Sunday, November 25, 2012

An education from the Road.

Don't take that title the wrong way.. I'm talkin about my education. Not yours. I cannot speak for you or assume that I have anything to say that might enlighten you. I'm not that guy. There are plenty of other people out there that are trying to feed you their "Truth".. If you read something I write that strikes a chord with you then we both have gained.. enough said.

Most folks I know have a hard time learning in a structured environment like a classroom. Me included. I didn't struggle in class but I damn sure didn't pay attention.  I could not have cared less. I can remember many a night sitting on one end of my bunk and staring at a stack of books on the other end. I had no concern for what was in those books. I was more interested in what was coming over the radio and teletype. Ya. You read that right.. I spent a lot of my teenage nights in a jail cell. My dad had two jobs when I was growning up. He was the preacher at our local Baptist church and he was also the graveyard shift dispatcher for the County Sheriff Dept. He had my best interest's at heart and he was a Man of old methods. In an attempt to keep me from the troubled path that I was on he would take me to work with him and lock me up. Please understand this.. I don't hold any of that against him. He did the best that he could do and any little scabs he might of put on me as a boy I have covered over with my own self imposed, life long mental scars. He can sleep in heavanly peace knowing that I hold nothing against him.

I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have learned more from living than I ever learned from a bound book. If I needed to know it then I learned it. It has been seldom in my life that I hired someone to do work for me. I'd rather learn and do for myself.. I am sitting in a room I built. From foundation to roof I have a sense of pride that cannot be bought or given. These are the things that have given MAN pride for thousands of years. I understand that. Now I'd like to share with you another great truth in my life. That sound pompous as hell but bear with me. I think you will understand.. I think it is a common thing that we have. It is a quest for understanding ...

East bound. Interstate-76. more than a few years ago. Fighting traffic and wishing I had a jousting stick.. Whoever called this the city of brotherly love must have been an old bastard. I recall that he made the first set of bifocals and have often wondered... Which came first, the name for Philadelphia or clear vision.???
Riding along the Delaware River. Thinking about a powdered headed General and his rag tag Army crossing that river in the death of winter in a boat.. I'm thinking that there has to be a bridge soon.. In 1957 some rich folks got together and spent your tax money and built a bridge.. They were probably drunken, no good politicians of the lowest order but today I was happy for the bridge that they had built.. Two things stuck in my mind as I crossed that bridge... The road signs had me asking more questions than they were giving answers.. What kind of name is Gloucester city.? whats it mean.? how the hell is that pronounced.? and the other question was,,, Who is Walt Whitman.? How important do you have to be to get a bridge named after you.? Does it matter that the bridge goes from Asshole, Pennsylvania  to Asshole, New Jersey.? Was this guys name like Dr. Samuel Mudd.?

I crossed that bridge and took the first right. I needed to get my head right and my finger of the trigger so I pulled into a trailer terminal under the bridge. With some club crackers and Vienna sausage, I sat there and admired the underside of The Walt Whitman Memorial Bridge.  Back on the road and a better frame of mind  I rolled on into Atlantic city and nothing else can be said about that trip.. I know.. cold ending. Let yer mind run wild.. My tongue won't.. lol.

Not long after that trip I was spending some time in the public library in Daytona.. Those that know it know that its not a bad place to be. From Beach St. you just cross a little walking bridge and you are there on an island surrounded by the inter-coastal waterway. Short story.. I was living on the beach at The Ledo Beach Hotel. Went to pay my weekly rent and found out because of Speed Week my rent had went from $149 a week to $600 for the week.. Yup. I was homeless. I spent a lot of time at the library and the minor league ball field.. At the library I met a man.. A Poet named Walt Whitman. I read about his Leaves of grass and I learned about his Song of Myself. Fate had put me at this place. at this time. with nothing but time.. I read all that I could and I came to an understanding. I learned from his writings how grand we are as individuals. I learned about how common we are to each other. I learned that I am not special and that all that I have seen, done or learned everybody before me has suffered, experienced or known. I learned that there is nothing new and from that I drew comfort.
 I'm not gonna tell you that this one guy changed my life and he is the reason that I am the way I am.. But from his writings I have found a way to look at things differently than I did before.. I now have a sense of common ground with all the people that I encounter. I now know that when I light a cigarette in public, if a person approaches me I can offer them a smoke before they ask. That simple act alone has told that person that I understand and we have that in common. Now we can move forward into finding out what he really needs. Walt Whitman taught me that. He had a knarley beard and in my book that would have been reason enough to name a bridge after him. Could be that is what them drunk, crooked politicians were thinkin when they named that bridge after him...

Skip forward more than a few yrs. I'm riding north of Boston on 95.. I'm thinking of a girl I had met in a bar back in the late 80's. She had played a large part in keeping my ex-wife at a distance by letting her know that she was a practicing Wiccan. I didn't remember much about her other than she felt that I had given her the greatest honor by allowing her to give me a blowjob. I also remembered that all the witches came from Salem, Mass. North bound and rollin. I see an exit sign for Gloucester. Diggin on the exit ramp and I'm trying to remember why that name is in my mind.. Ya. Thats that shit hole trailer terminal on the Jersey side of the Walt Whitman Memorial Bridge.. My mind is clickin like a chain on a sprocket now... If that was Gloucester City,, this Gloucester must be its namesake.. Hahaha. I'm such a dumbass. I twist on and find my way into the sleepy villiage of Gloucester, Mass. Past the Gordons Seafood Company. I find a neon sign that has welcomed me in many places..

 A flashing "Open" sign gets me every time. I walked into a bar that every man in America has been to or at least heard of.. Old walnut. Smoked stained enough that you wanted your beer in a bottle and a silver haired, grandma for a bartender.. The sun was still up high so I really wasn't expecting the A-team. What I found was an education. "What'll ya have".? Bud. My drink came with a question.. "Have you heard the story.?" Pardon me..?? " Have you heard the story.?" This is the moment that I realized that I was on a new planet and that it was my responsibility to learn the local language... "Ma'am. I am not from here and I ain't got a clue what the hell you are talkin about..." She smiled in a knowing way that I will forever remember. She ragged the dust out of two shot glasses. filled them from a dark bottle and said, " I've got a story you might like to hear.".
 In October of 1991 a fishing boat named the Andrea Gail returned to dock in Gloucester, Mass. after a small haul. The Captain of that boat convinced his crew of the dollars to be had on a quick turn.. She shared with me the story of the men and the women that they loved. She told me this story with the pain of a survivor. Not the tone of a person that heard it third person. Her name was Ms. Ethel. The same as my mothers. I listened with the wide eyes of a child. We drank from that brown jug and she popped the filters off my Marlboro's like it was a carney trick.. "I don't care if you are 300 pounds,, smoke like a man". Ms. Ethel was relieved around dusk and I figured out at that moment that she was not an employee. There was no counting till or inventory.. The push-up bra took over and didn't ask any questions.. And Ms. Ethel said. "lets go for a walk". She took me on a tour of Gloucester pointing out all the places and telling me of all the things. We walked down on the dock and she told me of her families history. She pointed out the Widows peek and told me of the men who had been lost and the women who had mourned. I am a sucker for local culture. I was chin deep into the story that this old bird was sharing with me.. I was feeling every bit of it. We walked back to the Crow's Nest and at the door she opened for me she stuck her head in and said, "make this one pay double". as she slapped me on the back with enough force to send me over the threshold. My money was no good it that bar for the rest of the night.. Drunk as Cooter Brown is no comparison.
 I had a time and I think they did as well.

Fast forward to my fuzzy slippers. I'm Home in Tennessee and my lovely wife brings me a paperback book called The Perfect Storm. She said that it sounded a lot like a story that I had told her before. As I read that book I remembered the story that I had told to me by that ole bird. Here is how this breaks down.. A lady took the time to share with me a local story.. Years later, I'm given a book about that story... Years later.. I go and see the movie in the theater..

Oh ya.. I learned that Gloucester ain't pronounced the way it is spelled.. I think they do that to identify those of us that ain't local..

until we meet again.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Retired Rags Last Ride

There comes a time when you realize that the path you are on has a deeper meaning. It creeps in under your helmet and makes your head itch more than you are accustom too. That thought that becomes your focus. like a sandspur under your jacket that you just can't reach to deal with without stopping the rotation of your planet. But I digress.

It was raining in Ashville, NC. I had just left 1873Tattoo shop in Sylva, NC where my dear friend Bobert had needle jabbed me full of a memory.. Sitting in the rain, I called a friend. "Hey Mattye, I'm at the intersection of Cold, Dark and Wet... Come get me." As a good friend will do, Mattye hopped in his truck to come lead me through the night to his place. Dry clothes, comfy couch, good conversation and some home cookin on the stove.. We spent the better part of two rainy days talking about everything from the virtue of loose women and smokin weed  to the worst and best road trips of our lives... Mattye is an intellectual giant. He can give you a logical explanation for unicorns.. Be Careful. You have been warned..

The morning sun found my happy dry ass headed north with three days to kill before the Indian Larry Block Party in Brooklyn. Up the 81 Interstate I went.. The beauty of virginia can be seen from the interstate but the fun ride is Lee Hiway that parallels the interstate. I was having a ball and only had one LEO encounter.. Bunches of questions but no revenue exchange.

 I use Facebook quite a bit to communicate and once again my friends stepped up.. My plan was to spend a few days tramping around Gettysburg.. My friend Tim came through with a place to hang my hat. I have been blessed with meetings some of the greatest people on planet earth.. Good, hard working, freedom loving people.. I can now count Tim as one of them.

Here is where my trip changed a little and the title of this writing comes from.. Tim was telling me of a box of motorSickle goodies he had picked up at a swap meet... In the box of goody's was a Levi's denim jacket that was from the late 60's or early 70's. The buttons confirmed its age. The sleeves were cut off. the side seams had been let out as evidence that it had been worm by a man long enough that he had outgrown it. Because of its value, the wearer had chosen to let out the sides instead of replacing it. The hand stitched rocker patches on the back told me exactly what I was looking at.. This was a club vest, west coast. early 70's... Me and Tim talked for a while about the old rag and I asked him several more times as to how he came to have it.. Then it happened.. "Don, I want you to deliver this to a man." I knew what Tim was saying. It was time for that club cut to get back to the club that owned it. I agreed to tote that load but I had no idea how much time I would spend thinking about that vest in my saddlebag.

I rolled out with a destination in mind......
It was time for the gathering at 400 Union Ave. Brooklyn, NY. but first I had to get educated about NYC traffic laws, The Patriot Act and explosives..
 I found out that you can not pull a trailer through the Holland Tunnel. No Trailer. Absolutely No Trailers. Does not matter that it is being pulled by a motorcycle... Did you not hear me... No Trailers.. This was being explained to me as I watched a convoy of uhaul and ryder trucks enter the tunnel. ok.. off my soap box. 

I found my people.. we had a great time sharing old and new stories and I thought a day or two in the city would be a good time.. until....... I heard on the evening news that the UN General Assembly and POTUS would be in town Monday morning.. 3am Monday morning I eased out of Brooklyn and set my compass on west...

I had a few days to kill  before my next planned stop in Minn. for The Scooter Trash Bike Show.. once again, thanks to facebook I found a place to hang my hat.. Mr. Reed answered my call and put me up on an island on the river outside of Davenport, Iowa.

The morning I left this spot I knew that I would soon be with Chad and Kari in Minn. I didnt bother to look at a map.. North and West, with an interstate to my west as a boundary for me.. I stayed on the two lanes and watched as the harvest combines raised the dust out in the fields.. These things stick in my mind as I travel.. I remember back earlier in the year being in Yuba, Wisc. and noticing that the corn was ankle high.. Now in Minn. it's harvest time..
A couple of garage nights.. a Circus tent with bars, bands and hot yankee chics.. Ya. I had a great time.. Kari's mom is one hell of a fine dancer.. The next morning we set up for The Scooter Trash Bike Show.. I've said it before and I'll say it again... I have family all over this planet. Doesn't matter that some of us have never met.. We have common ground. The Bike Show was a big hit and after we shut it down we went to a house party.. Picture this... As we walk into a single bay garage I am put at ease. 30 good folks eating a pig, drinking everything that can be called wet and watching midget porn on a big screen TV. Ya. I found my people... More friends old and new and then we are off to another house party..

For some reason these gatherings always happen in a garage.. and a motorSickle... and a leaking gas tank.... and a flame throwin torch.... and somebody always says "where are your safety glasses"... Like they are gonna help when the fukin bomb goes off.. Good times. Great people and a lifetime of memories...

The morning found me returning Chads house slippers to him. (they made me feel that much at home).. I pointed myself in a southern direction and cruised down the road. Next stop. Home.. 700 miles later I had a whole 12hrs at home.. Some clean drawers, copenhagen and some beef jerky and I was headed to Aspen for a wedding.. WTF.. I don't do weddings... Ha.. My dear friends Russ and Nikki had asked me to supply the moonshine for their wedding toast. I told Russ that this sounded like good TV.. After a few phone calls it was set. The Moonshiners filming crew would be coming to the wedding too. Lets just say,,, The wedding was as golden as the bride and groom..

We put a lot of living into about four days. I met some amazing people and slept in a horse barn that is better than any home I have ever owned.. The cold morning sun met me at my bike... that had a dead battery.. Not much of a problem at 14,000ft elevation. There is a lot of down hill road at that point.
East was my direction and I had around 1400miles to go.. Ever sense I had picked up that club vest in Gettysburg I had been thinking about it. I thought about where it had been. I thought about the man who had worn it. I thought about the "Brotherhood" that it represented. Was he a drug runner? How many fights had that rag been in? I thought about the young man who had been given that rag and the pride that he must have felt. I thought about the day that he realized. "this fukin thing don't fit anymore". I'll just cut it along here and it will fit again.. I thought about the hardship that he had brought into his life with this symbolism of Brotherhood. As I rode east nearing my destination, I started thinking more about the man I was taking this club vest to... I had never met him. He did not know why I was coming to visit. I knew enough of this man to know that I would be welcome until I had worn out my welcome. I asked myself.. What would he think? Would this be a good thing or a bad reminder of a hidden thing from his past.? What if, just by chance, what if he knew the story of the man who wore that vest.. Would he find me worthy of that information.?

I pulled up mid day at this mans house and I was met by a man that I could tell was full of love and life and kindness. In the same man I knew he had in him the capacity to take care of any situation that might arise.. Always remember. Santa Claus carries a sawed off shotgun.. As we chatted at his porch I told him that I had a delivery and dug into my saddlebag.. I will not share with you the nature or the content of the conversation that we shared for the next day and a half but I will tell you this.

We had a good time and I will spend more time with this man..
It's been another great trip. Many miles. another crossing of the Continental divide. Too many memories to share in print and a belly full of laughs.. I left CJ knowing that I had met a life long friend and I made my way down the road to get some rest at home.. a day later I was headed to Daytona.. Willie's Tropical Tattoo's Chopper show would be in a few days..
Until we meet, Again..