By Patrick Brady
The world can’t really slay a stoned musician with a smile like a crescent moon, can it?
Or, the uncertainty of cycling on acid
Most cyclists I know who are my age, which I’ll call 50-adjacent, have either been in the sport 10 years, or since before Laurent Fignon won his first tour. I fall into an unusual in-between zone.
The guys who entered the sport as juniors mark the late ‘70s and early ‘80s by who won the Tour that year. I mark those years a little differently. I grew up with rock ‘n’ roll and my fantasy job was to be a drummer in a band. So while some may remember 1980 as the year the old man, Joop Zoetemelk, won the Tour, I remember that year as the year John Bonham died.
During my rock period, I crossed paths with some strange characters. There was the time I walked into a dressing room only to find Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee receiving a kind of oral massage from a groupie. He’d found me entertaining enough that he shuffled after me when I backed out of the room to shout, “Dude, you’re next!”
I was amazed he could move so fast with his leather pants around his knees.
Then there was the time I was at a gig and realized that our keyboardist was mistaken. While he told me that he’d peaked during the sound check, that clearly wasn’t the case. His smile was too angelic, and then there was the fact that the horn part he was playing was from a song in our next set.
I remain convinced that only our rhythm guitarist, our bassist and I noticed. It’s one of the reasons we fired our vocalist, not the keyboardist. Well, that and the fact that I had to remind him—the vocalist—that the chicken wire between us and the rednecks we were playing to would only protect us for as long as we were playing. Getting out of the club and the gear into our cars was another matter, which is why flipping the guy off who threw the beer was no smarter than laughing at the rebel flag in the back window of the pickup in the parking lot.
So I hope you’ll understand what I mean when I tell you that when I got into cycling, I was looking for less adventure, not more.
To me, cycling was fun that could double as transportation. To my 20-something brain it was as two birds, one stone as beer, which was both food and fun. Any time fun can masquerade as something else, I’m in.
In my mind, however, I separated fun and adventure. Fun was a guaranteed good time—a day at Disney World. Adventure carried with it the air of uncertainty; it was a full keg and 40 people you don’t know. A fight isn’t inevitable, but you probably have only two chances in five to get everyone dancing to Prince.
If I’m honest, I’ll have to admit my dream of a career in music wasn’t completely in the rear-view mirror when I experienced one of the strangest experiences of my cycling life.
It was the summer of 1988. Memphis, Tennessee, was mired in a 100-year drought and the kind of unrelenting heat that only potters should know. Brief showers would evaporate before hitting the ground. I was spending my days in an air-conditioned recording studio trying to produce a thunderous mayhem that recalled Keith Moon and my nights slinging dressings on salads at a pizza joint.
It was a day hotter Angelina Jolie’s ass. That much I remember for sure. Other bits, like when I dropped the acid, and what time I dropped it, were washed away as quickly as a shoreline sandcastle. I’m not certain I could ever have produced that answer. My girlfriend lived with her parents a mile or so from the house I was renting with bandmates. We were just a few doors down from the place that that Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and the rest were living in as they recorded the album “Green.”
Buck was walking back from the 7-Eleven as I pedaled toward the girlfriend’s house. We were on waving terms. Longhairs like us had an agreement.
I’d love to know what took place at my girlfriend’s. Her mom owned a hair styling place and her dad worked the front door with the help of a Miller Highlife he kept in a paper bag behind the desk, so they were already at work. I can say that much with confidence because we never left the pizza joint where we worked until well after 1:00 am, the upshot of that being that when most of the world was clocking in for work we were still asleep. It may be that I got lucky; I tended to cut to the chase back then.
These days, I’m more diplomatic, but no more romantic. It’s a combination that I wouldn’t recommend.
At some point, I headed back home and when I reached the one light between her place and mine, I clipped out and waited for my chance to turn left. What I didn’t know at the time was that the pizza maker where we worked drove through the intersection as I stood there. It’s the sort of non-event that would have gone unrecorded for us both, except that the grin slashed across my face was unnatural.
“Baby, come here. Lemme tell you something.”
By this time I was downtown, blocks from where Dr. Martin Luther King was shot, in a part of town where deals of all sorts were made, commerce with consequences. The woman inviting me over, the siren ready to help me understand the world was heavyweight to my welterweight, had talons like a bird of prey and thoughts that I suspected were every bit as predatory.
That I might have looked like prey isn’t all that surprising. I was riding a touring bike while dressed in a yellow and black skinsuit. Not striped. What caused me to decide that was the outfit for the day I can’t say, but it’s possible that what passes for logic when you’re on LSD added 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity to bicycle and came up with Lycra condom.
Part of me wanted the tete a tete. Wanted to see where things would go. The thing about me on acid was that I tended to assume that all the really bad shit that might happen to me couldn’t take place until I’d sober up. The world can’t really slay a stoned musician with a smile like a crescent moon, can it?
Yes, yes it can.
I rode the corkscrews of parking garages until the yellow arrows blurred together, sprinted the short blocks until the stoplights became gumdrops always one cog from reach. I found singletrack worn into patches of grass I’d never before noticed.
And when the pitch of tryptamine coursing through my system reached crescendo, I was slashing an impossible ascent of the grassy bluff above the river. A blast of soot bellowing from the Mississippi Queen furled, twisted and collapsed on itself. I was so captivated that I nearly fell and recall it mostly because I later told my roommate, “Dude, the whole world lost half an inch.”
History, my history, suggests there was probably a Coke Slurpee and Snickers in there somewhere, maybe a York peppermint patty. Gatorade? The rest of the day can only be determined by inference.
I made it home. That much is certain. What time I made it home I can’t say because the stuff I had was so powerful I couldn’t tell day from night. Honestly, I wouldn’t even have remembered this much had the pizza thrower not been so curious why I was so happy.
“You had the biggest shit-eatin’ grin on your face I’ve ever seen. And that was in traffic!”
Ed. Note: After riding many miles together at events on the road and dirt, convinced Patrick to write an article for us and now another one.
He blogs at Red Kite Prayer.
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