Dec 22, 2008

Zen's Got Nothing To Do With It

The multi-billion selling book notwithstanding.*

Yes, I brought her home, after much worrying and hand-wringing and very real concerns over the credit market, the possibility of her being sold out from under me (unlikely but not impossible) and the vagarities of weather, salesmen and machinery.

No, I've not got a photo of her yet because the weather has simply NOT cooperated. Tho I'm told that Vulgar Wizard got two of me racing across a railroad crossing in front of a train. Until she can post them its all hearsay. I also don't have a name for her yet, but I'm closer. Much closer.

Motorcycle riding. I've heard that for every thousand motorists in the United States only one of them will be a motorcycle rider. I can't understand that. In New Zealand it's something like one in every thirty five. But, I don't have to get it. Partly because I wasn't put on this earth to get it, and partly because I'm the one holding the handlebars in my chiliad, and I'm damned proud of it. For me riding is way beyond simple transportation. For that matter it's beyond most anything there is.

It also seems to be beyond words. I'm sitting here trying to figure how to describe it, how to put into words a feeling that only one in a thousand people seems to grasp, and I'm not doing a very good job of it, so I'll tell you about the day.

Saturday. Mrs. I was determined to have me at the dealership's door at 9am when they opened so she could get back in time to finish Xmas shopping and house cleaning. I popped in, clapped my eyes on the bike (I'd long since already decided it was going to be mine) and nodded. I'd seen the quote, faxed to me at work Friday. The salesmen there know me. They know my research was done, know my credit is strong, and know that I used to be one of them: ie, they know I'm not a man to be played around with. She's an '07 model--the '09 models are already appearing on sales floors, and they were about to have to pay taxes on it again. My quote ended up being four thousand below retail, and yes I'm pretty proud of that figure. :)

The credit process was much shorter than it used to be. I think that happened because there was only one creditor for us to return to--the people who had financed Black Betty, and who just the day before had been paid in full by the other guy's insurance company. I signed a few pieces of paper and they rolled my girl into the shop to service her. I spent a few minutes trying to educate the talking monkey behind the parts counter about helmets--he was trying to impress upon me the wisdom of ponying up $75 for an HJC or a Fulmer helmet. I had to show him his own parts catalog to impress upon HIM that I was going to be spending $600 on an Arai, having just survived having my skull broken open while wearing one of their wondrous helmets.

I think it finally sunk in when I told him I'd rather wear a child's plastic sand pail than trust my precious brains to a Fulmer helmet.

The hour passed quickly, and before long I heard her cough into life and saw a silver flash as the service manager road tested her briefly. Then I was shrugging back into my old (and now heavily scuffed) leathers and slipping my old helmet back on (having decided to order online.) The throttle was under one hand, the brake lever lay easy under two fingers of the other hand, and everything felt eerily similar yet different.

That's been the most striking thing about this new girl--the similarities that only serve to make the differences more apparent. Oh, I'm not talking about colour, I'm talking about a new flavor, a variation on an old theme. Betty was two years broken in. She had her peculiarities, her idiosyncrasies and the marks of my hands all over her, from worn-down floorboard sliders to the seat that fit my ass just so. This new girl, she was all fresh and clean, unchanged from the factory's cold production line. Stiff, smelling strongly of burning cosmoline and long-chain polymers, tires slick and nothing quite broken in. I eased her out onto Hwy 1, pointed her long chrome nose north and rolled on the throttle. So much chrome. All that silver. I felt like I was riding piggy-back on a Marvel Comics character.

Coming back home, an hour drive some 50 new-motor break-in miles or so, I began to remember all the things I'd forgotten about riding. I began to come alive again. I felt like a man who had lain abed for two months with some non-terminal but debilitating disease, something that kept my lungs filled with cotton and my eyes clouded with sickness. As the miles rolled away and I got out into the near-forgotten tree littered greenness of a winding state highway I breathed the cotton out and away. The rheumy sickness covering my eyes shredded and blew away, and I felt like that invalid who, realising he was suddenly healed, takes his first steps back out into the sunlit world. I could see the interstate just a hundred yards behind the treeline, but here and now I was alone, unwinding my own road at my own pace. Healing.

The cows grazing in their muddy pasture? On the trip down they were just spots of colour against the green. On the way back up they smelled rich and vibrant, all mud and manure and grass fresh-crushed between wide strong teeth. On the way down the road was dark and splotchy with morning fog, just a thing to be ignored. On the way back up it had a texture, a feeling of being ever so slightly unmoored, and had a scent of old oil and heat left over from the summer. On the way down the air was recycled and hepa filtered and sterile, while the radio filled our ears. On the way back up the air was rich and redolent and contained music and feeling and...everything. She brushed against me like a lover, pressed her hands under my jacket, riffled the keys in my pockets, sang in my ears and tugged at my jeans with long, cool fingers.

Arriving home was almost a letdown, but as much as I adored the ride I was done for. My body is still recovering from it's sickbed time and was sore and tired, ready for a break. I'd had my walk in the sun, and with it the promise of many more to come as my strength returns. I'm still a little clumsy, my old sureness of hand and eye and foot isn't quite there, but it will come back. Faster than I'd hoped, faster than I thought it might.

Zen? Not really. Zen is not-nothing. Motorcycle riding has a lot of living-in-the-now but it also has a lot of live to ride ride to live mentality, mixed with some fists-in-the-wind and a large portion of lone wolf and steel horse. It is therapy and meditation and mantra. It is striving for a goal and attaining it all at once. It is a blend of man with machine, making of the two something more than the sum of its parts.

It's good to be back.

* Also a pet peeve of mine--overuse of words like "Zen" and "Surreal" when the user has no real idea what the words actually MEAN, or that they're misusing them most abysmally and simply repeating them because there's a common image around that word.


Todd said...

I only need to say "beautiful". That covers all aspects of the story!

Stucco said...

That was very Zen. Very surreal. Heh.

My peeves in that area are people who say [anything]-fascist because they never ever know what they are talking about. Mussolini's daughter is in politics in Italy on a pro-fascist platform. SHE can say it, but no one else.

meno said...

Welcome to Sally. I hope to see a picture ere long.

Jean said...

Gotcha a virgin, eh?
Go easy on the cherry :-)


Mickelodeon said...

Congrats! You know I could tell you about another one of my strange old- television-series obsessions now that you've brought up the hallowed name of Sally, right?

And no, it's got nothing to do with sci-fi (well...maybe a bit, but that's my own sick take on it) or England...but there is an awfully cute brunette involved.

Seriously, congratulations on the newest member of the I family! =)

Gordo said...

Helmets are the very last thing to try to save a buck on. The fact that an expensive and cheap helmet both meet the same tests does not equate them.

Motorcycle as therapy, perhaps? :-)

Clowncar said...

Love that whole before/after thing of the cows and the dirt and the air. Nice paragraph.

I hate people saying penultimate when they mean ultimate. And literal when they mean figurative. And...oh, there are so many, I'll just stop.

Merry Christmas, you cranky old bastard.

Scott from Oregon said...

May you refrain from flying for a time.

HotairHarley said...

The Silver Slut woke you up, did she. Soon,Brother,soon!

Jean said...

Merry Christmas, Irrel!!

Irrelephant said...

Thank you, Todd! You know, the more I look at her the more taken I am with the chrome on silver.

Bite me, Stucco! *lol* Your pet peeve makes me think of Orwell's 1984--everyone full of 'knowledge,' spouting it back without knowing what they're saying or that it is all fluff.

meno, hopefully before the new year. Right now she's a little...plain. I tried to instate a ritual of taking a photo of me and the new bike each time I brought one home, but that's slipped a little bit already. Very soon I promise!

Hah! Jean, you know I'm a gentleman. Easy on the throttle, lots of gentle words and slow movements, then when she asks for it... heh!

Mix, you're teasing! Bring it on!

Gordo, I could do a whole post on helmets by themselves, but Arai and all of the better manufacturers go beyond simple DOT standards and go with ANSI ratings, an independent testing laboratory. The whole ANSI vs DOT thing becomes a morass pretty fast, but interesting for all that.

CC, that was the strongest moment I could think of, the one that might best bring the ... feel? of motorcycling to people who don't ride or haven't ever considered being on one. I didn't even mention the simple joy that comes of feeling the temperature change as you drive into shaded areas, or out into the bright sunlight.

Scott, I had to, actually, two years ago. It's not pleasant, I know for a fact.

HAH! (Even your username is a good joke!) Good to see you commenting, sir! You know, I keep hearing about this so-called bike of yours but haven't seen the first bit of tire marks...

Merry Christmas, Jean and CC and everyone else! Much love to you all.