If the Shoe Fits, But You’re a Non-Dues Paying Neophyte, Don’t Wear It or, How to Spend Your Way to Groupie Glory. San Jose, CA.

“I see a white shoe and I want it painted black.” MKA, as a young poet

Februay26, 2008

[4th Part of a Multi-part story]

Fashion, Function, Rite of Passage or Class Warfare?
San Jose, CA - Kool-Aid makes a strong case that if you’re going to put it in your mouth, or below your crotch, or over your head, or on your feet it better be the best of the best, if you can afford it. If you buy the top of the line from the start, he reasons, you don’t have to fret about upgrades, or nasty contaminants, or nosy neighbors, and thus have more time to enjoy being unsatisfied until the next big thing rolls around.

Take the shoes. Kool-Aid’s are pearly white, Italian made, very light, loaded with straps and buttons, and ridiculously expensive. Admittedly, they look cool – in an Aryan sort of way. You look at those shoes and have to think the owner is a serious player, an elite athlete for whom micro-seconds matter, and to whom image is important. 

Image is important. In fact it’s probably more important than function. And that’s why MKA special ordered the white Sidi Ergo IIs a few months ago, drove to the store the other day to pick them up, broke out the credit card to buy them but bought the mid-level gun metal grey Sidi’s for half the price instead.

Why? Why would MKA turn down the best? The Ergo IIs were certainly Cippo-pretty. They felt silky soft. MKA could afford them. And they were a few grams lighter. Why go with the heavier gun metal greys? To answer this, you have to go back.

Bottom Line: MKA wraps the shoes in shiny spandex when scruffy mentor Der Gritler injects botox and collogen.
Back before The Day, during MKA’s pre-teenage days, shoes mattered a lot. MKA collected ads about Nikes, Adidas, Pumas, Onituska Tigers, New Balance and Chuck Taylors like most kids collected baseball cards. On rainy days in The Valley MKA would spend hours at the local sporting goods stires studying the differences between the red Pumas, the blue Adidas, and the white Nikes. He studied how the price would go up commensurate with the quality. He learned that if you wanted the best, you better be prepared to pay a steep price, and to the pay that price, you had to log lots of hours babysitting, picking strawberries or rifling through your mom’s penny jars.

The top shelf shoes were beyond reach. MKA contented himself with the middle of the road stuff, which better suited his scrubby chimney-sweep profile. He also learned to despise the clean cut rich kids who would saunter in with their freshly coiffed and scented Moms and buy the best without having to beg, borrow, or steal. Blasphemy he shouted! I know these kids. They’re soft. They’re weak. Their hands are smooth. How dare they? They think that by wearing the best they’ll become starters? That the shoes will confer magical benefits? The fact that top flight shoes did tend to attract the girls only strengthened young MKA’s resolve to right the injustice.

The injustice, simply put, was that dilettantes -- mere pretenders -- were disrespecting the Natural Order of Things. With Daddy’s money, they were shamelessly taking short cuts to the front of the line. They had not paid their dues. They had not proven their merit. They hadn’t won any ribbons in hand-me-downs. They had not toiled, bled, suffered, or even broken a sweat. Mommy simply wrote a check.

Prowling for Hairless Mutants: “We just adore skinny boys who don't drink, go to bed early and get off on watt meters!"
So when tackle football season arrived and finally young MKA had a legitimate outlet for his fury, he targeted the pritties in their white Joe Willies, even if they were notgolden haired, square-jawed, pearly-porcelain Pritty. It made no difference. If looking flamboyant, effeminate, and glamorous was that important to the pickle dicks, then imagine our angry young ruffian’s joy in dragging their faces in the muck, bloodying their lips, and pissing on their shiny white shoes. Truth be told, at the bottom of the pile ups, before the ref could unravel the humanity, MKA would gleefully jab his thumb and forefinger in the eye sockets of the pretty boys. They’d scream, wince and jerk and well MKA just felt very complete and powerful.

Granted, MKA was not well as a child, and a sound argument can be made that he never outgrew his low self-esteem. But there was more to it. It turns out, all the coping claptrap aside, that except at the highest levels, with the proper fluffing, stuff is just stuff. Take sweet daughter Vivvy Joy. Like most children, she’s got a binkie, or in her case, a “Blue bah,” which is a small swatch of turquoise flannel cotton. It’s not even blue (having replaced the original, which was blue for six years, before it disintegrated). On the street, the towel is worth less than a buck. But to Vivvy, it’s a life line that connects her to a happy, warm, and tranquil place. She won’t sleep without it. If the family should go on a road trip and she forgets it at home, we turn the car around. No bah, no peace.

The Point: what makes an inanimate object important is the emotion its wearer invests into it. There is nothing inherently special about a baby blanket, or a pair of shoes, or a car, or anything. The magic comes from making it so, in your mind. The more ordinary the item is, the more extraordinary devotion it will take to get any decent magic out of it. In the case of cycling, we know that the magic is not in the machine, it’s buried deep down in the twin micro-boilers where desire is converted into the nut-cutting, white hot heat.
You want glamour? Check out that cow carcass! Ride Hard or Die, Dude!


Besides which it’s an awful lot of fun to win on a crappy bike with crummy parts. Added to which there are strategic advantages to hiding behind a veneer of mediocrity. Nobody takes the furry legged cretin on the 28 pound De Rosa with steel shifters seriously. Using crappy stuff is also a good mask for laziness: after a crash MKA would shore up cuts in his handlebar tape with duct tape, a move which at once sent a message that MKA was pigpen gritty, unafraid of crashing, and at rock bottom to busy to trifle with mundane window dressing. And finally, for we old schoolers, the enemy is softness, of any kind. Even if the lighter, shinier and thinner stuff does confer aerodynamic benefits (oh my god, bladed balsam spokes offer a ten second shave over 40k! Wind tunnel tested!), who wants to be the rich kid everybody makes fun of for trying to buy his way into the winner’s circle? If you win, the idiots will credit the equipment. If you lose, the idiots will snicker at your laughable negative return on investment.

Which comes back to the shoes. If the top shelf shoes are reserved for the best, then doesn’t it make sense that at some point the goal is to be the best, and thus earn the right to wear the godly, glass-slipper, golden thinclad stuff? We know that equipment and apparel only make a difference at the margins, after the proto-plasmic engines have reached what comes close to maximum human fitness. Here’s the problem. Some of us either don’t know what their max is, or want to know. Some of us instead want to believe that limits are bogus, and the day we start focusing on killer stuff instead of killer training and epic risk-taking, then we have begun to court ignoble and demeaning short cuts, which renders us vulnerable to softness, the Dreaded Enemy. 

Besides which if you spend a small fortune on stuff, then this idiot has been conditioned to believe that he’s fully invested and can’t just walk away. Walking away would result in economic waste. Kool-Aid, much to his credit, has begun chipping away at MKA’s Spartan anti-consumerism. MKA has discovered that maybe he can wear or use nice stuff even if he doesn’t deserve it. The same day MKA ordered the Sidi Ergo IIs, he also picked out a pair of shiny shoe covers, the ultimate in superficial self-indulgence. MKA did not buy the shoe covers, but he thoughtabout it. Mainly, he thought the shoe cover/furry legs combo would nicely enhance his reputation for impiety, sort of like Ozzy Osbourne pissing on The Alamo.

Elk Boy, Escort to the 12k Stars: "Sometimes they need a little poke in the ass. Levi most of all.”

“Uh, Kool -Aid, you spent $12k to channel high-fives to your boy in his time of need, but I don’t think the Mutant even saw you.”

“I know he heard me. I just know it. It's hard to describe what we have – the ineffable magic, but it’s special, rock solid.”
MKA has paid his dues. He started out two decades ago patching his tubes and repairing his sew-ups. He booted up his tires. He didn’t buy anything retail. In fact he didn’t even wash his shammy much, preferring the pungent odor of the blue-collared working man. He is reputed to have won a race on a broken bike held together by duct tape. Granted this never happened (a young lady felt sorry and let him borrow her undersized steed, which MKA did in fact ride to victory), but the story has come to symbolize MKA’s overstated triumph of spirit over materialism.

The question is can MKA now upgrade his kit without feeling like a pampered prima donna? Kool Aid is doing his darnedest to liberate MKA from his trailer trash propensities. MKA didn’t buy the white shoes, but the greys were an upgrade, as prior to that he was cladding himself in bargain-basement chimney-sweep black Shimanos, with the three black straps. 

MKA spent a day in the life with Kool Aid during the Tour of California. It was fun pretending. We flew in a private jet. We arrived in San Jose and rode our bicycles to the race course. Nobody wearing a government uniform wanded me or patted my groin. The course was steep, the sun was shining, and lots of interesting fans showed up to cheer on the pros. 

Some fans were more interesting than others, like the guy in the yellow football helmet sprouting fullblown elk horns. Kool Aid explained to me that said freak hailed from Montana, is obsessed with Levi, and follows him around everywhere (I don’t know if he flew in on a private jet). He added that Levi didn’t like the guy much, and tried whenever he could to “avoid him.” When Levi came up the steep hill on the wheel of this skeleton from Rabobank, Kool Aid pointed out how Levi rode on the opposite side of the road to avoid being touched by the Elk Man in full rut. MKA thought the Elk Man was both obnoxious and perfect.

Didjaseeme? I tolt Antler Boy to back off.

Yo Levi! Send it! “Kool Aid, you're the best. Let’s mock knuckle-bang, but gently, please. Butterfly kisses!”

How about a threesome? I got a twin brother. He’s a little shy.
When Levi and Skeletor came by us, near the top of Sierra Road, Kool Aid got very excited. “Yo, Levi. Send it!” Kool Aid beamed. Levi seemed very busy and focused like a robot. The special trip up there to watch his hero, known to Truesport readers as the Celebrity Mutant, seemed well worth it. MKA felt left out celebrity-wise. So when Horner came up he yelled out “Bend Oregon!,” which prompted a smile and a friendly “heymanwuzgoinon” finger wave. MKA felt good knowing that despite the pain and suffering and ridiculously steep grade Horner took the time to acknowledge his special fan. Levi, on the other hand, didn’t seem to notice Kool Aid. MKA did not mention this juxtaposition to Kool Aid.

Later Kool Aid and MKA rode down to the finish line in downtown San Jose. We went to the back of the podium stage where the stars were resting. The Celebrity Mutant walked by the security fences. Kool Aid shouted “Yo Levi,” which MKA gathered was like a secret handshake between these two dear friends. Levi stopped and reached across the throngs to touch Kool Aid. He seemed surprised. “Didjaseeme? I was at the top of Sierra.” Levi thought for a moment. “Did you say “Send it?”” Kool Aid responded in the affirmative and you could almost hear the birds chirping. Love was in the air and the crowd of regular, retail fans felt good about being treated to the top secret dialogue between Levi and an obviously well connected insider.

As scintillating as the conversation was, and got, MKA’s attention kept wandering to the Rock Racing podium girls. Three of them. Skinny, jet black hair, Italian, with skin-tight designer jeans and black stilettos, like they just walked off the runway in Milano. MKA followed them past the BMX jumper nimrods over to the Rock Racing trailer which was ground zero for celebrity sightings. There was Tyler looking somewhat mischievous and full-faced. He gave one of the runway babes a hug but didn’t do her, right then anyways. The guy with all the tats Billy wrote about was there, signing stuff. And this cherubic faced kid I’d seen on TV was there also signing glossy posters depicting bad boy bling-a-ling bike racers sitting defiantly on vaguely Mafiosi Cadillac Escalades. MKA remembered his name – Oscar Sevilla. Apparently all these bad boys couldn’t race because the Ultra Blue-Suede Coats didn’t like the potions, powders and/or creams they were reputed to favor. MKA left disappointed when Cippo failed to show but felt better later when he learned later that Cippo was too busy at the time interviewing pole dancers from the nearby Déjà vu club in the back of the Escalade to replace the Milano stick chicks who like cheap sew ups were showing signs of wear and tear.

"Anna, can I call you backlater? I’m very busy right now. I’ve got one year to blow $12 million."

“Hmm. George’s agent calling again about the audition. But I don’t care if I’m Clooney’s heir apparent, I’m busy.”

A few hours later, after staking out a prime viewing spot, just as the motorcade’s lights came into view, again the phone rings. “Damn. It’s Kournikova again! Can’t that bitch take a hint? I’m busy. Levi needs me.”
It was a fine way to spend the day. MKA learned very early to keep his conversations short and pithy with Kool Aid, who always seemed to be having important conversations with high-end luminaries on the ubiquitous I-phone. Fortunately Kool Aid is a gifted sort in the Gordon Gecko vain who can juggle several conversations at once. After awhile MKA didn’t mind so much being cut in on, since he’s not much of a dancer to begin with, but it would’ve been nice to actually see who Kool Aid dumped him for. I’m guessing whoever they were, they were wearing very expensive Italian-made white shoes.


PS: Kool Aid won a road race in Austin this weekend. Yo Kool Aid! Send it! MKA calculated that after teammate splits, entry fees, jet fuel costs, and bonuses paid to his puff and fluff staff, Kool Aid’s win cost him approximately $11, 950, or $12k - $50. Applying the 12k Dreamer Cash Conversion Tables, for a $20 million a year high roller trial lawyer, the $150 cat IV win was actually worth just north of $1.2 million, give or take.

BTW: Kool Aid’s white shoes are not even his A-game. He has an even more expensive pair under glass guarded by laser beams at home in his vault, which accessorize well with the tiger striped panties. Perfect for late night naughtiness! 


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