Commuter Noir

08 March, 2006 Temperature: Becoming Irrelevant

When I stepped outside this morning, the fog swirled around me like a shroud. The streetlights wore pale halos, and you could barely see the pavement from forty feet away. The gorgeous blonde dame reached for me through the doorway, whispering, “Be careful out there…”

I looked into her deep blue eyes, bright with fear, and said, “Don’t worry about me, doll. I’m bulletproof.” I gathered her into my arms for one last embrace before I disappeared into the mist. The truth was, I really would have to be careful. But there was no sense in troubling her with my problems. I ride alone.

Well, that’s not exactly true. My partner on this dark, murky commute is a tough little hombre called The Baron. He has been with me since the first snows of winter, but our partnership is almost at an end. He’s supposed to retire in twelve days, and I feel a special obligation to see that he makes it in one piece. This is always the most vulnerable time; winding down towards the end of a long and dangerous career. You get caught daydreaming at an intersection, and some clueless mug with a cellphone in one hand and a latte in the other drives a tank right over the top of you, and never looks back. I’ve seen it happen, and it isn’t pretty.

The Baron was waiting for me in the garage, as always. I thumbed the starter and he fired right up. He always did wake up a lot quicker than me. His headlights shot beams out into the misty morning, and he seemed eager to hit the road. I let him warm up a bit… for his own good. “Steady there, partner.”, I said. “We’ll get there when we get there.”

Finally, I twisted the throttle, and we rolled out into the street. I could see maybe fifty yards in front of us, so I kept our speed down to avoid any unpleasant surprises. The traffic light turned green at our approach, almost as if it could sense our presence. I began to get that creepy feeling at the nape of my neck, like somebody walking over my grave.

Old Man RiverBut we made it safely to the Old Man River Café. I parked the Baron at the curb, and ducked inside for a cuppa joe. He waited patiently for me outside, I swear I could hear him whistling. What has he got to be so darned cheerful about?

The waitress poured my coffee in her sleep, then walked back to a chair in the corner. I slugged it down hot and fast, and left a buck on the counter. No sense wasting time; we had an appointment with destiny. Outside, I got the camera out from under the Baron’s seat, and walked across the street. I wanted to get an image of him in his natural environment before they hang him by cables from the ceiling at Baron HQ. Night and fog, baby. This is our beat.

After I took his picture, the Baron seemed anxious to move along. So I climbed into the saddle without another word and we motored on into the gloom.

The sky lightened up a bit as we neared the end of West River Road. The Red KLR Guy was riding the other way, and we waved to each other. He’s been out here other mornings, when there wasn’t ice on the roads. I’ve got to find out who he is. Seems like a straight shooter, a real stand-up joe.

We made it to work safe and on time, as usual. All that foreboding this morning was just atmospheric tension, I guess. Gives a guy the willies.

Work was work, as they say. I earned my buck and then some, `till it was time to ride back the other way. In daylight, the mood was lighter, but the traffic was heavier. I kept my head on a swivel, and The Baron never missed a beat. On East River Road, just past Summit, Tom Lindsay was riding the other way on his Ice Mint Green Stella… and wouldn’t ya know it? He waved! Some of that Scooterati gang ain’t so bad, once you meet them face to face.

We passed a few gin joints, but never stopped. For some reason, I didn’t feel like wandering tonight. Must have had something to do with the fire in the dame’s eyes when I left her. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It looked like I was in for a warm welcome home.

18 Responses to “Commuter Noir”

  1. Ron Johnston Says:

    It looks like a bit of that Mickey Spillane novel rubbed off. Good stuff as usual.

  2. mnscooter Says:

    Of course it did. How could it not? This was definitely a tongue-in-cheek homage to Spillane, Hammett, Chandler, and all the other detective noir writers from the glory days of that genre. I still get off on that stuff because it’s the only way I can experience that era through the eyes of the kind of guys I would have hung out with at the time.

    Does that make sense?

    Tough guy on a little bitty scooter? HAH!!! Who’d a thunk it?

    Ride well,

  3. Dick Aal Says:

    It was a dark and stormy night…..
    Actually I have ridden in fog and it is not fun. I used to work swing shift and came home between 1:00 am and 5:00 am (hence my first divorce) from work. One morning about 1:30 am in the winter time the fog was so thick I couldn’t see the well lighted offramp signs on the overpasses on the freeway. I was on the shoulder with my amber blinker lights on hoping no cages would run over me. The funniest thing was the sense of claustrophobia that overcame me because there were no references around me. No door knob to look at on the other side of your cage, the front windshield or back area. It was freaky and very uncomfortable.
    I think I would prefer ice and snow to that feeling.

  4. Steve Williams Says:

    Great story and fantastic picture. I love night and fog. Don’t have any photographs of the Vespa in that. Morning fog is probably more likely for us.

    I could see Mike Hammer riding on the Baron in the movie “Kiss Me Deadly” instead of the sports car he drove. But don’t go around slapping everyone like he does though…

    Not looking forward to the retirement and hanging of the Baron. Just don’t warm to the idea right now. We all have a good thing going with your blog now and just hate to see what redecoration does. I’ll be brave and have faith.

    In the meantime ride safely.


  5. tiff Says:

    You know, when you start to anthropomorphise inanimate objects, it’s time to sit down and have a think……

    Also, I like the idea of “we’ll get there when we get there” - one of the first things i did is turn of the clock display on the triumph when i got it. I don’t like clocks on bikes - the journey will take as long as it takes, and the last thing I need is to be distracted by thoughts of “I should’ve been there by now” and “I was further than this this time yesterday…” never a good thing, IMHO.

    Haven’t made it to the old sod yet, the wind/tide have been against us. Maybe next weekend. In the meantime, I’m 35 on saturday, so a greek dinner is in order (usually accompanied by a garden full of bikes as all my mates turn up….)

  6. Mad Says:

    “I kept my head on a swivel”
    Nice writing Gary, I really enjoyed that. :D

  7. Seagullplayer Says:

    I feel like I owe you a dime.
    Good read, great picture.

    Rubber Down.

  8. bro shagg Says:

    Mickey Spillane meets the Lone Ranger- HIYO, SILVER, AWAY!!!


    “The Road Ranger”
    “Put your best peg forward” (I may have seen that on here already)
    “On two wheels and a prayer”

    It’s 55 here today in the Nickel City, and I’m starting to do the springtime prep on the bike- it feels good!

    Bro Shagg

  9. mnscooter Says:

    I’ve been wanting to do this “noir” thing for awhile now. Last night it all came together. I think it was the photo that set off the story in my mind.

    Thanks for the positive feedback. That’s an alter-ego I can keep in my pocket for future reference.

    I’m taking the night off from the blog again. Going scooter-shopping with my girls, and out to dinner afterwards. Spring is coming, and life is good.

    Ride well,

  10. cookees Says:

    Sounds like someone has been listening to PBS’s “A Prairie Home Companion”, ala Guy Noir, on the weekend.

  11. irondad Says:

    The writing was really good. What’s better is the frame of mind. Like you, I’m sure I would hang with them. I was born too late but then the bikes wouldn’t be as good, either. Reading your words I get a certain mood that I enjoy. I find it’s more intense for the writer. I can picture you sitting at the keyboard. The more you write the more the mental picture clarifies. The more you actually become the man you model. After the piece is done you sit there lost in your mind for a while. Just enjoying where the words and thoughts have taken you. Then, almost sadly, you shake your head and return to reality. Too bad to have to come back, isn’t it?

    Thanks for sharing. It was a much needed side trip for me today!

  12. jim Says:

    Yeah, I remember that fog crap when I lived in ne Ia. Can’t say that I miss it all that much. In fact the only thing I miss about Ia. are the friends and family that are still in that wretched place.

  13. Chris Roy Says:

    OK scooter boy listen up and listen good!

    The Boss don’t like no smart alex’s musclin’ in on his turf see? You go back to bloggin’ about scooters and stop with the detective talk and things won’t haft to get “unpleasant” …… if you know what I mean…… and think you do huh?

    Give my regards to Dollface and the Baron, smart guy!…… I’ll be watchin’ you!

  14. irondad Says:

    We don’t know nothin’ about no mafia, do we, Boss?

  15. Keith Says:

    Gary, how do you keep your hands warm in the temps you ride in? I rode to work today for the first time this year. The temp was 38 degrees. I weat a knit underglove with a heavy leather unlined outglove. After 30 minutes my hands were very cold. I also have a pair of Olympia gloves with thinsulate that are a bit warmer but more restricting.

  16. mnscooter Says:

    Cookees, I have heard of both the PHC and Guy Noir, but never actually listened to them. They sound wonderful, but are on at the wrong times for me. I always have something else to do. I get in these conversations at work, where people will start talking about something that happened on a TV show, like I am expected to know exactly what they mean… and I give them the blank stare. I feel dumb for a moment, but then I realize that I was living real life while they were watching a box within a box.

    Irondad, Mafia? We ain’t got no steenkin’ Mafia! Take care of dat screwy mug for me, willya?

    Chris, You don’t happen to do any writing yourself, do you? That was pretty good!

    Jim, you know what IOWA stands for here in MN, dontcha? The last three letters stand for Out Wandering Around. You guess the first…

    I have ridden through a few nice spots along the Mississippi River down there though. And the Baxter’s Classic British Rally is down there as well. But most of the roads? Pure agricultural gridwork. Yawn…

    Keith, I wear Coldwave leather snowmobile gloves that I bought years ago at Bob’s Cycle Supply, one of my sponsors. These are good down to about 15° F (-9°C). Colder than that, I go with leather snowmobile mittens. You can’t beat snowmobile gear for this stuff. My hands have never gotten cold inside the mittens. As a matter of fact, I’ll bet Bob’s has a clearance sale on most of that stuff right now. Check the link!

    Aerostich has some cool handwear too, but I haven’t tried any of it yet.

    Thanks for writing, everyone.

    Ride well,

  17. Kurt Layman Says:

    Great writing Gary.

    I am going to miss the Baron. Another transition in the journey of life. Would it be appropriate to have a vertual wake in his honor?

  18. mnscooter Says:

    Hey Kurt,
    I know what you mean. Let me think about that for awhile. I will come up with a fitting tribute.

    Ride well,

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