The Punker Looks at Fifty……..

December 17, 2010


I’ve been to Vegas perhaps three hundred times. Sometimes I fly, sometimes I drive.

Lots of times with the band, when we take a leisurely 8 hours to make the drive. Stopping to piss every goddamn 20 minutes, until we could either coordinate our bladders or resort to peeing in Gatorade bottles that would inevitably end up weeping on the van carpet by dawn.

Quick jaunts on JetBlue, Long Beach to Vegas, eighteen hour turnarounds that left mortgage payment late and nerves shattered.

One memorable weekend I took the five dollar Imperial Palace bus from Leisure World with a group of depraved senior gamblers.

I sat in the back seat of that moaning diesel, nursing a pint of Maker’s.
I watched the scorched landscape scroll past the windows, ignored the audacious farts and gasping snores of a dozen living corpses.

As I vowed to never get old, I also scanned the cruel landscape and wondered what it would be like to be out there: Free and flying, skipping over sand and stone on the only tool suitable……a motorcycle!

Oh sure, I had a little history with off road.
A little Saturday Saddleback, a few CMC Sundays.
*

Ancient history....

But it was 1979 that I sold my last dirt bike, and only to buy that P.A. system that would signal my shifting alliance: from racer to punk.

Yes, that is two shock absorbers on the back, ya fuckin whippersnappers!

After a few beer soaked conversations with pals, hazy plans are made to do something momentous for the big five-oh……..
Ya know, I usually hit Vegas for my birthday, the wretched Thanksgiving weekend traffic be damned.

But this year–ah—we’ll get there a different way!

And that is how, years and years after I had last ridden a dirtbike—- and my vow to never age broken—–I stand before a frozen fountain at a Barstow motel, preparing to ride across the desert.

It’s 5:30 am, it is 22 degrees.

Today I turn fifty!

OK, now imagine our testicles .......

A heroic pose before taking to the dust!

Heh. What better way to fend off the middle age crisis than a quick jaunt through the desert, yeh?

Besides, what would ya have me do? Buy a fuckin Corvette? Go lez and adopt a Chinese orphan?
Pffft–been there, done that!

Starting chute

Baptizing the Desert! We take off at 6:30 on ancient air cooled Honda XR's.
Chris has come down from Oregon for the ride, my brother John shows us the way.

Oh, I knew fifty was lurking in the shadows, alright. The stray gray pube, the strange skin tag that appears left of nipple.

But things change ever quicker as forty grows long.

I roll out of bed some mornings, groaning even before feet hit the floor. Strange aches, the payment for the youthful nights of ridiculous stunts now due.

Joints crack and pop.
Some gray Monday mornings, it sounds like a sad child playing with the bubble wrap on Chritmas afternoon: The gifts have all been opened, the toys already destroyed.


We take off toward Baker, and it's fuckin cold but beautiful.
It starts to come back: The dirt again beneath the knobbies, the familiar feel of balancing on pegs as you hold the bars lightly as holding a wounded bird.

But I’m not one to piss and moan about the loss of youth.
Hell, I feel sorry for the kids today, goddamnit!

Will they ever know the joys of blatant alcohol abuse and irresponsible sex?
To make an ass of yourself on Friday night, without a cellphone camera or Facebook account as unblinking witness?
No, I cherish the idea of being the grumpy old fuck.

Now get the hell off my lawn!!

Checkpoint at Sandy Valley. Bikes are hosed off to prevent the spread of alien fauna to the next environment. The Bikes get a shower. The riders? Hah!


Burgers and dogs in the warmth of a school gym. The finest lunch in town.

Dirty and tired, yet light of soul!

The miles slip underneath us, and the resigned moan of the big bore four strokes become the soundtrack to this film.
I think of days past, the regrets and triumphs.
Will this be the year I hang it all up?

What does the senior punker have to write his angry manifesto about anyway? High prescription prices? Loud commercials?

OK, here’s a new song for you: First you Goddamn Kids Wear Your Trousers Too Low, Now They’re Too Tight!!! What’s up With That??

Leaving Red Rock Canyon, it's all road now.....

A final jaunt through town!

The day darkens and it is cold again. The lights of the city glow on the horizon now, and it won’t be much longer.
Soon we’ll be sitting in a casino, our adventure behind us.
Feeding credits into video poker machines at a leisurely rate, just playing enough to get four free beers out of a ten dollar play.

And there I’ll be: like any other 50 year old geezer drinking on the cheap, telling corny old jokes to the jaded bartender.

The pot at the end of the rainbow!

But there’s still a few miles to go, and we’ve made it through the day without any breakdowns or drama. A couple minor falls.

We get off the highway and ride down Flamingo toward the Orleans.
At stoplights, kids stare at us from the backseats of minivans.

We’re dusty as cowboys, dressed like superheroes.

And though they don’t know the greying hair hidden by these helmets, the prescription lenses in these goggles, they still laugh and clap when we give them the thumbs up and pull a meager wheelie at the green.

For all they know, we could be young.

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