I Blame Hugh
A little while back my friend Hugh over
at Hugh's Bicycle Blog conducted a bold experiment in cycling: he (on
purpose) purchased a bicycle from WalMart and took it home.
No, he really did. This seasoned
veteran of Old Steel rehabilitation took real dollars out of his
pocket and plunked them down for one of those bicycle-shaped objects
that they sell at that Hell Hole of Crap and took it home for a
little New Steel rehabilitation. Now, trust me when I tell you that
I am a loathsome hypocrite. Almost everything I own comes from this Son of Sam. The keyboard I am typing on came from there, and I cuss
a little cussing as I have to inexplicably go back every few
sentences and re-type the capitol “I's” because this verdammdt
piece of crap not only makes me go back and fix something but because
it also reminds me that I use a capitol “I” way too much.
But so what? It's my Booger, ain't it?
Yeah, man it's all about me! Whee-hoo!
Calm down. I'm in it too, you know.
said the Voice.
me too!” said the Blonde.
me!” barks Toby the Trouble Puppy.
do you want to chime in on this gruesome Greek chorus?”
course not,” she says. “I am far too dignified to demand
attention. I rely on my innate Yellow Labrador nobility and
statuesque beauty to get my way. Besides, dogs can't talk.”
That's what I was gonna say,
said the Voice.
not a full-blood Lab, ya know.” said Toby.
is what happens when I try to type while listening to morning radio
with a hangover.
So let me stop libeling my friend Hugh and gossiping about his
descent into Wally World. Instead, let me wallow in my own recent
transgressions: I did it also.
WalMart is the single source of bicycle inner tubes in my village.
(Except for the pseudo LBS by the Interstate that charges eight
dollars for a Sunlite tube and meanwhile I am being pestered by
salesmen to look at fake Harley Davidsons and four-wheel-drive bush
whackers.) So while out there picking up some tubes, some
much-needed underwear and this season's six pairs of socks, I
ventured to glance at the over-stuffed two-story racks of new so-called bicycles
that I would never consider and can't afford anyway even if I did
yet, there she was.
black, new...and huge. The biggest bicycle I ever saw. This
beautiful creature was so large and disproportionate to the other
bicycles that she looked somehow royal. This was a two-wheeled
Clydesdale, a fitting steed for Cycling Royalty such as myself and I
really did need a new Beach Cruiser, didn't i?
Well, it is true that you gave away
the old Mongoose, and the recently refurbished Little Miss Dangerous
has no business on the sand...but this is a WalMart bicycle! If you
buy this bike I'll have to stop talking to you. And if you are
cycling royalty, you must mean the Court Jester.
That was all I
needed to hear. Armed with the knowledge that such a vile
transaction would not only get me a cheap-ass beach bunny but might
also forever rid me of that nagging Voice, I started planning my evil
plans. I did what I always do when planning a Big Ticket purchase:
i start figuring out how to get someone else to pay for it and then I
dive into the deep end of the Internet. The reviews there were much
as I expected: all over the place. It is, after all, the cycling
forums. But one note was struck throughout: this cheap piece of crap
could indeed be ridden, after proper tuning, some serious remedial
application of lithium grease and selective replacement of key
That is just
exactly what Hugh did with his wally-bike experiment, and he was
pleased with the results, and said so. And Hugh is the kind of guy I
listen to. He ain't sellin' nothin' or running for office.
Man's Diet Is Another Man's Bicycle
from beer for three weeks in a failed effort to lose fifty pounds, (I
lost fifteen then bought a keg) I had a little extra cash. Well, a
LOT (for me) of extra cash. Enough to make the purchase. So I did.
I bought the second new bicycle I have ever owned.
Lane (Can't Be Helped)
The first (and
only, until now) new bicycle I ever owned was a Schwinn five-speed Stingray.
One day Ricky Roberts and I were out riding figure-eights in front of
my house. We were doing these slow figure-eights and spitting at the
junction of the loops in a contest of accuracy and saliva having and flirting with infinity. We both were riding our beat up old sting-rays cobbled together from
the huge parts pile behind Ricky's house. My Mom came to the door.
“It wasn't me
Mom! Ricky was spitting and I was trying to dry it out by riding my
bike over it!”
“Come in here for
a minute.” It was only fifty feet to the front door but it was a
metric century (lol) of concern and tribulation as I racked my brain
for what recent crime I had committed. There were plenty of crimes
to consider, but I was primarily thinking about which ones she may
have caught wind of. I figured I was relatively clean but judging by
her stern tone it was something serious. By the time I reached the
front door I was fairly confident that whatever it was I could
somehow pass the blame off onto one of my little brothers. I stepped
into the living room.
“Tim Joe.” The
same threatening tone.
My step Dad was there, too. Weird. He had a funny look on his face.
“We saw your
report card.” Uh oh.
“You got straight
'A's. But you also got a bunch of 'unsatisfactory behavior' marks.”
“So I went down
there and met with your teacher and the principal. What a couple of
assholes. Go into the kitchen.” This was seriously weirding me
out. My step Dad had a really odd look on his face and I was certain
that whatever was in the kitchen would be bad. But ever was i brave
and thus, into the kitchen I went.
There she was. A
brilliant, purple, glistening Schwinn five speed Stingray. The one
with the big wheels and the stick shift. The very bike that we boys
had almost daily made a pilgrimage to the local bike shop (Old Man
Gillis's place) to venerate. All the tags and stickers were still on
her. I started yelling.
“IS THIS MINE?!
FOR ME? YAHOO! WOW! I CAN”T BELIEVE IT! CAN I TAKE IT OUTSIDE?”
The odd look on my Dad's face was him trying to suppress a giant
smile of pride. In those days that bicycle represented a big chunk
of his take-home pay.
“You take that
bicycle anywhere you want, honey. And listen to me, sweetheart. As
long as you keep getting those straight 'A's' you don't have to take
any shit from anybody. But you are always going to have some asshole
trying to tell you what to do. Always. The hard job I want from you
is learning to tell them to go to hell in a way that makes them think
Wise words, Mom.
Wise words indeed and a lot of miles and a lot of hardship have
passed since you told me that. I have not always got the best marks
but I have tried. Sometimes the assholes got the better of me, but
not always. Not always.
Things Don't Always Work Out
I remember riding
the bike out the front door and into the street. Ricky Roberts was a
block away, drawing or writing something in the dirt. When I pulled
up on my new stallion, he didn't even notice.
“I heard you
yelling in there,” he said. He looked pretty bad. “Were they
hitting you?” Everyone on the street knew that Ricky and his big
brother Randy's drunk-ass Dad hit them. It was 1967. Three years
later Randy got wasted in cross-fire outside of Khe San. One night
ten years on down the road a friend told me that he had been there
and had heard about it, and while the story never came out, it was
two Long Range Patrols that shot the shit out of each other in the
dark and the rain.
I put the kickstand
down on my new bike. I have to remove a flip-flop and put it under
the kickstand so it doesn't sink into the sand. We don't get
spectacular sunsets on the East coast of Florida, but the Sun goes
down all the same. This new bike looks pretty damn fine in the
waning light of a pretty good day. I turn and look at the Atlantic
Ocean. It is big, and Life Its Ownself is big and small, and listen:
it is hard to grasp it all. I resolve not to try. As for me, I'll
settle for momentary glimpses of life outside of myself; and the
realization that i am not alone. We are all interwoven and while a
new bicycle can bring much joy there is beauty and grace and a
certain splendor in everything. There is beauty and grace and
tragedy and hope and all we have to do is look. It is right here in
front of us.
ain't evil, just stoopid.
Trailer Park and Filosopy Phactory