What Lies Beneath

Early on into last night’s weekly bike boogie my crap pre-ride eating habits (or rather lack-of-eating habits) caught up with me and my blood/sugar level nosedived only a couple miles into the 17-miler that took us throught the dankiest and stankiest parts of Vernon, Maywood, and other parts previously unexplored. Plus I was an idiot and didn’t bring anything to cram down my piehole such as jerky or a nutrition bar or even gum.

So I just had to tough it out, especially considering the unwelcomes we got coming through some of the sketchier neighborhoods. In front of one factory one of a group of assembled workers on break advised us that we were “in the wrong neighborhood” as we passed. And later from the shadows of an auto repair place we rolled by came the disconcerting bellowing of “ET Phone Home! ET Phone Home!” And I’m not even counting the high number of unintelligible yells/calls/shrieks/whistles/growls generated from various porches or parked cars along the way.

Basically these were not the places to park it and make my fellow IAAL•MAF’ers sit and wait out my spell. So I just kept rotating one foot in front of the other on the pedals and I managed not to collapse. But I certainly was experiencing everything a decent hypoglycemic wallop can lay on ya: malaise, fatigue, shortness of breath, fever, elevated heart rate, narrow vision, shaking… and let’s not forget irritability. The best I can describe the sensation that results from such a concoction is a mix of wanting to simultaneously take a nap and fight and eat.

While my tanked system can be counted on to restore itself to acceptable levels eventually (quicker when you have some protein and/or sugar to restoke the fire), indeed most of the other symptoms abated after a few miles. But the irritability is always the last to go, and by the time we rolled up to our standard Little Tokyo post-ride sushi stop after 10 p.m., not only was I starving, but I had taken a sullen grumpiness that had settled in to an almost sinister level.

Having run a red light at Central and Second because I was just in no mood to obey traffic laws anymore, I was the first of our party of 10 to arrive at the eatery and I parked The Phoenix and hastily arranged some tables in the retaurant’s outdoor area for all of us before plopping down in a chair. I did not notice the dude with the guitar who I’m guessing had been set up and spare-change serenading the courtyard prior to our arrival. As everyone else arrived and parked their bikes my first introduction to the guitar guy comes at the end of some sort of mini-dialogue that I missed until the last thing I hear him say is “Well if any of you get run over, don’t blame me.”

Having to get up to turn off lights I’d left shining on my bike I dispatched a probe to scan for any trace elements of humor or sarcasm residue in the wake of that bullshit statement but in finding none, I said something like “Don’t worry, we’ll only blame you if you’re the one driving” and when he declined to engage I selected the fuggitaboutit option, re-took my seat and commanded my hackles to stay down.

Outta sight outta mind he went. But not really. A minute, maybe two later I’m perusing the menu and I feel the presence. Someone’s standing behind me. At first I think it’s any of the revolving area homeless that linger around our perimeter and ask us for money each week. But when I look up in the reflection of the restaurant window I see its the musician. And he’s just standing there surveying us. And standing there some more. Silently. Everyone else is successfully ignoring him, but as I’m already edgy to say the least I’m beginning to get creeped out and I reference him to no one in particular and express that I’m about freak if he doesn’t leave.

Just then he pipes up with some socio-geo-political platitude about how it’s “all about oil!” He says a few other uninvited things that we shrug off but the sense I get is that he’s just not impressed with us and our two-wheeled dealings. That somehow we’re poseurs with Hummers parked around the corner, totally illegitimate. Maybe that’s part his fault and part my evil grumpiness flavoring his tone to suit my antagonistic needs. Maybe he just didn’t like us parking all around the area he was using as his stage. Either way he was a jackass and I took the safety off my mouth, turned and fired back.

I started off by cracking that we’d just pedaled through Vernon and Maywood and the Alameda Corridor and lived to tell about it so anything he had to offer would pale in comparision to the receptions we received there.

He seemed slightly impressed by Maywood but before he could rebut I asked him to tell me if he got a bigger kick out of playing the guitar and being rude or playing the guitar and being nice. He considered that sincerely for a moment before answering the latter and I informed him that he and I must have gone to different schools of thought because if he thought he was anything less than insulting to us he was sadly mistaken. Then I turned my back to him, raised my fist and shouted “Maywood!” repeatedly until he saw I was a bigger jerk than him and retreated.

But not quite. As he shuffled away with his guitar I watched him go and in one last moment of torment he turned and faced us and looking right at me I made out the word “motherfucker” he mumbled under his breath. When he saw me smiling and shaking my head he asked me what my problem was and I pointed out that since I’d just seen him call me a motherfucker my problem was him. There was a couple beats of silence and then the guitar guy was miraculously visited with more wisdom than he almost knew what to do with

“Well then I’m just going to leave,” he said. And the heavens opened and the angels sang and the nine cyclists and one raging post-hypoglycemic complimented and congratulated him on a truly capital idea.

And leave he did.

And in his wake my man Mack Reed opened wise from across the table with “Making friends everywhere you go Campbell,” and I almost took offense to that, but the waitress showed up and took our orders.

EPILOGUE: If there’s a moral to this story it’s that by nature I do not suffer fools silently, but perhaps I can suffer them better if not on an empty stomach.