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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

i just ride them

so recently i was made aware of a tendency i have to just ride motorcycles. this came about when a good friend bought an identical bike to me and instantly proceeded to instantly start adding stuff to it. he changed some gearing, tweaked the sprocket alignment, ordered a power commander type gadget and generally--in the words of the dual sport world, farkelled his bike. the modifications on my bike include new tires and adjusting the hand controls.

thinking about this on my ride home today made me realize that for a long time i have just ridden motorcycles. my jobs have given me great opportunities to ride hundreds of bikes, some for an hour, some for a year, and i know what makes a good ride and a crappy ride, but more often than not i have just ridden the bike as they were.

having spent some time on racetracks, dirt and pavement, i fully understand what the benefits of proper suspension tuning brings, as well as engine tuning to suit your riding style. but all that tuning and set up takes away riding time. yes, i have set bikes up properly many, many time. yes, they are easier to ride, better controlled and much safer, so no need to tell me what i am missing. but i also think my constant rotation of bikes over the years has been a big part of why i just ride them.

So often i get on a new or different bike and in the first 5 miles i know what the suspension limits are, what the brakes do or don't do, how power is delivered and what the chassis does (to a point) and i just adapt my riding style to the bikes abilities or lack of abilities. i am not sure if that means i am a better rider than people who invest hours in set up before they ride or worse.

what i know is, more often than not, i am just riding for fun or transportation and the limits of the bike are not going to get explored, so i just ride it.  i dont know if i do the bikes justice by not tweaking al kind of things, but i do have a good time riding anyway.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Letting Go of Anger to Let Pain Pass and Remembering Lost Friends

Those of you who have known me for a very long time know that October is, in general a shitty month for me. Of the things I keep personal, October is the biggest part of it. I try to block it out, but the two worst anniversaries of my life are in October. I very rarely talk about them, as its pretty hard to accept, but I also realize I never dealt with one of them, and I think I will today.

See during my formative years in high school and college, I had some great friends. Lots of great friends, but I had two best friends. Scott and Gregg. We did many things together, laughed a lot and generally enjoyed those times more than I knew at the moment. We were those annoying friends who had our own way of communicating, mostly with killer lines from comedy movies and albums that applied to the situation we were in. You may not have understood why we referenced spider monkeys (Richard Pryor) at that moment, but the three of us were laughing to the point of tears when the comment was delivered.

Scott and I moved to California at the end of July 88. That trip is a story unto itself, but suffice to say, loading a 27' UHaul with all of our belongings, my Suzuki Samurai, our two motorcycles and his car on a trailer behind us but the little rental truck slightly over its weight capacity. The move was hard as we both left our families behind, but also our friends--especially Gregg. Thankfully Gregg was a corporate pilot for an international company so we knew he would have some trips to CA as part of the deal. But the three of us never had a chance to hang out again as a drunk driver killed Scott while we were out on a motorcycle ride in early October of 88. The immediate days after that incident were the hardest I have ever experienced in my life. Not only was Scott dead, our friend Dayna, who was riding passenger on his bike was in the hospital fighting for her life. And I was alone in a new state across a big country with no one for support--except my phone calls to Gregg. I remember being alone in my Marina Del Rey apartment, picked because Scott loved boats, and trying to sort out my loss at 4 am. I couldn't. I was to deliver the eulogy at his funeral, but how could I? I had not cried yet.

The stress and arrangements of getting Scott back to Philly, getting a flight back, making arrangements to leave a new job for a while--I didn't know how long I would be back in Philly, it was a lot to take. Thankfully I did get some laughter with Gregg in those private jokes.
I decided to go back to California permanently after the funeral. I visited PA a lot in the beginning, friends weddings, reunions, those things. But It was a lot of work as I was building a new life. Gregg visited quite a bit, we talked about him moving out--he loved the weather and the ability to ride motorcycles all the time.

I had married while in CA, and on one of Gregg's visits we discussed my need to get divorced. It was a long, serious conversation and he was a good person top have it with. He understood my unhappiness and helped me move forward with confidence.

Then, Gregg, who had always dealt with a bit of depression in his life, took his own life in October of '97. I was devastated. My two best friends were dead and we were not even in our 40's yet. Somehow I felt I had failed him as a friend. But I realized how often I called him and asked him to move here with me. How much I checked in on him. And then I got mad, no furious, with him. And until this morning when I sat down to write this, I never let it all out. For 17 years I have faked sadness, because anger was all I felt. Rage when I should have grieved. I was being selfish about my loss and not recognizing my friends pain.

I know a lot more about personal struggles, depression and its effects at 52 than I did at 35 and I understand why Gregg did what he did. But back then I shut him off, and blocked his memory. Now, today I just miss him and wish I could talk with him again and quote stupid movie lines until we couldn't catch our breath from the laughter.

October still sucks for me, I miss my best friends. But I spent all morning recalling stupid things we did together. Remembering how we would steer a conversation so we could weave in a stupid movie line. Thinking about late nights in Philly diners talking about motorcycles, cars, girls and the future, with stupid lines mixed in. Never once thinking that this friendship, the closeness, trust and ability to count on each other wouldn't be there. It seemed eternal, we would always be there, growing up, but making the time to hang out.

Its been 26 years since that asshole took Scott and 17 years of me not forgiving Gregg. Today I think I will just listen to Bill Cosby, Cheech and Chong, Richard Pryor and for the first time in a very long time laugh with my friends.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

26 years later--i still hate drunk drivers

26 years ago this month, a drunk driver killed my best friend. It was 3 in the afternoon, we were riding motorcycles in Malibu, with friends visiting us from Philadelphia on the bikes. 3 in the afternoon. Sunny day. We were not racing, speeding or screwing around, just cruising down Kanan Dume road at 3 in the afternoon when an idiot felt he could drive--drunk off his ass.

The day before the drunk driver thought he was able to drive

He lost control of his pickup truck and spun sideways in a turn, straightening out in our lane, hitting Scott head on, killing him pretty much instantly. Poor Dayna, on the back of his bike went flying and thankfully landed in a tree, and though severely injured, made it through the surgeries and ended up making a full recovery and living a healthy life. Scott, my best friend, died because of a drunk driver. period. No soft way to say it. Some asshat decided he could drive drunk and he killed my best friend.

So, the next time you feel inclined to drive drunk, high or for that matter text and drive, think about this, 26 years ago i watched my best friend bleed to death right in front of me because someone that thought they could drive drunk was wrong.