I like my motorcycle jacket. It's one of those old standards, the classic 1950's police-style jacket with the offset zipper and the big belt with the square chrome buckle. Black leather, naturally, lots of zippers on pockets and sleeves and such, and snaps on the lapels and collar. I've worn it for more years than I can count, and it's lasted me so long I'm wearing it on my fourth bike now. Needless to say it's seen some miles.
(Here it is fairly new, back in 1996 when I was riding Betsey, the first "Strawberry Bitch." That's my first Arai helmet in my proud hands. And yes, that's a Scooby Doo stuffed animal stuffed in there. I think I was bringing it home for Weerelephant for a present. It also might have been for some other girl. It's been a while. Anyway.)
One of the things that always makes me laugh about the weekend Harley guys is their leathers. Always perfect, always clean, you can tell they're doctors or lawyers or tax accountants in real life who unpack this Harley persona on weekends. Not a speck on those leathers, not a single raindrop has fallen on them, not a bug speck. Heck, there's barely even creases.
My jacket? My jacket has more creases than Phyllis Diller's face. It carries bug spatters that are so ground in that not even repeated applications of saddle soap can get them out. It's got scuffs and bumps and imperfections abounding. It has been worn through a dozen freezing cold winters and worn in rainstorms too numerous to count, including one rather memorable hail storm.
It's even got a bomb, a lipsticky kiss and a mostly naked girl on the back.
Here's the original, a WWII-era B-24 Liberator bomber.
I love my jacket. Thirteen years of wearing it have made it as much a part of my body as my hands and feet. People ask me about the jacket, about the girl, about all of it, and I often give them the whole story, or as much of it as I think they'll want to hear. It's FUN. It's different. It's personal. And now I've got to put it aside. Change has come.
Two reasons forced this change:
1) The wreck
2) My job.
The wreck, as you remember, left Black Betty in pieces and left several rather large scuffs across the back, collar and elbow of my jacket. Now that in itself isn't anything at all. I'd just as soon leave them on there, pale grey reminders of how fast things can change when you think you're in control. Also, nothing says 'well-traveled' like scars. If I grew weary of them I could always get out the black Kiki polish and some Neet's Foot oil and make them disappear too, except for some residual roughness.
The job, however, isn't as easy to get around. Back when The Demon Bitch From Hell was running the joint she said to me one day that 'someone' in the office was offended by my jacket, and I had to stop wearing it. Instead, I just folded it up carefully and made sure nothing showed when I went inside. I had figured out, you see, about an hour after she spoke to me that it was SHE who was offended, not another employee.
Well, things have changed again. No longer am I one of three men in the office on a daily basis. Now I am ONE man in an office suddenly filled with women. Granted there's two more male employees but they're field staff, and the office staff contains even more women than usual. Plus we went one better and hired about six MORE women to fill the field staff roster out further. I'm trapped in an estrogen-based world.
I guess it had to happen--someone spoke to our new director about it. I know our new director--she laughed out loud the first time she saw it, back when she was still a field nurse and said nothing more. She, you see, has a sense of humour and understands why I wear it. One of the multitude we hired, however, doesn't share that sense of humour and this being a P. C. world, I had to put her aside. Today, actually, having begged three more days of wear out of The Boss while my new jacket came in.
My new jacket. What dreadful words those are. Don't get me wrong, it's a NICE jacket. It's even got armour where my old one didn't (spine, elbows and shoulders) and has a full-length zip-out quilted liner which will extend it's wear-time. It's thicker than the old jacket, 1.1 to 1.3mm leather. It even zips onto my riding pants at the back.
But it's new.
It's shiny. It's slick. It still smells like the factory from whence it came. It came on a shiny new hanger wrapped in a plastic bag. I don't recall my old jacket coming in a plastic bag. When I bought it it'd already somehow had several thousand miles on it and smelled of saddle soap and Neet's Foot oil. It creaked like an old house and it fit like a lover's embrace.
Oh, I know in time this new jacket will pick up bug spots that go liner-deep. I know it'll start breaking in at some point, and will need oiling and saddle soaping. I even know one day it will creak with that delicious sound of an old chair being settled into. It might even one day fit me as well as my old jacket. Who knows, it might even one day sport a PG-rated pin-up girl, with "Sally" painted across the shoulders and "Miss Behavin'" across the tailpiece.
But damnit, it's not my old jacket.*
* For those of you who are about to say "But Irrelephant, why don't you just wear the old one when you aren't at work?" I say "But I shall, but those times are few and far between." Plus, I guess a little change can be good for you.
Nah, who am I kidding?