Where’s the beef?

August 24, 2019 § 1 Comment

Barbecue for 250 people is no mean feat, it is a meat feat. And the only way that it happened at the 2019 All Clubs BBQ and South Bay Cycling Awards is through the application of the genius of some seriously professional pitmasters.

Between Harry McQueen, Patrick Barrett, Reggie Walter and his buddy Mike, and Geoff Loui, this crew cranked out 13 briskets, 224 sausage links, 120 chicken breasts, 30 slabs of ribs and about 176 boneless thighs. In other words, if you showed up for this event you were going home full as a tick, and that’s not counting the sides for each plate (six of ’em) prepared by the Flawless Diamonds catering crew.

Sam Selfridge, Chris Miller, and Patrick showed up at 6:00 AM and quickly began to cook the day’s ribs. In order to pay his volunteers and skate the state’s labor laws, Patrick cooked Texas breakfast tacos on site, with a pot of scalding hot coffee that left everyone’s mouth and tongue in ruins, as camp coffee should.

It would be a long day, and since the pitmasters were also pitted against each other in a contest that would be judged by three highly qualified barbecue experts or whoever could be culled from the crowd vaguely sober, the tension was so thick you could cut it with beer and whiskey, which is exactly how it got cut, reducing the tension to the point that it was nonexistent.

Pitmasters always compete and eye each other over every detail, and nothing is more keenly eyed than the way the fire gets started. While Reggie pulled out a gallon of lighter fluid to start his fire, Harry unleashed his full-fledged propane flame thrower and lit his charcoal with Tim Allen gusto. Several small trees were incinerated in the process, and a large granite stone was reduced to magma.

Pitmaster Geoff was nowhere to be seen unless you happened to be lying next to him in bed.

Things went very smooth for everyone, at least as far as any of them could remember, and mostly, they couldn’t. Some pitmasters started with chicken, others with ribs. Geoff started with toast and jam as he fumbled for his trousers somewhere at home. At this point the picnic grounds were pretty empty except for Ken, Kristie, and their one-man helper team Seth, who basically did all the work, at least that’s what he said.

The cooks enjoyed each other’s company, carefully making sure that no one sabotaged the other guy’s meat with a gasoline rub. As more folks came to help Ken and Kristie set up, lessons from last year were applied such as threatening people with beheading if they tried to sneak food off the grill. Later in the day a few irate guests returned with charred bits that looked like fingers and thumbs of people who’d tried their hand at grill larceny and failed.

Geoff showed up at 11:00, fresh, rested, and almost ready for his noontime nap. He had cooked everything ahead of time, gotten a full night’s sleep, and was ready to boogie or nap, whichever came first. The pitmasters met and prepared the process for getting the food to the people and also to the judges. After the initial 12:00 PM feeding frenzy, with problems including Patrick’s uncooked/unchoked chicken, confusion with the food runners, and general startup disorganization, the pitmasters all sat back and waited for the next batch of food to come off the grills. Once the kinks were unkinked it was a well oiled and a well smoked machine.

People lined up, brisket on the line first, then sides, and then ribs and chicken. The Flawless Diamonds would call out when food needed replenishing, and you’d either hop to it or face the wrath of Toni. Every once in a while a guest would come over and thank one of the pitmasters with a plate of happy food. Together they shared a cold beverage and took a bit of time to relax while the assembly line did its thing.

Once cleanup was done, the pitmasters began to hang out in the front area facing the stage. Except for Harry … because he gathered his band of merry musicians, looking like he’d exerted no energy despite cooking for two straight days, and tore the place down with his music. Harry made everything look easy, kind of like the food cooked itself, the harmonica played itself, and he was simply along for the ride.

Someone (not from Texas) once asked, “What is the significance of BBQ to the universe?” It’s a good question if you’re not from Texas, but basically, sonny, it goes like this:

Everyone eats food, which falls into two categories, fast food and family dinner food. But barbecue, you see, is so far from either of those because it takes forever to make. What it means to the universe, and especially what it can do to help Los Angeles, is SLOW THE FUCK DOWN.

Yeah. SLOW THE FUCK DOWN.

Have patience. Get together with people you know, people you don’t know yet, people you like, and people you’re going to like, and SLOW THE FUCK DOWN. Serve yourself a big plateful of patience. Bring other humans together for hours and hours, resulting in a big payoff, a payoff of food and a payoff of camaraderie, and hopefully not a payoff of a nasty hangover the next day.

But it’s not easy, because after twelve hours of cooking you have no guarantee of success. The connective tissues in the meat may not give up after all that time and be tougher than granny’s bra strap, the flavor may taste like boiled ass, or it may be so over cooked that you can use it to patch potholes. So to get it right, you have to SLOW THE FUCK DOWN, pay attention, care, and don’t overreact when things aren’t going just right. With barbecue, like life, you’re not really in control, you’re just tending the garden while the sunshine and water do all the real work.

Hopefully Los Angeles is on the heels of a BBQ revolution and can learn from this slow, delicious meat candy, can learn to STFD.

Barbecue can also educate you. Mike, Reggie’s assistant, shared his encyclopedic knowledge of jazz when the DJ powered up his system. Some musical phrase triggered Mike into a passionate discourse about modern jazz artists. It came out of nowhere and the passion that he had was incredible. That’s part of the barbecue magic, too.

The contest came and went, with judges Sherri Foxworthy, Alfie Sanchez, and Jon Regnery making the hard decisions about who would win top honors. Thanks to Patrick’s rigged system he won again, but no one really got too upset because even though Geoff showed up late and perfectly groomed, he also showed up with several cases of ice cold beer, which studies show alleviates aggravation almost instantaneously.

Jon donated one of his beautiful True Au Jus barbecue cutting boards as the grand prize winner, a work of art that is almost too pretty to deface with raw meat.

Almost.

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Out of this worlds

August 22, 2019 § 12 Comments

The hardest part of any awards ceremony is picking winners. A lot of time it is pretty squishy because the world famous South Bay Cycling Awards doesn’t exactly have a precise procedure, scoring system, nomination system, selection system, and etc. Still, every year we mostly manage to come up with winners who deserve what they’ve won.

This year the woman who won Best Young Rider was Zoe Ta Perez. She won the national time trial title this year and is a powerful force on the local racing scene, to put it mildly.

When I called her dad to tell him about the award and see if she would be able to accept it in person at the awards ceremony he said, “I don’t think so. She’s in Germany at the moment.”

“Okay,” I said, “no worries. We will drop it off the following week. What’s she doing in Germany?”

“She’s racing the madison at junior track worlds at the Frankfurt track.”

“Wow,” I said. “I hope she wins!”

On the day of the award ceremony, someone came up to me, breathless. “Did you hear about Zoe?” he said.

“No? What happened?”

“She won the world title in the madison with Megan Jastrab.”

In other words, what I’m trying to say, is that, you know, well, picking this young world champion for our Best Young Rider award kind of, you know, NAILED IT.

On Wednesday Ken Vinson and I drove over to drop off the trophy. We had her trophy and swag bag and were pretty pleased to have the chance to present her with her award.

She had been expecting us and met us at the door. “Here’s your trophy,” I said, reaching into the bag and pulling it out with a flourish. She beamed and I handed it to her.

That’s about the time that we both studied the plate glued to the base of the trophy, which said “BEST MALE RACER: JUSTIN WILLIAMS.”

“Um, uh,” I stuttered, but she didn’t.

“No problem! Don’t worry about it.”

“I must have grabbed the wrong, uh, you know, gosh, gee …” I looked frantically around for the STUPID and MORON signs that usually dangle off of my chin. “We’ll get it to you,” I said. “So sorry …”

She was so kind and understanding, and after a couple of seconds, so was I because Zoe probably doesn’t have much space left in her trophy case anyway, and if she does, it may well be reserved for the world road title she’ll be hunting down a couple of weeks hence in Yorkshire, England.

Ken and I gave her the swag bag, took a couple of pics, and left. The award couldn’t have gone to a more deserving #winner. I do need to work on the presentation, though …

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Break ’em on down

August 20, 2019 § 8 Comments

Music brings people together, that’s one of life’s unifying truths. But sometimes it’s easy to forget the truth, and it takes musicians to remind us of it.

I don’t remember the exact sequence of events that led to the creation of the Average Biker Band, but suddenly there they were doing a sound check at the All Clubs BBQ and 7th Annual South Bay Cycling Awards, and if it hadn’t been outdoors they would have blown the roof off.

The organic creation of the group was much like the organic creation of a group ride. Somebody said, “Let’s play,” and voila–Ellen Shinogle, Gary Cziko, Sly Joseph, Don Sachs, Jaycee Cary, Todd Bernhardt, Tony Johnson, Thomas Ward, Harry McQueen, Dasha Orlova, and Yasuko Davidson had formed a band, rehearsed religiously, and showed up polished and ready to play.

Play they did, with blindingly good renditions of Superstition, New Sensation, Brick House, Play that Funky Music, Sex Machine, and a loaded set of other killer tunes.

But … even though you can’t pick out the best, I can sure as hell pick out my favorite, and it was Harry McQueen owning the stage with Muddy Waters’s Hoochie Coochie Man. I’ve seen lots of live blues performances in my life, heard lots of the greats, but have rarely been treated to such a tremendous foot-stomping, hand-clapping display of musical genius. Not only did Harry turn his harp into something living, but the rest of band sank their teeth into it with cutting, slicing, professional abandon.

The musicianship of the entourage was an intense punctuation mark to the event because it showcased band members helping each other out, making space for each other, putting egos aside to get the hard work done of making great music. And make no mistake, it was incredibly hard work, whether judging from the rivers of sweat pouring off the players, or from the sheer physical labor of setting up the stage.

And of course it was worth it, worth it in the extreme because it brought a level of entertainment, excitement, and unity to an event whose entire reason for being is to highlight unity.

Nor was the Average Biker Band the only sound in town. Before they took the stage there was a major eruption of percussion. Dave Worthington and David Pulliam on the box cajon and bongos, Rahsaan Bahati on the bongos, Queen Bahati on the congo drum, Al Shorts on the bass drum with wood mallets and Congo, and the ace ringer percussionist and Prince of the Polyrhythm, Orlando Hutcherson himself on congo, Will Holloway on djembe conga, with Jaycee Carey drummer Tony Johnson, both of the Average Biker Band, pitching into the drum circle. Other cool rando peeps rotated on the egg-shakers, blocks, maracas, sticks, and tambourine, and all of this incredible sound was BEFORE the main musical event.

Drawing people together, initiating friendships, sharing common bonds, that’s all yet another outgrowth of this event that was dreamed up by our very own Ken Vinson. And draw people together it did.

Don’t worry if you missed this tight and righteous performance–Facebag is breaking with the videos floating around, and guess what? Plans are already underway for even more music in 2020. Stay, as they say, tuned!

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The Not-So Average Biker Band!

More All Clubs BBQ love

August 13, 2019 § 1 Comment

Among the sponsors who have generously donated to this year’s All Clubs BBQ and South Bay Cycling Awards, Big Orange Cycling has been a part of the festivities since the beginning.

In addition to being extremely well represented in a number of award categories, that is, one category in especial, Big O has repeatedly broken new ground in its approach to promoting cycling. And I’m not just talking about kit design.

Big Orange was one of the first clubs to adopt bike safety as an ongoing and integral part of its club operations–not as an informal emphasis on safety, but by using instructors and a proven curriculum to protect its members on the streets of LA. In conjunction with Cycling Savvy, Big O continues to lead in its approach to safe use of urban roadways.

Among other innovations, Big O is the perhaps the only club in the history of cycling to welcome Brad House with open arms. It was a sad day for cycling in the South Bay when this titan of something left the sunny skies of SoCal for the arid, windswept steppes of Dallas.

In addition to structured rides every weekend that calibrate with the off-season in racing from July through May, Big Orange promotes rider education and has been a key entry point for countless riders who have gone on to become successful racers on local, state, national, and international levels.

For another year, Big Orange puts its money where our mouths are and has donated generously to help promote unity, diversity, and community in cycling.

Thank you!

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And now a word for our sponsors …

August 8, 2019 § 13 Comments

One of the worst things about crawling around on your hands and knees begging for money to fund the All Clubs BBQ and 7th Annual Wanky Awards is that sometimes people take pity on you and crack open their wallet. Then you become what is officially known as a charity recipient, or worse, a debtor.

It’s a lot easier when people spit in your eye or hit you with a stone. That way you can curse the world and be self-righteous and shit. Plus, you don’t have to do anything. You sure as hell don’t have to say “thanks.”

In my various begging phases for the All Clubs BBQ and 7th Annual Wanky Awards, there is no place I have begged more piteously than at the feet of Velo Club La Grange. That is because from Year One they have been unstinting in their support of this august event.

For example in Year One at Naja’s, Sausage had a video camera on a tripod and captured not only the infamous Brad House “I love to wank” speech, but a host of other career-ending behaviors by all and sundry. To show how much he loved us, he later claimed to have “forgotten to turn the camera on.”

Whether we can expect those videos to resurface in a plain wrapped package demanding all the money in my bank account or $25, whichever is greater (Hint: it ain’t the bank account), or public release to TMZ is something that keeps many of the original Wanky Awards attendees up at night.

Since 2013, Velo Club La Grange has come through again and again as a steadfast supporter of this dubious event, each time committing precious resources, money, and manpower to add to the general level of embarrassment that accompanies adults riding plastic bikes in their underwear. But there’s more!

The last three years La Grange has put up serious cash as a major sponsor of the event in addition to loaning us the prestige of being associated with beefcakes pitmaster Patrick “Rockets” Barrett, who last year swooped in and produced a BBQ contest that will not soon be forgotten.

This year too, VCLG has donated major money, has re-donated Patrick, and also donated board member Jaycee Carey in the role of live music organizer. Working with his fellow cyclist musicians, Jaycee has formed the nonpareil Average Biker Band, which will debut at the BBQ/Awards to close out the event. In preparation for their SRO performance, VCLG has also fronted the costs of renting the studio for their rehearsals. No word yet on whether Jimmy Page has been sitting in as the studio guitarist.

What’s really amazing about La Grange’s support is that they have continued to be steadfast despite the fact that I have angered and/or personally insulted virtually everyone in the club at least twice, some folks five or six times. What explains such loyalty? Fear of getting smeared in this online rag?

Hardly.

La Grange has supported the broader cycling community for fifty years, and as our event has morphed from a series of misdemeanors into an event with a meaningful social purpose–that of bringing together the diverse world of LA cyclists into a single big celebration–La Grange has provided money, manpower, and moral support. It’s no coincidence that the best race of the year, held on the Porsche test track, was put together by VCLG.

Nowhere has the club’s support been more evident than in the actions of its new president, Rich Hirschinger, a guy I have pissed off more times than you can possibly imagine. Doesn’t matter. When push comes to shove, Rich has taken the high road (I dwell in the lower one) and lent the club’s prestige to an event that promises to benefit the entire community. It’s no coincidence that the club’s 50th anniversary year has been its most successful ever, and that it’s happened on Rich’s watch.

If every club in SoCal did a fraction of what La Grange does to support grass roots racing and social cycling activities, we would live in a completely different world.

Thanks again. WE APPRECIATE YOU. (And sorry for that time I said that thing to that dude about that stuff.)

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Zwift steps up again!

July 29, 2019 § 5 Comments

Zwift’s Social Impact Division has made a very significant financial contribution to support the All Clubs BBQ and 7th Annual South Bay Cycling Awards. This the second year that Zwift has sponsored the event. Last year they provided what was by far the most popular attraction, a Zwift cave where riders could test their legs to win a prize. Naturally, several hundred cyclists wanted nothing more than to flog themselves senseless on a huge TV screen to see who was strongest.

This year, in addition to the same flogging station, Zwift is donating money to defray the cost of food. As with last year, the first 100 plates of barbecue are free, keeping with the event’s long tradition, stretching back to the beer hall days at Naja’s, of giving back to the cycling community. It’s gonna mildly suck if you’re #101 in line, but all the more reason to line up early! And the full plate of loaded grub is still only ten bucks … you can hardly eat at Mickey D’s for that anymore.

Our list of cash sponsors keeps growing: From Origin Cycling Wear, Race for RP, Major Taylor Cycling Club, Velo Club LaGrange, Big Orange Cycling, Kristie Fox, and Methods to Winning, this community based event, only in its second year, is coming close to being completely funded by outside sources thanks to cash sponsors and to the volunteers who are making it happen.

The most rewarding aspect of the support being given by Zwift and our other sponsors is that they are literally asking for nothing in return. They simply believe that diversity and community and fellowship are in and of themselves worthy goals, and they want to support unity, moving forward together.


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