Thursday, March 11, 2004


“It’s a comedy trying to find some way to make the bike team work. (Keeping a bike working at its optimum level) is more a philosophy (than a simple action). But this shit is nonsense and it is nothing but a challenge to the very principals of that philosophy. I must laugh because it is indeed impossible.”

I wrote these words of wisdom from inside the beginning of our second bottle last night. It was a fine and necessary sit down and there was nothing but agreement about that.

But yesterday was a fine day. It was a fine day because there was a lot to do. I very much like having a lot to do.

But there had also been a war in my house the night before and the severity of that war had a lot to do with the necessity of the sit-down. The war was over money (of course) and my ability to stay on here and it was bitter and angry and terrible. But there was a lot of truth in it too and it came from unhappiness born of reality and not simple emotion. I wrote a letter to a dear friend about the situation yesterday morning and even that letter had a fatalistic feel to it.

The problem is money. We simply do not and have never had enough money since all of this “Polish Shit” happened. I don’t feel the need to re-define what I mean by not enough money. If you haven’t gotten the idea about my situation or about what “Belarusian money” is by now, you simply are beyond hope as a student.

But these things come and go like all things do and in the morning I snuck into the internet and did manage to finish finally the correspondences project. It again cost more money than I needed it to. But I did finish it as I said I would. That’s also part of the philosophy I suppose. I blogged it yesterday, so right now if you like you can check out:

The Marcin Borus Correspondences.

Marcin Borus was supposed to be my lawyer. I was supposed to be able to trust him. But he fucked me instead.

In The Marcin Borus Correspondences page I have printed all of the letters between him and myself. Re-reading and editing those letters brought back a lot of emotions and memories from that time. It was all pretty sick. I think you can see this clearly. And, as I needed to take the texts from a group of other correspondences, I find I have material for perhaps two more pages of the same tambour, from personal letters and from IBM Poland, that I can work on over the next while. It’s all, as Piotr Molga the reporter for the Warsaw Gazzetta said, “good stuff”.

And if you cross-reference it with the ANNOTATED COURT DOCUMENTS, you get a really very, very clear view of what is meant by “Being Had”. This was not a court fight over something I did or did not do, it was a great big game designed to keep me in Poland and take from me as much money as could possible be found. And the results of what they did have everything to do with all of the “extra” misery my life has right now. Check it out and tell me I am wrong.

But getting back to the story, like I said, there was a lot to do yesterday.

One of the consequences of the bitter war of the day before was that Baba went on strike and refused to make the soup. This is a pretty normal thing for her to do. I was up pretty early though and seeing that there was nothing happening in the kitchen I went ahead and made the soup myself. Now, I know you are thinking that this is no big deal, but what I did was as much a political act, as it was breakfast. I didn’t just make the soup, I replicated Baba’s soup right down to the size of the potatoes and the frying of the onions and carrots. I even went so far as to match the presentation where the pot gets wrapped in a blanket like a baby so that it stays warm longer. Political act or simply to piss her off more- one of the two.

And the soup was good. But I think it was good mostly because I made one basic change that is absolutely not normal for Baba-made soup: I left out the pig fat.

I think for non-Russians, the eating of pig-fat as a dietary staple might be seen as a somewhat questionable cultural attribute. I know it is for me and I have thus far completely refrained from laying a thick slice of only mildly smoked pig fat on a piece of brown bread and eating this with coffee. However, I do end up ingesting a certain amount of the stuff because it is added as a flavoring agent to almost everything that is made in the house. If we have boiled potatoes, you fry some bacon (95% white, 5% pink) and onions and lay it over the top. Spaghetti, same topping. And of course, this is also always the last addition to the morning soup.

But with Baba out on strike, I became scab labor in the kitchen. And as scabs are always socially unacceptable anyway, why not buck tradition?

So, I did all of the same steps, and added all the usual ingredients; I just never added even one microgram of swine. How did it taste? It was great! And what is more, after deleting all of the extra fat, I seemed to have about 40% more energy for my day. That’s just a guesstimate and maybe it was simply a kosher thing, but I say you really could feel the difference.

Anyway, all of this extra energy went into the completion of The Marcin Borus Correspondences and then, after stopping by the house for another bowl of kosher-gandist soup, I cycled through the slush and quickly melting snow off to the sport school for the afternoon. Both Sasha, the regular mechanic and Sergei Gregorovich the trainer were away, so the jobs of both working with the younger group of kids and fixing some bikes happily fell on me.

For the kids, I ran a “Biathlon”. I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but this is a workout invention of my own. What they do is run a circular rout of slightly more than a kilometer, mostly through the snow. When they return to the starting area, they kick four soccer balls at a small target a few meters away. For every missed shot, they must run a small penalty lap around some playground equipment, perhaps 30 meters, and then they get to go on to their next big lap. Four laps and three times shooting: Biathlon.

But the fixing of the bikes was a really big deal. There were bikes laying all over the place and the kids were complaining about the condition of the bikes that they needed to take out on the road. One kid, Sasha, perhaps the number 2 guy on the team, had to come back early because his bike was un-ridable. Nicolai Valentinavich, the head coach was yelling at him about coming back, telling stories about how he himself had faced worse adversities. This is all pretty normal stuff. I put the bike up on the stand (two chains hung from the rafters with clips for the handlebars and the seat) and had a look. And yea, it was a mess. One of the brake pads was rubbing on the rear wheel- this of course makes riding miserable. But looking closer I noticed that the problem was in the wheel and not the brake. There were four broken spokes and a bent axle. Now of course, there are no “new” spokes or axles to put in, these things as always needed to be scavenged from other bikes. And we are now probably on the third or fifth generation of scavenging. But the bike and the biker must ride so the work simply must be done again.

But I am a pretty direct guy and that I just started to do it without the usual nagging and complaining seemed to act like a shock wave going through the club, and I was immediately swamped with requests to help fix things. Very nice. Like I said, I like having a lot to do.

So I tuned two bikes, though I think “made compromises on two bikes” would be a better way to describe it and did most of the work on Sasha’s ride. My hands were black from the grease, but it always feels good to be doing bikes, even if there isn’t a single goddamned new brake cable, spoke, tube or tire to replace anything with.

We all stayed late and talked about the up-coming season. The work on the bikes wasn’t finished but we made headway and we will do more today and tomorrow. We’ll be as ready as we can be.

And then when the kids left, we drank. Ya vepil mnoha. I drank a lot. Ya bil ochen pian. I was really drunk. No, Ya nichevo zabil. But not so drunk as to forget anything.

Kolia wants me to work there. I do not think it is logistically possible to do so legally right now, but the feeling is mutual. And somewhere amidst our desperate attempts to speak together, language and alcoholic barriers always in the way, I wrote the words that appear at the top of this page.

When I wrote them, I was thinking that it must be kind of like the jokes that I hear the Jews of the Ghettos used to make about their situation; everything so pitiful and impossible.

Too much vodka and I was grasping for the threads of my bike philosophies about how things work and who is really responsible in the end. I was thinking… “there is no one else to peddle your bike but you”, and “if you don’t make the ride, the ride is simply not made” and “you never get back from the down-hill what you spent going up” and “neither God nor luck has anything to do with flat tires: If the air goes out of it, there is a hole, period”. And especially that when there is a problem, there is nothing else to do but to fix it and get back on the bike.

These thoughts may seem as stupid as a pig-fat sandwich to you, but for those of us who have spent a lot of time in the saddle, it is all quite real. Maybe too real, especially when there is not a penny to do a damned thing about anything. So we scavenge. Over the course of time, they have picked clean about 60% of all the bikes they ever had. And then re-scavenged and re-re-rescavenged what parts they could. And so now, just to keep going they have even became niggardly about scavenging, preferring to yell at each other rather than giving up a spoke or ball baring. That’s what Kolia’s yelling at Sasha was all about. So like I said; it is a comedy. It has to be. There is no other way to describe it.

But its only March and the cycling season is just getting started. And we will be there. Velocipedist yest! We have riders! And you KNOW that we are going to win regardless of obstacles, right? Right?! There’s nothing to it but to do it: Pashol, pashol, pashol!

Fuck you Marcin Borus.

More in a day or so