Holiday greeting 2003

There is the feeling of the chilling coolness in the breeze outside my window. Sitting in my home with my children eagerly awaiting Christmas morning I wonder what new toys Santa will bring me too. Sitting plucking earnestly at the strings of my Epiphone (guitar) working a Travis roll thinking about the miles to be ridden in the New Year I listen quietly to my muse.

There are adventures and advances in my riding career I wish to make. The planning and revising of those plans are a holiday task made different this year. Somewhere in the foggy featureless void of the future are the rides to be ridden. In the now and today is the planning of that future. I check my list as my mind wanders through the chores of the winter season rolling the guitar in my hands working the fret board and wandering the scale plucking the edges of the string drawing the subtle tonalities into vivid rings of sound.

The years of abuse in my misguided youth have gnarled my hands. The cold will literally lock my fingers up in a prison of utter agony and pain. I wear gloves to keep them warm and functional anytime the temperature drops below the coolness mark on the thermometer. The heated hand grips of my K12LT motorcycle are a delightful luxury that I need more each year. I’ve seen people who are much worse off in the arthritis department. Each gnarled digit ticking off a fateful misery that can be contemplated, but never understood with the finality of loosing dexterity. Playing the guitar is a method for me to keep my dexterity, and yet I never play for anybody else. I’ll never pick up a guitar with friends and play with them. I practice two hours a day four or five times a week. I take lessons, and I try to be a good student. Some things just can’t be understood by others, but this is something I do for me. A lot like how I ride motorcycles.

Musing through the scales passing the rhythm from note to note a task completed with each tick of the metronome in my head the melody played in the foreground and the supporting harmony sinking into the background always supporting I wonder about motorcycling. Some of my friends are wilding gesticulating melody flittering about and drawing them ever closer to the light, and other friends gracefully beat a constant harmony keeping the machinery of friendship together. Some friends wildly mix the tonalities of music in joyous abandon of conservative music and rock the halls in happiness. The chaos of motorcycling and general knowledge of challenging the limits of commonness is a symphony that transcends simple common purpose.

When discussing the bone weary fatigue of having accomplished some endurance goal, or having challenged the rally master and lost. When contemplating the objectionable and finding more in the vast reserve that most people leave untouched. When creating the challenge and contemplating the rhythm and tactile sensuality of a ride. When I write about a particular piece of road a life time away from anywhere, and somewhere in the panorama a few will have been there before. Some will follow. Others will just not understand. As you move up the fret board of a guitar the same notes can be played on different strings. Different tonal shapes take place and they sound completely different because the string size gives the note shape and definition. Many people within motorcycling have the same goals, achievements, and yet they are all subtly different.

Each time I look at more expensive instruments I think if I could just own that Martin D18 I would be a better player. Maybe that Guild guitar would increase my ability. Of course the instrument has nothing to do with the basic mastery of the skills. A better guitar player is made better by the tone and choice of woods that make the guitar. Some forms of music are best played on nylon strings, and other types of music find solidity in the foundations of metal. Interesting enough nylon (cat gut) is of Spanish origins, and metal is a distinctly German heritage. The Spanish mode of music is skillful, light, and fast while being less stringent. The German heritage has spawned hard rock, rules and rebel causes in music, and notoriety in strength.

Motorcycles are of similar persuasion in that the bike has the rider as the weakest link. No matter how good the bike a weak chunk of biodegradable material holding the handlebars is the final determining factor. A better bike makes the rider better, but no amount of technology can hide an inept hack from the hard reality of concrete and limited traction. My guitar instructors while playing on vastly superior instruments can always pick up my Epiphone and make it sing likes gods own choir. The effect on me is not unlike that joyous look on my daughters face when I pick up her Fender Squire and make it sing on some difficult piece she has been banging on for a week. For each step up in skill we take there is still another rung to be climbed on the ladder of success.

In that each step allows us to see the fallacy of our previous success I’m often shown my own arrogance of believed achievement. Along with each snowflake and glistening crystal icicle hanging from my roof eaves I listen to the melody of my own music. As the holiday moves from eventful tumult to torturous circumstance my musical repertoire will metamorphous with the cascading challenges of the chorus. This is not unlike how the character and challenge of ride changes depending on the venue and the company. A road less traveled and frequented rarely has a certain caution inherent in the traversal, and yet the same conditions can be handled with joyful abandon depending on the company of the ride.

As you begin your holiday season have at your own symphony and cacophony of riding and musical showmanship. Whether the ride be a metaphor for a life experience, or the music is a simile of your life enjoy. With the constant swing of the season and the turning days of time the sorrow of rides not taken is the true loss in each register or our own life performance. Santa will come and go, my kids will grow, and when I’m too old to ride I’ll still have the music of rides gone by and days still to come.

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