“Deadline” is a term coined around the Civil War era, used to denote the line that prisoners of war shall not cross lest they be shot. Cross the line, be dead – pretty straight forward.

It is also a term used in the print publishing world. Some printing presses run 24 hours a day, seven days a week (or they did, anyway), and they wait on no one. They slot your job in, be it a magazine or whatever, and your stuff has to be there. As a result, there are production schedules at magazines, even motorcycle magazines.

The magazine’s production schedule may not match up beautifully with the motorcycle manufacturers’ schedules and their introductions of new bikes. Back in the days of old, you would have to rush home to report on them, sometimes under a real time crunch. On this one particular day, that was exactly what I was doing.

I was sitting in my cube in what I called the “trading floor,” largely because it reminded me of the trading floor on Wall Street, which is nuts, and I have stood on. Because of office remodeling at the time, I was out in the open area with Membership Development, with them busy answering phones and any number of other activities going on. That was fine, if a bit distracting at times, and I was banging away on my keyboard and reading galleys – precisely what I should have been doing – when something distracting happened.

An old man ventured by with a younger man in tow. I really didn’t pay them any mind, as I was used to members or museum visitors wandering in and out. The AMA is a member-driven organization after all, and we had some museum overflow in that area, bikes and things of that nature. Then the old fella came by again, closer this time, and he was peering in the cube, my cube.

A racer and a young man traveling the same path.

A racer and a young man traveling the same path.

Okay, I thought, he’s just curious. Then the damnedest thing happened: he must have crept up along that cube wall, and out from a corner, he popped up his head, smiling away. I was on deadline, we had a magazine to get out. But I looked at his face, and he was smiling like he just got the jump on me, which he had. I realized he probably wanted my attention.

“Yes, sir! How are you? What can I do for you?”

It wasn’t what I could do for him; it was what he could do for me. He walked in with a treasure trove of old black and white racing photos, and he just pulled them out of an envelope and plopped them in front of me. I was taken aback. He’d barely said a word though he was very friendly. I looked at these old pictures and I told him, “This is history; it belongs in the museum. This is some great stuff!”

And then it clicked in my head. I realized what he kept looking at, that picture behind me with the number plate. He was looking for a racer. I should say another racer. I looked into his eyes, and I’ve seen those eyes across pre-grids in so many places I’ve lost count. They were alive. I’d know those eyes anywhere.

He did not like that museum idea. He told me, “No, you keep them. I want you to have them.” Almost as fast as he blew in there, he seemed like he was making for the exit. I stopped him, “Hold on, hold on, let me give you something!”

I had some pictures that were taken of me circulating Nelson Ledges on a Yoshimura Suzuki. I grabbed one, offering it to him, and he lit up like a roman candle. And that was it. Just as quickly as he blew into the place, he was gone. I didn’t really give it a second thought, and I tucked his photos away in my desk.

A couple years passed, and I got a package. It was from this fella, the picture I had given him now inside a frame. It had a short note explaining that his health was failing, and he was going into some sort of hospice care situation. He had taken the time to send that picture back to me. He had also sent a picture of his living room. It was filled with old black and white pictures of racers and just a couple in color, and there was mine. My racer friend who I only met briefly.

Racers can be spotted by the look in their eyes.

Racers can be spotted by the look in their eyes.

Deadlines are important, but taking even a few moments out of a day for another can be huge. I consider it bad form to get all choked up around an office during work hours, but reading that letter sure got to me.

Our house got struck by lightning three times, and we had a tidal surge in the old place and some water damage. Unfortunately it claimed some of these pictures. But, I suppose, everything is transient. I managed to salvage a couple.

If you have the chance or the opportunity – be it with a young rider or old, or racer – maybe let them get to you. They are you. Look in the eyes; you’ll see them.

Ride hard, keep your eyes out of the instrument pod, and look where you want to go.


About the Author: Chris Kallfelz is an orphaned Irish Catholic German Jew from a broken home with distinctly Buddhist tendencies. He hasn’t got the sense God gave seafood. Nice women seem to like him on occasion, for which he is eternally thankful, and he wrecks cars, badly, which is why bikes make sense. He doesn’t wreck bikes, unless they are on a track in closed course competition, and then all bets are off. He can hold a reasonable dinner conversation, eats with his mouth closed, and quotes Blaise Pascal when he’s not trying to high-side something for a five-dollar trophy. He’s been educated everywhere, and can ride bikes, commercial airliners and main battle tanks.

  • Old MOron

    I really like this piece. I’ve read it twice, and I feel like I’m missing something. It’s just a story about a neat, unexpected connection you had with a stranger right? Or is it? Who are the racer and the young man following the same path? Is it you and the old gent? When you first met him, what’s the significance of the “younger man in tow”?

    • Chris Kallfelz

      Oh boy, that’s a tough one. Maybe the totality of the whole circumstance; him with those pictures, me telling him they belonged in the museum, and they did, and him insisting I keep them…Just his kindness and thoughtfulness to take time to return a photo I had given him and he had actually hung on his living room wall…All of that, in the face of his death really, all of that. I had a piddling little deadline, and this guy was dying and took the time to send my photo back.

      It just hit me like a ton of bricks in that office that day when I got that letter. That’s such a good man. It was so easy to get wrapped up in deadlines, or whatever my own little concerns were; i.e., getting a story out, reading galleys, whatever. These are all important, but a guy like that? He’s more important. I don’t know. He just stuck with me.

  • gotfondue

    You should really contact someone named Mike Radner in Los Angeles California.

    • Chris Kallfelz

      I don’t know who that fella is or why he’d want to talk to me. But I’ll talk to anybody, fine with me.

      • gotfondue

        https://www.facebook.com/mike.radner?fref=ts

        Old racer from back in the day. 76 and still tears up the canyons with us. Had his first accident 3 years ago due to negligence from the city. Very interesting dude!

        • Chris Kallfelz

          That’s fantastic, I just sent him a message…I love that, you can’t kill that spirit. That’s great. Thank you.

  • JMDonald

    Gifts like the connection with the old racer are the best ones we can have in life. They are few and far between.

  • Backroad Bob

    Goes right to the heart of it. Again, the best stories are about the people not about the things.