Give Me A Brake And Other Terrible Puns

One should not ride fast on a new tire. A tire needs to be rode carefully for the first one hundred miles, especially a motorcycle tire. When one only has two wheels on the pavement it is important to keep them both grounded. A new tire is slick. It is new from the factory and not yet sticky or grippy enough for the road. When one rides the brand new tire one must be certain to break (brake?) It in properly, just like a new pair of tennis shoes. This means the first corner that a person rounds should not be done at high speeds, in case the tire decides to give out on the rider and do a swishy fishtail thing. When that happens it is possible that a person could end up dropping the bike.

Point of fact.

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Quick interruption: check out this red scooter in front of a purple house I saw in San Francisco.

Little Wing got a new tire. In my excitement to see the valve cover not leak oil and to watch the bike do what bikes do best I took off in a flash. A normal day, with an old, wore down, sketchy tire, I would have rounded the corner perfectly. Leaning low and probably touching Little Wings foot pegs to the pavement. Instead, what happened is, the back tire slipped out on me (as described above) and I washed out. Being somewhat intelligent, and a safe rider, I had tossed on my riding jacket, even for the short ride around the block. The truth is, a helmet made no difference in this situation because my head never touched the ground. I made a point to keep it up, as should usually be the goal. What did hit the pavement was my left side, my arm, and my leg. Without a jacket, boots, and heavy jeans the simple mistake would have been a gory accident. My hip, my thigh and my calve would have been a host to some friendly road rash. Not to mention a crushed foot. It got caught just right under the bike that had I not had my tough leather boots my toes might have been crushed. My arm also would have been shaved pretty close, which is a near reality I have realized everytime I’ve taken a spill because I always aim to fall on my upper arm.

Now now, some of you might be saying (especially my grandfather, if he is hearing this story) “that is dangerous. I don’t like that you fell,” or “why risk it?” Others of you are fellow riders, and know about taking a spill. Some riders started out on dirtbikes, and falling in that sort of riding is a constant. Some started out on the streets and have managed to take three spills in less than a year as they learn more and more of the ropes. I am going to tell you why I told this story. Because all riders fall (or so they tell me).

We hear about riders on the news all the time. “Two riders killed when schoolbus t-boned motorcycle.” Or “Rider dies without helmet after running into semi.” What we don’t hear is all the near misses where riders survive. I fell, and I got up laughing, but had I not been dressed fully that may have been a different story. Other riders fall with no gear and are fine. Some riders end up being fatalities and making the statistics, but others fall and don’t.

I recieved a gift from my friend Marilyn. These are the parts of the week you didn’t hear about when I was waiting for parts for Little Wing. It wasn’t all stressful waiting, and street art walks. I also went to a Chinese market and I went to my first Chinese general store. The general store had beautiful, cheap, dishes that one would be happy to find on a Goodwill shelf for double the price. There were interesting doodads that were meant for making foods that were customarily Asian. The packaging on some of the products was filled with Chinese characters. There was a whole section dedicated to the holidays of the culture, mainly Chinese New Year which is coming up on February 19th. I saw a toilet brush with a daisy on  top. A sweet decal that made a generally plain item pretty. There were casserol dishes with small sculpted handles that looked like bat bears from some childs story. The trashes were pretty too, and there were curtain tie backs that were made from wirey ribbon with glittery pompoms tied in a bow. Things were cute to the point of ostentatious, and I loved it.

I got a gift from Marilyn. We were at the counter checking out and — like every good convenience store — there were small items set up very aesthetically on the counter. There were chords with glass charms on the end shaped like different animals and dragons. I thought these charms were the animals of the zodiac, but there were some missing and there were additional characters. There were necklaces too, and a little bin of small sewn pouches,  about an inch by an inch. Everything was shiny and had appeal. I touched everything, examining and checking it out. I picked up one of the pouches, it was pink. I felt something inside. I opened it and pulled out the object, a small jade figure of a goat.  It was made of plastic but made to look like jade. I picked up a blue one next and opened it to reveal another jade goat. I picked up the prettiest of the pouches a shiny celeste fabric with yellow chord around the edge. I opened it to find the same goat and I held it out to Marilyn as the man behind the counter worked on the transaction. “See, it will be the year of the goat this year.”

“The year of the ram,” the man behind the counter corrected.

“Oh,” said Marilyn, “ok,” as she took  the figurine from me and examined it. I held out the pouch to her too, and she looked at me quizzically.

“The figurine goes in the pouch as a token of the new year,” I told her.

The man behind the counter interjected with his thick accent, “yes, for one dolla you can get the pouch, and as a special we toss in the ram too.” When I looked up at him I saw his face lit up, clearly excited about the sales pitch. I laughed because it seemed to me that the pouch was just .50 cents and so was the goat. However this man knew how to sell and he wouldn’t sell that pouch for any less than one doller, the goat was just a bonus.

Marilyn
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Marilyn looked at me, “you want it? We’ll take it.” She said this without waiting for an answer from me. She is a mom, nurse, counsler and teacher. She is very used to making decisions. “I’m sure you can find somewhere to put this on your motorcycle,” she told me.

It was a wonderful token, and all of us left happy. I was pleased with the small charm, Marilyn was pleased that I was pleased, and the man behind the counter was very pleased his sale tactic had worked. Success.

After our stop at the general store it was time for a bit of grocery shopping. The Chinese Market was on the same small strip mall that the general store was on. What I found the most fascinating was the large selection of fish with the heads still on. The men at the counter would chop ’em up and prepare them fresh before the customers eyes. There were also cheap Asian dishes at the deli. Great food.. and inexpensive, not something I have ever found myself saying about Chinese food in the Midwest.

That was few days after ordering Little Wing’s parts, and a few days before I set to work on installing the parts.

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We had another adventure, Mariyln and I. Chuck came along on this one though. We made it an outing. I had been told many times that I should go to the Deyoung and Legion museums in San Francisco. I had thought it was a wonderful idea, but as always, it came down to money. The first Tuesday of the month is Free Day around these parts. Well now, that meant a museum crawl was in order. Deyoung and Legion it was. The Legion was a fun exhibit of realistic paintings from Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House. It was beautiful art and things that were in the home of English aristocracy during the 18th century up until the 20th. Beautiful stuff. But me being me I found the Deyoung Museum much more fascinating.

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Museums, ya gotta love 'em.

The Deyoung had the work of Keith Haring on display. A social activist in the eighties who died of AIDs,  and did work that was meant mainly to be interpreted by the viewer. Art that had to do with sexuality, politics, and social issues,  and often used as a tool for bringing attention to an issue. It was great stuff. One of the reasons I enjoyed it so was because I saw people of my age wandering around. Fellow youngsters eyeing up the works, contemplating and discussing it. That was magic to see. I feel I often miss out on that part of my age group. The contemplative and interested minds of my contemporaries. I wanted to talk to everyone and ask them why they found it fascinating, but instead I decided to just consider the work silently and by myself. The truth is, I think young adults were filling the place because it was Free Tuesday and they were poor. This was as good a time as any they probably thought, the same thought process I had. I don’t see enough young people out enjoying the same art. I wish that would change.

The journey through the museums didn’t leave me empty handed. Marilyn being who she is, picked me up some pins. She is one for small novelties and I was happy to accept.

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The pins and a sweet succulent plant that graced our table in the cafeteria.

The days in between taking apart, diagnosing and ordering for Little Wing and the days of actually fixing Little Wing were not filled with frustration.  They were filled with interesting things and wonderful time filled with hosts. I feel like that is an important thing to remeber.

After I dropped Little Wing on the corner and made it around the block with out spewing oil everywhere — to my extreme satisfaction — I pulled back in to Chuck’s garage. After doing a thorough inspection of Little Wing I made my way back to the house to give a report to my hosts. As I entered the house I was met by the voice of Fei, the lovely neighbor who I had helped in putting up the kitchen blinds. Her and Chuck stood at the front door chatting and when she saw me come in she waved and I joined them in conversation. She informed me that she had made pot stickers for me as an expression of gratitude. She was pleased with the blinds and sorry I couldn’t stay for dinner after finishing them. She was sweet beyond belief, and when I told her I would be heading out the next day she gave me a huge hug and told me I was always welcome to her house.

For lunch Marilyn heated up the pot stickers, which may have been the best I have ever had. It was wonderful to be able to eat an expression of gratitude for a frustrating job. Though unnecessary it made the whole experience more worth it, especially when the pot stickers were unasked for. She valued the small help I could offer enough to give her time to making my next meal brighter. And of course we all enjoyed those pot stickers. It was better that I could share the gratitude with my new hosts, and in the doing we exchanged kind words and positive vibes about the giver of the gift.

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My sleeping arrangements have me in the office with this fellow. Dead men tell no tales even though this guy has a bone to pick.

Last night was my second night away from San Leandro and in Berkley. I am back with my hosts here, the ones that had me fix lamps and do art for pay last time I was around. I am planning my way out of Cali, when the weather gets better. Little Wing has had a full checkup, I am grateful to have a running vehicle again. The next step is to test the limits with the bike and see what it is we can do. However, first I have to break in the new rubber on the back. It will take some time and riding, all of which I’m willing to put in.

Actually, I only have forty more miles before the Little Wing and I can zip around corners like we used to. The tire is nearly wore in. I toke a ride on it yesterday. I was attempting a nice ride to the top of the hill my hosts live on. The hills of Berkley are popular for motorcyclists because they are so twisty, at least that’s what I’ve been told. It makes sense. Also the roads are soooo friggin narrow from the time of horses and buggies that it is almost like riding a one lane road. It is impossible for two cars to pass at once, one has to pull over. A motorcycle can just skinny around though, which is awesome. Anyway, on my way to the top off the hill — my aim being a road and place called Grizzly Peak — I got lost and made a wrong turn. That was ok, it was too twisty for a tire that wasn’t sticky yet anyway. I look forward to another ride later, but as it was I just made my way down to the campus and wandered around a bit. I have two pieces of mail to send off so that was a great reason to ride around. The post offices were busy, but I did put some new miles on my back tire. I went back to my hosts house and read and napped a bit before the culmination of the day, which was to be a show in tribute to Utah Phillips. In my life that man has played a cool role. A fellow DJ introduced me to him a couple of years ago and I dug him for his activism and honesty in lyrics. As some of you who have been following the story may remember, I met one of his sons in Portland. I was staying with Gray, the kind man who was renting to Utah’s kid. I had trouble not fan girling then. Brendan, the son, passed on a cd from his band, Fast Rattler, I recommend checking them out. I loved it. Brendan also introduced me to a place called Sisters of the Road. It was gathering place for those less fortunate. A place to eat and find camaraderie for those disinfranchised. For an extremely low rate it offered good, organic, meals to sixty-eight people a day. People lined up for lunch and were given a number. The first seventeen sat down to eat from 10:00 to 11:00, and then 11:00 to 12:00 the next group sat down. That happened until 2:00,when the kitchens closed, volunteers would help to clean up in preparation for the next day. Those who volunteered got free meal coupons. It was a non for profit that helped those who might not have other options. It gave them an opportunity to help out, and it rewarded them for doing so. The feelings of self worth and love seemed to be generated by this place. I could feel it. I volunteered to help clean up. I had fun interacting with the people involved and the sense of community.

Sisters of the Road was started with the help of Utah Phillips. Brendan was a huge proponent of it, and I’m glad he pointed me in the direction, because now I am too. The concert I went to last night was filled with the same kind of folk. The people who believed in something and were willing to speak up about it. I got to meet Brendan’s older brother, Duncan Phillips, and once again I had to hide my blush. It is hard to be in such admiration of a fellow and then get the chance to meet the people who knew him and continue the tradition. It was cool though (even if I wasn’t). The concert was great. The tribute to Utah was beautifully done, and I was so happy I got the opportunity to see it.

Like a new tire that needs to be broke in, young people go through a slippery part in life. They cannot afford to invest in art or check out museums except on free day. They slip and slide all over this thing called life, and some of them get wrecked in the process. They fish tail out and don’t get up, others do. Others fall many times and manage to make it past the slippery point, where they can finally claim to be worn in. With experience they can take corners faster, and smoother. Every fall on Little Wing has taught me a bit more about myself and life. Through it all I got to see new cultures and art, stuff I have been taking in since I left home. It is crazy the things the world has to offer when one takes off to actually be a part of it. And it seems to all culminate with those who have a voice and decide to use it for good, and love. Utah, traveled, experinced being young and poor, and decided to continue that life as a musician and to say things that mattered. He is, and was, revered. Young people gather to check out Keith Haring’s work. He was a young man who spoke up, and was an activist for the things he believed. He didn’t silence himself, he used his voice, through his art, and his voice is still heard today, even after death. I feel that is what we all strive for. Especially those who ramble and wander. I want my voice to say something. I want it be important.  I want people to think my art means something.

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1) I just love the architecture. 2) Even though it isn't the best photo it is perfect for all this talk of Utah Phillips (somewhere in San Fran).

In my life I have always felt that in exchange of goods was necessary. If someone was nice enough to cover dinner then I would get them back with the next meal. If someone gave me a souvenir I would be sure to get them something. Marilyn gave me many small gifts, and her and Chuck gave me the use of their garage. They gave me a place to sleep. The gave me kindness kindness kindness. In reality, that is the treatment I have been a party to since the adventure started. I have extreme mixed feelings about this way of living. I know people consider the fact that they were once young poor and adventuring when they offer me help. Someone stepped in and helped them and now they are paying it forward, and I know I will too, one day. Right now it is hard to think that people give me so much and I can’t give back. Marilyn gave me a gift, she gave me words. She told me that there are many gifts that people can give. Some of the most important are those that can’t be touched. Kindness, love, listening, being present, those were all gifts too. And she is right. It isn’t the goat and the pouch that meant something, it was the thought and kindness. The Keith Haring pins weren’t the important bit, it was the time spent looking at artwork, the love in thoughtfulness in choosing the pins. Fei giving the pot stickers wasnt the valuable bit, it was the time and kindness she put into making them. It was the appreciation of my time that was the part that touched my heart. It was the extra experince she added to the meal my hosts shared with me. Marilyn told me that gifts that are given aren’t always something that can be palpable. Gifts are more easily discerned by those recieving rather than the person giving. The person giving sometimes is unaware they are giving.

I don’t think I gave much by helping with the blinds. It was difficult, it was annoying, but overall, anyone could have done it, but Fei felt it was a chore  worthy of gratitude.

Utah Phillips wandered. He traveled, and experienced, poor and broke. He probably did his fair share of metaphorically falling of the motorcycle. Simple mistakes probably occurred, he probably learned from them, and then he sang about that stuff. He payed forward the kindness he experinced as a disinfranchised wanderer to all those who may be in that same spot now days. Utah knew what gifts helped him when he was in a position of needing help, and he used that knowledge to help others in the same situation later on. His legacy of learned kindness lives on. That’s beautiful.

There comes a time when The road is more of a friend vs. a foe and at that point, the young adults can afford to do what Utah did. They can spread the love they got during their phase of breaking the tire in. They can pay forward the gifts.

Or at least I think that’s how that works. Well, I don’t know, but I have a tire to go brake in. Much love world. Keep on keepin on, and take the time to smile at a strangers. In my ramblings I have come to learn that means a lot more than you can imagine.

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