11/19 - 11/25
“Oh shit, you set the car alarm off, that’s a stroke little bro.”
Jim appeared in the kitchen of the Clarkston Union sometime in the summer of 2000. I don’t remember the first thing he said to me, but I recall that he was obviously a veteran of the restaurant industry. He had his own knives. More importantly, he understood prison rules.
“Talk shit to everyone your first day,” he told me, “otherwise you’ll be shit.” For the next few years, he would show up for the summer months, wreak havoc from the line, and then fly south for the winter.
“Ok, I’m calling this one. Over the road and against the metal garbage can."
“That thing is going to make a ton of noise when you hit it, you better be ready to run.”
He was a pro cyclist. First guy I ever knew to shave his legs. I would show up for work hungover on a Tuesday morning, and he would already have rode seventy miles or so.
“Go go go go go……”
The steel garbage can makes a crashing noise, the lid hits the ground and makes an oscillating sound as it settles like a coin.
“ACE!!!!!! Hurry up and grab your shit, we have 5 more holes.”
Jim introduced me to what he called Ghetto Golf. It is an augmented version of disc golf, which is of course a bohemian’s form of ball golf. Jim’s version was predicated on an extremely high volume of rum and wandering through The City of The Village of Clarkston at four o’clock in the morning. Rather than the traditional basket and chains as a target, we would call out various pieces of other people’s property and try to strike said targets in the fewest number of throws.
“Ok, tee pad is the Mill Pond dock, send it down Main; target is the Union General sign.”
We never intended to cause any damage with the targets we picked. That is not to say that every now and then I didn’t knuckle it a bit and send my plastic wide right.
Jim’s ability to recover from a night like this and ride the next day was impressive. Cyclists are notoriously uptight when it comes to filling one’s body with intoxicants. He was usually working on his second beer by the time second place rolled in.
One summer, the staff at our bar discovered the Boat Bar. It was a clapboard shanty with a tin roof and a liquor license. The place was less than 5 miles from the Union, how it never came up on our radar is beyond me. The Boat Bar had $1 PBR’s and $2.50 shots of Jack Daniels. That year, Jim was renting a cabin down a dirt road not far from the venue. I cannot confirm or deny anything that may have transpired that summer as it is all washed away. I only recall a one morning where my head was pounding and Jim was kicking me in the ribs telling me I had to go to work. I was disheveled. From the smell of my clothes I speculated that at some point in the evening I must have gone for a swim off the docks behind the bar.
“Whoa man, that’s strong.” To this day I’m not much of a coffee drinker, I tend to use it as a tool. This was perhaps the first time that a French press had ever been used in Clarkston. Jim filled the glass jar with half a bag of ground Columbian. The cup he handed me contained a dark bitter mud.
“Drink it all. When you get to work have a shot of espresso and a pickle. Then grab a teaspoon of wasabi powder from the pantry and put a teeny tiny bit in your eyes, like two granules, snort the rest.”
One winter he convinced me to check out Tempe, Arizona while he was staying there. “Make sure you get a fake ID.” I managed to procure one at the last minute. One night we sat in a parking lot with a case of Budweiser on top of his old Subaru. Two cops came up. I thought I was toast. “Hey man, it’s Saturday night. Have a drink.” He held a couple of beers out to them. They asked for our credentials. Jim gave them his, and I gave them mine. They shined their flashlights in our eyes. Jim smiled and held the beers up again. They took them.
“Have a good night gentlemen, be careful.”
Another time, in a friendly display of forced entry and misdemeanor destruction of property we broke into a coworker’s apartment. It was early January and all of the dead Christmas trees were taken to the curbs. We dropped the top on my little convertible and piled in as many as we could, six to ten I’d say, and planted them throughout the dwelling. We put the nicest one in the toilet, an empty bottle of tequila on top for a star, and filled the bowl with potting soil.
For better or worse, Jim was a sort of mentor to me during those times. The kind of friend that wouldn’t be available to bail me out of jail because he would be right beside me. Me with a tin cup rattling against the bars, him with his tongue cutting the guards’ patience with a soft but cruel soliloquy about their mothers.
I was excited to see Jim in Tucson. He goes by James now. James is a bit more responsible than Jim…… married with some dogs, cats, a koi pond, and a tortoise. They have a nice patio with a fancy barbecue and a meat smoker. He still races, and he owns one of the best bike shops in the city. He is the kind of guy that doesn’t ask how long you’re staying.
We ended up spending a week in Tucson. It was generally uneventful and fantastically normal. We had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, watched football, and made a few last minute preparations for Mexico. I was trying to find a new pair of sandals and somehow ended up in a mall. I haven’t been in a mall in years. I was amazed by the clean floors, high correlated color temperature LED lighting, and strategically placed scantily clad young women and their intricate plots to lure men into shops to purchase useless things. Also of particular interest was that it seemed every food item in a mall can be topped with ice cream.
I purchased a small guitar. Soph fears that I will turn into the hippy at Boulder Beach and I make no promises. We sit at Jim’s shop while he works on our bikes and a pro cyclist named Anne comes in. We chat and she recalls with impeccable precision the turn by turn of a recent race in which she crashed and did certain wreckage to her elbow at turn seven. Later that day I remember that turn seven for us was at Meziadin Junction in BC, where we took a detour on the Stewart/Hyder Highway some 1,500 miles into this menagerie.
Soph and I joined Colleen, James’ wife, on Saturday night in downtown Tucson and then wandered the streets a bit on our own. Soph turned in early, and Jim and I went out for one last round of drinks. We have great belly laughs about the old days, reflect on the now and how we got here, and dream a bit about future travels. We discuss the wonders of social media and how for all of the political rants and pictures of cats, it is amazing how it can keep two paths intertwining. I thank him for the hospitality and the help on the bikes and he says that he’s always dreamed about a ride like this and if he can somehow feel that he helped us with a place to stay and know that our bikes are safe and in good shape before we enter Mexico then somehow he gets to feel a part of it all. By the end of the night we are both hammered. I go to bed knowing that the morning ride will be atrocious, but happy we got to spill some whiskey.