Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bikewitches in MABRA-land

What to talk about after a race if you don't win: reasons why you didn't win, and who is responsible for this rift in the fabric of a natural world that is otherwise just and orderly and owes you so much.

An African friend once told me, "here no one dies, because everyone is killed." We were in a little village way out in the bush, walking to the funeral of a woman who had been beaten to death by her grandnephews because they had suspected her of witchcraft. Their suspicion began when her first son died. Their suspicious seemed confirmed when her second son died in exactly the same way--a gradual wasting away. To me, clearly AIDS. To villagers the only explanation that made sense was the one in which Grandma was a witch. So one night they threw her to the ground and stomped on her till she died.

Witches and the dark arts--sounds exotic, but is it that far removed from Glen Beck? From Joel Osteen? From the idea that Obama is going to bring racial equality to America, and that people who have been racist their whole lives can somehow judge him impartially? From Wall Street, where for our own irresponsible borrowing practices, we blame the witchy lenders?

No, American witch trials didn't end with Salem.

We also have witches in bike racing; for example, Vino, judging by his reception in Liege.

And we have them in MABRA.

A bikewitch in MABRA-land is the guy who blocked your path to the finish, the guy who swerved into you for no apparent reason, the guy who didn't pull through. He's the bastard who pinched you off of that prime wheel.

Your bikewitch may or may not be an agent of the Dark Lord; the point is, whenever possible, we believe in agency because it helps us cope with our own suck.

Being a witch. I've levelled the charge and I've been charged with it once, and again. Toward my counterpart in both cases I say, in the words of Bob Roll: “feel free to fuck off and die.”

A fine piece of rhetoric, that, but it doesn't keep us safe. Because that's the important thing. Not crashing. Not causing a crash.

There was a compulsive gambler who, when asked to rate how he felt, on a scale of 1 to 10 when gambling, responded "100." How about the next closest thing--family, sex, career? "2."

Riding a bike, no matter if losing, sucking, suffering, even dieing, is a 100. Sitting in the hospital with a shattered backbone is a 0. It sucks.

Sure, people endangering our lives can make us prickly. It should. But how accurate are your recollections during a bike race? Really?

Where others see distortions, you just see the cold hard facts? Are you constructed that uniquely?

Because--and if I got something out of two years living in Africa, this is it--we are all of us deceived, to some degree or another.

No witches.

If you feel someone endangers you, talk to him in a way that helps him ride smarter and safer. You should be open to the idea that it wasn't your antagonist's fault, especially in the context of bike racing, where none of us except Brian Vaughan, because of his helmet cam, has perfect recollection of how things went down.

If you don't get this, then you can feel free to fuck off and die.