Memorial Day 2021

May 31, 2021

A soldier’s things.

Some never made it home. Others did, but missing some vital part of themselves. Remember the fallen, the incomplete, and the fortunate who lost nothing more than youth and innocence.

Mustn’t-see TV

May 27, 2021

No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe.

Call me a weirdo. …

“You’re a weirdo!”

Very funny.

But whatever you call me, I couldn’t care less about the “Friends” reunion making “Top Stories” queues worldwide; I have absolutely zero interest in what Paul “Lyin'” Ryan has to say about a flim-flam man he doesn’t have the stones to call out by name; and I am definitely not celebrating the first “post-plague” Memorial Day weekend by joining 37 million of my fellow Americans in motoring around the nation with gas prices at a peak not seen since 2014.

Vegas? Orlando? Seriously? You want to get me near Sin City or Disney World at three smacks per gallon, Skeeter, you’re gonna need a bigger sneeze shield. I’m thinking an all-encompassing dome, something a little green fella can use to sight in the old laser cannon, ack ack ack.

I’d watch that shit all day long. But I ain’t watching no “Friends” reunion. Ain’t a laser cannon big enough, not in this galaxy or any other.

Yellow fever

May 27, 2021

The DogShi(r)t circa 1999, from VOmax.

Beats me how I wandered off into the garment district. But here we are, so let’s just roll with it.

I was searching various hard drives for background on my soon-to-be-history Voler jersey racket. Then I was telling someone the bee-in-the-jersey story from Back in the Day®, when we lived in Crusty County and VOmax made my team garb.

Anyway, at some point in the excavation I unearthed a Bicycle Retailer column from 1999 that discussed this very kit. And as Le Tour is due to kick off next month, I thought I’d brush off the dust and cobwebs and trot it out for inspection.

• • •

 

Maillot Jaune vs. Yellow Jersey

— The First Draws Cheers,

Bui the Other Prompts Jeers

 

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.Mark Twain

With Marco Pantani, Jan Ullrich and Bjarne Riis skipping the Tour de France this year, look for yours truly to be wearing the yellow jersey.

OK, not the yellow jersey. But a yellow jersey.

Specifically, the new Team Mad Dog Media/Dogs at Large Velo jersey from VOmax Team Apparel. It just happens to be yellow. Bright yellow. A vitamin-C-megadose, kidney-stone, construction-vehicle kind of yellow, festooned with black and white graphics. Perfect camouflage for ambushing Californians from a meadow bright with dandelions.

“Bumblebee,” said my wife.

“Hope ONCE doesn’t sue you,” said VOmax’s Adam Myerson.

“Cool,” said I.

Sadly, not everyone shares my fashion sense in this rustic backwater, where “going for a ride” typically involves a hay-burning quadruped or a rusty pickup and a sixpack of Rocky Mountain brain marinade.

Trying to outrun The Man with the Hammer.

You Look … Marvelous? I badgered a couple of friends into riding with me the other day. When I rolled into their barnyard, clad in my new finery, they commenced to hooting and clutching their sides like hillbillies suffering from a bad batch of white lightning.

Mary phoned my wife, chortling, “You let him out of the house like this?” Hal, a retro-grouch prone to the literary gesture, declined to ride anywhere in the Rocky Mountain West with me unless he could wear his woodland-camo’ jumpsuit and street-hockey helmet as a counterpoint to my flashy Lycra and visored Giro.

These, mind you, are people whose idea of fun is burro racing, a form of dementia peculiar to central Colorado that causes the victim to run marathons on mountain trails while tethered to a jackass. Doesn’t matter what you wear — people are going to shake their heads when they see a guy doing that, whether he’s wearing a T-shirt and shorts or a thong bikini and spike heels.

A Jackass of a Different Color. I tell Hal and Mary that they might find a bike ride a pleasant respite from jackass rambles now and then if they’d acquire some of the new-fangled doodads that make cycling more fun — clipless pedals and shoes designed for riding rather than running; suspension forks to soften our corrugated county roads; garments that wick a little better than a beach towel. But they’d rather be uncomfortable than funny-looking.

Me, I’ve been funny-looking for years, clad in unnatural-fiber garments from Rio Grande Racing Team, Sangre de Cristo Cycling Club, Rainbow Racing and Dogs at Large Velo. Each new jersey always made me feel as though I were a part of something special, somehow set apart from the other Day-Glo geeks wobbling around on two-wheelers. A racing jersey was a garment not just to be worn, but to be lived up to.

So when my sunny new DogShi(r)ts and summery weather hit the Wet Mountains more or less simultaneously, it was if a light had clicked on in a cartoon balloon over my head: “Hey, dude … if you want to look more like a banana and less like a grapefruit in that jersey, you’d better start riding your bike.”

Here Comes the Sun. First, I got a neighbor to brush-hog my rabbitbrush-clogged cyclo-cross course and started hitting it once or twice a week. Between ’crosses, I rode laps on my favorite 10-mile circuit, half pavement and half dirt, with plenty of gradual climbing. I even dusted off the road bike, which sees less daylight than Charlie Manson, and went for a few dirt-free rides to Wixson Divide and back.

It wasn’t all golden. Headwinds and hills reminded me that I’m in OK shape for a 45-year-old libelist, but entirely unfit for racing; no point in shaving the legs for a couple thousand miles yet. A cattle-truck driver played mirror tag with me on a potholed, 45-mph descent to Mackenzie Junction. And a bee who thought I was his mama dove inside my brand-new jersey on a shoulderless plummet down Highway 96, causing me to fishtail to a halt on the gravel shoulder and start peeling like a stripper on speed.

Still, there have been moments. The other day, while I was doing some artless laps on my ’cross course, a passing sport-utility vehicle slowed, then stopped; whoever was inside stayed to watch for a couple go-rounds.

I’ll never race the Tour. But for a few minutes there on a summer’s day, I was in the yellow jersey, people were watching, and no one was laughing.

Happy birthday, Bob Dylan

May 24, 2021

The Master’s eighth studio album.

I backed into Bob Dylan, the way you might bump into an interesting character at someone else’s party.

“Mr. Tambourine Man?” The Byrds sang me that one. “Blowin’ in the Wind?” Peter, Paul and Mary. “All Along the Watchtower?” Heard it first from Jimi Hendrix. I don’t think I really got into the guy that Chazbo Pierce calls “The Master” until “John Wesley Harding” came out in 1967, shortly after my family moved from San Antone to Bibleburg.

My friends and I played the shit out of that one, and then I started rooting around through his back catalog.

I lost interest after Bob found the Lord, though I dug “Gotta Serve Somebody” and “Everything Is Broken.” These days I only have the old stuff — “Blonde On Blonde,” “Blood On the Tracks,” “Bringing it All Back Home,” “The Freewheeling Bob Dylan,” and “Highway 61 Revisited.” You’ll find more killer tracks on those five albums than most singer-songwriters could produce in five lifetimes.

As Thomas McGuane put it in “Nothing But Blue Skies”:

No one compares with this guy, thought Frank. I feel sorry for the young people of today with their stupid fucking tuneless horseshit; that may be a generational judgment but I seriously doubt it.

Extra-Credit Dylan:

• At Esquire, Charles P. Pierce discusses the old soul of The Master.

At The New York Times, Jason Zinoman calls Dylan our most underrated comic, arguing that he belongs “in the pantheon of great Jewish funnymen.”

‘You went to bed with a functioning vehicle. …’

May 22, 2021

Base camp at the overflow area in McDowell Mountain Regional Park, circa 2004.

Ken Layne kicks off this week’s installment of Desert Oracle Radio with a nod to a critter I know all too well — the “truck roach,” a.k.a. the wood rat.

Back when we were camped on that windscoured rockpile near Weirdcliffe in Crusty County, Colo., the deer, bears, ring-tailed cats, buzzworms, mountain lions, coyotes, and wood rats paid us regular visits. Once or twice the rats found their way into our laundry closet via the exhaust ductwork from the washer-dryer combo, which I then would have to disconnect and drag onto the deck so the furry little burglar could make his getaway.

On one memorable occasion, after we had relocated to Bibleburg, we drove back up to the Weirdcliffe place for a relaxing weekend in the boondocks. Herself dashed inside for a wee, and in short order I heard a screech worthy of a slasher film. An invading wood rat had managed to escape the laundry closet only to drown in the downstairs toilet.

But the pièce de résistance of our rodent experience centered on our 1998 Toyota Tacoma pickup, pictured above.

This outrageously expensive machine was practically brand new when one day it developed a hitch in its gitalong, an inexplicable stutter in its step. “This won’t do, not at all,” I thought, and lurched down Hardscrabble Canyon and over to the Toyota dealer in Pueblo that had sold me the thing.

The shop dudes said they’d have a quick look-see and suggested I go grab a bite of lunch. When I returned they were having themselves a huge hee, along with a haw or two or three.

Seems that when the young wrench assigned to my problem popped the hood, a giant wood rat leapt out of the engine compartment, then took a high-speed lap or two around the service bay before rocketing back into the truck somewhere.

The sonofabitch had been gnawing on the wiring harness, which explained the spastic nature of the vehicle’s operation. I got a new one of those along with some advice about various potions for discouraging peckish ratoncitos.

We never did figure out what happened to that particular wood rat, who must have been the most widely traveled member of his clan. I often thought of him holding forth to his grandchildren about the time he surfed a Toyota all the way to Pueblo and back.

R.I.P., Laurence Malone

May 19, 2021

The details remain elusive, but it seems that five-time U.S. national cyclocross champ Laurence Malone died Monday in an automobile crash near Lancaster, Calif.

Laurence was the real deal. When he turned up in New Mexico back in 1990 or thereabouts he’d pin on a number and go round and round with the little people. But he never went Hollywood on us. He would race in the most outdated, anonymous gear you ever saw, and beat your ass with it, too. Sold lentil burritos, which he delivered by bike.

I knew him to say hi to, but that’s about it. Herself and I gave him a lift to a race once. Another time I saw him ride a sketchy, sandy descent to the pit with his spare bike slung across one shoulder like a messenger bag, and I thought: “Man. I want to learn how to do that.”

And I had the privilege of finishing second to him in the 1991 state road championships outside Albuquerque.

Laurence was good. I was lucky. I was actually riding OK for a change, and Laurence and I had both made it into the break coming into the finish of the masters-35 race. Everybody in there was better than me, so I thought I’d launch one of my patented, doomed, last-kilo’ attacks on Sedillo Hill, go down in a blaze of glory.

But it was everyone else who went down. Well, almost everyone. Cliff Loucks and Rick Quant got tangled up somehow, taking out Tim Schoeny, Neil Davie, and Louis Abruzzo, as the contenders jockeyed for position in what should have been quite a sprint.

I heard the clatter, looked around, and the only dude still with me was … Laurence Malone.

“Shit,” sez I.

And that, as they say, was that.

I should’ve been seventh at best, but instead I got to finish on the podium with Laurence fuckin’ Malone. I’ll remember it until the day we meet again on the Other Side. If I can catch him, that is.

Peace to Laurence, his family, friends, and fans. He left us way too soon.

Slip-slidin’ away

May 18, 2021

The Old Guys Who Get Fat In Winter jerseys,
available through June 18 at Voler.

My old man was 54 when he retired, if memory serves. It’s taking me a little longer, because I didn’t have just the one job. But I’m getting there.

Today the folks at Voler dropped a note to say they’ll be revamping their print-on-demand deal, which means cutting loose a few underperforming lines, one of which is mine. So I’ll be retired from the Old Guys Who Get Fat in Winter garment bidness as of mid-June.

It was fun while it lasted, and it lasted a lot longer than anyone expected it to, especially me. Thanks to Voler for letting me wheelsuck ’em for all these years.

In the meantime, if any of yis crave fresh kit, or know someone who does, act before June 18. After that, the Fat Guy will have sung.

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!

Hardest jigsaw puzzle ever

May 16, 2021

This reminds me of the visual migraines I used to get as a teenager.

So. There I was, doing a bit of yard maintenance with the old string trimmer, when I heard a pop.

The first thing that comes to mind in these parts is, “Did someone just try to bust a cap in my ass?” So I scan the yard for assailants and see bupkis, unless one of the house finches at the feeder has a 9mm Beretta concealed somewhere beneath his feathers.

Then I have a look behind me.

Oopsie.

My guess is the string trimmer found a small chunk of brick paver or a stone or whatever and pitched a Shohei Ohtani fastball at the sliding glass door. Right on the money it was, too. And I do mean money.

In other yard news, the wildife cam reports that Spike the Terrorist Deer and a pal popped round last night to eat most of the roses and sample the immature fruit on the ornamental pear tree while a raccoon inspected the grass for interesting tidbits. Just two more indicators that yards are a plot by the home and garden/psychiatry/whiskey cartels to create a perpetual-motion money machine.

Watch this

May 14, 2021

I’m losing most of my bets with the watch on my nightstand.

Lately I’ve been posing myself a little challenge when I return to earth from dreamland: Pop open an eye, peer around the bedroom, and try to guess what time it is based on ambient light leaking through the vertical blinds.

I was doing pretty well there for a while. Nailed it once or twice. But lately I’m minutes off the mark.

I’m not sure who’s to blame for the decline in my batting average. Possibly the “Harvard elite with perfect hair” who’s apparently behind all the psychos shooting the mortal shit out of each other around town. He’s certainly broken into at least one head down at Peterson Properties, which has more eyes than Avalokiteshvara and knows more about what you’ve been up to than Santa Claus.

We remain unventilated by pistoleros here at El Rancho Pendejo, though we have endured a busy week. Last Friday we moved Herself the Elder from the Dark Tower to the Bermuda Triangle, an assisted-living house a little closer to us. It’s where Herself had wanted to park the old gal when she first came to town, but there weren’t any vacancies. Suddenly there were. So it goes.

Wednesday was our 31st anniversary, and as we were both thoroughly shot up vaccine-wise, we went out to eat at an actual restaurant, El Patio on Rio Grande. It was my first sitdown restaurant meal in more than a year, and it was spectacular. Great food, excellent service, and we didn’t get plugged or burgled or tagged or nothin’, Harvard elites with perfect hair notwithstanding.

Today we’re baking bread and pulling weeds. Probably still working off some of those tasty El Patio calories. Gotta keep in fighting trim for the next 31 years.