12.03.2009

Reason For Being

Lincoln's finest, baking those cakes

In the spring of '79 I spent every nickel of the 1,200 dollars I'd saved my junior year on a '71 Cutlass and a U-Haul trailer hitch. This car and that hitch towed me, the brothers Esser and our friend Kerensky Bullard on a 15-state BMX tour called the NBL War of The Stars. The star that year was my best friend Greg Esser, who won 12 of 13 main events in route to the '79 NBL pro title. The rivalry between California and Florida had gained widespread attention in the BMX media that year, and sharing the pits with the Sunshine State's heaviest hitter had its privileges. The best teams from California had taken notice of the action east of the Mississippi, too, and their presence on our turf presented fruitful sponsorship opportunities to anyone with the right stuff.

One such squad was the mythical Torker Factory Team headlined by SoCal heavies Eddy King and Jason Jensen. A sweet lady named Doris Johnson was the chauffeur, chef, team manager and mother figure for that squad, and her popularity in the pits could not be overstated. Doris was the surrogate mom every road-weary BMX racer wished he had, and she relished the role. Since my own working-class mother never watched me race, I latched onto Doris like a tick.

Another lonely son in the summer of '79 was Doug Olson, Torker's hulking 16 Expert from Nebraska. Doug was a fast racer and an imposing physical presence in his own right, but given the mega wattage of his teammates, the view Doug and I shared off the track was more rooted in reality than that of our friends Esser, Jensen and King. I liked Doug's corn-fed authenticity, and he seemed to enjoy my trackside tomfoolery. As the leaders of our respective road crews, Doris paid Doug and me a different kind of respect than she lavished on our speedier peers.

As summer unfolded, my own Team Esser and Doris's Team Torker grew closer. By the end of August, Doug and Doris made me an offer I couldn't refuse: Torker Factory co-sponsorship. Nothing I'd accomplished in the back of the pack could have inspired Doug and Doris to such generosity, so my gift of gab had to be the deal closer. It was a gift I would exercise on Torker's behalf until my last race in October of 1982. At that race, Doris and Doug blindsided me with another offer that was too good to be true: a position on the Torker payroll.

I moved to California in December of 1982, and Doug and I became workmates and best friends. Because Doug was studying for his engineering degree at Cal State Fullerton, his time at Torker was sporadic. After school and work, I hung out with Doug and his friends at the CSUF dorms. On weekends we headed to Hollywood for live music and chiliburgers at Tommy's in LA. As two like-minded hillbilly BMXers, Doug and I immersed ourselves in the SoCal lifestyle completely. Eventually, however, his intellectual pursuits and my own skip through the bike business sent Doug and me on different paths. After a brief reunion around '95, I resigned myself to the likelihood I'd never see the guy who helped get me my first job in the BMX business again. Then lo and behold, Facebook came to town…

Last night, after a 14-year hiatus, Doug Olson and I met for dinner at The One Restaurant in Taichung. Turns out Doug is a regular at The One Hotel, and his sultry Eurostyle suite is just a five-minute walk from my own humble haunt in Taiwan's industrial hub. Doug is building a business partnership with some Taiwanese friends and investors, so he has deemed it necessary to rent an apartment. If my own Taiwanese friend and business partner gets her new warehouse, office and customer dormitory off the ground, Doug and I might be seeing a lot more of each other around here.

Thirty years ago Doug and I were bullshitting about Ashtabula cranks in the back of Doris Johnson's motor home. Last night we picked that conversation up where we left it off in a skyscraper 15 miles east of The China Sea.

How the hell does that happen?



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2 comments:

JPR said...

Probably the same way the only French restaurant I've eaten at was with you in Taichung, who the fuck knows?

TEAMSANO said...

what a fantastic story. the world ain't so big...