Ever since we relocated to apartment heaven atop the Hill of Death, I’ve commuted to work whenever possible. It’s usually possible.
With the late sunrise and global warming mornings, the day begins in blackness, the sharp beam jutting forth from my headlight, the panicky red flasher in the rear strobing at cars not to hit me as I roll out of the parking garage, pick up speed, turn left to get out of the driveway, then stand out of the saddle and pump sharp, quick, and hard to accelerate up the steep pavement before ejecting onto Highridge, downhill, immediately hitting 40 before the light at Hawthorne.
Those first few pumps today came at the expense of sluggish and tired legs from yesterday that had been put in the service of a ride to Carson, a 60-minute crit, then a return ride that took me up the Hill and over to the coast, and finally up the Hill again at Hawthorne, then what-the-hell-why-not Whitley Collins, and home.
I was tired.
Thankfully, it’s all downhill to the office, save for a minor bump or two in Redondo and Torrance. I cut out of the office at eleven and worked out for an hour at my new gym, then tacked on extra miles by avoiding VdM and instead taking Paseo del Mar, Hawthorne, a descent and re-climb up Calle de los Suenos, then Crest, Whitley-Collins, and home.
These were penance miles. I’d been a bad, bad boy.
Long fall from a tall wagon
I didn’t just fall off the wagon last Friday, I pushed the motherfucker off into a ravine filled with dynamite.
Two years and nine months of sobriety? Gone.
Two and a half months of disciplined dieting and weight loss and exercise? Flushed.
An entire day and night spent wallowing in alcohol, food, alcohol, food, food, dessert, coffee, alcohol, and more food? Followed by food? And alcohol?
That might have been me.
It’s all Mrs. Wankmeister’s fault
We had driven up to Monterey for the annual State Bar Convention. I was scheduled to give a presentation called “Social Media and Blogging: Don’t Put on the Net What You Don’t Want Your Colleagues to Know,” but they cancelled my session when the organizers vetted my Facebook page and blog postings and were predictably outraged.
So on Friday Mrs. WM and I strolled down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Like every place called “Fisherman’s Wharf,” there were no fishermen, only expensive trinkets at cheesy souvenir shops, and mercury-laden fish flown in from Chinese aquaculture farms.
But the weather was gorgeous. And even though romance wasn’t in the air (yet), there were a couple of fat barking seals humping each other on one of the pilings while giant brown pelicans shat enormous streams of bird poop onto the boats below.
“Let’s a you getta some beer,” she said.
“Honey, you know I don’t drink.”
“Why you wanna be a not drinker? Not drinkers onna boring old fartman.”
“I guess I can live with being a boring old fartman.”
“I ain’t a gonna care about you liking onna fartman. It’s me ain’t gonna liking on it. Jus’ get onna cold beer and I won’t tell onna your friends.”
“Oh, I don’t care what they think. I’m sober for myself. For my own sanity.”
“Why you gotta always make stupid decision and not changin’ it because your biker friends gonna call you a fartmaster? Jus’ have a cold beer and I’ll have a cold wine and a beer and a coupla tequila shots and some whiskey and then I’ll be ready to go out onna drinkin’.”
By now she had steered me into the bar, which was empty, and which had a wonderful view of the harbor, and before I knew it I was drinking a beer. And oh dog, did it taste good.
When the levee breaks
That first beer didn’t do it. I resisted the nearly overpowering urge to have another, and instead went out into the fresh air, marveling at how lucky I was to have enough will power to “just say ‘no.'” We went back to Alvarado Street and passed an empty restaurant called Alvarado Fish and Steak House.
I suppose it was empty because it was 4:30.
We sat down, and Mrs. WM opened with a dozen oysters. I called her dozen and raised her a plate of roasted garlic, antipasto, and several baskets of fresh bread with butter. She raised my bread and butter with olive oil and vinegar dip. I called the olive oil and threw down two more glasses of wine.
She eyed the wine, glancing over the rim, her steely eyes unflinching. “You raising me onna wine, eh?” she said. “Dat’s not onna problem, because I’m raisin’ you onna clam chowder.”
I saw her cup of clam chowder but at the last second raised it to a full-sized bowl. She countered with a house salad. I shifted on my hole card, feeling kind of heavy around the gut and light in the head. Double checking my hand by loosening my belt and undoing the top button, I went in with what I thought was an over-the-top bet: raised her house salad with a Caesar salad plus chicken breast on the side.
She laughed. “That all you got onna belly?” She waved the garkon over and doubled down with two more glasses of Wente chardonnay.
I was starting to crack, but couldn’t let her see it. In a bold move I grabbed the garkon’s elbow and went all in: “Hey, sonny. Give me the butter-broiled, nut encrusted jumbo filet of snapper with pasta and veggies on the side.”
“You onna jokin?” Mrs. WM said in clear disbelief.
I drove it home. “And toss in the garlic mashed potatoes.”
She held steady while the food piled up, occasionally bumping the pot with another glass of wine. I pushed away the final plate, three hours later. “Hunh,” she said. “Now we gonna play for real. Because I wanna dessert and coffee at that French kinda place.”
“The crepe shop?” I said in horror.
“Yeah, dat one.”
I waddle-staggered down the street, where the game continued. She raised me a nutella-strawberry-sugar crepe with butter and whipped cream. I countered with a mini-waffle smothered in syrup and blackberries, and raised her dessert crepe with a dinner crepe stuffed with sausage, cheese, onion, bell pepper, goat cheese, and sour cream.
“Gimme onna big coffee, please,” she asked the waiter.
“Me too. Make mine a double. With a fruit pastry on the side!” I hollered after him.
Then everything went black.
It’s a smaller wagon now
The Saturday morning wreckage was immense. It took all day to drive home, and I promptly hopped on my bike and rode around the Hill. I thought a lot about wagons, and falling off them.
I don’t know how it is for other people, but I need my routine, and my routine is badly shaken by travel, and fornicating seals, and pooping pelicans, and daredevil food betting games with a cagey Asian.
I’m three days back into my routine, though, and feeling great. Just gotta throw in a few more miles and a couple more climbs at the end of every commute to get back on the program.