November 15, 2012 § 36 Comments
I don’t believe in heroes. I don’t believe in gods. I don’t believe in heavens or hells. I don’t believe in things that transcend nature. I don’t believe in miracles. I don’t believe in anything that can’t pass the Missouri motto simply because I live in a continual show-me state.
These are just a few of the casualties of the hard boiled atheism, devout skepticism, and jaundiced slant of my world view. It’s a view that is basted with cynicism, flavored with sarcasm, and lightly sauteed with reflexive disbelief. If I don’t think you’re lying, I can’t possibly believe anything you say.
The unbearable heaviness of miracles and the heroes who work them
Heroes are so unremarkable, precisely because they’re so heroic. What else can Superman do, but save the bus from plunging into the turbid waters below? As my favorite blog and Facebook troll, Mr. Troll.I.Am Stone would say, “Yawn.”
For me, the levers that work my mind into a bleeding froth are the ordinary people with whom I daily or casually connect through cycling. Guys like Keith Dodson who, in case you couldn’t guess, is a wanker. I know he’s special to his family. His mother likely thought he was extra special, perhaps the specialest little boy ever born.
To the rest of us, though, he’s just another Long Beach freddie, a planet who revolves around the sun that is Martin Howard, a flailer who pounds the pedals ’til he blows, then laughs at the ridiculous fun of it all, then washes the whole thing down with pizza and beer.
If you can’t enjoy a few pedal strokes and a few laughs with Keith, there is something profoundly fucked up with your wiring. He’s as regular as they come, exceptional in his regularity.
How ordinary? He jogs, for Dog’s sake
Yesterday, as Keith jogged down the jogging path for joggers on the San Gabriel River jogging path, right there in the heavy element broth before the toxic river meets the poisoned waters of the Port of Long Beach, he heard a loud noise and watched in disbelief as a pickup burst through a chain link fence and slid off into the river.
The driver began trying frantically to escape through the rear sliding glass window, but his shoulders were too wide. The power windows had shorted, and he was trapped inside.
Keith then disproved the theory of evolution and laid waste to the notion that only the smart ones survive. He grabbed a big rock, sprunted fifty yards to the sinking truck, and did the unthinkable without thinking, ran the wrong way down the one-way street of survival of the fittest: He dove in.
The driver tried to kick out the window, but couldn’t. Keith tried to bust the window, now underwater, but couldn’t. After two more futile attempts, he finally smashed through the window…with his fist.
Where heroes fear to tread
However ordinary and plain and pedestrian and flailing Keith may be as a Long Beach freddie, he’s an exceptional man in the real world. He’s profoundly loved and depended upon by his family. He’s respected by his peers. He’s a giant among men in the non-lycra world of family, work, and friends, which is to say the only world that matters.
This was a problem, because the water was about to claim him, and he was getting ready to die, and that was going to be a loss for the people who loved him, who depended on him, who respected him, and who rode with him. He was getting ready to die because he had succeeded too well. The window had smashed open, and the inrushing water had sucked him partially into the cab.
“This is it,” he thought. “I’m getting ready to drown in some dude’s underwater pickup truck.”
With a strength that Hercules would have easily mustered, but an ordinary wanker wouldn’t even know where to start looking for, Keith thrust himself against the onrushing water and patiently waited for three or four seconds while the water pressure equalized. You know, those quick three or four seconds underwater when you’re drowning and a drowning man is clutching you in a death grip and the truck you’re tangled up with is dragging you to the riverbed and out to sea. Those three or four seconds. The ones that prove relativity with more power and eloquence than any Einsteinian formula ever will. The ones that last about ten billion years each.
Impossibly for a mortal, Keith then wrestled the other drowning man out of the cab, and as lifeguards will tell you, this is where the amateur rescuer always becomes the second drowning victim of the day.
But not today.
Breaching the surface, a second ordinary, suit-clad office worker who had watched the whole thing on his first day at work in the Wells-Fargo bank building came plunging into the water, slacks and dress shirt and shiny banker’s shoes and all.
He and Keith got the driver out alive. Then they got themselves out alive. And after the cops and ambulances and news media came and did their thing, they went back to work.
They went back to work like the ordinary, pedestrian, unexceptional men they never were, and immediately became again.
August 8, 2012 § 8 Comments
Dear Mom and Dad:
Divorce is hard. I love you, Mom. I love you, Dad. Mom, I know you hate Dad. Dad, I know you hate Mom. I wish everyone would get along.
But sometimes relationships won’t work. So Mom, you’re going your way. Dad, you’re going yours. I know, or at least hope, that you’re both better off for it. It’s awkward, and frankly, painful.
Your infamous Eldo Divorce caught us all by surprise, as divorces often do. One day Mom was doing her thing, running Eldo and even turning it into a sanctioned race. The next, Dad was out there, putting up orange cones and handing out numbers. Mommy and Daddy never even told us kids what happened. You went your separate ways.
My history with Eldo
I’ve got lots of bad memories of Eldo. It was the very first race I did in California. Roger Worthington dragged me out there the year following his new hip attachment and bionic leg surgery, in 2008. All I remember is thinking that nothing takes the fun out of anything more than being forced to do it with an overbearing boss.
The race itself was hideously fast. I raced the 1/2/3 category and we averaged close to 30mph for the hour. The pack was tightly bunched and the race was a nonstop slugfest of people hammering off the front, and the pack chasing them back. Ashley Knights was especially speedy that year, but Charon Smith, Rahsaan Bahati, and various other guys showed up every single week to ride and ride hard.
For me, being fit at Eldo meant being able to take a couple of pulls at the front over the course of an hour.
Chris ran a tight ship. The races were safe, the categories were usually full or close to full, and aside from the usual whining and complaining for which bicyclers are so famous, I thought it was a model mid-week race. The only reason I quit doing it is because it meant leaving the office at 4:30, sitting on the 405 for almost an hour, and getting home at eight or later. With TELO just around the corner and in riding distance, it didn’t make sense to race Eldo. So I didn’t.
Come check us out!
When Martin sent me an email inviting me to come see the Under New Management Eldo, I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I like Martin and respect the hell out of him. He and his core group of Long Beach Freddies have done more than any group I know to help revolutionize the city of Long Beach with regard to cycling. It’s now one of the friendliest cycling communities in the U.S., and Martin has been a big part of that change.
He’s a tireless advocate for positive community change, and is the driving force behind the Mark Bixby Foundation, an organization set up to honor its namesake, who died in an air accident a couple of years ago. Martin also has a lot of the characteristics that everyone, everywhere, associates with bike race promoters: Loud. Has an opinion on everything. Loves to share it with everyone, and if no one’s around, is happy to give advice to the rocks and shrubs.
And, lest I forget, he’s an accomplished cyclist and former national team member. If you ever want to know how good he was, ask him if he’s ever been on the podium with Greg Lemond. Actually, you don’t even have to ask. Just walk up to him, introduce yourself, and wait ten minutes.
Can’t we all just get along?
I went to Eldo last night with mixed feelings because I also like Chris Lotts…a lot. I respect the work he’s done as a bike race promoter. I thought he did a great job at Eldo. Most of all, I like him because he is forthright and because of his politics. If you want to know what he thinks, ask him. If you don’t want to know what he thinks, well…don’t friend him on Facebook.
What I dislike is the fact that the Eldo Divorce was the result of bad blood between two people I like and respect. Since anything I say is guaranteed to offend them both, let me get that out of the way, right away: You both are a couple of fucking numbskulls not to be able to get along.
There. I’ve said it. Sue me. Unfriend me. Disinvite me. I don’t care. The cycling community is tiny and I hate this kind of conflict.
Can’t we all just get along?
Of course not. That would make too much sense and deprive the bystanders of too much drama.
Now, about Eldo Under New and Improved Management
I can’t say the management has improved, because as far as I’m concerned there was nothing wrong with the old management. The fields last night were smaller. The race was slower. There was very little team diversity, which meant that any break with three riders was almost guaranteed to cause everyone else to block.
On the other hand, the race had a great feel to it. Martin and his crew of Freddies were smiling and enthusiastic and obviously committed to making this work. The field size was a function of changing horses in midstream. With better promotion and with more people understanding that Eldo is here to stay, 2013 should start to see much bigger fields. To their credit, the race already has enough people showing up to break even.
In two years’ time, as more people put the race on their schedule, I have no doubt that Eldo will be back up to full force, if not sooner. Getting listed on SocalCycling.com, CyclingIllustrated.com, and some of the other local websites will pay benefits in terms of participation.
Though last night’s race was slower than anything I’d ever done at Eldo, it was still legbreakingly hard. Somewhere around twenty riders finished out of a field of 35-40, and that’s because there was nowhere to hide. The Shroeder Iron guys dominated in numbers and ability, and they missed no opportunity to continually send riders up the road.
I was either chasing, or riding in short-lived breaks, or hanging on for dear life as a Velo Allego or Pinnaclife rider (those were the three biggest teams) strung it out. At race’s end I was every bit as hammered as from the days of 2008. The vibe was also great. The Shroeder guys are super friendly, and after they’ve kicked your face in are always glad to shoot the breeze.
Although I can’t compare, it seemed like there were a lot of junior racers. That’s a good thing, and augurs well for development. Of course the Long Beach La Habra contingent was there in good numbers as well, though there were only two or three in our race.
Although I still love Mommy, I love Daddy, too, and I’m going to do Eldo once more this year despite the commute if Daddy will let me. I encourage you to come out and see what it’s all about, if you’re like me, a rider who gave it up because of the commute, or if you’ve never done it. You can’t beat the course, and the speedwork is fantastic if you want to do more than sit on wheels.
What between finishing up the year with CBR and Eldo, I hope Mom and Dad see I’m making the best out of being stuck in the middle.
Love you both,