As I get older, I find myself less and less inclined to harp on about things I hate. From mild annoyances like new music radio to that asshole who cut me off at that intersection in Winter Hill and gave me the finger to people who don’t understand the beauty of Echo & the Bunnymen’s second LP… I no longer feel the urge to lease space in my head for such things. I don’t listen to radio stations that don’t have static as a primary feature, I’ve accepted the fact that I live in MA and no one here but me and my girlfriend can drive, and people who don’t like Heaven Up Here are going to hell anyway – I can’t be fucked to care. I’ve mellowed in my old age, is what I’m getting at.
It’s only recently that I’ve realized this – and frankly, I’m proud of myself. I’m damned proud that I’ve grown up in this respect and feel like a better person for it.
And so, with that in mind, today I’d like to forgo a proper post and instead focus this kind of zen I’ve found and present a few of my favorite things. Just for the hell of it.
Triumph Motorcycles (pre 1983)
Right off the bat, I’ll cop to the fact that that is not a pre-1983 Triumph. But I can’t help it, Triumph’s 2011 offerings (here their Bonneville T100) are impeccable pieces of fine, British engineering and I’m just a sucker for the New England Green/Cream White combination.
But before 1983, Triumph was an entirely different company. The original brand goes back to 1885, producing bikes through both World Wars and playing a huge role in fostering America’s love of motorcycles in the post-war years. Harley did most of the heavy lifting, that’s a fact – but in the 1950’s, Triumph’s principal profits were coming from the States. Brando rode his own 1950 Triumph Thunderbird 6T in The Wild One and it all took off from there. In fact, the demand for it in America is the reason Triumph starting offering their bikes in black (starting with the aptly titled Triumph Blackbird). Jump cut ten years to Bob Dylan, another ten to Steve McQueen, and the alluring British machine had clearly hard-wried itself, ironically enough, into Americana.
But now I’m starting to gush and I already have an erection, so let’s wrap this up. The people who took over Triumph in 1983 realized fully well that messing with perfection was an awful idea. They opened up into racing bikes, but kept the sleek, classic lines of bikes like the Bonney. The changes made are less a result of design flaws by the inept, and more to do with basic things modernity demands. Plastic, is what I’m getting at.
I recently took my first smithing class. The eight of us met up in a cramped forge in Waltham and cut up a 16 foot piece of sweet, sweet American steel into 2 foot portions. For three hours, I worked my steel with fire and hammers, vices and pliers and came home covered in soot with a pretty, twisty s-hook (or an approximation thereof) to show for it. Nick Offerman (comedian and master woodworker) once observed that “beer is not meant to be enjoyed by clean people”. Truer words, my friends. That first sip of Sam Adams when I finally made it home – it tasted like a reward.
I have no practical use for my new s-hook, but that’s beside the point. The fact that “blacksmithing” is really not that much of a valid career choice – that’s also beside the point.
Anyone in the greater Boston area would do well to take a class or six with Prospect Hill Forge – they are just the best type of guys over there & I can’t wait for my next class.
Glenlivet Nadurra: 16 Year Old Scotch
I came back to North Carolina for the first time since moving North in December of 2009 for my birthday. Me and my buddy Yaz (frequent contributor to the Desk) picked up a bottle of this stuff rather blindly. Neither of us had really experienced good Scotch before but figured we really should. And so it began. Now, in the years since, I’ve had my fair share of good Scotch. Johnnie Walker Blue Label has evaded me, but I’ve had Black and Red, I’ve had Laphroaig and I’ve had Glenlivet’s 10, 12 and 20 year varieties. But I honestly can’t love any of them the way I love the honey-colored dew that is Nadurra.
Breyer’s Cherry Ice Cream
When I was growing up in North Carolina, my Grandpa Walter kept this stuff on tap for us kids. I never saw him eat it and I don’t remember any of us especially enjoying it – at least not for the longest time, but I suppose it grew on us – but it ‘s one of those things that’s so tied to my memory of that guy.
Harley Davidson Iron 883
My god. This is a sexy machine – I harbor a myriad of fantasies about me and this bike… but my favorite has got to be the one where I’m the ranch hand who doesn’t speak English and the Harley Iron 883 is the strapping farmer’s daughter who corners me in the stables while I’m tending to the horses one night.
I know it’s a new Harley, so there’s an awful lot of plastic nonsense on this thing. But that doesn’t change the fact that when I’m looking at pictures of this thing, I always keep a window of porn open in my browser, just in case my girlfriend walks in.
(I’d probably bang this motorcycle. That’s what I’m getting at.)
Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen or Marlon Brando. For bonus points, movies combining these actors. See also: The Wild One, DEATH HUNT, and The Great Escape. While we’re on the subject of movies…
Sam Peckinpah’s Westerns
Peckinpah only made movies that didn’t feature the American West when he absolutely had to. And that says a lot about him. When he did show the modern world in his films, it was with a palpable contempt – most notably in Junior Bonner or The Wild Bunch – which takes place in 1911, when that entire period of American history was bleeding out. Peckinpah was, by most accounts, a man with his demons. He was a notorious drunk and had a penchant for off-screen acts of violence. But that’s simplistic. More to the point – Sam Peckinpah was anachronistic. This dispostion lends itself towards an honest, pure kind of poetry in his Westerns that you just don’t find very often.
Maybe my next post will focus a bit more on this. It’s an idea I’m fascinated with and, understandably, chaining it down to one paragrah is likely a poor idea. But that’s for another day, certainly and I’ll go ahead and end this post on this note: if you haven’t, go out and find a copy of Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. It is the best Peckinpah ever gave us. The violence could give Cormac McCarthy a run for his money (the Kid shooting a shotgun full of quarters at a deputy is especially memorable) but it only adds to the desperation of Peckinpah’s vision. Pat Garrett isn’t just hunting down an outlaw, he’s hunting down a younger, more free version of himself and he’s hunting down a physical manifestation of the Old West. One that has no place in the new era and has to be struck down.
Goddamn, it’s a powerful movie and only Sam Peckinpah could have done it.