(March 13, 2007)
There is a marked difference in how a road is perceived that is completely determined by how that road is traveled.
Life is a road...
Battles rage all around me, and I can only grin as I roar through the remains. The lonely wail of my machine echoes back from the turbulent cityscape, punctuating the swirling debris and drowning out the disorganized dance of the cages that share the road with me. Itís not quite chaos, but itís close enough to mirror the swirling feelings coursing through my soul. I smile...a dangerous smile. I know this music.
The world often presents whatís expected of it and today there are many powerful forces at work, some subtle, and some painfully obvious. As I clamp my legs tighter against the precision machine and pull a long, hard, sweeping turn onto a different freeway I canít help but wonder which forces are pushing me onward this time. Internal or external? The question seems an important one, but Iíve no answer ready. The painted stripes on the road flash rapidly by, indicating Iíve achieved a speed that is probably well outside the tolerance of our local revenuers, but I pay little attention. The question still looms. Internal or external? Shortly I realize I really donít care. For me, I think, they are probably the same thing.
Thatís a revelation, and I savor it for a brief moment.
Battles. Lots of them. Everything around me somehow involved in itís own conflict. Outwardly independent, but in reality, closely tied together in an intricate dance.
I look at the concrete rushing by and hope I donít miss a step.
This was an odd winterís night, even for Texas. Temperatures had been in the high 70ís all day, and as night fell, the stiff southern wind brought even more heat and balmy air to the area. At 3:00am it was 82 degrees, well over 40 degrees above our normal temperature for this time of year.
Thatís when the first of the battles began.
A cold front attacked, sneaking in from the northwest and pounding hard against the heavy south winds. Neither system had the clear upper hand, and the result was a war along the front fought by concise and distinct pockets of hot and cold swirling randomly about the city. Just standing in my driveway the temperature had plunged 20 degrees in seconds, and then almost immediately climbed back to its former high.
Add riding to the mix and it was a rather unique feeling. Blustery and cold, except when it was balmy and hot. The transitions were instantaneous. It might flip back and forth 20 times in under a mile...under a minute...of riding. Harsh pounding winds, punctuated by balmy, embracing breezes, neither present long enough to become uncomfortable or familiar. Riding in shirtsleeves, the complete sensory overload had me shivering in sheer pleasure. The cold smelled of primal forest. The hot tasted wild. I could hear the sky, and the light of the full moon caressed my skin with a touch as sensual as any lover's.
The universe is a powerful seductress, and she knows me well.
I briefly wondered if there was anything of me in this package of sensations and turmoil piloting the heavy cruiser through the night, or if I had somehow become a completely primal entity, feeling only the moment. Being only what surrounded me. Becoming nothing less than endless sound and fluid motion.
The wind blew in shades of the color orange, I tasted chocolate, the hairs on my arms hummed with orchestral music, and I gently guided the big machine all the while wondering if the overwhelming sensations were primitive memory or primal experience.
I hadnít set out to ride this night. The first change in the winds had gently woken me, the caress on my skin coming eerily before the blinds rattling in the open window. New and elemental smells flooded the room. I breathed deeply as my eyes traced the soft curves of my lover beside me. Sudden powerful feelings flooded my soul. Iím never quite prepared for them.
As I lay there a moment stunned at the intensity of my mood I realized there would be no more sleep for me tonight. I glanced again at my wife, my thoughts darkly male and completely unabashed. Iíve no doubt the look on my face at that moment would have startled her...and was distinctly predatory.
There is something disturbingly primal about my feelings for herótheyíre just a little too restrained for simple lust and are far too powerful to describe as love. Tonight the intense yearnings were starkly amplified by the growing chaos outside. The blustering gusts kept perfect time with my surging emotions, and for a moment I let them run.
Tasting the passion. Feeling the lust. Knowing at a basic level, just what it means to be alive.
Sleeping there, she looked too contented...too safe...too secure...for me to expose her to the animal within at that moment. Now was not the time, and the animal grumbled in sheer frustration. This was the first of many battles this night.
The animal, that dark side of the man, wanted satisfaction. Needed it. Demanded it. Right then and there. It whined and strained to be free. The man held it back. The man watched her sleeping and knew he could...would...annihilate...any challengers...destroy any intruders...up close and personal...simply to allow her that one moment. Simply to grant her that peace that he never could quite achieve for himself. And yet the man wanted heróneeded heróas badly as the animal did.
The animal fought to the surface. The man struggled to contain it without destroying it, knowing intrinsically that he needs the animal, the dark side, to survive. As always the man won. As always the man wondered at what cost. As always he wondered just what it would be like to set the dark side completely free.
Breathing hard and shaking, I left her sleeping, quietly pulled on my jeans and boots, and stepped out to the driveway to enjoy the breezes and to ponder the intensity of the sudden turmoil inside. My fists clenched as I worked to control the unrest in my soul, still not realizing how tightly it was bound to the growing chaos without.
Iím not nearly as civilized as I pretend to be.
Standing there, I gasped as the first cold pocket of air engulfed me, and then shivered when it was immediately replaced by a balmy warm caress. The conflicting sensations sent fingers of pleasure dancing up my spine, and I could feel the hair on my arms and neck standing erect. Trees whipped and moaned in the wind, replacing the sounds of the city with something much more ancient, much more primitive.
Gawking in amazement, I realized I could see the wind! I watched as the swirling cold air pocket visibly moved out of the drive. The car-sized translucent apparition swirled and glided, following the curve of the alley for a ways before passing through a fence and vanishing.
I watched another approach. The engineering, analytical part of my mind understood that the cold pockets were causing just enough of the moisture in the air to condense into a light mist to show their size and erratic motion.
Yeah, the engineering mind understood the concept, but feelings and understanding are not firmly connected. The hindbrainóthe instinctósaw the approaching...thing...and wanted to flee. The animal sideóthe predatorósnarled in sheer joy and leapt at the prospect of the chase. As I digested the amazing sight I had cause to wonder why the swirling pockets of cold air and mist were quite literally glowing.
Pondering the battle between these conflicting forces, I tore my eyes away from one of the roving, ethereal ďghostsĒ and let my focus travel slowly upward; drawn inexorably to the full moon that was giving the swirling pockets of mist the intense glow. Already low in the western sky, some amplifying effect of the atmosphere had magnified the moon to impossibly huge proportions. I donít think Iíve ever seen it appear so clear and large and I simply stood and gaped in childlike wonder.
The engineer in me basked in the light of the huge moon and readily admitted it didnít at all understand the universe, and at the same time, decided that was completely okay. The instinct just stared. The animal jumped for joy and whined to be set free. As all of those in one package, I beheld the full glory of the spectacle and almost howled. It was then that I realized it was time to ride. Iíve no idea why it took me so long. I shouldíve realized it the moment I awoke.
Iíd torn out of the city, northbound and fast. Racing the moon through the countryside, watching the pockets of cold mist form up and march on the warmth. Tearing across the city, watching the mist pockets...sometimes dodging them, other times cutting them down with ruthless speed.
The powerful Valkyrie cruiser, alive and hot beneath me, willingly carried me into the night.
At a gas station in Oklahoma my cell phone interrupted my reverie. The concerned voice of my wife asked, ďWhere are you?Ē
ďIím on my way to work.Ē I replied truthfully, wondering for the first time just what time it was and whether I was carrying a map on the bike.
ďOh. Well, I miss you. Be careful.Ē
Yeah, I was on my way to work. One hundred miles in the wrong direction...not even in the right state, but I was on my way to work.
I rapidly finished fueling the bike, pointed it south, and twisted the throttle to its stop.
Hidden in the battle of the winds and mists, an equally powerful battle of smell and taste raged on. The cold pockets spoke of damp and earth...a chilly primal forest in the darkest part of the night. The hot air smelled of springtime, sunshine, and breakfast.
I became aware of the approach to the city by yet another player in that battle. The smell of the city from a distance is very distinct, yet not at all unpleasant. Itís mostly salty...like an ocean breeze, with a metallic taste thrown in just so thereís no mistake. Just a hint of corruption occasionally reminds me of the unpleasant underbelly of any such place.
Hot and cold. City and countryside. Each with itís own distinct emotional response. Each with its message. All warring for dominance, yet none able to achieve it in the chaos. The countryside felt like home. The city exuded excitement. The cold brought instinct and the animal to the forefront, while the heat pushed everything but the rider aside. The engineer sat quietly to the side and wondered if it was okay that he believed in magic.
Miles and minutes...many passed by yet none were the same.
Slowly the freeways widened. Two, then four, eventually six and eight lane paths of concrete snaked their way toward the mammoth scar of glass and steel. One hundred and fifty-foot high bridges stretched into the night, providing massive transitions between the roads. The country was giving way to the city...that battle was over for now.
Light and dark. Another fight...and the night had lost...though it hadnít quite given up yet. Assaulted from the east by the predawn light, the west from the huge full moon, and ahead of me by the lights of the city, its demise was inevitable. Still, as it retreated, it left a promise...its own mark upon the winds and smells. It would return again, the night would come...perhaps when its enemies were not so ready to do battle. The night would yet reign supreme.
I smiled at the thought. Iím a creature of the night, and quite at home there. Iíd be waiting to welcome it when it returned.
The road rushes by. I spot a small tree growing out of a crack in the sea of concrete, completely alone in the center embankment of a bridge approach. Thereís a battle of sorts there too, and the outcome is not at all decided.
The cars and trucks fight each other for space and position. Occasionally one reaches out for me...the cages seemingly jealous of my freedom of motion. They try to draw me into their battle, try to suck me down to their world, but I twist the throttle and leave them in the dust. I can taste their frustration.
I dance among them...blood, bone, and steel reading the patterns in their motions and stepping just so...moving as one...twisting and turning. Brake. Throttle. Watch that one over there, it thinks itís clever. Hard right. A left correction. More throttle. A hard sweeping turn, touching the very limits of the machineís ability. A steep, hundred foot drop to the freeway below. Faster!
A wraith floating among the mourners. An eagle swooping through the doves. A Pegasus gliding over the oxen and carts. A dragon soaring above the bleating sheep. Animal. Man. Machine. I am all of those...and yet none of those, somehow all at the same time.
I smile and breathe hard, dodging around or cutting through the cold glowing mist pockets and occasionally howling with primal raw emotion. The full moon has its impact, even when the man is supposedly in control.
Far too soon, and long before Iím ready for it, I wail through the downtown canyons and slide to a stop at the security gate to work. I wave my wallet in the vague direction of the boothóIíve forgotten my badgeóand the bored guard takes that as my ID and motions me on through.
The shadows of giants. Even the sky battles for its place here, the skyscrapers striving to hide it from view. The mighty towers of steel and glass think theyíve won, never understanding that in this place...in my world...their position...their existence...depends entirely on the benevolence of the very sky they try to shut out. The power they exude is a farce. Pure bravado. That battle has yet to be fought in this city. I hope Iím elsewhere when it is. I know what it takes to build manís world, Iím one thatís helped to build it, but Iíve seen firsthand the power the heavens can unleash.
Parked in the shadows of the city. Just sitting lightly in the saddle with both feet on the ground. Absorbed in the moment, engulfed in a cold pocket of air and watching my breath swirl away in an expanding cloud.
A coworker walks by, having just left his cage in the parking garage. He nods a greeting.
I nod back, ďWhat a morning!Ē My hair, short as it is, blows in the breeze. Goosebumps travel down my spine. Another pocket of air travels through. Suddenly I smell bacon.
He looks at me like Iím nuts. ďDamn wind.Ē
Itís my turn to stare. There is a gulf between us. I look around. Damn wind? I wonder if we are standing in the same world. I try again, ďThat moon was amazing!"
He shakes his head and walks away, headed for the door and speaking over his shoulder, ďWhat moon?Ē
There was a battle there too.
I think he lost it long ago.
The difference between us is how we traveled here. I stroke the big cruiser on the tank and mumble quietly, ďThanks babe.Ē
I watch the door close behind him. Itís another 10 minutes before I can bring myself to follow.
There was a battle there as well. I'm not sure how it came out.
There is a marked difference in how a road is perceived that is completely determined by how that road is traveled.
Life is a road...
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