Friday, July 21, 2017

Focus on the essentials

To get through the average work day, I break it down into the high points and whatever I have to slog through to get from one to the next.

The high points are: the morning ride, mid morning snack, lunch, mid afternoon snack, and the ride home.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New England, where trends go to die

Fads and fashions in the rest of the country tend to take a while to reach northern New England. By the time they're hip and hot here, they're on the way out everywhere else. So here it is, 2017, and some idiot in a truck finally tried to roll coal on me as I rode to work on Sunday.

Rolling coal is the practice of setting up your diesel truck to spew out copious quantities of thick, black smoke in defiance of the prissy wussies who give a shit about clean air. It is childish, vindictive, and one of the clearest indications that the human species might as well kill itself off now as later.

After laying down a rather thin smokescreen, the brave road warrior appeared to try to tail-whip his truck at me, but he was too far past. Off he went in triumph, having put me in my place. I rode in the fumes for a half-mile or so before the air cleared or I got used to the higher pollution level.

I have to remind myself that evolution is a long-term thing, and that I have no control whatsoever over the outcome. A human lifespan is too short for the big trends to matter, unless your span happens to line up with a sudden accumulation of the consequences of a few generations of ignorance and greed. Even then, you can't do anything about it. If massed ignorance and greed wants to keep going, thoughtful people can do nothing but endure the spectacle of destruction that so many people seem to embrace and enjoy. As much as I feel a surge of rage at the antics of destructive idiots, I have to remember that human existence is itself pointless, and that life has been fairly cushy in spite of the looming collapse of a nation that has chosen to live up to its potential to be a nest of spoiled brats rather than the thoughtful, diverse and interesting culture that the advertising led us to believe was possible.

I can only hope that the arrival of coal-rolling in northern New England signals its rapid decline elsewhere, and that the trend here falters and dies out in the face of ingrained cheapness and practicality. When it comes to flamboyantly destroying motor vehicles, however, the famous New England frugality goes right in the crapper. The American love affair with smoke, flames, and loud noises overcomes any restraining convention in this age when restraint is scorned. And the belief that the best expression of freedom is to offend as many people as possible guarantees that offensive behavior will enjoy rampant popularity.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Man on vacation buys fried dough

New Hampshire's only television station devoted about 30 seconds to tell the viewing public that comedian Jimmy Fallon had ventured down the lake from Wolfeboro to Weirs Beach, where he purchased fried dough. The hardworking Mr. Fallon has had to singlehandedly support the Lakes Region's summer celebrity needs for the past several years. Everyone has to work harder and take shorter vacations these days.

After 20 years in Wolfeboro, former Massachusetts governor and unsuccessful Presidential candidate Mitt Romney finally found his way into our shop this week, to have a flat tire repaired. The day before that, the shop owner had found himself behind Mr. Romney in the line at the Rite Aid pharmacy. He said that Romney looked comfortable and relaxed, dressed for lakeside recreation, and casually groomed. He did not think it was funny when I suggested that one could say, "Eye witness reports unshaven and disheveled Mitt Romney seen buying drugs!"

When Romney dropped the bike off, I was talking to another customer about building up some wheels. I was all too happy to let upper management handle that check-in. At first glance -- as so often happens -- I wasn't even sure the man was actually The Man. I just thought, "hey, that skinny guy looks kind of like Mitt Romney."

The next morning, Jumper Dude fixed Romney's flat tire and did a few other adjustments before leaving to work on the mountain bike trail he's building on Wolfeboro Conservation Commission land adjacent to the Cotton Valley Trail. He reported that, late in the afternoon, he met Romney on the Cotton Valley Trail. I guess that's that for another 20 years.

I had been totally unaware of the Wolfeboro mystique before I accidentally ended up here in 1988. You really never know who might drift through. Sometimes they do it in groups or close enough succession to make it seem like a regular thing. So it becomes part of the economy, while still not solidly reliable enough to lead to motor coach tours and paparazzi. People walk around with one eye out for possible sightings.

Celebrities have a big responsibility to venture into unlikely places to give as many people as possible the chance to act unimpressed by their presence.

Because so few of the A, B, C, D, E and F lists ride bicycles, my reflexes go mostly untested. And I always wonder whether a public figure is relieved or disappointed when they get treated like anyone else in line. I'm sure it varies from figure to figure and day to day. If they catch me at the right point in the afternoon I'm grumpy and semi-dormant anyway.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

It's showtime

Wolfeboro's Hollywood heyday is long gone, and the rockin' party of the 1980s and '90s has dispersed. But any summer resort has to put on its act when the season arrives.

The bike shop is a lot like a Disney attraction based on a movie most people have forgotten. When I worked at Walt Disney World in 1977, I was assigned to the Enchanted Tiki Room. The audience consisted of people who didn't know what else to do with a D ticket, grandparents, and couples looking for a dark, air-conditioned place to make out. It was also  -- based on analysis of the evidence left behind -- a pretty good place to change the baby's diaper and leave the turd burrito for the servants to pick up. The bike shop, while we have adapted, has a similar feeling of being left behind in a dusty past.

I will admit that segments of the bicycling economy do seem to be proliferating in their separate subcultures. Instead of a single invasion riding on hundreds of muddy beasts, riders arrive on a weird array of machines related only by having pedals attached to a crank. The general configuration is still based on the "safety bicycle" of the 1890s, but from there it can go anywhere. Since Friday we've had a gravel bike with electronic shifting, two smokeless mopeds that crashed on the rail trail, one while-you-wait hydraulic caliper overhaul, and close to 20 rentals. It is still far below the flat-out pace of the 1990s, but on most days we only have two people on duty.

Our new trainee seems to be more of a body shop guy than a mechanic. You know body shop guys, whose cars look stunning and run like shit. He did a restoration-quality cleanup job on an old Schwein, but can't seem to get the hang of basic adjustments to shifting, or the plodding attention to details like tight stem bolts. And he has two or three other endeavors in full swing, so he keeps having to go to another job. Mechanical skill is part nature, part nurture. His nature is hard to assess when his nurture keeps getting interrupted.

The summer to this point has been mediocre. The town seems busy for the Fourth of July weekend. No telling where it will go from there. Wolfeboro's slogan, "The Oldest Summer Resort in America," used to refer to its historical roots as a summer retreat for a colonial governor. Now it aptly describes the graying demographic as the town becomes a big retirement community. Tourists come and do whatever it is that tourists do. We put on our outfits and play our roles, happy that anyone shows up at all.

Places, everyone!