This One's for Mom: Year End Report 2004



The press release stated: “Shooting Starr Bridges becomes the seventh Zealot to win the mythical WBL Golden Fleece as he finishes the season as he started it—streaking across the firmament ripping a fiery yellow hole through anything in his path. Shooting Starr ascended to the oracular heights via a rocky route traveled by a select few—he donned The Yellow jersey from the opening chapter through the final tumultuous episode. Shooter won the first contested ride of the other season with a dominant display of rapid-fire sprinting. Afterwards, he never looked back.

Chase as they may, those left behind never crossed the gap. Shooter continued to put distance between himself and his nearest rivals as he blitzed through December, held firm through January, and rode the wave of victory home in February. We are happy you could join us on this special evening as we induct Shooting Starr Bridges into The WBL Hall of Champions. Also joining Shooter in the hallowed gallery is The Lady in Blue, Ms. Iona Wynter, the Overall Ladies’ Champ. Ms. Wynter took a different, more circuitous route to the Olympian heights reserved for winners. She and Erin Winter traded body blows, as well as The Blue Jersey, week after week in a fifteen round slugfest. I. Wynter finally came out the winner when she landed on top of her namesake as both Zealettes fell to the ground, exhausted, when the final bell clanged. So thank you all for coming to our Seventh Annual Induction Ceremony. Sit back, relax, and remember, no flash photography please!”

I was running late when I arrived at The Classic Center in downtown Athens for the Induction Ceremony. Earlier, my mom’s DUI class ended late, and I had to wait on her in the parking lot. She had lost her license, so I was driving her to and from her class in my ’76 Camaro. My passenger door didn’t open due to a large dent, but mom could grab the top of the car, pull her feet up, and throw herself feet-first into the car in one motion. The rest of her body followed. She was as agile as a cat burglar. She dove in and grabbed a cold Bud from the cooler in the back. “Howdy son. Get me the hell outta here. Nuthin but a buncha damn drunks.” She cracked open the Bud and rested her top lip in the foam lathering on the top of the tall boy. First she slurped the foam, and then she drained that bad boy dry in three seconds. “Ahhh, hell-fire, toss me another.” I raced home, dropped her off at the trailer, and floored it back to Athens. I stopped to read the press release under the bright chandeliers in the lobby before throwing open the doors to the cavernous auditorium in which the gala was already underway. When the double doors flew open, a rectangular shaft of light beamed inwards into the darkness, like a searchlight, allowing me to see seventy or eighty large dinner tables filled with hundreds of people scattered about the room. As the doors closed behind me, the shaft of light looked like a mouth closing as it shrank to a vertical sliver, then evaporated from sight altogether. I was swallowed in blackness. I might as well have been Jonah in the whale’s belly. The stage was lit up like The Red Light District in Amsterdam (a favorite haunt of mine), but was half-a-mile away. I fumbled about like a blind drunkard at a burlesque show. I groped about for an empty chair. With outstretched arms, I suddenly recognized a rare opportunity. I seized upon it like a starved jackal.

“Hey, watch it Mister!”

“Sorry Lady.” I slid away.

“Watch out pervert.”

“My bad Miss, I thought you were a cantaloupe.” I smiled and hurried away, into darkness.

“Get your hands off me. Police! Police! Hey, Where did you go?”

“Sorry. It’s me, The Canadian. I thought you were a Molson.” I whispered with the best Canuck accent I could muster. I don’t know if she bought it. Off I slithered.

 Then, “Whoa, hey you, whoever you are, get back here. That was nice.”

“Good Lord! Junior? Is that you?”

“Yes, who are you?”

“I don’t know,” I whispered. The carpet absorbed the sound of my footsteps as I fled in a mazy confusion.

As I skirted the rear of the perimeter in my sweep of the football field sized room, I started to feel as if I was sneaking into a movie theatre, a favorite hobby of mine in days of old. My mom and I called our little game “In through the Out Door.” Mom would by a ticket, then walk around to the exit. She would flip her Camel out the exit, but leave the door cracked a hair. In I went with all my other delinquent friends. Then, that hippie band from England ripped off our name—In Through the Out Door. Then, that lawyer ripped off my money. I told him—the lawyer, I wanted to sue them—the hippies. He shook his head with understanding empathy. He said they were Devil worshipers deeply immersed in witchcraft and diablerie, and if I played their album backwards, I could hear Lucifer speaking in tongues. I did play it backwards. It wasn’t Lucifer talking, it was my Mom. She was saying things like: “You’re a pathetic little turd, you know that?” or: “Oh yea Indiana Jones, well the door is wide open and you can just walk your ass right through it and keep right on going til you get to the ocean. You do know you’re adopted?” or: “Honey-Bunches-of-Love, Would you bring your sweet sugar mama who loves you very, berry much another bourbon and coke, please sweetie?” This lawyer told me I had a good case. He said to give him a thousand bucks and he would “look into it—do some really hard core-like research, you know, and more stuff like that. ” I took the bait. He snagged me like a purblind sailfish that can’t see his own dumb fate circling around him like death. He looked into it all right. He bought the album, said it was great, and told me I was a right-winger. He had the gall to say, “You wouldn’t know good taste if it were standing in front of you thinking how pathetic you are.” He kept my money, with a smile. I called his office constantly. I was put on hold, only to hear All of My Love playing over and over again. It burned my ass up. It was The Announcer. Stuck-up bastard. Ignorant cow. I finally found an empty chair at a large dinner table and slid into it. I had worked myself into a mild tizzy.

Up on the stage at this point, The New CEO, Ms. Candi, continued heaping praises upon Shooting Starr: “…so as you can see Shooter’s stupendous season must be attributed to the tortuous privations he endured, his Sisyphean training schedule, his lust for pain. He lived like a Tibetan Monk, an ascetic. He owned only a bowl and cloak…and of course his bike. His thighs annealed into tightly coiled cords of malleable steel fibers. He renounced the flesh and rejected all carnal pleasures. His heartbeat slowed to three beats faster than a dead man’s. His cheeks and eyes caved in like Florida sinkholes. The ridges of his jaws could cut paper. But his eyes burned with the greedy flame of his inner demon. His thirst for points was quenchless. In The Attack Zones of 04—some of the more brutal and obstreperous Attack Zones in the history of The WBL—Shooter watched the front like a jealous Rottweiler guarding a T-bone steak. The Yellow was present, showing its ragged teeth, in all the crucial moves throughout the season. He snuffed all challengers. When asked in December if he could hold Yellow for the entirety of the season, he responded with the poetic license imbued in his bloodstream by prolonged periods in Yellow: ‘Do rivulets of water stream off a sloping tin roof?’ And tonight he enters the ring of fire, the circle of champions. His name is now chiseled onto the legendary Yellow Rock of Champions, the centerpiece in The Great Hall. All hail Shooting Starr.” Shooter strode to the stage wearing yellow bell-bottom jeans, a yellow hat, yellow glitter gloves, and of course, The Yellow Jersey. I could feel my chair trembling beneath the weight of the thunderous applause, giving me the odd, but pleasurable, sensation I was sitting in an electric chair.

Give me a break, I thought. I mean sure, he suffered and all that jazz, and I’m sure he trained really hard, but “privations,” please. I’ll tell your ass about privations. When I was in fifth grade, I was the only kid who did not have a remote control to my T.V. in my bedroom. Can you imagine? When I wanted to change the channel, I would have to scream: “Mom. Mom. MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! I’M FREAKIN’ DYIN’ HERE!  CAN I PLEASE GET A LITTLE COOPERATION AROUND HERE! AS MUCH AS I DO FOR THIS DISFUNCTIONAL FAMILY AND THIS IS WHAT I GET! OBVIOUSLY, I’M NEITHER LOVED NOR APPRECIATED. MOOOOOOM!” I would throw my covers back, put on my Scooby Doo underwear, wrestle Woody into a more favorable position, and go tromping to the back of the trailer. Usually I would find her passed out on the bathroom floor, again. I always took her smokes. The rest of the damn night I was forced to climb out of the damn bed every single damn time I wanted to change the damn channel. It was during this time I learned to smoke an entire cigarette without ever taking it out of my mouth. Sometimes it would take an entire smoke before I could decide on which show to watch. Don’t tell me about Shooter’s petty privations and his meager sacrifices. I’ve been in the desert for forty days man!

Next, the CEO called Iona Wynter and Erin Winter both onto the stage. “These two ladies are part of a record breaking year in WBL 2004. These ladies not only finished 1-2 in The Ladies’ Competition, they both finished in the top ten Overall. These Ladies engaged in a three-month battle royale in which The Blue jersey changed shoulders weekly. Not only did Iona Wynter emerge as the winner on the very last event, she finished fourth in The Overall Competition, also a record. Erin Winter was right behind, grabbing Blue and holding it late into the year, only to see it barely slip away on the last event. Erin finished second for The Ladies, and seventh Overall. 2004 is gravy from here for both these ladies.”

Gravy, I thought. I remember gravy—a gravy train. I was sixteen years old. I was asleep in my bed. Outside I heard, “ Whaa whaa whaa whaa whaa.” The noise sounded just like Charlie Brown’s teacher. I sat up. What the hell I wondered? A granite-sized block of pure white demon light abruptly shined through my window and attached itself to my wall. I thought aliens had landed. Then, I began to decipher the noise outside. Someone was speaking through a bullhorn: “Come out with your hands up. We have you surrounded. Give up now.” I thought back—I watched E at eight p.m., got drunk, watched Real World, made a few prank calls, looked through my telescope into the neighbor’s trailers, and went to bed at midnight. Mom was still out. This wasn’t making sense. Suddenly, a strange, hairy man burst into my room. LUCKY LARRY was tattooed on his left pectoral. All he had on was a pair of black boxers with red dice printed all over. All the dice appeared to have landed on the lucky sevens. He looked disheveled, like he was awakened in the middle of a heroic dream. I may have failed to mention he was extremely hairy. His head was the size of a watermelon. He tossed a sawed-off shotgun to me with his right hand. He clutched a second one in his left. “Hey, I’m Larry, Lucky Larry. You head out the back door, I’ll hit it from the front. Go man go!” My mom stood behind him holding a black leather bag. She yelled, “I’ll meet you in Memphis boy.” I looked down at the gun in my hands and tried to understand. Then, Lucky Larry turned and burst out the front door hooping and hollering like a Confederate soldier high on apple wine. Needless to say, he made it about one step, and then about two hundred cannons unleashed Hell’s fury. He blew back seven feet, right back through the door. He landed at our feet, dead as a run over squirrel. He didn’t even have any dramatic last words, like all dying people do on T.V. Mom tossed the black bag to me and said, “Hide this, and don’t say a damn word to the cops—You’re in shock. You got that Einstein!” The cops told Mom Lucky Larry had robbed a liquor store. Mom told the cops Lucky Larry had burst in and taken us hostage, and I was “too shocked to talk.” She pulled the cop aside and whispered I was “ slow to begin with.” The cops bought it hook, line and sinker. After the cops left, Mom and I sat in the kitchen. She kept saying it was “our damned time to ride the gravy train.” They never did catch the person driving the getaway car. And they never found the money. Mom and I moved to a doublewide four months later. She gave me smokes whenever I wanted for several months afterwards. I even got a remote for the T.V. Good ole Mom, she knew my weak spots.

Up on the stage The CEO began to introduce the stage winner’s from 2004. “The first stage winner I would like to call up tonight is The Kid, Jon Murphy. The Kid unleashed a furious maelstrom of thunder and lighting in The WBL this winter as he pulled the hat trick. Not only did this orange-topped wunderkind win three stages, the most wins of any Zealot, he won Alto, the most prestigious stage in The WBL. And not only did The Kid win Alto in a dramatic come from behind victory, he glided across the finish line while giving The Cippolini Shrug—a gesture that says: ‘Hey, forget about it.’ Of course, The Shrug is given while wearing a gaping twelve-mile wide smile. The Kid knew no one would forget about it—this was Alto baby! So let’s hear it for the master of the uphill thunder sprint, the new threat on the horizon, The Kid!” Everyone roared as The Kid strode across the stage in orange Day-Glo polyester pants. The pants were the exact color of his hair. He glowed like a radioactive carrot. “There’s no telling what mammoth feats this Kid will pull-off this year,” The CEO continued. “The wannabe winners will have to learn—you can’t drag The Kid to the line. You’ll have to use a little shake and bake on him long before the finish. If you don’t, you might as well go ahead and let the tears start rolling.” Mom loved carrots; said in a jam you could poke somebody’s eye out with a big one.

Next, IcePic was introduced. “Ice scored two wins this year, the only other rider to do the double. With his two wins, Ice showed he is a jack of all trades, a real man about town. Ice outfoxed a couple of foxes in the winning break on one event, and won a massive field charge on another. Ice showed he can bludgeon the competition with a with a large Billy club in hand-to-hand combat, or sneak up from behind and wedge a two-foot ice pick between an enemy’s shoulder blades. A true aficionado of The Attack Zone, a genuine ‘Man for All Seasons’, a sapient savant of The Big Ring philosophical movement, It is with great pride I introduce to you, my Zealots, the double stage winner IcePic.” More thunderous applause. More pleasant electricity. His followers hurled ice onto the stage as Ice approached the podium, beaming like a schoolgirl on her second date.

Next, it was Young Todd Henrikson’s turn. “Zealots, I now ask you to remember this next name. I want you to remember this next boy with a simple sobriquet, well-trimmed lamb chops, but illimitable talent. This young lad pulled a major coup when he outfoxed security and swiped a major win on the Toccoa World Cup, the most difficult, and the most demanding event of the other season. This young boy shocked all the prophets, all the oracles, all the veterans. He and The Kid, both 19 years of age, grew up in the same neighborhood. The WBL is presently performing extensive tests on their neighborhood’s drinking water for some sort of sign or clue. Younguns’ name is now etched for eternity on the legendary list of winners for The Toccoa World Cup—Young Todd! Come on out Youngun and receive your plaque.” Young Todd’s pageboy haircut and perfectly trimmed sideburns—shaped like California—were a huge hit. His followers all wore pasted on sideburns and sported new pageboys and clanged cowbells as he swaggered to the podium. The nineteen-year-old prodigal son had come home. He was now a made-man in The WBL. He was already giving the Tony Bennett nod to familiar faces in the crowd.

Mom loved Tony Bennett. Mom listened to the dirty old bastard so often, I grew to love him too. There was a period for about six or seven months, maybe three years ago, when Mom and I would pass out in the trailer drunk every night. She would fall asleep somewhere between the sofa in the living room and the door of her bedroom. I usually had the stamina to make it to my bed, or at least the bedroom floor. An empty bottle of Tequila usually slept it off in the shag carpet in the living room amongst the thousands of potato chip crumbs. But regardless of where we slept, Tony Bennett wailed on and on full throttle all night long through the six, seven-foot speakers strategically placed throughout. The trailer walls, which were nothing but newspaper between two thin metal sheet stapled together, rattled and rolled right along with the Golden Gated crooner. I grew to love Tony. I know all his songs. Mom and I don’t act that way any longer. We don’t drink. Much.

Next, it was Russ Griebel’s time to shine. “My main man Russ Roundhouse Griebel scored his first WBL knockout with a flurry of furious jabs and uppercuts. Roundhouse’s win came at the tail end of one of the more contumacious and blustery days of the season. The Bowman Classic, along with Alto and Toccoa have been awarded the elevated status of ‘epic.’ During The Bowman Classic, the weather was foul, the tempo was unforgiving, and the gale force busters buffeted the pack like an aspirin in the wind. Only those intrepid souls with the temerity of Frodo even dared to raise the sword in anger on this tumultuous day in the saddle. And like the eye in a storm, Griebel sat, and watched, and waited for the turn of the wheel. He waited with the deadly patience of a quiet fer-de-lance. Then he heard the click. Time’s heavy wheels rotated. The web gently rolled. Griebel was ready. With the speed and precision of a laser guided missile, he struck out. His first thrust was through the lungs and left his competitors shattered alongside the road, dead. He joined our list. It is with the pride of a new mother I give you Russ Roundhouse Griebel, The King of Fulton County, our latest made-man.” The large crowd of Atlantans stood and whistled and yelled and cavorted like they were back home on Peachtree Street. It was a sad winter for Atlanta, and Roundhouse’s win provided them with at least a vestige of hope for next season, one small pearl of a possibility.

When Mom was looking over the final list of winners several days ago, her fingers froze on the name of “Griebel.” “Who’s he?” Mom asked with one brow cocked like an upside-down v. I explained to her who he was and what he had done. She tapped her finger on his name and said, “You watch that one boy, ya here me?” Mom’s always giving good advice like that. I call her a “sagess.”

Next The CEO called up the last stage winner of the year, a real Lord Jim of The WBL, a man who pulled it out when it appeared it had sunk. It was a last minute win. “My denizens of The WBL, I am happy to tell you that our next recipient of a stage win almost missed the boat. He took a wrong turn while dreaming of glory, riches and fame. But he righted himself the following week, the last week in The WBL. He and his Jittery Joe teammates put The Zealots into the gutter, and kept them there for the duration of the event. The temperature, along with the heart rates, was soaring all day. Jake Rongway Rosenbarger emerged from the gutter with his arms held high. He glowed like a songbird escaped from its cage. So Zealots, I am proud to introduce tonight Jake Rongway Rosenbarger.” The crowd roared, yet again. But Rongway didn’t appear. The CEO tapped on her earpiece, then said, “Folks, Folks, calm down. I’ve just received a message that Rongway took a wrong turn and is running a little late. He was seated in the rear of the auditorium. But he’s on his…here he is now. Get on out here boy. No not that way, this way. There we go.”

So there they stood, all the winners from WBL 2004:

  • Shooting Starr (Overall, 1 stage)
  • Iona Wynter (Overall)
  • The Kid (3 stages)
  • IcePic (2 stages)
  • Young Todd (1)
  • Roundhouse (1)
  • Rongway (1)

I sat there looking at them, hating them. I imagined myself winning stages. I wanted to be on stage. I imagined myself beating them all with a large pipe, or a golf club, the way my mom did to a couple of fellows who mistreated her. Once, Mom and I were at a bar off a dirt road in Jackson County. Some snaggle-toothed, balding old redneck bellied up to the bar. He wore blue jeans, a white t-shirt, red suspenders and red tennis shoes. He looked to be fifty-eight going on seventy-four. Although he was as skinny as a bulimic Tommy Hilfiger model, his stomach bulged over his belt like a stuffed sack of grain. He walked with a limp and a cane. He squeezed in between mom and me. “Hey Joe Bob, I got my disability check, so I’m ready to party.” He looked at me and smiled. “Hay.” His breath smelled like it had been trapped in the bottom of a sewer for seven years. Both his teeth looked like they had died several weeks ago, probably suicide, and their owner was still in a state of denial. Lynard Skynard was roaring to the high heavens in the background—Gimme Back My Bullets I think it was. This crusty old fellow leaned over and whispered something in Mom’s ear. She thought for a minute, scratched her neck, and said “Come on,” but not to me. She killed her drink and got up and left. He hobbled after, holding his cane in his hand. After a few minutes I began to worry. I went out, and around to the side of the unpainted concrete block building and there was Mom. She stood towering over Sewer Breath with her foot on his chest, rifling through his wallet. His cane was broken and it lie across his knees. He was sleeping, or so it seemed. Mom glowed in the moonlight like a Greek goddess. I got the car, Mom got the cash, and we high-tailed it home. Mom said that fellow was “ a real pigeon, an easy mark.” She soon taught me what she meant.

Ms. Candi went on, just like The Duracell Rabbit. “The habitués of The WBL pedaled over 1000 miles in WBL 2004. WBL 2004 will go down as one of the more difficult winter series ever endured. The arcane roads of The WBL were witness to hostile battles with dramatic results. Kings were slain (Carney) and Queens were crowned (Me!). The roiling and moiling Attack Zones of 2004 were unyielding, uncompromising. Guaranteed winning breaks were consistently run down by a rabid pack hungry for the warm taste of blood. No one was safe. The list of stage winners, as always, is a ‘who’s who’ in southeastern and national cycling circles. We are pleased finally to call out the top ten in this year’s Overall Classification for 2004:

  • Shooting Starr Bridges 75 points.
  • The Announcer 63
  • IcePic 51
  • Henrikson 46
  • Iona Wynter 46 (1st Lady)
  • Murphy 43
  • Erin Winter 41 (2nd Lady)
  • Roberto Rivers 38
  • Drewdini 34
  • Matt Turbo Gentry 34

“So thank you all for coming this evening. We’ll see you all again next year. Peace.”

Peace. That reminds me of Mom. She had a T-shirt on which was written, “Peace is for Losers. Learn to Fight.” Mom’s training for WBL 2005, and so am I. But we won’t start just yet. First, I’ve got to finish this sixer. But hallelujah, my midnight lucubration can come to an end. Or can it? A bug has bitten me. See you next year. J.