Posts Tagged ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’

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.

Recycled 5: The best of ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’ 2017

December 30, 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. 5, one of those rare columns that actually managed to elicit a comment (and a positive one, too) from one of my editors.

Harrison Walter expanding his horizons. Photo courtesy Hal Walter

The wheel goes round, whether pushing up or coasting down

“I wanta bicycle in hot afternoon heat, wear Pakistan leather sandals, shout in high voice at Zen monk buddies standing in thin hemp summer robes and stubble heads. …”—Japhy Ryder in “The Dharma Bums,” by Jack Kerouac

By Patrick O’Grady

“The Zen of Standing Around,” he called it.

Nobody would describe the Tour de France like that. But my friend Hal Walter wasn’t talking about the Tour, which isn’t even a blip on his sporting radar screen. He was talking about a stop-and-go mountain-bike ride with his son, Harrison.

“An hour and 45 minutes for four miles,” he noted. “About an hour slower than I usually run it.”

A short, slow ride with your kid, even on rugged, single-track horse trail, probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to you. And strictly speaking it wouldn’t be one to Hal, either.

His idea of a good time is the annual World Championship Pack-Burro Race out of Fairplay, Colo, a 29-mile run to the summit of 13,185-foot Mosquito Pass and back. He’s won it seven times.

Hal has some experience racing the bike, too, most of it from the Mount Taylor Winter Quadrathlon in Grants, N.M. The 43-mile Quad starts and ends on the bike, but in between competitors run, ski and snowshoe up and down 11,301-foot Mount Taylor.

So, yeah. Four-mile mountain-bike ride with your kid. No big deal.

Unless your kid is autistic—or as Hal prefers to say, “neurodiverse.”

Then every mile deserves its own milestone.

Saddling up. Hal came late to the bike. He was about 7 when he taught himself to ride his mom’s three-speed step-through, which was too big for him.

Hal recounted the experience a couple years ago in his column for Colorado Central magazine.

“I remember one day taking this hulking steel steed out to the sloped driveway behind the duplex where we lived, determined to learn to ride it. I started at the top with my feet to either side and shuffled along astride the bike while coasting down the short drive. Then I pushed it back up and tried again. Over and over.

“Each time I was able to coast a little farther between steps. It seemed like hours went by, and then suddenly I coasted the entire driveway.”

Rock and roll. Pushing it back up. Trying again. Over and over. Welcome to Team Sisyphus.

I learned how to ride early, with my dad’s help, in Canada. After the old man got transferred to Texas in 1962 we went for regular evening rides around officers’ country on Randolph AFB. It was a nice slice of family time, and remains a fond memory.

Here in Albuquerque a neighbor would like to get in on a little of that. After asking me for advice she and her husband have been bike-shopping, hoping to squeeze in some rides with their daughter before she goes back to college.

I can recommend it. And so can Hal.

Sport as medicine. I expect Hal wondered whether he’d ever be able to share his love of a good sweat with Harrison, who was late to a lot of things, not just cycling.

He’s had at least four speech therapists, but still has trouble with communication and comprehension. This frustrates him, and he lashes out, sometimes physically.

But with a little assistance, and a lot of patience, Harrison has been able to attend school like all the other kids—it helps that the Walters live in rural Custer County, Colo., near a very small town with an equally small school—and he’s inherited enough of his parents’ aptitude and appreciation for running to participate in the track and cross-country teams.

Spinning your wheels. The cycling is mostly recreational. Hal rides as a respite from the pounding of long-distance running, and he thought he might share this activity with Harrison, too.

But like his old man, Harrison took a while to master the technique, enduring failure after failure, until one day the nickel finally dropped and the music started playing.

He quickly progressed from a BMX bike to a Diamondback mountain bike, and got to where he was comfortable logging some serious gravel mileage alongside Hal as he ran one of his burros around and about.

Harrison raced the school triathlon, and started exploring the neighborhood single-track. And this summer dad gave him a nice attaboy, trading in the old Diamondback at Absolute Bikes in Salida for a used yellow Specialized Hardrock.

The truth(s) of the matter. None of this means Harrison will be chasing a famous jersey to match his new-used yellow bike.

He’s a skinny 13-year-old who’s been known to stop on training runs to call an imaginary friend on an imaginary phone. He can be loud, and occasionally unsettling. Your finish line may not be his.

The kid is doing his own race, at his own pace, and sometimes makes his own rules. Hal’s along for the ride, and if it takes nearly two hours to cover four miles, well, that’s how long it takes.

While Harrison fusses over the stickers in his socks, Hal practices the Zen of Standing Around, like Kerouac’s Ray Smith contemplating the first of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths (all life is suffering) and the third (the suppression of suffering can be achieved).

“The funny thing is he seems to have no problem pushing that thing,” says Hal. “Like it’s just part of the deal. You push the steep stuff and ride the downhills.”

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

Recycled 4: The best of ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’ 2017

December 29, 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 round four, a little attaboy to my old Live Update Guy comrade Charles Pelkey, who is alive and well in Laramie and contemplating a comeback in 2018.

Johnny and Ed (Hey-o!) decided the show must not go on for 2017.

LUGging out: Live Update Guys were DNS for Tour

“He shook his head, and as he shook his head, I heard someone ask him, ‘Please, Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles … dance.”—Jerry Jeff Walker, “Mr. Bojangles”

By Patrick O’Grady

This July marked the first time in years that I haven’t been required to follow the Tour de France.

So I didn’t. And it was swell.

Well, mostly.

I’ve spent nearly three decades paddling my little canoe along the bright yellow revenue stream of the Tour without ever having to visit its source in France, which I hear is quite a drive from Albuquerque, even in a Subaru.

The Tour got me into bicycle racing in the Eighties, and bicycle racing got me out of the newspaper business in the Nineties, before The Suits declared open season on copy editors.

Fight or flight? Flight, I thought as I hit the door running, and when does the beverage cart come around? Make mine a double. Anybody who thinks a pan-flat, 200km sprinters’ stage in the Tour is dull never edited a school-board story at 10:30 p.m., when sensible people are already half in the bag.

But even the Tour loses its kick after a while. And so, after Charles Pelkey and I agreed to leave his Live Update Guy project parked for 2017, I celebrated by stuffing part of a bike and all of my left hand into a trailside cholla.

Funny money. Of all the things I’ve done for money, Live Update Guy scores way up there on the fun meter.

This odd little enterprise came about in “Let’s put on a show!” fashion, a la Busby Berkeley’s “Babes in Arms.” Or maybe Monty Python’s “The Crimson Permanent Assurance” would be closer to the mark.

Charles had been handling live updates and other chores for a Boulder-based cycling enterprise until he got a pink slip and a black diagnosis more or less simultaneously in 2011, two days after the Tour wrapped.

The one-two punch of unemployment and breast cancer couldn’t keep him down, though. He put his University of Wyoming law degree to work full time, eventually becoming a co-founder of the Laramie firm Neubauer, Pelkey and Goldfinger, LLP.

But Charles still enjoyed following pro cycling, and while undergoing chemotherapy he hung out another shingle, LiveUpdateGuy.com, and called the 2011 Vuelta a España—supported not by advertising, or vulture capitalists, but by his readership.

Like Mr. Bojangles, Charles was dancing for tips.

Hey-o! I joined the show in 2012, but Charles was the star, and rightly so.

For starters, he had actually been to all three grand tours, performing feats of journalism. In this new role, he arose at stupid-thirty for the start of nearly every stage of nearly every GT, and generally carried on till the bitter end, then popped back in later to add results for the data-obsessed.

I generally clocked in late to make fart noises, get things wrong, and make people crazy. In other words, same as I do here.

This has its limits, as you know. If Charles had lawyering to do and left the keys to the joint with me, eyeballs and donations dropped off accordingly. Nobody turned on the “The Tonight Show” to watch Ed McMahon. They wanted Johnny.

Spare change? We said LUG operated on the NPR model—light on commercials, heavy on beggary—but it was more like busking next to an upturned hat on a downtown sidewalk.

When the act was good, we got paid. Not so good, not so paid. It was an astoundingly libertarian business model for two old commies, though there was a Marxist overlay; we didn’t bounce anyone who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

We got a big assist from the audience, which included an actual monsignor at the actual Vatican who proved a prodigious daily essayist; a generous East Coast equestrian with a crush on Peter Sagan; and a poet laureate who affected the guise of a herring-mad penguin.

“I’d say that some of my favorite memories involve the family that we created out of that site,” said Charles. “They are a wonderful group of people. It’s been a privilege to get to know a lot of them.”

It’s … Monty Liggett. When action was slow on the road, LUG served up running gags (Monty Python and various Liggettisms were in heavy rotation).

So, too, were clubby and impenetrable acronyms like HWSNBN (“He Who Shall Not Be Named,” for a certain Texan), and NRRBBB (“Non-Race-Related Blah-Blah-Blah”), in which some critics argued we indulged too freely.

But when you have the effrontery to provide live commentary on a grand tour from start to finish, and from the wrong side of the pond, with few resources beyond unreliable video feeds and your equally dubious wits, it’s hard not to tumble into the ditch of digression now and then.

Some days trying to keep it between the ditches felt an awful lot like work. So, with Charles now a legislator as well as a lawyer—he won election to the state legislature in 2015—and me wanting to ride a bike in the early morning before the Duke City desert starts to smoke, it seemed wise to take a break this time around.

Maybe not, though. Because if we had been calling the Tour, safe in the ever-lovin’ arms of the LUG Nuts, I might not have stuck my hand into that damn’ cactus.

• Editor’s note v2.0: This column appeared in the Aug. 1, 2017, issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

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.

Recycled 2: The best of ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’ 2017

December 27, 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 round two. Read ’em and weep. Or giggle, or roar, whichever you prefer.

Fresh air (Terry Gross not included).

It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you change the game

“I changed the conditions of the test. …”—Admiral James T. Kirk, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”

By Patrick O’Grady

I was just riding along the other day when my trusty Steelman’s rear tire went soft on me. And without so much as a subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee, mind you.

It’s the sort of thing that makes a guy want to take up golf, which my sources tell me is the new cycling, only with whiter participants, uglier clothing and fewer punctures.

Naturally, I suspected terrorism, the infamous Tribulus terrestris, and immediately considered erecting a wall. But this bike spends most of its time surrounded by four of them, and with a stout lid on top, too. It’s a secure location, which we call “the garage.”

(Cue the crowd, screaming: “Lock it up! Lock it up! Lock it up!”)

Could Devin Nunes have had a hand in this unauthorized leak? The GOP congresscritter has a habit of going places he has no business being to do things he should not be doing, and between you and me I’m not looking forward to screening the security-camera footage.

But it seems unlikely. The only Californian of Portuguese descent I know who might come calling is a retired newsman up Hopland way, a lifelong Democrat, and living as he does on a vineyard he’s even harder to rouse to action than this Nunes bozo.

Lord, how the Koch brothers must regret throwing good money away on that particular tool. They could’ve ordered up a bag of hammers, which would have been cheaper, smarter and useful.

Plus, once you’re done doing whatever with your bag of hammers, you can sell them on eBay. Good luck unloading a used Nunes, at any price.

Psst, you’re a pedestrian. This untimely flat, my first in months, seemed an inauspicious prelude to my annual birthday ride, which was scheduled for the next day.

These expeditions never get any shorter, and so for a variety of perfectly indefensible reasons I quit logging them in miles after 2015. Last year I rode for 62 minutes, which was feeble even by my relaxed standards, and so this year I thought I’d man up a tad and go for 63 kilometers.

There was a time when I considered 63km a suitable warmup for an actual ride. But that was when I still measured my body weight in pounds instead of kilograms.

Tears (of laughter) in heaven. I try not to get too serious about planning these outings, reasoning that (a) man plans, God laughs, and (2) a birthday present should be something of a surprise, even if you’re giving it to yourself.

I really gave it to myself in 2015, when what had been planned as a 61km ride sort of got away from me (there goes God, laughing again) and I wound up doing 61 miles, with only two water bottles and a single tube of strawberry Clif Bloks.

Classify it as just another instance of “I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway.” My longest ride so far that year had been just a hair over 30 miles, but I figured muscle memory would take over once actual memory failed me, and if it all went to hell I could always blame Obama.

Nine-speed or nine holes? Obviously I made it home OK in 2015, and again in ’16—if I hadn’t, this column would have been written by somebody else, probably with more of an emphasis on bicycle retailing and industry news.

But you’ve been bad, and I’ve been lucky, and so here we are again.

This year I was even less well-trained, if you can imagine such a thing. Instead of going for a ride I probably should have tried to shoot a 63 for nine holes. But none of my clothes were ugly enough, my clubs are for correcting editors, and the only thing that’s weaker than my backswing is my frontswing.

So come the big day I struggled into my fading Mad Dog Media team kit, confirmed that the Nobilette had goo-filled tubes in both tires (seal tubes, not borders), undertook a quick visual threat assessment of my secure location for Republican congressmen, and got off to the traditional late start.

Numbers game. I punished myself for months of sloth and torpor by starting and finishing with climbs. Well, kinda. As in life, there was a short, sharp descent to the end.

But in between it was all good. The arm warmers came off, the knickers stayed on, and the Tribulus terrestris stood down, probably because I was carrying two spare tubes, a pump and a cellphone. (These constitute a wall that actually works.)

I’m not saying it was pretty. But it was the kind of ugly I can do something about. Ride longer and more often. Ride up grades instead of buying upgrades. Insist that all the bikes sign loyalty oaths and submit their computers for inspection until we identify the source of the leak.

Either that or I could start measuring these birthday rides in millimeters. Shoot, I figure I can do 64mm off the couch. Maybe even on it.

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

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

December 26, 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. Read ’em and weep. Or giggle, or roar, whichever you prefer.

Shoes for industry!

1. Sailin’ shoes make a mutt’s little feet bark

Well, the good thing in the first race blows, and right away Hymie commences to notice that his shoes seem full of feet, for there is nothing like a loser in the first race for making a guy notice his feet.“Tight Shoes,” by Damon Runyon

By Patrick O’Grady

Writing a column that’s even marginally about bicycling in January, with the walls closing in like plastered adobe wolves, feels like running in too-small shoes.

I was still stewing over the November election, having bet on an also-ran after picking back-to-back winners, and as Damon Runyon has taught us, there’s nothing like a loser to squeeze a gambler’s shoes.

It didn’t help that my new running shoes actually did seem full of feet, though they were my usual size (9 U.S., 42 Euro). In fact, like the undersized brogans Hymie Minsk and Rupert Salsinger wore in Runyon’s short story “Tight Shoes,” they were pinching my puppies quite some, though I hadn’t even kicked anyone in the pants with them yet.

Not for lack of temptation, mind you. But I was afraid that once I got started I’d never be able to stop. A fella could wear out a couple dozen pairs of kneecaps kicking all the asses that had it coming.

I’d start with the people who design shoes. If you ever find footwear that won’t underwrite your podiatrist’s next ski vacation in the Swiss Alps, buy all you can afford, because you will never see that particular model again. Not in this lifetime.

Then I might move on to the dog, who has deduced from observing me that it’s OK to poop indoors. I occasionally joke that as a freelancer I work from a home “orifice,” but it’s actually starting to smell like one.

And finally, there’s that other mutt, the ugly orange cur who’s crapping all over the Oval Office. Definitely on the bucket list for 2020. But I don’t think a size-42 shoe is going to get within field-goal range of his big butt anytime soon. Not unless that’s the size Vladimir Putin wears.

Old dog, new trick. As it turns out, our veterinarian says our dog has an excuse for his misbehavior. In addition to simply being an old fella, Mister Boo is showing some early signs of senility, kidney disease and control issues.

The orange mutt has a few of these problems as well, especially the latter, though his vet says he’s just fine, with “astonishingly excellent” lab-test results and “extraordinary” physical strength and stamina.

But between you and me, I’ve seen his vet. There’s another mongrel I wouldn’t take to a dogfight even if I thought he had a chance to win.

Meanwhile, back at cycling. … But we were talking about cycling here, and shoes—well, I was, anyway, until you wandered off, looking for something to read.

And as regards cycling, mostly I don’t, not in January, anyway. It’s too cold outdoors, and too dull indoors. (Plus the brown truck keeps coming around, and I ain’t talking UPS here, if you get my drift.)

So when the sun shines I take a quick spin around a short circuit I’ve worked out for evaluating touring bikes, and when it doesn’t I might do a little cyclocross for auld lang syne. But mostly I run. It’s quick, it’s good for you in a real bad for you sort of way, and as Richard Pryor said in “Live In Concert,” you never know when in real life you might have to.

“If somebody pull a knife on you and you can’t pull out nothin’ but a hand with some skin on it, your intelligence ought to tell you to … run!” he said. “And teach your old lady how to run so you don’t have to go back after her ass.”

She’s got legs. I don’t have to teach my old lady to run. Herself doesn’t ride much, even in good weather, but she runs a couple-three days a week year round and has finished a couple half-marathons.

I can’t kick her ass, either, and not just because I can’t catch her. Even trying wouldn’t be prudent. She’s seven years younger than I am, gets up real early, and knows where all the knives are. And if I try to run from her, she’ll catch me.

The other day she dragged me out on a grotesquely cold morning for a run that started way too soon and way too fast and that’s when I noticed that my new shoes seemed to be full of feet for some reason.

And she knows how to use ‘em. Afterward I was stumping around El Rancho Pendejo like Long John Silver, raving about going back to the store that sold me these too-small shoes and applying them to a few tailbones with vigor and malice aforethought.

Herself snorted, and suggested that if I ever joined her at the yoga studio, or even stretched something other than a metaphor now and then, maybe a little jog wouldn’t hobble me with plantar fasciitis, which sounds like the Italian for “Donald Trump’s gardener” but is actually some sort of painful heel injury.

I replied that if she wanted a well-heeled man around the house she should’ve married the orange mutt instead of the green one.

And now for some reason my ass hurts nearly as much as my feet.

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

R.I.P., Mad Dog Unleashed

December 17, 2017

Editor’s note: “Mad Dog Unleashed” went to meet St. Peter in December 2017. It was 18. Survivors include its landlord, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News; its father, Patrick O’Grady; and a small, deeply disturbed readership. Its final words are appended herein.

 

Your Humble Narrator at work (or so he says, anyway).

Plan? What plan? What we have here is dogs chasing cars

“Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just … do things.”The Joker, “The Dark Knight”

By Patrick O’Grady

Donald Trump finally made it to Vietnam.

True, he was a half-century late, but you’ll recall that in 1968 there was a ton of golf that needed playing back home. Waving your 1-wood around for a few decades must do wonders for bone spurs. I hear it’s the new cycling.

Speaking of which, the bike business missed a golden opportunity there. We should’ve given Gimpy a beautiful golden bike to make the trip, because he looks like he could use the exercise and I’m pretty sure he can’t swim.

He would’ve needed one hella long ramp to launch from DeeCee to Danang. But man, what an ad for travel by bike! Any old fool can get big air in a plane. C’mon, casino dude—bet the roll, jump the ocean.

However he traveled, this was a trip that bore watching for our industry as the Taiwanese hunker down and Cambodia, India and Vietnam step up.

Our erstwhile enemy has become a favored trading partner, if you believe the feds—we’re their largest export market, they’re our fastest-growing export market—and Vietnam’s annual economic-growth rate is second only to China’s.

And I’ll concede that November’s pestilential visit seems to have been a success, or at least not a disaster, which these days are the same thing.

For starters, I don’t hear the B-52s cranking up, which is always good news. And Gimpy didn’t get captured, which, well. …

We all know how he feels about guys who get captured.

“I was never a fan of the Vietnam War.” I didn’t want to go to Vietnam either, being otherwise occupied. Not with golf, but with various brain fertilizers that I hoped would grow my hair down to the ground so I wouldn’t have to wear clothes.

I didn’t need a doctor’s note or college deferments, either. I was registered for the lottery, but the Army had all the fresh meat it required in March 1973 when it was my turn in the barrel. The last draft call was in December ’72, and the authority to induct expired six months later.

What I had instead of Vietnam was the newspaper business. My war stories are about reporters, editors, rim rats, slot men, shooters, printers and publishers.

That tour of duty lasted 15 years, and in all that time it never occurred to me to try something else because I loved the work. Also, I wasn’t qualified to do anything useful.

Manufacturing? I can make trouble on the cheap, but the market is unpredictable.

Service? I’m worse with my hands than Roy Moore. I did fix the wife’s beeping sports watch once, with a hammer. You can fix anything real fast with a hammer.

Retail? I couldn’t sell Bibles in Missouri. And I tried. Didn’t help a bit that I looked more like Jesus than Jesus did, either. I had to hitchhike home, a drummer who couldn’t even earn the price of a bus ticket.

Buy the ticket, take the ride. So, yeah, newspapers. I flagged down that old Greydog in 1977 and it dropped me off here at the bike shop before trundling off and over a cliff.

Now and then I pedal up to the edge, peek over and down, and mutter, “That was quite a ride. Maybe I should buy another ticket for old times’ sake.”

Nope. My freelancer’s kit—shorts, sandals, a T-shirt that a cat uses for a climbing gym—wouldn’t pass muster in the modern newsroom. Nor would the two-hour lunch ride, followed by the two-hour lunch.

And in the newspaper game some Assistant Managing Editor for Wasting Your Time is always tugging on your leash. Nope again. “You see a collar on this SOPWAMTOS shirt, Pinstripes? Up to date on your rabies shots?”

’Sides, who goes backward? Not King Donald the Short-fingered, that’s for sure. Nobody knows exactly where he’s going or what he’s doing, especially him, but one thing’s certain: He has his beady eyes affixed firmly on the front of his face, staring straight ahead, at his phone. “Mirror, mirror, in my hand, who’s the greatest in the land?”

Back of the bus, buddy. Anyway, I enjoy this work, if you can call it that. I’m not sure the other fella likes his. With a little luck, he won’t have the job much longer, and we can move on to making other, subtler mistakes. Time passes, and things change.

Even here. Come January 2018 something else will occupy this space we’ve shared for the past couple of decades, and I’ll return to my roots as a cartoonist.

That’s how I snuck into cycling rumormongery 28 years ago, when VeloNews declined to offer me full-time employment but asked that I contribute cartoons. BRAIN’s Marc Sani liked what he saw—an appraisal he and others have had occasion to regret—and the rest, as they say, is history.

And with this column, so is “Mad Dog Unleashed.”

In the new year, look for me and the Mud Stud in the back of the mag’, and I’ll look for you up front as the bike industry continues its full-throated pursuit of The Next Big Thing®, like a dog chasing a car.

That dog likes his work, too. We just … do things. And what the hell, we’re not squished yet.

• Editor’s note v2.0: Thus endeth the final “Mad Dog Unleashed” column in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. I’ll continue to draw the “Shop Talk” strip for that publication and review touring bicycles for Adventure Cyclist. And of course, the daily (sometimes) chin-music concert will continue here in Lesser Blogsylvania.