Nicholas Michael Pearson, 1969-2017

I came back from Sebring on Monday night, set my phone down, and started writing a few things for the upcoming week. When I looked at my phone again it was blinking furiously with messages from people trying to reach me: via Instagram, through my brother, through mutual friends. I called one of them back. “There’s no easy way to say it,” he told me. “We lost Nick tonight.”

My God, I thought, some idiot killed him in his own car. Nick was in the process of trying to sell his one-owner 2004 SRT-4. Since he’d never harbored any ill will towards anyone, Nick always assumed the same of others. He must have let some kid test-drive the 400-horsepower Neon on those Kentucky backroads. Must have gone with him to explain how the car worked. Things must have gone wrong. For a moment, I fervently hoped that the driver had suffered unimaginable pain before dying himself.

But it wasn’t so. Nick had been training for the next BMX race on his rollers, right next to his wife on her elliptical machine, when the heart attack happened. He didn’t make it to the hospital.

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…Not Because They Are Easy

It was the sound of a car horn that woke me up, I think. I was tangled face-down in a ditch, my left foot still “clipped in” to the Look Sport pedal on the Cannondale SR500 road bike that lay spiky and scratchy across my back. The only identifiable item in my field of vision was the black Vetta Corsa helmet a few feet in front of my face.

How long had I been unconscious? And what had happened, exactly? This was what I knew: it was early in 1987, winter time, a bit below freezing, the roads salted but the fields (and ditches!) around my neighborhood still blanketed with snow. Early that morning, I’d joined the local high-speed low-drag roadie club for a fifty-mile training ride. As I recall, I was the only teenager in the group, and I was certainly the least experienced rider, but they were the only people who were doing that kind of riding and they’d grudgingly allowed me a spot at the back of the pack. I was under-supplied with cold-weather gear, having bought all of my stuff used from customers of the bike shop where I worked, and I knew that it was going to snow that day, but I didn’t want the various “Cat 3” college-aged dudes in the club to think I was a coward, so I showed up anyway.

At some point, I’d been dropped off the back as the snow started to come down thick and fast. I’d missed a turn in unfamiliar territory, and added maybe two hours to my ride as I tried to figure out the way back to my house. That was the last thing I remembered before the whole waking-up-in-the-ditch thing. As for how I’d gotten into the ditch, there was no way to figure that out. It was a 45-mph two-lane about two miles from where I lived, usually chock-filled with impatient drivers. My best guess: I’d been sideswiped by a car, lost my helmet on the way down (because, like the cool Cat 3 guys, I left it unbuckled) and hit my head on something under the snow when I landed in the ditch. My left leg was throbbing, which seemed to support that hypothesis.

I gathered myself up, clipped back in, and rode the short distance home. My hands and feet were completely numb. I ran a cold bath and dropped myself in; it felt like a bed of nails heated up to crimson with a blowtorch. I did not vomit, although I wanted to. Three days later, I showed up for the evening ride. “Did you drop off up near Delaware?” one of the older riders asked.

“Uh, yeah,” I replied, conscious of the skinned knuckles behind my cheap gloves. “I wanted to try for seventy-five.”

“Good man,” was the response. “For a guy who races kids’ bikes, you’re alright.” My hands stopped hurting as if by magic. An hour or so later, I took my first-ever stint at the front of the pace line, huddled over on the drop bars and turning the big ring at a constant 90rpm, a string of multicolored bikes and riders trailing for five hundred feet behind me, my teeth chattering in triple-time to the metronome of the rolling road.

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This Fleeting Prestige

Tell me you didn’t see this coming: The hellish partnership between Bentley and Breitling, in which two brands (that were already over-producing their core items to an increasingly indifferent audience) combined to flood the market with ridiculously-priced watches that didn’t do a good job of serving either brand’s mission, has finally found its natural level at JomaDeals.

I betcha they can’t even move the watches at 70% off retail. Four grand would get you an Omega Speedmaster or a Rolex Datejust, either of which will be worth far more than this tonneau-cased monstrosity when you go to sell it. It’s an odd thing that’s happening out there in mass-market-luxury land: there’s more money than ever, printed by the trillions and just given away to the doubleplusgood members of our financial/political junta, but that rising tide isn’t lifting all the boats. Instead, you get a sort of herd/flock situation where every single junior guy on Wall Street wants an LV Submariner or a Milgauss or a Panny or whatever the watch of the moment is.

The only way Breitling is going to move these watches is to do what they should have done in the first place: given them away to everybody who buys a Continental or Flying Spur, raising the price of the car three or four grand to cover the cost of making them. But here’s the good news: with prices of the early W12 Bentleys also falling into the 70% off zone, now’s the time to be a big baller on a budget, 2007 style. You can get the car and the watch for $45k out the door. And will anybody know the difference?

Shinola And The Perfect Enemy Of The Good

Talk about the best-laid plans of mice and men. Brother Bark, Danger Girl, Bozi, and I stepped out of the main hall at Cobo to find some lunch, escape the noise of the Detroit Auto Show for a moment, and give my left leg a moment’s worth of peace. When it’s cold outside, the titanium screws in my tibia contract at a different rate from the bone in which they’re set. Putting weight on the leg turns up the volume on that annoyance. I used to have a lot more metal in my body than I have now — when I was nineteen I had my right femur pin removed a bit early so I could try my hand at a Superclass BMX “career” — but I’m not quite as insensitive to pain as I used to be, either.

As I limped by the Shinola booth set up in the hallway, Bark and DG decided they needed to take a look at what the company had to offer. Forty-five minutes later, we had four watches for three people. (Bozi was out smoking a cigarette the whole time.)

My new Shinola 47mm Runwell Contrast Chrono is the most Chinese watch I’ve owned in a very long time. There’s a lot of agitation in the watch-fanatics community about Shinola, and the two most frequent criticisms have to do with the very high price (for a quartz fashion watch) and Shinola’s claim that this assemblage of Chinese case, Swiss movement, and Floridian strap is “Built In Detroit”.

To the first complaint, I have no answer other than to say a $750 Shinola with a $15 Ronda quartz movement is a much lesser sin than a $25,000 Hublot with an $150 ETA 2924. To the second, however, I have a detailed and heartfelt answer that, in my not-so-humble-opinion at least, has implications that extend far beyond the realm of hobby watches into everything from politics to morality.

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Nothing Collectible Is Collectible

It seemed like a tall order, and possibly an expensive one. There’s been a bit of coin collecting going on in the house lately, so for Christmas I had the idea of getting the US Mint Proof Sets from the years than Danger Girl and I were born. Since I’m older, I anticipated that my proof set would be harder to find, and more expensive when I did find it. I was wrong on both counts. eBay is absolutely engorged with US Mint proof sets from the past sixty or so years.

In the end, I paid about five bucks for my set and about six bucks for DGs. Had I been patient, I could have bought a package of 250+ proof sets, including all of the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties, for about a hundred dollars. Making the individual value of a US Mint proof set somewhat less than the face value of the coins in the sets. You could make a couple bucks an hour buying proof sets in bulk and taking the painstakingly finished, utterly pristine, four-decade-old coins to the local bank.

A new 2016 Proof Set from the US Mint costs $31.95. It contains $5.91 in proof-minted currency. I own a set, because I like pretty coins, but I’ll explain to you why it probably won’t even be worth $5.91 in twenty years. Hint: it’s the same reason the $150 BMX bike stolen out of my garage in 1994 is now worth $2,500.

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Day Of The Jackal-Esque $1,250 Pay Cut

At first I thought the parking machine was broken. “$11.00” was flashing up on the screen. Which was ridiculous, because not only did the garage have a $9/day maximum charge, I’d been there barely six hours, which usually results in a $7 charge. Then I looked at the shiny new plaque next to the receipt button. The rate schedule had been revised. It was now $12.00 per day. My six-hour stay was now eleven bucks.

I put my card in the reader. Then I hit the “Receipt” button. “NO RECEIPT” it told me, in the same unapologetic sans-serif letters with which it had announced the new fee. It was all I could do not to shatter the screen with the nickel-silver head of my trusty skull cane. You’re probably laughing at me; what’s the difference between nine bucks and twelve? Quite a bit, my friend. Quite a bit.

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In Which A Food Safety Issue Leads To A Tasty Deal On An Old Guitar

“The Subway that way,” Danger Girl said, pointing north from the entrance to our neighborhood, “is closed. I guess that means…”

“…we can go to the dirty Subway,” I replied. “Sure, what the hell.” Until recently, and from the time it had opened a decade or so ago, the Subway a mile or so south from our house had been owned by an old-school Columbus family. My mother used to babysit one of the children. The father was this tall, aristocratic type. He had a black 928GT five-speed twenty-five years ago, back when those cars cost twice what a 911 did. I don’t know how they fell into the Subway business but they did it as you’d expect; the owner’s name was on a plaque next to the cash register and at any time day or night you could have performed an open-heart surgery in the dining area without worrying about contamination.

I don’t know who bought it from them but about two weeks after the plaque with the owner’s name went down, the employee rotation underwent a complete change. The staff of sometimes dim-witted but always conscientious high-school students gave way to a group of short, sullen South Indians. Their English is, to be fair, better than my Telugu, but it rarely verges on the comprehensible. They’re all very nice people, and they are clearly trying very hard, but they don’t observe the same standards of hygiene that the old owners did. The tables are fuzzy, the floor is sticky. I stopped by over the summer and saw a small colony of ants working their way through the cookie rack. That was the end of my Subway cookie habit.

It’s the dirty Subway. But I still patronize the place, mostly out of stubbornness and a determination not to be all white-privilege about whether floors should be mopped. And now that the Subway to the north of us is closed, it’s the only one within a mile or so. So Danger Girl and I took a deep breath and she pulled out onto the main road, headed south for lunch.

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A Modest Proposal: The Refugee Resettlement Act Of 2017

Give us your tired, poor, hungry… Ah, the hell with that. How about Give us everybody you don’t want? Mr. Obama wants the United States to accept 110,000 “refugees” in 2017. That doesn’t seem like a lot of people when you view it in the context of the current United States population of 320 million or so. But it’s a deceptive number, because each one of those refugees can be used as a wedge to bring in more family members and/or close associates.

A better way to look at it: Immigrants and their first-generation children account for more than 81 million people in the United States. One out of four Americans is either an immigrant or the “anchor baby” of an immigrant. They come from every corner of the world — well, that’s not correct, strictly speaking. If you’re European, Japanese, or even Canadian, immigration is a stone-cold bitch. The USA has an immigration policy virtually the opposite of the Swiss one: only low-skills people, or people who will assist in keeping wages low, need apply.

This policy is largely set by people who only experience immigration as a labor source or a source of political power. My modest proposal, the Refugee Resettlement Act of 2017, would change all that.

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I’m Not Sick, But I’m Not Well

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“Sick bike, man.” This was a much younger fellow, parking his red Honda next to me earlier today. Because I am forty-five years old my first thought was to listen carefully to the big Kawasaki’s idle, to figure out what I’d missed, to uncover the audible diagnosis that my fellow rider’s stethoscope had picked up as sick. But he meant sick bike, that’s all. Sick means good.

His bike was very healthy. An NC700X, the sensible adventure-ish bike with an engine made by cutting the Honda Fit’s inline-four neatly in half. It has a trunk where the fuel tank should be. Same bike my ex-wife’s husband rode until he moved up to a red 2014 Interceptor in October. I like the reasonable utility of it. When I was this fellow’s age, I rode a Ninja 600R. But that was back when you could buy a fast used sportbike for under two grand and actually insure the thing before turning twenty-five.

Society has cucked these twentysomething men, and I’m not just talking about the process by which they have to get written consent in triplicate and enter a Facebook-official relationship just so they can use the requisite dental dam to go down on some pink-dyed-hair 250-pound Women’s Studies major with garbage tattoos and a pitbull attitude. Even if they could afford a real sportbike, they couldn’t insure it. The same is true for ponycars and hot hatches and whatnot. We Gen-Xers like to bitch about the kids but we forget that we were the last generation to be permitted any sort of entry into adult jobs, responsibilities, identities. And that’s why the guy who buys a Ninja or a Mustang GT now in 2016 isn’t the same kind of person who bought one in 1996 — he’s the same fucking guy, actually. Yet we still resent the Boomers, and rightly so, for being the last generation to have access to wealth, retirement, respectable society, and blameless drunk driving.

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The Problem With The Blipshift Business Model

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Surely this was the perfect Blipshift shirt for me. As an owner of a white 993 (but is that a 964 on the shirt? The side skirts say yes, the bumper says no) who used to live with a bona-fide Vegas stripper, I am at the center of this Venn diagram. But wait a minute. That’s not the lap dance they’re talking about? And why are 96% of the Blipshift shirts just line drawings of cars with the manufacturer logos removed? What are the ethical and legal implications of that?

I’ve often thought about submitting a Blipshift design. My best idea so far: a picture of a forged deep-dish Porsche 930 wheel with “FUCH YOU” underneath. Second-best idea: a wrapped stack of $100 bills with “MOTOR TREND CAR OF THE YEAR” next to it. What would you design?