Girl’s Selfish Team

•April 28, 2013 • 3 Comments

The Girl’s Selfish Team

By Jacquie Phelan

Once upon a time, back when girls weren’t supposed to get dirty or yell like boys, a very loud little girl got delivered by the stork to two rather surprised young people named Jack and Doreen. Jack was so anxious to have a boy in the house that, even before the stork plopped down the bundle, he declared, “We’re naming him Jack, after me. Little Jack is going to make me very proud. I’ll be sure of it because I won’t allow him to make any mistakes.” Jack was perhaps a little bit of a control freak.

Doreen said, “No mistakes, eh? We’ll see about that”. Then the cloth bundle wriggled a little and they undid the knotted fabric at the top and discovered a girl inside, yelling like there was no tomorrow.

“Well, well, well!” the slack-jawed recipients of this new baby bundle said. “Well.” The loud little bundle’s name would be “Jacquie” because that’s the next best thing to Jack.

When another bundle arrived a year later, the parents made sure to peek inside before making any assumptions.

“It’s another girl”

“We’ll call her Jill” Jack said. “A nursery rhyme playmate.”

And for all their subsequent lives, the sisters endured being “Jacquie and Jill”, who were supposed to be together up and down life’s big hills. Nothing could be further from the truth: they split up as soon as it was humanly possible, starting with a big curtain running across the middle of their shared bedroom, and ending up with an invisible wall covered with electric shock wire extending around Jill’s family life, so dreadful was her life with Jack and Doreen.

Jacquie’s life on the other hand, although no picnic, was always an open book because that big loud voice was hard to miss. Loud girls definitely get people’s attention. Sometimes she had listeners. Sometimes she didn’t. For years, she struggled in a kingdom where boys and men were loud and proud, and the girls and women were quiet and polite, and got a big kick out of helping everyone else. Jacquie got a reputation for being… “selfish”.

She decided to roam the kingdom, and got a small crowed of other misfit girls and women to agree with her that being loud and proud might be selfish, but for now, selfish was going to have to do. There had been enough eons of quiet and meek to prove that those characteristics didn’t improve the situation of all the little pink packets of joy delivered throughout the kingdom. So this band of merry, loud people who didn’t mind a little mud and a lot of volume and didn’t mind taking up serious space trekked about the realm, calling themselves the “Girls Selfish Team”. They taught the old ladies how to fish. They showed the moms how to ride bikes so they could be out with their kids and pound on the hoods of all the cars in which the busy women talking on their cell phone drove THEIR bundles of joy to and from their many daily appointments, classes and play dates.

The Selfish Team was spreading a rumor about the kingdom: on a bike you can steal time, and keep the profit (which is fun) even if you were just going to the store–or to work– on a bike. The kingdom was a bit crowded– overly large cars, trucks really–were filling up the roads with angry drivers, and the air with toxic fumes which tended to make the girls and women develop nasty tumors in their breasts.

This condition, called “Cancer” when someone else had it became known as “My Turn” to these furious, fleet women. The GST were gliding through the Gordian Traffic Knot using their almost perfect invisibility (which sometimes proved lethal when they weren’t extremely careful) stealing minutes and hours because nothing held them up in their movements. They were appallingly efficient.

The one small drawback to all this freedom of movement was the smoldering envy of the trapped people …Jacquie realized that something might backfire here, especially if the Selfish Team gloated too openly about their perceived superiority.

“We need to think about what we’re doing” she told a selfish friend.

“There have been too many ‘lesson-crashes’ lately”. Those are tragic encounters between pissed off motorists in search of a  miscreant biker, in order to  teach the two-wheelers who’s boss in the kingdom. The results? Grievous body damage, sometimes death, to the rider, and usually fender damage to the car).

“We gotta get ourselves a lobbyist”.

It didn’t take more than a couple of want-ads in the Kingdom Tattler and the Selfish Team had their very own lobbyist in the Realm’s Hall of Power. Thanks to the loud women’s team, the bike people were given special privileges like Permission to Roll Through Empty Intersections Without Punishment, and Being Taken Seriously By A Cop When Doored. In fact, the lobbyist was a Policewoman who had flipped over a few too many doors , and once even sideswiped by a person arguing on their car phone who claimed not to have even seen the Cop. The driver’s defense, which failed in court, was that all bike people are invisible. According to the law of the land, drivers, although they couldn’t see the bikes, should navigate AS IF THERE MIGHT BE a bicycle out of their limited range of view.

It wasn’t a hundred years, maybe it was 75 or so, before the laws of the land finally protected the humans from the machines, and even the bodies of the humans were able to slowly recover from their scary 200 year exposure to the Residues of Progress, and it was all thanks to the Girl’s Selfish Team.


Ride, Read, Ruminate

•April 27, 2013 • 2 Comments

First Wombat Ride of Spring, and I had two women on board, Fran M. & Heather C., both feminist thinkers. I decided that along with tea and some trail mix, I’d throw out for perusal a special NYTimes supplement “Dealbook” from April 3.

I had been mulling (and fuming) over a story in  it: “Women in a Man’s World”.  Subheading: Wall street makes progress but lack of role models impeds equality say female executives.

Having just listened to the redoubtable (and for me previously unheard of) Barbara Garson on KPFA, speaking about her book Down the Up Escalator What this freedom fighter from the student rebellion era had to say was that the huge recession with its sweeping problems we face are social in origin, i.e. created by a system-wide failure of politics to protect citizens. But since Americans are so ingrained with the RuggedIndividualist mythos, they tend to blame themselves for when things go wrong, whether it’s unemployment or illness.

She pointed out that Europeans seem to see more clearly that the economic crisis is caused by the reckless financial practices  of the “1%”.   So they riot, demonstrate, become enraged. (Maybe even vote for social justice!)

So back toNYT story. The most powerful woman in banking, Irene Dorner,  recalled that  she didn’t complain when her male colleagues carried on misogynist banter. I thought: “OK, she’s just hanging onto her job, and I guess when her colleagues gathered at a bar she had to go along with it…”

Dorner elaborated that she thought she and other top women were poor role models, and so sparsely sprinkled throughout the upper echelons of finance that they were not visible enough for people to work out how to do what we did”.

Reading that made me have to bring it to our ride. I need to have some corroboration of my irritability with some of the premises of the story. I don’t think Wall Street ‘made progress’. It’s gone backward, retrenched itself. The men will not willingly yield the reins. The reins must be grabbed.

It was a quick 2 hour, 8 or so mile jaunt (though it grew to 15 miles, partly because I’d frittered considerable time away yakking with strangers instead of focusing on my bat-friends, and I felt I owed ’em more miles & smiles). To pull out the paper and ask other opinions was a stretch. Heather took the bait, read the story and said “Yes, they do seem to blame themselves, and why do they have to do things like the men do anyway? Isn’t that why everything is so messed up? Why can’t the men take a clue from the way women do business?”
Is there a cogent answer to this simple question from a 29 year old kid?
I mean, why would the guys in power ever bother taking a lesson from women, unless it somehow proved to be even more profitable than the rapacious b.s. that they’ve been perpetrating all along? The giant bank bonuses, the golden parachutes, the concentration of wealth.
I wanted to write a letter to Ms. Dorner, sharing my insights about being in a so-called Men’s World of Mtn Biking.

But I’ve written to Powerful Women’s Organizations  before. Nice thoughtful letters on WOMBATS letterhead, Crane’s rag paper, the whole deal.

NEVER a reply. My pitch was always (and always will be) “hey, I know what you’re talking about, have been there, and would like to offer my services to get your members comfortable and competent on a mountain bike. Golf is so last millenium”.

Maybe it was the dig about golf?

I didn’t include a picture of our ride, but might tomorrow. I’m tired.

This probably doesn’t conform to my usual cheery blog habit. But hell, I’m rather irritated. WOULD SOMEONE PLEEZ COMMENT ON MY STORY?

Happy Earth Day

•April 22, 2013 • 2 Comments


CC and I got up early to beat the heat (Marin’s first hot day this year) on a ride to the tippy top of Tamalpais. En route many signs of spring…copious flowerage (thick banks of Doug. Iris, small lupine mats, lots of calif poppies and the less common bush poppy, linanthus ceanothus). Then came the fauna: a small gopher snake stretched out on the verge, good luck, and a pair of fawns. I flushed them from the road’s edge, and one stumbled and recovered at the very instant its mother and sister cut to the left into a meadow. The stumbler gallooped after me.
If I’d had more presence of mind, I’d have caught it, catching up to me as I rode away. Finally I thought, why not stop and see what happens?
It came to a halt.

Looked at me, and mewed.

It has been a long time since a dear got trapped in CC’s shop, and when I threw a blanket around it it vocalized like crazy. Didn’t know that about deer at the time.ImageImageImage

It was so early (7:15 departure) that we saw NO traffic. Got to do this more oftn. Returning was normal traffic level, including the inevitable bikers who greet us. Note to friends: I’m not being rude, I’m just trying to keep an eye on the road… Last time I failed to do that, I busted my nose.


Reunited, two ‘pipe guys’

•April 18, 2013 • 1 Comment

IMG_3533Ken D. with Charlie and the ‘Cunningham V’

Today we had a visit from  one of the original handful of ‘Ham owners, a fit gentleman who (as he put it) “rode his bike hard and put it away wet”. He’d raced the original Rockhoppers with me and Charlie (that is: 1983-5) and even did the revivalhopper a couple years ago.

The bike was due for a restoration to original condition, so CC assessed it and sketched out the scope of the project (t’s a bear to find headsets of the correct dimension, and other fitments). It was lovely to catch up on a 30 year hiatus, and we’ll see him again sometime soon.

I reminded him that to us, he is ‘family’ since we forgot to arrange for progeny ourselves. The Bike Is Our Baby.
Eventually he’ll meet Noah Gellner, GH, and the other hamfam members.

Gentle Riders, I apologize for the sluggish blog pace.

Crabby Holidays

•January 4, 2013 • 5 Comments

coconut_crab-biggest+land-dwelling+arthropod+in+the+the+worldFirst week of the new year. I’ve already given my husband a cold that has lasted for three weeks (mine only took one,  thanks to countless hours reading Willa Cather in the snuggletorium). Charlie must work, and so his recovery involves an hour of intense work in a 35 degree (Fahrenheit) shop, followed by a ten minute thermal replenishment at the wood stove, then another hour, then in for more ‘woe-ramth’.

Last night, Bonnie Simmons, our rock n roll pioneer DJ on KPFA, played a wonderful set from 8 pm on, featuring lots of Steve Earle.  He’s the activist songateer with the lovely, weary tenor voice and super gnarly songs like “I’m thinking about burning Walmart down“.

Then on came Robert Earl Keen (this is why I am a DJ devotee–they group their songs according to inner directives that the listeneer is free to imagine) with  “Doing nothing is something that I do”

2012 Induction, US Bicycle Hollow Fame

•November 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment

SeeKay, me, George Mount and Joe Breeze at Freeborn Hall.

On a fine fall day, the  great Peter Rich (owner of recently closed Velosport Bike Shop in Berkeley) picked me up from the bus stop to trundle north to U.C. Davis for a November rider’s ritual feast.

The last three autumns have featured a West Coast enshrinement ritual–the previous eighteen or so took place where the USBHOF was founded, in Somerville N.J., home of the annual criterium classic.  In the early years of USBHOF, it appeared that the U.S. only had fast people in the East, but eventually George Mount was honored (he was the first American man to get close to the front of the pack at an Olympic race–his sixth place in Montreal 1976 was the best American men’s showing in 70 years–women were not yet permitted to compete at the Games on bicycles in 1976)

This year, my criminally humble offroad racing buddy Susan DeMattei would be  lionized, along with some other men.

There are two events: the “Free I.P. reception” (=VIP reception, anyone can attend) on Friday evening at the Hall and Museum on 2nd Street, and the gala the following evening (attendees support the USBHOF annually by attending and buying a table for a cool grand or so).

The first person I met walking in the door was the Not-Yet-Enfamed Erin Hartwell, a thirty something fellow who took some Olympic track racing medals back in the nineties. We traded a few friendly jabs (I love verbal jousting with perfect strangers, and it takes a strong constitution on the part of the stranger to cope with it, I am sure).  Next to him stood a woman whose nametag said “Gale Hartwell”.  I clasped  her hand and said “you must be his honey!”.

“No, I’m the mom” she smiled. We hit it off quite well notwithstanding.

Susan’s friends from nursing school came to the fancy event, but not before cramming into the host hotel room and showering her with champagne, good wishes and contagious cheer.

Bruce Cunningham’s 1964 Household Rules

•October 21, 2012 • 5 Comments

I was churning through a pile of papers, and discovered three sheets of old,  pale green lined accounting-pad paper, covered with my father-in-law’s distinctive all-caps writing style. The sheets were the kind with the line down the middle, and  had been yanked from a spiral-top binding).

Is it possible I over-value scraps?
You be the judge:

FAMILY T.V. RULES March 1964

1) TV WEEK—from Sat 12:00 pm…..end  Sat 12:00 pm

2) STARTS  1 March 64   Doug Week

3) LOCATION in either of boy’s rooms, or in living room

by special arrangement with Mother & Dad

4) Use of TV  (Renegotiate the trial 4-wk period from 1 Mar)

a) School days: max 90 min

b) Non-school days: max 180 min, for each viewer.

During the week, TV will be placed in ONE of boy’s rooms, only programs select by occupant of the room will be viewed. On non-school days double viewing IS possible (per 4(b) above)

c) Behavior in TV room MUST be acceptable to occupant of room. Visitors must leave on FIRST request to do so by occupant.

5) When above agreement is violated in the opinion of Mother and Dad person guilty of violation will lose TV rights for period of one week. In such case TV will be placed in storage for period of penalty.


a) Mother &  Dad have right to watch any designated program on 1 hr. adv. notice.

b) School work has precedence over TV viewing

d) No TV viewing between 6 and 6:30 on School Days.

Signed and dated on this 1st of March, 1964  “Doug” (13 yrs ), “Charlie” (16-yrs) “Bruce” (42 yrs)

Then the attention turns to snakes:


– No more pets are to be brough home w/o specific permission by both Dad & Mother

-No more pet are to be quartered in the house w/ospecific permission by both Mother + Dad

-The only pets permitted in Dougs room are kingsnake, boa, & kangaroo rat. All above pets will be kept on top of hutch only.

-Any significant problems (‘significant’ is to be determined by Dad +Mother) that arise due to pets in house will result in their permanent removal from the house.

(Sanitation-escape-school work).

Since Bruce was freshly out of the military, the notes have a stern, yet immanently accountable feel to them…I forget if the boys had to say “sir”(we sure did, but my father wasn’t a military man. He simply loved the power of controlling his scared little brood).
When I read these notes (which I was about to throw away) to Charlie he laughed and recalled that those rules lasted about a month, and the experiment in paternal omnipotence deteriorated. What touched me about these seemingly reasonable rules was the fact that the Dad was willing to put himself on the line, and be accountable in this ernest contract.

This is about forty years before parents would be coached to create contracts with their children (was Bruce way ahead of his time, or hopelessly mistaken that his little Cunningtroop might be dutiful little soldiers?).