I’ve been hinting at it for about a week now, but today was supposed to be the day that I took possession of a one-family-owned 1992 Yamaha FZR1000 Genesis EXUP. Well, that’s not strictly correct. Monday was supposed to be the day, but the bike didn’t start when I went to pick it up. Not to worry, the owner told me; he’d get it running. Which he did, on Wednesday. Sent video and everything. But it didn’t start again today. So I’m still not an owner — and at this point, it looks like we’re veering strongly into nevergonnahappen.com territory.
The EXUP was the first modern Japanese 1000cc repli-racer. Voted as “Bike Of The Decade” by Cycle World, it reigned in effortless five-valve-per-cylinder supremacy over the class until the CBR900RR Fireblade appeared in the mid-Nineties. Capable of ripping a 10.6-second quarter-mile at close to 130mph, the FZR1000 has upside-down forks, a Deltabox aluminum frame, and all sorts of other cool stuff. This EXUP, however, is having some serious fueling issues. I don’t have the time or knowledge to fix those issues myself, so I think this deal is all but dead.
Alright, let’s see what we have in the hopper from this week.
We’re big Anthony Wilson fans here at Riverside Green, or at least I am. Anthony has a new record out, entitled Frogtown. It features him singing as well as playing guitar in a variety of styles and it was produced by Mike Elizondo, who has worked with everybody from Dr. Dre to Fiona Apple. I bought the double LP and I think it’s brilliant.
The track “Arcadia”, posted above, was inspired by a fascinating tale of wine counterfeiting.
At least sport-touring-bike season. And maybe now those ridiculous stripes on my Hillside jacket make a little more sense.
As sportbikes go, the VFR is pretty tame. Sport Rider clocked it through the quarter-mile with a 11.22 @ 119.80. What I need is a genuine literbike. Not because I can take advantage of a full literbike’s capabilities, but because everybody should have one at least once. So watch this space come the weekend. I’m taking a low-cost, definitely vintage approach to this first-world problem.
It was a silver flash in my right-hand mirror, glimpsed briefly before appearing full-sized in my peripheral vision: a seven-or-eight-year-old Ford Escape, doing eighty-plus in the center lane, not totally in control. I was riding the CB1100 home in rush-hour traffic, droning along in a long line of 50mph traffic occupying the left lane. Near the intersection of 315 North and Interstate 270, both the inside and outside lanes tend to slow significantly. The left-hand lane continues on past the intersection to my house; the right-hand lanes slow down for a merge with Route 270 East. Sometimes the center lane is faster or even wide open, but unless you’re really interested in getting on 270 West it’s pointless to be there.
As the Escape flashed by me in that pointless lane, he put about half of the vehicle in my lane, forcing me to take a hard swerve out of his way. It wasn’t life-threatening as such — if you’re not prepared to swerve three or four lateral feet at any given time, your lifespan as a motorcyclist in Columbus will be measured in hours — but I was annoyed. So when I saw the Escape again, stopped in that pointless lane ahead trying to merge into mine, I made sure to give him the universal “What the fuck?” wave/gesture. He was looking straight ahead, slouching with his elbow out of the window, buzz-cut and wearing Oakleys, clad in the bright-yellow T-shirts that all the construction workers around here have to wear. The look on his face could best be described as “hillbilly hard-ass”.
For about ten seconds, I was furious. Then I decided to take a moment and ask myself if I was simply responding to a narcissistic injury. After all, he hadn’t hurt me with his probably-inadvertent buzz, and he hadn’t even managed to get ahead of me in traffic. I totally let it go. Cleared my head and leaned the big Honda in for the left turn off Route 315. And that was that.
A few hours later, I was standing in my driveway, watching my son pedal his “drift trike” around in a variety of spins and caster-oversteer maneuvers. I’d brought the Boxster out of the garage, rearranged the bikes, gotten the VFR started, and begun charging the Boxster’s battery. The weather was eighty-two degrees. John and I had spent about forty-five minutes doing some batting practice in the front yard, where he demonstrated just how much stronger he is than he was last fall. He swings the practice bat now with a genuine vicious swiftness, sending the slow-pitched foam Franklin baseballs above and behind me some eighty or ninety feet.
My CB1100 was parked out in front of the house on the sidewalk. Periodically, John would drift circles around it, primarily to demonstrate that he could but also because he enjoys setting my teeth on edge a bit. I try to encourage a little bit of disrespect for authority on his part but I’m not sure where to draw the line. In a perfect world he’d wind up somewhere that was neither prison nor a cubicle.
When I saw a car enter our little cul-de-sac, I called to John that he needed to clear out of the road, but he’d seen it before I did and was already on his way out of danger. It was my friend in the Ford Escape, still wearing his yellow shirt and his Oakleys. He pulled around right in front of the house and came to a bit of a sharp halt before stepping out.
He must have recognized the bike from the main road, I thought. Apparently he took my little gesture pretty hard. John was about a hundred feet away from us. My Accord was in the driveway between us. I knew that it was unlocked and that there was a Morakniv Pro S in the glove compartment. How dare this prick come to my house to threaten me in front of my son! I thought. I’m going to gut him like a fuckin’ fish right here on the street.
Then he reached back into the car for a pistol and I started running full-tilt at the Escape, knowing that I don’t move quickly on my left leg and that I’d have to hit the door while he was still on the other side of it before beginning work on the soft tissue of his eyeballs and throat with my bare fingers.
“Looks like someone’s hungry!” my opponent smiled, pulling out a black vinyl bag.
Holy shit. He’s the Pizza Hut delivery guy. John, who sees better than I do even from three times the distance, came pedaling over at top speed.
“Hey, little guy! You ready for dinner!” Now out of the Escape and holding the bag, this fellow was maybe five foot seven, thick around the waist.
“We’re starving,” I said, coming to an unsteady halt. “I just, uh, didn’t want to hold you up.”
“No hurry!” he replied. “Just sign here. Great day to be outside, huh? Wish I could be home, too. Let’s hope it’s like this tomorrow night.” I tipped him five bucks on a total ticket of $21. “You all have a great night! See you next time!” And just like that, the Escape was gone, moving quickly out of the cul-de-sac but careful to avoid the various bikes and toys scattered out on the asphalt.
We all went inside to have dinner. “That was the guy who buzzed me on the freeway today!” I said to Danger Girl; I’d complained about it previously. “He’s also our pizza guy.”
“He must have been in a real hurry to get to work,” she said. “Think of how much it would suck to have to commute to your job in rush hour traffic.”
“Especially,” I reflected, “since it’s probably his second job. He works construction all day then goes home to deliver pizzas.” I looked at John, who was contentedly munching on his pizza. I thought about what it would be like to work two jobs every day out of the house. To know that my son would be asleep by the time I got home. To live under the kind of conditions that would make it necessary to deliver pizzas every night just to get by.
I’ve been there before, and I’ll probably be there again. But not today. I wondered if our delivery guy had children. I wondered if his arrival at my relatively prosperous-looking home, with its collection of cars and motorcycles, with my son playing in the cul-de-sac while I stood there and watched him as if I didn’t have a care in the world, made him feel like I’d felt when his Escape wandered into my lane today. Like he was powerless to fight back against the situation, like he was bringing a knife to the gunfight of life. I thought about how I felt at every crummy foodservice job I’d ever worked. You’re busy cleaning toilets or cooking fries to make chump change and everybody who comes into the restaurant just seems to have their shit together way better than you do.
Almost certainly, I was overthinking it, the same way my still-sharp-enough memory and irascible temperament had combined to attach a nonexistent threat to a pizza delivery. Still. No man, they say, is an island. The actions we take affect others and they multiply across space and time. My new friend’s inattentiveness behind the wheel that afternoon could have left my son without a father. The economic and personal choices I’ve made over the years have almost certainly contributed to the establishment of a world where everybody has to work two jobs just to get by. It’s easy to pay a little more attention on the road — but how are we to know that everything else we do isn’t making someone else’s life just that much more difficult? Which of us, when we face the final judgment, can say that we helped our fellow man more than we harmed him? And what will the penalty be for failing in that most basic, most human, task of all?
“I like to play a game called ‘people ball’,” John told me. “It’s when you pick up people and throw them. And they make a noise like ‘waaaaaah! I’m telling!’ I don’t know why you would even need a regular ball when you can play people ball at recess.” When I heard this on the drive home from school yesterday evening, I was a little conflicted. On one hand, if John likes initiating aggressive contact for no reason I think he’ll make a great club racer. But on the other hand, the entire Spec Miata class, and much of the SCCA in general, is built on the idea of people snitching on each other, so if John finds that to be annoying, he’s gonna hate having his Viper torn down after each regional.
Regardless of the above, he’s now an SCCA member in good standing. But he’s remarkably annoyed about the membership card.
It’s The Disappointment That Makes Racing Worthwhile. At least that’s what I wrote last year.
By those standards, this was a very worthwhile weekend. The Sunday-race start you see above, which saw me jump from 37th to about 27th by Turn Two, was as good as it got. The rest was a catalogue of mistakes, failures, and bizarre circumstance.
Looks like somebody wants to come out and play in the spring sunshine. But not yet. Incidentally, this is my garage at its least crowded; there were three motorcycles and a stack of tires sitting in the driveway when I took this shot. It’s going to be a hectic season. As of right now I have at least ten hours of work or travel booked for every day from now until the middle of June.
I’m never too busy to write, however, so let’s see what we have for you, the perpetually patient and thoroughly cherished reader.
Like just about everybody else in the world who is between the ages of twenty and sixty and who also has a genuine interest in pop music, I was surprised and saddened by the death of Prince Rogers Nelson. Just last month, we discussed Prince’s guitars on these pages. Now he’s gone. I put some of his most solo-acoustic-compatible stuff into my lunchtime set today (“Little Red Corvette”, “Kiss”, “The Cross”, “Diamonds And Pearls”, “Purple Rain”) and I made a fair bit of tip money as a result. Woo hoo!
There’s a lot of interesting stuff being written about the man himself right now, but I’m going to wait until the dust settles before I discuss it other than to say that I’ve lately been thinking a lot about the death of Prince’s son and the miscarriage his wife had afterwards as they tried to have another child. As with Robert Plant, who lost his son, Karac, when Robert was twenty-nine and Karac was just five, I don’t know how it’s possible to get up on stage and perform after your child dies.
Perhaps there’s some sort of kismet in the fact that I bought my first purple guitar just a week before Prince went to join his son.
“But what would have been the good?”
Aslan said nothing.
“You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right – somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”
“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.”
“Oh dear,” said Lucy.
“But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan.
—C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
Each of us has regrets. It’s foolish to say that we don’t. Our lives are full of choices made, chances taken, and risks averted. Frost famously said that his choice to take the path less traveled made all the difference, but what of the other path? Who is to say what could have happened?
This one came to me via the recommendation of John Marks, whom we all know from The Tannhauser Gate. Gibran Hamdan, born in San Diego to Pakistani and Palestinian parents, was drafted by the Redskins and bounced around between teams, never accumulating any significant playing time and finally retiring in 2010, seven years after he was drafted.
Naturally, given all his newly found free time, he started sewing shirts at home.