Thursday, December 24, 2009

Keep It Simple, Stupid

One thing I admire about cyclocross is that it’s contested between endless lines of caution tape, ten feet apart. Even if you don’t exercise caution during the race, you know damn well you have to throttle it back in the sharp corners so you avoid crashing into the tape. The caution tape sets limits. The tape shows us the way to go, and we can determine for ourselves how quickly or slowly we move within that tape. But life outside the tape?

Funny. To write what I just wrote. These days, I have no dealings – or almost no dealings –with university-affiliated writers , but I know the way their minds work when they read material that rhapsodizes about sports and draws obvious metaphors from it. I remember when I published Heft on Wheels - and people at the university where I taught were pissed at me – I got hauled down the Dean’s office to hear what a hopeless, talentless piece of human garbage I was. The dean said, “Frankly, I would expect you to produce work more commensurate with the rank of associate professor at this institution. ” What she meant, of course, is my book was shit. I’m pretty sure that the dean hadn’t published a word in the full twenty-five years before she hauled me into her office, but what the hell: I wasn’t rising to her standards. I guess my national book tour and appearances on ESPN and Public Radio, et cetera, weren’t good enough for her. The dean, incidentally, was the type of person who had a huge grand piano in her house, with a Chopin Etude on the music stand – just for show – which to me suggested she maintained a lifestyle commensurate with a dean at a university nobody’s ever heard of. Oh well. I bitch about things I shouldn’t bitch about. In retrospect, I wish I would have published Heft on Wheels under the title The Dean Can Suck My Dick. Maybe that’s what I’ll call the sequel, if I ever get around to writing one.

So yeah. I write about cycling, about the simple experiences regular people have with the sport. I don’t write about cycling clothing or bicycle parts or pro cyclists or trends in the industry because, in the end, I don’t give a shit about the cycling industry; but I do give a shit about bikes and the people who ride them; and the act of riding a bike is not the grand stuff of dense language and impenetrable metaphor. Listen to cyclists talk to each other sometime. They come from all walks of life, all different political and sexual and religious orientations, and what brings them together are simple things: air temperature, wind speed, the steepness of the hill, the condition of the road or the trail, and so on. Why obscure this with forced art?

Anyway, a writer should never say that words do no justice, but sometimes a picture says it all.

Here’s a fine picture of the Unnamed Heckawee Cyclist. It speaks volumes. Merry fucking Christmas.

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