Sep 26, 2017

Of Fetish and Commitment

Nope! This is not what I intended to talk about at all. This was where I was supposed to boast about how bike month charged me up and how I actually got out and rode my bike this year. All true, I suppose, but while I was thinking it over a little light bulb went on and I realized something awful about myself.

It all started years ago, I suppose. First it was purchases of necessities like bike gloves, riding shorts, tire patch kits, fig bars and dried apricots. All of these were things I required to maintain a training routine of 6 to 8 hours a week.

Sometime later, after my saddle time and mileage reached the swagger level, there were puchases of cables, brake shoes, grease, tires, and other necessary expendables that kept my bike on the road. My mileage justified these purchases and they were necessary to maintain a ridable bike.

Eventually I reached a point where I was quite fit (note the past tense, I’m a shadow of the rider I was fifteen years ago) and I fancied a truly nice bike. And what a bike; a fine Italian made frame with the most exotic steel tubes cut to my specification, lovingly joined with silver solder to custom etched lugs. I specified the finest components Campagnolo could deliver — everything they made, I ordered — all the way down to the pedals, cables, and seatpost.

I laced the spokes and trued the hoops myself. Then I lovingly and carefully assembled the bike from those individual components.

For this truly special assembly job I handed over all my adjustable wrenches and Vise Grip pliers to my wife. Then I instructed her to not return them to me even if I begged or bullied to have them back.

The assembly job was quite smooth and uneventful due to my unusually patient and meticulous assembly procedure. It was love I guess. I was very careful not to compromise the excellent fit and finish of those high-zoot parts. I immersed myself in the foreplay of assembly work for two or three evenings until I was sure it was done.

The finished bike was beautiful and by God it was perfect! I’ll never forget the way my shop light played upon the satin finish of those smoothly curved component parts when I pawed at them.

Oh! How I hesitated before that maiden voyage ride on that flawless, virgin bicycle. The honeymoon was a dream. The first few years were fine, I guess.

But there are a few problems with owning a top-drawer all-Italian bike. First there’s the responsibility of not becoming a poser. A trophy bike, like a trophy wife, somehow implies and demands a worthy rider. But worse than that is the “estrangement” issue.

A solid bike simply doesn’t break or wear out parts very often. That can become a problem for someone who enjoys wrenching on their own bike. It’s sort of like having your significant other roll over and feign a headache when you’re in the mood.

And if you do get busy, it’s just going through the motions. There’s nothing that really breaks, so it’s just a quick flick of the screwdriver and a couple shots of grease. Then it’s back to plying the street for another month or two until the next “adjustment opportunity.”

I eventually became a stranger at my old hang-out (the bike shop) because I never needed parts. Eventually I couldn’t stand the isolation and started riding other bikes again. Even trashy bikes!

I’d pick them up at swap meets and pull them out of dumpsters. Sometimes I’d just remove the parts I wanted to keep and toss the remainder. But often I’d adopt an orphan and rehabilitate it with bits and pieces from my box of fetish components. Sometimes I’d put them out for sale, but just as often I’d make them part of my growing family of bikes. 

And then I started letting myself go. I had my pick of bikes; almost enough to ride a different one every day of the week. But I practically stopped riding and began to lurk about at bike shops and on-line discount retailers. Which brings me back to bike month.

Yep, I rode my bike a lot in May. The weather was beautiful. But as I sat balancing my checkbook the other day, I realized that I’d been buying bike parts with reckless abandon.

The new hideously expensive Sidi (Italian) shoes were directly responsible for a couple mountain bike rides. Then I wanted kinky new eggbeater pedals and got them. Another handful of rides ensued. By the way, I do love those eggbeaters. No more foot-stuck-in-pedal tumbles when I only wanted to dab a foot down.

The fancy new blinky-light made safe low-light riding interesting enough for me to ride my bike to work — a 40-mile round trip. Then I went and bought a second identical blinky-light (two is better than one, right?) and made the trip a couple more times. I swiped a new water bottle at the last ACA meeting and managed to muster a couple weekend rides using it.

There’s more desperate shopping for bike gear to confess, but it’s kind of personal and depraved.

I hate to admit it, but most of my recent bike riding has been motivated largely by unnecessary aquisitions of shiny fetishes and bike parts. I guess I’m a compulsive component consumer and parts purchasing addict. There, I’ve said it! Now the whole world knows my shame. Just the same, it feels liberating to come out of the closet. I’m sure I’ll ride better now.

First published in Southwest Cycling News, 2005

Aug 2, 2016

Burning Bush

Im barely out of my bedroom neighborhood on the old BMW motorcycle and WHAM! Lightning strikes the InfoWars billboard - a sign - adjacent to my position on the highway.
Was that a burning bush? You tell me.
Moments later I cheat death in the form of traffic cones tumbling from  the roof of a TXDOT truck. A handful of brakes and an emergency swerve saves the day. Later during the contract pedicab ride, my bottom bracket axle snaps in half. WTF?


As I turn my attention from the mundane chaos of Austin's nightlife I stretch my neck and fix my eyes on a handful of visible stars in the urban sky. Then, suddenly confronted with the screaming abyss of eternity; a wormhole captures my thoughts. While flesh embraces the moment, some part of me senses the beginning, and the end; of time. Is this the Trilogy?  Is this God?


Mar 11, 2013

SXSW 2013

I suppose I owe the world a post on SXSW. Needless to say, I shall be working my ass off for the next 6 days. Hauling fat asses on a pedicab is actually fun (if it makes you money) however it is also extremely tiring.

This is the time of year when I find that normal food doesn't do it for me anymore. Times like this call for real food: fresh oranges, steaks lots of potatoes ... and lots of specialized cycling stimulants/carbohydrates. I've been popping shot blocs, gel shots, energy bars and Redbull like it's going out of style.

Even though it's a beautiful spring day I woke up at 3 PM. Lets just blame that on my 3 AM pedicab finish last night. This isn't my first rodeo folks. I've learned that it does no good to be out there when I'm tired so I make damn sure that I'm well rested before I go out and work the crowds.

Besides I find my ride looks a whole lot better in the dark than in daylight. Thank you

Jan 13, 2013

Trip Epilogue

Little did I suspect that the biggest shock of the trip would be upon my return.

I HATE the seats on the Boeing 737 offered by American Airlines. The headrests and seat backs appear to be designed for a 5 foot person to the exclusion of a larger person. The goddamed curves of the seat and headrest actually pushed down on my shoulders, compressing the spine in a most uncomfortable manner and I was in such distress that I truly feared that I might mentally snap and lash out in anger at the on-board hired help. I'm not exaggerating here. I was dangerously close to acting out in frustration with total disregard for the consequences of the extreme action I was considering. Really, I almost lost it.

But it's not the first time I've almost lost it so that's not the big shock. That was simply a rant I needed to get off my chest.

The shock was how the USA had changed in my eyes upon my return. After more than a month without hearing spoken English, without seeing another English speaking Anglo, without CNN, MSNBC or FOX, without wide boulevards and green lawns, the sight of "Murica" was a shock.

I guess I'm out of practice. Has the overheard spoken English of strangers always been this hard to understand? 

Have Americans always looked so sloppy? Were our clothes always this wrinkled and ill fitting, or is it just our huge bodies that make us look unkempt?

Conversely, were our neighborhoods always so spacious, the roads so wide, the parking lots so expansive?

Here, the water that comes from the home faucet is considered potable, bottled water is not an essential item.

This is the land of absorbant paper towels and napkins more substantial than a one-ply generic tissue.  It's a place where toilet paper is always, always available. There's always a salt and a pepper shaker at the restaurant table.

The traffic here is so... organized. The expectation of normal behavior is so absolute that the idea of encountering unexpected behavior on the road has to be taught, drilled in as a concept called defensive driving.

Have we Americans always been so nihilistic? Have we always ignored the rest of the world?  

I'm sure all this normalcy will become normal again, just as the chaos became the new normal just a few weeks ago. But at the moment it's still a shock.

Dec 22, 2012

Relative Freedoms

While y'all in the USA are considering trading the freedom to download porn or play violent video games vs the freedom to own assault weapons with built-in penis-pumps I'm still over here in Thailand pondering the reality folks over here are conditioned to put up with.

And the other day while driving back from Pattaya, we crested a mountain pass and encountered a road-block checkpoint. The boys in the front seats (very nice boys by the way) looked young and corruptible enough to the police officer (dressed in a very military-looking uniform) that they were required to proceed to a little processing station where they were compelled to pee in cups to determine if they'd been taking controlled substances in the Thai equivalent of "Sin City." Just part of the routine around here.

After living for extended periods in places like Korea and Japan where cigarette smoking is almost universal (at least it was 30 years ago -- dude, I'm getting old), one thing that surprised me about Thailand is how few people I see smoking cigarettes. Apparently they've been largely outlawed. Can't smoke in hotels or restaurants (unless it's open-air), but cigarettes are only about 2 or 3 bucks a pack (high-end US brands like Marlboro and Winston) at the 7-11.  Oh but listen to this: They're censored on TV.

You'll be watching a movie and note that the guy in the scene has a cigarette in his hand, but as soon as he brings it to his mouth, a blur is digitally imposed over the whole face -- but only as long as he inhales or exhales. As long as he's only waving his hand around with the lit cigarette and talking shit, it's just fine.

Similarly, with guns and weapons, you can be watching a shoot-em-up movie or TV series where good guys and bad guys exchange gun play. If the scene involves pointing a gun at the camera, that's fine, but if the guy in the picture is shown pointing the gun at another person, the blur appears. If the gun is just shown pointing or shooting without someone on camera explicitly standing in front of the bullets, that's just fine.

Similarly with any act of violence: flash the knife, wave it around threateningly and that's just fine. Hold it to someone's throat or stab and the blur appears. A hangman's rope is fully visible until it is around someone's neck, then the blur appears obscuring the whole face. 

I was just at the supermarket, a Saturday afternoon and I couldn't buy beer because it was 3 PM. One can only buy alcoholic beverages between 1200-1400 and then 1700-2200 or thereabouts -- I guess they want you sober for supper -- unless you're in a restaurant or a bar where you can slam them down all afternoon and evening until closing.

Yes, censorship is ridiculous. Never forget that.

Dec 20, 2012

Realities as I See Them

1. The camera on my iPhone 4s is a fine substitute for a dedicated camera. One has to make a conscious decision to bring the dedicated camera, but the iPhone is always in my pocket (unless I forgot my phone). And it makes really good quality photos. I always leave the flash off and it still does a great job. And with the Dropbox app and a working WIFI connection, those photos can immediately upload to the cloud and be available for blogging in minutes.

2. My Pentax (one of the smallest, lightest, DSLR's available) still takes better low-light photos, has zero shutter lag, and starts up in about a half-second (making it the quick-draw winner), but the lens that gives it that superior low-light capability is also the working equivalent of a 100 MM fixed lens, making it unsuitable for group shots of people and other shots requiring a wide field of view. In those situations, the iPhone comes to the rescue.

3. The cable TV packages here in Thai hotels often show the same shows I find myself watching back home in the USA, but WITHOUT 5 MINUTES of COMMERCIALS EVERY 7 MINUTES that the US versions have -- and I'll remind you -- this is advertising that Americans are already PAYING TO WATCH. Why can't I see a show with limited advertising back home?

4. Thai TV has one of those reality shows similar to the car/motorcycle restore/customize shows I gravitate toward back home, but these guys also restore/customize  BICYCLES.  How cool is that? Why can't I have a show like that back home?

5. The cable TV packages here actually have 24/7 programing. No infomercial bombast on all but 2 or 3 channels during the graveyard hours like back home. Why can't I have actual programming (like I paid for) back home?

6. Sidewalks and Streets are never wide enough.