Level Up: I Got a Motorcycle

Figured I’d revive the ol’ blog for the first time all year. Better be something good, yeah?

Well, it is.

Let’s talk.

We’ll go back to when I was but a wee lad. Dickerson street in the Model City. My dad had some kind of Suzuki motorcycle — a cruiser. I don’t remember a lot about it other than it was black and had a seat that was peeling apart. It stayed parked outside, uncovered, and he would often take me for rides on it. I was small enough to sit in front of him and lay my head down on the gas tank — it was THAT long ago.

He had a couple of cousins who each had Kawasaki Ninjas. I’d later learn these were crotch rockets and the muse of energy-drink-chugging, tribal-tatted bros who apparently enjoy being uncomfortable while operating a motor vehicle. While I’d later go on to hate these bikes, I thought they were the shit when I was a kid. Dad and I got to ride one of them in a parade in Hawkins County but I don’t remember why. I just remember it was early in the morning and our motorcycle was turquoise.

It wasn’t long after that my dad got rid of his bike and it was never spoken of again. I always thought they were cool but never had much interest in ever having one. When my dad and I had our falling out, my interest in motorcycles lessened even more — if he had one, I sure as hell didn’t want one. Ever.

As I got a little older, my opinion on the motorcycle didn’t change (yet) but my rule of “if dad did it, I’m not doing it” was broken because other things my dad did include:

  • Growing a beard
  • Wearing tanktops in public
  • Sometimes craving pinto-bean-and-mayo sandwiches

Bet you didn’t know that last part about me but it’s true.

Anyway, when I turned 30 it’s like some weird switch flipped in my mind and suddenly things changed. I yearned for a different lifestyle, a new look and, you guessed it, a motorcycle.

But being an adult is hard so saving up for a motorcycle wasn’t easy and I didn’t exactly have all the support in the world at home at the time.

Oh, boo-hoo.

Fast-forward to age 34. Life looks a lot different now, for better or worse. Things I wasn’t allowed to do for a long time — like owning a drumset or getting skull tattoos — are suddenly possible. So long as I had a plan and was responsible about it, anything was possible.

Fortunately for me, I like following through with plans and I’m a pretty responsible guy.

So on May 22, 2019, I registered for the New Rider Course at Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson. The course wasn’t scheduled until a month later but that would give me plenty of time to buy the necessary gear, research motorcycles and go ahead and stress myself out real well beforehand.

I want to take this time to give a big shoutout to the folks at Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson. I’ve been to several Harley shops around the southeast and most of the time I walk in, look around and walk out without anyone saying a word to me. Not so at Smoky Mountain. They proudly tout how they’re the #1 dealership in the world and they back it up 100% of the time. My main contact, Justin, was patient with me the first day I walked in and he talked to me about bikes, life and life on bikes while I tried out various sporters and Dynas. For 45 minutes he hung out with me, never once made me feel pressured to buy anything and never once made me feel like an idiot for being such a n00b.

When I told him I also wanted to look at gear for my class, he personally walked me over to the retail area, introduced me to one of the specialists who then stood by my side while I considered different jackets and tried on a variety of helmets. She hung out with me, assuring proper fit and reminding me of important things to consider when purchasing it. My custom-ordred helmet was delivered two days later and the dealership promptly alerted me that it was ready for pickup.

On June 24 I arrived at Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson where I was introduced to eight other people who had registered for our class as well as our head instructor, Maggie. Our first night was spent going over some basics, getting to know each other, doing some paperwork, getting a tour of the dealership and beginning our reading assignments. Over the next two days we saddled up on some Harley Street 500s to learn the basics of clutching, gear-shifting, braking, turning and all the other stuff that seems damn-near impossible if you have zero experience on a motorcycle.

By the end of the third day most of us had passed the riding test and written test. I say most because while 10 people had signed up, only nine showed, only eight made it through the riding exercises, only seven passed the riding test. It was like a weird Willy Wonka situation only no one got sucked into a chocolate river (that I’m aware of).

The survivors posed in front of the big fireplace at the dealership, exhausted from riding eight hours in the blazing summer sun but full of pride that we were on our way to becoming licensed motorcycle riders.

It took four attempts and an equal number of weeks at the DMV to get my motorcycle endorsement. By the time I got the endorsement, had my ID updated and had the new “Real ID” star put on my license, I had a collection of personal identification that included everything I’ve ever owned to identify myself save for my college photo IDs, though I’m surprised they didn’t require one of those.

Now a licensed rider, I needed to get a ride. Back to Smoky Mountain Harley!

With a little guidance from some friends and my HD bro Justin, I settled on this little beauty:

She’s a 2013 Harley Davidson XL 1200X Forty-Eight and she’s sexy. as. hell.

Possible names include Rhonda, Teeth Grinder and Adrian.

Shoutout to my Viking Queen Cara for the photos and for driving me to the dealership to pick it up … and for riding behind me to make sure I didn’t die on the way home :-)

Expect more posts this year that are mostly related to this little lady as well as a damn-near 100% Instagram takeover.

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[photo post] Corpus of Christ

So … I’ve had a couple of posts saved in a plain text doc for months. I mean, like … 10 months. Anyway. I’m catching up. Here’s Jesus.

I tried the Jesus thing one time. It didn’t end well.

I tried it again several years later. Same.

I tried it a third time a few years ago. Once again — same.

Recently, I thought to myself, I hate the church. And it’s true. Mostly.

I do hate “the church,” but I actually kind of love going to church. I don’t believe the fairy tales but I do love people-watching and I’ve always been a sucker for old-time gospel music and the smell of a musty hymnal.

Atheist though I may be, there’s something about Christian imagery (and that of any other religion, honestly) that strikes me as fascinating. Colorful paintings of the Son of Man, strange Americanized portraits of the Living God, crosses made of wood, stone or steel…

…and especially the crucified Messiah.

This was spotted at the end of September, 2017, at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Bristol, VA. Lit up by bright spotlights, Jesus hangs in agony just under an orange waxing crescent moon. You can almost hear His agonizing, holy cries – why hast thou forsaken me?

You can grab a few other angles on Flickr page.

Nice knowing you, King of the Jews. Maybe we’ll try it again some time.

…Or you know. Maybe not.

The Bachelor Chronicles Pt. 3

I have the most random-ass early memories from my childhood. No context, no follow-up, no motivation … just a few random memories that I can’t forget. Psychologists have determined that we have an inability to remember anything that happened to us before we turned three or four years old. As we age, we also have difficulty remembering much that happened to us before we turned 10. This phenomenon was first written about way back in 1893 in the American Journal of Psychology and the topic was expanded upon for years after that. In 1910 Sigmund Freud coined the phenomenon Childhood Amnesia, which is a great band name. Since it was Freud, however, it was determined that we merely suppressed those early memories because they’re so hardcore sexual in nature.

Right, Sigmund. Right.

I remember talking to neighbors. I remember moving into our first house on Dickerson Street and I remember the first nightmare I ever had. I vaguely remember donning every random piece of clothing I could find and parading around the house holding a variety of toys. Not a lot of detail, but definitely non-sexual memories that after 33 years I’ve failed to suppress.

I’m going somewhere with this, I swear.

When I was a little boy, arguably at the age I should have forgotten by now, my aunt was married to a man I don’t remember interacting with. Ever. I know very little about the guy and only saw a handful of photos of him despite spending the majority of my time with her in the years after their divorce. I do know that he was a drummer. Was he any good? Was he in a band called Childhood Amnesia? Did he sell his kit for drugs? I have no idea. But he had drums. They were black and I remember crawling up onto his throne, picking up a stick that had been laid on the snare, standing on my toes and reaching as far as I could to barely — and I do mean barely — graze his crash cymbal. I dropped the stick immediately and scrambled down because I had been discovered.

The adults discovered me being mischievous while I discovered something way more earth-shattering: percussion.

Over the years, I’ve “air-drummed” more times than I’ve ever played an air guitar. I broke countless pencils drumming on my desks and shoes in elementary school, even going so far as being sent to the principal’s office for excessive drumming. I drummed on an old couch we had in our basement using plastic nunchucks until I eventually upgraded to real, wooden drumsticks. I’d go on to bust a hole in the couch and we got rid of it. I once built a makeshift drumkit in my dad’s basement with metal coffee cans that I’d use to perform country music concerts with my step brother who was using a stringless acoustic guitar and a Nickelodeon microphone that was covered in slime. My Paps also screwed a coffee can onto a stick so I could stand and play a drum in his driveway.

And as much as I loved lead vocalists and guitarists, I’ve always had a soft spot for the drummers in my favorite bands and any time a famous song had an epically long drum solo — i.e. Golden Earring’s Radar Love, Edgar Winter Group’s Frankenstein and, Jesus Christ, In-a-Gadda-da-Vida by Iron Butterfly — I was instantly a fan.

Yet despite the dreaming and the miming and the fantasies and mock concerts, one thing remained true: I never learned how to play the drums.

Even if we had the money and the space for it, my parents would never dream of buying an acoustic drum set for me and electric kits were nowhere near as budget-friendly as they are nowadays. I avoided joining the band in middle school because I was erroneously told that joining the band would mean I was a queer which terrified an ignorant 11 year old boy.

I shared my first apartment with my then-fiance and it was the same thing — no room for a drum kit, certainly no money for one either. We’d later move into a house and I was told that under no circumstances could I have an acoustic drum kit. I maybe could have an electric kit but it would have to stay in my cramped studio and would cost money that should maybe go toward home repairs or future vacations. Adult shit.

I’m now 33 years old. I no longer have anyone to tell me I can’t do it. I have space for an electric kit, I have money for an electric kit. I have (some) spare time to actually learn the drums and I’m not dumb enough to think that learning an instrument is going to make me queer (or any more queer than I already am) so …

I sucked it up and got a drum kit.

My intention was to treat myself to something nice once I got my car paid off but while looking at potential kits, I found the Alesis Forge 8-Piece Electronic Drum Kit at Guitar Center. The price had recently been lowered by $150 and had all the features I really wanted. Alesis seemed to be a pretty reputable name brand in the electric drum kit world and this particular set comes with three toms, a snare, a crash, a ride, a hi-hat and a kick pad. The module allows me to hook up my iPad and my headphones, can record, has a metronome and 70 programmed drum kits of which I’ll probably only use three. It’s exactly what I need for my small space and I’m finally playing some drums.

When I sat down at my kit for the first time on Sunday evening, it all came rushing back to me. The countless nights banging on coffee cans; the numerous times I was reprimanded by teachers for drumming on my desk. I was overtaken by those many nights in my parents’ basement when I thought I was Joey Kramer, John Bonham, Ginger Baker, Adrian Young, Keith Moon, Steven Adler, Tommy Lee, John Tempesta, Chad Smith, Tommy Ramone or DH Peligro.

Or, hell, Dana Carvey as Garth from the first Wayne’s World movie — you guys know what I’m talking about…

I spent a few minutes tinkering with the module and listening to each of the pre-programmed drum kits before settling on the one with the loudest bass drum sound, firing up my iPad and playing a variety of White Stripes songs because I figured they’d be the easiest to learn with. I dedicated every song to all the teachers whose nerves were shot by the tap-tap-tap of my pencil on my shoe, to my dad whose bedroom was directly above the various coffee cans I banged on every weekend I visited him and to my parents who had to listen to my couch concerts nearly every evening.

And to my aunt’s first husband, whoever he was.

Y’all did this.