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spinning to nowhere

Used to be, you couldn’t mention the word “bike” without prompting Tom to launch into his standard tirade about bike commuters. But listen. Tom’s white. He’s an attorney. And nearing middle age. You put those three things together in a Venn diagram and the overlappy bit in the middle will say “soccer” and “bikes.” So the bike thing was inevitable.

Tom started getting into bikes last summer, when he began riding his giraffe bike to and from Timbers games. We call Tom’s silver Globe the giraffe bike because if a normal-sized person stands next to it, it looks freakishly tall. It also weighs approximately what a giraffe weighs. I’ve seen people try to hold it up only to have it topple onto them.

“YOONA!! You don’t even know how awesome a Timbers game is until you’ve ridden home with the Timbers masses,” he told me. “Mmmm,” I’d respond, having tuned out everything after the word “Timbers.” He started to treat his buddy Ethan like he was a loser for driving a car to the stadium. “ETHAN! You HAVE to ride your bike to the game. Stop being so lazy.” Ethan, who rode his bike to and from his house way back in law school and once had the nerve to show up at my house in a bike unitard, would become visibly annoyed in the way that you get when a friend becomes newly and loudly obsessed with something that you discovered ten years ago.

giraffe bike

Next, Tom started spinning. I don’t regularly work out with Tom, but I’ve worked out next to him in hotel gyms, so I know what that intense regimen looks like. 15 minutes of a loping, horse-like canter on an elliptical trainer while paging through the New Yorker, followed by a couple sets of half-hearted chest presses with eyes glued to ESPN. Rinse, and repeat. I’d observe from a distance and wonder how he didn’t gain weight during his workouts.

But once Tom got a taste of spinning, he became an animal. Not having broken a sweat during a workout in years, he viewed all the new-fangled wicking fabrics with the skepticism that the rest of us would reserve for, say, a muscle tank made of mesh. “Now, Dri-Fit–do you think that’s trying too hard??,” he’d ask. I didn’t have the heart to point out that the only other guys at the gym still wearing cotton t-shirts were all 80 years old.

Tom started making his own spinning playlists, which I only learned about when I received an email receipt for my Amazon account with a bunch of song purchases. I took a quick look at the email and concluded that my account had been hacked. I forwarded the email to Tom and Cuz, both of whom have access to my Prime account, before I called Amazon’s fraud alert line. I got an immediate response. “That’s for my spinning playlist,” emailed Tom. Spinning playlist? I took a closer look.


Ah. This explained why he’d been turning up “Royals” whenever it came on in my car, eyes rolling back into his head. “I LOVE this song,” he’d moan. Tom habitually discovers a pop smash three to six months after it first becomes popular. A month ago he turned up “Get Lucky” and gave me a knowing look. “You’ve heard this, right? It’s awesome.” I expect he’ll discover “Blurred Lines” sometime in early December.

I looked again at his spinning playlist. Eminem, ok. As a white guy from the wrong side of Detroit (Ann Arbor), Tom has long identified with Eminem. Ke$ha is like, workout gold, so I respected that. But Bryan Ferry, for SPINNING? The Smiths? What kind of depressing workout was this? And what about Gordon Lightfoot? Who plays Gordon fucking Lightfoot during a workout?

Anyway. The bike thing’s not going away. On his trip to Ann Arbor last month, Tom mailed back to Portland his dad’s Schwinn Le Tour III. Once it arrived, he texted our friend Dieter, who gave him advice about how to (pay to) convert the bike into a single-speed. I observed it all with amusement. But when he brought it home from Velo Cult, I got it. It was orange, a very good color. For a 35-year old bike, it seemed rather elegant. Best of all, it was a connection to Tom’s dad, who I never got to meet. A man who was responsible for raising my irrepressible, inimitable Tom.

So welcome to the family, Mr. Schwinn. And do watch out for the giraffe bike in the garage.


23 Comments Post a comment
  1. Laughing very hard, right now. The Gordon Lightfoot does seem like an odd choice, maybe his Dad liked it? At least he is taking care of himself.
    My spousal unit was just diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. He has given up sugared soda, (his favorite thing)a and is dropping pounds rapidly. Plus he is three months into being a vegetarian. But I cannot get him to exercise. We have dusty Nordictrac in the family room that he brought home from the the thrift store three years ago. He has used it twice, in all that time. I want to drag it out into the yard, douse it with gasoline and light a match, but that would be extreme.
    My husband buys books. We have more than we can store decently. He buys and reads strange New Agey books, channeled by people with one syllable names. If he was not such a kind and decent man, I would be worried about him. The books are all so f-ing esoteric, about new paradigm shifts and expansions in human consciousness. Where did my logical guy go? I am so skeptical. We are not religious, what the hell is this crap? He goes through Amazon and orders the books. Many are out of print, but he gets them for 25 cents or a dollar and then spends $6.99 on shipping them here. Hardly a day goes by that the UPS truck doesn’t pull up and leave a package on our front porch, making my dogs go insane and making me cringe.
    I guess I just have to learn to put up with it, because I love him and he is a good Dad. But, wow – I would prefer the bikes and spin class obsessions.

    November 22, 2013
  2. Muffy #

    “And what about Gordon Lightfoot? Who plays Gordon fucking Lightfoot during a workout?”

    I just peed my yoga pants!

    November 19, 2013
  3. Maura #

    OMG! What was it about this summer and big white guys biking?! Andrew bought a Mt. bike while in Camp Sherman. He became a biking master.

    He used to ride Bataan death rides with his Dad through the Utah Desert. Why he would go back to riding I don’t comprehend. He’s doing it again in West Seattle.

    Have you noticed that none of the biking gear fits these guys?

    November 19, 2013
  4. bora #

    what an absurd piece. I guffawed loudly in class for 5 minutes to this and roped a few newbies in

    November 18, 2013
    • is “absurd” the right word here? i mean, it’s all true. thank you for bringing me new readers. but stop reading me during class

      November 18, 2013
  5. Yay! I’m so glad you posted again. Without your blog to help me procrastinate, I was weirdly productive at work. My bosses, like, commended me. I didn’t like it at all.

    As one Canada’s premier folk-rock singer-songwriters, we should all be listening to more Gordon Lightfoot. He’s just the man to ground us when life is both literally and metaphorically spinning out of control. (I say this as someone who has never actually listened to Gordy L, but as someone who wanted to work a “spinning” pun into my comment.).

    Also, I feel compelled to point out that Tom is wearing Toms. If I were him I would pretend to have invented them.

    Andy M

    November 18, 2013
    • Yeah October got away from me a bit. And then November (Linds had her baby–Palmer!). But now I’m back, and Andy M is commenting, and all is right in the world.

      I often think how cool it would be if my name was on the back of a billion pairs of cotton espadrilles–I guarantee you that Tom has no similar appreciation

      November 18, 2013
  6. My husband (also white and a lawyer) commutes to work by bike. This is about 10 km each way and he has been doing it since May. I think it is great as it leaves the car for me to get the kids to school and me to work/groceries/appointments/errands but I’m so sick of listening to him talk about his f-ing bike. Now he is talking about getting a 2nd bike so that his expensive bike doesn’t get ruined from winter riding. Just kill me now!

    November 18, 2013
    • i feel your pain. i feel it intensely. a silver lining to all this (for me) is that this christmas, i actually, for the first time, have legitimate gift ideas for tom. lots of bike accessories

      November 18, 2013
  7. shoe #

    First off, TexasDeb wins the prize for arguably best Tom-flame ever. Wow, Talbots cardigan. The woman is a genius. Second, has anyone seen how jacked Tom is looking these days? I’m counting at least three different tricep muscles in the photo above. Haters.

    November 18, 2013
    • yes his triceps are quite intense, i have commented on them recently, to his face. so there

      November 18, 2013
  8. He’s a Michigan fan. Of course he’s buying the Smiths. (I’d be buying the Smiths, too, but Warren Zevon’s always been my go-to sad sack.) The Lightfoot is confusing, though.

    November 18, 2013
    • YES. although now that i think of it, this smiths song is actually quite peppy from my recollection. i imagine gordon lightfoot is always confusing, no matter the context

      November 18, 2013
  9. Janis Gabriel #

    : Hahhaha! You guys are funny! 🙂

    November 18, 2013
  10. Ahh, boys and their bikes… Does Tom own the movie, Breaking Away? If not, it would make a great Christmas present.
    Mom: What’s the matter?

    Dad: He’s shavin’.

    Mom: Well… so what?

    Dad: …his legs.

    That Schwinn looks like a classic. Glad Velo Cult got their hands on it. I bet they loved it.

    November 18, 2013
  11. When it comes to Gordon Lightfoot, “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” or nothing at all. And really? The Smiths? For working out? Though I guess both working out and the Smiths make me contemplate my own mortality…

    November 18, 2013
    • Ok I’m going to admit that I only know one Gordon lightfoot song–the one about the rain–so I’ll take your word for it. He seems most sheepish about the Bryan ferry, actually

      November 18, 2013
      • LIghtfoot also has Sundown and If I Could Read you Mind… Sundown might be closer to workout-worthy, but it’s still a heartbeat above listening to NPR for pumping iron. Smiths I can maybe do…

        But if you haven’t been to spinning with him, it could be like that hotel workout you describe. So it’d be like a bunch of the Ann Arborite bike commuters that lope along wayyyy to slowly.

        November 18, 2013
    • i have gone to spinning with him about five times and can verify that he is working VERY HARD. and getting very sweaty. i also appreciate that you know more than one gordon lightfoot song

      November 18, 2013
  12. “And what about Gordon Lightfoot? Who plays Gordon fucking Lightfoot during a workout?”

    Um, who plays Gordon fucking Lightfoot at ALL these day?! I was feeling indicted, old, totally out of it until I hit that line in your post and now I’m just thinking I’ll go throw on a Talbot’s cardigan and sit here feeling smug and cooler-than-Tom.

    (My daughter went all spin-monster on us but then she took some time off, When she showed up to her first class in maybe 6 months, she pushed way too hard, puked on her bike and now won’t go back. The spinning – it giveth and it taketh away.)

    November 18, 2013
    • Tom reported last week that he burned 940 calories in a class. I don’t believe him but if it’s true, spinning certainly taketh away the calories. Puking in a spinning class sounds highly unpleasant

      November 18, 2013

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