Thursday, November 29, 2012

Che Guevara And I Have Two Things In Common...

I deeply regret the long absence from this blog. The hurricane thrust me into a week of darkness that seemed to last long after the lights came back on. Quite frankly, the life and the laughter just went out of me. Hundreds of thousands of people had it much worse than I did, with homes and businesses smashed. Hurricane Sandy put a dramatic dent in the distribution of my new book — Conversations With A Motorcycle — but I have managed to get a handle on it. 

All book orders taken prior to October 15th will be filled within a week or so. Most folks have their books now. Some got two. Orders taken after that will be filled before December 18th. I thank all of you for your patience and support.  

I remember a sentiment expressed in the Revolutionary Spirit of the workers who rose up against the Czar: "That which does not destroy me makes me stronger." Many shouted this as they were cut down by Cossacks, proving the point. In that spirit, I now commence the publication of this blog with the following story about socialist moto- love. 

The woman had a reputation for tedious discussions on the politics of protest, the enslavement of the worker class, and the benefits of the collective. Her life was dedicated to exposing whatever the hell it was that kept the proletariat in their accustomed chains. Lithe, with unrestrained breasts that bounced beneath tee shirts that were always a couple of days past clean, she had an an urban earthiness that was anything but urbane. Her name was Louise Enwright but she called herself Lenochka Lyubov. She wore a beret and an expression that permanently indicated her disdain for make-up, deodorant, mouth wash and other excesses of western thinking.

She was a genuine red... a real pinko... a Communist — from Long Island. Her mother was a doctor and her father was a stock broker. They had so much money that her maid was a Republican.

I met her in my last year of college, in a class called “The Literature of Revolution.” She was always reading “the Russians.” These were authors ranging from Tolstoy to Dostoyevsky, who understood life to be a pointless endeavor suffered in frozen, desolate train stations while waiting to be arrested by the czar’s secret police. (For comic relief, key characters occasionally fell in front of the train or froze to death. They were envied by those characters who survived.)  According to the word around campus, Lenochka liked two things: criticizing the bourgeois and a good straight hump.

I generally overlooked belligerent proletariat ladies, whose pubic hair extended to the tops of their knee socks. Yet I was going through a self-inflicted romantic dry spell, largely caused by annoying every female within 400 miles. I had heard that the women of the local fifth column were the least discerning on campus, and most likely to respond to vodka-flavored paint thinner and the promise of breakfast.

I wandered into a Soviet-friendly poetry reading wearing a tee shirt that sported a red star on the front. (It was an advertisement for a brewery.) Most of the shirt’s details were concealed under a green G.I. field jacket that I wore when on my bike. The motorcycle was an insidious 1975 Kawasaki H2. Under my arm was a green (metal flake) helmet, with black trim. When the ensemble was complete, I looked like a militant candy apple. Lenochka had been hitting the vodka all night. To her, I looked like a Communist super-hero. All I needed was a red cape and hip boots from a plumbing supply store.

But I had the next best thing. I clutched a dog-eared paperback copy of Nikolai Karamzin’s “Poor Liza,” printed in Russian. The pages had yellowed  and some had simply fallen out, only to be stuffed loosely back in. I had liberated it from some obscure shelf in the campus library. At some point, she would ask me to translate a page and I would just make it up.

I was surprised at the number of Communists in the room. The men had that treacherous, beaten-dog look about them. The ladies showed the hard, timeless contempt of women in perpetual revolution, damned to screwing men whose passions were conspiracy and bumming cigarettes.

Lenochka’s preference was for weaselly guys who looked like bomb-throwing anarchists right out of Doctor Zhivago, and who could do push-ups for two straight hours. According to several authorities, if you had a knack for that sort of exercise then you could ride in her sidecar all night. I did not have a knack for doing push-ups, even when I was thin and on the varsity fencing team. I did have a knack for alluding to the fact that I could do push-ups for hours. My thought was that it might be easier to change the game once it got started. After ten or twelve vodkas, served straight up at this campus cultural celebration, I told her I could do push-ups with both hands behind my head.

I thought the night would be easy, as I had a bottle of vodka, the price of breakfast, and a clean shirt. Yet I had competition. Across the room was an exchange student from Tito’s Yugoslavia. This bastard was communist lite, but the closest thing to a real red within 4,000 miles. He was interested in Lenochka, as the other beauties lacked even her minimalist appeal. He spoke with a genuine accent, had genuine rodent eyes, and came from a country that was still in Europe but close enough to Turkey to be suspected of something.

He offered to take her home.

“How,” I asked, thrusting myself into the hushed dialogue. “There is no streetcar to reality from here. I have a motorcycle.”

“Why do you ride a motorcycle?” Lenochka asked. “It’s an expression of rebellion, isn’t it? Is it your way of striking back at the establishment through non-conformity?”

I didn’t answer right away, as nothing piques the feminine revolutionary mind like a dramatic pause. Instead, I gave her the kind of sideways glance used to great effect by Nikita Khrushchev when charming the crowds at the United Nations.

“I ride a motorcycle to be more like Che Guevara.” I had it on good authority that Che rode bikes and proletariat women hard.

The famous Argentinian revolutionary took a 6,000-mile motorcycle ride through South America in 1952. The profound poverty he found forever set the aspirations of Communists everywhere. My suave manner as a Che devotee made Lenochka waver in her initial assessment of me as a sexual opportunist who would say anything to get laid.

Then I applied the clincher.

“Nothing helps me understand the literary weight of the ‘Russians’ like riding a motorcycle,” I said. “From time to time, I pull over and read this book.” I looked down at the floor and pulled the book from my pocket. A dozen pages dropped out.  "It is nothing," I quipped. "I have them memorized." I looked up and smiled. It was the smile that would become known as the Battered Baby Seal look.

Lenochka said we should go to her place. The motorcycle had triumphed over the politburo. The communist from Yugoslavia shrugged, accepting the obvious. He would spend the night with the red version of Madame Defarge, a woman regarded as an enigma considering her demeanor was concealed by facial hair. She was passed out on the floor.

The motorcycle was a challenge for Commissar Lyubov's skirt. Lenochka mounted the pillion and tucked the excess material under her ass. She was wearing the kind of knee socks you’d expect to find on an extra in the Wizard of Oz, but no underwear. I gave her the usual bullshit about tapping her leg when she needed to hang on. At one point, I reached back for a handful of thigh. It felt like she had a ferret in her lap.

“Can we ride around for a bit so I can feel the Russians too,” she yelled.

I took her hand from my waist and put it in my lap. “That’s Peter The Great,” I shouted.

She asked me to pull over and read from "Poor Liza." I did, under a streetlight. Or I appeared to. I basically ran through a few scenes from Poe's "The Pit and The Pendulum." That's cheery enough to be Russian. We were sitting on the bike together as I slithered through this travesty, and she began to touch herself. Or maybe she was just taking the ferret's pulse. I told her to get off so I could restart the bike. And then I started to laugh, because that's exactly what she was doing. 

My college was located in a highly fashionable New Jersey suburb that oozed money. The streets were lined with trees that all spoke two or three languages and the houses were Tudor homes that no Tudor could afford. Lenochka didn’t live near there. She directed me across the tracks to an industrial hell, where she had an apartment between a salmon cannery and a steel mill. Now one might think the aroma of fish from one direction or the scent of sulphur from the other could be a bit overwhelming. Both were nothing compared to the reek of cat piss which came a litter box that got changed with every Presidential election. (The cat apparently pissed dioxin.)

The place was decorated with unwashed clothing and the sink choked on porcelain dishes that were slowly being etched by bacteria. Rutting microbes stampeded in the bathroom. But such was the heat of my desperation that I was willing to bonk the ferret with the hammer of Thor anyway. Lenochka offered me a glass of white wine that fizzed when the cork was pulled. I declined.

The spirit of the house was a Siamese cat named “Akula.”  It was sleek with a smooth chocolate coat that didn’t seem to bother my allergies, as long as I didn’t touch it. Plus, all the booze that I had chugged earlier in the night seemed to forestall my allergic reaction.

Lenochka dragged me further into this soviet sty, the center of which was a sacrificial futon. A candle bathed the room in a dingy Communist light and I realized this woman was a manifesto with breasts. She wasn’t big on kissing and wanted a good straight hump in the tradition of the push-up.

I was prepared for about 12 thrusts before the inning change and moving to the bottom.  At thrust #10, I cleared my throat in anticipation of making a suggestion when the fucking cat attacked my bare ass and dug its claws into my skin. I screamed, arched my back, and thrust downward causing Lenochka to clamp onto me like a bear trap, pinning my arms. I yelled again and started convulsing to get the cat off my ass.

Lenochka gasped and lie there quivering.

I delivered a backhand across my ass that launched the cat like a tennis ball. My butt was bleeding and the only clean thing I could find to wipe the blood was my own undershirt.

“Do you want me to do something for you?” asked Lenochka.

“Yes,” I said. “Get moose and squirrel.” **

The ride back to my place stung at every bump, but the worst was yet to come. Showering after the next fencing meet, two of the guys had ‘the red badge of passion’ on their backs: the fingernail scratch marks of appreciative women.

I had similar chevrons... but mine were  smaller and engraved on my ass.

“Did you nail a ferret or something?” asked one of my teammates.

** Anyone looking for an explanation of "moose and squirrel" in connection with a communist theme isn't really hip enough to read this blog, and should click here.

Who reads Twisted Roads:
These are actual pictures, submitted by actual readers, unafraid to actually admit they read Twisted Roads...

Above: This is Mark Jones, the head honcho of Air Ambulance Worldwide, Inc., posing in front of his yellow Goldwing (which is a Honda, for our German riders who don't get out much). He is coveting the R1200RT in the foreground, which is owned by Mal Clingan (Florida). Air Ambulance Worldwide is a fixed-wing evacuation company. (Where they hell were they during my second marriage?) Mal is taking the picture and probably giving Mark the finger. You have to wonder what kind of a rider Mal is if he needs the CEO of an ambulance company to escort him on rides to the Post Office and the proctologist. Note the extra large top case on the "R" bike. This houses the steam boiler and auxiliary whale oil tanks. Nice paint, Mal

Above: Carla Sark rides a Honda 750 Shadow (pearlescent gray and white). Here she is on Thanksgiving Day, stalking wild turkeys as they cross the road in her native Indiana. (What the hell is it with Hondas today?) And where are your gloves, Carla? This Honda is tricked out with the optional light package, the crash bars, and cool saddle bags that actually have Fastex releases under the chrome buckles. Carla likes long walks on the beach (good luck in Indiana) and polishing 56 square yards of motorcycle. 

Above: Twisted Roads Reader David Zmoda sent us this picture of one of his sheep, who I shudder to think may be his current ride. "Z" (as he is known to his friends) claims he hasn't ridden a motorcycle since 1978. Yet there seems to be a strong sheep-riding contingent in his native Maryland. Gangs of sheep-riders have been seen on the highways there.  I am thrilled that the model picture above does not have a BMW logo on it. 

Above: Dedicated Twisted Roads Reader Charles Murphy (Murph to his friends) zapped me yesterday with photos of his shop (Oregon) which is something of a legend in local BMW and Moto Guzzi circles.This will be one of my stops when I head out west next summer.

 Above: Murph's roadside service is handily provided by this immaculate "R" bike, which was rumored to be ridden out to the Oregon area by the Lewis and Clark expedition. The "R" bike design represents one of the purest, engine concepts. The earliest of these designs (known as Airheads, after members of Congress) were cooled by the breeze. Later models (the Oilheads) relied on whale oil, air, and the phases of the moon for cooling. Newer models use a stunning water-cooled technology first employed on "K" bikes during the Regan administration.

Above: This is a cool... Murph developed this test stand to put rebuilt engines through their paces without having to reinstall them in the frame first. "This enables me to test for oil leaks and other things with everything out in open and easy to access," said Murph. "It's also a crowd magnet at local rallies and events.

Above: The control panel allows Murph to test various engine functions on command, as well as determine the efficiency of other engine components.

Are you a Twisted Roads Reader? Then send in a picture of you, your bike, or your girlfriend on your bike. You could win a valuable prize. This month's winner (November) is Dave Zmoda of Maryland. His winning entry — the willing sheep — has earned him an EZ Tire Pressure Gauge. And he might win another prize if he submits a picture taking a reading off "Lamb Chop" with the gauge. Remember — Loud Bleats Save Lives! 

Send Pictures To — Put "Rider's Photo" in the subject line.

* No farm animals were injured, insulted, nor maligned by affiliating them with either political party in this blog. However, I did poke a few "R" bike riders in the eye with a stick. But this only because the BMW "K" bike gets the stink-eye from so many of them. And I did make another swipe at elected officials, only because it is a sin to miss a slow-moving target. Twisted Roads apologizes for not zeroing in on Dick Bregstein lately. That will be rectified shortly. Twisted Roads is not BMW-centric and welcomes photos from riders on Harleys, Ducatis, Moto Guzzis, Hondas, Kawasakis, Yamahas, Suzukis, Triumphs, and Vespas. All bikes (and sheep) actually.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012
All rights reserved
Photos submitted of hot girlfriends do not automatically receive prizes but I will look at them often.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Reports Of My Demise Are Premature...

The news reports were confusing.

The ocean was slamming against the dunes. The tides were running heavy. Minor flooding was being reported from various shore points as dire warnings were being cited  by weather experts.

Looking out the window, conditions seemed not much stiffer than an afternoon pushing a thunderstorm. It had drizzled for a bit and the litany of reporters (one of who showed us a line of six sandbags against a pizzeria doorway) kept talking about the doom that was crawling up the coast. I thought, “This is a piss poor excuse for a hurricane. I’ve been to union meetings that were rougher than this.”

I was under the impression we’d been in the storm for hours.

Then the reporter said, “The hurricane is expected to make landfall in about 5 hours.” It was still a couple of hundred miles away. According to the weather map, landfall would be between my bathroom and kitchen. The gentle Twisted Roads reader will understand that I thought that this was one of the longest build-ups I had ever seen for a weather event. Star War: The Empire Strikes Back didn’t get this kind of hype.

The wind was shortly gusting to 50 and 60 miles per hour and the house was considerably noisier than my preferred Nolan helmet. The rain started but never reached the frenetic levels I had been told to expect. There is a brunette friend of mine  who occasionally captures my fancy (isn’t there always), and she races sailboats. Her description of the wind whistling in the forestays and her stories of heeling a boat on the edge of a knife-like breeze fascinate me. I was working on a story in which I thought to compare the gentle moaning of the wind on a moonlight Atlantic night with the raging anguish of K1300GTs engine, balls to the wall in a horizontal interstate Messerschmidt power-dive, when the lights began to flicker.

A brilliant flash bathed everything outside in a micro-second shade of electric blue as a pole transformer exploded outside. The lights came back on and wavered again, as another pole transformer blew up minutes later. In that second of darkness, I remembered I had bought the cheapest surge protector the store had, and I yanked the magnetic power cord off the Apple. The lights made one more attempt to stay lit and ran the the gamut from dim to brilliant — as the last pole transformer on the block evaporated in sparks and loud “boom.”

The room was not totally dark. The screen on my faithful Apple laptop still glowed with the thrill of whatever the hell it was I had just typed. It was 9:55 pm and wind gusts were pulling the ton (100 mph). I switched on my Coleman LED camp lantern and called it an early night. While an LED lantern is the ultimate in disaster convenience, it’s not much for ambience. The sterile light is ideal for finding the bathroom but not conducive to reading.  Stretching out in bed, I thought the wind like sounded passion on a sailboat. Then something blew into the side of the house. It happened two more times, and I plastered my face to window. Far above the hell of the storm was a full moon and it wasn’t real dark outside. I expected to see zombies staggering in the street. What I saw was almost as amazing. Wind gusts were blowing deer into the siding. “Good,” I thought. “Fucking rats on stilts.”

I put my head on the pillow and closed my eyes. There was nothing romantic in this howling of the wind. I would lie awake for the next 5 hours. The wind did its best to twist my balls. It counted the tiles on the roof. It tore at the siding at the house. It shook the tree on the lawn. It even peered in the window and made fun of my comparison of the noise of made by a racing sailboat and the classical music cadence of a finely-tuned Teutonic motorcycle. (Sorry, brunette cupcake, riding a motorcycle will keep you 19 forever.)

So the wind did the only thing it could do to hurt me: it destroyed my childhood. Ten miles to the east, Barnegat Bay rose like a hissing shit-bitch from hell and swirled over Pelican Island, before venting its seething fury on the backstreets of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park. The Atlantic surged over the beach... over the dunes... over the boardwalk... and over the houses, some of which were rented by my family when I was a kid. It ripped everything before it with an indescribable rage.

Click here to see for yourself...

These were the beaches where my mother, a beautiful blond, chased three kids in the sand. These were the honky-tonk amusements where my dad went on things that went upside down with my cousin Claire. This was the home of Casino Pier, where kids on Union Street (1962) discussed a roller coaster — the Wild Mouse — in awe and fear. It was where my dad handed me my first oyster on the half-shell and watched my face as I slurped something with the consistency of a used flem ball.

“Thank you, sir. I’ll have another,” I said.

Casino Pier was where I would park a motorcycle in 1975, and have a rum and Coke at at the outdoor bar — the Aztec — while watching girls in bikinis walk by. (I’d wonder if I’d ever nail one.) It was where I parked my motorcycle in 2005 and had a few rum and Cokes at the same outdoor bar, while watching girls in bikinis walk by. (Can you guess what I was thinking?)

The back of Casino Pier is broken. A newer roller coaster is in the water. The old spook house and the rides that have been there for 20 years are gone. The stretch of boardwalk with the sausage sandwich stands, the orange custard stands, and the chintzy clackerty wheel games (where you had a better chance of getting elected Pope than of wining a decent prize) are gone. The stands were you could get the worst pizza in the world are battered. The souvenir shops, the tee shirt warrens, and the ear piercing places are bust up. I am assuming that the chocolate stalls that my mother so loved, selling fudge so thick and sweet that your ass would inflate like a life raft if you ate one piece are heavily damaged. Each was someone’s livelihood. Each was a family legacy.

Funtown Pier is a shambles. The best places for clams on the half-shell and corn on the cob (boiled to a soft yellow, knobby pulp) may have been spared. And the jury is still out on the antique carousel. The place where I played miniature golf with my brothers and sisters (on a carpeted course that was like the lobby of a shit-house hotel) is sandblasted. And the last place I ever had dinner with my mother — The Berkely Fish market — well, who knows. Maybe that was spared.

Writing of the Jersey Shore, I once described Cape May as a national treasure. And I recall describing Seaside Heights as the Jersey shore’s painted whore. Cape May is where you go with a new lover when every detail in life is just perfect. Seaside Heights is where you go when your heart rides a motorcycle. Any motorcycle. It’s where you went to smell French fry oil with scented sun tan oil, with a hint of salt in the air. It’s where you didn’t have to apologize for thinking about that tanned tartuffle in the thong. (But you did have to behave... The cops would mercilessly break your balls.) Bruce Springstein never sang a damn thing about Cape May. (Actually, he sang about Asbury Park, which used to aspire to be Seaside Heights.)

I can’t believe that this is the end of Seaside Heights. I can’t believe that a newer, stronger, phoenix won’t rise from the mangled beams, stripped boards, and fractured neon. And I can’t believe it won’t be there on Memorial Day, 2013. My legs are like the boardwalk at Seaside. But they’ll be tougher and stronger next year. I plan on riding a 2004 K1200 next summer. And I am going to lead a ride to the bar at the old Aztec. I plan to spend the weekend there.

Who’s with me?

This is the end of Day 5 without power at the Jersey Shore. I have no lights... No internet... And intermittent phone. I have not had snack cake since May. I would now kill for chocolate cupcakes. Send me some.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012