Friday, May 09, 2008

Ghetto Bike Racing

Recently I was queried by two founding members of the ‘Ghetto Bike Racer’ school of thought as to some of the rules for Ghetto Bike racing. This spurred a deep period of meditation and associated trip through my psyche and into my deep memory. In other words I went all ‘ohm-and-shit’ for a good two-and-a-half minutes. Ghetto Bike racing was more than an activity; ghetto bike racing was a philosophically derived praxis—the perfect Hursurlian marriage of the phenomenological ‘to do’ and ‘to be,’ that amongst other things involved over-intellectualizing the day to day with clever phrasing and complex pseudo-social scientism in order to pass the many long hours spent on the windswept hills of Kansas. Ghetto bike racing was, and is, a life style. The rules are unimportant here, though, I imagine Adam Mills ( or click on the link to the right) will indeed discuss them at some point. But, the philosophy remains an intriguing avenue for epistemological introspection and interrogation of what it means to be (ghetto) and be hard, the later a subject of intense debate and an even more intensive pseudo-scientific ranking system for the measurement and analysis of hardness that often resulted in conversations following a feat of stupidity such as ‘Uh, I’m hard’ to which was invariably met with ‘No Rob! You’re not hard; you’re a big pink pussy! (BPP),’ a condition that resulted in its own pseudo-scientific ranking system so that at the end of the year, all of one’s BPP points could be added together and subtracted from the sum of one’s yearly hard point tally to yield a gross hardness metric. This metric could be further normalized (that means divide by 100) into a percentage score, and then a team (or groups) scores could be collated resulting in the derivation of an entire set of statistical measures of hardness: pseudo-social science at its very best.

The thing about all philosophies, and sub-cultures formed around such philosophies, is that eventually schisms develop over the true meaning of the philosophy—these are the classic epistemology/ontology debates that mark most great paradigmatic turns so that there were both old and new schools that each claimed penultimate status of the one truth. In other words, we all got girlfriends (who weren’t shared groupies) and then disagreed as to who maintained the ghetto-ness and who began to pose in its representative form. Many years on, the opinion of this writer maintains that the shift away from ghetto, though mediated by extenuating outside pressures, was really caused by inevitable sociographic (and in one main respect geographic) shifts predicated on growing up and growing out of a tired collegiate existence.

I digress. The ethos of ghetto bike racing, summed around these key rules, with the added perspective that safety indeed sucked, was that nothing except the race mattered. And, life evolved around the race—which, in those days, oddly enough, Steve always had to win. Whether it was on the road in the race, through dinner, or even the line to ice-cream, life was all about racing, and Steve was all about winning the race—whatever it took. The greatness of such a simplistic seeming lifestyle cum philosophy is the level of competition this type of existence garnered and by extension the speed at which one is forced to cope—metaphorically in the As You Like It sense—and also through the literal—all acts were done at top speed: racing, training, driving, eating, drinking, the goal was always to be first to the finish line—even when there was no obvious competition, there was always competition: be it cars echeloned across the highway to maximize drafting in the cross winds, maintaining a steady ‘nine-over’ in conditions that would make the post-man blush, hyrdro-planing (sp?) on the way to good weather, driving through a car wash at 100, or a foot race to find the car at 2am in a torrential rainstorm whilst drunk only to decide upon failure (to find the car) that perhaps driving is not such a good idea, to two person automobile operation (one steers the other works the pedal) (the person in the back scans for five-oh). All of these were (and may still be) modes of adapting and coping with the speed that the lifestyle mandates (ed). But, like most physio-metaphorical evocations of ‘speed’ these too often ended abruptly with the carbon snapping, aluminium scraping carnage of a bunch of Masters Cat 5’s in a damp corner. It’s like when I got my first real six-string in the summer of ’69, having a band and trying real hard. Jimmy has to quit, and Joey, inevitably gets married. Getting band back together can only look like the Pixies reunion tour—a little balder, a little greyer yet a little less desperate for cash than before—and desperation for cash is a powerful motivator when one signs on to a race with a bad check. If the Pixies look and sound this bad, what about Brian Adams?

Strange memories blasting through the time fog on this muggy morning in London. Has it been that long? 3 years, 4, 5? I set out this morning to meditate on ghetto bike racing and now find myself in a post-ghetto turn—a paradigm for the aging. And, it is to the post-ghetto that I now focus my argument. After the initial query I have been periodically considering ghetto in relation to the post-ghetto. And, I found myself deep in contemplation last night over dinner where it hit me like the Newtonian apple: pork. The chief difference between the ghetto and the post-ghetto focuses on the purchase and later consumption of pork and pork products. Allow me to elaborate. Myself and my partner were tucking into a stew constructed primarily from butternut squash, a mire-poix and potatoes, that had been slowly braised in a cochon-de vin (that’s pork legs in wine). Though, being ghetto, this meal was built from leftovers and was comprised mainly of the afore veggies and some broth that had been spiced up by added sautéed chorizo. The ghetto factor is important because this is the third meal from the same pot—a truly post-nouvelle style of economical cooking of the post-ghetto lifestyle. The change between the ghetto and the post-ghetto, by this point, should be obvious—the old ghetto lifestyle is present but with the addition of pork. In all my time as a ghetto-bike racer I can remember consuming pork once, in bacon form at the KU-KState pre-pre-pre-party (where a keg was tapped at 7:45 to beat the AM rush). I remember once, in addition, a furtive conversation where it was revealed that one of us broke down and ‘indulged in the swine.’

Ultimately, if the post-ghetto has anything in common with other ‘post’-movements, conclusions at this stage are irrelevant because they are still evolving. It will take a post-post-ghetto turn before the bets are cleared and reason can resolve these earlier tensions.


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