Friday, February 28, 2014

Frostbukake.

My deodorant stopped doing its job somewhere over Indiana.  There had been hints here and there, but reaching up to adjust the air, I caught an unmistakable whiff of me. If the woman next to me hadn't noticed to that point, she certainly had now.
It's a fairly distinct smell, and as familiarity has immunized me somewhat, in most cases by the time I'm aware of it, the world has long been suppressing gags.
Onions cooked in windex. Pungent and powerful
It takes a special kind of girl to like something like that, but from time to time they've existed in my life, (now being a glowing example)... and for a little while my mind was lost to memories of moments... of girls and scents and skin....
Until the excessively loud, yet still barely understandable voice of the captain intruded on my reverie.
Retracting my arm, I exchanged a tight-lipped smile with the matronly woman seated next to me. I laughed inwardly in the knowledge that she was NOT one of those special people who found my smell appealing, chagrined as I was by my stench.

Once, in a life long past, I worked on this bizarre ship known as Trader Joe's. It was in the quintessential southern California town of San Clemente and I was the odd man out.... for many, many reasons...
... one of the more prevalent likely being my time spent cultivating this look.

"Verily, thoust shall find thine bucket of Chocolate Cat Cookies on the aisle bearing the numeral 3."
In a time when the mandatory So Cal dress-code called for spiky bleached blonde hair and a giant strand of silver anal-beads wrapped around your neck (I shit you not), dark hair or a beard of any variety, much less the neck-style, was ostracizing.
I didn't have a car and would either run or ride my bike to work every day. There were no showers on site, so I kept various Trader Joe deodorants in my locker. According to management, they didn't work....and I was given multiple "warnings" as a result of my manly musk.
When I gleefully departed from TJ for the temporarily greener pastures (not really) of vitamin-bottling (and later, snowboard packing) my musk was lost in a cloud of vitamin B-12 dust.

My ultimate point is... I sympathized with my neighbor's assaulted olfactories, amused though I was.
After landing and reapplying my lavender scented Tom's in the restroom, I was ready to face the world.

This was my first time at Frostbike, a show I'd long heard about, but never attended. Put on by Quality Bicycle Products (QBP) it's a much smaller show than Interbike, and features key vendors in the Q roster. But the tradeshow is a minute part of the weekend, as the real focus is allegedly on trainings and curriculum, (and drinking yourself blind every night.)
Among the offerings this year were:
Profitability...(please please please let me get what I want)
Creating a Successful Brand...(or Stop alienating customers now)
Engaging Women Cyclists...  (or cut the sword fighting)
Being the Excellent Leader Your Staff Needs...(like a boss)
Root Cause Process Workshop...(why are you such a stupid asshole?)
Where to Grow from Here...(or quit while you're ahead)
and...
How to Crush Your Enemies, See Them Driven Before You And Hear the Lamentation of Their Women (see Engaging Women Cyclists).

Q was actually flying me out there and putting me up as a VIP dealer, and as I'd failed to snag this in previous years, it felt good to finally be on the map. The nepotism of the industry knows no bounds (save for stifling confines of the industry) and can either serve to prop you up or bring you down. I'm on an upswing, anticipating the pending fall.
Thanks Greggers.
I was flying out early so that I could kick around Minneapolis for a day... eat something good and see some shops; Angry Catfish, One on One, and Handsome being the musts.
At the airport I met with a number of other dealers who'd arrived early, among them Bryan and Heather of Bicycle Revolutions, and we caught the shuttle to our hotel, jabbering about our markets and challenges and brands.
I still think that my room was some sort of mistake. Probably meant for Mike Hamannwright at the big Revolution. I didn't complain.

More like "SEXecutive Suite".... amiright?

After applying more deodorant (I'm barely kidding) I walked downstairs to drink a beer at the bar and see who else was around. I ran into Mike from Lazer, and he invited me to join himself and some folks for dinner. Soon after, I found myself in downtown Minneapolis with Mike, Dana, Todd, another fellow whose name I forget and the infamous Brian Worthy of Vermarc USA. I failed to take the ubiquitous "Brian Worthy" photo and will instead gank Stevil's.

credit be to Stevil. 
I've long known of Brian, and have long coveted his bus....



... but we'd never been formally introduced.
By the end of dinner we were like peas and carrots.
Dinner went something like this: bottles of wine were ordered.... stories were swapped.... bottles of wine were ordered.... delicious Mediterranean food was consumed, among the mix being octopus, "giant beans" and lamb brains (from which I abstained)... bottles of wine were ordered... stories were swapped... and bottles of wine were ordered.
Mike dropped me off at the hotel bar where I ran into Jeff Frane of AllCity and Kyle Kelley of internet sensation and the power-of-social-media case study, Golden Saddle Cyclery. After some beers and cocktails, we all wandered back to our respective rooms.
I woke up feeling, if not horrible, then not awesome. Stumbling downstairs to find some coffee and breakfast, I snuck my way into the SUPER VIP breakfast for a select set of dealers invited to participate in the "Indie Sessions," which from what I can tell were workshops meant to... do... stuff.
I snuck out just as the group photo was being taken, getting curious looks from people wondering who the hell I was, I'm sure.
After some time spent putzing around my room and lip-syncing/dancing in the mirror to Adam and the Ants, I eventually pulled on my running gear to go find some adventure.
Standing at the front door looking blankly at the map on my phone, trying to figure out which direction to set off in, a voice behind me inquired "Where YOU going?"
I turned to find a young couple dressed in running gear.
"Wherever y'all are, I reckon."
We ran around the parking lot looking lost and fairly stupid until we finally located a reasonable point of egress. From there we made our way out to a nearby lake and set of paths where we had a fugging awesome 10 mile run that took us through knee deep snow, across a frozen lake, past some of the largest houses I've ever seen, and along treacherous frozen greenways.
It ruled.


Kevin and Brittany of Geoff's in Iowa City.

Some dick.

Regardless of what Jon Danger says... running is the shit.
 There were rumors of a massive snowfall coming but it wasn't until we ran back into the parking lot of the hotel that it started coming down. And while I'd been ready for some brutal cold, during the entire run I was pouring sweat.
The cold would come later.
After cleaning up, I went down to the hotel bar to rehydrate and found Kyle and David of Golden  Saddle drinking bloody marys. We discussed respective plans for the day and soon enough we all piled into Angry Catfish Josh's car to find some lunch, settling on MODERN. I highly recommend the curry-turkey burger.
Then we went to Josh's shop to feel awed and inadequate.

David and Kyle B Kelley.





Jeff Frane soon came in frothing at the mouth to get outside and romp around in the snow. By this time it was really coming down. We convinced Jeff to drag our asses down to One on One with promises of getting outside afterward. Having not planned on a walk in the woods in the dumping snow, my footwear was woefully inadequate. "Alright... I'm in, but let's stop somewhere so I can get some damn boots. I need a new pair anyway."
"Yeah, sure" Jeff shrugged. "I want to get a pair of moccasins."
So we piled into Jeff's 4 wheel drive Jeep and made our way into downtown and the growing shitshow of traffic and panicking drivers.

I've been hearing about One on One for ages, and have met Gene-o on a number of occasions, none of which entailed sobriety on either of our parts. But in an industry where I've always felt out of step... his shop was a place that even from afar resonated with familiarity... the kind that means something to ME.

As friendly as I've always been, it wasn't until my mid thirties that I really became social. I don't know what happened, but depending on how you look at it, I either finally pulled my head out of my ass or firmly planted it up there. And while I have a long, if fractured, history with the bike world, I've never really been a part of it. I'd like to say that I was doing other things, and I certainly was on some level... flirting with academia... doting on a girl... and later making a giant clusterfuck of my life. But in truth when I look back, I feel like I was just a stunted teenager still obsessed with masturbation.... pretending to engage the world, but really just fondling my own bits. And maybe not much has changed.... just a different iteration of the same pattern. (I mean... what is this blog, if not some psycho-sexual extension of my Id. I've simply moved from touching myself to exposing myself. Ugh.)
What I mean is that as much as my vision might be obscured by my rectum, at a point I looked up from my bits and realized that there was a world outside of "me." (Solopsism... it's what's for dinner.) And I started to engage that world.
On the shop side, taking a broad look at other shops and at the industry as a whole, I've always felt out of step. We had different aesthetics.... different values. In a town of mom-jeans and Madones, forging my own path in the bike-shop scene was pretty daunting... (and is a story for another time.) Suffice to say I stumbled and spent a lot of time trying to be something that I wasn't. When I finally said "eff that" and let my weirdness forge it's own path, things kind of fell into place.
But while I'm certainly an asset to the shop and my vision, I'm also it's biggest liability.
Someone please help.
I have to give props to Stevil and All Hail, as it was a massive beacon of darkness that really helped me realize I wasn't alone in this industry. I won't grievously insult him by calling him "my people".... but he made me realize that there were folks out there who shared my values and visions.
Gene-o is of the same tribe. I won't defile his character with any connection to my own person or aesthetic, but as far as shops and models go, I feel such a massive flood of sympatico with it.
It's an icon of doing-your-own-thing in the face of homogeneity and has doubtlessly been the inspiration for most of the boutique shops in existence to day.








After paying my respects, I went next door to see Jesse and Ben at Handsome. We've been a Handsome dealer for the past three or four years, Jesse and having met at Interbike where we geeked out about our mutual love of Bridgestone. Their shop was equally impressive, but in a different way from One on One and AC.
Polished and clean. Sparse and well-organized.



Jesse





We talked for a while, and admiring the Storm Work Boot in the Chrome section, I opted to go ahead and grab it, wondering if Jeff would be super disappointed that we wouldn't have to stop by the moccasin store.

And we were off... back to Jeff's house to grab some layers, and to collect Baroo, "the number one brown dog in America"... and then to get outside.







Josh from Angry Catfish.



That gif is weird.



Following our walk, we went back to Jeff's to dry off, have a cocktail, listen to records... and figure out what the hell we were doing next. There was talk of a bike ride, but as Kyle was the only one with ready access to a fatbike, the plan was getting complex. I felt obligated to get back to the hotel and make an appearance at the opening VIP dinner, seeing as QBP had flown me out there for it. Kyle aquiesced, admitting that maybe a ride in the present conditions would be more messy than fun, and Jeff was kind enough to drag us back to our hotel, indulging in a few donuts in the icy parking lot. 
We greeted the many other dealers and ne'er do wells in attendance, ate some crazy good food and when dinner was over, made our way, along with everyone, to the hotel bar... where very important conversations were had and much critical knowledge was passed around. 
I'm sure of it. 


The NC boys: Jacob of the I9, Sam-our new Q inside guy, Kevin of the Liberty, and Kent of the Motion Makers.

Justin of the Freeze Thaw and Jimbo of... the Jimbo.

Naw... I'm just kidding. He's with Stans.
But like a mandala, the wind has long since erased all evidence, and the beauty and intricacies of these vital exchanges are forever lost. 
When the information passed around became stammered codes that we were no longer able to make sense of or care about, we one by one got up and somehow made it to our rooms... where we bumped into our hotel doors, ineffectively inserting every card shaped item on our person into the lock in hopes that it miraculously open. At least I did.
That's the last thing I remember before waking the next morning, cozily tucked in between the fitted sheet and the mattress of my king sized bed.

(That concludes this chapter of Watts Dixon's interminable Frostbukake. Stay tuned next week (or month) for the exciting conclusion, wherein we learn just how far too far can go.)

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