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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