Friday, January 16, 2009
Road Reflection 6: Eros and Thanatos
It is dark out. Fully aimless, I step into the driveway. I put on ear plugs, then my helmet. The new lid is a non-reflective matte black. Even at its cleanest, I can’t see a distorted reflection of myself in its curved surface. Geared up, I turn on the machine and press a small grey button next to the throttle. The engine coughs, then explodes into a cascade of harmonies. In its core there is oil and gasoline coming together in measured doses around a block of metal that was bent into its telos by the hands of cats I don’t know. The machine sucks in air and exhales. It grumbles and grunts and I wrap my legs around it because I want an exit, though I have no entrance plans. I roll out onto the streets and the metal beneath me gets hotter. After a few traffic lights the tires do the same and tell me, somehow, that they are ready for whatever I can give them. I am the first to the ramp after the light so I freely lean into the turn as it elevates to the interstate. The front tire slides on a strange patch of concrete near the exit of the turn. It jolts me a bit, but I knew it was there, so the jolt is not based in fear. It is amazing, the difference a little knowledge can make.
Minutes later I am at the strip. I forgot it is the weekend. The clubs are in effect. I coast to the parking spot among the other bikes. Well dressed people walk by, headed to clubs and other nightspots. A barely dressed woman in a group jokingly asks me for a ride.
Sometimes I forget about the presence that the machine bestows upon a motorcyclist in certain contexts. He becomes a particular type of person before his deeds issue the confirmation. Taken with the bike, he becomes appealing or attractive. There are many responses to such a status. Some cats just keep their heads down and keep rolling, having grasped the truth that the superficiality of this attraction is good for little more than flirtation and fleeting liasons. Some willfully pushed the myth, having grasped the truth that the superficiality of this attraction is good for little more than flirtation and fleeting liasons. Some just avoid those scenes altogether, having opted to ride on the road instead of in the public square. This is how me and my homies roll. On most days, anyway; tonight, I want tacos.
As I put hot sauce on my snacks I think about the attraction of two wheels. The bike, to me, is bit of a compulsion. A desire that is in not experienced as a desire. I don't want it. I just need it, as Maynard says. Recently, I have reached a point where, in order to develop my skills further, I need once again the safety of a racetrack. But that day is still far off. So I long for it like it is my beloved. Which it is, I suppose. An experience of danger, intensity and pleasure for which there is no equal and no substitute. Other than these tacos, of course.
On another day I meet the homies and ride to a global meeting spot. We roll onto a lot where hundreds of riders wait. Recently, a rider has been killed and we have gathered to mourn his loss with a ride. Soon, the gathering rolls out. On the road, the caravan stretches so far ahead that my passenger and I cannot see its beginning. More than two hundred strong, we brazenly stop traffic and run red lights. The police can do nothing. We put kickstands down on a service road in front of a grave yard. It is at a small intersection across from the graves that this rider was killed. A collision with another vehicle threw him off the machine, smashing his unhelmeted dome into the ground. It hurts me to learn that he was unprotected. It hadn’t rained since the accident. We could still see his blood on the pavement.
We gather across from this spot. A close friend of his speaks about the loss. The loss of a brother, he says. I think about this. So many of my friends have lost brothers. Or come horribly close. A moment of silence or nostalgia could never last as long as these cats deserve. And I could never cultivate enough fellow feeling to swim the depth of the families that survived them. The friend says a prayer and we head back to the bikes. I walk beside gravestones and acknowledge the danger of two wheels. Not like I always do. I don’t recognize the possibility. Rather, I feel the inevitability. And the only thing stronger than this feeling is my desire to ride.
In the days after I feel disjointed. I have a lot of work to do and ideas do not come easily. These text files need more sentences. This audio needs a few more cuts. I step out into the driveway and press a little grey button. The machine coughs, then explodes into a cascade of harmonies. Maybe I like the bike so much because it allows me to be the aimless cat that I am. It rewards me for it by introducing me to new roads and scenery. It’s risky and intense and the its feelings have no equal and no substitute. I hope that I will be doing this for a long time.