Road racers live in a world of numbers. It is all about the numbers; split times, lap times, finishing positions, championship points, tech violations by a fraction of an inch, and classes delineated by years. It is also my birthday next week. Well, one of my birthdays anyway. It all boils down to the numbers.
Numbers smacked me around a bit the other day. Here’s an interesting perspective, I, this morning, whatever the hell it is I have to get done or want to do, or feel compelled to worry or bitch about, have something in the neighborhood of 23.7 years left in which to do it. This according to actuarial tables provided from data compiled by the US Census and Social Security Administration. That casts things in a different light doesn’t it?
What’s important, what’s not, what matters, what doesn’t? Heh, mortality, kind of comforting isn’t it, very useful in reprioritizing things. I wonder if those bridge folks down in Florida ever thought about that building that death trap of a span that collapsed on those commuters, or that cop that didn’t run to the sound of the guns down at that high school in that same beleaguered state? Life is short, is that the statement you want to make with it?
I lost a year a couple months back when I discovered my birthday was not my birthday at all, and in fact I was older than I thought. Almost one year older as it turns out. Hence the two birthdays. I have a witness to this subterfuge who was present at the time – my natural birth mother, who will testify as much as it is not every day a human being pops out another human being and these tend to be memorable events. Such are the vagaries of the Catholic church, or the California Department of Assigning Birthdays, or some such. Poof, there went a year. Time was a year was a LONG TIME, now it feels like a long lunch. Time changes, perspective changes. It’s a lot like endurance racing, are we going to do this for six hours or six laps? Changes the way you do things you know. Actuarial tables don’t care, they just adjust the numbers; “Sorry sucker!” It’s all in the numbers.
Look at the nature of time and Gabe’s perfect bike: “Skidmarks – The Bike For You” There is no perfect bike forever and ever, there is only now. Everything is change, you, everything around you, everybody else, it’s all changing, all moving, never static, neither is the ideal bike in its a priori perfection. It’s an illusion, kind of like time. Easy to pin down, and not. It is in fact time to sell my RC-51. It’s a great bike, I love it, I always will, but it is not perfect for me now. It should go to someone who thinks, knows, it is for them.
How many times have I said I’ll have this bike the rest of my life? Plenty. How many times has it proven to be complete twaddle? Every time, and for good reason – Time itself. Change takes place over time, and both are constants, changing the environments we live in, changing us, and changing the bikes we ride. It stands to reason our needs and desires would change. Stop time, and you can find perfection. In the absence of that, it’s a fool’s errand. It is best to settle for pretty damn good for right now because those blasted numbers just don’t stop.
Take Royal Enfield for example, it has made a name for itself by being pretty OK for the time being for a long time. The Royal Enfield Bullet was born in 1948, and its roots actually date back to 1932. Back in ’32 it was one of the fastest bikes on the tarmac. I last won a race in 2011, or was it 2012? Whichever, it feels like it may as well have been 1932. That’s the last time I was pretty OK. Royal Enfield on the other hand has been pretty OK since India was a British colony, and is still plugging away while I sit here in my bathrobe D-Day +1 (deadline day plus one). That’s a hell of an accomplishment, Royal Enfield that is, not me sitting here in my bathrobe. Though I suppose it depends upon who you ask.
Because that’s the trick, you never know when your last race, your last job in the industry, when your last day is. You might have found perfection and not even be aware of it. Even if you have everything, it will change and perfection will too. So, enjoy every day, be grateful for it, and race every lap like you love the fact you have the opportunity to do so. I treasured every checkered flag I took from AMA Hall of Fame racer and starter Al Wilcox. I respected that man so much, and towards the end of his career and time here, I never knew when his last race would be. You can learn everything you will ever need to know about life at a road race track. Every time I saw Al’s truck at the track my heart lifted. Every lap mattered. Enjoy it now. NOW is the only thing that stops time, stops the numbers.
For example, I did not realize it at the time, but I used to actually enjoy deadlines. I used to like the electric buzz around the office, cohorts scurrying about checking ad layout, lede art, cover art, final editing, reading galleys, adding last minute cutlines, it was kind of reminiscent of the pits during a 24-hour endurance race, chaotic but purposeful, and everyone pulling the oars in the same direction for the same goal. In coordinated chaos I found the tranquility to concentrate intensely. I did not appreciate it at the time though. I longed for telecommuting.
Now I am on deadline, in my bathrobe, in my dining room, with my same old stoic dog whose actual age escapes everyone but carbon dating would reveal to be 15-plus. It is tranquil as a tomb, but I am not. In the tranquility and absence of distraction I have only the incessant clatter in my head. In this new gig economy and tele-everything it’s now just me and the same old dog, and no art director losing her mind. I miss the art director losing her mind. Such is progress. Perfection is elusive, neither here nor there. Maybe that is the truth, always pursuing, never achieving, a finish line that keeps moving ahead a lap, and then another, and then another, until it all stops completely, utterly. But there are small victories.
Burns just told me to get back to work via e-mail, that’s it, that was the last thing on my motorcycling bucket list, my life is complete now. That was the whole reason I have tenaciously held on in my advanced dotage – that and Evans calling me a “slacker.” The moto-equivalent of H.L. Mencken barking at me to get to work. How many can say that? You can take me now, Lord, I have accomplished all I came here for. Inshallah!
Ride hard, look where you want to go, and never look back.