October 12, 2015 § 17 Comments
The sad, dysfunctional fact about USA Cycling in general, and SCNCA in particular, is that they have failed at their mission to build racing participation for so many years that today no one expects anything less than complete failure. Excuses, finger pointing, and the status quo have become hallmarks of our local racing association, and we have fewer races, declining numbers, and the terrible race turnout to prove it.
On the one hand that’s a great thing. Dedicating your youth to bike racing is like dedicating it to meth without the thrill of a prison sentence and the reward of several coat hanger tattoos on your butt. On the other hand it’s terrible, because in some remote galactic parallax of red-shifted wormholes, bike racing is a good thing. Don’t ask me to locate it on a map or in any known episode of Star Trek.
The latest full blown collapse of representation, transparency, honesty, and democracy came (fortunately) in the one arena of bike racing that is the most meaningless of all: Masters racing. To make a long and boring story into a short and boring one, I would explain it thusly:
Old people got angry about trinket distribution. They are still angry.
The more interesting question for me is not how/when/and at what age the wrinklebags can compete for trinkets, but rather this: How can we lure more unsuspecting kids into bike racing? Everyone can identify the problems and no one knows the answer, except by the process of exclusion, to wit:
WHATEVER THE SOLUTION IS, IT WILL HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH USA CYCLING OR THE SCNCA.
So, to help get the junior gears rolling–and it’s a small start–I’m going to donate a monthly Best SoCal Junior Girl Racer award in the amount of $200.00 cash, and a matching award for the best SoCal Junior Boy Racer, courtesy of the $2.99/month subscriptions that come in via this blog. It feels better using the money that way than on the beer I’ve quit drinking.
You can nominate your racer (so far there are a whopping total of two, proving that it’s harder to give away money than you think) by going to my law firm’s Facebook page and adding your nomination as a comment to the post announcing the awards, which is pinned to the top of the page. Include as much detail as you want; the more you include the easier it will make the decision. And yes, self nominations are fine!
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October 10, 2015 § 14 Comments
Some things make you smile. Big.
On Thursday morning it was pitch black as I rolled down PV Drive North to the start of the Flog Ride. Just before making the left turn to go up Via Campesina my headlight caught the edge of a pink t-shirt flapping in the wind. The rider blended into the dark better than any owl. She had no headlight, no taillight, was wearing black tights and riding a black bike. Did I mention it was pitch black outside?
She had earphones in so I didn’t say anything as I turned and started up the golf course climb. Halfway up I heard the sound of tires and glanced off to my left. She was charging past me, full gas, long legs spinning the hell out of those pedals. I’d planned on an easy warm-up but she passed with such authority that I couldn’t let it go.
I picked up the pace a bit, sitting about ten yards back. Pretty soon I was breathing hard and not closing any ground. “Ah hell,” I thought. “I don’t want to chase anyway.”
At the right-hander she went straight and I turned right, summited, and started the descent. Then I heard those wheels again. This time she bombed by, buried in the darkness, gone before I could see much more than the flapping edge of her shirt. “She’s gonna die,” I thought.
At the 180-degree turn she’d slowed down, a lot, and since I had a light I easily went by, going straight and starting the long climb up Via del Monte. Pretty soon I heard those tires again. But I had some momentum and matched her pace as she pulled alongside me, covered in sweat.
“Hi, there!” I said.
She pulled out her earphones. “What?”
“Where are you headed in such a hurry? You’re fast,” I said.
“I’m just doing a 45-minute ride before I have to work.”
“You’ve got talent,” I said. “I can see that in the dark.”
She laughed, embarrassed. “I just finished my first Ironman and am kind of new to cycling.”
“There are people who are real old to cycling who couldn’t keep up with you.”
She smiled again and we chatted going up to the stop sign, where I pulled over and gave her my card. “Hit me up if you ever want to go ride with some cyclists. You’ll get mansplained to death, but you’ll get faster and better. And it might even be fun.”
“Thank you!” she said. “I’d love that!”
That evening I got home and had an email waiting, an email filled with the enthusiasm and excitement and joy of a young person discovering that she can ride fast, and that there are other people out there just like her.
Grinning at my keyboard, I tapped out a reply.
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October 3, 2015 § 18 Comments
I showed up for the fancy trial lawyers’ mixer in Santa Monica lathered up in sweat. Apparently no one else had ridden a bicycle for 22 miles to get there, and adding to the sweat and smell were my jeans and button-down shirt in the sea of $2,000 black and blue Italian suits.
I sidled up to a table, my tiny plate piled high with beef empanadas, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream.
“You know, you can always go back for seconds,” said the large man next to me, who had daintily placed a single empanada on his plate.
“You go through enough buffets with bike racers and learn pretty quick to get it all the first time through,” I said.
He didn’t understand that, but he understood the splat of bright red sauce that came shooting out the end of my empanada and forming the world’s finest Rorschach test on the front of my shirt. Everyone else tried to look away in embarrassment, not for me, but for being at my table.
I was midway through a massive chew. “This shit is so good,” I said, mouth full and open as I gazed at the Rorschach, “that I’m going to take some of it home with me.”
No one laughed.
People couldn’t leave because all the other tables were full; they were those standing tables without chairs, but the large dainty eater finally went back for seconds and another guy took his place. He didn’t seem to care about my Rorschach. We got to talking and immediately hit it off. His name was Adam Miller. A few years older than me, he was from Chicago, and when he found out that I’d attended the first desegregated school in Galveston, Booker T. Washington Elementary in 1968, he said this. “Your parents sound like they were rather liberal.”
“They were,” I said. “And are.”
“And the apple?” he asked. “Did it fall far from the tree.”
“Yes, it did,” I replied. “Two or three whole millimeters.”
He smiled, and told me about his father, Jay Miller, a giant in the 60’s who was the head of the Illinois ACLU until 2000. A person who knew him well said this: “He thought that our constitution wasn’t worth the paper it was written on unless it protected every American, rich or poor, black or white, Latino or Caucasian, male or female.”
Then he told me about his amazing mother, Joyce Miller, the first woman elected to the board of the AFL-CIO. On the issue of women’s difficulty getting admitted to the building trades, she summed things up thus: “Employers will say that no real woman wants to work in overalls. The truth is that no real woman wants to starve.”
Then I told him about my dad, a West Texas fundamentalist Baptist born on a cattle ranch outside of Alpine who found atheism in college about the time he also discovered the issue around which his life would be built–civil rights. The Austin stand-ins that desegregated the drag on Guadalupe took him on a path to a civil rights career that included testimony before Congress, expert testimony in voting rights cases that earned a citation by the Supreme Court in the City of Mobile single-member district case, and an unwavering, lifelong support for the underdog.
Adam and I looked at each other for a minute, oblivious to the suits and the dainty plates. “Where,” I asked, “have all the titans gone?”
He nodded. “Where, indeed?”
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September 30, 2015 § 30 Comments
This isn’t going to end well, Head Down James I’ve got, no problem, he’ll flog himself and explode like a can of tomato paste in the microwave and he’ll be happy with the flogging and last place because he initiated, rode, and drove the break, that guy’s head is made of concrete which is why he’s so loved you can pour words over his head like a bucket of water but not a one will ever sink in and there’s no hope with Davy he goes on the list of “never beaten” and “never even held his wheel when he kicks” and no fuggin’ wonder he’s the masters national kilo champ and he hasn’t taken a single pull since bridging and he’s licking his chops the real problem is Sausage he also goes on the “never beaten never even close” list he’s got a ferocious kick and worse than that he’s smart but at least I’m on his wheel and not vice versa nine hundred to go and boom there goes Head Down James launching off Davy’s wheel now it’s Sausage, me, and Davy and Head Down James is opening a nice little gap but he won’t be able to sustain it on this riser but whoa now Sausage is on the front and he’s slowed way down he’s not chasing his teammate except it’s LaGrange so he eventually will and plus Sausage is no dummy he’ll never in a million years sprunt from the front I get it these wankers are waiting for me to close the gap yeah, perfect, I close, Head Down blows, and Davy beats Sausage or maybe Sausage gets real lucky and beats Davy but anyway I’ll be left dangling fuck it I’ve never won out of a break ever ever ever not in thirty years and now I’m stuck with two sprinters eight hundred to go Head Down’s gap isn’t growing his speed will crater any minute but Sausage is going so slow it won’t matter and Head Down will take the win this is maddening I’ve ridden the break the last two laps exactly like Daniel said don’t be the strongest guy in the break make sure we don’t get caught but don’t be the stud still the math isn’t here one slow old hairy legged guy never beats a kilo champ and a sprinter seven hundred to go well I’m not chasing that fucker isn’t that what Derek said sometimes you just have to be content with someone else winning because if you go it’s not gonna be you and he also said patience and holding back at the end is the hardest but you have to wait for the other guy to flinch six hundred to go I can see Davy’s shadow and Sausage just went up a gear so he’s ready for the jump better upshift too and he thinks it’s gonna be me but he knows it might also be Davy boom there’s the sound of Davy’s whole bike groaning under 1800 watts five hundred to go shit here comes Davy off my wheel shit Sausage was totally ready shit this hurts shit they’re pulling away shit go go go shit I’ve got Sausage’s back wheel oh man this hurts but is Sausage gonna get Davy’s wheel three hundred to go shit he got Davy boom Head Down’s blown we’re passing him like a bullet train passing a tree now Davy’s fading no way oh yes way he’s been conventioning at Eurobike and Interbike and hasn’t been training of course two hundred to go boom there goes Sausage but closing to Davy has hurt him he doesn’t have his usual kick go now attack his rear wheel and shear off into the wind at the last minute oh man one hundred to go there’s the finishing tree Sausage is staring over in disbelief with the you need to pee-in-a-cup look now I’m flying past him damn this is sweet should I raise my arms hell yes but it’s just the stupid NPR yeah but everyone’s looking so rub their noses in it arms up and don’t fred out and crash oh that feels good just keep them up, fingers spread, palms out, forever.
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September 21, 2015 § 17 Comments
I went out for a ride today with my new titanium pulley wheels, forged in the metalworks of Thorin Oakenshield’s factory deep underground, made lovingly with the hands of ancient dwarf craftsmen, and finished with miniature dragon eggs for bearings. Tres chic, tres trick. If you want to ride fast these days, you need dwarves, titanium, and dragon eggs.
Then after a bit the derailleur thingy wouldn’t shift right and made that clickety-clickety sound, so after descending Hawthorne and turning right onto PV Drive West I pulled over to try and adjust it by twirling the little spinner thingy on the derailleur cable. Holding the bike in the air with one hand and pedaling with the other was a pain and just then a guy whizzed by and gave me the ol’ cyclist throwaway line of, “You okay?” spoken, of course, at thirty.
As he disappeared from sight I screamed, “Are you any good with DERAILLEURS?”
He locked ’em up, burned off most of the tread on his rear tire and did a u-turn, but unlike Prez he checked to make sure no one was behind him. He rode up. “What’d you say?”
I was seated on the curb in my baggy pants, skate shoes, and t-shirt, going full Fred. “Are you any good at derailleurs? I can’t get this thing to shift right.”
“Nope,” he said, “but I can lift it up so you can use one hand to pedal and the other to twirl the thingy.”
I looked at him in awe. “I thought I was the only one who called it that.”
I twirled the thingy so that it got really awful, then I twirled it the other way so it got even more awful, and finally I was just twirling it to try and make it as bad as it had been when I stopped, which had been bad, but tolerably so, as opposed to now, when instead of going clickety-click it was going clackety-clack-donk, and the donk had me worried.
It also wouldn’t get up on the 25 when I was in the 53. “That’s a bad gear combo anyway,” Eric said. His name was Eric Eastland.
“It’s the principle of the thing,” I cursed.
We finally gave up and rode on together, with the clackety-clack-donk beating a terrible rhythm, like a dyslexic drummer or someone trying to run across the desert in Dune in irregular steps so as not to get eaten by a sand worm.
“You live here?” asked Eric.
“Not anymore. I live in Bend but I’m here every other week on business.”
“What kind of business is that?”
“Stages for large performances.”
“Wow. How large?”
“Oh, the big stuff. Rolling Stones, that kind of thing.”
“Well, we’re having a really tiny event on October 17 and we kind of need a stage.”
“Really? What kind of event?”
“It’s called the South Bay Cycling Awards but it’s much less classy than the name sounds. Cyclists and beer, mostly, and a big inflatable penis.”
“I have a mini stage that you might be able to use,” he said. Eric’s a big supporter of cycling, promotes events in Bend, and will do almost anything to assist the sport, even though it’s not really a sport. Before long we’d exchanged information and it was, well, awesome.
I rode over to Boozy P.’s to get the clackety-donk repaired. He threw it up on the stand for about thirty seconds and fiddled with some cables. The noise went away.
“Wow,” I said. “That was quick. What was wrong with the derailleur?”
“Nothing,” he said. “It was your brakes.”
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September 17, 2015 § 44 Comments
Before bike video cameras and dumb phones and such, I used to practice memorizing license plates of passing cars. You never knew when some cager would buzz you or hit you and if you couldn’t identify the car the police wouldn’t do anything.
I always had a chip on my shoulder about law enforcement that didn’t care about cyclists, a chip that grew with each passing stop-sign-blowing citation. As a buddy mused the other day, and I agreed, “You know, I can’t work up outrage anymore at senseless cager killings.” He was referring to the gal who was looking for her mascara and swerved onto the shoulder, killing a cyclist, then overcorrecting into oncoming traffic and killing a motorcyclist.
Thankfully, though, she wasn’t charged or even taken in for questioning. Ventura County law enforcement is understanding like that.
My pal and I agreed that the constant stream of killings, buzzings, screamings, harassings, abusings, and throwings has made us numb. Another one bites the dust? That’s what you get for riding a bicycle, you were warned. Warned, for example, by entities like the Boston Globe, which ran a nice editorial about how bicycling is dangerous so get off the fuggin’ street.
Closer to home, The Daily Breeze champions the cause of repressed and downtrodden cagers in the South Bay.
On my afternoon pedal along PV Drive West today I heard the catcall behind me followed by the deep hum of fat tires. PV High School had just released its Adderall-addled spoiled children from their playpen, and what could be more fun than hauling your brand new Jeep Wrangler stuffed with two friends within a foot of a grumpy old fart and pelting him with a sandwich?
I swung over after forcing my middle finger back into position and dialed 911. The PVPD dispatcher took my information. “What kind of car was it?”
“2014 or 2015 Jeep Wrangler, black.”
“Did you get the license plate?”
“In fact I did. 7LBC437.”
She was kind of surprised. “And you’re on a bike?”
“I’ll send a car out. Stay there.”
“But … ”
So I stayed. The cops arrived, and one of them was the same officer who had pulled me over and ticketed me the month before. He smiled when he saw me. They took my statement and then their radios beeped. “Just a second,” said one. He listened, then looked up at me. “Well, we’ve apprehended them. Do you want to press charges?”
“We’ll need you to come make a field identification. They’re just up the road.”
“Great,” I said, but in reality I thought, “FUCKING AWESOME! THIS NEVER HAPPENS!”
Things soon got complicated, though. I had ID’d three boys, but in fact the driver was a boy and the thrower was a girl. They grilled me about whether I could identify her. “No,” I admitted. “I thought they were all guys. Plus, I was so busy not crashing and memorizing the license plate and model of the car … ”
The cops nodded sympathetically. Later, another cop came, this time the head supervisor. He was direct. “If he tried to hit you with his car it’s assault with a deadly weapon. You want to press charges?”
“Yes,” I said.
He was all business and had exactly zero sympathy for these rich little brats. “Okay. Let’s go do a field ID.”
“Just a sec,” I said. “I didn’t get hit. I don’t want these kids to go to jail.” I thought about my own youth, the felonies I’d committed, the people who had given me a second chance (or third, or fourth), and about how different my life would be if I’d started out life with a felony conviction.
“So you don’t think he intended to hit you?”
“If he’d intended to hit me I’d be dead now.”
“What was he doing, then?”
“He was trying to get close enough so that his girlfriend could whack me with some ham and mustard.”
“That sounds like reckless driving to me.”
“Officer,” I said, “maybe pressing charges and dragging this kid’s sorry ass through the courts will change him. But what I’d really rather have happen is that, while he’s in your custody, he comes to appreciate the seriousness of what he’s done.”
“The girls are in tears and he practically is, too. We’ve got him in our database and we’re making a report and will refer it to the city attorney, who can file charges if she wants to. I think he’s terrified.”
“I’d like to let it go, then.”
The officer nodded. “Okay.”
“And one other thing.”
“Your guys popped me for running a stop sign the other day and it always seems like you take bicycle stop sign violations more seriously than motorists trying to kill cyclists.”
“And your presence and actions today have convinced me I’m wrong. Thanks for chasing those kids down.”
“It’s our job.”
“I know,” I said. “And thank you for doing it.”
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September 8, 2015 § 27 Comments
If you have been following the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe, perhaps you’ve been agog at German chancellor Angela Merkel’s bizarre, incomprehensible response to the poor, the wretched, the hungry, and the persecuted, yearning to be free: “Welcome!”
That’s right, folks. Instead of building a wall (U.S.A., Israel, Hungary, DDR), Germany is rolling up its sleeves and getting down to the hard work of accepting and integrating what will shortly be over 800,000 refugees. Sure, there are Germans who believe that the best welcome is a water cannon and a concentration camp, but they are a minority. Merkel’s word on the influx of hundreds of thousands of people pouring in?
“Deutschland schafft es.”
“Germany has this.”
Compare that with the standard bearer for the Republican Party and current GOP front-runner, Mr. I Am Angry Donald Trump. He hates immigrants from Mexico and proposes a wall that Mexico will pay for. Trumpy is pissed off, doesn’t like brown people, and wants to keep everyone away from the table except himself and presumably the handful of white male billionaires like him.
So there I was, jammed into the chute behind Michael Smith, Rico, and Matt Cuttler as we pounded up Mandeville Canyon on the 18-minute interval that is the Holiday Ride. The 80-person peloton had been surgically reduced to a tiny group with the messy, bloody, painful efficacy of a giant liposuction hose and only wheelsuckers remained, glued to Matt’s wheel as he relentlessly tried to reel in the Wily Greek.
Towards the end a few faces who hadn’t been seen the entire ride rushed forth, led by a searing attack courtesy of Big Wanker from La Grange, a strong young buck who clearly believed in making his elders do all the work. Attila Fruttus and Dave Holland scampered off with him. I held his wheel for 200 yards and cracked, experiencing the spectrum of cardiac arrhythmias described here.
I think I got eighth in a non-race that no one counts while everyone raced and counted.
On the way down I chatted with one of the guys, a newcomer from the Midwest. He told me about his few forays down south into Orange County, and about how he’d done the Como Street Ride the day before.
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s pretty different down there.”
“Three hours of riding and talking with people and not a single person asked me a single question.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’d ride next to someone, talk to them about THEM and hear all the details of their life, what they did, but never got any interest the other way. It was a one way street. No one gave a damn.”
“It’s called the Orange Curtain for a reason,” I laughed.
“When I came to the South Bay I was welcomed,” he said. “People asked me to join their club, join their team, join their rides; I spent my first two weeks saying ‘Thanks.'”
“You are a national class bike racer, don’t forget.”
“It’s not that. In the last several months I’ve seen all kinds of people welcomed and have seen zero shunning. It’s just different here.”
“That’s cycling for you,” I said.
“Merkel or Trump,” I said.
He looked at me funny but I didn’t explain.
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