Thursday, December 21, 2006

Motorcycles & Me

I'm not sure if a life long "vehicle post acquisition depression" pattern wasn't set just then. Now whenever I get something I've longed for, _most especially wheels anticipated, desired over a period of time, I find my self wondering what will go wrong to put a pall on the joy. I won't buy a new car for this reason alone, convinced that what ever I purchase will somehow sour and turn on me, causing me some particularly insidious grief. That certainly proved true of the first motorcycle I ever purchased.

I've never told you about a lot of my life after I left home. Call it honoring the O'Connor tradition of remaining silent about anything negative until well after the negative effects of the secret have been dealt with and dissipated. The thinking goes that the knowledge can only bring stress to those you love__ and the knowing provides no possibility of remedy. Seems to me there is about a 10 year stretch I held back from you under the general principles stated above. But I'm in my forties now, still alive, although somewhat amazed that I survived those times, and I suppose its safe to let you in on a few of the crazed events that blew through my life away from home, like a combination of hurricanes, earthquakes and just plain concentrated bad news.

Now that my motorcycle is long gone, (and if Jan is to be believed buried forever in my remote past) the stories can be told. I wanted a BMW motorcycle with all the passion I'd longed for that 10 speed multiplied by the money in my pocket and the strange times that were Berkeley in the early 70's.

I thought the BMW was a sleek, beautiful, majestic machine. My friends called it a big staid German dog. My biking buddies were into hot and crazy limy bikes like the Norton Commando, and Triumph. Loud flashy, oil spurting British steel that could scream up the acceleration curve with a throaty roar.

But I had my eye on a model called the R69_S, big, black, twin chrome tail pipes and huge twin cylinders that spread out parallel to the ground like thick wings. I'd found the machine of my fixation in the want adds__ $1100, it was more than I had, but I wanted it badly. The thing was set up for road touring, a sleek black and Plexiglas wind faring swept back from the headlight. Fiberglass saddlebags hung from the sides. The huge touring gas tank looked like the overstuffed thorax of a monstrous black bumblebee. I was completely consumed with the want of this machine.

I was working at the ice house at the time, living a very cash flush lifestyle, little did I know that I had more money in my pocket than at any time in my life since. I had it figured that if I spent every dime I owned, plus the rent money I could get my machine. I'd then tighten the belt to next pay day and be ahead again.

I wanted the BMW, but felt obliged to shop the field. I rode a British bike, a red Triumph that had been in storage for a few years, over the garage where the BMW was parked. The Triumph's gas tank hadn't been properly drained before storage, the old fuel gummed up the carbs causing the bike to buck, surge, wheeze, smoke, and growl. I knew I didn't want the
Triumph, but I still didn't have enough to pay for the BMW.

I drove the Triumph up to the BMW owner. "I'm going to buy this Triumph for $900, unless you'll sell me the BMW for the same amount." I was desperate, it was all I had. The conviction in my voice convinced the guy. With a muttered curse, he cut his price $200 and we made a deal. It was Christmas morning all over again. I even managed to drive the bike into the room I was living in at the time. I spent the night watching it gleam, trying the key (a spike like affair that socketed into the headlight), admiring the German chrome. I rode without incident for a week. Then it happened.

As I accelerated around a corner on to Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley a small silver fiberglass sports car darted left across my lane__and stopped. I had enough time to lock up the breaks and lay on the horn. The screeching tires howled down a thick black streak of rubber as time slowed down. The passenger in the sports car watched me wide eyed as I skidded into the car. The bike slammed into the door, launching me, with my girl friend still hugging my back, up through the faring of the bike. We somersaulted over the sports car, a neat ballistic flip through the early evening air, landing in a breathless heap twenty feet beyond the wreck. I hit tail first and skidded far enough on my fanny to singe my bum. My girl still clinging to my back landed on me. I cushioned the shock of her landing and she walked away from the wreck with out a scratch.

The shock of the pavement knocked the wind from me. I sat dazed in the street, strangers suddenly surrounding us with questions.

"Are you all right?"

"You're cut!"

Blood trickled down my face from a laceration on my temple. I'd snapped the Plexiglas out of the faring with my big Irish head. We were bundled into a VW bus and driven to the University Hospital by helpful strangers. I the doctor jerked stitches through my head with a special snapping emphasis as he lectured me on the stupidity of not wearing a helmet.

The next day I awoke too stiff to move. I felt like I'd been carefully and completely beaten from head to toe with a baseball bat. Too sore to work, too broke not to I forced myself back to the Icehouse. I cripped my way through the swing shift __my body and my bike were broke. The bike was never the same after that, I couldn't afford to get it 100% fixed. The vehicular joy was burned out of me once again. I just suffered stupidly until the pain and the hassles went away. Another prime example of the O'Connor dictum of not sharing pain with your loved ones. What you didn't know couldn't upset you.

No comments: