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GOING THE DISTANCE
"REAL MEANING OF FTW"
Photo by Genghis
BEING ALONE WITH YOUR THOUGHTS: True meaning of FTW.
Here's what I wear when I ride my Harley 74 in the winter, and it all boils down to what I add to my baseline, the baseline being black jeans and a sleeveless black t-shirt. It's a matter of layering.
Slung over the black sleeveless t-shirt, are three thermal shirts.
Over the three thermal shirts, is added a sleeveless sweat shirt. Then I'll put on a flannel shirt over all those layers. Then I'll put on a ski mask, with a flapped hat with ear covers, which I wear under my helmet.
I wear an Alpha Industries flight jacket to finish off the top end.
I love these flight jackets, because they're lightweight and extremely comfortable. The last time I wore a leather jacket was about 20 years ago.
Leather jackets are heavy and stiff by comparision to flight jackets. Besides, don't we just fly on our Hogs?
Leather jackets are for image, but I couldn't give a crap about that (Brando's "Johnny" is so over, man).
Worn with layers as I've described for the cold weather, these flight jackets are far superior to heavy leather jackets for comfort and flexibility. The gloves I wear are the typically heavy thinsulated type you'll find in Walmart, or Kmart, which is where I bought mine. I just make sure that the palm sides (including fingers on the palm sides) of the gloves have a tacky enough surface for gripping the handlebars, clutch and brake levers. Can't have slippery gloves slippin' and slidin' on the controls, man. That ain't conducive to safety, know what I mean?
I never need more than one pair of socks. My feet don't really get cold enough to warrant two pairs of socks.
That's what I wear when I ride in cold weather. So, guess what I did today?
I took the Vette out.
Hey man, didn't feel like riding today. There are times when I just don't feel like it. Got a problem with that?
C'mon y'all, admit it. There are times that ya just don't feel like riding, am I right? There have to be, or you ain't human.
This ain't a back-talking magazine type of internet forum here filled with Everybody-Talks-Tough -Biker-Lite-Wannabes, so there's nobody here to impress, just regular street bikers, man. Ya don't see any XS650s around here, do you? Nope. Just us and our beloved Hogs.
I wanted to motorvate in comfort, but keep keep in mind, that comfort is a relative term. If I really wanted to be comfortable on the road, I would've taken Patty's F-150 pickup, "Amy." Amy rides like a cushy Caddy compared to my Sting Ray. My Sting Ray, Mary, rides like a real old-fashioned sports car. In other words, like a buckboard minus the horses. Or how about Charlton Heston's chariot in "Ben Hur?"
Old sports cars have harsh, stiff and unforgiving rides, compared with their contemporary sisters. However, my Vette with her enclosed cockpit, seemed like a really attractive choice on a cold winter morning---and I wouldn't trade her for a new Vette, because I dig her too much. Sorry Mabes, yer gonna have to wait for another day. Don't get jealous, now.
So, no multiple layers of clothing today, not that sensible clothes are a hot topic in biker articles. See, there's always sumpin' fer a biker to write about, no matter how seemingly inconsequential. Actually, clothes can be very consequential for a biker, as I learned one time when I rode out to Andrew Rosa's shop in Huntington, Long Island. The temps were in the low 40s on this day, which seemed deceptively pleasant. Pleasant enough for the type of thin driving gloves you'd find in Duane Reades and Kmarts, which is what I wore. By the time I got to Andrew's, my hands were freezing. I obviously misread the situation, which called for heavy gloves. The point is, there's always something to write about.
You would think that a biker who writes about riding his motorcycle or driving his Vette, would sooner or later hit that poverbial Brick Wall, the one that writers are always rappin' about in hushed tones among 'emselves. Especially those who live in their mothers' basements, the ones afflicted with bad eyesight and carpal tunnel syndrome....
"Yeah man, I just ran outta things to write about, ya know what I mean? Listen up, how many ways can ya describe a ride on a bike or a drive in a car? I was like, out of ideas, bone dry, man..."
Yeah listen up, sucker. The complaint department's on the fourth floor of a three story building, okay? Whaddya want, a cup of hot chocolate and a crying towel?
Suck it up, walk it off and play. Don't tell me about the pain, just show me the baby. For those sob sisters in front of their dormant keybords, remember this: It's always the darkest before it goes pitch black. Got it?
The truth is, there is never a shortage of ideas connected with motorvatin' whether I'm rappin' about my beloved Harley or my Sting Ray.
That's because to the true biker and motorhead, the True Essence of the motoring experience is far more profound than most people think. The true essence of the motoring experience, whether one is jammin' through the Harley four-speed box with the Harley motor bellowing Mighty Thunder, or rounding a sweeping highway curve with your accelerator foot planted to the metal with a Chevy small-block screaming its Redline Song, is a trip of the mind. Consider a well-loved machine, a mechanical psychedelic, so moving is the motorvatin' experience.
I noticed that phenomenon today as I drove my Vette, as I notice every time I ride the bike or pilot the car. There something magical about the serenity of my Sting Ray's cabin (and the same is true of the saddle of my Harley), that invites deep thought processes. The extent of deep thinking one experiences, might be commensurate with the level of love and respect a motorhead has for his machines, otherwise, straights would have the same experiences in their minivans. Straights have no true reverance for their machines.
The more righteous the vehicle, the deeper the thought. That's the way it seems to me.
The vehicle, either two-wheeled or four-wheeled, becomes a Caudron Of Thought.
When I'm absentmindedly going through the mechanical motions of making that given vehicle sit, stay, heel and obey, whether it's on the Harley or in the Vette, my mind churns with a steady stream of random thoughts that are independent of the operation of the vehicle. These random thoughts come at an uninterrupted pace, because at the moment, I am ensconced in the security of the experience, away from the distractions of the world. The world, so cold, cruel and unblinkingly judgemental, is outside. Where I'm not. FTW, baby! FTW means freezing the world out of yours, temporarily.
This is the true meaning of "FTW." The true meaning of FTW is to be on your bike (or in your car), totally detached from the world around you. It is just you and the machine, clicking together, interacting, moving as one without much mental input from you, because everything you do at the controls of the vehicle are second nature. The secondaries of your brain cells have fully opened up, and your fast twitch muscle fibers have taken over. This procedural memory, or "muscle memory" is what allows a biker to perform complex riding tasks without conscious thought. This releases the rest of the rider's mind to ponder, wander and to wonder.
All of your deliberations and split-second decisions regarding the operation of the motorvatin' vehicle are instinctive, and all the movements that comprise the physical manifestation of carrying out the commands you made instinctively, are executed through muscle memory perfected by millions of repetitions of such during your lifetime. Your brain and body as a biker are a marvelous honed programmed machine, allowing the Human Machine to operate perfectly with the Mechanical Machine powered by a V-2 or a V-8. This "cruise control" between Man and Machine, allows you to have random thoughts as you move though space, tethered to terra firma by mere patches of tire rubber. In such an environment, "FTW" means being utterly alone with your thoughts, the vehicle guarding you from the world, like a massive bouncer.
I am awash in nostalgia.
At least I was, when I drove Mary (my Sting Ray) today. All of my deep thoughts while motorvatin' in Mary, were nostalgic in nature.
Now, I'm writing to you about the experience. Instead of saying, "You had to be there," I will put you there.
I feel fortunate that I have a choice of either riding or driving. Each vehicle is so different, yet so similar in the way they affect me. Both are righteous, that's for sure. This morning I fired up Mary in her Lower East Side garage and headed to my hometown of Jackson Heights in the NYC borough of Queens. I often feel a nostalgic draw by the old hometown, and satisfy this draw by taking Mabel or Mary there. Jackson Heights is still for me, so rich in nostalgic thought when I cruise around those hauntingly familiar streets. I've been feeling particularly nostalgic recently anyway, since reconnecting on Facebook with two old friends from Jackson Heights who I haven't seen in over 40 years, Willie Ng and Dennis Fanning.
Motoring around Jackson Heights resurrects ghosts of the past in my motorvatin' mind, and springs thoughts of new developments in the 'ole hometown. In Willie's and Dennis' honor, I passed Dennis' old house on 87th Street, and where Willie's brother had a store on 89th Street.
It must seem unsual for non-New Yorkers to hear me refer to Jackson Heights as a "hometown," but that's exactly what it is, as surely as Little Rock is a hometown to an native Arkansan. The only difference is, the high density and close proximity of other "hometowns" that are contiguous with Jackson Heights, which is much different than more rural areas of America. In places like Arkansas where towns are more spread out, a small town may be miles away from the next town. Towns like Jackson Heights however, are only as far from the next "town" as the next street corner, which is the case in a population-intensive area like New York City.
On the way to my hometown, I passed through the town of Long Island City, where the now-defunct Ronzoni factory once proudly stood for the better part of the last century. The loss of this industrial giant is a great loss for Queens. I have fond memories of passing the Ronzoni plant on Northern Boulevard, throughout my entire life. As an act of loyalty to Ronzoni, I only use Ronzoni pasta when I cook. I miss the giant RONZONI sign, with its six feet high silver letters.
This plant closed in 1993 and moved to Virginia. The original founder of the company was an Italian immigrant named Emanuele Ronzoni, who opened up his macaroni factory on 35th Street and Northern Boulevard in 1915.
Great traditional companies have been established and then lost in Queens, like the Ronzoni plant of Long Island City. One famed company that is still operational, is Standard Motor Products. Standard Motor Products has been in Long Island City for as long as I can remember.
This is the company that makes Blue Streak points, which many bikers use in their Harley distributors. I used to swear by these in Mabel's ignition, before I made the switch to a Vulcan (Nempco) electronic ignition, based on Andrew Rosa's recommendation. Now, I swear by the Vulcan ignition. No more plug fouling, and I haven't changed plugs since the changeover from points to electronic.
As I drove around my hometown, I noticed that dozens of mom and pop stores, stores that giants like Ronzoni and Standard Motor Products didn't even know were alive when they were still viable, that have gone out of business. It was shocking to see new businesses in their place. Some of these were staples of the neighborhood when I grew up. I gave a lot of thought to these especially, as I motorvated in Mary. People come and go, but the infrastructure never seems to change, like silent immutable witnesses to the passage of time.
Jackson Heights has an uncanny and unique beauty, unknown to those who merely pass through it as a part of their commute into The City (Manhattan), like undiscovered architectural flowers. The main thoroughfare for commuting to The City, is Northern Boulevard, which is an extension of state highway 25A (25A runs through most of the length of Long Island).
A few blocks north of Northern Boulevard, but before one gets to Astoria Boulevard, are rows of houses that look like gingerbread houses. I don't believe I've ever seen houses like these in any of the other boroughs of NYC. I never cease to be enchanted by these houses, and the memory of how they appeared so fairy tale-like when I was a kid, and they still look like that to me as I pass by 'em on the bike or the Vette. These Gingerbread Houses have a character, that generically bland suburban houses lack. You should see these houses at Christmastime.
I eventually got the Vette around to my old house, which was a three story building my parents owned on Northern Boulevard and 87th Street. Next to the old house, was a KFC that's been there for more than 40 years. When I was very young, this KFC was an empty lot, which made several transformations over the years. Before the KFC, the venue was a batterdog restaurant named "Normie's." Normie's was owned by a flamboyant, cigar-chompin', Cadillac-drivin' man with a wife named Normie, which is where the restaurant's name came from. Normie, was a MILF-lookin' woman in her late 40s, with a big beehive hairdo that was characteristic of the early '60s. Normie, as you might imagine, inspired many a fantasy among neighborhood boys. Wonder where she is now...we better leave that ponderance alone. It's nice to ponder while motorvatin', but let's not ponder someone who may be near 100 years old. Normie's husband (sorry, can't remember his name--he wasn't as memorable as the beauteous and voluptuous Normie) used to hang around with us kids, telling us stories.
Before Normie's, the property was a Carvel franchise owned by a stern Germanic man with a forbidding personality. I Forget his name, but let's refer to him as Carvel Man. He always wore white, as befitting a True Carvel Man. He looked like a demonic Good Humor man off his meds.
White pants. White t-shirt. White apron over the white pants and t-shirt. He even had white hair.
Carvel Man's most prominant attribute, was his constant scowl.
Carvel man did not suffer fools gladly, especially fools under ten years old. Before Carvel, this place was an empty lot. It was in this lot where I used to ride my sled (the lot had hills) when it snowed, and where I saw my first black widow spider. I found it under a rock, and it scared the crap outta me.
It was in this empty lot, where I met my oldest friend, Willie Ng. You've met Willie in other articles I've written, so you know that he was built like a professional wrestler as a teen, weighing in with a linebacker-like bodyweight. One day when I was about eight years old, I was trying to pull off one of the wooden picket stakes, off of a picket fence at the back of the empty lot. I couldn't budge it. Then a Chinese kid who was about my age and height sauntered over (but he was twice as wide as me), and he pulled the wooden stake off the fence with no effort at all. That was Willie. Once when I was walking down a Jackson Heights street with Willie, a wrestling promoter stopped Willie and asked him if he was interested in wrestling professionally.
I parked Mary in front of my old house. I glanced across the street where a business once stood, that I felt very attached to. This was the Mobil gas station that was built there when before I was a teen. You have to understand that I grew up with this gas station.
This is where I gassed up all of my vehicles, inculding Unnamed Vette, Sally The Bitch (my old '68 XLCH), Mabel and Mary whenever I passed through. I even gassed up Pop's Buick Super there , when I had a Junior Driver's License.
Unfortunately as I gazed across the street as I sat in Mary, this is what I saw: Nothing. The gas station had been torn down, razed to the ground, probably in advance of a condo going up. This one hurt. This is where I had tubes installed in Unnamed Vette's tubeless Redline tires, after the new Mickey Thompson mag wheels I'd just bought, lost all of their air overnight due to the porosity of the alloy wheels. It was the last place I saw Gallagher, an old biker friend of mine. This was about ten years ago, when he was filling up his rigid Sportster. Gallagher was a true psycopath with a mean streak a mile wide, but he was also a true biker. All he ever rode were rigid Sportsters.
One time when I was about 15, I was sitting at Normie's (Yeah, that Normie's) with Gallagher, Patty Boy Biondo and Charlie Biondo. Gallagher might've been around 21 at that time. A security guard from Northridge, one of the coops on 88th Street, stopped at Normie's takeout window for some batterdogs for lunch. This security guard was just some guy, minding his own business.
Gallagher goes, "Hey playcop! Yeah you, playcop! What the hell do ya think you are, huh? How 'bout I beat the shit outta you. Whaddya gonna do?" Gallagher went on like this, while the guy was wating for his batterdogs. It not only went on, but Gallagher got louder the longer the guy stood there sweating bullets.
The poor security guard couldn't leave fast enough once his batterdogs were done. Gallagher was volatile and unpredictable, but he was (and probably still is in his 70s) a dedicated biker. He rode nothing but hardtail Sportsters. I always got the impression that Gallagher would soon as stab you, as say hello to you, if he was having a bad day. In other words, Gallagher was a walking American International Pictures flick. Minus the popcorn.
Looking diagonally across Northern Boulevard, I could see that the White Castle was still there. This White Castle was there before I was born. There were many a night as a teen while watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, that I'd run across the street to buy an even dozen White Castle cheeseburgers with fries (I used to eat enormous amounts of food). If I wasn't buying big bags of White Castle cheeseburgers, I'd be buying (and eating) whole large pepperoni pizzas from Pizza Sam's which was on 90th Street.
One day a few years ago, I walked by Pizza Sam's. I was surprised that it was still open. After all, it had been more than four decades since I'd ordered a pizza there.
I was equally surprised to see Sam himself, come out of the pizzeria. It was amazing! Sam looked no older than the last time I saw him over 40 years ago! He should've looked considerably older.
I said, "Sam it's me, Scott. Remember me?" Sam said, "No, you're thinking of my father, Sam Sr., who passed away a few years ago. I took over the shop and my name is Sam too...." Sam Jr. was the spitting image of his father, crewcut and all.
I am awash in nostalgia.
Today, I experienced the True Meaning of FTW, as I piloted my Vette to my old hometown. The essence of FTW, is crowding out the world, as you ride or drive. It is like this for me almost every time I ride my motorcycle or drive my car.
Today, memories and thoughts passed through my mind as I drove, in an unrelenting but relaxed tempo. The thoughts came unbidden, at the invitation of the environment that motoring induces. This environment, is a Cauldron of Thought, where contemplative thought bubbles up from the hot boil. I do much of my most satisfying deep thinking, while behind the drag bars and steering wheel. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Can you relate? What's more, it is always an enjoyable experience, whether the contemplation revolves around memories, or not. It's the process, baby. I got out of my Vette today, happy and mollified.
The process of being alone with your machine, the drone of the motor stimulates a unique Silence of the Mind, that acts like an open door. This Silence of the Mind allows random thought to flow in, unfettered and unfiltered. Later.