November 18, 2015 § 10 Comments
It has been a long time since I spent much time around a fresh baby, and I had forgotten how tiny they were and etc.
A lot of Grandpas, okay, a nutty handful, dream of the day they will be able to train with their grandkid. I guess that’s okay, but I have raised three kids and am pretty sure that there is a mathematical law out there that goes like this:
Parent/Grandpa’s cycling enthusiasm is inversely proportionate to that of child/grandchild.
Instead, after having almost three whole weeks of grandpahood under my belt, it seems to me that there is a great Grandbaby Training Plan out there waiting to be sold on the Internet and etc. Why is that? Because grandbabies have it flat fuggin’ all figured out. Here’s how it goes:
GRANDBABY TRAINING PLAN FOR BIKE RACERS
- Shit a lot. Grandbabies shit all the time, in big quantities. So they have clean innards and aren’t carrying around any extra weight.
- Drink a lot of warm milk. When grandbabies aren’t shitting, they are drinking warm milk. I don’t think you can get the “real” stuff without running into trouble, but fact is that grandbabies love breasts and warm milk. You could maybe separate the two by heating up a pail of cow’s milk in the microwave and then snuggling with your Ms. WM in the evening.
- Sleep all the time. Grandbabies, if they aren’t shitting or sucking on a warm nipple gushing milk, are sleeping. Sleep makes you rested and increases your VO2 max and wattage and etc.
- Holler like a motherfucker. Grandbabies don’t say “maybe.” When they are hungry, or have a poopy diaper, or want more warm milk and nipples, they howl at the top of their lungs. This oxygenates their whole body and scares the bejeebers out of you. When you are training you can occasionally holler really loud to oxygenate your gonads and etc.
- Get everyone to call you “cutie.” Grandbabies have everyone calling them “cutie” and “precious” and “sweetie” and “li’l umpkins” and “honey-poopsie” and etc. This makes them happy. You will train like a badass baller when you are happy from having your pals call you “li’l umpkins.”
- Snuggle. Grandbabies snuggle like nobody’s business and you should mix in a big beefy snuggle with your training partner in between interval workouts, even if he’s named “Maxwell O’Hairball” or “Svetlana Oglepits.” Especially if he’s named “Svetlana Oglepits.”
- Coo and gurgle. Grandbabies love to coo and gurgle. Instead of spitting up three pounds of old burrito during a hard workout, try cooing and gurgling instead. It is soft and precious and will make the edges of your mouth curl up cutely and etc.
- Get pushed around in a pram. It’s true that you have to ride a bike when you train, but the rest of the time you should have a matronly sort with a nursing bra pushing you around in a big pram or wheelchair to rest your leg muscles and varicose veins and etc. You ever see a grandbaby walk anywhere? No.
- Wash off in the sink. Grandbabies love to get washed in the kitchen sink. This saves water, which saves money, which means you’ll have more money to spend on 100% full carbon components that are all carbon and etc. If you can’t fit in the sink just wash one body part at a time, but not while your Ms. WM is cooking dinner, especially that body part.
- Flop around naked on your back while someone else wipes your butt. The awesomeness of this is pretty much self explanatory and etc.
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November 17, 2015 § 11 Comments
“It’s a testament to Mark,” he said.
It was, because Mark is a good man. And it wasn’t, because it happened thanks to a cadre of friends sitting down on the bench and taking up a long heavy oar.
It is easy to fall into the black hole of bad news. Once you fall in, following each twist and turn of the catastrophe of the day, it is hard to climb out. Bad news surrounds us.
Good news, like good love, is hard to find. The minute something good or happy rolls across your desk, questions set in. No one questions that Person A is greedy, Person B is insane, or that Person C is a sociopath, but everyone questions Person D who did the good thing. What the hell were HIS real motives?
I can’t help it, and you probably can’t, either. Sometimes, however, people do good things and it’s as simple as that.
This past Sunday over three hundred people gathered in Dana Point to raise money and seek a bone marrow donor match for Mark Scott. They didn’t show up by magic. They showed up because Dave Worthington, Tommy Nelson, Lauren Ames, and Russ Ames put together an informal committee to get the word out about Mark’s plight.
Knocking on doors, working the phones, banging away at the keyboards, The Committee put their money where their love was, and who could say no to that?
Many of the people didn’t know Mark and had never heard of him. But they were compelled by the love and devotion of his friends to show up and be a part of something bigger than themselves, which happens to be the definition of community, and not coincidentally of humanity.
Some of the people hugging and crying were pretty gruff folks in their day jobs, and that’s part of the good news, too. But the biggest news, of course, is old news, the news that when one person decides to make the cause of another his own, he becomes a small stone tossed into a gigantic, perfectly calm sea. He sends forth ripples and they touch everyone and everything in their path.
I think someone once wrote a song about that.
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November 15, 2015 § 18 Comments
I stared at my giant bowl, sloshing to the brim with amazing chicken chili, the plate next to it runneth-ing over with chips, guac, salsa, goat cheese, giant shrimp pan-fried in ceviche sauce, a bowling ball rack of mini-cornbread, and a dessert plate groaning under two slabs of pecan pie towering with Antarctica glaciers of vanilla ice cream.
The ice cream was melting rapidly, and two thoughts occurred to me:
- “My legs feel like that soft puddle of melted ice cream.”
- “Historically they fed the lambs BEFORE the slaughter.”
Nice Michael Smith, the single nicest human being I’ve ever met through cycling, had invited a blood-soaked cadre of young assassins to his house for a Saturday “fun ride” through Orange County. The “fun ride” was to be followed by a glorious feast of food items that I normally could only gaze at from afar when trolling the oatmeal and peanut butter aisles at Safeway.
However, the night before the “fun ride” I took a look at the final start list and immediately ran to the potty. One name, writ large, Manzilla, was followed by a list of people whose only known function in life was to hurt other people. Smasher, Alx Bns, the Moldovan Murderer, Meatgrinder, Search, some Italian dude (what do they know about cycling?), All Stairs, Bo, and of course Nice Michael Smith himself.
I called up Nice Michael. “Dude,” I said, “I can’t make it tomorrow for the ride. Can I just come by afterwards and eat?”
“Sure,” he said, “what’s up?”
“I’m riding so incredibly well right now, clumbing and sprunting and time trailing and such, that I need to back it off for a week and looking at the start list you clowns are gonna throw down and I’m gonna get sucked in and go too hard and wind up hurt and overtrained which I pretty much already am here in early fuggin’ November.”
“Don’t worry, you can chill. Boozy P. and CEO will be there.”
“They will?” My fears evaporated.
Boozy P., who is normally pretty fierce on the bike, is only fit for six months every three years; the rest of the time he works on bikes between drinks. CEO is a great guy to ride with because he’s slower than a Tonka truck and super fun to talk with. In other words, I’d have company.
The morning of the “fun ride” I arrived, desperately searching for Boozy P. and CEO. Neither was there. “Yo, Michael,” I said, “where are my ride mates?”
“Oh, CEO changed his mind and decided to go to a kiddie soccer game, and I think Boozy P. forgot to set his alarm.”
On the way from Los Alamitos to our first obstacle, the San Joachim climb, we pushed along PCH, which from Long Beach is fifteen miles of road sliced by three hundred stop lights. The strong young people sat on the front and kept a steady, battering pace into the wind. Each time I got closer to the front we’d catch a light and I’d do my “whoops how do these pedal thingies work” trick and fumble with my pedal until the group was past, click in, and sneak up to the rear again. In this manner I avoided ever taking a pull.
At the launch site we paused while Nice Michael Smith explained the climb and administered last rites. “Grandpa here is riding super strong so he’ll see you all at the top,” Nice Michael said with cruel irony, and bam we were off. I hopped onto Manzilla’s wheel, grimly prepared to have my legs torn off and the dangling tendons wrapped around my nuts as Manzilla would tear off his own leg and beat me to death with it.
In 148 head-to-head match-ups, none of which Manzilla has ever been aware of, I have finished a climb ahead of him exactly twice, and both days have been circled on my calendar and turned into Davidson National Family Holidays. The first time I wept openly; the second time I slaughtered a goat and several virgins.
Today was apparently not going to be the third time because after a handful of minutes he pushed down on the pedals with such brute force that the spinning rear wheel left a three-inch divot in the asphalt. I attacked backwards as Smasher, Pink Sox, Nice Michael, Alx, and All Stairs pounded by, fighting each other for the honor of grabbing Manzilla’s rear wheel with much the same senselessness of kids playing “Kill the man with the ball,” where everyone chases after something, the attainment of which only results in getting your face beaten in.
Manzilla kicked it again and everyone decided that they had reached their training goals for the day except Smasher and Pink Sox, whose coaches had prescribed a few more kicks to the groin, which Manzilla dutifully delivered before soloing to the top. We gathered, one by one, piece by piece, quietly and gasping.
“How much more climbing is there?” I begged Nice Michael.
“Just one more.”
That was terrible news. If there were six more, they would be gentler. If there was only one more, it would be the Night of the Living Dead. We descended Newport Coast, rode into Laguna Beach, and passed a pretty high school as we began the climb. Smasher suddenly bolted ahead and the conversation silenced. None of us knew the road except Nice Michael, and I was now referring to him in my head as Sonofabitch Michael Bastardass.
The road went steeply up. “Manzilla is gonna bridge to Smasher now and I’m gonna follow him,” I thought to myself, and half of that was true.
I don’t know how steep or long the climb was, but it devastated everyone except Manzilla. Smasher lingered on his wheel for a while until, annoyed by the breathing and the smell of Smashers’ freshly upchucked lungs, he kicked it and vanished.
The whole climb was surreal, and not just because it was endless and mostly 18-percent. It was surreal because as we heroically battered our way to the top, driving wooden stakes into the entrails of our enemies, engaging in the fiercest hand-to-hand combat as we toiled to the top, the ferocity of competition and the viciousness of the climb created the expectation that the victors would scale the summit, a lonely and desolate peak occupied at most by a wizened wise man sitting in a cave dispensing The Truth, or perhaps there would be a cairn that had stood there for a thousand years and only those strong and valiant enough to survive the climb to this desolate peak would be allowed to scratch their names into the stone, perhaps with their fingernails or with the smushed testicles of the vanquished.
Instead, the top was populated by hundreds of nice people and tourists, and there was even a middle school a few yards from the top where you could hear someone saying, “Here you go, Jenny,” as they opened the car door for an elderly lady who was about to enjoy the same precious view as you with none of the entrails ejecta.
It felt like climbing to the top of Mt. Everest on your elbows and having to stand in line behind a dozen plump people in wheelchairs as you waited for your chance to sign the book.
We regrouped at the Starbucks in Laguna Beach and spent an hour or so looking at the beautiful ocean and making excuses for our weak performances, “I’m a grandpa,” I repeated seventy-five times.
“I just had shims put in my shoes,” excusified the Moldovan Murderer.
“I thought we were going easy,” said Search.
“It’s the off season,” everyone else echoed in chorus, except Manzilla, whose only seasons are Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall, and Kill, which runs concurrently with the other four.
Happily, our group got a bit separated after we climbed Newport Coast, and Manzilla stopped to fix a flat. “We’ll just roll ahead slow,” I said. Manzilla nodded and waved us on. As soon as we were a couple of hundred yards away I put it in the 53 and started sprunting.
With the tailwind we were soon doing mid-30’s. “Catch this, you bastard,” I said as our greased paceline rocketed through red lights, around terrified people trying to get into or out of their cars, past pedestrians innocently crossing the street, and over road detritus that no one pointed out to anyone else, hoping to achieve through flats, equipment failure, or crashing what couldn’t be done through strength.
By the time we got through Huntington Beach some of our crew were feeling the ill effects of the sustained effort, and after checking in with their Internet coaches determined that it was probably time to go easy. Everyone, that is, except Nice Michael, whose true character came to the fore as he battered his teammates and young friends off the back one by one until no one was left but Smasher.
We got back to Nice Michael’s and hurriedly changed so that when Manzilla arrived we could pretend we’d been there for an hour, rather than for five minutes as we knew that he’d single-handedly make up our entire 10-person advantage in very short order.
In addition to getting mostly last up both climbs and being shed rather quickly from the pace line, my body shivered and shook as I plowed through the diet-busting plates of food, all prepared by Nice Michael’s astonishingly beautiful wife, who was as expert a cook as she was lovely.
“I’m a grandpa, you know,” I said loudly to no one, hoping that some of the youngsters would drop a kernel of praise or two for my lackluster performance.
No one said a word.
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November 14, 2015 § 16 Comments
America’s veterans today gave thanks to the U.S. public for its incredible outpouring of support for the nation’s military on Veterans Day. “We are humbled,” said Billy McGuts, USMC retired. “All those Facebook posts mean more than anyone will ever know.”
Cycling in the South Bay, whose Facebook, Twitter, and newsfeeds were overwhelmed by grateful Americans, got on the company bicycle and ventured forth to speak with veterans about this momentous day and about how they feel knowing how profoundly they are loved and respected.
Our first veteran, Sam Stone, a Vietnam War veteran who we met in downtown LA, was effusive. “Those Facebook posts, man, they get you right here,” said Stone as he clapped his remaining hand over his heart, maneuvering himself to sit upright on the curb as he sipped thoughtfully from his bottle of purple wine. “You’re sitting here alone at night, cold and hungry, and bam, Twitter lights up with all those hashtags. Brings tears to your eyes.”
We next rode over to the VA Hospital, where the morning after Veterans Day a long line of wounded and ill veterans stood in a very long line as they waited to enter the building to get reservations for appointments for consultations for case reviews for approval for seeing a doctor for consideration of possible medical treatment. The mood was happy and grateful. “I’ve been waiting for this appointment for six months and to tell the truth the pain was getting kind of bad,” said Tommy Smith, who served four tours in Iraq. “But when I saw how many people posted proud photos of their dads from World War II on their newsfeed, man, I knew I could wait another couple of months before blowing my brains out. I know I can.”
A large group of thankful unemployed veterans crowded around this blogger when he cycled over to the the CalWorks office, each veteran eager to tell his tale of gratitude.
“Jobs? Hell yes we need jobs,” said John Jones, a Specialist First Class who served six combat tours in Afghanistan before mustering out with 50% disability after losing his left leg, an eye, and the lower part of his jaw. “But you know what we really need? We need Americans who are proud of us. Americans who know how to say ‘Thank you for your service!’ in the airport, and who give us a seat on the bus. That means something. Jobs, food, housing, clothes, medical care, education, well, you can’t have it all, you know? But a yellow ribbon on the bumper sticker of a Mercedes SUV? That means more to a veteran than all the food and medicine and money put together.”
Cal Calhoun, who served with the Special Forces in Mosul, agreed. “Just because Americans and Congress wouldn’t send their own kids to war doesn’t mean they don’t value us or what we do. My Facebook feed exploded yesterday. Even if I had a job I wouldn’t have had time to work, scrolling through all those thank-you’s.” Calhoun’s eyes teared up as he spoke.
Finally, we cycled to the LA County Jail, where we were granted interviews with a wide range of shackled inmates, many there for a few months, others simply stopping by on their way to life sentences at Corcoran State Prison. “Jail, it ain’t nothin’,” said Mark Doughty, a recent returnee from Afghanistan. “Fact, it’s kind of like the army. They tell you when to eat, when to sleep, when to get up, and when to shit. Food’s better, too,” he mused. “And the jail’s so full of veterans you don’t ever get lonely, and if you do, on Veteran’s Day we always get a lot of cheering up from Facebook and hashtags and such. I’m hoping one of these days I might even get a lawyer.”
On behalf of America’s veterans, Cycling in the South Bay says, “Thank YOU, America!”
November 11, 2015 § 12 Comments
I was riding with my Internet cycling coach and psychologist and financial adviser and child-rearing counselor yesterday and he told me all about saving watts.
“What?” I asked.
“Yeah, watts,” he answered. “It’s not simply about gaining watts, but saving watts.”
“Oh … ” and then I mumbled something and the wind howled for a second.
“What?” he asked.
“I thought you said ‘watts.'”
“But I couldn’t hear what you said,” he said. “So I said ‘what.'”
We went along like that, who’s-on-firsting it until we got back on topic. “I know you hate Strava,” he said.
“But you should use it to do a few Nega-Stravas.”
“What’s a Nega-Strava?”
“It’s where you measure how few watts you can use instead of how many. It’s an efficiency test. The best climbing happens when you get to the base having used less energy than anyone else.”
This made sense, so the next morning when I got ready to leave for NPR I downloaded the Strava app for my iPhone 2. “I’m gonna ride the NPR with maximal Vince di Meglio wheelsucking efficiency, avoiding the wind at all costs and following the most robust ass I can find.”
On the way out, when it was still neutral, I saw Hank Stengenbladdammit from Scottsdale who had shown up on the Donut last Saturday and flayed us all. I’d been hoping he would go home, but alas.
“Hi, Hank. I know this is your first NPR, but since it’s the off-season it will be really slow. You can go hard if you want but I’ll be chilling at the back.”
“Okay,” said Hank as we started up Pershing. We weren’t going very fast so I figured I would stay at the front until the Hop In Wankers at the top of the hill hopped in, and then I would slink to the back.
We passed the H.I.W.’s and I swung over and Hank came past like shit through a goose. “I’d better hop on his wheel so he doesn’t get lost as it’s his first time, plus, I’m on a wheel so it’s not that much effort.”
Hank ended up going really fast and I had to huff and puff a bit. “No problem. As soon as those H.I.W.’s pull through I will pull over and sit for the rest of the ride.”
It was a super windy morning and we hit the parkway hard. I was farther to the front than I wanted to be, and when Toronto swung off the point I was on the front. But I didn’t go too hard until Hank battered by again and I had to go a tad harder than I wanted.
Over the next three laps I masterfully sat on Hank’s wheel, but it seemed like we were always in these little three-or-four-man-plus-Katie-Wilson breakaways, then we’d get caught at a light because I never run red lights anymore and then we’d start off again and I’d head for the back but suddenly there would be a good opportunity to punch it with Hank going balls out but not punching too hard but probably harder than, say, sitting at the back.
At the start of the fourth lap everyone looked funny so I decided to sneak to the back for good this time but first I figured I should jump a little bit and test the waters. Then I was accidentally off by myself but I wasn’t going too hard except for a bit when I had to push it to keep my gap, which kept getting bigger but I don’t think it was too hard because I wasn’t going all that hard as much as it was they were letting me go. (All my pals are on the NPR and they like to help me a lot.)
At the final turnaround I had a very red light but since I’d stopped at all the other ones and the peloton was pretty close it made sense to keep going since there were 60 of them and 1 of me and they’d catch the green by the time they came around or at worst would have to stop for a few seconds so I started pedaling kind of hard. It was harder than if I’d been sitting in but hopefully not much except for the bits of oatmeal and almonds and blood from breakfast that kept coming up.
They must have all stopped and taken a nap and gotten caught by a bunch of lights and been concerned about the off-season and have wanted to let the old feller have one because I won the imaginary sprunt with lots of time to spare and when they caught up to me only Toronto and my Internet coach said “Good job.” Everyone else glowered, but they were happy glowers.
At coffee I checked my phone and said to Coach, “I averaged 352 watts.”
“What?” he said.
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November 10, 2015 § 33 Comments
On Sunday I went to a club banquet with Sausage. I rode over to his place, changed into my clean t-shirt and jeans that were clean a couple of weeks ago, and climbed into the passenger seat of his Fahrvergnuegenwagen 12-cylinder hi-performance luxury SUV.
The seats were leather. The dash was leather. The radio was leather. And when he pushed down on the gas pedal the Fahrvergnuegenwagen jumped like a stallion straining at the reins. We went around corners smoothly, the leather suspension absorbing LA’s terrible potholes as if they were mere pockmarks.
I sank back into the leather commander’s chair and rubbed my feet against the leather floor mats. Such a difference from my Prius, with its 142,039 miles and in which everything is made not from leather but from bits and pieces of plastic. I imagined the glory of sporting around town in that Fahrvergnuegenwagen, gaily hopping out of the leather driver’s seat in my leather pants, handing a leathery $20 to the garkon, doffing my leather porkpie hat to the girls all clad in leather, and taking the elevator up to my office on the penthouse suite.
But reality jolted me back when we passed a sagging Prius as it huffed and puffed its way up a 2% grade. I looked in the window at the penny-pinched fellow in his mid-40’s, hunched over the wheel, racked and smacked by every crack in the road as he anxiously re-calculated how many hundreds of thousands of Prius miles he’d have to drive to save enough money for the first two months of his son’s first year in college.
Or maybe not. Maybe he was simply Priusing because he liked small and he liked being able to park on something smaller than the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and he didn’t even have any kids or want any and the money he saved on gas he used to buy full carbon wheels that were made of 100% carbon.
I smiled and waved at him as we passed, which was highly unnatural, and what was odder, he smiled and waved back.
“Who am I,” I thought, “to judge someone by the car he drives?”
Which brings us to Santa Barbara, where they have a big morning weekend ride filled with bicyclists who are not only important, but who are terribly impressed with their own importance. Or rather, Importance. Best, IMPORTANCE.
This will sound unbelievable when I write it, but they express their IMPORTANCE by heckling riders going the other direction who have dared to venture out on their bicycles without conforming to the Dress and Equipment Code. Happy bicyclists who pass these IMPORTANT riders are verbally abused for being fat, or for riding dorky bikes, or for wearing the wrong things.
They have vented their IMPORTANCE at ordinary riders and extraordinary ones, pack behavior and poor manners exhibited by fellows whose life necessities are paid for by mommy and daddy and whose career trajectories surely include podium steps at the Tour or at least Ontario.
The traffic suddenly snarled and the Prius was stuck in a stopped lane. Sausage eased off the gas and let the Prius in. They exchanged waves.
“Now how hard was that?” I thought.
For the Santa Barbarians, it’s apparently hard. Very, very hard.
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November 9, 2015 § 26 Comments
My mortality was definitively announced with the full throated cry of a newborn, fully pink and flush from the hard passage, wailing his objection to the eviction and voicing his displeasure at the light, the air, and the awaiting life of toil that began with a life and death struggle for the nipple.
Not a milestone but a tombstone, a definitive thrusting motion off to the side like a large piece of family furniture, suddenly in the way, and now set over in the corner lest someone trip over it or stub a toe.
Live forever! Ride a bike! Avoid the void with fruit, grains, nuts, and complete abjuration of trans-fats, saturated fats, and saturated news cycles and recycled political crises and dilemmas. California! The golden shore! Where death is for other people and mortality only happens in whispers, quickly forgotten or painfully remembered in silence because Pontius Pilates and deep tissue massage and Zumba for the aged will anti-age you or at least make sure that everyone else croaks first.
I pedaled along the bike path with a friend, deeply thankful that my grandson had announced my demise, trying and failing to convey my gratitude which instead sounded like a whine or a sob or a spoiled brat crying “No!”
Not I. Facts for me are things to be seen and understood, never denied or prayed around. In order to die we first have to live. And nothing infuses life like the turning cranks, or as Robert Doty likes to say, “the Church of the Spinning Wheel.” Because along with the announcement that my time was shortening rather more quickly than I’d anticipated, my grandson brought with him a rare gift, and this too I carefully considered as I rode.
No longer the provider, the progenitor, the pater familias, the care for this new life was first and foremost the duty of someone else. Someone else had brought him into the world, had made the solemn contract to clothe, to nourish, to house, to succor, to protect, to guide, to comfort, and to heal.
My grandson brought with him into the world a gift to me, the freedom simply to love, and to love simply.