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It's Nelly's World

Be My Guest

alec vanderboom

Writing poetry is hard. (Writing good poetry is even harder.) Writing about bikes is hard. Writing good poetry about bikes is impossible.

Yet I have found one man who can do the impossible.

Ed Milich, gearhead and vintage racer, specializes in deliciously complex endeavors: bringing back the ghosts of dead and superannuated Italian bikes and making them screamingly alive on the track; collecting bits of what others might call "junk" but are to certain blessed
Linkindividuals "Just what I needed to make life complete!" He parts out bikes, and he parts out himself, as a writer for a collection of motorcycle publications. He is also the mastermind of But what he does that that amazes me most is write poetry about what he does--poetry that is the real thing. Do you know how hard that is? Impossible. It is an amazing thing to watch a mortal do the impossible, which is why we watch vintage racing in the first place. And which is why I asked Ed to be my first guest blogger.

If the two poems below affect you--and you would not be made of metal-loving flesh if they don't--do yourself a favor and lay hold of his two books, Wrenched (free verse) and
Fueled (containing both poems and self-described "short stories about the passions and madness of racing: rusted motorcycles, crusted men, and how Milich won a race at Daytona on a $600 Moto Guzzi").


two poems by Ed Milich


Some people think he is just
a sour old man
with a limp
and a limitless supply of curses
which he shouts generously
at the mechanic
and the parts manager.
But I know why
the man behind the counter
at the motorcycle shop
is such a dour old firecracker.
For years he has stockpiled parts
one at a time
from wrecks that show up at the shop.
He has
for many afternoons
screwed with carburetors
and ignition advance units
and breathed the gray, sooty filth
that spews from exhaust pipes of bikes
that haven't run in years
but under his magic touch come alive
with only a few hours of work.
I know why.
The old man used to race,
the Catalina Grand Prix
and at Steamboat
and Riverside
and Daytona
and the bowls of his old tarnished trophies
carry a haphazard baggage of bolts
and rubber bands
and slightly used spark plugs,
and dust.
He never speaks of his racing career.
This man has tasted glory at the racetrack.
and he has acquired the skills
to tune Triumph motors to sing like
twin sopranos.
But you still need a to make a buck,
so he sits in this motorcycle shop
from 9 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday
and there is always some tightwad
who offers $17 instead of $20
for a starter solenoid.
For these reasons and more
one should carefully consider
before forming an opinion
about the old man
behind the parts counter.



After twenty hours of fussing and fighting with clearances
and turning wrenches
and cutting down pistons
on the twelve inch swing lathe at my workplace,
and stuffing the new motor in the machine,
and two thousand dollars in parts bills,
I was able to dyno test the bike.
To my amazement, it was up 9 horsepower.
That's 20% higher than stock.
My surprise transformed to cunning
as I imagined my competitive advantage.
On the first day of racing at Daytona,
I got the hole shot
and went forward into turn 1
with a snaking trail of racers behind me.
I led for three laps
until Craig on his Ascot
made his move in Turn 4 and passed me.
I caught him on the banking and surpassed him in Turn 1.
We did this dance for two more laps
and then on the last lap, he led
and would not let go.
I drafted his wake, and made an attempt to catch him,
but at the line I was still three feet behind him,
so I took a second place.
On the second day at Daytona,
I again got the hole shot
I focused hard and rode swiftly for three laps.
when I looked back, I saw nothing but
the sun bleached Daytona asphalt,
so I continued for two more laps
until I crossed the finish line alone
and in first place.
And where was Craig? Had he faltered or crashed, or had he merely geared wrong?
I do not know and don't care to ask,
for first place means
not having to burden one's mind
with such thoughts.