The grit of the past may be needed for the future
am i really seeing this? Something’s not right. He’s moving, but he’s not riding the bike. I mean, he’s not on the motorcycle. It looks as if he’s wrangling a molting wildebeest as it rages through dense, rush-hour traffic.
I crack the throttle to bring the apparition nearer. Closer now, flapping fur becomes loose bits of dun-colored shag carpet peeling away from battered bodywork. To no one, I shout, “Hell yeah!”
A T-shirt exposes tribal skin art, and his hip rests on the wildebeest’s left haunch. Shoes slide along the pavement—he’s skiing on asphalt. He sees me alongside, agog. The wildebeest gains speed and cuts off a white Chevy Astro van. I see him arc away on an exit ramp, still not sitting on the seat, sliding along the road.
The last free man on Earth will be a motorcycle stunt rider. Universally young, he terrorizes citizens and police alike, and I hate him. I hate him because of the danger he is to other road users. I hate him because I’m sure I’ll have to pick up the tab for his injuries. I hate him because I backed off and throttled down.
For all the danger, I still dig getting passed by three guys riding wheelies at 100 mph. It’s a thrill for me because I’ve packed away my courage, imagination, and raw talent. I traded in crazy adrenalin rushes for Sansabelt slacks, their elastic waistband providing all-day comfort. I follow the rules, man: Wear ATGATT, watch your six, check your tire pressures.
Not so long ago, we were a nation of risk-takers riding 5 million pounds of thrust straight into space. We watched in awe as our collective efforts hurtled mankind from science fiction into reality. Now we’ve become so afraid of chance that we no longer allow anyone to take one. Russia takes us into space while China grinds our steel and feeds our own chicken back to us.
We need cheerleaders for the top of the pyramid, so before we call stunters irresponsible we need to reconsider. That kid you saw riding backward on the gas tank of his motorcycle? That’s the guy who will be pulling you out of a burning building or chasing down some lunatic shooting up a schoolyard.
As irresponsible as stunters are, we need them. Generation X, Y, and Z catch a lot of guff, but I see in some of them echoes of The Greatest Generation. They’re fearless and composed, they’re going to Mars and beyond, and they’re marching forward to the harsh, atonal sounds of death metal.
We need the dangerous ones in America. We need more risk-takers. We need the ones whose blasted eyes shine only when the wildebeest rages.
Not so long ago, we were a nation of risk-takers riding 5 million pounds of thrust straight into space.”