It’s funny how things can change over the years. There are the times in your life when you are free from any care in the world and live one day at a time with no real plan. Then a few years down the road, it seems like you’re running out of time. Through that natural course, there’s also a shift in things that are important to you. Now I’m not talking about the big things, but the little ones; the ones that start to readjust your perspective. Lately for myself, and I imagine for a lot of Americans, it seems as if our whole value system is on the line and under heavy reexamination. While normally I would take to the road to blow out these cob webs and get my mind right, there was such a mess going on in my head that I found little relief in even that. This was where I came across another curious corner of the metaphysics of motorcycling. It reminded me of the Zen and the Art book, and from it I have come up with this mantra: Clean garage; clean mind. Let me explain.
Though I was a young man, I can still remember the times spent in pappy’s shack. There was the working on bikes with my brothers, the tools the old man had collected, the bikes that had been built there, and the stains on the floor from the other family rides that needed an overhaul; in short, it was heaven. Over the years, I have begun to construct my own version of pappy’s shack. I built myself a nice little two-and-a-half car garage and have begun collecting my own tools and getting it in shape. I have a nice bike lift, with the basic tools and now have even started to get serious with the addition of a welder and a furnace with the help of my brother Keith. The only problem is that my life right now is running at warp speed and the time I have to spend in the garage is pretty limited. I use part of the garage as storage for back issues of the magazine and most times I just stack things everywhere in an attempt to get from one place to another or finish deadline. It got so bad this past month that we couldn’t even find a spot for Keith’s new bike to give it a once over.
With everything that has been going on in this country with the greed, the outsourcing and the lack of concern for each other on a human level, combined with the crazy shit I see going on in the motorcycle industry at large, I felt like I needed some time to get my head right again. Out to the garage I went. I began not only to organize the mess but I also bought a few more small items like a couple of hand tools and storage cabinets. At the same time that I began to sort through the battered remains of a hectic life, I also began to sift through my thoughts. With each thing I put back in order in the garage, my mind became more settled. I’m not sure if it was from the sense of accomplishment that menial tasks like this give, the fact that it fed my functional A.D.D. or if there is some metaphysical connection to a clean garage and a clean mind, but by the time it was in shape, I felt like a new man. And then it happened.
I was picking up a few items at the tool shop and there on the shelf was an old style pneumatic spark plug cleaner. You know the kind with the little bag of sand hanging off of it? Well right there in the store I had such a rush of nostalgia that I snatched up the tool and headed to the cash register, my booty in hand. You see, this was exactly like the one the old man had in his place. It triggered memories of the two of us keeping every little piece of shit bike and dirt bike running. I still remember the first time my plugs were fouled and he grabbed them off of me before I could even ask, and showed me how it worked. As the air blasted through the bag, he wiggled the plug around, and poof, like magic they came out shiny clean and just like new. This was a great thing back then as we were often broke as a joke and saving money on plugs was king.
Today I can afford an extra set of spark plugs, now and then, so it’s not as much about that as it was the missing piece that brought me back to the ground. This was where I realized that I am at a place in my life where I have all I ever wanted. Now don’t get me wrong, I am far from being a rich man. As a matter of fact, I’ve made better money in jobs with much less stress than this gig. Even my goals must be somewhat humble to begin with, but still, I’m there and I hadn’t slowed down enough to realize it. I have a good bike, a couple of projects, I own my own home, have a great chick and now I have a garage that’s like pappy’s shack. While I have been so busy in running the magazine and finding my place in this industry, I let my goals shift enough away from that original assessment of what is important – the idea that the old man had it all going on – to a place that I let the details of what I’ve been doing cause me to overlook the good life.
I wish I could tell you that every day since then has been filled with great long breaths of serenity and that I’ve spent long hours in the garage overcome by a Nirvana like state pumping out cool projects, but I can’t. What I can say is that Keith’s bike is a bad Mo-Fo now and the garage is clean. Every time I walk through it I see that spark plug cleaner and I give one of those long serene sighs, realizing the old man would be proud.