Tuesday, November 28, 2006


As I was putting together the recent post about selling my old motorcycle, the photos I posted made me realize how much I miss Grandma, Grandpa and Clark. I kept looking at this photo I took one day while out fishing with Clark on the Wisconsin river near their house. It reminded me of the poem I read at Ken and Mary Jane's funeral in Florida a few years ago:

The Iron Bridge - Billy Collins

I am standing on a disused iron bridge
that was erected in 1902,
according to the iron plaque bolted into a beam,
the year my mother turned one.
Imagine--a mother in her infancy,
and she was a Canadian infant at that,
one of the great infants of the province of Ontario.

But here I am leaning on the rusted railing
looking at the water below,
which is flat and reflective this morning,
sky-blue and streaked with high clouds,
and the more I look at the water,
which is like a talking picture,
the more I think of 1902
when workmen in shirts and caps
riveted this iron bridge together
across a thin channel joining two lakes
where wildflowers blow along the shore now
and pairs of swans float in the leafy coves.

1902--my mother was so tiny
she could have fit into one of those oval
baskets for holding apples,
which her mother could have lined with a soft cloth
and placed on the kitchen table
so she could keep an eye on infant Katherine
while she scrubbed potatoes or shelled a bag of peas,

the way I am keeping an eye on that cormorant
who just broke the glassy surface
and is moving away from me and the iron bridge,
swiveling his curious head,
slipping out to where the sun rakes the water
and filters through the trees that crowd the shore.

And now he dives,
disappears below the surface,
and while I wait for him to pop up,
I picture him flying underwater with his strange wings,

as I picture you, my tiny mother,
who disappeared last year,
flying somewhere with your strange wings,
your wide eyes, and your heavy wet dress,
kicking deeper down into a lake
with no end or name, some boundless province of water.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving Day Ride

I headed out early(ish) Thursday morning for a Thanksgiving dinner in Sacramento. As you can imagine, holiday traffic is a bitch. It is bumper to bumper from SF to Sacramento on the 80 and depending on timing etc.. it can easily be a 4 to 5 hour / 120 miles trip by cage, err.. I mean car.

I split traffic until Livermore and then headed north on Vasco Road, up Highway 4 until 160 and then kept going north through the Delta to Sacramento. I loaded up the Road Pig (1979 Honda GL1000 Goldwing), plugged my iPod into my $30 Kraco and was blasting a road tunes mix I made for the trip. She is not much to look at (to say the least) but runs well and is great at hauling crap around and keeping the bugs out of my teeth. You can't tell from this photo but there is a mud flap that I'm threatening on changing to one of those trucker girls or Yosemite Sam designs.

So this route avoids most of the holiday traffic and also happens to be my all time favorite Nor-Cal route. Riding along the cool Delta levees during a hot summer day was the only way I kept from going crazy growing up in Sacramento. The incredibly oppressive heat and traffic were unbearable (not to mention the hillbillies and the smog). It was a quick escape to head south through town to Freeport, get on Highway 160, take a few of the ferries across the rivers and islands and end up in the little town of Locke for a beer and some eats at Al the WOPs Place. I can't say that Al's has great food but it is an experience you shouldn't miss. For dinner, there is basically one thing on the menu; steak, spaghetti and fries.

Al's is located in the town of Locke, which is the last original Chinatown still standing in California (I've read on a website). "Still standing" is a bit of a stretch as the place is literally falling over. The buildings are leaning dangerously and the floors in many of the shops feel much like a trampoline. If you go, make sure to spend the time to walk off of the main drag. The town is only about 1 city block but is a real slice of the sub-culture that exists in the Delta. My guess is that this won't be around too much longer as the housing developments are slowly creeping in and it looks like the McMansions are popping up more and more frequently along the Delta Highway.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

Back in 1989 Honda had a crazy idea to import their home market retro 500cc single to the US. No one really had much success with these types of bikes in the past so it was a bit of a gamble and by 1990 Honda had had enough of the bloodshed and cut the US off. The GB500 Tourist Trophy was a British styled bike with a green so dark it looked black, gold pin striping, single seat (US only), low bars and a long Norton Manx like tank. To me, it has always looked like sex on wheels (my bike today after a washing)

When I went to my first SF International Motorcycle show in 1990 with my good friend Garth Hurd, I sat on one of these and thought I was in heaven (pictured above). I had to have one but at $3200 there was no way that this collage student was going to afford it. Even as Honda blew these out for an eventual $2100 it was still a King's ransom. So I appreciated them from afar and kept ridding my awful 1984 Suzuki GS550ES (POS!)

Several years went by and I was sharing an apartment in SF with little Matty Goff and a friend of his, Josh Morong, was in town and getting ready for his wedding back in Maine (pictured together above).
We got to talking and drinking (I think that was the night they covered my head in duct tape) and we started talking motorcycles and it turned out that Josh had a GB500 and was looking at selling due to his impending marriage. I was working seasonally on a fishing trawler at the time in Alaska so I had a few months to kill and some cash. He made me a great deal but the catch was I had to pick it up in Boston.

That was a no-brainer. I bought a one way ticket, attended the wedding and threw my sleeping bag and tent on the back and took off on my first cross country motorcycle trip. The route was little back roads from Boston to Toronto, Chicago, Madison, Denver and then home to SF. I spent about a week at each major stop with relatives or hanging out in the local hostel getting to know the town. The bike is only a 500c single so it was a bit of a challenge going up and down the Rockies and I did have the throttle pinned most of the time as the top speed is about 75 MPH.

The highlight of the trip was the week I spent sleeping on my Grandparent's (pictured above) couch in Friendship, Wisconsin. I spent most of the time fishing with my Uncle Clark(pictured below), watching TV with my Grandfather and playing cards with my Grandmother. As it turns out this was the last time I was going to see Clark as I was getting back on the boat in Jan for a 5 month stretch and he passed away while I was out at sea. Clark was a real character (to put it nicely) but to hear him talk with such pride about his nephew from California riding across the US on the "old one lunger" still makes me tear up.

I eventually made it back to SF and the GB was my primary transportation for 7 years. I put about 30,000 miles on it for a total of 37k and it never gave me any problems save for the occasional battery replacement (but it has a kick starter) My brother bought me the 2 person seat kit which worked well and looked great but never really fit in with the character of the bike. I had always dreamed of putting an old style British fairing on, polishing the aluminum engine, having the wheels re-spoked, boring it out to 600cc, putting the XR650 5 valve head on it… The old GB has really turned into a collectors bike since they came out and a really good example goes for about $5000 and a no mileage model $8000. I regularly troll eBay to see what people have done with them.

I'll justify selling it by saying that I have 5 motorcycles and it is getting a bit crowded in the garage or that I haven't ridden it in 5 years and it needs a frame up total restoration. Or that now with the amazing, sweet Triumph Tiger in my garage, it’s time to stop pretending to have a British bike since I now own the real thing.

So in order to get it road worthy again, I finished rebuilding the front brake caliper as it was frozen up and rebuilt the leaky carb this weekend. To make sure everything was working well I took it for a spin around the block. The thing still hauls ass off the line and handles like a dream. It is so SMALL and twitchy that you just think about a turn, smash the handlebar and it just corners. And it is a real attention getter as well. Just taking it around the block today I had 4 people stop to look and comment on it. It is such a pretty bike and always will be, sigh...

I guess this is the part where I accept selling the bike and pass it on to a new owner for a good price like how I got it. And where I am grateful that I got to own it for as long as I did, that it treated me so well for so many years and where I go back to admiring it from afar like I used to do. Honestly, this has been so hard on me and I have to tell myself that this is a lesson about owning things. That I don't need to own them but that I can appreciate and not have to posses them. I know the new owner and he is just learning to ride so hopefully we’ll get to spend some time buzzing around the City and up to Grizzly Peak together.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Aterciopelados at Slims in SF

So I've waited about 5 years to see them in SF. Check out their myspace page for more info. These guys are an alternative rock group from Columbia that someone turned me onto a few years ago. I was complaining that I get SO tired of that crappy NorteƱo stuff you hear from the pickups driving by with the big cow head on the door. You know what I'm talking about if you live in SF or LA. The ompha-ompha of the tubas and the damn squeaky accordions just suck ass. These guys do use traditional instruments sometimes but they grind it out with rocking guitars and pounding drums mostly.

Sunday night's show at Slims didn't exactly tear the place up but it wasn't at all what I had expected. I had thought it would be a post punk noise fest with lots of moshing young latinos (like at the Cafe Tacuba shows I've seen). Turns out the place was filled with mid 30 hipsters and Euro trash with lots of scarves and corduroy everywhere. The show started off a bit slow but picked up as they worked their way through the hits and new material from their new album, "Oye" It was great to put faces to the music and the fans and I hope to catch them again if possible. I think they were playing in LA with Los Enantios Verdes recently but missed the show by a week. Now if only Sara Valenzuela will tour in the US! If you want to check out more Latino Rock and have iTunes do a search for "Latin Alternative Essentials"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

We Got Kansas in the House!

Sorry for the delay in posting. I've been recovering from the vacation as well as hanging with my Dad and step Mother who have been in town.

Driving from Kansas, they arrived in SF Thursday, just in time for the Dia de los Muertos parade through the Mission. I swiped the photo above from filckr. It was really a SF treat to see the night streets crowded and full of lunatics dancing and dressed in more unusual costumes than normal and to show off the neighborhood I live in.

Friday morning we all headed to Fisherman's Wharf on the way to Santa Rosa for a bit of the famous sourdough and seafood (above). Damon (Janis' son and pictured below left) was getting married and we had the wedding rehearsal at Sally's (the Bride) fathers house. Otto (pictured below right) is their 9 month old Mastiff puppy. He weighs in at 175 now and should top out around 200. I can't even imagine how much poop they have to pick up.

The wedding went off spectacularly on Saturday. Great food, lots to drink, dancing, new friends, old friends and power failures. Yes, the power was out for an hour or so during the evening but it seemed to add to the ambiance.

and of course the wedding cake with its unique topper (below).