Proof Positive

by Maynard Hershon 

     Twenty-nine years ago in Bloomington, Indiana, my former wife Jacquie and I hooked her newish Triumph Spitfire to a towbar behind my old blue Falcon sedan. We took the wheels off my Ossa 175 and shoehorned it in where the Falcon's back seat had been.

     I quit my crummy job, she quit her good one. We said goodbye to friends and drove to the promised land, the City by the Bay.

     We may've had $1,000 or so between us, most of it hers. Neither of us knew anyone or had a hint of a job prospect, but we were unafraid. The movement in America then was west, particularly west to the Golden State where life was a beach. Things would take care of themselves.

     After all, you could ride motorcycles all year round - so I could make a year-round living in the motorcycle business.

     We arrived in San Francisco and visited stores. Almost instantly I was parts manager of the old Honda San Francisco, on Van Ness between Ellis and O'Farrell. A union job. My second or third day in the City and I was making more money than I ever dreamed of. Jacquie found work almost as fast, making more than I did. We were prosperous nearly overnight.

     For all our westward yearnings, we were pretty middle-class in those days of patchouli oil and hippie chic. No acid tripping for us: We were, as the song says, so much older then, two years before Honda's first disc brake. I'm younger than that now, in the age of ABS.

     We soon sold the Falcon and her Spitfire and bought a Ford Ranchero, the better to haul motorcycles. Weekdays, the new car stayed home in the outer Richmond. The shop provided me a demo bike for transportation, typically a CB or CL160, Super Hawk or one of the then-new 450s.

     Mornings, I'd drop my wife off at her job on my way to work. She got off earlier than I, so after work she'd take the bus to Honda and ride home to the foggy Avenues with me. Those were miniskirt days, you'll recall, and I remember her perched side-saddle, properly knees-together, on a succession of dealer-plated Hondas painted red or black or white, motoring east or west on foggy Geary Boulevard.

     As I've said before, at the time I deluded myself that I could ride worth a damn. I imagined I'd serve my racing apprenticeship in AFM events at Cotati and Vacaville. Once I'd aced Apex-Strafing 101 on my Ossa, I'd move up to GP equipment. Those were my thoughts. What folly. 

     I used to do the Sunday Morning Ride to polish my "skills." Often I took my wife. She accompanied me willingly on many drizzling, freezing Sunday mornings, only to watch silently, helplessly, over my shoulder as the coast highway's curves passed jerkily under our insecurely placed but fast-turning wheels.

     And for what? To sit through a mediocre breakfast surrounded by guys with frost down their arms, guys breathing big vapor clouds and talking about K-70s, Konis and 1/4-turn throttles. Must've been great for her.

     Her acceptance of those inept high-speed outings stands in my memory as proof positive that she did truly love me. No lesser force would've kept her on that seat. No force I've experienced could've kept me there. 

     Perhaps, dear male reader, your sweetie accompanies you (as mine did) on high-speed two-up outings that are really your own outings; she's along so you won't feel you're away, having a wonderful time, without her.

     Perhaps, as my wife did, she peers helplessly over your shoulder as you carve faulty arcs around wet-surfaced blind cliff side bends, as fearsome perils pop up in front of you like tin deer at the shooting gallery.

     Let me provide you with the benefit of years of sad reflection.

     Perhaps you do not fully appreciate the commitment to you stated clearly in her willingness to sit there, helpless on that aspirin-size seat. To sit there helpless, her legs bent at angles undreamed of by sadistic gymnastic coaches. To sit there helpless - while you place both your medical futures at risk for your sporting amusement.

     Or perhaps you ride, the two of you, to some roadside tavern in rustic small-town America. You enjoy the convivial atmosphere of that small-town tavern, imbibing bottled malt beverages with friends therein.

     Then, perhaps, you two climb back on your steel 'n alloy steed for the ride home, half in the tank. And for love of you, she watches helplessly over your shoulder while you place both your medical futures at risk for your amusement.

     Because George W. Bush may not this month set aside a Day for your wife or sweetie, you might want to use a weekend day this month to rethink some of the choices you make in her regard. To think about... her.

     Just today, think about her maybe 1/10th as much or as often as she thinks about you. Do something for her.

     She'd do anything for you, I'll bet. Proves it most every ride.

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