THE WAKE

 




A Collection of Articles from the Archives of

Harry G. Pellegrin

Novelist and Musician






 

Read on, my man!


Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx

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The Wake

It's 2AM and I've just come in from the garage. I spent most of the evening breaking a Kawasaki H-2 of early seventies vintage.I picked it up 'FREE' at a garage sale about six months ago and the poor creature has been finally laid to rest, years too late, much the same as Speedy Atkins was.  (Speedy stood, dead and embalmed, in a Carolina funeral home since his death in 1929 until early 1995 when he finally got to lie down -- with six feet of turned earth gently placed upon his chest.)

Much like Speedy Atkins, this Kawasaki had once been the pride of its manufacturer and loved by its first owner.  From here on, history obscures some detail, but the poor beast lived a hard life up until 1984 (the last inspection sticker on its fork leg) and then broke.  For good.  Some unkind and un-mechanically inclined person had removed its seized or leaking engine and had lost it.  Never to see its aluminum and steel heart ever again, the rest of the corpse was deposited first at the back of a dusty garage and then, years later, cast out into the snow to rot.

There she stood, just like Speedy, radiating decay and the corruptibility of all temporal existence, with a large piece of tape bearing the word 'FREE' stuck to her rusted and dented gas tank.   My heart went out to this relic.  I am a sentimental kind of person who still cries at the end of It's A Wonderful Life and similar flicks.   I saw the machine, years before --- in my mind's eye -- with a young person religiously waxing and cleaning and adjusting and taking great pride in ownership.  I saw a young couple riding it to a picnic or party on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  I could feel the pang of regret when the bike was sold because of either parental meddling or financial hardship.  I heard the phrase "Don't put any more money into that crappy old Jap bike" uttered when the old two-stroke triple began blowing a greater quantity of smoke than was normal.  I saw the low-side on gravel, the engine being unbolted, the parts being lost and the rest being thrown unceremoniously in the corner.  Not to get all gooey-saccarin here, but my heart bled for the old warrior.  With (almost) a tear in my eye, I dragged it (the rear brake had frozen) back to the garage.

At first, thoughts danced in my head of trying to actually resurrect this bike.  Then I too fell victim to the "Don't put any money into this junk pile" attitude myself.  With three bikes to keep running and on the road, I just couldn't afford this project.

Well, once again the old Kaw stood in the back of a garage.  At least she had stable-mates though -- bikes that could tell her that it was a shame that she didn't always have owners like they did.  She never had an owner that wouldn't part with her for ANYTHING, like my bikes do.  Maybe they even told her that she might one day roll again.  I'd hate to think they got her hopes up.  It probably fell upon deaf ears anyway.  She, like Speedy, was too far gone.

A week ago, Eddie Brush called to tell me that he spotted a 1978 Honda CM400T in a dumpster.  A DUMPSTER!!!  He was excited because it was all there, and just thrown away.  After only 10K miles, this Honda was garbage.  We drove to the dumpster and pulled the bike out.  Nothing was broken off, although the gas tank was pretty much trashed from rust.  The engine kicked through with a little bit of fight -- 'good' fight --  the fight of a feisty motor.  I'm certain the compression is still OK. 

Regardless,  it is a shame that an entire motorcycle of relatively recent vintage and with really low mileage should be consigned to the trash.  I wonder if anyone ever found a Ducati or Triumph or Harley or Indian in a dumpster!  Doesn't anyone have limited resources and a desire to ride?  Couldn't someone have given this bike a good home?  Have we become such a 'throw-away' society that a relatively expensive machine, as any motorcycle is, can be chucked when it still has lots of life left in it?

My garage space has run out.  A few months ago I actually turned down a running Suzuki because I just didn't have the room.  The Suzuki has a chance of finding a home, but the dumpster Honda was going down the tubes pronto.  Help went to the neediest,  I borrowed my brother-in-law's truck and collected the Honda.

I have grand plans of insulating and heating my garage.  A stereo and a 'fridge have already been obtained.  On junk day, I'll find a serviceable sofa.  I'll have a motorcycle repair facility and haven for those long winter evenings.  Space is at a premium and tonight I had to make a choice.  It was a tough one.  Of all my project bikes, the Kaw was the least complete and roughest.  She'd just have to go.

With a real sigh, I opened up my tool chest and retrieved my metric sockets, pry bar and breaker bar. Soon the old Kaw was reduced to a frame and a pile of parts.  When junk day comes, I guess that frame will go to its final reward.  The operation was fast, the patient didn't suffer.  Soon the nuts and bolts were placed in cans and items such as levers, handlebar controls and petcocks were filed away in boxes.  The front wheel and brake will wind up on a CD175 midget racer I've built -- and that's when it hit me!

That old Kaw will never really be dead and forgotten.  My Ninja sports some hardware gleaned from a deceased Yamaha 650 Special.  I lost some fasteners, and used what I could from my rolling wreck.  Bolts are bolts, after all.

Hey, those long mirror stems will work on my Harley's drag bars -- screw Custom Chrome, I defy anyone to notice that the stems are Japanese at the Harley Rendezvous!   Foot pegs!  My Yamaha dual-sport could benefit from real rubber pegs.  I can machine all sorts of interesting bits from the rear axle.  Who knows when something from the Kaw might be useful?

And that, my friends, is what I realized.  The old Kaw would continue to give pleasure by keeping my other bikes healthy and maybe do the same for my friends as well.  She would continue to ply the roadways and highways in perhaps dozens of other bikes and give joy to more riders than if she had remained whole.  You couldn't say the same for old Speedy.

So, to two Speedys, I say Godspeed, brother and sister.  Although you are both gone for good, at least one of you will be out rocking  (in part) on down the highway.

                                                                               -- Harry

Harry G. Pellegrin

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LOW END is Published by Bedside Books, an imprint of American Book Publishing.

ISBN 1-58982-074-6

LOW ENDCopyright 2003 Harry G. Pellegrin

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