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I had a pair of handsome but heartbreakingly narrow shoes to return to a retailer, so I saddled up The Beastly Conveyance, strapped the package to the seat, and spent an enjoyable ten minutes fruitlessly leaping on the kickstart lever until it reached that state of stable discontent I refer to as The Thunderous Cacophony. On the throbbing, jagged, uncertain wave of The Thunderous Cacophony, I roared up the street, screamed out onto the minor highway, lurched into the gas station, and took off for UPS in a cloud of blue smoke and pandemonium.

I'm feeling somewhat more comfortable with The Beastly Conveyance and its insistence on affecting a mortifying cloud of musky swagger with every move and gesture, as subtle a presence on the road as one might cultivate on the sidewalk by allowing penis and scrotum to dangle gloriously from one's fly at all times, but it's best in modest portions served as fresh and bloody as a well-turned prime rib. Nevertheless, when the mood's right, there is a certain appeal.

"Go 'round for another strafing run, mate?" asks the throaty crackle from the rust-pitted pipes.

Sure, I think, and tuck in my knees to make the deep bend onto the highway. I'm still a bit uncertain on the machine, and after last week's urban cut and run on the Vespa, I can't forget that this is a very large, very heavy, and very, very old contraption, with brakes moved by rusty metal rods instead of sensible hydraulics. I lean in, and the weight of the thing is clear, but it's surefooted at the same time, so I rally myself to manifest a bit of trust in the endeavour and throw a bit of extra fuel into the effort.

On the highway, I can meet and beat the cars at their game, if I choose, though I hardly do. The appeal of racing up  the superslab in full obeisance to The Thunderous Cacophony is lost on me, with the sensory thrill of the wind tearing at the finer hairs on my corpus wearing thin as that pull turns to a yank, and then to a repetitive, unwelcome caress. My riding mate, Old Bean, is more of that ilk, a genial and battle-trained survivor of the New Jersey Turnpike hurricane, but it'll take me some convincing to ever truly enjoy that exhausting pursuit.

Worse still, at a certain speed, it becomes horribly obvious to me that it is not just my shirt flapping in the gale.

In my own particular way, I am a lifelong subject of the glories of two-wheeled transit, but I prefer my pleasures in smaller portions, like creamy sips of Irish coffee or a fine stemmed glass of Lillet after an elegant meal, meant to savor more than to swill.

On this ride, though, I'm taking a palliative, a consolation rendered on the road, for that moment, just a day prior, when my attempt to find an altogether more appropriate stablemate for The Beastly Conveyance in the form of a civilized and almost dispassionate R60/5 ended with the definitive counteroffer from some tiresome hipster drawn to the quirky, campy style of the old boxers. It is no matter, in the long scheme of things, but it's a bit more bitter seasoning to a bitter season, and so I twist the throttle hard, overtake a lumbering monstrosity of Milwaukee chrome, and duck off the highway again for the rolling green ways around the reservoir.

The Beastly Conveyance is not happy; crackling, popping, and otherwise demonstrating a piquant dissatisfaction with my lack of urgency, but I am the master and the Beast is the ass that bears me on this brief sojourn before the sun destroys the day. We roll together, up and over the cresting hills, down into the dips and valleys, where the water below sparkles like champagne, and through the endless, embracing green woods.

"It's a good run, mate! I can almost see the cliffs of Dover looming over the Channel!"

I haven't the heart to place a hand on the worn burgundy steel of the tank and explain that, well, the Germans won the war after all, decades later, when all The Thunderous Cacophony from our old Lionheart went silent, replaced by Continental efficiency, oft-lamented lost marques, and deserted factories in lifeless towns. For now, though the Beast is shaking the meat from my bones like a chicken boiled into complete surrender, we're going to carry on—my late father's Triumph, this swiftly warming morning, and me.

"I just worry about you on that thing," say the people who care about me, and I know the risks, and manage the dangers, but the far worse of all of those threats is the one that's killing us all—the disconnection from this mighty, wild, and unkempt world.

I pull into to the penultimate light on the way home, and faces turn to me, because the rumbling shout of The Thunderous Cacophony shall not be ignored, not for a moment, and though they are more comfortable, cooler, more composed, and almost certainly less unsettled than I am at that instant, they are penitents to the deadness that's destroying the world. Think smaller, be safer, dream sensible, artificial dreams, and all will be well with us, and overhead, the stars are fading into the jaundiced yellow skies at night, lost in the glare of the cancerous suburban sprawl.
"Good show," says The Beastly Conveyance as I turn the key. Twin cylinders slow and stop, the oils and fluids drain back into their reservoirs, and the bike drifts into a dreamless sleep, ticking and creaking as things cool down.

"What did my father ever see in this goddamned thing?" I mutter to myself, because it really isn't me at all, but still I handle The Beastly Conveyance with a certain delicacy of touch as I roll it down the ramp into its familiar place in the basement, knowing full well that it's one of his last living daydreams, left for the future in a shed, lest we forget.
Oh! England, my Lionheart!
Dropped from my black Spitfire to my funeral barge.
Give me one kiss in apple-blossom.
Give me one wish, and I'd be wassailing

In the orchard, my English rose,
Or with my shepherd, who'll bring me home.
I turn off the lights, lock the door, and the sun's already starting its incessant burning, and I'm hoping to dream a few sensible, artificial dreams today in spite of my better instincts, and wonder who'll bring me home.

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joebelknapwall

January 2013

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