Sunday, January 23, 2011

Salt of the Earth...Life Lessons

A few years ago while at the local Hot Rod and Bike night, I recognized (Pepe) that used to work at the HD dealership around the way, Pepe had been turning wrenches in the same dealer since before most of us were even a twinkle in our fathers blue jeans. He's seen all kinds come and go, The evolution of 5 Harley power plant generations, HD's corporate structure, and the varying costumes of the folks that walk the showroom floor. That was until 2004, choosing to turn his back on the very place he had cut his teeth.
He said "He could no longer bare witness or touch another ugly girl in an ugly dress" and walked out.... He was referring to the V-Rod while at a meeting of HD's Corp Big Wigs...
What does he care? Hes never been a fan of Evo's or TwinCams, he keeps a stable of 2 Knucks, a sweet Oldsmobile and a parts stash that Indiana Jones would spend an eternity trying to uncover...The 46 Knuck is far from a garaged trophy, having been ridden just about anywhere and everywhere for more years then most of todays "bikers" have bike week Tshirts.

Even with being somewhat of a legend around these parts, many know of Pepe, can attest to his craftsmanship and wish for his knowledge but not many people can muster the courage to approach him.
From what I was told he's Archie Bunker with a Buco Helmet and a road proven leathers, just an opinionated old fella, that will tell you to keep your grubby yuppie fingers off his bike or just put ya lights out without warning.
Pepe grew up in the same section of Brooklyn as my father, and maybe the era or location molded men to be men in this fashion, but there is no question something in the similarities between them is uncanny. Rough and Tumble, but genuinely true type of fellas.

About 3 years ago he caught me admiring his scoot when over my shoulder in the dark cast of a looming shadow comes... "Ya know what ya lookin at kid?" Now having studied every inch of just about every year knuck, I was certain of its 46 date of birth, with all correct bits in all the correct places right down to the Army Surplus bars and correct fillister head screws in the dash panel, he was somewhat impressed, but still unmoved by this youngin.
A few weeks pass where, I'd run into him again and struck up a conversation, we get to bullshitting and he began lightening up a bit, perhaps even taking a shine to this young kid on a Triumph.

Friday night rolls around and I find myself at the local HotRod and Bike Meet once again, this time Pepe summons me over, to where his crew of usual heavies are parked along the wall under the tressel, among his crew was Freddie-Fritz (The Father of "Spritz by Fritz") and Bob McQueen Legendary Motor Builder and Machinist as well as a few other heavies from my area...we get to bullshitting again about everything from motorcyles to politics... and every week Id run into him at Friday night meets and bullshit for a few amongst the endless sea of obsessively chromed Harley's and their owners tirelessly polishing spokes on bended knee of designer jeans. Now 3 years later we've become pretty chummy, Swaps, Coffee and old guy jokes. When a few weeks ago, his asthma really put a hit on him, laying him up for a few, in which time Id check up on him and see how he's doing through Freddie.

Come this one Friday night, I make my usual 3 street corner journey, up to the station and to my elation there stands Pepe, back on 2 wheels and in his usual spot. Its kinda odd that this man I know all of but 3 years, absent from my friday night ritual is no longer missing and Im that much relieved knowing he's back on 2 wheels and keeping the tradition.

Happy to see my old friend, I extend a hand and welcome him back, "Its damn good to see ya Pep!" when reaching from his back pocket he comes up with a folded cellophane wrapper containing an item which he places in my hand and says "This is for you kid"
Unfolding the wrapper I see a hand engraved Belt buckle straight out of the glory days bearing an identical 1970 Triumph Daytona to the one I own. Turns out in Pepe's travels, he had spied this gem on a flea market table and thought it to be a fitting gift.
Now yes the buckle is nothing short of the most amazing joining piece to any belt, but the shear fact that in the midst of being laid up with asthma, the thought crossed his mind as he saw the buckle.
I couldn't tell you if I was more happy to have received it, as he was to give it to me....But this is where, sadly the difference between generations has gone a skew, the buckle to me meant more then a gift, it was more of a lesson in life, these days people far to often think of themselves first and foremost. Often tending to overlook simple things, things that can be as easily over looked as items on a flea market table, because they are to pre-occupied with their own agenda to stop and think of something simplistic that can be done for another. A handshake used to mean something, families ate together at the same dinner table many times feeding the neighbors kid as well, children learned trades passed on from their elders, and people took a genuine interest in helping others, imagine..... sometimes it was even a perfect stranger.
You can have more friends then your able to count, but a person that can teach you the true meaning of humanity with a simple "Salt of the Earth."
Thanks Pepe....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's're only gonna have a handful of real friends in this world, Pepe is one worth having.