The Way We Were: The Future's So "Meh" I Gotta Wear Pom Poms

This past weekend the Tour de France entered the Alps, and few riders had a harder time of it than Lance Armstrong. He was beset by misfortune after misfortune over the course of yesterday's Stage 8, prompting Versus commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen (seen here getting naked together) to observe that "Lady Luck" seemed to have finally abandoned him. From where I was sitting though (which was in a leatherette adult-sized bean bag), it looked less like abandonment than actual abuse--as if after seven consecutive years of "putting out" for him she she finally decided the relationship was over. Unfortunately, Armstrong seemed not to have gotten the message, so when he tried to casually slip his hands down Lady Luck's pants as he had so often before, she instead started swinging her purse defensively and a large ornate buckle hit him right between the eyes.

As has often been the case in the outsized career of Lance Armstrong, the day was also replete with symbolism, and few symbols in competitive cycling are more evocative than that of a lurking Thomas Voeckler:

Failed breakaway specialist Thomas Voeckler is the human manifestation of dashed hopes and thwarted dreams, and especially when clad in the French Tricolore (for the past 25 years the official "colorway" of unsuccessful Tour de France attempts) he is like unto a vulture, salivating (inasmuch as vultures can salivate, and I defer to any ornithologists on the subject of buzzard drool) at the prospect of impending death:

Click here to hear the sound Thomas Voeckler makes as he rides behind you, and remember that sometimes that creaking you hear isn't just your bottom braket; rather, it may also be your own demise.

Still, even if Lady Luck has moved on and is now flirting with Condator, Schleck, and Evans, with seven Tour wins stuffed down the front of his pants Armstrong will always be able to pick up somebody, and a selfless ride in the service of his team for the remainder of the Tour could even make him seem "sensitive" and allow him to tap into a whole new dating pool. In fact, he's already dipping his toe in this pool, since he plans to dig his "mankini" out of the mothballs and return to triathlon next season. Granted, it's a perverse pool even by competitive cycling standards, but everybody needs a rebound relationship, and he should be fine as long as he manages to avoid waterborne STDs (seen here under extreme magnification).

Speaking of being doomed, a reader recently forwarded me a video called "Courier Breed," which is a "documentary" about bicycle messengers in Boston:

Courier Breed - A Documentary on Boston's Bike Messengers from Brendan Coughlin on Vimeo.

I learned a great deal from this revealing documentary. For example, in recent years bike messengers have moved away from dark hues and tattered clothing, and are now favoring pastel tones and pom poms:

Evidently, "hoodies" are "out," and scarves with testicles are "in."

Also, I learned a lot about bicycle messenger history. Consider this conversation between the pastel nĂ¼-messenger and the orthodox messenger wearing the Hoodie of Yesteryear:

"This has been a job for fucking 200 years plus, you know?," observes one to the other. "Like, people been riding bikes, just delivering packages."

Obviously, messengers have been around for as long as there were messages to deliver, but bicycle messengers have not been around for anywhere close to 200 years. Inasmuch as the pennyfarthing (or "p-far") is roughly 140 years old, and its predecessor, the so-called "boneshaker," is not much older, one wonders what sort of conveyance a bike messenger could possibly have been riding back in 1810, when even the crotch-torturing "dandyhorse" was but a phantom throbbing in inventor Karl Drais's "pants yabbies." In any case, even though people have been delivering packages by bicycle since before the bicycle, the profession is now a moribund one--at least according to this messenger in the $2,000 outfit:

"I can't say whether there's any future in this business."

Now, you might think that, since messengers were riding bicycles for almost a century before the bicycle was even invented, they could not only predict the future but would by now have moved on to something better and faster that doesn't exist yet, like teleportation. However, instead they're just sitting around and complaining about how computers are taking their livelihood away. (In the messenger world, Computers are Immigrants 2.0.) They're also perpetuating "urban myths" about what it was like to be a bike messenger "back in the day:"

"There's no money to make anymore. Back in the '90s, you know, messengers used to pull in, you know, a grand or two a week."

Unfortunately, what this messenger forgets is that a crucial component of making stuff up about a past decade is making sure that nobody who remembers that decade is still alive. For example, as ridiculous as the "This has been a job for fucking 200 years plus" claim is, no early 19th century footmen are around to point out that this is untrue. On the other hand, plenty of people are old enough to remember that messengers in the 1990s were not earning six-figure salaries:

Indeed, adjusted for inflation, that $104,000 is more like $150,000 today:

In fairness to the messenger, he does say "a grand or two," not "two grand," but even the low end of this estimate has a typical messenger earning over $50,000 a year, and while I realize there's a myth in the under-30 "hipster" community that before that mean and nasty George W. Bush came into office "hipsterism" was heavily subsidized, I'm here to tell you that this simply was not the case. (Except for a very short period called the "dot-com bubble," of course, and I'm sure and Urban Fetch are the basis of these "urban myths.") In any case, I wonder how much bike messengers made in 1810. I hear they were paid their weight in gold bullion weekly.

But while it's easy to fabricate the past, there's no denying what's going on in the present, and the messengers in Boston clearly are just spending most of the day sitting around like dogs whose owners have long since lost interest in playing fetch, or like a Tour de France champion waiting for one last "sympathy tug" from Lady Luck:

Essentially, I suppose messengering has now officially become really cool waiting, and if "Quicksilver" were made today they'd probably just spend the whole movie sitting around in a park until the very end of the movie when the characters all fight to the death for a single job.

Incidentally, if you too pine for a past that never was and are looking for something to blame, here's a bizarre explanation of all that's wrong with modern society that was forwarded to me by another reader:

Change from Vernon Huffman on Vimeo.

Sometimes, though, the simplest explanation is the correct one, and the sorry state of current affairs might simply be due to the fact that people are no longer bothering to conceal their genitals:

To cute guy on bike on in tiny shorts with his dick hangn out - m4m (5th ave and Union)
Date: 2010-07-10, 4:04PM EDT

You were stopped on your bike at Union and 5th and your shorts were pushed completely aside so the entirety of your dick and balls could hang out the side of your shorts. As you rode off, your genitals bobbed up and down with every rotation of the pedals. Everyone was just looking at you like viewing a car accident.
I am sure there are plenty of places you could go where exhibiting your sweaty flacid junk would be appreciated, but visually tea bagging all the residents of Park Slope is not appropriate. Get it together brother.

I guess even Park Slope is not safe from the tea baggers.

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