Mentor case

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One of the guys I ride with is Surfer Dan. When we first started riding together a long time ago I could beat him pretty handily. He was a tri-dork runner dude. But then he did the bike thing for a few weeks and I couldn’t beat him handily anymore. He did the bike thing for a few more weeks and I never beat him again.

We used to do suicidal attack-from-the-gun moves on the Donut Ride. Really stupid stuff, except for the one time we stuck it, which made all the failures worthwhile. Dan and I have had a lot of memorable rides together, like the time he fell on the bike path when he, Pablo, Holloway, Manslaughter, and I were on our way to do a super tough guy off-road ride on our road bikes.

He was pretty embarrassed because he’s an amazing bike handler, and the ultimate tough guy, so of course I named that part of the bike path Cobley Corner. He took it in stride, I think.

Dan is one of those guys who talks so much that sometimes you think he talks too much, especially about training. He’s super analytical, and well read, and is a superb athlete, and I’m none of those things except marginally well read, so on occasion I tell him to shut up, because he’s talking the training thing to death.

Of course it’s not me he’s trying to train; you can’t train a worn out old shoe. But if you are a new rider and you’re interested in getting better, and what new rider isn’t, Dan will share everything he knows with you, help you set up a training plan, answer your questions late at night, pat down your anxieties before a big race, lend you gear, and if you need it he’ll show up and do your workout with you.

Dan’s a mentor. Not a coach or a hired expert, just an old school mentor. He reminds me of the people I first rode with, guys like Fields and the Dicksons and Kevin Callaway the Good, riders who got pleasure in passing on what they knew. They all had different ways of mentoring; Scott’s was to take you seventy miles from home, get you lost, then check his watch and say he “had to get back” which meant you were either going to never get home or you were going to do a 70-mile TT.

Fields was much more analytical, and Callaway was exuberant. If he learned something, he had to tell you about it. Both of them loved it when they told you something, you used it, and it worked.

In any case, they were all mentors. They never got anything from it except the pleasure of passing on hard-won information so you could use it for your benefit. It’s as old as the human race, teaching people and getting pleasure when they succeed, or if they fail, getting pleasure out of knowing you tried to help.

I was talking to Dan about this one day and he laughed like he always does. There’s something about sharing what he knows that makes him happy. It’s his gift of giving that lets him receive.

Last night there was a big family blowup in my complex. Their family is collapsing. The mom had split for Japan, and the dad, who is a big, bullying drunk, was berating his teenage son outside. The son was so sad and broken and the dad hammered away at him.

“Get the hell out of here. You aren’t sleeping here, goddammit.”

The kid is probably 14, and I could hear him speaking softly, afraid. “Yes, sir.”

“Where’s your fucking mother? She go back to Japan? She catch the fucking plane?”

“Yes, sir.”

Then there was a bunch of unintelligible yelling by the drunk and stupid father. “Go to a fucking shelter. I don’t care.”

I could hear the boy standing there completely alone and defeated, nowhere to go, kicked out of his home, his mom on a plane, and nothing but the big, ugly, terrifying city of Los Angeles spread out like a claw.

“Ah, fuck it. Get the fuck back in here,” said the dad.

“Yes, sir,” said the boy.

It was the saddest thing I’ve heard in a long time, a kid being molded by the anger and failure and abuse of his father. That kid was in the middle of a maelstrom and he needed refuge. How was he going to get through school with his family falling apart? What was going to happen the next time, probably tomorrow, that his father blew up again? What was he going to do without his mom?

That poor kid. I thought about my grandson and felt guilty, a toddler who’s known nothing but love every single day of his short life, a child who’s got refuge and backup ten miles deep, and I thought about all the other kids in the world who are hungry, lonely, sick, abandoned, nowhere to go, no one to turn to, chained beneath the wheel with no way out.

Then I thought about my friend Dan and about how he selflessly reaches out to anyone who needs help, sharing his time, his passion, and if you ask for it, a place to crash in a pinch, a guy who cares about other people, and who, despite his imperfections, will lift you up and cheer you on if you need it, and who is always trying to help mold a better version of you

I went to bed that night and somehow slept soundly.

END

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