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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It’s never a good time to stand up for your rights

March 13, 2015 § 49 Comments

Rights are extremely inconvenient things. If you keep them in a drawer without food, exercise, and nourishment, one day when you take them out for a fine stroll on the town you will find that instead of being robust with a thick coat of fur, happy and healthy companions that you can turn on enemies in a pinch or use to get you through the day, you find instead that they are emaciated, tired, twig-legged, and all their teeth have fallen out.

What’s worse, when you snap them off the leash and say, “Run, rights, run!” they stagger and stumble and you end up having to carry them to the vet, a sad looking guy in black robe who often pronounces them either dead or seriously impaired. There’s nothing worse than thinking you’re the proud owner of a right that dates back to 1789, an heirloom enshrined in centuries of jurisprudence and vigorous exercise, only to learn that you’re the keeper of an empty, toothless, saggy-dicked principle that has one foot in the grave and the other in a nasty opinion written by Justice Scalia.

Yes, it’s a shock to have some ignorant, mean, ‘roided out lardass who rode the bench on the JV football squad, a peabrain who’s now packing a gun, cuffs, tazer, radio, and mace, a barely literate boob who drives a patrol car loaded with a riot shotgun and is backed up by helicopters, a SWAT team and dozens of similarly armed brethren, and to have that guy pull you over while you’re riding your bike and write you a ticket for doing something that’s perfectly legal.

Pretty galling, because there you are in your underwear flexing your pot belly as you’re reaching into your back jersey pocket to whip out your rights and have them eat this asshole’s lunch and he takes one look at your puny, underfed, under-exercised, long-ignored rights and flicks them off into the ditch.

Then he writes you the ticket and goes on his way. “Tell it to the judge,” he sneers as you desperately try to pick up your sick and feeble rights and sic ’em on this lawbreaker.

And the question is, what are you going to do about it?

Some people will pay the ticket. Some people will complain on Facegag. Some people will get up at 4:30 AM and write what they hope is a clever blog. Some will hold a small ceremony for the dead rights, take up golf, or excoriate college students who dare to insult the flag.

Me?

I’m going to take out my puny, shaky-legged, underfed rights and give them some exercise. They may be sick, but they aren’t dead. And I think that given their genetic makeup and their Constitution, with some vigorous exercise and some healthy time out on the town, they’re going to come roaring back.

The tentative dates for this rolling rights protest, which will take place at the city office in Malibu and then proceed down PCH all the way to the Santa Monica Pier, are April 5, April 25, or May 9. I’m in the process of obtaining permit information from the city and will provide updates once a firm date is confirmed.

The protest will demand that the city instruct its minions at LASD to stop harassing cyclists, it will demand that the LA Sheriff’s Department stop its policy of writing bogus tickets to cyclists, and it will also call for the implementation of political change: Instead of having to fight every harassing ticket, we will start the process of finding a new candidate for sheriff who will take action against these lawless deputies.

My rights may die anyway. But they won’t die without getting a bit of vigorous exercise first.

END

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“Tapas Bar, Calle Escudellers, Barcelona”

March 4, 2015 § 16 Comments

My brother Ian, who got me into cycling, loved Barcelona and loved Spanish poetry. After he died virtually all of his unpublished writing and his translations were destroyed when a family member took his computer and destroyed it. My eldest son got this copy of one of Ian’ few remaining poems, perhaps from my mom, and shared it with me. Now I’m sharing it with you.

After grocery shopping I
stop by for coffee at the tapas bar.

Inside there’s sawdust on the floor,
and it’s still dark, as if the morning
weren’t the start of a new day but a
continuation of the night before.

Already drinking tinto with tortillas
several salty men sit at the bar,
being ribbed by an old woman with no teeth.

Shortly after I sit down she lifts her shirt up slightly to expose her paunch
and the man next to her pulls it further up over her breasts,
and squeezing at a dug he checks it like a loaf of bread or meat
for sale in the mercado up the street.

She says her only pleasures are to eat
and sleep, then slaps her crotch
repeatedly and with great strength and gusto,
to demonstrate the region’s perfectly
without sensation.

This accompanied
by laughs and densely worded argument,
another round of tit-grabbing,
then pointing by all at cocks and cunts.

Afterwards we all feel quite content,
happy to begin the day’s affairs
with breakfast at Café Escudellers.

By Ian Davidson

Evident signs that you lack humility

February 24, 2015 § 15 Comments

A buddy sent me this list. The title made me laugh, and the list made me think … lots here for the cycling world, the world in general, and, ulp, me.

  1. Thinking that what you do or say or have is better than what others do or say or have. “Yeah, but my frame has a lower serial number.”
  2. Always wanting to get your way regardless of how it affects others. “My bars can fit in that quickly slamming door, and if I go down, sucks to be the guys behind me.”
  3. Arguing when you are not right,  or, when you are, insisting stubbornly or with bad manners. “Of course those tires are 25mm, you idiot.”
  4. Giving your opinion without being asked for it, or when charity does not demand that you to do so. “If you want to win more races, you need to … “
  5. Despising the point of view of others. “Who cares what those maroons think? They’re tri-dorks.”
  6. Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan. “You know how come I won? Because I fuggin’ earned it!”
  7. Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honor or esteem, of the ground you are treading on or the things you own. “Check out these killer Fakebook photos of me on the podium! Awesome, huh?”
  8. Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation. “When I think about great race tactics, it reminds me of the time I attacked with three to go in the Hooterville Petit-Prix.”
  9. Speaking badly about yourself so that others may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you with flattery. “Aw, I’m such a maroon to have won that stage race by ten minutes.”
  10. Making excuses when rebuked. “My fault? The guy in front crashed me out!”
  11. Hiding humiliating faults from someone you depend on so that he won’t lose the good opinion he has of you. “I only have one glass of wine a day. With dinner.”
  12. Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you. [Strikes very close to home, that one.]
  13. Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you. “She’s not that good. I beat her two years ago at the Hooterville Midi-Prix.”
  14. Refusing to carry out menial tasks. “Air up my tires, would you?”
  15. Seeking or wanting to be singled out. “Didja get a picture of me in the break? Didja?”
  16. Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige. “When I was awarded the Legion of Honor for saving everyone on the ship, I was so embarrassed–it’s not the kind of thing we brain surgeons train for.”
  17. Being ashamed of not having certain possessions. “We can’t invite them over, honey. They’d see how we really live.”
  18. Add your own!
  19. END

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