When I was 15 years old my parents, both of them, lost their minds. Having ever hewn to the broad middle of the road, they veered unexpectedly toward the shoulder… and just kept going, careening off into an abyss of flawed logic, unreason and profound irresponsibility.
I was overjoyed.
For years I’ve lived with the heavy burden of understanding I was responsible for them going off their nutters. I don’t have any recollection of wearing their sanity away by doing my best Bart Simpson impersonation, “Can I have a motorcycle? Can I have a motorcycle? Can I have a motorcycle?” In fact, I very clearly remember being stunned when it became clear they’d gone bonkers and were going to let me have a motorcycle. It was my first dog-catches-car experience. Except I knew exactly what to do with a motorcycle.
Motorcycle may be a bit euphemistic. It was a motorcycle I wanted. Not just any motorcycle. The motorcycle. A Triumph Bonneville to be exact. A ’66 Triumph Bonneville if you require more precision.
There are several readers — just a wild guess — of the aging male persuasion whose heart just skipped a beat. That’s because there were three years in the middle-late 1960s when Triumph reached heights it would never reach again. Its engine was powerful but, more importantly, hit an exhaust note, a whole symphony actually, that resonated in a deep recess of the male brain, the one that controls(sic) unbridled envy and desire. Adding even more urgency to feelings of longing, it hit it through the most beautiful set of chrome mufflers ever bolted onto two wheels. Balance, agility, speed, design, the Bonnie had it all at a time when the best Harley Davidson could do was pop out overweight cop bikes.
It was a number of years later when I finally discovered the Bonnie was a tart. Its power was accompanied by unstoppable oil leaks from every mating surface on its engine, evidenced by an abstract design of oil stains running up the insides of both legs, from the knees down, of every pair of jeans I owned.
Its true Achilles’ heel though was the abysmal collection of string, wire and chewing gum and inert metal bits that passed for electronics. Made by the storied English company Lucas — dismissively referred to by everyone familiar with them as Mucus — it took no more than a small, shallow puddle to bring the beast to a sputtering halt. I still know where one is buried in the desert west of Albuquerque… but that’s another story.