A Delusion Biting the Tail of a Dream, or
How Labor Came to Love Cleveland
February 9, 2002
As we prepare for the 2002 racing season, Labor wishes to extend its thanks to it's Primary Sponsor, without whose sterling example joy itself would be impossible. Like other luminaries before him, his name personifies the essence of his character, not unlike Sting, or Slash, or Prince, or even my son's all time Saturday morning favorite, Scooby. His name is synonymous with hard work, humble origins, high aspirations, crumbling infrastructure, and unrequited adoration from the Dawg Pound. Yes, he's Cleveland, and we love him dearly.
First, a little background. MKA first met Cleveland three years ago, when he first arrived on the Golden Shores after dominating the 23 and under shaved crotch and forearms division of the Ohio tri-idiot scene. I won't soon forget our first encounter. He was bursting with energy, eager to please, tail wagging and not entirely house broken. He came with a dream : a dream that one day, with sufficient studwork, coifing and accessorizing, he too would wear the Labor colors. Little did the frisky biscuit know at the time that in only a few short years his serene and chiseled visage would proudly appear on the jersey itself, perhaps as a counter-balance to the three tough guy image mainstay, a balance which of itself speaks to the pervasive power of the Pound/Flail Continuum.
In his humble fashion, which has become a trademark of sorts for this young turk-cum-swarthy Norseman, Cleveland is not unmindful of his place in history. "At the same age, Lance got his mug on a box of Wheaties, but he never made the Labor J. So I feel good. Harm says I'm right on track for a Stars n Bars in the pursuit this year, an Olympic Gold in two years, and French mustard yellow in three." He's no fool, and readily admits that before launching his one man show of world domination, he will first need to establish himself as a steady top ten finisher at Como Worlds, Fred Natz and Ontario Speedwagon Crit no. 4.
Ambition? He makes Richard Nixon look like a slacker. Drive? He makes Michael Johnson look like a slow-mo sluggard. Enduring work ethic? Makes Jerry Rice look like a one-time wonder. Personality, he learned from Albert Bell and his disarming way with the ladies from the days spent at the pre Vegas Mickey Ty Mansion in Buckeye land. He's got all the tangibles and the intangibles, plus a handy-dandy peyote dispenser port located bilaterally at the base of both temporal lobes -- to keep his dreams alive, 24-7.
But it's his discipline that most inspires Labor. Just last month we were warming down from Como Worlds, from which Cleveland was noticeably absent, we were toodling down a bike path teeming with runners, walkers, bladers and children on scooters. Suddenly, a terrible sound rang out -- like powerful snorts from the nostrils of a raging bull. The nasal blasts were followed by the shrieks of a little girl on a bikky bike with training wheels, a lovely little bike actually with a white wicker basket festooned with hand picked daisies. At that moment, Cleveland shot by us like Lance ripping down the ramp in the Prologue, exquisitely decked out in his skinsuit, walkman and fully equipped, double disked Cervelo. Ahhh yes. Secret training, on a narrow, serpentine bike path in the heart of suburbia on a Sunday afternoon amidst the frolicking laughter of children playing. MKA stopped and retrieved the shaken little darling from the ditch, and assured her that the pain she felt was a small price to pay for the glory that one day would be this entire nation's when Cleveland one day soon would replace Lance in the pantheon of Tour de France super heroes.
And then there's his temperament. Cleveland exudes an inner peace that speaks of an unyielding and fiercely independent strength that has stood the test of time. Avoiding the mistakes of countless dreamers before him, Cleveland does not blindly submit to the latest training fads, or uncritically accept as gospel the glib advice of professional hacks. No, he has cut his own path, a road that has taken him to the highest peaks in Tibet, where rumor has it -- he will neither confirm nor deny, as is his way -- that he has shared green tea, roasted yak and barleywheat pancakes with the Dalai Lama, who I'm told instructed Cleveland to desire only desirelessness, and back off on the Herbal Life, as Meeker's magic, though very strong, is no match for Buddha.
And his metal has been tested. Recently, MKA impishly sought to provoke the inscrutable one with the usual "12k Dreamer" needle-nonsense. (MKA must confess a steady diet of the delusional dinkbobbery harvested from the fertile fields of nimbobs everywhere truly do make life brutish and nasty and therefore worth living). He just looked at me, as if to forgive, and said, with complete ease: "I am nothing. I am nobody. Just riding my bike. Like Siddhartha, I eat. I wash. I sleep. I suffer." A proud moment for MKA, and I almost bought it, except a few minutes later the quiet looming over the pelaton was broken with the shrill rat-a-tat hypertones of Cleveland beseeching anyone with eyes and ears -- "Didjyuseeme, Didjyuseeme?" , a sputtering and spittle packed refrain which usually prefaces an obscure reference to the time he descended a hill without falling or drank a bottle of cytomax while pedaling and breathing through his nose. But all this is merely a testament to his "unmadeness" -- his process of "becoming". He is not yet complete, and pratfalls of this sort are to be expected of mere mortals, especially mortals who are gradually morphing into cartoon characters.
Make no mistake, Labor loves Cleveland, sincerely. He has become a training barometer of sorts. Let me explain. Cleveland is renown for his 600 mile weeks, which are usually followed by a week of pneumonia-induced bed rest or a break out of a previously unidentified strain of herpes simplex. We know that if Labor should actually happen to lose to Clevie in any race type situation, then it's probably a good time for Labor to start training, as experience alone, though powerful, is not always enough to overcome a Category 1 elite racer.
And so it was last week at the El Cajon pro 1-2 crit, a fast and furious affair in which the nation's finest waged battle against the local hakfuks. Saturn, Mercury, and 7-Up showed up in full force, along with our local heroes from Dr. Dennis Livedink's Pig Iron Corp. and B-3 Liposuck. They bumped and grinded for 70 minutes and it was fun to watch. But for MKA, the real action was between Cleveland and Labor's hard charging peacenik, Texa-Furrball. TFB has vowed that the day Cleveland beats him in a crit is the day TFB cuts off his goldilocks (with a blowtorch) and starts riding his bike every now and again. You could feel the tension as these two heavyweights exchanged blows. Ali vs. Frazier? Jan vs. Dean? Tom vs. Jerry? Yahweh vs. Satan? Spy vs. Spy? Fuhget about it. This was epic.
MKA was fiddle-fartin' when the show ended, so I missed the finale. I tracked down Cleveland in the warm down. He read my mind, and began to rant: "That little rat tailed dirt ball! Everybody hates him. He's pissin' everybody off. Even JB. He's chopping, he doesn't know how to handle a bike." MKA deduced that Cleveland had again lost to his arch rival, but only because Foohball rode more aggressively when it counted, that is, he cheated. But wait a minute. I'm looking around and seeing guys with names like Klasna, Bashati, Bouchard-Hall, Horner, Hippstar -- celebrities who have had their picture taken in Velo News ferchrist, and Cleveland, with the 12k dream, is positively fixated on the likes of a scrawny little scrapper like Furrball, who two weeks ago got dropped at Como Worlds. The insanity.
And then it struck me -- this is why Cleveland, the patron saint of all 12k Dreamers, is Labor's Title Sponsor. He shares Labor's delusions, no, he reinforces them, he enables them. Labor firmly believes that only Labor matters. That unless you're Labor, you're a pretender. Cleveland was right to focus on Labor. His emotion was not wasted. He should've been upset. The pros from Saturn, Liquid Heavy Metal and Bubble-Up were not important. The only thing that mattered was beating Labor. This is the stuff of which dreams are made and without them, and their sponsors, like Cleveland, things would fall apart, the center would not hold, and like Yeats warned, the dreamer would not hear the dreamweaver. MKA Dreammaker, 2/02