Time really does fly. Hopping onto the laptop for my morning coffee and daily fix of the American Dream, Facebook informs me that I joined it ten years ago. What? How is that possible? A lot of people my age refused to take the FB plunge, but that’s okay because I still see what they’re up to on Instagram, via random text and on the news (David Pecker). I tweet but rarely.

Personally I’m grateful for social media to keep my stoke up. In a previous publication, this monthly column of mine was called “Bitter Little Man,” but now that life has taken a turn for the more pastoral – what with the working-from-home and all the suburban domestic bliss that entails – I don’t know how else I’d keep the flames of seething rage that constantly boil within and inspire my creative genius at peak Dante’s Inferno-rpm without my Facebook friends?

Also, I get tons of leads for MO stories. Okay, a few now and then. Whenever I feel like it, and even when I don’t, I’m in constant contact with luminary figures like the former owner of Commonwealth Racing Martin Adams, legends like flat-track tuner to the stars Bill Werner, former Daytona 200 winner and New Zealand wildman Graeme Crosby, and Chris at MotoGP Werks. When people aren’t showing off their cool motorcycles and rides, we’re busily discussing the events of the day. So many great motorcycle Facebook groups, too, including “Pics of interesting Motorcycles,” “Resto-Mod Motorcycles,” etc. You could spend days falling into motorcycle rabbit holes.

I get that Facebook has come in for some heavy criticism and for good reason, but for me the positives outweigh the negatories. My friends who refuse to participate remind me of the African tribespeople who don’t want their pictures taken for fear their identities will be stolen. Well, I mean they will be, but whatever. Are you on the lam? Beyond all that, my real attraction to social media is that it allows me to put a face on the things in the world that have always bugged me. Actual faces in fact. Is that why it’s called Facebook?

I’ve sensed a lot of free-floating hostility in the air around me since about the second grade; before social media, I assumed it was something I’d said? Now that there’s a place where people feel free to say whatever they feel like saying, unfiltered, suddenly it’s easy to pinpoint where all that nastiness is coming from, and it’s not from me. I wasn’t just being paranoid, I wasn’t just imagining things after all. There are a lot of very angry people running around loose who are less adept at processing information than I’d have ever guessed. And now that they’re my friends, I can keep close tabs on them.

Speaking of running around loose, you still need to get out in the real world now and then. We needed to keep the Z900RS Cafe’s tires from flat-spotting in the garage, so we took her for a spin to survey the damage from last month’s nasty fire in Malibu. SoCal may not be quite the garden spot it once was, but it’s still a pretty swell place to throw on a jacket and ride your motorcycle on a 70-degree day in mid-December.

The 23 nearly melted right off the sign where it intersects PCH. I think there used to be a “Decker Canyon” road sign to the left of the cop car, that’s now MIA.

When Interstate 10 is done crossing the US, it takes you through one last curving tunnel whose darkness gives the bright blue Pacific that much more contrast as it pops into your face for the first time at Santa Monica; go north a ways on PCH and you’re in Malibu. Off to the right you can see scorched hills where the Woolsey fire burned last month, interspersed with a few burned-out structures and other houses the fire licked right up to the edges of, for whose residents the term “shitting bricks” must now carry renewed meaning. Highway 23, or Decker Canyon, is one of the roads I cut my sport-riding teeth on a couple decades ago, as well as my knees and elbows more than once. It runs from Westlake Village inland – where Cycle magazine used to be – right over the hills to PCH. Closed until further notice.

I assumed all the multi-million dollar mansions of the rich and famous on the ocean side of PCH had survived intact. Not this one.

It’s a sobering thing to be reminded now and then that nobody’s immune from the forces of nature. Well, some people might be. I read where some of the even richer and famouser had hired private fire-protection services to safeguard their properties. All very alarming, but a few of my FB friends were there to reassure me that fires like this happen all the time in Malibu, and not to worry. Thank God. I’ll go ahead and ignore all the news items about it that use the word “unprecedented.”

Some other canyon roads that go back into the hills were open, though, and there’s a lot of charred territory back in there, lots of more modest properties tucked off to the sides of the road you never knew were there thanks to the vegetation that no longer conceals them. Burnt-out houses and outbuildings just down the street from miraculous survivors, all on a black and gray background, now laid bare to the road for the first time in my lifetime.

Charmlee Park, off Encinal Canyon, is now Charredlee Park.

God displayed his usual humor two weeks after the fire, sending down a nice drenching rain. Your heart, even if you barely have one, has to go out to all the people whose charmed existences in those hills saw it all go up in flames, along with a few of their lives. We didn’t see any signs of residents, who are probably now waiting in insurance limbo, but there were platoons of electrical company and other utility men crawling all over the power poles and digging up gas lines, worker ants crawling back toward normal. The rain already had green shoots poking up everywhere among the scorched earth, and the surfers were all back in the water. Probably some of them were never out of it?

Thank God Neptune’s Net, on PCH, still has fish tacos and chilled beverages. Chrissy Rogers had the fish and chips.

The cliche is, life goes on. Whatever’s up with the climate and the politicians, both of which seem to be burning wildly out of control lately, those of us who are left will keep climbing back into the saddle for as long as we can. As we celebrate another dodged bullet here at year’s end, with my photos and faces and dates still scattered all over various drives and floppy discs, it’s nice to be able to scroll backwards through all the ones I posted on Facebook, complete with dates.

With Ken Vreeke, whose house and chicken coop did not burn down in the fire, and who’s responsible for most of my Malibu mishaps caused by trying to keep up with him. February 22, 2017.

Happy kid and Moriwaki 250, April 27, 2009.

I’m with Schlitz: Go for the gusto, responsibly, and keep slogging along. The drama and angst will continue, with or without us. Right now I’m commiserating with another FB friend, who’s torn between whether he should keep flying his Beechcraft Baron twin-prop or trade it in for a Citation jet? We’ve all got our problems, bro. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, etc, and a Happy New Year.

With Jack Daniel, February 22, 2018. Cheers!