Friday, January 8, 2010

Jaguar Project (part five)

"It snowed last night in Woodlake, brah..."
"What do you mean?" I asked Eddie. Eddie was from Maui; he was another one of the crew at the utility company. He lived a couple of blocks away from me, so we sometimes shared the ride to work.
"You ain' talk to da Cowboy?" Eddie said. "He gots da soda, man. Da kine shit."
"Oh, yeah? Well maybe I'll check it out. I've never done it before. What's it like?"

The Cowboy lived in Woodlake, which was about seven miles down the river trail from my place. I used to ride the bike down there Saturday mornings, pick up some weed, and then take a buzzed and leisurely cruise back home, or maybe down to the beach. This Saturday I took the Jaguar, and came back with my usual stash, plus a tiny white envelope full of grief. I had just made one of the two worst decisions of my life, up to that point. I'd follow it up soon after, by asking out one of the checkers at the nearby supermarket.
The gal from the supermarket was not interested in bicycles of any manner, shape, or form. She liked blow. And she liked to party.

Every time I'd invite the Gal from the market over for "a little session" as we called it, I'd be well supplied. I found reasons to stop by The Cowboy's place more and more often. I'd see him at the yard before the shift started, and we'd BS about this and that, and somehow the topic always rolled around, and I'd order another G. That was a hundred bucks in 1980 bucks.
And I couldn't quite figure it out. I don't know how many times I'd plow a line, and realize once again, "you know, this stuff isn't all it's cracked up to be- in fact, it's a shitty excuse for a buzz at all- I don't really even like this feeling, and besides it's fading already after barely only ten minutes, and yeah this stuff is bullshit, and right now I need a hit, but once this shit's gone that's it. No more...
And the next day I'd feel like total crap. And a couple or three days later, I'd be talking to the Cowboy, and...
Even though I was making pretty good money, it didn't take very long before I found myself running short of cash.

But, wait- we were talking about classic bikes here, not sex, n' drugs. Wasn't there something about an old Schwinn in this story?

Despite the new relationship, and the financial drain I was still on the hunt for old bikes. The Starlet was the right vintage, but it was a girl's bike. The Jaguar was cool enough, but it was a middleweight sixties bike, and barely twenty years old. I wanted a forties, or fifties machine. And work still kept me going in and out of old neighborhoods, and old houses, and one day I got a call to change out a meter at an ancient two-story wood frame house, set way back on a big lot. The place even had a barn. I knocked. A scruffy, skinny old guy came to the door. I identified myself, and told him why I was there. I walked around to the side of the house to check the meter, and my eyes were pulled like a magnet to a giant rusty tangle of old bikes sitting in the yard like a mountain of iron spaghetti. I walked back to the fence for a closer look.
"What're you lookin' at, there?" I hadn't heard the old guy following me, and it startled the hell out of me when he spoke up.
"Oh," I said. "I like to fix up old bikes- hobby of mine, you know?"
The old guy said nothing.
"I was just wondering if maybe you had any of this stuff for sale. I pay pretty decent money for the right bike in the right condition."
"Nothin's for sale here."

It wasn't supposed to go this way. He was supposed to say, "Well I got one I could show ya' here. Bought it for the boy way back when, but he ain't interested no more so you can have it for twenty bucks if you want it". And then, of course he'd pull a tarp off a 1949 Black Phantom...

"Nothin here's for sale", he repeated.
Time for diplomacy.
"I understand, sir- know just how it is. I have my own big old pile of parts, and stuff at home, and well- I'll tell you what. Here's my home phone." I wrote it down on a blank repair order. "If you ever want get rid of any of this stuff give me a call. Like I said, I do pay good money for the right old bike." He didn't say anything, but he took the phone number. Weeks later I got a call. He had one old bike he'd sell me if I wanted to see it. I drove over there, and he took me into the barn to have a look. And damned if it wasn't a genuine Schwinn Black Phantom, practically the Holy Grail of collectible bikes.
Or what was left of one.

Jaguar Project Part Six


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