Ya know what burns my ass? An open flame about 2 feet high.
Ya know what else burns my ass? When others make a determined effort to kill your joy.
The best example of what I'm talking about is familiar to most parents - as soon as a woman finds out she's pregnant for the first time, people come out of the woodwork with unsolicited but well-intentioned advice and commentary. There's always one woman (at least) who has to tell the new mother-to-be about how HER pregnancy was the worst in recorded medical history, with labor pains beginning shortly after the moment of conception, 18 years of morning sickness, 21 years of breast-feeding, and now, 35 years later, cutting the umbilical cord.
So now the new mother-to-be is thinking "What the F**k have I gotten myself into?" Moments ago, she was glowing, now she's envisioning "ALIEN"!
With guys, it's usually related to the acquisition of a mechanical device - a car, a firearm, a power tool, or in my case, a motorcycle.
I've almost always ridden Hondas. Until recently I've only owned Honda motorcycles.
The first ride on a motorcycle I can recall is behind my Dad on an old 305 Honda, later rides were on the back of the '71 750 and the '75 750. Eventually I rode the '75 myself, both without a license and later with. Then Dad's '80 GL1100I, my '81 GL1100I, and Maria's GL1100.
As far back as I can remember I've wanted a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. I don't know what first attracted me to the brand, although my Grandfather probably played a role in it - he never rode as far as I know, and rarely said anything complementary about motorcycles in general, but had a strong affinity for American brands. Who knows - maybe since he and the Motor Company were about the same age maybe he figured that any brand that went thru two world wars, the Depression and the Nixon administration deserved his respect. I don't know, but he was the one who let me stop at a Harley dealer while on a road trip one time.
Anyway...fast forward to 2003 and a trip to the Bay Area for a friend's wedding. Kids are back home, just me and Maria, and an ad for Harley rentals at Bob Dron HD in Oakland. We rented a 2003 Electra Glide Classic, and the die was cast. I knew that some day I'd own some sort of Harley, probably an Electra Glide.
Life happened while I was making this plan. I had my '81 Gold Wing, it was paid off, it was dependable, it was mostly comfortable. With four kids and a mortgage it never seemed like the responsible thing to do to finance a motorcycle.
Early in September this year a friend offered to sell me his '90 Ultra Classic. I knew what he paid for it, so the price he offered it to me wasn't out of line. Things fell into place - financing was secured, my Gold Wing was sold, and the Ultra was mine. Long time dream realized and all that.
The bike is not without flaws, and I know that, even expect that. I've been a mechanic of some sort for all of my adult(?) life and recognize that even with the best care and maintenance machines age. Besides, part of the fun of owning a motorcycle (for me, at least) is learning how it works, how it breaks, how to fix it, and how to make it better.
So, getting back to Mr. Killjoy.
Everyone I've talked to since buying the Ultra, even the brand-loyal Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki guys, has, at least to my face, been complimentary, acknowledging my history with the Wing, wishing me good fortune with the Ultra, offering unsolicited but helpful tips and advice.
Except for one guy.
He had a Harley at one time. Rode it a lot, worked on it (apparently) a lot more. Did this and that to the engine trying for more power. One thing after another went wrong with it. Spent lots of money on it and (apparently) was never happy with it. Ultimately ended up selling it, no doubt losing money in the deal.
Of course, I heard this tale of woe AFTER purchasing the Ultra, and without ever asking for his experiences or opinion. So now the seeds of negativity are planted, sown in the field of doubt and indecision that I thought I'd effectively fenced off, isolated and inoculated. So now, like that new mother-to-be, I catch myself wondering what I've done, second-guessing my decision, listening to every clank, rattle, clunk, whistle and whine, wondering if this is when it lays down and dies.
I know I shouldn't let one person get me down. I know that just because HE had a bad experience with the brand it doesn't mean that I will have a bad experience too. I know all this.
And yet, there it is.
One guy and his comments takes part of my fun away.
And that burns my ass just like a two foot high open flame.
ROGER KIMBALL: Memorial Day Notes….
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