Mikey didn’t like anything. And can you blame him? It was the ’70s and ’80s. What was there to like? His parents were wearing bell bottoms and listening to disco. He feared imminent vaporization by way of nuclear missile. And the breakfast cereal was awful.
The kids today (never trust anyone who writes that phrase) eat acai bowls and artisanal sourdough toast. Life Cereal? It was basically packing material in a brightly colored box. Actually, the box wasn’t even that colorful.
Mikey’s siblings were horrible, abusive little shits willing to foist whatever flavorless dreck they could find on their little brother. And where were his fashion-backward parents? Was it a kids’ cereal commercial or an afterschool special about the unforeseen consequences of growing up in a broken home?
At some point, the product development wizards at Life thought, “What if we put cinnamon on these packing peanuts?” Cinnamon Life! Wow. Thanks, guys! Meanwhile, the rest of the industry was evidently on a cocaine-fueled, creative bender. Count Chocula. Cookie Crisp. I mean, those are just bowls full of sugar (i.e. cocaine junior). The creators of those cereals thought, “We’re all just selling puffed air anyway. What if we coat ours with something addictive?”
That’s real life (pun intended).
What does any of this have to do with bicycles? Well, imagine me in the role of Mikey. Imagine the bike industry shoving bowls of disappointing dreck in front of me to see if I’ll eat it or throw it on the floor. And then, of course, the money line, “Look! He likes it! He actually likes it!”
Speaking for Mikey and myself, “Yeah. Yeah. We like it. It’s fine. Just leave us alone to eat our breakfast (ride our bike). We’re not interested in being part of your Clio Award-winning 12-year campaign to get kids to eat packing material (buy an $8k dual-suspension gravity bike).”
JK, I’m saving up, even now.
The point is, we all know that riding bikes is fun. We don’t need a special bike to have fun riding bikes. We just need to ride. But the industry is always pushing and cajoling and shifting the ground under our wheels, trying to get us to accept some new thing we’re sure we won’t like (disc brakes, electronic shifting, etc.), only to find that, like Mikey, we actually do like it. But in liking it and buying it, we perpetuate this cycle of consumption that doesn’t really nourish our souls, but only changes the color and shape of the riding that does.
Warning: Radical Departure. Things are gonna get dark.
To me, Mikey is a bit like Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) in Apocalypse Now. You don’t know whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy really. On the one hand, he abhors war (cereal), but equally, he becomes an instrument of its worst impulses (selling packing material as cereal), so you identify with his cynicism and maybe even the way he commits these atrocities (Cinnamon Life) that are the logical end of any war (high-octane, sugar-infused breakfast dreck market verticals).
Whimsical aside: I like to imagine Marlon Brando in the college reboot of the original Mikey commercial. That gives me happy.
At the same time, you understand that, even though we’re all complicit in wars being fought in our names (i.e. feeding kids packing material for the most important meal of the day), at some point Martin Sheen has to come and kill us in our homes. That’s what Kurtz was saying, his face half lit, sweat beading on his shaved head, in the scene where he confronts Captain Willard (Sheen) about whether he’s an assassin or not. Willard says, “I’m a soldier, sir.”
Kurtz replies, “You’re neither. You’re an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks.” BOOM! Bringing it full circle!
He might as well have been talking to Mikey, or even to me, sitting there in my moist chamois, thinking I’d just had a perfectly good ride, only to find I’d spent the last few weeks inching my way up a river in Thailand, slowly losing my mind, and not knowing right from wrong anymore. And that’s before I’ve even had breakfast.