Thursday, January 27, 2011

Really Stupid Things I Did On A Motorcycle... Part One

The bike in front of me dodged a wobbly manhole cover, swerved around an open car door, and narrowly missed knocking a boom-box off some guy’s shoulder — without a glimmer of the brake light, as the rider took all of this in stride. His instructions to me had been cryptically clear: “Stick with me Reep. I’m not waitin’ for your dead ass at traffic lights.” So I skirted the same manhole cover, caught the phrase, “fucking asshole,” from the asshole getting out of the open car door, and took the bird (perched on the upended hand of the guy with the boombox).

It was the sizzling summer of 1976, and we were on Tenth Avenue; two shooting stars rocketing through traffic on the West Side of Manhattan, the smallest borough in New York City.

Even then, riding in Manhattan was like taking a flying saucer through an asteroid belt. A lot of the manhole covers were loosely seated. If I said “fuck” every time some dope opened a car door in front of me, I’d have been diagnosed as having Tourettes. And pedestrians with pizzas, boom boxes, dogs on leashes, and the occasional shopping cart (filled with the remains of shattered lives) were always stepping out into traffic, willing to play the odds on getting across major avenues that were six lanes wide.

The guy in front was “Cretin,” a street brawler and respected member of Jersey City CafĂ© Society. He was known for winning arguments by snapping the antennas off parked cars, and using them to beat his opponents half to death. He was the “Doc Holiday” of his peer group, being able to quote Shakespeare fluently and to read and write Latin without hesitation. He had an incredible mind that battled emotional tides only he could see or hear. And he was infatuated with the romance of the gutter.

Cretin had the kind of code and reputation that made him welcome in some of the roughest gin mills in Jersey City (and there were more than a few). No one had a bad word to say about him, and many of the guys whose asses he had kicked admitted it with pride. He thought I was funny, and introduced me to some of the toughest guys I would ever meet, in a bar that could best be described as a “bucket of blood and teeth.”

Cretin was astride a 1974 Norton Commando painted “Gestapo” black. The machine generated two-thirds of the Harley Davidson thunder — with one-tenth of the heartbreak. Still, it staked out it’s curbside territory with a spot of oil, which Cretin referred to as its “signature.” When I once asked him why it leaked oil, his response was, “Because it’s perpetually on the rag... Like the last broad you tried to hump.”

He was not far from wrong. The metropolitan area was fighting off one of its annual summertime draughts, and I was in the throes of one of my most enduring dry spells. It had been so long since I had as much as copped a cheap feel that the color of my eyes had begun to fade. I poured out my troubles to Cretin, over 15 shots of Irish truth serum.

“There’s no trick to getting laid,” said Cretin. “Especially if you have a motorcycle... Unless you have a shit pot like yours. Then you have to get creative.”

He was perfectly serious.

I was riding a 1975 Kawasaki H2, the fastest and most primitive motorcycle of its time. One of the last of the two-stroke street screamers to be offered to an unsuspecting public, the “Widow-Maker” made a noise like a lawnmower with its balls in a bear trap. My bike was painted plum pudding purple, with a big, stupid Kawasaki decal on the gas tank. That decal looked dated from the day the bike rolled off the assembly line.

Above: The 1974 Norton Commando 850 Interstate... A classically beautiful British motorcycle. Photo from Wikipedia.

Above: The 1975 Kawasaki H2, the fastest and most primitive motorcycle of its day. Photo from the Internet.

Other than that, the bikes looked oddly similar. They shared a similar profile, with a straight seat and raked pipes. The Norton had two cylinders to the Kawasaki’s three, but both motors were utterly stark in design, with easy access to all the parts. Each had four gears and weighed about the same. Both had similar instrument clusters on chrome handlebars, behind big headlights in chrome housings, which in turn accommodated turn signals on chrome stalks. Up close, the Norton had a much better fit and finish, and the bigger engine. But the Kawasaki had 25 more horsepower and easily pulled ahead from a stop. The Kawasaki had a slightly longer wheelbase and a forward slant to its straight seat, which guaranteed the pillion candy would always slide into the rider on a good stop. It also started easier than the British bike. The Norton was tight in the turns, whereas the Kawasaki had the cornering capability of a baby grand piano, dropped from a twenty-story building.

Cretin thought I had two major disadvantages when it came to mating rituals. The first was in my objective and the second was in my approach.

“You go into a bar or a party looking for the romance of the century, with the most perfect woman you can find, so the two of you can move into a cottage by a pond, and have kids who can read and write from birth. Consequently, your dick looks like a bicycle handgrip from solitary consolation workouts,” said Cretin. “You need to meet women with the idea that you’re going to be shot at sunrise. That way, they’re all perfect.” He claimed each of his romances had fiery beginnings and bittersweet endings, about 5 hours later.

“Why five hours?” I asked.

“Because that’s when I usually wake up hung over, but with a strong sense of regret and a compelling desire to have breakfast alone, 150 miles away from where I’ve regained consciousness.”

“Don’t the women feel some regret that you leave?” I asked.

“How the fuck would I know,” he replied.

Cretin claimed my second problem had to do with my mouth. “You either sound like a college professor or the fucking game show host from hell,” he said. “Women like biker guys who mask themselves in mystery and who express themselves in grunts. Just stop talking, and learn to shrug with your eyes. I’m going to take you to a party over in the city tonight — and using my methods — you’re going to get laid.” His parting instructions were, “Stick with me Reep. I’m not waitin’ for your dead ass at traffic lights.”

Traffic through the Lincoln Tunnel was heavy but moving fairly quickly. I have always loved the sounds of motorcycles within the confines of the tunnel, even my own. The Lincoln tunnel has a spiraling turn at one end, and slight changes of curving elevation in the dingy tile-lined two-laned tube. (There are three tubes of traffic, with two in and two out, depending on the time of day. Sometimes the middle tube is divided and there is on-coming traffic for a mile, deep under the Hudson River.)

It was around 9 pm in the dead of summer and turning dark on Tenth Avenue, or as dark as it gets in a city of a billion lights. Working girls waved to us from street corners, and I swear one called out to Cretin — using his real first name. We got caught at a light and I was distracted by one of the hottest women I had ever seen. She was wearing the uniform of a hooker, a skin-tight black rayon dress that ended high up on her flawless thighs. The woman was black and in the shadows it was damn near impossible to see were the dress ended and she began. I remember her voice to this day:

“Wanna go out?” she asked, stepping off the curb and leaning over the bike.

She spoke in the slight melody of the south, with eyes that saw me, but which were focused elsewhere. Her voice was the flavor of honey, and lemon, and whiskey served hot. She was about my age, 22, and had a hauntingly beautiful face. The act of leaning over the bike revealed her flawless milk chocolaty breasts, capped by dark bitter-sweet nipples. I had never seen a black woman’s breasts before, and was totally captivated. Glancing straight ahead, the light had changed and the Norton was nowhere to be seen.

“My name is Jack,” I said, switching off the Kawasaki.

This information failed to impress her. She merely cocked her head and looked at me with an expression of drug-induced resignation. This woman was beautiful enough to be on the cover of any magazine.

“Do you wanna go out, Jack?” she asked again.

“What’s your name?” I asked. What I really wanted her to do was to climb on the back and ride off with me to a cottage on a lake, where we could get lost in endlessly naked discussions on romance poetry.

“Kara,” she said. “My name is Kara... Do you wanna go out?”

I was about to mention the cottage on the lake when the Norton pulled up alongside me.

“What the fuck did I tell you,” yelled a furious Cretin. Then he looked at Kara and said, “Get lost honey. He sucks cock just like you.”

She blinked, languidly, and realizing there was no business to be had, started to step away.

“Wait,” I said. “Take this,” and I handed her the only bill I had in my pocket, a ten-spot. She looked at the bill, looked at me and then stepped back into the shadows of Tenth Avenue.

“You just gave a hooker ten bucks because you got a look at her tits,” said Cretin. “What the fuck is the matter with you? Stop acting like Toulouse Lautrec and follow me.”

Cretin split lanes whenever he felt like it or when it seemed to buy us a few seconds. We were always at the head of traffic when the light turned green. Our destination was a monolithic apartment house on West End Avenue, on Manhattan’s Upper West side. This is a classic New York City residential neighborhood, between Broadway and the Hudson River. The street was tree-lined and wall-to-wall parked cars. Cretin found an open spot by a fire hydrant, and bounced over the curb, with his trademark disdain for civil authority.

We parked the bikes on the sidewalk within spitting distance of the lobby doors.

Cretin hit a doorbell in a brass panel that held fifty individual buttons, some with names and others that were just numbers. These stately structures were built for the well-heeled in an era (the mid-1920’s), when each apartment was supposed to be a real residence. The lobby was all marble and brass, with a now vacant counter once manned by a concierge. We were buzzed in anonymously and ascended to the eighth floor in a tarnished brass bird cage of an elevator.

Above: Historic structures on West End Avenue in New York City harken to a more gracious era. Photo from Wikipedia.

I got the last of my instructions on the way up. “Don’t fucking talk if you don’t have to. Let me do the talking. Just nod if you hear your name,” said Cretin.

“Who’s throwing this party,” I asked.

“No one you know, and no one who gives a shit that you’re here. By the way, I reserved the star chamber for us.”

“The star chamber?”

“Are you dense?” asked Cretin. “Just fucking nod.”

The apartment was the kind of place you see William Powell and Myrna Loy romping through in the old “Thin Man” movies. The ceilings were 10-feet tall and there had to be a least 12 rooms. The layout was like a rabbit warren, and included a living room, a library, a dining room, bedrooms, a butler’s pantry, a servant’s room, and a music room. The decor was a combination of late Greenwich Village “coffee house,” with a strong Kerouac influence, punctuated by furniture that had grown tired before it qualified as “antique.” There were candles — mostly of the melted-down variety — stuck in wine bottles all over the place. Strains of The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Janice Joplin pounded an atmosphere already laden with the sweet smell of pot. Behind a sofa in one of the living rooms there was a mural that looked like the pattern for the original paisley shirt. It covered the whole wall. Cretin told me it was a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

“Do you see it?” he asked.

Taking my first cue of the evening, I responded by nodding.

“What a piece of worke is man,” said Cretin.

“Ain’t it the truth,” I muttered, scanning the people at this bash.

“That’s the quote, you asshole.”

I gave Cretin a sneer rather than admit I never read Hamlet... But now that he had given me the answer, I could see the message rather clearly. The painting was far from the equal of “Guernica,” but it was clever in many respects. He shoved a glass of whiskey in my hand and told me to sit tight while he “worked” the room.

Above: "Guernica," by Pablo Picasso. Low resolution reference from Wikipedia.
The original, which I saw at the Museum of Modern Art, is the size of a billboard.

There were about 90 people attending this event, representing a diverse cross-section of the cultural strata de jour. There were artists, poets, dancers, musicians, communists, socialists, and even one anarchist — or so they said. It was easy to pick out the dancers. The modern ballet set featured women with incredible physiques. Even the more delicate ones were exquisite beauties with muscles like gymnasts. In one room, the occupants were sitting around a circle, while some guy read “an original piece” to the accompaniment of a sitar. In another, men and women (many of whom needed a shower) were crooning the lament of the proletariat. (Do you know how to tell a communist woman from a socialist babe? The communist women have fuller mustaches while socialist honeys often braid their underarm hair — author’s note.) A third room offered a mix of college girls and guys out for a good time. These were the general admission eloi. It was here that joints were orbiting in concentric circles, that the music was the loudest, and that I thought I stood the best chance of knocking off a piece.

But I was with Cretin... And he left nothing to chance.

Cretin was a man of many talents, and on this occasion he had brought with him some pharmaceuticals that were in short supply. Consequently, he was greeted like the Sun King in a world of darkness. And it was perhaps owing to this aspect of his talents that he shortly reappeared with two ladies in tow. He had designs on the blond, who had big hair, a big smile, and big tits. He thought I would hit it off with the other one, who was as flat as a board, slender as a willow wand, and with long hair down to her waist. (He got the size right. I do have a thing for women with long hair and flat chests.) Both of these ladies claimed they had an interest in motorcycles.

Above: The northern terminus of West End Avenue in New York City, where it meets 107th Street. Photo from Wikipedia

Cretin produced a bottle of wine, a couple of glasses, and a joint as thick as my thumb. He led us off to a room deep within the bowels of this apartment, in which foreplay was wearing the guise of a discussion on art. We followed him into a large walk-in closet, about the size of a bathroom. He hit a switch and a hidden black light brought constellations of glow-in-the dark stars, planets, and moons into view on the ceiling. The floor was littered with cushions of every shape and size.

“Welcome to the star chamber,” said Cretin, lighting up the bone.

The pot was alleged to come from Hawaii, where it was grown without seeds, under little magnifying glasses to enhance the power of the sun, and crumbled between the thighs of Polynesian princesses (who only had sex with each other). This potent weed had knockout potential of a locomotive.

Cretin introduced himself as a designer of leather jackets. I was astounded at the breadth and depth of this incredible falsehood. He made up shit about how he traveled all over the country (on the Norton, no less) in search of the most perfect hides. Then he spun some other fantasy of how he was designing a leather jacket just for women.

“Leather jackets are made for men,” said Cretin. “A woman’s leather jacket is just a man’s in a smaller size. I’m working on a design that will follow the subtle contours of a woman’s body, accenting each gentle curve, making her feel as if she is being caressed by a second skin.” Naturally, he was running his hands all over the blond as this world-circling line of bullshit unspooled. “Can I make a leather jacket for you, Baby?” I heard him whisper. “You could be the model for my whole new line.”

And new “line” was the right way to describe it.

Cretin introduced me as a “ghost writer.”

“You write scary stories?” The brunette asked.

“Nawwww,” said Cretin with a smile that had an eerie glow to it in the black light. “He writes books and stories for famous people... He gets the money... They get to put their name on it. But he’s not allowed to talk about it.

“You know famous people?” the brunette asked, her lips against my ear.

“I really can’t talk about it... It’s a condition of my contract.”

“Who do you know?” she pressed.

“I’ve been meeting with Steve McQueen every other week for two months now,” I said, unbuttoning her blouse with the precision of an assembly line welding robot. (I felt this whopper of mine easily put me in Cretin's class.)

“Could I meet him too?” she asked in a breathless whisper.

“The very next time I see him.”

That’s when she put her hand in my jeans.

I couldn’t believe how well the night was going. Using the Cretin method of romance, I was actually getting some. (The sense of conquest lost some of its shine during a lull in the action, however, when the brunette, whose name was Chelsea, whispered to her friend the blond, “He knows a guy in the rock group Queen.”) Yet pride goeth before a fall, and the meter was running. It was after 2 am and we were all still in the closet, which had begun to take on the characteristics of a marijuana smoke house. As congenial as Chelsea was, I couldn’t get Kara out of my mind. I wanted to know Kara’s story, her circumstances, and her plight. I wanted to release her from whatever sexual bondage she had to endure, and give her the chance to suffer through another one, less odious perhaps, with me.

Cretin was right about one thing. I couldn’t be happy without the cottage on the pond. Chelsea had gone out to “freshen up,” and to see if there were any “Queen” albums. She came back humming “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and offered to perform a trombone solo for me, which I regard as the highest form of musical appreciation a woman can share with a man, two hours after meeting him for the first time. And then I made the mistake of saying, “If only these stars were real... If only we were outside... In the country, with the cool night breezes blowing over us.”

“That’s what I want too,” said Chelsea.

“And then breakfast,” said the blond, whose name was Michelle.

“Fucking Riepe,” said Cretin. “All you had to do was shut the fuck up. Why is that so fucking hard for you?”

We were down at the street about fifteen minutes later. My pal jammed a bundle into his soft leather side bag, and the ladies climbed on behind us. We were headed east, across town, moving with purpose, but without the shenanigans that would attract the attention of errant cops. Cretin hit Central Park West, and turned as if he was headed for a transverse (one of the thoroughfares that cuts thorough the park to 5th Avenue). Yet he shot up the handicapped lip cut into the curb instead. He switched off his headlight and rode along the sidewalk to one of the Macadam pathways into the park. I could only see the Norton when it passed under one of the occasional street lights, or if Cretin hit his brakes. My Kawasaki, also running dark, was a second or two behind his Norton.

Above: Central Park, 863 acres in the heart of New York City. Follow the upper diagonal line of bordering buildings to its lowest point. You'll notice a light brown apartment building. To its immediate right is a much lower, darker structure, with copper or bronze roof fittings (greenish blue) and almost Tudor-stule markings. This is the "Dakota," where John Lennon was shot. Photo from the Internet.

The brake light came on and stayed there. The Norton made a slow turn to the left and vanished into the trees. So did I. We were in a clearing about 20 feet square, surrounded by trees and shrubs. It was as if we were in the country. To those who have never been to New York City, Central Park was the first landscaped public park in the United States. It spans 883 acres, has two lakes, and more than 40 antique iron bridges spanning culverts and trails. In 1976, the park had a bad reputation after dark, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It is patrolled by mounted cops on horseback. The bundle that Cretin had shoved into his side bag was a tablecloth and two bottles of wine. In a gesture that I will never forget, he spread out the tablecloth for me and Chelsea to lay on. Then he handed me a bottle of wine.

“What about you?” I hissed.

He pulled off his heavy leather jacket, spread it out in the shadows, and pulled Michelle into the darkness after him.

I was new to this business of getting my horn honked in a communal situation, but it wasn’t bad. I could Cretin muttering, zippers getting unzipped, and a woman giggling. I heard Michelle ask, “Does it have a name?”

Cretin responded, “I call it Pillion.”

"That's a funny name," she said.

I busted out laughing. When Cretin asked a woman to ride “Pillion,” he was being brutally honest.

Manhattan is hotter than hell in July. The heat that bakes the concrete canyons during the day lingers far into the night... Even if you are in the only green spot for miles. I dozed off in the middle of the trombone solo. I was tired and half in the bag. First light was around 5am, and the din of a waking city, even on a Sunday, can be hell on a hangover. In the brutal light of day, it was clear I had the prettier of the two women. Both ladies were on the edge of the clearing, squatting to take a piss. I was critiquing their two naked asses in my mind, as they were before me side-by-side, when I felt Cretin’s eyes upon me. He was laughing without making a sound.

Then as clearly as if we were at the race track, we heard the clip-clop, clip-clop of horses on the path, barely 30 feet away. A mounted patrol was passing. “That’s the firing squad I was telling you about,” said Cretin. He gathered up the tablecloth and two empty bottles, and slipped off to reconnoiter. We’d broken about 50 laws the night before and clearly the best way to handle the situation was to break one or two more in a desperate bid to get off scott free.

“The loop drive through the park is about 200 feet on the left. That’s our best shot. There are people on the path now... Bikers... Joggers... And dogs,” said Cretin. “It’s too dangerous to get out of here the way we got in. We’d have to duck-walk the bikes out and we’ll run into a cop or some asshole on a bicycle for sure.”

Two hundred feet doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a lot to cover in bushes, over tree roots, and through leaves and loose gravel, especially with a woman on the back. Yet it was no trouble in the end and we were out of Central park just a few minutes later. Michelle lived off Ninth Avenue, down by the tunnel. The plan was to drop the ladies at her place, so they could get cleaned up before we stopped for breakfast, at a diner across the river in New Jersey. Her building was a dumpy four-floor walk-up in a neighborhood that looked like home to giant roaches. Cretin insisted we stay with the bikes on the street. Chelsea kissed my neck and followed Michele inside. They weren’t gone three minutes when Cretin kicked the Norton into life.

“C’mon,” he said.

“We’re leaving now?” I asked.

“Hey, we got them home safe and sound. It’s time to go while everybody’s smiling.”

There was virtually no traffic in the tunnel and we roared through it like projectiles being shot out of a cannon. On the New Jersey side, the tunnel ends in a massive helix, a spiral to the left, that climbs to the top of the Palisades, giving the rider a breathtaking farewell view of Manhattan. We were going to hit it at about 70 mph, like fighter jets in formation.

Just outside the tunnel, hundreds of bright orange traffic cones had been set up in complex lines. Cretin extended his right leg and knocked over about 50. “I can top that,” I thought. My intention was to extend my right leg, and capture one of those cones on my boot. They are made of soft rubber and weigh about 5 or 6 pounds. I hit the one I was aiming for at about 40 miles per hour. The sudden pain in my ankle was excruciating. I didn’t break it. But I limped for a week.

This story is a page from the chapter of my youth, titled, “Really Stupid Things I Did On A Motorcycle.” I’m glad I did these things when I was a kid. Because I haven’t got the balls to try any of it now.


Two weeks later I rode back to the corner on 10th Avenue — alone. I had flowers bungeed to the back seat and $100 in my pocket. My intention was to find Kara, and take her out to eat, even if I had to buy her time. It was a hot, cloudy day when I left, and raining when I got there. There were two other hookers on the corner, both of who looked tougher than Cretin. I rode around for a while and ended up giving the flowers to an old woman walking on the street. Years later I mentioned this to Cretin, who laughed and slapped me on the back.

"Reep," he said. "You are the piece of work Shakespeare was writing about. Her pimp would have sliced you up, taken your wallet, and stolen your bike. But that wouldn't have stopped Toulouse-Lautrek either."

Cretin was dead ten years later. He died slowly in a hospital, like Doc Holiday. Not the recipient of a gunshot nor knife wound, but a victim of the gutter nevertheless. The last time I saw him, he was with a woman like Kara... And glad for the company. In the end, he was a lot like Toulouse-Lautrek and Doc Holiday.

Above: The Medical Inspection At The Rue De Moulins Brothel — 1894, by Toulouse-Lautrek.
Low resolution image from Wikipedia.

It's funny how some things stick with you. I think of Cretin a lot, and I miss him. But I only think of Kara when I come across the artwork of Toulouse Lautrek, or find myself on 10th Avenue.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011


sgsidekick said...

I can only shake my head and wonder how any of us ever survived our youth. Very poignant ending. Thanks for the ride.

Cy-clops said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane Jack. I remember my first bike a Honda 500/4 Traded my kinda rough 69' Roadrunner for it. Hey, how did I know that car was gonna be a classic, right? Anyway, rode that bike to a friend's halloween party. I wanted to show everyone what a manly daredevil I was ( I had had a few sips O' the liquid courage by then) So I decided that I would ride my steed up the front porch steps, and into the living room.

My pal's place was known as party central so I didn't think that a motorcycle in the living room would cause much consternation.

I would have made it too if I wasn't so liquored up and if I wasn't on my motorcycle. I ended in a heap, under the bike in the 3' x 3' vestibule. And the crowd went wild....

A wise man once said "Pain is temporary, chicks dig scars, and glory lasts forever" Kinda sums up the way I like living. Got a feeling you might be cut from the same cloth. Thanks again Jack, for making me smile.

Singing to Jeffrey's Tune said...

I have a vision of you, Toulouse-Lautrek, and Wilde riding BMW's across the French country side sipping on Absenthe, eating French cheeses, and smoking reefer with hairy socialist women.

Gratefully, Ihor said...

Absolutely superb tale, written using your highest quality voice. Why is it that cones are magnets for attempts at two or four wheel jousting? Do you recall the night I was designated driver of that suicide doored Continental through the Holland Tunnel? Big car, one small lane, and my score was nearly all of them from Canal St. to Jersey. Again, a great read.

BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack:
This was a remarkably nostalgic read for me. I could have easily been at the same party at which it began had it taken place ten years earlier. When I met Miss Jane, in 1968, she and two of her fellow "stews" were subletting an apartment on West End Avenue. It was such a cool place that I thought convincing her to move into my one-room Greenwich Village bachelor pad would take major creativity; come to think of it, all three of them moved in with me for a few days right after they got evicted from the West End Avenue place. But that's another piece of history yet to be told.
I loved your story. It's well written, and it has elements that every horny young guy has experienced - perhaps not as successfully as you. Where was Cretin when I needed him?

Nikos said...




Steve Williams said...

A fine piece of prose and engaging story. I remember my own adventures as a young man but sadly none involving motorcycles. And worse, while you and cretin were out creating chaos I was already married.

Looking forward to more stories.


redlegsrides said...

I've lived, when compared to your shenanigans, a rather sheltered life it seems.

A very vivid and well written account Mr Riepe. I look forward to part two of what I hope is hundreds of such stories...


Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Redleg's Rides

DC said...


Superb! Thank you for sharing that story with us.


Canajun said...

Great story Jack, but I just want to clarify one point. Your lawnmower had balls?

The walrus said...

It seems that calling this "...Part One" is not sufficient. I think you should have called it "Part One of 60," or 100 or 500. I suspect you have many of these adventures with which to entertain us. Maybe break them up into themes: Mother-in-laws Part 1 of x. Thanks for the blog. It is so much fun to read.

Allen Madding said...

A very intriguing story. Having grown up in a very small rural town, I always wondered what it would have been like to grown up in "the city". This story helps me imagine.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sgsidekick (Tena):

Some people question if I did survive my youth. One of the guys in my riding club asked me, "Did your mother have any kids who lived?"

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads. Your name has been added to the Big Jim Cookie drawing.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Cy-Clops:

I know exactly what you mean. If I had a dime for all the times I wound up riding my bike into some chick's house because I thought she wanted me too, I'd have had no problem ever raising bail.

You know, they say pain is temporary, but that is hard to believe when the EMS folks are pulling the motorcycle out of your ass.

As I am sure you are aware, your name has been added to the Big Jim's Cookie Drawing.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Jeffrey:

Thank you for readng Twisted Roads, and for leaving a comment. Your names has been added to the Big Jim's Chocolate Chip Cookie drawing.

At the risk of disillusioning you, there wasn't enough pot, rum, or Irish Whiskey in the world to enable me to hook up with the Communist or Socialist ladies at these parties. But "Cretin" didn't care. He fell in with a broad who called herself "Red Dawn" because he liked the way her mustach felt "down there."

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ihor:

Thank you for the compliment. It was high praise indeed for someone who usually regards me as a literary gnat. I do remember that night with you at the helm of the "Continental Galactica," and a few other nights (Enrico's and Paglieri's), where the cones fell victim to a good time.

Never once did we get pulled over.

Your name is also entered into thw Big Jim's Cookie Drawing.

Fondest regards.
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

Oh my God!!!!! Jane shared an apartment with flight attendants on West End Avenue? (I think I was there?) Ask her if she remembers anybody who rode a Kawasaki H2 in through the front door, wearing a Zoro costume.

I knew three stewardesses with an apartment on West End Avenue, but I thought they only spoke Swedish.

Dick, you have been entered into the "Buy Jack Riepe Lunch Drawing..." I hope you win.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

My pleasure.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve:

While Cretin and I were the bastard children of chaos, it was only logical for us to assume that this was how the majority of people went through life. If you ever get the chance to visit Jersey City, you'll understand why I am the way I am.

I'm impressed that you were already married then. I waited until later, knowing it was going to happen a few times.

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads as a preferred source of inspirational material. Your name has been entered into the Big Jim Chocolate Chip Cookie Drawing.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

Many of my weekends started out with "Cretin" saying, "Wouldn't it be cool to..." Or, "In less than an hour we could be..." Or, "I know this chick with a red hot sister..."

My response to most of these was, "Okay." I never regretted one of them. Not now, at any rate.

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads, and for writing in. Your name has been added to the Big Jim Chocolate Chip cookie drawing.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

David Denesowicz said...

Good story and somewhat believable. I don't know where they saying "If you remember the 70's you weren't really there" originated, but you've collected your scraps of memory into a cohesive patchwork quilt.
Where are my cookies?


Jack Riepe said...

Dear David:

It's very easy to tell which of my stories are true... If there is a lot of detail, then it is a sure bet it happened. "Cretin" and I got into trouble often... But no one ever got hurt or wounded.

At the end of his life, Cretin was totally committed to social issues, like organized labor, health care, and neighborhood development... And then there was the other side to him.

It is always nice to hear from you, David. And I have entered your name into the great cookie giveaway. You might win! And pigs might fly out of my ass too.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear DC (Dave Case):

As I stated in my note to the list, this blog episode was an experiment in length and content. It is actually a chapter from my moto-book. The fact is I did have a previous motorcycle life, and it is so alien to me now.

Thanks for reading my blog and for commenting. Your name has been entered into the Big Jim cookie contest.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Canajun:

All of my machinery has balls. Especially my bike, "Fireballs." Come to think of it, my keyboard has balls too.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Walrus:

I'm very much encouraged by your note. Do you think I can quit my day job as a piano player in a whorehouse to become a moto-journalist? That is my master plan.

Thank you for readimg Twisted Roads, and for writing in. Your name has been entered into the Big Jim cooking drawing.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Allen Madding:

I was born and raised in Jersey City, NJ — the dog shit and broken glass capital of the world. The Jersey City of my youth was as ugly as an unflushed toilet, but the place had character. I don't miss it... But I would not have grown up anyplace else.

There is a subway connecting New Jersey with Manhattan, called PATH. I was 12 years old the first time I saved up 70 cents to ride the subway in and out of Manhattan all day. Later that same year, I went to see the St. Patrick's Day parade on Fifth Ave, in the company of one John Houlihan. Also 12.

We did not see a reason to notify our parents of these adventures. My highschool was one subway stop from New York. I got out at 1pm on Wednesdays (senior year). I'd take the train over to Greenwich Village and have four or five beers in a bar off Petter Cooper square, before I went home for the day.

Again, there was no reason to aggravate my mom with these details. You grew up fast in the metropolitan area.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

MattPie said...

Was that bar McSorley's?

PS: my verification word for this is 'terdsure'. Somehow seems apropos.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Matt:

McSoreley's is at 7th and Yale Place in New York City. It was a four block walk from the PATH Station. You used to be able to get a mug of beer for a buck. That was the bar I went to after school on Wednesdays.

The bar was across the street from Cooper Union. The drinking age in New York was 18, and we would blend in with the college kids.

So I could get four or five beers and get to the bar and back home for a total of $7. (Two bucks for a round-trip ride on the train.)

I plan to ride up there again this summer. Matt, yoir name is entered in the Big Jim Cookie drawing.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

BeemerGirl said...

Ride "Pillion". Laughed my a$$ off! How many times have you thought about that line over the years?

I never knocked the pylons down, I just stole them and put them at inappropriate intersections. Stole the blinking ones...

Great chapter. Looking forward to the rest of the book!


El Diente said...

Thanks Jack - I read that just before going to bed, and instead of laying awake wondering how to get a job, and how I was going to pay my tax bill, I fell asleep and dreamed instead of motorbikes and brown-skinned womens' breasts. Thanks for such a wonderfully evocative post.

Regards, El D.

Conchscooter said...

dear jack,
the master plan has to work. no doubt.
I am such a nerd I got hung up on the bit about turning the lights off. God I miss being able to ride with the lights off. I used to blatt about the countryside on full moon nights with the lights off.Can't anymore, among other things.
Oh and the women were nice too. I expect Kara's past it by now (aren't we all?) but maybe we should go look for her. Or an impressionist exhibition at least.

Steve Williams said...

It would be just my kind of luck to win the cookies since I just ordered 2 dozen.

I meant to leave a comment with the order that I found them from your site but I was so lost in the thoughts of cold milk and cookies that I forgot.

Can't believe I still eat milk and cookies. Haven't grown up enough for single malt and cigars. Must be why I still ride a Vespa.

Though the Ducati Diavel is in my future as soon as the roads clear. But that's more of a bruschetta and wine kind of machine...

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks
Follow me on TWITTER

Chris said...

Great story Jack! I expect at least sixty eight more in this series.

-Chris @ - year round riding in Minnnesota

Classic Velocity said...


Aaahhhh, the recklessness of youth amplified by chemistry. It really takes you back. This is story-telling at its best. I was immersed. Great stuff.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear El Diente:

Your letter meant more to me than finding $50 in an old pants pocket. I hope you win the cookies. I can never really tell if people genuinely like the crap I write, but your note justifies the time and effort I put into this.

Take care of yourself.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conchscooter:

The next time you come up here, I'd like to take a couple of different rides. One of which will take us into New York City early on a Saturday morning. On another, we'll pit your Triumph against an Amish wagon on the straightaways. Take the tain both ways next time, and stay a week.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve (Scooter in the Sticks):

Some days I crave a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich, on white bread, washed down with a cold glass of chocolate milk. Then my blood sugar turns my pupils into spirals.

And on the subject of cookies, there are few pleasure in life that beat a half-dozen Oreos and milk... But the Pepperidge Farm Milano cookie is one of them.

I hope you just ordered Big Jim's plain chocolate chip cookies. These are phenomenal and for special occasions, like the change of seasons, every other Tuesday, or tomorrow.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chris Luhman:

I'm thrilled you liked it... Tune in next Monday for "Another Night With Cretin."

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Wayne (Classic Velocity Blog):

I am thrilled you liked this piece... Especially as it was all true. You can't make up the bullshit that transpired when you were out with Cretin.

Thanks for reading and for commenting.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Beemer Girl (Lori):

There were never any blinking cones by us, but we saw plenty of caution barriers, set up on metal legs. These had blinking yellow lights. I remember stealing one of these to get that light. I was 11. My friend Scott took it apart and wired a toggle switch into it. We thought it was cool.

Half the trick to knocking down the cones was not getting nailed bu the Port Authority cops.

I am amazed that you were a trouble maker. We should ride together some day.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

BeemerGirl said...

Hi Jack,

My troublesome years came late in life, at 16, not 11. I too loved those blinking lights and kept one in my room. I still have that packed in a box in the garage. Wonder if I should get it out, dust it off, replace the battery...then attach it to your K75 as a caution light? ;) You should be very visible with that.

Though I might be afraid that someone would veer towards it in an attempt to knock the pylon over. :)

My smooth exterior is masking my devilish side. ;) Looking forward to riding with you. I'll learn ALOT!


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Beemer Girl (Lori):

If there is one thing my K75 does not need, it is another light! I have 72 LEDs on the back, in addition to the machines flashers and stop lights!!! But you knbow this, and probably have a similar rog on yours.

Our paths will definitely cross... Do you belong to the BMW MOA? Will you be going to the rally in Bloomsburg, Pa this summer?

Fondest regards,

The Armed Christian said...

Wow, Jack another great post!

I am in awe of your writing and imagination. I have it on good authority that you only dreamed the events you shared and the girl's pimp smacked you on the back of the head.

Seriously though, you should compile these into a book...


Unknown said...

The Old Yardley Soap Factory?
Is this where all the famous "soap on a rope"
came from?

Ken said...

Great story! For some reason it reminds me of the time I borrowed my mon's lincoln continental for a double date...that car had the largest seats both front and back of any car I've been in........

Jerry "Bull" Quinn said...

Jack I too know the feeling of feeling the pressure to be cool when arriving or leaving a party on a bike. I too had a Kawasaki H2, on a side note (my dad, you remember him) used to call it that polish motorcycle a("Kuh-waski").

One night when leaving a covert house party on "Spook Rock Road" in Suffern County in New York, this is just above "Upper Saddle River" New Jersey in case you might know the area. The party in question was kinda slow and I was determined to find fun.
Many of the party goers came outside to watch "the-guy-with-the-bike" leave. Of course I felt the pressure to do something cool. After starting the bike I tac-ed her up real good and let the clutch out a-little too fast! I intended to catch a little chirp from the back tire but instead ended up standing on the pegs leaning way forward trying real hard not to have the bike go all the way over on her/my back! Fortunately, I did have enough sence to sort-of roll off some throttle so my speed going down the street ended up more like around thirty MPH istead of Sixty or so. But in standing on the pegs and not really having gotten any balance to speak of...the bike started a slow walk toward the opposite side of the road.
It was summer time and I was leaving while it was still light. It was around Six-O'Clock or so. The neighbor across the street, a bald, chubby man in green shorts and black socks and sandals was out with his garden hose watering his lawn. As I said earlier, as I came down the street the bike kept that odd orientation and walked on it's back wheel across the street until I finally hit the other curb and wiped out on this guy's front lawn.
Well...naturally, I was hugely embarrassed...and I immediately lept up, restarted the bike, threw my leg over it and spun the hell out of my back tire all over this guy's lawn trying to be cool yet get out of there as quickly as I could!
Mr.Lawncare proceeded to turn purple with rage and, with the gardenhose in hand, he held his fists over his head while shaking them wildly and screaming at the top of his voice, "You son-of-a-bitch-if-I-ever-get-my-hands-on-you..." The water spraying everwhere, making rainbows that he didn't see, the grass getting wetter. The fresh ruts filling with running water and susequent mud...well, you get the picture.
You brought it all back for me!
Jerry "Bull" Quinn.