I was 12 when it was time to learn how to ride a motorcycle. My father collected used cars, boats, motorcycles, people, accidents. Buying anything new was a foreign concept to my parents. They both loved to refinish antiques. Obsessive almost. I’ve always wondered what, exactly, they were trying to rescue, or buff out, or give another shot at a meaningful life.
Our backyard held two cars in varying states of development. One, a white 1915 roadster, newly painted white it was the prize of my fathers fledgling fleet, and a 1928 red Studebaker up on rails. The roadster was almost finished and lived closest to our rectangular lawn area.
To teach me to ride his refurbished, ancient Bull Taco dirt bike, my Dad had me climb on in the backyard. Once on, he showed me the clutch was on the right handle, explained its purpose, which is moving forward way too quickly, and the brake was on the left. To this day, I have trouble remembering which is which.
Feeling confident that I understood the difference between stopping and going, he instructed me to ride in circles around the lawn. Turning a large motorcycle is tricky when you’re 12. Also tricky: remembering which is the clutch and which is the brake in a crisis situation.
As I headed full speed toward the prized 1915 roadster, my father attempted to help by running behind and bellowing “THE BRAKE! NOT THE CLUTCH!” As the bike and I bounced off the fender of the newly painted roadster, he added “What the hell are you doing? Dammit Karen!” After carefully examining the bike and the car he came over to me, ”You knot head. Are you okay?” I was.
He either thought I was incapable of surviving in his world or he felt guilty that he put me on top of a weapon. He was never able to laugh at this story.
But I can.
In 1975 I was 16 and had my first boyfriend, Rob. Rob had a vintage, convertible, yellow Camaro that was his prized possession. He acquired a CB (Citizens Band) radio. He proudly told me his handle was “Yellowbird.” To me, this was the most humiliating aspect of Rob, He had some good qualities, he was funny and smart, he had blue eyes and long blond hair and he came with a ‘handle.’ Of Yellowbird…The song Convoy came out that year, “good buddy” just really driving home the whole CB culture. I wanted to hide while riding in his car listening to Convoy endlessly, with the top down, so anyone could hear it. I could pretty much slump down in the seat so you could hardly tell I was there at all.
I was too polite to tell him that, even in 1975, a CB radio was not cool.
I hate to upset anyone, so I offered to drive on our dates in my 1948 La Salle. Because, yeah, I’m just that cool…