It’s human nature.
First we become addicted to outrage.
Then we become addicted to condemnation.
Then we come to love hatred.
All propaganda has to do is give us a reason. First to be outraged. Then to condemn. Then to hate. We’ll take it from there.
Doesn’t have to be a good reason. We’ll take pretty much any damn excuse. Because we want to be outraged. We want to condemn. And we really, really, want to hate.
Somewhere in the North Atlantic.
“Sir, iceberg ahead.”
“Fake news. Full speed ahead.”
Later in the North Atlantic.
“Sir, radar shows multiple icebergs ahead. Recommend we reduce speed.”
“Turn off your radar. If you don’t look at your radar, there won’t be any icebergs.”
“Sir, I believe we struck an iceberg.”
“Don’t worry about it. This ship is unsinkable.”
Water begins flooding into the ship.
“Sir, there is a 100 meter gash below the water line, compartments 4 and 5 are flooding.”
“The people in the communications office have not treated me right. Ignore them. Start the gala dinner. We need to give our guests what they paid for.”
On the main deck, two friends talking.
“Egbert, I believe this ship is sinking.”
“I believe you’re right, Theodore,”
“I’ve lost confidence in the captain.”
“Not me. He upgraded my stateroom. I’m cruising in the lap of luxury.”
Back on the bridge.
“Sir, we should send a distress signal.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. It will make us look bad.”
Ship is tilting more dramatically.
“Sir, we don’t have enough boats for all passengers on board.”
“Of course we do. We’re the Titanic. We’re the greatest ship ever built. I built this ship. This ship has everything it needs. But lock the gates to steerage.”
“Sir, what do we do about all the people swimming for their lives. They’re going to freeze to death.”
“Freeze to death? No, they’re going to swamp our boats. Row faster. Let’s get away from them.”
Wealthy passengers in life boats are rescued by other ship.
“My God, what happened?”
“Looters and thugs mutinied. Sank the ship. We had to abandon.”
“You’re lucky to be alive.”
“We are. Going forward, we need armed guards on our ships. Well armed.”
“I can certainly understand the need.”
“Do you have a ship-to-shore phone? I need to call my insurance company. File a claim.”
“Of course. Right away, sir. Is there anything else you need?”
“I could use a hot bath. Have one of your servants run me a hot bath, will you?
“Of course, sir. Right away, sir.”
According to George Santayana, those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
In 1796 Washington gave a farewell address to the nation. In a History of the American People, Paul Johnson summarizes Washington’s first point:
He pleads at length, and passionately, against ‘the baleful effects of the Spirit of Party.’
Differences, arguments, and debates there must be. But a common devotion to the Union, as the source of ‘your collective and individual happiness,’ is the very foundation of the state.
The fact that the people have ‘the power and right to establish Government’ presupposed ‘the duty of every individual to obey it.’ Hence, ‘all obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency.’
This is a very strong statement of the moral obligations of all citizens to comply with the decisions of duly constituted government, enforcing the laws constitutionally enacted by Congress. It was a solemn reminder by Washington, as the result of eight years’ experience as chief executive, that America was a country under the rule of law.
You can read it at the Our Documents website.
Guffey is one of those rare places where strange and wonderful things happen that you can’t quite explain but you know they happened because part of you keeps vibrating long after, like an aluminum bat that you whack against a light pole. And if you’re not convinced, stare for a while at the rocks around Guffey. Stare at those rocks long enough and you will start to believe that after the sun goes down druids come out from their secret entrances, gather in the open spaces, and howl like wolves during the full moon. Which is probably tonight.
Guffey is in the middle of nowhere, a plus for motorcycle rides because it takes a while to leave the city behind. And, to appreciate the kind and friendly people of Guffey, you need to make sure the city is way the hell behind you.
The Bull Moose has closed. On sunny Sunday afternoons Missus Fender Bunny and I sometimes danced among the locals on the big back deck. But the Coronas at Freshwater remains open, and the Guffey Garage always has a treasure or two lying around.
It was remarkably warm for March 7, but the high country was still in the 40’s when the usual suspects, Po Po Rada, Jace the Affable, Bad Ray and Andrea the Pillion, plus Steampunk Risk and BananaShana, led Missus Fender Bunny and me through the canyons and up into the mountains.
Missus Fender Bunny and I ride slow nowadays, so we were able to appreciate the iced-over river beside the road, and how a narrow stream of water slithered over the ice for a spell before sinking back under and rising again down the road a ways. River snakes. A tiny bit of the mountain magic you miss if you’re not paying attention.
One of the joys of stopping at Deckers, besides how warm the sun is, is listening to all the bikes ride past and hoping the cool ones pull in to the parking lot so you can talk to the owner. The first bike I noticed ride past was a KTM. Exactly which one, I dunno, but it sounded good, like most KTMs.
Then my heart stopped. Something else was behind the KTM. I couldn’t quite make it out in the sun, but if Phil Collins possessed a moto the way demons are ‘sposed to possess people, the bike Mister Collins possessed would sound like that. I was spellbound. As it passed I realized it was Moto Guzzi’s new V85TT.
Wow. That soulful pounding stayed with me until the Guzzi disappeared behind the next curve. I glanced at my trusty but tame ’11 GSA that cooked my meals and washed my laundry without complaint and knew I had sinned in my heart the way happily married men sin in their hearts when Scarlet Johansen makes them think they make her laugh.
“If you have already sinned in your heart, why don’t you just go ahead and sin in your pocket book?”
That was the Devil on my left shoulder. Yeah. No. But don’t let me stop you. If you want to sin in your pocket book, you can read all about Moto Guzzi’s TT on Motorcyclist.
After warming up in Deckers we rode on to Woodland Park. While we were gassing up in Woodland Park our motley crew decided that, instead of continuing on to Guffey, they would hit the Neiman Marcus sale on men’s rompers before all the cute colors were gone.
They scrambled onto their bikes and hurried back to the city. Missus Fender Bunny and I pressed on toward Guffey.
The road to Guffey is best taken slow. A measured pace reveals cows eating hay on the pastures painted gold by the afternoon sun. Horses with their muscular necks stretched all the way down to reach the hay their owner had dumped on the warm side of the barn. And llamas looking around in their pens, wondering why nobody speaks Spanish around these parts.
Como? Que cosa?
The cows, the horses, the llamas, and the pretty hills all around have a way of restoring your soul to its God-given groove.
If you don’t decide to stop right THEN, and not any later, as you crest the ridge above the town of Guffey, you miss the glorious view of the Sangre de Cristos, one of the most majestic mountain ranges in America. We managed to pull over, even though there wasn’t much of a shoulder.
Next time I’m taking my good camera, dangit. If you squint at this picture you can see the Sangres. Wish I could have pulled them in with a good telephoto lens.
Once in town we skirted the Guffey Garage and took a Right. Then we took a Left on Cañon street, rode past the Post Office and the Rolling Thunder Grill and took another Left on 8th street. We stopped at The Corona’s at Freshwater, which is where the fun began.
While Laura went inside to freshen up, I walked toward the bikes and trikes parked across the street. As I was inspecting the heavy metal, a really big guy in a watch cap approached me and asked me what I was up to.
I can’t stop staring at Harleys.
He smiled. What are you riding? I pointed to our bikes parked around the corner all by their lonesome.
Oh hell no.
That just won’t do, he said. Then he put his big arm around my shoulder and invited me to follow him inside.
The Freshwater is a rustic place with a welcoming feel. Not too many of those around, any more. Some of the newer places try to imitate the real thing, but they can’t pull it off because they don’t have the right people inside.
About a dozen veterans had ridden over from Colorado Springs and taken over the joint. By the time I walked in Missus Fender Bunny had announced to the room that she needed a hug and the vets were lined up, giving her hugs one after the other, some getting in line twice, the waitress patiently winding around the embraces to deliver burgers and fries.
You know how with some people you don’t even need to be introduced, you’ve just known them all your life? That’s how it was with the veterans and their wives. In a matter of minutes they were informing me that I could sit in the backwards chair as my service in the Chair Force only counted for 2/3, and I was splainin’ them that somebody needed to be smart enough to save their grunt asses from the Taliban. Or, for some of them, the Viet Cong.
I’m not really sure whether we actually did stand on the tables and sing verses of our respective service songs at each other or whether I just imagined it, we’re talking about Guffey after all, but before we knew it, we were swapping stories about life in the service like old friends and the grill had become twice as big as it had been when we first walked inside.
It was decided that Missus Fender Bunny and I were riding with them to Cañon City and the Springs, and that was that. Before we left, each of us took turns stapling a dollar bill to the ceiling. Accustomed to this mountain tradition, we obliged.
Kindly forgive the neck torque, but I need to make a note about Evos. I’ve owned two Evo Softails. The Evo is favorite sounding Harley motor. Something about the Evo’s lope is lovely and it tops even the Twin Cam’s lope. But the two I owned and every other Evo I have test ridden or sat on vibrated terribly. In 30 minutes my hands would invariably go numb.
I noticed that the 99 Heritage a veteran named George was riding had steel grips. Most Evo Softails, because they’re solid-mounted to the frame (instead of rubber-mounted), have rubber or leather grips with tons of foam or other material to dampen the vibration. George’s Evo had steel grips.
Either you are the world’s toughest biker, or you have one smooth Evo.
I said to George. Instead of responding, he sat on his bike, pulled out the choke, and fired it up. At idle it vibrated plenty, of course. That’s part of the charm. But I rolled on the throttle and at what between 2,000 and 3,000 RPM, that steel grip was as smooth as the chrome on my Street Glide. Unbelievable. I’ve got to build me one, I decided. An EVO-powered Softail Custom.
Or maybe another Fat Boy.
Damn if he doesn’t look like my pal Darrin, from Cotopaxi!
Anyway, we rode with the vets into Cañon City along route 9. These guys were good riders. A mixed flock of Harleys, Gold Wings, Indians, trikes, and what not. Plus Missus Fender Bunny on her Honda and me on the betrayed GSA. I’m not a fan of riding in formation, but these guys knew how to do it right. And do it well. We kept a good pace and, when traffic separated us, they got everyone back together as smoothly as an experienced wrangler gets strays back in line on a cattle drive.
Which reminds me, if you haven’t seen Lonesome Dove, see it.
We hung out a bit in Cañon City, exchanged warm good-byes, and mounted up and headed toward the Springs through some back roads that were new to me. In the Springs we split off and went our own way, Missus Fender Bunny and me full of good feelings for the veterans and, once again, without fail, for Guffey.
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.
The Don used to call it a rage ride. He loved doing it in the middle of the night, when it was just him and the truckers and the road.
Best bike for an anger ride 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. The V-twin version of electro-shock therapy.
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.
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. 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.
I’ve been scratching my head an awful lot, wondering where so many men I run into today get their 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.”
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.
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.”
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, among some of our brothers: a charade of American culture. A parody of American values. A farce of American manhood.
We’re a free country. You have the right to be a fraud and a fake, but don’t hold yourself up as an example of a real American male.
“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.
Testing these audio files for So Long John Wayne:
Light Peruvian accent
- Chapter 1 – part 1
Terrible Boston accent (for Carol)
Softer Boston accent like I imagine Danny from Lunenburg would read it
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.
I’m 63 and have about 350,000 miles under my belt on cruisers, touring bikes, and sport bikes.
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:
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.
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.
The higher I got, the icier the water holes got. This one finally convinced me to turn around.
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:
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.