- 16 may
III: the departure
When last we left our hero, he was leaving San Bruno and heading for the Oakland domicile of one Mr. Sole Proprietor, a fellow photographer and lone wolf who stalks the Bay Area to capture images of the local citizenry. As it turns out, this domicile is perilously close to the site of a wedding I once attended some years before, a wedding of an old girlfriend, a girlfriend of the type that one keeps in one's memory like a touchstone in a pocket, a tactile reminder that one's life could've become a nightmare of contentious remorse were it not for the fact that a mysterious power from on high, a power greater than himself gently put a reassuring hand upon his shoulder and whispered "get the fuck away from this woman as fast as you can if you want either of you to live a happy life." I listened, my life got so much better, and I lived to tell the tale.
I crossed the Bay Bridge with all the bliss and apprehension one enjoys when motoring toward unfamiliar territory. Having eschewed the signage for the view, I let fate and a full fuel tank do the worrying for me and got to see more of Oakland than I would have had I taken a more direct route. I like doing it that way, whether it's motoring, living, or loving. Bob, the Sole Prop, had given me very good directions, and once I saw Lake Merritt it was a simple approach to his nifty bachelor pad.
His pleasure palace, lined with books, cd's, and actual vinyl recordings indicates this is an intelligent man. But I already knew that. We sat and chatted for a couple of hours about how, when our joint benevolent monarchy is ratified by the people, the world's problems will be solved. Soon Chuck arrived, roaring up on his new motorcycle, its exhaust pipes leaving a wake of shattered windows. The three of us sat and decompressed in the delightful weirdness of cyberfolk actually together in the flesh, and we talked about other journals, the ones we haven't read, the ones we have, and the ones that are perpetrated by people deeply in need of the best and most effective practitioners of psychiatry.
Bob treated us that night to a fine feast of sushi after which we strolled along the lakeside and into the valley of the shadow of that wedding I mentioned above. It was cathartic for me in that I could share with other men the sheer terror of coming so close to a different life, and how sometimes reciprocity failure has absolutely nothing to do with photography.
Back at Bob's, we hunkered down for a final chat as we spread out our bedrolls like lens-toting cowboys gettin' set fer an early ride outta town.
We rose before 0700 the next morning, packed our gear, and checked our bikes. It was then that the weird generous awful thing happened. Down in the garage Chuck told me about how his lovely wife Beth had kindly chosen to christen his new bike with the gift of a riding bell, a tiny bell one attaches to someplace low on the motorcycle to ward off the gremlins that so often seem to torment that machine and its rider. A kind gesture indeed, one worthy of a wife's concern for her husband's safety. Chuck asked me if I knew about the legend of the bell to which I replied no, adding, in that oh-so-cool way I have of adding, that I thought the practice was rather fey. That's the word I used. Fey. And in fact it is fey, but my interpretation of fey at that time was more akin to gay and the incongruity of having a big black manly machine that goes vrrooom vrrooom also go tinkle tinkle at the same time. It was at this moment that he graciously presented me with my own riding bell, saying he had never properly christened my bike.
Imagine my embarrassment, chagrin, humiliation, regret, at having poo-pooed his accessory. I was stuck between a rock and a tinkly place. I accepted, of course, with as much grace as I could scrape off my tongue, and thanked him honestly for the kindness. I looked my bike over, checking for a good place for it, but in the dim light I could settle only for a temporary spot.
After laurels and hearty handshakes all around, we fired up our steeds and aimed for the freeway. And then, somewhere between the Cave of the Sole Proprietor and the toll booth of the Bay Bridge I noticed something terrible had happened. My new bell was gone. Lost. Detached. Jettisoned without even so much as a plaintive tinkle. A lovely talisman of Sterling Silver had been lost somewhere on the streets of Oakland. My confession of this tragedy to Chuck was painful to utter, for he reserves such sentiments for only a select few of his fellow men.
His attempt at solace was to suggest that a bell that is lost takes a particularly eveil gremlin with it, and that is my fervent hope. I like to believe that now, attached somewhere to a purloined shopping cart full of garbage bags and dollheads, rings the slightly scarred bell of someone less fortunate than I who perhaps at some point in his or her life dreamt of the open road and is reminded of it by a soft protective tinkle, a touchstone.
But to be honest, the loss made me crazy deep down inside for the remainder of the trip.
The rest of the ride home was gorgeous, some of it taken along back roads past lonesome farmhouses. As we approached Santa Barbara, the gateway to Superior California, we hit horrendous traffic necessitating a session of lane-splitting for many miles before a turn-off to a more expeditious route.
Chuck and I saluted each other farewell as we parted ways on highway 126.
This past weekend we ventured out on our mighty steeds once again for motor journey to some local parts north of here. On the way home we stopped at my local Harley-Davidson shop were we gawked at shiny things with shiny prices. And true to his character, my friend Chuck bought me another bell. I have since painstakingly attached it to my motorcycle where should it happen to endure a nuclear blast it will still keep on a ringin'.
Now it will have to be weeks and weeks before I can say anything nasty about Chuck again. But I think you now have some idea of how good a friend he can be.
"Carry That Weight" -- The Beatles -- ABBEY ROAD
"We estimate a man by how much he remembers."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson