What goes around, spins around

January 8, 2021 § 14 Comments

Some bicycles beg to get stolen. Kristie had taken incredible security measures to protect her most treasured possession, in this particular case her Fuji SL with Dura-Ace and the lightest, most durable set of FastForward carbon wheels which were 100% carbon, made fully of carbon and exclusively carbonized through various carbon procedures. To ensure that the bike would never be stolen, she had leaned it up against her garage unlocked, which faces a busy street, for a few hours.

Later that evening, when she went out to bring her beloved bicycle into the house, she was astounded to see it gone, and in its place a beat-up POS Giant hybrid bike with brakes that didn’t work, a chain that barely turned, and gears that were a transmission in name only.

Many tears were shed and many oaths uttered as she marveled at how someone could have ridden by on a broke-down clunker, seen her shiny, beautiful, expensive bike leaning against the garage, and thought “Sweet! Time for a swap-er-oo!” and then ridden off.

It didn’t help when I pointed out that anyone who cared so little about a bike as to leave it out unlocked shouldn’t be too surprised when someone rides away on it.

Fortunately she had another, much less wonderful and less beautiful bike that she was able to continue riding, and she took the junker Giant and chucked it in the garage, where it languished, if dead things can languish.

Last week, when I met Bill who was in need of a bike, I began looking around for something that might work for him. Some people suggested the Salvation Army but that was a bust. Then I remembered the junker Giant and took a look at it. It was carbon and most of the damage could be fixed by someone with a trusty wrench.

So I called up Baby Seal at the Dropout. “Bring ‘er in,” he said, “we’d love to help.” I heard Boozy P. groan in the background as JP said “we” and recounted the dire prognosis of the patient. Boozy P. loves taking horrible, broken, worthless bikes and spending hours in order to make them look simply terrible. But, sixpack! So it’s all good.

We dropped off the bike, and Boozy P. set about refurbishing this distinctly unloved bicycle. When he was done with it, it sparkled. Brakes fixed, transmission fixed, new tars, and lots of bike polish … the junker Giant had been transformed.

Yesterday we took it over to the encampment on Lomita by the 110. Bill was in his tent, and he had great news: His caseworker had gotten him Section 8 housing and he was getting ready to move into a home for the first time in six years. He was so incredibly happy.

“We found you a bike,” I said.

“Really?”

“Yeah, really.” I took it out of Kristie’s car and put the front wheel on, or at least that was my plan. However, the bike had cantilever brakes and I was having difficulty.

Bill looked on sympathetically. I knew what he was thinking: “Must be a pretty sad life to be this old and unable to put on the front wheel of a bicycle.”

I fumbled a bit before he gently took over with hands accustomed to doing, you know, work. “These are cantilever brakes,” he said. “The cable slots out of this barrel adjuster by the brake lever, and it has fallen out. You have to pop it in like this.” He popped it in. “Then the wire between the brake pads has to be squeezed just a touch so that you can connect the cable.” He expertly did just that.

“Wow,” I thought. “Dude knows bikes.”

And it made sense. For one, it’s not that difficult. For another, you have to know things living out there. You can’t really pay people to do them, and they don’t happen on their own.

I gave Bill a lock to go with the bike. He was really happy and thanked us. “No worries,” I said. I told him the story about the stolen bike swap and he had a laugh. Then I told him about the refurbishing by Baby Seal & Co., and about the various people who had donated money for me pass on to others.

“Thanks so much,” he said, repeatedly. We shook hands and left, but not before I handed out tens to the other guys standing around.

We drove up to a break in the median and did a u-turn to head back home. Bill and a bunch of his friends were clustered around the bike, admiring it. Re-cycling, indeed.

END

Field of (bicycle) dreams

September 1, 2020 § 12 Comments

First time I saw Baby Seal he was huddled up against the edge of the pier, flippers pinned nervously as he waited for the phalanx to roll out. That was seven or eight years ago but it might as well have been a thousand. Baby Seal was such a baby seal that he wasn’t even called “Baby Seal.” Or anything.

He got clubbed pretty badly on that ride and on a bunch of rides after that. I only noticed him because he had The Stick. That’s what some people have. They simply stick it out.

He got better and fitter and faster and eventually I learned his name. “Jon,” he said. “Jonathan Paris.”

His background was murky. He worked somehow or other in the healthcare field and made it clear that he didn’t find it his life’s calling. He exuded a quirkiness that fits cyclists. He was keen, too, observing and keeping his mouth shut, letting his legs pass on whatever it was he had to say. More and more, what he had to say was “hammer.”

Over a couple of short years I took him under my club and taught him everything I knew about cycling, which was 1) Show no mercy and 2) When tempted, show even less.

Since he was a quick learner, he passed it on as quickly as he could to others. Eventually he began showing up to the Pier Ride with a stuffed baby seal under his saddle. He welcomed the clubbing and he welcomed the moniker, and through it all he blossomed as a cyclist.

He learned to quit his job and work in “the industry.” He learned to spend every spare cent on easily broken bike parts. He learned that in the South Bay how you look is what matters. He learned that it’s better to hammer and get shelled than to whimper at the back and get shelled.

He learned to wear his slinky black dress when he was going good, and hide from the world in his fat pants when the Cheez-its took over. And he learned that he had a voice, a voice groomed by an upbringing that many would never have lived through.

The stuffed animal was a counterpoint to the real JP, a guy who had lived on the streets and who despite his gentle smile and skinny bike build knew how to alley fight with his feet, his fists, or any piece of rebar lying around. JP seemed like a nice guy and he was until you mistook kindness and human decency for a pushover. The steely JP never needed to threaten anyone. All he ever had to do was change his gaze ever so slightly so that you could see the jagged broken glass and rusty nails therein. Those glances made you hurry as quickly as you could back to the smiling Baby Seal.

JP did a land-office business at every bike shop he worked for. He turned the Pasadena Performance shop into the region’s top sales outlet. After a year at Bike Palace in San Pedro they had their best year ever by orders of magnitude, and that was before the covids. JP knew how to sell because he understood service because he understood people.

All the while he planned his escape, and a few days ago I got a text that simply said, “Lease concluded. Shop’s address is 1272 Sartori in Torrance, 90501.”

The Dropout is opening shortly and I hope you’ll go out of your way to patronize it.

For me, I’m looking forward to showing up at The Dropout so that I can make JP’s endeavor a huge success. Here’s my hit list, and I’m sure you can add others:

  • Buy something, use it hard, and return it demanding a full refund.
  • Ask for a discount.
  • When I get the discount, ask for the bro discount.
  • When I get the bro discount, ask for the uber-bro discount.
  • When I get the uber-bro discount, ask if I can have it on credit.
  • When I get it on credit, forget.
  • Go to the shop and ask to be put first in the service queue that stretches out to December.
  • Ask JP to find me a very rare part then buy it on the Internet.
  • Try on all the shoes, then buy them on the Internet.
  • Ask JP if he can beat the Internet deal on [xxx]. Then buy it on the Internet even when he does.
  • Bring back my bike after being serviced and say it doesn’t work after I fell off a cliff.
  • Show up early Saturday afternoon and get JP to stop everything to listen to my awesome ride recap.
  • Swing by at 5:59 to see if he can “just check my derailleur” because “it’ll only take a minute.”
  • Ask his advice about equipment then ignore it.
  • Text him technical questions with lots of pictures of how the screw doesn’t fit the thingy like the whatsit in the YouTube video.
  • Argue with him about tires.
  • Argue with him about frames.
  • Argue.

Anyway, you can do all this and more, and in the process maybe even spend a buck or two. Or at least ask for a discount.

Hats off, JP. You earned it.

END


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Field of (bicycle) dreams

September 1, 2020 § 12 Comments

First time I saw Baby Seal he was huddled up against the edge of the pier, flippers pinned nervously as he waited for the phalanx to roll out. That was seven or eight years ago but it might as well have been a thousand. Baby Seal was such a baby seal that he wasn’t even called “Baby Seal.” Or anything.

He got clubbed pretty badly on that ride and on a bunch of rides after that. I only noticed him because he had The Stick. That’s what some people have. They simply stick it out.

He got better and fitter and faster and eventually I learned his name. “Jon,” he said. “Jonathan Paris.”

His background was murky. He worked somehow or other in the healthcare field and made it clear that he didn’t find it his life’s calling. He exuded a quirkiness that fits cyclists. He was keen, too, observing and keeping his mouth shut, letting his legs pass on whatever it was he had to say. More and more, what he had to say was “hammer.”

Over a couple of short years I took him under my club and taught him everything I knew about cycling, which was 1) Show no mercy and 2) When tempted, show even less.

Since he was a quick learner, he passed it on as quickly as he could to others. Eventually he began showing up to the Pier Ride with a stuffed baby seal under his saddle. He welcomed the clubbing and he welcomed the moniker, and through it all he blossomed as a cyclist.

He learned to quit his job and work in “the industry.” He learned to spend every spare cent on easily broken bike parts. He learned that in the South Bay how you look is what matters. He learned that it’s better to hammer and get shelled than to whimper at the back and get shelled.

He learned to wear his slinky black dress when he was going good, and hide from the world in his fat pants when the Cheez-its took over. And he learned that he had a voice, a voice groomed by an upbringing that many would never have lived through.

The stuffed animal was a counterpoint to the real JP, a guy who had lived on the streets and who despite his gentle smile and skinny bike build knew how to alley fight with his feet, his fists, or any piece of rebar lying around. JP seemed like a nice guy and he was until you mistook kindness and human decency for a pushover. The steely JP never needed to threaten anyone. All he ever had to do was change his gaze ever so slightly so that you could see the jagged broken glass and rusty nails therein. Those glances made you hurry as quickly as you could back to the smiling Baby Seal.

JP did a land-office business at every bike shop he worked for. He turned the Pasadena Performance shop into the region’s top sales outlet. After a year at Bike Palace in San Pedro they had their best year ever by orders of magnitude, and that was before the covids. JP knew how to sell because he understood service because he understood people.

All the while he planned his escape, and a few days ago I got a text that simply said, “Lease concluded. Shop’s address is 1272 Sartori in Torrance, 90501.”

The Dropout is opening shortly and I hope you’ll go out of your way to patronize it.

For me, I’m looking forward to showing up at The Dropout so that I can make JP’s endeavor a huge success. Here’s my hit list, and I’m sure you can add others:

  • Buy something, use it hard, and return it demanding a full refund.
  • Ask for a discount.
  • When I get the discount, ask for the bro discount.
  • When I get the bro discount, ask for the uber-bro discount.
  • When I get the uber-bro discount, ask if I can have it on credit.
  • When I get it on credit, forget.
  • Go to the shop and ask to be put first in the service queue that stretches out to December.
  • Ask JP to find me a very rare part then buy it on the Internet.
  • Try on all the shoes, then buy them on the Internet.
  • Ask JP if he can beat the Internet deal on [xxx]. Then buy it on the Internet even when he does.
  • Bring back my bike after being serviced and say it doesn’t work after I fell off a cliff.
  • Show up early Saturday afternoon and get JP to stop everything to listen to my awesome ride recap.
  • Swing by at 5:59 to see if he can “just check my derailleur” because “it’ll only take a minute.”
  • Ask his advice about equipment then ignore it.
  • Text him technical questions with lots of pictures of how the screw doesn’t fit the thingy like the whatsit in the YouTube video.
  • Argue with him about tires.
  • Argue with him about frames.
  • Argue.

Anyway, you can do all this and more, and in the process maybe even spend a buck or two. Or at least ask for a discount.

Hats off, JP. You earned it.

END


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You’ve lost that tingling feeling

April 20, 2020 § 7 Comments

The quarantine was slowly wearing Baby Seal down. Actually, the quarantine had been wearing him down since before the quarantine. He’d gained 45 pounds and was waking up at noon. His fat pants now looked like tights. Every shelf in his walk-in closet was a nest of secret snacks for munching in between his five daily meals. And best of all I mean worst of all, his $19,872.22 all-carbon bike made of 100% carbon and pure carbon everything and electric extra everything, remained untouched, unridden, unloved.

Baby Seal lay on the floor every morning thinking about his post-Colombia Tour de Smuggling, when he had returned triumphantly from the highest, hardest climbs on earth fit as a goat, easily able to crack out NPR and then a Donut loop on top of that. He thought about his skinny pants, about the empty secret snacking shelves, and about how his iron will, fortified as the fitness of a thousand barking seals, carried him gloriously from party to party showing off his skinny legs, his skinny buttocks, his leanly carved face, his scrawny cyclist arms and sexy pencil neck, and his farmer’s tan.

Finally, it got to be too much. Baby Seal threw off the covers, hoisted himself out of floor with the help of a small handicapped railing he’d installed on the wall, and waddled into the bathroom.

“Today,” he barked, “is the return of the Seal. Mark yer fuggin’ calendars, bitches.”

With that oath sworn, and exhausted thereby, he returned to floor and snoozed until it was time for his second lunch.

That night he dialed up Ram-Ram. “Yo.”

“Hey, JP. What’s up?”

“I’m starting my new fitness plan tomorrow. It will be hard. Grueling. Intense. Ordinary riders would crumble. It’s so tough that I need a partner in crime. And you’re he.”

“Uh, sure. What’s up?”

“Here’s the plan. Day 1 we do a loop around the Hill. 22 miles, 1,700 feet.”

“Uh, sure.”

“Day 2 we do two loops.”

“Hmmm. Day 3?”

“Three loops.”

Ram-Ram nodded to himself. “When does this stop?”

“Day 7.”

“Cumulative loops for seven days till we finish off with 154 miles and 11,900 feet?”

“Exactly.” Then Baby Seal paused stragetically. “Of course if it’s too hard for you I can try to find someone else.”

“No, no. I’m in.”

“K. See you tomorrow at 5:30.” Baby Seal fell back into floor smiling to himself. It was a crazy plan but sure to get him out of his fat pants and back into his slimming t-shirts. Ram-Ram was the perfect sucker partner because he lived 15 miles from the start, so he had an additional 30 miles every day. This would not only compensate for the vast fitness differential between them, as Ram-Ram had never ridden less than 500 miles a week, and it would provide excellent stragety. As the days passed, each ride would finish later, giving Ram-Ram less recovery. Then, since they’d be increasing the number of loops and therefore starting earlier, Ram-Ram would have to keep getting up earlier. If everything went according to plan, Ram-Ram would be a flubbering puddle of Jello-O by Day 5, Day 6 at the very latest, and Baby Seal could bark his way to fitness with the world’s greatest Stravver ‘Gram celebration ever.

Day 1 went great except that Seal found out that all the spigots had been turned off at all the usual stopping places. Of course the cafes weren’t open, except for Angry Lady Cafe in Lunada Bay. Seal had a hate-hate relationship with the angry lady who ran Angry Lady, and it was only partially because he would always dash into the toilet, which had a “Customers Only” sign on it, dump a corn-studded bowl buster, and dash back out without ever buying anything.

Angry Lady could never bust his chops because she was always busy with customers, and by the time she saw him the door would be locked and the log machine would be set at 11.

However, with the quarantine and the Angry Lady Cafe having been designated as an essential business, she was ready for his hijinks. “Oh, no, you don’t!” she yelled, grabbing him by the arm as he ran in. “Pay!”

“I was gonna get, uh, a crossant,” Seal hangdoggedly said. $25 dollars later he was back on his bike, vowing never to return.

Day 2 was uneventful except for all the events. He was still only taking one water bottle and nothing to eat except Barbie food. Ram-Ram was in fine fettle, but they both ran out of water … in front of Angry Lady Cafe. $50 later they were riding again. “This is getting expensive,” said Ram-Ram.

“Yeah,” thought Seal, “but you’re tacking on an extra 30 miles each way and it’s going to get you in the end.”

By the end of Day 3 Ram-Ram was still fine, but their mutual subsistence on Barbie food had begun to play havoc with their bowels. On Lap 3, the moment they got close to the Angry Lady Cafe, their water bottles emptied and their bowels filled with the loose, gummy pieces of all that Barbie food. This time there was a struggle over who’d get to sit down first. Seal won.

As Seal stood outdoors waiting for Ram-Ram to finish, Angry Lady come up to him complying with social distancing. “What are you two doing?” she asked suspiciously.

“Riding our bikes, what does it look like?” For $50, Seal thought he was entitled to at least one rude comment.

“It looks like you are both homeless and have lost your minds,” she snapped.

Day 4 and Seal was wrecked. The thought of four laps around that dog-damned hill was more than he could imagine. They’d begun seeing the same people, who had also begun seeing them. Now it was weird, a Groundhog Day within a Groundhog Day. Still not organized enough to take additional water bottles, Baby Seal ran out early and stopped instead at the Yellow Vase Cafe in Malaga Cove, another business essential to the maintenance of life as we know it.

The second time they stopped there, the manager had removed the free water cistern out front, scowlingly, and tacked up a “Customers Only” sign on the bathroom door. Another fifty bucks gone.

Day 5 and no one cared about the cost of water and a poop anymore. “At least my taint doesn’t hurt now,” Seal mused as he took the most expensive leak-poop in history. But a quick glance Down There revealed that there was a reason it didn’t hurt: All of the skin had been ground into a bloody, meaty pulp and the nerve endings were permanently dead. He pulled up his gore-soaked shorts and continued on.

At the end of Day 5, Ram-Ram cheerily waved good-bye. “Have a safe ride home,” Seal muttered, hoping that his fake cheer wouldn’t fail to remind Ram-Ram that he still had another miserable fifteen miles of nasty urban traffic ahead of him.

The day dawned fair and clear on Saturday, Day 6. Seal lay in floor, staring at the ceiling, hoping, praying that Ram-Ram would experience a crisis of confidence. The phone rang. “Thank dog,” Seal said. “Yeah?” he answered.

“Where are you? It’s already six.”

“Uh, my alarm, uh, breakfast, um, flat tire, uh, dirty laundry, ah, be there in a few, uh, almost out the door.”

Seal put on the bloody rags from the day before and drove to the start. “You look fresh,” he growled.

“Yeah,” smiled Ram-Ram. “It’s great to have a nice warm-up before the real riding starts.”

The real riding on Day 6 slowly obliterated Baby Seal. He spent a hundred dollars on coffee and toilets. He bled. He shat his shorts and didn’t care. He stared at his paunch, which had shrunk to the size of a tiny throw pillow, and hardly even cared. (I did say “hardly.”) By the sixth lap, climbing up the wall out of Portuguese Bend, Seal could only whimper as Ram-Ram looked back quizzically.

“You okay, man?”

The final day arrived but Seal didn’t. His phone rang and rang. With each buzz he curled up more tightly in his cozy floor. “No way,” he told himself, “that punk is gonna finish seven laps today. No fuggin’ way.”

END


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You’ve lost that tingling feeling

April 20, 2020 § 7 Comments

The quarantine was slowly wearing Baby Seal down. Actually, the quarantine had been wearing him down since before the quarantine. He’d gained 45 pounds and was waking up at noon. His fat pants now looked like tights. Every shelf in his walk-in closet was a nest of secret snacks for munching in between his five daily meals. And best of all I mean worst of all, his $19,872.22 all-carbon bike made of 100% carbon and pure carbon everything and electric extra everything, remained untouched, unridden, unloved.

Baby Seal lay on the floor every morning thinking about his post-Colombia Tour de Smuggling, when he had returned triumphantly from the highest, hardest climbs on earth fit as a goat, easily able to crack out NPR and then a Donut loop on top of that. He thought about his skinny pants, about the empty secret snacking shelves, and about how his iron will, fortified as the fitness of a thousand barking seals, carried him gloriously from party to party showing off his skinny legs, his skinny buttocks, his leanly carved face, his scrawny cyclist arms and sexy pencil neck, and his farmer’s tan.

Finally, it got to be too much. Baby Seal threw off the covers, hoisted himself out of floor with the help of a small handicapped railing he’d installed on the wall, and waddled into the bathroom.

“Today,” he barked, “is the return of the Seal. Mark yer fuggin’ calendars, bitches.”

With that oath sworn, and exhausted thereby, he returned to floor and snoozed until it was time for his second lunch.

That night he dialed up Ram-Ram. “Yo.”

“Hey, JP. What’s up?”

“I’m starting my new fitness plan tomorrow. It will be hard. Grueling. Intense. Ordinary riders would crumble. It’s so tough that I need a partner in crime. And you’re he.”

“Uh, sure. What’s up?”

“Here’s the plan. Day 1 we do a loop around the Hill. 22 miles, 1,700 feet.”

“Uh, sure.”

“Day 2 we do two loops.”

“Hmmm. Day 3?”

“Three loops.”

Ram-Ram nodded to himself. “When does this stop?”

“Day 7.”

“Cumulative loops for seven days till we finish off with 154 miles and 11,900 feet?”

“Exactly.” Then Baby Seal paused stragetically. “Of course if it’s too hard for you I can try to find someone else.”

“No, no. I’m in.”

“K. See you tomorrow at 5:30.” Baby Seal fell back into floor smiling to himself. It was a crazy plan but sure to get him out of his fat pants and back into his slimming t-shirts. Ram-Ram was the perfect sucker partner because he lived 15 miles from the start, so he had an additional 30 miles every day. This would not only compensate for the vast fitness differential between them, as Ram-Ram had never ridden less than 500 miles a week, and it would provide excellent stragety. As the days passed, each ride would finish later, giving Ram-Ram less recovery. Then, since they’d be increasing the number of loops and therefore starting earlier, Ram-Ram would have to keep getting up earlier. If everything went according to plan, Ram-Ram would be a flubbering puddle of Jello-O by Day 5, Day 6 at the very latest, and Baby Seal could bark his way to fitness with the world’s greatest Stravver ‘Gram celebration ever.

Day 1 went great except that Seal found out that all the spigots had been turned off at all the usual stopping places. Of course the cafes weren’t open, except for Angry Lady Cafe in Lunada Bay. Seal had a hate-hate relationship with the angry lady who ran Angry Lady, and it was only partially because he would always dash into the toilet, which had a “Customers Only” sign on it, dump a corn-studded bowl buster, and dash back out without ever buying anything.

Angry Lady could never bust his chops because she was always busy with customers, and by the time she saw him the door would be locked and the log machine would be set at 11.

However, with the quarantine and the Angry Lady Cafe having been designated as an essential business, she was ready for his hijinks. “Oh, no, you don’t!” she yelled, grabbing him by the arm as he ran in. “Pay!”

“I was gonna get, uh, a crossant,” Seal hangdoggedly said. $25 dollars later he was back on his bike, vowing never to return.

Day 2 was uneventful except for all the events. He was still only taking one water bottle and nothing to eat except Barbie food. Ram-Ram was in fine fettle, but they both ran out of water … in front of Angry Lady Cafe. $50 later they were riding again. “This is getting expensive,” said Ram-Ram.

“Yeah,” thought Seal, “but you’re tacking on an extra 30 miles each way and it’s going to get you in the end.”

By the end of Day 3 Ram-Ram was still fine, but their mutual subsistence on Barbie food had begun to play havoc with their bowels. On Lap 3, the moment they got close to the Angry Lady Cafe, their water bottles emptied and their bowels filled with the loose, gummy pieces of all that Barbie food. This time there was a struggle over who’d get to sit down first. Seal won.

As Seal stood outdoors waiting for Ram-Ram to finish, Angry Lady come up to him complying with social distancing. “What are you two doing?” she asked suspiciously.

“Riding our bikes, what does it look like?” For $50, Seal thought he was entitled to at least one rude comment.

“It looks like you are both homeless and have lost your minds,” she snapped.

Day 4 and Seal was wrecked. The thought of four laps around that dog-damned hill was more than he could imagine. They’d begun seeing the same people, who had also begun seeing them. Now it was weird, a Groundhog Day within a Groundhog Day. Still not organized enough to take additional water bottles, Baby Seal ran out early and stopped instead at the Yellow Vase Cafe in Malaga Cove, another business essential to the maintenance of life as we know it.

The second time they stopped there, the manager had removed the free water cistern out front, scowlingly, and tacked up a “Customers Only” sign on the bathroom door. Another fifty bucks gone.

Day 5 and no one cared about the cost of water and a poop anymore. “At least my taint doesn’t hurt now,” Seal mused as he took the most expensive leak-poop in history. But a quick glance Down There revealed that there was a reason it didn’t hurt: All of the skin had been ground into a bloody, meaty pulp and the nerve endings were permanently dead. He pulled up his gore-soaked shorts and continued on.

At the end of Day 5, Ram-Ram cheerily waved good-bye. “Have a safe ride home,” Seal muttered, hoping that his fake cheer wouldn’t fail to remind Ram-Ram that he still had another miserable fifteen miles of nasty urban traffic ahead of him.

The day dawned fair and clear on Saturday, Day 6. Seal lay in floor, staring at the ceiling, hoping, praying that Ram-Ram would experience a crisis of confidence. The phone rang. “Thank dog,” Seal said. “Yeah?” he answered.

“Where are you? It’s already six.”

“Uh, my alarm, uh, breakfast, um, flat tire, uh, dirty laundry, ah, be there in a few, uh, almost out the door.”

Seal put on the bloody rags from the day before and drove to the start. “You look fresh,” he growled.

“Yeah,” smiled Ram-Ram. “It’s great to have a nice warm-up before the real riding starts.”

The real riding on Day 6 slowly obliterated Baby Seal. He spent a hundred dollars on coffee and toilets. He bled. He shat his shorts and didn’t care. He stared at his paunch, which had shrunk to the size of a tiny throw pillow, and hardly even cared. (I did say “hardly.”) By the sixth lap, climbing up the wall out of Portuguese Bend, Seal could only whimper as Ram-Ram looked back quizzically.

“You okay, man?”

The final day arrived but Seal didn’t. His phone rang and rang. With each buzz he curled up more tightly in his cozy floor. “No way,” he told himself, “that punk is gonna finish seven laps today. No fuggin’ way.”

END


July 4 Holiday Ride recap

July 5, 2019 § 9 Comments

  1. Shut up already about “safety.” You were 1 of 250 idiots racing full speed in an illegal, un-permitted street race, endangering the lives of pedestrians, the lives of fire hydrants, and the lives of each other, all for the glory of getting dropped on Mandeville.
  2. Yes, that is a traffic light. Like a coop of chickens smelling a fox, every time we approached an intersection, half the wankoton cackled “Light!” “Slowing!” Are you fucking kidding me? Anyone who can’t see a traffic light or notice that people are going from 30 to 10 IS ON A DIFFERENT RIDE. And … “Crack! Hole!” on Vista del Mar?? THAT STREET IS A SOLID 3-MILE CREVASSE, MINEFIELD, AND RUBBLE PILE. Stfu and pedal..
  3. Start is start. The Holiday Ride starts at CotKU. If you were a hop-in wanker somewhere along the route, please note that on your Stravver.
  4. Pull like Keith. Shirtless Keith drove the front and blew up repeatedly all the way to San Vicente. I know it sucks to get sweat on your $250.00 custom team jersey, but it sucks even more to be on a bike ride and NOT RIDE YER FUGGIN’ BIKE.
  5. How the West won. Why were all the South Bay wankers shelled in the first 500 meters up Mandeville? Why was the leaderboard populated exclusively with Westsiders? Because the South Bay is a) Old b) Soft c) Weak. d) All of the above. [Hint: Correct answer is “d.”]
  6. Kit winner of the day: Shirtless Keith. Of course. Best boots and Pop-Tart strap-on outside a prison work gang.
  7. Butter on a griddle. That’s what the peloton looked like when Rudy Napolitano took a 23-mph pull all the way up San Vicente. Number of pretty boyz/gurlz who followed his example and took a pull: 0. Number who decided suddenly that this was a rest week: 50% of the peloton.
  8. Riders killed or horribly maimed because helmetless: 0.
  9. Blowhard #socmed heroes who were obliterated in the first 1/4 of the climb despite never taking a single fuggin’ pull: All of them.
  10. Best Gram videos: Baby Seal and Ramon, of course!

END

July 4 Holiday Ride recap

July 5, 2019 § 9 Comments

  1. Shut up already about “safety.” You were 1 of 250 idiots racing full speed in an illegal, un-permitted street race, endangering the lives of pedestrians, the lives of fire hydrants, and the lives of each other, all for the glory of getting dropped on Mandeville.
  2. Yes, that is a traffic light. Like a coop of chickens smelling a fox, every time we approached an intersection, half the wankoton cackled “Light!” “Slowing!” Are you fucking kidding me? Anyone who can’t see a traffic light or notice that people are going from 30 to 10 IS ON A DIFFERENT RIDE. And … “Crack! Hole!” on Vista del Mar?? THAT STREET IS A SOLID 3-MILE CREVASSE, MINEFIELD, AND RUBBLE PILE. Stfu and pedal..
  3. Start is start. The Holiday Ride starts at CotKU. If you were a hop-in wanker somewhere along the route, please note that on your Stravver.
  4. Pull like Keith. Shirtless Keith drove the front and blew up repeatedly all the way to San Vicente. I know it sucks to get sweat on your $250.00 custom team jersey, but it sucks even more to be on a bike ride and NOT RIDE YER FUGGIN’ BIKE.
  5. How the West won. Why were all the South Bay wankers shelled in the first 500 meters up Mandeville? Why was the leaderboard populated exclusively with Westsiders? Because the South Bay is a) Old b) Soft c) Weak. d) All of the above. [Hint: Correct answer is “d.”]
  6. Kit winner of the day: Shirtless Keith. Of course. Best boots and Pop-Tart strap-on outside a prison work gang.
  7. Butter on a griddle. That’s what the peloton looked like when Rudy Napolitano took a 23-mph pull all the way up San Vicente. Number of pretty boyz/gurlz who followed his example and took a pull: 0. Number who decided suddenly that this was a rest week: 50% of the peloton.
  8. Riders killed or horribly maimed because helmetless: 0.
  9. Blowhard #socmed heroes who were obliterated in the first 1/4 of the climb despite never taking a single fuggin’ pull: All of them.
  10. Best Gram videos: Baby Seal and Ramon, of course!

END

un Spoke[n]

January 22, 2019 § 1 Comment

Every serious cyclist in the South Bay has become accustomed, addict-like, to awaiting the Monday morning non-delivery of California’s wittiest, edgiest, funniest, all-things-cycling newsletter, arriving as often as when Mars is in Scorpio and Jupiter sextile Pluto, slamming into your inbox like a serrano pepper enema.

Despite the incredibly prolific nature of his unproductivity, editor and mastermind Baby Seal recently sent me the following email:

Yo, Wanky–I have been snowed under all this rain and unable to non-produce my phantom newsletter lately. Any chance you could help a bro out and publicize the seasons of my discontent? Lots of mackerel piled high on this baby seal’s plate …

Arf arf!

JP “Baby Seal”


So like any friend would, I reviewed the latest and most recent goings-on in baby seal-land and offer up the following bulletproof excuses reasons that he has been unable to non-produce his phantom newsletter for the last little while.

Pinkeye, punk eye. Baby Seal contracted a life-threatening case of pinkeye a couple of days ago, putting him in bed, on an IV, requiring the defib paddles, cortisone shots, EPO, a hip brace, and three bottles of waterproof mascara. Fortunately he is on the way to recovery thanks to the seminal medical tome, “12-hour Cure for Anus to Eyeball Conjunctivitis.”

Car theft #2. Baby Seal’s car was stolen AGAIN right out from under his nose. This time it was found backed up to Performance Bankruptcy Liquidation Warehouse, filled with $250,000 in unsold merchandise. “So weird,” said Baby Seal. “But I’m glad the police found it.”

FTR training. Baby Seal has been putting in countless miles getting ready for the last ever Dave Jaeger French Toast Ride, an epic beatdown covering 117 miles of Ventura County’s toughest climbs. “I’m up before dawn grinding out the miles; no rest, no screwing around, all business all the time. Just got no time for not writing the phantom newsletter.”

No pain, no pain

Christmas sale season. Even though Christmas was a month ago, Baby Seal has been working overtime at the shop putting away stuffed toy decorations and glittery yuletide sale tags. “You spend four or five hour untying those little wire twisty thingies and man, you are done. Non writing on top of that? No way.”

Tap dance lessons. “This year I’m upping my game, not just strengthening my core in the gym but strengthening my vesicles for those power-sprint-thrusts by tap dancing. Crazy how wrecked you are after an hour of tap dancing. No time for not penning another non-edition of the newsletter after that, unfortunately.”

Mental exhaustion: A huge part of Baby Seal’s work duties involve regaling customers about his glory cycling days, i.e. that one time he rode to Santa Barbara and back without taking the train like he did that other time. “And customers,” Baby Seal says, “can be demanding AF.”

Customers think they own you!

Posterior ache: Whereas most people think the life of a seal is a bed of mackerel, it also involves lots of field testing, for example, for the new ergonometric women’s saddle from Specialized. “People think I’m not qualified because I’m a man,” says Baby Seal. “That is sexist bullshit.”

Carpal tunnel syndrome: Despite juggling such a heavy load, things got cray-cray when Baby Seal bought the new Specialized Pink Bike. Hundreds of hours of Google searches for socks that are a perfect Pantone match for the new pink bike and the new pink eye have left his already scarce free time all booked up with doctor’s appointments to relieve the pain in his finger joints.

Pink is the new black and white

So, there you have it. Once Baby Seal gets some of this mess cleared away, he will be back doing what he doesn’t do best, non-producing the best phantom cycling newsletter never written.

___________________________

END

“I think.”

August 29, 2018 § 8 Comments

It’s been a while since I’ve done NPR. This morning I got there and was met by Denis. “Dude!” he said. “I attacked early last week and put a 2-minute gap on the field!”

“That’s awesome,” I replied. “Did you win?”

“Evens and Rudy came by me and I didn’t know to get on.”

“Yeah, I have a similar problem with those guys, too. They come by and I know to get on, but don’t know how.”

Denis nodded. “Yeah.”

“Kind of like they came by and you melted like an old wad of chewing gum on a summer pavement?”

“Yeah.”

If at first you don’t succeed

We pulled out onto Vista del Mar and Denis took off. He was on fire to win the NPR which I sympathized with despite the fact that you technically can’t win a #fakerace. Fact is, the NPR has a generally agreed upon imaginary line on lap four where everyone, whether they hopped in, cut the course, or dropped in from outer space, is trying to get to first.

Less imaginary is the hardest fact of a #fakewin at NPR: The same people win it, more or less, every time. That’s because if it’s a slower day and ends in a bunch sprunt, the bunch sprunters, of which there are a small handful, always win.

If it’s a fast day and ends in a break, the breakaway riders, of which there are a small handful, always win.

If it’s an insane day and someone #fakewins solo, well, that basically narrows it down to two people, neither of which is you.

So the great unwashed raft of NPR baby seals has zero chance of ever scoring a #fakewin, no matter how eagerly they pound off the front, and it’s this rarity that makes the glory so alluring. Think about it: There are countless baby seals who have done the ride hundreds of time, some over decades, and never scored a #fakewin. And they never will.

“If only …!” and “What if … !” and “Maybe today …!” all crumple and fold in the end, but at least at the Manhattan Beach Pier every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:40 AM pointy-sharp there is hope, and on NPR, it springs eternal.

Like today.

Calculations

I don’t know how many times I’ve #fakewon the NPR, but it isn’t many, less than ten since 2006. Once in a sprunt, three times solo, and the other times out of a collapsing break. As I get older, the returns diminish, and the probability starts to look more and more like that of getting hit on the thumb by a green asteroid.

I watched Denis disappear, saw the peloton closing, and sped up. He got hung up at the light at Imperial, I caught him, and suddenly we had a two-man #fakeaway.

I didn’t get too excited by the time we hit Dr. Cziko’s videocam on Pershing, where, instead of joining in the tomfoolery, Gary sits above us and documents the ride from the window of his duplex. Denis, though, was excited. This was where he notched his “amazing” 2-minute gap last week. I thought about telling him to quit surging, but why? It would go in one ear and out the other.

After exiting World Way ramp we saw the peloton. Our gap was not sustainable, but it wasn’t dead yet. They were chasing hard but the group only had about thirty riders. I figured we’d keep pouring on coal and see where we were at the first turnaround. On Westchester Parkway we were met by a howling headwind, which was good because it would blunt the chase, but bad because it would blunt us, too.

At the first turnaround we were only barely ahead, and Denis’s enthusiasm had given way to somewhat squarish pedaling. “We aren’t caught yet,” I thought, and picked up the pace with what seemed like ever longer pulls and ever shorter rests.

Giving the gift

I’ve let someone beat me for an NPR #fakewin exactly once, the time I gave the vee to SB Baby Seal and chronicled it here, back in 2014.

As we hit lap three and our gap had increased ever so slightly, I began thinking about how to finish this one off. Denis had the passion. He wanted it so bad he could taste it, whereas I only wanted it so bad I could smell it.

He had won Wanker of the Year at the South Bay Cycling Awards in 2016, and since then had proven a deserving recipient. There was the one time he’d taken a good pull in our break on the Donut this year before self-immolating in Lunada Bay, and most importantly there was the huge cash sponsorship that his employer ponied up every year to support the mission of Team Lizard Collectors.

At that moment I made up my mind to give him the win if we didn’t get hauled back, fully aware that it would likely change his life forever, and not in a good way, since his poor wife would have to hear about every pedal stroke from now until his next #fakewin, which would be eternity.

We reached the final turnaround and Denis’s baby pulls, which had become infant pulls, became fetus pulls, concluding with “Does life begin before conception?” pulls. Our gap was healthy as I slid back and got on his wheel.

“You’re gonna have to dig,” I said.

And dig he did. So deep, in fact, that when we got to the top of the golf course he actually whimpered. “I can’t,” he mumbled.

I giggled, towed him up the final bump, told him he was gonna win, and watched the terror on his face when I told him “They’re coming!” even though they weren’t. The rest is history, including his query regarding the location of the finish line and his near-fatal “hands-up” victory wobble.

But even better than being history, it’s on video, too. And yes, those things on his jersey are … hams.

END

———————–

There is kindness in cycling. Actually, there isn’t. But there is sometimes money. Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

 

“I think.”

August 29, 2018 § 8 Comments

It’s been a while since I’ve done NPR. This morning I got there and was met by Denis. “Dude!” he said. “I attacked early last week and put a 2-minute gap on the field!”

“That’s awesome,” I replied. “Did you win?”

“Evens and Rudy came by me and I didn’t know to get on.”

“Yeah, I have a similar problem with those guys, too. They come by and I know to get on, but don’t know how.”

Denis nodded. “Yeah.”

“Kind of like they came by and you melted like an old wad of chewing gum on a summer pavement?”

“Yeah.”

If at first you don’t succeed

We pulled out onto Vista del Mar and Denis took off. He was on fire to win the NPR which I sympathized with despite the fact that you technically can’t win a #fakerace. Fact is, the NPR has a generally agreed upon imaginary line on lap four where everyone, whether they hopped in, cut the course, or dropped in from outer space, is trying to get to first.

Less imaginary is the hardest fact of a #fakewin at NPR: The same people win it, more or less, every time. That’s because if it’s a slower day and ends in a bunch sprunt, the bunch sprunters, of which there are a small handful, always win.

If it’s a fast day and ends in a break, the breakaway riders, of which there are a small handful, always win.

If it’s an insane day and someone #fakewins solo, well, that basically narrows it down to two people, neither of which is you.

So the great unwashed raft of NPR baby seals has zero chance of ever scoring a #fakewin, no matter how eagerly they pound off the front, and it’s this rarity that makes the glory so alluring. Think about it: There are countless baby seals who have done the ride hundreds of time, some over decades, and never scored a #fakewin. And they never will.

“If only …!” and “What if … !” and “Maybe today …!” all crumple and fold in the end, but at least at the Manhattan Beach Pier every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:40 AM pointy-sharp there is hope, and on NPR, it springs eternal.

Like today.

Calculations

I don’t know how many times I’ve #fakewon the NPR, but it isn’t many, less than ten since 2006. Once in a sprunt, three times solo, and the other times out of a collapsing break. As I get older, the returns diminish, and the probability starts to look more and more like that of getting hit on the thumb by a green asteroid.

I watched Denis disappear, saw the peloton closing, and sped up. He got hung up at the light at Imperial, I caught him, and suddenly we had a two-man #fakeaway.

I didn’t get too excited by the time we hit Dr. Cziko’s videocam on Pershing, where, instead of joining in the tomfoolery, Gary sits above us and documents the ride from the window of his duplex. Denis, though, was excited. This was where he notched his “amazing” 2-minute gap last week. I thought about telling him to quit surging, but why? It would go in one ear and out the other.

After exiting World Way ramp we saw the peloton. Our gap was not sustainable, but it wasn’t dead yet. They were chasing hard but the group only had about thirty riders. I figured we’d keep pouring on coal and see where we were at the first turnaround. On Westchester Parkway we were met by a howling headwind, which was good because it would blunt the chase, but bad because it would blunt us, too.

At the first turnaround we were only barely ahead, and Denis’s enthusiasm had given way to somewhat squarish pedaling. “We aren’t caught yet,” I thought, and picked up the pace with what seemed like ever longer pulls and ever shorter rests.

Giving the gift

I’ve let someone beat me for an NPR #fakewin exactly once, the time I gave the vee to SB Baby Seal and chronicled it here, back in 2014.

As we hit lap three and our gap had increased ever so slightly, I began thinking about how to finish this one off. Denis had the passion. He wanted it so bad he could taste it, whereas I only wanted it so bad I could smell it.

He had won Wanker of the Year at the South Bay Cycling Awards in 2016, and since then had proven a deserving recipient. There was the one time he’d taken a good pull in our break on the Donut this year before self-immolating in Lunada Bay, and most importantly there was the huge cash sponsorship that his employer ponied up every year to support the mission of Team Lizard Collectors.

At that moment I made up my mind to give him the win if we didn’t get hauled back, fully aware that it would likely change his life forever, and not in a good way, since his poor wife would have to hear about every pedal stroke from now until his next #fakewin, which would be eternity.

We reached the final turnaround and Denis’s baby pulls, which had become infant pulls, became fetus pulls, concluding with “Does life begin before conception?” pulls. Our gap was healthy as I slid back and got on his wheel.

“You’re gonna have to dig,” I said.

And dig he did. So deep, in fact, that when we got to the top of the golf course he actually whimpered. “I can’t,” he mumbled.

I giggled, towed him up the final bump, told him he was gonna win, and watched the terror on his face when I told him “They’re coming!” even though they weren’t. The rest is history, including his query regarding the location of the finish line and his near-fatal “hands-up” victory wobble.

But even better than being history, it’s on video, too. And yes, those things on his jersey are … hams.

END

———————–

There is kindness in cycling. Actually, there isn’t. But there is sometimes money. Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

 

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