Highly ironic that just as I sail into my sixth decade on this planet I have my first authentic experience of We Found Something Else during a talk with a doctor. Some of my older readers will know this phenomenon very well: you’re talking to a medical professional about a problem you’ve had and they explain that their testing uncovered another problem. In my case, I was in the middle of getting some bad news about my left wrist (Cliffs Notes: the bone isn’t going to heal correctly) when I was told that they also found some nerve damage in my arms.
Cue an early-morning appointment with a bunch of electrodes and needles. “You have some real problems at both inside elbows. Do you know if anything ever happened to you there?”
“Look at the texture of the skin in that area,” I replied, “because that’s what you get when you land on your inside elbows a hundred-plus times, following some sort of cycling mishap.” There’s some surgery that could fix it. Ninety-nine percent chance of improvement, I’m told. One percent chance of making it worse. Since we’ve shut down the whole country for something with a 99.9% survival rate, I’m thinking one percent sounds pretty scary. In any event I don’t have time for two nerve surgeries right now, so we will, ahem, continue to monitor the situation.
As of last night, however, I am back on my bike in earnest, having survived an evening with the kid at Ray’s indoor MTB park in Cleveland. The wrist worked pretty well. It is a little painful on each landing, but I’m not bothered by that. The problem would be if the pain was followed by weakness, the way it is when you have a bad tendon or ligament in a joint. And that’s barely the case. Truthfully, I’m hardly riding any worse than I would be if I took eight weeks off just at random.
Which leads me to a few thoughts about reliabilty. In people, in everything else.
A few months ago I ran into a fellow at Willow Springs whom I hadn’t seen since the winter of 2010 or thereabouts. Back then he’d been a nineteen-year-old with a bit of family money and a bit of driving talent. We ran a NASA enduro at Road Atlanta together as part of the “Pakistan Express” race program. Now he’s working with Lamborghini as a coach and data analyst.
“I have some photos of you from 2010,” I said. “I’ll find them and send them your way.” I have a storage device with thousands of photos from 2001 to the present day. Maybe tens of thousands of photos. A few terabytes. They’re not arranged particularly well, since back then you didn’t always get reliable EXIF data in a photo from point-and-shoot cameras and in any event the files have been copied and moved a few times over the years.
I couldn’t find any photos of my friend. Instead, I found photos I’d thought were long gone, lost in various hard drive failures over the years. Places I’d gone, cars I’d owned or borrowed. And people, of course. A few shots of a girlfriend who is now dead, blurry from being taken in a bar with no flash, unflattering. I should delete them, they don’t reflect who she really was. Candids with colleagues who seemed like friends at the time but who would go on to choose popularity in the autowriter social scene over loyalty to someone who had been loyal to them when they’d needed it. Pictures of my son in the back seat of my Town Car, nestled in the car seat that would later save his life. The silver 560SL I owned for a brief moment, photographed at the Mound City Native American National Park. The park was shut down on that day, to my surprise, as part of the October 2013 standoff between two mostly identical political parties.
And of course the endless parade of currently-very-much-alive-even-if-I-am-dead-to-them ex-girlfriends. Here I am with So-and-so at the Golden Gate Bridge, driving a C-Class. And with someone else on the beach at Palm Springs, a whole country away. A race in Texas, a new-model debut in Michigan. Here’s a pretty girl driving an R8 at Waterford Hills, and another one trying on a swimsuit in Clearwater, Florida.
Most of these relationships were based on what we would call “unsound fundamentals” in the investing world, of which I am emphatically not a part. I was wasting their time, either deliberately or accidentally. It’s depressing to consider. All those roads not taken, and most of them never even examined.
One of the women in these photos was inordinately fond of a song called “Love Is Colder Than Death”. I must have heard her play it a hundred times; in her apartment, in her car. It went something like:
Oh I know we’re both being used
Don’t make no sense
Just to carry on as we do
you know I’d love you if I knew you’d let me down
you know I’d love you if I knew you’d let me down
Oh we need to get away (yeah we want to get away)
But we’ll never get away now
it’s easy when it hurts so say goodbye
We’ll fall in love again just give it time
It’s easy when it hurts so say goodbye
We’ll fall in love again just give it pain
Looking back, that was a message from her to me. She knew I would let her down, but she loved me anyways.
What do you do when someone lets you down? This is what I do, and have done for thirty-six years: I ride my bike. A while ago I wrote about a day in Louisville’s Mega Cavern and a rider there who had declaimed, “[Alcohol and drug use is] weak… If you can still ride… you can fix your problems on the bike. That’s why we have the bike, man. So you don’t need that other shit.” If you can still ride, you can fix your problems on the bike. If. If you can still ride.
Regardless of various traumas and injuries, I always assume that I have the bike. That I’ll be able to ride at some point. It’s an escape for me: from all the people I dislike, especially the people I love but whom I also dislike from time to time. My indifferent recovery from this broken wrist, coupled with the aforementioned nerve stuff, has brought me to the realization that I won’t always have the bike. It’s no reason to stop riding now, mind you. Just the knowledge that at some point I won’t be able to hide from my problems at a bike park. Knowing I will always love cycling, but also knowing that at some point, it will let me down.
For Hagerty, I wrote about a Genesis SUV and the idea of a Hyundai Biscayne. I also collaborated with H-Town local Sajeev Mehta for what turned to be a remarkably controversial and unpopular (with some Boomer-era readers) take on the Houston slab scene.
Last but not least, I did a small piece for Modern Luxury about the unlikely/illogical Panerai/Brabus tie-in. It’s a pleasure to share byline space with my old R&T pal who goes by “K. James Kinard” when he’s writing about watches but whom I will always and forever know simply as “Toby”.