Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Brotherhood

I love being up early in the morning, when most of the world is still asleep. I've been up since 4:45 this morning, thanks to my faithful watch-cat, Midnight (I think she was the town crier in another life). She let me know, in no uncertain terms, that there were a couple of raccoons in my backyard. I love getting the bean brewing, hearing the gurgle and wheeze of the pot, and catching the scent of the deep murky making its way through the house. And then, that first sip, so like a sacrament, lets me know that it's another good day to be alive.
Today, like other days, I woke up with little idea of what to write (y'all could send me a topic now and then!), but upon opening my email, I was immediately inspired. I guess my family story posts are to continue. Some of you know that two of my brothers, Tom and John, own a company by the name of Velocity, that mainly deals in bicycle rims and parts made of lighter alloys. Tom owns the Australian based manufacturing plant, and John owns the US distributorship. What follows is an email I received from John, and I'm so impressed, and equally proud!
"Hi everyone,

Click on the Laekhouse link below, in the top picture you will see a guy holding a pair of wheels with our Deep V rim, below the first picture is another picture, actually the same picture only with a light shining on the wheels. There is a vinyl-like material wrapped around the rim that is very reflective. The fixies, the messengers, the bicycle community in general are going ape in anticipation of these rims. The rims are made by my brother and his crew in Australia, but the reflective material is applied by Laekhouse in NYC. Imagine how incredibly cool they look when a pair of headlights hit them as they are rolling down a dark street. These reflective rims just may save some one's life some day.

Also, just above the two pictures is: "Squid's Ellen appearance", make sure you click on that and you'll see our Deep V rim on the back of a messenger's bike that appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show. No one outside the cycling world would know it's a Velocity rim, in fact most people outside the cycling world don't even know what "Velocity" is. That's okay, inside our little industry, Velocity's legendary stature is growing with each passing day. Now we can tell people that Velocity products have been seen on Shaquille Oneil's bike, Robin William's bike and have been on a national television show. We must be "the best name to ride with"! That's it, I will be available for signing autographs from 4:00pm to 6:00 today in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria. Please form a single file line.


Check it:
Make sure you watch the video in the first post too.
Ethan Benton"

All three of my brothers are men of power (there's Mike too). Not the kind of power that rules the world, but the quiet power that changes the texture of an ordinary day. When I'm in their presence, whether collectively or individually, I feel it in waves. It's a power that comes from deep intelligence, lived dreams, and an obvious joie de vivre.
Long ago, early in his elementary school years, Tom had a terrible time with spelling and writing. The teacher called my parents in for a conference and told them, "Face it, Mr. and Mrs. Black, your son is stupid." Of course, my parents stormed out of the conference in a fury. No one in the Black clan is, by any stretch of the imagination, stupid. Tom proved that in spades, and flipped 'em the figurative bird in the process. This is the same kid who went on to get his pilot's license when he was 16 years old and then proceeded to build his own airplane, using a volkswagen engine, his senior year in high school. He still can't spell worth a damn, and his handwriting is horrible, but who gives a shit?! Tom moved to Australia over twenty years ago, and as an avid cyclist, had this nagging idea that he wanted to build a better bike rim, went ahead and did just that and started marketing it. His whim has turned into a highly successful business. When I met up with him last Fall, I asked him if this was what he'd envisioned for Velocity. He gave me the classic Black smirk and replied, "Heck, I just wanted to build a better rim."
John started distributing for Tom in the US nearly as many years ago, using his garage and basement as a warehouse. He did it "part time" outside of his job as a sales person at a bike shop, until it was lucrative enough to quit and make it a full time occupation. He, too, has built Velocity USA into a company that thrives and provides more than adequately for his family. He did this without a formal education, he simply believed in the product. His sincerity and integrity (along with the quality of the product itself) were all the background he needed to make it a success.
Am I a proud sister? Oh yeah. Humbled too. My brothers set the bar pretty high. By the way, I'm not ignoring Mike here, he's a pretty darned impressive guy too - but that'll just have to wait for another post.
What's in a name? I don't know. But something about being Barb Black makes me feel stronger.

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