I turned thirty seven last week. I’m not one to make a ruckus over my birthday, so instead of a party I set three large goals for myself… goals that I wanted to accomplish before my age odometer clicked forward another year. The tasks were to complete a freelance painting gig that I began in June (the full painting will be unveiled in a later post, but a detail is below), to finish the “Heaven” portion of the songwriting for The Devil’s Carnival episodes two and three, and to acquire a motorcycle.
I’m happy and relieved to share that all three goals were met, but it came right down to the wire: T.D.C. co-composer, Saar Hendelman, and I completed the last targeted tune three-minutes before the midnight chime hailed me another year older. At the conclusion of our rough, pocketphone demo of the song, Saar can be heard exalting, “11:57… fuck yeah!” His recorded bliss was due as much to the fact we’d narrowly beat the clock as it was that we’d been struggling with this particular number for over three months. Although frustrating, the journey with the song was worth it as it may be my favorite of the new episodes (one I’m excited to share with all of you in the near future!).
The other two goals did not take three months to complete, but each had its own challenges and setbacks, and selecting a motorcycle has marked a whole new era for me and my nearing middle-age mobility.
I’d never driven a motorcycle until last month and although I’d been driving cars for the last twenty-one years, I’d never before owned a new vehicle… let alone driven one that I felt was an extension of my personality. No, the automobiles I’d coached were merely means of getting from point A to point B in a city that all but requires one to drive: Los Angeles. My solution to this Southern California road requisite was to possess a series of cheap, used beaters that transported me around from my teenage years to the present.
My former four-wheeled beasts were all eyesores, rusted rides with a myriad of mechanical problems. Shortly after college, I was driving a particularly monstrous machine that I used for a job as a flower courier. The flower deliveries were usually surprise bouquets from husbands and lovers to their fair honey’s places of work. I found it hilarious that my uncomely chariot was the delivery horse for other people’s romances. In addition to being ugly, the car had no working air conditioner, so in the sweltering summer months I’d show up to corporate offices looking a sweaty, disheveled mess, clutching fists of flowers like a crazy person.
As someone who in thirty seven years still hasn’t learned how to play nice with others—or to shave without nicking his chin—I never felt I was missing anything by not owning a new, or even nice, vehicle. Car payments always felt like the stuff of grownups, and as someone who subscribes to the Fight Club philosophy that the things you own own you, I never wanted the worry that some asshole might key a hunk of metal that was actually of value to me. My shiny new motorcycle, however, has made me eat my words.
I am now the proud owner of a virgin Ural model T. Ural is a Russian company that specializes in heavy duty, 1940′s-style sidecar motorbikes, sometimes known as “Cossack motorcycles”. With an alter ego like Count Tarakan: Bad Ass Russian, I couldn’t think of a machine more appropriate to serve as the first mechanical steed that I purchased because I wanted to as opposed to felt like I had to.
I was turned on to Ural by longtime friend and biker Larry Andrews, who, when I told him I was looking for a retro-looking motorbike, said, “You need to check out Ural.”
Larry and I spent an evening drooling over internet photos of the Russian bikes, cracking up at images of Ural drivers taking corners with their sidecars raised at 130° angles, or of WWII cosplayers riding with rifles and eyepatches.
Some Ural models are equipped with levers that engage the third wheel, better allowing the vehicles to go off-roading, climbing dirt roads like the mountains of its company’s namesake in two-wheel drive. Other models are waterproofed and stocked with rowing oars for river crossing.
Apparently, the mark of a good sidecar operator is a driver who can complete an entire lap with the third wheel pitched off the ground like you see in cartoons. I’ve only been driving the motorcycle for a little over a week, so my skills aren’t quite their yet, but I’m getting the hang of it and enjoying the feeling of riding in the open air and receiving double takes from motorists who most likely have only seen bikes like these in Indiana Jones films.
I’m planning to do a photoshoot with my new wheels on the horizon, but in the meantime, who wants to help me name it? And should the sidecar have its own name, independent of the bike itself, like a dynamic duo? Please enter your suggestions in the “Comments” section below.