Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Coffee Problem

I used to collect crushes on baristas like frat boys collect vodka bottles: As souveniers of days gone by that look much better after the glossy sheen of time has polished away reality's harsh sting. Yes former frat boy, I know it seems impressive, but trust me, to everyone else, your wall of shiny bottles once filled with cheap, flavored booze conjures up pretty clear images of projectile vomit and date rape. So you should recycle that garbage, clean up the kitchen, buy some clothes without a little golfer or a boat or an alligator on the chest (or at least UN-pop your collar) and you might meet a nice girl who likes you for your personality. Or not. But seriously, un-pop your collar. That shit was annoying three years ago.

Frat boys aside, sure, baristas are a bit dark and mysterious and often pretty. They can make espresso and they listen alternately to punk and indie rock. They smell of flowers and scones and coffee grounds. But they also listen to emo crap and moody experimental new world jazz and shit, so in reality, it's a bit of a wash. Plus, you know, they're still just people, so many of them are probably crazy bitches. Watch out for that.

As I have never, ever, in any way received anything more than a polite smile from a coffee lady (Doris at the greasy spoon included) and having long ago outgrown my own moody, brooding, angsty, cigarette smoking phase, I suspect I am intensely qualified to give a dissertation on romancing baristas to my single friends in the hopes that they carry on the torch. Or carry the torch anywhere, or pick up the torch off the floor before it sputters and goes out.

Should you wish to pursue one of these denizens of coffee-house culture, let me lay out a few guide rules gleaned through my moderately keen powers of observation (looking at stuff and writing it down): If you don’t have a Mac, you should probably get one. Or at least hide your PC. Macs are pretty awesome anyway, and baristas/everyone are not impressed by anything that smells even remotely like Bill Gates. Also, you aren’t picking up ANYONE, EVER if they see you with a netbook. It's like showing up for a first date in a Yugo. I know its convenient, practical even and I’m sure it works well for whatever you need it to… Facebook stalking your EX and surfing tiny-sized porn at a moment’s notice or whatever. But trust me, at first blanch, you probably don’t want to encourage that smaller is adequate association, "Vaguely sufficient for my needs" is not sexy. iPhones are good, as are ratty artists notebooks with clever or ironic phrases scribbled on the cover. Act disinterested if at all possible. And, if you are capable of projecting an air of tortured douchebag with the hint of a nice guy lurking just under the surface, you sir (or madam), are in.

I should note that D. (the chick I date) once worked as a barista, and while she's pretty far removed from her brooding punky days as well, she makes a mean pot of moka, and I still felt it bore mention.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Championships AND Champions

This weekend, Lars Boom worked his ass off and rocked his way to a Dutch National Cyclocross Championships win. In true euro-cross style the course was snowy and muddy as hell, the field was in top-form and Lars' victory is not to be under-appreciated. Proving, however, that he is not to be outdone by his rival, Sven Nys stole the spotlight by returning from a sub-par start and shedding dudes like Bart Wellens and Niels Albert to win the National CX crown in a country that really matters: Belgium. Now I suppose this really isn't fair, it's not Lars' fault where he was born. And you know...  The Netherlands is, (or are or whatever) pretty nice and all what with the legalized prostitution and those "city" bikes and everything. But Belgium gave the world Waffles. So, you know, suck it Netherlands.

Sadly, Nys had to take time out of his much-deserved victory celebration to reprimand a few of his fans for literally pulling Niels Albert from his bike at a critical section. This level of rabid behavior is unfortunate and sick and I am HUGELY impressed that Albert got back on and roared to a ninth-place finish. Then he performed like a true champion with grace and humility when, after expressing sadness at the behavior of the [douchebags] he said: ”But chapeau to Nys, he deserved to win.” That shit is classy and a true departure from the too-oft heard whiny-bullshit in the pro peleton.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

To the Velodrome!

What's the best way to gauge the extent of fitness degradation experienced over the course of three entire months spent virtually off-the-bike? Head to Boulder's indoor velodrome with 10 other dudes, the likes of which include a few current and former PRO cyclists, your boss, coworkers and Velonews' own Ben Delaney. Then, after a little more than a quick rundown of shit one should never, ever, under any circumstances do on the track, jump on said track with said people and pedal like hell.

I've been told that BIC has a steeper-than-average learning curve for a velodrome -- because of its very short length and steep banking -- as I do not have any other track experiences to compare it to, I can only say that the first moment, the "oh jesus, am I going to stick, or am I going to slide off of that fucking wall and crash" moment at the Boulder Velodrome is pretty intense. Maybe its not so bad on bigger tracks, but who cares? That is one fun joint.

BIC is a 142 meter wooden track with 45-degree banking. It looks like this. Lap times can often run in the sub-15 second range (the current record stands at about 7.5 seconds). It is, at higher speeds, very slightly dizzying. The experience is something of a cross between a criterium and a ride on an old wooden-tracked roller coaster (with no brakes).

I am -- for the record -- basically unfit. Three months is more than enough time for muscle and cardio systems to assume I've decided to let myself go. For the most part, I hung on. Abstaining from hard effort drills, content to rip around the track as fast and as smoothly as possible. Also, due to some very solid advice from some very solid and helpful guys, I was able to do pretty well at NOT embarrassing myself. *Best piece of advice? "'Stick' and 'Stay' mean exactly the same thing: Don't fucking move" or rather: Hold your line. Also, thanks Joe for insisting I get rollers so many years ago, and for forcing me to ride on them. Balance -- it just so happens -- is important.

The only injury I sustained was a small scratch on my wrist, when, like a rookie instead of a seasoned professional mechanic, I clipped my wrist on the chainring as I hurredly removed my pedals from the rental bike on my way out the door.

The List of Things that I am Afraid of:
- Sharks
- Bears
- Girls with only one name
- Earthquakes
- Steven Spielberg using his vice like grip on big budget scifi to rape another classic movie franchise.
- Riding a bike up a 45 degree wall (in a very straight line).

So I am confronting said fears (just the track bit really). We can go flick off bears at the zoo some other time.