February 13, 2015 § 44 Comments
It was 8:00 AM on a Wednesday. The world was going to work or was already there. None but the most inveterate slackers would have answered the call for a bicycle ride down the bike path in order to spend several hours getting a cup of coffee.
Manslaughter, Chief, and I pedaled away at 8:00 AM, pointy sharp, because my rides always leave when they say they will leave. That way when you get there two minutes late and no one’s there you don’t have to wonder where everyone is.
In the marina there was an obese runner staggering along with a limp who I thought I knew. “Hey, do we know each other?” I asked. In the split second it took to ask the question I realized we were strangers. I had mistaken him for a guy who’d had a stroke.
“No,” he smiled. “But we do now!”
We pedaled on while Chief talked about what is now the 25th of his 30-year plan to “get back in shape.” Shortly thereafter we heard a wheezing sound. It was Stonehenge the human enigma, one of Manslaughter’s teammates.
“I almost got killed back there!” he said. We politely pretended to listen and care as we thought about our wattage.
“Glad you’re okay,” Manslaughter pretended.
“And you know what I was thinking last night?”
We tensed up. “What?”
“That Manslaughter should really be pronounced ‘man’s laughter.’ Get it?”
Chief peeled off in Santa Monica so that he could do waif intervals, loops up and down San Vicente where he gazes fondly at the pretty young girls who he imagined he used to consort with. Stonehenge, Manslaughter, and I went to Philz Coffee on 5th and Santa Monica.
Philz is a pour-over coffee place. They don’t have any machines and they don’t make any froo-froo drinks. Instead they make frippy-frippy drinks. Weird and friendly pour-over chefs who are oddly excited about dumping boiling water on coffee grounds take your order. It costs $4 for a cup of coffee that you can make at home with a French press for forty cents.
The folks at Philz are smart.
What you’re paying for at Philz, however, is the waif quotient. Unlike the Sckubrats in Manhattan beach, where all the women are white, reasonably attractive, in their 40’s, and wearing yoga pants and tight tops to model what is almost never original equipment, Philz is filled with women who are too poor to afford new parts and too young to need them.
We paid $12 for our $1.20 worth of coffee and went outside to sit and stare at the talent. The sun was beating down directly on the aluminum bench and reflecting off the plate glass, so the little slice of sidewalk was about a hundred degrees, a perfect place to sit all bundled up with arm warmers, leg warmers, long-fingered gloves, shoe covers, and a boiling cup of coffee.
Stonehenge looked up. “Is that a glider?” he asked.
Manslaughter tried to be nice. “Uh, no. The wings aren’t long enough.”
“I think you’re wrong. That’s a glider,” Stonehenge insisted.
We all looked at the large airplane with four engines and pondered various things.
“So, guys,” said Manslaughter. “I’m gonna be in Vegas this weekend to take a little break from the job I don’t have. Any suggestions on what to do?”
“Whack off?” I offered.
“I do that here. In fact, I’m gonna do it today. I was thinking more along the lines of something new and different.”
“When you check in at your hotel ask the clerk what country most of the foreign guests are from,” I said. She’ll tell you something weird, like ‘Lithuanian.’ After you check in, go grab a Lithuanian phrasebook and start chatting up the Lithuanians. ‘Hi, I’m Manslaughter, trying to learn Lithuanian.'”
“That’s stupid,” said Manslaughter. “Where in the world are you gonna find a Lithuanian phrasebook in Vegas?”
Stonehenge took my side. “They’ll have them throughout the casino if that’s the predominant nationality of the guests. It might be fun. ‘What is it like in your country?’ ‘Do the people in your country eat cabbage?’ ‘How much for the little girl?'”
At that moment a waif walked by. She was wearing tight jeans that had a lot of holes, holes that came from hard use rather than from a designer’s shears. Her head was wrapped in a scarf and she had draped a loose red shirt over her shoulders. She was dragging a small two-wheeled cart filled with dog food and fresh cabbage.
“Hi!” said Manslaughter.
“I don’t have any sheep,” she snarled as she walked past.
“Did that woman just say she didn’t have any sheep?” asked Manslaughter.
Stonehenge rolled his eyes. “Of course not, dummy. She said she didn’t have any shape.”
At that moment the crazy woman standing on the bench across the street began screaming at us. “It’s a hit job!” she howled. “Titties and Moominvalley!” Then she squeezed her breasts, lay back down on the bench and began arguing with the four hundred insane people inside her head.
An enormous man exited the coffee shop and slumped down on the end of our bench. He stared angrily at our bicycles. “Those fancy bike frames don’t mean shit,” he said.
We looked at him.
“It’s all in the wheels. And the yaw angle.”
“Yeah?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “What kind of energy drink is that?” He pointed to my water bottle.
“It’s called GQ-6.”
“Where do you get it?”
“Oh yeah? What’s in it?”
“They have various formulations, but this is their race electrolyte replacement.”
“Yep. Special formulation; contains oxygen and hydrogen.”
“Two hydrogens for every oxygen,” Stonehenge chimed in.
The bum looked interested. “Really? Sounds pretty high-tech. Can I try it?”
“Sure,” I said, and handed him the bottle. “It’s a formulation that’s been around for a long time.”
He took a swig and washed it around in his mouth. “Hmmm,” he said. “Kind of tasteless.”
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s the electrolytes. They don’t have any flavor.”
As we pondered this insight and continued to sweat profusely, an extremely short young security guard from Citibank, which was next door, walked by. He pointed to a stop light. “That’s what happens to you Jews,” he said.
“But we’re not Jews,” I protested.
He shrugged. “That’s what happens to you anyway.” The light turned green.
“What happens? The light turns and we drive off?”
“Yep,” said the security guard as he entered Philz.
A hipster rode up at that moment on a bright red Schwinn fixie with orange rims. It was covered with rust and dents. On the top tube was a sticker that said, “I fuck for money.”
“Hey, man,” he said, looking at us. “Mind if I put my bike here? Watch my ride while a grab a cup so no one don’t steal it. This baby is my pride and joy.”
Seeing that he was aiming to lean his bike on Stonehenge’s rather than his, Manslaughter said, “No, go right ahead.”
“Ummmmmm,” said Stonehenge as the steel Schwinn scraped against his full carbon $6,000 carbon Cannondale with full carbon.
The heatstroke was about to crescendo. “Guys,” I said, “I’m moving over to the shade.” A few feet away there was a shaded bench in front of the Citibank. Manslaughter joined me, but Stonehenge stayed put.
“I can’t come,” he said, looking sadly at his bike, which was pinned by the Schwinn. “I’m in bike jail.”
We finally relocated and the security guard came back out, angrier than he had been when he went in. He glanced at our bikes in a rage, which were now leaned against his bank. “I’m taking me one of these fancy bikes,” he announced, hands full of coffee.
“Sure,” I said. “Take any one that your feet can reach the pedals.”
He glared at us with a furious look. “Dude is going to go home tonight and beat the shit out his cat.”
“Yep,” agreed Stonehenge. “If by ‘cat’ you mean ‘penis.'”
Soon we were pedaling back home. Stonehenge flatted. He turned his bike upside down and set it on its seat. His open water bottle drained sticky goop all over the handlebars. I shut off the spigot and got ready to assist; of course my mechanical skills are nonexistent at best.
As I reached for his toolbag Manslaughter cut in. “Hey Wanky,” he said. “Stonehenge just designed and built one of the largest and most complex craft breweries in L.A. He probably knows how to change a flat.”
Chastened, I sat down as another plane flew overhead. Without looking up we all three said, “Glider.”
“Or a U-2,” said Stonehenge. “Gary Powers.”
“Francis Gary Powers,” I added.
At that moment the most beautiful woman in the history of the galaxy rode by on a cute blue bicycle with a basket. We stopped and gaped. She crossed Main Street and locked her bike to a post. I could tell that Manslaughter was committing that post to memory. As we sat there with long, filmy, sticky strings of drool hanging off our lips a pedestrian with a tattoo on his leg that said “Lick here” stopped and followed our gaze.
“Yeah,” he said. “She’s fuggin’ hot.” The woman went into a building and soon reappeared upstairs. She sat down behind a desk which was in front of a plate glass window looking out on the street. The guy began humming “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?”
At the refrain we all went “Arf, arf!” and stared at the window. A group of Chinese tourists walked by as we barked, drooled, and stared across the street, huddled around the upside down bicycle. They hurried by, holding tightly onto their cameras.
“You know,” said Manslaughter. We didn’t. “This reminds me of the time that we were in Leadville and Tri-Dork was running the pool table. This pickup-load of shitkickers came in and challenged him to a game. He started to run the table on them, too, so I said to the one really big, ugly, hair guy, ‘Hey, guess what.'”
“‘What?’ he answered. ‘You’re about to get your ass kicked in pool game by a guy who drives a Prius.'”
“Then what happened?” asked Stonehenge.
“Another group of cowboys came in and they were pushing this woman in a wheelchair. They helped her onto a bar stool and pushed the wheelchair over to the back of the bar by the pool table. Everybody got drunk and then one of the cowboys getting beat by Tri-Dork got in the wheelchair and started zooming around the room.”
“Then what?” I asked.
“I told him to get the fuck out of the wheelchair or I was gonna crack his skull open.”
“Then what?” Stonehenge asked.
“He got all pissed off and ready to fight. So I turned to Tri-Dork and said, ‘This is gonna get ugly. You got my back?'”
“Then what?” the guy asked who had been humming “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?”
“Tri-Dork looked at me like I was crazy. ‘Dude,’ he said, ‘I got a wife, kids, a job, and I just came to Leadville to ride my bike. If you want to pick a fight with a bar full of drunk cowboys you’re on your own.'”
“Then what?” we asked in unison.
“We sneaked out and drove back to our hotel.”
Stonehenge got his flat changed and we rode back to the South Bay.
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April 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
The tarck is a place where you go ’round and ’round, but nothing ever changes except for you, who gets tarder and tarder until you quit, most usually dejected at not having reached whatever hopeless goals you began with. It is, like life, a metaphor for life.
I’m locked into the weekly Friday tarck session of your worst nightmare at the newly re-branded Velo Sports Center in Carson. Fridays were once a happy time when I would meet up at Malaga Cove with Howard Hughes, and with Jack from Illinois (not his real name) when he was in town. We’d pedal over to Hermosa and watch Chief get dressed, which was its own form of entertainment, and often lasted well into the morning. Then Chief would make the monster 250-yard pedal down to CotKU, we’d quaff a cup of coffee, sometimes delaying the inevitable with a ride around the hill, but usually going straight into the office, and Chief would, if he’d been in trial, engage in some long-distance “punitive riding” up the coast.
That’s all a distant memory. Now on Fridays I am bound to the Habitrail from Hell, where, by virtue of having rented a locker, I am now forced to use it once a week or feel the gentle yet steely reproofs of my lockermate who, by the way, has terrible designs on me. Although he’s only been cycling for a few years, and is older than an igneous rock deposit, he is fierce, fast, canny, disciplined, and focused beyond belief.
The opposite of me, in other words, who is smiley, slow, clod-like, lazy, and scattered to the four winds.
Each Friday we do a 40 or 50 or 100-lap warm-up on the blue line, alternating every two laps. With ten to go I take the front, we drop down to the pole lane, and I try to fend him off in the final 500 or 250 meters. He’s never come around me except for the time he miscounted and passed me after the final lap, but he’s, like 287 years older than me and comes close to beating me every time. Each time he’s just a little bit closer.
So now I go to bed every Thursday with worry on my head that’s the size of a block of granite, and I wake up at 5:00 AM each Friday wondering only one thing: “How’m I going to keep that bastard at bay again today?” This is, by the way, why Eddy retired from cycling. He couldn’t take the incessant pressure to win. [No snide comments, please, about how beating an octogenarian in a warm-up isn’t “winning.” My coach, @captaintbag1, has already advised me that since I totally suck and can’t win anything of significance I should choose events that I really can win, even if they’re just totally faux races. This is one. Rather, this is the only one. So shut the fuck up now.]
Anyway, we weren’t the only ones at the tarck this morning. Here’s who was there and what was done by them, a nice little passive voice construction that will hopefully piss at least someone off who works in the Language Arts field, which, when I was a kid, had the really weird name of “English.”
Oldasdirt: After 99 laps, with one to go I jumped hard, opened up a few bike lengths, and just managed to stave him off. It didn’t feel like a victory so much as a reprieve from the inevitable execution.
CM & W: How often do you see an older brother doing what older brothers are supposed to do, i.e. helping a sibling instead of pounding the living snot out of them? CM took his little sister out on the tarck and they had a fantastic workout. She is a little motor and we will be seeing her in a stars-and-stripes jersey soon. Of course I acted like a dick when I yelled at CM not to cross the tarck with his cleats on, even though it turned out that he had been wearing the proper rubber clogs. You see, I crossed the tarck once in my cleats and Johnny saw me from, like, three miles away and read me the riot act. So for the past year I’ve been looking for someone I could read the riot act to, but just ended up accusing the innocent. CM was cool about it, though, as I immediately apologized.
Kurt S.: Have you ever watched a rocket lift off? Kurt was doing starts. Whoever’s going to beat him at nationals this year better bring an engine in their down tube, because Kurt is absolutely flying.
Katherine: Parent of CM & W, she was out there getting in a solid workout with the guys.
Jack K.: Most people think Jack lives at the tarck, but he doesn’t, or at least he’s not paying rent. Jack is the most consistent early morning tarck rider and jaw flapper in SoCal. If he can’t talk about it, that’s because the words to do so haven’t yet been invented.
Niva: Joined me and Oldasdirt midway through our warm-up, then dropped us without so much as an effort with four to go. I don’t know what she’s training for, but I’m putting my money on her to win it.
Bigdude in blue: Dude just pedaled around the tarck and looked happy as a clam doing it.
Since I only did the 100-lap warmup with Oldasdirt I got into the office early. Which is a bad thing. Right?
April 2, 2012 § 4 Comments
Sometimes even an important cycling blog like this doesn’t have anything interesting to say. So I will be concise and do this like rabbit droppings, you know, a little poop nugget here, a little poop nugget there.
Poop nugget one: Major Bob was a beast on Thursday’s NPR. He towed me all the way to the line in our trademark last-lap suicidal breakaway of death but I blew up, got caught by the pack, and finished behind the fat walrus guy with the backpack. Prez sank back to his usual wheelsuck and win-the-sprint M.O., but don’t laugh, as practice makes perfect and he won Sunday’s San Diego Cat 3 crit to ensure that he will remain aloft in the SoCal Sandbagger of the Year Competition.
Poop nugget two: Jack from Illinois( not his real name) joined Howard Hughes of the South Bay and me and the Chief, former master of all he surveyed, now confined to the miserable reservation of Saturday kiddie soccer games and delayed Sunday pedals so that his significant other gets in her Lululemon workout first, for a glorious coffee cruise. Chief began his comeback in earnest, which included pedaling the entire 250 yards from his house to CotKU, drinking a cup of coffee, and pedaling all the way back.
Poop nugget three: Friday night the world was in an addled state of consti-ticipation as each of the 125 million ticket holders gloriously made plans for spending his/her/its share of the Mega-Millions pot of gold.
“I’ll help ol’ Aunt Sukey by getting her a new house and a car and a 24-hour assisted care home nurse to pay her back for all those times she kept me out of juvenile prison.”
“I’ll start a foundation to provide a home for all the cats!”
“I’ll live quietly and modestly, keeping my wealth secret, while anonymously becoming an incredible donor to worthy causes everywhere!”
“I’ll fund a multi-million dollar ‘cross series to make it the biggest sport in America!!!”
“I’ll create trust funds for all of my cousins and nieces and nephews but set it up so that even though they’re rich they won’t be spoiled.”
“I’ll buy more hookers and blow than there are ‘fuggs’ in a captaintbag blog post.”
Frenziedly huddled around the computer screen, those same people who fall into the category of “voluntary taxpayers who don’t understand statistics or probability” looked grimly at the first few digits in the winning number, quickly scanning through each combination on their 73 separate tickets, numbly and dumbly acknowledging, gradually, that it really was true: Let’s say you know a Canadian. Then the names of every Canadian in Canada are put into a hat. You draw the name of the one person you know. There. Those were your odds of winning the lottery.
As the cold, hard numericity of statisticality and probabilityness sunk through the hardened outer core of almost impenetrable delusion, depression was quickly followed by beer, then tequila, then hatred for both Kentucky and Louisville, with the odd curse heaped on the heads of Tim Tebow and Kyle Busch. “Fucking stupid ass bullshit lottery fuckshit waste of money bullcrap shit. At least I’m still going riding tomorrow.”
Poop nugget four: “Tomorrow’s ride” was a semi-planned pedal arranged by Clodhopper, and joined in by Iron Mike, Jack from Illinois (not his real name), Howard Hughes of the South Bay (first group ride since 2006), New Girl, Pilot, Fussy, Hockeystick, Nancy, Guns, Knoll, Trixie, Junkyard, Tri-Dork, Toronto, Tumbleweed, Arkansas Traveler, Abercrombie & Fritch, and a bunch of other people who quit early because the day was a cold, rainy, miserable, nasty, cloudy, shitsoaked perfectly typical cycling day in Northern California, except we were in paradisiacal Southern California, where everyone is weak, spoiled, “soft around the edges and in the center,” and smart enough to choose hot coffee and a morning throw with the S.O. rather than six hours of slogging through shit on a bike.
By the time we reached Cross Creek all the riders with IQ’s higher than the ambient air temperature had packed it in, and our small cadre of idiots soldiered on towards Latigo. Nancy had kept going when we stopped at the Union 76 in order to get a head start on the inevitable droppage that awaited, and sure enough, even though I plowed so slowly up the infinite hell that is Latigo Canyon Rd., so slow in fact that Arkansas Traveler easily kept the pace and told me all the details of hairdressing in Appalachia during the days that it was still a hanging offense for men to be engaged in such occupations, we nevertheless caught and dropped Nancy as he crawled up the endless grade.
Upon arriving at the summit, we abandoned our “all for one, one for all” motto in favor of “all for one, one for all, except Nancy,” and bolted back home down Kanan Dume, a road favored by Junkyard so that he could get into a descender’s tuck and bomb the downhill in blinding rain and fog at 50 mph. I got home with 95 miles, more or less, and no Strava upload or WKO+ analysis to stand between me, the hot shower, the mountain of flapjacks, and bed.
Poop nugget five: While @mmaiko swooned over Fabs Cancellara and the Ronde van Vlaanderen in the most amazing Twitter twaddle ever, and while thousands more cycle fans followed the whole sorry mess of racing over the cobbled climbs of Flanders, MMX, Stormin Norman, I, and a small cadre of idiots joined up at CotKU for the Sunday Kettle ride. It was uneventful except for the brutal beatdown along PCH, and we returned to Catalina Coffee in Redondo Beach for a hearty breakfast. Fireman was lounging in one of the chairs and we all sat around and made fun of people who have turtle tattoos on their legs, generally agreeing that if you’re going to tattoo your legs it should be with a death’s head or a giant cock or lightning bolts or a spread-eagled nude…anything but a turtle.
Poop nugget six: With 80 solid miles of hard riding on our legs we pedaled over to the Torrance Crit, where I raced the 45+ in the team SPY colors, proving myself a douchebag traitor to the noble Ironfly brigade with whom I’d raced all year. As we rolled out, Johnny and Alan gave me my instructions, which went something like this: “Look, you suck and are a traitorous vermin and are of no benefit to anyone plus we don’t like you. However, if, at the end of the race, there’s a chance to sneak up the road, do that hopeless crazyfuck suicide move you always do that fails and make the pack chase. We’ll chill if you’ve got the legs to hold out for the vee, which no one in their right mind believes you do, and if they pull you back, which is a mathematical certainty, we’ll be fresh for the finish.” With three laps to go I hit the gas, flogged like a harpooned goat for what seemed like forever, got reeled in with half a lap to go, and watched as teammate Jimmy M. skidded across the asphalt on the next-to-last-turn, grating off more butt flesh than an angry dominatrix in a spanking video. Not that I’ve ever watched one of those. Johnny got third, T. Rex got fifth, and Alan got seventh.
Then, the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me in over 30 years of cycling happened: T. Rex came over and stuck a $20 bill in my jersey. “That’s your share, dude. Good work.” I fainted, of course, and when I came to, numerous people patted my hand and explained that, yes, it did happen that even worthless wankers received a part of the take in a well-run team combine. “Holy fuck,” I yelled. “If you subtract that from the $50 entry fee, I only lost thirty U.S. dollah!!!” Then I fainted again.