Thursday, November 03, 2016

Hoping to come along

Yeah - I haven't posted anything for a couple of weeks.  Not even so much as a post saying I wasn't going to post.

I don't know what's going on, but I haven't been too into it for the last 3 or 4 years.  I want to be, but I seem to lack motivation.

Anyway, I thought I'd stop by tonight and stare at the blank page for a bit.  Once I got here, I saw this draft from 2 weeks ago. All it had was the title. There was no body.  The title was (is) "Hoping to come along."

I could see it was a draft, but I was curious about the subject so I opened it to find no words.

So I don't know what I was hoping would come along 2 weeks ago. I will just have to guess, I guess.

The first thing that comes to mind is cyclocross.  I love cyclocross.  I can tell because I suck at it and I still always want to do it. I want to get better at it.  I am always wondering why I cannot seem to get it right.  The difference between me and the top Cat 4 guys never seems to change.  I always end up a couple minutes behind them.  They are a different crop of guys every year, but I just slog away year in and out at about the same level.  It's maddening, but I love cyclocross.

I think the reason is that it really hurts a lot. The more I torture myself, the more I feel I'm going to puke, the happier I am when it is all said and done.

I think that's because I'm going to finish well back from the front.  With that kind of embarrassment, It's murder to look at my results and know I didn't give it all I had.

It does leave one area of confusion, though.  Why am I getting smoked by all these guys?  Guys I can easily dispatch on the road?

I'm pretty sure it comes down to skill.  Criterium racing (now my second favorite kind of racing) is about energy conservation.  I believe that's the difference for me and cyclocross.  I am not so great around the corners, so I have to burn a match out of every one of them to stay with a group that just railed it.

I practice cornering on the grass quite a bit and I've seen some improvement.  Maybe that's what I mean when I say I'm "Hoping to come along."

Or maybe ...

Maybe a couple of weeks ago, some of my friends were talking about going to get some ice cream or something.  Maybe they didn't say exactly when or where, but it sounded like something I'd be up for so I was hoping to come along.

Yeah, that makes more sense than learning to turn a bicycle on the grass.


Oh that reminds me, I just signed up for the races in Lincoln this weekend.  I am pretty sure I will win them both.

My daughter lives real close to the park. She watched me win the Cornhusker State Games Road Race a few months back. I think I will bring the boys with me to Lincoln and they can hang out with my daughter.  I'm pretty sure they're not hoping to come along.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

The right word just blew my mind

The title of this post is currently "The right word just blew my mind."

It may or may not be called that by the time I finish.  The thing is, I was writing on a post that I work on from time to time. It's just awful. Boring, stupid, self-indulgent.  Even by my - um - what's the word ... not 'estimation.'

See that's the problem.  The right words are not coming to me right now. Hang on. I'm going to get that one I'm trying to think of.  It is 9:53 and 45 seconds.

At 9:55 and 30 seconds, I decided to go with "assessment."  I don't think that's the one I wanted, but I'm going with it for now.  Maybe the right one will come to me as I begin to tell you why I'm here tonight.

I was writing this piece of shit about playing darts.  Thrilling, I know.  I'm sure there's a funny story in there somewhere, but I just can't seem to find it.

I was writing this thing about darts when my son and wife came up and commandeered my computer. My son needed to use it for school work or some crap.

Fine, I thought. I'll just go ahead and put a seat on my old road bike, which is what I did.

My old road bike didn't have a seat on it because I took it off last night to put it onto my cyclocross bike.

Last night as I was getting ready to go to the cyclocross practice, I noticed that the seat looked funny.  Kind of crooked or something.  I took a careful inspection of it and found this:

 If you look very very very carefully, you may be able to detect a slight crack in the seat.  Anywhos, I had to replace it.  Since all of my saddles are fi'zi:k arione saddles, I just grabbed one off another bike.

So I did that while the people were at my computer doing work.

By the time they were done and I got back to my dart story, the mojo was gone.  So I started thinking about something very funny I saw on the facebooks the other day.

It was one of the cleverest posts I ever read until I read it.  That was kind of the beauty of it.

It was posted by Scott Redd and it was brilliant.  I know, right?

Anyway, it was only brilliant until I saw it.  Actually it was no longer brilliant when I saw it because I was not the first one besides Scott to see it.

It was something like "I know you won't share this post because I've made it private."

But it was a photo (not a screenshot) of his status saying that and you could see that it was marked as private.

It is nice that he shared the photo of his private status so that we could all get a good chuckle. But it simultaneously ruined it.

If he'd never posted the photo, we'd never know. We'd never share (as he predicted) and it would be hilarious.  It's hilarious weather [sic] anyone besides Scott ever gets to enjoy it.

That's where Scott and I differ. That and the type of cyclists we deride.  I deride the type Munson is and he derides the type Munson used to be.

C'mon Munson! Become a cyclist Scott Redd can deride again!  As long as I'm here, I'm proof you're not too old.  My wrists hurt too.  All the time (true story). HTFU. Then I won't deride you anymore.

Or is 'deride' the right word? Maybe in today's political climate, "pillory" is a better word.

That's pretty funny.  You know how people do those stupid puns or play on words with the names of the candidate they hate?

If you were a Trump supporter, you could say something like, "I'd never vote for Pillory Clinton."

Then all your fellow Trump supporters would be all embarrassed for you.  "Um, Mike.  Ooh. This is awkward. It's not 'Pillory' - It's Hillary.

Or maybe they'd just laugh along because they'd think you're implying she's popping a bunch of pills.

"There goes that old drug addled Pillory Clinton - am I right?!?"

Sorry - so I was thinking about Scott Redd's Brilliant - until he ruined it by sharing it - post and realized that I would not have ruined it if I had thought of it.  Sometimes there is a joke that is only funny if it is not shared with anyone.  These are the worst.  I have maybe 50 or so of them. I have ruined a few of them by trying to explain them to people, but I've learned my lesson.

When Scott stumbled upon one of these gems, much like a bike ride where you're not lugging a campsite around, he didn't know what to do.

Regardless (the private part of this blog post sentence begins with the word "Irregardless" which is hilarious for a completely original and new reason that I cannot share or it will ruin it) of the fact that Scott ruined his own joke like a cup of camp coffee after a 70 mile bike ride, I still appreciate what he had attempted (and failed) to do.

I was thinking that "The very [word not found] of what he almost accomplished just blew my mind.

The word is not even close to "audacity"

"The audacity of what he almost accomplished just blew my mind"

No - that was not the word.  However, the great thing about that word is that if you read the sentence, you'll know how the inflection should be.  All you need to do now is figure out what the right word is and it will all make sense.

When I started this post, I thought if I came up with the right word, I'd go back and change the title.

I did come up with the right word.  Whew! But I'm not changing the title because unfortunately, the correct word is one of those things that is only funny if it is not shared.

What a coincidence!

But here. I will leave you with this exercise.  This is something I do at work. It is in the realm of private jokes.

I will send emails to people with the occasional intentional grammatical error.

I don't know why I do it. I just think it's funny.

I will reply to some request for help with something like:

"Please reboot you're pc, than let me know if you still have the problem.  Thanks!"

Also - if you'd like to play the Scott Redd game, feel free to guess what completes the sentence about how awesome his post would have been had he not shared it:

The _________ of what he did just blew my mind.

Good luck.

One last thing.  The word "assessment" from earlier sucks. The word we were looking for was "valuation." not "evaluation" either, but "valuation" Thanks for playing.

God bless.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Shut your damn mouth

There's a guy I know who tells stories.  They are usually stories about how frustrated he is at the world.  He dislikes the way of the liberal.  He confuses the charity of the liberal for greed.  He sees the conservative way as the only responsible path.  He believes that everybody should be completely self-supportive. Nobody should rely on the state.

There are two kinds of people. Successful people and lazy people.  His upbringing and faith have taught him that the reason he's never had the problems of the unfortunate is because he's doing it right and they're doing it wrong.

I have listened to his stories for years without comment, but seething at his smug shortsightedness.

Ironically, I've never bothered to examine why his commentary bugs me so much.

Well, until now.

I used to be him. That's why it bugs me. I find myself wanting misfortune to happen to him. This is only half-true.  I'd rather he judge the world in harsh obliviousness until the day he dies than wish upon him some of the horrors that befall much of humanity.  Let alone the relatively small problems I've had. I think I'm better for what I've been through. I'm glad that the judgmental asshole I used to be is gone.  What remains is a slightly less judgmental asshole.  But the pain was barely worth it.

I was a man of faith.  My faith taught me that if you served the lord, you'd basically be set.

Having never been sick (really sick), I believed in miraculous healing.  I believed that if anybody had any problems or sickness, they needed more faith.

God would heal the truly faithful.  Also, God would not only make sure you were provided for, he'd make you ridiculously prosperous.

So I prayed. I worked. I tithed. I served. I loved God so much for all his goodness and great gifts, etc.

I saw people with problems and had no pity.  I would try to tell them what they needed.  They needed faith. They needed God.  I would tell them story after story of God's miracles.

After the birth of my second child, I came to understand that I do not know everything.  I understood that no matter how much we think we have control over our lives and circumstances, misfortune can happen.  It can send you to a dark place.

The best part of it is that if you're a man of faith as I was, you probably have a bunch of Godly friends of like mind.  You go around feeling sorry for all of those unfortunates with physical (and mental) disabilities. Also - superior.  Vastly superior to all of those people of little faith who settle for the crap thrust upon them. You have the same answer for all of them. Increase your faith in God. He has promised to heal you.  Are you calling God a liar?

So when your daughter is born severely handicapped, this is your support group.

For a while, it's cool.  I mean you're crying and sad and ache for your perfectly innocent, precious little girl and everything. But you truly believe God's got your back.  You just go get your praying done and receive God's promise. It'll all work out.

Then it doesn't.  Your daughter doesn't get healed.  But you can't doubt God has a plan.  Sure, the longer it goes, the more uncomfortable all of your friends get around you.

Not because they harbor any ill feelings toward your daughter.  They just don't really feel so good about being around someone who can't trust God enough to get his daughter healed.

This went on for a couple of years.  People distanced themselves from us a bit.  Finally a leader of our huge church invited me out for coffee. He wanted to offer some advice.

During that meeting, he encouraged me through anecdote.  It had something to do with him noticing that his daughter or son would suffer the horrifying symptoms of a bad cold every time his walk with god faltered even slightly.  I can't be sure because it was a long time ago, but it seems like his walk with god was shakiest during the height of cold and flu season. Then he'd get right with God within a few days and a couple of glasses of orange juice later, his kids would be right as rain.

The guy was an auto mechanic.  His hands and fingernails were permanently encrusted with thick black grease.

As he was telling me this story to illustrate that my daughter was suffering one of the most severe cases of mitochondrial encephalomyopathy the doctors had ever seen because of my questionable walk with god, all I could think was "Do you finger your wife with those hands?"

True story.

With tears, I stood up, threw a couple of dollars on the table and left the Village Inn.

I didn't say anything to the guy, but he knew he had fucked up.

I also felt pity for him.  I realized that he believed that every time his kids got a cold, it was his fault.  I hoped (honestly) that nothing serious ever happened to him.  I didn't think he'd be able to deal with it.

I stopped going to church that week.

A few weeks later and I don't know how he heard, but the pastor of the church, a man I'd never met, called me.

He asked for "Fred Hinsley" pronounced correctly, somehow. He'd done his homework.

"Fred, this is Elmer Murdoch and I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am for what has happened."

He went on to ask for my account of it. He was shocked.  He made no sales pitch. He knew I wasn't going back to his church. He only wanted to find out if I was going to be ok. He wanted to help me if there was any way.  He was genuine and I loved him for it. I could hear his real compassion for me and my situation.  He was a good man.

But I couldn't allow myself around the flock any more.  There would always be judgment.  Including from me.  The words that Tim (I just remembered the guy's name) spoke to me at the coffee shop that day were harsh, but they kind of echoed my thoughts.  I was wondering what had I done to deserve this pain.  I was faced with the prospect of watching my kid die within the next few years. It wasn't fair. It must be my fault somehow.

And if a miracle had happened? What then?  I hate to say it, but it's true. I'd have become worse.  More convicted than ever that my faith was so awesome that anybody who remained sick was just no good at faith and god and stuff. I was obviously more humble than them.

So when I hear somebody who has it all figured out, I sometimes wish something would happen to them.  Only because I know that in the long run, I'm more compassionate (still not much, but more) than I used to be.

As it turned out.  I didn't know everything and that whole God thing was not the way for me.

~~

Cancel my subscription to the resurrection
Send my credentials to the house of detention
I got some friends inside -- Jim Morrison

I gotta beep a conja chuchum
Honk konk konk
I donta eat ya corn and beans
ya bop a lula
Eat your bom potito (potato wave -- EV)
Eat some corn
Yay right -- Also Jim Morrison (Paraphrased).

Thursday, September 29, 2016

One more week, please

Sorry about that complete skip of a blog post last week.  Sorry about the near complete skip of this week too.

We are extremely busy these last few days trying to rid the house of a bunch of stuff we don't want anymore.

Step one is a garage sale.  That's going on this week.

Garage sales are weird. The stuff people will buy.  One guy today picked up something from our big huge table of tools.  I have no idea what it was.  It was certainly specialized for some purpose.

"What's this thing?" he said.

"No idea. I was hoping you'd know."

"What do you want for it."

"Fifty cents."

"I'll take 'em both then.  I'm sure I can figure out some use for them."

That's how garage sales work.

Weird.

 I think my favorite people are the ones who walk over from 3 or 4 blocks away. If they're talkers, you'll have an amusing little game of "Six Degrees of Separation" going in no time.

I'm not talking about the Kevin Bacon version of the game.  Just you and the garage saler trying to figure out who you know who knows somebody that knows a guy you know.

If you want to add a challenge, I suppose you could make the connection go through Nebraska's second district Congressional Candidate for the house of representatives, Don Bacon.

I am only mentioning that, not as an endorsement for any candidate or political party. I prefer to generally keep my political views to myself.  I am only mentioning it because his last name is "Bacon."

But go ahead. You and your tree hugging buddies sit around the campfire, killing children and playing "Six degrees of Brad Ashford."

I'm not suggesting that Brad Ashford kills children, but I can see where you'd get that idea. You'd be wrong of course.

I have to stop right here and reiterate that I am goofing around. I don't care who wins this race.  I really, really don't.

Although, I must say that Don Bacon is way handsomer than Brad Ashford.


In fact, I bet you've already deduced that the photo above is Brad Ashford. Not that he's "ugly" or anything.  However, it's clear that he's not "way handsomer" than anyone.

 But Don "Bedroom Eyes" Bacon ... Gasp!



 You're right, we should probably vote for Ashford because he looks more like the way the rest of the country expects a guy from Nebraska to look.  Although ...

Bacon is an Illinois (fyi - I'm pronouncing the 's' in Illinois) Native so I have to wonder where his loyalties will be on Saturday when the Huskers take on the Fighting Illinis ('s' added for clarity).

I think these 2 should just arm wrestle for the job.  That seems to me like the only fair way to decide anything.

Oh look, I've strayed off topic.  My topic was that I'm sorry I won't be posting this week.

Next week for sure.

Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Making Flippy Floppy

Wait a minute. Everybody get in line.

I've been struggling lately with this blog posting thing.  I am checking out some of my old posts in hopes of some encouragement.  Some of the things I've just read, I have no idea how I wrote them.

Well, I have some Idea - but I'm not really sure what I've lost.

I think there's the thing about "mocking" real writing.  I never really wrote anything, I just impersonated cliche writing and it kind of worked ok.  So I think I'll cliche write for a little bit tonight to get back into shape.

It was a fucking dark and goddamn stormy night.  Wow, I feel better already.  Ok now what?

Through the evergreens, came the horrifying sound of gale force winds.  And your mom farting from her big bottom.  Because she smells bad.  

Oh yeah - this is stellar stuff, here! It's so good, there's a pretty good chance no editing will be necessary at all.  Except maybe a little "passive voice" clean up or something.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah ...

A single maple leaf had ridden hundreds of miles on the wind and come to rest on the shake shingled roof of a remote cabin at the base of the mighty Saskatchewan Mountain range.  Saskatchewan Mountain range?  Yeah, either there is such a place or I just made it up.  So what?

The leaf might have made it even farther north, had it not gotten itself lodged between a couple of the shingles.  Oh well, it was just a stupid leaf.  It's not like it had a soul ...

"Pappa, what happens when we die?" The little leaf asked his mom.

"I'm your mother dear," said the little leaf's mom.

"Sorry mom, it's just that I can't tell you 2 apart."

"Why you little shit!" cursed the little leaf's dad.

"I mean unless you're talking, that is," said the little leaf.

So his parents told him about how if you're a good little leaf and do all of your work helping to turn the rays of the sun into energy, one day the mighty god-tree will reward you by shedding you off like so much trash. When the god-tree releases you, it will say "More water for me!"  

Then the cold, hard ground will be your bed and the frozen water will be your blanket until you crumble into nothingness to serve as nutrients for the tree. 

The little leaf was amazed by how much his parents knew about something they had called "fotofenceses"  Boy his parents were a couple of bright leaves.  Oh no! They really were bright! Orange! He had just learned what that meant. His Parents were dying!

The little leaf began to cry. His parents implored that he calm down or risk shaking himself loose prematurely.  His time would come. But until then, he had a job to do.

So here he was all these months later.  His job done. All green, yellow, orange gone.  He had lost all flexibility.  He was now just  an old brown, crusty, brittle fragment of his old self.

What a journey he'd had north. Carried by the wind past all the evergreens. Those fuckers.

Now doomed to live his last few days stuck on the roof of a remote cabin.  A cabin uninhabited, save for the old craggy, gassy woman who lived there.  So pungent and ferocious was her great flatulence that the ungodly odor had seeped through the roof to where the little leaf could not get away.

What did I ever do to deserve this, thought the little brown maple leaf.  Oh what stench!

But the leaf had done nothing wrong.  It was just the cruelest misfortune that he had landed on your mom's roof. Sniff.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

My favorite song today

Sorry about this. I don't feel like writing today.  I'm just thinking of my favorite song.  My favorite song changes from day to day.

I'm not going to talk about it. I'm going to post 2 videos.  One will be the "studio" version.  The next will be a live version.  What I like about the live version is that you can understand more of the lyrics.  What I love about the studio version is that you can't.

So for your listening/viewing pleasure/displeasure, here's The Cramps ...


And Live ...


Sorry there's nothing to read. But there's something wildly entertaining to listen to. So there's that.

Oldsmobile graveyard.  Classic. 

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Omaha. Yes, the number for Bullshit. Because I'd like to call it.

Many of you young folk may not know the protocol for directory assistance.  Or even what directory assistance was.

A long time ago, if you needed to call somewhere but didn't have the number, you could call directory assistance and get the number.  The number for directory assistance was 411.  So that's where that saying came from.

It went like this:

after dialing 4-1-1 (google "rotary phone").

Someone would answer on the other end and say something adorable like "what city?"

If you weren't ready for this, it could be quite humiliating.  First of all, they said it so fast, you'd never know what they were saying.  So many people knew how it worked, they didn't need to understand the operator.

So after a few times, I had it down.

"What city" (I didn't know exactly what was said and it didn't matter.)

"Omaha."

"Uh-huh"

"Anderson on Burt."

"I have 27 of those"

and so on.

It was really amazing how quickly they got the results.

Anyway - the title of this post is a reference to calling 411 back in the day.

Here's the thing. I think Facebook can be lots and lots of fun.  But I try to avoid any sort of confrontation/argument/disagreement/difference of opinion because once that happens, an extremely long boring slew of back and forth comments happens from everybody in the world and I'm forced to read them all.  I just don't have that kind of time.

So often, I want to call bullshit, but I'd prefer if it were a private line. Not a party line.

So I will do it here (call bullshit) where nobody's listening.  Sniff.

So this was posted a few days ago. I won't say who posted it, because it's not important:

During hundreds of hours of solo bike rides and/or rides with Abbey, I have been yelled at by exactly no one. Today, on a ride with Amy, Leah, and Abbey, we were catcalled by a carload of dudes, heckled by three male pedestrians, and buzzed and screamed at by an old man who waited at the end of his driveway to accost us after he tried to run us off the road.
On the bright side, three guys mowing their lawns waved at us.
But really, worst ride as far as driver interactions in two years.

This was a post that seems to have been put there to say "See that fellas.  Women have it bad. Boy my eyes are open to this now" or some shit.

In response to this post, there were a few affirming comments and amens from people.  Things like "Story of my life."
"Yes - sad but true" or "You go girl!"

Well yes and no.

I don't doubt that women are harassed while they ride their bikes.  Probably more than men.  It must sound terribly misogynistic (and I love the "gyn") to use the word "probably" instead of something heroic and enlightened like "Definitely" but it wouldn't be true - because I don't know.

What I do know is this.  Either EOB (Oops) is not paying any attention when he solo rides (or with Abbey) or he's just not being honest (I wasn't sure how to spell the "lying" that means "not telling the truth").

I think what I disliked so much about this post was that it was obvious pandering. Brilliant in that you couldn't be a guy and say something like "I get yelled at and harassed just about every ride," because you'd sound like some kind of jerk who hates women.

However. It is utter bullshit. If EOB rarely gets yelled at, it's because that person who was going to yell at him has already yelled at me and got his feelings hurt when I responded.

Last Tuesday for instance ...

My story could be chosen from any week, but I will pick the one most recent.  I was solo riding. It had been about 1.5 hours of solo riding since I had last been heckled.

I was at 16th street, heading north.  Actually I was in the turn lane to go to Florence Boulevard. I was waiting at the red light,

A rusty, beat up old pickup pulled up beside me. The bearded old guy in the truck yelled. "Hey."

I ignored him.  He was coughing and smoking. Almost gagging.  "Hey. Sexy pants." He yelled.

I ignored him.

"You! on the bike. Coffity cough, cough."

I looked over.  He finished his coughing (really. he was coughing a lot).

"You know your tire is flat?"

I knew I didn't have a flat tire.  If you are in an old rusty pickup, it might be hard to tell if you have a flat tire or not.  You might come to rely on people telling you.  Maybe sometimes your smoker buddies tell you you have a flat tire as some kind of an outragous prank.

After he said, "You know your tire is flat?" he began with the coughing again.

I look at him and said, "You know your lungs are black?"

I think he tried to answer, but the light turned green and he was busy choking to death, pounding on his steering wheel, etc.

Anyway.  Yeah - motorists also harass men on bicycles.

To suggest they don't is silly.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Grandpa Pork

Last Thursday we all went over to my sister's house to have dinner.  My nephew was going off to college the next day so it was a good enough reason for a party.

I knew I wouldn't have time to write my blog post on Thursday, so I did the incredibly responsible thing and wrote it on Wednesday night.

Unfortunately, a bad thing happens when I start writing it early. I sit here thinking I can really go into some epic story telling because - Look at all the time I have!

If I would write a little each night, I'm pretty sure the writing would be much better.  What I wrote last Wednesday ended up being some of my favorite stuff I've ever written.  It quickly became too big for this blog so it sits unfinished.  And wrong. So very wrong.

I think I will put it on here soon, though.

Here's what I am thinking now: I'll write this huge pile of words until it's finished.  Then I'll publish it in parts, with a "To be continued ..." at the end of each one.  This way, I will see it to completion.

I don't have anything specific tonight I want to talk about so I will put the first paragraph of what I planned for last week here:

Ray had something wrong with his eyes.  One of them was weak or something.  It always looked like he was looking to your right if he was talking to you.  His left eye would drift outward as his other eye would be fixed squarely at you.  Whenever he talked to me, I'd keep checking my back because I kept thinking something had caught his attention behind me.

So I'm pretty sure you're all excited about that post whenever I get around to writing it.

But don't worry about that. I'm just bursting with stuff to talk about. I know because so many times this week, I would think something and then I'd think, "I should blog about that."

So I'm pretty sure that any minute, I'll think of something.

~

Thoughts on Grandpa Pork

Like most people, I had 2 grandpas when I was a kid.  Like most people in their fifties, all of my grandpas are dead now.

Grandpa Pork was the grandpa I haven't talked about recently.  Grandpa Pork never told me mathematical mysteries.  Grandpa Pork never took me to see a fireworks show.

Also, nobody ever called him Grandpa Pork.  I just made that up right now because he was my "other white grandpa."

I was always scared of Grandpa Pork.  He had an amazing mane of thick, white hair.  He was very skinny and my earliest memory of him put him at about age 200.

Young Cube and Papa Pork, 1966

Why was I scared of him?  I'm glad you asked.  To anybody that knew him, he was a sweet old man.  But when I look at that face, I see a striking resemblance to my own.  That's a face that scares children.

Plus there was the toilet paper incident.

Grandma Pork was truly the bestest grandma in the whole wide world. We loved her so much. She always had our backs.  

So one time I was over at Grandma's and I had to go potty.  I was probably not yet 3.  I maybe possibly used a few sheets too many of the toilet paper. I don't remember.

What I remember was a rampaging Grandpa pork, yelling at me for using "all the toilet paper on God's green earth."

I darted from the bathroom as Grandpa Pork threw a brown dress shoe at me.  The shoe hit the wall above my head, but I'm sure he meant to miss. Probably.

I ran to grandma's leg for cover where I was safe until grandma saw how much toilet paper I had put into the toilet.

For most of my life before he died, Grandpa was essentially bedridden.  Whenever I watched Willy Wonka, I'd think grandpa could get out of bed if he had enough incentive.

I will talk about this in detail some time, but going over to grandma's house was always a nice lesson about life. I already mentioned how grandma was the best grandma ever.  This was one adult who treated all children with respect.  She truly marveled at the way our minds worked.  She loved to play word games or scrabble with us.

I think grandma's place was always my favorite place to go, but whenever we went over there, she made us "visit" grandpa.

He was lying in a back room. I'd go in and sit in the chair next to his bed. He was breathing heavy.  He'd turn his head like it would be his last action and rasp, "Hi Freddie."

Terrifying.

"Hi grandpa."

"How's school."

"Um. Pretty good."

At that, he'd turn his head back and close his eyes, letting me know the torture was over.  I'd watch his frail panting for a minute and leave the room.

I'd get back to grandma who would tell me how much those visits meant to him.

"Yeah right."  I didn't believe that grandpa learning school was going "Pretty good" meant much to him.

I found out much later (just before he died) that he had remembered just about everything I'd ever said to him.  It wasn't a lot, but a few months before he died, he told me he loved me very much and that I could use as much toilet paper as I wanted.

Sniff.

Grandpa ate canned peas every single day.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bad Form

So I'm cruising down this fairly long (for Omaha) fairly steep hill last week.  I'm down in the drops going kind of fast.  Then the hill turns up.  Now it's a fairly steep, fairly long (for Omaha) uphill climb.  As I start to find the right gear, Most of the WNW group flies past me.  They are racing up the hill.  I'm not sure I want to get involved in this. It's already been a hard ride.

The ride has about 4 interesting features.  Once it gets going, it's a fairly hard effort, but the jewels of the ride are

1) The sprint before Ft. Calhoun.
2) The Surfside climb
3) The JJ Pershing sprint
4) Make-up Hill

Make-up hill is a somewhat derogatory term.  It implies that since you've sucked all day, here's your chance to make it up and win this hill.  We're not even going to try, because we proved ourselves on the really hard stuff earlier.

Yeah whatever. I think you're just saying that because you blew yourself up earlier.

So everybody, even the elite was flying by me on Makeup hill. So I thought "what the hell."

I picked a big gear and began to hammer.  As I passed a few riders and sped up, Shim said, "Let's see who's going to win Makeup hill."

I hesitated for a second, considering what would Shim say if I went for it.  Then I realized there was only one way to find out.  I put my head down and went to work.  Way ahead of me were Emily and much farther up the road, James.

But it is a longish climb.  Time was on my side.  I passed Emily and focused on catching James. I did not think I could do it, so I just went harder.  I was in a ton of pain, but I was able to get by him before the top.  Now all I had to do was wait for Shim to see what he would say.  I knew he would say something.  That's what he does.

Earlier this year, I was in the best form I had ever been in.  Every week, I was in contention for feature 1 listed above.   In the past, I was always either dropped or just hanging on at that point.  This year, I was even playing around in the attacks before the sprint - then going for the sprint itself and sometimes getting it.

But then we'd get to the Surfside climb.  The Surfside climb  is steep for a while, flattens out and then gets steep again.

I would always lose contact before the end of the first steep part.

I decided that climbing just wasn't my thing.  I could be happy if I never could keep up with those guys because my sprint was strong.  I was saying things like, "I guess I'm just a sprinter and I'm ok with that."

Then a funny thing happened.  About 8 weeks ago, I started getting pretty close to making it over the top of the hill with the group.

Then I'd get dropped on the flat section to feature 3 (The pershing sprint).

But in the last few weeks, I've been making it both up the hill with the group and not getting dropped before the Pershing sprint. Never winning, but at least not dropped.

Also, I've never been to the top of the Surfside climb first.

So earlier on the same night I beat James to the top of Make-up hill, we were on the Surfside climb.  I was sitting on somebody's wheel when Jonathan attacked.  I think we were still on the flat part, but I don't know.  All I could do was what everybody else always does.  Just watch him go.  It was something to see.  His acceleration, his dancing on the pedals, while the rest of us just slog along.  I think Lucas was next on the road that night after Jonathan, but I don't know for sure.  I just know I thought "what the hell" and looked down.  I went as hard as I could and could see that Jonathan was getting closer to me fast.  I passed Lucas and kept going.  Just before I got to Jonathan, I lost all of my power and shut down.  I couldn't finish what I'd set out to do.  Jonathan won the hill.  Again.

At least I tried.

Oh wait.  This is my story, not Shim's.

What really happened was I started to wonder if I had enough to get by Jonathan.  I did.

I got a bike length on him. He was slowing when I went by him, but as soon as he saw me, he sped up and almost caught back up to me before the top. Man that guy is strong.  If you're not a bike rider, you don't know how deflating it can be to have somebody cruise by you while you're going hard.  To speed up like he did takes a lot of heart.

I won the hill.  I honestly couldn't believe it.

Next is the Pershing sprint.  The few of us were rotating hard and I got dropped.  I didn't care. I was still in heaven over the hill effort from a minute ago.

So at the regroup, Shim said something about how that was the best he'd ever seen me climb, but that I went too hard. I only needed to finish top 5 or something and then I could contend for the sprint.

Yes and no.  First of all - I go to WNW for a hard effort.  I would have contended for the sprint only if I helped pull.  I could have sat in that night and made it with them. But I decided to take my pulls for as long as I could.

My point was: I won the climb.  I never thought I'd ever even be there with those guys, let alone win the thing outright.

It might seem repetitive the way I keep saying I won the climb, but the truth is I won the climb.

I did not come in second or wherever Shim was. I came in first.

So after telling me about my mistake in winning the climb.  After I won makeup hill, Shim said "That was bad form."

"What?"

"You don't go for makeup hill unless you get dropped earlier."

"You need to tell me these new rules when you make them up"

"It's been a rule for years, it's just you've never been with us before."

Well hopefully, I will be with you again. And then some.

I did not mention feature one that night.  Jonathan won the Ft. Calhoun Sprint.  I was a closing second place.

Then everybody else was after that.

FTG.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Remembering Patrick

Patrick was a quiet person.  Whenever he spoke, even if he was stating a fact, it came out sounding kind of like a question.

Patrick was fond of his car.  He owned a 1974 brown piece of shit Gran Torino. When he'd talk about the way he was going to fix it up, he would go to another place.  He was still speaking to you.  Telling you all of the details of how he was going to make that piece of shit Gran Torino the sweetest ride ever.

But he was looking away. He was picturing how awesome life would be once he and his beloved piece of shit Gran Torino were both as whole as the day they were born.

We all kind of laughed at Patrick.  I look back on it and I hate myself.  He wasn't very smart. Not stupid, but a little slow. Also, he seemed to me to be unstable. One of those guys who would show up to work one day and not say a word.  He would brood around, serving up the fries.  He'd look at nobody. Do his shift and drive his piece of shit Gran Torino home.

Patrick was 24 years old. I was 17.  We both worked at Wendy's, but I was much closer to the average employee age.

So yeah, if I had met Patrick anytime in the last 20 years or so, I wouldn't have thought to give him a hard time.  He wasn't hurting anybody. He was just a guy of slightly below average intelligence, trying to get by.  Nothing wrong with that.

But to a bunch of asshole high school kids, he was an easy target.

A few years after I left Wendy's, I drove through to get a burger.  Patrick was working the register.  We chatted for a few minutes.  At that time, he was approaching 30 years old, but I had a completely different view of him.

For one thing, he had put up with all the bullshit my stupid friends and I had dished out. Now he was surely taking it from a whole new crop of jerks.  But when I talked to him for a few minutes, I became aware of what a hard working, humble man he really was.  I felt bad for the way we treated him.

When I pulled away from the drive-thru window, I looked to the right and saw his same old piece of shit Gran Torino.  He obviously hadn't gotten around to any repairs.  I imagined him telling some new smartass 17 year old punk how he was going to fix that car up one day.

Well I haven't thought about Patrick until I heard today that he had committed suicide.  It was about 3 months ago.  He would have been 58 years old.  I don't know if he had a job. I don't know if he ever had a wife and/or kids.  He was a loner when I knew him.

He had gone to sleep in his garage with his car running.  He didn't have the Gran Torino anymore. With some inheritance money, he had bought a Tesla.  But after the money ran out, he decided he was done with this planet. 

So one day, he drove into his garage, put the car in park and just left it running.  The next morning, he woke up feeling rested and alive.  So he turned the car off, went into the house, and slit his wrists.

So sad.  I miss you Patrick.

Also, I don't know if he is still alive or not.  He would be about 58 though. I made up the part about him killing himself.  But it seems like an idiot like that would try to do it with the exhaust from an electric car.

Fucking moron.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

It really is a good book

I've been reading this book lately.  It's the second of three in a series.  It's a real page swiper (I read it on my phone kindle app).  It's the Passage Trilogy by Justin Cronin.

The thing is, I want to be reading it right now so I'm in a bit of a hurry.  But I do want to talk about something real quick like.

For a long time now, I've had a real quandary on my hands.  I love riding and getting in shape and being fast. I don't necessarily want to race, but if you're going to ride with the people I ride with; If you're going to be on a club that is sponsored and giving you fantastic discounts, then you kind of need to race.

Yeah, I do cross.  But what I do in cross couldn't really be called "racing."  It is really really fun, but I'm not too good at it. At least I haven't been yet.  

Also, I prefer road racing.  You get to stay on the bike (if you're lucky).

This year, I've gotten more than strong enough to generally hang and compete with the typical cat 4 field.  I can stay with (and sometimes drop) several of the lower echelon cat 3 guys, depending on the terrain. Ironically, I climb fairly well for a big huge fella.

But yeah - back to the quandary.  So when I started getting stronger and riding with some of the more talented riders, The inevitable question came ...

"When are you going to race?"

"You should race."

"Why don't you race?"

"Race Forrest, Race."

I always tried to come up with some excuse.  Sometimes, I even told the truth about it.  I'm terrified.

I'm scared I'll be humiliated. I'm scared I'll find out I suck.  I have no technical skill.

People would always say "It's fun." I had no idea how to even process that statement.  It's not fun. It's suffering. It's the most self-inflicted pain you'll ever have.  It's scary.  Taking sharp corners sometimes at close to 30 MPH with people swarming around you. Gulp.

I didn't understand why people do it.  Why they travel to do it.  What's wrong with just riding?

I get it now.

You can get the fitness you need to race well.  You have to train for it, but if you learn how to train, it will come.  

But if you only train in a straight line, you'll be shit at racing.

One time before the beginning of a cross race, EOB gave me sage advice. He was quoting Booger from "Better off Dead".  The funny thing is, Booger was in "Revenge of the Nerds" where he was known as Booger.  I don't know what his character's name was in "Better off Dead" but it doesn't matter because he'll always be Booger to everybody.

Anyway, EOB said to me before my cross race "Go that way. Really fast. If something gets in your way. Turn."

The Wednesday Night Worlds is a fast paced road ride.  It is not a crit.  However, there are actually a couple of places on the way back where fast turns are required.  Until very recently, I've always felt anxious at that part of the ride.  Am I going to eff it up and potentially take someone out?  Can we take the corner at this speed?

Yeah - last night, I pedaled through those corners because I knew I could.

For the last two or three months, I've decided to dedicate my recovery days to cornering practice. It works out to about 30 minutes once or twice a week.

Also, I've done se7en crits this year (including 3 training crits).  Not only am I no longer afraid to take a corner; now I actually get a thrill out of it.  Sometimes it's a little scary, but there are few things more satisfying than a smoothly executed turn.

One thing I've learned very recently that I never knew was even possible is that you can fairly easily change your line in a turn. I practice this a lot on the recovery nights.  I'll be taking a sharp turn at speed and imagine something got in my way. I will change my course by either pushing the handle bar down harder or letting up on it a bit. Last Tuesday, I was able to do this several times during the race to get right into the spot I wanted to be in or avoid getting too close to another rider.

Basically, yeah that's all I wanted to say. I can turn my bike now. Already.  After about 45 years of riding.
I'm going to go read.  It really is a good book.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Rules

The first time I ever heard about "The Rules" was in about 1997.  I was talking to a girl I had just met who had given me her phone number.  She said something about how I was really bad at the rules.

She was talking about dating rules.  There was actually a book about it.  I don't know if she ever read the book or not, but I'd never heard of it.  When she first said something about "the rules say ..." I thought she was talking about some unpublished universal understanding of what's kosher on a date.

I didn't know any of it because I had spent the last 7 years being married, so I had been out of the whole dating scene for about 15 years.  The point is, I would have been out of the dating scene regardless of my marital status. I never had game.  My first marriage was sort of a "stand here" exercise.  I just went wherever I was told and did what I was told and ended up married.

I wonder what "The Rules" has to say about that.

After the girl gave me her phone number, she said I couldn't call her for at least 3 days.  I assumed she was talking about the rules again, but it turns out she was referencing the movie "Swingers."

I hadn't seen "Swingers".  Probably because it was released during my marriage from hell.

So having not seen "Swingers," I called her at like 7AM the very next day!

Oops.

The next time I heard about the rules was roughly 2013. My buddy Boomer sent me a link to the Velominati rules.  It was different rules.  I think.  I still haven't read the others.

There was no book.  Not yet anyway.  It was just some web site with a mostly tongue-in-cheek list of rules for road cycling.


Part of its charm was in the fact that it seemed to take itself so seriously.

When I first read the rules, I laughed pretty much all the way through it. It was hilarious.  I read it several times until something bad started happening. I went a little (ok a lot) goofy over the rules. I became kind of a rules Nazi.  It's embarrassing when I think back about how I used to behave.

Eventually, I backed off on many of them because they don't really fit in with who I am. That - by the way - is strictly against the rules. Which is the problem.  I realize that by their very nature, rules are meant to restrict, but for our sport, if it's not something you really are into, why do it?

If somebody ever sees me "breaking" a rule, they usually point it out - and I deserve it for the time I spent being a dickhead.

I usually tell them I know it's an infraction, but FTG.

There's one about when you can wear a cycling cap.  Basically only when you are on a bike.  I guess otherwise you should wear a baseball cap.  Yeah.

There's a rule that says you cannot have a water bottle larger than 500 ml.

Also, you have to call it a bidon.

Also, you can't speak of it in terms of ounces.  Metric only.

And on and on it goes.  Like I said, it's mostly silly.  But many people (like I used to) take every rule seriously.

But in all of this silliness, there are some extremely important rules that should always be obeyed.

The number one rule is actually the number five rule.  Five because the roman numeral for five is 'V' and Velominati starts with 'V'

There are about 100 rules in total and there are maybe a dozen or so that should always be considered.

Many of the rules are useful advice, but there are a few that actually make me a better cyclist.  These are listed below.


5. Harden the fuck up.

This is a magical wonderful rule.  It it really what cycling is all about.  At least competitive cycling.  Any argument (as I've discussed in the past) to this rule can actually be answered with the rule itself.

It's a beautiful thing.

Example:

"It's too hot to ride"

"#5"

"Oh yeah, don't come crying to me when you die of heat stroke."

"#5"

"Don't say I didn't warn you!"

"I won't - because harden the fuck up."


9) If you're out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.

I like this one because it gets me out there on many rough days.  No matter what happens on the ride, I am a badass. The rules say so.

10) It never gets easier, you just go faster.

This is the famous old Greg LeMond quote.  A great view of what cycling is all about.  Once the rides you are doing get easier, It's time to join harder rides.  As soon as you start winning in this sport, you are forced to the next level.

14) Shorts should be black.

This is the only not gross color for shorts.  That's why it is a rule to follow.

33) Shave your guns.

I was a real late comer to this rule. It was in my most goofy stage of following the rules that I finally shaved my legs.  I never looked back.  There are all kinds of excuses and reasons to do or not do this. The truth is that silky smooth legs are way faster than hairy ones.  I didn't used to believe it until I realized how many hairy Ferraris there are out there (zero).

70) The purpose of competing is to win.

The first time I ever won a race on a road bike was this year.  It was out of town so I didn't know anybody. There were around 38 people in the race. Several teams of 5 or more.

I was sitting at a picnic table after the race listening to all of the chatter. Most of the guys talking were from the area and knew each other.

I heard things like this:

"How'd it go?"

"Not bad, I just didn't ..."

or

"I was happy with it.  This was more of a training ..."

or

"I took that final corner a little wide ..."

These are all the sorts of things I say after races.  But on the day I won, I was just listening. Then someone asked me, "How'd it go."

"I won."

For the first time, I understood why rule 70 was important. It saves so much time answering that question.


What's that?  The girl I was talking about earlier? The rules girl? Oh that's my wife Jill.  We'll be having our 17 wedding anniversary next month or something.  Rules be damned!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Strategery

At one of the places I used to work (The U.P.), my boss had a book she wanted all of her team to read.  It was kind of interesting, but had a real "self help" feel.  I don't remember what it was called, but it had to do with finding your super power.

I guess it was a pretty cool idea.  We were supposed to read this little book and then read another one or something to learn to use our super powers.

I don't think anybody's super power was reading self help books.

About 15 years later, when I started at the Company, I was given an updated version of the same book.  It's much simpler now.  I think Gallup has something to do with it.

There's about 20 pages of reading and then you go online and answer about 100 or so questions.  Well - not really questions.  They put 2 words on either side of 5 radio buttons and you are asked to click a radio button that describes how you identify with those words.  It would be something like:

Crafty o o o o o Eager.

If it was a tie, you'd click on the middle one. If you think you're more crafty than eager, it'd be one of the first 2 and so on.

After you get done, the magic box tells you what your super powers are.  Then somebody at the office makes a nice little poster and hangs it outside your cubicle wall.  These things are all over the company.

When I took the test, I thought it would be kind of general, like a horoscope or something.  It was actually pretty amazing.  When Jill read it, she was surprised by how accurate the assessment was.

It was pretty detailed and very specific.  But here's the summary that somebody made and hung outside my cube:




The top one is "learner"

This one says you might like learning more than what you've learned.

The second one is "ideation"

I don't know what "ideation" means and I don't want to "learn" because it's an annoying sounding word..

Anyway, I bring this up to mention that I just had a fantastic weekend of learning.

I learned about:
1) Racing out of town
2) Criterium racing

Once I decided I was going to Clear Lake for the weekend races, Brady was at work trying to see if I could tag along with the Harvest guys and take advantage of the sweet host lodging a couple of them had worked tirelessly and thanklessly to secure.  Bless their dear hearts.

Personally, I was thinking I might rather just get a motel room than bother with whatever inconvenience goes along with trying to share a house with a bunch of guys who have a ton of race prep to do.

I thought I'd prefer to just do my own thing.  Come and go as I pleased, etc.  That way, I don't depend on anyone else to get me to the race on time or get the sleep I need or a million other things.

I was wrong.  These guys are all serious racers.  They know preparation as well as anyone.  They are all cat 1 or 2 racers.  They're not going to get in my way.  I have a lot to learn. Being around these guys is among the best of places to do that.

My race was in the early afternoon and theirs was late early mid early evening.

So after my race, we went to one of the houses where a few of the guys were staying.  It was not what I expected.  The house was silent.  The guys were in different rooms, resting, meditating, or whatever.

It was such a laid back scene I just sat in a reclining chair and took a nap.

It was quiet until everybody was ready to ride over to the race. Just like going out for a ride. They got dressed and headed out the door. Relatively emotionless.  Just plain cool.

Normally when I go out of town, I feel like I need to always be doing something.  I need to see the sights or check out some restaurant or whatever.

Clear Lake is a pretty cool town and I would have liked to do a bunch of stuff.

What I realized is that we were there for one reason.  To race our bikes around and around.  And around. It wasn't a party. It wasn't a disco.  It wasn't a time for fooling around.

It was actually way more relaxing than most vacations because I tend to get stressed, thinking I'm missing out on something. There was no pressure to do anything.  Just lay around and wait to race.

It was one of my favorite mini-vacations ever.

The atmosphere at the house had a real "pro feel"

I've seen a few pro cycling documentaries and always thought it seemed odd the way they all just lay around doing nothing.  But now I get it. 

Sure - there was a group dinner after the race that was fun and relaxing, but it wasn't anything crazy - if you don't count the bachelorette party going around to all the tables, offering a "suck for a buck."  Only Shim and I took advantage of this sweet deal.  The Juniors had their slide rules out or something, telling Shim and me what a waste of money it was.  Blow-pops, they explained, could be had for much less than a dollar at the local five and dime (The juniors were raised by people from the 1800's). These are 15 year old kids with carbon fiber wheels telling me I'm  spending too much on a lollipop.

Anyway ...

The other stuff I learned was in the race itself.  I learned about how important it is (especially when there are a lot of turns) to consider your position on the road.  Not just your place in the field, but how to be on the right (correct) side of the road at the right (correct) time.  These races are about conserving energy when you can and burning it when you should.

The other thing I learned is way more important. In fact, it might be the most important thing I've ever learned about criterium racing ever. Ever. It's so powerful that I'm not going to tell you what it is.

It's been said before in other places many times and honestly, I don't want to be the one to tell you.

I will give you a hint though.  The number one thing that I learned about crit racing while I was in Clear lake was something Brady said to me that he'd learned in his race.  It reminded me of something I heard in a movie one time  - "Get busy living or get busy dying."

There it is. The secret to crit racing.  Sort of.  Good luck.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

A western

If you searched this blog for the words "I have nothing to say," I'm guessing you'd get quite a few hits.

But I've never said nothing before in the form of a classic western, so here goes ...

Well, not quite yet. First I will point out that I'm kind of thinking of western movies.  Not Books.  I've read maybe a half dozen (6) western books in my lifetime and three of them were a series they made the movie "Appaloosa" from.  Not to be confused with the old Marlon Brando movie I'd never heard of until I asked my dad if he'd ever seen the movie "Appaloosa."

I called dad one day and after the traditional greetings were out of the way, I said, "Dad, I just saw a movie I think you'd like. It's called 'Appaloosa.'"

"Oh yeah, I seen it [sic]," he said. "Marlon Brando's in it, right?"

"No Dad.  It's Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris. I'm pretty sure Marlon Brando is dead, dead, dead!"

"Well I'll tell you this, greenhorn.  There sure as shit was a movie called "Appaloosa" with Marlon Brando in it. John Saxon was in it too."

"Wait," I said upon hearing the name of my all time favorite hero/actor friend (John Saxon). "I've seen a movie with Marlon Brando and John Saxon in it."

"Yeah - that's Appaloosa. Great film."

"I'm pretty sure the one with Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris was way way way better than that one."

"I'm pretty sure I've raised a complete imbecile," dad suggested. "You surely haven't seen The original Appaloosa, which I can tell you is way better than your newfangled Appaloosa with those modern day dandies, Viggo Whatsizname and Ed Milk Money."

"It wasn't a remake, dad." I knew because unless Marlon Brando and John Saxon had been in more than one western together, I had seen the movie dad was talking about.  Completely different story.

The new one was nearly flawless.  I say nearly because there's one thing that could have made it even better.  If John Saxon was in it.

When I was a kid, my favoritest show of all time was "The Six Million Dollar Man."

Mostly because Steve Austin was able to run at 60 miles per hour.  I just figured if I made the "na-na-na-na" sound enough, I could run that fast too.  The secret to running fast, I guessed, had something to do with moving your legs faster. I was fresh off suffering my humiliation in front of my whole family when the Six Million dollar Man came along and offered hope.  I had come in last place in a foot race. With SMDM (what the true fans called it) I saw a possible way to redeem myself.  If only I could get myself into a horrible accident where it became necessary to replace my eye, arm, and legs.

Oh and I needed about $5,999,987. I had a little safe with 13 Eisenhower silver dollars in it, but I would still need to come up with most of the 6 million somehow.  Then as soon as I was out of the hospital, I would demand a rematch.  I'd be screaming from my hospital bed, "Get all of the people from the picnic!  Now!  I am going to race them again! I'll show 'em."

Anyway, there was an episode of SMDM with John Saxon in it.  I didn't know his name was John Saxon until after the episode.  If I remember, he was some sort of a tragic figure in the TV show. He was a friend of Steve Austin's and his name was "Fred."

Steve Austin called his good friend "Fred." Sniff.

So I watched the credits at the end of the episode to find out the real name of this lucky fellow.  "John Saxon."  My hero.
From then on, whenever I saw him in something, I'd say, "Hey, there's John Saxon. You know, he played Steve Austin's friend, Fred once.  Besides, isn't 'Saxon' just the coolest sounding name?"

So one late weekend night years later when I was in High School, I got home and turned on the TV and there he was in a western. John Saxon and that overacting hack, Marlon Brando.

They were getting ready to arm wrestle, but first they had to bring out the scorpions.  They set one scorpion on either side of the table so that whoever lost the arm wrestling thing would get stung by the scorpion.  I don't specifically remember whose idea it was to arm wrestle this way, but I'm guessing whoever it was was a hell of an arm wrestler.

Let me just say if somebody wants to arm wrestle you, you're probably going to lose. If you think, "Well, I'm a pretty good arm wrestler," and you agree - and then they start setting up scorpions, you're definitely going to want to reconsider.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure John Saxon won the arm wrestling and Marlon Brando got stung by the scorpion because I vaguely remember 25 minutes of Marlon Brando stumbling around the room, knocking stuff over and dying of overacting.

But I think John Saxon cheated.  He probably borrowed his good friend's bionic arm.  It seems ridiculous, but if you turn the volume way up on that scene, you can hear a slight "na-na-na-na" sound. Dead giveaway.

But that scene, however unlikely, proves one thing. Appaloosa with Viggo Mortensen is way better than the one with Lee Majors' buddy John Saxon in it.

Any movie that somehow pivots around arm wrestling is going to be a terrible movie. Well.  Almost any movie.




I just looked up from stream-of-consciousness rambling to see that there are enough words here to call it good.  I never really got to the western style writing so it looks like that train has flown the coop.

It seems like I left a conversation with my dad kind of hanging up there.  Well I'm sure he's hung up by now and I bet he's still not seen the good version of Appaloosa with no arm wrestling into scorpions.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Happy Ending

So I was at a massage parlor the other day ...

Just kidding.  

Tuesday was Abe's 11th birthday. It coincided with the night of the second race of the Tuesday Night Crit series.  Up until about Thursday of last week, I hadn't realized I wouldn't be going to the race.

Abe has been talking about his upcoming birthday for approximately the past 365 days (leap year).

Jill's car is now paid for.  We made the last payment in May.  Jill needs to get a new battery for her car.  Monday she needed to use my car so she could take Abe and his friends to a movie to celebrate his birthday week.

So I rode my bike to work.

All of my bike gear is in a basement room.  Our basement rooms have egress windows so they can qualify as bedrooms.

So Monday while I was getting ready to take my bike to work, I heard a cat mewing.  

I found that surprising.  We don't have any pets.

I looked over and saw Edward. He was asking if he could come in.  If you don't know this about me, I have a lot of experience with night creatures asking to be let in. I know better.
Sorry Edward.  The window opens from the other side.
Edward is a cat who lives over on 60th and Parker. I didn't know that then. I went to the window and said, "No cat. You may not come in."  But all he had to say for himself was "Meow."

In his defense, he said it a lot.

I'd say, "No you can't come in."

He'd say, "How about meow?"

"No"

"Meow?"

"No"

and so on.

I wondered if maybe Edward was unable to get out of the well.  I thought maybe I should try to help him.  I did not want to touch him, so I stuck a step ladder down there in case he wanted to get out and couldn't jump that high or something.

Edward understood right away. He immediately settled down under the first step of the ladder and went to sleep.

I thought he'd figure it out, so I left the ladder and went to work.

About an hour later Abe called to tell me about a black cat under a ladder in the window well. Abe's concern was that it was double bad luck.

When I got home, I looked in the well.  The cat was there, but the ladder was gone. Kind of the opposite of what I was expecting.

Then I saw the ladder hanging in the garage.

It seemed weird to me that Jill would take the ladder and leave the cat.  She's no cat person, but still ...

She said the cat jumped out on its own and went away.

"He's back," I explained.

So I then went over and asked him to get out of the well.  He came out and sat on the porch with me for a spell.  Then I went inside.

The next day, he was not on the porch or in the well.

Then came Abe's big party.  While we were all sitting around on the porch, reminiscing about the day of the cat, it occurred to me to check the other window well.  Yep.  He was there.  He had apparently been sitting in there all day.

I called him out and he joined the party.  He was a big hit.  He had a lot of fun at the party. Most of the people there decided he was a female. I don't know their criteria and I don't care. He was so excited by the people. He socialized with everybody.  He thought it was his birthday party.  Some people said he should be named "Cha-Cha-Cha." I personally liked Matt's suggestion of "Lawrence." 

Matt also named Brigadier General George Barkington III.


Matt has a way with naming creatures.  The cat hung out getting all kinds of attention until everyone left.  Even though he wished the party could have gone all night, he graciously bid everyone a fond farewell as the evening came to an end.


  
"I like them," he said, "They're nice."  But it sounded more like "Meow" when he said it.

It stormed pretty hard that night.

Wednesday morning, he was back in window well 'B,' soaking wet.  I looked at him and he said simply 'Meow.'

Typical.

I didn't check on him after that until this afternoon (Thursday).

He was still in the window well, looking a little shaky so I thought enough is enough.  I called the humane society to come and pick him up.

They said I had to have him contained before they could do that. 

Containing him meant either putting him in the house (not happening), in a box (seems weird), or in a kennel.

I said "so do you need my address or something?"  They told me that I needed to contain the cat and call back when that was done.

I said I was standing on his tail and could they please hurry because he didn't seem to like it.

I wasn't really standing on his tail and I didn't say that.  Someday, we're going to have to have a little talk, you and I, about how some of the content of this blog is "make-believe."

So I went looking around for something to put the cat in, knowing it would have to be covered since I didn't have any boxes taller than the window well.

Rubbermaid seemed risky because I wasn't going to ruin its airtight properties by making "air holes" and I didn't know:

1) How long it would take for the Humane Society to get here, and 

2) How they'd react to seeing a cat sealed in a plastic container.

Eventually, I borrowed a kennel.

I walked over to the neighbor's with the cat at my heels the whole way.  I knocked on the door and their little dog came running and yapping to greet us.  He saw Lawrence, AKA Edward, and went out of his mind. Jumping. Shouting stern, high pitched warnings and slamming his little head into the door.  The cat just sat there, barely interested; looking bored.  At that point I realized I liked the cat.

The neighbor handed me the kennel. When the cat saw it, his eyes went wide and he ran away from me back to the porch. It was the first time I'd seen him run.

It took some forceful nudging, but I got the cat into the kennel and called the humane society.

About 2 minutes later, Jolene called and said she had the phone number of some people who lost a similar cat a few days ago.  They lived about 2 blocks away so we called them.

It was their cat.  They knew because when they looked into the kennel and said "Edward, is that you?" he made no reaction at all.  It was just "so Edward" to not respond to his name like that.

During Edwards stay with us, we did not feed him.  We had no intention of it.  We did not want to encourage him to stay.  During the party though, he got plenty of snacks from our guests.

We did not put out milk or really do anything for him.

When he was leaving, the owner thanked us for "taking care of him."

I said, "All we did was not kill him."

That went over like a fart in church.






Thursday, June 23, 2016

More about Grandpa

The second time I went to a fireworks show was about 30 years ago.  It was at Rosenblatt stadium.  I had forgotten how cool fireworks were. It was an amazing spectacle of light and color. We weren't actually in the stadium.  We were just a bunch of hippies sitting in the grass to the northeast of the stadium.

The only other time I'd seen a fireworks show was 15 years before that at Fontenelle Park in North Omaha.  Even though it was probably nowhere near as spectacular as the Rosenblatt show, it will always be the most thrilling show I've ever seen.  I hope.  You wouldn't want to see anything more thrilling than that. You'd probably die. We almost did.

~~

There was this thing my dad always used to do at movie theaters, sporting events, PTA meetings or any other sort of place where lots of people were gathered.

He called it "beating the crowd."

Knowing my dad, the first time I heard him say he wanted to beat the crowd, I wasn't surprised.  I just sat there when he got up to leave thinking he was going to go over and start randomly punching some people in the crowd and stuff.

But no.  He meant we should miss the very end of the movie or game or church service so we could hit the road before the traffic gets all thick and slow.

Just kidding about the church service. Dad didn't care if we stayed until the very end of church because dad loves to socialize.  Also, he wasn't there (at church) so as far as he was concerned, the rest of us could stay as long as we liked.

The one time we stayed at a movie until the very end was when we saw "The Champ."

It starred Ricky Schroder and John whatsizname (Angelina Jolie's dad) from "Midnight Cowboy".

We stayed until the end of "The Champ" because it was a real tearjerker and dad couldn't go out into the daylight with his face all wet and his eyes all red like a little girl and such.

Whenever dad wanted to leave a place and we didn't, he had a special way to convince us. He'd look at us with his mean face. The face said, "I'm going to kill you right now."  It was kind of like how The Fonz used to shoot a gaze at people - except nobody laughed when dad did it.

Anyway. My grandpa took us to the fireworks show in Fontenelle Park. He was kind of a fireworks show expert.  He knew to bring a big blanket so we wouldn't have to sit in the grass like a bunch of hippies.

I was 6 years old.  Steve was 4.  We were absolutely thrilled by the spectacle of the fireworks. Clapping, squealing with delight, etc.

Every once in a while, grandpa would ratchet up the thrill by injecting some tension.

"Oh, that one was a little too close for comfort," or "cover your eyes boys. It's coming straight for us!"

We did as he said.  He was a WWII veteran after all.  He should know.

Then came the grand finale and we saw almost none of it.  At all.

Grandpa wanted to "beat the crowd." Surely that's where dad got it from. But grandpa's way to get buy-in from us was infinitely more sophisticated than dad's scary face technique.

Grandpa didn't just say, "Ok. Right now is the part of the show called the grand finale.  It is the absolute highlight of the show.  You've never seen anything like it and you never will because I want to get home 2 minutes earlier than everyone else.  So pick up your shit and let's go.  And don't look back at the finale. We're going to beat the crowd."

That's what dad would've said.  Then scary Fonzie look and we'd go no matter how much we wanted to stay.

When the finale began, grandpa said in a steady, quiet voice that we could somehow hear over the show, "Something's not right."

Looking at his face you could see a man on the edge of panic.  To be a little kid and see an adult that scared is more than a little unsettling.

"They've lost control of the show," he said, louder now.  "Look!  Everything's on fire down there!"

We looked to where he was pointing and sure enough, the ground was in flames all around where the finale was being set off.

"We'd better get back to the car boys, before it's too late!"

He picked up the blanket and threw it over his head.  Then he grabbed us each by the hand and said, "Quick.  Under the blanket.  Run back to the car as fast as you can. This is not a game! Don't let go of me because I won't have time to come back for you.  If you have a god, now would be the time to pray. But also run!"

The show was getting louder and more violent. The explosions seemed to be getting closer. We weren't running fast enough.  If we fell back, grandpa would leave us. I was worried for Steve. He was smaller.  Could he keep up? Would we have to leave him and save our own skins?

And so we prayed. And ran - terrified of being blown to bits or engulfed in wildfire.  We ran past all of the bemused hippies sitting on the grass, flashing us peace signs as we bolted away from the scene of the grand finale.

Once we got to the car, grandpa tossed Steve and me into the back seat. He fumbled with his keys.  "C'mon, C'mon" he urged his shaking hands. We were pleading with him too, "Hurry Grandpa! Hurry."

Finally, he got the engine turned over, threw the old Ford into gear and we were off like a rocket, leaving the thousands of deadly explosions in our wake. Only then could we breathe easy.

The whole way home, Grandpa didn't stop talking about how lucky we were.  He was my biggest hero that night.  His quick thinking saved our lives. I was so grateful for his military training.

"What about all those people who thought it was part of the show?" we asked grandpa.

"We'll read about those poor S.O.B.s tomorrow," is all he said, pulling out his handkerchief to wipe sweat from his face and maybe a tear from his eyes. I couldn't be sure.

I didn't think about that narrow escape again until 15 years later at Rosenblatt. When the finale started, the old memory returned all at once.  But for the first time I saw it for what it was.  A brilliant "beat the crowd" move.

A few days after Rosenblatt, I went over to my grandpa's and asked him about what he did that night at the fireworks show.  He didn't say anything.  He just smiled at the memory.

Not unlike what I'm doing right now.

Good one Grandpa.

~~

Bonus:

These are the words to the "Glorious Victorious" cadence as my grandpa sang it:

Glorious, victorious
Ten pounds of meat for the four of us.
Glory be to God that there are no more of us
'Cause one of us could eat it all alone

{short interlude to ...}

Be .... cause
we are the members of the fat family
the fat family is a good family
a whole lot better than the thin family

Then he'd just kind of trail off and ask for somebody to pass the potatoes. And gravy.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

If Grandpa worked at Jimmy John's back when he was alive ...

My grandpa loved to tell us these little puzzler stories.  He would pose them as great mathematical mysteries.  We got a kick out of them.  We would try to solve them and he would interrupt us with "No. Wrong."

Not that we were wrong.  We were right.  It turns out that he actually believed these to be unsolvable problems.

One of them is about the 3 guys who need to get a hotel room.  This one is hard for me to tell, because my brain naturally tries to add it up the way a sane person would.  I am going to try to tell it (briefly) here so you get the idea.  I will not tell it anywhere near as good as my grandpa did since he believed it was a true math "mistake".  He called it that.  Said that's what they taught him at school.  I'm sure they told him at school it was a mistake. Then he mistook their meaning.  

Once after I insisted that I understood where the folly is, he began shouting, "No! It's a mathematical mystery!  It cannot be solved!  No mathematician has ever been able to answer this!"

"But Grandpa, if the clerk has ..."

"Get the fuck out of my house!"

"But I'm only 9."

"Nine years old?  really?  That's when they made my leave the Virgin Islands.* Now get the fuck out."

So hopefully I don't mess this up. At the very least, maybe you'll see how someone might get momentarily tripped up by the story.

There's this hotel where the rooms are 25 bucks a night.  The manager is a strict man.  He's also frugal.  One night he's called away for an emergency.  There's a big convention in town. He can't close the hotel. He has no choice but to leave his clerk in charge while he's away.

Blah blah blah a bunch of people get rooms until there's only one room left

Then 3 guys come in each wanting a room.  They're desperate. They agree to split the price of the one remaining room three ways. The clerk figures he'll just tell them the rooms are $30 to make the math easier. Plus, he'll pocket the 5 bucks "for his trouble".  The manager will never know. They each pay the clerk $10 and go to the room.

Later the clerk starts to feel guilty. Even though he could use the $5 for his daughter's life saving surgery, he just would not be able to look at her knowing she lives only because of ill-gotten gains (pretty sure this part wasn't in the original).  So he gives $5 to the bellhop and tells him to return it to the guests and apologize for the mistake.

Well the unscrupulous bellhop, $5 in hand, decides to make it "easy" and give the guests $1 each and keep a fat $2 tip for himself.  His little act of dishonestly causes the fabric of the universe to disintegrate because it breaks math (according to my grandpa).

Here's the part of the story where I usually mess it up ...

So ...

In the end, the guests paid $9 each ($27) for the room.  The bellhop  has $2 profit in his pocket. That's $29. And that accounts for all of the money in this story.  Or does it? They paid $30 initially.  So where did that other dollar go?  Where? Huh? The truth dammit!!

"But 'cube, that's the stupidest thing ..."

"Get the fuck outta my blogpost!"

Anyway - I'm sure there's a better way to phrase it so it's not so obvious, but that's the gist of the story.

So why even bring it up?

Oh jeez.  I thought you'd never ask.

Yesterday, I was at Jimmy John's to order 2 sandwiches.  It was Wednesday.  I usually eat a little extra on Wednesday because of WNW.  Normally I take my own lunch to work, but I couldn't yesterday.  What I'll do is eat one sandwich at lunch and have another later on.  I don't want to be hungry on WNW.

The total of just the 2 sandwiches was $13.44, which seems really expensive to me.  It was one big turkey sandwich and one little turkey sandwich.

I handed $15 dollars to the "clerk" in training.

He punched some buttons on the register, the drawer popped open and he froze in horror.  I mean really.  He just stood there looking at something on the screen in front of him.  Something was amiss.  On my side, I could only see an LED displaying "$13.44", a motionless clerk with a $15 in his hand, and an open drawer with all sorts of change. Perfect for making, um, change.

"Uhhh ..." he assured me.

You may know that one of the things I really dislike is old people talking about "kids these days."  I don't know why.  It just seems stupid.  I think because if we were raised in this time, we'd be just like them.

But I will allow that if you're working at a cash register, you should know how to add.  You don't even need to subtract.

I was so close to explaining to the kid how to count up. I was debating demonstrating that or just saying "One fifty-six."

But the manager was right there and I was in a Wonkavator mood (I wanted to see where this was going).

"So," the clerk whispered to the man in charge, "He gave me $15 but I put in fifteen cents."

"Oh that's ok, just hit button so-and-so then clear out the whachtamajig and it'll zero.  Then  give him his change."

"Oh yeah," said the relieved clerk.  So he pushed some buttons and declared "Ok, your change is a dollar seventy-one!"

Wait.  Why did he give me $1.71?

I thought about it for a minute.  Then I realized my grandpa must've worked out the math for Jimmy John's cash registers.

I looked up to the heavens where I heard my grandpa's voice whispering, "By the way Freddie, I found out where that dollar from the hotel went.  It's not a mystery up here."

"It's not one down here either gran..."

"Get the fuck outta my heavenly resting place!"

I miss you grandpa.


*He really did say the part about the Virgin Islands.  But that was another of his jokes, told at a different time. He was 37 when I was born, so maybe he was telling the truth.