Pecan pie and milk to calm the nerves

January 9, 2016 § 17 Comments

I got the pre-ride queasies, and I never get the pre-ride queasies.

Seven weeks ago tomorrow I was hurrying to the Donut Ride, all fit and feeling great and shit, and I fell off my bicycle and fractured my hipbone, which is connected to my nutsackbone, which fuggin’ hurts when you mash it between the pavement and the steel rails on your saddle.

Now, though, I’m 100% healed up minus about forty percent, but it’s the forty percent that doesn’t matter so I’m headed off tomorrow for the Donut Ride to fulfill my date with destiny. Only thing is, chances are good that it will be a real loser of a date, where the other person is missing a lip, has a death’s head tattoo and a pierced tongue, and is dragging a duffel bag filled with shrunken heads and dynamite.

Usually I love going to the Donut but tomorrow I’m scared. Ever since I fell off my bicycle I have been scared. Scared of falling off again and re-breaking the crack that isn’t healed. Scared of falling off and whacking my head. Scared of getting smacked by a car.

But worse than all that is my fear of droppage. Usually on the Donut I get dropped but not until a bunch of other people have been carved up into bite-sized pieces and fed to the Destroyer or Surfer Traitor or Smasher Traitor or the G-Money or the Strava, Jr. or the Jules or the Frenchy or the Pony Girl.

Tomorrow though I’m going to be the chum. That’s how it is when you have more excuses than training miles. Here’s how it will go:

  1. Man, this hurts but I’m near the front.
  2. Man, this is awful but I’m not too far from the front.
  3. Man, I can’t stand this anymore I hope someone closes that gap.
  4. Man, I hope I can hang onto this fourth chase group.
  5. Man, I hate riding alone.
  6. I wonder if I beat that little kid who started with us on a mountain bike?

Yeah, it’s gonna suck and when I heard that Manzella and his West Side wrecking crew are coming I knew it was going to suck times a thousand. If you don’t know Tony, he is a very nice fellow.

Except he’s an absolute bastard the way he grinds you up into pulp and is then nice to you afterwards. It would feel better if he’d spit and curse a little bit but I’ve never even heard him say “fuck.” I don’t think he knows any dirty words and dog knows I’ve tried to teach him.

I also hope he doesn’t bring that other nice bastard Michael Smith. He is a wheelsucking bastard until he stops wheelsucking and rides away from you and then congratulates you at the top even though he weighs 250-lbs. and you’ve been dieting your way down to 135, that bastard.

The best policy tomorrow would be to stay home and ride the trainer and do Zwift. Do you know Zwift? A buddy in Japan sent me a link to it. It is the apotheosis of stupid. You get on your trainer and pretend you are racing people on a video screen.

I can pretend a lot of shit. I can pretend I’m president of the galaxy or that I’m fucking a movie star, for example. But I can’t pretend I’m racing an animated character on a screen. Oh, and I forgot to mention that on Zwift you pay money to race the fake cartoon characters.Why not just pay your wife to get on a trainer next to you and race her? Afterwards if you let her win you might at least get laid.

Like, I know bicycle people are maroons, but are they so stupid that they can pretend they’re racing Tom and Jerry? I guess the answer is “yes.” And please don’t send me some whiny-ass email about how it’s snowing in Bismarck or some shit. Put on another layer and go ride, you big pansy.

But back to the Donut, where I’m gonna get smeared. It’s going to be humiliating. How humiliating? There’s a 1-in-10 chance that I will get beat by Prez. All these wankers are going to blow by me and some of them will probably pat me on the back and say “Good job!” which in cycling means “Fuck you, loser.” Usually they just snarl at me, which in cycling means “You are awesome, dude.”

Prez has never beaten me on a climb because he is so fucking slow. One time I did the Donut after a lung transplant and I still beat his ass up the Switchbacks. That dude climbs slower than a vine in winter. But tomorrow he might whip my ass. You know how that’s going to hurt? I can see it now. “Wanky passed by Prez, who pats him on the back and says ‘Good job!'”

That fucker.

They say you have to get back on the horse but why, especially if the horse is nasty and has kicked your head in already? Can’t you just poison the sonofabitch, or shoot him?

Anyway I better go to bed but not before I have some milk and pie to calm my nerves.

END

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Turning back the clock

January 5, 2016 § 27 Comments

One of the recurring themes here at CitSB is the crushing inevitability of age, decay, and death, with an especial emphasis on the fact that cycling doesn’t make you young and that if you feel better at 50 than you did at 25 you must have felt like a warmed over dunghill when you were 25.

Despite this grimly realistic view of the impersonal impact that physics have on our random existence, for some strange reason I am unable to accept the truth no matter how hard I preach it. Hence my decision to submit an upgrade application to USAC last year.

Now, then. The last time I was a Cat 2 was in 1986. For most of the rest of that century I lived in Japan and Germany, and the bike racing I did didn’t require a US license. When I finally returned to the US and tried to get my old Cat 2 license back, they said, “Sure. What was your old license number?”

“I dunno.”

“When did you last have it?”

“1986.”

“Oh … ”

“Oh, what?”

“When we changed to USAC from USCF we also changed computer systems and lost all our old records. But give us your name and we’ll look.”

Turns out I never existed, but after begging and pleading  with the SCNCA district rep they agreed to let me start off as a Cat 4 and skip the certain-death Cat 5 events for the almost-certain-death Cat 4 ones.

What amazed me was how hard the racing was, and how weak I had become. Once I upgraded to Cat 3 and could do masters racing, I was amazed even more. The “ex-everything” masters category here in SoCal, which includes ex-pros, ex-elite national champions, ex-world champions and Olympian medalists, is also rife with current age-graded national champs, world champs, and pharmaceutical champs.

After several years of careful point-hoarding I finally submitted my upgrade request last year, which was promptly denied. “Your results are a fuggin’ joke. ZERO points for your 2nd place finish at Tuttle Creek RR because it only had TWO FUGGIN’ ENTRANTS you sandbaggin’ sack of Geritol.”

“Fuck it,” I said, “who cares? It’s not like I’ll ever do a Cat 2 race. Even I have too much self-respect to get smeared by grandchildren.” In fact, word on the street here has always been that Cat 2 racing has all of the disadvantages of racing with Cat 1’s (living with your girlfriend or your parents or in a shopping cart) and none of the benefits of racing with Cat 3’s (beating up on weak and defenseless people who have real jobs except for Surfer Dan).

So I went on my merry way.

Imagine my surprise today when I got an email from my club’s race coordinator. “Dude!” he wrote. “I just downloaded all of our riders’ racing info from USAC and saw you’re a Cat 2! Congrats!”

Knowing that there must be some mistake I looked it up. Sure enough, there it was: “Road: 2.”

I tried to jump up and down to celebrate but my cracked pelvis which hasn’t healed hurt too badly to manage more than a slow-motion hop. Then I forgot what I was celebrating. Finally, Ms. WM came in to tell me to stop making such a racket.

“You onna jumpin’ itsa gonna make runny bowels again,” she said.

I sat back down and looked again at the computer screen. Would I actually enter a Cat 2 race now, with, like, you know, actual young people? Or would I do what every masters profamateur does, which is cat up strictly for bragging rights while continuing to do the leaky prostate events?

Easiest decision I’ve had to make all year.

12493865_10207947539620198_6010234522005267437_o

1986 … it was a very good year.

END

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Brewed to imperfection

January 4, 2016 § 35 Comments

Cyclists love coffee and so do I.

A couple of months ago I started roasting my own beans, the primary motivation being cheapness, so I ordered a towsack of green coffee. There are only three or four pounds left from that original 15-lb. green coffee bean purchase from back in November. The total cost was about $4.15/lb, as compared to the going rate of about $14/lb for roasted coffee at Peet’s.

That’s not a typo. You’re paying the good folks at Peet’s about ten bucks to do something that at home takes about fifteen minutes.

Every couple of days I roast up a few beans in the cast iron skillet. It takes about minutes and then another few to shake out the husks. It’s a very un-pro operation. The beans roast unevenly, some of them burn, and when I shake out the husks off the balcony a few of the beans always tumble into the weeds below.

But you know what? I was back in Texas a few days ago at my Mom’s drinking her luxus coffee (whole bean as well as the little capsule stuff), and my worst coffee is infinitely better than her best. Mine is smooth and requires no milk or sugar. Hers is bitter. You know, it tastes like “coffee.”

And every cup of her Nespresso creates a little plastic package of waste that goes straight to the landfill. She’s a bumper sticker environmentalist, which means that although she wants to save the planet, when she needs her caffeine jolt the earth is just flat fucking gonna suffer.

What’s better than the coffee, though, is the little ritual of spending fifteen minutes every couple of days to prepare something fresh, from scratch. No machine, no fancy vacuum pack, just these little green beans gradually browning in an old iron skillet as I lazily stir them with a wooden spoon.

And the real payback is that the best moment in the day, when I drink my first and often only cup of coffee, comes from something I brewed deliciously to imperfection.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Who the hell has time to fry up coffee every couple of days and shake out the husks and shit? What a pain in the ass.”

So this got me thinking because my Mom’s other coffee machine is a very fancy deal with a built-in grinder that you can time so that when you wake up the coffee is ready, freshly ground and freshly percolated. Like the Nespresso rig, the whole point is to push a button and get on about the important things in your life, like email and Facebook and cats.

The pleasure I’ve gotten out of my frying pan and burlap sack of beans is precisely the opposite of time saving and push button convenience.

Our lives are filled with time-saving devices, but have you ever considered what it is we’re saving the time for? For most of us, it’s not to put the finishing touches on our Nobel-prize winning chemistry experiment, it’s not to rebuild the burned-off faces of Syrian children war victims, and it’s not to feed and clothe the homeless on Skid Row. Rather, it’s saving time to do absolutely nothing worthwhile, which would include Facegag, football, everything on TV and anything at the movie theater.

But the single biggest reason we save time is so that we can work to pay for all of the time-saving devices that let us work more. Think about that for a second. It should make your head hurt.

And we work to pay for the huge homes and storage spaces in which we cram the time-saving devices. (Mom was renting three units at last count.) I’m not a minimalist, but I do live in a tiny place and I am cheap. I’m not anti-capitalist, but I don’t really want to spend any more of my time making money or spending it than is necessary. In other words, Target for me is not a destination.

Like commuting by bike, roasting a few green beans every couple of days can become an important ritual that fills your time with something that’s hands-on, cheap (did I mention it was cheap?), and that results in one hell of a good cup of coffee.

It might also be good, just a tiny little bit, for my curmudgeonly old soul.

home_beans

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Be it ever so grease-stained

January 3, 2016 § 20 Comments

Man it felt good to get off that fucking plane and wait for the shuttle bus and fork over $75 for three days’ of parking and hit the freeway and dump my one backpack of shit on the bed and to finally be home.

The flight was uneventful except for the stewardess who was chatting in the galley with her friend when I came up to wait for the toilet. She looked at my hoodie and shaggy beard and limp. “Stay right where you’re at,” she commanded.

“Where else would I stay? Someone’s already in the shitter.”

“Don’t cross that line.”

“What line?” I looked at the floor. “There’s no line.”

“The imaginary plane of the galley,” she ordered.

“Like in football?”

She was moving over to the intercom, preparing to call the on-board marshal, I suppose, or maybe my Mom. “Hello, Mrs. Davidson? We have your son here in the rear galley of Southwest Flight 1006 to LAX and he’s being obstreperous.”

My Mom always loved that word. “Well you tell him I’ll be right up and he’s in TROUBLE.”

I guess the fearful look on my face occasioned by the thought that Mom would beam herself up to the galley communicated to the stewardess that she had buffaloed me, so with a stern glance that said, “Buy a razor!” she went back to her conversation about the size of another stewardess’s wedding ring.

Back at the apartment I was able to break imaginary planes right and left. I shattered the imaginary plane of the shitter, of the kitchen, of the balcony, and of my beloved bed with the indentation on the left side that, after almost twenty years, has formed one of those indelible body-forming outlines like those indentations in the sand of the high Chilean desert that are visible from the air and have been undisturbed for thousands of years.

Pretty soon it became clear that after sitting on my butt for three days in Austin I had regressed sufficiently to the mean to be able to lift my left leg over the top tube and I could therefore ride my bike. I dressed up and took it outside, with Mrs. WM running after me.

“I takin’ onna picture!” she hollered. “Don’t go fallin’ onna pavement pelvic place again!” she said as I wobbled off. “Your butt lookin’ narrow!” was the last thing I heard her say.

Which was funny because generally the only people who comment about my appearance are people who are shorter than I am. I know a guy named Ed who is 6-7 and he has never said anything about how anyone looks, ever. This is because when you are 6-7, you flat fuggin’ win. You could be wearing a clown suit and a tutu, but when you’re the tallest guy in the room and probably the county, you win. So all the shorter people peck at your ankles and criticize your beard or your old shoes or your mismatched socks, but bottom line is that they’re just sour about not having eaten enough red meat as kids, or having gotten the wrong genes, or having smoked too many cigarettes and drunk too much coffee before puberty.

 Still, I started the ride kind of worried about my narrow butt. What did she mean, exactly? That it was too skinny? If so, wouldn’t she have said it was a skinny butt? Maybe she meant that it was narrow along the east-west axis but droopy on the north-south alignment. Eccch. That didn’t sound very appealing.

After a few minutes, though, I quit worrying. I was on my bike and on the road. Again.

first_ride2

Does this bike make my butt look narrow?

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I’ve been a bad, bad boy

January 2, 2016 § 14 Comments

I knew 2016 was going to suck at about 8:30 AM on New Year’s Day.

“Seth!” Mom said on the other side of the door in her mad voice.

“Yes?” I said, pulling the covers over my head.

“I want to talk to you!”

I knew by the tone I was in trouble. It didn’t matter that I was 52, had been martyred for 28 years, raised three children, and was now a grandpa. I had gone home again and was in trouble.

I slunk-limped into the living room in my droopy pajamas, wiping the sleep from my eyes, and sat obediently in The Chair.

Mom had been up since four and probably had lain in bed awake a few hours before that, and every word in the prosecution’s case had been planned. She was made up and wearing the I-just-threw-this-on immaculate morning robe. The red fingernail paint looked fresh and shiny and ready for another coat of blood.

“Well?” She said in a voice that made that one word an accusation, a proof, and a unanimous verdict.

I looked up, hangdog, and raised my eyebrows, letting the sad wrinkles in my old face say, “Well, what?”

She jumped in with all fours and a pitchfork.

“Why did you even bother to come? What have I done to make you treat me this way? What is WRONG with you?”

I was too old to fidget so I drooped a little more. I imagined the worst newspaper headline ever: “Great-granny Reams Aged Grandpa for Character Flaws.” But I said nothing and raised my eyebrows another millimeter.

Tounces the cat licked his ass and gazed at me in contempt.

“I thought you were sitting around in that chair the last two days because of your leg, but the minute your friends show up you’re hail-fellow-well-met and the life of the party! I guess your old bike friends mean more than your own mother! What do you have to say for yourself?”

I paused, hoping Tounces might do something noteworthy like roll over or stand up or walk but he kept rasping away at the world’s cleanest cat butthole, pretending not to care but plainly enjoying my misery. Cats love it when you suffer.

“WELL?”

My eyebrows couldn’t get any higher so I slumped deeper into the chair and looked at the dirt under my right thumbnail.

“I guess if you’re going to sit there and not say anything then you can go back to bed. And for goodness’ sake clean your filthy fingernails!”

I went back to my room without any breakfast but not before Flounces, the other sneaky little shit, had climbed on my pillow and infected it with cat hair, setting off a sneezing explosion the minute I laid down.

After a few minutes I heard them go off to church. Mom had found Catholicism a few months ago after a lifetime of scornful, hard bitten atheism that couldn’t withstand suicide, cancer, and the view of the yawning abyss. When they got home she was serene and filled with the grace and redemption of dog. This was ironic, surrounded as she was by the satanic cats.

“Hi, honey!” she said cheerfully. “Were the kitties good while we were at church?”

I glowered at Tounces and Flounces, who glowered balefully back.

END

In the catbird seat

January 1, 2016 § 18 Comments

It’s New Year’s Day and if you’re lucky you are out on your bike or you are lying in bed thinking about getting on your bike or you are talking to your cats, which is what my mom is doing right now.

She is a cat lady which makes sense because she is a psychiatrist and no one is whackier than an old cat lady head shrinker. She talks to her cats all the time but it’s a one-way conversation as they never talk back.

Her husband is a whacky cat talker, too. That makes sense because they live together and if you are married to a cat lady you had better learn to be a cat man I suppose. It is weird to see a grown man talking to cats.

My dad’s wife is a cat lady, too. They have cats everywhere and my dad is such an old cat man that when we talk on the phone he tells me about his cats. I don’t give two half fucks about his cats but I listen patiently.

I hate all their cats but it’s not personal. I hate them because I am allergic which the cats all know and which the cat owners in my family really know. “Are you okay?” they fake ask as I swell up and turn red and my eyes bleed tears and I sneeze uncontrollably and I quit breathing mostly.

“I’m so sorry,” they say, adding in the same breath, “Ooh, Buttons! You’re so cute!” as Buttons rubs against my leg and sets off another round of hell. Buttons is always like, “Fuck you, cat hater, take that.”

When people are sitting around and a cat walks in and of course in a house full of cats they’re always walking in because they have nothing else to do, the cat people immediately remark on it. “Oh, look, Tounces likes sitting by the fire.” All conversation is now hijacked by Tounces, who shows what he thinks about you and your stupid family of non-cats by sticking out his left leg and licking his nasty cat ass.

I wonder why we even sit together any more. No one can get any kind of conversation started without it becoming about the cats, which by the way suits the cats just fine. It’s like having a house full of shitting babies who never grow up. No one ever says, “Spot got into grad school at Harvard and is researching fluid dynamics.”

For the rest of your life it’s going to be, “Spot likes the new seafood flavor of Kibbles,” and “Spot and Tounces simply can’t get along.” Is it just me or doesn’t everyone know that cats don’t get along? Is there someone out there who really thinks cats are pack animals? Have cat people heard the phrase “herding cats”?

But as much as I’d like to discuss the refugee crisis or Poland’s evisceration of its Supreme Court or the war in Syria, it ain’t gonna happen, ever. And since I can’t ride my bike I may as well sit back and marvel at the cat’s ass.

Now pardon me while I sneeze.

END

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Austin’s CHANGED!!!

December 31, 2015 § 17 Comments

I am spending a few days in the city where I learned how to race bikes and ruined my life. The last time I was here was 2010 or so. Every time I come to Austin I’m told breathlessly how much it has changed.

“Development has taken over!”

“The things that make Austin Austin are being ruined!”

“Gentrification!”

“Traffic!”

“High prices!”

“East Austin is changing we hardly recognize it!”

“We have bike parking now!”

And all that is true. There are some new buildings and cars and people and bars on Pecan Street and coffe shops and craft breweries and a shit-ton of tract housing if I were inclined to go look at any of it.

But what really strikes me is that when I moved here in 1982 Austin was up in arms because of all the development and change and outsiders ruining what made Austin Austin, which in those days was weed and the Armadillo World Headquarters and Willie’s 4th of July Picnic and SRV.

In other words, weed.

In fact, Austin was being so ruined and de-Austinized in 1982 that there was a bumper sticker with an outline of the capitol over the neon light slogan, “No Vacancy.”

I never cared because all I ever did was ride my bike.

My parents came to visit me once in college but were so depressed they left and never returned until after I graduated. “Austin just isn’t the same,” they sighed before purchasing some prime real estate which is now probably worth $50 billion. “It’s changed.”

And it had. Because the last time they had lived here was 19-fucking-62.

So, yeah, shit changed in 20 years, and yeah, it has changed in the last 30, and call me crazy but 30 years hence it will have changed again and there is a super slight chance that Willie might even be dead.

What’s interesting to me is that none of the development that everyone hates while it raises their property values has ruined what makes Austin Austin, because what makes Austin Austin, aside from the geography of “30 square miles surrounded by reality,” is the wild-eyed stoner fantasy that you can have a progressive and liberal city in the right-wing, open-carry, fundie nutjob center of Hell.

END

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