Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jaguar Project (part seven)

I got to work on the B-6 today. The bike is disassembled, and I got the spring fork taken apart, cleaned, greased, and put back together. The wheels are going to be a project in themselves. I didn't realize it when I bought the thing, but whoever owned the bike before me had plundered it for parts. The painted rims were surely taken from some other Schwinn, but luckily the Bendix rear hub is still correct for the bike. It looks like I'm going to do a little plundering myself. The Starlet has chrome rims, and the B-6 needs them. So I'll get an opportunity to try my hand at lacing up a couple of wheels. Never done that before. Should be fun. I'm a little reluctant to plunder the Starlet, but I gave it a rattle can paint job way back when, so swapping out the rims won't affect either its value, or its originality too much. For all their rarity, these machines seldom command great prices. Come to think of it, the prices that these things were fetching thirty years ago are not much different than the price you'd pay for one today. I guess you could make the case that the monetary value has actually declined. So what. If you're looking for an investment, you can do way better than a rusty old bike. Anyway- where was I? Oh, yeah- back to 1980...

I didn't cash the tax check right away, and I remember carrying a queasy sort of knot in my gut all that week. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was in trouble. The gal from the market worked nights until Friday, but I had promised her that we'd get all kinds of crazy that weekend. That was one promise I did keep, but not in the way I intended. I'd talked to The Cowboy several times, but I kept balking before coming to the topic. Thursday afternoon I cashed the check. Friday morning I told The Cowboy I'd maybe be in touch tomorrow. I stopped for beer and groceries Friday night, and told the gal from the market that we were on for Saturday evening.

It is only in hindsight that we can see the patterns of events that shape our lives. Part of the web of coincidence that surrounded the Great Bike Hunt had this recurring theme- Bikes I didn't want would come my way. And they would provide essential components that would be missing from the machines that I would buy later- machines that I would not have bought otherwise. I'd scavenged some small pieces of hardware for the Starlet, and I wouldn't have bought the Jaguar except that I already had the racks that it was missing. And now I had rotten headlight shell, half of a rusty horn tank, and the remnant of a Black Phantom sitting out in the garage. The newly repainted Starlet, and completed Jaguar occupied center stage in my living room. Remember I said that those bikes kept me out of jail? We're going to get to that part in just a bit, here.

I wasn't exactly hung over that Saturday morning, but I wasn't hitting on all eight either. I had told The Cowboy I was going to come by sometime early that afternoon. But I didn't want to do it. Six hundred bucks meant a quarter ounce of toot, and a marathon "session" that could run twenty four hours or more. I wasn't up to a long bike ride that morning, so I took the truck down to Woodlake.
I pulled onto the freeway with the bottom falling out of my stomach. I felt like I was going to trial. Four off ramps to The Cowboy's house. I lagged along in the right lane. Three off ramps. Then two. Then Dorado Boulevard Next Right.

And all in a flash, something wild just took hold of me. I got hit with an adrenaline charge that felt like I'd grabbed hold of a power line. I let fly with an AHHHWOOO from the beach bum days, punched the accelerator, and passed the Dorado Boulevard off ramp like I was ditching school for a surf run. I pulled off on the Southbound 405, and headed for Newport Beach. I was going to see the pusher. The Pedal Pusher, that is. They sold old bikes.
Parking in Newport beach on a Saturday is usually close to impossible. There was an open spot with time on the meter right in front of the bike shop. I pulled up, got out of the truck, walked in to the shop, and spotted my next bike. It was a maroon and cream B-6. But it had chrome fenders that should have gone to a Phantom. And, of course it was missing parts: the headlight shell, the gooseneck, the signature seat post. I had all that stuff at home. And the rest of the bike was immaculate. Asking price: five hundred seventy five dollars. I put cash on the counter, and rolled it out the door. Bike in the truck. Truck on the road. Straight home. Well, a stop for beer, and then straight home. I was manic- jumping up and down giddy. I couldn't believe what I had just done. But dammitall- I had my tanker! I took it out of the truck, and spent the next few hours just cruising the neighborhood, and then made I a stop for more beer.

Soon enough, though, I remembered I had a date that night. What to do? Screw it. If the chick didn't like it she could take a hike. I cracked another brew, and cranked up the stereo. I had parked the B-6 in the living room right next to the Jag and the Starlet. My fleet. I sat there watching them like a television show. And then the doorbell.

She was dressed to kill- perfume-short skirt- heels- hose- the works. And ready for some serious party, too. I was dirty, sweaty, drunk as a boiled owl, and ready to declare my independence.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"Hey, check it out I got a new bike."
"I see. Did you see your friend down in Woodlake?"
"No," I said. "I bought this instead."
"What about tonight?" she said.
I shrugged. "Wanna brew?" The gal from the market did have a temper, and it was heating up fast.
"What about tonight?" she repeated.
"Who fuckin' cares?" That was it. She went off like the Disneyland fireworks. Only this wasn't Disneyland.
What happened next was sort of a blur. I remember a lot of yelling, and before I could get up off the couch, she went for the bikes. She tried to knock them over in the living room, but she slipped (thank God for high heels). Drunk as I was, I was on my feet before she could take another swipe at the fleet. I grabbed her around the waist, and tried to wrestle her out the front door. Things got very very loud, and the next thing I knew there were police cars in my front yard, and I was spread eagled on the lawn. I heard a voice over my head.
"So what was happening here? Did you hit her?"
"NO!" I said, She was trying to trash my bikes, and I was trying to get her out of the house."
"Your bikes?" said the cop.
"Go see." I said. "She was trying to wreck them."
Just then another cop came out of the house. "Hey", he said to his partner. "Check out the old bikes this guy's got." The first cop went into the living room leaving his partner with me. "Where'd you get those things?" he asked.
So there I was with my face in my own front lawn chatting about antique Schwinns with a cop I couldn't see. It was kind of surreal. The other officer came out of the house. The two of them talked for a bit. They said I could get up off my face, but I still had to sit on the grass.
The first cop came back to me. "You're lucky," he said. "She said you didn't hit her, and she doesn't want to press charges. She's going home. I'd suggest you go in and sleep it off. We don't want to hear from you again, understand?"
I understood.

Jaguar Project Part Eight (conclusion)


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