Wastelands of Suburbia

A place where the cast-off ephemera of the last four generations comes to rest, and is discussed fondly....Like junk, or the injection-molded minutiae of history? Welcome home...Junkyards, yard sales, roadside oddities, thrift stores and more-your memories are deep inside the box, so keep shaking.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Prepubescent Lust, in the cards...

When I was around 12 or 13, before I stopped being afraid of girls (and don't think for one minute that in some ways they don't still TERRIFY me), I became very interested in motorcycles. My neighbors Tim, Brad and Kevin all had a mini-bike or small dirtbike of some kind to ride-back then, around here there were plenty of places to ride-the places that are all developments now were marked with various trails that had been worn into the dirt by the likes of Tim et al. The next neighborhood over was named for the circular street that formed it-Smiley Circle. The guys on Smiley Circle were two years older and had REAL bikes. I remember Dave, a gangly redhead who was so thin his chest was concave, with skin like a shrimp, nearly translucent. Dave had the Honda XR200R you see on the above playing card. You see, every year my dad would take me down to Nevil's Honda to look at the new models that had come out. Dad had spent some time on two wheels, and legend has it he still has bits of gravel in his face from a bad wreck (though rumor also has it said wreck was actually on a Vespa), and I think he truly enjoyed looking at what was new in the cycling world. He'd talk to the sales guys, and my brother and I would wander around looking at the bikes, sitting on them (after politely asking) and pretending we were riding. At the end of it all we'd get free swag, which included a deck of playing cards with all the new models on them. The images in this post are from a deck I recently acquired on Ebay, part of my Adult Overcompensation phase I currently find myself in.

(The CB1100F-in pre sportbike days, this was bad-ass-it's worth a decent buck today if you can find one)

Somewhere along the line I had decided I wanted one-it was pretty hard not to when "all the other kids" had one, and took off for parts (and seemingly worlds) unknown to me outside the neighborhood. Alas, I had not been born into a family with good motorcycle luck. My great uncle had lost a leg to his youthful motorcycle days, and a constant reminder was driven into my skull every year at family reunion time-Uncle John and his wooden leg (though by that time they were some sort of composite, the term "wooden leg" seemed to get used when referring to him, or more aptly, his accident), and my mother saying "THAT's what happens when you ride a motorcycle". Still another relative lost to history had allegedly beheaded himself collding with a utility pole guy wire in the dark. As a result, the odds of me getting on two wheels myself were pretty slim unless I was the horsepower.

Tim was the closest neighbor, and to this day, the coolest-he had, somewhere along the line, come into possession of a 1981 Honda XL80S-the XL was a Dual-Purpose bike, good for trail or street, what used to be known as an "enduro", for the long races that required headlights and sometimes street-legality, one assumes. Today we'd call it a DualSport or Motard. Tim's XL was the coolest color scheme of Honda Red, with white and yellow/orange highlights and pinstriping. I can only assume Tim's dad had bought the bike-Dick had a Yamaha RD350 of his own, and I had been lucky enough to get a ride on the back of it, though burning my leg on the tailpipe further hindered my arguments towards ownership with my mother.

After a fair amount of whining, I had managed to work out a deal with my parents-if I could do everything they asked, stay out of trouble, and get good grades for ONE YEAR, I would be given a motorcycle for my birthday. As a kid, I never really stopped to examine the futility of it-at that age, I was bound to fuck up eventually. As far as school was concerned, I was certainly smart enough, but boredom left me lax in my studies. I was at the age where rebellion is born, and was already becoming strong willed, so something was bound to happen there as well. In retrospect my parents probably knew this and were fully aware of just what an empty promise it was. For the first few days I recall scrubbing the house from top to bottom, including the all-important room cleaning, mowing the lawn, etc. I was bound and determined to get that bike!

(The XL200R-the object of my pre-teen lust-sadly it may as well have been the Ace of Spades)

Who knows where it went wrong-it could have been the refusal to eat a friggin brussel sprout. It could have been one sly remark as back talk. But I never got the bike. It would not be until a few years ago that I would ever get to own one, and to no surprise, it was one that was, quite literally, in the cards. I had sat on the V65 Magna as a kid-it was so big and bad-ass I could never in a million years, at that age, ever have envisioned owning one and driving it on the street.

(The V65 Magna-a bike no doubt designed for Satan Himself. With nearly 125 horsepower, for it's time, it was the King of The Hill-and I can at least say I owned one.)

I paid 500 bucks for my Magna-it was in great shape, I road the hell out of it for two years and traded it for Greta. Soon I'll most likely buy something else, but it will share little with the Magna or the legacy it represents to me. In the end I got my damned bike, and almost got killed by a telephone pole while it sat parked in my garage-go figure.


Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Cliff-at least that's what the back of this old photo is labeled. Unfortunately, that name scrawled in pencil is all that is written on it. I found Cliff in a pile of old photos at an automotive swap meet recently. What got my attention more than anything was the young girl on the left-she bears a shocking resemblence to photos of my own mother at a similar age, though Mom assured me it is not her. I have no Uncle Cliff, you see, and what would she be doing with a guy so much older than her unless she was his sister?

But lets do some visual archaeology and forensics here. I would put this photo somewhere in the 1950s, by the fact that the vintage stock car appears to be late 30's or early 40's vintage-I know there are guys that could identify the roofline, but I ain't one of them-still, a twenty year-old car on a stocker track sounds about right to me. The paint scheme on the car is typical of vintage racers I have seen photos of from that era. The Girls dungarees, hat and glasses all appear to be Fifties vintage, as is the clothing of Cliff, the woman on the right (probably Mom) and the crowd in the background. Nothing special about the track-it does not appear to be clay, which could give it away as being in the South. It does not appear to be excessively oiled down, which may suggest it is good, moist soil, possible here in the Northeast, or maybe the Northwest.

Cliff seems pretty happy-one can assume by his toothy grin and trophy he has won SOMETHING. My experience at races on the backwoods tracks here in Pennsyvania teaches me that generally only first-place winners pose for photos. The size of Cliff's trophy, based on the same experience, tells me he has probably won a heat, although he may have possibly won his main for the evening.

Still, there's questions-where's Dad? Did he disapprove of Cliff's racing career, wanting him to work in the family hardware store or insurance business instead? Is Dad at the office right as this picture is being taken, mumbling to himself and harrumphing the loss of Cliff and his own insurance legacy to the God of Speed? Has Dad passed away? Was it while racing? No sponsorship is shown to suggest any support other than what Cliff has flocking him on either side. And yet, Cliff's hands are also clean-suggesting that either he has a mechanic, or on this night he had to do none of his own work on the car.

Cliff will have a place made for him in my bathroom with some other photos like his-Photos like this, unlabeled, always set my mind to work, thinking about just what happened on this warm (most likely)Saturday Night Somewhere in Time, Somewhere in America.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Felt up, poked, pried, prodded and pulled-still no "Happy Ending"!

(My good friend and close neighbor Brian-he's big on Think, small on Stink, and just the man to help out-we used to shoot bb guns at each other, 25 years ago. Note his handmade "travel size" toolbox-this is just for going back and forth from my house to his, most likely)

("I SEE THE HEAD[LIGHTS]!-"Brian feels around Greta's innards to see if she's ready to birth a new SLK)

We took the advantage of a relatively decent Sunday afternoon to work on Greta's incontinence problem-that is to see where the source of her coolant leak is hiding out. I enlisted the help of my good friend and close neighbor Brian, who is exactly the kind of guy you want on this job short of a certified Benz Mechanic-Brian can look at a bolt and tell you what it's made of, the maximum torque allowed, and whether or not it's reverse-threaded before even cleaning the grease off of it. He can fabricate almost anything out of almost anything, has welding, machining, and carpentry skills, and is entertaining to boot. He likes to get out of the house on a good weekend, and this was a perfect excuse for him.

(first thing we do is cut the ties off all the vacuum lines-a Benz is FILTHY with vacuum lines under the hood-everything runs off vacuum it seems)

(Next step is to remove all the little clips holding the radiator and fan shroud in place)

(turn your head to the side for this one, note ground at bottom left, which should be TOP left in photo...the REAR fan shroud separates from the FRONT...the fun is not quite out of this yet...but close.)

(Brian got tired of hearing my yelps as I banged my head on Greta's hood-so he made me put on additional safety equipment-this is what my life is reduced to....notice "rocket scientist" costume-a lab coat with "Raytheon Aerospace" embroidered on the pocket....the short bus is coming up the drive, just off camera...)

(for the sake of equal time, here's Brian trying on a new helmet at the Cycle World Show at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC last month. The Yuengling shirt is his uniform most days.)

([INSERT FAN JOKE HERE] Well, THERE'S my problem! one of them anyway...sigh...note $4 Advance Auto 8mm Allen wrench, being test-fitted. "SHE'S GOOD!")

The unseen news is that, like the fan, the radiator is damaged-I will have to shop out a suitable replacement. They start cheap, but you want at least an OEM-Spec replacement like a Behr, which has metal tubing INSIDE the angle fittings where your hoses bolt up. This prevents breakage at inopportune times, like in the desert. More later.