Archive for the ‘Viewing with alarm’ Category

Recycled 3: The best of ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’ 2017

December 28, 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 No. 3, and it fits in nicely with Khal’s comment under the previous installment.

Herself aboard one of her two remaining bikes, a Soma Double Cross, at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta Park.

How to sell cycling when ‘street smarts’ keep buyers indoors?

“What are you doing to create great experiences?”—Tania Burke of Trek Travel during the 2017 Bicycle Leadership Conference

By Patrick O’Grady

Herself instructed me to sell her road bike the other day.

The timing was both good and bad. The good: Sport Systems down on Montgomery was getting ready to host the 23rd annual BikeABQ bike swap.

This sounds like a craft brewery inviting the local moonshiners to set up their stills in the parking lot, only with more methodical beards and less random gunfire. But it’s a fund-raiser for BikeABQ, so good for them.

The bad: It seemed counterintuitive to surrender a perfectly rideable bike going into Bike Month, unless it went to someone who might actually ride it.

Plus this bike is a golden oldie, a 48cm Cannondale R800 2.8 from the fabulous Nineties. Made in USA, bought from Old Town Bike Shop in Colorado Springs. Eight-speed 105 group with STI. Possibly the oldest bike in the garage, which is saying something.

Still, she hardly ever rode it in the Springs, and her only contact with it here has involved bumping into it while getting into or out of the Honda.

Herself claims it was scary to ride the road in the Springs, which it was, and terrifying to ride it in the Duke City, which it can be. So off it goes, or so we hope. One more hook in the garage for me.

This won’t leave her bikeless, in case you’re wondering. She still has a Soma Double Cross that has logged a lot of hook time since we moved to Albuquerque, and a Barracuda A2T mountain bike she occasionally rides to hot yoga/TRX classes. Call it a mile each way, about half of it on a shared-use, off-street, paved trail.

I often ride there and back with her, and we both try not to think about the ghost bike we see en route.

Here be dragons. I don’t mean to pick on Albuquerque and Colorado Springs here. I’ve ridden the road in both places and lived to tell about it, if only because most motorists never get to read this column.

But experience doesn’t keep me safe from the inattentive, impaired, inept or insane. If they can get Michele Scarponi and Yoann Offredo, they can get me, and probably you, too.

The autos just keep getting larger and more complex—see Bill Vlasic’s April 12 story in The New York Times about the clamor for supersized SUVs that are smarter than their drivers—while the roads mostly stay the same size.

When and if the roads do get bigger, they attract more and bigger autos. You could be excused for thinking a 2011 Honda CR-V is a “small” SUV until you see one garaged next to an ’05 Subaru Forester. Neither is something you’d like to have parked on you while you wait for the ambulance.

There be a drag. Now Herself is a smart person, into fitness, with a goodly amount of disposable income until I figure out where she’s hidden it.

Yet here she is, selling one-third of her bikes, leaving the second third idle and the third third nearly so. And for what? Indoor exercise classes. Hot yoga. In Albuquerque, where the average high temperature is 67 degrees and we enjoy 278 days of brilliant sunshine per annum.

You’d have to point something a lot scarier than a Lincoln Navigator full of texting drunks at me to drive me into a room full of sweaty yogis on a sunny May day.

But I’m in the minority, judging from the proliferation of sweatshops like Herself’s Hot Yoga Infusion studio, Life Time Fitness, CrossFit, SoulCycle or Peloton Interactive, the last of which claims to have nearly a half-million users, according to Lauren Goode’s April 25 story at TheVerge.com.

Getting buzzed. We bicycle types do a lot of handwringing—and rightly so, given the grim stats in this magazine every issue—over how to corral that ever-more-elusive customer.

We seek out experts who bludgeon us with buzzwords like “ecosystem,” “community” and “continuum,” or chastise us for selling “products” instead of “experiences,” and damn few of them, too.

Peloton will sell you a 135-pound bike that goes nowhere for $1,995, then charge you a subscription fee of $39 per month for one year to ride it while staring into a monitor. That may be one hell of an experience, but it sounds more like exercise to me.

And I always hated gym class, with its jockstraps and Desenex and bewhistled authority figures hollering all the time.

Fly like an (AMC) Eagle. For me the most memorable experiences are to be found outdoors, where my parents told me to go whenever I was being a pain in the ass, which was most of the time, and still is.

I liked it outdoors. I still do. But it’ll take more than MarketSpeak® to sell that experience to strangers when even family isn’t buying.

Maybe we’ll get some relief once Silicon Valley gets bored with “smart” SUVs and self-driving cars and starts focusing on the newfangled flying models.

Then again, maybe not. I mean, I’ve seen the way these people drive on the ground.

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

Nickel and dimed

December 3, 2017

Bare trees, gray light; oh yeah, it was a cold night.

We’ve a cold front moving in, dagnabit. The Lord must be punishing us for voting Democrat.

Well, never fear. The Republicans will keep us warm by rooting through our pockets, looking for spare change to lay on real-estate developers, oil and gas operators, multinational corporations, banks making payments to offshore subsidiaries, and religious schools.

You’ll recognize the headline as having been lifted from Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2001 book of the same name, which took an extended look at the millions of Americans slaving away full time for poverty-level dough.

Jessica Bruder has done something similar with “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.” She follows a cadre of rootless neo-Joads, 21st-century tinkers and gypsies crisscrossing the country in their “wheel estates” — beater RVs, vans and cars that also serve as their homes — in search of grueling, low-paying jobs.

It’s a fascinating read about Americans who are literally struggling to make a go of it. “A man who couldn’t make things go right could at least go,” as William Least Heat-Moon wrote in “Blue Highways: A Journey Into America.”

And another quote about going: “There but for the grace of God go I.” Our “leaders” would be well served by a little more meditation on interdependence and a little less study of the Book of I’ve Got Mine, Get Yours.

You can’t spell ‘harass’ without ‘ass’

November 19, 2017

The Mud Stud is not exactly the most enlightened of males. In fact, he’s a pretty dim bulb on most matters.

Some of the lads wandered a bit off topic in the previous post, toward the cascade of revelations about just how many of us appear to be dicks.

The sheer number of recent revelations feels overwhelming, until you consider how long women have been enduring a thumping of one kind or another.

In this country women didn’t get the right to vote until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920 (it was Tennessee, presently home to Herself the Elder and Herself’s younger sister, that tipped the scale).

Inequities remained and continued, of course. Today, women still earn less than men. Forbes says the Fortune 500 has more women CEOs than ever before, but that’s not saying much (32). Women hold just 8 percent of the top corporate spots in the U.S., according to CNBC.

In government, we find all of 21 women in the Senate and 84 in the House.

And of course, if you’re talking about simple condescension, or a good old-fashioned beatdown, men have the edge there too.

Then there’s sexual harassment.

I’m willing to bet that we all know at least one person who’s been the unwilling target of unwanted attention. In my newspaper days I knew two people — one woman, one man — who were stalked by their supervisors. To management’s credit, both perpetrators were disciplined, one by a swift sacking.

These creeps were creating toxic environments for at least two employees and had to go. But newsrooms, like cop shops, are rough-and-rowdy places, with an us-against-them atmosphere, frequent booze-addled socializing outside the workplace, and a lot of raw language. Plenty of torrid romances bloomed — editors with reporters, reporters with photographers, and ad salespersons with their clients.

And of course the publisher was boinking all of us.

So where do we draw the lines between acceptable, frisky, risky and abusive behavior, especially at the workplace? What merits a “Oh, go fuck yourself, Ed, you’re drunk” and what mandates a pink slip?

I look at Al Franken and I see a comedian who made a stupid joke. I look at King Donald the Short-fingered and I see a self-confessed serial abuser. Plenty of built-in bias in that evaluation, to be sure, but there it is.

Am I wrong? If so, what’s right? I’m particularly interested in hearing from the women in the audience on this one, because I’ve never been sexually harassed, on the job or anywhere else.

Unless you count the time the giant African-American crossdresser in the red miniskirt hooted at me as I was cycling through Denver’s Cheesman Park back in the Eighties.

“Oh, honey, let me ride it, let me ride it!” s/he squealed. I don’t think s/he was talking about my bike.

Kinda busy right now

August 9, 2017

The Acme® DIY Bomb Shelter.

Sky yi yi

January 12, 2017
Steven Spielberg with his trademark boiling clouds ain't got nothin' on the real deal.

Steven Spielberg with his trademark boiling clouds ain’t got nothin’ on the real deal.

I’m glad I saw this before Darth Cheeto’s “press conference” yesterday. Otherwise I might have thought it was God coming down to dick-punch us all for putting this two-bit totalitarian in the Oval Office.

Sure puts the “dick” in “dictator,” doesn’t he?

Wet work

January 11, 2017
Going down? Don't you wish. ...

Going down, tovarisch?

I can’t imagine why anyone thinks it impossible that Russia might have compromising information about the Pestilence-Elect.

Clearly, we could do with a deeper dive into this sordid pool of intelligence, or the lack thereof. And personally, I’d like to see the matter given at least as much attention as the Case of the Kenyan Crypto-Mooslim Socialist Usurper’s Birth Certificate.

But while we await further developments, let’s consider what we already know.

First, Darth Cheeto is a fellow who pretty much does as he pleases. Also, he thinks he’s (a) smarter than the average bear and (2) invulnerable thanks to his battle-tested squadron of pinstriped flying monkeys. (“Release the lawyers!”)

Prideful he is. What is it that pride goeth before? Yoda?

“A fall.”

Ding ding ding ding ding!

The Russians have a phrase for this sort of person: “useful idiot.” But from a certain perspective, the Pestilence-Elect — or, as some of the Twitterati have begun calling him, PEEOTUS — doesn’t even need to be an actual stooge, unless we’re talking Moe, Larry or Curly.

No, all he needs to be is a distraction.

Vladimir Putin clearly considers himself a wiseguy, and like the Pestilence-Elect is something of a developer, with blueprints of his own. If I were such a person and had kinky video of Darth Cheeto, I’d YouTube it about 10 seconds after his tiny hand comes off the Bible on Jan. 20, then sit back, pour a delicious beverage, and watch the United States spend a few years eating itself alive.

“It’s Stoli time.”

 

Greatest Hits of 2016, Part 5: From balls to nuts

December 31, 2016

• Editor’s note: As the year winds down, I’m taking a page from the mainstream-media playbook and reprinting a handful of this year’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” columns from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. Today’s final finger was published in December, the last issue of 2016.

The gang views with alarm in cinematic fashion.

The gang views with alarm in cinematic fashion.

Tour de Trump, v2.0:
Does this president
make our heads look fat?

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

“Stuck In the Middle,” by Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan

By Patrick O’Grady

The day after the election a young reader emailed to say he hoped I would have a safe trip to New Zealand, adding, “With any luck we will not hear from you or the Clinton’s ever again.”

I feel confident calling him “young” because we olds know the difference between the plural and the possessive. Public school vs. home school, don’t you know.

As to whether he’s a “reader,” that’s an educated guess. I suppose his mom could have read him my column down in the basement, if he had one. A mom, I mean. Trailers don’t have basements.

But I digress.

Anyway, I’m not moving to New Zealand. Who wants a job herding hobbits? (Apologies to Hurben.) I’ll stay here, brush the fur on my own toes, and wait for the next wizard to pop round.

Mars is out, too. I’ve seen “The Martian” since that last column and I am definitely not into farming with my own poo. Better to sell it to some publisher and spend the proceeds at the Whole Paycheck, where everything is grown in unicorn milk and honey.

>> Click here to read the entire column.

It can happen here

November 5, 2016
Impressionist, que no? I shot it through the window. Hey, it's raining out there. You want I should get a camera wet for free?

Impressionistical, que no? I shot it through the window. Hey, it’s raining out there. You want I should get a camera wet for free?

We’ve finally gotten a little rain after the second warmest October on record, and maybe one of the driest, too; more than a quarter inch of precip’ below normal.

As with most things, this is both good and bad.

The good? When things are wet, they often fail to catch fire. Also, water is nice for drinking, bathing and growing things to look at and/or eat.

The bad? Sitting as it does at the bottom of a cul-de-sac at the western edge of a mountain range, El Rancho Pendejo is already a little on the dark side, as is my outlook most days. And when the sun goes away for a spell, things in these parts can get blacker than a sleeping MacBook’s display.

So with each fresh poll the equivalent of a cherry bomb in a chicken coop I’m getting a mild case of The Fear as the 2016 election staggers to a close.

Anybody who tells you s/he knows that all will be well in the end is full of shit to the sideburns. Americans are already pretty la-di-da about exercising their franchise, our least-difficult path toward effecting change, armed insurrection being slightly more onerous (or so I’m told). And the GOP has been busily scratching that oh-hell-why-bother itch by turning what should be the simple act of casting a ballot into the sort of customer-service experience we already enjoy in the private sector.

Here’s Charles P. Pierce on the voter-suppression battles being waged from coast to coast.

Here’s Ari Berman of The Nation on the reduction in polling places following the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here’s The Guardian reporting on the upshot of Insane Clown Pussy’s call for his shock troops to monitor what he’s said will be a “rigged” election.

Can't it? We'll see.

Can’t it? We’ll see.

And so on. Look around, you’ll find more examples.

The Republic has weathered a lot of storms, and this may be nothing more than an especially nasty stretch of rough weather before the sun pops out again.

But I keep thinking back to the old Red Lewis novel “It Can’t Happen Here,” which I read ages ago, and which the Berkeley Repertory Theatre turned into a play, which wraps tomorrow.

If you haven’t read the book, do so. The language is a little dated, and it can seem wildly over the top at times. But so can this election, and yet there it is, happening right before your eyes.

“It Can’t Happen Here” certainly opened the eyes belonging to writer-director Tony Taccone, who called the parallels between the fictional struggle and Election 2016 “shocking; they’re honestly shocking.”

“What it says, what it really puts out there is, if you become complacent or lazy or you think that the issues that are being discussed in Washington, the politics doesn’t have an effect on your lives, you’re wrong. You’re wrong. The decisions that are being made — by the Congress, by the Supreme Court, by the local legislature, by your city council — affect your life,” Taccone said.

“And it is in your interest to understand as best you can what those issues are, to try to find a voice and agency inside of those issues, to find a community and help them to build a dialogue,” he added. “And my God, if that isn’t the lesson of the last nine months, what is?”

So you think it can’t happen here? Read the book, take a good look around, and get back to me.

Fort Apache

October 25, 2016
Finally, a taste of actual fall weather.

Finally, a taste of actual fall weather.

I’m in Albuquerque, working on a bike review and watching it rain. Herself is bound for Mesa Verde on the next leg of her Gal Pals Getaway Tour.

And somewhere in the southern Arizona desert, the Three Percent United Patriots are making headlines, if only in Mother Jones magazine.

Anyone who has ever lived out where the hoot owls date the chickens has met at least one of these dudes. In Weirdcliffe it was the cowboy who claimed to have edibles and weaponry cached all over the Sangre de Cristos and inquired whether we would be “ready to kill” when it all went sideways and the “Mexicans” came boiling up Hardscrabble Canyon to … to … well, get the hell out of Pueblo, I suppose. And who could blame them?

I got the hell out of Pueblo. I also got the hell out of Weirdcliffe. And I’ve spent a little time in the Threepers’ AO, though I never saw one. (“If you saw them, sir, they weren’t Threepers.”)

Just once I would love to read about the lefty variation on these dudes. There has to be one, amirite? The Sedona Extremely Irregulars? The 69th Berkeley Berserkers? The 420th Humboldt County Doobie Brethren?

Or maybe that particular ship has sailed, or sunk.

Back in the Seventies, when I thought I was Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, the October League’s Denver chapter had just wrapped up another successful evening of smashing the State via withering rhetoric when a couple comrades mentioned that they used to be professional wrestlers.

“Bullshit,” someone said. And then they showed us, right there in the dark Denver alley. They were slamming each other into cars and up against walls, pounding each other with forearm smashes and trash-can lids, the works. It was entertaining as hell and absolutely nobody got hurt.

Then a window slammed open and someone advised us to shut the fuck up and we did. Shortly thereafter the revolution failed to materialize.

 

Trump card

August 10, 2016

The 2016 pestilential election is turning into one of the less-than-hilarious Monty Python sketches.

“You’ve got a nice representative democracy here, citizen.”

“Yes.”

“We wouldn’t want anything to happen to it. …”

“What?”

Even the dumbest casino guy knows a Smith & Wesson beats four aces.

Even the dumbest casino guy knows a Smith & Wesson beats four aces.

What indeed. Ronald McDonald McTrump has clearly let the fat in his fast-food diet go straight to his head, where a .25-caliber brain struggles to govern a .50-caliber mouth.

I wonder what his Secret Service detail thinks about his quip about a Second Amendment solution to a president’s constitutionally derived authority (Article 2, Section 2) to nominate judges, given that their colleagues protect the other candidate for the job.

The candidate whose back Der Trumpenführer just decorated with a red-white-and-blue bullseye.