Monday, May 08, 2006

Finding Hemingway

Monday morning. I never seem to sleep well on Sunday nights anymore. Trying to wake up, I hit the shower. Katie knocks on the door and says I have a phone call. Who's calling me at 6:15 AM? Turns out it's my youngest son, Clinton. You met him in a post last week. Clinton's freshly done with High School. He's moved up to Salem with my oldest son. Clinton has a job in Albany which means a 20 mile or so commute. This morning his car's broken down. The water pump had been leaking for a few days and today the car over-heated.

Funny about the young guys. They so badly want their independence and to be their proverbial "own man". Then trouble hits, the kid's stranded, and who gets the call? So Dad fires up the truck and rescues the son. We find a shop who can work on it and take it there. It's ok. The boys are my family and that's what family does. None of them have moved back in nor have they asked for money. I'm pretty much just back-up for emergencies.

You're probably wondering what this has to do with commuting by motorcycle. Well, as you've probably guessed, I was late in getting to "the office". The weird thing is that I seemed to be worried about it. It's like, God forbid, the wheels of commerce should come to a screeching halt because Dan Bateman failed to report to his assigned slot at the assigned time. When I did get on the bike to go to work I travelled down the interstate. This whole thing had gotten my mind churning and I needed to think. In the process I saw another angle to the "why I ride" picture.

This is a commuter blog so I won't go into political commentary. Ok, just a tiny bit. The way we live combined with the way society is set up conspire to force conformity. Very few of us live on large, rural land parcels. We tend to live in cities and towns in relatively small dwellings. Viewed in the bigger picture we all go home to our assigned slots. Much of the employment available is in offices or facilities of some kind. Which means we leave our dwelling slot to go to our work slot. Our lives become filled with work hours and to-do lists. The "man of action and adventure" we'd like to be becomes subjugated. Now we're called "good providers" and "law-abiding".

Don't get me wrong. Once a person commits to another and makes a family that needs to come first. My opinion, at least. When the children come along the responsibility intensifies. If we need to work and live in slots to take care of our family, so be it. The arrangement just leaves very little room for us to go find the adventure our soul craves. I can accept that. On the other hand, I think about when the final tally for me is taken. If someone could sum up my existence by saying I left this world with a pot belly and a good credit score then why did I live in the first place?

Some folks are lucky to be able to combine making a living with adventure. That doesn't happen for the majority. I had plenty of adventure earlier in life but have chosen to tone it down for the sake of family. At the same time adventure is burning a hole in my heart, as they say. Riding allows me to give it an outlet.

Every day I can steal a little time away from conformity. I can choose to break out and be different from the masses that commute in cars. So much of what people experience today isn't really direct experience. They read about something. They see it on television or movies. They hear about it from ones who have had the adventures. Most people just never really experience life as it was meant to be. Oh, there's a familiarity, but not the hard won knowledge that comes from living intensely. That kind of knowledge is what I'm after on the bike.

I've experienced that kind of intensity in different circumstances. It was certainly intense to be finished with high school and have my Senior Trip scheduled for me. A bus to Basic then a loud, creaky, airplane ride to a foreign jungle. Working for years as a cop in a crazy place. I carry memories, knowledge, and experience with me that I never would have come by any other way. I hate to say it, but I sometimes long to be living like that again. It just wouldn't jive with raising a family for me. Problem is, the flame still smolders. Katie says that there's still an outlaw just beneath the surface. Life seems too tame, sometimes.

Riding isn't as dramatic as what I've experienced in the past. That is, after I quit racing. Still, I get just enough adventure and drama to keep the edge off. Every time we ride we face danger. We get to plot strategy. We look for "bogies" and "incoming". We can face weather conditions as adverse as we can stand. We can push ourselves and be surprised at how much we can really achieve when pressed. Riding can be as intense as we make it. In the process we gain that hard won knowledge that only comes from first hand, tough, experience. There are other things that can give us this intensity. There's not many you can experience every day. Commuting on a bike is one you can.

I know it's kind of a wordy description. Many of you have summed it up by saying things like

"I never feel as alive as when as I'm on the bike".

It's the intensity and what you gain from it. As I'm riding I'm thinking about all this. I'm sort of disjointed due to the intense fatigue and hardly any sleep. This isn't cleaned up and sanitized. It's a look into a tortured mind that I'm sharing with you. The title of the blog should have warned you. Sometimes my writing will just be musings. Some things in life are better experienced raw as they happen.

Look at Hemingway. Have you ever read him? That was a man who was a "man of action" and lived the talk. By age 26 he had lived more than most did in a lifetime. People are drawn to his writing because he lived what he wrote. A lot of Hemingway's writing is raw. The man paid a price, to be sure. Four different women took him down the marriage aisle thinking they could change him. All four failed. Papa Hemingway ended his days as a paranoid, depressed, old man with angina. Eventually he killed himself. But what a legacy he left. A lot more than a pot belly and a good credit score.

I'm no Hemingway, to be sure. Commuting on a bike lets me ride in his shadow. It's intense, it's real, and, oh so satisfying!

Miles and smiles,


Philip Booth said...

So how do you type while you're on the Hog?
Just kidding -- enjoyed your post, and your musings about Hemingway.

Mad said...

Hog? Irondad's no Harley man surely? I get the impression that if you cut him he'd bleed Honda wings... :p

Gary said...

Ah, Hemingway.

Yes, he lived quite a life. I enjoyed his work when I was young.

He filled my imagination with visions of adventure and heroism. I was completely gobsmacked when I found out how he died.

The same with my other literary hero, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

These men seemed larger than life, but in the end, life was too much for them to handle. Funny how that works...

Ride well,

irondad said...

Nice to have a new commenter. Thanks for taking the time. I'm confused. Did I write something that alluded to riding a "hog"? Or was that just something you pulled out for illustration purposes? I write in my head while I'm riding and then try to remember how brilliant I was when I get to the computer.

Yes, I bleed Honda Red.

Do people like Ernest and Hunter go after life so intensely because of something they're lacking inside? Are they looking for something to "fill the empty spot"? Trouble is, if you're not enough without it, you'll never be enough with it. Maybe that's why the tragic self-inflicted endings. Those two and people like them aren't comfortable in their own skins.