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 latt√©, 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?

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