Tuesday, April 12, 2005

You Can Call Me Scooter

In 1966 Bob Dylan was at the top of the world and why shouldn't he have been? In less than a two-year period he released three stunning LPs, Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde. Songs like "Like a Rolling Stone," "Mr. Tambourine Man," and "Visions of Johanna" went to places seldom ventured before or since. His lyrics dove deep within his psyche with equal flashes of insightful brilliance and beauty. His music was wild and mercurial. It seemed as if Dylan was poised to change the world with the strum of his guitar and each and every one of his songs were deciphered for hidden messages.

Then it all came crashing down. News spread that Dylan had crashed his motorcycle and the rumored severity of his injuries ranged from death to disfigurement, from a broken neck and brain damage to a cut leg. Whatever it was (and many speculate it was his way of escaping the madness that was swallowing him up whole and allowing time for quiet recuperation) his music never quite was the same again. In a way seeing how Dylan was forced like many other artists to grow up in a vacuum at an accelerated rate, perhaps the crash was symbolic of his first mid-life crisis.

I'm centuries from the place Bob Dylan was in 1966 even though I feel about as tired as he must have felt back then. Having turned 40 it was probably well within time for me to have a similar crisis. And like much of my life the way this crisis manifested itself wasn't quite the same as is the norm for other people. You read every now and then about some folks my age who deal with a mid-life crisis by going out and buying a Porsche or a Corvette. I went out and bought me a scooter.

It's a fancy little green 49cc retro style scooter that can whip up to 40 miles per hour. Some may label it a moped but there is nothing mopey about my scooter. It zips and zooms and when I open up the throttle it races along like a bat out of hell.

A couple of my co-workers and I went to look at scooters last weekend having gotten sick of rising gas prices and inflated downtown Minneapolis parking rates. We got to test ride a raspberry colored Twist and Go Venice model at Scooterville near Dinkytown. I hadn't planned on plopping my stash of nickels on the counter but after having ridden the scooter I felt I had no choice. Yes the pencil width exhaust pipe might suggest that it putters more than powers along but believe me if I put my kitties on board they would howl mighty loud in sheer fear.

I had to wait four days to pick up my scooter and when my friend dropped me off at Scooterville I have to admit I was a bit nervous about riding it home in the rush hour traffic. I stayed well under the speed limit not wanting to feel overly confident about my riding abilities. I was soon reminded of one of the things that keeps me from riding my bike very often- I don't like making left turns in traffic with cars behind and in front of me. Having stayed to the far right it meant I had to cross over a few lanes and sit there in the middle of things as the far bigger vehicles buzzed in every direction.

After enduring my first left turn I decided I would try to come up with a makeshift route home that meant I didn't have to turn left anymore. Unfortunately this probably meant a detour through southern Afghanistan so I bit the bullet and did what I needed to do. Soon I was sailing along, the predictable Steppenwolf song playing in my head accompanied by my own sound effect of yelping "zoom, zoom!" at the top of my lungs.

I love the sensation of scootering. There is something quite liberating about turning back the handle, letting the gas flow and zipping ahead with the air briskly flowing by your face. It's quite possible that such a feeling was part of the inspiration Dylan felt all those years ago. Yes it was a by the gut impulse buy but even if it means an inevitable crash somewhere down the road, I think the road between here and there will be quite the fun filled journey.

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