Publisher’s Weekly reviewed Kill All Angels, and it’s good! They’re covered all three books now, and they liked every one. I’ll friggin’ take it! Here’s a snippet:
“Appropriately for a science fiction tale with punk-rock overtones, this story is raw, reckless, and grimy. Carey’s alcohol-fueled desperation and Kaitlyn’s worldly optimism work well together, and the narrative barrels towards a conclusion that suits the book’s bizarre late-night movie feel.”
I uh… I could go for a bizarre late-night movie version, universe. Just puttin’ that out there…
Barnes and Noble gives Kill All Angels one of the best reviews I’ve ever read. I mean, I’m always happy when somebody gets the important themes in my books (though like they say in the piece, the themes themselves are hard to miss), but it’s extra special when they get why those themes are important in the first place. A hell of a note to end a series on.
Yep, the third and final book in the Vicious Circuit series, Kill All Angels, releases today! If you need closure on the adventures of your favorite stuntwoman and most tolerated punk rocker, reading this book is the only way you’ll get it. Well, reading this book and drinking heavily. But those are the only two ways!
I have done it. I descended into the underworld, I crawled through a river of shit, I strangled a storm and defied the gods themselves, but I have done it: I have purchased a motorcycle.
The greatest motorcycle ever made. The most beautiful and relentless steed imaginable. The 2003 Honda Nighthawk 750.
“What?” You sputter. “He’s talking about the Nighthawk? The Toyota Camry of motorcycles? The motorcycle whose most notable trait is that it is, indeed, a motorcycle? If you plotted every motorcycle on a graph and found the mean, it would be the Nighthawk — he’s talking about that bike?”
Yes, I say to you. Yes! If you’ve followed my struggle in finding the right bike, I know how this must seem: Like I went to a Chinese restaurant, carefully pondered all of the exotic options and house specialties, and then proudly declared “I’ll have the cheeseburger!”
But let me tell you something about the Nighthawk:
It does not let you down.
Parents, careers, life, humanity, escalators — all of these things will let you down. The Nighthawk is not one of them.
The Nighthawk does not have awe-inspiring power. But it does have solid horsepower, sufficient torque, and smooth, even delivery. It does not have balletic handling. But it ducks into corners with ease and keeps nice, steady lines. It doesn’t devour highway miles while wrapping you in a blissful cocoon of comfort. But it does handle sustained highway travel just fine, and it keeps you in a nice, neutral position. Brakes? Boy howdy, does it have them. It has two, actually. Even comes with calipers.
It doesn’t still your heart to look at the Nighthawk; the bike doesn’t catch the lustful gazes of other motorcyclists. Tell you people you ride a Nighthawk and you’ll get the ‘all right’ face: Inner eyebrows raised, lips set and turned down as if to say ‘huh. Good move.’ Not ‘great move.’ No exclamation point. Don’t get crazy.
It is the same face you’d get if, come December, your friends asked you to go Christmas shopping and you said “oh, I already got it done.”
Huh. All right. Good move.
Here’s why the Nighthawk excites me: They made the exact same bike, damn near unchanged, for twelve straight years. Reliability and ease of maintenance are off the charts, and parts are so ubiquitous that they’re practically free. That weird metal thing you found in the crawlspace, now sitting in your miscellaneous drawer? It’s a Nighthawk sprocket. You’ve tripped over a Nighthawk engine cover while running for your bus, you just didn’t know it. Look down right now. No, move your foot: You’re standing on a Nighthawk shim.
I can always find parts for this bike without breaking the bank, and that means I can make it look or perform however I want. I’m excited about that prospect: That was my favorite part about owning the 2012 Triumph Bonneville: Ripping their lovely creation to pieces and building my own hideous monster. Except with the Bonneville, doing so cost me a small fortune. With the Nighthawk, I can just go digging through my neighbor’s recycling and find all the parts I need.
And yet, for all that excitement about customization, I have no plans to change the bike in the immediate future. The one I bought came with a small smoke flyscreen and luggage rack. Those, I have sensibly installed. And that’s it.
Maybe someday I’ll get jaded and turn to perversion like a middle-aged couple trying to save their marriage — I’ll strip her naked in public; plug all sorts of strange parts into her; make her dress up like a flat tracker and call me Bullitt — but for right now, I’m convinced she’s just fine the way she is. And I’ll tell you why:
We have been through hell together.
I picked the Nighthawk up in Seattle, a three hour drive from Portland. I carefully checked all the weather reports, right up until the morning I left. Clear and oddly sunny, statewide. Possibility of a light shower in the evening, lasting no more than an hour. That’s fine: I should be home long before then, anyway.
I am now a fair weather rider. I live in the Pacific Northwest. I have pretended at the rain game, and you know what? It’s a terrible game, and I just plain don’t wanna. I have sold all of my waterproof gear. I don’t even own cold weather stuff anymore. If it’s below sixty and wet, I put on my helmet and ride my office chair around the kitchen making engine noises. After double and triple checking the weather maps, I grabbed my ventilated leather jacket and gloves, my air-mesh kevlar long johns (worn with knee and shin guards under a normal pair of jeans), my summer riding shoes, and my helmet, complete with tinted visor. Gotta be prepared for that sun!
The Seattle sky was clear when I arrived. I picked up the Nighthawk and went to exit the guy’s underground parking garage, only to find that Thor’s girlfriend had apparently just broken up with him, and he was now drunkenly taking it out on the entire state of Washington. Catastrophic downpour.
I checked the weather again. That morning it said: “Whoa, weirdly sunny! Can you believe it?” Now, it said: “OH FUCK BUILD AN ARK YOU GATHER CHICKENS I’LL GET SOME SQUIRRELS SANDRA YOU’RE ON OSTRICH DUTY-”
No choice for it, though. I loaded up the weather page on my phone and spat on the screen a few times, just for spite, then left. I immediately hit bumper to bumper traffic on the highway that lasted for a solid hour. Remember: My gear isn’t waterproof — in fact, it’s downright thirsty. If I had been miraculously teleported to Senegal ten minutes into my ride, the locals would’ve hailed me as a god and drank from my leather jacket until they died from water intoxication.
Two hours in, I stopped at a Shari’s to try to warm up for a few minutes: I stripped down in a bathroom stall and wrung my clothes out into the toilet. I tipped my shoes and poured out a full cup of gray, standing water. From the sound alone, the guy next to me must have presumed I was dying from dysentery, or had foolishly ordered the seafood stew.
Back on the highway. I use the term loosely. I-5 is the bad side of town where cars don’t go. That’s trucker territory, you fool: They cut sedans in the face just for kicks over there. And motorcycles? Jesus. That’s like unicycling into Mosul wearing nothing but a stars-and-stripes thong.
Every truck that passed me kicked up a fun-size tsunami. Ever stood at a crosswalk and been splashed by a car driving through a puddle? That car was going 25, and it had four wheels. The trucks were doing 90 and had eighteen god damn wheels, each of which hated me more than the last.
Wait, why was I letting them pass me? Why didn’t I just speed up? Because I was already surfing unsteadily on the tiny rivers formed by Washington’s terrible highways — hydroplaning in a mad and unending skid, wiping the water from my stupidly tinted visor with gloves so waterlogged that they squirted jets out the vent-holes whenever I made a fist. I was doing 70 — the speed limit — and that was already insane. Truckers have training, experience, large, capable, dry vehicles, a place to be, and enough speed in their system to down a rhino. They can do 90 in those conditions. I can’t.
The three hour drive took six of the most uncomfortable hours of my life. I went crazy partway through. It was so bad it became funny. I started singing, loudly and off-key, just to hear something else besides my own teeth chattering.
“EVEN RODE MY MOTORCYCLE IN THE RAIN!” I scream, pointing at the gawking family in the station wagon. “AND YOU TOLD ME NOT TO DRIVE, BUT I MADE IT HOME ALIVE. SO YOU SAID THAT ONLY PROVES THAT I’M INSANE. YOU MAY BE RIGHT. I MAY BE CRAZY. BUT I JUST MAY BE THE LUUUUNATIC YOU’RE LOOKING FOR-”
A monumental gout of water from a forty ton land-train piloted by a man named Big Bobby who hasn’t slept in six days, and whose blood is equal parts truck stop crank and Slim Jims, sends me wobbling.
I laugh, smear the black water around my visor until I clear a tiny portal of visibility, and start up again.
“WELL I BEEN THROUGH THE DESERT ON A HORSE WITH NO NAME IT FELT GOOD TO GET OUT OF THE RAIN IN THE DESERT-”
When I finally made it home, every muscle in my body was cramped from the cold. Every piece of gear was sealed to my skin like a licked envelope. I weighed three times more than I had, when I first set off. My wife kindly skinned the gear off of me, I sat in the hottest shower possible — knob cranked left until it hit stop — and drank bourbon out of a wine glass. Careful not to let the shower water get in it. I take my bourbon neat.
And the Nighthawk got me through that. It never sputtered, surged, or stalled. It gave me all the power I wanted, whenever I wanted it. It started up every time, no matter how much I secretly prayed it wouldn’t, so I’d have an excuse to get a motel room. It stayed stable in turns, no highway death wobbles — even on the Washington stretch of I-5, which could death wobble an elephant on a clear day — and altogether performed like Morgan Freeman in a Michael Bay movie: The only solid point in an otherwise ridiculous ordeal.
Adversity builds character. Me and the Nighthawk are violently spewing character from every orifice right now.
If you want to love a new bike — truly and dearly love it — do what I did for my first ride: Wait for a tropical storm, don all of your summer gear, then challenge an entire highway to a game of chicken for six straight hours. If you make it out alive, you’ll be bonded forever. You’ll be war buddies, sharing the kind of solidarity only soldiers can know, but can never explain.
Or you’ll hate the damn thing like it killed your dog and made your cat watch.
It’s a toss up.
And now, the pain review: You don’t need to read this part unless you sat on a prized canary and its gypsy owner cursed your assbone. I have coccydynia — undiagnosable tailbone pain — and it made riding my old bike impossible.
I did all of my research. I carefully evaluated what, exactly, aggravates the tailbone pain. I even rented a few bikes to test and refine these theories. I went and sat on even more, back to the research, and finally figured that the latest generation Nighthawk was, ergonomically, the best bet for me. Taller bikes with flatter seats were an option — the Triumph Scrambler was the ideal, with most vintage UJMs also fitting the bill — but either I’d have to spend a small fortune for a new bike, or every weekend swearing at seized bolts for an ancient one. I didn’t want to do either. Of the newer, more reliable and affordable options that I thought I could ride comfortably, the Nighthawk was the best.
And I was right!
My ride on the Nighthawk was six straight hours of misery, and every muscle in my body hurts from clenching against the cold. But the tailbone pain didn’t become agony until maybe four or five hours in, and it has settled back to normal (well, what passes for it) after only a night’s rest. This is with the stock seat, as well — and I’ll definitely be modifying it. Like I stressed earlier, Nighthawk parts are everywhere: I found a spare seat for thirty bucks on eBay, after maybe two minutes of searching. If you’re struggling with the same issue and got here by googling ‘why does my butt hate motorcycles,’ give something like the Nighthawk a shot. It doesn’t have to be the same bike, but I found that flatter seats, slight forward lean (reclining is awful, even straight up is bad, and surprisingly, too far forward is also agony), and a hip/knee angle of more than 80 degrees was the magical formula. I used to own a Street Triple, and the significant forward lean combined with relatively cramped leg angles seems like it would minimize impact on the tailbone, but it actually stretches the nerve somehow, making the pain worse. If you’re searching, you can compare those exact ergonomics against most other bikes at cycle-ergo, a hell of a site that pretty much saved my riding life. I always found their info spot on, and it was vital in figuring this problem out.
And now, for more shower bourbon. I call it a “Kentucky Spa Day.”
I continue my journey to find a motorcycle that won’t torture me straight in the butt, and so I have rented a late model Triumph Bonneville.
In my last review, I said the 2016 Indian Scout was the motorcycle that sad old white men dreamed about, as they puttered down the highway in their mid-list minivans, gazing at me and my lean retro bobber with open lust, their watchful wives glaring on as I smugly whisper, “that’s right: I could have him any time I want.”
Well, the Bonneville is the bike those guys actually used to own.
The new Indian Scout isn’t an accurate memory; it’s a cartoon. It screams nostalgia, sure, but there was never a production bike that actually looked like that: the tank sheared off on the sides, the engine blacked out, the rear lowered beyond all reason. It’s a comic book fantasy of a motorcycle. If you were asked to draw the old Triumph Bonneville from memory, you’d come close to the new one. If you were asked to draw the bike of the guy that stole your high school girlfriend, got her pregnant, and then skipped town, you’d draw the Scout. They’re both similar approaches — retro charm without retro problems — but wildly different executions.
It sounds like I’m being hard on the Bonnie. Maybe I am, but only because she can take it. She’s got her shit together. For instance, here’s my review of all late-model standard Triumph Bonnevilles:
“They’re fine bikes. Well balanced, usable power, no fuss, and they look pretty good, too.”
End of review.
Now I will instead talk about a different model of the same bike, the Bonneville T100, because you are not the boss of me and I’ll write whatever I want. But mostly because when I talk about the standard Bonneville with anybody, I first have to explain why it’s better than the upscale T100 option. I do have authority on this matter: I used to own a 2012 Triumph Bonneville T100. Here’s a picture of it.
You may recognize that is not a motorcycle. You may recognize that I am a notorious liar. Both true, but I’m actually going somewhere this time. Here’s the T100 for real:
The Triumph Bonneville T100 is a well-maintained, bone-stock 1968 Chevy C-10 pickup truck. It’s not a suped-up sleeper in a campy retro shell. It hasn’t been chopped, lowered, fitted with an LED kit, or painted bright purple with orgasming skulls on the hood. If you see that truck stopped at a gas station, you might tell the owner “nice truck!”
You would mean it, at the time.
But you would forget about it within minutes. The image of a bone-stock C-10 won’t keep you up at night, dreaming of the possibilities. It is what it is, and it is entirely at home with that.
The Triumph Bonneville T100 is a functional motorcycle. It is on the light side of heavy. On the agile side of sluggish. On the slow side of fast. On the plain side of pretty. There are a slew of other models based on the same platform, and all have their personalities:
The Scrambler is a machine specifically designed to humor your Steve McQueen delusions. “Yes, honey” the Scrambler says. “I see you. You’re Bullitt. That’s very nice.”
The Thruxton is for guys who ride in wingtips.
The stock Bonneville (lighter and louder trumpet-style mufflers, lighter mag wheels — smaller one in front for better handling — lower center of gravity, more forward seating position, sans special decals and superfluous fork gaiters) is that same 1968 C10, but with an overhauled suspension, drag-stanced, and with all the badges removed: a classic updated with touches of modernity, both for improved performance and a new look. The T100 is a 1968 Chevy C-10 in exactly the same shape as it was when it rolled off the factory floor. Well, okay, not exactly. It is reluctantly fuel injected. But don’t worry: Those throttle bodies actually look like carburetors, so none will know your secret shame.
In short: The Triumph Bonneville T100 is not remarkable. It does not want to be your fantasy.
And you know what? That’s awesome. The guy who owns that bone-stock C-10 knows exactly what he’s doing. His name is Gus. He wears faded Levi 501s and New Balance sneakers. A plaid button up, always tucked in. He sees a chopped C-10 sleeper rocket past him on the highway and he just shakes his head.
“Shame what they’ve done to the old girl,” Gus says.
In the Home Depot parking lot, Gus pulls up beside another truck — the exact same model as his — but this one sporting an ostentatious custom paint job.
“No accounting for taste,” he chuckles.
He stops beside a drag-stanced, de-badged C-10 at the gas station and gives the other fella a nod, but not a very deep one.
“What happened to the badges?” Gus asks. He doesn’t listen to the explanation.
Gus isn’t on the cover of any romance novels. Gus has never won a street fight. He’s never even been in one. Gus has a solid retirement plan, and has since he was 25. Gus is entirely content with who he is, and it’s just fine by him if you aren’t.
I think Gus is fucking rad. I want to be Gus.
I am not Gus. When I bought that 2012 T100 Bonneville, I loved it. All the aesthetic beauty of retro bikes without the existential despair of stripped bolts. What’s not to love? But when a Honda CB1100 soared past me in the curves, I died a little inside. When a Moto Guzzi V7 Racer parked next to me in the garage, its mirror-paint showed me a warped version of my own reflection, twisted and haunted by lust. When a Scrambler or a Thruxton cruised next to me on the interstate, I fantasized about leaping onto their seats like a highway pirate, hurling their riders aside, and revving away into the sunset — certain that the T100 would ghostride on without me, steady as a rock, eventually rolling to a controlled stop outside the office of a Notary Public who would glance out of his window, lock eyes with it, and give one single, solitary nod of approval.
Gus is a rock. Gus knows who he is, and has no interest in changing. Gus doesn’t buy self help books. Gus is not going to take up yoga. Gus is the best. I aspire to be as content as he is, but for now I’m just too petty, vain, and fickle. Gus is the Triumph Bonneville T100, and I think he’s a great guy, but I don’t want him in my garage. He brings over beer, sure, but it’s Coors Light and he looks at me funny when I shotgun it.
But if you are Gus — if you look down right now and survey a majestic field of flannel, the belt like a river of brown leather separating rolling plaid from the gentle glow of ancient denim, all capped off by a pair of worn, December-gray New Balances — the T100 is everything you’re looking for, and not one extravagance more.
And now, for the pain review. You do not need to read this if you have been blessed with a fully functional ass.
Long story short: I have coccydynia (that’s doctor-speak for ‘your butt-bone sure hurts a lot but we don’t want to admit we don’t know why’), and I had to sell my last bike when I could no longer ride it comfortably for any length of time. I am now renting motorcycles, searching for one whose ergonomics hurt a bit less, so I can justify burning more perfectly good money on yet another motorcycle that I objectively do not need.
And with the Bonnie, I think I found it!
See, I sold the T100 before this pain started. I had to go back to check on it again, and see if it now worked for me. The rental place actually said the model they had was a T100, so I had to condescendingly explain the difference between trims to the bike-jockey, who very kindly refrained from slapping me right in the mouth, as he should have. I wanted the T100 for everything I just complained about in the review: Higher, flatter bench seat, larger front wheel to minimize forward lean, more pull back in the handlebars, etc..
All that makes for a worse bike, but a better butt-platform. I still took the standard Bonneville, and it caused me some discomfort… but not much worse than just sitting normally! I rode for about two hours without the pain ever escalating into agony, walked around and stretched for half an hour, then another two hours home. I was very sore afterward and needed the night to recover, but was mostly back to what passes for normal the next day. One night of pain is an acceptable trade-off for spending all day blasting around on my own private roller coaster.
After returning the Bonnie, I went and sat on a Triumph Scrambler, a BMW 1200, and a Tiger 800 (adventure bikes were the other style of ergonomics that I was considering) while the pain was still fresh. As I thought, the flat seat and taller stance of the Scrambler was even better. Surprisingly though, both the Tiger and the 1200 did not work for me. I thought adventure bikes would be my solution, but the seating position was angled wrong, and apparently too much length between seat and footpegs is also a trigger for the pain. But if the Scrambler works, a lot of vintage Universal Japanese Motorcycles may also work.
I got me some hope!
It is a fragile and weak hope, but I’m going to sit on it like a nesting hen and, supposing that doesn’t hurt my ass too badly, eventually nurture it into something beautiful: A motorcycle.
In my ongoing quest to introduce my butt to a motorcycle that it doesn’t hate with a quiet vengeance, I’ve recently rented a 2016 Indian Scout.
If you want an informative and experienced breakdown of this vehicle, kindly Google “Indian Scout review.” Because you will find neither of those aspects here. This was my takeaway: I always thought cruisers were a little silly — riding all spread eagle, hurtling crotch first into the void. After riding the Scout, I can confirm that statement was perfectly accurate… with the important stipulation that I have also discovered that riding all spread eagle, hurtling crotch first into the void is glorious.
When I stepped off the bike at returns, the rental guy asked how it was. In unison, we both said “surprisingly good.” He laughed and told me that those were not only his exact words when he first rode it, but also those of every single person who’s rented one.
The Scout hits that ‘just right’ niche. Everything was fit beautifully — all thick steel, satisfying thunks, and solid movement, like riding a tractor designed by Lamborghini. Which they actually do, and it probably isn’t like riding a Scout at all, so I apologize for this entire analogy.
If you have a normal, high-functioning ass, I imagine the Scout would be quite comfortable. There’s very little vibration at highway speeds, but some lurching in lower first that requires careful moderation of clutch and brake. That could be because this was a brand new bike, though — there were only thirty miles on the one I was given. This falls well into the break in period, and the staggering at very low RPMS might well ease with just a few hundred more miles on the engine. The wind was definitely a problem above 60MPH — if I bought one, I’d certainly get a detachable windscreen. I stress “detachable,” because you do not want to mess with this bike’s looks. It’s gorgeous just the way it is. You don’t hot-glue a welder’s mask to a supermodel’s skull just because they might one day need to weld something. That kind of gear should be a situational thing.
Of course, like all motorcycles, the only thing this bike attracts are other motorcycle riders, and old white men who wish they rode motorcycles. But boy howdy, if you want to bang a geriatric in a Windstar who is just chock full of regrets about his lost youth, this is the bike for you. I spent half my ride being paced by minivans; openly ogled by retirees dealing with complex emotional problems.
As to the quality of that ride: The bike has a ton of pull without being unfriendly — it’ll forgive a lot from you, which is good, because I have a lot to forgive. I wrong my motorcycles daily. You hit a pothole too hard in a curve and The Scout won’t throttle-lurch you into a tree, no matter how much you might deserve it. The engine will lug along or rev a bit high in just about any gear, making it seem like you suddenly downshifted to third on purpose, instead of hurling you over the bars and straight into a paramedic’s “amusing anecdote for the day.” The Scout even hauled to a stop shockingly well, considering the single discs up front and back. They’re a lot heftier than they appear. Perhaps most importantly: The bike doesn’t plant its feet in the corners and trundle through like a reluctant cow, as I expected by the looks of it. I can dance with the Scout every bit as well as I did my Street Triple.
Note that I said “every bit as well as I did.” I’m sure a better rider could wring a lot more out of a Street Triple than they could the Scout — but this is not a review for ‘better riders.’ This one’s for the incompetent assholes. We deserve a place, too.
And now, for the pain review. You can skip this if it doesn’t concern you. There just aren’t a lot of resources out there for people with this condition who also ride motorcycles. I figured I’d contribute.
The nerve condition I suffer from is called coccydynia, which is just quality comedy. It’s got the phonemes for “cock” in there — always a plus — and it pertains to the butt! Asses and dongs alike, crammed into one short phrase like humor concentrate. Sadly, the condition is rarely funny in practice: It just means a pain that starts out light, but quickly escalates into agony whenever I sit, recline, or generally try to relax.
I bought a standing desk for work. I replaced my couch with a giant bean bag that I can flop face down on and wallow in like a comfort-pig. But there was no fix for my motorcycle. An hour on my 2013 Triumph Street Triple was unbearable. New seats, risers, pads — nothing helped. I finally sold it earlier this year. Now I’m down to renting bikes, trying to see if any ergonomics will help.
For the first test, I went with a cruiser, because the triggers for my pain are ‘any kind of pressure on the tailbone,’ and ‘leaning too far forward with the legs bent’ — I guess this stretches out some kind of nerve cluster back there. I don’t know. All I know is that the Street Triple hit both of those triggers, while the Indian Scout only hit one: The pressure on the tailbone. You recline way back in that deep, deep saddle.
To cut to the chase: The bike did not work for me. Riding still hurt like crazy after a bit. However, on the Street Triple, the pain became unbearable after about an hour, and would potentially last for days. On the Scout, the pain became too much after about an hour and a half, but an hour or so of standing and walking around could reset it, and I was able to ride again.
Perhaps that’s because the Scout allows the rider much more movement — you can put your feet up on the highway bars, scoot forward in the saddle and lean toward the tank, push up and back to perch atop the rear of the seat. It all still hurts, of course, but it turns out that writhing in agony is a lot more tolerable than sitting absolutely still in agony.
Still, I’m happy: Not only because I got to ride a fantastic bike, but because the reduced pain and experimentation with different riding positions convinced me there might be a bike out there that will work for me. For now, it’s looking like those will be either Adventure Bikes or Dual Sports — not traditionally my favorites. But still, much like pizza and sex: some motorcycle is always better than no motorcycle.
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with motorcycles for a while now…
In that I love them, and they hate me.
I recently sold my bike — a saucy little 2013 Triumph Street Triple — to a couple of military kids who promptly cracked the oil pan into the tailgate while loading it up. I didn’t hold it against them. For very long.
A few crude voodoo dolls and blood sacrifices to the Loa later, and I was over it: They’ll have fun with her, which is more than I could’ve done. See, I have some kind of strange damage in my back, specifically the tailbone area. It’s not coccydynia, which is a disorder in the actual tailbone, but it’s not sciatica, a disorder in the sciatic nerve, either. What I have is apparently not only a new disorder, but one that affects a terrifying new type of spine — one solely evolved by me and me alone — that medical science cannot classify, beyond “worrying.”
I’ve been through every doctor and specialist, and had every test they could think of, plus a few more I’m pretty sure they just made up on the spot (“This is the uh…de-back…ulator. The de-backulator! Very expensive.”) with no real answer. Finally they gave up actually helping and just tried to treat my depression about their inability to help: “Sorry we can’t fix you, but we CAN fix your ability to CARE.”
And then, to everybody’s surprise, the duoloxetine helped. Not with the depression, but with the actual pain: Apparently it’s also used to treat nerve pain — something nobody mentioned to me, ever, at any point, until after it started working. Science, everybody!
But whatever: The good news was that I could exist comfortably again in most situations. I have to be careful how I sit, and for how long, but the pain has been downgraded from “life-ruining agony” to “butt annoyance.” Lord knows I can deal with some butt annoyance. But this still meant I couldn’t do motorcycle rides for any length of time. About an hour on my bike was all I could take before the pain went from distracting to crippling. That, again, should’ve been fine: Motorcycling for an hour is like six hours of meditation.
But then Portland’s population exploded, and with it came more traffic, and more drivers (a term I use generously). Portland’s roads are insane right now, and keep in mind I first learned to ride a motorcycle in the heart of Los Angeles. I was out there, barely balancing, piloting an entirely new type of vehicle in a massive metropolis famous for two things: People too rich and famous for consequences, and vehicular homicide. And I still powered through. But Portland today scares me.
Red lights mean literally nothing out here; I see a nasty accident every other time I leave the house. I can take care of myself, and I accept the risks inherent to motorcycling, but this left me with a dilemma: With the increased traffic, I could no longer get out of the city to a decent riding spot before the pain kicked in. A forty five minute trip out to the country meant I had to turn around the very second the road got nice, and cram right back into the murderous traffic to head home. I thought I could deal with it — that I could have fun riding around the city itself for short bursts, but there’s just too much carnage out there. Venturing out on a motorcycle is like playing Twisted Metal as Axel, only you don’t get the Supernova Shockwave. (Note to motorcycle manufacturers: Maybe install a Supernova Shockwave generator?)
So I sold my bike and bought myself a bitchin’ Mustang as a consolation prize. Try not to pity me too hard.
But damned if I don’t still lust after motorcycles. Ah, well… some loves are just not meant to be.
And then I found out something amazing… you can rent them!
Holy shit, did you know you could rent motorcycles? You probably did! Because you’re not an oblivious idiot like me! I sure as hell didn’t think of that.
Now, this still leaves me with the same nerve problem, but there’s a shred of hope: I’ve only ridden sport-standards — basically sport bikes where the riding position is slightly more upright — since the pain started. Maybe different ergonomics would work for me? Maybe a better suspension? Probably not!
The rental places really only have big, fuck-off cruisers — because most people that rent motorcycles are dads going through a mid-life crisis so severe they can’t even commit to a vehicle — but honestly, if any bike is going to work for me, it’s probably going to be a lumbering, spread-eagle, beef supreme monstrosity. Can you tell I’m not a huge fan of most cruisers? Still, some motorcycle is better than no motorcycle. And thus begins my butt’s adventure through motorcycle town. It starts this weekend: I’ve rented an Indian Scout for a trip to the beach on Sunday.
Now, I know I said I don’t like most cruisers, but the Scout is not most cruisers. I’ve had a crush on that bike from the first time I saw it, and it was only exacerbated by the gushing reviews. It’s a gorgeous classic cruiser that actually rides well. That’s a rarity, like a big guy with skulls tattooed on his face who moonlights as the most delicate of ballet dancers. Sadly though, the Scout probably won’t work for me: It’s a standard-cruiser, with a fairly forward seating position and suspension pretty close to the Striple. But I figure that I’ll start with the bikes that I love, but are most likely to cripple me, then work my way out to the bikes I don’t adore, but that also won’t obliterate my spine. Who knows? Maybe I’ll touch ass to a Harley and it’ll be love at first buttstroke.
Anyway, I figured I’d do write-ups about the different bikes I try. Sort of a crippled man’s guide to cruisers (when you don’t like cruisers).
I’ll let you know if The Scout lives up to the hype next week, provided I can still walk after getting off of it.
So one last thing about the forgotten magnificence that was Congo, and then I’ll shut up about the movie forever. That was obviously a lie; let’s neither of us pretend to believe it. Anyway, I wrote some fan fiction – not about the movie itself, but about the moment the climactic scene was written. If you don’t know the scene, by god, correct that error now, before it’s too late.
John Patrick Shanley did not have time to wipe the sweat from his brow. He let it drip onto the keyboard, lubricating the words as his fingers — swollen with genius; leaking majesty like a cooking sausage leaks sausage-juice — wrestled the climax of Congo from the immaterial realm and pinned it to reality.
‘APES EVERYWHERE,’ he sausaged, madly. ‘APES COMING OUT OF THE WALLS.’
John Patrick Shanley felt his skin flush. His heart beat an unhealthy, yet familiar rhythm. In the distant and isolated part of his brain still concerned with reality, he knew he should be seeking medical attention. But brilliance is as much a disease as it is a gift.
‘LAURA LINNEY SPRINGS INTO ACTION,’ he typed, furious at the ineptness of human language. ‘SHE GRABS THE DIAMOND FROM BRUCE CAMPBELL’S CORPSE AND PLUGS IT INTO THE SPACE LASER.’
John Patrick Shanley is standing now. He has shifted into the present tense. The past no longer concerns him. He doesn’t remember abandoning the chair. He types with the manic velocity of a virtuoso. That hackneyed image of a frenzied Mozart, hunched painfully over the keys, beating at the piano like it is no longer an instrument, but a reticent bully, which refuses to give him the music he requires.
THE APES APPROACH BUT ZOOM-
“Zoom?” He thinks. “Is that the right word? Can there be a wrong word now, at this intersection of inspiration and madness?”
‘BUT ZOOM,’ he continues. ‘LAURA LINNEY FIRES THE LASER, SLICING OFF THE HAND OF THE LEAD APE.’
His heartbeat. It forms a song. He knows that now, but cannot place the melody.
‘CONSUMED WITH BLOODLUST, LAURA LINNEY LASERS DOWN APE AFTER APE-’
His fingers, zealots of some angry and demanding god, pound on, though he pleads with them to stop.
‘APE AFTER APE AFTER APE’
His nails peel off between the keys. Blood flowing into the cracks between letters.
‘AFTER APE AFTER APE’
John Patrick Shanley finds that he is no longer just typing, but screaming the words.
‘AFTER APE AFTER APE FALL TO LINNEY’S LASER LIKE – WELL LET’S JUST BE REAL HERE, LIKE APES BEFORE A LASER. THERE IS NO COMPARITIVE ANALOGY.’
And now John Patrick Shanley is no longer typing at all. He is standing, erect in every possible sense of the word, with one foot planted firmly on earth and the other in the war halls of Valhalla. The keyboard does not need him anymore. It clacks away like a player piano, the words guided inexorably toward their destiny. There is no escape anymore; not for them, not for John Patrick Shanley, not for anybody.
‘LASERS AND APES AND APES AND LASERS,’ the words continue, as John Patrick Shanley furiously thrusts his pelvis into the open air, into the universe itself.
‘SINGED FUR AND APE HANDS FLYING EVERYWHERE, UNTIL THE APES MUST CONCEDE VICTORY TO THE CRUEL HAND OF LINNEY-‘
John Patrick Shanley is climaxing, but spills no seed. The cosmos accepts it from him; secrets it off into the ether, to swirl amongst the stars.
‘HOOTING IN DESPAIR, THE APES TURN TO FLEE ONLY TO FIND AN ERUPTING VOLCANO. WHAT? A VOLCANO! WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? THESE QUESTIONS ARE FOR MAN TO ASK AND GOD TO KNOW.’
John Patrick Shanley knows the song now. The cardiac beat thundering away inside his chest. It is called Eye of The Tiger. It is by the band Survivor. The pounding is not confined to his body; the thrum of his blood resonates against the floor of the cosmos. In his distant home in New York, Survivor lead singer Dave Bickler awakens, screaming.
‘APES ALWAYS KNOW WHEN THEY ARE BEATEN. ONE BY ONE THEY HURL THEMSELVES INTO THE LAVA — BOTH AS AN ACT OF ATTRITION FOR THEIR FAILURE, AND A SACRIFICE TO THEIR NEW GOD, SCIENCE, WHO HAS SO MERCILESSLY BLESSED THEM.’
John Patrick Shanley weeps. He weeps and roars and cums and bleeds.
‘THE FINAL APE EXECUTES A PERFECT FRONT FLIP, CANNONBALLING INTO THE MOLTEN ROCK AS A LAST ACT OF DEFIANCE. TRULY, HE WAS THE GREATEST APE. TRULY, IT WAS NOT ENOUGH.’
The keyboard, overloaded with energy never meant to be channeled by a mere machine, explodes. The night sky becomes as day for a moment. But the illumination, as it always does, fades. It fades from the air. It fades from John Patrick Shanley.
Colorful sparks drift slowly, fireflies on a breeze. If you stood atop a tall building in New York City that fateful night and looked west, toward the heart of our great nation, you would have seen it. Just for a second. So quick, you would always question its nature. Was it a dream, a hallucination, a trick of the light?
You would have seen the embers form a mammoth pointillist image of the American flag, tiny lights plucked out of the darkness, each of its fifty stars the heartbroken visage of a dead gorilla.
This isn’t a funny or entertaining post. You can skip past it unless you’re trying to help a hummingbird right now. It just happened to me recently and I had a hard time finding all the necessary information, concisely phrased and collected in a single place.
Here’s what to try, in order:
- Just make sure the bird has as many open exits as possible, and leave it alone for a few minutes. Leave the room. Don’t stand by the trapped space, or near any of the exits. If you can, cover all light sources but the exits. Shut or throw a blanket over the skylight if it’s accessible, close all of your blinds, on windows that don’t open and/or you don’t want the bird to head toward. It will likely leave in a few minutes.
- If there’s no place in the trapped space for the bird to perch, bend a thin wire hanger – not the painted kind, and not the fortified kind; those are too thick – or fan out the individual straws on a broom. Hold it near the bird (don’t chase it around), and hold as still as you can. If the bird perches, you can slowly and carefully move the broom or hangar toward the exit.
- If there is a place for the bird to perch in the trapped space, it may stay there for a while, resting and trying to escape over and over again. If you have a hummingbird feeder, hang it between the trapped space and the exit. Hummingbirds are attracted to red things most of all; you can try placing a few red objects in its sight line to ‘lead’ it to the feeder or, if you don’t have a feeder, just lead it outside.
- If none of this works, the bird will exhaust itself soon. You’ll have to take it out by hand. Don’t use nets or tools or anything – hummingbirds are extremely fragile, and they cannot hurt you – just be sure to use a very, very soft and careful grip. Don’t worry about it struggling away, they’re far weaker than you think. Barely touch the bird. Only hold it by the sides, gently pinning the wings to the body. If you grab it front to back, you may accidentally compress the chest, preventing it from breathing. As soon as you get outside, carry it with an open, cupped palm. Give it a minute to recover. It may take off on its own.
- If the bird isn’t recovering and you have a hummingbird feeder, very gently grasp its upper body by the sides, stabilizing its head, and very gently guide its beak into the feeder holes. You’ll know if the beak is going deep enough because the tip will be wet when you pull it out. Only leave it in there for a second or two, then remove the beak and give it a few seconds to recover. After the first dip or two, it should recover enough to drink on its own when you slip the beak into the feeder. You’ll see it – the neck feathers ruffle up a bit and the head moves. After repeating this process a few times, hold the bird with an open, cupped palm again. Give it a minute or two for the food to kick in, and it should recover and fly off.
- If none of that works, line a small box with soft cloth — no terrycloth or anything with loops or tangles to catch the bird’s feet or feathers. Remember to punch some airholes, cover the box, and call either a vet or the local Audobon society, if you have one.