09 November 2005

Old Men and Roast Beef

Back when I still had an extra $15 a week (pre dual kids and mortgage) I would ride to lunch as far across town as possible - to maximize riding time in a limited window. At the time Arby's was as far as I could get without exceeding my allotted one hour of freedom or eating some garbage from a purveyor of stewed cat and viral death.

Recently I was reminded of a sunny fall afternoon I'd ridden my ragged little 883 4-speed chain drive Sportster to the far reaches of Enid to settle in for a big roast beef and the Daily Oklahoman. Across from me, all alone at a table for two, was an older gentleman. While I'll never make a carnival barker and can't guess age this guy had to be 85 if he was a day. Weathered face and a knowing eye, we'd exchanged non-verbal pleasantries when I sat down and had passing eye contact.

As I was finished with the meal he broke the awkward silence and asked me, "Is that your motorcycle?"
"Yes," I replied, "it's an 88 Sportster. Lot of fun when the weather is nice like this."
He smiled and said, "Looks nice. Reminds me of my old Indian."
Having heard this and similar lines before from so many others I followed with, "Really ..."

This is the part where most folks foul their lie with nonexistent models or skewed timelines. Anything from, "Yeah, I bought a brand new Sportster in '51." Or "Used to ride my dad's old 76 Panhead - he bought it new when he got of 'nam." all the way to "I have an all original basket case Knuckle at home, all I need is the electric starter and I'm back on the road."

But the elderly gentleman at the fast food place floored me with, "Yep. Bought a used Indian Four when I returned from overseas. Reminded me of my dad's Henderson so I wanted it. I loved that bike."

This had me sit down with a "No shit ..."

He related to me a timeline of road trips and friends on the old Indian. How his friend bought a used '36 model upside down four and it 'roasted his balls.' How even then the HD guys were a bunch of pricks and refused to acknowledge the Indian's positive attributes. How he had increased compression to hop-up the 12 hp motor, rode it to California from his home in Omaha several times, slept in ditches and under overpasses, and landed any number of girls with the bike. Eventually one landed him, as he confessed; "Finally I got married. And she made me sell the bike to buy a Hudson. Said we couldn't haul groceries on a motorcycle."

There was a weighted pause as I nodded respectfully and he finished with a half-assed pissed off: "She's dead now, and I still wish I had that bike."

Not knowing whether to laugh or console him I sat there as he smiled and added, "Don't ever get rid of your bike." And we both laughed. Me respectfully, him regretfully ...

So I haven't. At least not 'a bike.' Regretfully I did sell that particular Sportster in order to trade up to a used Heritage. The little 4-speed found a new home with an in-law I knew would take care of it. Like most men I consider anything once mine to be always be mine. Similar to dogs pissing on trees. Hell, I still think my high school girlfriend is screwing around on me with her husband of 11 years. The whore.

So when I sold my beloved Sportster (I couldn't afford the Heritage otherwise) I sent it to live with someone who would follow the same maniacal maintenance schedule it had experienced with me. Hell, I even volunteered to maintain it pro bono.

He in turn traded-up and sold it to some fatassed mechanically inept malcontent. Last time I saw my Sporty the asshat had a lunch box strapped on the fender, it was covered in filth, the base gaskets were leaking, gas stains riddled the tank, and the chain was slapping the guard. I shudder to think how long the oil had been percolating in the bag, or when - if ever - the tranny / primary oil had been changed. Had it been ten years later he undoubtedly would have been sporting an occ shirt and a west coast beanie to complement his brand new sleeve of tattoos - "just like the guys on TV!". I couldn't stand to see my first ride to Sturgis treated like a fucking moped by some brain dead lummox. In retrospect I should have shot them both and ended the misery. But I walked away muttering curses which, if they come true, should now have that punk hooked to a colostomy bag in a fetid mental ward due to the untreated syphilis and rotting spine.

Similarly the Heritage I put countless miles and two new cylinder kits on was bought by this weasel-dicked clerk a Lowe's who brought it to Forman's for service. 6,500 miles later. Over three time the miles I put on oil changes. Idiots ... The lot of them. Thankfully I've never seen that beast again. I suspect it was laid down on gravel by the drunken punk and sent him to the emergency room before behing totaled and scrapped by some heartless uninformed insurance lady. The bitch.

So maybe the old man did mean to never sell my bike. Maybe he'd been tortured by 60 years of nightmares wherein his beloved Indian sat neglected in a Kansas tree row while rats gnawed the plug wires, sparrows shit all over the speedo, and rust consumed the tank. Maybe his deceased wife had failed to see why this was a bad thing so he beat her to death with a shovel one night and buried the body under the house. Maybe keeping a motorsickle in the house is the only way to keep my old lady alive. Maybe I need more motorsickles as insurance ...

Or maybe The Prophet Paul was right when he said, "The only thing worse than a wannabe is a used-to-be."

All I know is: seeing the forlorn looks of those poor bastards who sold their Shovelhead to make a down payment on the house when we pass by on a June afternoon is more than I can bear. Were that lottery to pay off I'd be the motorsickle fairy (or sprite - that sounds better than 'fairy') and distribute Low Rider Standards to the family men who sacrificed wind and loud pipes for hearth and home. Having the motorsickle really makes the overtime and asshole customers worth the ulcers and hate.

So I'm never selling the Road King. At this point in my life I just don't care enough to repress the urge to slaughter who ever would abuse it next. When I auger in, and I will, if it's not aboard the two-wheeled instrument of death then Jake gets it. He knows maintenance. I've taught him. That's my job.

Lou Lou the Zulu still has his first bike, and he's almost always well-adjusted and happy. Although some of that could be attributed to Miss Kathey ...

Admittedly, I got lucky and made money on both my Sportster and my Heritage. I sold when motorsickles were hot property and supply was low. I had the motorsickle before I got married. I married a chick who told me, "If the motorsickle goes, I go." I got into the Road King for dealer list rather than the $6,200 surcharge those reprehensible shiteyed cocksuckers at Barnett's wanted. And I've been fortunate to have found the best group of Goons in the world to ride with. Pretty much, except for my aesthetically repulsive visage, I've just been damned lucky.

If there is any justice the people who have abused my old motorsickles are miserable wretches bent and haggard searching the earth for happiness. Gollum in a punk-ass chopper tee. Fuck 'em. They deserve it.

Don't ever sell your bike.