This is a short vignette of a time long ago in the 1960s. Lots happened back then. This is a snapshot of a short span of time in a very long decade.
I first met Cliff (Sonny then) in Hollywood. A roommate in a large house on S Hobart Blvd in LA, Pat de Turk, introduced me to him. He had recently come to Hollywood after working in the South for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Before that he had been a grad student at UNAM, Mexico City. Sonny had a red Chevy pickup that had “SNCC” black on a white tailgate. I thought that was a ballsy thing to do while traveling in the south in 1960s. He also had a “chop” with a bodacious rake. (Great to ride on a freeway but you don’t want to make a sharp U turn on one.)
Cliff was about seven years older than I was and I suppose I admired him for his suave, suede-ness, and his lady Wendy. So it is when your 20. We eventually became neighbors across the street from Barney’s Beanery (when it was owned by Barney) at 1111 Hacienda place in West Hollywood. He and Wendy lived directly above me and my girlfriend at the time, Anita. I met many of people from the movement there, folks like Julian Bond who had been in the South and had good war stories. I mostly kept my mouth shut.
Cliff (Sonny) was also a filmmaker and a biker. He had designed the “Captain America” and “Billy” bikes seen in the film “Easy Rider.” Cliff and Ben Hardy (Ben Hardy’s motorcycles) built the bikes, which have become icons of avant garde bikes. Riding in the ‘60s was an organic experience where an automobile license was all you needed and the feel of the wind in your hair was like an acid trip.
My Ducati 250 had been stolen and Cliff took me down to Hardy’s motorcycle shop on W. Florence to have a Harley put together from parts that came from the police impound. It was to be a, rigid frame, a ’57 panhead w/’48 springer front end – it cost $800. It was a lovely machine redolent with the smell of freshly leaded exhaust and rocket-like acceleration. It was truly a suicide machine even though the clutch was on the handlebar. My toolkit was a few wrenches, a tube of Locktite and spare nuts, a roll of duct tape, bolts, and washers. The intervening years have dimmed the memories of summer days pushing 500 lbs of iron to the next garage and searching for wire to hold it together,
One time I was getting on a freeway on ramp and my 21” front tire bounced on the rain gutters cut into the on ramp. The front end went way over to the right and I said my prayer “oh, shit” and began my emergency dismount but the bike recovered and went way over to the left (finding the resonant frequency of the rain grooves). Another prayer and the god of damped oscillations took over and I came out of it.
VITAE SUMMA BREVIS SPEM NOS VETAT INCOHARE LONGHAM
(The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long – Horace)
They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
We are all over 65 now. Cliff (Cliff in Ensenada) is an expatriate liveaboard on what appears to be a 36-ft sloop (Cliff interview} . Last I heard he was about to leave Port for unknown shores. I live in Ventura and blog.