Friday, December 5, 2014

If You Have Ghosts....

"And sometimes I flap my arms like a hummingbird.
Just to remind myself I'll never fly.
And sometimes I burn my arms with cigarettes..
Just to pretend I won't scream when I die."
                                         -The Handsome Family.

Spoiler alert: The kid grows up and tries to kill himself.

Like most of you, outside of time spent cursing everything and everyone involved with a holiday that seems to become increasingly more complicated and vexing each year...
...I spent at least a fraction of time reflecting on exactly what it was that I was thankful for.
And while there are many many things that I am truly thankful for... family, friends, lovers, kiddos... what honestly kept occurring to me is that at this moment in time I am most sincerely (and ironically (and unironically)) thankful for being a failure. The irony of this, of course, being that I am perpetually locked in PSYWAR with the not just the concept of "failing" but with the reality of it. Ignoring the larger war for a moment, in this one case feelings of failure win a battle, and I embrace it as a win for my side....
Because being a failure at killing yourself...well, it's kind of a-ok.

So....Do you remember your first ghost? Your first real ghost. Not some story about the Gray Man or Rene Rondolier that kept you up at night. Not the imaginary, giant, one-eyed frog who was always staring at your back when you lay in bed at night... (the... what?) Not the disembodied pair of pants that was standing on the other side of the closet door waiting for you to get up to pee (...pants?...)
Oh come on... you know you had your own equally bizarre bogie...the one that made you jump as far off your bed as possible to avoid whatever clasping hand you knew was under there.

Crap. I'm sooo going to lose my shit next time I have to go into the basement. 

I'm not talking about shadows on the wall... (maybe I am?)
I'm talking about that first time you really met someone who didn't exist...who shouldn't exist.
And yet... there they were.
I do.
He came to my house...out of the blue. A faraway friend knocking on my door. He was from SanFran, and while it seemed bizarre that he should suddenly be on the other side of the country, standing on my front steps, I didn't think much of it. Stranger things had happened in my life.
He wouldn't come in the house, so instead we hung out in my front yard, talking about all of the things that budding teenagers talk about... angst and bands and girls and angst.
Sitting in the grass, absentmindedly pulling clovers as we talked, he suddenly looked up and said, "Hey. You want to catch a train with me?"
I didn't know what he meant... but catching a train sounded... right, somehow.
So we got up and ran for the train... at which point the reality sloughed off to reveal a landscape that was no longer my home... because there were no tracks near my house... no trains. Nonetheless, there they were. And it all made sense. And the place resonated with familiarity.
Trampling dandelion and clover, we chased the train.
Giules jumped on without missing a beat.
I faltered. Stumbled.
And it seemed like as fast as I ran, I still couldn't catch up.
I looked up to see the train pulling away from me. And instead of jumping off, or motioning me to come on... Giules just waved good bye.
I woke up... wondering why he was in my dream. And why it had all felt so... weird... so real. One of those dreams that sticks to you like web and follows you into the waking world.

The thing is... Giuliano Bourbon died that day.

I didn't know it at the time. Wouldn't know it for weeks to come, in fact, when I arrived back at school and some worthless fat fuck of a sociopathic kid (they were all sociopaths, truth be told) got in my face and excitedly asked if I'd heard about Giuliano.

I typed Giuliano's name into the google a moment ago to see if I could find an obit... or an old picture... or even a trace...
...and instead I found THIS.


Giuliano is the smiling imp on the right.

Read it.
It made laugh out loud, tear up, and break out in chills all at the same time.
Fuck, man... that kid. A fucking legend.
He'd talked about the Scabs, and while I'd kind of believed him.... I still thought that he was making a bunch of it up... weaving the same bullshit that every kid does. Even the stories I'd heard about how he died seemed somehow larger than life... no pun intended.
Shows how much I knew.

Giules was my first ghost.
I don't know why he came to see me that night. Or how to correlate it with my worldview that doesn't believe in that kind of ghost story. But there it is.

These days, I see ghosts everywhere. Not in a "sixth sense" kind of way, mind you. At least I don't think so. Fuck, I hope not. It's just in a... way.
My ghosts are shades... shadows of all the other directions we go. Other paths we take. Other places we end up. Other people we are. And for the first time, I guess I'll admit that when I zone out... those times that you talk to me and you can tell that I'm just not there... chances are I'm watching the ghosts.
(Or thinking about Claire Danes. It's one of those.)


A number of years ago, I saw a movie called The Hanging Garden. It's not a happy movie, and in that way, I can't recommend it. I doubt it would ever be branded as a "ghost story." But to me, that's exactly what it was. And even if it's not a great movie... it stuck with me. Which I guess makes it great, in it's own ways. Either way...it affected me powerfully.
Because sometimes... I think I'm the ghost.
I'm that splinter of alternate universe branching out from the reality where a car didn't swerve to avoid the man who walked in front of it...a reality where a cut was deeper and the bleeding didn't stop.
I see the ghost of me that never kissed a girl... never breathed her in.... never spun her in circles.
I see the ghost that did... and is laying next to her right now....away from here....on a beach...in a bathtub. (...what?)
When I hold my son's hand crossing the street, walking next to us I see his ghost, a grown man holding his own son's hand.
I see the happy ghosts of unhappy people. And ghosts paralyzed by anxiety, meekly falling in line behind their swaggering counterparts.
There's a ghost of me that didn't try to die one night.
And there's a ghost that did. And succeeded. (He's a double ghost. #amiright?)
And there's a ghost of Giules that didn't go elevator surfing that day, and is currently wreaking creative havok on the Bay Area and world.

I see them everyday. And once you start seeing them... you kind of can't stop. At least I can't. And most times I don't care. It's just the way my mind works... a particle collision of a million splintering possibilities and paths radiating from one single atom of a thought.

It's amazing I can function at all.

This summer, after years of misses, I finally got to see the Handsome Family play live. As I was ordering drinks at the bar, one half of the family proper and the vocal conduit for his wife Renny's amazing pictures, Brett Sparks, pulled up next to me and ordered a beer. As the first act finished up, we talked for a long while. I told him that the Handsome Family had gotten me through some very hard times in my life. He laughed and said that he hears that a lot... and that he wonders what it is about their music that does that. And that he doesn't trust "any of these fuckers that got into us through True Detective." (FYI, fuckers.) Granted.. it's a good song, but it's atmospheric nonsense. And that's not why I like the Handsome Family. I like them because they resonate, and because Renny and Brett can tell a story in one verse.
One of the most powerful, for me, is a song titled.. you'll never guess... "My Ghost."
Because I know a thing or two about that ghost. He might not drive around with a bag of dead fish (not literally, at least) or clog up the toilet with bottles of pills (once... maybe)... but he's always there, banging on my own roof. And he's wreaked a fair amount of havok in my life... and other's. Kissed people he shouldn't. Punched out windows. Kicked in doors. Stepped in front of traffic. Cut the fuck out of himself.
And unlike the other ghosts, who slide past on their own trajectories... lost in the gravity of their own suns... this ghost is always there, staring out at me out from every reflective surface, whether I'm looking in it or not.
 You can't reason with him... so you either pretend you don't see him or get straight to the fisticuffs.
And I mean... Yeah... I look pretty rough these days. But as they say... you should see the other guy.

Remember when you were a kid and you'd look in the mirror and wonder if THAT was the reality... and you were just the reflection?
Or when you'd hold another mirror up and try to see as far into infinity as possible?
I don't know if I ever grew out of that.
I mean, that's what this stupid blog is, right? A cracked mirror of it's own?

Maybe it's a little like this. Maybe.

What I'm really trying to get at is that... I'm thankful for ghosts. For constantly reminding me of what could have been... and what could still be.
High-five them. Or throat-punch them. But try and get some learning... because they've got something to tell you.

Um... bikes. And riding them. (Boom. It's officially still a cycling blog.)






Friday, October 31, 2014

SSCXWCFML

Things were actually going pretty well. Yeah... I was rolling out of town hours later than I wanted to. And yeah... my chest was heavy with the weight of all the things I needed to do and all those places my brain tends to go. But I mean... what else is new?
At least I was on the road... and even if I rolled into Louisville late that night, I still had a place to park and pass out. And I'd have tons of time to mess about and see some folks I wanted to before "getting to it," as they say. (They say that, right? Hmm. I'm pretty sure that somebody says that. Somewhere.)
And...goddamn, this was a beautiful drive.  In fact, for the past two hours I'd been jizzing in my pants over how goddamned overwhelmingly beautiful everything was. Ok, yeah... mayyybe I was a little turned up emotionally...A metric fuckton of stress, raw feelings, mountains, autumn leaves and the joie de vivre of getting the fuck out of the 'Boro culminating in a bit of teary euphoria.
What?
Look....just because you're an unfeeling sociopath, and the pain and beauty and absurdity of this life doesn't make you occasionally just break down crying for no goddamned reason... be it in the middle of a crowded store, or halfway up a mountain on your bike, or alone in a bathtub with a bottle of wine, or mid-coitus, or driving to Kentucky...Don't judge me. (Dick)

I'm not going to say that my sky came crashing down when the van wouldn't start after refueling somewhere in West Virgina...But some spacejunk definitely fell on my head and knocked my ass out for a little while.

It's something to do with the starter. The Bostig conversion on the van shunts a good bit of heat right onto that fucker, and if it's a bit clapped out anyway, sometimes it needs some (fucking) time to cool off before it can (fucking) start. In my case, this has taken anywhere from an hour to a few days. I was hoping this was the hour scenario... but four hours later... the sun was going down and I was still at Sheetz. Pissy calls to my mechanic, coupled with wiggled wires, hammers to starters, pleas, curses and threats having failed to make the van magically start, I climbed in, pulled the curtains and started drinking.


A little pep talk by my brother (for the second weekend in a row) and I rallied. Fuck it... I was going to make something of this bullshit... when and if I managed to get the van back on the road, I was damn sure still hauling my ass to Kentucky for the weekend.
A few calls later, and I had a new starter waiting for me in a nearby town. I considered getting towed there that night, but I'd been told by the auto-shop that sleeping in the van in said town was probably ill advised, and that the hotel selection left much to be desired. (The word "unsafe" being bandied about)...so I opted for the Sheetz parking lot in Princeton. I'd get towed first thing in the morning.
After two NODA Brewing Hop Drop and Rolls, I walked 50 ft to the prestigious "Club Lounge," (speaking of "unsafe") ready to pull a George Washington Hayduke: swagger in.. size up the clientelle...brazenly announce that "coal is for assholes"... and see where things went from there. Sadly, (or luckily) it was dead, and forgetting entirely that there was a place up the street called "Southern X-posure" (the first of many regrets over the weekend) I made my way to Chili's for dinner (the second of many regrets over the weekend.) Turns out that's where "the party" was. Who knew? (The denizens of Princeton, WV, that's who.) It was packed.
I marveled at the mix of people crowding the bar and ordered a beer. I was served two. "Happy hour," the waitress smiled at me. Um...thanks. That works. A few beers (times two) later, and I made my way back to the van. It didn't take long to hit the wall... too much light and noise and bad gas-station music finally forcing me to flee on bike to the Hampton Inn up the street.
I woke up and made my way back to the van to call the tow truck.

As I was telling the dispatcher my location, I randomly decided to turn the key. She rumbled to life.
You. Are. Fucking. Shitting. Me!



So... I drove down to Bluefield, WV to get a new starter installed... figuring better safe than sorry. As they worked on it, I rode my bike all over town, bizarrely entranced by how picturesque it all was and completely confounded by the stark contrast of affluence and poverty. Climbing a neighborhood road that snaked up a mountain, gigantic houses and groomed yards gave way to trailers and squalor... (and a long train of dogs trotting behind me for miles)...
It fanned the flame of curiosity that I'd had about West Virginia since college...having fallen in love my freshmen year with a beautiful, punky Katie Haddox, who hailed from Charleston. Sadly, Katie and I were star-crossed lovers... kept apart by the tragic and vexing circumstance of her total lack of interest in me. Sigh... This life.
That... and the INBRED are from WV.


New starter installed. And I rolled out mid-morning. Five and a half hours to go.

I pulled into Louisville at 4:39pm, a mere three and a half hours later than my posted qualifier ride. (Because you're supposed to "qualify" in order to race the main event. Pfffft. As far as I was concerned, I'd long since qualified...as I'm totally "bonafide?") Luckily, I gave absolutely zero fucks at that point, happy as I was to have simply made it to KY. I'd just hop in with the last group. Or not.
I had just enough time to grab a beer, get fondled by Sally Fornes, and throw a leg over the bike before rolling out with friends for the final ride of the day. Yeah... we probably had the best group.

Thanks, Sally.





Dave Pryor is from the city of brotherly love, remember? 


Matt Falwell.... in a van down by the river. I'm with you, buddy.

We rode around the city, drinking and whooping it up and doing all sorts of random, fun feats before heading back to Against the Grain for one more beer...Then on to Molly Malone's for the official opening party.
Where I saw...

Sad Butt Drew and Little Lady Rachel.

And a bunch of people...

And more people (Hodoola!, right Cush?)


And more people.


Hey.... Does anyone know if Corey the Courier is still MIA?

Ashley's life is crazy. Srsly. Ask him about it sometime.

Endless Shanna.

'Manda

Stik

Mo Bruno Roy, Craig Etheridge, some dick, and Matt "Jacobs Ladder" Roy.

Mustache off between Adam and Drew.

Dave Pokela! From the 'Boro?! 



Dirty Randy.


Topher

Pryor.
My god... it's full of stars.


As we departed, I was invited to just crash at the Hodala house instead of some random driveway. Why not? 
You know... I really like the Hodala fuckers. It's always rowdy and loving and inappropriate... and fun as hell... like a night with the Spits. And that's a-ok.
I woke up next to Craig on a deflated air mattress, my shoulder and hips digging into the hard wood floor. We roused Ashley, who made a baller breakfast....


"Ashley!... Bacon!!!!"

"Bacon!... Ashley.... "Bacon!!!"

"Don't be a hipster and take pictures of your food, Watts."

...and Craig and I pulled on our bikecycling clothes to go meet Stik, Charlie and others from the PA contingent for a jaunt around the city. Some more breakfast....coffee, beer and pretty tattooed servers at the Silver Dollar... and we headed out....
... on what Craig dubbed the "best ride of the year."
That's a lofty statement, I know. And I was hesitant to concur, my head still swimming with my time in Utah during Saddledrive, and with that place my head kept going as I turned the pedals up those mountains. But... I think he might be right. 
And the thing is... my head was very much still going to that same place here in KY... over a thousand miles away. 
It's a problem. And part of the overarching problem is that it's super problematic when you really kind of like a problem? 
Like really. 
Right?

"Yeah, Watts.. that is quite a problem. What are you going to do?"

Grindcore and Marcy

Because most of us bring various cured meats with us on rides. And if we don't, we should.







We rode back to the Hodala house, came up with a rough plan for the night and headed over to El Mundo for some awesome food and margaritas.

This is less a picture of margaritas and more a picture of Craig's watch and knuckles. Just so you know.
We headed home, put on our costumes and rode to Eva Bandman park. Craig as a pumpkin... me in a suit that I snagged from my father back in highschool. It's pretty remarkable. We arrived in time to see the EVERYONE'S A WINNER race. Oh man... the course looked AMAZEBALLS! Just seeing it, I felt a lightness in my chest... so fucking pleased to be exactly where I was. We grabbed beers, walked around, checked out the course and highfived all of the rad people. All of them. 
This is where things get problematic...
... because at some point I may or may not have ingested all of a baked good that may or may not have turned out to be quite potent. 
Which brings me to the topic of self-control. 
There is, admittedly, a point at which I have very little.
And...maybe I struggle a little to understand this Jekyll/Hyde aspect of my personality. Much of it is the result of my past life...which was a case study of control.. something I bucked against in a myriad of dramatic and self-destructive ways. And much of it is a reflection of my current life and single fatherhood. When my son is with me, I feel... complete. Sure, there are the struggles of parenthood, but we have a very easy relationship. And he's a ridiculously sweet and good natured kid. 
But when he's not with me... there's some pretty big void. And to stay sane (ok...sane-ish)... I kind of have to switch a part of my brain off. And try to fill the void in other ways. Drunken nihilism being the current outlet. (Uhhh....) And no... regardless of what those fuckers who insist on the continual and repugnant violation of the word "truth" tell you, all of the imaginary friend you can invent will never fill that void. 
Only massive quantities of prescription drugs, Target, Netflix, sportsball and internet porn will. 
(I swear, no one even knows when I'm joking and when I'm not anymore, do they?)
And if they don't, you can always try getting outside... on a bike... in a costume... with flames.
Essentially, only you can fill that void.
(oh...And Higgs bosons. But those very same fuckers even try to violate that particle by latching on to its other very misbegotten name. Essentially... those wanks will violate anything and everything they can...all in some twisted guise of self-control.) 
And no... I'm not saying that my lack of self-control fills the void either. I'm just saying that I take my moments where I can. Resting my head against this rock I'm pushing up the hill... the small pleasure of it's cool, textured surface against my cheek somehow making it all bearable. I don't know...maybe I've read too much Sartre and Camus. 


So has this guy...

And this guy...

And this guy...

And this... gal.

And this....g. g.. guh... g...g...guh...eye?

"Kids...Don't do...stuff."

She actually does. 

Here's a small glimpse at how good the weekend was, via Dirtwire. (Look for me jumping the fire at 1:53, hopping the barrier with a little more height than necessary to avoid my polyester suit bursting into flame)
Right when the sun went down, it was our turn. Shoes off and we screamed down a slip and slide to our bikes, Lemans style. Then all hell broke loose. At one point, cutting off more than half of the course... I was totally leading the race. And as rules don't apply... I had a momentary "holy shit!" moment. Before I crashed in a turn right before the bourbon shortcut. Then I just... whatever.
One of my favorite moments during the entire night was watching Mo Bruno Roy scream into the turn, swig down her ticket to the substantial bourbon short-cut, and then run the other way and take the long cut. Because she gave zero fucks about some shortcut... all she knew was "bourbon."
I don't know how many beers I'd had at that point, but it was many... all of them tall.. and none of them shitty (thank singlespeed-hating-god!). And there was a good bit more consumed during the race, in addition to whatever bourbon and moonshine appeared in a cup in my face each lap. 

And this... is where the problem begins in earnest, as at some point during that final lap, the baked good I had ingested earlier hit my blood stream...hard...
... and began a 3 hour blackout period of which I can recall nothing. I have no memory at all of leaving the race and making it to the party. None. 
There are fragments... a phone call wherein all the nonsense I could possibly summon came streaming out of my mouth and into the other persons worried ear. Lying against a cement wall in a parking lot, trying to get my bearings. 
But outside of that... 
What finally rallied me was dancing. I vaguely remember walking onto the dance floor and joining the fray. And I distinctly remember coming-to. Another.."holy shit!" moment where I was back in control. I looked around, took stock and tried to figure out how I'd gotten here and what had transpired before that. 
Where was my bag? My jacket? My bike? My stuff?

So...You know who is one of the most solid of all the solid-fucking-dudes? 
Craig T. Fucking Etheridge. 
I can't even tell you how much that guy rules as a human being. 
By this point I was back in the game. I found my bag in a corner but didn't see my jacket, and having no memory of grabbing ANY of my things, I was sure that I left it at the race. I knew where it was though, having thrown it next to a tree during one of the last laps. 
So Craig rode with my sorry, dumb, confounded ass back to the race venue, but we were unable to locate it. I was bummed, but hopeful that I'd get it back. We went back to the party, which was shutting down, and we hopped on our bikes and rolled to ANOTHER dance party, this one being DJ'd by former 'Boro-an, Sara Soltau. If our dance-party had been a shitshow of drunk cyclists, this one was a meatmarket for the hipster millenial illuminati of Louisville. I felt a bit out of place in my 70's disco suit amid all the pomade and buddy holly glasses... but the beer was good and the dancing was fun. Sara danced with me for a bit, but had to do her thing.. and as it was very, very  late... Craig and I rolled home. 

The next morning, as I was lamenting the loss of my jacket and wondering who at the park might have picked it up, Jim walked in and said "Brooks... (that's my new name, btw.)... Did you get your coat? It was on the floor at the party, so I hung it up on a chair."
My relief at now having a physical location for the jacket was dampened by the even clearer picture of how completely out of it I had been last night. Fuck.
After breakfast and goodbyes, I headed back to Greensboro... once again jizzing in the same pants about the same leaves and mountains and fighting the sadness of those places my head likes to go. 

I rolled into town in time to pick up a little boy... read him some books, tuck him in and feel the void close that tiny bit.

Hodala.




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Everyday I Start To Lose.

Sorry. Monday's post turned to Wednesday's turned to Friday's turned to Monday's turned to....whatever....
As verbose as I tend to be... no one could ever accuse me of being prolific. Much like my son and his spontaneous and, more often than not, extremely urgent need to poop at inopportune times... the words come out of me when they're ready. Trying to force it just results in numb legs and a hemorrhoid.

Admittedly... a large part of my tardiness also comes from having read Stevil and BikeSnob. It put me in a "why do I even try?" kind of place.

(conversation used without Stevil's permission and all money generated by its use spent on drugs and women and guns
... and I don't even like guns. Or drugs. Or women. I only like Jesus.)


But there's a little bit of scratching at the back door. I suppose I might as well see if it wants out. And there are at least five people who barely want to hear about Vegas...
So....

Obeying the very much non-linear trajectory of my thoughts, and doing everything I can to ignore that place my brain wants to be, we're going to start somewhere in the middle and work our way nowhere. Indulge me.

Hey... so remember how I said I was totally going to win Cross Vegas... even if I didn't win?
Well, the reality appears to be that I totally lost... even while I was totally losing.
I never rode hard enough to make anything of the race... And I never had an excuse not to ride hard.
It was pretty much the worst of all worlds.

Let's go ahead and get the excuses out of the way.
1) I never had any intention of making Cross Vegas a race of any kind. If I left zone one, I was going to be a little pissed at myself. (Spoiler alert: I was beyond pissed.)

2) I was not riding a race bike of any kind. I was riding a Swobo Accomplice with a pair of  42mm Happy Mediums instead of the stock slick. Caliper brake. Riser bar. It's a totally kick ass bike, and I ride the everloving shit out of it on any road, singletrack, railroad bed, grassy field, or bum trail around... and enjoy it tremendously. But a lightweight race bike of  any kind, it is not. If they'd let me use the Scofflaw I'm sure it would have been another story. Yep. Totally sure.

3) By Wednesday, I'd already spent the past two days riding bikes as many hours as possible in the desert, and hydrating almost exclusively with beer. I peed once the day leading up to the race, and it was the color (and consistency) of desert rocks. (I'm only kind of kidding.)

And finally,
4) I just kind of suck. Period. Which is less of an excuse and more of a universally held truth.          

Seriously. Ask anyone.
Photo cred: Brian Mark
Getting to the race was a bit of a shitshow. I said that I don't really sweat race-prep too much (at all), but as the moment neared, I was starting to feel a little anxious. Mostly just about even getting to the venue. When I finally had the bike in my possession, Murph and I scrambled around, trying to find the Lezyne booth and borrow a pedal tool. (As you can tell, we were totally prepared.) Finally locating our quarry and utilizing one of the shiny display tools, I walked by the Acre booth and bumped into Ty Hathaway.
Asking if he was racing, he said, "No. But John's about to drive out there. Maybe you could ride with him?"
Awesome. Who's John?
Oh...

So... John Prolly gave me a ride out to Cross Vegas...
....and he was actually super fucking nice.
He waited patiently while I grabbed my bike and gear from the total other side of the convention hall. Then he totally bailed my ass out when the attendant refused to let me leave the showfloor with the bike, pulling out his exhibitor badge and a silver tongue. And then he hauled my sorry ass out there when he totally didn't have to.... blasting Bongripper and Electric Wizard as loud as the shitty speakers in his truck would allow.

You know... I give John shit for a lot of reasons.

For one, I've met him multiple times before and he always acts like he has no fucking clue who I am (Incidentally, the answer to which is: fucking nobody....)

For another, he deserves it. I mean... he does. You know it and I know it. Just as I deserve all the shit I get for being the monumental fuck-up that I am and you deserve all the shit I hope you get. ("Grendel's had an accident. So may you all.") Getting shit just makes you better at what you do. It's a scientific fact.

And for another... come on....the dude is killing it. I mean... If my job... my paying job... was to travel around, ride bikes with my friends, take photographs, and write about it all on my own blog... in my own format... then I'd say I'd pretty much upgraded to Pro.
Whether I deserved to or not.
And when you're a pro... being heckled is part of the game.

(And for another... he didn't respond to my friend request, like... four years ago. Dick.)

Thing is, there's a ton of different kind of people in the pro category. Some of them are super talented. Some of them work really hard. Some of them have cheated or faked their way in. Some are the true definition of "professional," handling themselves with poise and dignity even when shit crumbles around them... and some are whiny shits who always think they didn't get a fair shake.
I don't know....I guess the question is: What kind of pro do you want to be?
Me? I'm pretty stoked about not being a pro.

But my point is... I ate a little crow that night. I really did appreciate it.

By now you might have heard about the shitshow that happened at CrossVegas this year.
No?
I don't know. At this point it's no longer even pertinent.
Apparently some folks threw beer on Van der Haar and some of the other pros? And apparently John was involved. And apparently there were tweets on blogs on facebook that got retweeted and reposted in posts on blogs on facebook? Apparently.
All of which I struggle to quantify in the currency of real life...
Suffice to say... it's all prolly really important.

Regarding what went down.... I'm going to "plagiarize" Steve, as he puts it best.

Let me be perfectly clear- I learned from some of the finest hecklers in this region’s history, and have been doing it for far longer than some of the aforementioned dicks have been riding bikes. Rule number one is to never, under any circumstances interfere with the race. You wanna throw beer on somebody? Throw beer on your friends at your local event. Or save it for a guy in an orange jumpsuit. Beyond that, if you don’t know the difference between a creative and funny heckle and a bald faced insult, keep your stupid mouth shut. It’s so painfully simple, yet clearly piles of people don’t get it.
And I should note… Screw anybody’s “well, I wouldn’t mind if someone threw a beer in my face” response. Say for example that someone who is racing is a recovering alcoholic. Say for example that they hate the smell. Say for example, that they just simply don’t want anything thrown on them. That’s all there is to it. In this regard, the whole ‘Keep Cross Weird‘ defense is total bullshit and a concept that was come up with people who just learned of its existence a couple of years ago.
As I said elsewhere- Heckling used to be sweet. Now it’s just amateur hour. It’s like St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s Eve revelers have taken over an aspect of spectating that used to be solely populated by drunks who actually cared about racing. And that is the god’s honest fact.
Well said, buddy.
Remember when the jocks who called you a "faggot" suddenly showed up to punk shows, totally missed the point in the pit, and pretty much ruined everything for everyone?
It's kind of like that.

That said, however... I really wouldn't have minded if someone threw beer on me.... because it was just so fucking hot out there.
Also, I was already riding like a total moron and I welcomed any chance to at least enjoy looking stupid.
You know... in my mind...It seems like if there was to be any jeering or heckling or beer throwing of any kind, it should happen during the "wheelers and dealers" race... when all the dipshits like me in the various facets of the industry line up next to each other.... Not during the Pro race. Seems like a no-brainer, really.
But no. Nothing. Just a bunch of people legitimately racing bikes....something I was ill prepared for.
"Wait... guys! Wha.. why... why are we riding so hard?! I thought... aren't we...  but isn't this.... Fuck!!!"

Milling around the start before the race, a guy had rolled up on his singlespeed cx bike and asked me and a fellow named Wilson if we had brought any extra cogs. He was sweating his current gearing for this particular course.
"You're shitting me, right?" I asked. "Do I really look like I give a flying fuck about my gearing?" pointing to my bike and myself.
When Brian of Knog had asked me to race, he'd inquired what size jersey I'd want.
Small or medium, I replied.... And I'll cop to enough vanity that when he handed me a baggy large, I died a little inside.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Brian just gave me his old jersey.

Now not only was I the middle of the pack guy riding poorly on the wrong kind of bike... I was also the guy wearing the baggy jersey.

And no, man... I didn't bring any extra cogs.

I never got heckled (yelling "Hey flat baaaarrrrrr!!!!" doesn't count. I mean... come on.)
And I never saw any beer.
Ok... That's not true. Someone did hold one out on lap 3, only to pull it back when I reached for it. (Thanks, dick) And Matt Case yelled and held one out from the other side of the course as I was passing by.
Matt, circa 2012. Except for being a big-time homo-ner these days, he hasn't changed a scooch.
I thought about stopping and awkwardly backing up. Or about turning around and riding against the grain for a few feet. And even about just stopping and hopping the course tape to drink with him instead.
But I didn't. 
I guess I just wanted to finish at that point. 

After I was done and had "showered" in the Knog tent, I made my way down to the Raleigh VIP area for free beer and tacos care of Sally Fornes, because my shop is like... totally super VIP with Raleigh. Seriously. Just ask the other shop they offered the line to on the dl.

Sally and Souphorse... who's been rocking a George Lucas-beard since way before it... was... cool?

Hanging in VIPland, I saw many people I hadn't seen a in long while, some I never wanted to see again, and then...some I never thought I would see again.... which made me smile.

"Watts made it onto the Radavist. What a ducking (sic) hypocrite" ...Anonymous.
photo cred: John Watson
(ganked with zero regard for the sanctity of any journalistic integrity)
In what has become a ritual, I caught a ride back to Vegas with Spencer of Ritte. And once back to the hotel, passed out, totally exhausted from not just the race, but the culmination of the past three days.

Now... to the other things.

In much the same way that talking about how poor you are is super cool... bitching about Interbike is ubiquitous in cool-kid conversation. (And just so you know... everyone is a cool-kid)
I guess I'm an idiot, because I don't feel it.
Personally....I love going to Vegas for Interbike. I mean.... do I really need to say that there are other places I'd rather go? I would never go to Vegas for any reason outside of the show, as it has none of the things I want in life. But... I genuinely enjoy meeting up with a bunch of distant friends in the total bizarreness of that town.
For one, it's pretty cheap. You can very easily jam econo there with minimal effort. Unless you have no brain.
For another... It's such a wild backdrop, and gives the whole thing a flavor that it wouldn't have otherwise. (And yeah....maybe that flavor is pee mixed with poo mixed with Bulleit bourbon. But... when in Rome... or Ancient Egypt...

...as it were.
As for the show... I like that  it gets me out of the sometimes (often) depressing vacuum of my market.
And it lets me see friends I don't get to see.
And... bitching about it or not... it puts me smack in the middle of tens of thousands of people who fuck around with bikes for a living... or live to fuck around with bikes.
Jaded or not... I can't help but like that.

The show has changed a lot over the years. Once upon a time it was where all the orders were placed, and I've heard a few pretty crazy stories about the various incentives that some companies used to offer. (... order placed... handshake...  envelope slid across the table containing the key to the room where some... companionship... awaited you. Whatever your last name is... your first name just became "John.")
It's become more "professional"... but is having a bit of an identity crisis in that no one quite knows what the point is anymore.
As it struggles to find relevance and more and more vendors question the value of spending a lot of money to set up a booth that probably doesn't generate any revenue, the marketing for the show has changed.
This year they focused on the social connection.



Which I totally understand, and is absolutely why I go. But I found the campaign so cloying that I desperately wanted to make some appropriate changes. And as my skillz with a computer and with the free PAINT program on my computer are weak at best...

Source: unknown.
(Modified by yours truly with zero regard for the sanctity of journalistic integrity.)


 ...I put the ball in Stevil's court. He nailed it, first try. (Dude totally gets me)


Art imitates life. Steve knows this.


My ultimate point is...
I like coming to Interbike... even if it destroys me.

I'd arrived in Vegas late Sunday night. And after doing the always absurdly more complicated than it should be shuttle-shuffle, I made it to my hotel, procured two Tecate tallboys and retired to my room.
I woke up at 6am east coast time (3am Vegas time) and unable to fall back asleep, finished one book and started another... once again trying to penetrate Schopenhauer's World as Will with dubious success... (must be the shitty translation I was reading. Yeah. That's it...)... as it failed to put me back to sleep and I cannot claim to be any wiser.
I waited until a reasonable time, and made my way to Citizens (which would become my go-to for the week) for a proper breakfast, and then caught a ride out to Dirt Demo with Tyler, Scott, Saris and Zach of the Biketumor. I changed into my riding gear... and got to it.
Once again, I totally monopolized a Niner WFO for the better part of the morning. (So good.) Then on to the Salsa Horsethief and then the new Raleigh Skarn...which sounds less like a bike and more like a villain from a fantasy novel.

I should have tried more bikes, in the true spirit of "demo"... but honestly... I just wanted to ride. As long and as far as I could. And I liked every bike I rode, which is why I would make a horrible reviewer. I was just having so much damn fun playing the bike-game in the desert that I couldn't find faults. Just differences.

Around 3:30... when I was pleasantly destroyed... I made my way to the free beer and got pleasantly destroyed.
The Camelback guys know my heart.

There I jabbered with tons of good folks. And had the pleasure of being given one of the most awkward introductions ever to Molly Hurford by Mike Cushionberry.
Something along the lines of "Molly, this is Watts. He's super into you but is a little shy."

"uhhh... Damn....That's... I mean... Mike just... I... well... that is to say... you... he... true, but... hi...."
photo: mollyhurford.com 
(ganked from Molly's site with zero regard for the sanctity of journalistic integrity)

Things only kind of unraveled soon after that, as once Molly politely excused herself, casting a wary parting look my way... I very much needed a lot of beer... very quickly. (Thanks, Mike.)
The further unraveling of the night may or may not have to do with Chris Reichel of Drunk Cyclist giving me a cookie that I may or may not have ingested that may or may not have contained mushrooms. How and why that happened, I don't know. So let's just... move on, shall we?
I remember turning to Saris and slurring that she was now my accountabilibuddy for the night, a job I'm not sure she took very seriously.
And that's... pretty much it.
Sorry. That's not to say there are no stories... but I have no memory of what they might be. I woke up in my bed, no swath of visible destruction evident, my last memory being a fragment of some dinner and margaritas with Tyler and co. in a mexican restaurant that came highly recommended by Maurice Tierney.

Those dudes always take care of me. Why? I don't know.

The next day, I rode the shuttle bus out to Dirt Demo and proceeded to ride more bikes. Again. The day before had been gray and overcast. This time it was hot and dry... as it should be... and I had an awesome day looping my way around the hills, getting wonderfully lost for a few hours on a series of trails that took me miles away from the venue. More Salsa bikes, some Lapierre. Anything that was available. What did I like? Everything.

Trey of the Hawley Cult likes everything too. If he doesn't... they shock him.

The Surly tent.... aka: the changing room
The long sought answer to the burning question:
"Is Trevor a boxers or briefs guy?"

When the day was over and lots of post ride beer had been consumed, I made my way back to the hotel, cleaned up, and joined Spencer and Nick of Ritte for some dinner. Dinner turned to drinks at the bar where we ran into Souphorse and Jason of Affinity. And after margaritas and crazy talk, we met up with Kevin and Murph of Swobo, along with Geno and Hurl and others... and things started, if not spiraling, then slowly circling.
I think it began to fall apart in earnest when Jeff Frane walked up, ("Hey, buddy!") slurping some alco-smoothie in a giant big-gulp mug.
"What is that and where do I get it?" I asked, my eyes getting big.
And soon enough... we were all in danger of getting not only fall-down-piss-yourself drunk... but also the diabetes.



My liver (and pancreas (and entire being)) blames Jeff for everything that may have happened during my time in Vegas.
Everything.

How you feelin' Murph?

Awesome.

Trevearo.


Hey guys... I'm totally gonna ride this thing straight to the top of Luxor where Om and Sleep are playing that super secret show you was talkin' about. 'Member?


Let's all ride to the show.

At some point... I bolted. It was 3am Vegas time, which exhaustive calculations determined to be 6am my time. Which is when I wake up.. not when I go to sleep.

Breakfast at Citizens and on to the show, which was just meetings and scrambling.
The Swobo booth was my home base for the next three days.

Thrasher.


Ben.

Stevil

Cheevil
Mevil.

I went to my meetings... drank morning cocktails in the Shower's Pass suite... ate tacos with Jesse and Ben of Handsome.... drank free beer care of Steve and whoever....and went to Cross Vegas.
Which we already covered.
Thursday was more meetings. More running around... all the boring bits of the story
(Let me show you the lineup...This is a shoe. This is a bike. This is a saddle. This is a lock. This is a helmet. This is a bag. This is a dead horse.)

And then prepping for the other reason I go to Vegas:

Underbike.



Underbike is the bloody, undying heart of the bike industry's shiny robot head. While privates-shaving, cologne-drenched reps and managers pat themselves on the back for their livable salaries and acquisitions and mergers and minimally changed product lines... (uhhh.... do you know what he talking about?)... it's all propped up on the backs of the dirtbags and dirtbaguettes who love bikes so much that they're willing to make minimum wage for the rest of their lives, just so they can keep messing with them.
And this party is for them.
The collared shirts can have their Euro-Canada dance party... or George Thorogood...

We want the Gaytheist.

Pre-party, a motley assortment of us met for some dinner...  conversation ranging from why we don't throw beer in pro's faces to the impending dark ages when the vast wealth of everything we store digitally.. all of the knowledge, know how and porn.... just vanishes.
Then we walked around the corner, procured drinks and got to it.



So good. (The party. Not my montage of bad pictures.)
And the whispered rumors I hear of next year, even if there's only a modicum of truth therein, are enough to make a grown man weep with joy.

Eventually, walls were hit and it was time to go. A cab ride home only to discover that the room key was gone, which necessitated a conversation with the front desk, laden with the kind of intense eye contact that only an extremely drunk person trying to maintain what they feel is close facsimile of "togetherness" can think is appropriate.
...To passing out very quickly.
Friday brought the weirdness of wanting the week to be over, but also of having to say hard goodbyes.
I joined Steve and Monika at the pool for a while... where we watched a lot of sunburned men wrestle in the water and fall on their faces....were asked why tattoos are so ubiquitous with bikes... saw remarkable specimens of humanity (more like Zumanity! Amiright?! Get it?! Because...Vegas?!... ugh...) and waxed philosophical on many many things.

Srsly good people. Srsly.
They had to make a plane... and I had to make dinner. So we left and I went to join the Stan's crew for the traditional Friday night meal at El Segundo.

Mike Bush... awesomely stoked to be taking me out for dinner... again.

Jimbo telling everyone about the time he rode a comfort bike 100 miles.

Rich and I and our annual margarita-blitzed photo op.
 And we ended the night with a roller coaster ride at New York, New York. Where one of my favoritest photos in the world was taken.

Strauber and the Sweethammer.
"I dinna like roller coasters, ken?"

Nay. She didnae.

It was a good way to end the week.
Which brings me to the end of this epic.

Serious thanks for your time. Not to repeat myself...or the obvious... but you'll never get it back.
Ever.