Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Riding With Peter Pan...

My friend “Cretin” was something of anomaly. A street fighter, a barroom plug-ugly, a sidewalk pharmacist, and the kind of guy who’d show up with a runway model on his arm one night and a $10-whore the evening after, he was a graduate of a blue-collar Christian Brothers prep school, who was fluent in Latin, loved Shakespeare, and was passionate about art nouveau. He rode a Triumph (briefly) or a Norton Commando (mostly) in the mid-seventies, when Jersey City was the closest it ever came to being Dodge City. I have written about Cretin before and readers tuning into “Twisted Roads” for the first time can learn more about my role model by clicking here and here.

There were three blue-collar parochial prep schools in Hudson County, NJ back then. They were prep schools in every sense of the curricula, as Latin, (sometimes Greek), algebra, trigonometry, chemistry, “The Classics,” art, and foreign languages were required of everyone. And they were as blue-collar as a denim shirt. While there were those whose dads were doctors, lawyers and insurance company moguls (plus one in my class whose father was the Haitian Ambassador to the UN), the fathers of my peers back then were cops, fireman, plumbers, bus drivers, electricians, pizza-makers, and realtors, who wanted their kids to grow up with the designation of “professional.”

I went to the Jesuit prep school, which was regarded as the most challenging and the least fun. It was also acknowledged to be the biggest collection of douches in Jersey City (and quite possibly the universe). Once on the inside, however, inmates were gradually made to understand the process by which cream rises to the top and learned that the opinion of the 5-cent seats is seldom worth that much. (For the record, I graduated 3rd from the bottom of my class, and introduced the two kids dumber than me to my mother on graduation night.) “Cretin” went to the brand new “Brand X” prep being pushed by the Christian Brothers, as did most of my gutter-spawned friends from grammar school. One of these was “Scratch,” (not his real name, but close enough).

This complex introduction to advanced parochial education in Jersey City, back in 1972, is important in introducing the relationship between the players. I did not know Cretin in grammar school... But “Scratch” and I were in constant trouble together from the fifth grade. He also went to the “Brand X” prep and gravitated toward “Cretin.” (They had similar anarchist tendencies.) It was “Scratch” who introduced me to “Cretin.”

“Scratch” was the nerdy kid who had the brains to do anything and the balls to do whatever he wanted. He was building science projects in the sixth grade that were getting college students credit that same year. He won full scholarships to every private high school to which he applied; and walked away from one of the most respected secondary schools in the country — because he felt like it. He said “Fuck you” to every authority who questioned his motives or principles, and was one of the best guys to hang with.

“Scratch” was one of the leaders of the rebellion at the “Brand X” prep school in Jersey City. They tried to suspend him a dozen times, but could never make the evidence stick. They threatened to revoke his scholarship, to which he replied “(see above comment to authority).” They threatened his National Honor Society standing, to which he said “(see above comment to authority).” And they threatened his graduation, to which he commented “(see above comment to authority),” as he had already won a full scholarship to one of the most prestigious engineering schools in the country. It was at this engineering school that “Scratch” took his first fall... And it was doozy. He fell in love with a woman, had a scorching affair, and woke up like so many of us do, with his pants down around his ankles, bleeding from his ass and soul.

“Scratch” said “(see above comment to authority)” and walked out on a four-year scholarship that may have been worth more than a quarter of a million dollars today. And many would have thought he’d lost his mind, with the new direction he’d taken: “Scratch” decided he wanted to try his luck as a professional in modern dance. Essentially, modern dance is a kind of complex ballet that entails a lot of prancing around. I shook my head at this, while “Cretin” rolled his eyes, suggesting this was some kind of vicious self-penance that we couldn’t fathom.

Most ballet dancers start their careers around six-years-old, by taking four-hour lessons, followed by twelve hours of practice, seven days a week. By the time they are eight-years-old, they are ready to make a serious commitment to ballet. “Scratch” was 18 when he started to pursue this. (It should be noted that he had a physique like coiled copper cable wrapped around titanium, and endurance that was difficult to comprehend.) Within three years, he was dancing in the company of the legendary Charles Weidman (New York City). I failed to understand this level of personal achievement at this time, but it would be as if I had decided to take up climbing and started with the north face of the Eiger.

“Scratch” began a physical transformation that was sometimes hard to comprehend. To see him on stage, in New York City, flying through the air (to land on his toes or fingertips), left me puzzled at times. I once asked him, “Where’s the payoff in all this?” Naturally, the payoff was in the expression of his art, which in many regards was also his soul — that had once been confined to mathematical formulas and conceptual drawings. We were backstage and “Scratch” was about to slip into a dressing room door, which he held open a second. Inside, I could see any number of the most incredibly beautiful women — in various stages of undress. He just smiled, reducing things to my primitive level of understanding. (His commitment greatly exceeded my ability to comprehend it then.)

A month later, “Cretin” and I sat sweating on two shiny motorcycles, attempting to reach another level of understanding.

Jersey City was the dog shit and broken glass capital of the world in the summer of 1975. It is hard to imagine an uglier place. (To my thinking, it still is. And since I was born and raised there, I can say what I want.) The heat that night baked the tedium and desperation out of the concrete sidewalk and flat roofs, converting it to human drippings, and those who to thought to flee, even for just a few hours, moved on their options.

I conned “Cretin” into taking a screaming 78-mile ride up Route 23 to High Point State Park. There we could find someplace in the trees, above the Delaware River, to drink whiskey out of a bottle, eat cold meat sandwiches, and breathe in cooler air bereft of hot car exhaust, fetid bar farts, or the industrial perfume on the kind of women who’d be likely to accompany us at the last minute. (There would be no women on this run as my luck was stone cold and “Cretin” was in one of his “They’re-all-bitches” moods.)

We were headed toward a deli off Journal Square (the epicenter of Jersey City hopelessness) when “Cretin’s” Norton Commando squatted in an imperative stop. I nearly swallowed his bike’s feeble 2-watt taillight.

“Scraaaaaaaaatch,” Cretin yelled across a concourse of skewed traffic, loading busses, and mobbed humans branded with that “God-damned-this-heat” look on their damp faces.

“Scratch” had just exited the PATH (subway) station, on the return trip from Manhattan. He wore glasses as thick as steerage deck porthole covers and glanced around as if his name had been shouted by the buildings or lamp posts around him.

“Cretin” yelled a second time, then whipped the Norton through the lines of taxicabs, bus lanes, and crosswalks of the “old” Journal Square. I followed, enduring the car horns, extended fingers, and shouts from endangered pedestrians that invariably lay in his wake.

The plan was explained to “Scratch,” who donned my spare metallic green helmet and climbed onto the Norton’s pillion. The backpack — or a variation of the rucksack — was already popular in the mid-seventies. But “Scratch” was never one for conventional wisdom, and carried his dance gear in something he found to be more convenient. The nature of this device, which had been invented in the 1890’s, will be discussed later. It should be pointed out that “Scratch” was returning from a “full dress rehearsal,” and was wearing an outfit that would raise nary an eyebrow among his most intimate friends, but one that might have been judged “avant-garde” in the provinces.

“Scratch’s” grip not only proved ideal for carrying his dance gear, but had lots of room for the rum, coke, some beer, three huge deli sandwiches, and other stuff — like a bag of sugar cookies and a can of pineapple juice — all of which we got at the deli.

The ride out of Jersey City and into the countryside was uneventful, but somewhat competitive, as “Cretin” sought to hold the lead and set the pace. In pure speed, the Norton Commando was no match for the Kawasaki H2, the fastest stock motorcycle of its day. (But the Kawasaki had the handling characteristics of a falling tree.) I was content to let the other bike lead, and to take in the scenery, which at the time was bathed in the soft, pre-dusk July light. Route 23 ran through hilly, dairy farm-country, with contented cows in the fields and vapid-eyed horses along rail fences. But “Cretin” got cocky and kept slowing down to laugh over his shoulder at me, before jazzing the Norton ahead once again.

I got tired of this and let him have it on the stretch of highway around the Newark watershed, which is more like a little expressway in the country. The Kawasaki did its thing — albeit with that fruity two-stroke outboard motor growl — and took off like the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars. I passed the Norton like it was nothing more than a good-looking piece of British riding iron running on weak tea. There was a buzziness to the H2 in the pegs and handlebars that matched the sound of the engine, and which added an extra dimension to the texture of the road, filtering through the primitive suspension. I came to associate this sensation with the liberation of my soul, and was celebrating another escape at the expense of “Cretin’s” Norton when the unthinkable occurred.

A whitetail deer stepped off the left lane shoulder and into my destiny, a couple of hundred yards up the road.

I hit the horn, with was like squeezing a chipmunk, and then started downshifting (without the benefit of the clutch), while hitting the brakes. It should be noted that I was doing about 85 miles-per-hour at the time. Like most of its species, the deer had shit for brains and stopped dead center in the road, displaying that look which clearly indicates it was trying to determine the best way to run directly into my bike. And then it reversed course, tap dancing back to the shoulder. And I mean tap dancing. It couldn’t get traction on the pavement with those stupid hooves, and was slipping with every step. I glanced into the mirror to see where “Cretin” was and then swerved to the right, bleeding off speed for a false sense of security. I couldn’t see “Cretin” in the mirror... Because he was six inches off my rear wheel.

I whipped passed the deer, and “Cretin” whipped past me, with his left arm extended, and the middle finger on his left hand pointing upward, in mute testimony to the smoothness of my maneuver. The Norton handled much better than the Kawasaki, and even though “Cretin” had taken it to the shoulder to get around me, the bike followed his line of sight effortlessly, without the wobble that was the H2’s legacy and curse.

And it was in this pose, with the state bird of New Jersey roosting on his hand, that “Cretin” shot passed the police cruiser hidden in the median. Naturally, the cop thought “Cretin” was saluting him, and the roof lights came on with sinister intent.

The Kawasaki was a powerful bike for its fleeting fifteen minutes in history, but 75 horsepower is hardy nuclear muscle. Missing a couple of shifts at a critical moment was almost as good as coming to a full stop as that two-stroke motor sang the loudest at the higher end. In fact, the way I had slowed to avoid the deer could have fouled the plugs. I was going well below the speed limit when the cop pulled out onto the pavement.

“Cretin” went a full mile before surrendering. The cops were officers from the local town, and it may have been harder to find two good old boys of purer country stock — even in the deep south. They ordered the riders from the bike and then the show started. (I pulled over about 50 yards back, and started to fidget with the plugs.) These were the days when cops had real authority and didn’t have to worry about getting shot or sued by every asshole behind the wheel. (And it should be noted, that cops back then were a lot more judicious in how they exercised that authority.)

“Cretin” knew the drill, and went about producing a well-worn license and registration. He was a scofflaw of the highest order, and I knew that one thing or another would be askew about his identification. (He carried papers under the name of “George Claxton” for years, changing them to “Clax” Claxton after getting nailed under the first monicker.) But the cops had no interest in “Cretin’s” identification that night.

“Scratch” stepped off the Norton as if he was incidental to the evening’s events. As I said earlier, he had come from a dress rehearsal, and was wearing reddish-orange tights, under a jet black body suit that adhered to his frame like a tattoo. This outfit was so tight that it outlined every muscle like a mold. This is how “Cretin” and I came to know that “Scratch” was hung like a moose. His hair was nearly waist-length, but was braided in two pig-tails. And he was still wearing his stage make-up, over a hint of five o’clock shadow.

The two “Jack Armstrong, All American” cops were utterly speechless...

“Scratch” slipped the bungee cords that held the container for his gear, the booze and sandwiches to the Norton. It was an oversized, traditional trap-door wicker picnic basket.
He knew “Cretin” better than I did and expected the identification review process to run at least an hour. “Scratch” spread a little cloth on the ground, parked his ass on it, and began dunking the sugar cookies into a cup of pineapple juice.

“What have you got there?” asked one of the cops.

“Sugar cookies and pineapple juice,” said “Scratch.” “They are an unlikely combination but taste surprisingly good. Want one?” His response was cold sober, precise, and succinct.

The cop just shook his head.

After asking ‘Cretin” where he was coming from and where he was going, the other officer grilled him about the extended finger.

“I was coming up behind some asshole who slowed down to 35 miles per hour — in the left lane — and then the guy cut me off when I passed him on the right. The finger was for him. That’s him back there. You should beat the shit out of him with your nightsticks.”

One of the cops took a leisurely walk in my direction and asked, “What’s your story?”

“My plugs fouled and stalled the bike,” I said. “I’m putting in the spare set now. I hope I didn’t scare that other guy and his girlfriend.” (I could barely get these last three words out without choking.)

“It’s not his girlfriend, exactly,” said the cop.

The one cop returned “Cretin’s paperwork (which identified him as Leon Trotsky) and they pulled away without issuing a ticket. “They never looked at my license once ‘Scratch’ got off the bike and removed that stupid helmet,” said “Cretin.”

The three of us were tucked away in the woods overlooking the Delaware river forty-five minutes later, mixing rum with pineapple juice. The stars were just coming out and the night creatures were tuning up. We had laughed ourselves silly over this story... And then the topic turned to women. I was in another dry spell that I thought would leave me celibate for life. “Cretin” was raging about an unreasonably short-tempered girlfriend who’d found him in the arms of another woman, who turned out to be her cousin. Neither one of us realized that “Scratch” had gotten more ass than a Port Authority toilet in the past six months, and that none of it entailed lying, pleading, nor buzzing around on motorcycles.

“Cretin” was somewhat silent when “Scratch” got through with his sexual summary. (Not only was “Scratch” a stickler for the truth, but he was incapable of exaggeration.) For the briefest moment, “Cretin” and I considering adopting his techniques.

“We all have to make the best of our respective abilities,” said ‘Cretin.’ “Besides, do you know how stupid Reep would look in those orange tights and that body suit? He already looks like a total douche on that Kawasaki. The cops should have beaten the shit out of him just for riding around on it.”

©Copyright Jack Riepe “Reep” 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'Tis The Season...

This is my favorite Christmas story. Similar to my “Father’s Day” piece, I run it every year. To those who have read it before, I make no apologies. To those who are reading it for the first time, it’s all true. There is no moto content in this story. But there is at least one really funny time in a man's life when the bike doesn't play a major role — Jack.

'Tis The Season...

Long before my career in public relations included writing things like congressional testimony, state-of-the-industry speeches, and quotes written expressly for people easily mistaken for cardboard cutouts or bodies seeking reanimation, I earned a living doing the marketing for a roller rink in New Jersey. (I was 26-years-old at the time.) Now this wasn't one of your run-of-the-mill skating facilities left over from the 'forties, but a multimillion dollar disco/singles club for the well-heeled and slick-wheeled. From Thursday through Sunday, indescribably heavenly bodies gyrated and swerved through this place to a throbbing beat that percolated raw sexuality.

But on weekend mornings the place was given over to the three- to seven-year-old-crowd. And in the interests of screwing a dollar out of every conceivable opportunity, some genius decided that nothing would delight this particular demographic more than to have Santa Claus arrive on skates.

"Great," I said. "I'll get a release out to the papers and get started on the ads. What chump are you going to get for the role of Santa Claus?"

Public relations is the story of unending service to the client. Yet the measure of that service is subject to constant change. There are days when your clients hang onto your words as if they were directions from a prophet. And then there are the days when your value is measured by how fast you can get them coffee or clean the toilets.

"Well, we thought you'd do it as part of the seasonal promotion," the roller rink owners said.

"Do I look that stupid?" I asked.

They already had the Santa suit custom tailored for me. Made of crushed velvet and lined with real fur, it was rumored to have cost a grand. (This was in the '70's, when a grand was real money.) The leather belt was four inches wide with a silver buckle. There were real leather pullover boots too. But the best part was the wig and beard. They were all one piece and either made of real hair or silk. Even the little square Ben Franklin glasses were real glass. The costume was gorgeous.

I would be lying if I said I didn't make one hell of an official-looking Santa. I looked more stocky than fat in those days, and gave the impression that jolly old Saint Nick could easily split a cord of wood.

"Help me pull on these boots and we'll be all set," I said to one of the staffers, who was dressed like an elf.

"Boots? The boss said you were to wear roller skates."

"Are you out of your mind?" I asked. "I can't skate. I'm not wearing skates!"

"The boss said that you were to wear skates... That we're supposed to help you out to Santa's throne... And that you were to shut up about it."

The skates were strapped to my feet before I could claw my way out of the room. With an elf on each arm, I was wheeled out into the masses of children. For the first and only time in my life, a collective sigh rose throughout the room at my appearance. (It must be pointed out that the sigh wasn't really for me, but for the person I was impostering. Still, it remains a significant highlight for me.)

I was mobbed by hundreds of little kids who simply wanted to touch my hand, wave to me, or say "Hello." I was dressed like the ultimate "yes-man", who always delivered. True to plan, Santa's elves each put a shoulder against mine, and began pushing me across the carpet to the skating floor.

Santa's throne was an elaborate chair in the center of the skating floor, with fake reindeer standing on each side. As I recall, one of the deer had a flashing red nose. The elves meant well, but I was beginning to accrue a bit of mass in those days (though nothing like my present size). The wheels of my skates were digging into the carpet and encountering substantial resistance. The elves later claimed it was like wheeling a howitzer through a swamp. They were really putting their backs into it when my skates hit the hard wooden floor.

My mass went from glacial progress to runaway horse speed in an instant.

I broke free from my moorings and shot across the floor at about 40 miles per hour. Arms flailing, I took out the deer with the flashing nose and smashed into the throne with a loud "wham!"

"You missed the other deer," said an elf, who was laughing so hard he could barely stand up. "You want to try again and see if you can pick up the spare?"

Ten minutes later -- with the deer and the throne back in place -- I started listening to the dreams and hopes of about 1200 kids. I began each interview with the same litany: "Ho... Ho... Ho... What's your name? Have you been good this year? Do you listen to your parents? Do you do your homework? Do you share with your friends?"

The responses were the standard boilerplate lies, followed by the presentation of the Christmas lists with few variations. Most were memorized and delivered as one constant flowing word. "I want a bicycle-football-tape recorder-guitar-racing-cars-and a G.I.Joe." A small percentage of kids came with written lists, complete with their addresses and directions to their respective homes, so there'd be no mistake on the morning of the 25th. Some froze and forgot what they had to say. One or two cried. And I will never forget the little girl who laughingly buried her face in my beard, repeating "Sanna, Sanna" over and over again.

At the peak of this holiday networking, a bigger than average kid climbed into my lap. This one seemed kind of old to be pushing the Santa gimmick, but I figured he wanted to hedge his bets as the zero hour drew near."

We went through the routine with me playing the straight man and kid being the ventriloquist's dummy. He had just finished the gift inventory, when he suddenly said, "But you won't bring any of this stuff to me. You won't come to my house on Christmas."

"My God," I thought. "What horror story does this poor kid have at home?" I imagined a divorce in progress... Sickness... Parents out of work... Perhaps even the death of a parent...

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"Because I'm Jewish. I don't believe in you. You're just a fat man in a red suit. I'm going to pull your beard off in front of everyone."

"Ho... Ho... Ho," I laughed, positively relieved. This was a job for a true public relations specialist, trained to make folks instantly see the bright side. I leaned over and whispered in his ear, "You touch this beard and I'm going to drop kick your ass halfway across the floor."

I fired off another "Ho... Ho... Ho...," for the benefit of the general public. "You'll get everything I promised," I said out loud to the kid. He scrambled from my lap and backed away, never taking his eyes from Santa's feet.

I figure that kid is about 40-years-old today. I wonder if he gets as many laughs from that story as I do. I wish I knew where he was now. I'd buy him a drink.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Chanukah!

© Copyright Jack Riepe 2004
From my book in progress: "Mid-life Crisis: Let The Ordeal Begin"
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Motorcycle And The Pushcart Girl At The Mall...

There are four times during year when I can be consumed by the holiday spirit (and one of these occasions isn’t even a real holiday). What these days have in common with each other is that they can be (and should be associated) with great parties. These holidays are New Year’s Eve, The Fourth of July, Halloween, and Christmas. New Year’s Eve is best celebrated in the company of 25 or 30 close friends, who will have a light dinner, heavy drinks, and welcome another 365 days of friendship when the new year is born. (And New Year’s Day will see the Mac-Pac assemble at a local diner for a traditional pork and sauerkraut lunch, and the first ride of the year for many.)

The Fourth of July (Independence Day in the United States) needs no explanation. Hard, fast riding; swimming in a lake or river; shooting skeet; beef and shrimp sizzling on coals; explosive fireworks at night; and red hot romance (when possible) make this the holiday weekend of choice. It is one time during the year when the party can rage for three days. I remember one such weekend at the country retreat of my friend Ricky Matz. We had been up howling at the moon around a campfire until 4am. Less than three hours later, the walking wounded were crashed around a table in a traditional farmhouse kitchen. The aroma of rum, vodka, and Bourbon hung heavy in the air, as six individuals sat with aching heads in their hands. Then “Stitches” pumped the rock classic “Sedated” (by the Ramones) through speakers that were 6 feet tall (in the house), and Bloody Marys were served for breakfast.

Halloween is no slouch either. Sort of the US equivalent of the Feast of the Dead (Mexico), Halloween parties (with costumes) celebrate the harvest and the wardrobe ingenuity of the average person. I used to throw costume parties at my place in the Adirondacks that attracted stage set designers, artists, singers, musicians and other writers. One year, Rowan Mulvey (one of the most unique women I have ever met) organized a secret cadre, and everybody came to the party as me. I remember another year when set designer and stained glass artist Janice Hoffman had gotten into the house to hang unbelievably realistic ghosts in all the room corners. My daughter, then five-years-old, stepped through the front door and screamed like a banshee.

Christmas, however, remains as my best all time holiday — though some years were better than others. First and foremost, this holiday marks the birth of an individual whose brief life of 33 years changed the course of history in every country and on every continent. The trickle-down effect of that birth is sometimes difficult to grasp when standing in long lines at the mall, or after camping out in parking lot to save 50% off some useless junked marked down the day after Thanksgiving, or when realizing that you are likely to spend 8 week’s salary to get your kids and others on your list the latest electronic gimmick.

In many instances for me, Christmas was a trade-off in which the cost of being with family was hours spent driving between distant cities. For years, my former paramour endured a three-hour ride up to north Jersey, and a three-hour ride back, to spend two hours with my family. We always had a great time... But six hours in the car on Christmas Eve gets a bit wearisome. Still I remember some incredible Christmas experiences: cutting down our tree in the woods; Midnight Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (New York City); dancing with my former paramour to the holiday orchestra in the lobby of the Metropolitan Museum (New York City); and Christmas parties in the Adirondacks, in which dozens of friends would arrive with ornaments for the tree — some fancy, some homespun; some sensitive and gentle; and others straight out of a New Orleans cathouse. Then there was the first Christmas with my limited-English speaking Russian girlfriend. She met most of my family on Christmas Day, in the emergency room at Saint Claire’s Hospital, where I was being prepped for kidney surgery.

I hav always liked shopping for Christmas presents too.

While there are those who insist on making Christmas shopping a marathon ordeal of ostentatious gift-giving, the real challenge is to find something meaningful, useful, or expressive of the affection and love you have for a person. And this is where originality and forethought pay off big time. I would often start thinking of what would make good Christmas presents for family and friends months before the holiday shopping season started. The thought process also included locating all of these items, knowing precisely where they could be found within a certain store, and how much they cost. And then because I am a professional writer, I would often find myself at the mercy of penurious publishers who would sit on my cash until they could no longer contrive any other reasons not to send it. Sometimes, the money would arrive at 1pm on December 24th.

The last time this happened was three years ago.

According to broadcast media reports, traffic in and around the shopping malls was approaching catastrophic levels. At the mall in King of Prussia (one of the nation’s largest), snarled traffic had spawned mobs of flesh-eating zombies, who were pulling other motorists, paralyzed with fear, loathing, or ennui from their cars. It was a warm day for the season, with temperatures approaching the low 40’s (F). I realized that I possessed the single most efficient vehicle for Christmas shopping ever designed — the motorcycle. Specifically, I possessed a 1995 BMW K75 with enough luggage capacity to carry the gifts I had in mind for everyone.

Some people split lanes when they ride. On that day, I split lanes like Jack The Ripper.

I used the shoulder. When the shoulder petered out, I used the sidewalk. When the sidewalk wasn’t an option, I rode up the grass embankment. I hit five stores in an hour and a half, parking my bike within 20 feet of the front door in each case. At one shop, a custom gallery, the owner met me at the curb with the object already wrapped and bagged, took my credit card inside, and sent me on my way with a receipt in hand. I found myself humming Christmas Carols (“Father Christmas” by the Kinks) as I sliced through stalled traffic with reckless abandon. And yet the day was not without challenge. A mall cop fired 16 warning shots in my direction after I snatched a slice of hot pizza from his hands, and rode my bike through a revolving door to blend in with the crowd.

I had one last stop in this holiday sortie, which entailed walking 200 feet through a mall concourse — when I met her. She was a tinted blonde in a low-cut blouse and jeans that were tighter than the budget to which I was successfully adhering. She was a salesperson, selling hand-creams and cosmetics from a pushcart, and she waved me over like it was a matter of life and death. I hesitated, for about a tenth of a second, and asked, “Yes?”

Noticing I was in riding gear, she wanted to see my hands. I held them up, wondering if she’d realize they were already assuming individual cup-shapes as a kind of reflex action.

“Hands are one of the first things a woman sees on man,” she said to me, taking my right one in both of hers.

“In my case, they are often the first point of contact,” I added in complete agreement.

“Women can tell a lot, not only by the condition of a man’s nails, but by the texture of his palms and fingertips,” she said. And as she was saying this, her own fingertips began to methodically message mine.

“Now you have very strong, decisive, commanding hands,” she said, looking straight into my eyes. “The kind of hands a woman can trust and would welcome in a crisis or in the dark of night.”

“Correct again, Honey...” I thought to myself.

“But riding a motorcycle can stress the skin and cause rough spots, that could give a woman pause to think where these hands may have been...”

She showed me a couple of rough spots which might have been related to a long period of time where I was between wives.

“This cream not only eliminates rough spots but rejuvenates the skin through a warming effect,” she continued. The blonde put a little dab of cream in my palm, and then started rubbing my hand like she was attempting to draw flame. “Do you feel the warmth,” she asked.

And I swear, she no sooner said this then closed my hand into a loose fist, and held it against her rack. This was a woman, about 25-years-old, with a nicely sculpted physique. If she had been a whitetail deer, her rack would have come in around 12 points.

I ended up buying the hand cream, the skin restorer, the neutral men’s nail preserver, and the warming hand message oil. The whole deal cost me about $96.50 just to cop a cheap feel in the mall, on the day before Christmas, in broad daylight. But it was worth it... I had been bested by the ultimate salesperson, who was already stalking another middle-aged dope as I walked away. But the real joy came in watching the expression of my former paramour’s dad as he unwrapped his Christmas gift, and found all of the above. A pragmatic scientist and the kind of gentleman with highly cultivated tastes, he looked at all the hand creams and gratefully asked, “What the hell is this shit?”

“It’ll take the squeak out of any fan belt,” I replied.


And on the subject of hands, I was sitting next to Peter F. (who rides an MV Agusta Tamborini) at a recent Mac-Pac Holiday dinner, when he held up two digits on his right hand, and confidentially asked, “Do you know why woman love to masturbate with these two fingers?

“No,” I replied. “Why?”

“Because they’re mine,” he replied with a smirk.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Free Pick-Up And Delivery By Hermy's BMW and Triumph

Hermy’s BMW and Triumph Now Offers Free Pick-Up Delivery
Of Bikes Coming In For Service...

Port Clinton, Pa — Hermy’s BMW and Triumph, of Port Clinton, PA is offering free pick-up and delivery to bikers throughout southeast Pennsylvania, whose motorcycles are stranded in garages owing to mechanical issues or a sudden change in weather. An extremely mild fall extended the 2011 motorcycle riding season, prompting many riders to squeeze every last mile from tires, brakes, cables, and critical fluids — leaving some bikes mechanically compromised for even a short run. Other riders, convinced summer would last forever, are now facing sudden temperature drops, freezing rain, and even snow as barriers to critical motorcycle service.

“Starting December 6, 2011, we will pick up and deliver — free of charge — any motorcycle coming into this dealership for annual maintenance or repair service,” said Herman Baver, General Manager of Hermy’s BVMW and Triumph, the landmark motorcycle dealership in Port Clinton, Pa. “And we will do it for customers within a 100-mile radius of the shop.”

According to Baver, free pick-up and delivery, in his dealership’s fully enclosed two-rail trailer, eliminates rider anxiety associated with the potential for a mechanical issue en route to the dealership at the end of the riding season. “Some of these guys have squeezed the very last millimeter out the brake shoes or tires. Or for one reason or another, their bikes barely made it back to the garage. These riders aren’t looking forward to the very next run,” he said. “Our pick-up and delivery service eliminates any concerns they may have about getting stuck along the way.”

The free pick-up and delivery by trailer also allows Hermy’s to precisely schedule the ebb and flow of motorcycles through the service department. “We have a tsunami of motorcycles in for service during the first two weeks of April as every rider and his brother wants to get out on the first nice day,” said Baver. “This leads to bottlenecks that can extend throughout the next month. Why not have us pick up your bike now, and get it all tuned up and ready to go. That way, you can be out and on the road in March if we have a soft winter.”

The scope of the 100-mile radius of this free pick-up and delivery service is mind- boggling. Technically speaking, it extends from Harrisburg to Philadelphia. To avoid deadheading over long distances with an empty (or partially empty trailer), Hermy’s reserves the right to schedule multiple pick-ups and deliveries whenever practical. “Service doesn’t begin and end at our bay doors,” said Baver. “A motorcycle is a lifestyle and we want to be part of yours. This means being part of the solution of any rider’s challenges.”

With 18 days left before Christmas, a Hermy’s Gift Certificate in any denomination is a perfect gift for the rider in your life. Good for gear, accessories, or service, A Hermy’s gift certificate can be tailored to match the most extravagant budget, or that of the tightest college student. And they are always the right size, the right color, and the right choice.

For more information, visit or contact:
Hermy’s BMW and Triumph, Route 61, Port Clinton, Pa
(just a minute or so north of I-78 in Hamburg, Pa.)

610-562--7303 or go to:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Cleansing Power Of A Spontaneous Night In The Woods...

Not every ride begins with an inspiring dawn, a desire to see beyond strange horizons, nor the call of the pavement. Sometimes it is spawned by one or two words of criticism offered by a woman whose voice normally conjures up images of delightfully steamy nakedness in a hot shower. Yet nothing has the “Trojan Horse” quality of a woman’s voice. While the sound may be dropping warm honey or melted candle wax, the content can be as cutting as a dumpster of broken glass.

On this day, in early summer of 2005, I was busy comparing candid online photographs taken of Harley-mounted women at various events (held at Sturgis and Daytona). The purpose of this research was to determine whether pierced nipples would whistle at high speeds. (This way, I would know what direction to ride in if I ever heard a persistent whistling sound.) I had complied about 740 pictures, when the former love of my former life said, “So this is your idea of doing research for a possible motorcycle magazine article?”

Surprise lifted me 16 inches off my seat.

Now it would have been different had she made some noise to signal her approach, giving me apple opportunity to click to the word-processing program that would clearly prove the scientific nature of my work... But she crept in noiselessly, like a visiting in-law climbing through the window. She was even perfume-less and thoroughly masked by the aroma of week-old cigar smoke that made my office so appealing.

“How would you like to do a little research entailing how a garage gets cleaned, or perhaps a study on basement reorganization, or even an experiment on herding the dog shit in the yard into a bucket?” she hissed, like steam leaking out of a cobra.

“Would a magazine pay anything for that kind of information?” I fired back.

Her response was to point out that I had been “interrupted” in my research of “tramp stamp” tattoos the day before, and “caught” attempting to secure a sponsorship from “Road Riderette Edible Panties” the day before that. Now I have been accused of many things — and have been proven guilty of most — but I’ll de damned if I am going let anyone belittle my work or suggest I am anything other than a serious moto writer.

“Have it your way,” I spat back vindictively, remembering to bookmark the 20 or 30 insightful sites that had provided me with so much raw material. Then I stormed into the garage to rehearse my defense when whatever pretense I expended in the garage cleanup would come under fire two or three hours later.

The garage had that lived-in look. In fact, it looked as if a 450-pound hamster had lived in the motorcycle bay. Tools, motorcycle gear, and piles of camping, fishing, and canoeing stuff were strewn about like the flea market from hell. I noted that things were so cramped it wasn’t possible to move anything around until I rolled the bike out into the driveway. (That was the first year of the mighty “Blue Balls,” the 1986 BMW K75 with the rare Sprint Fairing.) At that moment, however, moving the motorcycle upset a delicate balance which brought a tower of stacked crap cascading to the floor.

“How did all this shit get around my motorcycle?” I yelled to myself. Then I realized it had been gleaned from other parts of the garage and randomly tossed here as it was “unimportant” man stuff of mine. The first thing I picked up was a rolled and bagged tent I hadn’t used in 15 years. “Wow... The last time I was in this, Christine T. had danced naked around my campfire,” I thought. And instead of putting it away, I tossed it out by the bike. Going through a battered cardboard box, I discovered an old camp stove, a dented mess kit, and a sleeping bag that had seen several doze hunting trips. All that stuff went out by the bike. The last thing I came across was a folded poncho, that had survived camping trips from two wives ago. I took that too.

And then I did the unthinkable... I stowed all of it on the K75, and rode off.

There is something cleansing to be said about taking off without a destination... Without a plan... And without a sense of remorse. Believe me... It is the best feeling in the world... In the beginning. Remember how you used to feel when you were nineteen? My motorcycle was nineteen-years-old in 2005 and I wondered if it felt in its sexual prime... If it was ready to jump the bones of the cute girly bikes we passed... If it would gladly spit in the eye of any contender. (I have since learned that this is standard running behavior for all BMW K75s.)

I headed north, up Route 100 (Pa) and then Route 309 (Pa). These were long before my Mac-Pac days, and I was accustomed to riding alone. (The Mac-Pac is the premier chartered BMW riding club serving southeast Pennsylvania, They are a great collection of riders who were legally unable to deny me membership in 2006.) It had been late in the afternoon when I set out, and I stopped to grab a cooked chicken and a piece of pie at a Boston Market. Then I took a campsite in a state park with minimal facilities. By minimal facilities I mean the big amenity was iron-flavored water from a standpipe, and a stink in the clapboarded shitter that hasn’t been changed since the Civil War.

Unrolling the tent, my thoughts were of the naked beauty who’d wrapped herself around me in it 15 years before. It turned out I was mistaken. The tent had been used more recently by several generations of mice as a combination shelter and nutritional center. While it was still a tent at both ends, the middle had been converted into loose seeds, balls of shredded material, and highly motivational rodent graffiti powered by mouse piss.

This could have been regarded as a setback.

Yet I am a former resident of the Adirondacks, and a man who has fished the AuSable River and hunted the High Peaks region. What Adirondack man hasn’t seen the painting by Winslow Homer (published in 1874), titled “Camping Out In The Adirondacks?” This inspiring artwork depicts a hunter stretched out alongside his canoe, with barely an oilcloth to keep the dew from him. I would simply replicate this touching scene with a motorcycle instead of a canoe.

I cut a couple of holes in the hem on the poncho and used bungee cords to hold it to the bike. (Actually, I had no bungee cords. What I had was a bungee cargo net, which made for a really strange fastening.) I duct-taped the bottom of the poncho to two sticks that I then hammered into the ground. This rudimentary shelter sagged like a political press conference and inspired all the confidence of a 50¢ condom.

The sleeping bag had been spared the fate of the tent but no longer held Christine’s T.’s scent. In fact, it had a certain air of the garage about it, which while not unpleasant was less than inspiring. I got a little fire started and attempted to fuss with the lantern. It was a Gaz light (with propane/butane still in the tank), but without a mantle and therefore useless. But I had my Mini-Maglight from the top case, and didn’t have to drain the bike’s battery by switching on the BMW parking light — which is really useless.

No excursion to the great outdoors would be complete without the opportunity to view wildlife in their natural environs. Foxes have a unique way of pouncing on their prey. I got an “up-close” look at a fox pouncing on the Boston Market chicken (which I’d set out on a stump). Foxes are beautiful creatures when they are not rabid and tatty with mange, and this one easily dodged the rock I launched in his wake. I know that chicken bones are bad for dogs and wondered if the fox might not choke on them too. There was a flash of a smile attached to this thought. My dinner became the ridiculously small piece of pie I’d gotten for dessert. I do some of my best thinking after dinner, and it occurred to me to send Boston Market a note, advising them that each piece of pie they sell as an “individual serving” should weigh a minimum of 4 pounds.

There was little point in sitting up after dinner, and I called it an early night by slithering into the sleeping bag. In less than 15 minutes, I understood that Winslow Homer was a fraud and no man ever slept under the shelter I had contrived. Laying parallel to the bike, I had two feet of sleeping bag sticking out on each side of the poncho. I had better luck stretched out perpendicular to the K75... But this put my head within an inch or two of the oil pan. Just as a woman has a distinctive fragrance of perfume and pheromones, a motorcycle exudes trace aromas of lubricant, coolant, and gasoline. While these can be sexually stimulating at 100 miles per hour, they can adversely color a man’s sleep with dreams of a refinery. So I swung my head the other way, and found it sticking out the low end of the hanging poncho. While this gave me a sensational view of a velvet sky filled with stars, it dramatically altered the nature of the setting, and I knew that no descendant of Winslow Homer was ever going to paint this campsite.

I closed my eyes with the smug satisfaction of a man who was the master of his own destiny and one with nature. Yet the accomplished woodsman is instantly aware of the slightest change in his surroundings, and I snapped to consciousness three hours later, deducing that the jewel-like stars had suddenly become meaty, plum-sized rain drops. This was no problem as I simply reverted to “Plan B,” and pulled my head under poncho.

That last sentence connotes planning and precision, two elements that are generally absent from my life. In my haste to get under the poncho, I caught my chin on the lower edge, converting it into a huge, quivering plastic funnel, channelling a torrent of icy rain into the top of my sleeping bag.

“Great Scott,” I bellowed. (Actually, I said something else that rhymed with “brother trucker.”)

The sensation of cold water pouring into my sleeping bag caused me to sit bolt upright, which separated the poncho/tarp from the two stakes that feebly held it to the ground.It was now nothing more than a rain drape. Not yet dismayed, I sat under it, with my head protruding out through the hood in the center.

“I can sleep like this,” I thought.

It was at that moment I could feel the cold rain seeping through the wadded-up sleeping bag under my butt.

“What hell is left to me now?” I moaned into the darkness.

At that moment, a flash of lightning illuminated the cracked shingles of the ancient outhouse roof.

“No,” I screamed. “I will not sit in there.”

The rain increased in its intensity, falling in sheets as dense as fog. And once again, the flickering of lightning spotlighted the tumble-down structure of the shitter.

Its door swung open on hinges that shrieked with rust. The stench was nearly as heavy as the rain. I flashed my light around inside, finding a huge spider suspended in a web the size of a volleyball net, hanging over the only logical place to sit. I knocked it into the soup from hell, using a handy stick I’d grabbed just for that occasion. “We all have problems, pal,” I said soothingly, watching the large arachnid thrash around before gnawing through its own throat.

It is common knowledge that feeding female mosquitoes can detect one part of expended carbon dioxide (a millionth of a human breath) in a zillion parts of raging thunderstorm. Yet they are unaffected by the aroma of an unattended latrine. In fact, they can thrive in an atmosphere of nearly 100 percent methane and will not hesitate to give it a try, if the door is left open. And believe me, nothing less than flesh-eating zombies could have persuaded me to close that door.

I arrived back at the house barely an hour after dawn.

My former lover was in the kitchen, pouring a cup of decaf. “That was some rain we had last night,” she said. “Did you spend the night in an outhouse or something?”

“What would make you say that?”

“Well, you’re standing here stark naked, wearing just your helmet, and the two dogs are rolling in your wet clothes on the garage floor.”

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Story of Kim... (Thursday’s blog more than a day late.)

A Twisted Roads reader — a woman rider of the Harley Davidson persuasion — recently asked me, “Why do so many of your stories focus on women and how is it you always get the girl in your tales? Has there ever been a time when your “battered baby seal look” left you standing by the side of the road with your tool in your hand? And if so, how is it those occasions are never the subject of your stories?”

These are really good questions which I usually get at parties, rallies, and on runs from biker women I meet for the first time, who are determined to be the exception to the “battered baby seal look” rule. I’m afraid the answers are deceptively simple.

I got my first motorcycle when I was 19-years-old (38 years ago). I had never ridden a bike before and did not have an overwhelming compulsion to charge around on two-wheeled nuclear reactor... But I did have a near-suicidal interest in getting laid and thought the motorcycle mystique might go a long way toward making this happen. And it did, to an extent. The bike I got was a 1975 Kawasaki H2 (in a purple-ish red) which lacked the appeal of the typically black Harley’s, Nortons, and Triumphs of the day — though not every woman knew that. Yet most every time I mounted this machine it was with with the hope of meeting a woman who was as fast as that damn bike. So nearly all of my early bike stories entailed the pursuit of romance.

Now the sad truth is that I did not get the girl as often as my stories imply. Consider the batting averages of the most successful baseball players: they strike out all the time. But it is the sensational hits and resulting plays that make the headlines. Why would I write up the stories where my best attempts at seduction resulted in getting dumped? These use to happen all the time and there was one year when I thought I might as well donate my organ to science, as no one else seemed interested. The following narrative is a classical example of the romantic curse that used to follow me around.

I present: The story of “Kim”

One of my friends was a philosophy major at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and found himself in a dorm renown for great parties. (I had no idea why anyone would be a philosophy major, considering philosophers ranked second only to poets in the job market; and this was back in the mid- seventies, when there were two jobs for every American who wanted one. Then again, I was an English major in a country where speaking English was destined to be regarded as the height of unsophistication.)

He’d invited me to this party, where it was alleged there would be a sexually charged atmosphere which could be easily ignited by philosophers and budding writers alike. I began the evening by getting tuned up at the watering hole which had launched so many of my previous “passion” runs. The truth was that I felt uncomfortable crashing parties in which I only knew one other guy, and my pal — Jimmy B. — was the only other loser I knew who was getting laid less than I was that year. So it was my hope I’d find some other action in the saloon which would preclude a 60-mile ride to New Brunswick (NJ).

There were two unattached dollies sipping variations of gin at the bar, and one was a blond knockout. The other was a serious bowser looking to feed on the carcasses on the runner’s-up who got half-bagged buying drinks for the good-looking one. The blond had her pick of the strongest and biggest sperm donors, and I would have to be drinking a solid eight hours before her friend triggered any kind of a primeval response other than flight.

A fast shot of Jamison’s Irish Whiskey and ten minutes later found me getting on the New Jersey Turnpike in Secaucus. Once a community of pig farmers and horse knackers (within 15 minutes of 5th Avenue in Manhattan), Secaucus used to be one of New Jersey’s better known jokes. Now it is recognized for outlet centers and the kind of traffic (on Route 3) that breeds serial killers.

The Kawasaki H2 was the kind of bike that loved the New Jersey Turnpike. The engine wound up for the pitch and unleashed its fast ball as I paralleled the runways of Newark Airport (now called “Liberty International”). Glancing to my right, I found myself racing some commercial jet clawing its way into the air. I didn’t think we were so unlike in our respective flights — just that mine was about three feet off thew ground. The plane was carrying faceless passengers behind each oval window to some destiny... As this motorcycle was hopefully carrying me to the arms of some coed I had yet to meet.

Many have compared the sound of the last great Kawasaki two-stroke street motorcycle to that of a lawnmower on steroids. That is not quite fair nor accurate. While the motorcycle lacked the throaty growl of a Harley or a Norton, it struck the tone of a large outboard motor attempting to carve a rooster tail out of the asphalt. The H2 easily held 90 miles per hour without straining and I made short work of the run to Rutgers.

The party was the college standard, with LED Zeppelin and traces of pot filling the air. Beer hissed and bubbled from kegs covered in ice, while a select few of the cognoscenti sipped cheap wine from plastic cups. As I anticipated, Jimmy B. didn’t know a soul there and we were essentially the ambassadors from Douche-land. He headed off to drain some hose and I retreated into the farthest recesses of the party. Specifically, I was looking for a remote corner that was adjacent to two or three women by themselves. There’s always one spot like this — at least for awhile.

Finding it, I pulled a doobie the size of my forefinger out of my pocket. These were the days when the average joint was thin, skinny, twisted, and about 45 seconds from becoming a roach. I lit the end and puffed on it like it was a cigar, releasing about $10 bucks worth of smoke into the air, and then I let it go out.

“I’ll trade you some of this for a little of that,” said a brunette with a ponytail. She was holding a pint bottle of Bicardi over a cup of Coke.

“There’s barely one drink left in that bottle,” I replied. Then I gave her a smile and a shrug that said “Deal.”

Her name was “Kim.” Dirty blond hair, blue eyes, and a nice build — complete with an accent that suggested a sunset in Georgia — she was a political science major from nearby Douglas College, who’d wandered in with a couple of friends now lost in the party shuffle. We sipped rum... Passed the joint a few times... And spoke for an hour. Kim claimed the party had bottomed out and that she was headed back to her place, an off-campus apartment in the next town.

“Can I give you a ride?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied with a smile. “Can you?”

I took her by the hand and led her down to the street. We passed Jimmy B., who was talking football with three other guys. He and I made the kind of split-second eye contact that guys exchange when they need to say, “It was fun, bro. ‘Till next time...” without saying a word.

“You have a motorcycle,” Kim exclaimed.


I couldn’t tell If she was thrilled, nervous, or having second thoughts.

She stood still, smiling, as I ran the strap through the “D” rings on her helmet. And then I kissed her. It wasn’t the kiss of the century, but it didn’t have to be either.

The bike fired up on the first kick, as it always did, and she jumped on. I took it easy, never getting beyond third gear as we were on city streets, and she was either yelling directions or pointing the way every few minutes. She seemed comfortable to have her arms around me as I backed the bike into a parking spot in front of her place. The silence is always palpable when you switch off the bike’s engine, and I wondered what her first words would be.

“That was different,” she said.

She fumbled a bit with the dismount, but did so laughing.

I got the side-stand down, dismounted myself, and helped her with the helmet. I followed her up the steps to the front door. She had the key in her hand, then in the lock in one fluid action. She spun around in the door, kissed me on the mouth, bit my ear and whispered, “Wanna get fucked?”

“Yeah,” I said.

She laughed, took a step backward, and closed the door. The last thing I heard was the click of the lock.

I was stunned... I thought it was a joke and pressed the doorbell. The response was to have the porch light go out.

I made it back to the saloon in Jersey City in time for last call. It was a slow night and there were only three people at the bar — one of whom was the bowser, who looked at me with renewed interest.

“What can I get you,” asked Vinnie the bartender.

“A shot... In fact, I want the same shot they gave Kennedy... Behind the ear. And get one for the bowser too.”

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011