Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Heartsinking Work of Stammering Meanness.

Long have I loved The Handsome Family.
Outside of serving as the soundtrack to years of estrangement, separation and self-destruction many, many moons ago, they've resonated on too many levels to mention with some facet of my life over the years: Be it depressiontrying to maintainnot doing a good job maintainingthe ever-changing nature of existence, or pretty much everything.
But I have to tell you... What does not resonate is the "slice and gin" that I just tried to drink in impulsive homage to my favorite sing-along-in-the-shower.
Ugh. Man....I just wanted to feel weightless again... Not drink Dayquil®.
Back to whatever wine I was drinking. (Cheap)
Because they've been so good to me over the years, I'll forgive the Family for tricking me. And I have to say, I'm very glad to see them finally getting some of the acclaim and recognition that they deserve in light of True Detective. Parsnips tricked me into watching it with hints of a Lovecraftian plotline. While that didn't turn out to be even remotely true, I still got sucked in. Good stuff.

Having been prevented from seeing them when they came to Raleigh five years ago (still bitter) you can be damn sure that I'll be attending this show. Especially since it's less than a mile from my house.
I first stumbled upon the family some nine years ago when I was in my "Denver sound" phase. To this day, Slim Cessna's Auto Club is at the tippety-top of the list of bands to see live before I die. That I haven't managed to yet is a source of much frustration. I'm currently lobbying to have them play at the shop. Whether it ever comes to fruition or not, simply the thought of it is sustaining.
My poor employees. If I had made them listen to Slim, or Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots, or Munly and the Lupercalians, or Munly Munly, or Munly de Har He, or the Denver Gentlemen, or the Denver Broncos UK, or Tarantella (or Bum Kon) one more time, they'd have probably lost their shit. Throw in some Reverend Glasseye and some Handsome Family and I'd undoubtedly given the shop quite the jovial atmosphere.
So jovial that one of my staff (I think it was Tommy) finally told me that I "was really bumming the customers out."
I'm pretty sure that was also during what Tommy once referred to as "the year Watts didn't smile."

Times change. But smiling still hurts.

The pain.
The picture above was part of a photoshoot for an article about "shop-dogs" in the local O'Henry Magazine.
Mango the total-effing-nutter got a little attention, which he needed like a junkie needs heroin. (Which is to say not at all.) But the shop got some attention too, which I'll always take.
And me? I dunno. Hold me.... Just not too tight.

Which reminds me....
Recently I was exchanging drunk texts with Stevil. (At least I was. Drunk, that is. I'm not sure what kind of state he was in, as it was only 7pm in his world (Yeah... you're probably right. Drunk)). Among the cryptic jabber were truths about good companies doing shitty things. And then shitty things happening to good companies. And then shitty people keeping good company. And then just straight up shitty people.
One of the shitty people that came up was none other than the short, bloated prince of darkness, Glenn Danzig.
I'd recently attended a pretty awesome event at Green Door Wheel Works, a new shop that recently opened in nearby High Point. (Steve and Kirsten are doing something awesome over there. They've got their work cut out for them in that town, as even back-asswards Greensboro seems a progressive haven in comparison. But I know they're going to kick ass.) The event in question was "Dinner and Bikes" where they had Joe Biel of Microcosm Publishing, author and activist Elly Blue, and vegan chef of the punk stars, Josh Ploeg stop in and tell some stories, show some documentaries, sell some books and cook some amazing food. It's the kind of event that I WISH I had put together.
Seriously. Kudos to them. (And boo-dos to me.)
Providing some succor to my feelings of inadequacy was a comic book for sale with the title HENRY AND GLENN FOREVER AND EVER.

I bought every issue.

Stevil admonished me regarding the meaning behind one cover in particular.

In case you didn't already know, I'm pretty much a huge internet sensation.

I reluctantly admitted ignorance, but felt the vision-blurring presence of a massive revelation, tantamount to life as we know it being revealed as "the matrix."
Sure enough....

Do you remember Crystar? Probably not. Crystar was a toyline that came out in the early 80's.

I had a few of them. They weren't bad, but didn't really rank as "awesome" on my little-kid toy-o-meter.
Not like the Powerlords.

I might have been a strange lad.

But each toy came with a comic book, and if the toys were fairly tame, the comic book was, to my young mind, actually pretty good. I'm sure the writers and artists involved had bristled to no end at being assigned to a comic book based on some lackluster toy line... But they did a good job. (I say this, of course, without having read it since the early 80's, and with all of the dewy mist of nostalgic longing, so I could be waayyyyy off.)
Anyway.... one of the issues of this particular title sported this cover.

Obvious gender-studies issues aside....Notice anything?

How about now?


As if you didn't know it before, Danzig's a goon.

So... Sorry for the sporadic writing. Just needed to focus on some other things lately.
One of which was actually getting back on the bike.
You laugh...(least funny joke ever)... but it took some doing. Still does. Lately, it seems to take every bit of will power I can muster to ignore the many, many, many things that I really, really, really need to be doing at that moment and instead go push a pedal over and over with my foot. And I don't like that, because once upon a time the opposite was true. When it all seemed too much... and it all too often did, (Ugh! I can't handle these dishes right now! I just want to live my life!!!)... I'd throw a leg over the bike and get moving. And it would all melt away. (Ha! Suck it, dishes!!!)
The bike was where I processed it all. Or at least outsprinted it.
But one day, something started happening. The demons I was keeping at bay with the ache in my legs started finding me again. Sometimes with a vengeance. (So. Many. Dishes!)
(Ahem.... So, in this joke, "dishes" is a metaphor for "demons". And not the Danzig kind, although I'll wager he has a few dishes of his own.)
I wonder sometimes if long solo rides aren't necessarily the best thing for a person of my temperament, as they often involve a good bit of introspection and reflection. And for me, more often than not, introspection and reflection has a tendency to turn to self-loathing and dejection. So halfway into the ride, I find myself thinking that maybe what I really need isn't a long bike ride. It's a bar-fight...Someone to break a stool or two over my head.
(What?! I don't have issues.)
Look... you can pat yourself on the back for your perfect life all you want during your ride. Me? I've got some flogging to do.

I'm not one to deify the bike.
I love the shit out of it, and it's been a part of my life for longer than you've been alive.
(Not you... Him.)
But few things vex me more than cloying "live to pedal" or "cycling is life" drivel. Not that I've never clung madly to something as a way to define my life and existence. But come on....whether you're a burgeoning hipster with an online-purchased fixie as the next accessory to your wardrobe, or an entitled Cat 3 Racer with an "impressive" resume of top twenty finishes,  or a yuppie with a bike themed "life is good" sticker on the window of your luxury SUV.... we get it:
Bikes are cool.
(But you're not.)

I do admit to being fascinated (or conversely bored to tears) by the various directions and evolution "cycling culture" has taken lately. In my particular neck of the woods, where we operate a little behind the curve, there appears to be a banal focus on racing. That is to say a relatively tedious obsession with time and pace and power at the expense of fun... All to achieve 6th place in a local field of ten. Yawn. Not that I ever bemoan a person trying their hardest or striving to improve themselves, and not that there's anything at all wrong with racing, because friendly competition and high-fives and heckling are the best. But when people are swaggering around like self-important dicks, or yelling at you to get out of their way on the trail, all because they're trying to nail a Strava segment and desperately want to make the lower rungs of mediocrity their "bitch", I admit to being flummoxed. Seems like they're not "getting it."
(And you know that I "get it" because I just told you I do.)
I don't know. At some point, XC became the new triathlon (compression sleeves!)... Enduro became the new XC (kneepads and full-face on the greenway, bro!)... Cyclocross became the new fixie (online shopping is punk!).... Singlespeeds became the new beach cruiser (I see what you did there) and blogging became the new masturbation. (How does Rich even type with those hairy palms?)

But you know what's super cool these days in the hippest of the hip circles?
Riding a Bridgestone on gravel roads in cut-off shorts with no shirt.
I shit you not.
The very same thing I did when I first got really into riding some twenty plus years ago (Gah!).....(And, incidentally, was relentlessly mocked for having "no clue." (I didn't, but that had nothing to do with bikes.)

Photocred: Ultraromance

Photocred: Ultraromance
Full circle.
But you know what? I'll take it. Currently there's this resurgence of what I'll wincingly call "soul cycling." It's just people getting out on the bike and kicking ass. They're not "racing." They're not "training." They're not prancercizing. They're just ridingFor fun. Just getting out and exploring.
And THAT.... is awesome.
I don't know Ultraromance personally, but I like him. (I think I do, anyway. I mean... Unless he's a total dick or something.) At the very least I like what he's doing, and I like his hebrephenic word style. And it seems sincere.
There are some influence peddlers out there who I sincerely believe are as insincere as they come. Ef them. (And I mean that sincerely.)
Does everyone have a personal photographer that follows them around and posts photos of them being awesome to Instagram?

(Incidentally, I have one....

...capturing all the super awesome shit that I do.
#fartyband  #goldenshowerpieskulls  #lightnapbro
photocred: lil Dorrit
The old adage, "If a ride happens somewhere in the woods, and no one posts a picture of it to Instagram, did it happen at all?"
But despite the social media hyperfertilization of the cult of personality, something big is happening.
Bikes are becoming cool again.
Yeah.. some of us know that they always were. We can high-five each other or shake our heads knowingly. And if vanity replaces honesty, and the new breed is in desperate want of a spanking, then a little schooling isn't the worst thing. Don't be afraid to dole it out.
But don't squash that enthusiasm for the bike in the process. Because that shit is like gold.

Regarding the hipsters, I've never really cared too much. (As far as anyone's concerned, I probably am one.) If the fixed gear fashion accessory is what got them on a bike, and that eventually turned into a passion... then I'm down. And if "staying wild" and riding beaters on gravel roads is the next step, then I'll concede. It's a damn sight better than the alternative.
Regarding the yuppies... If the Dura-Ace equipped, carbon-fiber pitching-wedge is what got them out on a group ride... then I'm down. Let's talk about getting them on that commuter bike now.
Regarding the deadbeats.... If losing their license because of a DUI is what got them on the bike... (just kidding)
And regarding the goons... Even if legions of people think that that shallow lagoon is a bottomless lake... as long as they're getting people on a bike, then I'm down.
With the bike thing. But not with them.

You down with OPB?
I am.


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  4. nice words. i enjoyed it. but then, we sound a lot alike. in terms of our views of the current cycling trends anyways. hit me up if youre in winston ever. we should ride.

    1. Sounds good, Dumptruck Jr. I'll bring the flask.

  5. "Butterflies are monsters if you look at them too close."

    Always knew I liked you Watts. Speaking of the Denver sound, how about some Wovenhand?

    Aaannd, speaking of Slim, they'll be playing a show here on Saturday, Aug 16th. If you really want to f*ck off from responsibilities, you should grab a plane ticket and get out here to Fort Collins. Peter and I would love to show you around the Swobo HQ and hang out. Show's free by the way.

    1. Ben. Ha. Thanks, man. I would love to come see you and Peter in Ft. Collins sometime. See some Slim Cessna... Ride some Swobo's. Eat at Avogadro's Number. I've heard rumors of super cheap flights to Denver from Greensboro. I'll explore. And yes, 16 HP and Woven Hand were totally a part of the shop's atmosphere. So. Much. Happy.

    2. Well, you're welcome here anytime sunshine.