Nov 20, 2005

The Bitch Is Back

No, the ex-wife didn't show up on my doorstep.

I don't even know where to being this post, and keep it from sounding like a history lesson, but something interesting happened to me recently, and I wanted to share.

See, I'm the sort of guy who, if he sees something interesting about someone, probably won't go up and talk to them. It usually takes a lot for me to be moved to speak to someone about things, be it cars or paintings or whatever. I'm a lot of fun at craft shows and such, because I'll browse all day without saying a thing. That's why it always catches me by surprise when someone spontaneously talks to me about my truck (fairly common) or my bike (sometimes) or whatever.

It really surprised me Saturday night after Harry Potter.

See, it's finally gotten cold here. And back when I owned my Honda Magna I wore one of those black leather 'biker' jackets, both because it looked really good and because it was really warm, as well as being suited for riding a crusier--cut short, arms pre-curved, the whole thing. As I customised the Magna I realised that the relationship I had with her was like that of the airmen that fought in WWII and named their aircraft--your B-17 numbered U 179583 was just an airplane, one of thousands just like it, but "Memphis Belle" was going to get you home again in one piece. It's the same with motorcycles to me. They're all alike from the factory, but yours grows with spirit and character as you own it, and it naturally is something personal, so The Strawberry Bitch was born.

I based the name on the fact that she was red and because of the B-24 Liberator by the same name. I've always loved the idea of naming the machine that took care of you, so without blinking I took up the gauntlet. And thus was history. The thing being, I couldn't just stop there--I had to have a jacket painted. No problem there.

At the time I didn't realise that the local airbrush shop wasn't all that and a cup of coffee. I had picked out the girl I wanted on the jacket, and knew how the lettering went, and the shop had their own ideas. Ah well, the jacket still did me well, raising eyebrows and questions wherever I went.

The old Strawberry Bitch, Betsey, has gone her way. The new Strawberry Bitch, Miranda, is here now, and while the spirit lives on, it's hard to paint street riding gear, so I took the opportunity of cold weather Friday night to wear my old jacket out. The wife and I watched Harry Potter with friends, and after the movie we stood outside and chatted in the cold about the film's drawbacks. And that was when it happened--a young man, maybe 15 by his looks, asked me about my jacket.

He was polite, and seemed very sincere, and he asked me what it meant, so I told him, in brief, of the WWII airman's love of his nose art and his machine, and that it had come from a B-24 Liberator by the same name, and that I had adapted the image and the name for my bike. What startled me is that he had no idea of what nose art was, or why it happened.

The modern Air Force naturally no longer allows defamation of their very expensive aircraft, at least where it can be seen easily, but I was told just a few years ago by an Air Force ground crewman that it still takes place, only now it's hidden behind access panels and the like, and usually does not include nude or semi-nude women, since the Air Force is co-ed now. It does me good to realise that a fine old tradition is kept up, and made me feel good to teach just a bit, even though the thought that I had to explain it made me wonder what kids know these days, or what interests them. I WAS very pleased that he thought enough to ask, and it even prompted me to go looking on the internet, and what did I find? Niche marketing.

Flying jackets, all years and styles, assembled and sewed and coloured authentically, and your choice of nose art and tour patches if you want them.

Sweet.

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