Archive for the ‘Milestones’ Category

Hot lap, señores!

March 28, 2022

On your mark, get set — go!

Zoom, off we go for another circuit of Old Sol. Here’s hoping it’s not the bell lap. If it is, I don’t think I’m gonna finish in the money.

The birthday bash was low-key. A couple of phone calls and texts, a few choruses of “Happy Birthday,” and a great big ol’ green chile cheeseburger with bacon, white cheddar, and fries at the Range Cafe. This is something I’d never cook for myself, so yay, etc.

That’s a lot of comics rat there, Skeezix.

Herself, knowing my history with comics, scored me the collected “Watchmen,” by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins. I was a superhero fiend early on, starting with DC and moving on to Marvel, then diverted to the underground comics for some years before losing track of the medium for an extended period.

When “Watchmen” came along in the mid-Eighties I was into changing newspapers like underwear and racing bicycles, and never heard a peep about it. I found Zack Snyder’s movie incomprehensible — Terry Gilliam had been tapped to direct but deemed the comic “unfilmable” and bailed — but I loved the HBO miniseries, so I’m looking forward to examining the original source material.

Got the 68-minute bike ride in on the trails around Elena Gallegos Open Space, and was lucky to escape unscathed for another lap of the sun. It looked like the Big I at the cocktail hour on Friday, is what.

Of course, back when I was still a man, instead of whatever it is that I am now, I would’ve ridden my age in miles, not minutes. But the rides were shorter then, and didn’t burn quite so much daylight.

Hell, I didn’t get my burger on until 2 in the peeyem as it was. If I’da gone for 68 miles I’da been having it for breakfast this morning.

Gassho, Thich Nhat Hanh

January 21, 2022

Thich Nhat Hanh, via Upaya Zen Center.

The Vietnamese Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has gone. He was 95.

A champion of mindfulness, compassion, and peace, he departed from the Tu Hieu Temple in his homeland, where once — as an opponent of the Vietnam War — he was not welcome.

He returned twice to teach, publish, and lead retreats and ceremonies before finally going home for good in 2018, following a stroke four years earlier.

In his book “At Home in the World,” published in 2016, Nhat Hanh addressed his inevitable leaving. He wrote:

This body of mine will disintegrate, but my actions will continue me. If you think I am only this body, then you have not truly seen me. When you look at my friends, you see my continuation. When you see someone walking with mindfulness and compassion, you know he is my continuation. I don’t see why we have to say “I will die,” because I can already see myself in you, in other people, and in future generations.

Even when the cloud is not there, it continues as snow or rain. It is impossible for the cloud to die. It can become rain or ice, but it cannot become nothing. The cloud does not need to have a soul in order to continue. There’s no beginning and no end. I will never die. There will be a dissolution of this body, but that does not mean my death.

I will continue, always.

The Upaya Zen Center of Santa Fe will offer a memorial service via YouTube at 5:30 p.m. Mountain time today. The Zen center he co-founded, Plum Village, plans an extended remembrance beginning tomorrow. You can read more about Thich Nhat Hanh at Lion’s Roar.

’Tooned out

January 3, 2022

The Mud Stud, Dude, The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter, and Your Humble Narrator bid adieu to their e-assistant and the bicycle industry.

• Editor’s note: Here it is, the first Monday of a new year, the start of a work week in which I will not. Work, that is. For the story, read on.

I never worked in a bike shop.

But I worked on “Shop Talk,” a comic strip about a bike shop, for 30 years.

And that was long enough, I decided. And so the strip ends with the January 2022 edition of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, coming soon to a shop toilet near you.

It was fun while it lasted. And it lasted longer than anyone expected. Especially me.

Entire magazines rose and fell in those three decades. But the Mud Stud, Dude, and a rotating, motley cast of supporting characters remained upright, or at least on their feet, mostly, until I pulled the shop mat out from under them in December 2021.

I nearly did it in December 2020, but BRAIN editor Steve Frothingham talked me out of it. He tried to do it again last month, but that time I stuck to my guns. Pens. Whatevs.

The first installment of one of my favorite “Show Talk” strips about the Interbike trade show. The Mud Stud is offsite at the show and confused, as usual.
• Part 2
• Part 3

It was BRAIN’s first editor, Marc Sani, who talked me into it.

Marc was in my cycling club in Santa Fe back in 1991, when I was leaving The New Mexican for the care- and cash-free existence of freelance journalism.

Recognizing desperation when he saw it, he asked if I’d like to contribute to the trade magazine he and some business partners were starting.

The magazine would cover the bicycle industry, about which I knew absolutely nothing. Sure, I was a customer, but Wine Spectator doesn’t hire stew bums to crack wise about viticulture.

Happily, ignorance had never stopped me from sounding off before. And so, before you could say, “Duuuude,” the Mud Stud became the not-too-swift shop rat who partied in the back of Bicycle Retailer while the Suits conducted business up front.

The strip was developed on the fly. Pure anarchy, as represented by the tattoo on the Stud’s left shoulder. I had no idea who the characters would be, or what they would do, since the only part of me that had ever worked in a bike shop was my wallet.

The Mud Stud was the star of the first “Shop Talk” in BRAIN’s debut, the January-February issue of 1992. But then he vanished until August, pre-empted by a vaguely roadish, aproned, backwards-hatted wrench whose name was never revealed. Turns out, dude answered to “Dude.” Who knew?

As for the Mud Stud, that was never intended to be his name. It was a logo on the T-shirt he wore in his second appearance, and for some reason, it stuck, like the omnipresent X-shaped bandage on the left side of his head.

So did the Stud. After his early truancy, the Stud has appeared in BRAIN as regularly as bad news about Schwinn, which he once tried to buy with a Dave Wiens trading card and $6 in food stamps.

Other brainstorms to sweep from beneath the Stud’s greenish-blond Mohawk like tornadoes through cycling’s trailer park have included showing up in his baggies with a board on the day shop employees were to learn how to surf the Internet; turning a track pump into a bong; and engaging in a naked midnight mountain-bike ride down Deadman’s Dropoff with a water bottle full of tequila and a lawyer’s daughter on the handlebars.

Professor Stud never graded on a curve, but he was occasionally critical of a student’s hucking.

Longtime readers know that bandage on the Stud’s dome is neither decoration nor affectation. As the Stud’s slacker pal Biff Trail once noted, “He’s the only dude I know whose NORBA license has an organ donor’s release.”

Like the rest of the cycling industry, the Mud Stud was at his absolute best during the Interbike trade show. Appearing in a long run of special-edition “Show Talk” strips, he bought 6,000 Missy Giove™ nipple rings, then unloaded them at a discount to Roseanne Barr; gambled the bike shop away to a Vegas mobster, then won it back with the backing of a trustafarian inline-skater geek name of Slater the Skater; and failed to make the show at all one year when he mistook New Mexico’s Las Vegas for the one in Nevada.

Lest you dismiss him as dingbat, dimwit, or dufus, you should know that the Stud used to teach at Harvard. Either law or physics; we’re not sure. Hey, a lot of us took the scenic route to the bicycle business, among them at least one cartoonist.

In the glory days, I got to draw a full-page cartoon now and then.

Once he arrived, the Mud Stud learned to dine on Spaghetti-Os, shower by riding through the car wash, and make delicate adjustments to $5,000 bikes with a claw hammer. Where he lives remains a mystery. What he lives for is to ride, and to wrench, if only to feed the monkey. And maybe that’s why he managed to keep his job for 30 years.

Actually, the Mud Stud did get fired once, for spray-painting a filthy word on the shop manager’s car after the boss pretended to sack him in a practical joke. He was guilty, but also innocent.

“C’mon, dude,” said Biff, speaking for the defense. “It’s not like he spelled it right or anything.”

“Oh, OK,” grumbled the manager, as he relented. “Besides, without him, we got no comic strip.”

And now, after all those years, even with him, we got no comic strip.

But we still have him. So, look for the Mud Stud, Dude, Biff, and The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter — who wandered into “Shop Talk” after VeloNews shrank to such an alarming degree that it could no longer contain his bibs-busting buffoonery — to pop round here from time to time.

We’re old. We’re retired. But we’re not dead.

‘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.

Masks and margaritas

May 17, 2021

I didn’t have a mask to keep bugs out of my teefers
on the descent of Tramway Road.

Firsts:

Hey, Spike, you missed a few flowers.

• Riding the bike without a mask. That was fun. I’ve been half-stepping it, draping a Buff around my neck, but yesterday I left it at home. I’m still all buffed up; I’m just not Buffed up. Ho, ho.

• Having people over for drinks. Yup. Couple friends from the ’hood who are likewise all shot up came by for strawberry margaritas and a bit of guacamole. We hung out on the patio, shooting the breeze and enjoying what little foliage Spike the Terrorist Deer found unpalatable.

Two little things, to be sure. But satisfying nonetheless after a very long year indeed. Next up: Dancing on Sundays!

Viejo pendejo

March 27, 2021

Not dead yet, but not fooling anyone, either.

Happy birthday to me

I am old, as you see

Bald, wrinkled, and smelly

Plus it hurts when I pee.

 

Ho hum. Another year, another decidedly muted celebration.

Last year I rode 66 minutes on the stationary trainer, being slightly stove up. This year … to be honest, I’m not feeling it. The whole birthday-ride thing.

Sixty-seven miles? Not gonna happen. Sixty-seven kilometers? Nuh uh. Sixty-seven minutes? Maybe, but not on a trainer. That much I know for certain.

It’s not a “Duane’s Depressed” kind of situation. I don’t have a pickup to park, or a shack to walk to. Anyway, I’m waiting on our yard guy to come around and tell me how much money he needs for his next trip to Vegas.

But afterward maybe I’ll take a page from ol’ Duane’s story and go for a 6.7-mile walk. I do have these feet at the ends of my legs, and I don’t have to air ’em up or grease ’em or nothin’.

Happy birthday to Herself

March 12, 2021

Dig those crazy puffballs.

The gods served up a cotton-ball sky for Herself’s mumble-mumble-th birthday this morning.

I immediately felt a kinship with this piece because she’s still cute
and he looks like shit.

They won’t be there for long — the forecast calls for gusty winds out of the SSW as Thor breaks out the old hammer for a little light touch-up work on Colorado.

As The Bug® still holds sway over the land, and we have not yet had our shots, the birthday festivities will be muted, as they were last year.

Herself and a colleague did manage to enjoy a socially distant cocktail and appetizers on some uptown bistro’s patio yesterday afternoon while I stayed home and cooked dinner (turkey tacos and arroz verde).

The other day we went shopping for a birdbath to keep the juncos hydrated and stumbled across the Dia de los Muertos talavera pictured above, a bride and groom sitting on a bench looking slightly stupified, probably from strong drink and/or unbridled lust.

Vato’s got a ticket to ride. Orrrrale.

As we both have March birthdays, it was a no-brainer — boom, two birthdays, one present, no waiting.

The couple matches the cyclist we have by the front door, so, bonus. You may remember El Señor from our Interbike coverage in days gone by.

Meanwhile, the phone rings off the hook it no longer has with calls from well-wishers. Later we will nosh on some delicious snacks and watch something silly on TV.

Par-tee, baybee. Not even The Bug® can stop us.

Can’t buy me brains

February 7, 2021

The Fab Four arrive in New York.

On this day in 1964 The Beatles came to America.

Two days later they appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and I was watching, like 74 million of my fellow Americans.

My parents were appalled. My sister was entranced. And me? I remember thinking something along the lines of: “Hmph. These guys will never be as big as Elvis. And look at those silly haircuts.”

Goin’ down

December 31, 2020

In the loo and adieu for you.

Hoo-boy. Pee-yew. That’n looks like a double-flusher to me. Might have to break out the plunger. Or a stick of DuPont Extra.

But it’s gotta go, come hell or high water, and I won’t miss it once it’s gone.

Twenty-fuckin’-20.

We put an old woman in a home. My foot in a splint. My cat in an urn. And our lives on hold.

We’re alive to bitch about it, which has to count for something. [Insert thunderous sound of knocking on wood here.] Plenty of other people aren’t.

Also, I finally made it to Social Security, so, yay for me. Plus Herself remains on the clock in a real big way, so, bonus. We want for nothing. Call it a lamp so that we need not curse the darkness from beneath our designer masks.

It feels greedy of me to miss my cat. Running. Road trips. Hot springs. Random acts of shopping. Long bicycle rides. Stand-up comedy. My favorite non-alcoholic beer. Bookstores. Mexican restaurants. Living in a country that helped defeat fascism, not resurrect it.

You know. The little things.

Still, I miss them. I do. And I don’t expect to get a lot of them back just like that, with a simple change of calendars, or administrations.

Especially my cat. Not unless Stephen King gets involved, and that’s a bridge too far for me. Turkish v1.0 could be scary enough.

We already have plenty to be scared of, thanks all the same.

Nevertheless, here we are, on the threshold of a new year. That I am not optimistic is not helpful. Time to show the affirming flame. We must love one another or die.

R.I.P., Chuck Yeager

December 8, 2020

Chuck Yeager and Arthur Murray with the Bell X-1A.

Chuck Yeager has finally flown west. He was 97.

An airplane mechanic from West VirginIa who went on to become a fighter ace in World War II and retired as a brigadier general after 127 missions in Vietnam, he flew almost anything with wings, including the Bell X-1 that broke the speed of sound on Oct. 14, 1947.

Dad, whose Air Force nickname was O’Toole, was something of an autograph hound, and this was his biggest score. It reads: “To ‘Hank’ O’Grady (O’Toole). Best Regards and Good Luck, ‘Chuck’ Yeager.”

You may know him from “The Right Stuff,” first a book by Tom Wolfe and then a movie directed by Philip Kaufman.

We first heard about him from Dad, who likewise was a pilot at Muroc Army Air Base, later renamed Edwards AFB.

The family legend was that Dad was invited to join that famous test-pilots program at the Air Force Flight Test Center but that Mom forbade it, telling him something on the order of, “You can be a test pilot or you can marry me, but you can’t do both.”

The old man thought the world of Yeager, and we have a few pix of him, two of which you can see here. They’re both undated, but depict Yeager with the X-1A, the plane he flew to more than double the speed of sound in December 1953, just a few months before Harold Joseph O’Grady and his wife, Mary Jane, were to have a son name of Patrick Declan on the other side of the country.

Godspeed, General.