Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Cold blow and the rainy night

December 7, 2018

The transition from fall to winter is always a sketchy time around here.

I’m not a fan of shorter, colder, darker days. They remind me at a genetic level of why my people invented uisce beatha. And since I no longer indulge in that miraculous restorative I’m at sea without a paddle on these chilly gray mornings, when the hangover is outside my head, at large and in charge, and not even aspirin is of any use.

This is when I await a tot of bad news, the way I once awaited a shot of good booze. The life of the free-range rumormonger is wild and free, until it isn’t, and it’s generally around this time of year when editors count and cull their herds.

“Oh, that one’s got to go. Dumber than three mules, eats like six of ’em, and shits all over the place. Fetch my .30-.30.”

It was fall 2017 when I got the word that Bicycle Retailer and Industry News would no longer require my “Mad Dog Unleashed” column. This was not a surprise. The industry-news biz, and the industry itself, was not exactly flush. Flushed was more like it. And shortly thereafter the publisher who gave the order and the editor who carried it out were no longer with The Organization.

About the same time Adventure Cyclist guessed that they wouldn’t need me at Interbike Reno, the Last Dance in Sin City having demonstrated all the intoxicating power of a half-can of O’Doul’s, a two-wheeled version of P.T. Barnum’s This Way to the Egress. When I heard nary a word about the show afterward I assumed Management had made the right decision. A bored and sober Dog makes a poor companion indeed. Whining and snarling and pissing on things.

And an old Dog, too. Set in his ways he is. ‘Tis a wee bit late to be training him so. Is there a .30-.30 to be had somewhere, d’ye think?

Well, p’raps. But not right now. Until I hear otherwise, I’m to deliver the first “Shop Talk” cartoon of 2019 to BRAIN next week. And a fresh Adventure Cyclist review bike awaits me down at Fat Tire Cycles, one of the few Duke City shops I have yet to visit.

And thus we have this week’s edition of Radio Free Dogpatch: “Cold Blow and the Rainy Night, or Whatever Floats Your Boat.” Give it a listen.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with a Shure SM58 microphone, Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack, and the old 2009 iMac. Cap’n Whitebeard used an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic. I edited the audio using Apple’s GarageBand on a 2014 MacBook Pro. The background music is “Into the Sunset” from Audio Hero via ZapSplat.com. Sounds of the sea courtesy Freesound.org.

• Editor’s note: The very day I recorded this episode BRAIN announced that the bell had tolled, not for me, but for Interbike, both show and staff. That shit will roll downhill — just how far and fast remains to be seen — and I feel the pain of all those who saw the business end of that .30-.30. Marc Sani, one of BRAIN’s founders and presently its interim publisher, has a few thoughts on the whys and wherefores. As for me, I wrote about the final Vegas show in 2017, and you can read that after the jump.

• Off to see the Wizard in 2017

Fred neither pedaled nor peddled

September 29, 2018

Some pixel pusher doesn’t have his shit Wired tight.

I know, I know, sometimes it seems as though the bike biz is more about peddling than pedaling, but still, Wired, Jesus H., etc.

‘The Post has been totally gutted. …’

May 7, 2018

“We need more budget cuts. Call it 10-15 percent. And a couple of bibs.”

When Lean Dean says you’ve gone too far, you’ve gone too far.

Dean Singleton, who once mused about consolidating, outsourcing and perhaps off-shoring the various MediaNews copy desks, says the owners of The Denver Post have “cut the heart out” of the once-mighty newspaper.

Undeterred by bad press, senior staff departures, and even the resignation of Lean Dean, the hyenas at Alden Global Capital continue gnawing away, taking comfort in the knowledge that there are plenty of toothsome tidbits left on the stinking carcass.

I know, I know — it’s a new world, information wants to be free, adapt or die, etc., et al., and so on and so forth. Doesn’t mean it’s pretty to watch.

Bang a gong, get it on

May 2, 2018

The stars of The Pueblo Chieftain copy desk circa 1984. Two of us are still walking the earth. Guess which ones.

The news biz is a tough racket. Yeah, I know, “stop the presses.”

Up in Colorado, The Denver Post is in a bad way, thanks to the vulture capitalists who have been treating it like an ATM at a Vegas casino. They may be wiping their overfed asses with your local daily, too.

And now The Pueblo Chieftain is said to be in the midst of a sale to … well, someone. Some thing.

I worked at The Chieftain for a spell back in the early Eighties. It’s where I met my man Hal Walter, who helped me get off the cigarettes and back onto the bike — at that point, a $320 fire-engine-red Centurion Le Mans 12.

As I wrote in my journal in 1983 — you remember journals, a sort of analog blog with a readership of one — “I can’t wait to get it and start riding all over fucking town. I may take it with me during my vacation so’s I can get some exercise between drinks.”

Yeah, I still had a ways to go. But still, baby steps, amirite?

Anyway, Hal has penned a recollection of the glory days — and some observations about The Chieftain‘s future — for Colorado Central magazine. He makes mention of Your Humble Narrator, and yes, my lawyers have been informed, so you’ll want to read the piece before HBO makes a documentary of the entire sordid mess and we’re strolling along the red carpet at Cannes giving the finger to Tarantino, the Coen brothers and del Toro.

I see T.J. Miller playing me, or perhaps Rory McCann, and probably Justin Timberlake as Hal, whom we used to call “Teen Angel,” for reasons that should be obvious. I mean, just look at that fucking picture, f’chrissakes.

Make travel great again!

March 19, 2018

Such a bargain!

Now this is amusing: Jason Wilson visits five Trump-branded properties to get a squint at Il Douche, “promiser of luxury experiences, through the eyes of a travel writer.”

And what did the travel writer perceive, luxury-experience-wise? A profoundly unsettling boredom, “a relentless, insistent, in-your-face mediocrity,” even for a pro “who has stayed in many soulless hotels and eaten in many overpriced restaurants in many disappointing places.”

“Nothing was bad, and much of what I was experiencing was even pleasurable,” Wilson writes. “But these were not great places. These places didn’t even seem like they were trying to be great.”

What Wilson experienced was not exactly a reverse Midas Touch, but something very much like it. With Trump, what you get is not the Warhol, but the actual can of soup (and not at Campbell’s prices, mind you). And now this half-assed hotelier has laid his tiny little hands on our country.

Forget bang. Think whimper.

Technology Tuesday

January 16, 2018

When I was a copy boy in the mid-’70s this was one of my babies.
Ding! Ding! Ding! Photo liberated from UPI

I’ve embraced antisocial media in 2018.

Facebook? Don’t care how it rejiggers itself, my account stays croaked. Ditto for Instagram and Snapchat, the latter of which I never did figure out, because apparently as a senile old goat I’m not supposed to.

And a couple weeks into the new year I can’t say I miss Twitter, either. That account remains open, but unused as of Jan. 1.

I enjoyed the service once. At 140 characters it reminded me of headline writing, which was always one of my favorite parts about deskwork.

Even at twice that its immediacy reminded me of the wire services. Man, you’d hear those bells ring in the teletype room — Ding ding ding ding ding! — and you knew instantly that some shit was hitting the fan somewhere.

But there were those long stretches of not much going on, too, just the machinery mindlessly punching out dreck from drones that nobody was ever going to read, not even the copy boy, and that’s what Twitter has become for me. More characters and fewer characters, all at the same time.

Now if I crave to inspect the latest outrage from Sir Orange of Golf, I have to go looking for it, which mostly I don’t.

And yes, the reverse QWERTY dent in my forehead is healing nicely. Thanks for asking.

Recycled 2: The best of ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’ 2017

December 27, 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 six-pack’s worth of this year’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” screeds between now and then. This is round two. Read ’em and weep. Or giggle, or roar, whichever you prefer.

Fresh air (Terry Gross not included).

It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you change the game

“I changed the conditions of the test. …”—Admiral James T. Kirk, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”

By Patrick O’Grady

I was just riding along the other day when my trusty Steelman’s rear tire went soft on me. And without so much as a subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee, mind you.

It’s the sort of thing that makes a guy want to take up golf, which my sources tell me is the new cycling, only with whiter participants, uglier clothing and fewer punctures.

Naturally, I suspected terrorism, the infamous Tribulus terrestris, and immediately considered erecting a wall. But this bike spends most of its time surrounded by four of them, and with a stout lid on top, too. It’s a secure location, which we call “the garage.”

(Cue the crowd, screaming: “Lock it up! Lock it up! Lock it up!”)

Could Devin Nunes have had a hand in this unauthorized leak? The GOP congresscritter has a habit of going places he has no business being to do things he should not be doing, and between you and me I’m not looking forward to screening the security-camera footage.

But it seems unlikely. The only Californian of Portuguese descent I know who might come calling is a retired newsman up Hopland way, a lifelong Democrat, and living as he does on a vineyard he’s even harder to rouse to action than this Nunes bozo.

Lord, how the Koch brothers must regret throwing good money away on that particular tool. They could’ve ordered up a bag of hammers, which would have been cheaper, smarter and useful.

Plus, once you’re done doing whatever with your bag of hammers, you can sell them on eBay. Good luck unloading a used Nunes, at any price.

Psst, you’re a pedestrian. This untimely flat, my first in months, seemed an inauspicious prelude to my annual birthday ride, which was scheduled for the next day.

These expeditions never get any shorter, and so for a variety of perfectly indefensible reasons I quit logging them in miles after 2015. Last year I rode for 62 minutes, which was feeble even by my relaxed standards, and so this year I thought I’d man up a tad and go for 63 kilometers.

There was a time when I considered 63km a suitable warmup for an actual ride. But that was when I still measured my body weight in pounds instead of kilograms.

Tears (of laughter) in heaven. I try not to get too serious about planning these outings, reasoning that (a) man plans, God laughs, and (2) a birthday present should be something of a surprise, even if you’re giving it to yourself.

I really gave it to myself in 2015, when what had been planned as a 61km ride sort of got away from me (there goes God, laughing again) and I wound up doing 61 miles, with only two water bottles and a single tube of strawberry Clif Bloks.

Classify it as just another instance of “I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway.” My longest ride so far that year had been just a hair over 30 miles, but I figured muscle memory would take over once actual memory failed me, and if it all went to hell I could always blame Obama.

Nine-speed or nine holes? Obviously I made it home OK in 2015, and again in ’16—if I hadn’t, this column would have been written by somebody else, probably with more of an emphasis on bicycle retailing and industry news.

But you’ve been bad, and I’ve been lucky, and so here we are again.

This year I was even less well-trained, if you can imagine such a thing. Instead of going for a ride I probably should have tried to shoot a 63 for nine holes. But none of my clothes were ugly enough, my clubs are for correcting editors, and the only thing that’s weaker than my backswing is my frontswing.

So come the big day I struggled into my fading Mad Dog Media team kit, confirmed that the Nobilette had goo-filled tubes in both tires (seal tubes, not borders), undertook a quick visual threat assessment of my secure location for Republican congressmen, and got off to the traditional late start.

Numbers game. I punished myself for months of sloth and torpor by starting and finishing with climbs. Well, kinda. As in life, there was a short, sharp descent to the end.

But in between it was all good. The arm warmers came off, the knickers stayed on, and the Tribulus terrestris stood down, probably because I was carrying two spare tubes, a pump and a cellphone. (These constitute a wall that actually works.)

I’m not saying it was pretty. But it was the kind of ugly I can do something about. Ride longer and more often. Ride up grades instead of buying upgrades. Insist that all the bikes sign loyalty oaths and submit their computers for inspection until we identify the source of the leak.

Either that or I could start measuring these birthday rides in millimeters. Shoot, I figure I can do 64mm off the couch. Maybe even on it.

• Editor’s note v2.0: This column appeared in the April 15, 2017, issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

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

December 26, 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 six-pack’s worth of this year’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” screeds between now and then. Read ’em and weep. Or giggle, or roar, whichever you prefer.

Shoes for industry!

1. Sailin’ shoes make a mutt’s little feet bark

Well, the good thing in the first race blows, and right away Hymie commences to notice that his shoes seem full of feet, for there is nothing like a loser in the first race for making a guy notice his feet.“Tight Shoes,” by Damon Runyon

By Patrick O’Grady

Writing a column that’s even marginally about bicycling in January, with the walls closing in like plastered adobe wolves, feels like running in too-small shoes.

I was still stewing over the November election, having bet on an also-ran after picking back-to-back winners, and as Damon Runyon has taught us, there’s nothing like a loser to squeeze a gambler’s shoes.

It didn’t help that my new running shoes actually did seem full of feet, though they were my usual size (9 U.S., 42 Euro). In fact, like the undersized brogans Hymie Minsk and Rupert Salsinger wore in Runyon’s short story “Tight Shoes,” they were pinching my puppies quite some, though I hadn’t even kicked anyone in the pants with them yet.

Not for lack of temptation, mind you. But I was afraid that once I got started I’d never be able to stop. A fella could wear out a couple dozen pairs of kneecaps kicking all the asses that had it coming.

I’d start with the people who design shoes. If you ever find footwear that won’t underwrite your podiatrist’s next ski vacation in the Swiss Alps, buy all you can afford, because you will never see that particular model again. Not in this lifetime.

Then I might move on to the dog, who has deduced from observing me that it’s OK to poop indoors. I occasionally joke that as a freelancer I work from a home “orifice,” but it’s actually starting to smell like one.

And finally, there’s that other mutt, the ugly orange cur who’s crapping all over the Oval Office. Definitely on the bucket list for 2020. But I don’t think a size-42 shoe is going to get within field-goal range of his big butt anytime soon. Not unless that’s the size Vladimir Putin wears.

Old dog, new trick. As it turns out, our veterinarian says our dog has an excuse for his misbehavior. In addition to simply being an old fella, Mister Boo is showing some early signs of senility, kidney disease and control issues.

The orange mutt has a few of these problems as well, especially the latter, though his vet says he’s just fine, with “astonishingly excellent” lab-test results and “extraordinary” physical strength and stamina.

But between you and me, I’ve seen his vet. There’s another mongrel I wouldn’t take to a dogfight even if I thought he had a chance to win.

Meanwhile, back at cycling. … But we were talking about cycling here, and shoes—well, I was, anyway, until you wandered off, looking for something to read.

And as regards cycling, mostly I don’t, not in January, anyway. It’s too cold outdoors, and too dull indoors. (Plus the brown truck keeps coming around, and I ain’t talking UPS here, if you get my drift.)

So when the sun shines I take a quick spin around a short circuit I’ve worked out for evaluating touring bikes, and when it doesn’t I might do a little cyclocross for auld lang syne. But mostly I run. It’s quick, it’s good for you in a real bad for you sort of way, and as Richard Pryor said in “Live In Concert,” you never know when in real life you might have to.

“If somebody pull a knife on you and you can’t pull out nothin’ but a hand with some skin on it, your intelligence ought to tell you to … run!” he said. “And teach your old lady how to run so you don’t have to go back after her ass.”

She’s got legs. I don’t have to teach my old lady to run. Herself doesn’t ride much, even in good weather, but she runs a couple-three days a week year round and has finished a couple half-marathons.

I can’t kick her ass, either, and not just because I can’t catch her. Even trying wouldn’t be prudent. She’s seven years younger than I am, gets up real early, and knows where all the knives are. And if I try to run from her, she’ll catch me.

The other day she dragged me out on a grotesquely cold morning for a run that started way too soon and way too fast and that’s when I noticed that my new shoes seemed to be full of feet for some reason.

And she knows how to use ‘em. Afterward I was stumping around El Rancho Pendejo like Long John Silver, raving about going back to the store that sold me these too-small shoes and applying them to a few tailbones with vigor and malice aforethought.

Herself snorted, and suggested that if I ever joined her at the yoga studio, or even stretched something other than a metaphor now and then, maybe a little jog wouldn’t hobble me with plantar fasciitis, which sounds like the Italian for “Donald Trump’s gardener” but is actually some sort of painful heel injury.

I replied that if she wanted a well-heeled man around the house she should’ve married the orange mutt instead of the green one.

And now for some reason my ass hurts nearly as much as my feet.

• Editor’s note v2.0: This column appeared in the February 2017 issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

R.I.P., Mad Dog Unleashed

December 17, 2017

Editor’s note: “Mad Dog Unleashed” went to meet St. Peter in December 2017. It was 18. Survivors include its landlord, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News; its father, Patrick O’Grady; and a small, deeply disturbed readership. Its final words are appended herein.

 

Your Humble Narrator at work (or so he says, anyway).

Plan? What plan? What we have here is dogs chasing cars

“Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just … do things.”The Joker, “The Dark Knight”

By Patrick O’Grady

Donald Trump finally made it to Vietnam.

True, he was a half-century late, but you’ll recall that in 1968 there was a ton of golf that needed playing back home. Waving your 1-wood around for a few decades must do wonders for bone spurs. I hear it’s the new cycling.

Speaking of which, the bike business missed a golden opportunity there. We should’ve given Gimpy a beautiful golden bike to make the trip, because he looks like he could use the exercise and I’m pretty sure he can’t swim.

He would’ve needed one hella long ramp to launch from DeeCee to Danang. But man, what an ad for travel by bike! Any old fool can get big air in a plane. C’mon, casino dude—bet the roll, jump the ocean.

However he traveled, this was a trip that bore watching for our industry as the Taiwanese hunker down and Cambodia, India and Vietnam step up.

Our erstwhile enemy has become a favored trading partner, if you believe the feds—we’re their largest export market, they’re our fastest-growing export market—and Vietnam’s annual economic-growth rate is second only to China’s.

And I’ll concede that November’s pestilential visit seems to have been a success, or at least not a disaster, which these days are the same thing.

For starters, I don’t hear the B-52s cranking up, which is always good news. And Gimpy didn’t get captured, which, well. …

We all know how he feels about guys who get captured.

“I was never a fan of the Vietnam War.” I didn’t want to go to Vietnam either, being otherwise occupied. Not with golf, but with various brain fertilizers that I hoped would grow my hair down to the ground so I wouldn’t have to wear clothes.

I didn’t need a doctor’s note or college deferments, either. I was registered for the lottery, but the Army had all the fresh meat it required in March 1973 when it was my turn in the barrel. The last draft call was in December ’72, and the authority to induct expired six months later.

What I had instead of Vietnam was the newspaper business. My war stories are about reporters, editors, rim rats, slot men, shooters, printers and publishers.

That tour of duty lasted 15 years, and in all that time it never occurred to me to try something else because I loved the work. Also, I wasn’t qualified to do anything useful.

Manufacturing? I can make trouble on the cheap, but the market is unpredictable.

Service? I’m worse with my hands than Roy Moore. I did fix the wife’s beeping sports watch once, with a hammer. You can fix anything real fast with a hammer.

Retail? I couldn’t sell Bibles in Missouri. And I tried. Didn’t help a bit that I looked more like Jesus than Jesus did, either. I had to hitchhike home, a drummer who couldn’t even earn the price of a bus ticket.

Buy the ticket, take the ride. So, yeah, newspapers. I flagged down that old Greydog in 1977 and it dropped me off here at the bike shop before trundling off and over a cliff.

Now and then I pedal up to the edge, peek over and down, and mutter, “That was quite a ride. Maybe I should buy another ticket for old times’ sake.”

Nope. My freelancer’s kit—shorts, sandals, a T-shirt that a cat uses for a climbing gym—wouldn’t pass muster in the modern newsroom. Nor would the two-hour lunch ride, followed by the two-hour lunch.

And in the newspaper game some Assistant Managing Editor for Wasting Your Time is always tugging on your leash. Nope again. “You see a collar on this SOPWAMTOS shirt, Pinstripes? Up to date on your rabies shots?”

’Sides, who goes backward? Not King Donald the Short-fingered, that’s for sure. Nobody knows exactly where he’s going or what he’s doing, especially him, but one thing’s certain: He has his beady eyes affixed firmly on the front of his face, staring straight ahead, at his phone. “Mirror, mirror, in my hand, who’s the greatest in the land?”

Back of the bus, buddy. Anyway, I enjoy this work, if you can call it that. I’m not sure the other fella likes his. With a little luck, he won’t have the job much longer, and we can move on to making other, subtler mistakes. Time passes, and things change.

Even here. Come January 2018 something else will occupy this space we’ve shared for the past couple of decades, and I’ll return to my roots as a cartoonist.

That’s how I snuck into cycling rumormongery 28 years ago, when VeloNews declined to offer me full-time employment but asked that I contribute cartoons. BRAIN’s Marc Sani liked what he saw—an appraisal he and others have had occasion to regret—and the rest, as they say, is history.

And with this column, so is “Mad Dog Unleashed.”

In the new year, look for me and the Mud Stud in the back of the mag’, and I’ll look for you up front as the bike industry continues its full-throated pursuit of The Next Big Thing®, like a dog chasing a car.

That dog likes his work, too. We just … do things. And what the hell, we’re not squished yet.

• Editor’s note v2.0: Thus endeth the final “Mad Dog Unleashed” column in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. I’ll continue to draw the “Shop Talk” strip for that publication and review touring bicycles for Adventure Cyclist. And of course, the daily (sometimes) chin-music concert will continue here in Lesser Blogsylvania.

Finally, Friday

November 17, 2017

Early in the week the Fuji Touring Disc and I got our kicks on Route 66.

It’s been a productive week around the old rumormongery.

I edited and shipped two short videos for Adventure Cyclist; continued my evaluation of the latest review model, a Fuji Touring Disc; and wrote a column and drew a cartoon for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Cha-ching! Just back that armored car up to the vault, boys, and start shoveling. I’ll be on the patio contemplating my investment portfolio.

Speaking of which, I see our national leadership is dancing merrily with the ones who brung ’em. It can’t be much longer before there’s a new agency working hand in glove with the Eternal Revenue Service, the Department of Spare Change, which sends agents round to root through your pants pockets, sofa cushions and swear jars. Hand over those nickels and dimes, Gramps, you lot would just piss it away on housing, food or medicine.

Don’t worry, soon it will all come trickling back to you. Why, look, what’s that there, on your shoe? Looks like it’s raining on somebody!