Posts Tagged ‘VeloNews’

Life in the Fat Lane: Everything, all the time. With fries.

March 10, 2019

If you’re seeing a little more sun all of a sudden, it’s not just because it’s Daylight Saving Time. It’s because the Fat Guy is throwing a little less shade.

The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter turned 30 today, and he’s been on one of those weight-loss programs for celebrity has-beens, the kind where you don’t look quite so porky because hardly anyone ever sees you anymore.

When I turned 30, back in 1984, I was on a weight-loss program of my own. It had occurred to me that I had problems, which included but were not limited to drugs, booze, food, voices in my head, and newspapers, and I found that vigorous bicycling helped me sweat out the cocaine, alcohol and gravy.

Didn’t do shit for the voices in my head, or the newspapers. But what the hell, a guy needs friends. And a job’s nice, too.

Five years later I finally put those friends in my head to work, when I signed on to draw cartoons for VeloNews, which was just settling into its new digs in the People’s Republic of Boulder. I was two more newspapers further on down the road, in Santa Fe, and the voices were telling me that once again my days were numbered, probably because the publisher kept saying things like “Are you still here?”

I’d been racing for a couple of years, and out of an abundance of caution and a desire for some sort of change that involved more than my ZIP code I applied for the managing editor’s job at VeloNews. Didn’t get it. But the honchos liked the cartoons, and the first one they published featured the Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter, who debuted in Volume 18, No. 3, cover date March 10, 1989.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Back then the Fat Guy didn’t look at all like he does today. In fact, he looked a lot like me. Long hair and a full beard, both of which gradually went away, and a variety of undistinguished and too-tight jerseys that by the mid-Nineties had stabilized into the familiar yellow-and-red kit with the “Spare Tire Ale” logo on both sleeves, the one we still sell today over at Voler.

The shorts sponsors tended to change whenever I had a notion. Lardasche Jeans. Juan Ton’s Asian Tacos. That sort of thing.

And the dude just kept getting larger.

At one point Fais Dodo couldn’t find his bike (turns out he was sitting on it). At another he had sucked a few smaller riders into orbit around him. Almost everybody was smaller. Entire teams were.

He even tried to sue the bicycle industry for making him a great fat bastard, when it had done the exact opposite for me.

“Yep, cycling did this to me,” he tells the lawyer, hot dog in one hand, sack of pork rinds in the other. “Couple hours in the ol’ saddle and I gotta eat a 7-Eleven.”

“You don’t say,” replies the lawyer. “Sounds like a no-class-action lawsuit to me!”

Every time I revisit that particular cartoon I see and hear John Goodman, playing Walter Sobchak from “The Big Lebowski,” and not just because Goodman’s first TV appearance was in a Burger King commercial. I just like John Goodman.

I like the Fat Guy, too, and he went with me when I left VeloNews in 2012, not long after the original honchos sold it to the publishing equivalent of a chop shop run by meth-heads. We didn’t go bowling, though. We teamed up with Charles Pelkey at Live Update Guy, where Il Fattini was cast as a gender-bending Fat Lady Singing.

“It’s over!” he’d croon whenever a break got caught.

And El Grande started appearing more regularly in the “Shop Talk” strip I still draw for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, though he’s basically down to walk-ons and cameos behind that strip’s stars, the Mud Stud and Dude. He’s the kind of customer who dollars up on the wrong side of the ledger, drinking all the beer in the shop fridge and grazing the energy-bar display right down to the bedrock.

A customer once asked the Mud Stud if he had any fat bikes.

“Nah,” said the Stud. “We got a Fat Guy, though. Sell ‘im to you cheap.”

Behind him The Large One is mumbling through a cloud of hoagie crumbs. “This shop needs a deli. Maybe a brewpub. A bakery? Funny, I don’t climb so good lately. Bro’-deal me on a lighter bike?”

We’ve all ridden a few kilometers in those Sidis, eh? Any cyclist worth his kit knows that to find the shortest distance between two points you have to cut a few corners, or at least round them off a little.

And lighter is always better, amirite? Fatso is not the Road Runner, so bloody fast that his sheer velocity straightens out the curves and flattens all the hills. He’s Wile E. Coyote with an eating disorder, shopping for solutions at Acme. Or Walgreens. At least he’s out there, putting in the kilometers.

He was the guy the legendary Dong Ngo had in mind when we were discussing the 1987 Trek 2500 on display at the Denver Spoke.

“Who buys this bike?” I asked, stunned by the price.

“You wouldn’t believe who buys this bike,” he replied.

The Fat Guy, that’s who. The last guy who needs one. His eyes were never bigger than his stomach. Nothing was. Or is.

Maybe that’s why the Fat Guy struck such a chord. He wants what we want, which at rock bottom, basically, is more. Or maybe it’s because he seems so obliviously comfortable in his oversized skin.

Oddly, the jersey he covers it with seems especially popular with little skinny climber dudes, probably because people go “Oh, yeah, right,” when they see them wearing it.

But you know what’s really odd? Nearly 30 years to the day after Fatso and I pranced onto the VeloNews stage together, we’re both working for Felix Magowan again. A full circle, that is.

Yep. Felix was one of the honchos back then, and he’s one of the honchos now, ever since Pocket Outdoor Media bought Bicycle Retailer in January. I got my first check from the new owners in March. It didn’t smell like meth, and it didn’t bounce, so I guess we’re all one big happy family again.

We’ve been downsized, of course. Before this latest acquisition BRAIN published 18 issues per year, and now we’re down to 12, which accounts for Fatso’s sleeker shadow, and my slimmer paycheck.

Still, 30 years is a nice long first lap. We may be off the back, but we haven’t been pulled yet. Good thing the Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter has been taking his turns on the front. It’s been like drafting the Budweiser beer wagon with a full hitch of Clydesdales.

Can’t find my way home

February 11, 2019

Good thing it doesn’t matter when a virtual press runs, because someone has been intercoursing the penguin as regards his self-imposed deadlines.

Radio Free Dogpatch is intended to be a weekly affair, scheduled for Fridays, but just ask the penguin how well that’s worked out for him (whoops, too late, he’s exploded). To date the thing has reared its ugly head weekly, semimonthly, and on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays.

After three or four goes at this most recent episode, which came this close to becoming a plain-vanilla blog post, I’m starting to think Wednesdays are the ticket. Showtime. Whatever.

In any case, and without further ado, here’s episode 19 of Radio Free Dogpatch. Too bad I couldn’t get it finished in time to win a Grammy to go along with all my Pulitzers, Reubens, Emmys and MacArthur Fellowships.

Oh, well, there’s always next year.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Editorial notes: Shannon Hall wrote about the meanderings of magnetic north for The New York Times. Steve Frothingham has been following the trials and tribulations of ASE and the various media-consolidation stories for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. John McNulty wrote about super-salesman Elmer “Sell the Sizzle” Wheeler for The New Yorker way back in 1938. And Sam Dean of the Los Angeles Times gave us a peek at Zwift’s e-sports ambitions.

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with an Audio-Technica AT2035 microphone and a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. I edited in Apple’s GarageBand on a 2014 MacBook Pro, adding audio acquired through fair means and foul via Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack (no profit was taken in an admittedly casual approach to various copyrights). Speaking of which, Buck appears courtesy of the 1935 William Wellman film “Call of the Wild,” while Nick Danger took a break from his Further Adventures to ask directions to The Firesign Theatre’s Old Same Place. The background music is “Crusin” from Zapsplat.com. And Blind Faith wrapped it all up with “Can’t Find My Way Home.”

And in other news …

January 31, 2019

VN and BRAIN, together at last.

… we have this. More later.

Back to the future

October 13, 2017

Check the date: March 10, 1989. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

That’s the cover of the first VeloNews in which a cartoon by Your Humble Narrator appeared.

It practically goes without saying that it featured the Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter.

The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter, v1.0.

How long ago was this? Well, President Ronald Reagan had just delivered his farewell address, Ted Bundy had taken his ride in Mr. Edison’s rocking chair, the last Soviet troops were leaving Afghanistan, and Eurosport was debuting in France.

The previous year, Felix Magowan, John Wilcockson and David Walls had acquired what was then called Velo-news from founders Barbara and Robert George.

After moving the operation to Boulder they declined to hire me as managing editor (a wise move). Time passed, as it will, and then in 2008 Inside Communications Inc. sold out to Competitor Group Inc. (not so wise in my opinion, but you know what they say about opinions).

Wilcockson — who would later get a ruthless, senseless and unceremonious heave-ho, along with Charles “Live Update Guy” Pelkey — wrote about the history and acquisition of Inside Communications here.

Il Fattini as he came to appear further on down the road.

As for me, I quit, was coaxed into returning, and then quit again, that last time for good.

But I always kept an eye on the joint, the way you sometimes bicycle past a ramshackle house you used to live in, shaking your head at the carelessness of the new owners.

And so did one member of that Original Trio — Magowan — who has repo’d the joint, with Pocket Outdoor Media partners Greg Thomas and Steve Maxwell.

Included in the sale are VeloPress, which just published Nick Legan’s “Gravel Cycling,” and the magazines Triathlete and Women’s Running, along with their digital counterparts.

“Despite the well-known challenges in print today, our team is thrilled to have the chance to rebuild these iconic titles as well as their sister digital operations,” Magowan told Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. “We have ambitious growth plans, and want to restore these brands to their historical industry leadership positions as quickly as possible.”

Here’s hoping Friday the 13th turns out to be a lucky day for Felix, The Trio v2.0, and for VeloNews (turn that number upside down just for luck, guys). Meanwhile, for anyone with the flashback blues, here’s John Prine.

Man at work

September 2, 2016
Your Humble Narrator in the salad days, covering a race in Bibleburg.

Your Humble Narrator in the salad days, covering a race in Bibleburg.

While cranking out a column and cartoon to commemorate the upcoming 25th anniversary of the launching of the good ship Bicycle Retailer and Industry News back in 1992, it struck me that I was approaching a milestone of my own — as of today, I have been a full-time freelancer for 25 years.

That is not a typo.

After quitting my seventh and final newspaper gig, at The New Mexican up Santa Fe way, I raced the Record Challenge in Moriarty on Sunday, Sept. 1, 1991 (56:43 for 40km, a personal best), and the very next day I was up north in Bibleburg, trying to figure out how a burned-out newspaperman might pay for his bacon and beans.

I had three things going for me. One, I had been freelancing cartoons and light journalism to VeloNews since March 1989, and I began doing more of that, helping cover (now-defunct) races like La Vuelta de Bisbee, the Casper Classic, and the Cactus Cup, and lending a hand with copy-editing and production up in Boulder.

Two, Marc Sani at BRAIN wanted a comic strip for his brand-new industry magazine, and before long I was writing some stuff for him, too.

And three, Herself and I were living rent-free with my mom, who was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and required oversight. So we’re not exactly talking Hemingway-in-Paris here; we had a roof over our heads, three hots and a cot, and a small allowance for serving as live-in help while my sister managed Mom’s finances from Fort Collins.

At first I could and did work for anyone. But eventually the VeloNews and BRAIN gigs led to other work in the bike biz, and after a while that’s all I did. It’s hard to believe, but a guy could actually earn a semi-OK living scribbling for bicycle magazines, and eventually, bicycle websites. Who knew? Not me. Not until I had 15 years of newspapering under my belt, anyway.

Today I work for BRAIN and Adventure Cyclist, period. It’s not exactly heavy lifting. I get to make shit up for the one and play with other people’s toys for the other. I should be paying them, not the other way around.

You guys, of course, get the dubious benefits of 40 years’ experience for free. You’re welcome.

 

Throwback Thursday

April 10, 2014
The cover of VeloNews, Vol. 18, No. 3, March 10, 1989, the first issue to contain an O'Grady cartoon.

The cover of VeloNews, Vol. 18, No. 3, March 10, 1989, the first issue to contain an O’Grady cartoon.

As I was dozing off last night it struck me that I missed an anniversary of sorts last month.

On March 10, 1989, I drew my first cartoon for VeloNews.

Good God awmighty. Have I really been cracking lame bike jokes for more than 25 years?

Yup.

And my, how times have changed.

In 1989, I was still a real journalist (kinda, sorta) instead of a free-lance rumormonger, flailing away in a series of unsung editorial capacities for The New Mexican in Santa Fe, periodically shifting to a new desk in the newsroom as I wore out my welcome at the old one.

The VeloNews thing was my first real free-lance gig. I had applied for a job there, as managing editor, and happily for everyone concerned, I didn’t get it. But management liked the cartoons, and you know the rest.

Himself, in all his (ahem) glory.

Himself, in all his (ahem) glory.

Then as now, I drew in pencil, pen and ink, on Bristol board. But the ’toons were in black and white, and the originals FedExed from Santa Fe to Boulder.

At some point I scored a Mac SE, a 2400-baud Hayes modem, and an AOL account. But the early Innertubes were ill-equipped for transmitting the Old Guy Who Gets Fat In Winter from Santa Fe to Boulder, even in black and white, though VeloNews soon set up a BBS for catching incoming stories and was one of the early pioneers homesteading the World Wide Web.

I don’t draw for Velo, the slick successor to VeloNews. But I still do my “Shop Talk” strip for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. And those bad boys are digitized, colorized and shot through the Innertubes like ICBMs (Intercontinental Burlesque Missiles) to Laguna Hills, California, along with my “Mad Dog Unleashed” column.

All of which means I can have an editor mumbling, “Aw, f’chrissakes, lookit this fuggin’ thing,” in seconds instead of days.

 

"Shop Talk," the strip I do for BRAIN. Mostly it features the Mud Stud and Dude; occasionally, the Fat Guy and other characters appear.

“Shop Talk,” the strip I do for BRAIN. Mostly it features the Mud Stud and Dude; occasionally, the Fat Guy and other characters appear.

Friday funnies redux

October 12, 2012
What are YOU on?

What am I on? Back in 2000, I was on VeloNews.

More Dark Ages cartoonery: This time you can blame Khal Spencer, who in comments recalled a VeloNews ‘toon I drew back in 2000, which seems like an awfully long time ago, in part because it was. And yet it seems so … timely, for some strange reason.

This may have been the introduction of a nameless recurring character, a reptilian dope fiend who, like the Fat Guy, grew progressively uglier as the years dragged on. Though the Fat Guy, of course, has yet to test positive for anything stronger than gravy.

And now for something completely different

July 9, 2010

Ho, hum. Another break, another chase, another catch, another sprint. Cha-ching. Pay the little man with the big mouth and even bigger legs, please.

The same ol’, same ol’, will not apply beyond Sunday, however. The Tour is headed for the Alps, and while the conventional wisdom is that the race will not be won there, it certainly may be lost there.

VeloNews editor at large John Wilcockson, who has covered some eleventy-seven Tours, has tagged Big Tex as the man to watch, writing, “Everyone here is saying that the Texan is looking much stronger than last year. …”

As for Tex his own bad self, he says coyly, “I would look for more animation in my tactics.”

Well, yeah. If I were 50 seconds behind Alberto Contador going into the mountains I’d want to pump it up a notch or two or three. Maybe have Janez Brajkovic park himself on El Pistolero’s wheel and chatter away breezily in Slovenian. “Jebo te bog! Zdaj se boš pa še opravičeval!” (“God will fuck you! Now you’ll really be sorry!”)

Of course, eventually you have to catch and pass those two 20-something hill-climbing sonsabitches. But that’s another story, one yet to be written.

Apocalypse now

July 7, 2010

There ain’t nothing like that first week of the Tour, boys and girls. And this has been a particularly bad first few days, what with various other chores coinciding with my need to work five days a week for three weeks at VeloNews.com.

After 20 years of cracking lame cycling gags I occasionally find myself with a nasty case of writer’s block, and wouldn’t you know it? This was one of those times. And me with deadlines at Bicycle Retailer & Industry News (two columns and a “Shop Talk” cartoon strip) and VeloNews (editorial cartoon).

Never get out of the fuckin' boat!

Never get out of the fuckin' boat!

I pushed the envelope so far it turned inside out, creating a wormhole that took me to an alternate universe containing a Patrick O’Grady who was still about half funny. Happily, when I showed up my dopplegänger was asleep under his drawing board with an empty bottle of tonsil polish in one limp paw (some things transcend time and space), so I appropriated his work and returned to my own universe just in time to beat my deadlines.

But is this my universe? Lance Armstrong is not winning the Tour — far from it, he sits in 18th place, 2:30 behind Fabian Cancellara, and is getting heckled by spectators calling him “dopehead” and “cheat.” And Mark Cavendish is getting his ass handed to him in the sprints. The renowned sprinter Andy Schleck has more points than Cav’, f’chrissakes.

Shit. I should’ve listened to Chef. “Never get out of the boat.” Not even to beat a deadline.

Missed the VN.com TdF Round Table?

July 2, 2010

Here’s an instant replay (it’s only a model):

I tried to get my colleague Charles Pelkey to kick off today’s round table with this YouTube clip but he wasn’t having any of it. Something about a wife, two kids and a mortgage. I didn’t get it. Not the two-kids part, anyway.