Friday, May 29, 2009

Silver and Slack




This is the season for our all silver weatherless weather that blankets the southland in woolen gray. It isn't warm or cold. Eight in the morning looks just like five in the afternoon. Windless. Nothing casts a shadow in the diffuse light. Sound muted; dials turned down to six, and everything is slow.


I didn't get a call for work today. But I'm on Monday for a little over a week. Much to be grateful for.




And I missed old John's birthday party because I didn't know he was going to have one. Neither did he. I haven't hung out at the corner for quite a while. I've been working, and after work I mostly don't want to go hang out- I just want to rest, and poke out a post here on the wfb.


So I missed the whole thing; all the locals there at Starbuck's, along with the Starbuck's crew, the gang from Fresh n' Easy, and Trader Joe's bunch got together and threw old John a surprise party at Starbuck's.


I found out about the party this morning, but it was yesterday, that I learned that John had been down with the flu. I walked up to his place this morning. Some folks up in the Heights let him live in their pool house. He takes care of the dog. He was up, sitting outside talking to a woman who sees him at the corner. She was stopping by to check on him. Old John has a wealth of friends. It's is truly one of the finer things I have seen in people- they way that so many folks look out for him. Even M, the guy I - oh, forget it. But even a guy like M shows a decent side when it comes to old John.


Anyway- The woman left a short time after I got there. John showed me the pictures, and we talked for a while. But he wanted to go back in and lie down, so I walked on back down the hill. He's going to be OK.


Saturday:

Today is a carbon copy of yesterday. If you photographed the place in black and white, no one would notice. I went up to John's place, and he gave me a couple of pictures from the party. He still isn't well, and he doesn't want to hang out at the corner anymore because it's too windy down there, and sitting in the draft is what he figures gave him the flu. M had just given him a ride down to the store so he could pick up a few things. Again, he wanted to go in and lie down, so we visited for just a short while. I drove down the hill, took care of the small business of the day, and now I am in possesion of that sweet distilled essence of time: slack. Of course there's a ton of shit that needs done. Find me a time when that isn't the case.


Slack. God knows I have had my share of it. I think it's safe to say that I have had not just abundant slack, but excessive slack. But slack is like salt. Too much of it spoils the meal, and if it's spread too thin it might as well not be there at all. There must be balance and proportion in order to make slack, slack. Maybe just one day out of seven is enough. Only as long as you keep slack in its proper proportion can you realize how truly precious real slack time is.

Up until the last two and a half years, slack had been the default state of my existence for a decade. But try as you will to place a high value on something, if you have that thing in limitless quantities the value diminishes. Even slack. As of late I've been working very steadily, and my slack time has been reproportioned, and redistributed according to the rules of the forty hour work week. The diminished quantity of available slack has raised the both the quality, and the value of the slack time remaining.

But like all things it comes at a price. With diminished slack time, I have chosen to spend several hours a week writing here on the wfb, rather than hanging out with the gang at the corner. Had I been hanging out instead of sitting home writing I'd have been in on the plan to throw John his 87th birthday party. As it was I missed it completely, and the regret smarts. Priorities, huh?


Anyway.

With that I resume the non duties of the day.


JWM

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Waking up to Wednesday.




Damn. It's like Wednesday, already. How did that happen? I know. I've been working a lot, and hard. And I've ended the last few days just plain tired out. Having Skully around over a long lost weekend didn't help.

Skully was a grim reminder of how far I've fallen from even the semblence of cool. I'm not kiddin'- I didn't know the whereabouts of a single strip joint, underground club, topless bar, or card casino. I had no idea where to go to find a hooker. I told him I know of a guy somewhere back east who makes book on sporting events, but Skully didn't seem interested. I just don't know where it's at. But I know enough about booze- well, I remember enough. It's been quite a while, you know... But I figured Caribbean rum would appeal to the pirate in the parrot, so I grabbed a couple quarts. That, and the computer kept him reasonably happy.

So now the place is a mess, my wife is all kinds of pissed off, and I'm still getting hundreds of spam e-mails from third world countries. You don't even want to know what they're trying to sell.

But Skully's on a Continental Trailways headed for Washington.

*bitchen*


JWM

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Strange goings on at the wfb

Skully


Well, now this is a peculiar predicament. I went on line, looked at the e-mail, and got a note from one "Bogie", a mysterious troll who often shows up at USSBen's blog One Cosmos at Sea.
I'll cut 'n paste it here:


Lishen, jwn:
I was workin' on a case wit' Mack when I hear these mugs in a dive bar talkin' 'bout kidnappin' Skully the boid. So I says to 'em You lookin' fer someone to pay ransome to get a boid back? Naw, they says. We're lookin to pay someone to get this *^&%#*(*%$ boid outta' here! How much you payin' I asks. The mugs says "I'll give ya' twenny bucks an' the boid". Sho I says, "Make it fifty", and he takes the deal." I'm out here, by the LA airport, and I heard you know Ben good enough to make sure the boid gets home OK. So I'm sendin' him over to your place in a cab. You pay the hack.


Bogie


So the next thing I know I get a knock at the door. I open up, and some guy's standing there. "Greetings very much", he says. "I am Mohammed Mohammed Mohammed from the company of Yellow cab. I have for you the boid.
That will be sixty seven fifty cab fare, please very much."


And now he's here. I have him amused with a bottle of Mount Gay rum for now, but he's already starting to ask when I'm going to be done so he can get on the computer. So any posts from Skully will be coming from this ip address for a while, until I can get him on a Greyhound back to Ben anyway.








JWM












Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blog 101



Yesterday was the 100th post on the wfb, hence the clever, "Blog 101" title today. When I ambled into the bike story last Tuesday I finished by saying there was a point to my talking about bikes. But recounting that road trip was not the point I had in mind. Nonetheless, writing about the road trip turned into the point of the whole exercise. I took up surfing in '74, and sold the bike some time later. The next motorcycle I'd own would be the bad ass Harley that I dreamed of as a kid, and when I saddled it up for a road trip I kept going east until I could go swimming in the Atlantic. That was '91, and the trip was the stuff of epic fiction. And I kept a careful journal the whole time. I ended every day on the road with an hour or so of writing down everything that happened on the trip that day. The first thing I did when I got home was read through the journal, and fill in overlooked details while the memories were fresh. I started hand copying everything, and adding the details to a new spiral notebook, and got about half way through the project.

I still have those notebooks, and a big box of photographs from that trip in '91. That was the point I was getting at when I interrupted myself to talk about the old Beemer.

Here's where it gets weird. It was fun to dig through my admittedly flawed memory to try and put that Death Valley story together. However, when I think of dusting off those old notebooks I balk. I was a different person at thirty eight than I was at twenty, and I'm a very much different person now than I was at thirty eight. At thirty eight I was still somewhat in the thrall of my college education, and the liberal saturated environment of a high school faculty. In retrospect, that trip in '91 was part of what opened my eyes. But here's where I'll just cut through the crap, and say it. I'm sure if I look at those old journals I'll find some moonbatty statement I made back then, and when I see it I'll cringe. And then I will come up against my own strange imperative not to embellish, or waver from stuff as it actually happened... I guess I don't want to awaken an irresistible urge to travel back in time, and kick my own ass for being an idiot.

That's the excuse anyway. I had been thinking of digging out that journal and serializing it here on the wfb, but, as I said, I balked, and the balking was the point I was driving at last week. Spend time with myself back in the moonbat days? I'd rather ride over Cajon Pass in a rainstorm.

But I've done stuff just that hairball before...



JWM

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cajon




I had enough dumb luck left to get me home. No more. Perhaps the ride over Cajon Pass was payback for the freebie I'd had going over Donner, and the last minute storm dodging the day before. But, like I said earlier on: the trip was a masterpiece of poor planning and reckless decisions. Or maybe it was poor decisions, and reckless planning that put me on the on-ramp in Victorville in a late spring storm, with Interstate 15, ahead, and Cajon Pass between me and home. Did I mention that I didn't have any rain gear?






I want to take a step back, and re-post the link to the picture of a 1960's BMW R/69S. The one in the picture is a '63, but they didn't change from year to year. I picked this shot because this bike is set up the way I had mine: solo saddle, rear fender rack, no windshield, or saddle bags. This is just like the machine that had carried me from La Habra to the Bay, to Reno, Death Valley, and now almost all the way home. What's hard to tell from the picture, is that the Beemer is actually not a very big bike. The six hundred cc motor put out between thirty, and forty horsepower. Most family cars were faster. Consider that most modern touring bikes have engines over three times the size and horsepower. They'll seat two people plus luggage comfortably, and cruise all day at at 100 mph. And they come with stereos, and heaters. The Beemer was pretty much a seat, two wheels and a motor. And that little motor had faithfully carried me a very long ways on this trip. Over a thousand miles. I was about to call on it for the toughest hundred or so miles of the trip.




I like road travel. I've crossed the continent, and with it, the continental divide over 20 times. I've ridden, or driven over a lot of mountain passes, including Monarch Pass in Colorado at over 12000 feet elevation. Cajon Pass coming into LA is hands down the worst. And I don't say that just because I live here. It blows chunks. At 4100 feet and change it isn't a particularly high pass. But the road is like some nightmare mutation of a six lane freeway fused with a broken roller coaster. The grade is scary. The freeway plunges down out of the mountain in massive sweeping curves. It's a huge challenge just to stay in the lane, and keep your speed under control. But the road is more than fast and treacherous. In order to appreciate the full experience of Cajon Pass, you have to add weather, and traffic. Any wind that comes over the mountains funnels through Cajon Pass. Trucks flip over. I15 is the road to Vegas. It's also the tie in from I40. So you get to do that wild ride down the the pass with thousands of other cars, and countless big trucks each just barely hanging on, and everyone just one fuck up away from the unthinkable. There's nothing like bumper to bumper traffic at eighty miles an hour. And that's on a good day.


This was not a good day to pull on to Interstate 15 in Victorville. It was like riding into a firehose. Trucks were throwing spray you could surf on, and waves of it were breaking in my face. The Beemer was straining for all it was worth to keep up with traffic, while I dodged cars, said rude things to God, and cursed for all I was worth because I was flying blind and scared as hell. I couldn't have been more soaked If I'd jumped in the lake. Cold, too. But I made it through the pass, through the inbound freeway traffic in the rain until I reached the 10, and then the 60 freeway west, off at Fullerton road, over the hills, and into La Habra.




I made it home OK. Actually, I should say that the Beemer got me home OK. That funky, underpowered little bike beat everything that nature, and my recklessness could dish out, and came though it purring like a long black cat. The Beemer is the hero of this little epic.


My brother had been staying at my apartment while I was gone. I pulled in late in the afternoon, and shut the motor off. That was it. I was done. Home. My ears were blocked flat. It would take weeks to get my hearing back. Of course, the place was a mess, and there was no food in the house. There was beer, though. I remember there was beer. I gave my brother a few bucks, and sent him out for Colonel Chicken.


JWM

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Law in Ridgecrest

Dai Baron
So where was I on that cold rainwashed morning in Death Valley? Again, I find myself conflicted. As I've pointed out, I took this trip over thirty five years ago, and memory is tricky. And I seem to have this odd imperative not to let this story waver from the events as they actually occurred, and not to compress, combine, or exaggerate stuff for the sake of telling a 'cooler' tale. On the other hand, writing about all this does till the ground of memory, and stuff sprouts up here and there. Like Rhyolite. Or does it? Sometimes it's hard to tell.


Anyway.



The storm had passed. The bike was running OK. I had slept some, and I was dry. The campground was full of screwbean mesquite bushes (I remember the sign). They produced a brown corkscrew shaped bean that rattled when it was dry. I brought a few home with me, and kept them on the shelf for many years, along with one other piece of memorabilia from the trip. That much is so.



Now. Here's where the memory gets strange again. I seem to remember that the other two bikers who were camping there were riding a Honda 350, or 450, and a BMW similar to my own. Why is that odd? Well, earlier on in this narrative I made quite a few references to Easy Rider- the story of two buddies on a cross country bike trip. But there's another, in some way more famous story of two buddies on a cross country bike trip: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The main character in Pirsig's novel rides a middle weight Honda. His pal has a BMW.



I do recall that Death Valley was cold, clear, and probably as beautiful and hospitable as Death Valley gets. And I remember thinking that only I had the luck to get rained on in Death Valley. The road was still wet, and muddy in a lot of places. I kept the speed down, crossed the valley and made the hard climb up to the junction of 395. From there I headed south, and stopped in Ridgecrest for breakfast, and gas.


I had slept some, and I was dry, but that was about it. I was dirty, sore, and beat. And my usually immaculate BMW was a mud spattered mess by the time I stopped for breakfast. I sat at the counter, glad to be warm, and to sit in a seat that didn't move. I was drinking coffee, waiting for my food, when I heard the unmistakable rumble of a big Harley pulling up outside. A moment later the rider came through the door. He was an old guy, and one look told you he was a grizzled old hard ass from way back. No one to mess with. Being the town cop added to the vibe. He sat down at the counter, "Is that your BMW out there?"

His name was Phil Spooner, and he was indeed a hard core biker from way back. He asked about my trip, and I told him the story so far, sleeping in the restroom and all. He figured it was all good experience, and told me some of his own road stories. We talked for quite a while. He got up to leave, took out his wallet, and handed me his card. It had a small silhouette of a Harley on it, a listing of motorcycle clubs, his phone number, and large text that read, "Phil Spooner-Biker".


"If you ever get stuck up here, and need someplace to put up for the night, " he said, "Give me a call." That was the other piece of memorabilia that I kept for many years.



Getting hot food in me took the edge off the fatigue, and talking to Phil Spooner lifted my spirits. I was beginning to feel like one of the real guys, I guess. I took off from the cafe, and got back on the street that led up to 395. Or so I thought. I was probably running about forty- forty five miles an hour, expecting to see the turn for 395 at any minute. But instead of an on-ramp, the street abruptly ran out of pavement, and plunged down a breakneck steep dirt hill. Recall that it had rained all night.



Here's where I used up almost all the dumb luck that I had left.


Well, not entirely. More than any other machine I ever owned, the BMW gave you that 'extension of self' feeling. It wasn't like operating a machine; it was very organic- you go, accelerate, brake, turn, stop. And I used to just practice keeping the bike upright at very slow speeds, just to better know the feel of the machine. That stuff suddenly turned into a skill that saved my ass where pure luck couldn't. I instinctively stood up on the pegs, and leaned my weight way back, and off the front wheel. That strange front end refused to be thrown off course, and took all the slamming punishment that dirt road had to dish out. Back off the gas slowly. Do not touch front brake. Featherweight tiptoe on the rear binder as it jumps around under your foot...



Somehow, I got the machine to a safe stop, got it turned around, and made the treacherous climb back up to pavement without dumping the bike. When I say, "Got me home in one piece", I mean it.

I found 395, OK, rolled out of Ridgecrest, and headed south for Victorville where I could pick up Interstate 15, which would take me over the mountains, down into the Los Angeles Basin, and home. But by the time I reached Victorville I either caught up with the storm, or the storm caught up with me. I was already soaked to the skin, when I stood under the poor shelter of a gas station bay where I fueled up the Beemer for the last leg of the trip. Outside the bay was howling wind, spitting rain, and the deadly charge through Cajon Pass.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Gimme Shelter

Mekanda Robo


This has been an odd exercise. I really just sort of stumbled onto the topic of motorcycles at all, and before I knew it I found myself trying to recreate a road trip that I took over thirty five years ago. I had a skeletal itinerary, and a few events at hand: La Habra to Half Moon Bay, to Reno, to Death Valley, and then Ridgecrest, and then home. I left off yesterday thinking about that long full throttle race against the storm down the length of Nevada. I spent some time looking at maps, and trying to figure out just why I made the decision to turn west toward Death Valley rather than to try for Vegas, and a motel.




Beatty, Nevada was the fork in the road. And when I took a closer look at the map, another name nearby leaped out at me: Rhyolite. Until I saw the name I had forgotten about stopping in Rhyolite. But noticing that flyspeck on the map lit up the memory. I rode out to see the ghost town at the edge of Death Valley that afternoon. And I was the only one out there, I do remember that...



And here's where it gets strange. I seem to have two almost equally distinct memories of this small occurrence. In the first, I ride out to the ghost town, stop the bike in the middle of the the empty street, get off, and just take in the silence for a few minutes before moving on.



In the second version I don't get off the bike. I just go out there, ride down the main street, turn around and leave.





I lean ever so slightly toward the second version, but not enough to push a balanced coin off its edge.



It's an odd feeling, like being unsure of the truth of a tiny chip of your own existence. And not to get all metaphysical on anyone's ass- does it make a difference? No one saw me go there. And if I wrote out version one, when it was really version two that happened, would that make me a liar? A stretcher of the truth? Or, since the real event lives only in my faulty memory, again- why does it matter? Somehow, it does. It just does.


If I were writing fiction I'd lean toward the first version of the story. It's got all the elements of the Romance of the Road story- solitary biker, abandoned western ghost town in the desert. Wind in the center of empty. Approaching danger...





Or again, if I were doing fiction I guess I could make the second version work too. All it would take is a premonition- a strange sense of urgency- voices in the dust whisper, "runnnn!"


Anyway.


Locating Beatty, and then Rhyolite helped me piece together the decision. The plan must have been to cut across Death Valley on 190, and pick up highway 395 south of Lone Pine, and then hit I15 home. And I must have ridden far enough ahead of the storm that I thought I'd avoided it altogether. Otherwise I wouldn't have taken the detour through Rhyolite so late in the day. At any rate, I left the ghost town, picked up 190, rode over the eastern rim, and down into Death Valley.


Afternoon dropped like a stone into evening; the sky went black, and raindrops smacked my face like hard wet BB's as I buzzed across the desert. I saw a sign for a campground up ahead, and turned off. Fortunately it was a developed campground, which meant reasonably level parking, and a cinder block restroom with running water. As I pulled in I noticed two parked motorcycles, and a couple of guys setting up a tent. I stopped. Yes, it was cool with them if I shared their parking. Rain was beginning to fall pretty hard. Desert lightning flashbulbed the campsite and exploded in ground shaking thunder. I pulled the Beemer up under a mesquite bush, and a bat took a shit on the back of my hand. I wiped it off on the ground, grabbed my bags, and ran like hell for the restroom. It wasn't very big, and I didn't have a flashlight. It gets seriously dark out there, too. Rain hammered down almost all night. I slept under the sinks, cold even in my clothes, and sleeping bag. But dry. That was all that mattered. The next morning the bike didn't want to start. I'd kick it over, and it would fire once or twice, and then crap out. I got out the tool kit, and took the top off one of the carburetors. Fat round blobs of dirty water rolled around the bottom of the float bowl. Not hard to fix. And the bike fired up just fine.


By this time, you'd figure that I had pretty much used up my quota of dumb luck. No. I'd have to call on it twice more in the day in order to make it home in one piece.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Running From the Rain

Most of the movie Easy rider is rolling shots of Fonda and Hopper cruising those big gaudy choppers down empty highways through rugged and beautiful countryside under a clear bright sky, in shirtsleeve temperatures with an incredibly good selection of 60's acid rock jamming away in the background. Stills of the two riders became cultural icons, Peter Fonda's machine in particular, with the American flag motif on the teardrop tank on the long chrome chopper.

Of course it's total bullshit. The first couple trips to 'Frisco on that 750 Honda disabused me of the idea that it would be fun to travel on a rigid frame chopper. It's tough enough on a touring bike with shock absorbers, and everything. That wind in the hair crap works fine if you have a crew cut. Otherwise forget it. I didn't have my hair long and I wore a helmet then, anyway. And speaking of wind- wind is what film can not show. And when you're on the highway you're sitting upright in a 65 mile per hour wind, and the blast in your ears sounds like a perpetual explosion. Fun and exhilarating at first. I mean, check out the scene in Easy Rider set to Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild". Traveling on a big bike is exactly like that. For the first couple of hours. Then wind fatigue begins to set in in your neck, especially if your neck is carrying the extra weight of a helmet. The helmet also gives your head a larger profile in the wind. That larger profile translates into pounds of pressure that your neck muscles have to resist. Try lying on your back on the bed with your head hanging over the edge. You'll get the idea.

And of course there's no rock n' roll soundtrack on a bike. And no one to talk to. Self induced earworms, or tunes you can hum is the best you're going to get. And that gets old really fast. Even with a good set of earplugs, the soundtrack is windblast. Add as much exhaust pipe noise to that as you would like to listen to for days on end. You get a lot of time alone in your mind. Point is- motorcycle travel is much less fun, and much more work than it seems. And then there is weather.

Weather was what I was facing that morning in Reno Nevada, spring of '73. Remember what I said about reckless planning? I didn't have rain gear. Nor did I have enough money to get some. No credit card. And at this point I had just about enough cash to get home on if nothing went wrong. A storm was coming from the north west. That's about all I got from the news on the TV in the coffee shop. But I could see that without the weather forecast. I headed east out of Reno. I didn't want to go down 395 through the mountains, so I opted for highway 95, a two lane that ran straight north and south through the desert. Nevada had no speed limits. The R/69S would go 85. And it hummed out its eighty five mile per hour best for me all day long, with cars and trucks whooshing past like I was parked, and black clouds growing in the rearview mirror. I pulled off for gas and food, probably in Tonopah. I've forgotten much about the trip but I do remember shoveling food down in some roadside coffee shop, and rushing to get back on the bike and get running before the storm caught up. Sometime late in the afternoon I reached a junction in the highway: Las Vegas to the left, Death Valley to the right. I have been thinking about this all day, today. I can't quite figure it out. I must have been very short of money. Otherwise, why in the world did I think Death Valley would be a good place to be in a storm?


JWM

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cruisin' in Reno



Like so much that I did in my late teens and early twenties the first motorcycle road trip was a masterpiece of reckless planning, bad decisions, and dumb luck. It was spring of '73, sometime in April or May. I was between jobs, and had a little money saved up. I had taken bike trips up to San Francisco; I had a friend from high school who lived up near Half Moon Bay, but LA to 'Frisco is really just a day trip. This time I was going to keep going. So after spending a couple of days getting famously stoned, and drunk with Gerald up in El Grenada I cruised the Beemer out of The Bay area, and headed toward Reno on I80.

That was the dumb luck part of the trip. Interstate 80 does run from San Francisco, California to Reno, Nevada. But you have to cross the Sierra Nevada to get there. The Donner Party had some trouble up that way, you might recall. Driving over Donner Pass is an iffy proposition in spring, and the Sierras are no place for a bike if it gets iffy. I cruised over the snow covered summit under a blazing white sun in an electric blue sky, the Truckee River charging down its course in ice white foam to the right of the interstate. I rode along, comfortable in a light jacket. That used up almost all the dumb luck I had in store. I had just exactly enough left to get me home in one piece. I got a cheap motel just outside of down town Reno. I couldn't have too much fun in Reno because I wasn't twenty one. So I went down town, got dinner in one of the casino buffets, and then went to see this hot new sci-fi movie, Soylent Green. (*spoiler alert* It's made out of people!) After the movie I cruised the main drag through town a few times. Damn, I was cruisin' in Reno Nevada! This was it. I was really travelling.

When I got up the next morning it was overcast, and cold. I got breakfast in a coffee shop, and sat at the counter where I could see the TV. They had the morning news on. Storm coming.


JWM

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More Motorcycle Stuff

Mekanda Robo (four missile version)
CLICK for Mekanda Robo private auction site info

When I sat down at the computer yesterday I had no intention of putting up a post at all, much less writing about motorcycles. I signed in, looked at the empty text box, and the bike thing just happened.



I left off talking about the old BMW. Actually, I should have made mention of what gave me the fever in the first place. Simple. It was seeing the movie, Easy Rider. Fonda and Hopper. Captain America and Billy. Those incredible Panhead choppers. And what on planet Earth could possibly approach the absolute awesome coolness of saddling up the most ass kickin' bike of all time, and heading out on a cross country rolling stoned party across America? I wanted to do that. Promised myself I would someday. You bet. I couldn't wait to get a Harley, and chop it all out, and head out on the highway. Go lookin' for adventure, and all. Like most teenage kids, I found out what a Harley cost. And even out in seventies suburbia, people knew. Bad dudes rode Hogs. If you weren't a bad ass, they'd kick your butt, or kill you and take away your bike.


That actually happened to a kid I knew in high school- skinny blond haired sixteen year old hippie. He got a bunch of money from a settlement of some sort, and bought himself a really cool chopper. Long front forks, ape hangers, five foot tall sissy bar, and loud ass pipes. Everyone was jealous as hell. For about two weeks. He wanted to go ridin' with the bad boys. They don't call those guys outlaws for nothing. They didn't hurt the kid. They just took his bike away from him.


Anyway.





A Harley was out of the question, but a 305, or 350 Honda wasn't. For a few years after Easy Rider, the streets just swarmed with 350 Hondas, some of them chopped. I ended up with a used 305 Superhawk. It wasn't the Captain America chopper, but it would do. For about six months, that is. I had big bike fever. I wanted the power, the weight, the size to travel on. And I didn't want to go Japanese. I wanted the cool, the low slung lines, and the machine gun exhaust note of a Triumph or a Harley. But both were expensive, and tempermental machines. They broke a lot, and you had to know how to get the machine going again if it stalled out on the road somewhere. Honda produced so many of their four cylinder superbikes that late in '72, the price dropped to around 1200 bucks for a brand new last year's model. And you couldn't break a Honda if you tried. So I bought the 750 Honda that I was talking about yesterday. And as I said, I sold the thing less than a year later, and got the '67 BMW. And it was on the Beemer that I finally got to try my hand at long distance motorcycle traveling.


Road Trip Part Three





JWM

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Road Trip 1973 (part one)

Mekanda Robo (spinner version)
Click for Mekanda Robo private auction info

Labels for this post: e.g. scooters, vacation, fall.

I'll pick scooters. I've had four: a Honda 305 Super Hawk, a Honda CB750, a BMW R/69S, and a Harley Davidson FXSTS. Oddly enough I have only a very few bad snapshots of the Hog, and maybe one picture somewhere of the 750 Honda... Too bad, because they were all beautiful machines. That I survived owning that 750 is indisputable proof of the existence of guardian angels. I mean- you want a combination that will like to take you out of the gene pool? Try a 19- 20 year old kid, a motorcycle that will break 100mph without even breathing hard, and oh, yeah. Beer. I shudder to think. See what I mean about the guardian angel(s). I kept that thing less than a year. Long enough to ruin my driving record for years to follow. But owning the big Honda cured me of the need for speed. I traded the Honda for a 1967 BMW R/69S. It was a classic. Beautiful, but slow. (I searched google images and came up with this. It's a 63, but a dead ringer for my old bike) Even though the 69S was the sport model with a hot cam and bigger carbs, it was barely as fast as the old 305 that I started out with. The R/69S topped out at 85. Period. And I was fine with that. It was my only transportation for a few years.

The Beemer was eccentric in a lot of ways. The opposed twin's crankshaft spins in line with the frame, just like the engine in a car. To kick start, you stood at the side of the bike, rather than straddling it. When you twisted the throttle the torque reaction from the engine rocked the whole machine sideways. It was harmless, but it took some getting used to. The other weird thing about the Beemer was the Earles front suspension, a kind of leading link construction. When you stabbed the front brake the shocks extended, and the front end of the bike lifted, rather than dove. Again, harmless, but it took some getting used to. But, in an age of push rod vertical, or V-twins, the flat opposed twin was the smoothest thing on the market. And the bike did have its sweet spots- right around sixty, where it just felt like coasting a two wheeled easy chair. Great piece of machinery. I sold it after I took up surfing, back in '74. Didn't even think of bikes for quite a while after. Anyway.

There is a point to this, and I'll get to it later on. Right now I'm calling it a day.


JWM

Monday, May 11, 2009

Just Monday

UFO Diapolon, Trung robo


Sunset, and I'm finally done with the business of the day. Up early. Worked hard. Tired out. Nothing to add past that. I don't feel much like waxing poetic about the dignity of work, and the heroics of showing up to meet life's little battles. I'm not going to dip into the pile of bummers and try to fish out a ripe one to carp on either. Nope.



I'll just put up Trung, the third character of the UFO Diapolon Trio, and call it a post...



If you scroll back to, Monday, May 4 you'll see the DX Diapolon, which is made up of parts from Header, Legger, and today's robot, Trung. Interesting that the Japanese names are cognates for the English words, head, legs, trunk. This set is from the Bullmark Toy Company, 1978.



And that's all for today.







JWM

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Has It Sunk This Low?

I've been buying soda in these 32 can flats- four eight-packs, from Costco. It comes in a cardboard tray with a plastic wrapper. Mary was using one of the cardboard trays for some bunches of flyers that she was working on. She set it down by the desk, and Booger the Cat hopped in, curled up, and thinks that it is the greatest cat bed ever made.
We should all be so easily pleased. And this, I suppose represents the absolute nadir of blog- resorting to animal pictures for that awwww cute thang in a desperate effort to fake some content. What can I tell you? I'm out of ideas, and shameless to boot. Just be grateful I'm not cheap enough to try and rip off FU Penguin with some snarky narrative directed at the poor cat.
JWM

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Short Call Tuesday

UFO Diapolon Header robo


Wouldn't you know it, it was just before eleven, and I was just getting ready to leave on foot when I got a call to go finish the day shift at the school by my house. Four hours. Done.

So, back home, and sign in to the wfb.

I've reached a point where I'm asking myself why I'm doing this- writing a blog, that is. I was clicking some links on Joan of Argghh's blog, Primordial Slack, and I ran across a guy who had a set of rules to make your blog get a zillion visits a month guaranteed. Most of it made pretty good sense, but as I read through the list I realized I had no inclination whatsoever to put any of it into practice.

Get a thousand hits a week, or a day. Have hundreds, or even thousands of people regularly clicking on to read the things you wrote. See dozens of comments on every post. Is that what this game is about? And if it isn't, then why invest the time and effort at the keyboard? It would be an odd move to make a film, or write a story that you never planned to let anyone see. Stranger yet to invest effort in a project, and be almost indifferent to how the work is received. I remember how it felt submitting art work for juried shows. Would I get in? Would I win anything? Those were questions worth losing sleep over. I suppose if I were sitting and composing serious essays on serious topics like Van does, or writing fiction then I'd be more concerned with how the work was received. Is anyone going to read these small ramblings, the details of a rather uneventful life that I type out, and submit for public consumption? I'm almost indifferent. Almost.

In a way, I suppose this is a kind of graffiti, an extended tag on Blogger's wall that may get noticed, and may get ignored. Maybe it's a message in a bottle. Or maybe it's a half assed bid at fame that is guaranteed to return the rewards of all things done half assed. All of the above, I suppose. But the last details of the day still need attention. Dinner, and the peace of the evening await.


JWM

Monday, May 4, 2009

Six Mile Monday

DX Diapolon



I mentioned having that 'day out of synch' feeling a while back only on a seasonal scale. Today was another such day- early May, yet it has the feel of November. And the 'day out of synch' bug seems to be going around as well. Several Raccoons have reported symptoms. Odd. No doubt it's all a function of The Inversion, and a sure sign of the impending end of the world. You know- 2012 is coming, and it's going to make Y2K look like a mild case of the swine flu. These timewave disruptions could be the foreshocks of some meta psychic hoedown that's just going to leave everything in ruins. The Aztecs will return, and rule the world. And Quetzalcoatl is gonna' be hungry for virgins. National Geographic will do a multicultural special on the newly rebuilt temple including interviews with some real virgins (pre-sacrifice, of course).


But then again, 2012 could mean a big ass meteor will smack into us like some cosmic cue ball and knock us out of orbit, and spinning straight into the sun. Actually, that would be kind of cool. I mean- since we're all going to die anyway, why not go out with a bang?





Or something.





I was too tired after work Friday to write anything, and it felt good just to let it go for a couple of days. And I got through the weekend, and discovered last night that I was a week out of synch. I thought I had to go in to work today, but it's next week that I'm on. (More evidence.) I woke up this morning, sat with Sam the Cat, and cup of coffee in the graylit den, fell back into a half dream which carried me into the morning prayer, past seven, and the day was mine.


So I made one of the six mile walks through the hills. Odd the way it measures out. Following my regular route through side streets, it's exactly two miles to where Solejar crosses West Road. From that intersection I can go right, left, or straight, and the loop back to the intersection is exactly two miles. I went straight, which is a very steep couple of hundred yards to the next intersection at the top of the hill. It's been a while. I've been lazy lately, and I felt it on the climb. Thank heaven for the cool, hazy morning. From the top of the hill you could see out only a few miles- at least as far as Knott's Berry Farm before the horizon fuzzed to nothing in the haze. I took the downhill loop to the left, which meant a long, but shallow climb on the return. Saw two snakes, and an alligator lizard squashed on the road. Bummer, guys. Someone had tossed what looked like a perfectly good pair of stainless steel salad tongs on the roadside. I have a pretty good collection of tools, and large ball bearings that I've picked up on various walks. Salad tongs would have been a great addition to the collection. But when I picked them up I could see they'd been run over by a car. Oh well.





It always feels good to get the muscles moving, and feel the blood flowing. Animal life. Primal energy. It is tonic. Clears out the head. It is medicine, in the sense of "That which makes you whole". The afterglow from a workout hangs with you for hours, too.


Which brings me back here, afterglow, or no. Monday afternoon on a sweet, cool day. The errands are run. I got some exercise, and all that remains is to finish spilling some goofiness, and accounts of a blissfully uneventful day into cyberspace. Last days of the world as we know it? Could be. At any rate, they are pretty darn good last days, as last days go.





JWM