Sunday, June 19, 2011

Laughing Dog Bicycles. John Dwork's Skateboard. Ni Carborundum Illegitimati.

Parker Ramspott has owned and run Laughing Dog Bicycles in Amherst since the days when Henry Rollins was in Black Flag doing shouted word, not spoken, and downtown Amherst still had more of its own spark. In fact, I think it started as a skateboard shop; the punk rock answer to Doug Dale's shop Peloton.  Yesterday, as I bought a bike from him, we bitched like the old men we used to make fun of about "kids today" while his 20-something employee Jessie affixed a basket to my new cruiser. Jessie quipped from the back, "if you two are so smart why are you so old?" He had a point.

Parker, who does his best to compete with bigger stores on Rt. 9 and elsewhere reported that Nat across the street at Amherst Books was getting online textbook orders from UMass Amherst students that wanted him to ship the books to their dorm, one mile away.  Come on kids. Take a walk will ya? I hate to be overly sentimental but I'm a little bitter about the struggles of some of my favorite local "mom and pop" shops in the wake of the closing of Pleasant Street Video.  Not that they deserve to prevail just because they're locally owned. In fact, with so much at stake you'd think some of the local stores would be a little nicer to their customers. I would have bought my bike in Northampton if the shop I visited recently even feigned some interest in helping me when I stated outright, "I am here to buy a bike today" and hung around for a while to wait my turn.  And don't EVEN think that I am one of those cloying Valley types that wants a clerk to get up on their hind legs and bark for me to win my patronage. At Laughing Dog in Amherst, you don't have to beg.

Note the Latin above the logo: Ni Carborundum  Illegitimati (roughly: Don't let the bastards grind you down.) Parker know his bikes and you can tell because he uses phrases like "your tires are a little roached, man." I bought a sweet Gary Fisher bike from him and rode back to Northampton on the ever more lethal and notorious bike path made of broken glass which, while certainly a sad and embarrassing state of affairs, generates a considerable amount of tire repair business for the local bike repair industry. Parker says a shard he pulled out of one tire bounced off his retina which, even more horrifically, made a clicking noise as it did so.

Okay, please gather around, be silently reverent, and behold:

No. Don't touch it. NO. Don't even look at it.

Hanging over the Laughing Dog door is an impossibly awesome golden age of skateboarding (Tony ALVA, not Hawk era) Sims Taperkick longboard with Tracker wides and OJs. It's like Action Comics #1 or Amazing Fantasy #15. And it belonged to the legendary John Dwork who most people know as "the dude who majored in Frisbee at Hampshire College" though of course there are no "majors" at Hampshire and the 1984 degree was technically called "Flying Disc Entertainment and Education."  John was also the editor of the Deadhead bible Dupree's Diamond News (his more credible answer to Relix) and the author of the three-volume Deadheads Taping Compendium.

Parker always has some sonically joyous music blaring in the workshop and said I should check out some bands for my radio show:  the Dirt Bombs who used to be The Gories and Soft Pack who used to be The Muslims. At our age, the bands we loved are already onto their second or third incarnations.


Veritas said...

I believe Parker bought the shop (which was previously "Bicycle World" remember "No Bullshit Bicycles"?) in 2000 A.D. or so... even though he likes to say that he has "owned" and "operated" the shop for "20 years". Was Henry Rollins doing "shouted word" in 2000? I believe Parker was an employee at Bicycle World, no?

It's not like he "started" a bicycle shop... he purchased an already successfully operating bike shop.

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