So welcome baby 2009...usher out the old and tired 2008. Was it a good year? In spite of all the worrisome headlines, I say yes. We had a very good financial year...Mike hasn't walked out on me yet...and most importantly, anyone who means anything to me is relatively healthy, and what more can you ask.
We braved 11 degree temps to hit up Stewart State Forest to welcome the new year riding on close to 4 inches of powder. In spite of the cold, the ride was awesome, and needed, as I had another opportunity to bond with some very hardy riders whose company I enjoy very much. There's never a complaint, and good natured bantering is expected, and welcome. After the ride, we headed over to the shop and BBQ'ed some chicken K-bobs, and pork tenderloin. Needless to say, it was all washed down with some very fine, and very cold micro brews...good company, good riding, and good food...how luckey can a person be?
I am starting my 20th year in the bike business, and as in parenthood, I blinked, and it just wizzed past me. I loved most every minute of both, and only wish I could remember all the best times as well as I remember the really bad times. I met some great people, and some not so great, but I'll accept both as an educational lesson in life. Our group has changed a couple of times, and each time there's redeeming moments, and most importantly no regrets. I have learned mostly, to keep an open mind and occasionally a shut mouth. Some would disagree on both aspects, but at my age I don't think I really care too much!
I have some really fine friends that I met through the shop, and have lost some the same way...
Each new year presents a challenge, and with the way the world is ever evolving, it is not easy to adapt to the difficult times presented. We are trying to be optimistic, and pro-active in the bike environment, and are always looking for new ways to make this fun and rewarding. Sometimes, it seems like a thankless journey, but as long as Mike and I are satisfied, I think we're on the right path.
Lots of great events planned for 2009, and tons of great riding. In October, I am heading to Moab Utah to do the 24 hours of Moab mountain bike race with 4 other guys....we are entering as a single speed team, and believe it or not, I will be 56 at race time. The youngest will be 36...what am I thinking??? One more challenge, and one more hurdle...when they close the pine box on me it won't really matter will it...so bring it on, here we come!
The next two months are pretty slow and allows us time to recharge...bikes get built, new paint applied, stuff rearranged, and lots of early afternoon naps...not so much for Mike but yours truly!
I wish for everyone who has read these columns, and supported us at Dark Horse great health, and happiness...I don't say this as a shallow cliche' but as a sincere gesture for your well being.
I was always a believer in each of us getting our turn at life, and hopefully making the best of it. There should be no regrets, and no shame in taking our best shot,..As in the past, I will make no resolutins...probably couldn't keep em anyway...I will continue doing what I have been doing since 1989, and hope that it continues to work.
On that note, I need to get in my PJ's, and settle down for the 24 hour Honeymooner's marathon. For whatever reason, I feel a true kinship with Ralph Kramden, and have known many,many Nortons in my life. Always looking to get ahead...always coming up with a sure fire plan...and always loving Alice, and realizing what he's got...That's me to a tee..."What a long strange trip it's been!"
"Yours in Upstate New York" George
With all the stress of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday behind us, assuming we all survived, any good news would be a welcome relief. With stampedes at Wal-Mart, and retailers paying customers to take their products home, we proved we knew the real meaning of the holidays! Gimme, gimme, I got mine...apply, rinse, repeat....repeat until you believe it!
The good news we received today as a nation is, and I know you won't believe it, is the Government admitted we're in the throes of a recession...who woulda thunk it! And we've been there since December of 2007...I didn't know, and where have I been? If the media didn't tell me, I could have ignored the $68.00 fill ups on my 8 year old car that I owe nothing on. Probably could have laughed off the 198 gallons of heating oil that cost me $790.00 as well! Kudos to the supermarket with their $4.69 gallon of milk, and the $9.00 chunks of New York State sharp cheddar cheese. Why not, they gotta eat too, right? I guess that's why the minimum wage checkout people save their smiles for after I leave...they only have so many.
The paper tells me the MTA needs to raise their mass transit fares. With 6 workers caught on film standing around the train platforms watching a guy turn a screw must be strenuous work...did someone mention throwing in unlimited sick time, vacations, and health insurance...no wonder they're smiling all the time. Nice to see employees happy at work...that is providing they have a job at all.
Oh, and let's not forget the big three auto companies. How could they stoop so low as to send their CEOs to a Congressional investigation on separate private jets. I give them credit for expediting the trip so they could sit and explain their hardships to the general public, who by the way, have no time to watch since most are working two jobs trying to make ends meet. Let's chip in our BILLIONS in tax dollars to buy them tissues with lanolin to dry their tears of remorse (NOT) and wet wipes with lanolin for us for where we've been taking it! You go Toyota, and Nissan!!!
The word "Bailout" has become the new pink! Corporate giants are screaming out a monetary S.O.S. Save us, and we'll start to work for a dollar a year. That is right after we shuffle our millions of dollars of golden parachutes to a safe haven.
There's an old saying in the bike business..."Know how you make a million dollars...start with two million!" Tough times make tough business people. Small, honest, concerned neighborhood businesses once were, and should be again, the backbone of our social being. As children, we respected, and admired the local grocer, candy shop owner, florist, gas station owner, etc. We knew them and they knew us. Their children were our buddies. When we needed help, and were ashamed to ask, it was offered without hesitation, because we trusted and needed each other to survive. We learned by respecting others, to also respect ourselves.
I fear too many small businesses will not weather this financial crisis. It makes me sad that good, honest people, through no fault of their own, may go under. Whether too proud to ask or not, do you think our government gives a damn about them? We have nothing to offer but our hard work, and taxes. The CEOs that have sucked the system dry for far too long deserve no better treatment...the sad truth is that the employees now will suffer for the Corporate misgivings...that is criminal! Any one who is willing to work, and play by the rules, deserves the chance, nay, the right to succeed.
Only time will tell if our new President can and will make a difference. He is inheriting an awful large mess, but in his defense, seems pretty confident he has a handle on the situation...hopefully he surrounds himself with folks that are like-minded!
As of the third of December, I vow to put my resentment on hiatus, and will reserve judgment for the new year. I am going to concentrate on doing my best to demonstrate the goodness that is the holiday season. As in Thanksgiving, I will revel in my family, and enjoy my friends. I will shop local, and eschew mail order, and the mega malls, and use my credit card only at the Hess station. I will try to make the checkout lady at the market smile by offering a smile myself, and joking about the price of cheese. If any children at the schools need a good winter hat, send them over here...I have a box full that I can't sell even at cost, so have one please...I will bail you out. I don't have billions, only about six, but they're here.
I will do my best to turn the economy around this season....why I might even think about buying a new car with a big trunk that will fit all the free money I can cram in, and still leave enough space for a wreath, and a case of Pabst...on sale of course!!!
Happy Holidays, stay healthy, love life, and be thankful for what you have...there's always someone looking up to you!
"Yours still riding and writing" George
As a young boy growing up in Bergen County New Jersey, I found that during grammar school days, I was embarrassed by what my father did for a living. To my friends, he was considered a "grease monkey", and what that meant simply, was that he pumped gas. The upside was he pumped gas as an independent owner operator, not an employee.
In the 60's he owned, and ran two Texaco stations on routes 46 Westbound, and East, and along with his brother, my uncle, and one other guy, serviced the commuter traffic heading to and from New York City. This was before there were huge concrete dividers, and the traffic back then was no more than what we see on local roads today. I remember him running across the highway when one side got too busy to help out, and with running and working six days a week, still never managed to break 235 pounds.
He eventually sold those two stations to take over a Texaco station on the Garden State Parkway, situated between the north, and south bound lanes at exit 172, where Jersey meets New York. For the next 22 years, he ran that station, and did quite well for himself, I might add.
At 13, I used to go up with him on the 35 minute drive, and he would treat me to breakfast at the Paramus diner, which I always thought was cool. Here we were eating amongst truckers, cops, and assorted suited professional looking people, and no one paid us any mind.
My job back then at $1.00 per day was to walk up and down the entrance and exit ramps picking up garbage, then sweeping up the 2 bay garage while stacking upwards of 200 cases of oil...man, that was sweet pay back then.
I never realized that this man, who quit college in his sophomore year when my grandfather died, to take care of his family, was preparing me for a life where I would be able to take care of my future family. The $1.00 per day was more than money...it was a lesson in self-respect, and hard work, and appreciation for what it takes to earn an honest living.
In all the years I had the good fortune to be my father's son, the two best pieces of advise he gave me were, "be fair and honest in dealing with people", and "if you don't have the cash, don't buy it!"
I have adhered to those two teachings, and in the midst of all this bailout garbage, and times of ridiculously mounting debt, find myself getting more and more angry that our government couldn't even follow those two rules.
We were never rich, but had a nice little house, food on the table, and decent clothes for school. We never had fancy cars, and never took expensive vacations. If my father didn't have the cash, he didn't buy it...it was that simple. I remember friends and relatives who got into financial trouble coming to my father to bail them out...and to this day, I don't know why, he did. I do know that a lot of times, he never got paid back, and even though we knew that, never mentioned it to him.
I don't have the answers, and don't profess to be smart enough to come up with a solution to the mess this country is in today, but I do know that by listening to, and taking to heart two little pieces of advice, from a great common man, have provided my family with a comfortable life...one of which I can be proud.
I am not rich by any means, and I work my butt off dealing with an angry, and scared public every day. I don't owe any one any money except the bike companies, that do a great job of reminding me...but that's ok, because I love what I do.
I often think what my father, who died in 1989, would think of me today. He did a good job raising me, regardless of what my feelings towards him might have been back then. He was honest, moral, hard working, and he loved us dearly. While running up and down the parkway, garbage bag in hand, he planted the seed for what was to become my life's work, and for that, I dearly thank him.
So, if any of you know a politician who might listen, feel free to forward this writing to them, and tell them that all this good advice comes free of charge...free of charge from the father-son team who pumped more gas, and checked more oil, and wiped more windshields than bills that were passed in Congress! Remember, "You can trust your car to the man that wears the star"...whether you know it or not, I still wear that star in my heart! Thanks Dad!
"Yours in cycling" George