Greatest Hits of 2016, Part 4: Bum hand

• Editor’s note: As the year winds down, I’m taking a page from the mainstream-media playbook and reprinting a handful of this year’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” columns from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. This one was published in the Nov. 1 edition.

Welcome to the Island of Dr. Mandalay.

Welcome to the Island of Dr. Mandalay.

Hold or fold?
This hand looks
more like a paw

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” — a quote often attributed to H.G. Wells

By Patrick O’Grady

Well, now we know which island was Dr. Moreau’s.

Manhattan.

H.G. Wells called “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” published in 1896 when he was just 30 years old, “an exercise in youthful blasphemy.” Perhaps, but the tale has aged well.

Indeed, a descendant of Wells’ Hyena-swine stalks the earth today, shambling from its gilded tower in New York onto stages from coast to coast, snuffling like a greedy hog rooting for someone else’s truffles.

Like its English ancestor, it is “not afraid and not ashamed,” and regardless of its claims to the contrary it does not have America’s best interests at heart.

I suppose it’s too late to build that wall.

The original Hyena-swine got voted off the island near the end of Wells’ novel, after croaking Edward Prendick’s sidekick, the Dog-man. When the beast next came for Prendick, he cast the deciding ballot — bullet, actually — and that was that.

Fast-forward to October 2016 and it seemed that America’s Hyena-swine had likewise sustained a mortal wound. Still, reports celebrating its impending demise felt premature as the Thing thrashed madly about, snapping at friend and foe alike, driving all the other ill-made creatures into slobbering fits of rage.

And as we thumbed through the final pages in the tale of the 2016 presidential election, some doubt remained about which creature would be running the island — the Hyena-swine or the Hilldebeast — at the end of it all.

Place your bets? Nope. Not being a gambling man, I made no wagers on the outcome, reserving all funds for an emergency emigration, perhaps to New Zealand or someplace even more remote, if Elon Musk can stop blowing up rockets long enough to get us there.

Wells’ dire visions notwithstanding, Mars looked positively enchanting after Las Vegas. Unlike more than a few of you I drew the usual duty at Interbike, and I will not visit what Charles P. Pierce calls “the newly insane state of North Carolina” to see whether the MIAs turn up there. One week among the Beast Folk is plenty, thanks all the same.

Mind you, I have nothing but sympathy for the Beast Folk, numbering several among my friends, neighbors and kinsmen. What they want is a hand, but some have grown so desperate they will settle for a paw.

Casino Not-So Royale. Getting to Interbike involved the usual depressing slog through Beast country — the stale, smoky casinos of the Luxor and Mandalay Bay, linked by The Shoppes at Mandalay Place.

The habitués thereof had not been altered by vivisection, as had Moreau’s creations, and more than a few actually seemed to be headed in the wrong direction along the old Darwinian ladder.

These were not the casinos of Ian Fleming novels. I saw no tuxedoed James Bonds, though I expect some savings bonds were faring poorly at the gaming tables.

Frankly, if I had seen a tuxedo I’d have assumed it was a Penguin-man being herded toward some grotesque doom and asked no questions. Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Fear and loathing revisited. I suppose I may be something of a gambler after all, in that I was betting that whatever I learned in Vegas would pay dividends when I got back home and started writing about it.

But what I learned I already knew. Hunter S. Thompson taught it to me, long before I ever visited the place myself.

“A little bit of this town goes a very long way,” he wrote in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.” “After five days in Vegas you feel like you’ve been here for five years.”

This five years it seemed all the more fitting that Thompson led the book with a quote from Doc Johnson: “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

Pain goes with the evolutionary upgrade. If the Hyena-swine gives you a pleasurable feeling, it doesn’t mean you’re happy to see it. That’s just its paw in your pocket.

A change of coarse. Vegas is for the Beast, not the bike. Its name is on a hotel there, though the Hyena-swine has enjoyed the same success in the gaming biz as the poor chumps who shuffled from its shuttered casinos to its two-bit Nuremberg rallies.

The success of CrossVegas notwithstanding, the bicycle business and the gaming industry do not go well together. It’s like seeing a sneering Statue of Liberty with fake boobs and a “No Vacancy” tattoo, or a howling pig in the White House. It’s an unnatural selection.

That Interbike remains marooned in Mandalay Bay is both a negation of Darwin’s theory of evolution and a validation of the way Wells turned it on its head: That which goes up shall also come down.

Are we not Men (and Women)? There’s always hope. Why not take the show to a place where it still exists? Vote ourselves off this wretched desert island and go celebrate the bike in its natural habitat.

And while we’re feeling all evolved and stuff, come Nov. 8, let’s send the Hyena-swine back to the House of Pain.

He may well be done, but we should stick a fork in him just to be sure.

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12 Responses to “Greatest Hits of 2016, Part 4: Bum hand”

  1. Libby Says:

    I am enjoying these columns immensely. BRAIN expansion is a good thing! Happy New Year to All!
    Looking forward to your New Year’s plans or a recap: bike, run, critter shenanigans, soundtrack and cooking exploits.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, Libby. At times I wish the Mac had an odometer so I could tell how many of these things I’ve written.

      I do 18 columns a year for BRAIN, and have been hammering those rascals out for the better part of quite some time. Then there were all those “Friday’s Foaming Rant” columns for that Boulder-based journal of competitive cycling whose name eludes me.

      If there were a prize for “Media: Longest-Running Column Ostensibly About Cycling (But Not Really)” I’d have a shot at the podium for sure.

      One more blast from the past is in the works for tomorrow and after that it’s a whole new ballgame. I’m contemplating a big pot of Hoppin’ John for New Year’s Day, with a side of cornbread.

  2. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Chapeau! That is a podium worthy piece for sure. I’m telling the guys at M&M cycling, a obvious plug for my LBS, that I want their old copies of BRAIN.

    Unleashed? What would happen if you really got nasty?

  3. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    Ah, Lost Wages and Interbike memories. I’m still mad about the $54 tab for “water service” the crooks stuck my pal with one night at dinner. Yep $6 a head for…..water. My in-laws recently got fleeced in a similar manner at a joint here in Santa Barbara the other night! It’s like these “waiters” are on commission! We’re hoping to live full-time in Italy before the end of Trump’s term, if not sooner.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      And parking! The Luxor never used to charge for parking, until this Interbike. Not as much as the Hilton in Santa Fe, mind you, but from the Hilton you can walk or cycle to many interesting places. Not so much in Luxor-Mandalay country.

      Get a nice big place in Italy. I have a feeling you will have many visitors. Many, many of them.

  4. Dale Says:

    “When the beast next came for Prendick, he cast the deciding ballot — bullet, actually — and that was that.”

    Sounds a bit like the 2nd amendment folks taking care of Hillary if she had won. Now where did I hear that?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Can you imagine the chat among the Secret Service guys if she’d won?

      “Fuck it, I’m going back into the Special Forces and volunteering for Syria. It’s safer.”

      Come to think of it, I’d like to hear what the SS guys are saying about Darth Cheeto. Tongues must loosen after a few adult beverages. Oh, to be a fly on the wall. …

  5. khal spencer Says:

    Nicely done.

  6. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Happy New Year Hurben!

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