The Real Thing

I went on a ride into the past recently and caught up with an old friend I hadn’t seen for twenty-two years. We were bikers then and both ride a Harley now, the same model even.

But that is as far as the similarities go. We each went very different ways in different countries until we met up again after what seemed to be a whole lifetime. What was perhaps the most surprising thing about it was, we were still in many ways the same people we used to be. Although so many things had changed for both of us.

Was it the Harley that provided the common ground?

In those twenty-two years I had turned from a student of literature into a journalist travelling the world.

He still wears colours, is a member of an old and widely respected international motorcycle club, the real thing. He had lived his dream all his life.

I had only dreamt it, not lived it.

But we have both made the Harley real.

So is it our dreams that make us what we are while our lives are just what happens depending on our respective conditions of socialization?

Are there perhaps more ways than just one to be the real thing and live it?

Or does your machine make you what you want to be?

There needs to be a clear NO to the last question. We were bikers then, even on Japanese manufactured motorcycles. Milwaukee iron certainly makes things easier but it can’t change everything.

It will not do, to buy a Harley-Davidson, trademark boots and a jacket and logoed shirts and all the rest of it. It won’t make you the real thing at least not in everybody’s eyes.

But maybe the bike starts a process that will get you there eventually, even a woman, even in the eyes of one who would never let a woman life his style of life.

I think now and even more so after I have caught up with him after such a long time, that it is the dream that does it. That makes us real and then eventually even the real thing.

You end up with enough common ground to cover the differences life has dealt out to each of us.

Common ground. That seems ridiculous if you look at it from a neutral perspective. But it isn’t ridiculous at all when you look at it, sitting in the saddle of your Harley-Davidson.

It was great meeting you pal! Ride safe.

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Cowboys

I watched Pale Rider last night. Having had thoughts about John Wayne and his deputies in my last post, Clint Eastwood suddenly turned up and made me think even more about Cowboys.

Isn’t that just the image you want to create on  a Harley?

The lonesome Cowboy, just him and his horse and the endless horizon, never to be messed with when he enters the saloon.

Don’t we know it all? See it right in front of us?

No frontiers, American dream, no roots, no mercy.

Do all bikers crave the beauty of a life as wild as a cowboy’s?

Some do. I do.

But I am a woman.

“I wish I could grow a beard.” This thought flashed through my brain watching Clint Eastwood get on his horse, eyes like steel looking round.

The wish, spoken out loud, got a reply.  “The boys wouldn’t like it!”

The boys wouldn’t like it???

Why should I care what they like? On my Harley, I don’t. I refuse to be judged by their standards.

But what are my standards? How to be a female cowboy. With no beard! Well, theoretical beard.

Where are the strong mythical female figures? The tough chicks?

How can you be cool without a beard?

There is no myth to support us.

Pale rideresses???

No!

If we don’t want to be judged by male standards, we need to create our own.

intense longing

I miss her. Think about her every day.

How could this mass of nuts and bolts, rubber and steel become a true part of me so quickly­? Flesh of my flesh.

Maybe that is the secret behind the myth. A Harley-Davidson has the power to stop being just an engine. It can become you. Part of you. Flesh of your flesh. You in your purest and most authentic form. The essence of you.

I miss her. I had to leave; it will be another month before I can go back. Will things be the same? The way I feel about her?

I ride another bike just now. In another country.  My old Suzuki Savage. Of course there is the joy of the ride, the surge of power, the taste of freedom. But I am not invincible now but an ordinary biker again.

Suzuki Savage

LS 650

I am a bunch of deputy sheriffs, not  John Wayne.

A realization dawns on me – there is no way back. You just can’t downsize anymore. Once you are part of the myth there is no other road you can take.

Owning a Harley-Davidson means there is only one way left to ride into the sunset.