My Kingdom for a Roll of Toilet Paper or the Passion of the Poop, Ferchrist.Merced, CA (McLane Pacific Classic)
March 18, 2004
The sun's up, the air's still, and the contractions within MKA's bowels are gathering strength. This is the moment of dread. MKA thought he had prepared. It was only 8 a.m. and he'd already vacated twice. But this was a big race -- an NRC race -- and dreamers by the thousands from as far away as Niagra Falls had flocked in. The absence of a nearby Mickey Dees or Circle K had forced the throngs to hold on to their waste product. We double-stepped in tight lipped silence towards the latrine area, hurrying to wait.
The line was 11 miles long. Crisis. Should MKA wait with the other sheep, eyes downcast, the anguish building, bound by the invisible chains of a modern custom that frowns on pagan defecation rituals? Or should MKA respond to Nature's call with a surreptitious visit to the surrounding neatly trimmed almond orchards? No time to ponder as the implacable horses of metabolism and peristalsis were leaving the barn. We are talking about a level of imminent, involuntary evacuation that only a sadist would relish. MKA tried squirming, shifting, knocking the knees, mock running in place, shoring up the crotch. No effect. Good lord what a powerful force. Was it true, MKA wondered, that unusually sick interrogatros in the Orient really sutured up the rectums of condemned their stubborn prisoners in order to get them to talk, or was that just myth?
MKA spotted a scruffy hobbit-like creature returning through a hole in the barbed wire fence sheepishly hiding what was obviously a roll of toilet paper. MKA scanned the foliage: barren trees, minimal ground cover, no broad leafy shrubs in sight. MKA had gulped 20 ounces of triple mocha, the bladder was full, hydration ran high and the stool promised to be smeary. Dare I? Should I ask a complete stranger and possible race combatant to spare a few squares of his precious b-wipe? If so, was it possible to maintain the requisite facade of contempt for beggars, ill-prepared bike scum and pathetic grifters which has become MKA's trademark?
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Tossing diplomacy and niceties to the wind, MKA corners the TP carrier: "Hey, listen, can I have a few sheets from your roll?" MKA consciously dropped the word "borrow" and avoided the word "your", as the former conjured something unseemly and the latter connoted a pride of ownership with all the rights of refusal that go with it. The pecking order had shifted: in another circumstance, I would own this waif. But tables had turned. My newfound savior looked me up and down with that sinister mixture of supreme arrogance and gleeful malice. An awkward silence followed; it was understood that he held all the cards and burden of persuasion was on me. His goatee, tats and chops suggested he was cruising in his late twenties.
He asked me what category I was in. Yes. Why would he toss a rope to a man on a mission to destroy him? My misery was his joy. Our plane had just crashed in the Andes and he had all the blankets and the food. He was not going to wind up like Tom Hanks in Private Ryan on that Bridge Over the River Kwai getting shot by the very Nazi whose life he had spared. He clutched his roll of TP more tightly.
Look, we like to think in moments of inescapable peril we will carry ourselves with unshakeable dignity. MKA's got a lovely family, a profitable business, and various parcels, financial instruments and objects of art. I'd like to think I’ve made it and can't be bought, or at least not for anything less than Warren Buffet numbers. Do I succumb to this humiliation from the likes of a pipsqueak whose power is purely accidental? No. MKA could easily take the bait and assure the punk that oh heavens no we're in separate categories so you see by letting me dump and wipe with your TP you won't be cutting your own throat. He wants me to grovel, but MKA doesn’t cave in to extortion, nor does he surrender his hard earned self-respect.
Most of the time. This was different. The punk had the paper and my bowels were about to explode. "No, no, no... I'm not a pro, I'm just a master. I could never do 120 miles with you studs. But listen, the more we talk, the more everyone else is noticing. Just throw me a couple of squares, quiet like, and we can avoid a mad rush." My friend tucked the roll under his fleece jacket like it was crack, and he looked around suspiciously. Finally, he relented, spooling out about 6 squares after I swear sizing me up to calculate the potential load based on my height and weight. MKA felt like telling the dink that I took dumps biggern him but realized quickly that said line had become overused plus the paper had yet to change hands.
With fresh tissue in hand, MKA headed into the almond orchards. He saw multiple piles of fresh droppings scattered beside the trunks of several trees. No attempts had been made to bury the scat. No bluebottle flies. Obviously no dung beetles. MKA likes to live by the credo that we should leave the earth no worse than what we inherited. The idea of leaving little piles of toilet paper-cropped crap like mini-Matterhorns with an undetermined half-life doesn't sit well with my environmental leanings. On the other hand, it occurred to me, didn't the Chinese manage to feed billions by recycling human waste? Didn’t they take the stink out of sewage by simply renaming "turd" with the more palatable sounding "night soil", thus allowing humans to live in harmony with their piles? Scat, after all, does convert eventually to humus, the layer of topsoil which sustains all living things.
MKA does not advocate unfettered trespassing for the purpose of pooping. Nor does he look upon dumpers categorically with disgust. When nature calls, the lines are long, the outhouses are few, time is short and the bushes and trees are round enough to shield the secretor, exceptions must be made. My only admonition is that efforts must be undertaken to bury the excreta. Make an effort, ferchrist. MKA is no rhypophobiac (fear of defecation), but jeepers if my butt-licking cat can bury his load, at least we can try.
And make no mistake: MKA is not inveighing against TP hoarders. They planned ahead and charity is dead. When MKA rushed back to base camp, it turns out Hoverhawk, the team boy scout, had packed a fresh roll. We had parked next to the Jelly Belly 12k Dream Team. Some guy named Carney was overheard interrogating his teammates for the team issue tissue. He came up empty so he broadcast his needs to a wider audience, myself included. MKA could very easily have tossed this living legend the team papers. But it was far more important, and satisfying, to watch him suffer and beg and melt down like the rest of us hacks.
35 Plus Road Race, McLane Classic. 96 miles. 100 idiots, no wind.
A break formed. MKA joined it. Later a very serious rider with post traumatic stress syndrome named Gavin Scarface bridged up, toting a Morgan Stanley rump rider named Sean Puff Daddy. A little later a cherub latched on dragging what looked like a frayed placenta. His name was Michael Carter. Word in the pel was Scarface and BabyFace both rode the euro-circuit for Motorola or perhaps a pasta company. The break was up to nine. We had 42 miles left.
Scarface had issues. Mainly, he didn't like people, a prejudice MKA understands. Specifically, Scarface didn't like idiots like MKA on his wheel, on account MKA never ate cold porridge in a stone cottage on a rainy day in the Dolomites. Scarface really didn't like a very large, lean and muscular hulk on the Stanley team. They had words. MKA couldn't hear exactly, but the smoke and fire between them suggested an exchange of incendiary F-Bombs. Hulk backed off, probably not out of intimidation, but in the interests of keeping the break rolling, something Scarface could assure. A few seconds later, Hulk put hands upon the Hottentot, not with malice aforethought, but with what passes for loving kindness in this trade. Scarface barked indignantly: "Get your hands off of me" in a shrill tone that was both clear and absolutely insane. MKA could only watch with reverie, fondly recalling the days when he too was a short-tempered prick with a hair trigger.
Eventually, the fragile "solidarity" began to unravel and clearly a premium was put on finding plausible excuses for skipping pulls. About that time MKA decided to attempt a move that he in 20 years had never been able to master. He drifted to the rear and began fumbling with his shorts as if preparing to haul the hose over the side and spray the weeds. Problem is MKA has neither the agility nor the real estate to pull this off. We all know about shrinkage. This was different. Look, MKA is presentable after a long and luxuriously warm shower, but the nubbin between his legs now was flat out embarrassing. MKA’s turtlehead had retracted fully inside its shell, leaving a cabbage like bud that was beyond voluntary elongation. Now, I knew that, but the hard working stiffs ahead of me didn’t. So MKA spent about 10 minutes milking the image of a bike racer earnestly trying to void his bladder (knowing full well they’re not going to police the matter closely) until finally I just let her rip into my shorts. A rivulet streaked down my right leg and eventually pooled inside my right shoe, which I vowed to clean later, but of course didn’t. I confess it did feel good, as most bodily secretions do.
With about 5 miles to go Scarface had had enough and was attacking like a spitting cobra. MKA held on, along with four others, including Babyface and Puff Daddy. We could see the pack about 45 seconds behind. Apparently Team Spineless didn't like the chances of their guy in the break, a strapping roadster named Klint, so they were in a lather to bring it back. Labor's guys -- Hoverhawk and Gspot -- both fresh, were poised to pounce.
With a kilo to go, after multiple FU attacks, Scarface attacked again. He sprinted with all his might on razor’s edge separating the pavement from the gravel, aiming for cracks, abutments and sharp metal objects to foil me. When he looked back, hoping to see shattered bodies, he saw instead my ornery face, a face which admittedly seems to provoke the same reaction that many have to a belligerently thrusted middle finger. Scarface swerved radically from side to side in a fit of road rage. I thought of that stupid movie "American Flyer" where the dumb bee-ahh in the van is chirpily narrating the scary commando tactics used by Kostner to drop his dopey brother: "Shake n Bake!" I wanted to snicker at the stoopidity but right about then the soles of my feet felt like pin cushions and I began to wonder if MKA had the juice to punish this nasty little man in the sprint.
MKA did not. Baby face led it out, Scar Face came around, and MKA got a visit from Riggy Mo as the legs seized, the rocker arm cracked, and the head gasket blew.
Hover Hawk won the sprint for 6th.
Labor won the Masters 35 + Criterium the day before.
It went like this: same idiots, smaller course with more turns and fewer clicks on the sundial. On the final lap, after hiding in the swamps, Postal's very own F-Truk Lars Diesel comes out to play. MKA leads it out through turns No. 1 and 2, but just before turn No. 3 Deesey shoots pass, which was of no account as MKA intended to slip onto the train. But Gspot yells "close it !"so MKA wearily found himself the next ½ mile chasing down a very rested and hard charging land shark with a snootful of Labor blood.
MKA finally erased the gap before the final turn, thankfully, as MKA's day was over. Needless to say, GSpot repeated as the 35 plus crit champ and Diesel retreated into a deep and dark funk and refuses to speak to me. Hipp Starr was 6th. The Riddler as per initiated several brakes, none of them stuck, and afterwards he continued to be his ebullient, bald-headed, cackling self, a status quo which for which Labor is thankful and comforted.
Headed home on the 99 just north of Bakersfield we saw a crash that involved a truck in the bed of which was a race bicycle. Next to the wreckage was a yellow body bag, apparently full. My sympathies to those who brought him or her into the world, and to those who mourn the loss.