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GOING THE DISTANCE
"THINKING FEELS GOOD"
Photo by Genghis
The other woman.
I had a dream last night. Like most dreams, it was both surreal and superreal. Surreal in the sense that it didn't make much sense. Superreal because it seemed even more vivid and significant, than the mundane moments we live every day in the real world. In this dream I'd bought another Chevrolet Corvette, but a four-speed C2 Vette. The "C2" designation means that a Vette is a second generation Vette. Second generation Corvettes were made between 1963 and 1967. My Vette in "real life" is Mary, my '72 Stingray, who is a C3, or third generation Corvette.
Buying another Vette is something I would never do in "real life." However in dream life, that is apparently what I did. I bought a mid-'60s Vette with a stick shift, which is what my first Vette was. My first Vette was a '64 Vette I bought in 1966. Was this dream a representation of my yearning for my "first love," who was my "Unnamed Vette?" This was before I started naming my vehicles. I started naming my vehicles with my first Harley, my '68 XLCH Sportster "Sally The Bitch."
Thee C2 I inexplicably bought in my dream, was a huge disappointment. In my dream, Patty was in this Vette with me on my first drive with the car. I floored the gas pedal in first gear, and man, was this car slow! I remarked to Patty, "She is so slow compared with Mary. I don't know why I bought this car." I spent the rest of the dream figuring out ways to sell the car to recoup my money. In my dream I felt foolish, embarrassed and disappointed that I bought this car, and perhaps disloyal to my Vette Mary.
I woke up and had my coffee. Then, fueled by the extreme disappointment I felt in my dream, I walked to the Delancey Street garage where I keep my Vette, Mary. I needed to touch the car. I needed to start 'er up and hear those magnificent 8 cylinders bellowing their full song on full choke. I needed to get her on the road, to steer that tight body, to accelerate to thrill myself. I needed to feel the cool winter air hitting me in the face as I drove. I drive with the driver's side window open all year-round. I do this, I'm guessing because I'm so used to the wind from riding my beloved Harley 74, Mabel. It feels unnatural to drive Mary with my window up.
It's difficult for me to express why I love this car so much, just as it is with my Harley. I've long ago abandoned seeking a rationale for the depth of my love for my car and my bike. It just is. Also, unlike other bikers who feel they have to have some sort of subcultural obligation to define a rationale for why they have a love for a cage , I simply acknowledge it. When it comes right down to it, I just don't care what others think .It's all about me, man. Am I the Ultimate Narcissist? Who cares?
It is what it is, and what's more, the way it's been since even before Harleys became a burning hot coal in my soul. It began early.
My love for cars began because my father loved cars. he's owned everything from 1930s era Caddys and Buicks, to his last car before he passed way, which was a pale yellow Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS convertible. I honestly don't know which was his favorite, but I do know that he loved 'em all with a passion. I remember riding in our '38 Buick with great clarity. This was a Black Beauty that he kept in pristine condition. Sitting in the back, I recall the gray upholstery, and the gray cloth strap handholds that were attached to the pillars separating the front and back windows and doors. In the wintertime, when the inside of the windows would cloud-up from moisture, my father would say to me and my siblings, "Don't breathe, you're misting up the windows!" This brought bellows of laughter from the back seat.
My brother and sisters and I, would laugh about this admonition through the years. Of course, my pop never meant this as a humorous statement, it just would come out that way.
Pop had that '38 black beauty for fifteen years before he traded in for another car. My father was always a GM Guy. True to his roots, he bought a 1953 Buick Super. I remember the excitement I felt as I waited in front of our Chinese laundry on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights in Queens, for Pop's arrival with our new car. I wasn't disappointed as he rolled down the street in this metallic green magnificent-looking piece of automotive sculpture. It had an automatic transmission, and this great torquey V-8. This was in fact the car I'd learn to drive in ten years after that day. Man, wotta tank of a car. By the time I got my junior driver's learner's permit at the age of 16, I was fully in the clutch of the car culture that permeated Queens.
One thing I've noted about Manhattan, is that there is no car culture like there is in the other boroughs. The rest of NYC, unlike the borough of Manhattan, mirrors the car crazy rest of America. It's like Manhattan is an island in solitary confinement, independent of, and resistant to the vehicular passions and desires of the rest of the country. I can't remember ever seeing a speed shop in Manhattan. In true Manhattanite Elitist form, most people here are environmentallly anti-car Greenpeacers. That's okay, I've got mine.
This was also true of the motorcycle culture in the outer boroughs of NYC, and Manhattan. Manhattan is immune to the lure of the sound of a Harley. There may be bikers in Manhattan as we know, but these bikers for the most part, imported their Harley Passion with 'em, like me for example, when they moved to Manhattan from other places.
We Manhattan Bikers are displaced Americans, immigrants to a strange and beguiling land, beset by confusing philosophies and customs.
Manhattanites generally have a disdain for motor vehicles, seeing them as a necessry evil in the forms of taxis and limousines, but to actually own a car in Manhattan? Unthinkable! Native Manhattanites cannot relate to love of cars and bikes.
On certain nights in the early '60s, my friends and I would watch "Route 66" on this little portable black and white TV in the back of my parents' Chinese laundry. This TV show was my indoctrination into the Corvette Fold. As I migrated from my teenage years into my 20s, nothing was as important to me than car culture. Everything I did in terms of socializing, had to do with either cars or motorcycles. That was the atmosphere in Queens in the 1960s. In Jackson Heights alone, there were more than five hotrod and speed shops. I thought of this as I drove Mary this morning. Most of my most pleasurable thinking happens when I'm either riding Mabel or driving Mary.
This is what people who don't drive or ride are missing. The type of thinking that occurs in everyday life, is such a homogenous mixture of worry, negative thoughts and other assorted unproductive brainwaves. This is what people who don't ride or drive have a steady diet of. I pity 'em.
Non-bikers and non-car enthusiatsts don't have the saddle of a Harley or the cockpit of a Vette to rely on, as a Sanctuary of Thought, as we do. I do my most pleasurable thinking in my Vette or on my bike. Thinking there, feels good. This statement would make no sense to the uninitiated, but you and I know what this means. Riding the Harley or driving the Vette for me, is a true respite from the world. This allows me to feel right. These are my meds, man.
There is something about gliding a motorcycle into a gentle highway curve at 70, or slicing through trucks and buses in my Vette at 50 miles per on Fifth Avenue, that is conducive to pleasurable brainwave activity, that is not attainable elsewhere. On Mabel with her stroker shovel screaming in fourth gear, as I back off the throttle to downshift, that's when I'm at peace with the world. Or guiding my Vette with a left hand lightly holding at nine o'clock, and my right with fingertips gripping at three o'clock as we zip past others on the highways and byways, that's when I feel a subtle euphoria I cannot get while doing anything else. That gas pedal is therapeutic. Gripping the bars as your beast leaps forward like an angry cheetah, is cathartic. Cheaper than Dr. Melfi.
Man, thinking just plain feels good under those circumstances. People wonder why I love Mabel and Mary so much. It goes beyond that, though.
Beyond the thrill of riding or driving, are the underlying reasons for my love for 'em. Pethaps "reasons" is the wrong word, for these intangibles are hard to define, difficult to format as a rationale. History and tradition come into it for me. What is it about the "rumpity-rump" of a Harley motor that sets off such a tremendously emotional and visceral reaction in the listener? I don't know, but the emotion is stronger, when that Harley belongs to you. The amount of swelling of pride is commensurate with the decibel level of the straight pipes, man. Also, the type of reaction may depend on societal conditioning. There are those no doubt, who experience fear and loathing at the sound of a Harley Unleashed. Screw 'em.
What is it about the all-conquering throbbing of a Chevy V-8 that sends shivers of gladness up the spine? It just is , man. This palpable euphoria comes when you climb aboard these Beasts of Pleasure. On the bike, I feel like the Duke of New York, I'm A-Number One! While ensconced in the tight cockpit of my '72 Vette, I feel like I'm ready to soar the skies of concrete. The cockpit is thankfully ergonomic, where space is at a premium and everything has a function. The only thing missing are the gun sights.
Top Gun, baby! It is just plain magical at 5:30 in the morning while maneuvering around NYC in a Vette , the pitch black of night interrupted by the street lights of the City That Never Sleeps. Except the traffic, that is. The traffic at 5:30 AM is light and agreeble. Outta my way, baby! Mary's comin' through! Give the lady some room! Her Dynomax mufflers bellow an exclamation point, as we blow by with a blast of cleansing Vette air.
Then the pleasurable thoughts come. To the uninitiated, if I have to explain then you wouldn't understand.