snorted and spit pieces of taco out their noses. It was turning into an epic day.

Early last week I had made plans for my Saturday ride. I was going to crash the 6:00 AM Top Secret Invitation Only South Bay Royalty Ride and tag along for the 120 miles or so of wandering through the Santa Monica Mountains. It would fit perfectly with my plans to do the Belgian Waffle Ride (43 days away but who’s counting?) and would be a nice follow-up to the rather longish ride I’d done the previous Saturday.

Plus, I’d get to ride with a group that I normally don’t hang out with because of their very early riding schedule.

On Friday evening I was airing up my tires when it occurred to me that my eldest son had suggested we go for a bike ride on Saturday. We’d talked about it the previous weekend and it had completely slipped my mind. “Hey,” I looked over at him, “do you want to ride on Sunday instead of Saturday?”

“Yeah, but I can’t. I work Sundays from ten to four, remember?”

“Oh, right,” I said. “What time do you want to ride tomorow?”

“Let’s go around ten or eleven,” he said.

“Great,” I answered, with that feeling-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach that every cyclist gets when his weekend riding plans and oh-so-important training schedule get upended. But I didn’t let on. My son and I don’t spend a lot of time together; he’s 22 and works full time, and although he commutes by bicycle he certainly doesn’t view a bike as a form of recreation. When I think about all my friends who have spent so much time doing things with their kids I’m acutely aware of my deficit in that particular bank.

Since he’s the one who had suggested it, I knew I’d be crazy not to follow through. We left at 10:30, and before we rolled out he handed me his t-shirt. “Would you stick this in your jersey pocket so I’ll have something to wear if we go into a restaurant?”

“Sure,” I said.

The bike path was already packed as people flocked to the beach after having endured that one brutal day of winter when it rained for thirty minutes and got down into the mid-50’s. Hardship really makes you appreciate the good days.

It took us a long time to get to Manhattan Beach, where Surfer Dan was late, as usual. We waited for him, but not really, and continued on, chatting as we rode. We stopped at the Marina bridge a while later and met up with Dan. He and my son talked all the way to Helen’s Cycles, where we picked up Sherri for lunch.

After the dick-swinging incident we rode back to Manhattan Beach and drank iced coffee as the swirl of scantily-clad girls flowed by. We pretended not to be looking, and we continued to not-look for a solid hour. Then we got on our bikes and pedaled home, knocking out fifty miles in about 5.5 hours.

There had been no hammering or intervaling or pacelining or dickmeasuring, with the exception of the exchange at the taco shop that Sherri had won by several inches. “That was fun,” he said when we got home.

Dinner tasted especially good that night. Mrs. WM had made a giant pot of meat sauce for the spaghetti and she had baked a fresh loaf of bread whose smell wafted down the hallway of our apartment complex. My son and I didn’t say much over dinner; we’d said what needed to be said already, as well as what didn’t. It was, as bike racers like to say about a particularly hard training day that will pay off come race day, “Money in the bank.”

END

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Let’s try a new position, honey

March 14, 2015 § 12 Comments

The riders dribbled up to the Manhattan Beach Pier for the start of the Chief’s sixtieth birthday ride. “Hey, how’s your knee?” asked T-Dub.

“Oh, I’m getting it operated on next Thursday. Yours?” Iron Mike’s joints weren’t quite so ferrous anymore.

“Got a tear in my meniscus. Doc says it’s too small to operate on but big enough to give me trouble. Like having a hole in the carpet.”

A couple of other riders horned in on the conversation. “Yep, I threw out my prostate carrying a load of firewood,” one offered.

“And my neck … ” said another rider.

As soon as he said the word “neck” everyone began comparing their neck problems, the neck problems of people who weren’t there, and the names of the best neck surgeons in West L.A. I’d never seen a group of people more animated, and SB Baby Seal, the only guy there who was in his 20’s, listened in on the organ recital with a raised eyebrow.

It reminded me of how rides used to start, back in that mythical day. We’d talk about who had gotten laid the night before, who was on track to get laid tonight, and would compare the various sex acts, their number and quantity, the skills of the partners, and whether or not the associated quantity and type of drugs and alcohol had rendered the whole thing a fuzzy memory or not.

And the few times that we weren’t talking about sex, we were talking about bike racing, which in many respects was very similar.

I certainly don’t remember ever sitting around talking about neck specialists, but then again, this was my first ever #60 birthday celebration ride. When I started riding, I didn’t even know anyone who was sixty except for my granddad, and he didn’t ride a bike, he drove a Buick.

Still, after listening to the litany of neck problems, I realized that lots of people do have a ton of pain and discomfort when they cycle. Part of it is probably because they are old, and part of it is probably because they are fat, but another big part of bike pain is also related to position. Let’s face it, it’s pretty unnatural to sit hunched over with your neck jutting out for hours at a time.

The first step to getting a handle on your achy proscenium is of course getting a pro fit. I got a super fit from Dialed In Bike Fitting three years ago, and although the fit took me out of my 1980’s super-stretch duck paddle position, it didn’t take care of my aches and pains because I’ve never had any. I think one of the reasons I don’t have aches when I ride is because I don’t really have one position. I’m always shifting around, and instead of looking for a “perfect position,” during the ride I’m always fiddling with where I put my hands and my ass.

From an aesthetic standpoint this means that I look spastic when I pedal. But from a pain perspective it means I have none. Zero. Zip. And that’s after 33 years of riding 10,000 miles a year, sometimes a lot more.

So here are the position changes that I really think help make a difference if you’re doing them constantly.

  1. Tops to drops: Regularly move your hands from the tops to the drops. This bends your back and shifts everything at once.
  2. Hood dance: Regularly get off your saddle and climb with your hands on the hoods.
  3. Drop dance: Climb with your hands on the drops.
  4. Extended dance: Climb out of the saddle, shifting hand positions, for 10-20 minutes at a time.
  5. Look Ma, no hands: Sit up occasionally and ride with your hands off the bars.
  6. Shake your booty: Slide your ass forward and backwards on the saddle.
  7. Body stiff: When you’re climbing out of the saddle, try to keep your body as motionless as possible.
  8. Body swing: When you’re climbing out of the saddle, try to swing your body from side to side.
  9. Supergrip: Grip your bars as tightly as you can, then relax. Especially do this when climbing, and vary it from the tops to the hoods to the drops.

Will any of this help? I don’t know; it seems to help me. And at the very least, you’ll look like you’re having a seizure when you ride. So, as Knoll would say, “There’s that.”

END

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