Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Location: Indianapolis

A life on the road gets complicated at times. I tell this so others may learn from my mistakes. The short version goes a cavalry of emergency equipment arrives, cop draws gun, and Roscoe goes to jail.

A more detailed version begins as we found ourselves accommodated by a family friend in the lavish parking area of a famous racetrack. Leelee and I enjoy our morning, the calm after the storm in a typical crisp day. Tater sulks in the camper shower / toilet concluding a 48 minute fit. He's angry because we told him we would not attend the Dallas-Fort Worth Primate Expo and Monkeyrama. Our serenity brakes as we hear sirens and see familiar blue and red flashing lights approach. Looking to make a good impression, I sprang from my chair and grabbed my jacket. An officer exited his prowler and asked " Mister, are you wearing a KTM jacket?" I smiled and puffed my chest expecting to hear "You a bike rider? Me too! ". . . "YOU'RE UNDER ARREST! We've received a screaming 911 call and GPSed a signal to this location. Have you been abusing the lady?" As the cop car door closed, Tater waved the cell phone and Leelee promised to call a lawyer and vowed to remain ever true, as long as it takes.

The People at the police station seemed to be a little easier to get along with than the arresting officer. I asked the lady taking fingerprints who the hard nose was. She replied "He's Patrolman B. V. Davidson. The inmates call him Sheriff Skivvies". The guy hates bikers. When his wife ran off, she took his bike and hooked up with a lady junkyard dealer. (Ouch! That sounds familiar, kinda.) They played the 911 tape and it sounded pretty bad. " If you don't quiet down, you're gonna get smacked ". Then you hear unexplainable screams.

They took me to the cell. It was a large, bench lined, room filled with guys in coveralls. The real jumpy small guy sat down next to me and began talking. Everybody has a story in prison. He said "One day you're swiping golf carts, just funnin'. The next day you're somebody's man-girlfriend ". I told him about Tater throwing the fit over his monkey jamboree and poop fling. I suggested to the guy that using "finger quotes" when he said 'man-girlfriend' might get him in trouble. You hit rock bottom when the littlest guy in prison tells you that you are screwed. At this point the biggest guy in the cell walked over and I thought here we go. . . . But all he said was " monkeys are funny. " I started telling stories about monkeys and motorcycles. I told stories of our adventures meeting famous people like Boyd Sivle, Ted Nugent, Vince & Linda McMahon. The inmates gathered, some sitting cross-legged encircling the floor. I told stories of Amish go-go barns, boat wrecks, Weiner Mobiles, and Mount Rushmore. The guards amassed and listen attentively. I told legends of Edsel collections, explosive diarrhea, talking badgers, and the Cushman Scooter boys. I even started an open debate; Steven Hawking v Christopher Reeves in a fight. . . does anybody win? One guy began writing notes on his clipboard. It all sounded like a terrific summer flashback TV show but before I knew it, it was time to go to court.

At the arraignment the judge looked over her glasses and asked if I was a violent man or a drinker. Behind me, Freak Show Roy, dressed in shorts, sandals and a tank top, objected from the gallery and proclaimed himself my legal counsel. He and the judge argued at the sidebar for a least 10 minutes and he returned. " Roscoe, there are no witnesses. Leelee couldn't wait for you to get out of jail and left for Barstow to follow her show business dream. . If you tell the judge about Tater, she’ll put you in the nut house. The jailhouse psychiatrist says you’re delusional. Tell them you need rehab and you’ll do two weeks max. You’re out of here”…

“Judge, the Tequila and Tang has a grip on me. I need help.”

Rehab later. . .

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Location: Christmas

Come on, stop crying.

It can tear your hart out when you realize you aren’t needed - He can manage on his own. This was not his world. He should be among his own kind. He had become increasingly independent and at times aggressive. He could feed himself. He foraged when he ventured into the night, away from the camper. His solo trips grew longer in duration. I didn’t know what to do. Leelee could make him laugh with a smooch on the cheek and a tickle. My ”Got your nose” earned only a look of disdain and he would not eat his favorite dinner - mashed potatoes and Snicker bars.

Go! . . . Go now; you can’t stay here, crap flinger!

300 pounds of tattooed flab scampered through the turn-style to The Two Headed Abominable Snow Goat. We set Freak Show Roy loose in the carnival, singing a teary-eyed “Born Free”.

Before that nasty late-afternoon scene, he hit me up for $50. He said his mission was to finish Christmas shopping and visit some friends. Tater and I set out on a reconnaissance mission of our own. We were on the trail of a classic set of wheels. I wasn't certain how this deal would work out. I hoped this could be a present for the whole gang, a project that we could all enjoy. Just in case, I did have a Plan B stashed in the back of the camper.

Miles clipped by and the carnival glow changed to houses festooned with holiday lights in the snowy crisp evening. The sky flushed with wisps of blue, green, yellow and red, probably reflection from the clouds. I did not like looking at the bike after dark but, if you're going to take advantage of a sweet deal like a 1972 Rupp Roadster you have to strike like a commando. We followed a creek across the bridge and turned into the first driveway. Our headlights panned the property revealing several motorcycles half-buried in a circular pattern in front of the house. We knocked on the door and encountered a shorthaired fellow with thick glasses. I apologized for showing up late and he took us to the garage, sans coat. I quizzed him about the yard art and he explained that he watched a program about Stone Hinge on the Discovery Channel and became a born again artist and Druid.

You have seen this guy before. He is the one who could drive to school during the second semester of the eighth grade. You know the guy who, after watching eight Bruce Lee movies, made his own “nunchucks” from two bits of broomstick and a short length of dog chain. Then he beat the crap out of himself learning home styled martial arts. Yeah, he had the Rupp for sale, but it wasn't exactly stock. He said, "Runned it out of oil and blowed it up. Don't worry though, she's better than new because he swapped engines with an old rode-e-tiller”. There is a fine line between genius and insanity. This guy's line must be drawn with peanut butter.

I wasn't concerned about a stock engine because I had plans to "pep it up" and after strategic barter we cut a deal. He told us a Shriner owned the Rupp. He said they would parade the bikes and keep them in their hotel rooms for safekeeping. I envisioned a bunch of booze happy revelers, in fez and boxer shorts, running the gauntlet and setting hallway speed records. It had the Shriner's crest on the rear fender and some paperwork. It looked legal.

As Tater and I drove back to town we noticed the sky still aglow. We arrived at the now dark carnival to find Freak Show struggling on an icy sidewalk. Try herding a giant, drunk, boneless chicken into a motor home while it screams 'Jingle Bells'. " I asked what happened to him and he broke into tears. He blubbered something about a bearded lady lap dance, winning at poker and Brittany Spears T-shirts for everybody. He lamented about 'Good will towards men' and going to the nudie bar instead of Christmas shopping. It was best to distract him but there was no way that he was going to understand the new purchase of the mighty Rupp. I had to implement ' Plan B '. I foraged through a few packages and presented Freak Show and Tater with brand new, crisp orange and blue KTM T-shirts. The looks on their faces would give anyone the 'Warm and Fuzzies'. Freak Show exclaimed, "We can be shirt buddy's just like I wanted! "

Later, the guy on the radio said that the glow in the sky was the Aurora Borealis, only to be seen in this part of the world about every 100 years. I watched the light show and reflected upon our purchase. I imagined the fun we would have. Tater sat quietly drawing on the frosty window. Freak Show, tucked away in his bunk, clutched his new T-shirt and between snores would mumble 'shirt buddy's'. . .

Friday, December 16, 2005

Location: Central Florida II

Tater and I awaited the arrival of Leelee and Freak Show Roy. Along the way, Freak Show watched a documentary called " Mule Skinner Blues " and was compelled to track down a lady named Annabelle Lea Usher. Ms. Usher was a costume designer and had acted in a short movie called "Turnabout is Fair Play". She told the story of her pit bull terrier which she called companion for eight years. She found the beast abused, burned by cigarettes, missing a fang tooth, and addicted to cocaine. She rehabilitated the animal by feeding it a beer every day for a month to get it over the shakes. The dog lived a happy life but when it died, she couldn't bear to bury it nor did she have the money to have it taxidermied. She wrapped it in a blanket and laid the canine to its final rest in her chest freezer. Star struck, Freak Show found it imperative that he and I make our way to Jacksonville. He thought she had a kind face and a great story. Personally, I thought she had a nice freezer.

Following the race car debacle, I planned to give Freak an ear full but decided to let it ride for a while when I found out that Leelee and he had been fighting since a Chattanooga crematorium tour. I will tell you that the Cushman scooter boys are having a blast. The bikes were very comfortable at speeds up to 55 mi. an hour. Above that, the short wheelbases grow a little unstable. Their first time runs are impressively successful. Tater liked the looks of the bikes so much that he took a picture with his camera.

Later we headed down the state to Gibsonton, a famous side show wintering town. Freak Show wanted to visit a few people that he knew. Along the way, we've meandered the state intentionally avoiding the Interstate. Highlights included Christmas, home of the largest gator ever built; Kissimmee, home of the second largest gator ever built; Orlando's Graceland replica; Bongoland in Port Orange was closed; St. Augustine, world's largest ball of barbed wire; Tarpon Springs chimp farm was closed but the Sponge-a-rama . . .WOW! Tater had a great time. He swam with manatees and insisted upon wearing scuba flippers on his hands and feet. Freak Show took his picture but it didn't turn out. Mostly, the roads just look like oranges, oranges, oranges, gator, oranges, armadillo, oranges, dead armadillo (maybe) .

We looped the state, having fun. Driving north on the Atlantic side, we passed Kennedy Space Center. Tater grew restless. We're about to find a Vet when Freak Show suggested that he might be a little home sick. It seems Tater grew up in the area.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Location: Central Florida

Earnhardt pulled a stuffed monkey from his driving uniform and slammed it down. "I'm here, and I've got that damned monkey off my back!" he proclaimed." That was part of Dale Earnhardt's victory speech after winning the 1998 Daytona 500. When Indiana native Andy Hillenburg substituted for Ricky Rudd at the 2002 Daytona test session, Yates said. "It's not like a place where you need great driver feedback, (even though) Andy can do that and do a great job for us. I'm not saying he's just a monkey or a steering wheel holder, by any means." Tim Flock, the son of a daredevil, sometimes drove with a monkey as his co-pilot.... Flock raced eight times with his pet monkey, "Jocko Flocko," in the co-pilot seat. But the monkey broke free during a 1953 race at Raleigh, North Carolina, and grabbed Tim by the neck, holding on for dear life. Flock had to make an extra pit stop to de-monkey his car, which ended up costing him the race. (NASCAR.com) NASCAR roots reach deep in monkey tradition. With tradition in mind, I was certain that a trip to Daytona was necessary.

A few logistical problems had to be figured in order to make the whole thing work. Leelee dropped us at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls. She would drive the camper south through Indiana to pick up Freak Show Roy and proceed to the holy land of stock car racing. Freak Show knew a couple of guys who had a hot car and needed a driver. My first obstacle would be flying with Tater. With the unfortunate global situation we find ourselves in, I counted on security being tight. I checked my bags and proceeded through the metal detector. Upon exit, I was thrown against the wall and surrounded by three heavily armed military types. "What the hell you carryin' in that bag!" I turned and realized what started the commotion. My soft sider screamed and tumbled off the conveyor as wide-eyed security workers viewed the x-ray monitor revealing an ape-ish skeleton. It was then I figured we were in trouble. I unzipped the bag and Tater exited holding my KTM jacket as a security blanket. "You a bike rider?... We are too!" ... After a few minutes of negotiation it was decided that we could fly to Florida but I would have to keep the monkey under control and buy him a ticket.

Six hours later, they said to look for a Cuban guy holding a sign for us. I figured that we would be riding in style but an un-muffled Town-car, needing shocks, bounced us to our destination. I remember my dad telling me that if you opened the suicide doors on a 64 at speed, you'd get sucked out and run over by a concrete truck. Ricardo chattered with Tater while I enjoyed the sun and orange groves of eastern Florida, the smell of oil leaky valve covers filled the air. Aided by three semesters of high-school Spanish, I surmised he spoke of President Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs and that he was shot in a car just like this one. We arrived, in short order, at the garage complex of Frankie "Firebug" Roberts, a long time friend of Freak Show. Show would spend his winters in Florida and higher Frankie to repair carnie rides. I wanted to see the racecar. I envisioned myself speeding down the front stretch as Tater waived to the delight of the crowd. We rounded a deteriorated Tilt-A-Whirl and I stopped dead in my tracks. Before us sat a 97 T-bird covered with wood grained contact paper that you might buy to cover a kitchen cabinet. Some group called Gator Alley Pulp Mill & Stump Grinding sponsored it. Apparently the guys cashed in their alligator circus business.

When Freak Show gets here, we're gonna talk. I still think Tater and I would make a great team, one meant for the history books. I caught a story on TV where several drivers were asked a Barbara Walters type question. "If you were in animal what kind of animal would you be?" Answers varied from the speedy Cheetah, Leopard and Gazelle to Tony Stewart's reply of "a tiger of course". With the wisdom of an old timer Jimmie Johnson proclaimed, "I'd be a monkey!". Be proud, be fast, Be Monkey.