Thursday, March 4, 2010

Old Magazine, Fresh Perspective

Our school library is pretty lame. For some reason, it hasn't received any new magazines since I signed on 3 years ago. Living in a foreign country can sometimes leave you feeling media starved and a quick escape into a quality magazine can be a sweet indulgence. With this in mind I decided to grab a handful of old issues of Outside magazine. In doing so I uncovered a great article on Floyd Landis from July 2006. (I realize that he's the honourary captain of the evil black horde, but it was such a great article I figured I'd post about it in spite of that) Here's my favourite, laugh out loud section that highlights the quirky side of Floyd.

Landis, 30, is the kind of person other bike racers like to tell stories about. A lot of it has to do with the narrative potency of his background, including his escape from a strict, oldfangled Mennonite childhood in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County. A lot of it has to do with Landis's penchant for offbeat, memorable feats—like riding wheelies after detaching his front tire or seeing how many bags of airline peanuts he can eat during a cross-country flight (28, for those of you keeping score). The result is that his fellow bike racers are constantly telling and retelling Floyd stories, creating a highlight reel that resembles nothing so much as old Warner Bros. cartoons. There is "The Time Floyd Dove into a Dumpster to Get a Pair of Shoes" and "The Time Floyd and Z-Man Drank 30 Cappuccinos in One Sitting" and "The Time Floyd Rode the Tour de France Nine Weeks After Having Major Hip Surgery." The stories hang together because they have the same plot: a curious, unusually determined guy pushes against conventional limits, causing varying degrees of pain, humiliation, and triumph, not necessarily in that order.

Landis begins our visit by showing me something on his computer: an image of his grimacing face superimposed on the heavily muscled body of an ax-wielding maniac. Beneath the image, in stylish typescript, are the words I'M A HOMO.

"I e-mailed this to Lance and Z-Man and my wife," Landis says, smiling hugely. "Z-Man and my wife got right back to me—they thought it was pretty funny. I never heard back from Lance, though."

"I wonder why?" Z-Man asks, deadpan.

They contemplate this question with amused expressions, the two former U.S. Postal teammates tapping easily into a convenient theme: Landis's semifamous feud with another former teammate, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. The clash, which began in 2004 when Landis left Armstrong's Postal team, and reached soap-operatic proportions during the 2005 season, is now officially over. But it would be unlike Landis and Zabriskie to leave the scab alone, never mind any attempt at diplomacy. So they joke about it. Landis and Zabriskie might be riding the Tour for rival teams—Landis the leader for Phonak, the 27-year-old Zabriskie a key lieutenant for CSC—but it's instantly apparent why the two have been best friends since they first wore Postal blue together back in 2002.

"We were just wondering if, when this biking thing is over with," Landis says, "we could apply to Harvard."

Judging by the bookshelf, I offer, they might have a shot.

"We were thinking we'd get in based on life experience," Landis says.

"And death experience," Z-Man points out.

"We know how to kill things," Landis says with enthusiasm. "Killing things can be extremely useful."

"For eating," Z-Man says.

I ask what they eat around here. Bike racers are prodigious eaters, yet the cupboards and counters are distinctly bare. "We eat a lot of eggs," Landis says. "And we boil chickens."

"Boiling chickens," Z-Man says, in a Beavis-like voice. "Gotta boil the chicken."

"That's our philosophy, in a nutshell," Landis says. "You gotta boil the chicken. Until the bird flu comes. Then the chicken boils you."

"Boo-yah," says Z-Man.

Landis offers another of his philosophies, one that comes courtesy of comedy writer Jack Handey. "If life deals you lemons," Landis quotes, "why not go kill someone with the lemons, maybe by shoving them down his throat."

"Lemons," says Z-Man. "Leeee-mons."

I think the article was such a standout for me because he's such an interesting subject. After reading the article you just feel extra sick when you stop and consider how far his star has fallen. Oh how sweet it would be if he got his head screwed back on and made a comeback of his own. Too bad that's never going to happen.

I don't know, Duece. He seems to be doing pretty well for himself these days.