Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Taxi. For Billet. sex and drugs.

Crazy things in the taxi seem to come in groups. I have mostly been working the airport lately, which means I drive business people going to and from it. Its pretty boring, occasionally somebody will talk to me, and sometimes they are even nice, but it is pretty mundane. The last two days have caught me up on crazy stuff.

Story One:
Monday night I dropped somebody off at a new hotel on the North Side. I look at the computer and see a fare within a minute's drive, but probably in the ghetto. So be it. I take the 20's out of my money box and stuff them in my secret hiding place. It varies, sometimes its a hole in the taxi seat, sometimes an empty coffee cup on the ground. I pull up and two really really drunk guys get in, they are going to Blush, a strip club downtown that a certain somebody bike racer we all know frequents.

Strip clubs like taxis, we bring people to them, usually by them asking which one they should go to. For this they give us five dollars per person we bring in, and apparently let us hang out inside to spend the five dollars. So I follow the guys in to get my kickback, and the one guy is denied because he has a sleeveless shirt on. Picture a giant biker guy with a beard, long hair, and Harley shirt.

Bummer. We go outside, and the biker dude is prepared to have me drive him home and back, probably another 20 bucks of his down the drain. We are approached by some urban fellows trying to bum a cigarette. Biker dude offers to buy the "whitey" off the dude's back. Whiteys are those shirts that the urban guys wear, they are like bed sheets, and as Amy had told me, they wear like 3 of them at once. Biker offers 10 bucks for a whitey, where the urban guy then says "20 for the shirt and these pills," and pulls out some prescription medication. Biker dude talks him down to 15, and they bite the name off of the bottle for the transaction to go through.

I stand in the background wondering if indeed I am going to get my 10 bucks or if these guys are going to go into the alleyway and take all the pills. It all works out, the guys head back into the club and I collect my money. The door guy offers to let me stay for a bit, but I decline. My brother once had guys buy his way into a club and paid for him the whole time. weird.

Story Two:
I get in at 1AM and sleep until 5:45. I crawl back into the car and check the computer. Early morning is awesome for getting trips to the airport. There is a 309 fare on the screen, which is my neighborhood. I book it, hoping best case it is somebody going to the port, worst case somebody going downtown for work. Wrong. West Penn hospital ER going to Homewood. Homewood is basically like the free zone on the wire. Anything goes. There is a park called "milk crate park" where crack heads hang out like zombies. There is actually a bakery and a barber shop in the business district. Maybe half of the properties are empty and anything empty is missing all copper or anything valuable. Awesome.

The fare is a couple, younger than me, ghetto as all get out. She is on the phone the whole time talking about how she got "vicondins." Halfway through the ride she says that she didnt have a voucher, which is basically a free ride home charged to the hospital. This is where I should have confirmed that yes, they actually do intend to pay me money for my time and service.

We pull up to her house and she gets out, leaving the dude in the car. She has to fetch her purse to pay me. Right. Three minutes pass and her boyfriend suddenly has to pee super badly. He keeps telling me that he does and how he doesnt want to pee in my taxi. I tell him that he isnt leaving the cab until I get my money. Minutes pass and 911 is called, the fare is 17 dollars and I have wasted about 30 minutes at this point.

The kid says he is going to get out of the car and to come find him when the cops get there. I tell him not to, and he kind of listens. The whole time I kept my foot on the brake, never taking it out of drive. If I needed to I was ready to floor the 8 cylinder crown victoria into a wall or tree or something. I have a seatbelt and airbag, he doesnt. 17 dollars. I start getting creeped out, because the girl calls her boyfriend and tells him for us to come down and get the money, and she is in pain and cant bring it up, at which point I just start driving around the block at 15 - 20 mph, not letting her boyfriend out of the car. 17 dollars.

Cops show up, and no offense to Denny, Ruggs or Gerry, but they are the typical guys who would have beat me up in high school. I give them the run down, they take the kid down to the house to sort stuff out. I listen to NPR.

Five minutes or so later, the cops come back up and give me a piece of paper.
"This is the kid's information, it checks out."
"uhhh what?"
"What do you think we are going to do? He has no money, do you want us to just beat him up or something? Beat the money out of him?"
"uhh well maybe arrest him or something???"
"We cant even arrest people for dealing crack, and you want us to arrest him for this? You need to learn the law. Take his information to the Magistrate and charge him for theft of services."

How about you do something to the kid so he doesnt think that he can do this whenever he wants? What a waste of time.

Story Three:
After that fiasco I drive some grad students to the airport. Sweet. Some business dudes get into my taxi and decide that it is too dirty for them and get back out. Whatever. I welcome the next fare, a pretty hot lady who is really well dressed with Louis Vitton full luggage. Bling.
As a luggage handler I have come to appreciate different types of bags. You can tell who is shopping at walmart, who travels for a living, and who has something to prove. The nicest yet was a Ducati bag with matching wheeled bag.
So we start rolling on what is going to be a 60 dollar fare to the suburbs. We small talk. She is flying back from the football game Sunday in New York. It was a nice weekend getaway apparently. Then she gets on the cell phone. It is probably illegal for me to record it, but I wish that I had. My brother used to call other cabbies and they would call him to listen when people were talking like she was.
Basically she was like Julia Roberts in pretty woman, but I think more expensive.

Shortly into her conversation I picked up on what she did for a living. She was talking to friends about "appointments," and "how he thinks he can treat me like shit because he is paying me." Fair enough. Then I start wondering how much somebody like that makes, or charges, or how the whole event even works. Where do you find a high class hooker?

The more she divulges on the cell phone, the flirtier she becomes with me, which was weird. "Left here honey." "Right here sweetey." and the final "straight through here" accompanied by an arm touch. So weird. If only those business guys knew how dirty the cab is now. Shudder. Along the way she drops a "he is paying me a thousand dollars a day, but sometimes it aint worth his bullshit." Question answered. New question: How do I become a high class hooker?

Her house was a modest suburban two story with a Nissan car in the driveway. Fifty Five bucks on the meter. She pulls out a stack of hundred dollar bills that had to be the most cash I have ever seen in my life. I thought about the stack of singles you see at the bank that is 100 dollars. This was at least that, probably more (do the math 10,000+). 65 bucks. In any other situation I would have thought this was a good tip. Hot chicks dont tip, every cabbie knows that.

A few more months until I am on weekend duty again.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hard. Western PA race report

When I talk to people that I dont see much, and they ask "how is bike racing going?" my only response anymore is: "hard." It is the easiest way to summarize it all. Its really hard to climb into a car for 3-5 hours each way to suffer through a race, hoping to maybe pull out a result. Its hard during the race, when you hope for a flat sometimes just to make it all end. Its hard Monday morning to go get a taxi cab and
sit in it for 19 hours just to make some money to go do it all again the following weekend. Then there is the training and bike maintenance and the monthly laundry that I do.

Then there is cross. Hard cannot summarize it. Unholy suffering for 1 hour. 1 hour for the leader, a guy who more than likely is a national champion, probably has gone to worlds, just finished racing 10,000 miles on the road for a pro team etc. 1 hour for him, and if you are lucky enough to not get lapped, it is like 1:06 for you. Awesome.

There is a highlight of every race though. Certain things are memorable and make you smile in retrospect and make the race easier to get through.
- Every cross race the announcer says something like "these are the professional Men" or some such hype up. Sure the guys at the front of the pack, except studs like Leech, are doing it for work, but the other half are probably getting through work each day by looking forward to racing their bike that weekend.
- It is amazing how many people seem to know my name as I go around the course. It makes it a bit easier to suffer through it all, and in exchange during the other races, I of course cheer on anybody whose name I even think that I know.

This weekend, back to back UCI races, was an awesome time to be around friends and awesome teammates. Really good people all around.
Recap of people who live in the Pittsburgh area, which apparently will include Greensburg, and Renfrew. Also people who wish they still live in Pittsburgh. This is from memory, while warming up and stressing out over everything, so if Im way wrong, remember what you are reading and that cyclingnews is also a website.
- Soupie pulled out the 5th place on sunday in the C race. Super secret CCCP (cyclocrosscoliationofpittsburgh) training has paid off!
- turner crashes out saturday and has a chain mishap. Sunday is redemption, taking PUNCHES during the race (or so the announcer claimed), attacking the field like a gazelle, putting it all on the line the last lap, finding some grass to lay in during one turn but still pulling out a 6th place.

- Stubna rides strong enough on saturday to pull out 9thish place. He took sunday off to do secret Dirty Dozen training. He actually baked me brownies to try and fatten me up saturday night. His mental games did not work. I told him that I havent eaten, and will not eat until the Dirty Dozen.

- Nick Fisher brought the pain with the Fu crew and Finished in the 10-20th spot each day. I think his highlight was being in a group of 4 or 5 for saturday's finish, leading out the sprint and winning it.

- Mike Mihalec of Beaver Valley velo showed up and got a top 10. Good ride for a guy that lives near Pittsburgh, but I dont see much of.
Elite Masters

- Big Brian Wzxcxchski rolled tubulars and makes it look like he is just riding around, but still pulls out top 20's. I think Brian gets number 1 fan award for cheering this weekend. He and Nick Fisher might have to compete for it.

- Gorski. The races are like 5 hours too short for him, but he is still managing to dangle off the lead pack in like 11th constantly. Good rides for sure.

- Pfluuger. Gerry works his way though the pack and works his ass off making top 10's. I think he is on par with Fergie as far as advice about tire pressure and components and whatnot. Smooth, but with gears this year apparently.

- miniturn. Minturn enjoyed his last week of call ups. His 1 UCI point expired and he will be in the Scrum soon, which might lead to him sacking up and starting to try. To quote Gorilla Buiscuits "why play for us, if your hearts not in it."

- RUGGS. Saturday was his course, but the razorblades and barbed wire the I put in front of him managed to rip a hole in his tire. He ran like 2 miles to the pit and still almost caught back to my group. If he were greg lemond talking about how many tours that he should have won, Ruggs got a top 20. Sunday Ruggs' inexperience showed I think when he was waiting in line for a bottle neck and me and another dude ran through with our bikes like it was the guy from Texas Chainsaw Massacre It took him like 6 of 100280 laps to catch back on to our group, where he rode through me and tried to grab Bobby Lea's wheel, but couldnt. Sweet first UCI races though.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Danny Chew will hit 1 million Kilometers today.

I called him last week when my taxi had 518,000 miles on it to ask if he remembered when he had just 518 thousand miles. He would have gotten the mileage this weekend, but his frame is cracked and he didnt want to risk being stuck out somewhere far, so I imagine he will complete it today at the oval or something.

Month Of Mud - Moraine State Park
Final race of the series. I had ridden this loop a few years ago with my old boss. It is twisty and rocky, there are berms made of rocks on top of rocks, which have rock gardens on them. There were a few "fitness stretches" connecting all of these rock gardens. On the first lap I seriously wanted to ask a mountain biker if they REALLY think that riding that stuff is fun? I mean they buy bikes with extra suspension so they dont feel the rocks. They buy the tubeless tires (thanks Gary) so they dont get flats on the rocks, and then they make the trails go RIGHT INTO THE ROCKS! I think rock gardens are perpetuated by the suspension industry.

Early race was me hanging onto Rob Spreng of Dirty Harry's wheel. He knew the course or something, because he was killing the dirt singletrack. My usual MO for a mountain bike race was: get away on dirt road climb, get caught on rocky descent. It happened the first lap, but I managed to stick the gap on the second lap.

When I came around on the finishing lap, I heard a collective "awwww." I guess somebody brought a fan club that was let down by me winning. whatever. I also guess that if I can win a mountian bike race on a technical course without suspension, I am no longer a total road weenie? (There should be more courses like the old Sewickley Heights course, which was like a road race on mountain bikes!)

Thanks to Gary and his sweet Niner. A nice bike makes a big difference. My first win of the year, I gave the jazz hands salute, because I still find it hard to take victory salutes seriously.

A few Jet messengers were at the race, which was rad. Larry, who I posted about last year who was hit by the car was never supposed to walk again RACED and finished! They thought it was funny I am a straight edge dude riding these grips?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gentrify this place please.

Amy's best friend lives in San Francisco and occasionally meets Pittsburghers there.
She always says "oh I vacation in Pittsburgh!" Which any native surely laughs at.

Im sure Dr. Stubna had already read the early edition of the Times by the time I picked up on this, but I thought I would share with all the glory that is "little Somalia."

Speaking of the kids, they all just fasted for like a month and now it is "Eid ul-Fitr." This basically means that the kids didnt eat during the day for the last month, to show their faith and to gain patience. When it is all over, they party hard and EXPECT all friends and family members to give them a dollar at the end. There are like 26 of these kids running around. I saw 2 at the gas station buying cookies. I figured I would cut out the middle man and bake them a cake instead!

Lawrenceville makes the NYT travel section

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pepsi beats coke.

This is NOT an onion article.You thought the cola wars were dead!

Pepsi man punches out Coke man during delivery
Friday, October 12, 2007
By Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pepsi has been trying to best Coke for years in the world-wide cola war, but Pepsi seems to have landed a blow in a hinterlands skirmish recently at a Wal-Mart in Indiana County.

An employee from each company was delivering products to the Wal-Mart on Oakland Avenue in White Township on Monday morning and "apparently bickering back and forth" as they worked, state police said. It's not clear exactly what the bickering was about, but as the Coke employee left the store, the Pepsi guy called him over to the side of the Wal-Mart.

There, police said, he "punched the victim three times in the face," breaking his nose and giving him a black eye.

Police did not identify the Pepsi man except to say he is a "known suspect." Troopers didn't say if charges have been filed, although they characterized the incident as a simple assault, a misdemeanor.

The Coke man, Robert Koscho, 48, of Ebensburg, said Coke told him he wasn't allowed to talk about the case.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

everybody's workin for the weekend. Im full of it.

I heard that song on the radio this week while I was standing up on a ladder installing freaking drywall all week. Yes, after two years of living in this place, we finally decided to make it livable.

Apparently standing on a ladder for a week is good training because I had two of my best races all year this weekend. Quick recaps:

Saturday, Hagerstown MABRA race... All the Studs were in new york racing some guy with rainbow stripes all over his jersey. Wow, Im SOOO bummed that I missed that.
Hebe, the ultimate combination of experienced based knowledge, and fitness (maybe tied with Fergie?) told me to take a bottle, and lent me a cage. Unfortunately we should be doing some Colin/Stubna warming up (ipods and trainers)because Hebe had a little accident while warming up.

Greg Whitwer (I will spell this differently every time until I remember how to) crashed in the turn before the first complete lap, rendering himself out of contention for the "holeshot" prime of 25 bucks. Somehow I ended up with it!!! This was after joking about going to the Jersey cross race that day and racing the C race with a 1 day to win the FREE FRAME they were giving away for the holeshot prime.

Early race was me struggling to hold Gallagher's wheel. I was really intimidated by how freaking fast he was the week before. Real fast. Middle race was no man's land, occasionally catching him and being dropped again. A few times I looked back at the chase group, and saw Hebe on the front slowing it. It was like the hoping for a flat tire feeling, like "man I wish Hebe would let those guys catch me and put me out of my misery." Another Steevo bridged up to me real fast like and we caught Gallagher again. It was sweet going around the course and hearing tons of people cheering for steevo. I felt bad for Gallagher because he probably didnt realize that there was 2x the steevo factor. S squared.
I put in a few attacks the last lap trying to get away. I attacked the hill and after the hill and into the last turn. I put my head down and sprinted (On the hoods I think? USAC downgrade?) Steevo came around me, and it wasnt until he was around that I realized that it was him and not Gallagher. Weird. He was on a borrowed bike.

I took home some cash, and have been LYING, saying that if I won money at a cross race I would buy the "fizzinator" a 56 oz insulated drinking mug. Docsnydes and I are going to both be running for Mayor of Fizz City, it will be a heated battle, but due to his newly limited caffeine intake, I feel I can take him.
However, I just couldnt commit to a 56 oz mug the size of a folgers can. Whatever.

Drive 4 hours home, watch R kelly trapped in the closet (AMAZING... PLEASE WATCH PLEASE!!!) , eat spicy food, sleep a few hours and head for the Month of Mud Brady's Run course.

Again, a few of the Studs are missing (TJ, Evan P, Krimerny?)... Last year after the race, krimerny looked at me and said "thats not a mountain bike" about my rigid 26" tank. Whatever. This year I borrowed G man's Niner Wow, what an awesome bike.
Gorski and a Dirty Harry's dude ride away from me after I dab while in 3rd. I hold on, riding with Babik for awhile, trying to hold Ruggs off before a dude came up and towed me around for awhile. He was on a dual suspension thing, so it was the "get dropped on downhills catch up on uphills thing for awhile."

I hold on for 4th overall, first single. Sweet.
If you want to win, ride a borrowed bike.

Post race:
The GPOA headman calls and offers us tickets in the bling section of the stadium. "uhh so you buy us tons of stuff and pay for our races and stuff and now you want us to have Steelers tickets???" wow. There was a freaking martini bar in our secion!!! 21 - 0 steelers. 15 minute ride home mostly on a bike trail running home from the stadium. City living rules.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Dear Johnturn, I rode your wheel flat for like a mile

Holy longest day ever. Saturday consisted of doing work around the house with Bret. Initiative has been taken to make the house "livable." The Team Kraynick's / Jet messenger construction crew has been stalwart in bringing it together.

Sunday started at 5am to drive to the Ed Sanders memorial cross race. We listened to a lot of rush, and somehow crammed 4 dudes 2 bikes (2 on the roof) and like 5 pairs of wheels into a volvo.
We convinced Soupie to do the B race, not only because we thought that he could, but also so we wouldnt have to be there at 8am. Turner and Mayhew got 3rd and 4th in the B race, and Soupie didnt fall off the back, so they were all pretty stoked.

Before our race, there was a moment of silence for Ed Sanders. From what I gathered, he was on NCVC before he was in an accident and died. What was pretty rad was that Cannondale donates a bike every year (it is the NCVC frame sponsor) for a raffle, and the proceeds go to his son for college. The tickets sold out before the race even began, and they raised 3000 dollars for the third (?) year in a row for his son's college fund. Apparently Ed worked at lili pons, and that is why they have the race there. Pretty awesome.

- The race was crazy fast.
-When I rolled past "the party zone" there were TONS of people screaming and all I could smell was beer. Slick Rick was playing at one point. Cross rules.
- Wes is a stud.
- Somehow Geronimo and I both hit the same rock that was PAINTED ORANGE. Good thing I didnt drive home because the turnpike is littered with orange barrels that would be pretty sweet to take out.
- My pit crew ruled the school with sweet bike exchanges after my flat. Darren from Haymarket bikes totally hooked us up with a front wheel for my last lap. Thanks.
-FREE CYTOMAX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-If only I could have ridden Minturn's wheel WHILE wearing the dorm sandals that I "stole" from him, that would be SWEET.