March 31, 2019 § 8 Comments
On Saturday we rode over to the NOW Ride. The previous week I had been dropped very early when the Subaru Santa Monica pain train led by Evens Stievenart rolled away at express train speeds on PCH.
This week the Subaru team was gone, but in their place, and indeed he replaces an entire team, was Phil Gaimon. Oh, and beast Jeff Mahin, and a couple of other ornery fellows.
We were trucking along PCH at about 35 and I saw Tony Manzella. I handed him a couple pairs of socks.
“Thanks, dude,” he said. Tony has enormous feet along with an enormous heart and lungs and my South Bay socks are the only ones that will fit his boxcars. He tucked them under his jersey.
This was only my third NOW Ride and a lot of people were giving me the stink eye because of my jaunty cloth cap, hairy legs, and general frailty. At Pepperdine Hill, where I always get dropped, I got dropped. First, Phil and Jeff and their pal rode away. Next, a clot of chasers rolled away.
I had about ten bike lengths to catch back onto the chasers but you know that is never going to happen. This time somehow it did. A little dude breezed by and I glommed on. He got me over the top and gave it 100% to close to about five bike lengths. I waited until I judged him spent and dashed past, barely connecting.
There wasn’t any rest, and what had started with 70 or 1,000 people was now down to the three guys off the front and a chase of about 20, make that 18, I mean 17, 16, 15, and finally fourteen. I was the last guy, dangling, and barely hanging on by a meat string each time the young fellows surged, trying to shake loose the old and infirm, me.
As we approached the descent into Zuma, I saw Jeff and Phil on the side of the road. They had stopped with their friend, who flatted, which instantly transformed our chase group into the lead group. At the bottom it is a flat run-in, a couple of miles, to the sprunt finish at Trancas Canyon Road.
The young fellows kept it single file. I hunkered down on Tony’s wheel in last place. I was pretty pleased with myself because I was gonna get fourteenth on the NOW Ride, a miracle. I was already writing up the glorious blog. It was gonna be wondrous.
With about 500 yards to go, Tony glanced back at me. Tony only glances back at you for one reason. It’s because he expects you to follow and he don’t want no excuses.
Tony has done this to me before and it follows a script: He accelerates and I get dropped.
He jumped hard, crazy, insanely, 8,000 gigawatts hard. I don’t know if it was because I was ovulating or because of my oval chain rings … oh, what am I saying???? It was because of my JAUNTY CLOTH CAP that I hung onto Tony’s wheel.
He blew past the front so fast that they couldn’t have caught him if they’d gotten advance notice by telegraph, and once he is going if you are in his draft it is like being towed by a barge that is going 500 knots. “Man, this is great,” I thought, followed immediately by “Man, I don’t know if I can keep this up,” followed by “Fuck this hurts,” followed by “He’s riding me off his wheel. Again.”
At that second he slowed and looked back. “Go, Seth!” he shouted.
I didn’t know what to do. I can’t sprint. I could barely pedal I was so tired. I had no idea what was the correct reaction in such circumstances, so I blurted out what I guess they don’t do in the last 100m of a lead-out at Paris-Roubaix, which is shout back, “YOU GO!”
He shook his head. “Seth!” he commanded. “Go!”
I looked back and saw the piranhas charging hard, so I slingshotted around Tony and got to the imaginary finish line first at the over-ripe age of 55. The young piranhas were not too happy and they kind of glared at my jaunty cloth cap, but not for long because there was a giant, slowing dump truck turning right and we almost slammed into the back of it. Then Tony wheeled into the parking lot of the gas station and shouted in his chain gang boss voice, “Good job, Seth. You just won the NOW Ride!”
On the way back home with Baby Seal and Kristie, I saw a tempting berm of sand and dirt and mud and decided to celebrate my NOW win with a display of the amazing bike handling skills that made me who I am today.
November 25, 2018 § 16 Comments
September 30, 2018 § 6 Comments
This morning we went down to the Donut start and had a cup of coffee. Joann met us there with son Colin and his girlfriend Julia. Colin is smarter than everyone else in the coffee shop put together, which is not saying much, but he’s one of those Pomona science kids who has a taste for the hard stuff and still manages to be kind, respectful, and more importantly, amenable to being sucked into wasting his Saturday helping out with a bike ride.
And not just any bike ride.
This morning was a special edition of Joann’s FDR, a/k/a Fun Donut Ride, which came about as an alternative to the Donut Ride on which everyone eventually gets dropped and fun is minimized. It was a special edition because Phil Gaimon had selected this day to go for the trifecta:
- Take the Switchbacks KOM.
- Get people to sign up for his Cookie Fondo.
- Raise money for the No Kid Hungry foundation.
The bait was several hundred dozen Krispy Kreme donuts and the VeloFix entourage running tech support, sag, and PR for Phil. Paparazzi snagged cameo photos of Enduro Breader before the ride, snaring down donuts.
Land of the Lost
The Stravver, dislike it or hate it, is where much of modern bike competition resides. KOMs are precious things to a great many people, and the Stravver allows riders to simultaneously live in Delusionville and to keep tabs on their training data.
When Phil’s pro career ended and he took up KOM collecting full-time, it created a bit of a sensation. You see, Stravver KOMs for the really iconic segments are owned by about four percent of the people on the Stravver. Ninety-six percent of the people on the Stravver cannot stand the other four percent. The reasons are complex, but in a nutshell it boils down to this: Your local Stravver hero is quite likely an insufferable dick.
Does anyone remember Thorfinn-Sasquatch, the Stravver KOM collector who was busted hawking PEDs? Right. And while I’m not saying that big time KOM collectors all dope, we are familiar with the chicanery that these big fish employ: Favorable winds, leadouts by friends, pacing by motor scooters, and any other number of questionable tactics.
Bottom line is that Phil has made a nice retirement out of going out to the local iconic climbs across the country and wresting them from the treasure chest of That Guy, who typically then turns to the Internet to complain about the injustice of having his KOM “stolen” by someone who was, uh, faster.
Of course the 96% peanut gallery loves it …
Taken under cover of night
When Phil heads out to take a big deal KOM, the locals don’t always welcome him with open arms, and by “locals” I mean the riders who fancy themselves the biggest frog in the local pond. No mind. Phil straps on his camera and has a go, and more often than not he collects the KOM. But it’s a bit of a solitary undertaking, soldiering out into hostile territory to wrest the crown from the local prince.
Enter Joann’s FDR.
For whatever reason, perhaps because she hasn’t been cycling long enough to know that you’re supposed to resent “outsiders,” rather than meeting Phil at the gates of the South Bay with an armed vigilante squad, she put out the call and close to 70 riders answered.
Line the Switchbacks and cheer Phil on in his attempt to snatch away the title of fastest rider on our most hallowed hill.
He was taken aback. As he began the assault, the entire route was lined with riders from Big Orange, South Bay Wheelmen, and random riders in the area eager to witness and cheer a pretty gnarly physical feat: The Switchbacks has been ridden over 8,000,000 billion times, and the current KOM as of Saturday morning was Eddy Merckx, who set the record shortly after setting his one-hour world record in Mexico City in 1968.
I talked with Phil afterwards.
“What was it like being cheered?”
“It was weird. No one has ever done that before.”
“Good weird or bad weird?”
“It was awesome. People screaming for me, urging me on … that just doesn’t happen in Stravaland.”
“Did you get the KOM?”
“What was your time?”
I don’t know what Merckx’s time was, but obviously it was slower than Phil’s.
The next item on the menu involved a big party at the Bike Palace in San Pedro, where local San Pedroian delicacies were served to the ravenous bikers, and where generous donations poured in for the No Kid Hungry foundation.
It was a great day thanks to Joann, Bike Palace, VeloFix, and donuts. Not cookies. Donuts.
October 10, 2017 § 16 Comments
There I was, sitting on the sold-out 5:00 AM from LAX to Denver, wedged between the wildebeest and the sweating bald accountant with the hacking, sputum-laden cough of a Cat 1 smoker, when I innocently pulled out my copy of Phil Gaimon’s latest book, “Draft Animals.”
The plan of the entire cabin was the same: Sleep until Denver. My plan? Get through as much of Draft Animals as I could before reaching Houston, my final destination. The two plans would turn out to be irreconcilable, like Sunnis and Shias.
First, let me get a disclaimer out of the way. Phil Gaimon is a close personal vague acquaintance of mine, a guy I have known for many long months who is a year older than my oldest kid. We have shared many Twitter hearts and lols as only close socmed friendies can, so don’t think I’m going to be objective about this book which was free to me but won’t be to you.
Second, understand that I would heartily encourage you to read this book and would rate it ten out of five stars even if it were a steaming pile of shit, which it is because in the footnote on page 296 it says “complement” instead of “compliment.”
Anyway, I would still urge you to buy it, read it, and buy another copy as a Christmas gift because it is worth its weight in guffaws, snickers, chortles, snot-bombs, wheezes, hacks, gasps, screeches, snorts, and howls. Phil and his copy editors and their Word grammer chek and the whole fucking editorial apparatus of Penguin Books may stumble over “complement,” but if you don’t laugh yourself hoarse you are probably getting injected with formaldehyde and being prepped for the viewing.
You should buy this book because it is cheap and funny and I’m a fanman because I once got Phil to nod at me from across a dimly lit room, or maybe he was nodding at the model who I was standing next to, but the other reason I’m bound to praise it no matter what is because he talks about so many people I know or have stalked. Matt Wikstrom, Rahsaan Bahati, Hrach Gevrikian, “Joanna,” and others get honorably mentioned, and a really good review here ups the odds that in his next book, “How Seth Davidson Made Me Famous,” I will at least get a mention.
Speaking of butthurt, fuck Phil Gaimon for not mentioning Tony Manzella and that day on Mandeville when courtesy of Phil, Thorfinn Sasquatch’s tainted KOM on Mandeville Canyon was ripped away and returned to its rightful owner. I can’t believe he wrote about competing at the highest echelon of human endeavor and Paris-Roubaix and stuff and left that out.
But back to my story about spraying phlegm all over the cabin en route to Denver and the murderously enraged passengers …
“Draft Animals” goes far beyond Phil’s last book, “Ask A Pro,” which was hilarious and a polished gem in its own right, and far, far, far beyond his first book, “Pro Cycling on $10 a Day,” a book I never read but which Penguin described as a “cult classic,” which I think means “funny book about a weird niche that sold way more than the fifty copies we expected,” and anyway, who doesn’t like a good cult?
This post-cult effort of Phil’s goes super deep, like any good blowjob, into the inherent contradictions wrapped up in chasing your dreams. Not limited to sports, many try and almost all fail. Why bother? How do we justify the risk? What does success taste like and is it salty?
Phil plumbs the depths of an underpaid journeyman pro with the sophisticated literary devices of poop jokes, dick jokes, pee-pee jokes, and a strange mix of poignant stories and jagged edge realizations that are as moving as they are unexpected. And he remembers to toss in a couple of metaphors and similes to show his college English prof that the A- he got in creative writing was a miscarriage of justice.
Everyone knows that life is hard and failure is the wages of birth but “Draft Animals” itemizes the paystub in the poverty, injury, fear, pain, shock, privation, gnawing physical hunger, betrayal, and disappointment of “clawing his way to the middle” as a pro cyclist. It doesn’t all suck, as he abundantly makes clear. Despite the ten-year grind, he once won a big race. Another time he got to eat a whole bar of dark chocolate and only felt slightly guilty about it. Amazing highs.
Like any great writer, Phil tries to make sense out of absurdity without doing us the indignity of pretending that it all makes sense, that the circle can be squared, but without the nihilism, either. He reserves a polite decency for those he cares about, and he boils the objects of his ire in scathing derision without ever pretending that he’s better. Even in the awful and despicable character of Jonathan Vaughters, he finds, if not redemption, at least a death penalty commuted to a life sentence of douchebaggery.
Phil’s protesting lady of modesty retains its reminders of success: He may have sucked as a pro, but lots sucked worse and don’t even think you’re his equal. He may never have struck it rich like Thomas Dekker, who waltzed out of his career as a failed doper and into the budoir of a multimillionaire Beverly Hills heiress, but he has three fine books published by Penguin, he owns two homes, and he rode two years on the World Fucking Tour.
That may not be success measured against Warren Buffett’s finances, but it sure doesn’t smell like failure to me. And anyway, as the book makes muddily clear, what in the world does success even mean?
If you love good writing, you need to buy this book. Where else can you find Thoreau jokes next to dick jokes next to ruminations on good and evil interspersed with ridicule of Jens Voigt and the Schlecks? Nowhere but in “Draft Animals,” that’s where.
When we touched down in Denver my sides ached. The cabin was sullen. I couldn’t help giggling about Thomas Dekker’s giant foreskin, allegedly long enough to cover ten quarters. As I walked up the jetway puffing white balls of water vapor and thinking about the day’s schedule of airports and connecting flights while simultaneously smiling at this guy’s funny stories, interesting life, and fine writing, I knew that the long day ahead wasn’t going to be so grueling after all.
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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 350 guests, so get there early.
February 2, 2017 § 26 Comments
Seriously, there is so much going on nowadays to make you feel rotten. We’re in the middle of a slo-mo coup d’etat, ruled by a man so insane that Kim Jong-Dong looks normal. Every day we lose 37 civil rights and a whole new sector of the population gets put on the drone assassination list.
This makes us squishy libs really angsty, really, it does, and it makes the racist Cheeto lovers angry, too, because even though they got their Hitler, the fact that they hate blacks, Mexicans, Muslims from Muslania, civil rights, and democracy means that they were in a terrible mood even before all this started.
So when I got this book in the mail the other day I was plunged into deeper despair. Why would I want to read a book about bicycling? I’d written one a few years ago and what else was there to say?
Plus, it was about pro cycling, the lowest form of life and the most hopeless career choice in the world today, with the possible exception of being this administration’s presidential hair stylist and skin tinter.
But there were other problems, starting with the title, “Ask a Pro.” Ask him what? Why he didn’t yet have a real job? Why he was still riding a bicycle and calling it work? It didn’t make sense to me that there could be more than one or two questions that any normal person could ask a pro, and neither requires a response.
So I did the thing that I always do with unsolicited gifts from kind people, which is toss it in the trash. However, our trash can is a paper bag with the edges folded down, and every evening our grandson comes over, goes straight to the trash bag, dumps it over, and strews shit all over the living room. This time, when I picked up the book to throw it away again, it was laying on its back, and the back looks like this:
That’s when I noticed the line “Advance Reader Copy for Media Use Only.”
“Oh my dog,” I thought. “Phil thinks I’m media. He’s mailing me this book so I can review it and hopefully say nice things about it and maybe even write something on my blog so that my two dedicated readers will tell their two dedicated readers who will tell their two dedicated readers and soon it will be a billion-seller and he won’t have had to do anything but tell the publisher to spend $1.50 on postage.”
I sighed with much sadness as I contemplated how little he knew about my media credentials, and about how, as an ethical person immune to bribes like free books, I could never say something positive about such an obviously awful book. Plus, in the interest of mostly full disclosure, I’d have to tell my readers about that time I crushed Phil on the Holiday Ride at that stop light on San Vicente.
This was a super tricky race and one of my best days on the bike. Phil was barely able to stay seated, as you can see from the way he’s not really on his saddle. My rear light was jarred off to the side due to the incredible power I put down that day. Anyway, I’m pretty proud of that finish and you’ll agree it was pretty stand-up of me not to embarrass him by posting up. But anyway, back to his “book” (you can PayPal me $50 and I will autograph this for you, you’re welcome).
BOOK REVIEW OF “ASK A PRO” BY PHIL GAIMON, ALLEGED PRO, THOUGHTFULLY REVIEWED BY SETH DAVIDSON WHO TOTALLY OWNED THE ALLEGED PRO AT THAT STOP LIGHT ON THE HOLIDAY RIDE THAT ONE TIME
Let’s start with the book’s obvious failings. First of all, you’re laughing starting from the dedication page. How do you think this makes me feel? Do you know how hard I worked to make MY book funny? Why does this guy get to start with a funny dedication?
Anyway, moving along. Worst thing about the book is that it’s hilarious. You might think that’s a good thing, but I don’t. It really makes me feel terrible to see a dude train a hundred hours a week and just write shit in between flights and crank out a side-bustingly funny book whereas here I’m chained to this stupid computer for years on end bloviating bullshit for $2.99 a month and even my mom doesn’t think it’s funny. Really. Check the comments, especially the one where she told me I cuss too much.
For fuck’s sake, mom!!
Okay, so the book is really funny. I will give him that. Okay, really, really funny. Like, “people look at you funny because it’s that funny” funny.
And I give him that it’s an easy read. Quick, lots of laughs, well written. Okay, okay.
And I’ll give him the insight. There’s a lot of insight here. Okay, check the “insight” box for fuck’s sake.
But you know what really crushes me?
The book is a subversive “tell all” about why you’ll never be a pro even if Phil tells you how to be a pro by detailing what food he eats, how he sets his saddle, and that thing about the time he got lost in Bangkok and woke up in a hotel room tied to a dead elephant (really the funniest part of the whole book). His subversive message about pro cycling, even as he answers your questions, is this:
- You’re old.
- You’re slow.
- It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
- Please go enjoy your life.
This is totally subversive because the book is a compilation of columns published over a span of years in a bike magazine whose message is:
- Older = faster!
- Go faster with more purchases!
- You’d be happier if you were a Pro Tour rider!
Crammed into the one-liners, the funny stories, the non-sequiturs, and the fart/shit/piss jokes, Phil Gaimon also demonstrates formidable writing skills. He’s coy about it at times, but it doesn’t take much effort to see that there is a lot of work, a lot of skill, a lot of talent, and old-school craftsmanship in the way he handles a universe of stupid, smart, and downright hilarious questions.
In his self-effacing way he also drills home how hard the job is, how uncertain it is, how dangerous it is, but how, like a Picasso painting where the nose is pushed over against the back of the head and the ears abut the neck, it all kind of hangs together in a pretty cool way.
Unless you’re a pretend auteur with thin skin who has also written a cycling book and whose envy is easily aroused, you’ll enjoy the hell out of this book, laugh a lot, forget for an hour or two that we’re about to be plunged into slavery and nuclear war, and most importantly, you’ll be fired up to register for Phil’s grand fondue this year. Anybody who writes this well about something this ridiculous is, as Stern-O would say, the real deal.
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