10:11:11 Rereading Pirsig

Last week, I reread Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pirsig never says what motorcycle he rides, but I bet it's a Honda Hawk 305, a pragmatic choice. That separates him far enough from technophiles he can observe how John (his motorcycling acquaintance in the book) and a BMW motorcycle have a nearly inviolable relationship, more imagined than understood. Pirsig argues well maintaining your own machine is also tending to your self.

[tortoise]I agree. Something about faith in the latest dialled-in travelling leaves me skeptical it goes anywhere. In the last few years, something alien to such technological grace confirmed my suspicions: The spectacle of more and more bicyclists riding what are two-wheeled throwbacks.

They glide down the street on skinny-tired single-speed bikes. Or float over asphalt on balloon-tired clunkers. These two types are definitely forsaking technological progress. Who needs a 21-speed, disk-braked, RockShox'd mountain bike or a carbon-fiber racer with Campy components, which must only fall apart into expensive parts they seem to ask.

Get a fixie!

Still, the rewards of such Old World machines like the BMWs (motorcycles and cars) we don't understand is sweeter when only imagination limits us. We take one down a curving roadway and our minds go places we can't reach elsewhere. The BMW (the car) handles so well--as if sprung to life from the pages of Car and Driver. You rave to your friends with some of the same words as the magazine article ("good nonlinear, transient suspension response" ... ). You smile that you never listened to the Neanderthal who thinks Corvettes neat.

But isn't something to be said for the proven Corvette? (Or the Harley-Davidson? Or the clunky balloon-tire bike?) Detroit iron. Yesterday's engineering. Less than the highest of hi-tech, but you can run over potholes and not worry if your active suspension is rated for the abuse.

These thoughts about travelling endurance make me want to get a balloon-tire clunker, take to the hills, and careen down some fire roads. City roads confine. Unlike Aesop's hare, we might run out of road, if we don't run out of gas first. There are too many beefed-up trucks, 4x4s, and other rugged travellers in the city for us not to notice the original all-terrain Everyman: the tortoise, who came this far for this long for some half-remembered dream. Like our reptilian companion, we will all be enduring lurchers when we realize the road was only an illusion of freedom.

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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

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