Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

BRAIN Farts: I want to be a Lono

March 10, 2013
Palms at the Place of Refuge

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau (“Place of Refuge”) was one of the spots that took a beating from the tsunami. Hunter S. Thompson wrote of it in “The Curse of Lono,” describing another of his “Fear and Loathing” outings.

Editor’s note: In honor of Daylight Saving Time, something that serves no useful purpose, here’s a column that never ran. It wasn’t rejected, exactly; I gave the editor two choices and he picked the other one. Maybe he didn’t get the Klingon gag in the second subhed.

Son of a beach! Why am I not in Hawaii?

I am no day at the beach. — Richard Pryor, “Richard Pryor: Live On the Sunset Strip”

At the first cold snap of autumn 2012 my wife fled to Hawaii, tormenting me with photos of snorkeling, videos of playing bikini-clad footsie with the Pacific, and audio recollections of the freshest of fish, guacamole descended from homegrown avocados, and — oh, the unspeakable agony — free drinks.

Confined to the mainland, packed like a pallid sequence of overstuffed Irish bangers into sweatpants, socks and long-sleeved T-shirt, I passed the chilly days wrangling our critters, burning my brand onto some wandering word count and pushing a passel of pixels in the service of what passes for bicycle journalism along the Front Strange.

Here there were deadlines, dreary weather and other irritants that make sand in your Speedo feel like a quick pat on the pistol pocket from Rosario Dawson. There was little time for splashing about in the deep blue ocean that does not surround Colorado or for the consumption of delicacies that the Centennial State does not produce.

And the only person picking up my bar tabs was me.

I don’t need this … well, you know. This wouldn’t be so much of a much, were it not that whenever my wife gets a hankering for an ocean view, she tends to leave a wake around the dock upon departure.

Last year Herself’s vacations coincided with bowel disorders afflicting two-thirds of the family herd. The first struck down Bouncing Buddy Boo the Spinning Japanese Wonder Chin; the second, Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment). Only Miss Mia Sopaipilla, an unruffled Russian blue, remained blessedly continent.

The Boo is a fragile flower of an alleged dog, yet bore up without complaint under post-poop cleanups. The Turk, on the other hand — well, let’s just say that scrubbing the hind end of an outraged 16-pound male cat, with fangs Nosferatu would have envied and paws like tennis balls studded with surgical implements, is right up there with trying to squeegee buzzard guts off a turbofan jet engine while the sumbitch is running. At 30,000 feet. Over the Big Island.

Qu’vatlh! Dor’sho’gha! Herself’s final holiday excursion of the year provided the occasion for the demise of our 10-year-old audio-video receiver, which snuffed it with a home-theatrical snap, crackle and pop just moments after wheels up.

I dashed out to buy a replacement only to discover that the setup instructions were in the original Klingon, which is not one of my languages (I am fluent only in American and Gutter).

Nevertheless, after spending a maddeningly unproductive day or two staring blankly at the Klingon-English dictionary on my iPad, fists full of HDMI, PC and audio cables like some feeble-minded snake-handler flunking out of Elmer Gantry Elementary, my increasingly profane prayers finally caused this unholy trinity — Sony, Toshiba and Yamaha — to smile beatifically upon me in all its high-definition glory.

It was only then, of course, that I remembered there was nothing I really wanted to watch.

Ain’t nothing to it but a Job. “Why does the Lord want me to serve him in this way?” That’s novelist Thomas McGuane, speaking through a leathery 60-year-old rancher in his novel “Nothing But Blue Skies.”

The answer is, as always: Who knows? The Lord works in mysterious ways, or so I’m told. So do I, although the mystery lies mostly in why any sane person would offer me a position as a cycling journalist—or as a husband, for that matter. Like the late, lamented Richard Pryor, I am no day at the beach, especially when the beach is there and I am here.

There is sand in the immediate vicinity, however. And before I reapply nose to grindstone this morning I will go out and run on it, or ride in it.

You needn’t fear that I’ll be doing this in a Speedo, either. I’m not a triathlete, and this definitely isn’t Hawaii. The only body of water within eyeshot is surrounded by porcelain. It has a seat, a lid and a handle, and I consider it fit only for an extremely limited range of water sports.

Oh, to be a son of a beach instead of the other thing.

What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?

February 27, 2013

One of the downsides of spending 22 years working solo in a home office, besides not being able to get a gig at Yahoo!, is that one tends to take on attributes of those lost tribes National Geographic is forever un-losing, or the Japanese soldiers jungled up on various Pacific islands who never got the word about the emperor’s surrender.

Outsiders are suspicious characters, their fabulous tales not to be given credence. And should they drag you from your village or spider hole toward what they deem “civilization,” you may expect to contract smallpox, TB or the clap. Better to make pincushions of the foreigners with blowgun darts and shrink their heads, or fillet them with a katana and get back about your business.

Boo Glissando

The Boo Glissando is a concept townie that marries a bamboo laminate with titanium.

Which is the long way around to saying, yes, I was compelled to attend the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Denver, where I was put on display by the white devils, and all I came away with was a massive tab for docking my Subaru Outrigger and a medium-heavy case of Snotlocker Surprise.

In all fairness, I wasn’t exactly dragged. Having missed last year’s NAHBS, I was determined to take in the Denver edition, if only because I wouldn’t have to depend on United Airlines to get me there.

But I was planning to attend mostly for kicks. I didn’t count on being shanghaied into helping judge the 2013 NAHBS Awards, filling in for the absent Patrick Brady of Red Kite Prayer. This was not unlike inviting a Jivaro headhunter to stand in for Len Goodman on “Dancing With the Stars.”

So I had to get there way too early for a daylong refresher course on how little I know about the velocipede, and if you were one of the losers who came away empty-handed, award-wise, well, I can only say that it wasn’t my fault. It was those other guys. My judicial pronouncements were limited to the usual half-witticisms, like “I’d ride the shit out of that one if someone gave it to me,” “That belongs on a wall with a frame around it,” or “I can see taking that thing into your average shop for a tuneup and finding out afterward that the mechanics all hanged themselves.”

Being simpleminded, I gravitated toward simplicity, as exemplified by the Level keirin bike, the Boo Glissando and the English Cycles time-trial bike, which we named best in show shortly after noon on Saturday.

This last really has to be seen up close to be believed, as photos don’t do it justice. Rob English is a time trialist, a two-time winner of the Oregon state championship, and his considerable talent and ingenuity were clearly focused by his love for the discipline.

Once we’d wrapped up the awards, I took another refresher course, this one in bullshitting. It’s easy to bullshit over the Innertubes or in a magazine column, but improvising chin music on the fly takes practice, which I was out of. So I spent the rest of the show chatting up a number of old friends and colleagues, and that’s probably how I contracted the Snotlocker Surprise.

Damn the white man anyway.

United sucks (No. 162,376,201 in a series)

October 9, 2012
Lost: The Story of Flight 1200

The United Airlines flight that vanished without a trace. We were told Herself was booked on this one, but subsequent inquiry revealed that UA, as usual, was completely full of shit.

If humans were meant to fly, we would have wings, plus pouches for carrying those itty-bitty bottles of in-flight hooch.

And thus we would have even less use for United Airlines, which yesterday managed to disrupt the travel plans of yet another O’Grady. Back in March the bastards got me, but this time they discomfited Herself, who managed to fly all the way from Kailua-Kona to Honolulu despite having booked a flight to Bibleburg via Los Angeles. (Editor’s note: They got her in March 2007, too.)

Pigasus, circa 2007

I Photoshopped this image after Herself took a beating from United in 2007, en route from Bibleburg to Knoxville, Tennessee.

I can’t fault United for the original problem, some class of mechanical that required diversion to Honolulu for repairs.

I can and do fault the anonymous fuckwit in Honolulu who told Herself that she had been rebooked onto a flight leaving at 11 a.m. local time Tuesday — a flight that vanished mysteriously shortly after I confirmed this reservation with United customer service, which as you will recall is operated out of Spaminacanistan, Lower Intestinopolis, or some other exotic locale in which the native tongue is Squinch and the English competency limited to the phrase “I am sorry for the inconvenience, sir.”

During a follow-up call I was told that Herself had in fact been rebooked on a flight due to leave not at 11 a.m., but at 7 a.m. By this time, of course, there was no way she could make it a few hours earlier United had shipped her off to a hotel 10 miles from the airport and that 7 o’clock bird was practically taxiing as customer service and I chatted so enjoyably at the top of my lungs.

We discussed a variety of alternatives, some merely whimsical, others outrageous and physically improbable, to say nothing of deleterious to various internal organs should one prove successful, before I finally got Herself a seat on a 7:28 p.m. flight that should put her in Houston — Houston! — around 8:13 a.m. on Wednesday, and have her home by 10:40 a.m., a mere 24 hours behind schedule.

It goes without saying that Big Tex could have triathloned it faster. But then Herself gets around and about on nothing stronger than the occasional beer or glass of wine.

And of course, if you’re to be stranded somewhere, there are worse places than a Waikiki Beach Marriott. And I plan to suggest that United customer service go there directly, just as soon as Herself has the wheels down in Bibleburg.

• Late update: After double-checking the latest arrangements, I found that thanks to a late incoming plane out of San Francisco, Herself was now looking at a 90-minute delay exiting Honolulu. This meant she would miss her connector from Houston to Bibleburg and would have a tough time beating Jesus here, even if she drafted Big Tex. After a little more rooting around online I found a late-night Honolulu-Denver-Bibleburg deal, but trying to book it over the phone as The Boss cabbed it to the airport proved impossible (“I am sorry for the inconvenience, sir. …”). And thus I threw up my hands, told Herself to get a chokehold on the first English-speaking United agent she found in corpus and book that fucking flight. And lo and behold: The agent was helpful, if slightly uninformed, and once she had the 411 she even laid an aisle seat on Herself without any pressure applied to her carotid artery.

Ain’t nothin’ to it but a Job

October 8, 2012
Mister Boo, the office, Oct. 7, 2012

“Is it dinnertime yet?” inquires the persistent Mister Boo. “How about now? Now? NOW? NOW!!!”

My suffering knows no bounds. Herself is tormenting me from Hawaii with still photos of snorkeling, videos of playing bikini-clad footsie with the Pacific, and tantalizing tales of fresh fish, guacamole made from homegrown avocados and free drinks.

Meanwhile, packed like a sequence of overstuffed Irish bangers into pants, socks and long-sleeved shirt I wrangle Elly Mae’s critters, burn my brand onto some wandering word count and push a whole passel of pixels in the service of what passes for bicycle journalism in these parts. There has been little free time for tomfoolery in the ocean Bibleburg does not border or the eating of the avocados it does not grow.

As novelist Thomas McGuane had a leathery 60-year-old rancher put it in “Nothing But Blue Skies,” “Why does the Lord want me to serve him in this way?”

Who knows? The Lord works in mysterious ways, or so I’m told. So do I, although the mystery lies mostly in why anyone would offer me work. Or marriage, for that matter. As Richard Pryor once said of himself in “Live On the Sunset Strip,” I am no day at the beach, especially when the beach is there and I am here.

We do have sand, however. And before I reapply nose to grindstone this morning I believe I will go out and run on it, or ride in it.

And you needn’t fear that I’ll be doing it in a Big Tex-style banana hammock, either. I ain’t no tri-toad, and anyway, it’s 30 degrees, f’chrissakes. Oh, to be a son of a beach instead of the other thing.