#socmed Withdrawal

November 1, 2017 § 29 Comments

It’s been a little more than thirty-six hours since I deleted my Facebag account, shut down Twitter, and kicked the Stravver to the curb. Like any good act of defiance, man, it sure felt good. Sweet and good.

“Take that, #socmed bitches!” My narrow, bony chest swelled a little as I struck a blow for #dataprivacy and against #fakenews and for #livingintherealworld. Oh, and I also struck blows against #depression, #anxiety, and my favorite of all time, #FoMO, and its almost as awesome but not quite cousin, #FoBO, “Fear of Better Options.”

Yeah, I smacked down all that shit.

The problem is that I’ve smacked them all down before only to come groveling back to the opioid-laced trough of notification-induced, temporary euphoria. Quitting booze has been hard, but it’s got nothing on going #socmed cold turkey. Here is what you can expect to feel when you cut the cord:

  1. Loneliness: I don’t have any friends.
  2. Sadness: There’s no one and no #lolcats to make me smile.
  3. Isolation: Society is “out there,” apart from me.
  4. Anxiety: What’s “going on”?
  5. Uncertainty: What are my #socmed “friends” posting  about now?
  6. FoMO: How will I ever get invited to anything?
  7. FoBO: What’s going to happen to my law practice?
  8. Listlessness: I don’t want to do anything.
  9. Helplessness: I’m overwhelmed at all the empty time on my hands.
  10. Irrelevance: Might as well be dead.

Numbers 1-10 are intensified by the degree to which you were immersed in your #socmed life. Apparently, I was pretty immersed …

However, unlike past attempts to quit, this one has great prospects for success. For one, life is nothing more than a process of quitting; eventually you quit it all, forever. The gradual nature of giving things up is in the nature of life itself. There comes a time when you can’t think as clearly, remember as well, walk as briskly, chew as hard, jump as high, just like there comes a time when you give up fist fights, bungee jumping, contact football, running, choosing when you’ll relieve yourself, breathing …

The trick of course is to quit each thing on your terms before it quits you. The trigger this time was the unendurable death of another young person riding a bicycle, slaughtered by a drunk. I say unendurable because death itself is never unendurable, it is part of the predictable cycle of life in which things happen at random but eventually. In fact, death is one of those things that I’ve always been able to get my arms around. It’s real, it’s unalterable, it’s the blueprint that we can all benefit from by studying. Death is tangible.

What has changed over the course of my life is the creation of a third rail in our modern existence, the third rail of #socmed. #socmed is the antithesis of death. Where death is real and firm and unalterable and instructive and forever, #socmed is #unreal and #quiescent and #editable and #empty and #temporary. Facebag even has an account option that lets you pass on control of your account after you die, so that you never have to really go away or even be dead. You can continue your #fake existence for as long as the servers have a power source.

This #fake and #virtual third rail now powers things that are real. #socmed requires us to create a #fake world online and then enforce the norms and perceptions of that #fake world in the real world. Death is the perfect example, where a person dies (real event), and then #socmed is saturated with #fake emotion, and then real events are held to commemorate the person’s real death, and then the real event and real words and real emotions expressed there are memorialized on #socmed to give rise to another, more intense, more quantitative expression of yet more #fake emotion. Each spiral brings with it an intensity of anguish and unhappiness that is greater than the one before. #fake emotion intensifies real emotion, which, when posted and memorialized online, intensifies the #fake emotion all over again.

There is no separation, in other words, between real and #fake. Because we curate our #socmed selves and our #socmed feelings, our actual, human interactions (when we bother to have them), conform to and later inform our #curated selves. We become who we have #curated, but never quite catch up to it. Cue anxiety and depression and the absolute necessity to be logged into #socmed at all times … even after we die.

For me this has created impossible complexity. I’m not smart enough to keep it all straight, either my own #curated self, or yours. I don’t have enough neurons to tease out who the #socmed you is and who the real you is, and how to respond to either without hurting your feelings or making a fool of myself, or both.

The complexity of this mixed existence is heightened by the misfortune of my birth in the early 1960s, and being forced to grow up in a world where, for example, there was no #socmed bike racing. I could only transport myself out of reality by digging so deeply into reality that the actions became transcendent. I could only be a bike racer by racing my bike, and never by #socmed means. I could only have friends by meeting people and hanging out with them, never by #socmed #friendsuggestion buttons. I could only curate my personality through actions and speech, never by #socmed postings or #filters or #kudos.

This misfortune of having been born at the wrong time means that the only way to reduce the complex navigation of #socmed #curation is by returning to the quaint world I once inhabited. When I craved company, I sought people physically. When I craved conversation, I telephoned or spoke face to face. When I craved action, I acted. Although the negative emotions I listed above predominate, there are hints of better things to come, slivers of the old way that suggest, at least for me, the real world trumps the #socmed one. To wit:

  1. Calmness: What I don’t know doesn’t disturb me.
  2. Productivity: Look at how much I got done!
  3. Concentration: Thoughts last for a long time and reach a conclusion, without interruption.
  4. Silence: There is no #socmed chatter filling up my mind-space.
  5. Confidence: IDGAF.
  6. Humor: Can you believe I wasted all that time over all that shit?
  7. Recovery: Sleep recharges, it’s not simply a pause between #socmed postings.
  8. Happiness: Fewer conflicts.
  9. Control: I decide what goes into my mind.
  10. Independence: The #socmed storms and #curated lives don’t buffet me.

They say the genie can’t be stuffed back into the bottle, and #they are correct because #they write the algorithms that control most of our waking moments. But the genie, if you’ll recall, only came out when the bottle was rubbed,went back after his work was done, and you got to rub the bottle three times. I think I’ll stop at two.

END

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What would you do if you knew?

October 30, 2017 § 52 Comments

A buddy and Big Orange teammate was killed yesterday in Phoenix as he descended from South Mountain Park. I’ve heard but haven’t been able to confirm that Rob was killed when a teenage driver drifted over into his lane. Totally makes sense that we give teenagers 4,000-lb. death machines and turn them loose on public roads to “learn how to drive.”

The previous Sunday another friend was hit by a car and suffered catastrophic, life-altering injuries. The motorist was in a hurry and “didn’t see” the cyclist, who was wearing bright orange. Fortunately, the driver had rental car insurance so he was able to quickly get his car swapped out and get back on the road without any serious inconvenience.

This is how these cager-bike interactions go. It’s all over in a split second. Your life is altered forever, or just snuffed out, quicker than you ever thought possible.

What would you do differently today if you knew that tomorrow you were going to die?

What would you do differently today if you knew that tomorrow you were never going to walk again?

What would you do differently today if you knew that tomorrow would be a bend from around which you’d never come back?

END

Bicycle mugging

October 27, 2017 § 32 Comments

My son-in-law Torazo is a badass, by which I mean a physics nerd. He also rides a bike, and he rides it about as badassedly as he solves physics problems, by which I mean yes, he loves to ride the Donut and hammer, but even more badassedly, he commutes to school on his celeste green, 4,000-lb. steel Bianchi.

Torazo goes to Harbor Community College, where he takes physics, calculus, chemistry, and a bunch of other classes that I never took anywhere, anytime, with anyone. Despite his undergraduate degree from Tokyo University, he fell in with the motley Davidson crew and wound up preferring the laid back SoCal lifestyle to the manacled, daily psycho-beatdown that you get as a salaryman in corporate Japan.

Harbor is one of the the poorest LA coastal community colleges, serving urban students. It’s about 70% Latino, 15% African-American, 10% frightened white, and a smattering of everything else. The Japanese students in the South Bay bundle up for safety and study mostly at Santa Monica College miles and a horrible commute away, where there is plenty of whiteness and richness and where you won’t suddenly find yourself in that awkward situation of having to talk to people who make up the majority of the population.

But not Torazo. He likes Harbor. It’s close, he has a 30-minute downhill ride to school and a 50-minute uphill ride home, the teachers are great, the students are great, and he’s there for the physics and calculus, not for the white bread. Like I said, badass.

Still, the school does have its issues, and the biggest one is the bicycle parking area, which is behind the gym, which is where all the jocks hang out. Many of the jocks at Harbor are trying to get a pro slot or an NCAA D-I billet, and they are like major-American-sport jocks everywhere: Big, loud talking, full of bravado, not overly impressed by any human activity that doesn’t end in the word “ball,” and not especially well known for taking physics.

So every day Torazo the physics nerd, with his 75-lb. backpack and nerdy bike pants and nerdy Big O lizard collectors jersey and nerdy bike shoes has to click-clack through the jock gauntlet to get to his bike. Nothing has ever happened, but walking through a large group of big, athletic, loud-talking people can induce anxiety in anyone, especially in a gentle physics nerd.

Today, though, it went down. He had almost made it through the tightly packed group, when a voice rang out. “Hey!” It wasn’t a greeting, it was a command.

Torazo picked up his pace but as a physics nerd he could calculate that reaching his bike, unlocking the lock, and pedaling madly away wouldn’t happen fast enough. “Hey!” the voice repeated, and this time it was sharper.

Torazo turned around, the color drained out of his face. “Me?” he asked, his voice shaking. The entire group stared at him.

“Fuck yeah, you, man. You think I’m talking to the fuckin’ wall?”

Torazo’s first language isn’t English, and in moments of extreme distress, as with anyone, his facility with the language fragmented. “How may I help you?” he blurted out, realizing that this was probably not the right playground response.

The guy who had accosted him took a few steps closer. He was easily 6’4″, with ripped arms, sinewy legs, and very intent eyes focused on Torazo. Torazo stared up at the tower. “That your bike?” the basketball player asked.

“Yes, sir,” Torazo said.

“Don’t give me no ‘sir’ shit. You ride that to school?”

“Yes,” Torazo answered.

The big guy nodded, staring intently at the shiny racing rig that stood out among the ten or fifteen other junker bikes. “What’s that thing cost?”

“I don’t know exactly.”

“You don’t know? What, you stole it?”

“No sir,” Torazo blurted. “I bought it in Japan and I don’t correctly know the exact exchange rate from that time.”

The guy wrinkled his brow, skeptically. “You ride on the road, too? Or just commute?”

Torazo paused, processing the sentence. “Yes,” he said. “Road riding all the time.”

“Me, too. We oughta ride together. I been looking for somebody here at Harbor likes to ride. I love to ride. What’s your number?”

Torazo and the guy exchanged info. “I will call you for the next Donut Ride,” Torazo said, waving as he pedaled away.

“Cool, man. Looking forward to it!” The guy went back to his friends, and Torazo was gone, one more biking friend on the way home than he’d had when he left.

END

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Let’s play smashface

October 25, 2017 § 8 Comments

I don’t get suckered often, but when I do it’s always a big chapeau to the perpetrator. At the very least it solves my problem, for a day, of “What’m I gonna blog about?”

A few months ago I met Jason Hole in the Internet/Facebag way. He lives in Orange County and has a group of riders who coalesce around the slogan “Let’s Play Bikes.” The purpose, so I was told, is for people to get together and “have fun.” The weekly Tuesday ride, which leaves Bill Barber Park in Irvine at 5:45 PM, accommodates a wide variety of interests and abilities.

It’s “only about an hour” and it’s “flat” and it “regroups.”

Of course the above description should have sent screaming, blood-dripped shrieks of alarm raging through my head. “Have fun.” “Flat.” “Regroups.” These are all code words for their antonyms, “miserable AF,” “gnarly climb,” and “good fuggin’ luck, seeyalater or probably never.”

The moist and tasty little worm on the end of the hook was “Why don’t you come down and talk to us about bike safety, and then do the ride with us?”

Bike safety? Hell, yes. And followed with a fun, friendly, flat pedal for an hour or so? Perfection!

So we loaded up Kristie’s battle wagon and hurled ourselves into the teeth of the 405 at 3:15 on a Tuesday, and it was a full-on SoCal traffic porn show, bumper to bumper to bumper to bumper as we limped through the concrete freeway hellhole, saving the environment with our zero emissions bikes by putting them in the back of an 8-cylinder truck that got 8 or 9 feet per gallon. [Cue hypocritical smugness.]

We nervously gazed at the thermometer as we inched along. 107 degrees. And since we’d ridden that morning and had done a decent amount of climbing, we already knew that outside it was drier than C-SPAN.

Once we got to the park and met up with Jason, I noted a few key things. First, it was not only 107 very hot degrees, and it was not only sandpaper dry, but there was a howling, screeching wind. Naturally, I figured we’d be riding into it. But most disturbing? Jason never cracked a smile. Not a grin. Not even a tiny upturned corner of one side of his mouth. Long bike experience told me what I didn’t want to hear: This was going to be all business.

The parking lot filled, I gave my safety talk, and we rolled out, two by two. It’s true there was a wide variety of abilities, but it was also obvious that some of those abilities were decidedly on the upper end of the scale. And as I’d feared, we headed out into the wind. Huge dry, hot winds on an empty stomach and tired legs on unfamiliar roads with utter strangers will begin cracking your will to live immediately, and they did. Sitting second wheel my legs ached, and no matter how I hunkered they hurt. “Please let this end soon,” I prayed to dog. I was afraid to ask how long the ride lasted; it was clearly going to be a lot more than an hour. I didn’t hear anyone chatting. So much for the fun. The wind howled.

Once it got dark and my bottle was empty, and my tongue was sticking to my teeth, and my legs felt like they would fall off, Jason turned to me as we sat on the front together. “There’s a little hill here. You can go hard if you want to get in a workout. We’ll regroup.”

Translation: “I’m going to kick your ass starting here.”

I glanced back and noted that our group was in tatters, a long string of shrapnel-ized blinky lights strung out for as far back as I could see. About that time Jason, who had clearly been waiting for this moment, turned the screws and I went magically from tired to completely on the rivet. The hot, dry air fried and dried my throat so that my breathing sounded more like whooping cough than athletic exertion. The gradual 1-mile climb was into a biting sidewind, so it guttered instantly. At the moment when it felt like things couldn’t get worse, some dude who’d been hiding the entire ride and was fresh as new tea leaves sprinted up the side, leaving everyone in his wake.

I grabbed his wheel, reasoning that with a huge surge like that we must be near the top, but near obviously meant different things to different people. For me, “near” meant “any second now,” but to him it meant “another 500 yards.” He rode me off his wheel and I glanced back to see that even in that short distance the remnants were nothing but little firefly dots behind. Two other riders closed the gap and whizzed by just as we hit the end of the climb, proving the old adage that cycling is a sport of conservation, and the other adage that course knowledge is everything.

The regroup consisted of high speed attacking descents that shelled everyone. Kristie and I wound up alone, thankfully with a tailwind, and one by one passed little patches of people who looked like they’d seen a ghost, or an army of ghosts. We didn’t know the route and guessed our way back to the park. I guess the regroup was going to happen the following week …

We got back around nine, utterly spent, dehydrated, and covered in salt. The bikes were almost too heavy to lift out of the battle wagon. “Wanna play bikes?” Kristie asked.

We laughed and laughed and laughed.

END

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Making wheatgrass great again

October 9, 2017 § 7 Comments

There used to be a weekly pedal called the Wheatgrass Ride. It left Malaga Cove Plaza every Sunday at about 8:05 AM. The ride was begun by Mike N. It had a nice rhythm to it; everyone would ride in a civil fashion up around the golf course and then ride civilly along PV Drive North, two by two, civilly, to the base of the reservoir climb.

From there it became markedly uncivil and people pushed the pedals, some harder, some less hard, until the whole thing detonated. Then some of the detonators would descend Miraleste, climb Better Homes still pushing hard, and then ascend up to the sacred radar domes. The shrapnel would straggle in and everyone would regroup.

Mike always brought up the rear.

After that there would be a civil descent of the Switchbacks and a civil drop down to the low point, after which many but not all niceties would be dispensed with, and then at the Glass Church all pretense of politesse would be swiftly discarded and fangs would be bared, pedals pushed, gaspy folks dropped, and all would end in the glorious Hawthorne sprunt.

Mike would bring up the rear again, there would be a regrouping at the 7-11, all hostilities would cease, the armistice would be signed, peace pipes smoked, and everyone would slowly soldier in a most civil fashion up the long Hawthorne climb to PV Mall, where huge celebrations would take place in the form of wheatgrass libations, which were nasty but a rite of passage.

This went on for a few years until Mike gave up. Some said he was moving to Hawaii and was tired of hanging out around all the South Bay goofballs. Some said that he had gotten the yips from too many near misses. Some said he had become old and cranky and wanted to be left alone. Still others said he got tired of all the people who showed up on the Wheatgrass Ride and ignored the rules of the ride.

I suspect it was a bit of all of that, plus the fact that every Sunday he spent $50 on wheatgrass, which times 52 times 6 adds up.

Whatever, he stopped coming to the ride and then stopped coming to all rides. It just happens to people. They get old and ride off.

The Wheatgrass Ride first reveled in the absence of its parent, and the little kids turned it into a murderous, go from the gun smashfest, but that didn’t work because we already had one of those the day before, the Donut. The beauty of the Wheatgrass was that you could be a tired old buffalo or a feisty young buck and still get in a workout and be able to spin and chat with friends.

The best part was the apres-ski, sucking down nasty wheatgrass dreck and telling stories mixed with the occasional fact. When Mike walked away all that died. He was missed, but he was never around to hear it, and plus, he didn’t GAF.

Then a couple of days ago Hoofixr sent out a message: Make Wheatgrass Great Again. Hoofixr is a nice guy but he also means what he says. And what he said was this:

  1. The ride will follow the old school Norris Rules.
  2. Anyone wants to hammer on the easy segments, beat it.
  3. Lies and wheatgrass at the end.

This promise lured a bunch of the wheatgrass faithful out, and it was a success. Hoofixr laid down the Norris Rules and they were followed. Pedals were pushed, lies were told, wheatgrass was chugged. Just like the old days.

Not that he GAF, but Norris would have approved.

END

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French Cat 3 dude wins asterisk

October 2, 2017 § 15 Comments

When I put on my headphones yesterday to listen to the news while I was frying up a pan of green coffee beans, I got a surprise: “Blah blah blah,” the announcer said in French, “cycliste blah blah blah” he continued, my ears perking up at hearing one of the only six works I know in that language. Then I got really excited when he said the other five, “velo équipé d’un moteur.”

I tried to pay attention to the rest of the blah blah blah but it didn’t work. The beans were starting to smoke, my grandson had landed and was scuttling the ship, and it was hard to concentrate and stir and block him from pulling out the carving knife from the drawer and jabbing it into my thigh.

Fortunately, a friend sent me a link to the TV interview, which allowed me to listen to it slowly and carefully, and after seven hours of review and Google translate I was able to pick up a couple more key words: “Cat 3.” Basically, a Cat 3 wanker (redundant) got popped for using a moteur electrique in a local bike race. And it made the national news. And the news guy asked, all in earnest, “If some wanker is moteur doping to win a local Fred fest, one must ask the question whether or not moteur doping is also occurring at higher levels du sport?”

To which I can confidently reply, “Non, non.”

The person accused of moteur doping, Henri Percival-Escargot d’Chatenay, was immediately available for a telephone interview with CitSB. I reached him at his chateau in Dordogne, a hellish little dump on the outskirts of Bordeaux known for some of the finest wine and cuisine on earth.

CitSB: So, did you really moteur dopage?

HP-EdC: Non, non, mais bien sur, non.

CitSB: So what was the deal with the moteur electronique in votre Cervelo?

HP-EdC: Eet was mistaken consumption.

CitSB: Beg pardon?

HP-EdC: Eet was mistaken consumption. I drink by mistake, pas d’idee que zere was moteur electrique in my water bottle.

CitSB: No, no, you didn’t drink the moteur electrique. They found it underneath your boteille d’eau.

HP-EdC: Ah, oui, oui, le bidon, En francais on dit “bidon.” Masculin avec “le.” But someone puts le moteur electrique zere and I don’t know it, comme avec le tainted beef de Alberto Contador, vous savez?

CitSB: So you’re saying someone stuck it there on le Cervelo beneath le bidon and you had no idea you were doing the ol’ dopage mechanique?

HP-EdC: Oui, oui, comme ca. Et aussi I was, comme dit-on, un vanishing twin, exactement comme Tyler Hamilton.

CitSB: What?

HP-EdC: C’est tres rare, mais j’avais un vanishing twin and zeez ees pourquoi they have found le moteur. C’est definitivement le moteur de mon vanishing twin. N’est-ce pas mine. Imposible et sacre bleu et etcetera.

CitSB: Okay, so it was your vanishing twin’s motor, not yours. That seems un peu incroyable, as they say in France.

HP-EdC: And I must tell you, I have passe les testing dopage 500 fois. Neffer positive, vous comprenez? 500 foix ils ont pris mon pee-pee, et neffer, neffer un positive. Je deteste telle tricherie. Je suis un sporstman très, très honnête.

CitSB: I’m not sure what the passed testing dopage has to do with anything. This a moteur electrique we’re talking about, Henri.

HP-EdC: Et je vous dirai anozzer sing. I would neffer do ze dopage electronique par ce’que on ne sais pas que serais les effets a mon santé. In fife ou six years, peut-etre le cancer, n’est-ce pas? Ou, how you say en englais? Le acne.

CitSB: I haven’t ever heard of motorized doping causing cancer or acne. That’s a stretch.

HP-EdC: Anyways, je n’ai aucune motif pour cette tricherie. Je suis tres fort. Je fait le training tous les jours. Vous voulez savoir what I am on? Je suis on my velo, zat is what I am on.

CitSB: We know that you were on the velo, the problem is that there was also a moteur electrique on the velo. So you + velo + moteur electrique equals cheating masters d-bag.

[Noise in background.]

CitSB: You okay?

HP-EdC: Oui, oui, deux visitors ont arrivée. I must go now. Merci pour le entrevue.

CitSB: Hey, what’s that clicking sound? Is someone cuffing you, Henri? Henri?

HP-EdC: Adieu.

END

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 300 guests, so get there early.

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