Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Last November, out of necessity, I embarked on a new career path teaching high school auto shop. I can honestly tell you that I had never even considered teaching an option until the opportunity presented its self. Why would I? I did not attend a four year university. Hell, I never even set foot in a College until my wife began to earn her degree several years ago (which she earned last summer). Truth is...school just wasn't my thing. Besides that, I have only ever had a passion, I mean a REAL passion for three things my entire life; cars (specifically Mustangs), BMX and custom motorcycles. I think that all three of these things compliment each other splendidly and to be honest, I have been fairly successful at all three.
From 1978 until 1989 my BMX bikes and I were inseparable. It began with a Huffy Thunder Roads with the #54 plates and ended in 1989 with an Ozone Method Air that cost more than my first car (which I bought the same year). I had dozens of them and whenever I bought a new complete bike, the first thing I did was disassemble it and put a bunch of my old parts on it. I liked having the latest, greatest stuff...but I never wanted to have the same shit as the next guy. I ate, slept, walked and talked BMX 24 hours a day seven days a week. I managed my own trick riding team (Team X), attended Woodward BMX camp three years in a row (all on my own lawn mowing money) and competed Flatland at the "Expert" level with moderate success. Matt Hoffman and the rest of the Haro team dined at my house and I was even invited to go in the Haro van to Ohio and back for a couple of shows. I could quote the movie Rad word for word, I published my own Zine (even though I am most likely the only who actually read it) and considered the entire experience a success...even if only a slight one. I only quit riding once I realized that no self respecting girl (although I cant say that at 16 years old I was looking for any girl that was "self-respecting") was going to ride on my pegs to a school dance. It was time to move on.
My love affair with Mustangs began before I could walk, talk, or even knew what one was. So for all intents and purposes this chapter should have preceeded the one on BMX. However, since this is an order of importance story, we can leave things where they lie for now. My dad had a Chocolate brown 1965 Mustang fastback with a 289 "Cleveland" Hi-po. It had Ansen front mags with Volkwagen tires and a four speed transmission. Those of you that know Ford engines know that there is no such thing as a Cleveland 289. However, there is a Cleavor (which is a Cleveland headed Windsor) and although this can be neither confirmed or denied as the whereabouts of said Mustang are unknown, we will just leave this story to the lore of yesteryear and allow my dad to bask in the glory of his youthful exploits on Telegraph road. My personal affair began in high school and carried me all the way until I was thirty years old at which time I switched gears again, on a dime moving on to the next big thing in my life...motorcycles. After fourteen years I had decided that I had achieved all I cared to achieve racing, building and modifying 5-liter Mustangs and I had no stone left unturned. I set out to build a fast stang and did so. My stock suspension, big block powered 5-liter Mustang was capable of 9 second quarter mile times without the aid of any power adders and could do so in street legal form. The personalized license plate said it all: "UDELOSE"...many did.
Motorcycling was in my future my entire childhood and adolescence, I just didn't know it. At least I never thought I would catch the fever. That fever has turned into a full blown addiction. As a result, I quit my profession in the auto industry, opened a custom bike shop, started getting tattooed and built several custom motorcycles. Growing up, my Dad was always dragging some ill maintained, barely alive motorcycle with an unknown origin and most certainly a checkered past back to his lair where each bike was carefully dismantled and the parts were inventoried. Small parts were put in baggies and most parts were hung on peg board in our basement or garage unless they were too heavy or too large to hang. I never gave motorcycles a second thought. I didn't have to. Growing up the son of a biker made them part of the landscape. I knew about them without ever having worked on one and between the experience of building and rebuilding my BMX bikes and all of the mechanical repairs performed on my various Mustangs I owned over the years, my segue into the motorcycle realm was seamless. Everyone was surprised just how fast I was able to transition into motorcycling as a profession...even me. I have had bike on the cover of a motorcycle magazine and a few featured inside too. Bikes that I have built have won trophies almost my height and just like my BMX bikes, the first thing I do when I buy a new one is dismantle it and put some of my old parts on it. Like I said, I want the latest greatest shit, but I do not want some dork pulling up to me at a stop light riding the exact same bike as mine with the exact same chrome covers over the stock chrome covers as my bike has.
I have always admired someone who is really talented at something regardless of the talent. When I see someone sit down at a piano I get mesmerized. My former business partner Evan could do that. I only seen him do it once that I remember but it was cool. There are people that can juggle (which Evan could also do), there are people that can play guitar, shape metal, weld...you get the idea. It takes years to master anything. No matter what the skill. Even Tiger Woods, who has spent his entire adult life in the limelight, spent his entire childhood playing golf and attending school instead of playing with friends and in general...being a kid.
I have been successful (to a degree) at everything I have tried. Success is in the eye of the beholder (as is beauty) and as far as I am concerned there is very little left to challenge me. Even teaching, which I have zero formal training in, has been pretty easy. Have I mastered it? No...but I am successful at it, as I am with anything I do. I may sound pompous, and I have always been a little arrogant, but then I have tried to do a lot of things in my lifetime. I just haven't mastered any. Maybe that in and of its self is the talent that I HAVE mastered; the one that gives me the confidence to try new things even though the path to success isn't always clearly paved.
I hope that my children inherit my confidence to try new things but I hope that they also inherit their mother's desire to master a skill. Between the two of us I think we make a good team!