Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Don't Forget, I Know Just What You're Like.

Our correspondent from Standford, Cam McKenzie, takes the wheel for another Music Wednesday:

I think I spent a good part of my 30th year on this planet worrying about turning 30 and being "old". The other day I got there and it turns out it isn't so bad. If I was more inclined to reading, I'd have an aphorism readily available. Something about the constancy of life and the arbitrariness of the dates on which we choose to celebrate it. Instead, I'm doing music Wednesday, so I'm going to get nostalgic, misty-eyed and self-indulgent, and throw up songs that bring something back. This could have been a blog entry about past relationships and regrets and all the things I did right and wrong. That would be cloying and adolescent. Let's make it (at least peripherally) about bikes instead. It will still be cloying and adolescent, but fewer people will be mad at me. Here we go… anecdote, song.

I'm ready to make an admission. Not that long after I first started driving to bike races in my own car, I did a season racing handicaps and scratchers with Carnegie. Mitch V, my partner in crime, had a Justin Timberlake obsession. It was thus on the stereo constantly and I came to like it too. This is called the "familiarity-liking effect". Whenever I hear JT now I get flashbacks to being halfway between Narnargoon and Modella, checking which way the wind is going. If I'd been listening to The Bronx back then I probably would have won a lot more.

I went to a bike race recently with a (non-Australian) team that didn't exactly get tactics, or controlled aggression, or bike racing. They watched their diet and their power meters but didn't watch the race. I was in the car with one of the team officials trying to explain what the problem was. In the end I just plugged in my ipod and said… look… if you're not the sort of person who might like this song, you're not going to be much of a crit rider.

When I was 22, I was at Berkeley for a year. I went to an awards night with the cycling team in fancy dress. We almost got the team banned from the next year's party for getting too rowdy and dressing inappropriately. One of the girls on the team had chosen the theme for us: "sluts". I just went with it, but apparently a mesh singlet was not appropriate at a sit down dinner. Towards the end of the evening, the DJ started playing rap and when Regulators came on I was in the zone and dropped several verses. One of my friends exclaimed: "you're an impostor, you must be from California, that's not Australian". It's a beautiful thing to feel like you're a part of something.

When I really empty out in a road race, I sometimes collapse afterwards. It's happened a more than once. The worst I've ever emptied out, I ended up cramping in both legs and rolled past the finish before collapsing in a bush, hiding from my team mates and crying. I wasn't hiding and crying because I was sad at losing. It wasn't pain either, that was over. I was just empty. A couple of hours after that kind of race, I mellow out and think about things… it's meditative, and I find my head is clearer. Mellow music is good for a mellow mind.

I worked a summer at a bike warehouse, fetching things to ship and building bikes. It was blazing hot and boring as hell and slightly claustrophobic. Plus you were on your feet all day. The upside was, I worked with Sean the Man so the music was usually pretty solid. Probably the most maddening day in there was stocktake. I counted more than 1000 helmets that day. During the process, I found an aero helmet that we couldn't put in stock, because it wasn't Australian standards. It had been a spare for a sponsored track rider. It also had a visor that rendered the wearer unidentifiable*. Sean, I need to admit something. I was aero helmet ninja. It was me that jumped out, punched you in the balls, and yelled "aero helmet ninja strikes again". It was also me who crash tackled you into a pile of empty cardboard boxes, but I think you knew that. Stocktake can make a man do crazy things. In the warehouse, we listened to a lot of Public Enemy and a lot of Wu-Tang. I think BB has already posted the entire PE back catalogue, so I'll make a different move and chuck up a song from the third most played album in the warehouse.

*This may not be true.

In 2010, I lived three months in Pasadena, out on the edge of LA, next to the mountains. There was noone around and my research didn't work out. It was kinda boring. But riding up into the mountains was amazing. Spectacular elevation gain. You could climb from 150m to 2000m. I spent a bit of time doing that, listening to Grandaddy sing songs that complain about LA… several of them were clearly written about the terrain through which I was riding. It was spooky.

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