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It's Nelly's World

Friendly

alec vanderboom


I get too moony when I think of friends. I know. But I am overflowing with soppy emotion again today. I have been thinking of all the riches motorcycling has bestowed on me, and the mysterious path that led me back to it, a place I needed to be even though I did not know it. Yet something, someone, did.

The friendships that hold me closest in their embrace--the ones that hold me up, and will ever do so--have come to me through this. In only a short while, they have become the tightest, the blissfully stickiest, that I have ever known. How do you know when a friendship will last until the final days? Look around. Then place your money on the folks who are wearing helmets.

Beyond the internal, unmixable, physical and spiritual joys of riding--the soul's great "yahoo!" reverberating inside your brain at every shift into gear--there is the equal joy of knowing you ride with a great net under you. A net made of people who also ride, and on whom you can call when you are in need (company, assistance, advice, presence, tools, time, affection).

I took a ride today on my new motorcycle. I have never before owned more than one. Much less three. I can see how this becomes a habit.

I took a ride today on my new motorcycle because a friend took two airplanes and rode it eight hundred fifty miles to get it back to me. Just because he is a friend, and because he loves riding, and because he loves it when others love it. Then he gave me a brief tour of the new machine's bits and pieces, intimidating since new, but soon to become friends, too, of a sort. Then he followed me on a forty-mile circuit of local roads not because he desired a ride--though he does not ever scoff at those--and upon returning home, gave me an intensive lesson in bike-washing. (I am impatient, but the bike is happy that he is not; it will probably never shine so well again.) Finally he stood by while I gingerly backed the bike into the garage, a maneuver that requires finesse and strength and an initial watchful eye, or at least it seems so to me.

This morning I had breakfast with motorcycle friends. Afterward, I went to borrow a tool from a motorcycle friend. Tomorrow morning, I will meet and ride with new friends. Throughout the day, I have been marking down on the calendar in my head future rides with other friends.

I have a friend, on the other side of the country, delivered to me by the agency of motorcycles. He is of profound heart and mind, and I can count on him to see into me, and through me, and to say things that will either make me think deeply or laugh idiotically. I have never met him, but he is one of my best friends.

The correspondence I carry on with another friend, also a writer and a motorcyclist, is to me like sustenance. When I get an email from him--literate, fascinating, long, full of thought and passion--I feel like the doorbell has rung and it's the takeout delivery man, with a delicious meal for a very hungry person. Go on and say it, though it sounds wifty as hell: I cherish them, and him.

With another friend down south, I have shared some ups and downs. But we have carried on. On bikes. They bind us, and I hope always will. It is not my fault some emotions have gotten involved: high emotions are what these machines are all about.

I realized, with a start, that in one short year, a circle of new friends has drawn itself about me, impermeable. It's a thousand friends strong, because with bike friends, friends of friends are friends, too. I could probably ride across the country and stay every night with some motorcycle connection, strung like pearls from sea to sea.
I could share every meal of the week with motorcycle friends if I wanted; I could talk on the phone, or email interminably, with no one but motorcycle friends.

What a good idea.

It makes me go all gooey inside. It surprises me, this suddenness, this unending richness from the one thing that life is all about: connection. And love. Oh, and that moment the gear engages and the world is new again.