Click here for Home




Photo by Genghis

MABEL IN HER PARKING LOT: Waiting patiently for her first ride of the year.

At times, my 1971 Harley 74 Mabel looks like an animal when I study her. An animal whose energy is ready to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world, voracious in her hunger to leap down the tarmac, ready to hunt her prey of forward movement. That's the way she looked to me today, as I uncovered her for her first ride of 2012. Study the picture of Mabel I took before I started 'er up, and you will see what I saw. A Living Machine whose heart was set on being ignited, providing the power for forward-leaning impetus. An entity so wrapped up in herself, that no other machine on the road today whether on two or four wheels, could match her presence and vitality. No, not today. She was a dominatrix in waiting, dressed to thrill in all black. She was waiting, and then came not Bronson, but me ( I had the key, Michael Parks didn't).

The first ride of the year.

An auspicious event because of its symbolism, if not for the reality of the riding continuum. Ya see, I rode Mabel a few days ago, but that doesn't count, because that was last year. Sure, it was only mere days ago, but it was still a part of the last calendar year. We humans live for symbolism, because it means something to our sentimental sensibilities. I wondered if it meant anything to Mabel. Judging by her reaction, it must've.

I live on Water Street in the Lower East Side of NYC. Now, mind you, there are two distinct Water Streets in Manhattan. Natch, I live on the more obscure Water Street,whose whereabouts that perhaps six taxi drivers in all of NYC know of. My building is sandwiched between this Water Street and South Street. South Street hugs the FDR Drive, which runs parallel to the East River. I dig living adjacent to the highway, because it gives me a quick egress out of the area to points north and south. This in turn, leads efficiently, to ways out of the city without much delay.

Mabel's parking lot is one of six fenced-in outdoor lots attached to our apartment complex. This affords security to Mabel, but leaves her exposed to the elements. That's the good and bad of it. Still, it's more affordable than the local indoor garage which we couldn't afford. As the crow flies, Mabel's parking lot is about a fifth of a mile from my apartment. I hit the ground running with camera in hand to put my sweaty palms on Mabel, for this Inaugural Ride of 2012. I keep my helmet in Patty's F-150 pickup, Amy, who also lives in the same parking lot as Mabel. We refer to Mabel and Amy, as The Girls. This saves me the trouble of bringing my helmet home.

Having Amy in the lot is great for storing other supplies I use for Mabel, like her 60 weight, chain lube, etc. I also keep a bicycle-type tire pump in Amy too. When I get ready to ride, I put Mabel's cover in Amy's bed. Today, Mabel seemed particularly anxious after I uncovered her. The stance of her fork suggested as much, leaning sightly to the left as if to say, "Hey G, about time, ya know what I mean? What kept you? It's almost 9:00 AM!" Okay, okay, I can take a hint. Just let me put the cover away first!

Forty some-odd degrees today. It's balmy, man, compared to a few days ago when it was 13 degrees. Gas on, ignition on without headlights, Mabel's S & S Super B's enrichener on. Toggle switch hot....."Whir...whir..whir...BRRRRaaaacka....racka..racka..." She lives! What's more, she sounds happy and frisky. Must be the First Ride of The Year Fever that's been infecting both of us. Like I told ya, it's a symbolic deal. While she was warming up, she asked me where we were going. She didn't actually voice this. I just read between the lines in her exhaust note. I know my bike. I told her, out of The City, but we'll take the scenic route. Onto the FDR Drive we blasted, clearing out all the carbon that accumulated in Mabel's innards since her last ride. We exited at the 59th Street Bridge exit, and then onto the bridge's lower level. Okay, we were gonna be in my old stomping grounds in Queens as soon as we emerge from the bridge.

We were in Long Island City on Northern Boulevard, and we passed Harley-Davidson of New York on our left on 47th Street. Andrew Rosa headed their service department, before he opened up Rosa's Cycle Shop on Long Island. We contnued on Northern until we got to 83rd Street, where we made a left and stayed on 83rd until we got to Astoria Boulevard near La Guardia Airport. I grew up on 87th Street and Northern, and when I was a kid I used to walk down to the airport to explore and play. The airport was a couple of miles away from home. On some streets on the outskirts of the airport, I could stand where airplanes came so close to the ground before they hit the landing strips, I felt that I could reach up and touch them , and the sound! It was almost a deafening roar at those places.

Astoria Boulevard heading west leads to the Grand Central Parkway and the Whitestone Expressway, so Mabel and I had a choice. We decided to take the more scenic route of the Whitestone Expressway. The traffic on the Expressway was wonderfully light because it was so early. It wouldn't have been so during baseball season, because this highway passes Mets stadium. On a baseball day, this road turns into long parking lot.

The Whitestone expressway is a wide, eight-lane highway that wends its way through College Point in Queens. College Point is where the TV show "Unforgettable" is filmed. College Point is also the site of the Target store closest to Manhattan. After Mabel and I passed the 20th Avenue exit that leads to the Target, we had another choice to make. The road splits left to the Cross Island Parkway to Long Island, and to the right to the Whitestone Bridge which leads to Connecticut. I said to Mabel, "Well, which one is it? Where do ya wanna go?"

Mabel's left forward footpeg suddenly vibrated, which meant she wanted Long Island. The Cross Island Parkway eventually turns into the Belt Parkway, and runs through Little Neck near the Throgs Neck Bridge, and passes Belmont Park, the horse racing track. I made the mistake of wearing medium-thickness gloves instead of my heaviest gloves, so my fingertips were starting to protest by abandoning their tactile sensation. Forty degrees is not cold, unless you don't have the right gloves. I thought the gloves I wore were sufficient for 40 degree weather, but I guess I was wrong. Oh well, nothing's perfect.

By time we got to where the Long Island Expressway intersects the Cross Island Parkway, I made the decision as to whether to continue on the Cross Island, or get on the Long Island Expressway. Can't spoil Mabel too much! Delegating authority's fine, but I am Mabel's master. It was on this round exit ramp that leads to the LIE (Long Island Expressway) that I laid my Sportster "Sally The Bitch" down over 40 years ago. I still remember it as clearly as the day it happened. This, and my wreck in '94 were the only times I've ever laid bikes down. This turned out to be far more benign than the '94 crash.

On that day over forty years ago, it had snowed the day before. This exit ramp is a long, winding, wide-radiused ramp that just invites giving more gas, due to its length. My mistake then was disrespecting the possibility of a thin sheen of ice that covered the ramp. Sally and I went into the curve too hot for the road surface condition. It was black ice, ice, baby. As if in slow motion, I felt the Sportster sliding away from under me, as she lost traction and went sliding on her right side. It was the most eerie sensation. Then I knew what bobsledders felt like, when they got separated from their bobsleds, bodily hurtling down the ice without their vehicles. Sally and I separated, her sliding ahead of me on the ramp. It was curious watching her distance herself from me, when I looked behind me to see a car closing on us quickly.

Luckily, the driver of the car was paying attention and braked and stopped before he ran me over. I would've been dogmeat, otherwise. He stopped his car on the ramp with other cars accordioned to a standstill behind his car. He got out of his car and asked me, "Are you okay?" I said, "Yeah I'm okay, but I've gotta get to my bike and shut her off!" Sally's throttle stuck in the wide-open position, and her motor was screaming at high revs..."WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA..." I ran to her and shut 'er down. It was not a good experience listening to your motorcycle do its best imitation of a hand grenade, with its pin pulled.

Mabel and I had no such problems on this First Ride of 2012 Day. I hit the Long Island Expressway with a lusty rap of Mabel's straight pipes, , and rode the LIE until we transitioned to the Northern State Parkway. I love riding on Long Island, particularly on this highway. The Northern State is a beautiful road. The scenery of Long Island starting right about here where one leaves NYC proper and enters Nassau County, is signaled by rolling hills filled with green. I've always loved Long Island, because I grew up driving cars there from my earliest driving days at the age of 16. It's where my father taught me highway driving. Pop was a talented driver, who used to drive trucks for a living.

We made frequent trips to Jones Beach, and to my Uncle Steve's house in Levittown, near Farmingdale. We'd stop at Jolly Rogers on Old Country Road to eat roast beef sandwiches, and pick up cooked chickens at Zorn's. Exploring Long Island's hamlets by car was terrific. Levittown is a community of affordable ranch-style houses, that was built by William Levitt in the late '40s, for servicemen returning from World War II. My Uncle Steve returned from Navy duty and settled there with my Aunt Dottie. Mabel and I rode down Old Country Road and gassed up there, before heading back to The City.

Traffic was starting to build up, on the way back to Manhattan, so I chose the Grand Central Parkway to facilitate avoiding street traffic. The Grand Central feeds into the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which is a quick trip, if traffic allows, to the Williamsburg Bridge, which in turn, empties out on Delancey Street near where Mabel and I live. Part of this expressway in Jackson Heights, was the notorious "Connecting Highway" of street dragging fame of the '60s. It was called "Connecting Highway" because it was a bypass highway portion of the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) that bypassed an industrial area, connecting the Gowanus Parkway and the Triboro Bridge.

I used to drive down there on saturday nights to watch the street races. These were incredibly organized events, where spectators on street level, could watch the racing on a quarter-mile stretch of Connecting Highway, which was on a recessed level. It was so organized, that racers brought their dragcars on trailers, and street vendors sold hotdogs to spectators. Street racers would just stop on Connecting at the beginning of the quarter-mile stretch, causing traffic behind them to come to a stop. There were flagmen down on Connecting, starting each dragrace. Occasionally, fuel dragsters ran there! Amazing, huh?

Mabel and I returned from our First Ride of 2012, satisfied. Mabel's animal instincts have been rewarded. Her hunger for tarmac was fed. She was one happy animal. Although this was just a continuation of our riding from a few days ago, it did signal for both of us, a New Beginning for the New Year. Traditions must be kept! As soon as it turns warm again, I'll be cleaning Mabel up. The rust from exposure to the great outdoors has to be steel-wooled away. Paint has to be rewaxed. Functionally, Mabel's terrific. She is running great. A belated very Happy New Year, from Mabel and me! Later.