Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Interim Twisted Roads Blog Post #214

Twisted Roads — the biker blog that brings you raw moto--adventure and romance like broken glass — publishes humorous editorial at length on Mondays and Thursdays. Yet life is simply too full of the good stuff to ignore the days in between. So from time to time, TW will publish interim blog posts of general interest, moto industry commentary, and other data, adhering to our uncompromising, yet thoroughly peculiar, editorial standards. Today we present:

The Twisted Road’s Motorcyclist’s Courtesy Test...

Biker’s have a reputation of being social Visigoths with short fuses, narrow perspectives, and appetites craving instant gratification for speed, sex, noise, whiskey (beer), danger and the kind of good times normally frowned upon by society in general and the police in particular. Yet thousands of conversations held with riders at rallies, on runs, and during bail hearings indicate most have a gentler side, not normally associated with hard, fast living.

Most riders defy the conclusions of conventional wisdom when it comes to being sensitive individuals, totally in tune with the world around them. For example, “Mother’s Day” remains the most traveled motorcycle holiday of the year, with many accessory shops reporting chromed gear sales — with mufflers, air filter covers, and even gas tanks — engraved to “Mom.” Likewise, tattoo parlors report skyrocketing sales of skin artwork with the word “Mother” prominent in the design on that day. (In many cases, the next word begins with the letter “F,” however.)

Now we are all familiar of the charity runs and the toy collection rides that are held by some of the gruffest and toughest riders on two wheels. But it’s time the general public got solid factual, inside data on sensitive biker behavior. The following survey was designed by Dr. Albert Hissingaz, of the Wilmington Institute of Hollistic Dry Cleaning, as the the ultimate measure of biker behavior. Readers are encouraged to take the poll, cutting and pasting their responses into the comments section at the end of this blog.

Two lucky respondents, chosen at random, will each receive a package of “Big Jim’s” Premium Chocolate Chip Cookies for their efforts.

Question #1:
You have been following a compact car, with Massachusetts plates, on a winding two-plane road for the last 87 miles. The posted speed limit is 45 miles per hour. On three occasions, when the double-yellow line became dotted, the driver ahead of you sped up just enough to prevent you from getting around him. You can see he is a middle-aged man, with thick glasses, and bushy eyebrows — the kind who is either a lecturing economist at Harvard or an actuary at an insurance company. The road is now straight, but with changes in elevation that warrant an endless double-yellow line. You know you can get around him, but there is no guardrail and the sudden shock of blowing past him might cause the driver to swerve and go off the cliff. You decide:

A) Just wait it out and play by the rules, despite the fact this little prick is exactly the kind of person who likes to impose his will on everyone else.

B) Blip your engine while flashing your lights, in hopes that he will wake up, come right, and wave you on... Otherwise, you will play by the rules.

C) Pull over at a pleasant vista; pour a nice cup of hot coffee from a Thermos; and give this jerk a 45-minute lead so you no longer have to think about him.

D) Use the back of your left hand to wipe the foam from your mouth... Wait until you have the very best view of the road ahead... Then blow past this guy, leaning on your Steble/Nautilus compact air horn (while running the mill to a screaming red line), glancing back in the mirror to see the car disappear into a ravine.

Question #2 (Men only)
You come out of a watering hole to discover that a woman, who happens to be a screamingly hot MILF, has placed her toddler on the seat of your $28,000 semi-custom bike, that is 4 days old. You would say:

A) “Excuse me, M’am. But that bike is very heavy and has hot parts on it. Your child could either be burned or crushed by it. I wouldn’t recommend putting the little guy on unattended motorcycles. Here... Let me get in the saddle and we can start it up for him.”

B) “M’am... I must ask you to consider how you’d respond to coming out of church or a town meeting meeting to find me sitting in your car. Now you wouldn’t like that very much, would you? I must ask you to regard this bike the same way.”

C) “Do you and this little guy have first names and cell phone numbers?”

D) “If that kid pisses himself on my custom leather seat both you and he are going to get a one-way trip to a taxidermist, and I don’t give a shit how hot looking you think you are.”

Question #3 (Women Only)
You have been in a local watering hole for the past two hours, chatting up some studly rider who happens to meet your nearly impossible criteria for a potential sperm donor. You look hot in your leathers and the deal is nearly closed, when in comes one of your closest girlfriends, wearing her tightest form-fitting ballistic gear. She is 5’4” tall, Asian, and oozes sensuality. She smiles at the stud, and your stock starts to drop. She heads toward the bathroom, and you follow (in the herding manner of women, who seem to piss best en masse). Once there, you:

A) Politely ask her to disappear as this guy is yours.

B) Drag her into a stall, make out passionately, and invite her back to the house the next night.

C) Pull the toilet seat off the can and smash her in the back of the head with it. After all, good friends should know when to stop being such good friends.

Question #4
You have parked your bike in a marked spot along the curb, where three other bikes are already parked. Yet you come back an hour later to find the other bikes gone, and a half electric/half goat-shit hybrid parked within an inch of your left side bag. The car is so close to your bike, that you cannot lift it from the side stand without having the bag contact the car’s bumper. You would:

A) Patiently wait for the owner of the car to return, so you could explain why parking like this was a bad idea.

B) Struggle to move the bike on the side stand — a fraction of an inch at a time — to ease it away from the car, so you can ride off. Then you leave a note on the car’s windscreen advising the driver that you now have his plate number, and soon his address, where you will meet him on a dark night.

C) Realizing that someone this stupid will not benefit from confrontation, you rip a page out of your road map, spread instant gasket cement (RTV) on one side, and glue it to the windscreen of the hybrid.

D) If it is dark, you do “C” above, then also urinate on the driver’s door handle.

Question #5
One of your riding friends deserves a special Christmas present... But you’re short on cash, having only $45 to spend. Furthermore, you could use a quick pick-me-up yourself, but have to take it out of that same $45. You would:

A) Buy a bottle of Michter’s American Whiskey and drink most of, saving your friend a shot.

B) Buy one ounce of BMW motorcycle touch-up paint and use it to paint your girlfriend’s toenails (if she’ll cook dinner wearing only that and perfume).

C) You buy two copies of Politically Correct Cigar Smoking For Social Terrorists — by Jack Riepe — at the special Christmas price of $45 for two books (plus S&H), and get them signed and autographed, and only pay the shipping and handling for one!

If you are ordering two books, the first is $30...
The second is $15 (the original cover price), with only $5 S&H.

The price of a single book is $30, plus $5 S&H

To Order Your Copy of “Politically Correct Cigar Smoking For Social Terrorists:”

Email your full name, address, and phone number to:

Put: "Book Order" in the subject line.
Each book is shipped with an invoice and a stamped, pre-addressed payment envelope. Write a check, and slip it in the mailbox when the book arrives.

To Order A Gift Book For Someone Else:

Email your full name, address, and phone number to:

Very Important: Also include the gift book’s recipient’s full name, (First and Last), and tell me something about them. (He or she plays golf... He/she rides a motorcycle... He/she hunts,... He/she smokes cheap cigars... Tell me something.) Your name will be included in the inscription on the book.

Books are shipped 1st class USPS within 24 hours of order, starting Wednesday, November 30th.

These are the last of the author’s authorized signed editions... Order yours today.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fate... A Motorcycle... And A Beautiful Woman In Cape May

My rider’s warning radar was up in a second... A target was moving up to the intersection ahead and bore all the earmarks of a potential collision. I could see a cell phone glued to an ear, the strong morning sun glinting off dark sunglasses, and a kind of preoccupation with life in general that did not include a red, BMW K75 rolling into a near-empty intersection. I could see other things too. The target had long dark hair, a dark sweater (that did not quite meet the tops her jeans, exposing a nicely-tanned navel), and dark jeans that did for her ass what the Louvré does for the Mona Lisa.

She was waiting to cross the street.

“Whoa, Big Red,” I said to the bike, dropping down a gear on the magnificent motorcycle known as “Fire Balls.”

I snicked the machine into a rolling neutral and brought it to a smooth halt 10 feet back from the crosswalk. With a smile that bloomed like an orchid in the tinted greenhouse of my Nolan flip-up Helmet, I gestured for her to cross.

She looked up from the cell phone, gave me a little wave (with a smile), and stepped off the curb without dropping a word in her conversation. She was half-way across before realizing there was no other traffic. There was no traffic, no movement, and no noise for the entire length of the street, which ran for 6 blocks in either direction. This was the last week of October in the seashore town of Cape May, New Jersey, when the ocean turns gray and the white caps ride the waves into the beach. The place was deserted. And now this woman was walking the model’s runway, demonstrating red hot hip action, as she sashayed across the street for an audience of one.

I have pulled this stunt before. It usually draws a bigger smile from appreciative ladies in supermarket parking lots. But this is Cape May... And anyone here in the off season is either a prominent member of the business community or a hotel owner. This woman had the imperious look of someone used to ordering servants to clean the horse manure from the stable floors, with their dinner bowls. (I had originally typed “horse shit” instead of “manure” in that last sentence, but it seemed disrespectful in a story about Cape May, NJ.)

She realized the true purpose of my gallantry and dismissed me with a roll of her eyes that gently rocked the motorcycle under my butt.

The K75 went into gear with the buttery-smooth clunk of steel on steel and I rode east until the Atlantic hove into view. Despite being nearly November, the temperature was in the low 70’s and more than a few tanned lovelies were soaking up the sun on the beach (wearing bikinis that had less substantive material than a report from Congress.) Local New Jersey color oozed from a hot dog wagon parked against the dunes, and I realized it has been years, maybe more than a decade, since I’ve had a real dirty-water Sabrett Hot Dog.

The Sabrett Hot Dog is in the global industry standard for all-beef tube steaks that are to be specifically cooked by being immersed in boiling water for hours, sometimes weeks, at a time. They are a slightly less than perfect hot dog shape, somewhat spicy brown in color, initially linked with string, and delicious. They are best ordered with the works (mustard, chili, sauteed onions, and a hint of relish), on a bun as soft as a debutante’s breast. (I initially typed in “debutante’s tit” for the last two words in the previous sentence, but changed my mind. I think living here in Cape May is beginning to affect me.)

The “dirty-water” dog designation comes from the thousands of pushcarts that sell these things in New York City every day. The word on the streets is that the Sabrett dog gets its unique flavor from being cooked in water that is only changed once or twice a year. (This isn’t true. I’ve have cooked them in perfectly fresh water with the same great results.) The Sabrett company also makes signature red cooked “sauteed onions” which cannot be duplicated. You can sometimes find both in local supermarkets.

The hot dog wagon was a beat-up van with a thatched roof that offered a half-dozen kinds of soft drinks and every conceivable snack. Two proprietors, “Rich” and “Dawn,” ran this concern like it was a cafe on the Boulevard Raspail in Paris. Glancing at the menu, a loaded dog ran $2.50, which is up substantially from the 25¢ I used to pay as a 10-year-old in my native Jersey City. (Then again a lap dance is up considerably from what I used to pay when I was a 10-year-old in Jersey City too.) But a pint-sized serving of Turkey Hill Iced Tea was marked at $3 bucks apiece. The most expensive thing about a pint container of commercially bottled iced tea is the opaque plastic container, which costs about 1.5¢ each.)

“Thank God my bike doesn’t run on Turkey Hill iced tea,” I thought. “It would cost $60 to fill the tank.”

Rich handed me the hot dog, ensconced in a napkin, like it was the Stanley Cup. He was right. Soaked with onions, kraut, chili, and mustard, it weighed about a pound. Yet a hot dog simmered in boiling water has no strength of its own, and it took two hands to get this to my gaping maw.

I had forgotten how good these tasted, and I had another.

In the meantime, I refreshed myself with a pure New Jersey dialect. There are several accents common to the Garden State, and none sound like music. My own, fostered in the ash pits and rendering plants of Jersey City (where they render souls of children into transparent political promises), is a cross between finger-nails dragging across a blackboard and wailing cats. A woman once told me, “It will never work between us because your accent clashes with all of my outfits.” (She now lives in Concord, Ma, where life in New England grinds the audible serifs from every “r”. I hope she reads this and dares to leave a comment.)

The nasal tone of Rick’s voice matched mine, and I felt like we were part of a vocal counter-cultural conspiracy. He spoke of the technical complexity of hot dogs, and the challenges of tube steak marketing in a soft economic environment... And I thought, “God, these folks are so right up my alley.”

Firing up the bike, I headed off to the lighthouse, which is best viewed from the main drag running along the beach. While this lighthouse is not the tallest I’ve ever seen, nor the one in the most dramatic setting, it is the most romantic. You can sit here at dusk, alone in the off-season, and watch the beacon fend off the darkness. The setting is absolutely exquisite when there is a moon, and the point behind the light is bathed in silver. But it was as black as pitch last night, and overcast. The light stood like a sentinel.

Above:) The top of the lighthouse at Cape May, NJ. This lighthouse is 5 minutes from my desk to the east. Photo compliments of Wikipedia.

Cape May is a small town where every other building is either historically significant, or maintained by elves. San Francisco has that famous stretch of Victorian houses standing against the reality of the distant skyline. Cape May created its own reality 100 years ago, and took pains to preserve it. Former US Presidents like Ulysses S. Grant and John Adams (I think) used to come here to fish, drink, and get laid. (Pretty much why anybody would come to the New Jersey shore.) But Cape May resisted the urge to trade character for ferris wheels, and as a result they now have the most priceless gem of a community on the the New Jersey coast.

The lighthouse is less than five minutes from where I’m living. And I had just turned the corner, headed in that direction, when the exquisite beauty introduced in the first paragraph once again readied herself to step in front of my bike. What the hell were the odds of this?

“Hot damn,” I thought. I was moving a little faster this time, and had to squeeze the binders a bit more aggressively as well as drop down a gear. As a result, “Fire Balls” squatted on the front forks with more drama. My stop looked less than spontaneous, and I gestured for her to cross.

Still on the damn phone (giving some poor guy hell, no doubt), she hesitated — and waved me on.

I couldn’t resist. I planted both legs on the pavement, and switched on the K75’s flashers.

The look on her face was priceless. She put one hand (the one without the phone) on her hip and glared. Then she crossed the street slowly, deliberately, and with unabashed contempt.

“This one is really hot for us,” I said to the motorcycle.

Once again, I clunked the bike into first and pulled away, giving the Steeble/Nautilus compact air horn the merest suggestion of a tap. The millisecond of the trilling blast was perfect salute from a bike that makes almost no noise. My next stop was the dunes on Delaware Bay. Better than 14 miles wide at this point, it is barely possible to see the other side of the bay with the naked eye.The Delaware salt marshes are usually shrouded in haze, or cloaked in mist, or hidden behind the curvature of the earth. At night, it is sometimes possible to see bright lights that appear to be just over the horizon. Delaware Bay is the major opening to the port of Philadelphia, and huge ships, as well as million sailboats, can be seen on this waterway. I dismounted the bike, amazed at how calm the water was on these beaches, and wondered why I never became the kind of person who longed to be on the sea. (I stood on this spot after returning from my brother’s place on Thanksgiving night, and stared into a sky that was filled with stars. In the instant I looked up, a shooting star rocketed overhead, falling to earth far to the west, over a state I left barely a month ago. “I hope that didn’t hit Bregstein’s garage,” I thought.)

Above) The dunes overlooking Delaware Bay, five minutes to the west from my desk. Photo by the author.

I was less than two blocks from the house, determined to go back and do some writing on a screenplay that promises to be my best work, when I noticed that same woman (with the astounding ass) going into a little café, with a front painted in Cinco De Mayo colors.

“This is fate,” I thought, pulling up outside. There was no curb. A bit of broken blacktop, punctuated with gravel, sported a bicycle rack outside. The rack supported four highly technical bicycles, of the type ridden by really thin muscular men, in Spandex, who carry spare inner tubes where their genitals would be. (I actually typed the words “micro dicks” for genitals in the last sentence, but decided against it. I really think it is the Cape May effect on me.)

I grabbed my computer bag from the right pannier on the odd shot that this place would have WiFi, and went inside. There were three guys and two women seated around a large table, having a discussion. I picked a table off to the side, made myself comfortable, and ordered coffee from a waitress who had the ugliest shoes I have ever seen outside of paratroop training camp. I noticed two things: none of this crowd were wearing Spandex and the woman I’d encountered three times that day was nowhere to be seen.

Then the ladies room door opened and she stepped out.

She had a body to kill for, and had I been a Visigoth and had this been the Fourth Century, I’d have been reaching for my ax. But she also had the most extraordinary face. It was hot, but not from some angles. It was pretty, sometimes. She reminded me of Franka Potente — the actress in the Bourne Identity. She was a big deal in this circle, as the crowd afforded her some deference.

Above:) Actress Franka Potente. Photo from Wikipedia

I fired up my computer and started to write this story. And I actually got lost in it, which occasionally happens to me. I had started out mildly interested in their dialogue, as each of these people was a writer, apparently. One had written a book about local architecture... One had produced a coloring book for kids, depicting local landmarks... One was a poet... Another wrote songs, but was not a musician. And the last was a reporter. No one in this group had the New Jersey accent I’d been listening to earlier in the day. In fact, they all pretty much sounded like the kind of folks who yell “catch,” and then spit when I’d cup my hands. Each was wearing “fashion” clothes, most with exposed labels — printed on unicorn eyelids. They spoke of the author’s “need to create” and then “forever influence reader discourse.” I was going to raise my hand and ask about the author’s “need to go fast on German motorcycles, to drink, and get laid — right after the check clears,” but I couldn’t think of way to bring it up in conversation.

They concluded their meeting and had begun drifting out. I was answering some correspondence about my monthly column in the BMW magazine, when a voice asked, “So what have you been madly typing away for three hours?”

It was not the voice I was hoping for.

It had been three hours and I had consumed 5 cups of coffee and two whole wheat pastries (that tasted like dessert in the first class lifeboat). The person who asked the question was the “poet,” a soft-spoken gentleman, who seemed genuinely interested in my new face.

“I write a monthly column for a magazine, and I felt so chummy here, I just made myself at home and filed my copy.”

“What magazine?” he asked, really interested now.

“It’s a German transportation monthly,” I said, “dealing with long-distance, low-impact, high-speed approaches to social activities.”

“Aaaaaaaaah,” he said, with a knowing nod that indicated otherwise.

Though I confined my response to his face, my peripheral vision kept searching hers. Being in the company of writers never meant much to me before (unless they had their fucking agents with them); but at this moment, I felt like saying something that would impress this woman. (I had decided that Franka Potete was screamingly hot.)

“I have a book out too,” I murmured.

“A book?”

“Yes...” I stammered, really reaching now. “It’s on men’s sensitivity.”

My former lover once remarked that I’d drag out some reference to my book whenever I got desperate for credibility. “And it cures depression too,” I added with a smirk.

The poet was Alex. He introduced the woman as “Lisa.”

I couldn’t t resist. “Jason Bourne,” I said, extending my hand.

Neither one of them batted an eye.

“Well we like to write and ride our bikes,” said Alex.

“Me too,” I replied. “Mine’s red.” (My helmet and jacket was outside. Neither one heard me pull up on the K75.)

I went back there a couple of days ago. I have since learned that everyone who has breakfast in this place rides a bicycle. I pulled up in a bright red Ford 150 pickup with a nuclear reactor under the hood. The truck has a 40-gallon gas tank that costs as much as the Greek national debt to fill — once. It cost me $11 to drive the 5 blocks from the house.

Once again, I sat down and popped open my laptop.

Lisa was there. “Hi, Jason,” she said without looking up from the local newspaper.

I have been living in Cape May a month, and I am well on the way to getting at least one woman to think of me as Jason Bourne. It won’t last. But it only has to happen once — when my riding buddies are here.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011
Written In Exile From Cape May, NJ

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thanksgiving Story Of 1989...

Thanksgiving Day “1989” was wet and miserable, with the cold kind of November drizzle that doesn’t have the decency to become snow, nor the courtesy to yield to the ineffectual warmth of a mid-autumn sun. My hunting jacket was not quite soaked through, but my Austrian Loden pants were damp from the knees down. I carried a Browning A-5 12-gauge shotgun at port arms as I aimlessly moved through the brush, barely conscious of the task at hand. Technically speaking, I was hunting pheasants, without a dog, and without much hope of seeing anything on a day where forest life stays hunkered down against the elements. But the inside of my head was as bleak as my immediate surroundings and I was numb to my circumstances, as I walked aimlessly through fields and woods in the company of a beautiful, Belgian-crafted firearm.

All I could think of was getting the letter in the mail... The one that began: Riepe vs Riepe.

The first round of my first divorce knocked the wind out of me. I returned from a business trip to find the closets in the apartment empty. My wife, a former newspaper reporter and an accomplished writer in her own right, had taken our five-year-old daughter and fled to the sanctuary of her pit-bull of a mother. These were days of my early thirties, when I wrote for politicians and anyone who could guarantee the check would clear. This apparent lack of editorial ethic, coupled with other things (like a hair-trigger temper and the inability to see the other side of a philosophical argument) constituted my growing list of character flaws and genetic defects.

Yet as bad as things had apparently gotten, I didn’t think they were anywhere near the possibility of getting divorced. This was just one result of assuming that everyone on earth really thought like I did... Or that silence from the person closest to you means tacit agreement. But she was gone and there was a whole new set of rules in place for seeing my kid. This was going to be the first Thanksgiving — and the first really big holiday — on which my daughter would be shared between families. In an attempt to be magnanimous, I told Maryann that little Katherine could spent the holiday with her family.

Magnanimity does not come naturally to me, and I was sorry the instant I made the gesture. It felt like I was consigning some part of myself to a void that was to become a new unthinkable norm. My family used to be a lot closer than they are now, but that was when my mother was still the center of the universe. Each of her kids felt that unique gravitational pull that ended in a hot kitchen permeated with the aroma of holiday baking. It was my thought that at least half of many future Thanksgivings would start with Maryann, little Katherine, and myself stepping through the door, and completing the family circle around the table.

But now I would be arriving like a sprocket with missing teeth. Instead of showing up with the first grandchild, I would be the sole representative of domestic failure. And I couldn’t believe just how much I missed my daughter. My first thought was to spend the holiday alone, cooking for myself, in the apartment that held the relics of crashed dreams and the tokens of my inability to hold things together. A call to my mother quashed that.

“Don’t be an ass,” she laughed. “Jackie, you’re going to have to find a bright side to this. Here’s one... You’ll never have to spend another holiday with that desperate pain in the ass, Maureen, and that face she makes, like she’s smelling shit, every time you come into the room.” She was referring to my future former mother-in-law. “Just come down here... The sooner the better.”

My whole family lived in New Jersey then, and distance was relative. My mom’s house was inland from the shore, in Ocean county. (You could smell the Atlantic on most days, but you couldn’t hear it.) This put her 86-miles south of my place (on the Palisades, overlooking the Hudson). The horror of driving to the shore on the Jersey Turnpike (on Thanksgiving Day) was not to be seriously considered, and I left late the night before. The memory of some family traditions linger long after they have ceased to exist. I grew up on instant coffee... Yet on special occasions, my mom would set out an electric, chrome percolator, which brewed Folger’s coffee (just like the commercials). On this Thanksgiving day, the fragrance of hot coffee mingled with the aroma of coffee cake right out of the oven. And this was at 5am.

Yet despite the allure of sitting around sipping coffee in a warm kitchen, I felt I had to get out in the open... To release the doldrums that were nailing me to a cross of mental reality. It was barely first light when I carried my hunting gear out to car and headed off through the pine barrens. New Jersey is odd place. It has some of the ugliest open urban sores that you can imagine, yet harbors some of the most beautiful spots in the United States. These are Cape May, the countryside around Peapack-Gladstone, and some rare wildlife management units down in the pine barrens. It was to one one of these tracts deep in the scrub pine that I headed.

There were five or six other cars in the muddy parking area, and hunters —with the kind of dogs that point at pheasants in a highly accusatory manner — were heading out into fields planted in millet or other bird candy. They were all wearing florescent orange hunting gear that had LL Bean stamped all over it. I was wearing an old army fatigue jacket, under a bright orange New Jersey Department of Transportation vest I’d grabbed at a flea market for $2, and an orange watch cap. I had no dog and the other hunters looked at me like I was a bad joke.

“Fuck all you assholes,” I thought to myself, as I smiled and said, “Good morning.”

I had never been to this place before and just set out across a field that was loaded with knee-high underbrush. My mind was not exactly on the task at hand, and I might have left the shotgun at home for all the hunting I was doing. All I could think of was my first wife, and what my little girl was up to. She had a dog at her grandma’s... A huge golden retriever named “Duke,” who was like the dog world’s goodwill ambassador to humanity. At five-years-old, my daughter had the kind of personality that gave her the character of a circus midget. She could get into really good mischief, then amaze you with an observation that went far beyond her years.

I passed through several stands of hardwoods, wandered around some pines, and ended up in a sticker patch that must have covered three acres. Thorn bushes come in two varieties: the little ones that scratch skin, and the bigger ones, that scratch expensive Browning gunstocks. I had apparently located a thorn bush convention.

Surrounded by a sea of thorns, I sat on a rotting tree stump that was dead center in this maze of sharp edges. The rain started coming down in earnest and I felt as if my entire world was thorns and wet clothes. I must have sat there almost 20 minutes. I had long since ceased to hear the dog whistles of the other hunters, nor the cow bells on the collars of their dogs. I didn’t even know in what direction lay my Surburban, the first of five I would own.

But you can never tell what effect your troubles might have on the world around you, or when things might change. My odd behavior on the tree stump was annoying the living shit out of a huge cock-bird of a Chinese Ring Neck pleasant. He had a tail like a comet and an attention span shorter than mine. With that cackle peculiar to their species, he set off at a 40-mile-per-hour jog.

I was dumbfounded.

Then I started to chase him through the thorns like the late John Candy in one of his hysterical movies. I scratched my face, and my gun, and left my hat on a low-hanging branch. The pheasant was a sport, and cackled a taunt every now and again. He and I broke out into a clearing at the same time, and the bird sailed aloft with a final cackled obscenity. The Browning A5 (the BMW K75 of shotguns) barked once, and the cockbird was mine.

The other hunters were calling it a morning back in the parking lot. All they had to show for three hours of wading through the millet was a half-dozen smelly dogs and unfired firearms that would each require an hour of serious cleaning. I had a cockbird with a tail as long as a moose’s dick. I could feel their penetrating gazes, never congratulatory in New Jersey, as I put my stuff in the trunk.

My mother met me at the door.

“Did you catch anything,?” she asked.

“It’s not like fishing, Ma.”

Then she saw the pheasant.

“You shot a peacock,” she exclaimed. “How could you kill such a beautiful thing?”

“It pulled a knife on me,” I replied.

I cleaned and prepared the bird in the kitchen. My mother watched in fascination. It went into a much smaller roasting pan alongside the turkey in the oven.

“This will be done in less than an hour,” I said. “I’m going to take a nap.”

I awoke three hours later. The house was filled with the mixed aromas of baking, roasting, and pots steaming on the stove. In the kitchen, my mother and sister had just about finished the pheasant, leaving me three ounces of meat.

“That was delicious,” said my mom.

It was the first and only time I’d shot something for Thanksgiving dinner, and almost missed it. But gone were the doldrums... And they didn’t come back for a long time.

I really gave thanks for that pheasant.

I hope all of my Twisted Roads readers who are celebrating Thanksgiving in the US today have a warm and special holiday. I hope their tables are full, and I hope their families are there to share in it.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hermy’s BMW and Triumph Announces A Silver Lining to Black Friday and Saturday...

(Industry announcement...See previous
post for humorous ride report.)

Port Clinton, Pa — Herman Baver, general manager of Hermy’s BMW and Triumph in Port Clinton, Pa is determined to bring the joy and dignity back to holiday moto shopping. In a statement issued today, Baver promised that savvy moto-shoppers looking for bargains as high as 30% off international brands will get their chance at his landmark dealership on Friday and Saturday (November 25th and 26th) — without having to spend the night shivering in the cold, standing on line, or camping under crinkly plastic tarps.

“You are cordially invited to take advantage of our staggering price reductions — 30% off all stock BMW and Triumph apparel and 25% off all stock parts, accessories, and apparel — without fear of crowd stampedes, getting pepper sprayed, or even tear gassed,” said Baver. “Our huge inventory of styles and sizes, with many items below internet pricing (shipping included), guarantees something for everyone.”

He added that the Hermy’s BMW and Triumph team knows the pressures of gift-giving. “Many spouses are hesitant to buy equipment for the riders in their lives. Our sales consultants are experts in helping each customer pick the ideal gift for that special rider,” said Baver. “Whether you’re looking for a pair of gloves or matching K1600GT’s, we’ve got it and can help you find it.”

Above: Herman Baver and Tom Murray of Hermy's BMW and Triumph can barely contain their excitement over the "Return To Holiday Dignity Sale" planned for Black Friday and Saturday (November 25th and 26th). Photo by Leslie Marsh.

While Hermy’s is best known for its BMW and Triumph’ marques, any rider will be delighted by the selection of Arai, Shoei, and Nolan helmets in stock. From fine solid finishes to the boldest designs, this weekend’s price reductions will put premium helmets within most budgets. The same can be said for jackets, gloves, pants and hard-to-find riding gear at unheard-of prices. (Regrettably, Schuberth helmets cannot be included in this promotion.)

Looking for the perfect stocking stuffer for the rider (dad or mom) who fixed your car, paid your tuition, or just doesn’t ever complain about your cell phone bills? Get them a Hermy’s gift certificate — which can be applied to gear, parts or service! (As of December 6th, 2011, Hermy’s will pick up and delivery motorcycles in for service free of charge — up to a 100-mile radius.)

Hermy’s holiday moto-shopping philosophy hinges on the concept that many consumers are men rewarding themselves for restraint expressed at other times throughout the year. In keeping with that idea, these incredibly low prices all but eliminate any aspect of guilt. Furthermore, many families have company at home this weekend. The soothing atmosphere of Hermy’s dealership on this Friday and Saturday may offer a pleasant alternative from the in-laws or penniless children home from college.

Can’t make it to the dealership this weekend?

Hermy’s is offering 15% off — AND FREE SHIPPING — on all online orders now through the end of the year. Click on to view ten catalogues of gear and accessories that can be delivered right to your door — with the same service and reassurance you’d receive at the dealership. Just remember to type in the code word "Deal" at checkout. (Excludes Gerbings heated gear, regrettably.)

There is a silver lining to the madness of Black Friday and Saturday. Find it at:

Hermy’s BMW
Route 61, Port Clinton, Pa
Tuesday–Friday 9:00am to 6:00pm
Saturday 9:00am to 4:00pm
(610) 562.7303 • (610) 562.5481 (24 hour fax)

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Sudden and Brief Return To The Adirondacks...

And The Biker Riff-Raff that Greeted Me!

(Humor and Personal Obsservation - Four Stars ****)

The Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the history of the world. And they used to be among the tallest too, but you’d have to predate the dinosaurs by about four million years (rough approximation) to have personal knowledge of this. How did they get worn down to their present height of 4,500 to 5,500 feet? Some say it was the inevitable erosion of time... Others claim it was the economy... And some believe that an ancient civilization of women warriors, poets, and cooks bitched them down to size. Depending on the kind of day I am having, I can easily believe any one of the three.

This past weekend found me in the company of boyhood chum Ihor Sypko, who has a cabin in the Adirondack High Peaks region, not far from where I myself lived for nearly two decades. The drive into this place can seem interminable, nearly 8 hours of fast highway driving (75 mph+) from where we started. We began in Hopewell, NJ, that for all its proximity to Trenton, is one of the most beautiful communities I have ever seen. Our starting point was a 38-acre farm carrying an estimated real estate value of $3 million (USD - actual). The run up I-287 (through Morristown) was almost anti-climatic, but I felt my heart swell when I crossed the border between New Jersey and New York. It was here that Ihor and I had fished the Ramapo River dozens of times in our late 20’s; and it was here that I rode a Kawasaki H2 into the night an equal number of times (camping in Harriman Park with women in my college years); and it was through here that I drove like hell to beat the dawn to spend some of the best days of my life with a woman who no longer feels that way.

“Fuck it,” I thought, stepping down on the accelerator of the shiny, red Ford 150 4x4, the rig that has replaced my Suburban. “Most people have nothing to remember... And I’m just getting warmed up.” The rock classic “Layla” was pouring out of the radio and I crossed into the Empire State imagining I was astride my BMW motorcycle, with the tach needle dancing on the red line. I’d have that daydream often as there were still six hours left to go.

Ihor’s cabin is a historic structure that was saved and transported from land that had jumped from private ownership to a conservancy trust. He has lovingly restored it, and then made a number of artistic and creative improvements to it. These include indoor plumbing, a nuclear reactor of a soapstone wood-burning stove, and a kitchen that encourages men to sit around the table — drinking scotch and smoking cigars.

Above: Three friends on one of their first visits to the Adirondacks in 1971. From left — Ihor Sypko, Jack Riepe (middle), and the late Bill Matz, posing on the Marcy Dam. Bill passed away in his early 30's, the victim of a massive stroke. The Marcy Dam washed away this summer in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Photo by a stranger. The author makes no apology for the patch-pocket pants.

The other two guys sitting around that table were Chris Wolfe and Michael Cantwell. The gentle Twisted Roads reader will recognize those two names from any number of past blog episodes. Chris and Mike are two of my oldest friends in the Adirondacks. Both have accompanied me to BMW rallies. Both have been the catalysts of some incredible rides. And both are savagely dangerous men in that either one is capable of saying, “Hold my beer and watch this.”

Poor Ihor was outgunned and outclassed.

The riding stories came fast and furious, and nearly all were hysterically funny, considering there were no fatalities. It was decided by majority vote that Ihor needed to be exposed to a ride on a BMW “R” bike, the motorcycle having most in common with his personality. (Not only does Ihor not ride, but he has never been on the back of a motorcycle.) Chris thought Ihor would be most at home on a Brough Superior, which was the preferred motorcycle of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). Ihor then agreed to try it if he could ride Lawrence’s actual bike. (Chris claims to know a guy whose got it in his basement, though it has been disguised as an aging Triumph to discourage theft.)

Above: Ihor Sypko today, after brutally dragging this poor trout out of the AuSable River and clubbing it like it was a baby harp seal (right after he kissed it on the lips as the best fish he's caught in 25 years). Photo by Dave Zmoda.

Ihor Sypko is a professional archeologist (employed in this trade about 25 years) whose entire life is dedicated to the preservation of history, or at least the bits of it that are worth saving. He will hunt and fish (where permissible) in period clothing and has a handlebar mustache that goes two-thirds of the distance around his head. We have been friends for 39 years, having met in a Jesuit prep school, and have taken trout, pheasant, grouse, and deer together in every kind of weather and circumstance.

Above: Chris Wolfe, in what has to be the best photograph ever taken of him, standing next to his piss yellow Honda VFR Interceptor, on the ferry to Shelbourne Vermont. Photo by Mike Cantwell, who must have been on drugs.

Chris Wolfe is a transplant from Britain, whose clipped accent (which I describe as Cockney) has gotten him laid in the U.S. more often than any man deserves. A medical professional and a pillar of the community (I cringe to write those words), he has made any number of house calls to my previous Adirondack address to diagnose various plagues as alcohol poisoning. (Chris once used the power of his accent — and 6 words — to snatch a woman away from me, before marrying her to make the arrangement permanent. He said, “Missy, step back. Jack has clap.”) Chris rides a piss-yellow Honda VFR Interceptor... And he does ride it like T.E. Lawrence.

Above) Michael Cantwell and the pristine K75 known as "Connie." Photo by the author.

Michael Cantwell is a professional environmental specialist (also employed in his trade) and an authority on a thousand aspects of nature. He once introduced me to a variety of gigantic fucking spider that jumps around in its web, causing lesser men to scream like little girls. Mike also took me turkey hunting, where we discovered the rare “Lord Of The Rings” Adirondack Wild Turkey. This is a turkey about the size of a parade float that slips on a ring and becomes invisible (even in an empty field) when a shotgun is raised to ones shoulder. Cantwell rides a pristine BMW K75 and has the most even tempered personality of any individual I have ever met. If lava began to flow out of his septic system, Mike would warm his hands over it and say, “Isn’t this hot shit?”

As Cantwell was heading over for the evening, he said to his wife, Jennifer, “Frodo and Bilbo have invited me over for drinks and cigars tonight.”

And thus was the plot for the evening cast.

The conversation turned to Adirondack camping in the good old days, and we wore a hole in the scotch bottle rehashing battles fought with reluctant SVEA stoves, primitive cross-country skis (bindings), and tents whose waterproofing lasted until the height of the storm. We have all climbed Mount Marcy (an 8-hour uphill jaunt), canoed the backwaters, and camped in snow that was three feet deep. And three of us have leaned through sweeping turns in triple digits — together.

When the cigar smoke cleared, I found myself lying in bed watching silver moonlight working over the tops of distant mountains. My first thought was, “You wouldn’t see those mountains if the leaves were still on the trees.” And then I wondered about the windows themselves. The wavy nature of the 19th century glass panes (reclaimed by Ihor in the original sashes) bent the flight of clouds into an exaggerated line of curves. I wondered about generations of hunters, guides, and their woman guests who looked out at the night through those windows. As if on cue, coyotes began to howl in a dialogue that has haunted these mountains since those in moccasined feet were first here to listen.

I got out of bed, moving through the darkened cabin by the light of the stove’s glowing embers, and opened the front door. The subtle heat of the stove collided with an even more subtle ghost of warm air drifting down from Whiteface Mountain. It was the warmest November on record for these parts, and I sat on the cabin’s steps wrapped in a blanket. The coyotes were moving through the trees along the riverbed... Their howls first sounding nearer, then more distant, as they followed the bends in the AuSable River.

Nothing is spared the stark contrast of moonlight in a bare Adirondack forest. There are two colors: silver and black. The silver serves to punctuate the conspiracy of darkness under the conifers, and it is an unbroken blackness that can extend for miles. And yet, it would have softened to a tapestry of grays, had I wandered into it. The moon mocked me with her light. There is no warmth in moon light, other than the kind you generate with a perfumed nakedness next to you. And then I wondered, “Why am I always alone when I notice moons like this one?” The answer is simple: You don’t give a shit about the moon when you are wrapped in the arms of a perfumed nakedness.

I recalled a viciously cold February evening more than 20 years ago, when I built a raging fire in the wood stove of my own cabin, and took a woman to the bedroom directly upstairs. It was 88º (F) in that bedroom, with a 95º differential in the temperature outside. There was no wind that night, and I opened the bedroom windows wide. The aroma of balsams and woodsmoke drifted in on the penetrating scent of the bitter cold. The woman was amazed and became silly putty under a down comforter. There was a full moon that night too... And I never invited it to the party.

The howling of the coyotes evaporated in the dawn, and I awoke (back in bed) to the unbelievable whine of a K75. Cantwell was outside, revving his beautiful blue “Connie” into operating temperature. After coffee and Advil, Mike tossed me the keys and told me to take it for a run. My fall jacket, Nolan helmet, and gloves were in the truck. I am leery about riding other folks’ motorcycles, as a rule. No matter how identical the same models may appear, riding someone else’s bike is like brushing you teeth with somebody else’s toothbrush... Or a toilet brush, in some cases. Mike’s bike ran flawlessly... Shifted with the same butter-smooth, blacksmith-shop clunk as my bike... And had the same even temperament as “Fire Balls...” But it has a stiffer suspension and the stock seat, which is like sitting on a splitting maul. And if I was going to go careening around the Adirondacks, then I wanted to do it on my machine.

Chris Wolfe dropped by later that afternoon too. He brought a 1970’s vintage Honda dirt bike in the 350cc category, with the intent of giving me the opportunity to run it around the fire roads and the power line right of ways. This was out of the question. At half the K75’s displacement, this electric shaver of a bike would have crumbled under the weight of my ass, despite what I’ve lost.

But Chris had an interesting proposition: He wanted to take this rig on a “seasonal” road running through the Sentinel Range. For “seasonal,” read “primitive” maintenance under the best of circumstances; and none between the middle of November and April. This was a dirt and partially gravel trail, interrupted with occasional washouts, deep ruts, and marshes caught behind beaver dams. He wanted to hot dog this 18-mile stretch and thought I might like to follow in my 4x4 pickup.

It was easy to follow his skinny, weaselly ass — in the beginning. The cracked stone and jutting rocks of the lower road was no challenge for the tough, ballsy suspension of this truck. But the road got narrow, twisty, and less substantive. One of the things I like about this truck is that everything is as tight as a drum, including the brakes and the steering. I am not anxious to start loosening things up, so I slowed to a crawl about five miles after the power lines ran out. The road quickly devolved into a track, and one covered with standing water in more than a few places. I reached a place where a beaver dam made a marsh into an interesting little pond, and decided to cut the engine.

Above: This beaver pond crested the track, and set one of the more dramatic scenes along the "seasonal" road. Not every serene spot has to be a vista. I sat here for over an hour, and felt like I was in church. Photo by the author, taken on a "Droid" Incredible.

The day was as clear as crystal and as warm as hour-old toast. I was very likely the only person in a ten-mile radius and the desolation quietly insinuated itself. At first, it seems as if there was no sound at all, and then there was the wind. The wind starts as a rumor and then becomes a whisper of something you wanted to remember. The trees are small as the earth is shallow and the elements are harsh. Martin, fisher, mink and other vicious rodents haunt the boggy clearings, and bear wander through here with indifference. I’m told the deer have returned, though I’ve seen exactly one in five years. There wasn’t a single bird on a tree limb nor in the sky.

The colors were all wrong for this place at this time of year.

The second week of November should be the beginning of the month-long gray season in the Adirondacks, where the sky, the ground, the forests, the woodsmoke, and the moods all blend together in a suicidal miasma that would delight Ingmar Bergman. There was snow on the ground here just the day before. But now the sky was blue (mostly) and diluted the pond where it leached in the water. The marsh weeds and the undergrowth were complimentary bands of dark green and brown. Though I had crossed a dozen little creeks and forded a few streams, there was no aroma to the water and the air had that clean smell that comes from untainted oxygen at the source. I felt as it the season had halted to give me one more shot at getting in here, before the road became impassable.

Sometimes, I make the mistake of thinking life is best viewed through two sets of eyes, and I had forgotten how savagely beautiful this place is on it’s own.

The sound of the dirt bike began as a gnat-like buzzing in the air. It was so quiet here that I heard the engine a full ten minutes before the bike skirted into view. Chris brought the Honda to a halt and dismounted with the elegance of a rodeo clown. It is missing the kickstand, so he leaned it against a tree.

“I was in a place similar to this one,” he explained, “when I stopped and tried to put the sidestand down. There was a loud ‘twang’ and it flew off into a beaver pond. Just like that.”

I showed my sympathy for the lost 35-year-old sidestand by looking appropriately appalled. “So,” I asked, “there is a beaver lodge someplace around here leaning on a Honda sidestand?”

“You are such a total prick,” Chris observed.

I was sitting on the tailgate, wishing I’d thought to stash a thermos of coffee in the cab, and watched as Chris lit a cigarette. That would have put me off if anyone else had done it, but there isn’t much he, Cantwell, nor Ihor could do that would raise my hackles. I watched as the cigarette smoke spiraled into the scenery. Neither one of us spoke for the next twenty minutes. There was nothing to say.

“Is it supposed to rain or snow tonight,” I finally said.


“I saw a flat spot behind the trees back there. I was thinking of going back for my sleeping bag, stove, and light. I thought it might be cool to ease the truck in there, and spend the night out in the open, on the load bed.”

Anyone else would have asked, “Why the load bed?” Chris knew the answer: because it was dry.

“Nothing’s flat and clear up here. You could sink in up to the axels. And if that happens, snowmobilers could be pissing off the tailgate of this truck through April.”

“It was just a thought,” I added.

“Here’s another,” Chris ventured. “Let’s go to a country bar and get half pissed.”

“I’ll follow you.”

The tavern was a cheery spot of North Country hospitality overlooking a valley ringed by sawtooth mountains. Everybody knew Chris, and they pretended they were glad to see me too. The very first drink I ever shared with Chris, back in 1984, was a Negroni. This is equal parts of gin, Compari , and sweet Vermouth. Now seated at this bar, 27 years later, I opted to order another — and to stick him with the tab. In fact, I had four of them, and stuck him like I was the picador at a bullfight.

Three hours later, Ihor’s cabin glowed like something out of a Thomas Kinkade painting.

“Have a good day out in the woods?” asked Ihor, playing a flashlight over the mud-covered running boards on the truck.

“We did everything but donate an organ.”

“Next time,” said Ihor, with a laugh. We returned to New Jersey the next morning.

The next riding episode of Twisted Roads will appear on Friday, November 25th, 2011, delayed by the Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States. It is an endearing story about my first foray into Cape May Café Society, and why the first really pretty woman I had the temerity to talk to felt compelled to spit in my coffee. Two interim pieces will appear on this site between now and then.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Sexual Allure Of The Motorcycle: One Up And One Down...

John F. Kennedy Boulevard is the primary artery running through five of the nine communities that make up Hudson County, New Jersey. It’s 14-mile-long length constitutes one of the densest traffic corridors in the Garden State — with one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the US. It is peppered with traffic lights (about one every city block), that occasionally adhere to some synchronistic behavior, with a few bizarre intersections (like the I-495 tunnel cut) thrown into the mix.

Riding a motorcycle along this stretch is the closet thing to experiencing life as a clay pigeon. And while it’s been some time since I leaned into the curves on JFK Boulevard, I doubt things have improved since the near tragic circumstances that occurred on this September night, in 1978.

In those days, I was riding in the company of “Cretin,” an urban desperado whose idea of the perfect romance was a one-night-stand... Whose concept of business was pricing “pot” or “blow” for value... And whose notion of a smokin’ hot sexual/social aid was a jet black Norton Commando. I have written about Cretin before and readers tuning into “Twisted Roads” for the first time can learn more about this representative of Jersey City Café society by clicking here and here.

“Cretin” was one of the toughest guys I ever knew. He hung around with some of the toughest guys I ever met, in the toughest saloons where some of the most outrageously beautiful women I ever saw, routinely opened their shirts for bikers who bit the heads off scorpions. I was like Toulouse Lautrec in a Parisian whorehouse for tall men. I had no business revolving in these social circles, but “Cretin” made it my business. “Cretin” told these guys that I was cool... That I was a writer... And that while I would generally see everything, I’d be damned disinclined to talk about it with strangers. Consequently, I walked through this valley of death and only got my ass kicked once. (This was by a semi-retired pole dancer who offered to open her shirt for me. I had had several Cuba Librés already that evening, and had given this kind soul an appraising glance, before truthfully answering, “No.” She took it hard. Cretin later said, “Next time, just say ‘yes’ like everybody else.”)

The clock was about to strike 1am and I was following Cretin at a ridiculously high speed down Kennedy Boulevard. It must have been the mating season for Norton Commando riders as “Cretin” was exhibiting the classic signs of rut. This included riding from gin mill to gin mill, playing “Werewolves of London” (by Warren Zevon) on the jukebox, and dancing on the bar until his jeans were down around his balls. And throughout this ritual, “Cretin” would be surveying the crowd for any woman, or one particular one, depending on his current degree of infatuation. This night, he was searching for a nicely-sculpted brunette, who’d wandered into “The Bucket of Guts” (not the bar’s real name) a few times prior to his passing out under the pool table. (New talent in these places either got claimed quickly or chased away fast.)

I was riding the tail-gun Charlie position for two reasons: a) there was never a dull moment with “Cretin;” and b) there was always a good shot that if “Cretin” was getting laid, then the one-night-stand-love-of-his-life had a friend and I’d get laid too. With “Cretin,” anything could happen. (I once won $500 on an illegal gambling game in some shithole he dragged me into.) His search had taken us to three bars already and seemed to be setting the theme for the evening. “Cretin’s” mating ritual would keep him occupied for a while, and then he’d call the next bar from a payphone (remember those?), on the odd shot one of his cronies had seen her.

Rumor had it she’d surfaced at a joint down in Greenville (the other side of Jersey City) and we were off like two couriers carrying human organs for transplant.

Our bikes couldn’t have come from more opposite ends of the spectrum. The Norton was the epitome of the Brit bike at its prime. It had a throaty growl, decent chrome, and paint as black as my second mother-in-law’s lungs. (She’d been a quality control inspector at Chernobyl.) I was astride a two-stroke 1975 Kawasaki H2 750, known as the “widow-maker.” This rig came in a lollipop purple, with shitty chrome, highlighted by highly questionable handling characteristics, complete with sound effects to match an outboard motor in a Port Authority toilet. It had damn little to recommend it, except it would blow past the Norton in any gear, leaving the Brit bike choking in a thin blue vapor.

“Cretin” never tired of explaining to me that my bike was the badge of a total douche. Worse... In his estimation, only a “disposable douche” would ride a Kawasaki H2. I always took this admonishment as Gospel, and then I’d reward his candor by smoking him with five miles of two-stroke-scented exhaust.

Kennedy Boulevard is home to 13 million traffic lights. My father once explained to me that they were synchronized to the 35 mile-per-hour limit, and that you could often cover 10 or 12 blocks by adhering to that speed (assuming that traffic was not laden with assholes). “Cretin proved to me that you could cover 20 blocks or more — while scorning death — at 60 mph, which is what my speedometer was reading when he crashed.

The “Boulevard” is 4 lanes wide in theory, but there is almost always someone making a left turn at every other intersection, which stacks up traffic on the right. We’d just entered a section where one set of synchronized lights bordered on another, and “Cretin” split between the right lane of standing traffic and a row of parked cars — to get ahead of everyone momentarily stunned by the signals turning bright green. It was at this point that Cecilia “Cookie” Siciliano, having explained to her boyfriend for the 5th time that night why he was not going to get a blow job in the car, opened her door and started to step out.

For a split second, “Cretin’s” entire world was an open car door — and a hot set of legs — that reduced his forward path to a gap about 18 inches wide.

“Cretin” screamed louder than the standard motorcycle horn of the period. It was forever known as the night that the word “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!.......” reverberated through the asphalt and dog shit canyons of Jersey City. Cecilia squealed, and fell back into the car, pulling the door shut behind her.

“Cretin” simply locked up everything and slammed through the gears. But the die was cast. The Norton began a tight fishtail as he fought to keep it in a straight line. It should be noted here that Kennedy Boulevard has been paved and repaved as an experiment in bad county economics any number of times, resulting in thousands of places where the asphalt is uneven, lumpy, or broken. “Cretin” had picked one of these spots to effect the most “emphatic” stop of his misguided life. For once, the odds were really against him. The back tire jumped around like it was possessed and the Norton low-sided in the intersection.

“Cretin” slid on his ass about 50 feet, before rolling over a number of times, coming to rest against the back tire of a parked car. His non-regulation, “Steve Canyon”-style US Air Force helmet took the shock and remained intact. And because he was “Cretin,” he was up and walking around, though holding his right elbow and manifesting the signs of road-rash where his jeans blew out at the ass. The flawless Norton was a mess.

The first cops to arrive were Jersey City’s finest, who knew “Cretin” by his first name. They called the meat wagon. The second squad car on the scene brought the Hudson County Cops, as the “Boulevard” was technically a county road. “Cretin” was loaded onto a gurney, and taken to the nearest hospital (of which there were three in Jersey City back then — Christ Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital, and the Jersey City Medical Center).

“Stay with my bike,” were the words he yelled at me as the ambulance doors were closed.

The two Jersey City cops had muscled the Norton onto the sidewalk, where it rested up against a tree.

“Nobody’ll bother ‘Cretin’s’ bike,” said one of them.

I fired up the Kawasaki and trailed the ambulance to the emergency room. Technically speaking, you had to be a blood relative to get beyond registration counter, but city emergency rooms tend to be busy places at 1am on Friday nights, as drunks, thugs, and general miscreants all tend to find their beer testicles at this magic hour. The nurse out front was filling out forms and barely looked up as she asked, “What’s your relationship to the patient?”

“He’s my sister,” I replied.

She waved me through without a glance.

“Cretin’s” shiny side really came through in a pinch, like when he was stretched out on a bed in the emergency room. I expected the name bracelet on his wrist to list him as “Fuck F. Fuckerson,” as that was the only thing he seemed to mutter. He wasn’t worried that he didn’t have a valid motorcycle rider’s license. (I didn’t have one either.) He wasn’t worried that he’d been rocketing 25 miles over the speed limit on Kennedy Boulevard. (Everybody did that.) And he wasn’t worried about the wrecked Norton. (He’d get it fixed by some by some chop shop artist in two weeks.)

“Cretin” was genuinely disturbed about not hooking up with the woman of his desire.

“I’m telling ya’... I’m gonna get one shot at this... And I probably blew it already,” was what he said to me as they wheeled him up to x-ray. “I’m never gonna find her.”

“Is he really your sister?” asked the registration nurse.

“Our mother had a strange sense of child-rearing. I’m here in case he needs blood, an organ, or anything else.”

“Like a joint or a personality?” She was a brunette, about 5’6” tall, and nicely sculpted in hospital scrubs. She was the woman “Cretin” had been pursuing all night.

And now that I was face-to-face with her, I was going to pursue her too. The gentle reader may be inclined to raise an eyebrow at this sudden turn of events. Here we have our narrator turning absolutely lupine (which means wolf-like) before the carcass of his closest friend has grown cold. (There is no cool-sounding word that means cockroach-like, otherwise I’d have used it.) But that’s how it was in Jersey City, back in the mid-seventies, when some guys rode Harley’s, and others rode Nortons, and disposable douches rode purple Kawasaki H2’s.

Her name was Karen, and she was a sister of a guy who used to hang out in one of “Cretin’s” preferred bars. Her brother had gone out west (in a hurry) and she turned up a few times in the gin mill to try and collect a small debt, and a set of keys, owed him by a former business associate. She mentioned that she’d seen “Cretin” a couple of times (once on the floor under the pool table), but that she’d seen me holding court as well.

“You seem very out of place in that bar,” Karen observed.

“Like Toulose Lautrek in a Parisian whorehouse for tall men?”

“Something like that,” she said with a smile. “Most guys in the ‘Bucket of Guts’ haven’t been to a Parisian whorehouse.”

Her shift ended three hours later, and she rode to breakfast on the pillion of my Kawasaki. It was the beginning of a romance that lasted six months. “Cretin’s” x-rays revealed another area of concern, and he was held for several days of observation. I dropped in 24-hours after the wreck to cheer him up.

“You worthless bag of shit,” was how he greeted me as I walked in. “Jackie Connolly saw you and my brunette down at the diner before the broken glass and plastic from the crash had been swept from the pavement.”

I said nothing but attempted to hide behind a look of mock surprise.

“She’s a nurse here,” he continued. “You almost had to ask her out over my bloodied corpse.”

I shrugged in a feeble attempt to avoid a smile.

“What happened to my wallet and keys and stuff after I got here?” Cretin asked.

“I took ‘em so they wouldn’t disappear,” I said, pulling them out of my jacket pocket.

“Cretin” grabbed the wallet and flipped it open. “There was $50 in here?”

“I know. Karen wanted steak and eggs for breakfast, and then we went around the corner for bloody Marys.”

“So I had to pay for your first date with my girl too?”

“Something like that,” I said, busting out laughing.

Though “Cretin” was in a private room, our conversation was broken by the sound of a toilet flushing. Several moments later, the bathroom door swung open and out stepped a real honey, in a short skirt, with the kind of eyes that could get men like me to do just about anything.

“This is Cecilia Siciliano,” said ‘Cretin.’ “We met when she opened the car door last night.”

Cecilia felt awful about the wreck, and got the cops to run her over to the hospital so she could see how the “poor biker” was doing. She actually waited until “Cretin” had come out of x-ray, which was more than I had done. She had then thought “Cretin” was “cute,” and hung around to hold his hand and stuff..

“Cecilia, this is ‘Reep.’ He is the worst kind of douche you will ever come across.”

“The disposable kind?” she asked.

“Yup,” said “Cretin,” with the laugh that was his trademark. “Don’t let him smile at you, and whatever you do, don’t talk to him.”

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Holiday of the Dead and The Undead

The weather on Halloween can be tricky. Sometimes damp and blustery and other years as crisp as a Macintosh apple, I find the best combination is a sunny day for the early trick or treaters, with a rising wind at night, to make the moon a ghostly galleon on storm-tossed skies (the perfect backdrop for zombies, witches, and ghosts going door to door). Yet on this Halloween day, the temperature would peak in the high 50’s (F) with conditions perfect to release the beast within my sinister 1995 BMW K75. Wingman Dick Bregstein, astride a pristine 2002 BMW R1150R (with the iconic whale oil-cooled boxer engine), followed me through a series of picturesque loops and Amish-infested back roads in and around Lancaster, Pa, the epicenter of the straw hat and horse-drawn buggy conspiracy.

Our early morning run had taken us through fields picked clean by the harvest, through little towns where buggies were tied up at the local hardware store, and through some forested spots, where the deer peered out from cover with the apprehensive look of rats on stilts. At one point, we paralleled the steam train out of Strasburg, which matched the death whine of my K75 (and the hell-spawned sewing machine sound of Dick’s “R” bike) with the angry chuffing of spent steam and coal soot from the stack. Yet the time had come for the solace of coffee, and eggs (sunny-side up) on slabs of toast carved from bread that had been baked fresh that morning, and we headed off for a diner on US-30, before that route is corrupted by rank Amish huckstering in the tourist void of “Paradise.”

That last line sounds good, but there are damn few decent diners in Pennsylvania. As I have written before, New Jersey is the diner capital of the world, with the greatest number of stainless-steel beaneries, staffed by armies of buxom blonds with great asses, serving the fastest and best coffee in the world. There are maybe two “very good diners” in the 2000-square miles in and around Philly... But “very good” doesn’t quite cut it by New Jersey standards. There were three diners within our easy range on this Halloween day, and one was in the rare “excellent” category, but Dick and I were not in a mood to backtrack, nor to wait in line until a couple of seats popped up at the counter of “Jennies.”

So we headed off to the least objectionable of the other two.

Dick and I pulled up like two World War I aces fresh from a Jagstaffel sortee and dropped our kickstands with unintended precision. It was after 10:30am and this place was doing a thriving business in mothers and children headed off to various Halloween functions. Bregstein removed his helmet to reveal a smirk that translated to, “Swell, breakfast with screaming, squirming pint-sized versions of Spiderman, Sponge Bob Square Pants, and Bart Simpson.”

But I saw something else. Standing in the diner’s doorway was a kid about five years old, dressed like a biker. Not exactly a BMW rider in full ATTGATT (All The Gear, All The Time), but a young, aspiring Harley jockey in a little leather jacket with studs and chains, topped by a skull and crossbones “do” rag. And behind him was “Mom,” a cougar if I ever saw one, dressed like Pippi Longstocking. But Pippi Longstocking never looked this hot.

The kid was staring at my K75 like it was the Holy Grail. (It is.)

“He just loves motorcycles,” said his mom, impaling me with the kind of smile that Nordic goddesses traditionally used to harpoon elephant walrus.

“You like motorcycles,” I said to the boy.

He just nodded and smiled.

“C’mere,” I said.

He looked at his mom. who nodded, and before running over.

I picked him up and sat him on the bow of the Russell Day-Long Saddle.

“What’s your name,” I asked.

“Carl,” answered his mom.

“Did you ever sit on a motorcycle before, Carl?”

Carl shook his head “No.”

“This motorcycle is sleeping,” I said. “Should we wake him up?”

I turned the key in the ignition, which fired up the little LED Christmas Tree that is the aftermarket voltmeter, and said “Press that button,” indicating the one with the little horn on it.

Carl pressed the button with the enthusiasm of a five-year-old who understands that another chance like this is not likely to come along anytime soon.

The Steble/Nautilus compact air horn sent shock waves rolling through the parking lot, Carl wore the satisfied look of an anarchist who had just blown up the Czar’s train.

Checking to see that the little number “0” was in the gear shift indicator window, I then told Carl to press the starter. No one was more surprised than this kid, unless it was his mother, when the K75 snarled into life with a very satisfying “thrum” (different than errant vibration) that swept through the bike. I could see this kid’s face clearly in one of the mirrors, which remain rock steady as the bike idled at 1200 rpm.

“Now put your hand here,” I said, steading the kid with my left arm, while placing his pudgy little digits on the throttle. Then we twisted old Fireballs by the tail. The tach shot up to 5 grand with a whine of pistons in perfect Teutonic agreement. The kid busted out laughing... And twisted the throttle again on his own.

I shut the engine down and pointed to the roundel on the gas tank. “Do you know your ABC’s?” I asked Carl? “Because the three most important letters in the alphabet are “B...M...W.”

I handed Carl back to his mom, flashing her a famous look of my own, and asked, “Have you ever been on a motorcycle?”

“Once or twice,” she said, with a different kind of smile.

“Aaaaaaahhh, well,” I replied.

She loaded the kid into a mini-van and drove off with a perfunctory wave.

“I was waiting for that kid to kick the bike in gear while it was revving up,” said Bregstein. “It would have rolled right over his mom and gone through the diner’s plate glass window.”

“You’re just pissed that the kid wouldn’t look at your ‘R’ bike.”

“I wouldn’t let a kid near my “R” bike,” hissed Bregstein.

The ride home was fast and furious, as many of these runs with Bregstein tend to conclude.

Dealing with the trick or treaters at the door used to be my responsibility in my last relationship, as the love of my life didn’t share my enthusiasm for the holiday of the dead and undead. My routine was simple. I rigged my computer stereo to blast scary wolf howls on demand, and taped a sign to the front door that read: “Do Not Ring Bell For Candy. Scream!”

This guaranteed that our normally sedate, boring cul de sac d’ordinaire would be punctuated by blood-curdling screams up until 10pm. But that was only half the fun. No one got a single chocolate bar without a “trick.” This meant that kids had to scream louder, in a kind of contest, or sing a song, or dance, to get access to the candy basket. I can assure the gentle reader that it used to be mayhem at my former residence — when I ran the Halloween festivities.

The first screams came in around early dusk, and the feeble nature of the staged terror told me these were little kids. I pulled open the door with a exaggerated stage presence, and startled a flock of ghosts, goblins, pumpkins, princesses, super-heroes, and the ever popular flesh-eating zombies. And in front, was one tough looking little Harley rider, with his little leather jacket, complete with chains and studs, and his skull and crossbones do-rag.

I raised my eyes and scanned the crowd of parents in the background, and found Pippi Longstocking — standing next to Mr. Longstocking, I presumed.

“These kids are so cute,” squealed my former significant other. “Let me take their picture.”

“Get one of the parents too,” I suggested. “Some of them dressed for the occasion as well.”

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011