The good news is I finally found new digs in beautiful Orange County, California. The bad news is I had to team up with the ex-wife to make it happen financially. Don’t cry for me, Argentina, so far it’s working out better than I could’ve hoped: Ex is the perfect housemate in that she tends to not be around for three or four days at a stretch, and when she does appear, she’s got the Master Boudoir, whose bathroom opens onto the backyard/patio. In exchange, I get the Big Office, which opens onto (now that I punched a hole in the wall) the big old 2-car garage out front. Which is all I really need in a house. We’ve achieved separation of church and state, so to speak, both of us get to live in a much sweller place than either of us could afford alone, and no motorcycle (or resident) should have to sleep under the stars anymore unless it wants to.
Since the Ex already took half of my stuff once, my thinking is that she’s less likely to do it again than if I were to start over with a newer, pre-menopausal model. I feel like I’ve been vaccinated. I think I envy you people who mate for life; I’ve only been able to mate for a couple of years at a time before the fur starts flying, in spite of the fact I am more peace-loving than Gandhi – and in the eight years wifey and I lived apart, I feel like I’ve been through enough romantic combat to tide me over for some time. Maybe every marriage would be better off with an intermission? All I know is every time I look at a couple and say, “Well, at least Bob and Jane are still happy and together,” Bob lets spill the next week that Jane wants a divorce. It’s sadly epidemic.
Also, anybody who has kids knows that once you create one with somebody, you’re pretty much stuck with your co-procreator for life: The Ex always turned up at holidays and things anyway; why fight it? At my age, I need vehicle storage more than I need live-in love, and a place for my kid to call home when he needs one. When she is here, Ex’s hobbies include cooking and cleaning, which is a form of practical love I’m down with. I don’t agree with her no-motorcycles-in-the-house rule of home decor, but it’s a small price to pay since now I can simply adjourn to my garage. (We almost had an argument about excess furniture storage, till I decided the sectional in here isn’t so bad…) Yes it’s all irrational, but the housing market here creates all sorts of strange living arrangements.
Anyway, Lou had been living here for 43 years and generously offered to leave much of his accumulated wealth in the garage, an offer I declined as graciously as possible since I had a moving van full of my own junk to move in. I was sure I’d get rid of at least half of it in the moving process, but as I examined each item while packing, it turned out there wasn’t much I’d be able to do without. You never know when you might get a boat again and will need an adjustable gland-packing wrench (or whatever this thing’s called) and a quart of teak oil. I did throw out some SRX-6 stuff, but I can’t make myself throw out parts that are still in the original packaging, or things that are brand new even if I can’t remember what they are. I have enough stuff now that just about every time I buy a new tool or thing, I generally find the one I forgot I already owned about two days later when I’m looking for something else. It’s always good to have a spare on hand.
At my old rental, there was a big covered driveway/carport at the side of the house, which seemed great when we moved in for what was only supposed to be a few years but turned into nearly 20. Even in California’s mild climate, there’s no substitute for an enclosed garage. Even under a nice canvas, things left outside just get dusty and then grungy. Then the mice move into your toolbox and airbox, followed by larger rodents, followed by the neighborhood cats who need to let each other know they’ve been there. Leaving a nice bike cover folded up on top of a tool chest is like opening a rodent Hilton. They could’ve filmed a Nature episode in my old carport. Possums, raccoons, coyotes, spiders. What draws them to my toolbox? Is it the delicious coconut scent of Honda Spray Polish?
That’s all behind me now as I sit here typing in my new (to me) garage complete with actual rubber seal at the bottom of the roll-up door. The only living thing in here is me. It’s like coming home from a really long camping trip. I don’t know why I’m not much into vintage motorcycles, but I am into vintage buildings in older parts of town with big trees. Lou’s 1963 garage, with its cathedral ceiling rafters stuffed with spare Douglas fir 4x4s and floorboards, solid old workbenches along one side and eau de WD-40 aroma feels a little bit like my own tiny cathedral. I decided it reminds me of my Granddad’s workshop, a place I last visited when I was maybe six years old, half a century ago. My granddad was a machinist for the railroad, and to get to his lair on the alley you walked down the back stairs, past the big pear tree and along the brick path between the chickens (I still fear banty roosters) and the vegetable garden. Even when it was Africa hot in Birmingham, it was cool and dark in there amongst the big blue vise and the drill press on the thick old workbench, the anvil on the dirt floor was straight out of Bugs Bunny.
I don’t think women were banned, but I don’t remember one ever being in there. They’d call out from the other side of the chickens when supper was ready. My Dad was the baby of the family, his older brother Sammy had been in Patton’s division (I found out years later), but I don’t remember anybody ever talking about anything as unpleasant as war in Granddad’s workshop at all. It was all about the chickens, the beagles (Uncle Sam raised them), the tomatoes in the garden, or which train that was rumbling by two blocks over on the Southern mainline. Somebody would pour a little beer from a brown bottle into my little jelly jar now and then. Somebody else would make a wisecrack about the old Hupmobile, which I thought must have something to do with football, which was another main topic. Uncle George didn’t say much at all. He’d had polio and never left home.
All those people are long gone now. Birmingham, Alabama, circa 1966 feels about as far from modern SoCal as you can get and still be in the continental U.S. in the same lifetime. I thought I just needed bike storage, but the real reason I needed a garage didn’t occur to me until I sat down in here to write this column: Every time I see a big vise bolted to a scarred old workbench and smell that smell, I’m back there with my original tribe. The motorcycles in here are a poor substitute, but they’ll do for now. I may need to get some chickens and a hound or two.