Of anger rides and love songs

When I missed Laura I used to go on an Anger Ride. Jump on my Harley and roar on the I-way for a while.

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The Don used to call it “getting a rage-on.” He loved doing it in the middle of the night, when it was just him and truckers on the road.

 

 

 

 

 

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Best bike for that was my 2002 Deuce because it only had 5 gears and at 90 mph it was loud. A few hours of that would fix me right up. Sometimes it took a few days of that.

 

 

 

Over the years I mellowed.

So tonight, as I lie awake in a hotel room in a small town outside Stockholm, instead of trying to find a way to rent a Harley for a rage-on through Sweden, I’m listening to music.

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I can imagine Laura saying “No! Rent the Harley! Go rent the Harley!”

 

 

 

 

 

One of the great romantic songs of the pop era is Unchained Melody. Its lyrics were written by Hy Zaret and put to music by Alex North.

Oh, my love
My darling
I’ve hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time

And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?

I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me

Lonely rivers flow to the sea, to the sea
To the open arms of the sea
Yes, lonely rivers sigh, “Wait for me, wait for me
I’ll be coming home, wait for me”

The lyrics alone are pretty, but sung by the Righteous Brothers, they’re spellbinding:

Turns out several artists, including Roy Orbison and U2 have tried to record it. Sorry. Great musicians that they were, they all failed compared to the Righteous Brothers. Here they are if you want to decide for yourself:

I looked up several lists of the best love songs of 2017, but I didn’t listen to any of them. I didn’t want to ruin the afterglow from Unchained Melody. We don’t express ourselves like we used to. We retreat from excellence as it were a rattler on the trail. Maybe we’re afraid of trying and failing. That’s not surprising, since social media never leaves our Left shoulder, a worse censor than the most ardent prude Hollywood ever had to endure.

I don’t care.

Give me eloquence. Give me beauty. Lend me expressions that warm my hear and make me take a long, slow breath or two.

Louis L’Amour’s America

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I’ve been scratching my head an awful lot, wondering where the men who today call themselves real Americans got their notion of this real America. They seem proud of their ignorance, disrespectful of knowledge, skill, or craft, contemptuous of women, and suspicious of anyone different. That’s not the America I know or have ever known. So I went looking for the source of their America.

Louis L’Amour is the quintessential writer of American stories since the 20th century. His stories are simple tales of good and evil. Of the American frontier. Self-reliance. Strength. Courage. Surely I would find the real America in his novels. So I read a few.

Here are some excerpts from The Warrior’s Path, the third novel in the Sackett series, narrated by Kin Ring Sackett, circa the 1620’s.

This one is about the value of intelligent women:

“Beautiful,” I said quickly. “And sensitive, but she thinks. She has a good mind, and excellent mind. And far beyond her years in good sense.”

He chuckled suddenly and I did not know why, but he glanced at me slyly. “It is not often I hear a young man comment on a woman’s mind.”

“She is worthy of comment for her beauty,” I replied stiffly, “but among us a woman’s mind is important. On the frontier a man and his wife are two. They work beside each other. To survive the two must work as one, sharing thoughts as well as work. It is not the same, I hear, in the cities of Europe.”

Page 78

This one is about religious tolerance:

It may have been my father’s easy way with folks, or perhaps my mother’s way or Lila’s or the teachings of Sakim, but I was not one for believing all who believed not as I to be therefore heathens. Many are the paths to righteousness, and ours, I think, is but one.

Page 90

This opinion of women is presented by a man one generation older than Kin Ring Sackett, a sea captain:

“Give me always a woman with pride, and pride of being a woman.”

Page 164

In the novel Flyboys, James Bradley describes the inhuman machismo of Japanese soldiers as a charade of traditional Bushido culture. That’s what we’re experiencing today, I believe, in President Trump and his followers: a charade of American culture. A parody of American values. A complete and utter farce of what made America great.

We cannot let them rewrite American history.

Are you a fascist?

DudleyMoore“I thought I was just doing great with you!”

Apologies for the bad pun from Arthur.

But you see, fascists look just like you and me. They sound like you and me. They may be educated. They may be ignorant. They may be eloquent. They may be on the Left, they may be on the Right.

The truth is that fascists usually defined themselves as being neither Left nor Right but a combination of whatever policies helped to win power and “rejuvenate” the nation.

 The Telegraph, United Kingdom

What makes you a fascist today, in America, is that you support our democracy only when that democracy gives you what you want. Once there is any danger that it no longer will, you turn to fascism. You don’t call it fascism, of course. No, in true Orwellian fashion, you ascribe to your opponents the fascist qualities you, yourself, exhibit.

You would destroy America in order to preserve it.

If you’re not sure whether you are one, read this list of “unifying principles.”

  • Hatred of democracy. Power should be held by those strong and clever enough to seize it, preferably a dictator.
  • The necessity of violence. Force is a legitimate way to achieve power and war is good because it binds us together.
  • Biology as destiny. Men are born to work, women to have lots of babies. Europeans are inherently superior thanks to a mix of breeding and education.
  • National identity. People are better off sticking to their own, and competition between nations is inevitable and even a constructive force in history.
  • Politics is everything. There is no aspect of society that is separable from political theory and action, a view that climaxed in totalitarianism, as depicted in George Orwell’s novel 1984.

 The Telegraph, United Kingdom

If you exhibit any of these qualities, you may be a fascist, or on your way to becoming one. Please, for the sake of yourself, your family, and our nation, call the Fascists Anonymous Hotline and seek help.

Test of audio recordings

Testing these audio files for So Long John Wayne:

Light Peruvian accent

  • Chapter 1 – part 1

  • Prologue

American accent

  • Prologue

Terrible Boston accent (for Carol)

  • Prologue

Softer Boston accent like I imagine Danny from Lunenburg would read it

  • Prologue

KTM 690 Enduro Maiden Voyage

 

I heat-cycled my new 2017 KTM a couple of weeks ago on the ride home from the dealer. Today I took it for its maiden voyage on the trails.

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I’m 63 and have about 350,000 miles under my belt on cruisers, touring bikes, and sport bikes.

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I have ridden dirt bikes, too, but I never put in the time to get better than barely competent. The Call of the Asphalt, so to speak.

For those of you who weren’t paying attention in English class, that’s a Jack London reference. Buy the book:

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Although I rely on technique while on the asphalt, I’ve always ridden dirt bikes by instinct. In other words, I don’t know what I’m doing. On top of that, I tend to freak myself out over stupid things. Like mud. And sand. And boulders. Cliffs, too, if they get too close. Riding the twisties fast on a Ducati is a form of meditation. So is cruising Route 50 across Nevada on a Harley. But dirt scares me.

I’m trying to remedy that with the KTM. Partly out of respect for the bike, partly because I’m at that age when I need to rely on technique. So today I focused on weighting the outside peg while turning.

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The terrain wasn’t always cooperative, but I got in a little practice, and it’s starting to feel less awkward.

Mudholes, which I couldn’t get a picture of because I was too busy staying upright, scare the heck out of me.  Especially when they have huge truck tire tracks running through them. Not only does the mud take turns grabbing and letting go of your tire, but the tracks make you pay when you cross them. I rode through a couple of sections that were each about 100 yards long, and somehow emerged in one piece. I hate mud!

A great deal of credit goes to the KTM. I’m not qualified to do a review of this bike, but here’s what I noticed on today’s compared to other cheaper dirt bikes I’ve owned:

  • More stable through the sand, gravel, and mud
  • Wider (much wider) power band, so no need to force a shift at the wrong time.
  • Nimble for a 690.

I rode it mostly on jeep trails, with a little single track.

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The higher I got, the icier the water holes got. This one finally convinced me to turn around.

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Heart Attack Hill brought back memories. I used to race my daughter Beth to the top and do grenades until we couldn’t breathe. First one to collapse lost. It was at the midpoint of one of our conditioning runs. After that sprint, the rest of the run felt like a cakewalk. Whatever a cakewalk is. This is the lower part of the hill:

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It’s much easier on the KTM.

Great views from the trail. If you look closely (sorry for the bad picture quality, took it with an older iPhone), you can see the Denver skyline.

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Be like Butch

I am trying to understand the reasoning of a man who is willing to let our children get their heads blown off in school so he can own an assault rifle.

It’s difficult for me because I have been exposed to a different example. My DI’s in the Air Force, for instance. My friends and relatives who served in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The members of my family who are still on active duty. My daughter, who is about to be deployed. Her husband who works 14-hour days training pilots for the USAF. And Butch Desens.

We bought our current house from Butch, back in 2008.  88 years old at the time, Butch was tall and stood ram-rod straight. He was lucid, gentle, kind, and attentive to his wife, Marilyn. You’d never know he flew P-47’s in WWII. The first time he got shot down over Germany, he was captured and locked up in a prisoner of war camp. He escaped, made his way to his side of the lines, and promptly climbed aboard another P-47. The second time he got shot down, he was captured and locked up again. Once more he escaped. And again he made his way back across the lines and climbed aboard yet another P-47. The third time he got shot down, he was imprisoned, but did not escape. His camp was deserted by the Nazi guards shortly before the Russian Army reached them. That time, he almost starved to death walking back to the Allied lines.

Butch and pilots like him climbed back into their P-47’s because they cared about the people back home. They cared about their own families and the families of their neighbors. About the families across town. The families in the next town over.

When I read about men who believe that it’s acceptable to subject our children to 290 school shootings since 2013 on principle, for whatever the reason, I don’t understand. Not in light of the example set by Butch Desens.

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I’m sure those men believe that by owning an AR-15 they are exercising their right to defend themselves and their families under the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution. That they are resisting the tendency of even the best-intentioned governments to intrude into the lives of their citizens. Some even believe that subjecting our citizens and our children to mass shootings, whether at school or a concert, is the price of freedom.

Do we really need an AR-15 to protect ourselves? Perhaps we do, perhaps we don’t. I’m sure that, whichever side we are on, we can marshall arguments and statistics to prove we are right.

But it’s not about who’s right. Not to me. To me, it boils down to the kind of man I want to be. Do I want to be like Butch Desens, who put himself at risk to protect the lives of children, or do I want to be the kind of man who lays the risk on our children so he can protect himself?

Me, I’ll stand on Butch’s side of the line, and give up my right to own an AR-15 or any kind of assault rifle if it decreases the chance that our children will get shot up in school. And I’ll ask my friends to take their assault rifles and ammo to the Sheriff’s office. To follow the example of these men.

You might argue that there is no statistical proof that by turning in their AR-15 law-abiding gun owners will help reduce mass shootings in schools. Of course there isn’t any proof: we haven’t tried it, yet. Butch didn’t have proof that the Allies would defeat the Nazis before he dedicated himself to the effort. But he was willing to try. If you don’t understand why he would do that, perhaps you should meditate on these lines of John Donne. Guys like Butch knew them by heart.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.