On a Tuesday, I had my last wisdom tooth pulled. It was the valiant guardian of the back of my mouth for as long as I can remember. US Army dentists, at least the ones in 1982, pulled wisdom teeth as though they were getting paid by the pound. Even though it was a free service they provided, I was never one to volunteer for unnecessary pain and declined their kind offers to yank the teeth out of my face. In the end, their wisdom was greater than my wisdom teeth and, over time, the little monuments to my stubborness came out one by one... except this one. This little warrior was unique in that he had burst onto the scene facing forward into the tooth in front of him, leaving no real room to 'pull' him out. That natural protection kept him in place.
Since then, the tooth in front of the tooth had long since been removed and my little wise friend began to show his age and complain. And so, with a visit to the dentist, my last wisdom tooth was retired from service. Coming out of the dentist's office high on adrenaline, I threw a leg over the bike in 79 degree mid-December weather and rode home to wait for the novocaine to wear off.
The next day promised pretty decent weather. It was a little cooler than the day before but still in the lower 70s. Thundershowers were forecasted for the evening ride home from work. I'm not a weatherman. I don't even play one on TV. But I have noticed that, if there's a chance of rain, the chance is greatest around 8am and 5pm, when I'm going to be riding in it (along with everyone else who commutes). And to go a step further, if there are only scattered showers, they tend to follow the highway I travel to get back and forth. For any reasonable person who hasn't made a religion out of being contrary to the idea, I don't doubt that the climate is changing. I'm sure that, as we get better at tracking it, we're bound to see changes. I'm not sure how I feel about the relationship between climate change and man's impact on it. I'll keep an open mind but it really doesn't matter. There's nothing more I can do about it than what I can do and, personally, I want to be "resource responsible" anyway. But the fact that rain seems to follow traffic makes me wonder.
With the impending doom-laden weather forecast, I took off from work an hour early to try and avoid the majority of the downpour but as I walked outside, it was already starting to sprinkle here and there.
Normally, I loathe riding in the rain. Perhaps the worst part is the rest of the traffic on the road. Stopping gets more precarious. Cagers seem to get more aggressive. Thoughtfulness and courtesy seem to wash away like the oil and grime that the rain sweeps off the side of the roadway. But on this day, with my mouth feeling pretty good from the trauma of the previous day, traffic was almost as light as the falling rain when something from Rush's 2112 album played in my earbuds over the rumble of my ground-pounder exhaust.
There are so many moments when you're riding that you and the world around you transform like someone flipped a switch. You don't see it coming. It's nothing you can ride toward. It's a borderless thing that happens without you noticing like the slow warming of the day. Suddenly, you sense it. You know it. Of course, the rain was still falling. There was still traffic. And my mouth still hurt. But, faster than the beat of a heart, all was well and there was no other place I'd rather be. You would think at my advancing age, being half of a century and a tithe, I would prefer the comfort and safety of a luxury car. Perhaps if I was as wise as my years, that would be the smart course. And yet, just the thought of that saddens me. I would never want to lose this rush of adrenaline, just as strong as the one in the dentist's chair but so much sweeter. Smoother like a fine whiskey. (At least, that's what I hear. I don't really like whiskey but, if "smooth" is like a full tank of gas on a finely tuned machine going down a long road on a perfect day, I get the idea). What a wodnerful time. My endorphins were having a party and dragging me along.
It's futile to try and force the transformation of reality. Like an artist's muse, it just comes to you. It resists force. The slightest effort tends to stifle the change. But let go of the mental noise that so easily besets us and it's as though a portal opens and you unknowingly ride through to a completely alternate reality. Rod Serling would have understood.
I've only had this happen once in a car. I was in the Monterey, California area for work and I had a rental car. For whatever reason, they upgraded me to the Camaro. It had been a long time since I had driven a Camaro so I thought, "Sure. Why not?". I wasn't expecting the satellite radio but there it was. And there I was... on my way from Santa Cruz to Monterey in the Camaro. Classic hard rock played on the satellite radio and the sun was shining . Although I couldn't see it, I could feel the Pacific Ocean off to my right. I lived in California for several years and, while it's not home in my heart, I still have a fondness for it, which might have contributed. And for the moment, everything was right in the world. To my recollection, this has only happened once in a car but that kind of thing happens pretty often on a motorcycle.
As I rode through the rain, I realized I had a big grin on my face. So much for trying to pull off that big bad angry biker persona. Meh.. whatever. I'm not trying to tick anyone off or trying to impress them. Other than that, I don't really care what people think of me. Is it so bad to look like you're having fun? If anyone sees the grinning guy on the beautiful Harley mouthing the words to A Pasasage To Bangkok, so be it. Perhaps that's because I'm a biker by nature. Or perhaps that's why I'm a biker by nature. I'm not sure. But every time I get on the bike, I know that, quite unexpectedly and in the blink of an eye, the world and I can change.. and everything will be well. It's like winning the lottery... without the taxes. On a motorcycle, the world changes.
"Sweet Jamaican pipe dreams
Golden Acapulco nights
Then Morocco, and the East
Fly by morning light"
(Lee, Peart and Lifeson)