Flu day

February 2, 2018 § 3 Comments

No blog appearing today due to flu …

Davy sprunt good

February 1, 2018 § 3 Comments

Another Sunday Telo World Championships took place, and although I was unable to attend, CitSB’s trusty field reporter, Corporal Fox, took on the massive job of recording comprehensive race notes and, most importantly, stocking the tent with hot pizza and cold beer. Jason Morin of Shift Mobile manned the pits to help racers who needed a last-minute tune-up, derailleur adjustment, chain lube, or fresh leg shave up in that crease where you can’t get it yourself without turning half-backwards and usually slipping in the shower and slamming your head on the tile.

Here’s how it went down:

Lap 1: Neutral. There is nothing neutral in any bike race, ever. Significant preen attacks, flex jumps, and strut pacelines occur.

Lap 2: Ivan Fernandez attacks and is off the front by four seconds, following the maxim that if you are going to immolate yourself, start early and use a big torch. Kevin Nix and Lane Reid hammer to close the gap, nearly shelling Brent Davis, who, if he ignites and melts, will gap out the rest of the peloton. The fuse however sputters and Brent lives to get dropped another day. Lap. Jon Davy and Greg Leibert  swap recipes or phone numbers in the back. Stathis Sakellariadis and Abraham Mohammed are already spit out, enjoying the Telo delicacy of 58 finely seasoned minutes alone in an awful wind.

Lap 3: Junior rider Alex Mainvielle leads the group, flunking the first lesson of successful bike racing, which is “Cower & Hide,” but completely acing the Wanky Rule, the one and only Wanky Rule of “Go to the front!” Alex brings back Ivan, who still is dangling a few feet off the front. This lap appeared to be fast without the aid of a timer or an atomic clock because the group was strung out in a single line, with many people teetering, tottering, asking themselves weighty existentialist questions, and otherwise manufacturing superb reasons to gap themselves out. One Orange is dropped, after having been nicely peeled.

Lap 4: There is a major change-up as Geoff Loui smashes to the front, head down and in the drops, with Ivan right behind him. Jose is dropped like that guy in 2001 A Space Odyssey when he got kicked out of the airlock by Hal and spiraled off into space forever. 

Lap 6: As they come around the west corner, Jon Davy, who either attacked into the wind or who frightened everyone by flexing a bicep, is 10 seconds off the front, with Geoff Loui chasing hard behind. This move causes Greg Leibert to start moving up. Savvy cyclists know that when Greg a/k/a G$ begins to move up, it is a good time to stand down and submit your application to dentistry school. Danelle decides that it’s time to recalibrate, and she recalibrates off the back. 

Lap 7: Kevin Nix, Greg Leibert, and Ivan Fernandez catch Jon and establish a breakaway, opening a 6-second gap on the field. Brandon Sanchez leads the chase at a hammering pace that has the field wondering if there is a new solitaire app for their phone, the riders strung out and immobilized like dead coyote skins nailed to an outhouse door. At the back, Kevin Salk, Joey Cooney, and Nick Fruth observe a precarious gap begin to yawn and gape in front of them. Although some racing experts believe that races are won from behind, that falsism is not bearing itself out today. Reece Sylvester releases his grappling hooks and falls off the rampart onto the windy plain below, where he is trampled to death by sharks and giant squid and dragons.

Lap 8: Meanwhile, back at the raunch, or back at the back, or back at the waaaaay back, Stathis and Danelle join up for a steady TT around the course, each lap even less fun than the already miserable one before. 

Lap 9: This is prime lap number 1 and it is scooped up by Ivan Fernandez, with Greg Leibert right behind him. “Right behind” a prime winner = “You lost, dude.” Ivan’s attack for the water bottle, or rather the bottle of water (Hint! Water) leaves the group in whatever is rattier and more tore up than tatters. Some would call it a peloton but they would be lying. At this point it is just riders sharing the same road. However, this allows Kevin Salk and Nick Fruth to make up some ground and stay in a little longer before their untimely fate is also decided by the neutral laws of physics.

Lap 10: Something happens, perhaps.

Lap 11: Ivan regains his breath, and the 4-man breakaway regains its 8-second gap. Peyton Cooke, legendary legend who seems to last longer and longer each week as he beers his way back into fitness, decides to beer his way backwards and gets punched out the back like a fresh pop-tob tab flicked by a thirsty lumberjack.

Lap 12: This is prime lap number 2, and Ivan Fernandez wins with another monster sprint as Brandon Sanchez continues to batter away on the front, perhaps counting his matches but if so in dire need of remedial arithmetic. Kevin Salk and Nick Fruth decide that sometimes it’s better to put your head down, suck it up, and get ready for MONEY TIME, but not today which is IDGAF TIME. They are dropped. Meanwhile, in the first or second fragment, Joey Cooney joins the Stathis/Danelle duo, and Stathis finds his legs stapled to a tree, then drops Danelle and rides away with Joey. Any sign of Stathis gaining fitness depresses everyone for miles around. 

Lap 13: The efforts from the two prime laps prove too much for Ivan, who zips up his suitcase of courage and decides to check it and send it overland by camel, and he parachutes out of the breakaway and is now with the ragamuffin group. The breakaway has increased their lead to 15 seconds, and is doing a rotating pace line with no apparent attacks.

Lap 14: Someone does something, for sure. 

Lap 15: The dwindling group of fragmentarians loses two more, Nick Fruth and Geoff Loui, as each rider decides that the better part of wisdom is to never ever racing your fuggin’ bike again. Only 10 fragmentarians remain, in addition to the breakaway. 

Lap 16: This is prime lap number 3, and G$ wins it for the A group, devastating his breakmates with his tremendous power, but the prime doesn’t seem to be a priority for Nix or Davy, who are focused on achieving the incredible success and acclaim that will come from winning this most important race of their cumulative careers. Alex Mainvielle wins for the B group, with a huge gap between himself and the rider behind him, as the prime effort causes the group to accordion (out of tune and played by a drunken street vendor with a dead monkey on his shoulder) while riders sway and struggle to stay in like drunks tottering on a broken barstool placed in a minefield.

Lap 17: More very important things happen somewhere, but not here. 

Lap 18: The A group looks strong, still rotating steadily, replete with heroes whose names will ever bedeck the golden halls of time, giants among men whose exploits will earn them everlasting rest in the Elyisan Fields and if not that maybe another bottle of Hint Water. The last prime effort has taken the fragmentarians in the B group and turned them into molecularians as they are about to be lapped. Robert Cisneros takes the last thrust of the harpoon into his mighty side, rolls over in the water, shoots up a spout of gore, and, dropped, sinks beneath the waves, all the way down to the pizza and beer underneath the Telo tent, where he is covered with a hot layer of pizza cheese and cooled with bubbly beer. 

Bell Lap: At one lap to go, the break begins trying to figure out how to beat Davy. Nix hands G$ a set of brass knuckles and G$ shares a brace of pistols with Nix. Despite repeated blows to the spine and close-range gunshots to the head, Davy’s most important organs remain unscathed as, rounding the final corner, Nix discovers that the grenade he’s been chewing lost its pin and G$ discovers what the stars ordained many millennia ago: Davy Sprunt Good.

And of course Danelle for the women’s trophy!

Heroes who showed up and raced their fuggin’ bikes:

Andy Rodriguez, David Shaw, Connie Perez, Jose Godinez, Peyton Cooke, Stathis Sakellariadis, Carlos Ristorcelli, Brent Davis, Jason Mark, Gregory Cooke, Reese Sylvester, Courey Burkhardt, Steve Thorpe, Jon Davy, Ivan Fernandez, Brandon Sanchez, Danelle Doernbrack, Abraham Mohammed, Joey Cooney, Kevin Nix, Robert Cisneros, Greg Leibert, Jason Morin, Nick Fruth, Geoff Loui, Kevin Salk, Ken Vinson, Alex Mainvielle, Stacy Gremminger, Someone from Ironfly, Long haired guy in pictures, Eric Arentsen, Guy in tye dye kit, Lane Reid, David wells on his motorcycle who could have easily won but didn’t.



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About Cycling in the South Bay: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.




January 31, 2018 Comments Off on #fakenews

I haven’t done the New Pier Ride in a long time. I used to do it once or twice a week but as PoohBearATX remarked, “I only do the NPR when I’m serious about my plateauing.” Or, “The best way to kill it on the NPR is to never do the NPR.”

Today we rode over and did it. It was great to see my #fakefriends. By the way, everyone who races or does a competitive ride is a #fakefriend. They will help you and be kind to you until suddenly they drop you. Still, there is a special kind of magic rolling down the alley in the dark, lights blinking, surrounded by people you know, chatting, laughing, girding loins for the coming quake.

We kept a rather brisk pace going out Vista del Mar. This stretch of road is riddled with cracks and potholes, but is good for a group because we can easily take the entire lane and have plenty of room for cars coming by in the fast lane. On Pershing the gas stayed on and the typical group of Pershing H.I.W.’s hopped in.

When you abandon the NPR for a few months people completely forget you. One Unity Riders H.I.W. took a dainty little baby pull and when I came through for a similarly brief pull after having hit it continuously from VdM, he yelled “Stay up there!” or something silly that I ignored. It always amazes me that people have the lungs to advise you but never the lungs to attack or pull hard, like the guy at CBR last week who told me I needed to “quit moving my shoulders around and save energy” after I had launched my umpteenth failed attack. I am sure he never made it out of the caboose.

Things never relented so that mid-way through the first lap I was roasted. I slunk to the back and caught my breath, then pushed back to the fore as we began Lap 3. Rahsaan jumped, followed by Ivan Fernandez and Lauren, and I tagged onto Ivan. We made it to the bridge and slowed for the light as the pack was upon us.

Elijah yelled, “If we had kept going we would have split the group!”

“If grandma had balls she’d be grandpa,” I said, gassed and amused that he saw fit to say “we” for a group he wasn’t part of.

At that moment the light turned green and I still had a little momentum so I went again and at the top of the bridge Eric Bryan came through. He sneaked a sly grin and I hunkered down on his wheel. He is a student at UCLA and also rides for Team Subarau Santa Monica; after a few seconds my legs felt engulfed in flames. He’s not especially tall or broad so there was no draft, and he is especially fast and gnarly so it only felt like being dragged along the pavement behind a truck.

Eric opened a massive gap after his 1-mile effort, swung over, and I got my elbow working before I even made it through, swinging over immediately as sheet-snot covered my face. Next in line was Steve Kim, who smashed it as I dangled on the back. After him came Cat 5 Adam Flores, a 20-something kid who rides like a raging Cat 2.

The break didn’t have much hope of succeeding but it was better than dawdling back there with the sitters, hoping for a bunch sprunt.

At the beginning of Lap 4 we only had a couple hundred yards on the group, but traffic intervened at the turnaround and Eric threw down another incredible pull into the headwind, matched by Adam. Every time I had to come through I did what we will call “elder statesman pulls,” wrinkly and saggy and leaky in all the wrong places, leaving barely enough energy to sprint onto the back of the break.

At the final turnaround the gap was considerable and the children relaxed. “They will hunt you down and steal your toys if you let off the gas,” was my grandfatherly advice.

Eric took it to heart, too much so, unfortunately, attacking and gapping me out as the others chased on. I reattached as Adam barreled up the slight rise to the golf course. Once we were through the final light Eric attacked again, distancing us all. I was too tired and weak to do anything but follow wheels, and his wheel was sadly not on my follow list.

Steve jumped and dropped Adam, I clawed on, and Steve put in a stinking huge effort to close the gap to Eric, who was now 300 yards from the imaginary #fakefinish. With 200 to go a weird thing happened. After sitting in and sucking wheel and doing nothing and panting and flapping my elbow and sheet-snotting and sagging over the bars and evidencing a geriatric cardiac event I suddenly felt really good and it coincided with Steve and Eric feeling something off to the left of good and maybe even westerly of horrible.

I gave it the old grandpa Low-T andropause scissorkick and waltzed across the #fakefinish for what was perhaps the oldest ever geezer to rip an NPR #fakewin from the bloody talons of the young. And even if it wasn’t … it felt like it, so I went ahead and did it. I raised my hands.




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Strunk & Bukowski

January 30, 2018 § 11 Comments

Remember Strunk & White’s epic manual on good writing? I do, and time hasn’t rusted its guts, not even a little.

The other day I reached under the table and pulled out a book. I keep all my unread books under the table. There’s a bunch of them. “What do you do with a book once you finish it?” you may wonder. I either donate it to the library or pass it on. The only thing worse than a house full of books you’ve already read is a house full of dead bodies. They both get in the way and smell funny.

This time I pulled out Charles Bukowski’s “On Writing.” It was published in 2015, many years after his parts fell off, and it is a collection of his letters that have been edited so as to only contain his opinions about writers, poetry, and writing. I think that once you combine Strunk with Bukowski you wind up with a pretty good manual and one hell of a name.

Way back in 2017 I set off on an arduous ten-week journey to redesign this blog and make it prettier, to make it more appealing to more people, to put it in synch with the 21st Century, to give my fake news the flash and flair it deserved. After all, as one critic put it, “Your blog is just filled with words.”

At the time I replied, “Well, it is hosted at a place called WordPress.”

But as the criticism mounted and the urge to do something new and modern pressed down, hard, I gave way and did the Big Redesign. Several people emailed to say they liked it. Several more subscribed. But several other people said they didn’t like it. “Where are the words?” they asked. “We don’t give a rat’s ass about the photomag layout,” they said. “We don’t like the way it’s organized,” they said, among other diplomatic phrases.

Mostly, though, they wanted to know where all the words had gone, and why.

The new design really never had a chance. It was slower, clunkier, and required more IQ points to operate than I have to spare. It had various security wormholes that let ordinary folks wander into the nether regions of my dashboard and scrawl graffiti on the handles, knobs, levers, and dials of the blog itself. All of that freaked me out, naturally, but what really laid me low was the assassination of my carefully assembled writing rules according to Strunk & Bukowski.

In that writing manual, you are encouraged to say “fuck” if “fuck” happens to be the right word and to get straight to the point, but to do it with innovation and imagination and flair. Even if you fail, and even if your straight ends up being crazily crooked, like Bukowski’s, that’s okay. The point is to eschew the trite and the predictable and the saccharine.

So imagine my personal hell when, at the bottom of each post, there was a little “Yoast SEO” box that rendered a grade for each and every post. It didn’t say things like “Your post sucks!” which would have been reassuring, but rather it pointed out stylistic shortcomings and algorithmic solutions to my butchered paragraphs so that Google and Goggle and Boggle and Hornswoggle could index my ranting, slap it up high in the search rankings, and make me a billionaire or at least the premiere Internet destination for all the people doing searches for “crazy gay biker porn south bay nutjob pedalbeater wanker.”

Ye olde Yoast SEO had word limits per paragraph, limits for number of times you can use the passive voice, suggestions for how often to use the “key word” (something I never even had), and requirements that you use the key word in the title and in the subheadings. Subheadings? Who needs subheadings? Doesn’t the text flow well enough without a giant signpost saying “Hey, Dummy, New Idea Coming Up”?

In any case, I thanked my expert web dude for his hard work and begged him to give me back my old boring plain text. It’s uncool, it’s never going to make the big time, it’s a steaming pile of word manure on most days, but you know what? It’s my fuggin’ manure pile and it reads exactly the way I wrote it, without criticism, guidance, or ratings from some sorry ass algorithm search geek who couldn’t write a literate sentence if all he had to do was add the period.

In 1918 Strunk said, “Vigorous writing is concise.”

In 1966 Bukowski said, “Whatever I write, good or bad, must be me, today, what it is, what I am.”

I’m pretty sure I don’t need a fancy web site to do that.

bukowski on writing

Light it and run!



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There is no winter in Winters

January 28, 2018 § 2 Comments

Everyone one is recovering from something. Booze, drugs, illness, injury, relationships, work, yesterday’s beatdown ride, the past, the present, and of course the future. Nothing is harder to recover from than the future. Today we celebrated a whole bunch of recovery. Nominally it was the recovery of my friend Deb Banks, who exactly three years ago on the last Friday in January got hit by a drunk and almost lost her right foot. And her life.

Deb started her recovery the minute after she was hit, and she has been riding for over a year now, regaining fitness and strength as only tough people can. In August she flies to Japan to do a randonneuring ride in Hokkaido, 720 miles in three days. Most people would say she has recovered.

But one of the funny things about catastrophic injuries collected while riding your bicycle is that you never fully recover. Some part of the hit and the injury stays with you forever, no matter how completely your body heals. When you think about it, this isn’t any different from any of the other things we recover from. Those of us in the drunk recovery world may be sober, and our bodies may not bear any outward signs of the previous abuse, but our minds carry it along, like baggage that never seems to get mistakenly delivered to Shanghai and lost forever.

Today’s crew was a true recovery crew. Along with me and Deb, there was Yasuko, Mark, Drew and Tuesday, Vlad, Darrel the EV Guy, and my buddy from junior high-high school-college days, Robert Doty. We drove to Davis and stopped at Konditorei, an Austrian bakery that our pals from the Slovak restaurant the day before had sworn we must visit. “It is the best Austrian bakery in a thirty-mile radius,” our Viennese friend promised.

We started with a walnut pastry thingy, which tasted great, and washed it down with a cappuccino. If you are going to call yourself an Austrian cafe you had better serve lights out coffee. It was.

Preparing for the wintry ride in Winters

The weather app forecast low 40’s warming up the high 50’s and scattered sun showers. We rendezvoused in the small town of Winters, bundled up, and set off ’round the Mountain. Drew and Tuesday had stashed our lunch in their garage-sized pannier, and although I had billed the ride as pancake flat we immediately hit a giant 3-mile climb up to a damn dam. The sun showers poured down on our heads from the moment we left until, by mile five, we were all soaked to the bone in sunshine, which continued the entire day.

Mark was riding a 1985 Oldie McOldschool frame with chromed fork and stays, Campy Nuovo Record, and a very trick five-speed freewheel on a non-compact (bloated?) 52 x 42. He had toeclips and soft leather lace-up riding slippers, and I couldn’t ride behind him because the glare on his burnished bike was so bright it blinded me. Mark is recovering from carbon. It has been a long a painful way back, but now that he owns fifteen steel vintage frames (“I always get a good deal!”) the worst side effects of his former carbon affliction have subsided.

Vlad had a hand-made steel Ellis frame with SRAM e-tap and a leather saddle, evincing deep internal conflicts about the clash of modernity and history. A recovering communist, Vlad emigrated to the U.S when he was fourteen, where he learned that Americans were even more ignorant about the Soviet Union that Russians were about the U.S. Vlad long ago was cured of communism and he engages in regular capitalist therapy working as a lawyer. We talked for a long time about Russian history as he politely listened to me mouth a great mountain of nonsense. Best of all, we communistically rode together for several miles sharing the work for the betterment of our small four-person soviet, freeing ourselves from bourgeois oppression as we took over the means of cycling production and distributed it fairly to the peasants behind us.

With us, Darrel embarked on his longest ride in well over a year. Despite his daily bike commute, a series of ailments including chronic neck pain and arthritis have ended his former lifestyle of day-long and multi-day trips on the bike. It was so much fun to watch him pound joyously up the hills; it was the look of a person who has been starving for cycling for a long time and finally been given a big chaw of cycling to eat. Darrel is also a recovering internal combustion engine user and we got listen to another lively lecture about the benefits if electric vehicles. He approved of my Chevy Volt as a “most excellent EV gateway drug.”

Drew and Tuesday weren’t recovering from anything specific until the chain on their tandem decided to flop off one of the twelve chainrings and devour one of the seven derailleurs. Thankfully they were able to turn the rudder sufficiently to get the giant ship turned around and headed back to port in Winters, where the dockworkers scraped the barnacles off, replaced the chain, and made everything happy and new again.

Unlike Mark, who was recovering from carbon, Robert was recovering from steel. After more than thirty years of faithful abuse he finally relegated his steel Colnago (“The Blue ‘Nag”) to the basement as a trainer bike, and now pedaled happily about on a full carbon Colnago made of 100% carbon and which was all carbon, entirely. Bob is also on the cusp of kicking his child habit, as the final Doty offspring is about to get sprung off to collage, where many disparate parts will be turned into one cohesive picture. Childrearing recovery is going to be tough, he just doesn’t know it yet. We reminisced about getting chased by dogs the times we rode from Austin to San Marcos with nothing to light our way but a Comanche moon. Amazing times …

Deb of course is recovering from her collision. She is our lodestar, our hero, our leader, our inspiration, and the person who picks up the tab when all of our credit cards get declined. She brings us together, keeps us together, and reminds us that the hardest journey is so much finer than never having journeyed at all.



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Why do you study Slovak?

January 27, 2018 § 3 Comments

There is no reason on earth to study Slovak. I know this because when I mention that I am studying it, people ask, reasonably, “Why?”

“Because it’s next to Austria, where my eldest son lives,” I say.

Blank look.

“And I plan on visiting there.”

Blank look.

“And it’s always fun to learn a little bit before you go, you know?”

Blank look, followed by new topic.

Today my wife and I were in the car driving to Sacramento for the second annual Deb Banks Throw a Leg Over Recovery Ride. Deb was hit and catastrophically injured by a drunk driver a few years ago. She has made a 98.287% recovery and it’s important to mark the milestones.

Last year we marked it by freezing our butts off and riding to Winters. This year we will also freeze our butts off but will do something called Round the Mountain, which supposedly has a mountain and 63 miles and 3,600 feet of climbing. This year Yasuko wanted to do the ride with me. Her longest ride ever is 35 miles and I didn’t want to scare her so I told her that it would be about 40 miles and flattish. I didn’t tell her the name of the route.

Six-plus hours is a long time to sit in the car and make conversation, but we tried. “How are your Slovak lessons going?” she asked.


“Who is that one teacher who always sounds like she’s making you read from the textbook?”

“Oh, that’s Marika.” I have three teachers.

“Why does it always sound like you are reading from the textbook?”

“Because she makes me read from the textbook.”

“Is that a good lesson?”


“What about your other teachers?”

“They are fantastic.”

“Why do you keep using Marika?”

“Because she is really nice and super cheap and because sitting and reading the textbook is useful. I’d never do it on my own. It’s like an hour of forced study.”

“But isn’t it boring?”

“Life is boring.”

“You are spending so much time on Slovak. Is it really useful?”


“Then why do you do it?”

“Because it is not useful.”

“You do a lot of that.”

“I know.”

We rode along for a while and played “spot a hawk.” After many hours and a ton of hawks, not to mention crows, white pelicans, turkey vultures, shorebirds, gulls, and egrets, we got to Sacramento. She was hungry and I was hungry, and she had found a cafe on the Internet called Selland’s Market-Cafe.

As we drove down J Street she shouted, “Look!” and pointed at a sign.

I looked. “What?”

“That sign! It says Cafe Marika!”


“Isn’t that the name of your teacher?”

“Oh, yeah. Yeah, it is.”

“I wonder what kind of restaurant it is?”

We were in a line of stopped traffic and peered at the window glass. “It says ‘European Cuisine,'” I said. “Pretty big footprint.”

“I bet they are Slovak!”

“I doubt it. Not here in Sacramento.”

“Let’s go in! It might be good!”

“What about the Market-Cafe?”

“Let’s go in!”

I rounded the corner and parked. We walked up to the cafe. It was really tiny. I peered through the window. There were only two customers. I shrugged. “Let’s try it.”

I pushed the door open and the two customers looked up at us. The owner was leaning against the tiny counter and his wife was behind it. I can only read about ten words in Slovak, but two of them were written large and in chalk on a menu board: “Dobre chut!” it said, which means “Bon appetit!”

“Ahojte!” I said, which means “Hello politely!”

Their faces froze. I have seen surprised and shocked faces in my life but never has a room fallen as completely silent as that cafe when I let loose with one of my ten words of Slovak.

“Ahojte!” said the owner, finding his tongue.

Now I was in that familiar bog of having said something in a language I only know fragments of. I desperately searched my Slovak memory bank which was pretty easy since it was a rather barren cupboard. “Volam sa Seth,” I said, idiotically introducing myself. “Ucim sa po slovensky,” I added, even more idiotically, as if anyone cared that I was learning Slovak.

Out came a torrent, not of Slovak, but of Czech. I stared blankly and everyone relaxed. I was obviously not a spy, or if I was, I was a horribly inept one.

Still, the effect of having someone waltz in and greet them in Slovak remained. We began to talk and soon the two customers chimed in; they had been dining there for decades. “Why do you study Slovak?” the owner asked.

“It’s next to Austria,” I said. They waited, unlike my American interlocutors, not at all surprised to be told the basic geography of a continent they had grown up in. “My son lives in Vienna and we’re going to visit next summer and I want to visit Slovakia so my policy is to always study a little bit before you go.”

“I’m from Vienna,” one of the guests piped up in German. “Do you also speak German?”

I said I did and we were off to the races. His partner was from Munich; they had emigrated 35 years ago and been together ever since. To make it even friendlier, the German’s name was the same as my son’s, Hans. The food came, delicious chicken curry for me and Hungarian ghoulash for Yasuko accompanied with rice, thick slabs of bread, and spaetzle.

Before long we got to arguing about immigration in Europe and in the U.S., a genuine argument between strangers about things they felt strongly about but were able to discuss without getting upset or namecalling or storming out, or unfriending on Facebook. They had good points and so did I, and it struck me how good it felt to disagree and discuss things with people who know how to talk, who have traveled, who speak other languages, and who have lived on both sides of the immigration fence.

At one point a couple walked in and the Austrian went silent out of respect for the owner, obviously not wanting to scare away new business with our animated volleys. But the owner was having none of it. “Keep talking!” he commanded. “This is good!”

After a while his wife brought out coffee, and unlike the dark dishwater that  most American cafes serve up, this was strong and pungent, fresh and rich. “Would you like some strudel?” she asked.

“Prosim,” I said, thereby exhausting my complete Slovak vocabulary.

She laughed and brought out two pieces of homemade strudel that were better than any pastry I have ever eaten in my life, effectively pausing my two-month abstention from tasty sugary foods.

When it came time to pay the bill we were all great friends until I reached for my credit card and the owner pointed sadly to a sign: “No credit cards.”

I hadn’t brought any cash, but Yasuko had. As we left, the Austrian said, “If you like Austrian pastries you must go to Konditorei in Davis. They have the very best, and they are from Vienna.”

We left, stuffed. I turned to Yasuko. “I suppose that’s why I study Slovak,” I said.



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Dummy talk

January 26, 2018 Comments Off on Dummy talk

Chris Froome delivered an early Christmas gift during the off season when he tested positive for way-too-much salbutamol, giving bloggers, cyclists stuck on Zwift in the basement for the winter, and fanboy journalists tons of fodder to get through the lull in the pro road racing season. Unfortunately, many foolish things were said, and more unfortunately, all of this dummy talk recorded in print.

David Lapparient, president of the UCI: “This is bad for the image of cycling.” Is it? How? Cycling’s image is and has been and will always be doping, with Lance as the always-relevant cheater, hopscotching from race to race, delivering air-light pronouncements and analysis on the fake sport he fakishly ruined.

Javier Guillén, director of the Vuelta: “It’s concerning. We can’t take any part in it, either in favour or against, obviously.” Uh … this guy is about to get banned and have his Vuelta title stripped, doing immense damage to your race, and you can’t take sides?

Alberto Contador, former banned doper: “You can’t have cases drag on and on, it has to be dealt with quickly.” What does this even mean? You have due process or you don’t. What’s the mechanism for “quickly” having Froomester do a lab-replication to show he wasn’t doping, and/or for “quickly” getting a CAS appeal heard? In what language is “appeal” a synonym for “quickly”?

Owain Doull, Team Sky rider: “I was at the team camp in December and it was pretty much business as usual.” Probably not the best quote when asked how your team is dealing with accusations of doping, cover-ups, secret packet drug deliveries, missing laptops with medical records, and you know, very bad stuff.

Movement for Credibility in Cycling: “This is the reason why MPCC and its Board of Directors, without making any assumption towards the final decision, asks Team Sky to suspend [Chris Froome] on a voluntary basis.” First, the name of your group, guys. There is no credibility in cycling and never has been. Second, asking Team Sky to forego its due process protections for shitsngiggles? Third, asking Team Dope to voluntarily kill its cash cow? Goodness. Stuuuuuu-pid.

Tom Dumoulin, rival and 2017 Giro winner: “What can I say now about the Froome case? I cannot say anything because I don’t know the details. I only know that he’s positive … ” What can you say? You can say you think he’s most likely a dopey doper who dopes. For starters.

Dave Brailsford, director for Team Dope: “I have the utmost confidence that Chris followed the medical guidance in managing his asthma symptoms, staying within the permissible dose for Salbutamol.” Did he not notice that the positive test was for double the permissible dose? Total dummy talk.

Geraint Thomas, Team Dope rider: “It’s another thing against the team but I do trust that he wouldn’t have gone out of his way to cheat.” So he would cheat if it were really easy, but wouldn’t go out of his way to do it? Nice.

Patrick Lefevere, QuickStep team manager: “I’m sad. First of all, I’m sad.” Yes, it’s so sad when a doper dopes and gets caught. I’d argue that it’s not sad. It’s predictable and it’s part of the freak show. Sad? Sad is when some tenement burns down. Sad is Sandy Hook. This isn’t sad, it’s the entertainment business.

Gianni Bugno, ex-pro and convicted drug trafficker: “Froome is innocent until proven guilty and so it’s right he can race.” Yet another example of knuckleheads conflating criminal guilt with civil proceedings, in this case a private arbitration process.

Dick Pound, former WADA president: “If you’re over the threshold by 100 per cent, that needs some explanation.” No, it doesn’t. It needs a ban.

Chris Froome, confused bicycle racer: “I know what those limits are, and I’ve never gone over those limits.” Earth to Chris: Yes, you have. That’s what this is all about. You have gone over limits by 100 percent. Dummy talk …

Wout Poels, Team Dope rider: “Every once in a while we get a small update and behind the scenes, Chris and his lawyers are working hard to solve the problem.” I like the way it’s posed as a problem to be solved, like a quadratic equation. No suggestion that they are feverishly working to find way to get a cheater off the hook.

Mathieu van der Poel, ‘Cross rider: “A suspension, that’s what I think. For me it’s a positive test. If the limit is 1,000 and he’s up to 2,000, then there’s not much discussion needed. That’s a positive test.” Okay, someone finally said something that made sense.

Katie Compton, ‘Cross rider: “It doesn’t make sense that you could have that much in your system and still be able to pedal that hard. I don’t know. I feel like something else is going on.” I wonder what that could possibly be? Maybe time to get O.J. on the case?

Brent Copeland, Bahrain-Merida team manager: “You’re riding through different climatic conditions all the time and unfortunately they do suffer from asthma and a lot of riders do use this substance to help them out.” Yes, they do use it to help them out, and Chris helped himself too much. Ergo, busted.

Lance Armstrong, Face of Pro Cycling: “Cycling is the sporting world’s doormat. I have to say that I take a lot of blame for that.” Still one of the dumbest people to open his mouth in front of a microphone, and still everyone’s go-to quote machine for all things cycling. Name another sport whose banned villains are the most relevant voices in the game.

Greg Lemond, Tour winner: “If this is what he claims, then it’s simple, he broke the rules and should be punished accordingly.” Oops! Something intelligent sneaked into this post!

Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour: “We want the situation to be cleared up, to get out of the darkness and ambiguity.” Darkness? Are we in a cave? Ambiguity? He tested double the limit. Sheesh. What Prudhomme means is the ambiguity of whether he’s going to have a winner in 2018 or a winner in 2018 who gets stripped in 2019.

Chris Froome, unhappy asthmatic: “This is quite a horrible situation if I’m honest. We’re working as hard as we can to get to the bottom of this.” Kind of like Prudhomme’s dark cave, this is very simple. You took too much and got caught. And “get to the bottom” implies some nefarious scheme that Inspector Lestrade and Holmes are working hard to solve. Nope.

Tom van Damme, UCI Road Commission President: “It is unfortunate that a problem in the gray zone is now being enlarged, unfortunately we have to follow the rules of WADA.” Unfortunate that you have due process? It would so much easier if you could just do what? Shoot him?

Romain Bardet, AG2R La Mondiale rider: “I don’t see how Froome can race as if nothing is going on.” He has four million reasons to keep racing, actually. Every year.

Brian Cookson, ousted UCI president: “I mistakenly thought that the matter must have been resolved.” In this case, “resolved” means that it was swept under the table. Cookson said this knowing that Froome had tested positive, he just didn’t know it was about to be found out. Wannnnnker.

Julie Harringon, British Cycling CEO: “The issue in this case is that the process was leaked.” No, Julie, the issue is that Froome was doping.

Mauro Vegni, director of the Giro: “Everything is in the hands of the UCI.” No, it isn’t. It’s in the hands of Froome’s legal team, the UCI, and ultimately the Court of Arbitration for Sport.



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