In my travels, I often come across old rusting wrecks of “steel” sitting proudly in the front yard of people I will never meet. The prominence of placement often echos a sad story of remembrance, hoping to be forgotten, but too painful to let go. Each seemingly tells a story of a long past important story or event, asking the world outside to also remember. It is as these old wrecks are offered as trophy’s or monument to the world. “This is my badge. I wear it, as much as in honor as in pain. Here is my proof. Here is my story”. As I ride by, each begs it’s story to be told to all who would stop. I am one who listened as the rust spoke. These are the stories each forgotten piece of iron has told me as I capture their imagery.
“On the pipeline, young boys were forged, by the hammers they wielded, into men of steel”
Most of us were just regular fella’s from across this great land. Soldiers, cowboys, city folk, plow hands, sailors. I had come from the shipyards in Hamburg, with Frederick, my younger brother. I was both strong and skilled with a hammer, capable of leading men to the task. Frederich would have to learn. It was 1907, and we were looking for opportunity, any opportunity, wherever we could find it. Men of all ages came by the hundreds to pound plates of iron into pipes, that would carry water from the mountains to some far off growing city they called Los Angeles. They said it couldn’t be done. Many of us had just come from the old country. We didn’t quite understand his words, but we knew what he wanted. We knew it would be hard. We knew we could build his pipeline. He asked for our backs, we gave him our lives.
We toiled for twelve hours a day, six days a week, for five long years, most often in the hot sun, bare backs, sweating, burned, and always thirsty. Blisters and sore muscles were standard fare, especially for the tenderfoot. We knew the task we were entrusted to complete, brought life to the city many of us would soon call home, so we worked on, through the pain and fatigue wielding a ten pound hammer would bring daily. The dream of fame and riches for the men who would bring life to a parched earth, kept us going, but I knew, some would never survive this grueling feat of engineering, he said would be the greatest man-made wonder of the modern world. It didn’t matter, I had a task to complete. I gave him my word. The pipeline would be completed, on time…
That very next year, I laid my brother to rest in the shadows of Mulholland’s pipeline. He would have been fifteen.
Oh…if it’s the truck you’re interested in, it’s not for sale. What? Just a photo. No harm I suppose. That’ll be OK. Just don’t climb inside or nothin’.
It was my pops. ‘34 Chevy ton and a half. Biggest damn hauler in town…..at the time. It was the first “new” truck in these parts, cause of the depression and all. Well it was ‘bout six or seven years old when he bought it from a lady down in Lewiston. Her husband got killed at the mill down in Bovill. It’s the other side of town. It’s closed now. I worked there myself, thirty-five years. My pop got it real cheap since nobody had any money back then. He’d only drove it a year before he went off to the war. WWII! The big one. Fought the Jap’s. Before that he was the only hauler in town. Carried just about anything up from Lewiston. Even hauled a bunch of military hardware for the navy, to some lake up north. After the war I found out they were doing submarine testing up there. Real top secret stuff. Right after that dad shipped off. I guess that’s why dad joined the navy, cause he was already workin’ for em. Naw, dad never came home. He was killed at Midway.
I never even met him. Mom was pregnant with me when he left. Mom told me how he loved driving that truck, so I kept it, made me feel kinda close to him. When I was a kid, I used to sit inside and talk to him ‘bout all sorts of stuff. Dad and son stuff. Drove it myself for a couple of years, after I grew up, you know ….just for fun. Not too much cause of how old she was by then.
When I had my boy, I figured we’d fix her up, you know, just for fun. We started on the engine when he was just seventeen, and then one god damn day, my kid, he goes and joins the “God damn Marines.” I was so pissed, cause of how my dad died and such. I didn’t even say goodbye when he shipped off. Six months later he goes MIA in Nam. That was back in ‘68. The day they came by to let me know, I just pulled her out of the garage and parked her there so he’d know he was welcome home. To let him know I still loved him. You know, to say I’m sorry. It’s been there ever since. I’d figure to move the damn thing when he came home cause it’s such an eyesore. Piece of junk just sitting there in my front yard. They never found him.
No……it’s not for sale. My son and I are gonna fix it up… when he comes home.
“For darn near forty years, I drove that ole Ford to an from the Canyon… delivering supplies an fixins’ for all them city slickers that come up to the rim to take a gander over the edge. The Canyon…The Grand Canyon. It’s deeper from this side, and higher up the hill, long way to drive four times a week. Aahh, I don’t know, I guess I carried all kinds of loads; bread, tires, tried ice once. That didn’t work. Showed up with water. Hauled up eight trunks fulla hell who know what, for some Hollywood big-shot and his little blonde mistress so they could see the canyon one night! She was some looker. Think her name was Eva. Then one day she just quit…the Ford I mean. I had to tow her down myself cause no one would even try since she was so darn heavy. She’s a big-un that ford, bigger than the tow-mater down at the garage that showed up to pull her home. Cost me fifty bucks, Jez..us, to get him up on the hill, an he couldn’t even pull her out. I hadta rent one of them big rig haulers from over in St. George to get her. This is where I dropped her. She’s been here ever since. I just couldn’t give her up to the scrap yard, not after all them years. She took care of me, many a times. saved my life morn’ once. I just couldn’t let her go. No…I don’t drive Fords any more, kinda like and old girl friend I use to have. Redhead! I never dated a redhead again either…you just don’t go back….ever!” Not to Ford, not to redheads. If they ever let you down…Nope. Never married. Why’d you ask?
Today I stopped by one of the most famous motorcycle “hang-outs” in the world. If you’re not understanding why, that’s OK. You really need to understand the motorcycle culture to get it. Just how famous and far back does the Ace Cafe go? Marlon Brando did his “biker guy” study before he became the famous “rebel”. It’s the home of the “cafe racer” motorcycle style, “the rocker” and the original Harley look. British bikers gangs were wearing black jackets, slicked hairdos, and lineman’s boots way before Harley Davidson became a cult classic with the US biker set. It all took place at the Ace Cafe. That’s why I went there. Motorcycle history.
Nothing to look at. Nothing exciting going on, unless you consider the VW/Audi car owners meeting in the parking lot, ( hey, Brits drive as far as 150 miles to one of these meetings), no wild motorcycle antics in the parking lot. It was just a Wednesday evening. Friday is bike night where as much as 3,000 bikes show up every week to just come to the “Ace”. I’ve now seen where motorcycle culture took place. That’s why I went there.
I sat there…..in the “red one”
Imagine two thousand year old marble steps leading to beautiful carved marble columns with the sunset lending just enough light to offer a view that nowhere in the US could you see. You’re standing there, in your mind, hold the ones you care about the most, in total awe of the beauty and history before you. Breathtaking isn’t it? That’s what I’ve been able to do, although its been solo most of the time. Now look down at the steps. Look closely. Everywhere you look, there are cigarette butts and black bubblegum stains marring the landscape. See them now? There are everywhere. Like a plague or infestation of insects filling every void and blotches covering every step you make.
Absolutely disgusting! Everywhere I traveled throughout Europe, visiting cities that were sometimes a thousand years old, with beautiful building and plazas of granite and marble, I saw the ugly blemishes of bubblegum and cigarettes. Yesterday at Buckingham Palace, right in front of the main gate, I witnessed an American tourist, standing not five feet from the gate, take a piece of gum out of his mouth and throw it to the ground. Horsewhipping would have been too lenient. “Keel hauling” would be far mor appropriate, ( Keelhauling: a form of punishment meted out to sailors at sea. The sailor was tied to a line that looped beneath the vessel, thrown overboard on one side of the ship, and dragged under the ship’s keel, either from one side of the ship to the other, or the length of the ship (from bow to stern). As the hull was usually covered in barnacles and other marine growth, if the offender was pulled quickly, keelhauling would typically result in serious cuts, loss of limbs and even decapitation. If the victim was dragged slowly, his weight might lower him sufficiently to miss the barnacles, but this method would frequently result in his drowning.) Appropriate in my mind to anyone who should consider desecrating the grounds of the Queen, or for that matter any o e of the thousands of historical sites I visited throughout my travels.
Last week in Prague, a city hundreds of years old. It looks like the setting for any Disney fairytale story, I noticed on the steps leading up to the castle, ( forgot the name but there is a photo here somewhere), there were literally tens of thousands of “Wrigley’s” left-overs covering the steps. But it didn’t stop there. As I climbed the last few steps, about one fifty or so, I witnessed a man, toss his cigarette box onto the ground not two feet from the trash can. After he smoked, he threw the butt, or rather flicked it out towards the center of the courtyard instead of into the ash bin, on tip of every trash receptacle I saw. Keel hauling for him? Naw…he should be forced by the Stasi or whatever they call the secret police in the Czech Republic, to pick up every butt with his mouth. Maybe it will help stop his craving for cigarettes. In Rome standing outside my hotel, smoking a cigar, I looked down into a grating on the sidewalk. There were over five thousand cigarette butts down in the vent below. Five thousand, at least. I put my cigar butt out in the receptacle at the entrance to the hotel, just four feet away. Apparently smokers have difficulty making those tow steps after their last puff. Dumb asses!
In Rome, London, Antwerp, Hamburg, Venice, and most everywhere tourists congregate, the story was the same. The “butts and bubblegum” were so prevalent, it was hard not to see. Now I can’t say how much of this is caused by Americans but I’m sure we are a large contributor to the filth, and it wasn’t so mush from the kids. There just isn’t as many there. The butts, euro’s are to blame here. They are the worst offenders since almost every Euro smokes, men or women, and they both don’t seem to care about tossing their butt anywhere.
Luckily the rain comes offer here. At least the rain washes the streets and steps clean of the cigarettes even though it most likely ends up polluting the waters somewhere. The bubblegum; it will most likely be here until Rome is resurrected.
It’s no wonder they put barriers around the Mona Lisa. If they didn’t some dumb ass tourists would stick a wad of gum there too.
Throughout my travels I’ve noticed that everywhere I go, Europeans, no matter where they are from, don’t dress for anyone but themselves. They dress for what makes them feel…well, them. Fashionable? Yes, but not any particular fashion trend that we Americans follow. Yes, the standard uniform of jeans is prevalent, but not to American jean standards. Euro’s step way out of the box when it comes to fashion. “I don’t care what you think, I dress for for me” is how I perceive most to be. A lot more dresses in everyday life. Actually very nice to see. The variety of color combinations and styles is as different as the languages. Another thing I notice, the bolder the style, the more confidence the individual seem to be. Even the teens are more bold in their personal statements, and with some real style too. I didn’t see one single jogging suit on a senior citizen either. Now here I have seen real style. I watched an old couple walking the square last night with heads held high as if on parade. Well dressed and looking great. It was almost an honor to sit and watch.
During the day, if a girl wasn’t in work dress, they were out with minimal prep, absolutely secure in their look and style. Won’t find that at home. Riding a bicycle, in a dress too, without care of who saw what. The men, more often in suits or sport jackets of different colors, jeans in orange, lime, rust, yellow. Again never gonna happen in the US. Nothing seemed too outlandish by American standards.
In the evenings when everyone comes out to dine and stroll the squares and boulevards, individualism was the norm. A thousand different styles and colors. Not like the restaurants and clubs where I come from. We have black with black and occasionally we wear black….and always with blue jeans. Are we more like the Chinese of Chairman Mao, that we must all dress and look alike to fit in? Are we afraid to stand out for fear of being singled out as different?
Why you may ask do I write about this? Europeans seem to be far more confident as to who they are. Fat, or wrinkled, or skinny, or plain Jane, it didn’t matter, they are who they are, and what they looked like didn’t seem to have any bearing on who they were or how they moved about in the life they live.
Imagine in America if we adopted this outlook on who we were? Europeans don’t seem to care. Maybe that’s why we think they don’t like us. It’s not true though, euro’s love America. They just want to interpret us in their own way. Nothing wrong with that.
No European tour would be complete without visiting Holland, or the Netherlands, as they are now called, and it’s well known city, Amsterdam. It’s beautiful! Has as many canals as Venice, maybe more, beautiful old plazas and narrow winding streets. The people are very friendly. The people are friendly…..probably because half of them are higher than a get out on marijuana. There wasn’t a street I rode down or walked on, in the central part, (old), part of the city that didn’t have the sweet aroma of “pot” wafting through the air. As I looked more closely and started to listen to the conversations, I began to notice a trend. Most of the people I saw and heard spoke ” American” English. Amsterdam is full of young “pot-heads” on a high holiday. Everything goes here…and after walking the streets at night…everything does indeed. Prostitutes plying their wares in storefront windows, pot for sale everywhere, and the smell of marijuana so strong I’m sure the light headedness I was feeling was from all the smoke in the air. I’m allergic to pot. It makes my head turn to concrete. I can’t breathe and my eyes burn. Amsterdam’s cool but I gotta get out of this neighborhood. Nothing much to see outside the old city center so after a few photos, I’m off to Belgium and Antwerp, the city famous for diamonds. And no girls, I’m not bring home gifts.
Just to show you how I have spent some of my nights in Europe, I took a few photos of a “deluxe” room in Amsterdam.
….and in total transparency, I am staying here for the next two nights. It’s in Antwerp.
My first evening in Antwerp.
I sat here and looked at this for dinner.
Spent the day riding my bike through Hamburg exploring one of the largest shipping ports for Europe. It was a beautiful day and Germans were out everywhere enjoying the weekend. One thing I noticed here more than Berlin or anyplace else in Europe, except Rome; Germans here are very affectionate people. They not only walk hand in hand but quite often I saw couples of all ages walking with arms wrapped around each other. Dozens of couples in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s embracing while strolling down the boulevard wherever i stopped to look or snap a few photos. Fathers holding hands with their sons,mor walking with arms around each others shoulders. Moms holding hands with teenage daughters, and of course lovers locked together everywhere. You don’t see this in America, not this much. Not even in Las Vegas where thousand go for ” that romantic get-away” were there as many people embracing like I saw here. I got the feeling family was on top of the importance list here. It’s too bad Americans don’t see this. I think we could all learn something.
Another thing I observed; America’s fastfood craze is taking hold here. That is not a good thing. In the Czech Republic and south through Italy, fastfood was more of an anomaly. Here it’s everywhere. The effects of it can be seen in the people. One thing that hasn’t taken hold like America, you certainly can’t get your drink “super sized”. When you order a soda, what you get is a 0.2 liter bottle. That’s less than half the size of a regular can of soda….and it costs 5,00€, or about $7.50 for a sip of soda. The beer on the other hand comes in big and bigger. Costs less too. Go figure….
Teenagers can drink beer and wine at 14, go to clubs at 16 with a letter from mom, drink hard alcohol at 18 and puke on the sidewalk just like American teens….holy sheet, I feel old today. I just can’t see this as OK. When I get home, I will be putting my daughter into lockdown until she’s 21. She just turned 13 and its already beginning to scare me. Just kidding sweetheart……or not!
Today was also Hamburgs international triathlon event. Held downtown with top athletes from all over the world, ( the American won). He was so far ahead of the other participants it was almost sad. It was interesting to watch the bike section through the downtown streets.
And then the art junk I have been producing with a limited editor on the iPad.
I’ve never seen so many bachelor and bachelorette parties in one place than this. Hamburg, in northern Germany has a unique street known throughout Europe. The “Reeperbahn” is a ten block long party similar to Las Vegas every Friday and Saturday night, especially in the warm summer nights. Clubs, bars, showgirls…transvestites, nude shows and more, door to door along the boulevard. Most any type of food, and I would guess, most any type of other entertainment.
Tens of thousands of people of all ages walking in the warm night. Since it doesn’t get dark until after nine most don’t even come out to party until ten. Germans, Swedes, czech’s and Russians, but mostly Germans out on a Saturday night having fun. Every few minutes another bachelorette party walked by selling cheap novelties or a kiss for a € euro or two in order to raise money to pay for fun. Apparently it’s a tradition. The bachelors dress in all sorts of strange costumes in order to command attention. They do…and then there’s the hawkers of adult shows every few feet. Except for the language, I felt like I was on the strip in Vegas.
I spend some time talking to a pretty young German girl and her male companion who is a local and a regular at the club we were sitting in front of. Proficient in English after spending seven months in Australia kicking about, we talked about Hamburg and it party scene. She would have fit right in to the LA club scene for people her age, just 23. World traveler, educated, and spoke English. I actually had fun talking to her. As of most girls her age, soon she was off to another club with her male friend in tow. How women do this to us men, I’ll never know. She smiled and told him what they were doing and he obeyed, and they were just friends.
Exploration and pictures tomorrow…after I finally get up. It’s 2:50 AM. I still haven’t figured out how these people stay up until all hours of the night and when I finally get up, they’ve already been at work for half the day.