Pharaonic Totems

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I had an older friend once who owned a couple of classic cars he never had time for. He worked, so they sat – and deteriorated. Lack of use is its own form of abuse. As I have just discovered, having morphed into my friend.

Like him, I find I no longer have the time I once did – because I almost always work. On the articles, doing the interviews or just getting ready for them. That plus not being 25 anymore and being divorced has led to what I thought could never happen to me.

I’m now the older guy with the neat old cars and motorcycles that mostly just sit.

My Trans-Am and classic bikes, including Little Stinker (the ’75 Kawasaki S1 two-stroke I restored about seven years ago – it feels like last summer) have become mechanical mummies in a dusty museum  . . . my garage.

The only sign of life the hopeful winking green light from the trickle chargers, a plea for attention. We’re here!  . . . Don’t just  . . . leave us.

And I did. The whole summer sailed past and Little Stinker hasn’t been out since Spring and that was months ago.

Times does its evil work on men and machinery. I pull the shroud back, to have a closer look. The tires are low and I may have flat-spotted them but far worse and what defibrillated me into immediate action was the ugly little blotch of incipient rust on the factory-stamped NOS spoked rear wheel I’d installed during the resto (the original was pitted beyond redemption). I knew this would metastasize into terminal ferrous cancer if not addressed right now.

And so, I did.

And as I did, I found more evidence of decay caused by my neglect.

The rear grab rail – also a brand-new NOS piece – had a spot on the underside. I discovered it like a dentist does a soft spot on a back tooth.

Then another on the underside of one of the three chambered pipes I’d had shipped all the way from the UK and which are the sole blatantly obvious deviation from the factory Kawasaki exhaust. These wasp-waisted pipes upturn jauntily like Satan’s bagpipes as they taper backward. The sound emitted from this 250 cc bike is fiercer than anything produced by a modern four-stroke bike. It is like three chainsaws cutting cords – not wood, the musical ones – each timed and pitched to complement the others.

They are striking to view, but that’s only half of it.

If you never actually ride a two-stroke triple from the ’70s – which is smart policy unless you have just the right combination of ignorant fearlessness and luck enough to survive the trip – listening to one punch holes through the air is not to be missed. Still-life museums are like taxidermy shops; you don’t get the sense of the real thing by looking at a stuffed (and mute) corpse.

So, the pipes came off for careful cleaning and polishing. This was necessary as well in order to gain adequate access to the Kaw’s underside, where the dust had congressed with the oil that a two-stroke leaks from every pore as well as puffs from its pipes – and this can only be dealt with successfully via up-close and personal, fin-by-fin and casting by casting wipe-downs with a soft old towel and a bottle of spray detailer.

This is less harsh than water and a brush. Better, too, as the water (depending on your area) may have things in it that will discolor/stain what you’re trying to clean and can also accelerate the rust you’re trying to prevent. Water also gets sprayed gets everywhere – and can stay there, if you haven’t completely dried the bike off, which may not be feasible if it’s not in running order.

The spray detailer is just the right pH – and the cloth is gentler. Spray some onto the cloth, then work it through each cooling fin (modern water-cooled bikes lack them, which further homogenizes them and is the reason why most modern bike engines are hidden underneath colored plastic; there’s no much worth seeing under that plastic) and then into and around the ridges and valleys of the cases.

Wipe down the frame tubes and swingarm, too.

The spray detailer is also just right for the seat, the gauges and turn signal housings. It’s important to keep abreast of the towel’s condition and change it out as dirt accumulates . . . before too much accumulates, otherwise you’re more sanding than cleaning.

Chrome polish for those NOS “correct” Kawasaki rims, also applied using the towel and by hand. This is the most arduous detail of detailing the two-wheeled blue Barchetta. You have to get around the spokes – and do them, too. There are about two dozen.

Then work around the nubs, bringing the inner rim to shimmering perfection. Don’t forget the sides.

About three hours later and Little Stinker was beginning to look right again.

And I began to feel right about it again.

If a time ever comes when I can’t make the time to keep up with my charges, that will be the time to pass the torch to someone who can. That day will, inevitably, come. It comes for us all. Hopefully, it won’t come for a long time to come.

But when it does, I hope I’ll know it has – and do the right thing.

. . .

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40 COMMENTS

  1. Unless you’re Jay Leno, it’s hard to amass, store, and maintain a fleet of collectable cars and motor sickles.

    Here’s a thought. Sell all but one each of your collectable bikes and cars to good homes. Then meticulously maintain the ones you kept, and drive them regularly.

    You get to keep the Nissan truck too, for everyday driving and chores. 😉

    • That’s why I laugh when I see everyone hawking their 50 year old car *with only 27K original miles*–50 years old, or 20 years old, or 10 years old…if it’s spent it’s life sitting….time will do more of a number on it than a million well-maintained miles.

      Back around ’00, my best friend’s mother bought an old bubble Caprice from an oldster, that only had 50K miles on it. Paid 2x what a typical good condition Caprice would go for at that time. I warned her….she didn’t listen. She bought the car…and it turned out to be the biggest piece of crap- what a POS! After putting who knows how much money into it, she ended up selling it 20% of what she paid for it.

      I just love when ya read ads for vintage cars…I can’t remember the last time I saw one that had 100K or more miles on it- No- everyomne has only 30K or 17K or 51K “original miles”- apparently people only used to buy cars to drive to the gas station once a week to fill up- it wasn’t until the advent of 6 digit odometers that people started actually driving…..

      Most reliable and longest-lasting vehicle I’ve ever had, I bought with 240K fleet-maintained miles on it. Drove that van for 15 years!!!! Other than a fuel pump and heater core, never had top fix a thing. Used it when I moved from NY to KY.

      • You’ve got that right, Nunz! When a car sits around unused for long periods of time everything goes to seed. Seals dry out, shrink, and crack. Grease hardens Brakes suffer badly – seals deteriorate, pistons seize up in caliper and wheel cylinder bores, leaking brake fluid cements linings to rotors and drums. (In fact I recently helped a friend work on a car that had been sitting for several years and the brakes were locked up solid. Haven’t had time yet to see what kind of mess the fuel system is in.)

        Fuel systems load up with gum and varnish as gasoline evaporates. Basically every part that uses rubber seals to contain fluids is going to deteriorate and leak. A decades old car that has few miles is likely to need nearly every major system overhauled.

        Much better to have a high-mileage, well-maintained car than something that has spent most of its time sitting around.

        • Zactly, Jason! Many an automatic tranny will blow just from sitting- front seal dries out…start driving the car, and it pukes all of it’s fluid; valve body gets gummed up from sitting, etc. Electronic/electro-mechanical parts corrode…water seeps in everywhere and never gets a chance to escape….

          And the worst part is, that such cars are owned by people who just start ’em up and drive ’em once a week or so, just a few blacks to the store. Engine never gets up to operating temperature; carbon never gets a chance to burn off at sustained highway speeds…..

          Such is actually considered “severe service” by the manufacturers- for which they recommend enhanced and more frequent maintenance- but the people who have these cars think they can do LESS maintenance, since “I never go anywhere”.

          My sister has a ’92 Mustang, and my cousin has a ’71 Mustang that she bought brand new- both have less than 100K miles, ’cause they are rarely driven; both have been utterly falling apart for years…but look nice, as “low mileage” cars often do. Both women always get offers from people wanting to buy their cars at ridiculously inflated prices.

          Both cars are only ever driven a few blacks at a time. First time someone drives either one more than a few miles, it’ll probably ‘splode!

      • I’m sure there’ll still find a way to blame the civilian victim though, 8. “Made the pig have to waddle from the car to the front door”… well, I guess the “Hero died in service to his community and local rib joint”……

    • Hey Nunz,

      I love that song but am amazed that the wildly un-PC line, “if her daddy’s rich take her out for a meal, if her daddy’s poor just do what you feel”, made it past the thought police. Of course, it was a different time back then. Pondering what some may feel, I imagine a much darker second verse.

      Cheers,
      Jeremy

      • Hey Jeremy!

        Ah, T’was 1970- well before the religion of Political-Correctness; when we still had freedom of speech, and freedom to choose.

        That’s one of those songs that I’ve always liked too- since childhood. Just a feel-good catchy tune…much like The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer In The City”…or this one:

        Mouth & MacNeal – How Do You Do?:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYNMKZ90jtA

        IMO, songs like these really capture the feel of the time period which they were from- which is at least half of their charm.

        • Daydream was my fav. Custom made for a daydreaming boy. I recall a nice autumn day and having my way(and hers too)with my favorite gal and listening to this song. There’s just something about sex and being outdoors.

          • Ooo! Forgotteded about that one, 8! I like Do You Believe In Magic even better!

            I could never figger it out- for some guy who was basically a dweeb who couldn’t sing…John Sebastian made some good music.

            And “Welcome Back”! (The Sweat-hog theme!)

    • Nunz, each to their own. I had forgotten the song existed and no telling how long it’ll take me to forget…..again. You coulda played some Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Jim Morrison, or even gone back to the days of Jack Teagarden and JJ. Johnson and I’d been overjoyed.

      Oh well, this fits my mood pretty good since I was down on the ground, nearly laying on it putting a new tarp on Blackie when I was suddenly set on fire all over by another gift from the south, goddamn fire ants. For the most part the big red Harvester ants tear them a new one but a nest escaped them I guess. Harvester ants hurt worse but there’s not thousands of them.

      It was a bad thing when fire ants moved in. They decimated nearly everything including ticks and it rocked along for many years. Then all of a sudden the harvester ants went on the offensive and wiped out most of them. I was glad. I can see them and avoid getting bit by not jacking with them and standing on their mound but fire ants are subversive sumbitches.

      • Jim Morrison (Is there anything better than Riders On The Storm?!); Van Morrison…it’s all good.

        A few years ago, I had some fire ants back in my storage nook- every time I’d go back there, they’d climb up my legs. Ouch. They seemed to have vanished though- on their own volition- I never did anything.

        Now I’m going out to weed-eat. Hasn’t rained in a month, and the grass has dried up…but the weeds still seem to prosper. Drought + c.100* heat for the last 2 weeks…. It’s below 100 today…so it’s “cool”.

        All I need is a drawl, and I could be a west Texan by osmosis! (No, wait…yua need moisture for osmosis!)

        • Nunz, I’m sure you couldn’t help but grin if you heard me speak. I CAN speak a fairly uninflected English but I prefer not to. Didn’t even know what a hick I was until college…..but I’m certainly not ashamed of it. I have a “how are you?” and “ma’am” and “sir” for everyone.

          I have friends with drawls that make you want to give them stimulants. But nobody really has an “accent”….ha ha ha.

          • 8, I go out of my way to sound like the NY voision of a hick- which would be an old-school lower woiking class Goiman, Jew, or Mick from Da Bronx or Brooklyn! Ya know, the kind what puts erl in their engine before going ta choich wit their friend Oinest! (Make shore ya use the terlit before ya go!)

            I lament the fact that as the years go by, people everywhere are starting to sound more and more alike. Some of the oldsters here in KY still have a good accent…but the young sound like the young do pretty much everywhere else, ’cause they hear more TV and raddio, etc. than they do their mammy and pappy and gramps.

            I do know this one guy who sounds like he’s doing a perpetual Jim Varney impression… Gosh, I love it!

            Like this:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWmGhaO59qY

            • I make some Jim Varney comments in that voice now and then. My daddy used to work on them things. Hey Vern, it says here(sounds of Vern trying to scream)you’ve had 50 depositories. Where you puttin al them Vern? I have a 2 hour VHS tape of Jim Varney and there’s a lot of hilariaty on it. Have a Jim Varney movie too.

  2. Dammit, Eric! I’m constantly kicking around the idea of leaving the corporate prison and striking out on my own. Mainly because I’m pretty dissatisfied with my current position, and don’t see any advancement that doesn’t involve 1) a significant pay cut, at least on an hourly rate basis, and 2) the desire of my employer to chain mangers to a mobile device 24/7/365 (today’s chain is only attached for 26 weeks/year, and at least the standby pay helps pad the shackles a bit). The primary reason I haven’t left and struck out on my own is because that would basically doom me to working constantly.

    Most of the day yesterday was spent outlining a project that if it works will lead to the next step of a product plan and eventually a business plan. It feels pretty good working on it, but I’m not out enjoying the nice fall weather, I’m not hanging out with friends, I’m not getting chores done. I’m on call, so I’d be pretty limited on activity anyway, but knowing that this is pretty much the future if I go down this path is kind of depressing. Then you twist the knife with this post!

    • Hi RK,

      It’s not just you and I; this is becoming par for the course… all my friends (all of them) are experiencing the same ennui. How do we get out of this box?

      • Maybe it’s just middle age. Or that I see the light at the end of the tunnel but also see that the powers that be want to extend the tunnel out a few more miles. Because keeping us working is still beneficial to them.

        I remember reading about the 30 hour work week. How productivity was increasing so quickly that we’d soon be able to cut back to a 6 hour work day. Between the people who’ve dropped out of the workforce, and the people who pretend to work or work at pretend jobs, I’d say we’re there. It’s just not evenly applied.

        My brother-in-law retired at 55. He was a school teacher. Oh, he doesn’t get the full pension he could have received, but over time he’ll probably get more than if he stayed working since he’ll get a check until he dies. He claims he’s going to run an eBay business and write some sort of book. So far I think he’s spent a lot of time visiting with his extended family, coaching his boys in baseball, soccer and other sports activities, and generally being the primary source of stress for my sister. Oh, and day trading stocks -he’s quite the investment genius, just like everyone else who’s playing in the bubble bath. He seems very happy, and why wouldn’t he be? I’m not sure if I’m jealous or what, but this really drove a wedge between me and him. Mostly because he’s living on stolen money. Money stolen by someone else, of course. He didn’t get his hands dirty.

        • My friends who became school teachers are doing better than anyone else of our group. Family vacations to Brazil and Ca. Collecting Trump money for crops not made.

          Now that 30 hour work week for me is real. Part time and doesn’t pay shit so I can be home with the wife who’s crippled and has strokes instead of working 90 hours on the road and getting paid for much less…..and the trucking companies just don’t know why they can’t find drivers. ELD is another reach into your pocket.

          And now, since I’m about to turn 70(doesn’t have a good ring at all), the insurance mafia is cutting me out of a lot of jobs.

          But never mind we work harder for less, it’s going to keep heading that way. Trump just sent about 20,000 troops to help Saudi Arabia with their Syrian buddies.

          And now, with all the oil produced in the US, we wouldn’t even need Saudi Oil if they hadn’t repealed the law that didn’t allow US to be sold to foreign countries. Kinder=Morgan is getting richer by the second on our dime.

          And that ain’t the half of it. Thorium is so cheap we could all have our own reactor that would last longer than we would…..but the govt. won’t allow it. It’s too safe, too cheap and doesn’t put money in the right pockets.

          • Got to prop up the petro-dollar relationship, right? Otherwise that “low” inflation we’re enjoying might just turn into hyperinflation. Then what?

            Remember what initiated the “color revolutions” across North Africa? High priced wheat. What drove up the price? All those trillions handed over to the banks.

          • Hi Eight,
            Turning 70 isn’t so bad, I did it a couple years ago, just have to lower your expectations about how much can get done in a day. Your observation about exporting domestic oil is spot on; now that the US is self sufficient in energy we can tell the Saudis to stuff their oil, instead the pentagram wants to send troops to be their mercenaries, paid for with our taxes of course. The same goes for natural gas, they can’t export it fast enough, yet every winter I get a letter from the local gas company scolding me for using more gas than my more “efficient” neighbors. Hey I’m old and I like to keep warm, sorry you can’t export my measly amount for more money. Lenin was right- the capitalist will sell you the rope you’re going to hang him with.

  3. Hey Eric,

    Look at it this way, they just caught one of the guys who hijacked TWA flight 847 back in 1985.

    That’s some speedy police work my friend.

    You sir, are on top of all the above maintenance/repairs/TLC by those standards.

    Hell. You’ve even identified the suspects in the Great Raping of America. All without any formal police training.

    Tempest Fuckit as they say.

  4. Eric, I well know that song and dance. Work and bills and more bills. Maintaining a house, vet trips and bills for that. I’m 51 and it feels there are more hours of the day than I have energy for. Oh …. I wish I was two decades younger! I could use the energy. And being neglected is my ’84 H/O. It needs a new intake manifold gasket, new weather stripping and thorough going over. Time for it always takes a back seat and when I think I can order the parts I need, some unforeseen expense rears its head. Hopefully I can get it done soon, but all I can say is that middle age is over rated!

  5. Just got back from a 100 mile ride with my wife on the RK. Repairing an old Police KZ 1000 for my son. Been riding for 60 years now and I won’t give it up until I have no other choice.

    Once (IF) you retire they’ll keep you busy and moving around which is good for you. I use 100% gas,,, mix some gas saver and MMO to keep everything fresh and lubricated in case they sit a little too long.

    Want to get away for awhile… Write and let your subscribers know,,, we’ll wait.

    Retirement doesn’t mean you have to stop living…. BTW,,, I got dibbs on the T/A…… 🙂

  6. Eric! What’re ya working so hard for? Time is our most precious commodity, and I know it ain’t for ‘the money’, ’cause I know you can live as cheaply as I do. For me, after the freedom/autonomy/self-sufficiency aspect, the whole point is to have the TIME to do the things I enjoy doing.

    I look back on my life so far, and have to say that I am thoroughly satisfied and have no regrets, largely because I have always valued my time above all other things. I’ve always feared being one of those people who, on their deathbed has regrets because they were “always too busy” and spent too much time working,m and not enough doing the things they enjoy- even if those things are just putzing around the house or watching the clouds on a nice day.

    Think back even just 10 years ago. Look at the work you did then (easy for you, since it’s in written form, and dated!) and then think about what you were doing 10 years ago in your daily life. I’ll bet the works seems utterly insignificant, while the drives you took; things you did around the place; etc. hold some significant memories, which, if you would not have had the time to do those things, would have rendered that time period utterly meaningless and unmemorable.

    Choose what matters.

    • I worked so hard when I was young I wore out joints all over. Now I need both shoulders redone again and it feels like the hips and knees aren’t doing very good either. It’s no wonder things around here look like hell with no maintenance. It’s been so damned hot this summer and I’ve worked so hard I find I don’t really have the energy to get a lot of things done. I’m dying for cooler weather and have one hell of a week in front of me.

      At least the drought broke(sic). We had .1″ last Sunday and nearly .25″ last night. Help, we’re washing away.

    • When I was young, I had the opportunity to build a video production facility and advertising network from scratch. Later I was involved in this cool new technology that delivered Internet over cable TV lines. Then I got the chance to do it again in rural Colorado, getting paid to live in a ski town (lunch meant getting your turns in). Lots of long days and stress for sure, and missing a social life, except for nights out with coworkers.

      I really don’t have any regrets about working so much when I was young. I was well compensated, had an incredible experience, and got to leave a mark the world in my own small way. But of course there are parts of my life that were ignored, and perhaps I would have been better off to pay attention to them.

      I’ve always laughed at the high school football star who didn’t get the scholarship, stayed in town and always looks backward. But it seems like these days I’m doing the same thing, just looking back a little later. The thing about my past success is that it didn’t rely physical prowess, so as long as my brain still works I can probably recapture that lightning again.

      But those opportunities are few and far between these days, the nation seems to be hidebound and satisfied with the status quo. Much of the more interesting stuff going on seems to be being quashed by Uncle through heavy handed regulation, from both sides of the aisle (but for different and highly dubious reasons). Not to mention mistakes are punished quickly and far more often than before (both by Uncle and by criminals who are quick to exploit any weakness -where’s the policing of cybercrime?). And capital isn’t leaving Wall Street, just going into the bubble. Tough times to get something started, especially for a single white male who’s about the age where heath insurance gets used…

      • I always operate under the assumption that we will never pass this way again. By contrast, most people seem to operate on the premise of “working to achieve[buy] their dreams”…which arte supposed to materialize at some point in the future- but just as you say, RK, as time goes on, tyranny increases (And society degenerates; people who are important to you die; vigor, and even brain-power wanes etc.].

        When I dropped out of the 10th grade, my “guidance counselor” [A severely hen-pecked little Jew] tried to intervene- “You could do anything you want with your ability! You could be a nukular physicist!”. Yeah…just what I always wanted…to spend another 8 years in school; become heavily indebted, and only to spend my life shackled to a corrupt system while living in the rat-race. No thanks!

        I dropped out and did what I had wanted to since I was a kid. I bought an old $500 boat and became a clam digger. Got in on the tail-end of the industry just as it was dying. Didn’t make much money…but became a man, working out there on the bay by myself; loved every minute of what I was doing…and got to experience something that is no longer extant- the freedom and beauty of working on the bay at that time, before it became crowded with cops, jet-ski’s, cigarette boats and heavily-developed shores!

        And everything I’ve done since has been in the same vein.

        If I die today, all I can say is that I have no regrets; I’ve had an AMAZING and interesting life; and I am fully satisfied. Instead of always ‘looking ahead to the future’ I’ve gotten maximum benefit from the present and not wasted it. Unless we are Jesus or an Apostle, the work we do is insignificant- and even if it lives on after us, it doesn’t benefit us nor make up for any neglecting of the present.

        Our mailman just died….a few months before retirement.

        So many people back on Long Island are living lives of stress and utter Hell; seeing their kids corrupted and their own health deteriorating as they live lives of stress and endless work, always saying “I’ll move to a nice place and live a nice life when I retire! I’ll stick it out, so I can get a good pension”. Half of them never make it; the ones who do rarely enjoy it, as they are then too old and or in ill health. They have impressive financial statements….but what do those numbers on a piece of paper mean in the scheme of things?

        They rattle off their “accomplishments”- I was Al Bundy! I went to a good college! I had a good job title! I received an award! I made this much money!”-They placed in a rat-race; but ya can’t enjoy the journey in a race- and the only prize in a rat-race is death.

        I have lived! Those glorious days when we had more freedom, and when the world was more interesting, were MINE! I got to take full advantage of them while they existed. And today may indeed suck….but tomorrow will suck even more- so now is always the best time to start.

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