Whatever! - I Hate Peter Egan

John Burns
by John Burns

WARNING: This column is completely SATIRICAL (I don’t really mean it). I actually love Peter Egan, but grew terribly jealous after a few years opening his fan mail at Cycle World. And PE loves me, too, a little anyway. At lunch during my last week at CW not long ago, he told me I was the guy to take over his column. Ha! Well, that’s not going to happen anytime soon, but in the words of John Paul Jones, I have not yet begun to write …

How do I hate Peter Egan, let me count the ways…

At least once a week at Cycle World, I’d open a piece of mail that read something like this: Dear Editor, We’re having a motorcycle rally / concours d’elegance / hootenanny at a very exclusive leafy green country club in a beautiful part of New England in the fall, and if Cycle World would be interested in attending, we’d love to put you up for the weekend in a charming cottage on the grounds with a babbling trout-filled brook running past the porch, just across the swinging bridge from the gourmet restaurant, open bar and lush golf course full of motorcycles, cars, airplanes, and steam locomotives – on all of which you’ll be more than welcome to toot the horn.

Yes, YES! This story has John Burns all over it!

All proceeds are for a good cause, the Recovering Young Nymphomaniacs of Iceland Society, many of whom will be on hand all weekend to assist you in any way possible. Please forward this invitation to Peter Egan immediately, and have him RSVP ASAP!

Yeah, straight to the round file with that one. Sorry, Pete.

Here’s Peter (second f rom right) at a recent Fairfield County Concours d‘Elegance, being presented with a large box of currency. (The box appears too light to contain gold bars.)

Half the other mail would be evenly split between people gushing about how much they loved Egan’s or Kevin Cameron’s column/story last month, with the left-brain engineer types leaning Cameron and the misty-eyed romantics opting Egan. (The rest of the mail wanted to know why the Harley won again, a topic for another column.)

I’m cool with Cameron, whose Rasputin facade and pointy intellect keep him mostly confined to quarters except for the occasional MotoGP or ball-bearing factory tour.

Egan’s human warmth, though, heated the whole front half of the magazine until the ink ran and the posh invites began oozing from the inbox. Why not? He’s a charming guy and a man’s man at the same time who can be counted on to say and do the right things. After a couple of evenings with PE and his wife, Barb, the RYNIS sufferers would be reformed and ready for a lifetime of happy monogamy. Some of us, on the other hand, can be counted on to wind up overserved and overturned in the babbling brook in the middle of the night, a jam we might be able to work our way out of gracefully until somebody starts wailing I broke a naaaaaail! in Icelandic.

Egan always came up with the best captions for both Cycle World and Road & Track last pages. Nothing’s more despicable than people who are wittier and more talented.

Sorry, do I sound jealous? Am I veering negative? I can’t help it. Whenever I’m under the sink of a beautiful Saturday morning installing a new garbage disposal, when I’m still in the nasty, getting-the-rusty-old-one-out phase, I very often find myself wondering, “What’s Egan Doing right now?” Usually he’s jetting off to visit his pals who own wineries and just bought new condos in the mountains, where they keep plenty of spare BMWs for him to ride and fine Pinot Noirs. Sometimes he’s off to Osh Kosh to help install a fresh Merlin in another pal’s P-51. And when he’s not doing that stuff he’s probably on a great Road &Track junket, stopping in Luckenbach to jam with Waylon and Willie. I was glad when my subscription lapsed.

I bet Barb doesn’t let you park your BSA Lightning in the house, does she Peter? Hah! The only thing I’m not jealous of is your sad attachment to all the old British stuff.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, when I’m not expressing my hound’s anal glands or attempting to contain small domestic fires, I’m fighting to stay ahead of the SUVs on a Honda Ruckus or being indoctrinated into the Cult of the Comma by the great Paul Dean.

Probably the reason I really despise Egan, though, is that he claims to be happiest working on old motorcycles and things in his shop, where he’s purportedly able to fix rather than destroy them. I used to pride myself on my mechanical skills until a series of unfortunate events made me realize I can really only fix things if they’re just barely broken: Maybe I can put on a new clutch lever or change the oil without impaling myself. Anything more is asking for trouble. A new timing chain for the wife’s Benz which looked easy enough in the manual resulted in an embarrassing tow to Maurice’s M-B Service. After a decade of fits and starts followed by a blown engine, project Jagrolet was finally abandoned a few years ago for pennies on the dollar (mercifully not that many of them amortized over 10 years).

After the Jagrolet freed up some workspace, I dragged the SRX-6 racer out of the shed and determined to get it going again, maybe do a little AHRMA racing. After a thorough dusting and cleaning, I poured a dose of fresh race fuel into the totally custom dished gas tank I made and painted with my own hands (and lined with Kreem), only to have it pour right out the bottom seams and onto my flip-flops. Ow, it buuuuurnnsss… A more patient and caring man might’ve soldiered on and found a new tank, but I was in recently-divorced starting-over mode at the time, and just got rid of the faithless thing.

Circa 1994 at an AHRMA event in Las Vegas with the old SRX-6, wife and child, when it looked for a time as if we might be on our way to leading reasonably normal lives. Good one, Jesus! Actually, the kid’s doing great in college. Knock on wood.

I guess it comes down to having one’s House in Order. You really need to have your wife, Barb, and your golden retrievers and loyal friends, Chris Beebe and the Slimey Cruds, and your ducks all lined up before you can even hope to get your garage (or shop!) in order, and Egan’s program has been dialed since he got back from the ’Nam in 1970 (suffering no ill effects whatsoever).

Meanwhile, mine’s still in flux, and I’m always needing to get my lawnmower, teenager, gaseous greyhound or wax ring in order before I can even begin to address the Big Picture. Lately it occurs to me my big picture is just meant to be a big, sloppy pastiche. Maybe I’m good with that. But I did get the new garbage disposal in, and it barely leaks at all. Take that, Egan, you magnificent bastard, I read your book! (and inserted quite a few commas).

John Burns
John Burns

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2 of 28 comments
  • Pcontiman Pcontiman on Jan 15, 2015

    Well said JB, well said. Still want to ride with both of you someday......

  • The_BIG_Cat The_BIG_Cat on Nov 20, 2021

    J. Prurient Burns...
    And yes John, that should tell you how long I have been reading your writing.
    Love you and Peter.
    And David Dewhurst posted below... Cycle Guide anyone?
    Thanks to you all for being able to put into writing what I put into riding.
    For all these years.