Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ghosts of the past: bones from long ago.

I spent Thanksgiving with my wife's parents and family and after dinner I went walking in the woods with my soon to be 10 year old daughter.  It wasn't too long, following the cut paths behind my inlaws' house that we found ourselves at the old dairy barn that's more of a ruin than a barn these days.  It's where we used to (and still do, I guess) store large items like trailers, tractor attachments, tractors, building supplies, etc.  

The dirt beneath the tin roof is so fine that it's almost like gray colored powdered sugar, almost like lunar dust ... each step makes a small dust cloud and leaves an imprint that won't be disturbed until something else comes along to disturb it.  Wild animal tracks litter the dust as do the occasional curving track of a king snake or other type of no-shoulder.  Amid rusty chains, bits of tin roof wadded up in the mega-storms of the past decade and old farm equipment like broken shovels, rusting plows, etc. I found a small area that held some personal items from a time that now seems like it was centuries ago but in reality wasn't more than a little over a decade and a half gone by.  Personal items that were just huddled together in a pile ... discarded, broken, but never really thrown away because there's a difference between something that's been discarded and something that has been thrown away; one still lingers ...

These items were kept for one reason or the other, that reason now lost to memory and time, and these items were eventually deposited here because it was felt by those who moved them here that I would maybe one day have a need for them again.  Somewhere in all those years these items went from being trash to being nostalgic. 

The people who put these items here were mistaken in their value and the only value that these items have now is in the memories that they bring racing back upon seeing them once again.

At the very top, the round piece of ribbed plastic is part of the air cleaner from my '88 Toyota Turbo Supra.  Moving down we have the right side cowl panel from my '95 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R (bought new) after it was replaced when I put the bike down on its side to avoid being T-boned by a driver that wasn't paying any attention to the task of driving.  The round piece to the right of that is the crankshaft cover from the same bike, punctured when it hit a sharp piece of metal embedded in the city street (and from which the hot oil from my engine soon drained).  The ribbed hose tube is the air intake from my '88 Toyota Turbo Supra ... I think. It may be from one of my other high performance toys.  The big white and green piece to the left of that is the front cowling of my '95 Kawi ZX-6R ... the name of the bike still visible over the left side turn signal housing and the headlight cavity as well as the twin snouts of the ram air system.

The front cowling could almost be the skull of the old ZX-6R ... it would be bleached of color were it not for the top cover afforded by the rusty tin roof of the building.  A skull ... of a high performance machine long ago reduced to spare parts and salvage.


I purchased the '95 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R brand new in June of 1995 ... 9 months after a drunk driver totaled my '93 Honda VFR750F (and almost killed myself and my girlfriend / fiance ... Cindy).  I had just quit Ideal Software and gone back to Magnolia Federal Bank, I was a month away from getting married and I'd been staring at the pictures of the '95 Ninja ZX-6R in a cycle mag for months now.  I finally bought it, as a gift to myself before I got married.  I had a lot of memories on that bike ... especially with Cindy tucked in behind me ... the high revving engine, her chest pressed into my back, her helmet against mine ... chasing sunsets and dreams every time we could.  The Ninja ZX-6R wasn't just a super sport bike, it was an escape pod, built for two.

Three years later, in August of '98, I was sport touring with my riding partner, Julian, and coming out of a bad turn at the Lawrence county / Marion county line, heading to Monticello, I hit a deer at 70mph.  The Ninja went 300 feet in the oncoming lane of traffic (two lane back road) and I went 150 feet in my lane of traffic, destroying my helmet, my gloves, my Ray Bans, my Hein Gerrick "Ninja" leather jacket and taking about a foot of flesh off of my leg.  Oh, and I dislocated my shoulder in the process.  

Fun times.

No, seriously ... fun times.  I look back today and laugh, just like I did when I managed to pick myself up off the pavement just in time to see my Ninja do its last roll and slide to a stop, rear wheel still spinning.  The first thing I asked Julian when he stopped his bike, dismounted and ran over to see if I was okay?

"Was that cool?"

I took six years, shy two months, from that accident to get back around to throwing my legs over a motorcycle and that was when I bought my 2004 Honda CBR600RR for my birthday that June.  Ironically, Kawasaki had designed the ZX-6R to fight Honda's anticipated CBR600RR way back in '95 but when Honda failed to introduce the 600RR, Kawasaki was left with perhaps the best 600cc bike in the world at that time ... and no competition to duke it out with.  The irony comes from the fact that six years later I would buy the very bike that my ZX-6R had been designed to combat but that had been a no show way back then.

The fuel injected Honda CBR600RR is lightyears better than the '95 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R but I still hold a special place in my heart for that snarling Ninja and its fast revving 600cc carb fed liquid cooled inline four.  Eight years later, I still have the Honda in my garage.  It doesn't get ridden as much as it used to but like the Ninja it replaced the Honda is still an escape pod and every now and then I get to throw my legs over the saddle and pull the loud handle to get away from it all.

I stare back at the front cowl of the '95 ZX-6R.  Just a part now, a physical shard of a memory of a part of my life.  It's moments like that which really make life worth living for.

Flotsam and jetsam.

To some people these pieces of flotsam and jetsam from my life are just that ... flotsam and jetsam ... but to me, seeing these forgotten pieces again after all of these years ... still collecting dust and never again to be used ... seeing this pile of discarded items brought back memories.

The good kind of memories.  

The kind of memories that are unexpected and come back to you in a rush.

I think I'll leave this pile of parts here, kind of a shrine, relics from before, ghosts of the past and bones from long ago.  Every now and then I'll revisit them, having forgotten them, until one day I find myself here and the bones are gone ... finally discarded by someone and all that will remain will be the memories.