Sunday, March 20, 2011

It Is For To Ride...

I have tried since starting this blog to express in words how it feels to ride. It is one of the most difficult writing assignments I've ever undertaken. I'm trying to write about a spirit that moves through me as opposed to things that have happened to me.

I've just finished reading Hunter S Thompson's book Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs and at the end of the book is a fantastic few pages where he truly captures the spirit of what it is like to be on a motorcycle. He talks about what it feels like to ride and need to feel the freedom that goes with it. That excerpt is at the end of this entry.

This season when I started riding, I started concentrating on what it felt like from the point when I first got on the bike, through the ride, and at the end when I finally dismounted. I will share those observations with you now since I am not going to be happy until I somehow capture something as well as Thompson did.

When I ride, from the minute I sit down on that seat and put on my helmet I feel the same sense of immortality and freedom that I had when I was 17. That doesn't mean that I don't think about consequences of actions but I don't concern myself with them because I know I've done what I can to minimize the risk. There is nothing left to worry about, because everything else is beyond my control. That's where the next set of feelings comes into play.

Every day I make hundreds of choices that have significant effect on people and things while I'm at work. Most of them are based on experience and my best judgment. That is what I'm paid to do. Nevertheless, for every one of those decisions that I make on the job there is someone above me who holds me accountable and can change things because they choose to. That secondary level of judgment doesn't exist on a bike.

Once I start, riding every decision that I make affects me directly and at the same time, I am the only one who is responsible for what happens. That means if I judge a curve wrong or if I'm not paying enough attention to traffic around me and something happens to a large degree I am the only one to blame. There are of course those instances when a driver just isn't paying attention and comes out of nowhere to cream a biker – – no one can do anything about those instances.

When I am riding, I become one with the machine. We react and act together as one being. I rely on her and she relies on me. It is a symbiotic relationship. Even though it is a machine and there is no God in the machine, there is an understood relationship between the two of us. Neither of us can let the other down without horrific effects to both.

Music is very important when I ride because it allows me to release my creative self in a way that nothing else does. When you couple that release with all the other feelings I have when I ride, it is the most opportune time for me to allow myself those feelings. It is like taking a good feeling and multiplying it by 10. The act of riding in itself is a high and the music just takes it that much higher.

I don't think when I ride. That is not to say that I'm not thinking about the ride itself or about the music or about the prettiness of the scenery what it means is that I'm not allowing things outside of me to cross my mind and trouble me while I'm on my bike. There are too many things going on at the same time and it crowds out all the bad crap of the day and doesn't allow that crap to affect the joy that I am feeling while I'm riding. This is an escape that I feel only while riding and during no other activity.

To me riding is poetry without words, art without pictures, touching pure spirit without a medium, flying without a plane and mind blowing sex without taking your clothes off.

Well friends that is the best I've been able to come up with so far. It still is something I'm completely satisfied with but at least I'm working on it. I think that every time I do this little exercise I come up with more and more things I'm feeling and thinking when I ride. I'm sure each of you that ride knows exactly the difficulty I'm talking about; you can identify how difficult it is to describe the experience. I was once told that no one can adequately describe something like love because it is a feeling and emotion too deep for words – – maybe that's true for riding as well.

The one thing that I'm sure is true is that there is no way that anyone who has never been on the back of a bike could possibly understand any of what I just wrote. There are blanks in it that can only be filled in by having experienced the freedom that comes from riding down the road being totally in charge of your own actions and having the wind in your face and hair. Awesome.

Now I will share another viewpoint on riding from Hunter S Thompson from his book Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. I will say that I was never a big fan of his writing until I read this book but I thought that the book itself kind of missed the mark as it did not shed any new light on why people were motivated to do what they do. I would've passed it off as just a decent read until I read the final words in the book. Start at the third paragraph.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

We Be Jammin' - A Subway Musical

I was in Washington DC taking a five-day course at NDU. One of the days was to be spent going to a computer symposium in the center of the city. If you've ever been to DC, you know that the best way to get in and out of the center of the city is by the Metro. So, I took off early Tuesday morning and headed downtown using the Metro. I bought my ticket and stood on the platform waiting to get on the first train that was going to take me to Metro Center, while I waited I took my iTouch out of my shoulder bag and plugged in my earbuds and put them on. I flipped on the music and was instantly transported somewhere far away from the subway station. I had learned long ago that one of the ways to make the Metro ride more enjoyable was to bring your own music.

I caught the Blue Line train and all was well until we got to the station at Foggy Bottom I thought I heard the conductor say something about the Blue Line terminating – – I was supposed to ride this train all the way to Metro Center. Since it looked like everyone was getting off I jumped off as well rather than riding a train to wherever they go when the terminate (Subway Car Heaven?). I figured at worst I would have to wait for the next Blue Line train, which would be along in about 10 minutes. So while standing on the platform listening to my music I started to do what I normally do.

I find it hard to listen to good music and stand still. I tap my foot, I shake my head in time to the music, I move my hands, and I do just about anything but stand in one place. When the Allman Brothers Ain't Wasting Time No More came on I probably was moving a little more than usual. I was also looking around at all the various people in the station as I did this but suddenly when my I looked forward, I found a young woman of about 20 who was smiling at me. I started to take out my earbuds, but she shook her head and smiled pointing to her own earbuds – – then she held up the plug that was attached to the earbuds. I had to think about this for a minute, as I had never had anyone do anything like this.

I reached in my pocket, took out my iTouch, and held it out in front of me. I was holding on to it tightly because I still was not sure what was going on here and thought this might of been a ruse to steal my iTouch. She smiled and nodded and then removed my plug from the jack and slid hers in. Her eyes darted around the little and then they started nodding her head up and down, I can only guess in time with the music. She smiled again, took the plug for my earbuds, and plugged it into her iPod, which she removed from her pocket. It took a minute for me to recognize what kind of music it was – – some sort of techno dance number. When I looked at her, she smiled at me again and nodded her head – – I think it was her way of asking if it was okay with me. It wasn't bad so I nodded back. Then we stood there – – facing each other – – and enjoying each other's music.

She was doing a small impromptu dance to the Allman Brothers while I was kind of nodding along with whatever it was I was listening to. Suddenly the station filled with the sound of the arriving Orange Line train and she stopped dancing looked at me and smiled and waved as she pulled my jack out of her iPod and put it back into my iTouch then spun around and walked aboard the train. As the train started to pull out, she pressed her face to the glass and waved goodbye to me.

As I have said, I always try to say Yes to things – maybe that creates an aura of openness around me. It was just so unusual and so human to reach out the way she did and then she knocked down the walls of my fortress and invited me into hers so that we could share a few minutes together as human beings listening to music. As I reflected on this later in the day I wondered if I would ever be bold enough to do something like that to anyone.

When my train finally came along, I jumped on board and held onto the handrail as it pulled out of the station. I smiled about what just occurred to me in fact, I smiled a lot of the day because of it.