Let me start with some apologies — I should have put this up a month ago, but I’ve been on a continual treadmill of distraction. I have a couple very solid written contributions from the Riverside Green commenter/reader base as well that will be going up shortly. All I can ask is that all of you be patient with me. I work three jobs and I have the attention span of that lesbian fish in the crappy Disney movies.
The Memphis Motor Co. is a band that performs traditional Eighties-style synthpop. If you like Tears For Fears, Real Life, When In Rome, The Smiths, or anything from that era, you will dig this. One of their frontmen is an occasional correspondent of mine and Riverside Green reader. He gave me a scoop on their EP release a while back and I just sat on it because I wanted to give the music a thorough listen before putting it up here.
Four and a half years ago, my son and his mother went to the Heritage Guitar Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he took delivery of the above-pictured guitar, hand-made by former Gibson luminary and legend Marv Lamb. We have some great photos of John in the factory, pointing at various things and kind of cavorting around in the shop. In the years since, I’ve repeatedly turned down offers for the guitar, explaining that I would never sell something with that kind of sentimental value. When Marv had a stroke and stopped working a few years ago, it served to further strengthen my resolve on that point.
Earlier this week, I sold and shipped it to a friend in Florida. No regrets. I’ve been thinking a lot about sentimental value: what is genuinely valuable and what is merely sentimental. I’m putting the money I got for the guitar towards this year’s karting and cycling season. We’ll trade a few possessions for a few experiences. I hope John will forgive me for selling it — if he even cares. I suspect that he will not.
Speaking of things that I closed my eyes and sent into the big bad world this week, here are a few stories and articles for you.
Until 2014, I had nothing to do with Facebook. I just didn’t see the need for it, and I thought I had enough going on in my life already without having another way to kill multiple hours online. But then my friend Richard Bennett started The Brougham Society, a group dedicated to the landau-roofed, velour-lined, fender-skirted domestic yachts from the ’50s through the early ’90s. Due to that group, and my drifting away from writing for another non-FB old car site, I got involved with a number of other FB car-related groups, such as The American Brougham Society.and The Classic Lincoln & Continental Appreciation Society. And met a lot of great people. One of those people, Josh Noiles, is the proud owner of this 1960 Cadillac Series 62 six-window sedan in Inverness Green.
This has been up on my Instagram (@jackbaruthofficial) for a few days but I thought I’d share it here in higher-definition form. This was my “progression goal” for last weekend: make it over all eleven box jumps on the “Profile World” flow track. On my first trip here, I made it over nine of the eleven, but I totally “bonked” in the last turn. My bike and I together weigh 281 pounds so it amounts to eleven deadlifts in forty-two seconds while also pedaling.
I’d figured that I would need to spend a month or so doing something differently on the elliptical during the week in order to build the endurance I’d need, but my coach and old friend, Javier Larrea, had a better idea. He re-mapped the line that I use in the beginning of the section. adding an extra jump on the skip-up to the hard uphill left turn. This sounds like it would take more energy than riding it but it actually gives me enough extra momentum to save me two pedals on the way down the second hill, which gives me enough oxygen to pull for the final two jumps. Then he was kind enough to be the camera bike for my run. I actually dropped him a bit in the beginning… there’s something to be said for weight when you’re going down a hill.
My old friend Nick will never realize it but when he died he gave me the final push I needed to start riding again. I don’t have much left in me; too much metal in the left knee and too few ligaments in the right. But I want my son to see me ride with his own two eyes instead of looking at old Digital8 clips. Someday he’ll be forty-five years old and the day may come that he needs a bit of inspiration or motivation to tackle whatever’s ahead of him. I won’t be around to tell him myself. But he’ll remember that his old man was both stubborn and pain-resistant. That goes a long way in this world. It’s not like being handsome or lucky but sometimes it’s enough.
I think just about everybody who reads Riverside Green is aware that I majored in Music in school—more specifically, I majored in Jazz Performance. When I was in school, the best textbooks I had were actually compact discs. I scrimped and saved from my part-time job to buy used CDs from “Used Kids Records” on High Street for anywhere from $5-7 apiece—new CDs were out of the question, financially. It was thanks to Used Kids that I learned about off-the-radar saxophonists like Mark Turner, Teodross Avery, Wessell Anderson, and Tim Warfield. I digested their musical vocabulary, transcribed their solos, and regurgitated my learnings through the bell of my horn.
I’ve spent hundreds and thousands of hours practicing the saxophone, writing music, and performing on stages throughout North America and Europe. I’ve been blessed to share stages with some of the biggest names in music. And, for several years, playing the brass bagpipes was how I (barely) paid the bills.
Which is why I’m incredibly conflicted every time that I open up my Spotify app.
I don’t like to look this fact square in the eye, but every day brings me more evidence that this entire world is simply a simulation created to keep my brain busy while my body generates electricity for the machines in the Matrix. How else can you explain the fact that several of my favorite musicians — Pat Metheny, Natalie Merchant, Sara Watkins, The Black Keys, and a few others — have all decided to leave their major distribution deals in the past few years and move to Nonesuch Records, my favorite label? It’s far too comfortable a coincidence.
Any doubt I harbored about this theory was depressingly dashed when the Fleet Foxes announced a reunion and a new album to be released on… you guessed it… Nonesuch. This is what video game designers think of as resource conservation. If I’m only interacting with one record label here in the “real world”, the others can kind of fade away into the background, the same way that many video games don’t bother to fully render objects until the player’s point of view focuses on them. Here’s another example of this: The less thought I give to BMW, the less distinct their new models become. It’s been ten years since I seriously considered the purchase of a new 7 Series. During that time, the car has basically faded into a generic shape. Am I right, or am I right? Don’t bother to answer; you only exist inside my head. If I need you to answer it will just happen.
Those of us who signed up for early delivery of the new Fleet Foxes album directly from Nonesuch have already received digital delivery of the the track Third Of May / Odaigahara. It’s an utterly brilliant song, sort of a Fleet Foxes Greatest Hits in just six minutes. As is often the case with the Foxes, the lyrics range from obscure to deliberately private. Not to worry; the website Genius.com exists specifically for people to offer their ideas and theories regarding a song’s meaning. And if you click the link directly above, you’ll be taken to the Genius site for this new track, and you will see that there are several notations that are, for lack of a better phrase, curiously authoritative.
Ugh, this one burns. I can’t remember the last time I sent this kind of money to mainland China. It was bad enough when I bought two Haro reissue bikes, but at least they are made in Taiwan, The Land That Chabuduo Mostly Forgot. This is Straight Outta China, bro.
Perhaps “having some trouble with the coping” is a better way to put it. I’d like to do more half-pipe and quarter-pipe stuff but I have trouble with my back wheel “hanging up” on re-entry. The last time I really “aired out” a big quarter-pipe was back in 2002 or thereabouts. I was on my Haro Nyquist x24 and I probably went 3-4 feet up on this ratty wooden ramp in Lancaster, Ohio. I completely hung up on the way down which led to me being ejected from the bike and falling six feet onto my ankle. That still hurts today. Maybe I should find somebody to coach me a little bit so I can release my inner Mike Dominguez.
I don’t think I’m having trouble coping. This has been a big week for personal growth. I’ve thrown away or donated hundreds of pieces of clothing. I’ve filled both of our 55-gallon trash cans — twice! And I’m in the process of selling a couple hundred items on eBay. Right now, my seller listing is just bike parts, but over the weekend I’ll be listing about twenty different pieces of auto-related memorabilia including some limited-edition Porsche and Land Rover clothing. Soon I’ll be putting up dozens and dozens of brochures and catalogs from as far back as 1996. If you want something specific, particularly when it comes to the German or British marques, let me know and I’ll start digging through my collection.
In addition to all of the above busywork and winter-time skatepark riding, I’ve also managed to get six articles out the door this week. Let’s take a look.
I’m a little tardy on this one, but you’ve still got time to join the Riverside Green NCAA pool. And in order to incentivize you, I have a nifty prize for the winner. Click the jump to find out what it is.
“For a moment I felt an indescribable, painful, and useless longing for myself: then there was ‘he’ alone, der Unbekannte, the Unknown, there was nothing but him… He was the stronger of the two, and I was the mirror.” —Rainer Maria Rilke, tr. Franco Moretti, “The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture”
Around the time that the above quote was published, and around the time that I read Moretti’s book for the first time as a dissipated, dispassionate sophomore at university, I received a box from a fellow named Bruce Goin. Bruce was the proprietor of the embarrassingly-named “Badd&Company”, and he was the prototypical fat-white-trash-dad-as-would-be-BMX-mogul that all the Nirvana-listening trail-jumper kids loved to complain about. He was also very close to illiterate; the letter that accompanied the box wouldn’t have passed muster in a grade-school composition class. It made me sniff involuntarily in revulsion; I might that very afternoon have plumbed the depths of the most refined literature, perhaps including the Unbekannte and subtle Rilke himself, so imagine my displeasure at perusing an Olympia-typewriter-generated sheet of paper that contained the memorable all-caps sentence “AT FIRST I THOUGHT YOUR CRAZY BUT THEN I REELIZE THAT YOUR NOT CRAZY IM THE CRAZY ONE.”
Bruce was nobody’s choice for the Social Register, but he was a kind-hearted, decent man. The box was on my doorstep because I’d alerted him to a manufacturing error in his “Badd Stretch XXL”. The “stretch” was the longest BMX frame ever made, twenty-two inches from head tube to seatpost in an era where the second-longest frame, the Free Agent Limo, was 19.75″. An utter revolution in the sport, invented by a 350-pound man who couldn’t ride a bicycle at all because his knees didn’t work. There was a sweet irony in that. The “S&M Holmes” that all the dirt-jumper kids loved, the “rider-owned” miracle bike, was nothing but an angle-for-angle copy of the Free Agent Limo with thicker tubing. It was the “fat dad” who changed the BMX game, not the riders themselves.
I’d been one of the first five or six Stretch customers. For me, it was a revelation as well as a revolution, catapulting me immediately to a pair of wins in my local 17&Over Expert races. However, I’d quickly realized that the brake mount was incorrectly positioned. It worked okay enough with the Dia-Compe side-pull brakes that had been in fashion two years previous, but the Odyssey Pitbull cam-pull would not reach to all possible wheel positions. Bruce hadn’t caught it, his framebuilder hadn’t caught it. But I’d caught it. I wrote him a letter, suggesting a different set of measurements for the tubing. He read the letter. Did the measurements. Realized his mistake. And sent me a double gift: a brand-new frame made to my specs, and permission to sell the old one rather than return it. With this generous action, he both funded a spring’s worth of local racing for me and put me on the frame that I would use for most of my (admittedly dismal) professional cycling career.