Wednesday, April 27, 2005

“Dead By Wednesday”

The other day while driving the turnpike I noticed a billboard which left me reeling in contemplation. I reflected on my neighborhood, the people I’ve been blessed to know and the place I’ve come to be. For the most part I felt myself whirling towards a conclusion, that joy comes from the summation of smaller delights, is composed in part from the pleasure of routine.

Father Bernard came to mind, a man whom I’ve met only days ago but through who’s work I’ve known almost since arriving here. I thought of bumping into an impromptu gathering of stoop side neighbors on my way back from an interview, and how, across a conversation not to be interrupted, one of the upstairs rugby players gave me an inquisitive nod, let me know he was anticipating my news. I realized how the priest’s garden, which I had frequently walked far out of my way to traverse, was an expression, a cheer to his life, and also a subtle nod.

Yesterday evening, in my neighborhood less than a mile from the sign, an entire city park leapt with Japanese cherry blossoms. Pinkly tinged downy ivory wafting to the sky, a heavenly guild of sweetness falling into me. Under a canopy of this I felt the cascading beauty bring me to tears, enjoyed the mysterious sorrow of weeping.

These repercussions are realer than mortar-fire, louder than youth. The tectonic weight of their message lands home a volume greater than earlier rhythms. They soften molding and unsharable desperations hollering to come across. And they do, in a way, orchestrate a lingering base cord of empathy as the words follow me into dream.

I remembered my teens, my years spent carving unnoticed words into the flesh of my immortality, screaming at mammoth unhearing ears. And I felt what the kid must have when he climbed the scaffolding, probably in the middle of the night, 40 or 50 feet closer to the stars, hatefully gripping the can as he spray-painted the words.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Murano Butterfly

They make you wait, they always do; in their offices, on the phone or having lunch they like to feel powerful, to nonchalantly toss off an apology and excuse, thank you for your patience now let’s get down to business. I don’t mind it at all anymore. I expect it and let them do so. But it is interesting to find that even in this new industry the game still plays out the same old way. Nonetheless, while I was sitting in the waiting room I noticed that my fingernails and cuticles were deeply stained with grease.

A lot of times, when you walk into a motorcycle shop, you’ll see row after row of very fast Japanese bikes with aggressive looking lines and brightly colored paint-job hair do’s. They are nervous racehorses at the gate waiting for you to twist their throttle so they can pounce into tunnel-vision high performance action. All the brands are, for the most part, identical, with minuscule variations in suspension, fuel delivery or styling from one to the other. And then as you walk through the shop, if it is a good shop, there stands in the back a steed. These are the Italian motorcycles, Bimoto and Ducati. They stand in back because they are dear to the shop, and also to a prospective owner.

While I sat in the waiting room I reviewed the arduous task of adjusting the valves on my new friends Ducati, and as I did so I saw the receptionist interpreting my look of pain and frustration as impatience.

The valves on a ducati are an excellent example of just how bizerk Italians are about grace and performance; you see, on any other gasoline engine in the world the valves are driven by a lobe which pushes one down into the cylinder head, then a spring pushes it back up. When the spring returns the valve to its seat there is a small, I’m talkin’ miniscule immeasurable, bounce. Well, for the Italians that’s not good enough. They’ve go the lobe to open the valve, but then they have an entirely separate and maniacally elaborate scheme to both close the valve AND hold it exactly in place. And this is just one aspect of their engine. So one goes about adjusting the delicate valves betwixt and befuddled by a menagerie of parts, and they must be brought into perfect adjustment. But every time you adjust one, the others change their orientation, so back you go. And there are eight of them. This brand of fanaticism is present in every detail of the design of a Ducati. They are beautiful creatures and are the handiwork of dedicated craftsmen devoted to the specie's embodiment.

The pone on the secretary rang, and I was escorted into a comfortable office. “Come in have a seat, so sorry, Cynthia get this man a latté, business, you know how it is, so and so tells me you can write, dialogue even. I don’t see any credentials here, where ‘ya been…?” He takes me for the whole ride. I produce some samples and he demonstrates his familiarity with them, he’s done some research and he’s not afraid to compromise himself by letting me know so. We talk, about work and also money. We take it slow at first.

Sometimes, when I first dismount a Japanese motorcycle, I tremble. They are savage machines eager to hurl you faster than you dare. A touch of your right hand will unleash gargantuan power in the heaviest of turns, sending the thing right out from under you. Their brakes are so efficient that they can flip the bike at almost any speed. An Italian motorcycle, by comparison and otherwise, delivers performance; which is to say that it doesn’t just dump it on the rider. It thrills you with sumptuous power and narrates twisty turny roads. On the freeway at well over a buck and a half it’s nothing more than a pet hummingbird in your pocket.

It’s not a wonder that most people don’t even know about these motorcycles, even if they are riders. They are two or three times more expensive than their Japanese counterparts, and when they sit at idle their complex mechanizations make them sound like a tin box of rocks rolling downhill. But that’s not really it; the reason they sit at the back of the shop is because most people, almost everyone, simply is not capable of discerning the difference.

So yes, since it seems to be important to you I will admit that though the business card said otherwise, the man you met at 2:30 was Todd Vodka. My spelling is bad, my grammar is worse, and my punctuation is horrific. But I am hard-core in the market for a brand new Ducati 999. Are you?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Today there was spring, glorious heat and jubilation. I felt it in my veins like a wolf waking to the setting sun. I felt love and passion, but even more so today I felt daring. In the dewy morning air I tossed open my garage door and flung the cover from my motorcycle. I knew budding crocuses had reached it too as I mounted and kicked to hear it start up first try after a long, cold winter. As it warmed to life I crouched by the door to have a smoke, gazing as listless breezes experimented with newly opened windows and portals.

Then, when the revs lowered to operating idle, I whole-shotted out of the damp garage, power-slided in the street, then twisted my right hand to unleash the wind. Fuck the garage door.

After straightening turns at the reservoir for an hour I arrived at Albert’s long driveway. Etiquette be gone, I jammed my thumb on the horn button to see him dashing through the door, wiggling his jacket on with one arm while finishing his breakfast from the other. I smiled as his garage door was flung in my own fashion, and backed my SR500e onto its center stand. With both bikes aspirating we could hardly hear his wife at all.

Moments later all our senses were immersed in the season, saturated in speed and liberation like dreaming cheetahs after forbidden gazelles. Deep into forests then towns, blowing through traffic, sometimes stretching our legs on The Merrit.

I knew that in the quiet of that evening I would, as always, promise to never risk myself like that again. But the visceral joy-ride of it all, pulling into Café 101 to see your buddy sharing the smile, slamming your hand into his, regaling strangers with the end of winter you discovered upon the land. Those, also, are seasons; inside myself.