Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Youth — R.I.P.



My 14-year-old BMW K75 was running like a racehorse.

A quick glance at the speedo revealed I’d crossed over into triple digit territory without so much as a hiccup from the engine or the hint of a contrail from the muffler. It had only been daylight for about an hour, and this was the second day, a Sunday, of a three-day summer holiday weekend. The interstate was deserted and my destination was an obscure "shore" bar atop the dunes in a postage stamp of a town known primarily to bikers. Not BMW bikers, but the chrome and leather riders, who would arrive in a barrage of sound, on machines hammered out of ore taken straight from chrome mines, decorated with painted pillion candy (ladies) who would have a man thinking of things that would embarrass a moose in rut.

"Fireballs..." My 1995 BMW K75, a motorcycle of class and distinction. Photo by the author.

Once off the slab, my route would hug the coast for a bit, rolling through towns that smelled of salt, fish, and marshes percolating in the summer heat. The road would occasionally rise above a waterway, catching a freshening breeze while offering a glimpse of the ocean on my left, and a vast bay on the right. It was far too early to arrive at a bar and start drinking. My plan was to get through the shore communities before the crowds and the cops would jam these roads like platelets in a worn artery. Still, there were plenty of places where I intended to stop, and pour myself a cup of coffee from the battered Nissan vacuum bottle in my top case.

One of these spots is a little public pavilion overlooking a thin stretch of beach. It is off by itself, nearly concealed from the road by shifting dunes, corralled by sand fences buried to within inches of their tops. I generally hit this place slightly before 8am, on this annual ride, and have been known to light up one hell of a maduro, robusto cigar for the brief time that I am here. Smoking a robusto (wrapped in the black-hearted leaf of Connecticut) is like sucking on the muffler of a Ducati, and creates clouds of satisfying, spice-laden vapor to challenge the oxygen-generating capabilities of the nearest rainforest. Native Americans were quick to realize the portable smoke-lodge benefits of thickly-rolled tobacco and I will not dispute generations of cures attributed to holistic medicine.

On a prior run, I was ensconced in this pavilion, cigar in hand, when a gentleman showed up with a shopping bag and a little dog, like a Pomeranian, on a leash that was as delicate as dental floss.

“I read the New York Times here every Sunday,” he said.

“There’s no need to apologize,” I said with a smile. “I’ve read far worse.”

“But you’re smoking,” he said.

“Not me... My cigar,” I smiled, holding it up.

“Well, it’s a disgusting habit and my dog doesn’t like it.”

I took one more puff and let it out slowly. The breeze was coming off the water and the smoke evaporated instantly, like a practical idea in Congress. I realized I was in the presence of that rare bird of paradise, the great American warbling douche... A man in his forties who had never been laid, whose greatest ambition as a kid was to be the hall monitor at school, and whose current career peaked when named to his position at an insurance company -- denying coverage to cancer patients.

“I beg your pardon,” I said.

Collecting my helmet, jacket and gloves was a process that took a few seconds, and I accompanied this activity with a series of puffs that would have set off inversion alarms in any major city. The look on this guy’s face was priceless. I stepped out of the pavilion and headed to a bench 50 feet away, where I proceeded to smoke like a forge.

“I can still smell that cigar,” he yelled in my direction.

The spell was broken. This guy had managed to take all the magic out of the morning, and I had to be moving on anyway. I stood up and ground the smoldering stogie into the sand with the heel of my boot, where it remains to this day, providing fodder for legions of migrating lemmings. I walked up to him and said, “I’ll be back in an hour. If you’re still here, I’m going to smoke that fucking dog.”

But these were the images in my head as I downshifted off the slab that day, heading for the first leg of the local route. The light at the intersection went red in my face and I reined in the K75. I no sooner had both feet flat on the pavement than my senses were assaulted by a concentration of sound one usually associates with the re-entry of space debris rocketing through the atmosphere. The scream of metal in anguish, as tortured pistons instantly went from full thrust to dynamic braking, penetrated my helmet like a projectile.

A S.Q.U.I.D. pulled up next to me at the light, having decelerated from 3,000 miles per hour to a dead stop -- in 40 feet. His bike, a 4200cc Squidabussa, looked like a predator straight out of that stupid "Transformer" movie. The rider appeared to be 20-years-old, weighed about 87 pounds, and exuded the nonchalance of a drug dealer.

The woman on the back, however, was both a vision and a curse. She raised her tinted face screen to say something to him, and revealed the kind of eyes one seldom finds outside of Anime. Though wearing a little leather jacket, her foot pegs seemed nearly level with her seat -- almost raising her knees behind her ears -- exposing a “tramp stamp”(that would easily get my vote for official US postage) over a flawless ass that I would have been delighted to wear as a hat.

She looked right through me, and I realized I was an all but invisible bale of rags, escaped from a prison laundry, riding a gelded iron dinosaur. That is because at 55-years-old, fat, and astride a vintage BMW (that was an acquired taste the day it was new), no other combination of words could be kinder.

The light changed and the Squidabussa vaporized in a new set of sounds that seemed to suck up all the air around me in a reverse tsunami of speed. I sat there, motionless, watching as that tramp stamp hung in the air, like the smile of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, burning itself onto my retinas before fading.

I returned to reality when a dowager in a minivan behind me blew her horn. I thanked her by raising my middle finger as I snicked the bike into gear. (I like the phrase “snicked into gear” and think I may have been the first to use it. Every biker knows what I mean. It’s sort of like bagpipes “skirling.” But in truth, older BMW’s go into gear with the sound a ball-peen hammer makes when striking cast iron. Regrettably, there is no single word to describe that action, other than “clunk,” which defeats the whole purpose. -- author’s note)

The ride progressed according to plan but I was thoroughly preoccupied by thoughts of my youth, which had long-since been eclipsed by failed marriages, career woes, and the accumulation of aches and pains associated with stupid decisions that seemed clever at the time. And when I say “stupid,” I mean epically so. I did things on a motorcycle that should have gotten me killed outright, or shot by a firing squad convened by local civil authority.

My vehicle of proposed self-destruction back then was a Kawasaki H2. I remember beating a commuter train through a crossing on it. I rode astride a double-yellow line on a major thoroughfare in a dense fog for miles coming down from High Point, New Jersey. (It was the only way I could see the road.) I consumed my weight in Irish whiskey one night, picked up some local talent (Laura the Animal), and rode to a buddy’s place over winding, twisty mountain roads. (In the morning, my body was covered with primitive tattoos that Laura had chewed into my skin. I remember thinking, “How the hell am I going to explain these to my girlfriend?”)

These are just a few of the highlights that I can easily remember. There were others that involved the police, cash transactions in court, and afternoons spent in emergency rooms. Yet I am reminded by words written by the late Hunter S. Thompson: “It’s better to get shot out of a cannon than to be squeezed out of a tube.” I could fit into a cannon when I was young. Now my ass alone would require a howitzer.

I started to think of how I would like to exit this vale of tears, and was once given the idea to write my own obituary by Walter Kern of Motorcycle Views. If I knew I had 72-hours left, I would want to go after one of the great, legendary motorcycle weekends of my early 20’s. The trip would start with a mad dash to the mountains -- or the beach -- in the company of friends, who would ride like they had just stolen their motorcycles. Each bike would have the prerequisite camping crap lashed to it, behind stunning women, whose collective idea of perfume was burned oil, cigarette smoke, and stale beer.

The day would have been spent jockeying for the lead, pulling ahead of the next guy, and keeping the tach needle dancing on the red line. Nightfall would be against the backdrop of a huge campfire. Flames and women would be dancing to Led Zeppelin, Cream, and the Doors. The green bottle of Jameson would be making the rounds, chased by beer cold enough to make your teeth ache. And when stars competed with the embers, I’d lead my tanned beauty to a tent illuminated by a single candle, the soft light of which barely extended to the ends of an old double sleeping bag, whose down loft more than compensated for the ground. She’d be on top, long hair cascading over my face with each movement...

And then the end would come, after three hours of unbroken passion.

In the morning, my tent would be cordoned off by yellow crime scene tape. The coroner would be standing over my cadaver, interpreting the site for the benefit of the cops, who would have never seen anything like this before.

“This man has lost 92 percent of his bodily fluids,” the coroner would say. “That means he was literally fucked to death. And the fact that he is laying on his back, ass down, would indicate there was a woman involved, and not a lawyer.

“The hole in the top of the tent tells me the woman was ejected with some force. I suggest you start looking in the surrounding treetops for a naked, stunned blonde, modestly endowed, who is probably sleeping off the hangover of the century.”

“You can tell all that from these few clues,” the younger of the two cops would ask.

“Certainly,” the coroner would respond. The thong the deceased is wearing as a headband would do justice to a Victoria’s Secret model with a 22-inch waist, and a lady’s hairbrush indicates recent use by a blonde. You can tell that the woman in question was modestly endowed by the slight cup shape of the deceased’s hands, forever frozen in rigor mortis.”

The blonde would be found, safely sleeping it off in a tree top a half-mile away. My bike would go on display in a museum, where once a year, riders who had difficulty getting laid could touch it for inspiration and luck. My remains would be cremated, and my ashes would be carried in an inverted Nolan Helmet, to a suburban town in the Metropolitan area, where they would be thrown in the face of my first former mother-in-law, Kathleen Dunphy.

Millions of people would put stuff in front of this monument on my birthday every year. (Graphic courtesy of my ex-wives and their attorneys -- Click to enlarge)

I started to laugh out loud thinking of these arrangements, and discovered I was pulling up before the little pavilion where I would have my coffee and cigar. Yet parked on the street below the dunes was the Squidabussa. Dismounting, the sound of my footsteps was lost in the loose sand. Between the sound of the surf and the wind, they never heard me approach. She was all over that guy with her bare back to me. He looked up, put a finger to his lips, and smiled. I took one last look at that tramp stamp, and backed away without making a sound. Call it professional courtesy. She never knew I was there.

There are some things a cigar will not improve. And somehow, I got too old way too fast.


Addendum:

Long-time friend and riding buddy Pete Buchheit -- age undisclosed -- yesterday received a 100,000 mile BMW mileage award from Bob Henig, of Bob’s BMW,in Jessup, MD. Buchheit claims he has been working toward this award for a while as his annual mileage goal never exceeds 1,100 miles per year. He is the inventor of the handlebar-mounted drool bucket.

Pete Buchheit (left) receives a coveted 100,000 mile recognition award from Bob Henig, of Bob's BMW in Jessup, Md. (Photo by Bob's BMW -- Click to enlarge)

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009

AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA The Vindfak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

33 comments:

sgsidekick said...

Nicely done, Jack! Loved the cigar at the pavillion! I'm a little surprised that all you did was threaten to smoke the dog? Guess it worked, tho.

Whenever I read your stuff, I can actually visualize it, which can be a curse at times....some of the pictures I DIDN'T need in my head!! But overal, nice article.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear SgSidekick (Tena):

Thank you for your kind note. I had this piece in my mind for a while and just wanted to get it out. In truth, I was at the pavilion first and there was no sign against smoking. Now it goes without saying that the opening of this piece might have had a different twist if:

1) The anoying guy was a lot bigger than me...
2) If the dog had been a Doberman...
3) If the the guy had pulled a Luger out of his shopping bag...

Wouldn't it be swell if we could choose the realities we wished to envision... Yet the palette of life presents us with all colors. I regret I ued a few that hurt your eyes... But the the truth is the truth, and you have to know how I feel about that.

It is always a pleasure to hear from you. Hit Bugser with a stick for me.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

cpa3485 said...

What's the old line? Coming and Going at the same time! I am sure the lady found sleeping in the tree had a smile on her face.

Anonymous said...

Curtis Turner was one of the early NASCAR racers. He said his goal was to be hung for rape at 105. Unfortunately he died at 56 in a plane crash, no word on the rape charges.
Stay away from airplanes and stick with what you know, motorcycles and great writing (and, of course, cigars etc.)
Thanks,
Ford

BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack:
This was an easy, flowing, and very enjoyable piece. I watched the anime video to the end and kept thinking, "if I tried that I would not only look like a old, gay transvestite, but I'd be blind in both eyes. How do they do that? I guess their hands never shake:)

Jack Riepe said...

Dear CPA3485 (Jimbo):

I miss being 22. I was thin, stupid and fast. I can live with that. If you ever watch the movie "Casablanca," there is a scene in which Claude Rains says, "You should be careful throwing away beautiful women. They may be in short supply one day."

I have the last one one those who can stand me too.

I hoped you laughed at this.I've been meaning to get to it for quite some time.

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ford:

Thank you for your kind note. I try to do the best I can. I wantred to write a ride report-type story that a had a moral to it. Regretably, this one ended before it got to the moral.

I do love a great cigar.

Thank you for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dickie (Bregstein):

I had a helluva day today. Your kind note made it much better. By the way, I was chatting with Kimi Bush, and she and Corey are up for a bit of adventure on Sunday. I was thinking we blow out of the Mac-Pac breakfast, and head down Rt. 9 into Delaware.

We cruise the byways and salt marshes and head to Sambo's (on the waterfont in Leipsic), or the Bayville Inn, at North Bowers Beach. The Bayville is a joint and much cheaper. Since the crab season is over, who cares?

It is supposed to be 66º, and sunny. The marshes may have taken a pounding in the storm, and it could be cool to see. What do you say?

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

rob h said...

Jack,
Thank you for your writing. I too think about all of my time past and what should have beens. But hell, life is good now too in it's own ways. I just finished a great cigar with my best friend and I can still ride. Keep up the good work. - Rob

Nikos said...

Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes...Jack, you have really hit a raw nerve with me on here. Now I realise why my chronically pleasure denying misery of an ex-wife deployed female lawyers to suck me dry.

As ever, keep it up.

All the very best, Nikos the Advanced Motorcyclist.

Nikos said...

Sorry to be a nuisance but on proof reading the above, I noticed an omission: please insert "ugly lesbian homophobic expensive" before "lawyers".

many thanks, N

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Rob H.:

It's been a while since I had the pleasure of chasing you on the "green" BMW beast someplace. Still, I was delighted to read that you too are exploring the mind-relaxing exercise of the "portable smoke lodge."

There are few things that cannot be improved by a great cigar. Thank you for reading my blog, and for taking the time to comment.

You going to breakfast this Sunday? Dick and I are going to conduct a little ride after the event, but I can guarantee it will fall into the "sedate" category, as far as you are concerned.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

rob h said...

Jack,
Not sure about Sunday, may be a rare warm day to do some truck restoration painting. Do I ride or do I wrench? Breakfast and a ride to the Hershey Museum?

Life is to short and getting shorter all the time
Rob

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

If you read my stuff long enough, you will discover that I poke relentless fun at attorneys, aluminum siding salesman, and elected officials. Yet for every bottom-feeding lawyer a spouse threw at me, I had a better one... Each was a legal genius, dedicated to pursuing the higher philosophical aspects of the law (total truth), which is what I too embody.

I have never been one to categorize people by their sexual orientations, unless they were women who wanted to have sex with me. (In which case, the were marked "High Priority.")

Over the years, I have discovered that lesbians bring a lot to life's table. Occasionally, some have brought me to the table too for a cuilinary learning experience that defies description. Ugliness can be an association thng, closely tied to courthouses and alimony.

Congratulations on the "Advanced Motorcyclist" designation.

Thanks for reading my blog, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Charlie6 said...

Another outstanding posting Jack! You really know how to paint a picture with words.....Yep, I too could visualize that tramp tattoo, hanging in the air, slowing fading away in my eyes....

as to the douche with the pocket dog....very nice parting remark on your part....he probably ran home(carrying the dog) to write his congressman about "bad" BMW riders!

Hell of a way to go by the way....I would of course journey to said memorial...not for luck or bettering my chances of getting laid but to render appropriate honors to said legend.

Nikos said...

Don't get me wrong Jack, some of my best friends could be lesbian (and having been through the English "public" school system shirt lifters too).
Best wishes
Nikos

bobskoot said...

Jack "r":

I learned today that you were once 22, thin, stupid and fast. Went to the beach & smoked a dog.

You lead an exciting life

bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

ps: I really liked the "tramp stamp"

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Domingo):

That is an actual picture of my headstone. Leslie had it made for my birthday. It's out in the yard. She is going to have the dates put on it next week.

I have had people tell me the damnedest things when I am smoking cigars. Once in my own yard! I have yet to miss a comeback.

Finally, I'm not likely to go out that way unless I manage to lose 150 pounds. A tent is just so uncomfortable in my present circumstances.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

I never thought otherwise.

Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bobskoot:

Did you like smoking the dog?

I clearly remember when I weighted 135 pounds. I was in the Cub Scouts.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Allen Madding said...

Another enjoyable read. I did have but one question. The embroidery on your jacket in the Three Mile Island picture, is that your new nickname?

-Peace

Conchscooter said...

When you know you have 72 hours to live give me a call 305 587 1904. I am pretty sure I can get there in time if I drop everything. As one should.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Allen:

As a re-enty rider, I think the designation "Meteor" would be appropriate. Yet a vote among the guys I ride with claim "Flounder" would be more appropriate.

I wear a Joe Rocket Meteor 5 Jacket, in cooler weather.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conch:

Did you read the story carefully? What role do you imagine you would play in my final scenario... There are a limited number of parts in this drama. However, if you wouldn't mind standing outside my tent and swinging a scensor -- with the smoldering incense used to sanctify events of great mystical importance -- while chanting, "The light occasionally dims, but never goes out as promised," I'd regard that as a contribution to the story.

I am headed out the door at the moment to North Bowers Beach, in Delaware. It is my understanding that many of the beautiful shore roads that dot the marshes are flooded from the storm, and host to giant squid, left writing on the pavement. You will no doubt be envious of this Beemer-oriented adventure. (This s why I mention it.)

If its of any importance to you, Leslie had the dates put on the tombstone yesterday.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Cantwell said...

Dear Mr. Toad,
Please post the dates from your tomb as I will have to check my calendar to make sure I don't have anything planned during that time.
Yours truly,
Portly

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Cantwell (Michael):

Yesterday was the closing curtain (I think) on what has to be the final easy day of the 2009 riding season. Two weeks away from Thanksgiving, and the temperature was nearly 70º(F). I got a sunburn on part of my neck.

Yesterday was an exercise in browns and blues. The salt marshes were various shades of brown, as were the occasional corn fields and stands of hardwoods (yes right among the marshes), punctuated by blue open water, leading out to the mouth of the Delaware River, and to the Atlantic.

It was a great ride.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Mercilessly, Ihor said...

I did not know squids could write on pavement. You note you once had three attributes, fast, thin and stupid. Get back to the second and the the first will be easy and the third will be lessened.
I didn't think you would enjoy the recent stormy, seaside landscape as much as you did, glad the ride wasn't awful.
Stop daudling and concentrate, like in that photo of you and the cooling tower. You're twice the man you should be.

Julio said...

Jack, thanks for your laugh out loud blog. I also ran into an asshole on RAGBRAI this year who walked about three hundred yards to tell me and two of my friends that our cigar smoke was bothering his wife. He didn't have a dog so I couldn't tell him that I was going to smoke it. I did complement him on his wife's superior sense of smell. I told him to go on back to their tent and let me know when she smelt flatulance from our group.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ihor:

I meant to say the giant squid were "writhing" on the pavement. Local Route 9 through Delaware was amazingly beautiful on Sunday. And my hips were hurting bad enough that I would have chewed through a leather strap.

The bike ran like a champ too.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Julio:

I was amazed to get a letter from a reader that referenced an overnight bicycle event. I rode bikes to overnight camping locations -- about 70 miles distant -- when I was a kid.

The last chapter in my cigar book deals with people who feel compelled to tell you why you can't smoke in your own house, your own yard, or in the middle of nowhere.

I'm delighted you got a laugh from my blog. Do you ride a motorcycle too? If so, what kind?

Fondest regards,
Jac • reep • Toad

cb@cimaint.com said...

Dear Jack,
As the importers of Nolan helmet, we are both touched and honored to read that you would choose one of our helmets as your last container. When you get the 72-hour notice, please contact us at 866-243-5638 to order your urn, model and color of your choice, our "treat", we will ship overnight to your tent.
Yours truly,
Catherine Bennett
Cima International.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Catherine Bennett:

The Nolan is my helmet of choice. I recommend them to everyone. I have owned two in the last three years. I am delighted to tell you I was wearing one when a very sweet elderly person slammed into me head on, destroying my bike, and throwing me to the road.

My head struck the bumper of the minivan and the road... But my Nolan helmet took the shock in easy stride. It never cracked. And while I sustained badly bruised ribs (to the point where I couldn't walk upright for a week), there wasn't a mark on my face, a lump on my head, or any head trauma from the acident.

I bought a second Nolan three weeks later. I will contact you when it appears I am feeling faint. In truth, I couldn't think of a more elegant container for my ashes.

Fondest regards,
Jack Riepe
Twisted Roads

Road Captain said...

Outstanding story! How many people do you call a douche anyway?