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Don't Kiss an Elephant on the Lips Today

By Johnny Cumlately

Frankly, I was horrified by life, at what a man had to do simply in order to eat, sleep, and keep himself clothed. So I stayed in bed and drank. When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn’t have you by the throat.”
– Charles Bukowski

It’s a good thing cycling is such a healthy lifestyle. If it weren’t I’d be dead already. I know that sounds melodramatic, but guys like Kerouac, Thompson and Bukowski had “the cockroach gene”. That is, the unique ability to thrive on poison. Or they lied for effect. What you’re about to read is no lie.


She calls me by name though I’ve never met her before. I’ve been known to forget a name, but I never forget a face like that. She’s a natural beauty, with features sharp enough to cut glass and no need for makeup. I’ve got a thing for girls who shave their legs and wear dresses—especially ones who ride bikes—and her shining eyes more than make up for the bushy armpit hair.

Fourteen hours later it’s her turn to be critical, gleefully pointing out the fact that my waterbottle full of merlot has stained the inside of my lips. Suddenly a gesticulating gangbanger’s fist nearly clips the back of her head, and it’s more than obvious that we should get out of the late-night diner before something goes horribly wrong. It’s too bad—I could have gone for another plate of bacon.

I let her lead the ride across town. While it’s true I’ve got a propensity for the female hind quarters, I’m really more concerned with making sure I don’t lead her through any red lights she’s not ready to run. She runs them all. Given the choice between dissecting the ghetto and climbing one mother of a hill, she picks the hillclimb. We lumber up Tange Street and I swear I taste mint juleps and mojitos at the same time.

Ever since I lost my health insurance, I’ve been making do without my lithium. Though I’ve had as many drinks as I’ve got digits, without my anti-anxiety medication it’s impossible to silence the little voice in my head saying, “Forget it, loser.”

We wind our way to her street and nearly topple over each other rounding the last bend, going shoulder to shoulder like a pair of race rivals. With a throat full of chalk, I manage to betray my failing nerves and ask for her phone number. I don’t even try to follow her inside, but the memory of her body pressed against mine keeps me warm for the entire ride home. That, and the sun coming up…


They say you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives. True as that may be, I can’t help but think fate plays a role in certain friendships. Left to my own devices, I’ll gladly stay in bed with a hangover, fighting to fall asleep again until the sun goes back down or my guts drive me to the bathroom. The latter usually prevails, but it’s still a damn good thing I’ve Buddy to call me mid-afternoon to go mountain biking. After procrastinating as long as possible, I begrudgingly pull on my cycling shorts, shove a handful of leftovers in my mouth, and pedal off towards some of the best trail-riding in the country. Oh, of course everyone’s got a thing for their home trails, but I can say one thing with authority—you don’t need mountains to have great mountain biking. I’ve been to Moab and I’ve been to the Alps…I’ve ridden in swamps, beaches and on all manner of manmade obstacles. Still, despite my travels I’m always happiest when I’m back home riding our rolling, green, tree-covered hills.

A ride is a ride, and that’s what we do until the sun starts to set. As we round the corner near the cemetery I remember that the local high school kids like to party just off the trail. Today’s no different, but out of the corner of my eye I notice there’s not just a run-of-the-mill trash fire. They’ve got tiki torches—a brazen move considering the relative chances of getting busted by any number of authorities. I’m about to shoot down the hillside when the kids call out to us, “Hey biker dudes, you want a beer?”

“Does a fish want water?” I think to myself. As I turn around, Buddy is already laying down his singlespeed. After all, we’re no authority figures. We’re handed big foamy cups of Miller Lite and I survey the scene—two kegs, six torches, one makeshift beer pong table and a “happy birthday” banner stretched between two trees. I’m a bit nervous about being two thirty-something’s in a sea of 17-year olds, but I suppose I would be even more nervous if I were one of the three girls in the group of nearly fourty high-school boys…

Three beers in and we’re having our photo taken with the girls, showing off our bikes to genuinely interested kids and I’m wearing glow-stick jewelry on both wrists. Rather than push our luck with Johnny Law, we saddle up and ride one last technical descent—buzzed and in the dark with no lights. Later that evening we go to work on a case of beer, and around 5:00am we consider strapping on some lights and heading back out to the park. Instead we polish off a bottle of bourbon and laugh about drinking with the Class of ‘08 until the wee hours of the morning.