Recycled 6: The best of ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’ 2017

• Editor’s note: Since my Bicycle Retailer and Industry News column won’t survive into the New Year, I’ve decided to resurrect a half dozen of this year’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” screeds between now and then. This is the last jug in the sixer, but pulled from the middle of the pack, the June 1 issue.

His Lardship on the throne.

From the Dark Tower to the White House,
or ‘There and Back Again’

“I had a friend who was a clown. When he died, all his friends went to the funeral in one car.”—Steven Wright

By Patrick O’Grady

Forty-three years ago I was working for a daily newspaper, fretting in my journal about the deranged authoritarian in the White House, and riding my bike a ton with the goal of getting fit by summertime.

See, kids? It’s true—things do get better! For instance, I no longer work for a daily newspaper.

OK, so going one for three isn’t exactly crushing it after more than four decades.

At least I’m riding a better class of bike now.

There’s a Sam Hillborne parked in my office today. But even in 1974 I was a Rivendell kind of guy, though back then Rivendell was some elvish spa ginned up by J.R.R. Tolkien rather than a purveyor of the finest friction shifters, quill stems and rim brakes, lovingly hand-forged by ironically bearded dwarves in Middle-earth, California.

Then as now the bike was steel, a 10-speed Schwinn of low birth, a gift from my parents while I was still abusing high school and studying drugs.

It weighed about as much as I did when I was still on the swim team, before all that unruly hair fatally queered my aquadynamics. And I rode it on errands, to work, and for recreation, in street clothes—jeans, T-shirt, tennies—pretty much the same kit I wore everywhere save for the newsroom, where the standards were slightly higher than at the Tillerman Teahouse because I was paid $65 a week to be there.

If someone had told me I needed special garb before I could ride that beast for free, I’d have given them the old hee, and also the haw. Tight shorts with a pad that looks like something you’d use to wash a windshield? A plastic helmet? And special shoes?

G’wan, gedoudaheeah. What, I look like an elf or something?

I know it’s true; oh, so true. Seems there has always been some dark force crouched in a high place, up to no good, while I tried to scribble a ’toon, pound out the word count, or ride a bike.

Maybe that’s why I was so fond of fantasy. Comic books, science fiction, sword-and-sorcery—there’s a better world out there somewhere, if you can just get a grip on Anduril, the Batmobile or the USS Enterprise.

As Robert A. Heinlein’s Oscar Gordon put it in “Glory Road”:

“I wanted Prester John, and Excalibur held by a moonwhite arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be—instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.”

‘Cause I saw it on TV. Back in ’74, when I was 19 going on 20, riding that Schwinn to the newspaper five afternoons a week, the main fantasy was that we dream-weavers were making a difference.

The Watergate hearings had been must-see TV, like “Star Trek” and “Kung Fu.” Capt. James T. Kirk and Kwai Chang Caine kicked much ass, but so did Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, along with Sam Ervin and Leon Jaworski.

And when Richard Nixon finally resigned the presidency, well, it was as though the One Ring had been unmade; “a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky,” had been taken by a great wind, “and it was all blown away. …”

Talk about a five-o’clock Shadow. I don’t think any of us in that newsroom, watching Tricky Dick helicopter off to San Clemency, thought we’d ever see a bigger Shadow fall across the Republic.

We were wrong.

“Our long national nightmare is over,” said Gerald Ford.

He was wrong, too.

It wasn’t the Ring falling into Mount Doom and the undoing of Sauron the Great we had witnessed, but rather the tactical retreat of the Necromancer.

You can’t take your eye off this lot for a minute, much less four decades.

The return of the king. While we were all out riding our bikes, or doing our little bits of business, the Shadow was busy getting a Hollywood makeover.

A couple of beta models were released and recalled (“Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.” “Read my lips: No new taxes.” “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”). And the marketing got kicked up a notch (it sure helped when instead of just seven Palantír there were a bazillion of ’em).

And finally, like Pippin the hobbit, we got our brains scrambled good and dry by all that Palantír time and fell hook, line and sinker for a king, a cross between Sauron, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, and Biff Tannen from “Back to the Future.”

Now we have to gear down once more for that long climb up Mount Doom, which makes L’Alpe d’Huez look like a tall curb.

Maybe instead of dwelling on Middle-earth all those years we should have paid closer attention to Middle-america, as chronicled by Sinclair Lewis.

Who knew? Turns out it can happen here.

• Editor’s note v2.0: This column appeared in the June 1, 2017, issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. Starting tomorrow it’s back to business as unusual here at the DogHaus.

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22 Responses to “Recycled 6: The best of ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’ 2017”

  1. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Let’s hope “that” in the picture above gets composted instead of recycled. Turn him into radishes.

  2. khal spencer Says:

    Funny you should mention it. I watched The Devil’s Mistress last night on Netflix and woke up this morning thinking that it could indeed happen here.

    But Tatiana Pauhofová is to die for….

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Hm, that’s a new one on me. We’ve enjoyed “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Crashing,” “Godless” and “Baskets” on the small screen, and Herself went to “The Shape of Water” yesterday and reports that it is excellent.

  3. khal spencer Says:

    Oh, and Happy New Year to all!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Jumping the gun, ain’t ya, Sparky? You must be feeling better. Any plans for New Year’s Eve?

      • khal spencer Says:

        Yeah, I think the flu shot made it less of a nasty one. So today I moved a half ton of gravel to Fanta Se and did some landscaping at Casa Dinero, er, I mean Casa Solana. Then washed out the Tacoma bed and while I was at it, the Stumpjumper (which I had inadvertently ridden through a pile of wet horse shit) and the K1100RS. Now its time for some sinful beverages..and Advil.

  4. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    I can still remember the local FM radio station in LA playing “Ding, dong, the witch is dead” when Tricky Dicky announced his resignation. Even though his replacement could be worse, I would love to see the Greasy Orange Turd ‘copter out of DeeCee in 2018 after giving us all the middle finger. Even better would be a perp-walk towards a federal pen!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I was working at the Colorado Springs Sun when the Dick coptered off to San Clemency. A cheer erupted in the newsroom (objectivity being a thing limited to the print edition of the newspaper).

      It’ll be samey same this time around. Once the GOP has finished adding the adjective “banana” to the Republic, President Pence will pardon his disgraced predecessor to salve the nation’s wounds. “Our long national nightmare is over,” etc.

      Don Clementino will idle away his remaining hours in a recliner on the Florida coast, chugging Diet Cokes, gobbling Big Macs and naturalizing his spray-on tan, before syphilitic dementia finally finishes the job of carrying him away.

    • khal spencer Says:

      I recall the refrain “Dick Nixon before he can dick you”. Gotta think up something appropriate for the Orange Turd.

  5. Ira Says:

    As the year comes to a close, I’d like to say thanks OG for your wit and perspective. I’m an avid reader of this blog, but rarely comment, because frankly I don’t feel I can offer much more insight than what’s usually posted. A lot of intelligent conversation happens, I’m quite content to observe. As a Canadian, I’m hoping 2018 is a great one for my friends south of the border. The political shit show can’t go on forever. Or can it?

  6. larry brown Says:

    A fine piece of writing, well done. When I rode my Schwinn conti I didn’t even have a helmet just a cap.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thank you, sir. I didn’t even wear the cap, being a hippie with a full head of flowing hair. Occasionally the Chong-style bandana, to be sure, but otherwise it was jeans, tennies and T-shirt.

      And yet we survived our thoughtless ways. Go figure.

  7. gary burnette Says:

    As usual, RIGHT ON, Mr. O’Grady – Keep the pressure on them scumbags any and every way you can and we will too. Maybe then it can be a happy (or at least tolerable) new year. I hope your predictions about the chopper taking the turd away comes true…

  8. khal spencer Says:

    If I offer Happy Gnu Year now is it OK?

    Also, while we are on the subject of Best Of, can we count on a few BRAIN style posts here or are you going to look for another paying venue? This stuff was pretty good. I wonder if someone like the Fanta Se Reporter would pick up a tab.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It’s all good, K. HNY right back at you.

      I doubt I’ll go hunting another paying job. I’ve been a working rumormonger for a whole lot of years and I could do with a break. Plus the youngsters need gigs too. Us old fellers shouldn’t take up all the payin’ real estate.

      I still draw the “Shop Talk” strip for BRAIN, and will continue to review touring bicycles for Adventure Cyclist until management there wises up, and with the blog that seems like enough for 63 going on 64.

      As to whether I might drop an occasional long read in here, well, y’never know. The BRAIN columns ran to 850 words, down from 1,200 Back in the Day™, and it’s going to be nice not to have to fit someone else’s particular format.

      Like sportscaster Biff Barf, I’ll just call ’em as I see ’em, and if I don’t see ’em, I’ll make ’em up.

      • khal spencer Says:

        The youngsters need gigs, but they have to live up to your standards. We old farts grew up when the grindstone we used to touch up our noses was not an abstraction.

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