This philosophy may be subject to interpretation depending on the circumstances. For example, in the case of assertive alpha males (who make the ground tremble when they walk), the garage becomes a master mechanic’s surgery, with tool chests on rollers, flawless workbenches, and tools hanging on little pegs like chromium steel pork chops in a butcher’s window.
My friend Clyde Jacobs has a garage like this. All that is missing is the hand-lettered sign from the “Little Rascals” that reads, “He-Man Woman Haters Club... No Women Allowed.” (The reason this sign is missing is because Clyde’s wife Patty, who is about 25 percent his size, would insert her foot far into his ass.) The floor of Clyde’s garage is oil-resistant rubber and has a turntable built into it so he can rotate his BMW like a 45 rpm record, with one hand.
Another buddy of mine, Eric DucDude (so named for his Ducati affinity) also has a garage like this with semiprecious motorcycles (some old, some new) all reposing on battery tenders like an ad for a Euro-tech bike spa. I’ve been to his garage once, and I swear he looks at home walking through it wearing a white lab coat and carrying a clipboard.
Then there are the non-Alpha males... Men like myself who have had their lungs and balls removed by the hell-spawned attorneys of former wives. My “temple” is about 20 square feet in a three-bay garage, subject to shrinkage by antique furniture acquisitions, gardening supplies, and the detritus of various home improvement projects, all at the discretion of the haus frau, who periodically reminds me that I live here at her fickle pleasure. I am chagrinned to inform the gentle reader that a packed suitcase is kept by the door to remind me that I am always close to the gutter.
Nevertheless, I still regard this 20 square feet as my final refuge. It is where I can go to admire my bike and sit with a drink and a cigar. (Of course, I have to go outside if I want to light the cigar.) Yet even this modest male-retreat is under constant surveillance and siege. The nice old lady who lives next door has a cat named “Houdini,” who has determined that there is no better place in the world than this garage for taking a piss.
Now there are no broken windows in this garage. The cat simply waits until one of the doors goes up, then dashes in and signs his name on the nearest pile of rags, carpeting remnant, or my Joe Rocket ballistic jacket. Whatever is available. He’s out again two seconds later. He’s like a feline Zorro, signing a “Z” in yellow ink.
For those of you who have not read, Fun Facts About Cats, these animals do not have a strong sense of smell. A sense of smell is considered useful in the wild if you intend to mate. Even in the watered down version of nature that we call “society,” smell triggers certain reactions. It is why women spend a fortune on perfume and cologne. It is also why men laugh when they fart. Nature has compensated the cat for a poor sense of smell with piss that can be detected by other cats 143 miles away. (NASA once published a paper saying that cat piss is the only aroma on earth that can be easily detected in space.)
All I wanted at first was to discourage the cat from coming into the garage. I tried putting mothballs in the corners and around the workbench. I set unbaited mousetraps on the rags. I started letting the two huge dogs that live here into the garage. One went to vet's for eating the mothballs. The other limped back into the house with mousetraps on every foot, his nose, and tail.
Then I was out for blood. I borrowed a chipper, put an old towel and a bowl of milk in its feeder opening, then left the garage open. All to no avail.
This morning was the last straw.
I was attempting to perform a frivolous bit of maintenance, which boils down to hanging a “ride bell” from the center stand on my 1995 K75 BMW. According to legend, the ride bell should be hung down low on a bike, where its gentle tinkling will discourage gremlins from working their mischief. The bells are silver in color, and generally have a design on them. The one I was attaching to “Fire Balls,” is called a “Writer’s Bell,” as it bears the image of a naked woman, who is handing a drink to a man, who performs no useful work. My squeeze gave it to me as a gift. Ride bells of various design are common among the cruiser crowd, though I have seen a few Beemers with them as well.
The Typical Ride Bell... Shown slightly larger than actual size.
It was a delightful day outside, with the cool hint of an early fall. Naturally, the garage door was wide open. I was on the floor under my bike, when I witnessed four furry feet slink past me. The cat sashayed over to my gear (which was heaped in a pile on the floor), and squatted up against my helmet. It was about to unload into my $350 Nolan.
Not two inches from my hand was the remote to close the garage door. I hit the button and the trap was sprung. “Houdini” was my prisoner in the garage. You should have seen the look on his furry little face as I backed him into a corner. We stared at each other in a stalemate, and then I unzipped my fly in preparation to pay this cat back in kind. It occurred to me that this is one of those ideas that sound much better in barroom conversation than in reality. There was no guarantee the cat would sit there and just take it. The thought of chasing the cat around while hosing off my own stuff seemed somewhat self-defeating.
And then I knew what I was going to do. I donned my armored ballistic jacket, helmet, and gloves on the outside chance “Houdini” wouldn’t cooperate. (This turned out to be a wise precaution.) The deed was done in two seconds and I released one thoroughly aggravated cat out into the driveway.
I felt 20 years younger. I whistled. I did some work in the garage. I poured myself a drink and lit a cigar in an act of total defiance. Ten minutes later, Mrs. Hackleschmackle appeared at the door with two cops. She held the sneering cat in her arms.
“Does this belong to you,” asked the first cop, who looked like a skinhead working for the post office in a totalitarian state. Using his baton (club) he pointed to the ride bell attached to the cat’s neck via a Radio Shack wire tie.
“No,” I lied, using the kind of intense nonchalance that only public relations Jedi masters can muster.
“Yes it is,” said the hag from next door. “His girlfriend showed it to me yesterday.” I had no trouble envisioning Leslie joining this crone in picking me out of a police lineup. Fortunately, she had left for Europe.
“I did have one like it, officers,” I said, “And my girlfriend did get it for me. But I sold it so I’d have some money for whisky.”
‘Well just how do you think we should resolve this,” asked the second cop, using a tone of voice which suggested that he didn’t really give a damn for whatever answer I might pose.
“Officers,” I said with quiet authority. “If I were you, I’d walk this lady back to her house, and beat the shit out of her with your night sticks. It’s the only known cure for Alzheimer's.”
And I closed the garage door for the second time that day.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)