There are certain high spots in a man’s life that he begins to anticipate from the age of thirteen. These include his first motorcycle, his first apartment, and his first live-in-girlfriend. The delight in these high spots seems self explanatory, as each has a lineal relationship with speed, or living in the fast lane. No man can ever forget that first motorcycle, bought and paid for with one’s own sweat. Mine was a brand new Kawasaki H2, sold to me by one of the fastest talking salesman in the history of motorcycle transactions. His name was “Fabulous Sam,” and he worked me over like a prize fighter on a punching bag. It took him exactly 15 minutes to sell me a bike. His mouth moved in a constant blur, like the mirror on an idling 1973 Harley. (I have nothing but fond memories of Fabulous Sam, who must be in his seventies if he is still kicking. And if anybody knows this guy, please drop me a line as I’d like to buy him a drink.)
I left the shop in Union City unable to believe the motorcycle was mine.
This incredibly beautiful, purple and chrome, mechanical wonder had my name on the title. And it was parked (on the sidewalk) outside the eighth wonder of the world — my apartment. The inspiration to get an apartment came from my father, who said to me when I was nineteen, “The time has come for you to move out of the house.” My father was neither a cruel nor an unreasonable man. But he had an enduring love for my mother, one of the most capable, competent, and statuesque blonds ever spawned by the Gods. My mother had a sense of humor as deep as the Beefsteak Mine... She was a people person who could work a room like Huey Long... And her Irish temper was the forerunner of the hand grenade: when she pulled the pin, it exploded in 7 seconds.
My mother and I were at war and the fighting was vicious, loud, and daily. The argument was about two out of the three high spots.
My mother discovered my plans for a motorcycle about the same time she learned I was having sex three times a week with a beautiful Italian girlfriend. I wasn’t stupid enough to tell her these things. She learned them through subterfuge. To make matters worse, I declined to become something useful in life — like an accountant — in favor of pursuing a vapory writing career. No decent son in my mother’s experience rode a motorcycle, had sex, and pretended that writing was a means of making a living. When asked by her friends how I was doing, she said I was in training to become a piano player in a whorehouse.
The fighting between my mom and I was so bad, my dad decided it was time for me to to leave.
Most guys who grew up in an urban environment like Jersey City will have no difficulty remembering their first apartment as it was usually a dump. I found another guy at school who needed a roommate, and we moved into a two-level town house, on Boulevard East — one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Hudson County. The living room had a bar and a terrace, with a sweeping view that ran from the George Washington Bridge to mid-town Manhattan. It also had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a utility room. It guaranteed instant sex from any woman lured to its confines.
And then there was the live-in girlfriend.
She was 5’6,” with brown eyes, about 110 pounds, and captain of the equestrian team at school. (She was wearing jodhpurs when I first met her, and I would have committed murder for a date.) Roxanne had straight brunette hair that was as black as the outlook of the current economy, and turned every head when she walked into the room. Kissing her was like putting your lips to a perfectly ripe peach. I had the motorcycle... The apartment... And the live-in girlfriend. I was barely a junior in college, and I had the world by the balls.
Then I discovered that reality is a bitch and nothing in life is as it seems.
While the Kawasaki H2 was the fastest street bike of its day, it was one of the most primitive motorcycles ever to roll out of Japan. The engine ran like three midget Samoan tag-team wrestlers, who hated each other. The motorcycle had the cornering characteristics of a piano dropped from a church roof. It revved like a tyrannosaurus farting, and other riders spit on it. (The H2 would eventually be regarded as cool, but that would take 30 years.) I learned how to clean spark plugs in my spare time, and got the usual education on tires that barely lasted 5,000 miles and brakes that were the source of many exciting moments.
My roommate and I could barely keep the bar in the apartment stocked with cheap gin because of the monthly rent. Since I had yet to set the world on fire with my literary ambitions, my primary income came from loading trucks. Loading trucks was one of those positions that seemed to pay remarkably well (and it did considering it was a Teamster’s job). But the nature of my truck-loading expertise was such that I was required to show up between the hours of 11pm and 7am. This was about the time I would normally schedule serious drinking, screwing, and sleeping, which constitutes the basis of most writers’ inspiration.
Yet the biggest shock of all came with the realization of the gap between a post-adolescent male’s expectations of a live-in girlfriend and the actual limitations of a woman’s endurance. I naturally assumed she loved me because I rode a motorcycle, drank Irish whiskey out of the bottle, and was ready to mate every 45 minutes. I was appalled to learn that her attraction to me was the result of my “penetrating blue eyes and literary promise.” What kind of bullshit was that? Furthermore I had assumed that doing my laundry, cooking breakfast and dinner, and perhaps tiding up a bit was more than adequate compensation for riding on the back of my bike, hanging around with my friends, and having sex with me whenever I wanted.
I was amazed to learn that this remarkable woman had some sort of hidden clock that was set to a kind of “doomsday” reckoning, upon which an alarm would ring, oral sex would stop, and her breasts would fill up with high-test, or else a bomb would explode. Worse still, the terms of this Armageddon to good times were nowhere written. Males destined to climb the Darwinian ladder are supposed to know all this. Her clock was set for 8:30am... While mine was set for August 4th, 1984 (9 years later).
The timer doesn’t usually go off like an alarm clock though... It’s a more gradual process marked by increased indifference. Yet one should never assume that while a woman doesn’t appear interested in a lot of things, that she she doesn’t see and understand everything. I had the mating instincts of a mink and the ethics of a roach when I was nineteen going on twenty. And I just assumed it was the natural order of things to have another lover heating up while the current one cooled. On the day of the final break-up, I rode in after a night of loading trucks and having a gin breakfast with the boys. She was on her way out with an air of finality. I held open the door, and she said something clever, about me being an asshole. My thought that morning was that a gesture must speak when the moment is too sensitive for words, and I knew the perfect one. Then I poured myself a gin and tonic as big as my ass and slept for a couple of hours on the sofa.
A man’s heart breaks as thoroughly as any woman’s and I was consumed by a crushing grief. However, my way of dealing with it was to aim the bike at the horizon and ride off to a roaring weekend party (where I would be introduced to a woman wearing a cotton shirt, a denim skirt, and perfume instead of panties). The Kawasaki started on the first kick. I snicked it into gear and let out the clutch. I got about fifty feet when the rear wheel locked up and the bike went sideways. The drop was somewhat embarrassing and the right turn signal shattered when it hit the ground. I yanked the machine upright and noticed that it refused to roll. Then I saw the chain was loose and the rear wheel was canted at an angle.
The set screws which kept the tension on the chain were missing. I found them on the ground where the bike had been parked — along with the lock nuts. Women are experts when it comes to having the last word, and some know a few things about gestures of their own.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011
I too loved the H2 Kwacker; the thing was that everybody knew it was dangerous. Riding it was like going on a date with a girl called Vanessa who lived on our road: you KNEW you would be scratched, bitten, smacked and generally drained of all bodily fluids - but it would be worth it! The H1 was, in many ways, more dangerous because it was "only" a 500....so it would be safer, right? Wrong.
Whilst I was a dealer, I sold one to a young buck anxious for some street cred. He picked it up at 15.00; by 19.00 he was dead.
I am sure it runs through the mind of every reader, but I'll say it: "Hell has no fury as that of a woman scorned".....or in this case, pissed off.
Still, to mess with a man's motorcycle.....
Reality sucks sometimes doesn't it?
Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner
I've learned that often it's smart to fill the gesturing hand with some flowers.
I would assume your au revoir's have gotten better with practice over the years!
PS. Do you get to pick the "word verifications below?
I mean "pusnees". Seems a bit too coincidental Jack
Short and sweet....Look that horse riding bitch up today. Hire one of your freinds and have them remove 3 of the 5 of the wheel nuts on her Porsche Cayenne S. Leave one of the two remaining nuts 1/2 on and the other hand tight...She should be able to get to 40-70 mph before one falls off...
BTW I am not serious...
BTWW I have a lug wrench
You should have had a BMW then - she would still be groping around the back end looking for those darn set screws to this day.
Best wishes from Mclaren country, N
Yes indeed, women are experts at many things besides having the last word . . . and most specially if it leaves a lasting impression.
ps. My word verification was "terse", hmmm.
Your work, as usual, pierces straight to the truth of that which defines the human condition.
Thank-you for making me laugh regularly as I relax with my friend Bombay.
Dear Mr. Riepe: In my house it was my mother who informed me after high school graduation that it was time to leave, seek my fortune, get to work on my life. My father would have been happy to have me stay at home forever, have a dozen kids and sit around the dinner table like the Waltons.
My German immigrant mother would have none of that though.
I just read your post to Kim and when I got to the end she said, "Dear God, what are the chances..."
(Kim shoving me from keyboard.)
Hi there. I had a best friend who grew up in Union City at the same time you were buying that motorcycle, same age as you, aspiring writer, and could probably drink you under the table. She was also very attractive. What are the chances that you might have known her? How big was that burgh then?
She was a memorable girl. Around '97, I met someone in Maine who went to college with her (small world); she said my friend was pretty wild back then, partied a lot and posed naked for her college yearbook picture. I didn't meet her 'til later. By then, she'd published some superb books--funny as hell--among other things. I'd recommend them to people, they'd read them, return and say: They sure have a lot of sex in them... I think her books were a bit much for some people. She sold screenplay rights for one, but it never got made--it was the mid-80s, the story had a teen suicide in it. The Beavis and Bhead mentality was huge then--show kids a movie with a suicide and they'll just have to try it. Next thing you know they'll be dropping like that Jack Riepe guy's fly.
Back to Steve now.
Well, maybe not. It seems he's left the premises.
Well Jack ,your a good descriptive writer.Bruce. Asked me to check your writings,pretty good Mr..I don 't know if that was a real story about her taking the tensioners out and possibly killing you in the process.I would be pissed.Revenge is sometimes necessary.I don't even want to tell you what I would do.Good write but ya should have bought a Harley.Hahahahahh.
Thank you for reading my blog and for taking the time to leave a comment. There were two women in my life who actually tried to eliminate me. Roxy did the bit with the chain tensioners. But one of my former wives once took a rifle off the wall (rustic cabin in bear and wolf country), pointed at me, and pulled the trigger, while calling me a "corksarger." (English was not her first language.) The same lady, who once worked for the KGB, said to me, "I'll put something in the toothpaste, and everyone will think you had a heart attack." That was the day I left.
The Harley models of 1975 were far out of my price range. Plus, my brother had one and that thing just leaked oil and resisted starting.
Thanks for checking in. Next time, leave a name.
Dear Scooter In The Sticks (Steve Williams):
My mother was furious when she learned what my father had done... She yelled, "How does that get him headed back on the right track?" But my Dad was a smart guy. He knew that dealing with an apartment, making bike payments, and having to confront the live-in squeeze would be sobering enough.
Kim! I'm delighted that you chimed in! Who is this mystery girl/best friend, of whom you write so glowingly? Are you still in touch with her? And Kim, are you coming to Bloomsburg? I can't believe I didn't know this woman. (Though in 1975 I was more or less a Jersey City-ite.) I lived in North Hudson, but born in Jersey City; always from Jersey City.
I am very touched that Steve reads my blog aloud to you. I was also delighted to hear that you liked the cigar book. I feel like I should write someyhing just for you. I do take requests, now and then.
I am delighted to know that my work appeals to you, and that you think I have a firm grasp of the "human condition." In truth, I suffer from the "Human Condition." Though Girlfriend #7 (Adirondacks) once said, "When you decide to act like a prick, it's obvious that your mother wasn't human."
At first, I thought Bombay was tyour Labrador Retriever. Then I realized you were drinking gin, which is referenced twice in my blog tonight.
Thank you for reading my blog tonight, and for leaving a comment.
Dear Circle Blue (Keith):
I have loved every woman that has ever been one of my "girlfriends." Some, I love still, in one regard or another. I am going to love the last one forever, and long after she wishes I was dead.
Looking back, however, at least three of them were fucking crazy. And they weren't subtle about it either.
Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for leaving a comment.
If I had been riding a BMW in those days, it would have been one of the venerable "R" bikes... (Stop Right here.) I was going to write something snide about the 1975 BMW "R" bikes, until I took the trouble to look up the 1975 "R" 90S.
This machine was so far advanced from the lightning bolt Kawasaki H2, as to have appeared to have dropped out of the future. It had two disc brakes on the front, had only 4 less horsepower, had a nicer front end, better paint, and would probably still be running like new today.
But I never would have bought one, even if I had had the money back then, because it still looked like a real "douche" bike. Nineteen-year-olds wouldn't deliberately buy a douche bike. I bought the Kawasaki, a different kind of a douche bike, because it was wickedly fast.
I just realized that you and I will be clinking glases in Pennsylvania in about 2 weeks! I can hardly wait.
That horse-riding bitch lives less than 35 minutes from where I am typing on this keyboard. I haven't seen her in 28 years. However, I did ask her about the wheel tensioners back then. She said she was really mad and hurt, but that she thought I'd have seen the hardware on the ground, before pulling away. And I could tell by the way she remembered it, and expressed it, that she was undoubtedly speaking the truth.
I am told there are two sides to every story. I am going to write the other side tomorrow.
Thank you for your kind letter of support.
Wife #1 cleared out of the house while I was on a business trip. She was a newspaper reporter and could turn a phrase like a piece of precious wood on a lathe.
The only thing she left in the house was my clothes, and a fencing trophy, covered with petroleum jelly. The note next to it read. "Here is your precious trophy from college. I have covered it with Vaseline so it won't hurt when you shove it up your ass. Your parrot died while you were gone. It is in its cage, in the refridgerator. "
Ex-girlfriend #2 once said to a person at a party, "Jack was always romantic."
To which the person replied, "That doesn't sound like him."
Ex-girlfriend #2 then said, "He took me to a lot of nice places"
To which the person replied, " That doesn't sound like him."
Ex-girlfriend #2 then said, "But he broke up with me because I was too stupid."
To which the person replied, "Tha sounds exactly like Jack."
Thank you for reading Twisted Roads, and for leaving a comment.
By the time I can get flowers in my hand, the departing women usualy have a stone or a pistol in theirs.
By the way, you had a nicely written piece in this month's BMW MOA Owner's News.
Thanks for chiming in, Dickie.
Dear Charlie6 (Dom):
I used to withdraw from relationships like a cat burglar slips through security laser beams. But from time to time, the ladies got the drop on me. If you read my note to the first "Anonymous," you'll realize that once women are through loving me, something else seeps in.
At least three decided I was a plague to be spared future generations. Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for leaving a comment.
I honestly didn't know any better. It was my first bike. When the transfer took place, a guy from the dealer gave me 20 minutes of instruction on the bike. I rode it home in insane rush hour traffic. That may have saved my life as much of it was at a standstill.
I do not deny that the H2 was really exciting. And for all its muscle, 80mph was about the hottest you could push it without having to worry about the wobble of death — though I never took it into a curve at more than 80 miles per hour. (By "curve" in this sentence, I mean a sweeping US Interstate curve.)
Under most circumstances, pushing the H2 into a turn on a secondary road (two lanes in the US, with a double yellow line) at 55 or 60 mph was a safe bet, usually. I crashed it twice attempting to turn it. or stop, in very tight conditions at only 50 mph. The wobble was pretty terrifying.
I have heard a few stories — thankfully few — of young riders buying nuclear reactors on two wheels and getting killed that same day, or even riding home from the shop.
Then there are the other tales, of the guys buying the hot bike, the hot racing "Team" leathers, the $700 cutom-painted helmet, and then dropping the bike in the dealer's lot. (I bet you have a few of those too.)
Thank you for reading Twisted Roads, and for writing in.
I have to hand it to you. I have two ex-wives and numerous ex-girlfriends, but none have attempted to kill me. Leave me penniless and miserable, yes.
Any woman that would dissasemble the chain tensioner on your bike is the spawn of satan. Did she marry a guy from Arkansas who later served as President?
Great story Jack!
By the way, the girl (where I would be introduced to a woman wearing a cotton shirt, a denim skirt, and perfume instead of panties) you were looking for was in Quebec City this weekend on a crotch rocket....and I did get a pic of her for you. Interestingly, I took the pic before I read your story otherwise I would have told her that you were sorry you missed her that night!
PS....I emailed her pic to you yesterday.
Dear Allen Madding:
The stories I have related about former wives trying to kill me are absolutely true. I look for women capable of deep passion. But there is sometimes a negative side to it. For example, when they decide they hate me, they really fucking hate me.
Roxy really missed me after she walked out. She was followed by Mrs. Riepe #1. Now there's a woman who fucking hates me.
Thanks for reading and for writing in.
Have you read my serialized 4-part blog? If not, drop me a line and I will send you the final revision of the 4 parts as they will appear in my new book. The "brunette" in that series looked a great deal like the picture of the hottie you sent me from Montreal. Of course, the picture is from the back. The brunette in my story was as flat as a board, with incredibly erotic nipples, and as hot as a solar flare. Also, I think her hair was darker than the lady in the picture you sent.
Thank you for thinking of me on your trip.
a dose of reality from a far away place. i sit astride my rented bmw it starts it stops and it goes quite fast inbetween. we should all live like you.
I am counting the days until you arrive here, in West cHester, for your next Lead and Red Butt Ride. Is the Beemer screamingly exciting?
For the record, August 6th, 1984 was doomsday. Not the 4th, haha.
Sounds like you liked your bikes just like your women. Or perhaps it is the other way around.....
Hhhmm...I wonder why she was so upset? ;) Going after the bike was a bit much, but you sure can make them passionate about you. LOL
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