Sunday, December 26, 2010

Riders in the Storm: Chapter Three


The Story of a Lost Love. Part Two


A great calm came over the sky. The rain ended more abruptly than it began and a careful gaze at the clouds would reveal traces of desperate moonlight.  Some bar goers took the break from rain as a chance to get settled for the night. They shuffled off to damp motel rooms and homely RVs. Those who remained at their tables stretched out into much needed space and the stormy revel of the roadhouse turned tranquil. The serenity of the weather would not last long. This was the eye of the storm and it would soon pass. 

In the corner, the riders listened on as the rider with the green helmet described the most important ride of his life. 

“I rode beyond my knowledge and skill. The fear of crashing and dying didn’t count for much in light of everything else that I could lose. So I pushed harder than anyone on the road could understand. I passed a motorcycle cop with a speed gun, but he didn’t follow. He knew I would be across state lines by the time he caught up with me. I wouldn’t have stopped for him anyway.”

He was suspended in his panic. All of the anxiety of his life was in his throttle hand, until the man himself ceased to exist and the only remainder was the bike on its harrowing trajectory. There were no cars, no cops, no roads. Just one person in one place and the brutish necessity of finding her before she disappeared. He could scarcely recognize it when it came upon him, but as he tread the exit for the airport he realized that he had been riding with hope. The sun was only just starting to set, but across the horizon he could already see the moon creeping beyond the clouds.

He made a parking space where there was none and shuffled through a moderate crowd to the departure terminal. He searched frantically from person to person, unsure if her hair was the same, if she still wore the clothing that he knew to be her style. He saw only a river of meaningless faces. 

Then a voice called his name. 

For a moment he was afraid to turn to face her, as though she were Eurydice and he Orpheus. As though turning back would forever banish them apart. But he turned and their eyes met and he breathed deep and exhaled every bad thing that had ever happened to him in his life. They embraced and he felt the surprise and joy in her body. There was little time, but together they walked outside where they could settle their lives in the nakedness between heaven and earth.

He told her that he knew that she was headed into something new and that he was happy she chose to make those moves. But he wanted to have a place again in her life. He wanted to reclaim the connection, to be a team again. He said that his bike had finally led him down the right road and that he didn’t want to ride another mile unless he could travel it once again in love. 

She saw in him everything she had ever wanted. She remembered all that he hoped for and knew the weight of the promises they made to each other long ago. Tears were falling before she opened her mouth to speak. 

As the riders listened to this final unfolding, the first of a million rain drops fell upon the roof of the tavern. Lit candles flickered as people came in from outside, seeking shelter yet again. While the commotion returned, the rider with the green helmet was transfixed upon the past, as though he were still there and simply relaying that which he could see plainly. 

“What did she say?” asked one of the riders. The rider with the green helmet cleared his throat and took a breath deeper than a fathom. 

“She looked down for a long while and arose with a face of sorrow. Then she told me that this moment was a testament to the world’s cruelty.”

She told him that her movement to a new place untold miles away was a reflection of her internal transition. She had developed new concerns and new dreams. She was prepared to face greater difficulty than she had previously known and the defining mark of this transformation was her finally letting go of the hope of their reunion.

She said that she had sailed through her whole life with him as an anchor, deep beneath the surface but always steadying and secure. He was one of the many anchors she had put down over the course of her life and she had felt no need to remove them. But like all people who have aged closer to dusk than to dawn, she was eventually confronted by the weight of her past. She saw the contingency of the responsibilities she had claimed. She saw the futility of her fantasies and the bitterness beneath promises that she had made. She had allowed life to confine her and one day she decided to shed it and grow a new skin. So, with great anguish and difficulty, she sloughed him off as well. She still loved him. She would always love him. But she could no longer allow herself to think that the way things might have been was a way that they still could be. 

It was in that moment that he understood the emptiness at the heart of all promises. The man who commits a crime reforms himself and becomes something different, so that he no longer deserves the sentence he is serving. The woman who promises forever can also become someone different. Her promise could have had the weight of the world when  she spoke it but now it is a vestige of a self long past. As the ground fell away beneath him, he understood that promises were the weapon of the insecure. 

“I had been holding her in place, reducing her to the past, unable to see that she was just like me, a person who needed to change, to grow into something else. My desire for her was a desire to recover so many things that I have lost over the years. I had to realize that it was too late. It was the hardest thing that I had ever done.” 

The rider with the green helmet left his beloved and the thought of her at the airport. He walked out to his bike and donned his gear. He rode away quickly, so that he would be forced to look at the road ahead and unable to look back. 

“It began to rain as I left the airport. A cold drizzle that brought the oil to the surface of the road and put a chill in my bones that has been there ever since. I must have ridden for weeks after that. I didn’t want to stop until I had found something else, something to ground me, to keep me in place. That thing ended up being the bike itself.”

The riders sat quietly at the end of this tale, as had become their habit. The rider with the green helmet wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and looked down into his drink as though it were a drowning pool for his grief. Then he took a drink, for that is exactly what it was.

Outside, there was no thunder. But the clouds rained on.

Continued…

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Redux: A Christmas Tale


Rudolph the reindeer was grazing late at night in the North Pole Green house. Christmas was less than a month away and the elves had switched his feed to a hybrid high protein and carb wheatgrass. He had to put on as much weight as he could, since he would need all the energy reserves he could get to make it through C-Day. Outside, the almost-dawn of the northern night cast soft glow on the horizon, backlighting the elf village, the toy factory and the Red House. Every roof was covered with a thick layer of snow. Rudolph looked up for a moment and sighed. “Same shit, different year,” he said. Reluctantly, he leaned back down to the grassy floor and continued to feed. Then he heard the rustling of the insulating flaps that hang above the green house door.
“There you are,” said a slurred voice from behind him. “You weren’t with the others, so I thought I find my main-deer and see how he’s doing!”
“I’m cool, Santa,” said Rudolph through a mouthful of grass. “I’ll be over at the stable in a little bit.” But the Man in Red wasn’t listening. Instead, he was looking out at the horizon while fumbling with the cap of a flask he had pulled from his inside pocket. St. Nick was a bit tipsy. And when he drank, he got all… happy.
“Isn’t it wonderful, Rudy?” asked Santa with eyes that glimmered with nostalgia and inebriation. “Soon we will be crossing the world, racing against time on a an eternal quest to bring joy to little boys and girls.” He took another sip of his flask. Rudolph’s animal olfactory picked up the scent of Schnapps from across the room. “Just think,” Santa continued, “on Christmas morning millions of nice children will look under their trees and find exactly the gifts they’ve been wanting all season. And all because of us.”
“They won’t find any Nintendo Wiis,” Rudolph mumbled between bites of wheatgrass. The comment briefly stifled the Yule tide of glee that was a drunken Santa Clause.
“Yes, you’re right. The Backorder from Nintendo probably won’t get here in time. But there are many other presents that have made it here and with any luck the Elves in the Tech Division will be able to fully reverse engineer the new ipods. Christmas will still be magical for all the world’s children.” Santa was still looking through the greenhouse’s wall of glass, so he did not notice Rudolph’s ears perk up. Nor did he see the annoyed grimace on the head reindeer’s fuzzy face.
“Why do you always say that,” asked Rudolph.
“Say what?”
“Say that we deliver to all the world’s children when you know we don’t?”
“Well … they, um… those other children, they…”
“They what?”
“Well, they don’t … believe in me. I can’t deliver presents to kids who don’t believe in me.” Rudolph, hearing this, became more upset.
“Don’t give me that. I’ve been through the Naughty/Nice List archive. We’ve delivered to George Carlin’s kids. We brought Elian Gonzales a damn Monopoly Board game. As if the irony wasn’t enough. Those kids don’t believe in you. But they get presents. Penn and Teller had to put “Do not enter” signs on their chimneys just to get you to stop stealing their cookies and disrupting the belief systems of their families. So come off it. The whole time I’ve been doing C-Day with you, we haven’t once delivered anywhere in Africa that wasn’t South Africa. We’ve never seen India. We’ve never seen China. And we order half our presents from those places. Just come out and say it, Santa: you don’t think those kids matter.”
Santa was flustered. “That’s not true, Rudy. You know me, I love all children. We just don’t have the resources to deliver to everybody. The world population has gotten a lot bigger than it used to be. A lot of elves have been leaving because of the melting going on here at the Pole. We have to make some tough decisions.”
“So you just decide to deliver presents to the children of the most wealthy nations in the world? Yeah, that does seem like a hard choice.”
“Now that’s not fair, Rudy. Europe is where I got my start. I have to stay faithful to my roots. I can’t desert the places that got me started. The best I can do is try to deliver to more and more places. You know I’ve been trying to get Mrs. Clause to put on a Magic Suit and deliver on C-Day as well. That way we can cover more ground.”
“Whatever Santa,” said the now pissed off reindeer. “Everybody knows Mrs. Clause just got tired of being your housewife and servant. We all know she’s been reading up on feminism. You’re just trying to give her something to do so she doesn’t leave ...” Rudolph trailed off as he saw sadness creep into Santa’s reddish face. After a pause he said, “Santa, I’m… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to …”
“No,” said the defeated Joy-bringer. “It’s okay. I guess it’s no secret that Mrs. Clause and I are having problems. And I haven’t really had to face up to it for anyone. All the elves and the other reindeer just look the other way. I’m the king of this world, after all. What made you want to call me out?”
Rudolph breathed a long sigh. He wondered if he should reveal the secret of his insight to this, the man who he resented the most here on the top of the world. Fuck it, he thought.
“You remember the times before I ran C-Day? When I was just a no-name reindeer with a funny nose. Those were hard days for me. All the reindeer in the stable called me ‘tampon face.’ When I was sleeping, they would tie my horns to a stable post and I would miss breakfast trying to get myself untangled. They hated me because I was different. For no other reason than a funny colored, bio-luminescant nose. It sucked. But then C-day came and it was too foggy for them to see. So you put me in the reigns. Everything changed for me that day. Overnight, I was loved and venerated. My difference was celebrated and it was everything that I ever wanted. Until I realized I never actually got it.”
“But the reindeer shouted out with glee!” Santa interjected.
“I know what the damn song says. But it’s all lies. They suddenly ‘loved’ me because of your favor. That was a show that they put on and you and the elves were convinced by it. Even I was for a time. But eventually I came to see that they resented me. They were jealous. Suddenly the quality in me that spawned ill will was the most valuable. Enough to put me at the head of the sleigh. They hated it. But they know that the North Pole is a place of joy. They saw what went down between you and Jack Frost. So they praised me in public and simply ignored me in the stables. You can barely hear praise that faint. You cared about me because I could light the darkness and they cared about me because your kingdom demands nothing less. That’s why I don’t eat with them to this day. None of them can look me in the eyes.”
A long silence followed, as Santa considered Rudolph’s story. Having poured out his heart, the reindeer held his head downward and closed his eyes. Almost everything had been revealed.
“Rudolph. I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry. I had no idea. Maybe I should talk to the reindeer, maybe I can…”
“No, don’t,” Rudolph interrupted. There is no need. I think it just might be time for me to move on. Maybe leave in the next elf migration.”
“No, I need you here, C-Day…”
“It’s not about what you need anymore. I… I’m done.”
Santa turned back to the horizon and looked long into the sky. Finally, he said, “I guess there’s nothing I can do to stop you. I just hope you know that I’ll always care about you.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Rudolph as he walked toward the greenhouse door.
At the threshold, he paused. Slowly, he turned back toward the Man in Red. “Hey, Santa. Why do all those people in the Netherlands think that you bring presents with the help of 8 black men?”
“Yeah,” said Santa. “I knew somebody would ask me about that sooner or later.”

End.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Skill, Nature, Community


Once I was at a jazz show where a performer broke out two woodwinds of some sort and began to play them at once. It was at the end of the show in a packed theater and everyone on the scene, performers and audience, were getting pretty crunk. The flutist guy was taking it to the bridge, so to speak, and the crowd was completely with him so he decided to bring just a bit more funk. He walked up to the edge of the stage and began to rock the house with his fluty jazz stylings. But he pushed his skills too far and he faltered a bit. You could see it in his body, in the concentration on his face. He ran out of breath and a couple notes fell flat. When this happened, people in the crowd stood up and began to encourage him. They screamed at him like, go on! Take it home! You got it, Brotha! And get it he did. He pulled it together and finished out the show like a champ. Applause for days. 

I think the crowd’s reaction to the musician's stumble and recovery reveals something important about the nature of admiration and skill. 

The stumble was an inadvertent disclosure of a biographical fact. The the musician was putting out mad effort to make the instruments sing. He told the audience with a few bad notes that he wasn’t a savant or some kind of prodigy. He was a musician who became good by rehearsing a lot and pushing himself. The crowd knew this and appreciated him all the more for it. His narrative deepened their respect. 

I feel the same way about motorcycle racers. I will always be a big fan of Cal Crutchlow because he regards himself as having much less natural talent than most of his rivals. He feels that he has had to make up for the absence of native endowments with hard work, which is a narrative that I can get behind. 

The split between natural talent and effort, I think, also discloses the blurred distinction between art and science in development of skills.

I think that the substance of natural moto skills is “feel.” Some people can get on the bike and just know more about what’s going on. Maybe they can’t put it into words, but they can use this knowledge to go faster around the racetrack and that is all that really matters. Keith Code once said that most of the fast racers he spoke with could never really explain what it was that they were doing to get such good lap times. I think this is a hallmark of a kind of raw aesthetic skill that I have seen in many artists. I have especially seen it in dancers, which is fitting because the proper riding of a bike is more like a dance than anything else. Mladin and Bayliss, as the mythology goes, are natural dancers.

I don’t mean to speak of art and science or natural talent and work as clear divisions. I seriously doubt a sustained look into the minutia of skill development will support such categorical descriptions. We should think of them not as mutually exclusive foundations, but instead as tendencies or inclinations that can have priority, that can wax and wane over a developmental path along with many other elements that merit consideration. 

So, even though Mladin and Bayliss are naturally talented dancers of the bike,  it is still the case that they put in incredible amounts of work. (Potential doesn’t mean much without the work to actualize it.) And there may be times in their lives where it is more science than art, albeit fewer times than Crutchlow might experience if the legends are true. Definitely fewer times than me. 

My own path in moto land has been mostly science. I mean that my skills have come slowly and only at the end of academic investigation. The snail pace of my skill development is almost legendary. I never had a natural sense of feel. I always began with a formulation, an idea or a piece of advice, and I had to reach out with my understanding to get a grip. So if Keith Code were to ask me what I was doing, I would have an answer for almost everything, though pointed questions would send me right back to the drawing board. Essentially, I have used science or methodical investigation to beat the feel into my body. 

It seems to me that a progression like this can make a rider without a lot of natural talent into a safe rider. Often, riders who are just starting out will make hard maneuvers on the basis of balls alone. Because they come out of it okay, they don’t reflect on their technique or understand the forces at work on the bike. Having conflated audacity with skill, they eventually ask too much of a corner or a traffic situation and down they go. What’s worse is that they won’t fully understand why they fell, so the bike will seem indeterminately threatening and it will be extremely difficult to get their confidence back. This is why it is easy to find perfectly good bikes for sale with stupidly low miles on them. 

There is another element at play in the development or refinement of skill, one that has been implicit in our discussion so far.

The jazz musician performed with other performers for an audience. This was the context whereby his skills came to mean anything at all. His artistry was created and sustained by his relationship to these elements. So it goes with a good rider, naturally talented or not. Stunters learn tricks from stunters. They create new tricks by challenging each other. Out on the road, a fellow rider might point out a bad riding habit. A club that rides together knows the etiquette of group riding. A rider’s community determines and develops the skill sets that he employs. Which is why there is nothing to be learned from riding with fast assholes except perhaps how to unexpectedly get a bone fracture.

I am always yapping with the Orange and Green Ninjas about technique. They approach things differently and use different descriptions, so I benefit from the variation. After all, a community that speaks with one voice is deaf to itself and others. 

Ethicists have spent serious time trying to figure how rewards should be distributed to those who achieve much with their natural talents versus those who achieve the same with greater effort. In the public sphere, we don’t spend too much time on such deliberation; we just wear the jersey of the guy that scores a lot. But perhaps we should reshape our admiration gauge to give credit to those who do the best that they can with what they have. Maybe in that world, we would love Jacob Smrz as much as we do Valentino Rossi, with the award going to Nicky Hayden for his lastest campaign on the Ducati. Seriously.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy

A homeless man smiles at me showing no teeth
A young man laying dead in the cold streets
He was a victim, beaten bad by the police
And every day another funeral, there's more grief
And every day I like to pray when I see the sun
And if there ever was a lost tribe we the one
In every hood, there's a project with us in it
The old man in the dust goin' nuts - finished
Years before they used to say he used to own a business
Caught him on taxes
Guess you're black, you got to know your limits
And everybody try to be happy some way
I think of dinners in the winters on a Sunday
And everybody's poor but we always pulled through it
'Cause of Marvin's influence
We always played his music
My pops said he was a troubled man
Courtesy of Uncle Sam
Then I hit the streets and start hustlin'
But I can see my grandmoms when she dressed for church
A stylish hat, white dress with a matching purse
And I could hear her singing loud 
With the choir marching in, with the face of joy
Proud 'cause her heart's with Him
And she could live everlasting in pure peace
No longer worried I speak to him before I sleep
And I stood by the door when she came at me
She said You got to endure 
and learn to be Happy


-Killah Priest

Monday, December 13, 2010

Memoriam

A friend of mine once wrote that life is the only real cause of death. Life is granted, we come into existence and slowly life takes away from itself until there is nothing left but the memories of others and records in the ether.

On December 12, 2010, Carrie May Russell died of life in a hospital in Alabama. She was the last of her mother's many children to enter the grave. Her absence is felt by her child, her grandchildren, her great grandchildren and many others who had the fortune of knowing her.

Carrie May took care of many. She cooked food, drank gin, gambled and dipped snuff. She did not suffer bullshit. She walked many miles across the Old South, the South that my own child will never understand, much less know. She saw Martin Luther King give sermons and she turned her gun on enemies and friends.

She was my grandmother.

She would sit on the porch as I played on the farmland. She told me when to tend to the pigs or feed the chickens or till the soil with the tractor. She called me out for being a mama's boy. I ate her cornbread and watched her make stew over a cauldron. She watched me when my mother went off to work and spanked me for my misbehavior. She was my grandmother.

If there is a heaven, she will tell Jesus that maybe he should watch his mouth because the dead don't bury the dead. She had to bury many in life and now her family will bury her. The earth will swallow her body and everyone dressed in black will forever feel the ripples of the wake.

We tell the departed to rest in peace. But Carrie May will rest however she damn well pleases.




Here is an interview from a couple years back. Her last recorded words.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Surfer, Distance, Home


In the pantheon of Marvel Comics characters is a dude called the Silver Surfer. He is an immeasurably powerful cosmic entity that cruises through outer space on a surf board. From his earliest appearance in comic books, he was a reflective soul; he struggled to understand the hopes and cruelties of human beings, as well as the other sentience in his fictional universe. Though he could travel anywhere in the bounded infinity of time and space, his most important explorations were internal. Such a dedication to wandering self-reflection makes me think that, were he a mere man, the Silver Surfer would ride a bike. Sometimes the road feels so hostile and alienating that I wonder if my ride is any different from drifting without gravity or understanding in some silent void. It is not a feeling that happens often, but there are moments when I feel so far from home that I don’t know if I will ever get back. There is nothing I can do in that abyss but hold the throttle steady and hope that I can return. Still, sometimes I wonder what has changed more at the end of a long journey- the traveller or home itself. I doubt that even the Surfer can call it. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Fractured Reflection on Riding Within One's Self


Okay. I am going to briefly consider some new bike tech. But ultimately, I am going to make a point that is more spiritual than technological.

Let us limit our domain, for a moment, to sport bikes. These are machines that are made to go fast. Faster, in fact, than  90 percent of sport bike owners can take them into straights as well as turns. But in addition to speed, they have other characteristics that distinguish them from each other, for better or worse. These differences can be quite subtle, only discernible by those who have sensitive tastes. They can also be quite categorical, like the difference between fifty foot pounds of torque and a hundred. For a prospective sport bike rider, this diversity makes for a beautiful if overwhelming world. 

Still, one can unify this diversity under one banner: they are all bikes that do what you tell them to do. But a new type of bike has finally arrived and it requires us to reconsider some things.

The advent of traction control and anti-locking braking systems have changed bikes in an interesting way. Such bikes no longer do what we tell them. If we ask for full throttle, they might give us less than full throttle. If we ask for all the brakes in the world, the bike will cut that request back by a crucial degree. Certainly, it is still important to our well-being and our racing line that we take care with our steering inputs. But the other mind, the one tucked away in servos and circuit boards, is there to filter our movements, to augment our performance. It has been this way with our cars for many years. But now is the rise of the machines for motorcycles and we would do well to reflect on this.

I think it is sensible to think that one is not riding alone when one rides such a bike. It is easy to see this as the sea change, the point after which nothing will be the same again. I can dig this perspective and I don’t mind it. But I feel that this moto-discourse is always painted with broad strokes and I want us to adopt a different vantage point. 

Instead of seeing the computer revolution as a maligned or welcomed revolution in motorcycling, one that takes away from or gives life to our favorite activity, look at it as merely one option among many. In other words, think of all the bikes out there as potential answers to the question: what kind of rider do I want to be? 

Debates over bike technology tend to start with racing and then somehow be superimposed on the majority of the motorcycling public. But those guys aren’t like us. The vagaries of traction control, engine mapping or even fuel injection mean something fundamentally different to Spies and Hayden than they do to us. They ride to win at all costs. They will lose weight, get surgery, isolate themselves from their friends. We go to work, ride on the weekends, do an occasional track day. We can’t think that their debates are ours or that the curve of their development is imperative to our moto lives. The question that I pose—what kind of rider do I want to be?—is intended to bring us down to our own levels.

The ‘04 zx-10 is fucking nuts. The ‘06 CBR 600 is butta smooth. The ‘09 R1 exhaust note is a straight eargasm. Do you want to exercise incredible restraint for most of your time on the road? Do you want to ride with more abandon and not worry too much about certain consequences? Do you want to be lulled into the machine by its mechanical noise? Take away the pressures of your friends or your immediate riding community. How does this sound to you then? Consider the option of traction control? Do you want to be fast from your own hand or would you like your bike to make decisions for the both of you? Do you want to be faster than everyone else or does your need for speed transcend the desire to weigh yourself against others? 

If we think like this, it matters much less whether the next man has trick parts or if his bike is decked out with a funny crankshaft or a computer that can think faster than he can feel. We should ride our own rides, according to our own internally developed expectations. I feel like if we do this, if we start from more private and reflective desires, we will crash less. This is mostly a hunch, but I think that riding within ones private desires will keep us cool, much more so than living up to a public demand to be faster or louder. But more importantly, I think divorcing ourselves from capitalist cycles of development and the hype of the racing world will open new vistas of enjoyment, new possibilities of experience. 

I am tired of people saying to me, “is your bike really fast?” or “I don’t like 600s because they're too slow.” or a million variations on a tired theme. I would much rather hear someone speak on the musical mix of wind and exhaust noise, or the odd comfort that accompanies the constant worry that there will be headshake under acceleration, or the perfection of the seating position. Let us abandon the pursuit of pure speed and look deeper for the song that has been faintly playing for as long as we have been riding. 

I speak on this because it is a small world and the “long tail” of moto desires can be granted with no trouble. Also, I am tired of rolling up on riders who open their mouths to talk about bikes and spit pure cliched boredom. Lastly, as I continue the journey of my own moto path, I see that it doesn’t resemble Robert Pirsig or Valentino Rossi or my riding friends. And the more I let my desires grow on their own, the more I discover about myself, for good or evil. 

It doesn’t hurt that such reflection also makes me faster. Heh. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Riders in the Storm: Chapter Three




The Story of a Lost Love. Part One.

The people of the pub continued to speak and drink, though in the darkness of the power outage each clanked glass and raised voice seemed more percussive. In the dark the tavern suddenly seemed hollow, like a wooden barrel cast over a waterfall. Wielding flashlights, the wait staff carefully made their rounds. Even if the world had stopped, the alcohol would still flow. 

In the corner, the riders sat listening to the clamor. A windup radio on the bar offered familiar news. The storm was not yet done and its rage had cut power to many districts in its path. There was nothing to do but wait. 

In the corner two riders sat quietly while another went outside to check on the bikes. He returned drenched and was handed a towel and a cold bottle when he sat down. Together the men drank and waited for the beginning of the next story.

In the dark, they could not see the expression on the face of the man with the green helmet. In the dark they could not feel the weight of a story that he had never told. But an untold tale is a burden on every heart and before long the silence at the biker’s table was broken.

“If the devil isn’t real then I don’t know who I sold my soul to. All I know is forty miles was the distance I had to travel to get it back.” The rider with the green helmet paused, unsure of how to start a deeply personal tale. He began again.

“Not everyone knows the moment when they fell from grace. It is hard enough to know what path you are on at all, much less the circumstances that caused you to stray. Moments that seem to have no connection when you’re living through them form a terrible pattern through the lens of retrospection.” 

The men at the table listened as the man with the green helmet told them about a woman. He met her long ago and spent a good stretch admiring her from afar. They were friends, but at his core of styles he knew that she would have a greater meaning in his life. Before long, they were together and had figured this to be the truth of their lives. He loved her.

The riders understood the importance of the call to love, but one of them wanted to know why he loved her so. What was it about her that quenched his desire for love? The rider with the green helmet explained that there are no real answers to such a question. People speak of the qualities of their beloved, of her eyes or her smile or her kindness. But qualities are not reasons. They are just what we have in the place of reasons. Even the divinely inspired Song of Solomon is a mere list of tired similes and metaphors that justify nothing. The man in love rambles platitudes that can never express the content of his love. For love cannot be explained nor can it be proved. 

The rider lived with his love for many years. When she slept, he watched her and cried. When she danced, he wondered how a single soul could brighten so much darkness. She was the only truth that he had ever known. But knowledge comes at a price. 

“People talk about how they are made for each other,” said the rider, “about how they are soul mates. This is blind stupid romanticism. No, the parts that compose our bikes were engineered to fit together, to work in unison. There is no such grand design for a human relationship. To be with someone is to constantly adjust yourself, to overcome your habits and revise your commitments. A refusal to change is a sentence to solitude. Yet changing too much can be your own personal defeat, or just a sign that your one and only has become one of many.”

So it was with he and his beloved. Given enough time, the slightest arc in a straight line can create a perfect circle. And the smallest flaw can develop into an opaque blemish, unnoticeable until it sediments and cannot be wiped away. The rider could no longer understand his life with his beloved and he broke it off and fled from her.  

“People say that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved. But only the people who survive the loss are able to say this. The dead and the dying know differently and if we could hear their lament the lyrics of a million songs and poems might be much different than what they are now.” 

The rider carried his moments into months. Into years into decades. He sought knowledge, success and adventure. He would not say of his life that it was a vanity of vanities or that he was striving after wind. He experienced joy and frustration. A life worthy of a work of art. But in the night, when the minds of men wander without care for consequences, he thought of her. And in those moments the vastness of years past seemed dull. He had never replaced her. He closed up a part of himself that could have no entrant but one and in doing so, he closed off all chances of happiness. But he always held out hope for the promise.

It was a claim made in love and resignation. Since people grow apart they can also grow back together. Perhaps when Saturn descends or when they each cross a great life milestone. He told her that he might come for her again one day. He wanted to know if she would accept him should such a day come. She said that yes, she would. The future was an open possibility and she would always be open to him. It was never too late to be at home.  

In the dark hours of his life, this was the only thought in which the rider with the green helmet took comfort. He and his bike travelled many roads, some of which were unmapped. But he never crossed a trail that wouldn’t lead back to her.

It was inevitable then, that their paths would cross once more. On a ride to a faraway place the rider encountered a mutual friend. She was surprised and happy to see him in a diner at the edge of nowhere. They spoke on the trivialities of history until they approached the only subject about which the rider cared. How was she doing? 

She told him that his old love was set to go away, perhaps a far away as a person can travel without going round the curve of Earth and coming back again. That she would be gone for many years if not forever. His old love had grown dissatisfied with her city and her life path, so she was starting a radical shift. 

He asked when it was that she was leaving; perhaps he could push past the awkwardness and disappointment to wish her well and reflect one last time on the joys of the past. He learned that her exit was immanent, that even now she was headed to a small airport in the next state. Her exodus from all she knew was not even two hours away.

The rider sat for a moment considering this news. From the third, any who saw him would say that he sat at the table of the diner for only a few minutes after his friend said her goodbyes. But on the inside, dawn had turned to twilight. At last he understood the meaning of what he had given up. He felt the weight of his foolishness and he remembered the promise. Then he grabbed his helmet. The airport was 40 miles away. 

Continued…

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Skills. Skills on Toast.

Peep the throttle control.


You know, I think that with a bike like this one could learn how to push the front and back it in on tarmac without paying serious penalties for getting it wrong. (Though I suppose it depends on whether a broken collarbone counts as a serious penalty. Haha.) I don't think they sell them in the States, though.

Friday, November 12, 2010

True Words

Aphorisms, Reflections and Remembrances. Part Two.


Once upon a time a friend of mine sat in a theater waiting for a live performance to begin. He recounted this story: A person sitting up front had already seen the matinee and was asked by another theatergoer if the show was cultural. The woman responded that “some of it” was cultural. Some of the dance was cultural. I will learn a lot of stuff before I die, but I will never know what the hell that means.  
Survival is garbage. A syphilitic German has already pointed this out, but it can’t be repeated enough. To survive is to barely make it. To crawl from the wreckage of ruin and death with a mean limp, crippled for all of your days. Survival is better than destruction, but not by much. If anything is to truly count in a meaningless world, we have to step past survival and thrive. We have to prosper. If I am to exist on the edge of certain doom, let it be because I am surfing its wave, not because I am washed up on its raggedy shore.
There is nothing so varied than a human being’s need for personal space. Some live peacefully among brothers and sisters clustered together in a hut. And some will set out to sea during a storm for a brief moment of solitude. In our own space we explore the inner and escape the outer, a great necessity in modern and even premodern life. If I ever found myself behind bars I would request solitary confinement. And an mp3 player.
A lot of cats speak with a spirit of sincerity about their respect for U.S. Veterans and the sacrifices they made in service to the country. I’ll take a moment of silence for soldiers as well, but my reasons are far from patriotic. When I hear cats say things like “thank you for your service” or some such, I hear the nationalist metanarrative playing out and I know that it sticks for some people. But I have talked to cats who have served combat time in the military for reasons that had nothing to do with respect for God or Country. They just needed money or a stable job or life path in general. In the horror of battle they fought to help their friends and stay alive themselves, not to preserve an American way of life. They left the theatre of war scarred and vowed never to return. Yet the work they did netted the same results as the patriots beside whom they fought. I feel for all of these cats, but not because they answered some sacred call of duty. I feel for them because they endured great hardship and much suffering. The same way that I feel for anybody else who has marched a traumatic road. The cat sitting next to me on this plane may have had to bury his son. The waitress bussing my table might have been raped in cellar somewhere. If I knew the status, I would hold a holiday for their perseverance as well. But I don’t. I know only about the woman in that uniform, or the man with the bumper stickers on his car. So for them I stand aside in my own salutary status. Even though I have never been in favor of a war. Even though I don’t feel the ideology of patriotism one little bit. That’s how I roll on Veteran’s Day and I don’t think I am alone in this.
From a philosopher king: An inflexible truth, pursued single-mindedly through a complex world, is always in danger of changing, unnoticed, into a terrible error.
I don’t think any aspect of colonialism can be undone and this depresses me for reasons that lie deep beneath my surface. 
Babies can’t be trusted. Watch them closely.
Only one time in my life did I feel motivated to lock the doors of a car I was driving. In Manhattan we were stuck in traffic that was going nowhere. Even the intersection was blocked the fuck up. No hope. As we waited, a man dressed only in his underwear leapt into the street, ran up to the cab in front of us and urgently tried to open the driver side door, freaking out the cabbie. It didn’t open, so the guy moved to a parked vehicle behind him. The next car on this trajectory was the one I was in. Yeah. Then I realized that while I knew where the buttons were, I didn’t know which button locked and which unlocked. In the dark of night, I couldn’t make out the icons on the button so I pressed each one trying to decipher the noise of the locking mechanism. I was saved by a break in traffic. Further down the street, a cop walking on patrol pulled out his baton and began running toward the mad man in his undies. This and the time I was denied entrance to a club are the reasons I don’t hit up Manhattan too often. 
From a Silver herald: If sacred places are spared the ravages of war, then make all places sacred. And if the holy people are to be kept harmless from war, then make all people holy.
It occurs to me that I have a strange notion of the permissibility of violence and vandalism. Suppose I was the commanding officer on a submarine carrying the ultimate payload in hydrogen bombs. Suppose furthermore that some enemy aggressor fired upon my country and reduced it entirely into ash. Though I had the dark materials of revenge, I would not fire back. For my country had already been destroyed. There wouldn’t really be anything left to defend and retaliatory action would do nothing but needlessly waste innocent life. However, suppose a dude is blocking a lady's parking space with his own vehicle and she asks him to pull up a bit so she can get out. Suppose that in response, he gets into his car and doesn’t turn it on, but instead starts blowing kisses at the girl in a flagrant display of his misogyny. I think it would be okay to pull this guy out of his car and hit him with a brick. 
From the Dancer: It's not that I'm trying to play down my strengths. I'm just playing up my weaknesses.
Out riding one day I once ran over a dead skunk. Despite my washing it, my bike smelled properly rank for three days. My swerving skills are now off the charts. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Beneath the Surface

There were no headphones in the helmet when I was out on the road. But the mind is a mixing board and there was one song that kept playing over and over again.

...
Scratch underneath the surface
Where does your purpose lie?
It seems our will is worthless
Like we're pawns beneath the sky
Schemes erased by reason
And passion's just the wind
Feel empty so I breathe in
Keep myself from Giving in
...

Love and hatred
Moments most sacred
Most species, they lay naked
in the tombs of an oasis
I think back on niggas I ate with
Spent the day with
Guns we played with
Niggas I relate with
We broke bread
I heard through the vine niggas worked for the feds
Sent out secretly to take my head
I lay back and meditate to the words they said
Skipped town for a month and grew some dreads
Had a friend tell my family I was dead
Returned at the last fall of the autumn leaves
Operate the plan accordingly
In case the feds are recording me
Sign all documents using forgery
'Cause just the mere thought of me
I'm like Solomon, spoke bluntly
Told the world I'm black and comely
Hounds from the grave haunt me
The smell of death's upon me
I dwell in the hills like Gandhi
Been in the presence of mad peasants
And old kings who sold everything
On a quest for God's divine
Slept in a cave to get a clear mind
Who prayed three times
When the moon lit and in the sunrise
I met dwellers in the deserts
Talked to shepherds
Been in the mouth of many leopards
Felt the death kiss of Satan's mistress
Walked through vacant districts of foreign religions
Studied pagan scriptures
True philosophers and physicians
On a cure mission
Who hardened their hearts
Toward the weak, sick and afflicted
Candles lit, gambled with a bitch
Who made me love her when I touched her
Soft paws hide claws
Bees with sweet honey in their mouths
Have bitter stingers at their tails
Walk through the chamber of death
Take a hold on to hell
Embracing her was like embracing the third rail

-Killah Priest

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Trip


I kiss the baby and set off in the cold new york air. The weather has already put me off the road for an hour and now I am determined to hit the highway though the temp is lower than I find tolerable. Beneath my suit, a heat pack is gathering warmth. I wonder if it will be enough to see me through this. Once I pass Staten Island the patchy road quality becomes a bit smooth and I can ride the Atlas with more ease. There is a bit of traffic on the Jersey Turnpike, but I cut through it. I can't believe I am doing this. I have wanted to rock a serious trip for a long time now and finally it is happening. I don't know exactly what the road holds for me, but I will meet it at proper supra-highway speeds.  

For the most part, human beings should fear winter. Human beings from the south, like myself, have learned to despise it. But the trees. In preparation for the coming freeze, they shed their leaves. And in preparation for that, they turn. Brilliant colors. Orange, yellow, bright red. I have spent a life in a land of evergreens. The visions on the roadside to me are not basic periphery. They are an enchanted world. Too bad I have to keep my eyes on the road. 

I rock a bridge or two and before I know it, I am in Delaware. On just the inside of the state line I am cut off by a crapload of cars. I always try to ride as though I am invisible, so that I don't force motorists to make moves they wouldn't normally make. But in moderately jammed traffic, I can't rock those moves. Which is a shame, because driver education in Delaware apparently emphasizes running bikes off the road. Once I break free and get some clear road, I glimpse the neighborhoods and homes that lie beyond the interstate. They all look alike, like little boxes made of ticky tacky. Delaware: the cookie cutter state. 

Before i know it I am in Virginia. The tip off is a massive sign decked out in Confederate battle flag colors that reads: "Welcome to Dixieland: The South Starts Here." Sometimes I wish that the old Confederacy would take the same attitude toward the antebellum period that the old Union has adopted: completely forgetting about it. I guess the losers never forget. 

After the first in a series of wack road snacks I come to the tunnel that connects Virginia to itself across Chesapeake Bay. Well, on the maps it is listed as a tunnel. Really it is a long ass bridge that descends into a tunnel twice. Hardly epic. On the other side of the bridge, life goes dark and I realize how behind schedule I am. By the time I roll up on the homies in Richmond I am shivering and can't feel my fingers. They set me up in a dungeon of sorts under their home and it is there that I watch a video of a dance that the man of the house choreographed. Even from the grainy video, I am haunted by the moves of its star dancer and unsettled in my core as I lay down to sleep next to jars of picked vegetables.


On the morning they feed me an impossibly delicious waffle and see me off on the next leg. The weather is a few degrees warmer than when I rocked exit from new york and I am thankful. There is soreness in my neck and shoulders, but it isn't so bad. On the stretch to north carolina, I spot several dead deer on the side of the road and it freaks me out. Cars hit these animals and killed them. If I hit one of these beasts, it will be my last taste of venison. I ride quickly but with caution and before long I hit the next state. It is there that I am treated to the worst burrito I have ever eaten. I suppose that is what I get for turning my nose up at fast food and pursuing local fair. Always choose the devil or Big Mac you know.


The entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway is pretty nondescript and I miss it on the first run. The parkway itself is narrow, the speed limit is slow and its scenery is absolute beauty. I stop often to gaze over the valley, as doing so while on the road could run me off the edge. There are vertical drop-offs without guard rails on the outside of most turns. It is enough for me to roll off the throttle in fear as I hit left turns. There's no such thing as a dangerous road; there are only roads that are ridden dangerously. Which I will do so long as I can live to tell about it. 

I catch up to a GS and ride with him for a while. At a lookout spot we stop and talk. He has been riding since Boston and has been on the Parkway for almost 300 miles. He's tired and has lost the edge that motorcyclists need to attack the streets fully. He is ready for sleep. I am a bit dull around the sides as well, but I rock one more push when the ridge of the mountain descends into a valley and the road widens a bit. I adjust my riding position to accommodate my tank bag and give an S2000 a run for its money. At the exit to Asheville the driver waves at me; a rare moment when a rider and a car driver move in harmony and mutually recognize the skills.


Asheville is a college town of some sort. I roll up at a hostel and arrange a bunk, then go out to look for a parking space and some food. I find neither and in a vaguely existential moment I am overcome by the activity of the city. People are decked out in costumes, headed to parties, clubs and restaurants. The energy of the city too much for me. I cancel the hostel and leave the city in search for more solitude. 

I arrive in an area called Maggie Valley. There are scores of hotels and motels here but I can't figure what would attract so many people to visit this place. I roll up to a motel and check in. I learn that my only possible dinner is from a pizza chain and quietly curse the gods as I order on the phone. The pizza delivery lady is nice in that southern way that I have missed. I am away from the revelry of halloween, but I still feel it. A world outside and far away has erupted in merriment and I cannot slough off that skin. In the motel in the valley it becomes clear to me just how lonely I am out here. My only comfort is sleep.

I awake in the valley and encounter a sick cold when I open the door. What the blood, how am i going to ride through this? This shit is frigid. By the tame i make it a couple miles down the road to a diner, I have lost all feeling in my fingers and my teeth are chattering. I eat my bacon slowly, in fear for my return to the streets. When it is time, I strap my last heat pack to my chest and march out to my bike. Fully warmed up, the engine temp is less than 160 degrees. Lord Jesus. I descend further into the valley where it only gets more chilly. Here, the leaves have already fallen from the trees; there are only skeletons. Winter has come early here. I figure that the best policy is to get through this as quickly as I can, so I pick up speed as I head south.

Before long I come upon a valley road that curves around a mountain in the most magnificent set of sweepers I have ever seen. The road is fairly barren so I blitz that shit, a clattering smile beneath my helmet. Maybe this has made the cold worth it. The road leads to a parkway of sorts, that cuts through several towns in the valley. In every town I pass there are an untold number of antique stores. Like yo, that is what this little pocket of North Carolina is known for. Wicker furniture and old timey bottle caps. And there is a Piggly Wiggly down here. Madness.

I spill onto some interstate headed to Georgia where every car is in a magnum hurry. Sounds good to me. In a flash I find myself just outside of Atlanta. At a gas station the car in front of me sports a bumper sticker that reads: secure our southern border: no amnesty. It occurs to me that the resistance to illegal immigration carries a strange irony. The story of the illegal immigrant is the story of a person eager to escape poverty and persecution, who braves harsh terrain to set foot on a land in which there will be greater opportunity. I know enough about history to know that you can't find a more American story than that. Yet many self proclaimed lovers of this country feel that this isn't a narrative worth pursuing. I have no beef with the immigration party of course. I may not love America, but I am totally gay for it.

I get lunch at a BBQ spot, and lane split my way through traffic. In a blink I roll up in Tallahassee to the home of none other than the Green Ninja. We get chicken and speak on the passage of the soul with an Oracle. In the morning, I roll up to the Ninja's class and put down some talk on Hegel. This is the nature of the dialectic, I say. Each shape of consciousness gives way to another when it fails to fulfill the terms that it sets for itself. Which is why your girlfriend will soon be your ex-girlfriend, I tell them.

After class we hit some corners. I realize that the miles of travel have revealed to me a new riding position and I try to figure that significance. I file it away for more research and we cruise through the campus of our alma mater on the way to get some catfish and pork chops. Those snacks send us straight to napville and when I awake I rock the last exit to my final destination.


I avoid the interstate and stick to a state road. It turns out to be a good move, as the road is completely empty. I look ahead and behind, take a deep breath, tuck down and pick up some serious speed. 6th gear to the shift light. The fastest I have ever traveled on the Atlas. The wind rushes around me like I am skydiving. So serious.

At the last town for twenty miles I check my gas and figure I can wait til the next town to fuel up. At the next town, I find that the only gas station is itself out of fuel. At the town after that, I find that the gas station has been closed down for many years. I start to worry as my E light comes on. These towns are nowhere. It is so strange to think that so many places are nowhere. Old abandoned motels. Rusty tractors. Pickup trucks that haven't hauled anything for many years. Some places  are so nowhere that living there denies one a sense of the scope of the world. Sometimes those places are little towns off of state roads. Sometimes those places are inner states, perspectives that never find correction no matter how many miles have been traveled.

I roll up to the next town on fumes, with just ounces of fuel to spare. I think of how close I am as I gas up. Out on the streets, the sky changes its shape. There are clouds in the distance. I hope they will hold back long enough for to get to Tampa, but there is no such luck. Just as night falls, I run into a wall of rain. A damned squall. I remember that, once again, I have forgotten to zip my suit properly. It is only a matter of time before water floods my crotch. Damn it all.

I come out on the other side of the rainfall the worse for wear. I am cold as all hell and my visor is foggy. I hit an expressway after a toll and somehow I feel more alone than I have ever felt, maybe in my whole life. I don't understand it, it is as if I am in a cocoon shut out from all light and all care. Like there is nothing outside of this helmet.

The traffic slows me down as I enter the proper outskirts of the city. I don't feel ready to hit the scene fully, so I rock entrance to the hiding place. There I warm up and rest that rest that can only come after a long trip. I have done it. The Pharmacon Atlas has lived up to its name and the object has now conformed to my concept. It is something to feel good about and a good reason to sleep.

On the morning I roll up to the Tea Lounge and learn that a great friend has gone into labor. I had hoped to see this, but the timing could not be more perfect. By nightfall, I peep the scene on a newborn. It sleeps peacefully on its first day of life. I go out to my bike and lock the handlebars in place. As I lay down to sleep, I wonder if all birth is also rebirth.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ghost Stories

Halloween is upon us. Check these ghost stories that aired on the radio a while back.



Remember: The monsters in your nightmares are real and there are things in the dark out to get you.

Friday, October 29, 2010

On the Road

I have made it to Tampa. A journey of more than 1600 miles has come to an end. And I didn't even hit a deer.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Fractured Reflection on the Comparative


The route is set and the exit will soon be upon me. I look forward to this trip but I am nervous. The miles will be hard. On the first leg, I will travel more miles in a day than I normally travel in two weeks. The weather will be cold and I don’t know what the cops are like in any of the states through which I will travel. I can’t help but be intimidated. It is strange to think that I am traveling only a fraction of the distance that the men and women known as Iron Butts travel. There are cats who have ridden across the 48 states in less than 10 days. And even now, somewhere in south America, Nick Sanders is trying beat the world record for fastest motorcycle trip around the world. And he’s riding the new R1, which is the least comfortable R1 that there is. 

It isn’t strange to dread something that others encounter with relative ease. Some are more trained or experienced than others; it is only natural that tasks and possible experiences appear differently to us. But is there any use in the comparison? Is there anything that I can gain, any peace that I can find, from a contrast of experiences? 

Humanitarians often return from sites of charity opining about their newfound appreciation for life. The natives do so much with so little, they say. I’ve learned so much about myself just from seeing how they live! In John Edward's famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, the preacher tells the congregation that the enjoyment of heaven is amplified by the suffering of sinners in hell. And we all know why we should eat all of our food- there are children starving in Africa. 

Maybe its more of a matter of mood than reasoning, but I find these moves kind of annoying. They give us a sense of location in the grand sphere of human experiences, but at the expense of the object of comparison. Lame humanitarians use the native sub-altern as the vehicle for their “life changing revelations.” Like, I know you are suffering and stuff, but imagine what your suffering has done for ME!  Fire and Brimstone-ish pastors talk shit about people who are in hell despite a theology that supposedly emphasizes compassion and forgiveness. People are burning alive; how is it okay to feel good about that? And the starving african child is just a construct to get me to eat my damn peas. I am not admonished to eat until I’m done, then go to Namibia and share the rest with the Nimba tribe. I am just supposed to clean my plate in a metaphorical act of hoarding resources away from the poor.

Yeah, Peter Singer excluded, comparative evaluation can be a jerky thing to engage in.  And it can also minimize one’s own experience of a thing. If you suffered a trauma, why should the fact that others suffered it bring you relief? Cioran says it best:

“Who can say with precision that my neighbor suffers more than I do or that Jesus suffered more than all of us? There is no objective standard because suffering cannot be measured according to the external stimulation or local irritation of the organism, but only as it is felt and reflected in consciousness. Alas, from this point of view, any hierarchy is out of the question. Each person remains with his own suffering, which he believes absolute and unlimited.”

There are serious costs for stifling your own pain under the greater pains of others. This I know. So maybe I should not deprecate myself because I find this trip daunting and there are others who do not. Maybe I should just find it daunting and get on with it. It’s nobody’s miserable journey but mine. And it starts in two days. Or thirty years ago. Whichever. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

The (Ragged) Edge of Exit.


There are many reasons not to ride a sport bike over a long distance. The seating position is made for track riding and sets your body in a posture that cannot be held for long without tying your back in knots and crippling your knees and wrists. The low windshield protects you from nothing and the constant need to resist the wind causes fatigue. The sport bike’s suspension is comparatively hard when compared to, oh, any other type of bike on Earth, which means that all of the imperfections in a road are transfered through the body of the rider, which compounds all of the issues I have just mentioned. In addition, storage space is quite limited. Even with a tank bag, this is a ride on which you can’t take very much. And space is just as limited in the gas tank. Sport bikes get the worst gas mileage of any type of bike, so the trip involves having to stop to refuel much sooner and more often than other bikes. But hey, you’ll be stopping anyway, because you will be tired and your body will be in so much pain. 

I know all of this. But this weekend, I will set off on a 1500 mile journey on none other than my R1, the Pharmacon Atlas. 

It has been a while since I have seen my friends. And winter is coming to NYC, which is a time that I can’t do any meaningful riding. And I need to get away from this infernal city for a while anyway. And none of these reasons actually mean anything, because none of them motivate my desire to make the trip. 

Saturday is the day.


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Samara's Story

In August of 2008, a traumatic event shook my homegirl Samara's whole status. She spoke with me about it. Here is the radio version.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"I am not without scars on my brain and my body, but I can live with them. I still feel a shudder in my spine every time I see a Vincent Black Shadow, or when I walk into a public restroom and hear crippled men whispering about the terrifying Kawasaki Triple…. I have visions of compound femur-fractures and large black men in white hospital suits holding me down on a gurney while a nurse called “Bess” sews the flaps of my scalp together with a stitching drill.

Ho, ho. Thank God for these flashbacks. The brain is such a wonderful instrument (until God sinks his teeth into it). Some people hear Tiny Tim singing when they go under, and others hear the song of the Sausage Creature."

"But when we ride very fast motorcycles, we ride with immaculate sanity. We might abuse a substance here and there, but only when it’s right. The final measure of any rider’s skill is the inverse ratio of his preferred Traveling Speed to the number of bad scars on his body. It is that simple: If you ride fast and crash, you are a bad rider. If you go slow and crash, you are a bad rider. And if you are a bad rider, you should not ride motorcycles."

-Hunter S. Thompson