PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

My Musings

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2024

As 2023 was drawing to a close, random people on the street would stop me and ask what my hopes and dreams were for 2024. "Snow," I said. Also, to figure out how to install new front and rear derailleurs on my old Fuji Palisade without it taking another week. If time is money, I just spent a lot of money cleaning up this old bike.

If the first hour and three quarters are any indication, 2024 is going to be cold and dark. Everyone will be asleep. No one will answer my texts. All services will be shut down including grocery and liquor stores, leaving us hungry and thirsty.

So, yeah, not starting out great. Nevertheless, Happy New Year! Fingers crossed that the sun rises in the morning. 

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The Acorn Spitter

When I was a lad getting fed a lot of mumbo-jumbo at St. Matthew's Grammar School in East Syracuse, New York in the 1970s, a teacher assigned us a short story to read about a midget, as they were called back then, who was signed by a minor league baseball team because he was an expert bunter. This guy wasn't just able to lay down a bunt; he could place the ball anywhere he wanted (within bunting distance). My memory – which is always 100% accurate – tells me that he was discovered at a circus, where he was bunting balls into various buckets that were placed around his batting cage. He never missed, directing each ball with spin and bounce and speed in such a manner as to expertly deposit them into containers of various sizes. Needless to say, he became very valuable to the baseball team that picked him up.

This makes me want to write a modern-day version of this story in which I (the narrator) am cast as the hero. Except in this case, I don't bunt balls into buckets, but instead spit acorns from under the treads of my bike tires at motorists who irritate me on my morning commute.

The story starts with me on my sleepy bike ride into the office on a crisp fall morning. There is a traffic jam, but I, as a cyclist, am unaffected, able to breeze past all the cars that are belching greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while not making much progress on their commutes. As I ride along on this beautiful fall morning, my front tire runs over an acorn, which squirts out and strikes the side of a shiny, black BMW sedan, making a funny "ping" sound as it does.

The damage is non-existent, but that doesn't stop the douchebag driver of the Beamer, after traffic starts moving again and he catches up to me, to roll down his window and call me an asshole for purposely spitting an acorn at his stupid-ass car that costs like $150 just to change the oil. Of course, I didn't "purposely" shoot the acorn at his car. Who could do something like that? Wait, that bunting midget in the short story I read in fifth or sixth grade could have.

So, I set myself to learning how to shoot acorns from under my bike tires at cars stuck in traffic, particularly at douchebag drivers who leak into my bike lane because they are reading threads on X while driving about how bike lanes are ruining life for drivers. With time and a lot of practice, I become an expert at this obscure "sport," able to use my perfect vision to pick out acorns in the road ahead and determine, instantaneously, where to run over them to propel them at Hummers and Navigators and any car that I don't like or driver who has irked me. Soon, I become famous, alleged on obscure websites that I have caused "thousands of dollars of damage," never mind that you could shoot an acorn out of an air gun at high speed and not even put a scratch in a modern auto paint job.

Police try to set up roadblocks in bikes lanes to nab me, but I am too wily, weaving through traffic, dodging cars trying to "door" me, spitting acorns at cars all the while.

I haven't figured out the denouement yet, but I know that this story will have a moment when it seems like I will be caught, and then a happy ending as I get away Scot free, just like the story of the bunting savant had a happy ending.

[Editors note: I found the story online in a copy of The American Legion Magazine from August, 1949. Titled "Lay it Down Ziggy!", it starts on page 11, but don't let that stop you from perusing through the rest of the magazine. Plenty of fun stuff to see, including on page 2 the "The Bracer Royal Supporter Belt," which appears to be a male girdle.] 

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Updating My Drivers

If I told you the truth – that I own three cars – would think badly of me? Saying that I have three cars probably sounds like I'm bragging, but the fact is that I'm self-conscious about it. It suggests that I don't appreciate the corner we humans have painted ourselves into and am willing to pump as much carbon into the atmosphere as I can muster. Like I'm one of those guys who drives a giant pickup truck and takes pleasure in "rolling coal" at cyclists or running over them. (Or both). I'm embarrassed that you might think of me that way.

You know why they call it "embarrassed"? Because you feel as though your ass is bare. Little linguistical nugget for your brain to ponder.

But back to me not bragging about my three cars: we have three not because I drive all the time but because I'm bad at finding the sweet spot between the price I was offered on a trade-in (not much) and what I want in my wildest dreams (many, many thousands of dollars more). Also, the car I was trading in is 15 years old and coughs up a bolt or springs a leak often and needs surgery. I own another that is eight years old and it doesn't matter how many ball joints and control arms you replace, it seems to need another almost immediately. Consequently, one of these two cars is on the bench so that when the other is on the disabled list my family isn't stuck with just one car.

"Just one car." Yes, I know, first world problem.

Meanwhile, we had been using the same drivers for our vehicles since we got married in 2003. We finally updated our drivers to include our son when he was around 16. My impression is that we can get away with just these three drivers until 2024, when we plan to update them again by adding my daughter (currently 15). It's just sensible. By then, we may have just one functioning automobile. That's when I buy everyone a bike. 

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Squeal Like A...

When I pop into your head at random times, as must happen now and again, do you think of me as:

  1. That beer brewer who bicycles?
  2. That cyclist who brews beer? Or
  3. That writer who brings home brewing supplies on his bike?

“Ha! 'Writer.' Don't make me laugh." Fine, but the fact is I used to get up every morning and write something, anything, even if it was just a grocery list, but now that the internet has total control over my every waking moment, feeding me fascinating pictures of former Hollywood starlets who are now near death and tales of how most problems can be solved with this one weird trick, I almost don’t write at all. But I do brew beer and ride a bike.

Which brings me to my gripe du jour: I can’t get the front brakes on my touring bike to stop squealing. I don’t mean that these brakes peep a little, I mean they squeal like a pig coming to grips with its fate. “Toe them in, for crying out loud!” Yes, I know. I’ve toed these brakes inside out and upside down. I’ve cleaned the front rim. I’ve replaced perfectly good pads with more expensive ones that I scuffed up, all to no avail. “Sometimes, you just need to get a new rim,” they tell me at Broadway Bicycle School in Cambridge, MA.

At fifty or sixty bucks for a machine-made rim, I think I’ll just let them squeal.

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