January 25, 2015 § 29 Comments
Imagine someone you hate. Imagine someone you so deeply despise that the mere sight of their face or sound of their voice sets off something so primal within you that, were it not for orange jumpsuits and all that unprotected anal sex, you would gladly push them off a cliff and consider it the perfect start to a day.
Now imagine that this person you detest is a cowardly, sniveling, weak, unathletic simp who folds under duress like outdoor lawn furniture.
Next, imagine that you are able to perform the most astounding acts of athletic amazingness, and then, to complete the picture, imagine that this person who you loathe above all others suddenly falls completely within your power for two hours.
How would you this worthless consumer of oxygen suffer the most hideous torture possible? What would you make him endure to crush, abuse, and humiliate him before finally snuffing out his miserable life?
Okay, I know it’s obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: You’d take him mountain biking.
Manslaughter had been trying for years to get me on a mountain bike, but I had always refused. At age 51, I know mostly what I like, and I know definitively what I detest. I detest television, I detest religion, I detest war, and most of all I detest mountain biking.
One time I bought a mountain bike. It was in 1988. I lived in Austin, and I rode it along a trail called the Greenbelt. On a scale of MTB difficulty from 1 to 12 million, it rated a 2 or a 3. It was flat, it had some grass, it had some rocks, it had a creek, and it had a hill. My hatred of mountain biking coalesced on my first ride, when I fell off my bicycle and got a scratch.
The next day I was talking with the guys at the shop and they asked how my ride had gone. I told them that I had fallen off and gotten a scratch. I showed them the scratch and they all shrugged. “It’s not a good mountain bike ride if you don’t fall off and bleed,” they said. They were serious.
By 1988 I had already been riding a bicycle for most of my life, having started at age four or five, and the one thing I knew, if I knew anything, was that falling off a bicycle and bleeding was bad. If I’d had two columns in my life, one for “good” and one for “bad,” falling off and bleeding would have been at the top of the “bad” column.
On successive rides I learned that MTB people are all liars. Many of them fell off their bikes, bled, and went to the hospital, at which point even they admitted that shattered femurs were not “good.” I also discovered they were lying when they said “speed is your friend” every time I slowed, put down a foot, or sobbed. Speed is your enemy and it will kill you.
They tried to blame the “bad” on trees, giant stones, and sheer drop-offs. “The speed doesn’t hurt you, it’s the sudden stop,” they said, as if the two weren’t integrally linked, kind of like looking at 2+2=4 and saying it’s not the 2+2 that kills you, it’s the 4.
Twenty-eight years after what I swore was my last MTB ride, there was a knock on my door. It was Manslaughter, who had come by for our morning ride. I was ready to go, and when I opened the door he was standing there with two mountain bikes. The cheap one cost more than all of the cars in my apartment complex, together. He gave me the nice one.
“What is this?” I asked, staring with loathing at the bikes.
“We’re going mountain biking.”
“Okay,” I said. “Let me go wake up Mrs. WM. I didn’t know she rode.”
“No, wanker,” he said. “It’s for you. I’m taking you out on a cupcake trail. I’m going to show you what mountain biking is really like.”
“Why do you hate me?”
“I don’t hate you. You have a bunch of fucked up opinions about something you don’t know anything about. This will be fun, and easy, and safe.”
“Why are you such a liar? And not even a very good one?”
“I’m not lying. Now shut up and put on these shoes. I borrowed them from Tri-Dork.”
I looked at the shoes. “I’m not touching anything that Tri-Dork has sweated in.” The shoes were mauled beyond recognition, and I reflected on the countless mornings that I’d been leaving for a ride only to happen upon Tri-Dork, Manslaughter, Toy Boy, Dutchie, and Natty Yuck emerging from a trail, covered in filth from head to toe, blood caked or freshly oozing out of their legs, their faces plastered with the stupid, satisfied grins of Mongol warriors returning from having just butchered a village of women and children.
“Put on the fuggin’ shoes,” Manslaughter commanded. I did.
“Look, fucker,” I said. “This better be a fire road big enough to land an aircraft carrier on.”
“I think you mean ‘wide as an aircraft carrier to land a plane on.’ Aircraft carriers don’t land on things.”
“I think you better listen to me more carefully because I said what I meant the first time.”
“Don’t be such a sniveling little turd. I love you, I would never hurt you, and I’m going to take you on the most fun and bucolic bike ride of your life.”
“You are a piece of shit liar and you hate me.”
Manslaughter began showing me the fiddle sticks on the handlebars. “This is to lower your seat,” he explained.
“The seat height is fine.”
“No, stupid, it’s for when you’re going downhill, this lowers the seat.”
I had no idea what he was talking about so ignored him. We set off. It was amazing what a soft, spongy ride it was. “This sucks,” I said. “It’s like riding in an old Cadillac with more springs than a broken bed in a bad whorehouse.”
“We’re on asphalt.”
“You’ll see.” As we left the road and entered the soft grassy path that led to the trail I immediately felt the bike absorb what should have been a rough surface.
“Wow!” I said. “This sure is smooth!”
“It’s grass. It’s supposed to be smooth.”
At that moment a bike appeared at the trailhead. It was Jon F., covered in dust, his tongue hanging out, and sporting the stupid smile of a mass murderer that all MTB’ers seem to have. “Hey guys!” he chirped. “Have a good ride!” Then he recognized me. “Wanky! I didn’t know you did dirt!”
I was going to say something, but couldn’t. The grass gave way to a narrow trail that plunged off the side of a cliff. I’m not kidding. Manslaughter was already two hundred yards away, and with Dog as my copilot I realized that Gravity was the pilot, and he was insane and trying to kill me.
The bike absorbed everything on the trail except my abject terror and I got to the bottom alive. Manslaughter had been there for some time, say half an hour. “The worst is over!” he said, noting my white face and knuckles. “You can relax from here!” Then he fell off another precipice where I was expected to follow.
That was the precise moment, in fact, that my mountain bike ride became a mountain bike walk. “Fuck you,” I muttered, dismounting. “You aren’t going to kill me today.” Then I learned that walking isn’t much of an alternative in MTB shoes. The grade was so steep that I slipped and fell, rolling off the edge of the trail with the bike on top of me. The chain ring punched into my calf and out spurted the blood. Manslaughter came back to inspect.
“I guess it’s a good ride now?” I asked.
He shook his head. “It doesn’t really count since you didn’t actually fall off,” he advised. “But I won’t tell anyone that you fell down while walking.” He helped me remount at the bottom of a ravine that started at the bottom of a 20% wall.
Once I had hiked to the top, carrying the bike, we got ready to continue. “That really was the worst part,” he said. “It’s all pancake flat from here.” I’m glad I’ve never had one of his pancakes. The road plunged some more, went up some more steep walls, and branched off into more mountain bike hiking singletrack.
The high point of the ride was having Manslaughter scream, “Go faster!” as I madly braked for a turn and then flipped over the bars into a thorn bush. “That’s where Gussy fell the other day!” he crowed, as if falling with Gussy, a guy who I have never seen even wobble on his road bike, was a mark of distinction.
An hour later we reached the fire road, which was wide, yes, but straight up for the next four miles. We got to the top after being run off the road by a horse, a county Jeep, the game warden in a pickup, and several old people who glared at us as their pit bulls snarled and strained at the leash.
“Pretty peaceful up here, huh?” said Manslaughter.
“No. It isn’t peaceful.”
“Well, now you see what an easy pedal with someone who knows what he’s doing is like. What do you think?”
“Fuck you,” I said, stanching the blood with my lycra beanie.
“We’re going again on Thursday,” he said. “The guys would love to have you come along. You didn’t do completely terribly,” he said.
I didn’t answer. I didn’t have to.
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January 8, 2015 § 25 Comments
After a brutal two weeks of winter here in Los Angeles, where we had to wear booties, thick gloves, scarves, thermal beanies, a thick underlayer, armwarmers, short-sleeved jersey, insulated jacket, legwarmers, and plenty of embro, the 55-degree morning temperatures finally ended and summer returned. Surfer Dan and I decided to celebrate the end of the cold and bitter half-month of December/January by putting in some hard training.
Before we could train, though, we decided to hit the DK Donut Shop in Santa Monica, and figured we should grab a big cup of coffee at Philz, and then maybe pedal back home for a nap so that we could really chart out a super tough training regimen for February or March. As we pedaled down the bike path we ran into G$, who was going in the opposite direction. He was looking for partners to join him in his super tough interval workout, and so when he found out we were going to the donut shop he was all in.
“Intervals are hard, but intervals after donuts are even harder,” he said.
“Maybe so, but there’s something harder than donuts and intervals,” I replied.
“Yeah. Mountain biking.”
Money made a face. “I never could get the hang of that.”
“Me, either,” I agreed. “Everyone always tells me how fun it is, though.”
“Yeah, it’s a lot of fun, I guess, after it’s over.”
Surfer Dan was listening to us, because he’s a big MTB addict and is always trying to get me to go ride off-road with him, which I have occasionally done, invariably to my own detriment.
“The thing I could never wrap my head around was how they always say … ”
“‘…speed is your friend,'” I finished for him.
“Yeah. Speed really isn’t my friend. We haven’t spoken for years.”
“And all that crap about ‘don’t use your brakes.'”
“I know. If there’s one thing that screams ‘brakes’ it’s falling off a cliff at 40 headed straight for a log at the bottom of a minefield covered with jagged rocks.”
“Or what about that ‘don’t grip your bars so tightly’ stuff?” I laughed.
“Yeah. Like how are you supposed to not grip your bars in a death clench when physics are about to ram your face into a big stone?”
“Yep,” I agreed. “It’s a sport where you can find impending death easier than finding an accordion on an East LA radio station. But you know it wouldn’t be so bad if MTB just meant getting out on some wide and mostly flat fire road where you could pedal along and not have to drop off cliffs and avoid death every twelve seconds.”
“Uh-huh,” Money said.
“That’s what I hate about riding with Surfer. You start off on a nice fire road, no cars, birds chirping, and then he says, ‘Turn left here,’ and ‘here’ is a two-inch trail going down the face of a cliff. One minute you’re all happy and comfortable and having a good time and the next minute it’s nothing but screaming, furious terror, rage, and if-I-live-through-this-I’ll-kill-that-s.o.b.”
“I know,” said Money.
“It’s probably like how women feel when they’re having sex.”
There was a brief pause. “How do you figure?”
“Well, there they are having a good time, feeling all good and stuff and then the guy makes a hard left left turn down a narrow alley and she’s like ‘What the hell are you doing?’ and he’s like ‘Aw it won’t hurt’ and she’s like ‘Get that thing outta there’ and he’s like ‘Let’s just do it once and see how you like it’ and she’s like ‘No way’ and pretty soon everybody’s hollering and yelling and after it’s finished everybody’s all covered in sweat and kinda sore and wondering what the hell happened.”
It got really quiet then. “Uh, I think I better pass on coffee,” said Money. “I’m, uh, late for work.”
“Yeah,” said Surfer. “Me, uh, too.”
I got most of the way through my fourth donut before I realized that Surfer doesn’t even have a job.
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November 1, 2011 § 2 Comments
The late-2000’s recession, sometimes referred to as the Great Recession, Lesser Depression, Long Recession, or Fuck Honey We’re Broke Decade, is a severe ongoing global economic problem that began in March 2004 when President George W. Bush took up mountain biking. The economy took a particularly sharp nosedive in September 2008 as the cumulative effects of the president’s obsession with cycling caused him to completely ignore his obligations to the nation and, in effect, pedal the economy off a cliff.
The Great Recession has affected the entire world economy, with higher detriment in some countries than others. It is a major global recession characterized by the various systemic imbalances that are all too familiar to the spouses of avid cyclists, i.e., declining wages and increased expenditures on redundant bike crap. Although it’s unclear when Bush started fucking off in earnest, historians put the onset of his cycloholism sometime in 2004. “His knees were shot to shit from decades of jogging and sucking all that corporate/Big Oil/Wall Street cock,” says Flubber McGee, historian-in-residence at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. “Mountain biking was a natural: the kind of nasty, dangerous, psychotic, wild-ass crazy, off the reservation, batshit crazy activity that you’d expect from a man stupid and whacko enough to invade Afghanistan.”
Lance and Me
“He’s become a biking maniac,” said Mark McKinnon, Bush’s former media advisor and frequent cycling companion. In a 2005 interview, McKinnon confirmed what mountain bike widows know the world over. “He’s obsessed with it,” McKinnon continued. “He now likes to do nothing but work out on his bike, and he does it with a frenzy that is reserved for people like Lance Armstrong, and the legions of idiots who think they’re Lance Armstrong. It’s a full-blown case of cycloholism. May the good Lord have pity on our poor fucking country.”
Adds Tatty Inkster, the president’s private MTB trainer and consultant, “The prez’s crapper, you know, it’s filled with bike mags. Good fuckin’ luck gettin’ him to read an intelligence report. He’ll stay in there for fuckin’ hours and come out wantin’ to know should he go clipless or platforms, whatever. He’s got it fuckin’ bad. In a good way, of course.”
When asked about mountain biking at a prayer meeting of fundie crazies in Great Falls, Montana, Bush’s face lit up at just the mention of biking. “Prayer and the bike are what keeps me going,” he told his interviewer. “And killing people.”
The ravages of Bush’s cycloholism, and the impact it would soon have on the U.S. economy and later the global economy, became clear in the hills of his Crawford, Texas ranch in 2004 when he took a face-battering spill. “We’ve got thrills, spills–you name it,” Bush told an Associated Press reporter who accompanied him on a ride that saw the president sail over his handlebars, crash to the ground, smash his already ugly face to a pulp, and then hop back on his bike.
“Are you okay, Mr. President?” an accompanying Secret Service agent asked.
“Fuck you!” the president shouted as he sailed off another small cliff into a wooded ravine filled with briars, wild boars, and large, jagged stones.
Economic historians pinpoint this period as roughly simultaneous with the time that the U.S. economy began to wildly overheat and plunge into an economic ravine of its own. At a G-20 meeting later that month, when Japanese Prime Minister Kuki Fukinutti asked Bush about U.S. policy regarding the regulation of subprime mortgage collateralized securities, the president famously replied, “Fuck you!” and dashed outside the building to ride his new carbon Cannondale painted like Air Force One over a series of curbs.
“Recession” vs. “You’re Fucked for Life”
There are two senses of the word “recession”: a less precise sense, referring broadly to “a period of reduced economic activity,” and the scientific sense used most often in economics, which is defined operationally, referring specifically to the contraction phase of a business cycle, with two or more consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. By the economic-science definition of the word “recession,” the Great Recession ended in the U.S. in June or July 2009. Bush historians note that this is conclusive evidence that the president’s cycloholism was linked with the collapse of the national economy, as by 2009 he was no longer in office.
However, in the broader, layperson sense of the word, many people use the term “recession” to refer to how brutal and hopeless their lives have become, and will likely remain until they die. This includes the inability to pay for rent and utilities, children raised in ignorance and squalor, and the inability to meet basic medical needs, such as remedial dentistry for meth mouth. In the U.S., for example, persistent high unemployment remains, along with low consumer confidence, the continuing decline in home values, the increase in foreclosures and personal bankruptcies, an escalating federal debt crisis, inflation, rising gas and food prices, and tax cuts for billionaires. In fact, a 2011 poll found that more than half of all Americans think the U.S. is still in recession or even depression, and that they believe official data that shows a historically modest recovery doesn’t mean squat when you’re begging for food and living with your kids in a fucking homeless shelter.
Has cycling ever helped your career? It didn’t help Bush’s, either.
Although most Americans are unaware of the connection between Bush’s cycloholism and his abandonment of the daily job of governing the nation, a recent historical survey of cyclist wives confirms the link. Sally Sadsack, stuck in a 25-year loser marriage with a hopeless cycloholic, concurs. “As soon as I saw that news clip of Bush picking his face off that rock I knew we were fucked,” she says. “You know how many times my husband Billy has come home missing teeth? Fractured orbital bones? Six-month convalescences? Christ, I’ve lost count. But as soon as the rods and plates are out, he’s back at it, the dumb sonofabitch.”
Mary Mizzable, who divorced her MTB husband after a decade of therapy and cyclanon meetings at the local church with other addicts, believes that once Bush got hooked on mountain biking, the recession was a foregone conclusion. “Come on,” she says. “All these guys want to do is hammer each other. That’s it. It’s a Tiny Dick man thing. Bush gets his Secret Service homies out on the trail and batters them to hell. Then they all go into the presidential shower and snap wet towels at each others’ asses. How is complex economic theory and monetary policy going to compete with that?”
Next: How former President Bush made amends to tens of thousands of horrifically injured war veterans, made up for trillions wasted on the Middle East wars, and atoned for his stewardship at the helm of our nation’s worst economic crisis with a charity MTB ride.