Monday, January 14, 2013

Lance

Picture yourself on a train in a station, with plasticine porters with looking glass eyes.

Okay, now imagine there's no heaven.  You can do it if you try.

Great.  Now envision being incarcerated and the first thing your cellmate -- who looks, by the way, like he used to play left tackle for the Cleveland Browns -- says to you is "Boy, you sure got a pretty mouth."  At which point you start sobbing and whining and banging on the bars and begging for mercy.

It's this last image that sticks in my head as I think about Lance sitting down with Oprah to confess his sins.  Apparently it happened earlier today, for a Thursday airing.  The very thought of it makes me want to vomit.

Prediction?

Could be wrong, of course, but I'm predicting one of those highly-parsed quasi-confessions full of partial answers and strategic demurrals (citing ongoing prosecution, blah, blah, blah).  We as a people are terrible at learning from history.  But it it's taught us anything, it's that "confessions" like these usually end up making things worse rather than better.  Witness Mark McGuire in front of the baseball commission.

How's that Hall of Fame thing going for you, Mark?

Me?  My assessment is that Lance is so arrogant, so delusionally self-righteous, that he's incapable of the sort of genuine remorse (both feeling it and expressing it) required to repair his public damage.  He's the sort of man for whom the act of apology doesn't come easily.

I hope it goes poorly for him.

Check this bad boy out ...



My favorite bike ever -- a circa-1995 Bianchi Tour bike.  It's a bad photo, but if you look closely you can see the entire tour route painted on the frame.  Plus the King of the Mountain polka-dots on the chain stays.

Unless it's a Roy Lichtenstein painting and not a bicycle at all.
It's a bike.  Trust me.

And while we're on happier notes, for once in your life just do what I tell you to and go to a site called paintingletour  Buy a painting.  They are beautiful.  I hadn't been there in quite a while and it makes me happy whenever I do.

Clarification:  Just so we're clear, I'm referring to Lance Armstrong, not Lance from the bar who hiked the Appalachian Trail.  Lance from the bar is okay.

Since we're talking bikes, here is a two-day synopsis of Dave, Chuck, Lenny and I riding in the 5-Boro bike tour in 2007, first posted on TYOMP in early May of that year.  All time (shown in military notation) accurate to within 90 minutes.  All dialogue guaranteed verbatim.

The kicker is that this was the tour immediately after Dad died and part of my plan was to throw a bit of the Old Bird off the Verrazano Bridge.  I can promise you that when you start reading about it, you will choke up to the point of hacking and gagging.  It begins about the 12:30 mark on Saturday.


Friday

7:30 Wake up. Get out of bed. Drag a comb across my head.
9:30 Car is packed. Dave and I depart Leesburg, VA for Brooklyn, NY
12:00 Arrive at Mike's Famous Harley Davidson Dealership, located in Delaware at the base of the Del. Mem. Bridge.
12:15 It occurs to Dave and I that we are very much unlike the rest of the people milling about Mike's Famous. Aliens, if you will. Strangers in a strange land, if you will. The give away? Everybody but us is carrying the kind of wallet that attaches to your belt with a chain. I pause for a moment, wishing that I had enough money to warrant physically chaining it to me.
12:30 The food arrives. I ordered something with the word "Cincinnatti" in it. Chili (all the way) poured over top of some spaghetti. Tastey, in a sort of counterproductive way. What's that Paul Simon line? "All right, in a sort of a limited way for an off night." Something like that. I'm thinking about Paul Simon because Dave, who's car we are using, is playing a tape (TAPE!) of one of his more obscure albums.
12:36 It occurs to me that the waitress is kind of hot in that only-16-but-already-
worn-around-the-edges kind of a way. Her name might be Emily.
12:37 At one particularly surreal moment, I shout at the top of my lungs: "We're going to need golf shoes to get out of here."
12:50 Dave and I tour the Harleys. The one I want (a black V-Rod with a lot of chrome) costs roughly $21,000. This seems like a lot of money. No wonder these people chain their wallets.
13:00 Dave and I get the hell out of Dodge.
15:45 We arrive more or less at the corner of 6th Avenue and 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY--the rough location of Chuck's house. We unload our bikes and stuff.
16:00 Chat with Chuck and Wynne.
16:10 Take bikes out for a single circuit circumnavigation of Prospect Park's bike loop. Couldn't have been lovelier. I make a passing, regretful note that my friend Eric's suggestion that the women of New York are taking all their cloze off is not completely accurate. Perhaps it's more the case in Manhattan. Perhaps it's just a little too chilly.
17:00 Shower, nap
18:06 Watch the Kentucky Derby. My horse, Hard Spun, leads all the way, loses down the stretch to Street Sense. I am, nonetheless, pleased.
18:30 Dinner at a Japanese restaurant with Chuck, Wynne, Dave, Lenny the Vet and his wife Erica. Lenny, who, paired with Erica, would make a great subject for a painting--very vivid--tells us that racehorses are not nice animals. I file this away. I had, by the way, spicy seafood soup, seaweed salad with sesame, and a specialty roll called, perhaps, a Napoleon, and red wine and hot tea. Dave has a New York Roll. Both feature eel, which, I guess, is our nod to carbo-loading (Eels, as I understand it, are complex carbohydrates).
20:00 Arrive, en mass (this is not to be confused with post mass, as I believe I was the only Catholic in the group), at the house of someone named Judy. It is her house that will house, if you will, Don's house concert. We spend a good amount of time waiting for Judy to make an appearance, then the music starts.
20:15 I hope Judy doesn't mind that Don's burning the house down. I mean, burning it down! Late in the set he does an open-tuned Scottish number called John MacLean's March that is absolutely transportational. Likewise the next one, Great Dream From Heaven, played with a strong Ry Cooder feel. The urge to shout "I'll take another, on Ry," is almost beyond my ability to control.
21:oo Don takes a break. Thank God I have a moment to collect myself.
21:15 He starts back up, this time accompanied by his duet partner, Jenny. I find myself drawn to her in a number of ways.
21:55 I'm introduced to Jenny. Feeling a good bit of performance anxiety, I fall back on my most effective conversational gambit:
21:55:30 "Don't I know you from the cinematographer's party?" I ask.
21:56 She shakes her head and turns to speak to someone else. I think it is going well.
22:15 Walk home, bidding Lenny and Erica adieu at some point, agreeing to meet in front of Chuck's house the next morning at 7:15.
22:25 Brief ablutions. I put Dad in my fannypack so as not to forget him in the morning's rush.
22:45 In bed. At some point, I fall asleep. But not, however, before considering just how much onion dip I've eaten in Leesburg and how it was going to come back and haunt me the next day.


Saturday

6:30 Wake up. Get out of bed. Drag a comb across my head.
6:45 Coat my groin with vaseline (to avoid chafing).
6:50 Get dressed, go downstairs, tend to the myriad details necessary for getting out the door by 7:15.
7:15 Out the door. It is pretty fucking cold. I'm glad I wore three layers.
7:45 Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. A sight even the most jaded would suggest was one to behold.
7:50 We wend our way through downtown Manhattan, attempting to avoid the official starting line crowds; make our way to the West Side Bike Path. I point out the new Frank Gehry building on 18th Street to Dave. I remain undecided on the relative merits of this structure.
7:59 We pass the place where the Intrepid used to dock. We have also, by this time, passed two white bikes. White bikes are just that, old bikes painted white, tires and all, and chained to some unmoveable object. Each is a memorial to someone who died riding his/her bike on the path. I was once almost killed by a van near one of the white bikes.
8:30 We join the top of the tour at the top of the park. We perceive ourselves to be elite riders.
9:30 Am surprised, actually, that the climb up the entrance ramp to the 59th Street Bridge is as trouble-free as it is. I find myself thinking about painting Old Bobby Lee.
9:40 Riding through a particularly ugly part of Queens, heading for the Astoria Park, I realize I've not applied enough vaseline. This troubles me, as we are only about 20 miles in and I'm heating up, as they say.
11:00 We are cruising along one of my favorite parts of the route, just a noplace road somewhere near where Queens turns into Brooklyn. We pass the Brooklyn Navy Yards and enter Dumbo. The view of the bridges is fun, and then we're on the BQE. The night before, I had promised Don that we would, at a certain point, ride with a hole in our formation in acknowledgement of his previous excellent work on the tour, much the way the Blue Angels leave a hole in their formation to honor fallen comrades. Although I'm writing about it now, I don't thing we ever adopt the formation.
11:30 Pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, etc.
12:15 Begin the ascent of the Verrazano Bridge. I am pleased to find that the wind is to our backs, making the trip easier. Just FYI, the Tibetan word for Mt. Everest is Sagarmatha.
12:29 We reach the center of the bridge's span and pull over, as previously agreed, so I can toss Dad over the side.
12:30 The New York Harbor is shining like a National guitar.
12:31 The wind subsides enough so that most of Dad goes down, not up. I think it is going well. I toss out a bit of Shakespeare. Dave says something like, "Good bye, Allen."
12:32 I turn to Chuck and say, "Chuck, thank you for being a part of this," or something to that effect. Chuck was supposed to have said a Hebrew prayer but he forgot. I did too, so how can I hold it against him?
12:33 I turn to Dave and say, "Dave, thank you for..." At this point I find that my throat has clenched shut and I can't get the rest of the words out. Instead of finishing the sentence I give him a manly embrace. I was talking to my aunt Betty earlier today and explaining that even though I am at peace with the time and manner of Dad's death, there are moments of great sadness that hit me unexpectedly. And it was there, on Sagarmatha, in the freezing cold, with the wind screaming around us, each of us, in our own way, fighting for survival, when I felt like I was going to burst into tears. Since everybody's eyes were already watering, likewise our noses, I dont' think anyone noticed my extremus.
12:33:30 It occurs to me that Dave and Chuck are two of my dearest friends, and that I am happy to share this moment with the two of them. My only regret is the absence of Earl from Denver. Had he been there it would have been perfect (even if one of us would have had to short-rope him up the bridge). That, and if Chuck had remembered his Hebrew prayer.
13:30 Steaming towards Manhattan on the ferry.
14:00 Despite Lenny coming up a bit lame right at the end, we get to New York Noodle Town and order barbequed pork appetizers, fried chives with duck, salt baked shrimp, chicken breast in a ginger sauce and Shanghai Mai Fun. This last one isn't actually the correct name, but close enough. I'm missing a word, and some of the other words may be incorrect. This is why I always let Chuck order. Anyway, it's damned good.
16:30 Take a shower. Take a nap.
17:20 Wake up. Get out of bed. Drag a comb across my head.
18:00 Find myself, with Dave, Chuck and Wynne, inexplicably eating another meal. The only reason I agreed to such foolishness was that we were going to Momofuku, which, really, is not to be missed.
19:00 Buy a black and white cookie from a bakery on 2nd Avenue. It is excellent. I am reminded of Jerry Seinfeld's thoughts on black and white cookies:

The thing about eating the Black and White cookie, Elaine, is you want to get some black and some white in each bite.  Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate.  And yet somehow, racial harmony eludes us.  If people would only look to the cookie all our problems would be solved.

22:00 Go to bed.

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