Archive for the ‘Absent friends’ Category

It’s nobody’s business but the Turk’s

November 26, 2022

I ain’t opening that door. I’ve seen “Poltergeist.”

Miss Mia Sopaipilla was being a pill as I performed my coffee ritual this morning, so after a couple sips to get the motor running I figured I’d best tend to the litter boxes.

There’s one in the guest bathroom’s tub and another in the spare room where we contain Mia’s restless nature at night. This two-holer setup is a relic of the Before-Time, when we had two cats. Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment) insisted upon having his own personal latrine, and one feels obliged to give a 16-pound cat pretty much anything he deems mission-critical.

I dealt with the tub box first, and yep, it had seen action overnight. Then I headed for the spare room and noticed the door was closed.

Well, hell, I thought. No wonder Mia was pitching a bitch. She was locked out of her quarters. So I opened the door, gave that litter box a cursory inspection, and … it had been used too.

So I cleaned that one up, hauled what had become a sizable bag of feline exhaust outside to the trash, came back inside and asked Herself, “Why’d you close the door to Mia’s room?”

“I didn’t close the door,” she sez to me she sez.

“Well, I sure didn’t,” sez I.

A moment of silence.

“Mother?” she inquires, glancing around.

No reply.

I doubt it was Herself the Elder. She was never much of an eater, and while she had a great head of hair she wasn’t a furry, barring the occasional chin whisker. Plus, I don’t think her shade could squeeze into that litter box, which has a lid on it. It would have been undignified, even in extremis.

When Turks attack.

No, I’m inclined to suspect the Turk. My old comrade had an interesting sense of humor that encompassed leaping at you from hidey-holes, flashing the bathroom lights at us the night he died, and triggering a hallway smoke detector that requires a stepladder to reach as I was rehabbing a broken ankle.

Now there was a cat who found a loo with a lid to be an awful tight fit. He had to poke his blue-eyed brain-box out of the one we kept downstairs in Bibleburg. We called his bathroom breaks “driving the Turkentank.”

When you gotta go, you gotta go, they say. But if you’ve gone, do you gotta come back? If you do, leave the door open, or at least crack a window. Maybe light a match. I’m trying to enjoy my coffee here.

The Commander inspects his (purely defensive) chemical-weapons stockpile.

R.I.P., Mary Pigeon

November 20, 2022

Heather, Beth, Mary, and Shannon in 2004.

Herself the Elder, a.k.a. Mary Gaye (Kerr) Pigeon, went west on Thursday in Albuquerque. She was 89.

Born in 1933 on a farm in East Texas, the youngest of 10 children, Mary raised three girls of her own and spent a quarter-century working for Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Her father, B Kerr, was a sharecropper. Her mother, Mary M. Kerr, was a homemaker.

Mary attended schools in Nacogdoches and Abilene, graduating from Abilene High School in 1951. Afterward she studied at Massey Business College in Nacogdoches.

In 1958 she married Robert Pigeon of Ontonagon, Mich.

Their first child, Beth, was born in 1960 in College Station, Texas. Shannon (Herself) was born a year later in Nacogdoches. And Heather was born in Frederick, Md., in 1962, after the family moved east so Robert could take a position with the Atomic Energy Commission.

With all three children in school, Mary went to work. In Frederick, she took a job with the First Baptist Church. When the family relocated to Oak Ridge in 1980, Mary signed on with the First Presbyterian Church.

Two years later, the couple divorced. Her ex eventually remarried, but Mary never did.

In 1992, Mary began working at ORAU, in a temporary position. It proved anything but. By the time she retired 23 years later — at the age of 82 — she was the executive assistant to a vice president in health communication. Mary loved that job and was proud of her accomplishments at ORAU.

Armed with quick wit and sharp tongue, Mary did not suffer fools gladly. But she had a lighter touch with animals, particularly cats, and supported the Helping Paws Animal Network of Oak Ridge.

She devoured mysteries on her Kindle, especially Susan Wittig Albert stories. Other pastimes included crossword puzzles, dining out, shopping, spending time with family and her wide circle of friends, and binge-watching episodes of “The Big Bang Theory.”

Beth, Mary and Shannon share a giggle in The Duck! City circa July 2021.

In her later years Mary wanted to be closer to her daughters, moving first to an apartment in Palm Bay, Fla., near Beth, and then to assisted living in Albuquerque, near Shannon.

She arrived in The Duck! City just as the novel coronavirus began triggering lockdowns in elder-care facilities, and endured quarantines in tiny rooms, conversations with loved ones through closed windows and/or over the phone, vaccinations, and masking, all piled atop the traditional indignities of advancing old age.

In her final year, with restrictions lifting, Mary was able to rejoin the wider world, enjoying in-person visits with family and friends, getting her hair and nails done, shopping, and going out for meals.

Shortly after her 89th birthday, COVID finally found her. It did not keep her long.

Survivors include Beth and Darren Morgan of Woodsboro, Md.; Shannon and Patrick O’Grady of Albuquerque; and Heather and Bill White of Smyrna, Tenn.; two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

No services are planned. Come spring, Mary will return to East Texas, where memory took her in her final days.

Goodness, gracious. …

October 28, 2022

Rode hard and put away wet

October 17, 2022

The sky was crying as we motored home.

Can a weekend be both long and short at the same time?

The answer is yes, if you’re driving from The Duck! City to Manitou Springs and back again to join some old comrades in honoring the spirit of one who’s gone west.

The friends and family of John O’Neill crowded into Mansions Park in Manitou on Saturday to eat, drink, and swap tales of a grumpy old sumbitch who loved his wife Cindy, dogs, running, the Three Stooges, mountain biking, and margaritas, and who left the party far too early at 69.

Herself and I had to think fast to arrange the 400-mile trip north. Do we drive up the day of the celebration, spend the night, and come back on Sunday? Or the day before, spend the night, and then race home right after the gathering on Saturday? Who’s going to keep an eye on Miss Mia Sopaipilla now that she’s an only cat? We’re short a couple of neighbors, one who’s off with the family on her own road trip and another who just had knee-replacement surgery. Decisions, decisions. …

In the end we arranged a room, engaged a pro pet-sitter to check in on Mia, got up at stupid-thirty on Saturday, and roared north in the recently reconditioned Fearsome Furster, making it to Bibleburg with just enough time to spare for a detour down Memory Lane, which in this case led to Bear Creek Regional Park, where John and I and the rest of the Mad Dogs put on so many cyclocrosses Back in the Day®.

From there we drove straight to Manitou, grabbed a parking spot across the street from the park, puzzled out the robo-meter (Is everything smart these days except me?) and did a quick bit of recon.

The uniform of the day was to be flannel shirts and jeans, and we soon saw one, then another, and another. Many, many of them, as the hour approached. We helped shift a few picnic tables and folding chairs around, but there were not nearly enough of either to accommodate the swelling flannel-and-denim herd, which spilled over the designated parking spots and onto the lawn.

There were tales and tears, laughter and applause, a slideshow and still photos, food and drink. We paid our respects to Cindy and to John’s Colorado Running Company partner Jeff Tarbert, and caught up with a smattering of cycling and running buddies from The Before-Time, when the Mad Dogs had a good deal less gray in their muzzles and more glide in their stride.

Time is a toll road, and the longer your journey, the more descansos you pass.

We couldn’t find a way to attend a remembrance for our B-burg bro’ Steve Milligan, a sharp wit felled by an aggressive cancer in 2020, at age 73, just as he and his wife were preparing to enjoy their retirement.

I was able to make it to Denver this past July to say a belated adios to my first editor in the cycling racket, Tim Johnson, who worked long and hard to help build VeloNews into the preeminent bike-racing mag’ it became after Inside Communications acquired the title and moved it from Brattleboro to Boulder in 1989. Early-onset Alzheimer’s devoured what remained of Tim in November 2021, at 63, after gnawing away at him for years.

Now, I am not a believer in the Next World. I’m not certain I believe in this one. But I found solace in these remembrances and the sheer number of celebrants they drew. One person can make a difference. The ripples from their passage through our lives spread far and wide, lifting many a lesser vessel.

They say you’re not supposed to make a big wake by the dock, “they” being the slackers bronzing their buns on the boards. The only time those posers get their feet wet is when they piss on their flip-flops.

The big boys jump right the hell off that dock. Make a huge splash, the sort of cannonball into the deeps that will have people talking and laughing and toasting your memory long after you’re gone.

R.I.P., John O’Neill

September 25, 2022

Some of the Dogs take a break at Rampart Reservoir Back in the Day®. John and Cindy O’Neill are front and center, with Your Humble Narrator at right. At left, Michael Porter; behind, Herself and Michele Porter.

Our old pal John O’Neill has gone west on us. He was 69.

He’s probably already telling stories about his unscheduled departure over margaritas on the Other Side.

“I said I wanted to go doing 69, not at 69!”

That’s how John rolled. He would say anything at any time to anybody, and how you felt about that was strictly your problem.

We met John and his wife, Cindy, way Back in the Day®, after we moved to Bibleburg from Fanta Se.

They were both cyclists and runners, with side interests in the winter sports, and as he and I were both irascible potata-atin’ tosspots who had married well above our stations in life we naturally hit it off.

John and his spirit animal. Photo poached from the CRC website.

If you were in John’s orbit it was not uncommon to pick up a ringing phone and instead of the usual “Hello” getting a growling earful of “You suck.”

At least once, after he dropped by Chez Dog to find me not at home, I returned to a note on my car.

It read (wait for it): “You suck.”

A mutual friend, Michael Schenk, eventually declared that John’s Hebrew name was “Usuk.” I don’t think he consulted his rabbi on that one, but it stuck nonetheless.

John quickly became one of the mainstays of Team Mad Dog Media-Dogs at Large Velo, the storied cluster of strays too big for their bibs that rolled around the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado calendar to no particular purpose in the Nineties and Oughts.

While the rest of us double- and triple-bunked in single rooms at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic or Rage in the Sage, John and Cindy would rough it, camping in the sleet at some RV park, mostly to keep our horndog mutt-mate Bill Baughman from trying to drink Cindy’s bathwater.

John was working at Blicks Sporting Goods on Tejon when Herself lured him away to be her assistant manager at the Eagles Nest, at the Citadel Mall. As regulars know, she eventually fled retail, taking a circuitous route through office work, banking, and sports nutrition to become a Titan of Library Science.

But John stuck it out, a lifer in that vast army of people who see to it that you get what you came in for, even after Amazon started carpet-bombing customers in their homes from Sprinters dispatched via the Innertubes.

Today, John’s Buttface page lists him as “assistant janitor” at Colorado Running Company, and for sure he spent a ton of time on the floor over the past couple of decades, but not with a mop (as far as I know, anyway).

He helped Jeff Tarbert launch the shop back in 2000 and he’s been there ever since, though lately his contributions have mostly been from a distance, at a high-country condo, with a few days of each month spent in-house at CRC.

The original Colorado Running Company was at Cache la Poudre and Tejon, next to Colorado College, just a hop, skip, and jump from Chez Dog. It was a welcome bit of quality local retail, with regular group runs and holiday parties in addition to the solid product and customer service.

Now it’s way up north on Nevada, closer to the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (and Trader Joe’s, Pulpit Rock, and the Pikes Peak Greenway). I didn’t visit that shop so often, especially after we moved to The Duck! City, but I have no reason to believe that a change of location affected the way John did business.

But like the rest of us he was starting to notice the mileage on his odometer and thinking about the future, or what remained of it. We chatted now and again, most recently via iMessage, and he told me he had been thinking about hanging up his jock at the end of this year. Once Cindy did likewise maybe they might roam around the country in search of someplace fresh to land. Taos? Flagstaff? Albuquerque?

He’d mentioned some health issues — fainting spells, maybe a touch of something called “orthostatic hypotension” — but we did what dudes do: talked shit about it, told Death he sucked. Anyway, he had the medicos on the job and told me just last week that he thought his health might be back on the upswing.

But that was then, and this is now. John’s gone, and we miss him terribly. When we answer the phone henceforth, the callers will just say, “Hello.” It sucks.

R.I.P., Neal Adams

April 30, 2022

The Batman got a chance to feel what it was like to be me in 1969. From “The Secret of the Waiting Graves,” drawn by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, story by Denny O’Neil, © 1969 National Periodical Publications, Inc.

The inimitable Neal Adams has finally stepped away from the drawing board. He was 80.

Adams was, in a word, a legend. I devoured comic books from my early childhood through college, from Superman to the X-Men, the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers to Mr. Natural, and I’d never seen anything like his art. When Adams took on a character, he nailed it.

“Yeah, that’s how [insert your hero here] is supposed to look,” I’d think. And if some other artist took over, I’d be all like, “Nope.”

Adams helped put the dark back in the Dark Knight, a.k.a. The Batman; made the Green Lantern-Green Arrow series actually worth a look (a not inconsiderable chore); and fought Frank Frazetta to a draw when it came to depicting Conan the Barbarian.

The Batman may have been his crowning achievement, but Adams didn’t limit himself to Gotham City. He drew for both DC and Marvel, tackling Deadman, the X-Men, the Avengers, Superman, even the gleefully blasphemous Son O’ God Comics for National Lampoon. He was like the Buddhist deity Avalokiteshvara, with a pen in each of his one thousand hands. And like Chickenman, he was everywhere.

He was also a pain in the ass, which as you may imagine only further endeared him to me. He worked to see that creators were treated better than Manpower temps and helped win some long-overdue recognition for “Superman” visionaries Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, without whom we’d all have been stuck reading “Archie” comics … another title Adams had a hand in early on.

Peace to him and to his family, friends and fans.

R.I.P., Paddy Moloney

October 13, 2021

Paddy Moloney, frontman and piper for the Chieftains, has gone west. He was 83.

Reports Mother Times, quoting Himself in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Our music is centuries old, but it is very much a living thing. We don’t use any flashing lights or smoke bombs or acrobats falling off the stage. We try to communicate a party feeling, and that’s something that everybody understands.”

I’m grieved to learn that Paddy has left the party to which he brought so much feeling. In his honor let us banish misfortune.

Satisfaction

August 25, 2021

You gotta love a guy who’d give Mick Jagger a puck in the gob.

I don’t know much about drumming, but I know what I like. And Charlie Watts had plenty of it. He was a kind of anti-Mick who just plunked down behind his minimalist kit and did his maximalist thing, without a lick of showboating.

But at least once he came unplugged. From Rolling Stone:

For all of his low-key skill behind the kit, Watts seemed well aware that he was an irreplaceable element of the Stones’ sound. As one famous story from the band’s heyday goes, Jagger once phoned Watts’ hotel room in the midst of an all-night party, asking, “Where’s my drummer?” Watts reportedly got up, shaved, dressed in a suit, put on a tie and freshly shined shoes, descended the stairs, and punched Jagger in the face, saying, “Don’t ever call me your drummer again. You’re my fucking singer!”

Ho ho ho. When I read that I immediately wondered whether Roddy Doyle had poached the bit for his novella “The Commitments,” in which the full-of-himself singer Deco Cuffe tells an audience,  “I hope yis like me group.” Drummer Billy Mooney takes exception — “It’s not your fuckin’ group,” he says — and after another miscue in which Deco botches his bandmates’ introductions Billy flogs the frontman with a drumstick and subsequently quits The Commitments.

It’s left to Billy’s replacement, Mickah Wallace, to punch Deco’s lights out.

So fair play to Charlie Watts. Total pro. Stuck it out with the Rolling Stones for a half-century. And as far as I know, he only clocked Mick once.

R.I.P., Harris Cyclery

June 13, 2021

Sheldon Brown lives on at his eponymous website.

Harris Cyclery — yes, that Harris Cyclery, the place where the legendary Sheldon Brown served the cycling public — is no more.

I stumbled across the news while scanning Bicycle Retailer‘s Twitter feed (I hate to admit it, but occasionally Twitter actually serves a purpose). The folks at road.cc fear for Sheldon’s voluminous website as the shop closes its doors.

As a ham-handed, thumb-fingered dolt, I’ve relied on Sheldon’s how-to archives to solve many a problem that otherwise might cause actual mechanics to laugh at me for all the wrong reasons. It would be a tragedy of cosmic proportions if this treasure trove were to vanish into the dim mists of velo-history.

Road.cc is trying to reach Sheldon’s people for the deets. Here’s hoping they plan to survive yet another sad passing.

‘Story!’ cried the Editor

June 3, 2021

My last piece for Adventure Cyclist.

It’s hard to retire when you don’t have a job.

It’s even harder when you have a couple-three-four of them.

Still, I keep trying to find that hole in the fence, because I am a persistent mutt.

I successfully “retired” from my last real job in 1991, when I bid adios to The New Mexican and took up the uncertain life of a freelance cycling scribe. I like to think I beat the rush to the door. The writing was already popping up on newspaper walls from coast to coast, and I wasn’t one of the lucky few who would be offered a buyout. Mine would be more like a “Get out!”

So, rather than wait for the shove, I jumped.

Other separations have followed in the 30 years since I hit that door running, or maybe cycling. Either the magazines have gone away or I have.

This month brings my departure from Adventure Cyclist. It was an amicable separation. Deputy editor Dan Meyer asked if I wanted to review a bike; I thought about it for a bit, then replied, “No, thanks.”

It may sound impulsive, but it really wasn’t. I have outlived Mike Deme, the editor who brought me aboard. His successor, Alex Strickland, has moved on to another job, as have colleagues John Schubert, Nick Legan, and others.

It’s been 10 years. The bike biz is moving in directions that mostly don’t interest me. I’m an old white guy who doesn’t need the work or the money and should really just get the hell out of the way.

Also, my last two pieces, about the New Albion Privateer and the march of technology, practically wrote themselves. This could not continue. Call it a premonition: By the pricking of my thumbs, something banjaxed this way comes.

So I jumped.

Mike and Adventure Cyclist came around at exactly the right time. I was in something of a rut, basically just going through the motions, and reviewing touring bikes forced me into new ways of thinking. Alex and Dan continued Mike’s generosity. I had big fun and made good money, and now it’s time someone else had a taste.

A thousand thank-yous to everyone who enjoyed my reviews. And if any of yis bought a bike on my say-so, may the road rise up to meet you. With the rubber side down, of course.