Crash-Banging in San RaffaFlail, or What's a Little Blood Among Brothers?

September 2001

Edge Dwellers:

San Raffaflail, Cat 2, 110 Ruff-n-Freddies , short, 4 turns, including Blood Pooling Joy Ride into Gutspill Gully.

MKA predicted carnage. Tell tale signs. Like before the start seeing a young Turk behind a dumpster stabbing himself with a syringe, probably heroin, like an Afghan soldier getting his mind right before a suicide attack. Or the fact that hordes of fans wearing NASCAR gimme caps and stretch pants were setting up their lawn chairs behind the hay bails on the perimeter of Turn 4. Or the fact that the normally bored medics were feverishly setting up a triage tent.

No matter. A bike race without danger was like a comedy show without laughter. Besides which the Labor Lawyers were here in full force to prove a point—you’re never too old, wise, rich or prudent to risk life and limb for 15 seconds of glory (or a box of peanut butter Power Bars). There could have been motor oil, tacks, and crocodiles on the course and we would’ve signed those waivers. Worry about finding loop holes and arguing public policy later (we were seduced! coerced! entrapped!).

The game plan was for Hoosier Daddy, who’s been on a roll of late, to deliver Genghis and MKA to the final lap and let nature run its course. Problem was after about three laps at or near the front MKA’s legs were shot full of arrows. MKA retreats to the back in search of comfort, assuring himself that when it counted he would bolt to the front.

But a bike race is not like an airplane—it’s not safer at the back. At the front, Genghis and Hoosier were masterfully gliding into the turns. But MKA is back with the hacks sprinting into and then breaking in the turns. Big dopes getting in my way. A hole would close as quickly as it opened. Overhead a mutt warn another Mutt about "those Labor guys", who purportedly were "chopping and cutting." Damn! And they couldn’t be talking about me, since I was sitting on the crapper. MKA needed to get up there and engage. Bad reputations are not inherited, they must be earned.

One to go! It’s now or never. MKA about 15 to 20 back. Idea is to ramp into turn one, fly over the heads of the leaders, and then beam down just before the finish line. But Postal’s Peter Wabbit, who had been riding a clean race at the front all day, is suddenly scattered across the road. A more adventurous racer would’ve bunny hopped the hare, but MKA wimpishly braked, and it was over. First thought: I didn’t "crash" per se, but as a proximate cause thereof, was effectively forced to terminate (your basic 1st year Torts class Palsgraf scenario). Second thought: need to find a better way to package my excuse.

Then something wonderful happened. MKA coasted down the finish line. A big burning spear of humanity shot through the final turn. Bejeezus that’s Genghis at the point, zooming like Harry Potter on his trusty Nimbus 2000 broomstick, with a herd of dragons and devil dogs snapping at his cape. Just then the dam burst (or the Challenger exploded) and a torrent of bodies crashed through the barricades like buffaloes falling off a cliff, while the NASCAR savages closed in to strip the bleeding bodies of their beads, rings, and shiny metal-type objects. Among the fallen, Labor’s own Hoosier Daddy, who was easily a top ten finisher. Fortunately, he wasn’t wearing a nose ring, so his wasn’t among the pile of little noses on the sidewalk that had been HACKED off by the gypsies.

"Hoosier, you okay?" "Yeah, sure, always happy to donate to the Asphalt Gods. Wouldn’t be so bad if this fat lady hadn’t tried to pry off my wedding band. Look, I think it’s busted (holding up a gnarled and nasty left hand, fingers splayed out like a Swiss Army Knife). Must’ve thought I was dead. Hey, I saw a beer pub near turn one, let’s go drain a pint."

My eyes were fixed on the snarl of blood and flesh that used to be his left leg quarter. Hmmm. What if I...? MKA saw annoying questions coming down the pike about why he didn’t finish in the money, or finish at all. "You crashed?" they would ask dubiously, sizing me up but finding no evidence of rips, tears or gashes. MKA needed a bail-out, a hay bail out as it were, and seized it: "Here, HD, let me pick some of that gravel out of your hocks and wipe off that stanky gangrene." Feigning emergency medical care, MKA skillfully extricated a glob of Hoosier Daddy’s pulp which I then slathered onto my own chest and arms, thus in one deft movement managing to bolster the credibility of the "crash" excuse and preemptively striking down any follow up interrogation. Could even get some free sympathy, maybe a pair of socks.

It worked. MKA got to say he crashed, nobody questioned me, and I even managed to convince some that gosh darn it "I was right there, I had it." The truth was of course that MKA’s chances of a Vee were only slightly better than flatulating a flock of angels out of my ass. The second truth was that Genghis lived up to his name, showed no fear, and won a race a scrawny gruel eater had not business winning. His win also cemented a clean Labor 1-2 sweep in the California Cat 2 series, which prompted several flatheads to call for our immediate "upgrading" (like peasants calling for a beheading of the dark angel), to which I had to respond that MKA can’t even win a 40 plus race, so maybe instead of upgrading Labor the USCF should downgrade the Cat 2 degenerates. In the end, our lovely and enchanting District Rep, Mrs. Jan Tomo-Luke, let us keep our licenses and cheerfully wrote out the checks, beseeching Labor ever so sweetly to say "nice things" about this stupidest of sports, reminiscent of that scene in Catch-22 when Cols. Cathcart and Korn offered Yossarian his freedom in exchange for his goodwill.

And there was a third truth: yes, Genghis was brave, but not nearly as brave as his Darling Wife, Brenda, who a few hours later was on the back of a tandem laboring 2,500 ft up a very steep and twisty Mt. Tam, where we rewarded for our toils at the summit with 75 knot winds and ice cold snowdrifts. Nor did she whine on the corkscrew descent when Genghis refused to tap the breaks into the hairpin corners except when shaving guardrails or bouncing off of Porsches.

With so many thrills and spills at San Raffaflail, my expectations were low as I got up to watch the San Francisco Gran Prix, where Lance and his golden chariots were expected to lay waste to the pagan pretenders. But MKA was wrong again: this was exciting. First, Santa Klasna was on fire from the gun, clearly the hardest working bike racer on the planet (and a possible Labor recruit). Second, ex Labor and sometimes sullen sourpus Jason Bausch was the darling of the pelaton in the champagne sogged eyes of all the kazillionaires at the Tom Weisel shindig on the waterfront. Every time the pel came around, JB would raise his arm and shout "Labor !" with an air of goofiness that surely landed him in hotwater with the NetZero all-business front office.

And third, amidst all the reverie, and in between the free flow of Steamed Manila Clams, Ginger Scallion Salmon Cakes and Mango Sesame Ahi, Labor managed to recruit a salty up-and-comer goes by the name of Robin Williams. Hoosier Daddy cornered the comic genius and offered him a spot on Labor, "pending board approval." MKA held up HD’s bloody knuckles so as to emphasize that this was one of those offers you just don’t refuse, you just don’t. Robin was momentarily speechless, which is some sort of record, and then he got carried away with some sort of schtick where I guess he was the world’s greatest lover, pack sprinter and prize fighter all in one breath. This went on for about 5 minutes, everybody laughed, but the important thing to we lawyer types is he didn’t say "no" to the offer, which in Hollywood is a guarded "yes," which means I gotta make a choice between Rambo and Robin for next year’s Labor roster.


Crashed, Burned and Salted


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