Ottawa Citizen

Mo­tor Mouth re­counts an all-time-favourite gift,

A Honda CT 70 was the gift that changed my life

- DAVID BOOTH

It may have been that chem­istry set. You know, the one with potas­sium ni­trate (an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of gun­pow­der, don­cha­know) and a mag­ni­fy­ing glass to burn ants with. It could have been a sim­ple Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, the one that launched a life-long ob­ses­sion with hockey (and, well, los­ing). Or maybe it was that set of chromed, cap-fir­ing six shoot­ers at the age of three that for­ever fix­ated the con­cept of “bafel­las and goofel­las” (bad fel­lows and good fel­lows, for those of you who, like my con­fused par­ents, couldn’t fig­ure out what the h-e-dou­ble-hock­ey­sticks I was talk­ing about while vig­or­ously point­ing at John Wayne) as cen­tral to your per­sonal code of con­duct (yup, the Duke as mo­ral com­pass). We may not re­mem­ber how it was wrapped, what year it ap­peared un­der our tree or even who was the Santa sur­ro­gate who prof­fered the mag­i­cal prize. But I think it’s safe to say that we all have a favourite Christ­mas gift that we cher­ish above all oth­ers. And small or large, they prob­a­bly changed our lives for­ever.

Mine was a gold-liv­er­ied 1972 Honda CT 70 that I re­mem­ber as vividly as if I were still 15 years old. I had been clam­our­ing for a minibike since the age of 12, when I was sec­onded into oc­ca­sion­ally car­ing for the daugh­ters of the lo­cal Honda con­ces­sion­aire. And since I suf­fered what to­day would be di­ag­nosed as ADHD (with an em­pha­sis, as my poor old par­ents oft lamented, on the hy­per­ac­tive), I gave my dear old mater and pater not a sec­ond of rest. It was “mo­tor­cy­cle this” and “minibike that” un­til they fi­nally, three years later, broke down.

Or, to be more spe­cific, my mother broke down. My dad, whether it be long-term fis­cal con­cerns (most prob­a­ble) or dis­quiet about his only son’s safety (less prob­a­ble), re­fused to even ac­knowl­edge said trav­esty in his home. That’s why, on that fate­ful Christ­mas morn, armed with the sus­pi­cion that they, or at least some­one, had fi­nally given in to my con­stant en­treaties, I was might­ily dis­ap­pointed to find noth­ing two-wheeled un­der the Booth Christ­mas tree.

There was, how­ever, af­ter the ini­tial crush­ing dis­ap­point­ment faded into a thor­ough search of the grounds, a sus­pi­ciously large ob­ject cov­ered in an old blan­ket tucked away in the re­cesses of our base­ment. This, then, was my dad’s com­pro­mise: “The lit­tle-pain-in-the-you-know-what could have his damned minibike as long a I don’t have to see it and I can pre­tend it doesn’t ex­ist.” In­deed, my pre­cious lit­tle Honda spent the first two-and-a-half months of its own­er­ship tucked away in our potato pantry swathed in mul­ti­ple cov­er­ings just so my dad could, at least con­sciously, deny its ex­is­tence.

That’s also why it was my mother who, ei­ther through love or a com­plete de­nial of the in­juries mo­tor­ized two-wheeled trans­port could in­flict on young bones, was the one who trans­ported me to an aban­doned run­way in the mid­dle of a Sept-Iles-ean win­ter (be­cause I could no longer wait for spring; again with that hyper­ac­tiv­ity thing). Let loose on snow and ice, pro­tected by noth­ing more than my snow suit, a gaudy lime-green $20 Cana­dian Tire hel­met and moth­erly love (her only ad­mon­ish­ment on watch­ing me ride was to not “lean it so much” in turns, physics never hav­ing been momsy’s strong suit), I some­how crashed my way to some sem­blance of twowheeled com­pe­tence.

It was only the be­gin­ning of an end­less sum­mer of Huck­le­berry Finn ad­ven­ture. My first “big boy” camp­ing trip was a three-day so­journ to nearby Lac Rapide with my neigh­bour (and fel­low minibiker) Ned Mcgee. We rode for as long as the sun shone, didn’t have to sneak our cigarettes be­cause no­body was look­ing and, in what I think was the clos­est we came to full Mark Twain­ish re­bel­lion, tried to hot wire what seemed like a 20-kilo­ton bull­dozer (I will con­tinue to re­main mute on the out­come of said ad­ven­ture, just in case the statute of lim­i­ta­tions has not run out on er­rant de­for­esta­tion as the re­sult of not yet know­ing how to drive some­thing with four wheels).

And when I fi­nally be­came old enough to legally drive, my lit­tle Honda was enough to make me a mi­nor big man about town with his own wheels (par­ents au­to­mat­i­cally giv­ing their off­spring cars for their 16th birth­day not yet be­ing part of the parental guide­book). The lit­tle Honda’s half-gal­lon gas tank was suf­fi­cient for about 70 miles, al­most enough for a full week’s me­an­der­ing around town (Sept-Iles, Que., you can take it, was a small burg). At the time, gas cost 53 cents. Let me save you the ef­fort of reach­ing for your cal­cu­la­tor: It of­ten cost me as lit­tle as a quar­ter to ride around for a week.

The lit­tle Honda also proved to be a gift that kept on giv­ing. My younger sis­ter also learned to ride the slightly-less-gleam­ing Honda. So did numer­ous cousins. We ran out of rel­a­tives want­ing to learn to ride mo­tor­cy­cles be­fore the lit­tle Trail 70 ran out of steam. I think it was do­nated to a needy fam­ily with an equally hy­per­ac­tive child. I sus­pect the lit­tle Honda may still be chug­ging along to­day, as long as all its sub­se­quent own­ers re­mem­bered to change its oil ev­ery two years or so.

And it is still giv­ing to this day. With­out that diminu­tive lit­tle Honda, who knows what kind of “re­spectable” job I might have ended up with. I could have ended up a char­tered ac­coun­tant, a shoe sales­man or even, God for­bid, an en­gi­neer.

For that I am eter­nally grate­ful.

 ??  ?? A tiny David Booth be­fore he be­came our favourite critic.
A tiny David Booth be­fore he be­came our favourite critic.
 ??  ?? David Booth on the Honda that shaped his des­tiny.
David Booth on the Honda that shaped his des­tiny.

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