I lived in a fairly rough neighborhood in West Philadelphia during the mid-90s. Rough enough for me to be concerned about my lily white ass the day they read the OJ Simpson verdict. I will never forget the uproar and clamor of joy that shook the foundations of the community as they announced: "We the jury find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson not guilty of murder.". People were dancing in the streets, setting off fireworks left over from July 4th (couldn't afford to waste the ammo shooting anything else), smashing empty Laser malt liquor bottles and celebrating as if their 40 acres and a mule had finally come through. It sent a shiver up my spine to consider what might have happened had the verdict been guilty. Someone tagged a wall near my building with the chilling statement: "If OJ burns, Philly burns.".
The piece of shit motorcycle I rode at the time was the remains of a 1976 Suzuki GT380, dubbed "The Skunk" by an old girlfriend. The name's meaning was two-fold, first it came from the crappy rattle-can black with a white stripe down the top paint job I did on the gas tank, secondly from the cloud of smoke the two-stroke triple liked to belch forth whenever the throttle was opened. I was unaware of how to properly adjust an oil injection pump in those days, and since it was only the drivers behind me that had to deal with the smokescreen, I left well enough alone. Cut down on the tailgating.
I rode this thing 400 miles from upstate NY to Philadelphia, losing the kickstart lever while passing through Syracuse. Lack of electric start meant I had to bump it off at every fuel stop. I remember a bunch of middle-aged dudes riding Goldwings laughing at me as I ran alongside, then jumped on the luggage laden machine and let out the clutch lever, praying it would fire. (If you are unfamiliar with proper motorcycle bump-start technique, read about it here.) The shocks were shot, the front forks weeped oil, helping the bike handle like a U-Haul with six flat tires on an iced over slalom course. The tachometer didn't work, the speedometer read 65mph at a standstill, it may have had brakes but I never actually felt them do anything. The seat was recovered with vinyl material from a 1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle that I accidentally set on fire in my backyard (story for another time). It had newish tires on it, installed by a dealer who didn't bother to balance them, when I asked why the service manager said, "You want us to balance the wheels on that thing?". Needless to say it danced around pretty good when you hit about 65 (or 130 mph according to the wacky speedo). But it was paid for ($300!), it ran ok, and it was all mine.
Not for long.
|I have no pictures of "The Skunk", but this is a GT380, to give you an idea.|