Thursday, October 31, 2013

Looking Forward to Winter i.e. No Excuses, Part 1

It has never happened in the history of being me that I have been looking forward to winter. I have always hated winter.  I hate being inside.  I hate the feeling that I need to bundle up to go for a walk to avoid dying in the process.

I have always dreamed of moving some place with a better year round climate.  I've even considered places like Phoenix (which would be horrible).

Oh that reminds me - Hey - all you people in Phoenix who put up all these "Hey the weather's great here.  I sure feel sorry for my friends and family back home in Nebraska" comments in January.  Don't bother.  We know it's livable in Phoenix in January.  But 130 F is not worth a couple of months of marginally better weather.

Stupid Phoenix.  Hey Phoenix, Nebraska weather is better than Phoenix weather almost every day.  And when it's not, you suck.  Pussies.

Anyway, my dream place has always been somewhere like the Goldilocks climate in Northern California.  After that, there are a lot of places in Colorado I wouldn't mind living.  These places also have the benefit of some seriously nice mountain rides.  I would like to do hill training.  I think it would be good.

I can whine about the weather every year (really.  I can.  Ask anybody) I can gripe endlessly about how much fitness I'm forced to lose by not being able to ride 5 months out of the year -- or I can just HTFU and ride.

That's what I did last year.  I actually started riding in November.  Then I got up the courage to go out on the packed snow with my cross bike.  Piece of cake.  Sort of.

To say I'm looking forward to winter isn't exactly true.   It's just that every winter of my life so far, I have dreaded the thought so much, it spoiled much of my Autumn.  That's just wrong.  

The truth is I'm not even considering winter.  I'm not dreading it.  The most accurate thing to say is,  I'm not thinking about it because it has little relevance.   It's not going to get in the way too much.

At work the last couple of weeks as the weather has cooled, people see me coming in from the bike commute and say friendly things like, "Not much longer, eh?" meaning my commute by bike days are coming to an end.  Usually, I just stare at them with what I imagine comes across as a look of perplexity.  I'm doing this to try to be an asshole.  To try to convey the message, "Whatever do you mean good sir or madam?"

But they probably think I am not answering because my face is frozen stiff (they can't see the healthy dollop of mutton fat smeared on my skin to protect and moisturize).

Once I get done with my "I'm perplexed" stare and get no reaction, I usually just bare my teeth and growl at them, like I imagine a true Mongolian would.  Those guys could really handle the cold well.  Seriously.

Honestly though, there may be times when I am forced to do indoor roller sessions.  They suck, but I can do that.  It's just an hour long.

But as long as the streets are relatively clear, there isn't a temperature that happens here that is too cold for a 90 minute ride.  I have the gear.  I've learned a little about riding in the snow.  It's not that big a deal.

This Spring came late and Summer was short and here we are in the middle of cross season.  A few people have talked about their plans and expectations for next year's racing.  This would normally be the time when I'd pretend to be committing to some sort of goal next year.  Much like the fact that it doesn't bother me that Winter is coming,  I don't care anymore about what claims I might make about the future.  I've shown far too many times that they are meaningless.

So maybe I'll see you at the races next year.  Or maybe not.  But either way.  Suck it.  Especially  you people in Phoenix.  Suck it in your stupid desert.


~~

Full disclosure. I just got a really nifty new balaclava and nice warm pair of merino wool socks in the mail today.  I wore them the whole time I wrote this, so I'm a bit toasty right now and wouldn't mind a slight temperature drop.  Oh yeah - and Phoenix? You know what to do.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Extra: Time to Make a Change


Well it's been a fantastic 5.5 years here at the company, but I need to consider new opportunities.  The following text appeared as the contents of an email sent to me.  I have deleted the link from this post because I don't want one of you jerks to get the pounds of cash wads before I do.  For a happier life, remember the 4 sudden p's. sudden presents, parties picnics and pleasure trips.  Where do I sign?

~~

Every person wants to be rich even if he or she denies the fact.
Withal guys do not like to take the responsibility and make decisions 24/7.
Of course, we do not give you pounds of cash wads but with our simple and understandable approach you can forget about tough limits that you have now.
Concentrate and teach yourself to get rapid bucks simply within hours.
You will always earn enough for sudden presents, parties, picnics and pleasure trips and your life will become happier.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Extra: Just Kidding, Asshat.

I'm not really done blogging.  I just wanted to let Nate Keeler have a go at it.  I'm considering "embracing the pariah status"  I'm looking into the genius of Andy Kaufman for guidance and it seems to be working.

Yesterday on my commute home, I'm going through Elmwood.  I'm not on the narrow busy multi-use path to the west of it.  I'm on the street.  Oops.

As I ride along, a guy walking in the grass just east of the road points to the sidewalk and yells, "There's a bike path right there, asshat."

Maybe he had a problem with my helmet?

Anyway, I swung around into the parking lot and confronted him.

We discussed our opposing views for a moment.  Not to brag, but I was right and he was wrong.

Particularly when I mentioned that it was my strong belief that he was a fucking pussy who wouldn't do anything about it anyway and why the fuck was he walking on the grass when there was a sidewalk right there.

To this, he turned from me and walked away, holding out his hand making a shaking motion with it in mock fear.

"Told 'ya."  I said.

Man, I think I need more of those Nate Keeler pep talks.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Outro

Well that's it.  I quit.  I'm done.  I have been struggling over this for a long time, but I've come to realize I'm in some kind of cycling no man's land.  Somewhere between the local competitive riders and the social "fun" riders.  This is not acceptable to me, so I quit.  This is no joke.  I'm done.  I mean it this time.  

I'm done with this stupid blog too.  If you want to read something stupid, just go here.  And if you want to know where and when the group rides in Omaha are happening, go here.  Hopefully, you (unlike me) are among the select elite crew of cyclists invited to read it so you don't get the big "permission denied" page when you're looking for a group to ride with in Omaha.  Enjoy your ride, bitches.

Goodbye.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Second Company Lunch Ride ever

Back at the U.P.  We had lunch rides pretty much every day.  But here at the company we've had two in the entire history of the company.

I define lunch ride as "more ride, less lunch."  That's important, because even though I normally brown bag it, sometimes I go out for lunch.  I've ridden my bike to lunch dozens of times, but that doesn't count.

At the company, I've joined (and initiated) the lunch ride exactly 2 times.  Once back in May when I thought I'd ride down to the taco truck and try to meet up with the U.P. crew.  It was a failure.  I missed or they didn't go or something.

The second time was today.  Same route, better timing.  Shim remarked that the timing was either impeccable or I was hiding around the corner waiting for them to show up so I could make my grand entrance.  While I nervously laughed at the absurdity of the idea, Shim was pretty much dead on.

I do have impeccable timing.  I can figure out when the group is most likely to be at the truck.  Today, I guessed 12:30 would be a good target.  I guessed correctly.  I showed up at 12:31 and they were all in line for tacos.  Also, it was only my second time to the taco truck that day.

I figured it would take me roughly 45 minutes to get to the truck from work.  I left the bike rack at 11:43.  Perfect.  Unless there's like a 20 MPH wind out of the west.  So yeah - I got there at 12:18.  Then I was reminded of the foot massage scene from Pulp Fiction:

Jules: What time you got?

Vincent: 7:22 in the A.M.

Jules: Oh. It ain't quite time yet.  C'mon.  Let's hang back.  Now look.  Just 'cause I wouldn't give no man a foot massage don't make it right for Marcellus to throw Antoine off a building into a glass mother-fuckin house, fucking up the way the nigger talks.  That shit ain't right.  The mother fucker do that shit to me, he better paralyze my ass 'cause I kill the mother-fucker.  You know what I'm sayin'

Vincent: I ain't sayin' ...

Oh sorry.  I went too far.  Anyway - I knew I was early, so I figured I'd ride around for a few minutes and think about whether or not foot massages were inherently sexual.

As I was leaving the parking lot however, I was stopped by a couple of guys walking toward me in extremely shabby dress.  Well - just one of them was beckoning for me to stop.  When I first noticed him trying to say something to me, he was about 40 feet away.  He was holding up his hand and looking at me saying "Don't go yet,"  but all I heard was "Don't ..."

I became slightly self-conscious.  These guys both had very rough brown skin and long dark hair and beards.  At first I thought they were Mexicans, but I later realized the one trying to say something to me was Native American.

They were wearing extremely grease stained denim jeans (obviously work clothes) and several layers of flannel and sweatshirts and things.  They looked extraordinarily rugged.  Not ruggedly handsome, but as a consolation, ruggedly ugly.

Well the one trying to get my attention repeated his command several times while these 2 characters walked toward me.  Each time, his accomplice giggled at how funny his friend was.

I was standing there over my bike in my oh so fancy Lycra Capo black and pink kit.  I had on the lovely Capo socks and some standard issue Arm and leg warmers.  I looked really fucking cool.  In certain scenarios.  In others, like sitting around in an auto parts store parking lot in South Omaha, I looked absolutely ridiculous.  I was thinking that whatever happened it would be interesting.  I was just hoping that they didn't make fun of my really cool bike clothes.  I paid a pretty penny for them and I didn't want to be teased.

Well when they finally reached me, I asked what the one was saying.

I would love to actually be able to write.  What I do is pretend to write.  Or impersonate writing.  If I could write, I bet I could make up the following conversation.  But I can't, so this is what was said:

Native American sans bottom row of teeth: Don't go yet.  I need to borrow your bike.

Me:  Ok.  Cool.  What do you need it for.

Mexican accompanying N.A.:  giggle giggle

N.A.:  I got to go to Minnesota.  You wait right here and I'll bring your bike back in 5 days.

Mexican: Tee hee

Me:  Ok.  I'm happy to loan you my bike, but where in Minnesota?

N.A.: Willmar.

Mexican:  Ha ha

Me:  I don't know where that is.

N.A.:  It's up near St. Cloud.  My son lives there and I want to visit him.

Me:  Oh.  Sounds cool.

N.A:  I promise.  Five days.

Me:  That's a long way on a bike in five days.

Mexican:  Hardy har har.

Me:  I'll tell you what.  There's going to be about 3 or 4 cyclists here in a few minutes.  Every single one of them will be riding on fancy carbon fiber.  Much lighter and faster than this ol' aluminum hunk.  I say you wait until they get here and choose one.  If you still want mine.  Fine.  I just think you should consider your options.  Oh yeah - and you'll need to provide your own pedals.

N.A.: That's cool.  Ima run home and grab my Looks.  I'll be right back.

Mexican (whispering):  He doesn't have any pedals.  We probably won't be back.

So at that, I figured I'd just ride around for a few minutes and come back.  So my timing wasn't quite as good as it might have appeared.  But in a way, I'm glad.  It's rare to enter into anonymous delightfully quirky conversations like the one I had with the NA hoping to get to MN to see his son.  I don't know if he'll ever get some pedals, but if he does, I've printed off some stuff that might be helpful.

In just 140 steps 316 miles and 26 hours, Father, son and my bike could all be reunited!

Anyway.  Here's the weird thing.  That was not the most interesting thing that happened on the second ever company lunch ride.  The most interesting thing happened while I was still on my way to the taco truck.  I was on the Keystone trail.  I was approaching the bridge just north of "L" street.  I saw what looked like Sasquatch walking across the trail toward the fences on my right (the east).  As I rounded a corner, I saw nobody.  I was sure I had just seen someone walk across the trail.  So I'm carefully gazing along the fence, wondering where the hell that person went.  Then I suddenly see it.  From about 10 feet away,  either a woman  or a youthful face was peering at me.  Crouched among the shrubbery, trying to be invisible, wearing one of these:

So yeah.  What do you do at noon on a Thursday?

Well, obviously, I dress up like a sniper and try to remain unseen by passing trail users.

Once again.  I wish I could write.  Because I would love to be able to make shit like this up.

Good night.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Extra: I Haven’t Smelled That Since I Dyed My Hair Black

Back when I was considerably stupider than I now am, I had this friend.  He was not a smoker, but I was.  A nasty habit I had picked up at the ridiculously old age of 19.  Like most of the stupid dumbasses I hung around, I smoked Marlboro light 100's.  Hard pack, please.  I didn't switch to King size until I started working at a place that gave us 10 Minute smoke breaks.  Couldn't easily get 2 100's smoked in 10 minutes so the switch became a matter of what seemed like good economics.

I hid my smoking from my parents.  There just never seemed to be a good time to open that can of worms.  I sometimes wonder if they really knew I smoked and didn't say anything or if they were in denial about me smoking or if they just didn't notice my stench.

These days, it's hard to believe you wouldn't instantly know a smoker from about 50 feet away.  But back then, with smoking allowed in just about every public place, the smell could easily be explained away.


But my friend, Ric, was not a smoker.  He was (in my mind) a punk rocker.  To me, that was anyone who listened to The Dead Kennedys or Black Flag.  He also wore a long black overcoat.  I did too, but he was kind of short, so it looked (to me) really funny.

One day, I was walking around in the Old Market and I saw Ric.  We started talking and he pulled out a small narrow black box of what appeared to be cigarettes.  He offered me one and I took it - though I was surprised.  He was also 19 and it seemed a late age to start smoking.

"When did you start smoking, Ric?"

"Oh these aren't cigarettes.  They're cloves."

"Like the shit that people stick into ham?"

"Yeah.  You can smoke it and it tastes and smells terrific and it's not addictive and it's really cool."

"Hmm.  Okey - Doke.  You need a light?"

"Say - those do taste swell - but I think I still want to smoke tobacco.  But where'd you get these things anyway?"

"You have to go to David's Briar Shoppe at Westroads.  It's only about $3.00 for a pack of 16."

At the time, 20 Marlboro Light 100's was about $0.95.  I figured I'd go out to David's Briar Shoppe and get me some to pull out on special occasions when I really needed to impress the people I knew who would be called "Emo" had they been born 25 years later.

Also - I felt the freedom to light these babies up in front of my mom (not my dad) because Ric said they weren't cigarettes.  Mom was like - Yeah - neither is plastic, but I don't want to light it up and inhale it ...

So I haven't thought about Clove Cigarettes in oh, 30 years or so.  Yesterday afternoon, I was taking a walk around the building here at the company.  It was a lovely day and one time around the building is about 1/2 a mile.

As I went near the deluxe company smoking area, I got a whiff of the unmistakable scent.  Are you kidding me?  Someone was smoking cloves in there.

Later on, I looked it up and Clove cigarettes have been outlawed (for sale) for a few years.  I guess they actually are about 70% tobacco and 30% cloves and other crap.

They were outlawed because children find them so delicious.

But I know what I smelled.  A little further research led me to find that it is perfectly legal to make your own. In fact there was a 15 step simple "how-to" that included some marination and baking in the oven.

Seems a little bit much to go through, but I guess some people really want to be 1980's cool, no matter how much trouble it is.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

You can hide, but you can't run (Rule 42)

... should only run if being chased. And even then, one should only run fast enough to prevent capture.

Ok, time to start being a bully again.  Brady and I have often discussed how we do not deserve Munson.  Here's the thinking.  Munson is always good (at least the Munson that Munson shows the world).  There is absolutely no reason to think there is a malicious bone in Munson's body.  Usually, I reward Munson's considerable kindness with less than nice words.  How does he respond to this?   By the time Munson gets done with me, I always feel like I've had coals of fire heaped on my head

Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head - Romans 12:20

So grab a shovel Munson, cause I'm hungry and thirsty for some Munson abuse.

A few weeks ago, I was Keystone Hammering (Yeah - it's a verb.  And you're a tool - I'm being a bully) on one of my Commuter Grand Prix rides, when all of the sudden - I noticed a commuter way up yonder.  Well, it wasn't too far from where I had to get off the trail, so I set this guy as the carrot to reach before Askarben.  As I buried myself to make the catch I began to ask several questions.  Is that Munson? Does Munson still ride bikes?  That's kind of Munsony looking hair, isn't it?

I figured, yeah that's Munson, so I rolled up next to him and said, "Hey Munson."

I hadn't seen that guy for several months so we chatted about all kinds of stuff.  He was near his house when we met, but he wanted to get a few extra miles in, so he rode on up to my house with me, where we discussed how much he needed to get back on the bike, starting the next day.

Well he was keen on the idea.  We rode the GSV Tuesday night route (on a Saturday morning) and he did surprisingly well.  Then he rode a lot the next couple weeks.  I had loaned him an extra Garmin I had and he joined Strava.

Also, Peter Boyd was riding with us.  The band was getting back together and it was (like totally high pitched) awesome.

Brady and I started to believe maybe Munson was really going to do it this time.

Then I made an error.  I jumped the gun, so to speak.  I was thinking that if the comeback actually happened, it would allay my concern that I'm just some stupid Ben Kenobi trying to do a job meant for Yoda.

The Ginnys are not awarded lightly (except that there was almost no thought involved in awarding them).  Never in the history of The Ginnys has an award been revoked.  I don't believe one ever will be, either.  But there is a strong contingent (existing only in my brain) calling to strip Munson of his award.

If you don't know about The Ginnys, it is the most coveted award in this area for great local cycling achievements.  It is thrown together by the fine folks over at the sister blog, Gin Soaked Vagina.

Arguably, the highest of all of these awards is the "Harden The Fuck Up" award.  Yeah, Munson won it.  It was based on a rather heroic effort during a winter ride earlier this year.  That effort stands on its own and the fact that Munson is now a big huge pussy will not enter into the equation.

To be fair, Munson has some sort of issue with his wrist that "kills" when he rides. Sucks for him.  He needs to take it easy or get to a doctor and find out what's going on.

Ok, enough being fair.

At first, it was the blogging that tricked me into thinking I was on the precipice of motivational greatness where Obi Wan had so miserably failed.  Munson's blogging, I said.  Oh it's on.  Crap!

Why was I saying "Crap!"  Because I know how good Munson is/was.  He doesn't, but I do.

In those couple of short weeks when Munson's wrist didn't have to hand out timing chips at wedding rehearsal dinners, his improvement on the bike was coming - I'll say it - a little too fast for my liking.  I could see that if he kept it up for any amount of time at all - he'd be dropping me like yesterday's old stuff that gets dropped pretty hard.

I was getting worried, sure - but I figured that it would just force me to improve.

Well that's over now.  I haven't heard from him in a couple of weeks.  He hasn't blogged.  He's done.

Too bad.

Oh by the way - Munson?  How about an early ride this Saturday for a couple of hours?  Everyone else will probably be racing cross.  Place your lame excuse in the comments section, please.

And I don't want to hear that you're doing the timing chips for the cross races this weekend.  Get somebody else to do it.  Let's ride!  Hyah!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Strife

I didn't want to fight.  I have never "wanted" to fight.  Not in the "Two people giving each other a physical beating" sort of way.


I wanted to laugh.  I wanted to make jokes.  I've mentioned before that in my early naivety, I would make jokes at other people's expense and was surprised that they didn't think it was funny too.


I don't know that the fight started from something in particular I had said or done.  I doubt it.  I think it was more of a general consensus from some of the classmates that if Jimmy and I fought, Jimmy would lose.  Jimmy's dad was kind of a biker dude.  He came across to me as a real badass.  I wonder if some conversation happened between Jimmy and his dad that made Jimmy think he needed to fight me.


None of that matters.  Jimmy had been talking for a while about how he was going to kick my ass.  I was completely mystified.  We had been friends for about 5 years (we were in the fifth grade).  There were three of us who were often described as the 3 smartest children to ever attend that little grade school.  Jimmy, Stephen and me.


Stephen was my best friend.  Jimmy was just this funny toehead who had a biting edge to his humor.  Certainly a little rougher around the edges than the rest of us with our looney tunes jokes.


When Jimmy let me know he wanted to fight me, I was scared.  I didn't know what to do.  I told him I didn't want to fight.  In a way - it was the first time for me that I questioned why life had to be the way it did.  Rodney King had not yet said it, but I was thinking, "Why can't we all just get along?"


But to some people, fighting was no big deal.  It was just something to do.


"What a pussy!"  Jimmy said, looking around at everyone who nodded in confirmation at my hesitation to start punching him.  Now I was horrified, but I thought I had just been given an out.  If being afraid to fight someone means you're a "pussy,"  whatever that is, I'll take it!  Yippee! I win.  Problem solved.  Whew!  Ok, guys.  Are we square?  I think we've all learned a valuable lesson from this.  Jimmy is not a pussy and I am.  Ok, I'll just go on home now.


"Hey faggot!  Where are you going?"  Oh crap.  Now I'm also a faggot, whatever that is.  Well I was happy with one disparaging title, but now I was not so sure.  There might be several names to endure if I stick with this whole "not getting into fights," thing.


So I walked the 2 blocks to home with my head down as Jimmy and some others yelled at my cowardice from the other side of the street.  They were not really allowed to go that way because they lived the other way and the safety patrols kind of monitored that stuff.  They would report you if you went the wrong way.  Nobody wanted to get "reported."    


You would also get reported if you were fighting on school grounds.  So I was safe because my street to cross was attached to school grounds.


But the derision from classmates increased as the next couple of weeks went by.  Stephen was in my corner.  In fact, Stephen would refuse to fight anyone as well.  We went around saying we were pussies.  But for whatever reason, nobody was giving Stephen any crap.  I think it was because I was taller than everyone.  I was something for Jimmy to prove.


I started losing sleep over it.  Dreading going to school.  Finally, I went to the one person I knew who knew about fighting.  I explained it all to my dad, but mom was listening.


Mom, bless her dear heart, said, "We need to talk to the boy's parents."


"Shhh," dad said, gently raising a hand to mom,  "That is exactly what we don't need to do.  If we do that, Freddie's problems will only be beginning.  It's a school yard fight.  Nobody will get hurt, but it has to happen or it won't end."


In the movie, "The Godfather" A dying Vito Corleone explains to his son what will happen as the other families plot against the Corleones.  He has so much experience, he can accurately describe how everything will go and what will be the aftermath.


My dad doesn't know the olive oil import/export business, but he does know about how childhood fights go.  It was amazing.


"Listen son.  I've been in a lot of fights.  I've won some and I've lost some,"  Then he winked to my mom.  I didn't know yet, but he had taken it upon himself to violently avenge all of his losses.


"I'm scared.  I don't want to fight anyone.  I didn't do anything."


"I know you didn't.  Fighting is stupid.  There's never a reason.  It just happens.  And I'll tell you a secret.  Jimmy is scared too.  More afraid than you."


Now I thought my dad was insane.  I began to think he didn't know what he was talking about.  He could see my skepticism and said, "How often do you look at other kids and wonder who would win in a fight between you and them?"


"Never,  Why would I ..."


"I know.  But Jimmy's not like that.  He looks around and sees someone he thinks can beat him up and he gets scared.  That's why he picked a fight with you.  He wanted you to back down.  He will continue to bother you until you fight him.  But everybody is scared to fight.  Either that or they are crazy.  The fear ends once the fight starts, then it's just crazy."


"But if he beats me up, it will be worse."


"No.  It doesn't matter who wins.  As long as you stand up and fight him, it will end.  You will be friends again."


Now I knew my dad was crazy.  That didn't make any sense.  There was a lot I needed to learn about the world.


"But I don't know how to fight.  I don't know what to do,"  I told Dad.  


Exhaling heavily, knowing he was going to take some heat from Mom, he said, "Well we should probably take care of that, then."


The first thing he did was explain how the fight would start and what to do next.  Then he taught me how to punch.


"What is your strongest hand?"


"My left"


"Then I'm going to teach you how to fight right-handed.  I am right handed, but I stand southpaw because this is not a boxing ring.  It's sloppy.  Usually over after one punch.  You'll lead with a jab.  You want it to be  powerful."


None of this made any sense to me, but he showed me how to fire straight out,  how to keep my knuckles in line with the top of my forearm, how to keep a loose fist, etc.  Then he had me practice on his arm.


"No - you're just pushing my arm with your fingers.  Flatten out your hand.  Better.  Better.  Ow!"  Yeah that's it.  Training's over.  Hit him with that.  He'll quit.  Ow."


So I was terrified, but after my dad's assurance that Jimmy was too and that the fear would stop once the fighting began, I took a different approach at school.  When Jimmy and his choir came up to me I told them that I didn't want to fight because I would be forced to kick his ass.


There was just a moment when I saw a tiny wave of what I was hoping was fear flash across his face, but it was probably just surprise.  As he regained his composure, we agreed to meet Tuesday after school on my side of the street.  He was allowed to cross my street on certain days because the cub scout meetings were on my street every other Tuesday.  We were both Cub Scouts or Webelos or whatever.


So Jimmy and about 7 or 8 unauthorized schoolchildren followed me on Tuesday to just out of sight of the safety patrols (who all knew what was going on and didn't report any of it).  We faced each other.  I got into the right handed boxing stance, ready to punch him like dad showed me.  But I was too hesitant.  Jimmy charged and knocked me to the ground.  Now I was on my back and he was wildly throwing punches at me and slapping at me.  I wasn't scared anymore.  Adrenaline took over and besides, none of these slappy-ass slaps were hurting me at all.  I felt exhilarated.  I put my arm around his neck and twisted to get him underneath me.  What happened next, I could barely believe.  Because he was considerably lighter than me, his legs windmilled through the air as I flung him to the ground.  Experience or not, he was simply completely outmatched.  I realized this as I decided to release a couple of weeks humiliation (literally) on his face.


In retrospect, it probably was not necessary for my dad to teach me how to punch.  Sitting on top of Jimmy, I wailed away at his face with my knuckles.  I was in some sort of frenzy.  The moment was captured perfectly in "A Christmas Story".  My arms were beginning to hurt from being tired, but I wouldn't stop.  The cheering stopped and people were yelling at me to stop hitting Jimmy.  I could not.  I think I would still be there if they hadn't pulled me off.  


Jimmy's face was a mess.  I saw my friend on the ground.  I saw what I had done.  It didn't matter that he had brought it about.  I had thought if I won a fight, I would be proud like my dad was when he always told stories of winning fights.  I wasn't proud.  I was more sad than ever.  I looked around at all of the kids who had wanted to see a fight.  I suddenly hated them.  I blamed them.  I was thinking if it weren't for them giving Jimmy steam, none of this horror would have happened.  It may sound as if I'm overstating it.  It's just a couple of kids fighting, right?  But for me, it was the most emotionally devastating feeling I had ever had.  

Forcing someone into a helpless position and losing control and refusing to relent.  I was disgusted with myself.


The other kids were staring at me like I was some kind of monster.  I had expected to be some kind of hero.  Now they just saw me as a bully.  I turned toward home and started crying.  Nobody came with me.  They all started home the other way without talking.  There was not the expected animation or excitement over the event.  Maybe they talked about it later, but I never heard a word from anyone about it ever again.

With each step away from the scene, I became more upset.  I didn't understand it.  I still don't.  I had expected to feel like a man if I could somehow beat Jimmy.  But I just felt like a fool.


At one point, I stopped walking toward my house and just stood and bawled.  I was completely alone inside myself without the mental maturity to console myself or forgive my error.  

Then this older girl Lisa, who lived across the street from us put her arm around my shoulder and said, "It's ok, Freddie.  Jimmy's alright.  You're ok.  I'll explain what happened to your parents.  It will be ok."  Lisa was sometimes our babysitter  She was about 3 or 4 years older than me so as with all girls 3 or 4 years older than me, I was in love love love with her.


But her calm voice and assurance was exactly what I needed to help me get a grip on my emotions and get home.  Thinking about it, this girl couldn't have been more than 13 or 14 years old at the time.  Man, girls mature faster than boys.

The next day, I was over at Jimmy's house in his room.  We were playing Hot Wheels.  He had a really cool setup.  I mentioned that it looked like he had something on his face and he slugged me in the arm.  I told him I'd have to teach him how to punch some day and we just laughed.


~~

 So after I finished this, I sent it to my mom to read.  We were on vacation this week, so I wrote it ahead of time.  She didn't remember any of these events, but it sparked a memory of her own that was interesting.  The following is an excerpt from her response to reading the story above (names changed, etc.): 


A couple months ago I was backing out of our driveway to go pick up Dee at work. This young man who had been sitting on the neighbor's porch visiting waved at me to stop. I thought he was a friend of theirs. He asked me if I was "Mrs. Thompson"  I told him no. He was very talkative. He was going around the neighborhood looking at homes he remembered and talking to anyone who might remember his family or him.  He went to Saunders in kindergarten, then to St Cecila's or Cathedral or whatever it was called.  I think he was between you and Steve in age.  The only people we seemed to have in common were The Johnson's (no relation) . He said he did not like Jimmy Johnson because he was a bully.  I said "JIMMY JOHNSON? I thought he was a wimp."  He said that Jimmy knocked down his little brother and took his Halloween candy. He found Jimmy and told him he knew what he did. I don't remember exactly what he did about it, but Jimmy did not like it. Pretty sure HE would like your story.  SO THIS morning I was cleaning out a desk drawer and found his card ...

~~

So to me, the big question is, why are people taking their stories of Jimmy's bullying to my mother?

Oh universe, you're a tricky one!