I sometimes sit here and think about writing these editorials, and it reminds me that my life isn’t in any way special or interesting. I mean, I read George’s accounts of his struggles as a starving artist, and he’s out there living the life, and I don’t know if I could handle living like that. I see people at events, such as the Smoke Out and in Daytona and Sturgis, that seem to be there just to get attention. I have no idea if these people have real jobs or what, but they are all over the place and show up in every pictorial of events everywhere. They are probably good people and are either independently wealthy or just work real hard between events. Everyone’s lifestyle is different, there isn’t really one monolithic “biker” lifestyle that we all have to adhere to as if it’s the Pirate Code or something. Most of us are somewhere between a weekend warrior and the Sons of Anarchy, and most of us move up and down the scale as life happens.
For instance, in 1983 I was homeless in Austin, Texas. I had a wife, a seven month old baby daughter and a 1971 Ford Torino.. period. This was the beginning of December, and an unusually cold snap froze the “freeze” plugs out of the engine block. We were stranded. I got jobs as a day laborer so I could get a room at the Live Roach motel every night, and used the hand towels for diapers etc. At the time, nothing was farther from my mind than trying to find a bike to ride. The immediate emergency took precedence. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t look lustfully at some new Shovelhead riding by the job site. It just meant is was out of reach at the time. I’d say the lowest point of my life was that Christmas, having to share a motel room with three others because there wasn’t enough work over the holidays to pay for it ourselves.
It took a while to drag myself out of that one. We ended up back in Michigan, and I got the truck driving job that finally provided enough income to start thinking about picking up a bike. A friend of a friend had a 1969 TR6R Triumph Tiger for sale, and he wanted $400 for it. It was complete, but needed work. Sounded like a bargain to me, so I sent the money to the house (I was still on the road) and asked the wife to pay for it. Well, suffice to say the money never made it to the owner of the bike. Apparently a new dancing dress was more important, and since I don’t dance, maybe you can see where that was headed. Anyway, after the divorce, I picked up the 1971 Triumph Tiger, the engine from which drives my chopper to this day, and I started probating for the local M.C. These guys were far from the SOA mold, but we certainly met and partied with clubs that were a LOT more serious about the whole thing than we. I learned a lot about brotherhood and respect during those years, and despite the constant politics, had some really good times. We were never affiliated with any of the national clubs, although there was always the rumors abounding that we may be “persuaded” to pick sides one day. Myself, I could never see why they would want to bother.
Wife #2 occurred during that period, and wife #3 soon after. I found a local driving job that allowed me to have a life, be involved with my three daughters’ lives and get back into building bikes, including reading the old Iron Horse and sending in the occasional picture and a letter, hoping they would be published. I began building the Shovelhead that would eventually appear on the cover of #115, and in 1998, after a few disappointing issues of IH after Snow left, the May 1998 issue began the resurrection when Hammer took over as editor. This was cool stuff, and this was happening right here in Michigan! Scott “Genghis” Wong mentioned he had started an Internet message board, and after some effort (there was no “Google” then), I managed to find it. Here I became acquainted with Hammer and some of the other players from the magazine. They set up the “Back Talk” message board soon after, so I was prepared when Princeton Publishing (The IH parent) went into bankruptcy. The struggles to launch THBC dragged on for a while. Hammer seemed certain that it was going to happen, but others not so much. Through all of this, I was pretty much an observer. I had met Hammer and some of the others at a swap meet in Grand Rapids, but as usual, I had no marketable skills to offer. A couple of issues in, however, the guy doing the website went AWOL for quite a while. This was the opportunity I was waiting for. They posted on Back Talk that they needed someone who knew HTML to update the website, and I immediately volunteered! Let me tell you, I had no more HTML experience than the next person, but I saw it as a foothold in the magazine, to be a part of the thing that had been a part of me for so long. I did a bunch of research on website building and began to update the site as needed. It looked pretty crappy at times, but they put up with it, and I managed to worm my way into writing the occasional article as well as the online stuff.
My relationship with the magazine remained like this until the original Smoke Out in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The camaraderie present at that first “event” was outstanding (it still is), and I ended up riding back as far as Cincinnati with Hammer, me on my Shovel and him on the 113” ‘Major Threat.” After only seven or eight years of loyalty later, I was awarded the job of editor here at The Horse. I’m not trying to downplay how special this job is. I’ve been a pretty happy guy ever since I started here, I’m just saying that my day-to-day existence isn’t worthy of basing an editorial on, ten times a year. The job is special... I’m not. I’m just a regular guy who goes to work every day, worries about the bills, struggles to understand my 14 year old daughter who thinks the world is against her, is happy about my marriage to Nurse Nut and stresses about the finances to put the project bikes together. Life is alternately good, great and suckass, usually all in the same day, but it beats the hell out of being homeless. Hopefully, I will never find myself in that position again, but at least I know I can beat it.