First Class Seat
“Hey, where ya’ from?” I asked.
“Brooklyn” the average sized, leather-clad biker answered.
Not impressed with his roots, I invited him to bring his motorcycle over, inspected the color, model and style, and asked him what his desires were for the personalization of his treasured two wheeler. After listening to his dreams, I suggested a few ideas, and we then agreed on a plan to customize his “baby”.
Upon finishing his bike at the pinstriping booth, he loaded his bike in the trailer, and left Warrensburg, NY smiling, heading back to his world. From the grin, you could tell he was happy with his new design and had obvious plans to show off.
Jerry was his name. From Brooklyn. New York.
The really cool thing about traveling this tour is that you get to see some of the same great people year after year, and they are happy to see you again… and I am happy to see them.
The next year in Warrensburg, that same guy came to see me again.
“Hey Jerry” I yelled as he walked up.
The man from Brooklyn looked at me like I was naked.
“How did you remember my name?” he asked
“Just lucky” I told him.
In the 6 years I experienced these people, I found I had the blessing of remembering names, mainly because these bikers, most of good character, had made an impression on me and Mimi.
He explained to me that his bike had suffered a “trailer bruise” on the trip home inside the covered trailer … one of those things that happen when some strap comes loose and you don’t even know it’s bangin’ against something until you get home.
I think about how it ruined his excited presentation designed to invoke envy in friends and acceptance from his wife.
I assured him we would fix his bike, free.
Once again he looked at me like I was an alien, but quietly accepted the deal, and announced he would be back in a few hours. When he returned, he shared with me a story I will never forget.
Jerry told me he was a retired FBI agent assigned to New York City during the 911 disaster. He told me of his experiences during the attack and the ensuing insanity that followed.
Spinning his yarn, I felt as if were there. Jerry explained that he wasn’t inside, but his boss and close friends were, and as he dodged flying projectiles outside the Twin Towers , he wondered what the hell to do. He presented the aftermath horror show in a stressed voice, telling me how the last remaining melted artifacts of the victims were often thrown away, even after they were retrieved and recorded.
This man had made it a mission to get these remaining possessions to the suffering families. He retired soon after. True hero, my friend Jerry.
Secretly hoping he strapped the “fixed” bike just a little tighter, I watched him leave. As his trailer grew smaller in the distance, I got the strong feeling that I would never see him again.
I guess that brings me to the subject of a front row seat. Something about the saying “it’s not the destination, but the road”. Or something like that.
Traveling for 7 months, joined at the hip with another person is tough. Tougher than me, especially with someone who is just like me. I had the good fortune of traveling with a good hearted, talented artist and entrepreneur who, after time, trusted me with his life.
Brother Dave was “always on”.
“What next?” he asks at 9pm, parked for the night on the side of an unremarkable road in the middle of a statewide cornfield. “Sleep”, I say. “Let’s attack it tomorrow when our human bodies have revived”.
Couldn’t help but go to bed seeing his disappointment and thinking I had somehow failed him. Mine is the life of a 55 year old who never learned how to separate, but feeble attempts are infrequently made.
As we would travel down the road to the next destination, I would see the wonders of this great country and its quiet beauty. Mountains, rivers, sunsets, old men’s history, and marvelous accomplishments. I would also see the brotherhood of people, in places I never thought had such, because my teacher’s belief system taught me so. I found out that those endless cornfields in the Midwest actually had their own autonomous weather system. The empty factories had their own ghosts – still living, and trying to make sense of what happened to this economy, causing poverty in their own lives.
I found out that no matter what, people do not only survive, but prosper through crisis… and still smile.
By my side is “Mimi”, an 11 year old female Black Lab who is willing to go, do, fetch, and wag her tail for me. Anybody, for that matter. And I realize what really matters.
In my life, I was given a First Class Seat, and am slowly letting that reality sink in.