A few days ago, I was talking on the phone with my cousin Matt, which in itself, isn’t an unusual occurrence. We have a rather small family and Matt and I are the closest in age. As such, we have many shared experiences. Matt has been in the geology field since he graduated college, but my career path has traversed a zig-zagging route to get to where I am today. He and his older brother Harry, who’s been an attorney for eons, have had lots of laughs poking fun at my various vocations, whether paid or volunteer.
In the early 1980’s I joined a community ambulance corps in the town where I lived—Pringle, Pennsylvania, which had a population of about 1,000 residents. When I passed the EMT course (MAST certified, no less), I was given the rank of lieutenant. Although my involvement didn’t last long, for years afterward I was known by Matt and Harry as Leftenant Kleiman, always pronounced in a clipped British accent. And my joining the Iron Knights MC in Newark, New Jersey, 14 years ago invoked a whole ’nother level of hilarity, with much time spent endlessly deliberating over the seeming dichotomy of a female also being a knight. The level of affection coming from that branch of the family seems to be directly proportional to how much they bust your chops.
Anyway, I told Matt that I couldn’t stay on the phone long because it was press week, and he decided that was his cue to ask a stream of detailed questions involving my work, such as, “What, exactly, does an editor for THUNDER PRESS do?” I gave some examples of my writings, mentioning my column “The Shadow Knows.” Matt asked, “Is it like Dear Abby for bikers? Do people write in asking for advice?” I began to respond, “No, that’s not what I…” and then stopped short. A personal advice column for bikers? Brilliant!
While mulling over the inspiration that Matt had unwittingly provided me with, I realized that this issue contains my 75th “One for the Road” column. It just might be time for a new challenge. So I immediately reached out to my comadre Felicia, THUNDER PRESS NorCal bureau chief, to find out if she’d ever received any letters asking for advice. She mentioned that a young woman had once asked her how to be sure the guy she’s interested in is a real biker, and Felicia’s take on it was that he would have to display exactly the right amount of bug patina on his leathers as proof he didn’t just buy the lifestyle and was a genuine biker as opposed to a weekender. I would also advise that she observe whether his hands are rough and if he has grease under his fingernails, both of which can indicate that he actually works on his own ride.
Then there are women who need advice on how to snag a biker. Felicia suggested that females apply Gunk-Out perfume since men love the smell of clean parts. I was leaning more toward a beef jerky-scented fragrance—you know the old adage that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach—until I remembered an experience I’d had 10 years ago at the Donnie Smith Bike Show in St. Paul. A handsome young man walked over to me as I admired a homebuilt bike in the competition, sniffed the air, and asked, “What are you wearing?” He said I smelled like nitromethane and it got him really excited. I was actually wearing Egyptian musk oil, but pheromones are a funny thing. I guess Felicia was on the right track.
Not long ago I saw a post in an online forum by a 49-year-old man who, after making a killing on some business deal, decided he needed a new toy in the form of a Dark Custom something-or-other. He was baffled by all the options for men’s biker garb, and wanted to make sure that he was not only dressed appropriately, but fit in with other riders. His question was, “Should I get the pre-ripped Abercrombie & Fitch Super Skinny Jeans in Destroyed Medium Wash or the Urban Outfitters Koto Haight Tapered Skinny Jean in faded destroyed denim?” The post hung there unanswered, but my two cents would have been, “Neither. You have aged out of hipsterdom and should be earning those rips in your jeans, not buying them pre-torn.”
Here’s one that applies to both sexes: “When I change the air in my tires for the upcoming riding season, what color should the new air be?” Well, you can always go with this year’s spring fashion colors of Radiant Orchid or Celusia Orange. But what I’d recommend is following the advice of Colorado Jeff, a longtime Sportster rider that I met online through the now-defunct Sportster.org forum. If I remember correctly, he insisted on red air for spring (makes the bike go faster) and blue in the winter. Of course he had a vested interest in this biannual online discussion as he bottled colored Colorado air and sold it over the Internet.
Now that I have my patter down pat, the next order of business is to choose a correspondent name. Both Abby and Ann Landers were pseudonyms, and Dear Shadow doesn’t roll trippingly off the tongue. Motor Momma? Nah… How about Lefty Lucy? Sounds a whole lot better than Righty Tighty, doesn’t it?
Maybe my responses are too harsh. Maybe I’m too sarcastic. Maybe I’m not the best person for this type of column, but I’m still convinced it’s a terrific idea.
Regarding Shadows advice column, maybe she could resurrect Easyriders’ Miraculous Mutha. “She” was always straight to the point and pulled no punches. Hmm, sounds like Shadow.