Lance Armstrong, the Pope, the Holocaust & Bacon

14 Feb

Today, I offer: (a) sampler platter of stories pertaining to my recent life, and (b) a prize to whomever comes up with the best Jon Stewart-like pithy platitude based on same. I need some comedy writers for this blog.

Ready? Begin.

Lance Armstrong is a jackass. 

I finally watched his 2-part Oprah interview. What a creep. I’ll be the first to admit: I was a big-time Armstrong fan and long-time apologist for him. I fully bought into the whole LiveStrong-branded empire — bought the gear, wore the bracelet, even did the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic as an official LiveStrong Team member. I had tickets to see him at a now-cancelled Distinguished Speakers event. And I read “It’s Not About the Bike” three times:

  • First, shortly after it hit the NYT Best Seller’s list (w-a-y before I was into cycling) because it seemed like just a fantastically awesome story — and it was!
  • I picked it up again after I got hooked on cycling because I figured that I might learn something about riding. Turns out: Nope! The book’s title may be the only honest thing he’s ever shared — the book really is NOT about the bike!
  • And I read it a third time while recovering from my brain surgery because I was intrigued by the book’s subtitle: “My Journey Back to Life.” Turns out he did have a gem for me there: “One thing they don’t tell you about hospitals is how they violate you. It’s like your body is no longer your own, it belongs to the nurses and doctors, and they are all free to prod you and force things into your veins and various openings.” — That’s super true!

So, we now know that Mr. Armstrong is a pathological liar … at least while he’s “healthy” (we’ll save for another day the debate about whether he may qualify as a DSM-V sociopath or psychopath). It’s clear now that you really can’t believe anything the man says.

Extend the corollary then …

Perhaps the OPPOSITE of what he says is true.

Perhaps it IS about the bike.

That totally resonates with me.

The bike is true. When you’re on your bike and being totally honest with yourself you’re pretty much overwhelmed with truthiness. Good or bad. Weak or strong. Improving or backsliding. You can’t deny the truth of these experiences.

And if you’ve got TBI or a prosthetic limb, you really can’t deny the truth of your bike-based experiences. How you feel on the bike is perfectly diagnostic about what’s going on in your off-the-bike life. This idea was neatly encapsulated earlier this week on the FB wall of one of my Ride2Recovery buddies, Juan Carlos (JC).

JC’s Chinook was hit with an RPG in Afghanistan in 2006. The shrapnel injured his leg so badly that he required a below-the-knee amputation. He started riding ~6 months later and now –after a few years of training, kicking ass, and taking names– he’s an official R2R staff member and certified inspiration to many. Here’s what he shared with his FB Nation about riding:

One of the many reasons why I love cycling [is that] it’s not only good for your physical health but I believe it does wonders for your mental health. The sense of normality one gets when riding a bike does more than any drug that has been created in a lab.

Think of how amazing it was when you were a kid riding a bike, it felt like nothing else mattered! It teaches one to not quit and to overcome obstacles on the road just as in life. I always tell myself “things could be worse and many have had it or have it worse than I do.

We have NO reason to complain when we know that so many others in the world don’t even have the luxury to even move — something that many of us take for granted! Never underestimate the power of the human body and its abilities, overcome those obstacles and strive to outdo yourself, always.

JC is one of the reasons I support Ride2Recovery bicycling challenges. In fact, he is THE reason that I have accepted their biggest and boldest challenge yet: The Italy Challenge.

If you’re looking for something to get me for my 40th Birthday — next Thursday! — please feel free to make a donation on my behalf by visiting Just enter my name, CRISTIN ZEISLER, and the tax deductible amount you wish to contribute. Your financial support helps people like JC and Joe Jackson — another guy who’s near-and-dear to me as we both suffer from TBI [he got his in Iraq] AND spent time in the same hospital back in 2011. Joe just received his Purple Heart last week and he’ll be riding with us in Italy, too. He rocks. And he needs your support.

Future postings will provide Italy Challenge details, paired with pleas for your GENEROUS donations. For now though, let’s turn our attention to other Italy-based activities — namely,

The Pope’s Resignation

One of THE most ridiculous statements made during my wrapping-up and departure phase at Manatt was this:

Z, you can’t leave us! It’s like the Pope abdicating his throne — it just CAN’T be done!

After explaining to my lovely Jewish colleague that Catholicism does not use the terms “abdication” or “throne” in connection with the papacy, I suggested that my resignation likely would benefit Manatt and that perhaps the Catholic Church could reap a similar positive outcome should Benedict come to his senses and seek retirement. Theological debate ensued. Neither of us could name a Pope who had actually resigned (they didn’t teach THAT in Catholic school!), but we both agreed that the present-day Church would likely benefit from a leadership change, and I walked out of my colleague’s office saying: You never know, it could happen!

And so it has come to pass. And if anything can be judged from the Manatt exprience, I now have very, VERY high hopes for the Catholic church.

Let’s hear it for change!

Kudos to Pope Benedict for making room for change. May the new guy have the courage to right the Church’s many wrongs and restore its commitment to social reform and developing truly whole and holy persons. And may he (New Pope) not repeat the missteps of his predecessor in supporting Holocaust deniers.

Speaking of the Holocaust

Remember when I said “So, that’s that … except that it’s not“? — Man, THAT was an understatement-and-a-half!

From 2008 through the day of my departure, one of my top-priority pro bono projects was creating, developing, driving, and supporting the Holocaust Survivors Justice Network in partnership with Bet Tzedek. For all those years, whenever I spoke with “lay people” about our work to help Holocaust Survivors obtain reparations, dignity, and justice from Germany, the most common response was something like: “Wow, that’s amazing. You guys need to be on Oprah or CNN-Heroes!” For years, our marketing and PR teams worked to get stories placed in the media. We received many local, regional, or specialty press pick-ups, but we never netted the big fish.

And now? Two weeks -exactly- from the day I left Manatt, CNN is going to interview us!

We meet with the reporter at 3:00 today. The story will air sometime next week. So, yeah, I’m very far from being done with pro bono work — and now it is truly TRULY pro bono because no one’s paying me bupkis for this!

My Holocaust survivor pro bono work continues in other ways, too. In fact, I checked in on my “adopted Jewish grandparents” just this past weekend. They live in Palm Springs and since I happened to be in town for a bike race (Tour de Palm Springs), I decided to call upon them. George is not doing well — dementia and hemiparesis. Goldie is frantic with worry and totally overwhelmed with being George’s caregiver. Both appear to be experiencing mounting PTSD-like symptoms. It was not a pleasant visit for me, but judging by how ebulliently they greeted me and how deeply they hugged me upon my departure, it was clear that the visit was important and appreciated.

And to think I came thisclose to foregoing Palm Springs all together. Why?


I faced a dilemma of epic proportions last weekend: Bike? or Bacon? Tour de Palm Springs? or L.A. Bacon Festival? It’s like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. How can you choose between the two great loves of your life?

In the end, the bike won because it was WAY less likely that I could eat my way through the entire Baconfest offering than it was for me to complete the Tour. Plus, completing the Tour actually would enable, empower and entitle me to eat a serious amount of “celebration bacon,” whereas eating my way through the baco-rama would almost surely guarantee several days *off* of the bike.

And as we now know: It IS all about the bike.

Parting Thought: As a kid I had a dream: I wanted to own my own bicycle. When I got the bike I must have been the happiest boy in Liverpool, maybe the world. I lived for that bike. Most kids left their bike in the backyard at night. Not me. I insisted on taking mine indoors and the first night I even kept it in my bed. ~ John Lennon

PS – Let’s see whatchya got, aspiring comedy writers: Lance Armstrong, the Pope, the Holocaust, and bacon.  … Go!

5 Responses to “Lance Armstrong, the Pope, the Holocaust & Bacon”

  1. katerinadiaviano February 15, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    Okay Cristin–such a multifaceted essay–Plus I just read your comments about yourself and TBI. Re your various ups and downs–reminds me of my patients who, while not suffering from TBI, do suffer from dementia. I need to constantly remind myself that there is a real person inside their strange talk and actions.. I only wish I had the time to really listen to them.
    Love the analogy between your leaving Manatt and the Pope resigning. And I so agree that the Catholic Church needs to rethink its mission here on earth. (My sister-in-law, Louise, was always anti Roger Mahoney. Now I know why–another liar. Still I love to visit the Cathedral in LA. Can you let us know when CNN is going to broadcast your. piece?

    Kelly and Neal took the kids to the Museum of Tolerance ion LA a few weeks ago and they learned about the Holocaust first hand from a survivor. It truly left them in shock at man’s inhumanity to man and the power of the human spirit to overcome. Kelly says everyone should visit.

    Finally–Bacon?? I love bacon–all kinds, but especially Italian pancetta and speck. I probably would have opted for the Bacon fest, but then I don’t ride. Speaking of which, when is the Italian ride? Would like to meet up with you over there.
    Ciao and Buon Compleanno on the 21st.

  2. Sarah Fergusson Chambless February 15, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    I’m thinking you need to start a Hash for bikes and bacon, which would culminate in an annual “Tour Des Cochons.” Then you would never again have to choose. (The Hash is an international organization of goofy runners that conduct “beer checks” at every mile of their runs…. you could do the same thing, but with bikes and bacon.)


  1. Reality Check. | JustAdventures - February 15, 2013

    […] ← Lance Armstrong, the Pope, the Holocaust & Bacon […]

  2. Reality Check. | JustAdventures - August 21, 2013

    […] ← Lance Armstrong, the Pope, the Holocaust & Bacon Reality Check. → […]

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