"Was it something I did in another life? I
try an' try, but nothin' turns out right ... for me Bad Karma...
killin' me by degrees" --Warren Zevon, "Bad Karma"
"...but I've never been so broke that I
couldn't leave town." --Jim Morrison, "The
I understand from a number of reliable sources
that this year's edition of the immortal Harley Rendezvous
Classic was the best ever, or, at least, "so far."
That, of course, only makes me feel worse about
I suppose I could go into all the reasons for
my not bein' there, but they'd just probably sound like bitchin'
and, bein' as that's a trait and practice I find particularly
distasteful in other people, it's one I go well out of my way to
Just yesterday, when one of the friendlier (and
more articulate) local FlatLanders asked me "hi yawl
doon?" I replied, "Better than dead," and pretty
much believed it.
On the other hand, the account of this past
year or so is altogether too weird to be anything but true. And
Ironic. Truly ironic. And you know what they say about irony:
"Irony is always funny, but it's always funnier when it
happens to somebody else."
I could go all the way back to the beginning,
but it wouldn't be worth it. I started out as a child... I may
look young to you, but I was born that way. My life didn't really start to go to Hell until That Infamous Day when I crossed "the line" and owned more shit than I could cram into
If you were to listen to my latest ex-ol' lady
(not to be confused with my latest ex-wife), it's all my fault. I was askin' for it; enticing, inviting, ... or maybe I just had
the misfortune to be born with a target-shaped ass.
I left New Hampshire a year and a half ago
(March of '08) following my latest marriage goin' down in flames
and up in smoke (check out "Wedding From Hell,"
Rendezvous Express, Oct '07. Shoulda knowed). I had an' ol' bud
out in Ohio who'd just recently retired and, evidently tired of
trippin' over himself, had bought a small-town weekly newspaper
and needed somebody who knew how to write to fill his pages.
Right up my alley! He needed help and I needed out an' it was a
match made at Woolworth's. We struck a deal for short money plus
room and board (I don't need much, and can get by on less, and he didn't have any of anything anyway). I spent part of my
"severance pay" from the Franklin Pierce fiasco on a
'95 Dodge Ran crip van (which my mother, in her sweet sarcastic
way, christened the "QE-3"), complete with a raised
roof (no lift, though) and proceeded to load up my tools, my
three-and-a-half bikes and a mess of books that I figured would
come in handy when (if) I went back to teaching.
As they say, "smack that horse in the
ass" an' it was Westward Ho! and back to the FlatLands of
southwest Ohio (just north of Dayton) where I had gone to grad
school and had originally met the New Newspaper Owner (some of
you might've actually met him at Camp Creek over the past few
years. Don't look for him in the future; his new, formerly ex,
Ol' Lady --not to be confused with his ex-wife-- don't let him
come an' play no more). I had lived with him and his three sons
before, on and off during school for two years, and he and I got
along like two apes in a thunderstorm, but that was before he
re-hooked up with his ex-Ol' Lady (not to be confused with his
Ironically, (don't ya just love it!) I made
last year's Rendezvous (with my "Bald-headed bitch")
named Spike. He even managed to get a Staff slot, then he
vanished. Haven't seen much of him lately, either, although my
latest ex-ol' lady (not to be confused with my latest ex-wife)
told me that he had called her a while back. She didn't say 'bout what. and Camp Creek (with my latest ex-ol' lady, not to be
confused with my latest ex-wife) and her Idiot Dawg (a loyal and
affectionate but mind-numbingly dumb Australian Shepherd), who
rode all the way out just to get boarded just down the road (the
dawg, not the ol' lady).
It was her plan (or lack thereof). I don't
know; I just drive the bus.
Of course, I was workin' and makin' money last
One of these years I'm gonna camp out at ILCC
all summer long an' make it to everything! And put it all out On
Maybe next year...
Back to business: as much as Investigative
Journalism isn't my specialty, I actually liked workin' at the
paper, I almost started to enjoy minding other people's business,
and my asking of what I deemed "pertinent" questions
during City Council meetings undoubtedly ruined more than one
pair of BVDs. A lot of 'em found out I wasn't kidding when I said
I was an Anarchist.
I particularly liked working the "late
shift" at the paper. I'd show up at about the crack of noon,
answer some of my messages, check my email, try to ignore the
gossip of the office bimbos (two of whom were guys), type my
notes, proofread the rest of the paper, join in on the Four
O'Clock Staff Meeting and Beer Break, have lunch for dinner, take in whatever meetings I had to, then pop over to the American Legion (where I was the Historian) or the VFW (where I was the Chaplain. Ironic, huh?) for a few, and eventually drift back in between nine and eleven at night and work 'til I was done, anywhere between midnight and three.
All was well for the first few weeks, until
that Fateful Night when I got Pulled Over while swingin' through
the local Speedway station on the way home. I'd left the
"V" some time before and had put in a few hours of
diligent work after closing time, so I wasn't really
"drunk" (regardless of what I smelled like) and I sang
their little song and did their little dance and was already to
Keep On Truckin' on my merry way homeward when Sergeant Sherlock
Shitehead asked me for my insurance card.
I rummaged around in my wallet for a while,
hemmin' an' hawin' 'bout how I "just saw it," but we
both knew I'd come up empty. The bike (the little Honda 350/4
which I had just gotten running right a couple of days earlier)
was still validly registered in New Hampshire (to my latest
ex-wife, not to be confused with my latest ex-ol' lady). I do
appreciate their not impounding it; it was still in the parkin'
lot of the Food City when a runnin' mate of mine went to get it
the next day.
Needless to say, when the day of my appearance
arrived and I still couldn't produce an insurance card, His Honor took it pretty seriously (can't imagine why... I'd never written anything too derogatory about him). I was actually amazed as exactly how seriously he took it: a second offense of Driving Without Insurance in Ohio is considered a felony. First offense, you (or "I," actually) just endure a mandatory one-year
Loss Of License. Yeah, I 'bout shit, too. "Pedestrian"
is not my best thing.
Almost as bad as listenin' to Hizzonner ranting
about Financial resposibili-titty (qu-est que c'est, eh? I'm the
one on the bike! Like I'm gonna do anybody any damage...) was
listenin' to my soon-to-be-ex-boss's (soon to be my
ex-roommate's) Ol' Lady deliver a lecture on the evils of Drunken Motorcycling. It didn't matter to her that I was hadn't been charged with DWI, and the lecture was especially Ironic (doncha just love Irony?) coming, as it did, from somebody who drinks wine -lots of wine-- out a cardboard box.
I spent last summer walking to work.
Finally, in August of '08 -with several months
to go before I could get my license back-- I got a teaching job.
Freshman English. Okay.... Community College.
It had a lot of potential, but very little "kinetic."
It also came with as screwed-up a schedule as you could possibly
imagine (at two campuses, with twenty-five minutes to make the
half-hour ride between them), and a forty-mile commute (more than fifty once I moved in with my latest ex-ol' lady, not to be
confused with my latest ex-wife). Still and all, with two
part-time jobs, I could almost make the ends come together.
Then I got laid off from the paper.
I finally figured that out when I hadn't gotten
paid for a month.
And, don't ya know that when I got "laid
off" (although I still wrote -and "donated"--my
Trivia column for another few months, just 'cuz I like writing),
I not only lost my job, but my room and board as well.
Nonetheless, the Boss was pretty good about it; he promised that
he'd tell Unemployment that I'd been laid off, not fired (he'd
threatened a couple of times, but I knew he didn't mean it).
So off I trod to the Unemployment office.
Remember that old axiom about "no good
deed ever going unpunished"?
Room and board don't count as wages: it's In
God We Trust Ulysses S. Greenback frogskin cash and cash only
(it's the American Way!).
Claim Denied (and denied again on appeal).
Reason? I didn't make enough often enough to qualify.
I spent the winter living in the basement of a
It wasn't bad; hot an' cold runnin', 220 to run
the welder, indoor plumbing and, when it got real cold, I fired
up my little 3,000 watt space heater and sealed myself in the
small -but easily heat-able-bathroom.
In February, the guy who owned the machine shop
had a stroke. He turned out all right; pretty much, anyway. He
was home in a few days but it hit him a lot harder than he
realized. It started when his rambling Glory Days stories got
longer, more rambling, and less comprehensible. Sometimes
illogical, and later, even contradictory. Then he got paranoid,
accusing me of all kinds of shit (including stealing his tools)
and evicted me.
Back to the van.
The latest ex-ol' lady (not to be confused with
my latest ex-wife) and I, having been dating since just before
last year's 'Vous, decided that we ought to move in together. It
sounded like an idea. What can I say? It seemed like the thing to do at the time. Little did I suspect that she would settle for nothing less than a pale-beige, Levittown-ish, suburban yuppie Hell. I did it anyway. Ah, the things we do for love.
This was not one of Ford's better ideas. Then
things really started gettin' weird.
It was on a Monday, late in March, and I was
just starting to dread the upcoming move, when the li'l ol' Mamaw from across the way came shamblin' on in the local American Legion post (where I was serving as Historian) askin' the fateful question:
"Hey, any a'y'all got a van out thar? I
heard that an' knew it was All Over. An' all over me. I copped to it. "Well, ya best get out thar," she drawled, "
'cuz it's on far!" An', sure as shit, on "far" it was.
The local EMT Chief is a fellow Legionnaire an'
a bit of a ballbreaker in his own sweet way: he's been callin' me "Smokey" since he dragged me out of the blazin'
wreckage. I was pullin' out two briefcases full of my students'
collective semi-literate offerings. The blisters have deflated,
the serious burns healed pretty clean and the beard's recovered
Okay, so it wasn't any great kind of ride; a
'95 Ram 1-ton with a quarter-mil on the clock, but it would still start and run and stop and steer and was more comfortable -an' cheaper, seein' how it was paid for-- than a lot of places I've been stuck in over the years. Seems to have been an electrical problem in or around the fuse block, 'cause it started -evidently-in or around the glove box.
I didn't scream too much. I learned years ago
that screamin' don't help, an' just gives away y'r position.
I did manage to salvage my '73 Honda 350/4 out
of it, needing only a little trim an' tunin'-up of the
semi-scorched wirin' an' fuel lines before it was ready to run
(if not safe, then at least roadworthy). What the hell; the
license don't make it go any faster.
That was my daily driver for the next three
weeks. Three of the rainiest April weeks that anybody I talked to could ever remember Ohio ever having.
Nonetheless, that tough-as-nails little
dog-piss-green ricegrinder showed boo-koo class as my Daily
Driver -a hundred miles a day-- for three long and wet weeks. The
rain actually worked to my advantage, I suspect (when it wasn't
trying to kill me). These OSP Troopers hate gettin' their Smokey
The Bear hats wet, so they seemed really reluctant to pull me
Until it vanished.
Disappeared, like a fart in a whirlwind, along
with my Sporty an' a whole mess of my tools (they left my books.
The cop who took the report asked if they were
insured. I informed him that, seein' how I didn't have the money
to register 'em, I damn sure didn't have any jing to drop on
insurance (and if I had, it would only have been liability
anyway). It took three visits to the local PeeDee to try to get
the numbers out on the wire. Why should anything work the way
it's designed to?
Shortly thereafter, I became the only
hitchhiking professor in the neighborhood. It got so that a
couple of folks were actually looking for me to give me a lift up
to campus, and one guy was so accommodating as to drop me right
outside my classroom on five or six occasions.
The next five weeks were spent trying to come
up with a plan to get to the Rendezvous. I came up with some
great ones; only problem was that they were lacking some critical
feature, like money or wheels.
I didn't really mind gettin' "laid
off" at the end of the spring semester. The full-timers had
gobbled up all the summer courses (with all their potential
income). I figured that the month or so it'd take the
backpedaling paperpushers down at Unemployment to get my poop in
a group and get me some jing be just in time for the 'Vous. I
didn't exactly have a plan on how to get there (as my bikes had
been rustled a month earlier), but I figured I'd come up with
something. After all, "ugly" ain't the same thing as
Much to my acute surprise, I was informed that
part-time professors in the Ohio State College system (at least
the ones with my screwed-up schedule) don't make enough often
enough to qualify for unemployment! Sweet, eh? I bet they worked
it out that way to keep government expenses down so they'd have
more for legislative pay raises. They, did, of course, manage to
slice 10% off the top of each and every check for my
participation in the Ohio State Teachers' Retirement System.
Like I'm ever gonna be able to afford to be
able to retire. At this rate, I'll still be payin' fines and fees
out of my Socialist Security.
The worst news of the summer was yet to come.
One of my "best mates," one of the
featured 'Vous Crew, a fellow Radio Rendezvous broadcaster, a
Musician Extraordinaire who plays in about half a dozen bands,
and a general all-around ace, was took a spill off a Spanish
stage and broke half his ribs and a couple of bones in his skull.
Sad but true, the legendary Eamon Cronin, while performing with
the Riders On The Storm during their '09 European tour, spent
weeks in and out of hospitals on two continents. According to the
latest reports, he's gonna die; but not soon, and not of any of
his injuries. He came out of that one with a rose in each hand
and another in his teeth. Even if I'd have made it to the 'Vous,
I wouldn't have seen him.
By Father's Day, with the prospect of missin'
the 'Vous looming large in my mind, I'd actually thought about
hopping a freight train (something I haven't done since the
Carter Administration) but, with my sense of direction, I
probably would've ended up in Alamogordo or Ypsilanti or
Pascagoula and would have missed the 'Vous anyway.
The good thing about Father's Day was that I
heard from both of my kids, one of whom is a Fellow Staffer and
(I'm particularly proud to say) just picked up his Five-Year Pin
at Staff Meeting. I wish I could've been there to see it, but
I'll be there for his "dime," you can bet on it.
That same day my lovely daughter informed me
that I was going to be grandfather come this October.
Sometimes Stuff makes up for Shit.
I spent Rendezvous Weekend drinking the local
diluted (21 Proof) bourbon in a one-car garage in the middle of a
beige suburban Hell. I live here. It's not much, but it's mine.
As long as the rent is in on time. I've been here since I split
up with my last ex-ol' lady (not to be confused with my last
ex-wife). She's also my landlord, which means --according to
her-- she gets free mechanical work and household repairs (and I
only have to pay her three times what she pays the management
company. It's the American Way!).
On Rendezvous Weekend it rained here, too.
We had a really great thunderstorm on Saturday
night-a genuine Indian Lookout-style after-midnight Predawn
Rumbler with lightning that I could feel in the steel toes of my
recently-repaired (by me) orthopedic engineer boots. I put on my
last year's Staff shirt and my duster and went out and stood in
it for a while as my word processor (which does to words what a
food processor does to food) blared all the weird music I had
downloaded (intended for play on Radio Rendezvous) and, in the
wet wee hours when all the yuppies, guppies and Platt Rats were
asleep in their beige, I was out in the parking lot, meandering
in half-drunken circles, directing the traffic that wasn't
passing by while chatting with fellow Staffers who weren't there.
I didn't even get struck by lightning or nothin'.
Of course, I got all kinds of messages from
many of my fellow Staffers (email, snail mail, carrier pigeon,
y'know, the usual). They would've called, but I don't have a
phone (well, I have one, but there's no time on it. It's kind of
like a keyboard pocketwatch when I remember to charge it. Or
carry it.). I don't miss it. Nobody was callin' anyway.
July got really bleak, and just when I was down
to my last three cheap brown cigarettes ("little
cigars" they call 'em, just to beat the white-paper tax) one
of My Beloved Brothers since Way Back When stormed me out a
parcel of tobacco; a pound of some excellent deep, dark mixture
and a tin of a very sweet Vanilla. It probably saved a number of
lives (including my own); I can go without eating, but I gotta
have my caffeine and my nicotine. Alcohol, too, but, sadly, that
was the first thing off the menu.
As of this writing, I've been hung over for
more than three weeks and I don't remember my last cigarette.
Luckily, my old tin percolator still works just fine (no moving
parts- nothin' to wear out), so, by wakin' up an' reachin' over
to crank on my hotplate, it'll perk until it sets off the smoke
detector, an' I can get my eye open and my ass up in the morning,
just in case something happens. Nothing has yet.
Yeah, this summer could have been worse (It can
always get worse. Some days I take great consolation in that
fact). I just haven't figured how. And, seein' how it ain't
snowed yet, "this summer" -technically-- isn't over
On the "up" side, the Scooter
Rustlers left me my old Honda 750 and my hardtail frame (mostly
because they looked like a pile of junk parts) so I've almost got
my trusty FLXCB back together and may even get some time on it
this year (if I can figure out how to register it with no
license). I wonder how a 400-pound chopped dresser (dressed
chopper?) would handle towing 900 pounds of tools and books on a
trailer I haven't built yet from "hee-ah" to
"they-ah." I wonder where I'll get the gas. It's only
$2.79 out here.
Now with our Esteemed Chief Executive's
"Cash for Clunkers" program (where was he and his
program when my van went off for $100 a ton?), the Glorious Days
of the Twenty Dollar Beater Box are gone. Even if I should be
able to pull down enough payin' work to break even with my scant
bills an' put a few bucks ahead, Obama's out-bidding me on
anything I could even remotely afford.
I suppose it ain't all his fault; what can you
expect? He's a politician, so he don't know from nothin' except
kissin' ass and screwin' up, and I'm plenty proficient at that
myself. Except the kissin' ass part.
Lookin' at it philosophically (as if it had
happened to somebody else. Somebody I didn't like), "The
Year of Living Rendezvouslessly" wasn't a total washout (97%
maybe, but not total). I've managed to shed a few of the excess
pounds that I wasn't really using anyway. I've been hung over for
three weeks and haven't had a cigarette in ten days. Some would
say that that's heading in the right direction, but they don't
say to where.
Personally and professionally, I enjoy being a
hedonist. A man with no vices is not to be trusted.
My bud's newspaper, by the way, has -pardon the
pun-"folded." Just goes to show that good writing can't
overcome bad management.
I'll be gettin' my license back as soon as I
can cough up their exorbitant fees (providing I don't get caught
driving without it in the meantime, which'll probably be easy,
seein' as how I don't own anything that runs).
And I just got a letter from Pittstown (NY, for
you Outer Staters) wanting $180 for an overdue Seat Belt
Violation ticket I got going home from the '06 Rendezvous. I'll
put it in the pile with the others.
Aaaah, life... it might not be much, but it
beats the alternative.
What "The Year of Living
Rendezvouslessly" did accomplish was to drive home a lesson
that I'm sure that most of us -especially the Olde Tymers-have
learned over the course of however many years we've -individually
and collectively-- been coming to our Beloved Country Club; a
lesson that revolves around the knowledge that this would merely
be a particularly spectacular piece of land with a breathtaking
view of the surrounding countryside were it not for the people
-the Staffers and the attendees-who come together every year to
make this the greatest motorcycle event -the greatest party of
any kind-- in the Northeast, the En-Tire Country, the Whole
Freakin' World, an' probably the ever-expanding Cosmos.
It's a lesson in Appreciation of our collective
yet singular vision of brothers and sisters ditching their day
jobs (those who've got 'em) and sliding down from the road to
climb that long, meandering hill, of warmin' up in the Holding
Pen an' waitin' for The Gate to rattle open and The Rush to
begin, of rattlin' their fillings loose along White Knuckle Way
and bursting through the trees just past Mid-gate into the
brilliant light of the Best Bash Ever, Staffed and attended by
the greatest people on the road.
I'm proud to be among 'em, even when I'm not
exactly "among" 'em.
It kinda makes ya wonder what is it about this
place, this event, these people, that generate this kind of
energy, this kind of magic, this kind of Coming Together.
It's The Spirit That Never Dies, and this is
Where It Lives.
Missin' this year's Rendezvous was dismal;
deeply an' darkly dismal. Semi-suicidal dismal.
But the merit in missin' it occurred to me, as
I sat half-drunk half-in and half-out of my half-abode about
half-past noon on Rendezvous Sunday; that missing it as badly as
I did -and still do-- is just the other side of appreciatin' it
as much as I do, as so many of us do, which is why we keep comin'
back year after year, decade after decade and, eventually,
century after century (c'mon, we're almost a third of the way
So I'll see you next year...
Meanwhile, I gotta go practice my
train-hopping, just in case I'm still so broke that I can't leave
P.S.: For those of you who see a lot of passin'
scooters --those of you workin' in shops, dealerships, or just
out an' about-- I'd appreciate you keepin' an eye out for my
rides. I suspect that these machines were parted out months ago,
but ya never know. The missing bikes are a factory-green 1973
Honda 350 4-cylinder, stock (virtually original, 15K miles), with
a longitudinal tear in its seat. VIN: CB 350 1043032, and a
flat-black '99 Sportster 1200 (9800+ miles on the electric odo)
with a solo saddle and a 1-piece fatbob, missing its rear fender
and taillight (I was chasing a short and figured I'd paint it
while it was off). VIN: 1HD1CAP10XK140577.
Thanks much, Sky.