Born to Be Mild

I’m not a motorcycle guy.

I know a lot of you just lost your minds. Your collective heads are spinning, trying to make sense of it. What did he say? How can this be? But he looks like a motorcycle guy. Surely, he’s only joking! That madcap!

I have nothing against motorcycles enthusiasts. If you enjoy them then by all means, strap on a helmet, climb on yon metal Harley beast or whatever flavor you prefer, crank up Born To Be Wild as loud as you can, lean back on that chopper and have at it. It’s a free country, brother.

It’s just not my thing.

One day my dad came home with a mini-bike. I was around 12 or 13. It was during a typical sweltering Alabama summer in the 1970s, the kind that made your polyester shirt stick to your back. Everybody with a set of rabbit ear antennas watched Good Times. John Amos was the best TV dad around. Jimmie Walker, wearing his floppy blue denim Gilligan hat would clap his hands and spout “Dy-No-Mite!” every three minutes and the audience would yuk it up like it was the first time they’d heard it.

At some point during this period, my brain took a few days off. While it was away, I bought one of those hats. I don’t really know why. Wearing that thing on my head made Gilligan look like James Bond. What does that have to do with a mini-bike? Stay with me here and all shall be revealed.

Of course, I had to ride the mini-bike. Two things you need to know. One, the bike was pre-owned, not new. Two, the throttle cable wasn’t attached to the handlebars. That meant you had to pull on the cable with one hand to give it gas while steering with the other hand. Genius.

Somehow, I talked my dad into letting me take her for a spin. Tossing one leg over the bike, I pulled on my blue denim floppy hat and cranked her up. With my naïve, prepubescent little heart thumping like Phil Collins’ bass drum, I yanked on the throttle cable. The bike and I leaped forward and darted up the road.

Oh, what a feeling. Blue skies. The open road. A cool mini-bike with a loose throttle cable. I felt like Peter Fonda in Easy Rider—for about twelve seconds.

This is the point where many scientists believe things went awry. Crazy as it sounds, I apparently failed to take into account one minor factor—the wind. I was barely 50 feet up the road when my Gilligan hat released its grip from my head and blew off like it had been shot from a cannon. I vaguely remember turning my head to look back for it. I really shouldn’t have done that. Looking back is never ever a good idea. Ask Lot’s wife.

I don’t remember seeing where the hat was at this point. What I do remember is the bike swerving violently left and right for a second or two, with me trying in vain to regain control. The next thing I recall is the bike being slammed down on the road, hard, and me with it.

That’s when I ceased caring where my hat was.

I lay there in the middle of the road for several moments, stunned and in pain. My left arm was scratched up and bleeding. I thought it was broken. The pain was almost unbearable.

Finally, I picked myself up, limping away like Evel Knievel after the Caesar’s Palace jump. A throng of reporters in tacky leisure suits surrounded me, shoving their 1970s-era microphones in my 12 year- old face.

“No autographs today,” I said with a grimace, before announcing that on that day I would be retiring.

“You will never see me ride a mini-bike again,” I said with a somber face to a chorus of oooohs.

I’ve kept my word to this day. No, I’m not a motorcycle guy. But I could have been, once. I could have been a contender. I could have been another Evel Knievel. I could have been somebody.

Yeah, that’s right. That’s what happened.

Jimmie Walker ruined my career. 78






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