Posts Tagged ‘J.R.R. Tolkien’

Recycled 6: The best of ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’ 2017

December 31, 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 half dozen of this year’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” screeds between now and then. This is the last jug in the sixer, but pulled from the middle of the pack, the June 1 issue.

His Lardship on the throne.

From the Dark Tower to the White House,
or ‘There and Back Again’

“I had a friend who was a clown. When he died, all his friends went to the funeral in one car.”—Steven Wright

By Patrick O’Grady

Forty-three years ago I was working for a daily newspaper, fretting in my journal about the deranged authoritarian in the White House, and riding my bike a ton with the goal of getting fit by summertime.

See, kids? It’s true—things do get better! For instance, I no longer work for a daily newspaper.

OK, so going one for three isn’t exactly crushing it after more than four decades.

At least I’m riding a better class of bike now.

There’s a Sam Hillborne parked in my office today. But even in 1974 I was a Rivendell kind of guy, though back then Rivendell was some elvish spa ginned up by J.R.R. Tolkien rather than a purveyor of the finest friction shifters, quill stems and rim brakes, lovingly hand-forged by ironically bearded dwarves in Middle-earth, California.

Then as now the bike was steel, a 10-speed Schwinn of low birth, a gift from my parents while I was still abusing high school and studying drugs.

It weighed about as much as I did when I was still on the swim team, before all that unruly hair fatally queered my aquadynamics. And I rode it on errands, to work, and for recreation, in street clothes—jeans, T-shirt, tennies—pretty much the same kit I wore everywhere save for the newsroom, where the standards were slightly higher than at the Tillerman Teahouse because I was paid $65 a week to be there.

If someone had told me I needed special garb before I could ride that beast for free, I’d have given them the old hee, and also the haw. Tight shorts with a pad that looks like something you’d use to wash a windshield? A plastic helmet? And special shoes?

G’wan, gedoudaheeah. What, I look like an elf or something?

I know it’s true; oh, so true. Seems there has always been some dark force crouched in a high place, up to no good, while I tried to scribble a ’toon, pound out the word count, or ride a bike.

Maybe that’s why I was so fond of fantasy. Comic books, science fiction, sword-and-sorcery—there’s a better world out there somewhere, if you can just get a grip on Anduril, the Batmobile or the USS Enterprise.

As Robert A. Heinlein’s Oscar Gordon put it in “Glory Road”:

“I wanted Prester John, and Excalibur held by a moonwhite arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be—instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.”

‘Cause I saw it on TV. Back in ’74, when I was 19 going on 20, riding that Schwinn to the newspaper five afternoons a week, the main fantasy was that we dream-weavers were making a difference.

The Watergate hearings had been must-see TV, like “Star Trek” and “Kung Fu.” Capt. James T. Kirk and Kwai Chang Caine kicked much ass, but so did Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, along with Sam Ervin and Leon Jaworski.

And when Richard Nixon finally resigned the presidency, well, it was as though the One Ring had been unmade; “a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky,” had been taken by a great wind, “and it was all blown away. …”

Talk about a five-o’clock Shadow. I don’t think any of us in that newsroom, watching Tricky Dick helicopter off to San Clemency, thought we’d ever see a bigger Shadow fall across the Republic.

We were wrong.

“Our long national nightmare is over,” said Gerald Ford.

He was wrong, too.

It wasn’t the Ring falling into Mount Doom and the undoing of Sauron the Great we had witnessed, but rather the tactical retreat of the Necromancer.

You can’t take your eye off this lot for a minute, much less four decades.

The return of the king. While we were all out riding our bikes, or doing our little bits of business, the Shadow was busy getting a Hollywood makeover.

A couple of beta models were released and recalled (“Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.” “Read my lips: No new taxes.” “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”). And the marketing got kicked up a notch (it sure helped when instead of just seven Palantír there were a bazillion of ’em).

And finally, like Pippin the hobbit, we got our brains scrambled good and dry by all that Palantír time and fell hook, line and sinker for a king, a cross between Sauron, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, and Biff Tannen from “Back to the Future.”

Now we have to gear down once more for that long climb up Mount Doom, which makes L’Alpe d’Huez look like a tall curb.

Maybe instead of dwelling on Middle-earth all those years we should have paid closer attention to Middle-america, as chronicled by Sinclair Lewis.

Who knew? Turns out it can happen here.

• Editor’s note v2.0: This column appeared in the June 1, 2017, issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. Starting tomorrow it’s back to business as unusual here at the DogHaus.

Eternal vigilance, etc.

December 20, 2016
A box seat for 'Is Lardship.

A box seat for ‘Is Lardship.

Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (Lord Commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment) is taking his duties very seriously indeed as we gird for the dawn of the New World Ordure.

You will notice, for example, his steely gaze. Resolute, is it not?

Also, and too, the crumpled papers with which he has surrounded the Turkenbunker. No jackbooted Trumpetista can approach his position without causing them to rattle. Fear, fire, foes! Awake!

Finally, observe the collected Tolkien in the bookshelf. Instant access to comprehensive advice as regards the arts of war and magic!

We all may sleep a little easier tonight.