Shootin' the Breeze

by "Bummer"

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June 2008

   Like I mentioned last month, don’t forget to make plans on going to the June Jam on the 20th, 21st and 22nd of this month in Hopedale, right here in this glorious state of O-HIGH-O!! Julie and I hope to see you there.

   Big Joe pulled his bike off the interstate into the parking lot of the rest area to get gas, stretch his legs and to take a bathroom break. He’d been riding non-stop since he topped off the tanks of the old Shovel Head over two hours ago, and THAT one was the only stop he made since leaving the house that morning.
    It all started with the phone ringing (doesn’t a lot of screwed-up crap start with that?). He groggily reached for the phone, knocking the lamp off the bedside table in the process. “Damn!”
    “Well, THAT’S a Hell of a way to answer the phone!”
    “I mean hello! Who is this?”
    “Dude! It’s yer long lost bro Frank. How’s things in Ohio?”
    “Frank! Hang on! Give me a sec to wake up.” Then he set down the phone, rubbed his hands all over his face and coughed a few times. Next he took a long slug out of the warm beer on the table and swished it around in his mouth, before picking up the phone again and with a gravely voice asking, “How ya doin’? Ain’t heard from YOU for a while. How’s things in Canada?”
    “Just a-boot loverly! YOU should move yer ass up. I swear the place gets better every day. Even the mooses love the clean air.”
    “I spent too much time and blood fightin’ for THIS country to skee-daddle up North just ‘cause the air’s getting kinda yucky, you damned deserter!”
He suppressed memories of ‘Nam and then later Desert Storm as he focused on the conversation at hand.
    “Anyway, I don’t think you called to discuss our national air quality.”
    “No I didn’t. Got some bad news for ya ol’ buddy. Remember Crazy Larry, the kid we met on the plane when we flew over to fight Saddam the FIRST time?”
    “Sure! He moved up around Buffalo a while back. I went up to see him a few times.”
    “That he did. Got a call from his old lady ‘Peepers’ yesterday and she told me Larry bought the farm ‘cause of a left hand turn sorta thing. Some jerk in a car was blabbin’ on his cell phone and hit Larry’s bike head on. Peepers got banged up, but Larry got dead.”
    Joe thought back on Larry and Peepers. Two of the finest people he’s ever known. Both of them always smiling, always ready to help anyone in need. Neither of them ever had a bad word to say about ANYBODY, or any THING for that matter. Without a doubt knowing both of them was an honor. For a few years, in the 90’s before they moved away, he and Frank hung with them a lot and the four of them went on more than a few road trips together. Long distance rides require people ya like to ride, camp and hang with. On the highway, hopefully, ya begin to be able to ride as a group and not as individuals. And THAT’S important. Good riding partners are few and far between.
    “HEY! Ya still there?”
    “Oh, yeah. I was just thinking about the time a pile of us rode down to the Skyline Drive. Wasn’t you the one that threw the snake in their tent?”
    “It was just a lil’ old garter snake! Peepers peed her pants!” and both of them laughed for a few seconds. Then the line went quiet.
    “How’s SHE handling it?”
    “Don’t think it’s really set in yet. They’ve been together, what? Gotta be twenty five years or more. That’s why I called. You up for a ride to Buffalo?”
    “No doubt. When we goin’?”
    “Well, the funeral’s day after tomorrow. I left home yesterday and just got in. I’m here now. What about you?”
    “I can leave about ten o’clock. It should only take about 4 or 5 hours to get up there from here.”
    “Good. Lookin’ forward to seein’ ya Joe. It’s been way too long.”
    “Ditto. OH! They, I mean Peepers, is still in that same big old green house in Tonawanda, right?”
    “Yup, you got it. So we should be lookin’ at ya about two or three this afternoon, right?”
    “Yes indeed. See ya then.” and he hung up the phone.
    Now, hours later, Joe locked up the scoot and walked toward the rest room area. As he walked, he thought of his old friends and how much he was gonna miss Crazy Larry. He also thought how people move apart over the years and ya just seem to lose touch. No matter how you try, you learn that you just can’t seem to find friends who are as close to you as those you lose….the good ones anyway. Sure, sometimes you meet good NEW people. And sometimes they CAN become close to you. But it just seems that the older ya get, the harder it is to find REALLY close friends. Friends you can say are of your tribe.
    I think we all tend to miss those we’ve shared with. Shared our campfires, shared our road trips, shared our LIVES with. And the friends we’ll miss the MOST are those we’ve shared the most WITH. Maybe that’s the thing that’s sometimes missing today: We have a hard time finding people we’re comfortable sharing with.
    I wish we could try to return to the days when riding a bike was a Hell of a lot more than just a mode of transportation, a way to be cool while PRETENDING you’re a biker for a few hours. For many of us it used to be a way of life, and we lived it 24 hours a day. Most of us worked jobs and took care of our responsibilities, but we were STILL full time bikers, and damned proud of it. Ya might say it used to be a pilgrim’s journey, a quest for individual freedom that lasted from day to day even when you weren’t on a bike. The people you can share THAT with become more than just riding acquaintances. They become your brothers and sisters.
    And people of our kind also once shared a code we lived by. We looked for, and sometimes recognized, that in others who shared that same code. Sure, anyone who says that ALL bikers were righteous, and that ALL bikers lived with that same sense of integrity, are idiots and either didn’t know very many bikers or managed to forget about the screwed up ones (I’ve known quite a few so-called “real bikers” who looked and acted the part, but I wouldn’t want them to know where I kept the keys to my scooter…or anything else for that matter, no matter HOW many times they rode to Sturgis). But overall there was a time you could at least get a sense of who a person was by the way they presented themselves.
    Nowadays, a lot of folks turn on the “biker thing” whenever it suits them and turn it off again like they’re getting home from a costume party. They change their attitudes like they change their shirts. And that’s ok too if that’s all they want to get from the lifestyle. This lifestyle is known for it’s non-judgmental acceptance.
    But the ones I’ll always miss the most, and the ones I’m gonna keep looking for, will be the folks who really ARE what they show themselves to be. It really is that simple. I mean, who should really give a damn about who you WANNA be……except you?

            Until next month,

    PS Get to the Jam and look us up!! I’ll be the old fat guy with the beard.

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