Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Consumption And Brutality.

I first met Lissa Greenspoon when she and I worked for Open Door Books in Montreal. We'd sit at the big table out the back of QPIRG and talk shit, reading letters from prisoners across the United States and wrapping up the books they requested. Someone obviously took them out to the mailing room, but I never knew who.

She was a bike messenger and eventually scored me a job doing the same. I worked for Intelcom, who only had a position available because one of their messengers had been killed by a car the week before. I didn't last too long - when it started snowing I quit - but in that time Lissa told me one thing that I remember every time I'm riding home at commuter hour. She said that any time she rode past a guy, that guy would always, without fail, start hitting it as hard as he could, in an attempt to not be beaten by a girl.

She told me this as we were riding down Ste Catherine. A couple of seconds later she was called up on a job and disappeared into the traffic. She was one of the smartest riders I ever knew, and could give drivers lip in three different languages. If she lived in Melbourne, my money would be on her for the Girls Alleycat coming up in October. But that's not really the point of this post. No, the point here has more to do with guys being stupid, chauvinistic, misogynist assholes.

Every night I see guys breaking their asses trying to destroy the rider on the hybrid in front of them - there's nothing unusual about that - but I also occasionally see them ripping it twice as hard to overtake some female rider, then chopping into her just to prove how hard they are. I don't really get it. But I do get why women are starting to organize their own stuff - rides, alleycats, bike fixing teach-ins. I totally, totally get it. It kinda implicates me as part of the problem, but that's ok. If i'm being honest I probably am.

Sexism isn't something that can be defeated, conquered, beaten up and left to die (or even smashed...). It's something we have to work on constantly. Occasionally I - like everyone else - slip up and done something dumb, say something stupid and demeaning, or don't give someone sufficient credit because of their gender. The important part is that we acknowledge these fuckups, do what we can to make them right, then continue to work at eliminating sexism from our lives. It's tough. But perhaps an important first step could be not doing that effort from hell just to beat some woman off the mark. Perhaps you'd be better off just saying hi.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Why Not Start At The Beginning?

As mentioned here, last Tuesday I had my first ever crash at DISC. Recovery hasn't been the funnest thing ever, let me tell you. There's aching, there are weird stabbing pains and there is the stinging sensation you get when your jeans get stuck to your scabs (on that topic - and simultaneously as a digression - last time I had copious amounts of broken skin hidden under my jeans random dogs on the street would come up and lick my legs. I had no idea why until I figured out that the dogs could taste the blood seeping through. It was all of a sudden significantly less cute. Make no mistake: if dogs could eat you they would). There have been, however, lighter sides, including this exchange with my new physiotherapist:

"Brendan, what do you do for a job?"
"I'm a schoolteacher. Why do you ask?"
"Because I thought that maybe you were a model. You have that look about you."
"Ah, you're flattering me."
"No, really, you're gorgeous."

On my return visit, a week later, she told me that even though my face was handsome, I would never be a knee model. Scars, lumps and bruised cartilage have ensured that.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Use It To Burn.

Ok, here's my dilemma. I love racing in alleycats. It's what I consider to be my roots, where I began my life as a competitive cyclist. They're also fucking rad - there's not much better in the world than smashing it through traffic with a bunch of your friends. It's a combination of speed and - dare I say it - recklessness that is hard to top. And on October 4th, there's an alleycat - the Fix Up Look Sharp event pictured above. Which looks like it could be pretty damn cool. I've been asked to be a part of a strong team which has a strong chance of a podium finish. Yep. No reason why I wouldn't be a part of this, right?

Well, there is one. My newest love - and perhaps the one I'm currently most passionate about - is racing track. It's what I've been training for over the past year or so. And on the track, my strengths are obviously the sprints. Which leads me to the heart of my dilemma - the ABOC Summer Sprint Series has its first round on October 4th. And while the sprints start at 1pm sharp and the alleycat doesn't allegedly start until 3, I don't think there's any chance of me making it to the music bowl in time - or in shape - for the race. So I have to choose. Which is where you, patient readers, come in. Tell me which one I should choose - and why - and I'll make a choice based on your expert opinions. You're up to that, right? I can trust you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We Were Young And We Were Improving.

So, the Padre Madison has come and gone. I drank a lot of excellent coffee. Ben Ladner and I - Team Handsome - were hoping only to finish this one; dreams of glory were always beyond us. In the past we've flaked out, crashed out, died in the arse, but this time we were committed.

It didn't start well. We dropped the wheel, were eventually lapped by the bunch. I missed some changes, which didn't help. And when Glen Peterson from Total Rush clipped my wheel, resulting in a dual Springsteen style kneeslide down the back straight, things looked dire. There was blood, there were bruises, and there was a suddenly out-of-true Shamal to contend with. We dropped another lap.

I pulled up to Casey on the fence for a drink. Ben looked to be doing ok, so I let him do another lap. There were a lot of folks sitting around, drinking coffee, cheering and giving the riders a hard time. Maddison Hammond, fresh from coming 8th (I think) in the Keirin at the Junior Worlds, was in the crowd. I asked him for advice. He said to ride faster. It was good advice.

We did some more laps. There was some beef developing between team Total Rush and Team France. I saw some headbutts, and apparently missed Hamish from France punching Gary from Total Rush fair in the face. Ben and I didn't have anything to do with it, but I took great relish in reporting it to the crowd. Not much more eventuated, however, as Total Rush pulled out. Which, incidentally, also meant that Team Handsome would not come last.

With about twenty to go I started feeling ok. We weren't rushing to keep up with the bunch, but rather keeping our own rhythm. Our changes were getting better and we didn't miss as many. The last few flew by. We somehow made up a lap, putting us only four down. The bell rang and the bunch sprinted for the last available points. Team Handsome had one change left, but neglected to take advantage of it, electing instead to join hands, raise them to the sky and salute over the finish line. I think Gavin Sittampalan and Oli Le Grice won, but really, who gives a fuck? Madison completed, mission accomplished.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

You Wanna Party With The Lights On.

Madison at DISC on Tuesday night, for those of you who have forgotten. Hipster Nascar at its best. Coffee, yelling, hilarity and perhaps even some bike riding. Get there.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

On A Crooked Highway.

The other day, after racing at DISC, I was getting changed in the infield. I was pretty wrecked - some VIS kids had come down and made life difficult for us - and couldn't really be bothered heading up to the bathrooms to strip out of my knicks. There weren't many people around, so I ducked behind the the motorbike cage and had a good look around. One of the VIS kids - Alex Smyth - didn't seem to know what I was doing. "I'm getting changed," I told him. "Oh," he answered. "You wanna borrow a towel?" I did.

But this was no ordinary towel. Long have I dealt with the need to change outfits for cycling with extreme difficulty. A long-promised article will soon be forthcoming about the different places I have now been naked and applying chamois creme. These problems could have been solved months ago if only someone had given me a towel with elastic and velcro at the top. Genius.

"Wow!" I said to Alex, "That's awesome!"
"I know," he replied. "Leigh Howard's mum gave it to me. I think she made it herself."
"Well, she would know."
"Yeah, I reckon she would."

I fastened the towel, removed my knicks, then continued on my way.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cold Water.

I've spoken at length - to anyone who would listen - about how much I don't like Northcote (the suburb, not the cycling club), but I rarely follow this vitriol with what perhaps is a paradoxical truth: I'm quite fond of Thornbury. Sitting in the appallingly named Tart N Round with Jen and Grant the other day, way up on High St I see a parade of punks drop by, which is always a good sign. Up a block or so further up are two punk / DIY venues in Loophole and El Joyero. Across Bell St, just a little into Preston, is La Panella bakery, which, like Tart N Round, is specifically vegetarian and vegan. Across from High St a bit, a few kilometres along Darebin Rd, is DISC, where I spend a lot of time these days. It's quiet, leafy and lacks the bohemian bourgeoisie that ruin Northcote. I'd move there, sure, but I have a longstanding selfmade rule that states I must live within walking distance of the city. Like most of my longstanding selfmade rules, the older I get the stupider this one seems.