Homemaking: Zen and the art of motorcycle abstinence

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I want a motorcycle.

I've actually wanted a motorcycle ever since I was a little kid, when I got a Big Wheel. It came with a little plastic tab on the back wheel that rubbed along the side of the wheel and made a "pbbb" sound when you rode along.

Our house had a circular driveway that ran around it in an endless loop, and I rode around the house making the "pbbb" sound as loud as I could and pretending I was riding across the country like the guy with the flag helmet from "Easy Rider." My journey to discover my little corner of America was cut short an hour later, however, when my father finally figured out where that %^$&$• "pbbb" sound was coming from and came out of the house with a pair of pliers, yanked the little plastic tab off my Big Wheel and put it in his pocket.

As a middle schooler, I saw Steve McQueen jump barbed wire fences in "The Great Escape" on an old Triumph, and I was hooked. My parents found me a used bicycle with big fat tires and a fake engine and gas tank. It was heavy, rusty and difficult to ride but felt almost like a motorcycle, especially if you made a "pbbb" sound under your breath when you pedaled. (As a side note, parents, if you're worried that your son might get too involved with girls too early, get him a bicycle that looks like an old motorcycle and tell him to go "pbbb" under his breath when he rides around town. That should put the whole birds and bees talk off at least three or four years.)

As an adult, I tried to ride a motorcycle only once, during a vacation in Thailand. We were going to rent bikes from a street-side stall, and the owner tried without success and with great frustration to show me how to get it started before I gave up. The whole experience was humiliating and excruciating. On the plus side, I'm pretty sure I know how to say, "Are all Americans such idiots?" in Thai.

For the past 25 years, we've had kids around the house, and between the responsibility and the time drain of child-rearing, I've never really considered getting a motorcycle to be a real possibility. Every once in a while over the years, driving my sensible station wagon, I'd hold the steering wheel at the top two corners, lean back and, if nobody else is in the car, quietly go "pbbb" under my breath.

Now, though, with just two teenage girls left at home, I feel like it might be time for me to live my dream. I'm not running out and buying a big old chopper. I've spent a fair amount of time on the Internet trying to figure out what would be the best motorcycle for a beginning rider. Turns out a smaller bike, somewhere around 250cc, would be safer, because it wouldn't get away from me. I think I might start out with a Honda Rebel, a simple bike, and then when I get more comfortable, I'd like to get a "bobber" style with a low seat.

The biggest problem I have is that you can't just run out and do something wild and crazy after decades of living in a box. You can't take a domesticated animal and throw it out to live in the wild. I told my wife that I was considering this new purchase, and she just stared at me.

"No," she said. "Not happening. You are going to crash, and I am not taking care of you when you do."

"I am 51 years old," I said. "If I want a motorcycle, then I'm getting a motorcycle." (For added emphasis, I bobbed my head back and forth, in a "Oh, no you didn't" gesture.)

"Fine!" my wife said. "Then I'm getting a short haircut."

I glared back at her. She has been threatening for decades now to get a really short haircut, something that would make life easier for her, but which I am adamantly opposed to.

"This is so not fair!" I said, which was almost exactly what I said to my father as he walked away from my Big Wheel clicking his pliers.

So if you see me driving around town, leaning far back in the driver's seat, holding my steering wheel like handlebars and serenely making the "pbbb" sound, you'll know that I'm doing the best I can under the circumstances. Some of us were just born to be mild.


Homemaking is a column about the people, projects and pride that make a house a home. Peter McKay, a Ben Avon resident, is a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. To see past columns, go to www.post-gazette.com. Contact him at www.peter-mckay.com.


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