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GOING THE DISTANCE
"BEAUTY AND THE BEAST"
Photo by Genghis
MY SHOVELHEAD, MABEL: My Fay Wray.
As I write this, I'm watching the original 1933 movie, "King Kong." This was one of my favorite films when I was a kid. The list of my favorite flicks when I was a kid also included "Godzilla," "Rodin," "Frankenstein" and "Dracula." Can you sense a trend here in my tastes as a young 'un? Yup, as I suspect was true of most the boys of my era, I dug monster and horror movies most of all. One common denominator that most of these flicks had, was the beauty in them to provide cinematic contrast with the beast. This was no more true than in "King Kong," where the proverbial beauty was played by Fay Wray. It also does not escape my now-grown-up analysis, that my true hero in the movie was big, bad Kong himself. Is it a coincidence, that Kong and Wong rhyme? Are bikers metaphorically like King Kong, strong and indomitable (except by beauty, it wasn't planes that killed the beast, it was "beauty")?
Ah. what a romantic duo those two made---Fay Wray and Kong. It reminds me of the relationship that we bikers have with our beauties, our Harleys. Certainly, my Fay Wray is my beauteous '71 Super Glide, "Mabel." Unlike the Fay Wray character however, Mabel is a consenting participant in this relationship---and I won't have biplane gunners shootin' machine gun rounds at me when I'm perched on the top of the Empire State Building. My Fay Wray won't be trying to wriggle out of my grip (unlike her human counterpart in the movie) on her bars, she craves my twisting of her throttle and my squeezing of her clutch lever--it makes her feel good---I can tell from the screams of delight from her straight pipes. Yup, dig it---Fay Wray and King Wong, in our very own (non) Hollywood production.
As a street photographer, I rarely photograph objects, preferring to photograph people on the street. There are exceptions though, and photographing my Harley 74 is one of 'em. I see my Harley as a "beauty" in every sense of the word---a perception that can only be appreciated by true bikers. True bikers see the outer and inner beauty of our bikes, and one joy I share with other bikers---is to make our own "films" whether still or in video, of our own Fay Wrays on two wheels. I admit that the only objects I love to photograph from time to time, are my motorcycle and my Vette. To me---as their bikes are to most other bikers---my Harley 74 is as alive, vibrant and full of individualistic personality as a human female, and believe me, probably more loyal than most human females.
A righteous Harley is a true art form to appreciate. As a photographer, I attempt to "interpret" the beauty in my bike, and to present that beauty so that it is perceptible to viewers of the finished photograph. In other words, I try to enable others to see my bike, the way that I do. I believe that when you look at these photos of my Harley, you can perceive her beauty, as I perceive it. Her low and sexy stance, those huge Shovel jugs, her attitude, man---it's all there to inspire in a truly aesthetic way---a way that is at once artistic and emotional. Her underlying platform was a true masterpiece from Harley-Davidson, Inc. The lines of the '71 Super Glide, which is what Mabel is, is a viscerally emotional visual statement. It is a conglomeration of the low lines of her rigid ancestors, with the mechanical beauty of the low-slung swingarm that followed the rigid's familial footsteps ( I guess that should be "tiresteps"). I have to laugh when the chopper media puts down this classic and beautiful platform as pejoratively "stock," before they proceed to hack the hell out of it with debatable results.
Has The Firm (Harley-Davidson, Inc.) produced a contemporary design as emotionally evocative, as aestheticallly striking , as this traditional four-speed design, which debuted with the Duo Glide introduced in 1958? I don't think so. The original swingarm's design to me, is so aesthetically perfect, it seems to me that The Firm has failed with models such as the Softail and Dyna Glide, in emulating the beauty of the original design. If the original swingarm platform is the yardstick by which others are judged for beauty, than the Dyna is two feet long---a day late and a foot short. Do Dynas and FXRs handle better than the Duo Glide design? Probably, but that's another issue entirely. For sheer beauty that stops people in their sidewalk tracks, the four-speed swingarm has no competent rival.
It's that Fay Wray factor.
Photo by Genghis
BEAUTY IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: Behold this, okay?
Speaking of films, just imagine if the producers of the 1953 Movie, "The Wild One," had Mabel for Brando to ride, how much more biker cred Brando would've had in the flick. Every time I watch the film, I think to myself how a Harley would've made Johnny boy more effective as a biker. Or even if Lee Marvin's Chino was on Mabel, how that would've created a sensational splash among bikers in the movie houses. Of course, this movie was made before The Firm introduced Duo Glide rear shocks, but that's beside the point. Use your imagination, okay?
My guess is that if Chino were on board the beauteous Mabel, that he would've been the featured star of the movie, not Brando with his Limey bike and corny motorcycle cap. Just imagine Chino pulling into a gas station at the lead of his club brothers, that bellowing Shovel motor blasting the way in, putting everyone on notice. Man, Lee Marvin might've even won the Academy Award for his performance, enhanced by the best bike in the movie. Brando with his shiny leather cap, would've been relegated to second billing. "Gone With The Wind?" Forget it, man! "The Wild One" starring Lee Marvin and his screaming Shovelhead, would be the most revered Hollywood movie, ever. Not even close, man.
Photo by Genghis
USE YOUR IMAGINATION: "Chino" stealing every scene with a swingarm Shovel.
Hey Fay Wray! Make way for my Shovelhead, baby! She wins the Miss America Crown, and you're merely the grateful runner-up! Mabel might win on jug size alone! When I'm blasting down the highway on my Fay Wray, my beautiful "74" Mabel, I feel like King Kong ascending the mountain, slaying giant snakes, t-rex and pesky pterodactyls, on the way to the top. This is the story of the "beauty" in this relationship, who also happens to be quite a beast on the road in her own right. Anyone hearing her mighty exhaust blast, will attest to that.
The times when I appreciate Mabel's beauty the most, is when I get out there and freeze her image through my camera's viewfinder. The whole process of importing the images of her into my computer, followed by meticulously applying loving digital post-processing of the images into their final form---reinforces my aesthetic appreciation of my bike's artistic merits. Photography being such a visual and emotionally involving art, shooting pictures of my bike brings home to me in spades, how good-lookin' my motorcycle is. That's one man's opinion, but of course---the only opinion that counts. Later.