The Slide . . . if you will

My wife and I have always loved the older television shows, all the way back to the 1950s. The grainy, black and white television shows that cause my children to cringe or take a deep breath. The innocence of the characters, placed in a suburbia family setting, are typical and a honesty a breath of fresh air. Antenna TV airs most of the good ones, and they are fun to watch. The plots are sometimes very predictable, but the characters are cleanly funny and are known world-wide. Ask someone in Beijing, China if they have ever heard of Lucille Ball or Andy Griffith. One could almost bet you’ll get a “yes.” How many of the old quotes do you know?”Nip it, Andy!”  . . . “Gee, Wally.” . . . “Wilbur, come in the room.” . . . “Why can’t I be in your show, Ricky!?”

So the other day, I had an idea (of course, that can light the muse candle). What if those shows were filmed today? What would the topics be? What would be considered politically incorrect? This idea inspired me to come up with a few episode titles:

Andy Griffith Show

“Barney and Thelma Lou Visit Family Planning Counselor”

“To Catch a Sexual Predator: Mayberry”

Father Knows Best

“Betty’s Fight for Gay Marriage”

“Bud Slings Some Bud at School”

Hazel

“Hazel’s Secrets”

“Dorothy Baxter and the Neighbor”

Mr. Ed

“PETA saves Ed”

“Ed exploited by Owner”

I love Lucy

“Lucy and Ethel drink the Night Away”

“Ricky faces Deportation”

Leave it Beaver

“The Beaver gets a Trim”‘

“Who slept with Wally?”

I don’t know why television became engrossed in who could go the furthest. Now, we have naked people running around in the jungle. We have trashy “reality” televisions shows. Talk shows displaying who is the real father of a child and someone hitting someone with a chair. I mean, for the love of Pete, ESPN can’t even stay away from covering every breath of the first openly homosexual football player . . . just because the man is homosexual . . . “not that there’s anything wrong with that” to quote a famous Seinfeld line. If he’s unbelievably good at football, cover him. If he’s not, the View will find room for him.

Am I alone?

First Time for Everything

When he jumped out of the saddle to make a break on the hill, Mike’s cleat broke away from the pedal. I was directly behind him in the slipstream and had jumped out to go with Mike. Then it happened. 

Rolling down a good descent, the line was coming directly into the largest climb of the day. When Mike’s cleat broke, it sent his crotch landing on the top tube and his upper torso slamming into the handlebars. The quickness of it all caused me to do nothing more than lockup. I froze and stayed straight. The pace line was directly to my right and oncoming traffic to my left, all at around 30ish miles an hour. My options were extremely limited, and I had to make a choice in an instant. The abruptness of Mike hitting his bars made the front wheel kick hard left, and the bike slam into the pavement, his body spinning on the asphalt. In my locked up state, by the time (all within milliseconds) I got to his legs, his lower half had rotated out of my path. I shot by him, as his bike bounced somehow into the air and cartwheeled beside me. It never made contact with me. 

The line sat up and everyone checked on Mike. I turned around and went back to the crowd. Two riders waited on each end of the accident for traffic reasons. Mike was missing a good bit of skin and jersey but bounced up quickly, more out of embarrassment than anything and said he’d be okay. I joked that I would need to change my bibs. With the chain put back on and the handlebars readjusted, Mike wrapped his most injured part with a bandana and mounted up. We tucked him into the pace line, excusing him from any pulls, and carried on with the ride. 

It is amazing how quickly things can happen. I was blessed not to be involved. Everyone said that I did all I could do, but in all actually, like I said, I froze. All I could think of was how not to harm my bike . . . bones can heal, bikes cannot.

Living in the South

Unbelievable Heat

Unbelievable Heat

Living in the southern part of the United States is special in many ways. We talk a bit different, even from state to state. We have towns with names like Sweetwater, Slocumb, Opp, Dogtown, Slapout and many others. We kill and eat just about everything that walks and crawls, usually fried in grease or grilled with Kingsford. Guns in our culture are as normal as breathing. It’s also hard to find someone in the South who will not help you in time of need. Family is a bond that could cost you, if you harm a member, even if we don’t particularly like that person in the family; and this brings me to a point, only a family member can talk about another family member. We are set in our ways. We don’t take to outsiders, even from state to state, getting into “our” business. Most of us go to church every Sunday (and Wednesday night). We pray at high school football games, and nobody files a lawsuit. While on the subject of football, it is life in the deep South. It is not uncommon for most cities to appear as ghost towns on a Saturday afternoon, during the season. Friends and neighbors come together under unified alliances to scream their team to victory through a television set. We love hard, play hard, and work hard. And we can take the heat . . the persistent Southern sun.

The heat in the South is something of legend. Scorched earth begs for a few drops of water and the sun is relentless. The heat is one thing, but it is the humidity that sets it above anything else. Walking out work this past Monday, I glanced at my phone to check the weather (a habitual thing with a cyclist) and noticed the humidity was 62%. Now, when temperatures are reaching 97 degrees (36 c for my friends in the old country), it is already oppressive. Throw in the heavy humidity, and it becomes its own entity: a stalking monster that consumes human energy, kills grass, withers tree leaves, stunts the growth of crops, and thrusts man and beast toward any kind of shade. Cycling in the South is not for the weak at heart. Fluids cannot be consumed fast enough, and maintaining hydration is a skill that is needed as much as fast-twitch muscles. Sweat pours . . . (let me be clear) pours from the rider, making the slipstream quite an experience. Drink every 5 minutes and eat every 20 has always been my rule of thumb, but in heavy heat I half that time. Not only is the body working hard to propel the rider forward, but it also working extremely hard to regulate heat. In my experience, I have had some close calls: sweat suddenly stops, cramping, dizziness, and the huge warning sign of chills. If you ride below the Mason/Dixon Line, it will happen.  Yes, we have a longer riding season (generally from March to October), but the middle of it can be brutal.

Today, I had to stop at the half-way point on my ride to snap a picture when I noticed the temperature. Many find it hard to believe. I enjoy where I live, and maybe one day I can ride in other places and experience other kinds of weather as I pedal. Cycling is a part of who I am, so I’ll keep checking my phone and continue to ignore most of the predictions. Because when it comes down to it, I’m going to ride.

 

The Forgotten Thousands in a Single Box

Tom Reed was short in temper and stature. His bulldog was named Cat, or maybe his cat was named Bulldog. Either way, the animal was missing. Tom always rolled the bottom of his jeans and, winter or summer, pushed his long sleeve shirts to the elbow. Most people who met Tom Reed enjoyed his company, until he could longer stand to have company. Opposed to tattooed women and totally against any form of alcohol consumption, Tom rarely found companionship in his surrounding neighborhood. His job at Domino’s Pizza was all he could find at the moment, but caused a strain on Tom’s already exhausted 1989 Honda Accord. He was the best delivery man and oddly received complements by telephone to a store manager who did not care. But alas, nothing mattered anymore. Tom Reed was dead.

The windows and doors were opened to his pay-weekly apartment to allow the semi-fresh air to expunge the odor caused by Tom’s decaying body. The levity to the man’s face-down body was unsightly and caused his bald head to appear as a rotting apple that turned bad from the bottom upward. The aroma that swirled in the autumn breeze objected to the cleanliness of the apartment, but the evidence was still there: remotes to the television and DVD player were aligned just right on the right arm of the recliner, one brown fedora waited on a nail beside the door with Nikes directly underneath (lace ends inside the open mouth of each shoe), kitchen sink empty and wiped, dishes in the drying rack were ordered biggest to smallest and cups on the end, the only bedroom contained a perfectly made bed. The woman who gave birth to Tom and adamantly believed that she was the current wife of Abraham Lincoln was notified. She only looked at the orderly of the home and demanded that baked chips be placed back into the machine down the hall from her room or the President would hear of it.

Jan Thomas met Tom while he was in the Army, stationed in Germany–Kaiserslautern to be exact. Now, waiting in the parking lot of the apartment complex and quickly smoking a Virginia Slim, she smiled. Tom Reed would want her to be exact and not smoke. To be the biggest ass, at times, he was the most loyal friend anyone could have. She and Tom had tried to be more than friends, but it never worked out. Both of them agreed that it felt like dating a sibling. So Jan did the next best thing: she married Tom’s friend and left Germany for good. Within three years, Jackson left her and their son. Tom was furious and did what Tom does: he stepped up and filled a role. It was always that way. When his father left him and his mother when he was ten, he stepped up and made sure the house was locked up at night and watched the news before bed. When his mother worked two jobs to pull things along, he stepped up and dropped out high school to get work. When his platoon sergeant was shot in the head in Afghanistan, he stepped up and lead a counter assault on a mountain ridge just outside of Mahmud Raqi. Tom Reed was quite a guy.

With the amount of recent deaths in the city, the detective assigned to the case knew that not very much time would be spent on Tom Reed. He glanced around the apartment twice and noted on his iPad that robbery probably wasn’t the reason. No signs of the front door being forced open. No signs of a struggle, just a dead, 42 year-old white male lying face down on his living room floor. Tom’s neck was elongated, with a weird bend in it. Broken neck? Noted. A tipped kitchen chair laid on its back toward the dead man’s feet. On the kitchen table rested a can of Endust and what appeared to be a sock used for cleaning. A single blade of the ceiling fan above the little kitchen table was broken where it attached to mount and hung oddly like an arm reaching out for Tom. Fall? Pushed? Noted. The detective glanced once more, through the open door, to the only person who seemed to know the little man: a strange woman in the parking lot with a heavy German accent. The small Motorola on the detective’s hip bubbled with bored voices of dispatchers, and soon one of them told him to return to the station for a scheduled interview. He nodded to the coroner and walked out of the small apartment. 

Tom’s grave blended with all of the other white crosses across the grounds of the cemetery. Jan found a service that provided military veterans a proper burial and a place to rest without charge. With 147 national cemeteries, Arlington was the closest. Jan didn’t know if Tom’s being awarded a Silver Star with a “V” device helped his being laid to rest in the national cemetery, but she was sure that it didn’t hurt. It was probably more about location in relation to travel distance than anything. The scene of his final resting place was tidy and quiet, birds chirping here and there over perfect rows of crosses and the Stars of David. She hoped Tom liked it. He would. She was sure of it. All of his belongings fit into seven cardboard boxes, and Jan signed for them when Tom’s mother refused listen to another person talk about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The clothes, dishes, and furniture would go to Goodwill. The Honda, television, and DVD player would be sold to help his mother. His personal things would eventually narrow down to a single box: a well-used rabbit foot key chain, three pictures of people Jan didn’t recognize, a small Springhill 5K trophy for participation, a picture of his mother some twenty years back, a manila envelope stuffed with various papers, sergeant stripes for a Class-A uniform, and a tiny silver star, encircled by a golden laurel wreath and backed by a larger gold star, all attached to a red, white, and blue ribbon with an inscription on the back that reads “For Gallantry in Action.” For safe keeping, the single cardboard box would live out the rest of Jan’s days in her back bedroom closet.

Fear is Good

Sharks are incredible creatures. Constantly moving, sharks are silent and fast. They blend with the environment, almost invisible until it is too late. When another creature is in their area of operation, it must be considered prey. Trying to be faster is pointless. Trying to wrestle or fight is useless. Praying not to be seen is the only answer. I personally don’t fear them (okay, I do) . . . mainly because I am never more than mid-thigh deep in salt water. Now, sharks are being discovered in brine and fresh waters in inlets and rivers in the United States. They are adaptable. Containing sharks to a certain area is futile. Sharks average 40-45 teeth, sometimes 7 rows deep and can hear prey up to 3,000 feet away. They are built for destruction. Certain sharks can detect one drop of blood in 25 gallons of water from over a mile away! Fear is a weapon. Fear is good.

This brings me to a special kind of shark: The Shark of the Straight. Vincenzo Nibali dominates his area of operation. No one’s nickname could suit him better. He blends. He’s silent. He’s fast. And riders fear him. Vincenzo Nibali is adaptable. Mountains? Sure. Flats? Of course. Storming? It’s fine. Sunny and hot? No problem. Stoic and calm, Nibali rode this year’s Tour de France with the attitude and power of a champion. He has earned a great deal of respect. It does not matter that the top contenders fell by the wayside. It only affirms the champion for surviving and smelling blood in the water from a long way off.

I am aware that this article will pale in comparison to the hundreds written about Nibali in recent days, but I will only write when I am driven to do so. It is like getting something out of my system. Watching Vincenzo Nibali for the past three weeks was watching a moving master piece. As I thought about the many shark documentaries that air on television, these powerful fish never seem alarmed. They just glide through the water and watch for weaknesses in other fish. Nibali did just that. His presence at the Tour became more and more a dominating shadow. In an ocean of colorful jerseys, he blended and popped out only to attack and recede back into the ocean again. He could be felt, even when he wasn’t seen. The road up to the Hautacam ski area near Argelès-Gazost was the area where the Shark made his presence of intimidation ripple through the waters of the peloton as the champion of the Tour. Race wasn’t over? Yes . . . yes, it was. Congratulations to the Shark of the Straight. Fear is a weapon. Fear is good.

Do I Really Need to Say It?


Anyone who has not been under a rock knows who the leader of the Tour de France is. Today Nibali stupefied any naysayers. The stoic face on a crushing HC climb displayed a champion image. No, I know that the race isn’t over, but this was a beautiful performance by the maillot jaune. I am sure that if you are reading this blog you know what’s coming next. Yes, I would like to say again how much of an idiot Sky boss David Brailsford is.
I called it. I argued with others on my group rides, after they continued to say that Richie Porte was in second and hasn’t been able to show what is under the hood yet. Today the hood was up. Porte exploded. I am not anti-Porte. I am anti-pathedic leadership. For FAILSford to put Sky’s future on Richie Porte was ridiculous. Today, Bob Roll finally blasted the decision not to bring Bradley Wiggins. I’ve looked on the Internet to see what the British papers were saying about this, but I can’t find much. After today’s stage, the papers might not be as silent. Oh, I did find an article where Sir David is bashing a former rider for Sky . . . if he points the finger at other people then no one will look at him. Right?