Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Motorcycle As The Vehicle For Romance... Cretin's Approach and Mine

4 Stars - **** For Humor Content

My friend “Cretin” was an anomaly even for Jersey City, where such things were common in the late ‘70s. A graduate from a parochial prep school, he was fluent in Latin and had mastered the mysteries of physics. He could quote Shakespeare and the latest street price for cocaine. In a pinch, Cretin could and would snap the antenna off a parked car and beat someone half to death with it. He had a thing for rough bars and rough-running Brit bikes that ultimately ended up in pieces on the floor of whatever apartment he was infesting at the moment.

Cretin was an anomaly in another way too. He was at the back of the line when they handed out good looks, but this did not stop him from getting drop-dead gorgeous women, who apparently did the kind of things that would have embarrassed a farm animal. Ravaged by acne, swathed in shoulder-length hair, he weighed all of 165 pounds at 6 feet tall and dressed like he shopped at a second-hand store for Tartars, Huns, Mongols and Barbary Coast pirates.

One of his women was a stunning blond he picked up in a west coast commune. She was panhandling on a street corner, wearing a combination bed sheet and toga, when Cretin followed her back to the cult — and joined. Five days later, they returned to New Jersey, after he impressed her guru with the depth of his sincerity. That was the year Glow Sticks were big with kids, and Cretin bought a hundred glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets.

“All she wore last night were these red and green glowing latex tubes, and I did her doggie-style on the back of the Norton,” said Cretin. “That’s what I call a tank slapper.”

“But your bike is parked on the street,” I noted.

“I had Hot Rod and Critter help me push it up two flights to get it into the apartment,” replied Cretin, in that matter-of-fact tone that made this episode seem perfectly routine, which for him it was. (The story actually got better... Even though it was a cool October night, he had all the windows open as the Norton was running. "I wanted the full effect of the sound and the fury," said Cretin.)

By contrast, I couldn’t get laid in Times Square (a notorious hooker exchange that year), even though I was thin and had huge blue eyes that would have done justice to an Irish lemur. And I could quote Shakespeare much better than Cretin, having memorized Shylock’s soliloquy for kicks. (Cretin claimed that only an idiot would memorize Shylock, from the Merchant of Venice, when a woman would readilly appreciate the Moor from Othello.)

“Women like the bad boys, at least once or twice in their lives,” said Cretin. “Eve had been with Adam for what? A week? Ten days? Before she got sweet-talked by a snake. You come across as talking white-bread toast that was left out in the rain. Get yourself a motorcycle and learn the social aspects of applied contempt. Women will be writing their phone numbers on their panties and jamming them into your pocket.”

So I went out and bought a green Kawasaki 750 H2 in 1975, my first bike, and started walking around neither looking to the right or the left, apparently indifferent to women. “How am I doing?” I asked Cretin, pulling up my new bike.

“Does this piece of two-stroke shit sound like a motorcycle to you,” asked Cretin in response? “And this writer’s trance you’re walking around in has people thinking you’re a Night-of-the-Living-Dead douche.”

And it was then I noticed that none of the other biker barflies had motorcycles colored like a popsicle; nor ones that made a noise like a tyrannosaurus weed-whacker. Plus they didn’t feign contempt... They seemed to sweat it. So I did what I do best: I said “Fuck it,” and limped along trying to get a feel for the game. I had a few successes, but nothing that really constituted a romantic bull’s-eye. I practiced riding the motorcycle, instead of just leaning up against it outside the bar; and my batting average improved slightly when I was able to pull up without wobbling to an uncertain stop.

Yet it wasn’t until I had the bike a few years, and had long since abandoned the idea that I could ever be really cool, when fate pulled my number. I had my first serious writing job by then, working for a small business publisher, and was beginning to make a name for myself with copy that struck a chord with advertisers. I had a truck too, but rode my bike to the office a couple of days each week, as it aggravated the shit out of my boss. (I eventually aggravate the shit out of everybody.) This attitude, coupled with the fact that my boss felt I would be killed on the highway any day, compelled him to hire an associate editor for my publication.

She had more degrees than an thermometer and struck me as a pain in the ass.

Flat-chested, full lips, and a svelte little ass, she was a WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) princess who came across as the kind of writer who understood the words but couldn’t get a reader’s blood pumping. On her second day, she handed me a rewrite of a feature I had just completed. I told her to leave it on the edge of my desk. It remained there untouched for a week, where she could plainly see it through my open office door.

She finally asked me about it, and I told her I preferred my work the way I wrote it. She played her trump card, claiming the publisher really liked what she had done with it. I explained that the publisher was a total asshole, who never read his own publication and who relied on me to write his speeches for everything — including the Rotary lunches where he stood up and recited his name by reading it off a card. (Apparently, I had mastered the kind of contempt advocated by Cretin, but it had nothing to do with a motorcycle. It came from unabashed arrogance and total confidence in my work.)

She audibly sniffed, and started to sob. Then the “You’re-A-Real- Douche” warning light flashed in my office. Unbeknown to me, she was married (at 25-years-old) to her college sweetheart who’d been having a affair with a bottle of bourbon since graduation. His greatest asset was an ability to dish out boozy abuse, and she’d already had it for dinner the night before and for breakfast that morning. (I would learn this six months later).

“This isn’t about you,” I said, handing her a clean Harley Davidson bandana. (That I had one and that it hadn’t been used to wipe oily spark plugs was miraculous in itself.) “This is between me and the publisher. I prefer to be asked about my copy before it’s changed. And as far as him being an illiterate asshole, it’s true. I’ll read this right away and get back to you.”

The article was about as important to me as the color of the toilet paper in the executive can. I stamped her revised piece “approved” two seconds after she left and wrote, “This is great!” across the top, without so much as giving it a glance. I gave a lot more thought to the faint scent of her perfume that lingered on the bandana, and put it in a drawer instead of back in my pocket. Things might have died right there if the testosterone donors in the office hadn’t started fawning and pandering over her; because then I started to notice the things they were noticing.

But I felt the need for an edge.

The green Kawasaki H2 had been replaced by the insurance company of an old bastard who never saw the “stop” sign nor me neither. Some biker trash in a bar told me that green motorcycles were unlucky, so my second H2 was purple. (It never occurred to me to question motorcycle advice garnered in a bar.) Since this woman was a WASP, educated in private schools and colleges covered with ivy, I gambled she had never been on a motorcycle and wouldn’t know one bike from another.

I was right on both counts.

I told her it might be easier to do working lunches on Fridays, to clear up any doubts regarding assignments for the following week. It was the third of those working lunches that she pulled on a helmet and rode off to a little restaurant on the back of my bike. She never questioned the fact that the restaurant was 20 miles away. It was her first motorcycle ride, and she had no idea that the H2 was despised by traditional riders. I was careful with her on the pillion, taking turns gently, requiring a minimum of lean, until I knew this was the second-most fun thing she’d ever done. And by that time, I was determined that I wanted to be in on the first-most fun thing too.

There was talk in the office that was ridiculously easy to quell.

My arguments were, “She’s married... And if she wanted to fool around, she could have any guy she wanted. You think she’d pick me over any of you guys?” There was no answer to that question, other than “No.”

I wasn’t the best looking, nor was I the smoothest. I was closer to being the most aggravating. And no one was willing to take the odds at 50 to 1 that were coming out of the secretarial pool. There was another editor in the office named"Tommy," (his real name, and I hope he's reading this). He started to move in on my game. So I told the nice WASP princess how Tommy had gotten his former secretary pregnant, and how he told everyone it was a group sex thing. (This was totally untrue. For one thing, he never rated a secretary. But the story served my purpose well.)

So I took her to lunch every Friday for nearly a year. In that same amount of time, the Panama Canal had been installed... Polio had been cured... And Cretin got laid 72 times by 43 different women, or so he said. This was the slowest seduction in the history of mankind.

Yet her home life was getting progressively worse and I was getting progressively better at listening, at acknowledging the things she did really well (like organizing things and attending to a million odd details), and at anticipating when she was having a really bad day. Then there were those great motorcycle rides. The Kawasaki had become our private amusement park. Yet there comes a time when you must put your cards on the table and call a spade a spade. We were enjoying the social aspects of an affair, without the complexity of seeing each other naked.

There are times when complexity is the spice of life.

It was the last warm weekend in September, and the leaves were turning on the trees. I suggested a picnic on the Pequest River for our working lunch... I knew a spot away from prying eyes, and just barely accessible by this bike. (The H2 was challenged to stay upright on the smoothest of pavement, let alone a little dirt or gravel.) I packed a gourmet lunch — full of Italian specialties — from Lisa’s Deli, in Hoboken, NJ. I had a bottle of wine, two plastic wine flutes, china plates, silverware and a tablecloth in a pack lashed to the bike’s sissy bar.

This was a job for Mr. Smooth.

Five miles from my special picnic spot, that three-cylinder free-for-all the Kawasaki called an engine shit the bed. Clouds of evil-smelling smoke came out of one pipe, then two. The bike started to conga down US-46 as the power strokes became somewhat random. It was virtually firing on one cylinder by the time I got to the "secluded" spot. There were three old guys fishing on the opposite bank of the river. One came over to look at the motorcycle. He’d ridden a motorcycle in Custer’s 7th Cavalry (or something like that), 115-years earlier, and he wanted to tell me about every oil-change he ever conducted. His name was Ted, and he was a retired glassblower who had taken up bee-keeping.

Then the WASP princess invited Ted to join us for lunch.

I pulled the bottle of wine from the pack, and briefly considered smashing in his skull with it, but thought, “What the fuck. Plan ‘A’ is toast. At least it isn’t raining.”

The rain started 10 minutes later.

I did have a large poncho in the bottom of that pack to use as a groundcloth, if the riverbank was a bit spongey, considering I had planned on using the tablecloth as a bed sheet. Ted and the beautiful WASP woman held the poncho over their heads, while I used a lull in the drizzle to switch out the spark plugs. The ones in the engine were pretty smeared and I got sooty splooge all over my hands.

"Well she's not going home with my oily fingerprints on her ass today," I thought. And I wiped my hands on the bandana I had preserved, untouched, from our first meeting.

The cursed purple H2 started on the first kick. The ride back to the office was fairly uneventful. We’d dodged the rain, but some of the roads were wet. She gave me a fast hug, like you’d give a casual friend at a wake for someone you don’t really mind had died, and went into her cubicle. I felt like an America’s Cup contender, who’d taken a shotgun blast through the sails just short of the finish line. I went back to writing a story on travel taxes and would have hung myself had there been any rope in the office.

I worked late, with the intention of being the last one to leave that Friday. I didn’t care to face my secretary, a dazzling blond, who was putting two and two together and coming up with a damn good interpretation of my motives. Yet just before 6pm, with the lights out and the workplace quiet, the WASP woman came into my office and said:

“I fully expected you to hit on me today like those clowns in advertising do all week. But then you never flinched when the bike broke down and I invited that old geezer to join us for lunch. I realized my mistake when you and he talked about engines for an hour. And then you went to the trouble to get that beautiful lunch, and didn't eat any of it.” She paused and looked into the saucer-sized eyes of an Irish lemur. “Your secretary told me you did that for her and Rachel in production too.”

I hadn’t, but my secretary’s stock had just gone up 20 points... Rest assured, I would gladly pay for it in giving her days off.

“You really are just a nice, thoughtful, romantic kind of guy, who wants everybody to be happy.”

Then the beautiful WASP lady kissed me like she was out to win a prize, and nailed me right there, on my own desk. There is nothing that compares with getting jumped at work by a prim and proper office beauty who has the reflexes of a jaguar.

This was a trend that would last nearly two years, leaving cinders where I once had a soul. I wanted to write about it that weekend, but let it go. I thought putting the events to paper would jinx them. And then when the affair ended, I never wanted to think about it, let alone put it to words. But I did go straight to the bar that night to tell Cretin. He and the cult queen been tossed out of the apartment. Apparently, the Norton went into gear when he and the blond went back for a repeat performance. The bike almost went through the kitchen window.

Please take this simple poll:
Who has the most appealing approach to motorcycle seduction?
A) Cretin
B) The Author

Vote on the upper right.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011


redlegsrides said...

Another great recounting of your past exploits and the characters associated with such. As to Cretin's description of how he was using the Norton instead of how its designer's envisioned it, quite "illuminating".

As to the year-long seduction operation, you're a very patient man Mr Riepe, very patient.


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dom:

For so many years, I had nothing but time.

Fondest regards,

BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack:
I thoroughly enjoyed this well-told tale, but I take exception to your statement that eventually you aggravate the shit out of everyone....You just do that to those of us who have drawn the short straw and are forced to ride with you. Looking out the window, the temperature has dropped to 58 degrees. If it's not raining tomorrow how about taking an aggravating ride with me to lunch?

Liz Petersen said...

Jack, this was priceless! You have a great romantic soul, not often found these days.

Lil Red

Anonymous said...


You never cease to amaze me with your writing. The "three cylinder free for all" that Kawasaki called an engine is just priceless. And, Rte 46 is no place to do the Conga on a bike. Been there, done that. Let's do Rutt's Hutt.

Big Jim

David H said...

I have been reading your blog for about 12 years now and this is the one that should finally get you that Pulitzer. Excellent read, one to be savored. You make Jersey City proud.

Chuck and the Pheebs said...

Bloody excellent post.

I'm 9000 miles away from the woman of my dreams, feeling quite lonely and deprived as she's closer to the cult girl on the "alternate places to get nailed" spectrum. She had the gall to do an enormous Blow Pop on Face Time this morning - acting all innocent as she tongued the shit of of it.

Some stories are like wine; they must age. Either that - or the statute of limitations has to expire.

As for you irritating people - I propose a challenge when you're in Key West - as this is a still set in my toolkit also, we craft a contest whereby to the irritator, the spoils.

And read my fucking blog when you're not squeezing off a loaf, eh?

Nikos said...

Did you ever try using KLG plugs? They had 3 electrodes and were less prone to fouling.
Best wishes from a sun baked square in Southern Greece sipping ouzo on ice

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

It's 54º in West Chester at the moment, and I'd ove nothing more than to go for a ride. But I have a number of tasks before me today, all direcly linked to revenue. Give me a call lter. I do plan to ride tomorrow and Sunday. Not a second of this cooler weather can be wasted.

Your Riding Pal,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Lil Red (Liz Petersen):

My heart skips a beat when I find a comment from an accomplished rider like youerself, who is also a woman. The fact that a person of your riding skill and sensitivity can find a note of warmth in my work is the highest form of gratification. Unless you object strenously, would you mind if I added your blog to my destinations list on the left?

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Big Jim:

As I have said to you before, the three-cylinder engine on the Kawasaki H2 was the fastest street mill of the day (1975), but it was like a tag team of midget Samoan wrestlers, who hated each other. It was brutal fun when all three fired in sequence, but a bitch when they got distracted.

I'd love to do a Rutt's run. I gret a hankerig for the world's best dogs every so often.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear David H.:

I have good news: You are soon to be the star of a Twisted Roads blog. Do you remember the day we rode down to Summit Point to watch Cutter race? Jim Sterling will make that same story too.

I'm delighted that you enjoyed this blog episode. The "Cretin" stories are always good. Looking forward to riding with you on Sunday morning, to the Mac-Pac Breakfast.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chuck and Pheebs:

When you say you're 9,000 miles away from the woman of your dreams, I'm assuming you still in Guam. From what I could see, Guam has its srong points. Still, it was nice to see that the Pheebs part of Chuck and Pheebs still knows how to taunt.

I spoke with M. Beattie yesterday, and I am setting up an epic ride to Key West for the last week in April, of 2012. I started to formulate a plan for the ride, but have scrapped it already. This will be a solo run and I plan to give Duval Street a workout.

See you in April.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

Once I got past the finsh line on my desk that afternoon, I never gave plug fouling another thought. By the way, I now ride a BMW K75, as you are aware. Plug fouling is something that happens to other people.

How is the montaintop in Greece? Avoid the scorpions.

Fondest regards,

Flimsky said...

No one was fluent in Latin but Lou Parisi

Ken said...

I'm thinking about buying a purple Kawasaki, a desk, and a Harley hankie. Great story!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Flimsky:

"Cretin" was the last of the Renaissance men... In the strangest sense of the word. He lived hard, rode fast, and died alone. Cretin was the toughest man I ever met.

Lou Parisi was one of the few people in the world who thought I was ten pounds of shit in a two-pound bag, and said so to my mother.

Did you like the piece?

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ken:

There were times when I thought I was never going to laid ever again... And then I would hit the mother load. The woman mentioned in this story was such an interesting and incredible person, that she wrapped her tendrils around my DNA and squeezed the Riepe out of me.

And when she pulled them out, I was sick over it for three years. And I thought there was no sunlight nor oxygen left in the world... And then I met the real mother load.

I wonder if I have reached the point where I am too old and too worn out for this sort of thing.

Bet not.

Glad you liked the piece.

Fondest regards,

Flimsky said...


Loved the piece and Latin Lou was a tad strange but I have met him since and he was extremely nice. But then again those with a metal plate in their heads from the war can be cut some slack periodically.

Prep faculty all had their little strange sides.

40 years smooth out biases. Our reunion last year proved it.

Keep those great articles coming. Love your style. "I take notes?"

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Flimsky:

One of the things that have made my memories of Prep special was the unique aspects of the faculty's personalities. For the esception of one person, who I thought was a real douche, I liked all of them, including the three that sent me to summer school.

I failed algebra, chemistry, and Latin. Cretin used to say to me, "Latin becomes easier when you envision yourself as Caligula." By the way, Cretin did not go to Prep but to one of the "Brand X" prep schools in the county.

Has he lived in Victorian times, he would have been Professor Moriority in the Sherlock Holmes series.

Thanks for reading my crap. I hope to run into you and Doolan sooner or later.

Fondest regards,

Classic Velocity said...

Dear Jack,

I'm not sure who had the better approach to women, but you win the long distance endurance competition ;-)


Cantwell said...

Dear Jack,

Four stars! Who rates this crap?


Conchscooter said...

Dear Jack.
Women are weird but when they go they go. Or come.
Duval Street will quake at the approach of riepe attended by his squires riding proper motorcycles.
I am rereading the Cigar Smoking book and hoping for an eight hour erection as a result. the slavic women of teasers are insatiable I am told.

Chuck and the Pheebs said...

That's it.

Gotta chime in again.

1) Glad to see the dearly departed Cretin's approach gaining in popularity - sowing one's seed should be more impulsive and less reasoned if we are to combat the crazies running for office.

2) as for the Slavs at Teaser's - I think their insatiability is directly proportional to one's credit limit, followed by an inversion of interest when "credit declined' pops up on the auth screen.

It is a great piece, Jack - it does the memory of Cretin proud. I'm not changing my damned vote, either.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chuck and the Pheebs:

Thank you again for reading Twisted Roads, the moto blog with balls.

Cretin was a one-of-a-kind individual, and there isn't a day that I don't miss him. He had a rare style of lawlessness and yet, a great sense of social responsibility.

Regarding our two methods for generating romance: Cretin figured women would get thoroughly tired of him in about three days. I always looked for something a bit more lasting.

As far as the Slavs of Duval Street go... I never pa for it. But then again, youy always pay for it, don't you?

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conch:

I love women... I would love a different one every weekend, if it was up to me.

I am putting my plan together for Key West right now. It is important to have a goal to get you through the winter, and this Key West run is mine.

I want to take the AutoTrain down to Orlando, and then ride Alligator Alley to the Everglades. Then it ios my intention to head east to the Atlantic, and take the route through the Keys to Key West.

I plan to stay in a hotel, either a palace or a dump, depending on circumstances. I intend to wrack up adventures for a week, and ride north, probably to upstate New York — stoppig in Georgia, to annoy a few people.

That is the plan now... And it is as ambitious as hell. Yet ambition is always the basis of a good story.

I am looking forward to riding around the Keys with you and Chuck, before it gets too outragesously hot.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Cantwell:

This story was rated by the International K75 Ladies Auxiliary... The same group that said you had a large dick. Still want to question their judgement?

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Classic Velocity Bog:

God gave some men great bodies... He gave others great tans and smiles... He gave others still an endurimg sense of cool. He have me a line of bullshit as long as the main runway at Newark Airport. As far as I'm concerned, I got the better end of the deal.

Fondest regards,

Chuck and the Pheebs said...

re: Florida Ride -

Tamiami Trail (US 41) is much better than AA; it curves slightly and the Everglades are much more immediate. The Alley is a pool-cue straight stretch folks do 85+ on, missing out on the pleasures of the area.

Unknown said...


A good read. I made it all the way to the end without feeling like I needed to 'push.' There were a couple of classic lines in there, but my favorite was the 'dynamic ass' line. I've seen a lot of asses, but cannot recall one I ever called dynamic. Once while in a college dorm room I heard a friend call a labia 'topographical,' in reference to the skin flick often playing when a group of 19-year-olds are together. (Particularly in the digital age.)

Never dynamic, though. Could she open beer bottles, I... wait. No that would hurt. Good read. Quite a fair amount of chuckles and grins this time around.

Spike (Brady)
Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life