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GOING THE DISTANCE
"MEMOIR PART 10 "
Photo by Genghis
KEEPING THE FAITH: Car guy back then, car guy now.
I thought I was done.
Just when I thought I had no more to write in my ever-expanding memoir, a memoir that began inauspicuously enough nine installments ago with "Memoir Part 1"--- something or someone comes along to give me fresh fodder. Just as I believed that I'd so thoroughly plumbed the depths of my past to have completed my memoir with "Memoir Part 9," an old friend named Paul Werner reemerged to remind me otherwise. A memoir, represents the events and emotions that occurred in frozen moments in time---that formed the person that exists in today's world. Every noteworthy occurrence, person and feeling that was felt in this time continuum since childhood, is an integral part of the template that gave rise to who I am now. Paul Werner is one of those noteworthy parts of this template, or at least, is guilty by association with that template way back when. This tenth installment of my memoir, is one of the pieces of the puzzle in my life, that have made me the person I am today.
Paul Werner and I went to high school together in the '60s at good ' ole Newtown High in Queens, New York. Paul had a crush on a blonde named Linda Miller that he sat next in one of our classes, and I sat in the row in front of Paul and Linda in this class. I sat to a girl with a terrific sense of humor named Lynn Buchbaum. While Paul mooned over Linda Miller, Lynn and I were cracking up from jokes in front of 'em. Amazingly, I was able to find a picture of Lynn, here. Lynn is on the extreme right in the front row. Paul and I recently reconnected on Facebook, after almost 50 years of not having seen one another. Paul and I were car guys together. He celebrated with me after I bought my used '64 Corvette Sting Ray ("Unnamed Vette") in 1966, and our lives and thoughts at that time, revolved around car culture. I can't speak for Paul with respect to his current involvement in the car culture, or his identifying as a "car guy," but I can tell you that I haven't changed regarding this.
Things haven't changed much for me. I was a car guy in '66, and I'm still a car guy now. As a matter of identity, I can't say that my persona as a car guy is the same or as---how should I phrase this---as potent as my identity as a biker. That's just the way it is, simply because the biker subculture as an involving sociological entity, is more intense than car culture. The biker subculture I believe, is deeper than the car culture as it relates to one's identity. Anyone who hops on a Harley-Davidson early on in life, becomes indelibly a A Biker. And that's with a capital "B." I can't tell you why bikers are so much more inundated with their biker identities than in the car culture, but I can tell you that I never considered getting a Chevy tattoo--in spite of my lifelong loyalty to the Chevrolet brand. Harley tats---well, you know the story. Bikers are known for their Harley tattoos. Car guys with car tattoos, not so much.
Magazine-wise, my reading rotation consists almost entirely of car magazines. I rarely buy biker magazines these days, because of the decline of their literary quality ever since the demise of the great Iron Horse Magazine in 1997. Today's biker rags fail to inspire. There is so little energy in these biker magazines, that I feel like I should ship 'em a case of Ensure, and maybe a year's worth of vitamin B-12 injections. It feels to me, like contemporary biker rags are merely going through the motions. This lack of interest in the biker magazines of today however, does not accurately reflect my identifying as a biker, or in my intense interest regarding the biker subculture. One ride on my Shovelhead Mabel, is all the inspiration I need as a biker.
That's all true bikers ever need: Our Harleys and us against the world, baby. People close and not so close to me, have moved into and out of my existence over the decades like cards shuffled out of a deck, but The Bike is still there---steadfast, loyal and hardcore in her persistence. Maybe it's the classic antisocialism inherent in being a biker, that makes the biker culture so much more inclusive and exclusive, than car culture. In the end though, it boils down to The Bike. The inimitable vibration from the venerated V-twin motor, the distinctive blast of the pipes, harken back to a time 80 years ago, when our biker forefathers began the biker subculture on their Knuckleheads and Harley Flatheads. It is this almost genetic connection to our biker ancestors, that makes the biker subculture so wide and deep---and why bikers feel this profound identity as Bikers. Bikers are indeed, a unique breed of human. Our linkage to our past, is as palpable as a lusty blast of Harley thunder. When we start up our motors, we know that we were cut from a different cloth than John Q. Citizen.
In the mid '60s before I became a biker, Paul Werner and I were car guys, crazy in love with cars. Paul was a Ford loyalist, while I was (and still am) a Chevy loyalist---even as I profess an unbashed respect and affection for my wife Patty's '97 Ford F-150 pick-up. I remember as if it was yesterday, the day I drove Unnamed Vette to Paul's house in Queens, to show my new (old) '64 Sting Ray to him and his father. Paul's father ran a lithography company, and Paul later followed in Mr. Werner's professional footsteps. That day, I drove Unnamed Vette to Paul's house in Rego Park, Queens (I have the recollection of the house being in Rego Park, but Paul now claims Middle Village in Queens as his hometown). I stopped in front of Paul's house, as his dad and he came out to check out Unnamed Vette. Unnamed Vette was a 1964 red convertible, with the 365 horse 327 cubic inch motor. I raised the hood up, as Unnamed Vette idled. Unnamed Vette's loping idle, and her solid lifters that went, "Clackity-clack," led Paul to say to his father, "Hey Dad, listen to that!" Paul had a broad grin on his face as he said it---strong tribute from a from a Ford loyalist.
My most vivid memory with respect to Paul, was when we drove Unnamed Vette to my sister, Nancy's house in Greenwich, Connecticut. Let me set the scene for you. Nancy married a millionaire named Bobby, who was also a car guy, but who happened to have enough bread in the bank, to fulfill his car culture dreams. By the time Nancy married Bobby, Bobby had owned over 90 cars, most of 'em hot sportscars. Every time I visited, Bobby had different cars gracing his garage. He had more turnover in his personal garage, than a Hertz rent-a-car place. Bobby was a real driving enthusiast--he knew his technique. His cars weren't garage queens. Bobby and his brother Peter, brought a Ferrari 225S in at 8th overall, in the 1953 12 Hours Of Sebring race. To say that I envied Bobby, is an Understatement of the Third Kind.
When Paul and I arrived at Nancy's house in Greenwich, Nancy showed me Bobby's newest acquistion. It was an evil looking, black, 289-powered AC Cobra. I couldn't believe my ears when my sister said it was okay for me to drive this beast. Paul and I took off in this wondrous car, into the backroads surrounding Greenwich. I said to Paul as I wound her out in through the gears, "Man, this thing is brutal!" And it was. I contend to this very day, that that car was the most brutal machine I've ever operated, on two or four wheels. That includes my first Harley, a no-holds barred, kick-only, magneto-run '69 XLCH, and my current and forever love---my '71 Stroker Shovelhead. That Cobra, was savage. It was incredibly fast and raw, weighing approximately 1,200 pounds less than my '64 Vette. The thing was just an aluminum body shell on a chassis, with a motor and tranny attached---no interior upholstery, no sound deadening inside, no nothing, man---it was just a raw racecar with a street registration. I'll tell ya, Paul and I talked about that ride in the Cobra for months.
Fast-forward to now, and I'm still a car guy, diggin' my '72 Corvette Stingray, Mary. The more things have changed around me, the more they've stayed the same inside my little sphere of influence in this world. I'm as much a car guy as I was in 1966, with the same intense interest in cars. Now I have to find out about Paul in that regard. Does he have a Ford in his garage? Later.