Aug 21, 2002


The title about says it all. Aided partially by the fact that Tony Manzella was absent from the fourth and final round of the Rim Nordic Cross Country Series, I captured my first bicycle racing series championship last Sunday and I managed to do it with a race win. Going into the final I had never finished off the podium at Rim Nordic so my chances of winning the championship were good, even if I posted mediocre results at the final round.

Rim Nordic officials started my class at 11:19 p.m., with the EXP 19-24 division, and right off the start Griffith Vertican went out like a bat out of hell. Another 19-24 EXP latched onto Griffith’s wheel, followed by myself and the rest of the field and that’s all she wrote.

The 7.50-mile course, which we circulated three times, was set up similar to a figure eight with the first quarter of a lap returning to the spectator area for a hair-pin turn before heading up the mountain and out of site. Aaron Gerth and his new neighbor Bob were on hand to give me time splits as Denise provided flawless water bottle transactions at the end of each lap. A quarter of the way through the second lap Aaron informed me that I had 1:20 over second place. In the same spot on the third lap he relayed the news that I had 3:40. At that point I decided to back it off a bit to play it safe and to avoid any chance of dehydration or heat exhaustion, but when final results were posted I still gained over four minutes on the last lap, taking the win by 7:58. I made two appearances on the podium that day; one for the race win and one for the class championship and collected a plaque, trophy and bottle of sparkling cider.

Last year I was not impressed with the Rim Nordic Series and chose to ride only one round. But this year, due to spending a lot of time riding technical trails in the off season and racing a bike (Cannondale Scalpel) perfect for Rim Nordic, I changed my tune after the first event this summer. Each race is well ran and all the race officials are very friendly. For more information go to


Driving to work today I popped Dropkick Murphys' Sing Loud, Sing Proud! into the CD player. Seven tracks later and "Good Rats" blares through the speakers. The great Shane MacGowan of Pogues fame, is a guest vocalist on "Good Rats," an Irish drinking song with the perfect blend of mandolin, tin whistle and bagpipes with a punk rock feel. MacGowan has been one of my favorite vocalists for years. I love the sound of his raw and raspy voice that stems from his lack of teeth and years of alcohol and heroin abuse. As years pass his Irish accent has grown even thicker and he's also developed a slur. He was eventually kicked out of the Pogues, not because he did heroin, but because he did too much heroin. Even though I listen to old Pogues and even MacGowan's solo album often, for some reason hearing "Good Rats" this morning reminded me of the first time I ever heard the Pogues and MacGowan's rough voice.

It was also the first time I'd tuned into KUCR, University of Riverside's radio station. It was probably about 1988 and I was sitting in the northwest corner of my bedroom on my black beanbag. I can't remember who told me about KUCR, but more than likely it was some other punk at school like Lisa Kidwell or Evelyn Wooten.

Lisa was more punk than anyone else at Rialto Junior High by a long shot. She was a gutter punk and wore her jet black spiked hair almost identical to the skeleton on one of The Cramps album covers. She claimed that egg whites were the trick. She wore chains and old ripped punk T-shirts that my parents wouldn't have let me bring into the house, much less wear to school . Lisa was so punk that I thought she didn't even have parents and even though I sometimes had classes with her and walked home from school with her I never knew where she lived. Then the rumor got out that she did have parents, but they were foster parents. Later I found out that wasn't true.

Denise and her hated each other because of me. I was obsessed with Denise and apparently Lisa had a thing for me, so naturally she had a problem with Denise. It all came to head one night at Nickelodeon Pizza on Foothill after a Rialto Junior High dance. Lucas Stiles and I went directly home after the dance because we were leaving for a motorcycle race early the next morning, so I wasn't there to witness the drama. Concluding an RJH dance, it was tradition for everyone to go across the street to Nickelodeon and hang out until their parents came to pick them up or until they closed. If you weren't at Nickelodeon after a dance you weren't anybody and if your parents allowed you to stay until closing time (at midnight) you were somebody.

Anyway, probably around 11pm Lisa got in Denise's face and accused Denise of coming in-between Lisa and me. Denise wouldn't even admit to me that she liked me so she certainly wasn't going to admit it to Lisa. So, then Lisa called Denise a liar and in her high-pitched squeaky voice kept repeating, "Why you lying? Why you lying?" Luckily the whole thing went down moments before Denise's step-dad showed up to take her home so no punches were thrown.

About 11:30 p.m. that night the phone rings at my house and it's Denise. She was upset and mad at me and demanded that I call Lisa and tell her to back-off. Actually I was flattered, but there wasn't anything I could do about it until Monday at school. I had a motorcycle race to go to. (See, somehow everything in life is indirectly related to bikes. Had there been no race, I would have been at Nickelodeon and none of this would have happened). Besides I didn't think Lisa had a phone anyway. Hell, I thought she was homeless. Nothing ever materialized because of it, but to this day Denise and I still joke around squeaking, "Why you lying? Why you lying?" For some reason I think it's funnier than Denise does.

About five years ago I ran into Lisa at a show at the Barn in Riverside and she hadn't changed much, but her hair was lot tamer and void of egg whites. Anyway, that's the story of Lisa Kidwell the punk.

Back to the Pogues. At the time KUCR played a lot more punk and what was then considered "alternative music," but I wasn't aware of their programming schedule so that night when I turned the dial to 88.1, farther left than it had ever gone before, it was pure luck. I caught the last two songs in a Pogues set. I can't even remember which songs they were, but I'm sure they were from Rum, Sodomy & the Lash. What I do remember, was MacGowan's voice and the influence of Irish folk music in the two songs I heard. I also remember thinking that the Pogues sounded like music that would've rang from a pirate ship 200 years before. It still sounded so fresh.

A few days after that my mom took me to Kaiser in Fontana to get my allergy shots and after waiting 30 minutes to rule out an allergic reaction, (nurse's orders) we went across Valley Blvd. to Music Land. The place was great because I could find a lot of rare stuff, but that day the only Pogues cassette in stock was Rum, Sodomy & the Lash. Based on the title, there was no way in hell my mom was going to allow that transaction. She went through a Tipper Gore phase in the late '80s that difficult on me. Some kids smuggle drugs and porn into their bedrooms. I smuggled the Dead Kennedys and the Sex Pistols into mine. Later when I got my hands on my first Pogues cassette, Poguerty In Motion, my friends weren't impressed and mom liked the arrangement of the music, but she also held MacGowan's foul language in disdain and disliked his voice for the exact same reason that I loved it.

To this day I still have a hard time selling the Pogues, but every now and then I'm impressed when I encounter someone familiar with them and MacGowan's influence on the old punk scene. Bands like Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly have kind of carried on in the tradition, helping to wave the MacGowan/Pogues flag. And I do my part by writing crap like this.

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