Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ain't No Resolving This

From the Truth Hurts Department, I present an old musician’s saying about New Year’s Eve: If you don’t have a gig on New Year’s Eve, you’re not a very good musician, but if you’re a bass player and don’t have a gig on New Year’s Eve, you suck. The good news, I guess, is I’m not a bass player. Other than that, I can’t think of much to celebrate tonight. I don’t have a gig and it’s been a horseshit year, not just for me but for lots of people. Fuck 2009.

Anyway, all whining aside, New Year’s Eve is Party Amateur Night, much in the same way that St. Patrick’s Day is, and as all of us former professionals know, Party Amateur Night is always ugly. So I’m staying home tonight and kicking back and ignoring the world and perhaps spending a few hours playing piano for my dog. She’s a kind, sober, thoughtful listener. Or something like that.

On a brighter note – at least in my view – Mag’s Sentence has been miraculously updating on a daily basis for more than a month now. This will be the 33rd post, a number that has a nifty ring to it, and the plan is to continue with daily updates till my fingers fall off or till I finally convince myself nobody will ever give a shit about either what I have to say or how I choose to say it. Meantime, I make no promises about what direction I’m going to take with this, other than that I don’t want it to keep moving in any one direction for too long. For instance, how can this thing be called Mag’s Sentence and we haven’t heard one mention of sentences yet? And what’s the deal with Barbies? About the only thing I’m pretty sure will remain a steady component of Mag’s Sentence is cycling, because I expect I’m going to keep on pedaling. I make no other predictions.

Oh well. Have a nice time tonight, my friends. Here’s wishing you a great 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thanks A Lot

Photograph by Seth Townsend (not posed)

She blamed her father. He used to tell her happiness was the ability to ignore the score. You’re behind your whole life, he would say, but in the end you’ll win. He lost. He died early. Heart attack. Playing softball. She was in high school, sixteen years old, and somehow took the long view of this. She kept smiling. She moved forward. She worked two years checking at Target then two years waitressing at Ruby Tuesday’s then went to a Super Bowl party at Buffalo Wild Wings and met a guy fresh out of law school. He was into golf and sports on TV and liked pina coladas, he said, and winked, but couldn’t give a shit about walks in the rain. He smiled a lot too. He was a nice guy. She married him a year later, on Super Bowl Sunday, because that felt right, because the championship game meant so much to him.

One summer Sunday night, she was forty years old and her husband was forty-four and their son was sixteen and upstairs in his room. She was either downstairs in the kitchen putting things away or bringing things outside to the patio where her guests were relaxing with drinks and snacks. It was a lot of work but she was happy to do it. She liked having company. So did her husband. She stepped behind the garage to sneak a cigarette and saw her husband leaning against the wall with his blue, St. John’s Bay golf slacks at his ankles and with his golf buddy’s wife squatting in front of him and taking a careful look at his personality. Her husband ran his hands through the woman’s hair and closed his eyes as if he were discovering, after a lifetime search, the last unknown quantity in the universe.

On the patio, her guests in their department store clothing matched the patio furniture she bought a month ago at Home Depot. One guest, the man whose wife was behind the garage, chuckled absently and drained the rest of his Bud-light and crumpled the can and looked around not for his wife, not for anything human. She looked in the upstairs window, into her son’s room, and saw him shirtless, standing in a purple, fluctuating light. He was moving. She could not see his hands. She had a long way yet to go. She hoped she had endurance enough to get there. She smiled at her guest and asked if he would like another beer. He did. He handed her the empty can and an empty plastic plate and a plastic fork and a crumpled paper napkin and she took these things inside.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Whatever Turns Your Crank

This dirty cyclocross crank has nothing to do with what I have to say today, other than, like everybody else, I enjoy doing whatever turns my crack and I’m not ashamed to look at my crank for long periods of time – without touching it even!

A few years ago, I was wandering around the internets in search of the aforementioned and I found a blog – on MySpace, I think – written by a cookie-cutter-style literary asshole who teaches creative writing at a university and has published a couple of books that nobody’s ever read and whose reputation as a writer and a teacher exists solely on the tremendously positive, encouraging force of his personality. He’s the kind of guy who may hear the name Linda Letterwriter in conversation and he’ll say, “She’s a wonderful human being. Truly special.” Or you could mention the new collection of short stories by E. Masculated Weenie and he’ll say, even if he hasn't read it, which he probably hasn’t, “Certainly, that’s the strongest work E has produced to date.” This guy is a frequent visiting writer (on the one-night/1500-dollar plan) at universities all around the country, and never a summer passes when this guy doesn’t attend at least one weeklong writers-colony event, where he is paid well, fed well, and is well liked for his calm conversation, his appreciation for all points of view, and his selfless determination to promote literature and to foster a friendly, helpful creative-writing environment in which everyone can have their say and nobody will bristle at it. Sure enough, everybody loves the fuck out of this guy.

So when I found this blog of his, I was not surprised that he began his daily encouraging words something like this: “A number of people have been asking me to blog on the subject of narrative in the modern novel.” Now, if a person wants to blog on whatever subject, that’s great; have at it; whatever turns your crank. What rankled me then and now is that he included the number-of-people-asking part. 1) How many people were in that number? 2) Why would they ask this guy in the first place? Because he’s kissed everybody’s ass in the American college creative-writing circuit? Because he’s always pleasant? Or because he really knows something? I will allow that he might. Lots of folks know something. But he doesn’t know more than anybody else. The respect he is accorded has nothing to do with his knowledge but instead it has to do with his demeanor, which is as pleasant and unflappable as a McDonald’s vanilla shake.

This is probably nothing new in the world. You kiss ass; you get ahead. You bitch a lot; you turn people off, unless you find a number of people who agree with what you’re bitching about (this method works well on Fox News, I guess). In creative writing, the university form of it, probably because literature itself is dying in the face of new technologies, dissent is not allowed. You must say, “Everyone’s shit is wonderful. I love all books. I want everybody to take creative writing classes.” The consequence of this is that dissent itself may well vanish from the literature and without dissent, is there a literature?

Or maybe not. Maybe what pissed me off about the guy’s blog is just that he’s arrogant enough to preface his remarks by mentioning how many people wanted to read what he had to write. I want to tell him, "Dude, if you have to suck your own dick, do I gotta watch? I’m trying to eat a sandwich over here."

Fuck it. I should quit pondering this nonsense and go for a bike ride.

By the way, I think you’re wonderful.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Steel Dogs and Real Ones

This, friends and brethren, is my cyclocross bike. A true classic. Wisconsin steel. Mismatched wheels. Worn cranks. Dirty chain. Disintegrating handlebar tape. And check out the broken saddle! A disgrace. But the bike still runs just fine, or at least fine enough for my purposes, and I am amused and occasionally honored to be its owner. Besides, it’s the only functioning bike I own right now, which means, according to pure-cyclist logic, I’ve got to call it my honey or my baby and tell it don’t put my love on no shelf, et cetera. Christmas Day, I took it out for a monster dirt ride in the Santa Monica mountains – one of the coolest rides I’ve ever taken, with the sad exception of I was riding alone and when I’d meet hikers on the trails and say Merry Christmas, the hikers would glare me like I had said something wrong, which maybe I had. And a week from today, I’m going to race it at Hansen Dam Park in Los Angeles. Woohoo, no? Well, maybe yes, maybe no.

Lately, I’m attempting to develop a new theory of cycling, one where cycling is a value in the equation and not the solution set of the equation. The best cyclists I’ve ever known – and by ‘best’ I don’t necessarily mean fastest, I mean ‘purest’ - are like heroin addicts on two wheels: their life sucks without cycling. If they have to work in the afternoon instead of ride, they say they’re fucked. If they have to hang out with their families all day, both days of the weekend, they say they’re totally fucked. If they have to do anything that doesn’t involve cycling, they sulk and whine and piss and moan and make everybody’s lives miserable. You know what? That’s a bullshit way to live. Then again, the alternative, living without cycling, which is a lifestyle I tried adopting for almost a year recently, that’s bullshit, too. So I don’t know the answer. If a person can only ride eight to ten hours a week (tops), and if in this week a person wants to live like regular people do – consuming cheese and other joyously bad-for-cycling foods and drinks – this person is going to be on the receiving end of an ass-whipping on race day. And of course if a person trains twenty-five hours a week and counts calories and focuses completely on the sport of cycling, then this person will face an ass-whipping in one’s personal and professional life. Maybe this pertains just to me, but somehow I doubt it.

For the moment, I only know one thing about cycling for sure: My cross bike sure is sweet.

This is my dog Rocks. She’s pretty sweet, too.

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.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Her Enthusiasms

Photograph by Seth Townsend (not posed)

She drove everybody crazy. She couldn’t help it because, as if it were an affliction, she was naturally overcome with enthusiasm. She would tell people – she would apologize to people – that she had a big motor and what can a girl do with big motor but run it wide open? Why turn it off when there is so much to do in one lifetime? Sometimes, when she dealt with her children or her relatives or her friends, when she’d explain a new idea she had in the works, she would see the way they looked into her eyes, a hesitance, a nodding rejection, a patronizing lift of the brow, and she would know the truth: no matter how many parties and dress-up days and trips out of town she organized, no matter what she did to alleviate boredom in the world, she would always be the woman with the blazing letter C on her chest. Crazy.

A while back, her older sister called and asked why since the beginning, since the womb, since birth, did everything have to be a such a major production? Why not mellow out and be like everybody else? This was an unanswerable question much in the same way that life itself was an unanswerable predicament. She was either getting herself ready for the next event or cleaning up from the previous event and this would go on, without pause, till she could not go on any longer.

Friday evening, she locked herself in the bathroom, ostensibly to shave her legs, to beautify before going out with friends. She drew a hot bath, lit candles, relaxed, and drifted off to an enthusiastic, dreamy oblivion.

The next morning, she woke in the tub, in the cold water. Her legs were not as wrinkled as she thought they might be. She rose, she put on a robe, she opened the door and could hear her children in the living room watching TV, and she walked toward the sound. The kids were watching an infomercial about a miracle cream that would send acne all the way back to the stone age from whence it came. With this cream, the announcer said, you would never be unhappy again.

One of the kids asked where she’d been all night. She looked at the TV, at the kid, at her pointless life, and she said she couldn’t remember.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Racer # 972 Ain't Ashamed

This is what we all dream of, right? The starter’s whistle blows, we clip in, we charge off at full tilt toward cyclocross oblivion, and our lives, which had so little meaning during the week, suddenly come into focus. Some people look good in this endeavor – their uniforms match, their equipment is top-notch, and they’re fit and ready to race – and then there’s Racer # 972, me. From the bottom up, we see, first, mismatched wheels; second, under the saddle, we see that I have forgotten to remove my saddle bag (with flat-fixing stuff in it); third, we see that the Bike Surgeon bib shorts bear no relation to the old-school Heckawee Cyclocross jersey; and fourth, and most disturbing, we see that Racer # 972 is about as lean as Jack Spratt’s wife. But do these things stop Racer # 972 from racing? They should, but then again, this is cyclocross in California, on the Sunday before Christmas, and even though Racer #972 has missed two full seasons of cross, he’s gotta get back into it somewhere. The other racers certainly didn’t mind. Hell, half of these racers finished ahead of Racer # 972.


I will say, incidentally, that it’s difficult to put together words about a cyclocross race without becoming sappy. Cross hurts like the proverbial motherfucker and all that, but then again, no matter how stupidly hard it may be, you can’t help looking back at a race and saying, “Damn, that was amazing.” Yesterday’s racecourse - at Pierce College in Woodland Hills – was definitely all that. There were four brutally tough climbs – one of which you had to run – and above we see Racer #972 looking like he’s about to die on the first of these. Actually, this was about halfway through the race and Racer #972 was catching and passing the two guys in black.


Oh well. In our continuing efforts to conceal Mag’s ass from the public, here’s a close view of these shorts. Not quite as revealing as the worn-out black bib shorts, but folks at the race are lucky the conditions are dry. A wet white rear bib short panel is invisible - completely invisible. Hence, The Bike Surgeon race team used to be known, affectionately, as Team AssCrack. Race note: See that racer in the red? I caught that guy.


I don’t care what you’re thinking: There’s NOTHING wrong with this picture. It’s great to be racing cross again, even if I suck at it! I hear tell there’s another cross race hereabouts on January 3. This old boy’s gonna be there.


Last, is that guy in the hat peeing on the Socal Prestige Series #15 results? I sure hope not.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gone Crossin'

I'm off to the races for the day. Should be a classic and stupid example of sporting failure, et cetera. Pictures will be up tomorrow.

Meantime, thanks to everyone who's been reading and watching the weirdness here. More of the same - and the unsame - is coming up this week. Tell your friends about it!

Happy 12/20!


Friday, December 18, 2009

A Window Into Mag's Soul

That’s me, obviously, in my Heckawee Cyclocross jersey, slumped in triumph-slash-failure at the finish line of the Urban Cyclocross race on December 6. It’s quite an inspiring image. But that highly visible ass crack in the picture? Truly horrifying. If you stare at the picture long enough – which I’m not really recommending that you do – you can see into the darkest, rankest parts of my soul. You can see that I love kalamata olives and gorgonzola cheese and that I’ve watched The Dirty Dozen at least one hundred times on TNT and that when the chips are down, I’m the kind of fellow who likes to make black-bean nachos out of them.

I’m surprised I didn’t get arrested at the race.

Now, in the old days, in my previous life as a cyclist, this horrendous breech of public decency simply would never have occurred because I never used to ride alone. As all experienced bib-short-wearing cyclists know, the fabric on the shorts gradually deteriorates over periods of extended use. This is of course a wonderful thing: if you’re wearing out your shorts, that means you’re riding a lot. However, if you go on a six-hour group paceline ride in the rain with your ass visible through your shorts, your fellow cyclists are going to mention it, and probably not too politely. They’ll say, “Holy shit, Magnuson. You gotta throw out those shorts. I can see every hair on your ass.” Or they may work together to drop you so they don't have to stare at your ass for the rest of the ride.

But these days, I ride alone, and I’ve been wearing those bib shorts a lot, which certainly explains why nobody wants to trade pulls with me in the park where I do laps or why cars often ride slowly behind me or why groups of small children point at me and laugh when I roll past their school. I have been under the impression that I'm being persecuted for some fault in my cycling character, but no: My ass has been hanging out!

Anyway, I’ve been reading on the internets lately about some famous bicycle blogger who raised a shit-ton of money so he could ride with Lance Armstrong at a Team Radio Shack training camp. You know what? Fuck that guy. I need new bib shorts way more than that blogger needs to ride with Lance fucking Armstrong. I should start a campaign. Protect the Innocent Children: Buy Mag New Bib Shorts.

We’ll have to see how this sorts out. [Ed. note: Mag's size (for shorts) is large.] Meanwhile, on Sunday, I’ll be racing here - Santa Cross - if you want to see my ass in person.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy Times

Photograph by Seth Townsend (not posed)

She was used. She knew this was true. Her boyfriend told her all his girlfriends were used, even the new ones. Somebody had taken them for a test drive. She could have taken herself for a test drive, for all he knew. He worked at the mall, at the Old Navy. She worked at Fuddruckers Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. The other days, she didn’t know what she did. She partied. She danced. She did lines off of toilet tops. She slept late and in the afternoon texted her boyfriend to come home and when he did she was like okay, let’s go out. Sometimes, late at night, in the parking lot outside the bar, she paced and smoked cigarettes and tried calling her father. He never answered.

Last Wednesday at work, when the shift was almost over, she told one of the gay waiters she had a lot of problems. He was like you? Perfect you? Name me one problem you have that’s not completely in your head. She couldn’t. She went out with everybody after work and smiled for all the Facebook pictures. Guys surrounded her like bluebottle flies over a picnic on a hot day in the city park. They were so funny. They bought her Cosmopolitans and Jagerbombs and touched her shoulder, lightly, when they leaned to her ear to tell her she was an exceptionally cool girl, a girl definitely worth getting to know. One of the bus boys had coke, really good coke, the kind not cut with baby laxative, the kind as clean and pure as the shit the Incas used to set out, he said, on important ceremonial occasions.

At dawn, she watched the bus boy’s chest rising and falling like an empire and she checked her cell phone and saw her boyfriend had left thirty-seven messages. She didn’t need to check them. He was right about her, had been since the beginning.

She wandered outside, in her underwear, into the bus boy’s raggedy back yard, and regarded the disease of daylight spreading over the dew. She sat on the wet grass and eased her bare back into the cold blades and stared through the trees at the sky. The sun would appear there eventually. Maybe she would be happy then.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Awakening the Giant Sleeping Baby

That's a street sign in Bakersfield, California, in case you didn't know. I certainly didn't know till I stood there and took the picture. Never have listened to Merle much, either, which according to a number of writer friends of mine is proof that I've lived a spiritually depraved and musically deprived life. I sometimes tell them, "You ever listen to Paul Hindemith?" They're like, "Who?" Like I shouldn't have brought it up. The important thing, and I'm finally learning this in later life, is that people really enjoy their Merle Haggard music and that's cool; and I really enjoy my Paul Hindemith music and that's not really cool; and there's nothing I'll ever be able to do about it but smile and have cool people think I'm an idiot for liking music they don't want to understand.

Anyway, I took that picture a few weeks ago, maybe a month ago now, maybe six weeks, when I was on my way with my buddy Seth to his family cabin in the Sierras. Seth, incidentally, is originally from Bakersfield and consequently holds Merle in the same esteem as people like me from Wisconsin hold, say, Bart Starr, or maybe Brett Favre before Brett left us for a stadium full of fat Norwegian women in Minneapolis. We were just going to the Sierras for the day. Seth had to make sure the place was ready for the winter. And I went along as a tourist, because I wanted to see some things in California I hadn't seen before. We had bikes with us, too.

Which brings up something else. My friends in California, even if they ride bikes like Seth does (and he's pretty strong), have a natural aversion to Spandex, to bib shorts, jerseys, arm warmers, leg warmers, and all the necessary clothing accouterments to the cycling life, except helmets. They see people in Spandex and they say, "I'm not gonna wear that shit." I say, "Ever listen to Paul Hindemith?"

What I lost when I moved to California is my identity. When I lived in Carbondale, Illinois, I had been a cyclist, first and foremost, which I full well understand was a misplaced form of identity. I should have thought of myself as a professor and a writer because those things were my official profession, but to be a professor and a writer in Carbondale - for me - was a constant humiliation, working in the kind of department where I'd teach books and my colleagues would tell my students that those books I was teaching were bad, not to mention that somewhere in there I wrote and published a book that detailed widespread heavy drinking in the English department, and consequently I was reduced to Turd Status after that. One definite aspect of Turd Status, especially at a university in a small town where people are bored shitless and can't think of anything else to do with their lives but to ponder university matters, is that once a person has been assigned Turd Status, this status is irrevocable. True enough, maybe folks could have read my account of widespread drinking in the department and instead of telling me I should seek work elsewhere they might have thought, Damn, there are a lot of terrible drunks around here; maybe we should do something about it? But they didn't. Therefore, I was a cyclist. My best friends were cyclists. We rode all day together and at night, we would get together and have fellowship and watch ball games and play music. We were people comfortable in Spandex. We wore sandals with sox. We were dorks, by California standards, but we were happy. And as far as I know, my cycling friends in Carbondale - the Heckawee - are still happy. The people from the English department? I wouldn't know. They were never my friends anyway. I haven't heard a word from any of them since I left.

But Seth is my good buddy, one of the best friends I've had. And he thinks Spandex is stupid. And his thoughts about Paul Hindemith? I wouldn't even want to ask him. But the guy likes to ride bikes. And he's a writer, too, a really good one. So when we took bikes up to the Sierras that day, either something was right with this picture or something was horribly wrong.

The family cabin sits at 7200 feet, in a Sequoia Grove, with some of the best-looking mountain bike trails probably in the world (which is why the location must remain secret), and to make this short tale even shorter, Seth and I went for a ride up there and couldn't hardly breathe because we live at sea level and the air is just way too thin in the mountains. We suffered. We had to take breaks every fifteen minutes. We thought we were going to die. Since I had come to California, I had done absolutely everything to put aside my life as a cyclist. I had come here to be a writer, not a cyclist, but until that day, in the high mountains, I had been miserable in California. You see, to suffer in the thin mountain air, to roll on perfect trails, can life possibly get any better than this? And why had I let that all go?

The point is, cycling is not really the meaning of life but without cycling, at least for me, life has no meaning. I love it. It's me. It's who I am. It's why I want to get up in the morning each day, not because I don't want to work and to be productive professionally (I want to do all that) but because the reward I can have for my efforts is I can ride my bike. I want to train again and race again and keep on training and racing till I'm unable to prop myself upright on my bike.

Whew, that felt good to say.

I know. I shouldn't have mentioned all this. You were more interested in Merle.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Kid Did All Right

If you missed this guy broadcasting from Cross Nationals, you should watch the replays. He was spot-on, except for maybe when he gave the dramatic call for the entire Women's Elite/U23 race and his microphone was off.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Silent Cowbell

Raining in Los Angeles today. In Bend, Oregon, where the USA Cycling National Cyclocross Championships are taking place, the temperatures are butt-ass cold, as my old buddy Professor Sherkat used to say, and the riders are slipping on the ice and breaking bones and in general having a tough go of things. Honestly, I've only raced in conditions like that a couple of times - two races, two years ago, at Cross Nationals in Kansas City - and I hated it and ended up riding as slowly as possible on the ice - during the goddam national championships! - so I wouldn't fall and get hurt. Pathetic, if you think about it. Last year, I went to Cross Nationals and didn't race. I hadn't been training or racing all last fall, et cetera. But I had fun ringing the cowbell and blowing the horn and all that good stuff. And fuck if I'm not dying inside today that I'm not in Bend, hollering at racers from the lazy side of the course tape.

Anyhow, on Sunday, December 20, there's another cross race in L.A. I'm gonna put on my pumpkin suit and roll up to the starting line.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

After the Header

Photograph by Seth Townsend (not posed)

She didn't love her mother enough. She didn't love her boyfriend enough. She hated her job, and then she lost it. She drank. She bitched. She ate shit. She didn't give a shit. She fucked off. She fucked too much. She didn't fuck enough. She considered her life to be an elaborate form of et cetera. Once, when she was eighteen, she accepted two hundred dollars from a lawyer to dance at a party he was throwing at his office. Fat men slapped her ass. They had a great time. She spent the two hundred dollars on clothes at Target. She looked nice on her first day of class at the community college.

A couple of weeks ago, she started looking people in the eye, really looking. She could see a black, empty spot in the middle of everybody. With an actual person, this black spot was one thing, fleeting, as if in the split second a person's eyes were leveled into hers she had final proof that the light of the mind is a lie, then the eyes would look away, and she wouldn't be certain what she had seen was true. In a photograph of a person, this black spot was too much to bear. The eyes never wavered from hers. She would go on her computer and look at pictures of her friends, her mother, her boyfriend, herself, and would zoom in on their pupils. No matter how she adjusted the resolution, the eyes were the same. They had nothing behind them. They would never see who she was, deep down. Nobody knew her. She didn't know herself.

Before she jumped, she stared at the sun and tried to blind herself with the light of world. She failed at this. On the way down, she saw sunspots in the concrete and wondered, at the last instant, if she had misinterpreted the signs.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Proof of Pudding

My buddy The Champ is the kind of guy who needs proof before he believes anything, and even then, he's naturally skeptical. And since the results from Sunday's Urban Cyclocross in Palos Verdes are not posted online yet, here are a few pictures from the event, generously supplied by the Jean Rasenberger Foundation.

Now it's true, this picture could be a fake. We could have pinned a race number on me and had me ride on a ridge above the Pacific Ocean, trying to look like I'm in a life-or-death struggle for a mid-pack finish.

And this next picture could be a fake, too. We could have placed a couple of hay bales in front of a concrete bench, strung up some course tape, paid a guy to ride in front of me, and convinced a few passersby to observe this:

This one, too. The Great Pumpkin on a screaming run through the Start/Finish line! Hell, there are enough special-effects folks here in LA that we could have manufactured this shot (side note: see that guy on the run-up over my shoulder? I paid him to be half a lap behind me!).

And check out these guys I'm jawing with after the faux race, telling them, "You see this? I forgot to remove my rear bottle cage and I bent it all to shit on the remount after the creek crossing!" Yeah, I paid em Union Scale.

This pic, though - all kidding aside - is for sure a fake, taken during warmups, when I was trying to pretend I'm a seasoned cross racer who practices the dismount at speed a few times, just to get handle on what it might be like during the actual race.

Ah, the joy! Truly, Champ, if you're out there and listening, it was certainly fun to come out of retirement and to wear the Heckawee colors on a cross course once again. That's no bullshit.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

777 = 8

Just to keep my Heckawee buddy The Champ in disbelief mode, I'm not going to post any pictures from today's thrilling cyclocross race in Palos Verdes, where I wore the race number 777 (Lucky 777, the announcer said) and ended up coming in 8th place, not last place. Actually, I can't post any pictures today because I don't have the cord handy that connects my camera to my computer. Or something.

Maybe Tuesday I'll get around to it. Tomorrow, it's cartoon time again on account my pointless blogger dream is to alternate media from post to post (and it's much more fun making stupid cartoons than writing blogs). And yeah, I know nobody is reading, in case you think I'm deluded on these matters.

Anyway, it's never worth summarizing one's experience in any kind of race - well, I'll retract that a little bit: If you feel some sort of therapeutic need to tell the tale of your event experience (you did a triathlon for the first time; you completed your first century ride on your bicycle; you finished the Race Across America; et cetera), then by all means you should tell the tale. But if you race a lot, if being a racer is your identity - well, I'll retract that a little bit more: If you really have to tell people about your racing experience, sit your friends down, sit your family down, and go through the entire race, pedal stroke by pedal stroke, and see if they like it any better than when your uncle Butch made everybody sit in his living room and watch slides of his ice-fishing tour of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In other words, to tell a great race story is really to not tell the story at all. Not that I can tell a great race story. Today's race? I hadn't raced cyclocross for two full years, and goddammit, I showed up at the starting line and and raced as hard as I could and didn't finish last. And it was fucking awesome!

Next story?

I'll be back racing on December 20 in Woodland Hills. Between now and then, I need to train hard and work hard at my desk and ease up on the plankton.....

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Luck of the Heckawee

My Heckawee friends in southern Illinois will be traveling to Chicago this weekend to race in the Illinois State Cyclocross Championships, for which I tried to find a suitable link and couldn't, but trust me, the Heckawee are going there and they'll be racing on Sunday. I'm guessing they will be freezing their petunias off, too.

Daily Details for
Chicago, IL
[ English | Metric ]

Weather for your life


Mostly Cloudy


Wind:From SSE at 10 mph
Max. Humidity:72%
UV Index:1 Low
Sunrise:7:04 AM CT
Avg. High:40°F
Record High:65°F (1951)

Few Snow Showers
Overnight Low


Wind:From SSE at 5 mph
Max. Humidity:71%
Sunset:4:19 PM CT
Avg. Low:27°F
Record Low:3°F (1977)

Last Updated Thursday, Dec 3, 5:36 PM Central Standard Time

Could be colder, I guess. In any case, I wish the Heckawee all the best of luck.

And in their honor, I'm going to come out of cyclocross retirement and race on Sunday, too, at the Urban Cyclocross in Palos Verdes. I'll be honest: I'm not ready and I'm a-gonna get my butt kicked pretty good - it's been exactly two years since I've been in a cross race - but hey, the weather will be much better in PV than in Chicago.

Daily Details for
Palos Verdes Estates, CA
[ English | Metric ]

Weather for your life


Partly Cloudy


Wind:From SSW at 7 mph
Max. Humidity:66%
UV Index:3 Moderate
Sunrise:6:45 AM PT
Avg. High:68°F
Record High:87°F (1979)

Mostly Cloudy
Overnight Low


Wind:From SSW at 3 mph
Max. Humidity:79%
Sunset:4:45 PM PT
Avg. Low:47°F
Record Low:28°F (1978)

Last Updated Thursday, Dec 3, 5:07 PM Pacific Standard Time

I guess I'll post nifty pictures of me racing at some point because my buddy The Champ over at Heckawee will require some sort of verification that I'm not fabricating my entry in the race. In The Champ's previous life, he was definitely a detective.

Truth told, I miss the Heckawee scene in southern Illinois a whole lot, and since I left there and moved to California - what is it now? almost a year and half ago? - I haven't been too enthusiastic about riding bikes, mostly because the fun part about riding bikes in southern Illinois for me was not really the riding but enjoying the people who rode, if that makes sense. But hey, I'm never going back there - except maybe to visit at some point - and there's no reason to stay off the bike for the rest of my life just because cycling circumstances aren't as idyllic in Los Angeles as they are in Carbondale, Illinois. Besides, you would not believe the incredible quantity of nasty, non-cycling, interpersonal, small-pond bullshit in Carbondale, which is maybe why the Heckawee are on their bikes all the time, out in the remote back country, because there is no bullshit in the countryside - besides real, actually-from-the-bull bullshit, which is of course the kind of bullshit nobody minds. Oh well. I've got a couple friends out here interested in riding and maybe racing the full Southern California cross season next year. We're going to apply to the Carbondale Heckawee Council and see if we can start an official West Coast branch of the team.

Meanwhile, I need to be alone for a while. My chain needs lube.