Friday, January 25, 2019

Memories of riding (pillion) on a motorbike in Malaysia, Zanzibar, and Beloit

Car and motorbike show in Central this past Sunday

Biker types hanging out near their dream machines

My choice for the most beautiful vehicle at the show ;b

After having my second dim sum lunch in two days last Sunday, I decided to go for a stroll that took me from Sheung Wan (where the eatery I had been at with my friend is located) to Central and beyond.  Near the IFC (International Finance Centre), I came across a car and motorbike show featuring some pretty eye-catching vehicles, including a number of big bikes along with sports cars and antique automobiles. 

I get the feeling that most of the people present were particularly impressed by certain of the cars (including Lotuses, Ferraris, Maseratis, Porsches and such) on show.  By my reckoning though, the most aesthetically pleasing machines on display were the large motorbikes -- all of them Harley Davidsons that were so shiny and well looked-after that I have to admit to wondering if they spend much time being ridden on actual roads!

Although I am a big advocate of public transportation (and have voluntarily gone through all but two years of my life -- when I lived in Kuala Lumpur, whose public transportation system leaves a lot to be desired -- without owning any motorized vehicles), it's also true enough that I have fond memories of riding (pillion) on a motorbike.  Of these, the earliest involved going on joy rides on the backseat of a bike belonging to a then 20-something-year-old aunt who regularly rode around town on a machine that may seem pedestrian in type and light on power but still seemed cooler to my preteen mind than those of her siblings who drove about in cars instead!

Then, when I lived in Zanzibar, I had a motorcycle-riding Italian doctor friend known to all and sundry as Dr Mario with whom I shared a common love for the beers produced by Malawi's Carlsberg brewery.  Whenever he managed to get a few bottles of their brew, he'd send word to me to drop by his clinic after work and after his own work day ended, I'd get on the back of his motorbike and he'd take me back to his place to enjoy a few beers and a feast that invariably included items -- such as salami and other preserved meats -- from care packages that his mother would send him from Italy along with fresh bread from a local bakery! 

Later in the evening (yes, after he and I had imbibed quite a bit of alcohol), he'd take me back into town.  I think in part because traffic tended to be on the light side and in part because I had got quite a bit of Dutch courage, I never feared that we'd come a cropper on those late night motorbike rides.  Instead, I thoroughly enjoyed the rides back into town as much as the rides to his place, the brewskis, the food, and viewing one of the only two video tapes he owned: the more frequently watched of  which was The Beatles' Yellow Submarine; the other of which was a documentary about giant whales!    

Probably my best memories involving riding on (the back of) a motorcycle though are those involving a beloved college professor and his beloved motorbike.  Although Dan Shea was born, went to school, taught and lived pretty much all his life in the state where the Harley-Davidson Motor Company was founded, his choice of vehicle was a British Norton bike that, after we had become friends, he'd take me on joy rides along beautifully long and lonely Wisconsin roads that went through farm land on which cows roamed or wheat grew in abundance.

I remember once telling Dan he should take prospective students on these bike roads as I figured it'd get them deciding they'd want to attend Beloit for sure, whereupon he laughed and pointed out that if he had an accident while doing so, he'd have the pants sued off him!  Since I wasn't thinking at all like a college administrator, I replied that I figured that it'd be worth the risk -- because, in all honesty, I think the experience showed how, at Beloit, professors and students didn't just interact in classrooms and actually could become friends who could have fun times (as well as seriously educational ones) together!

On June 19th, 2012, Dan Shea died of accidental causes while in Chile conducting archaeology field school.  A friend who's a fellow Beloit alum and friend plus fan of Dan broke the news to me a few days later.  I think I was so shocked by it and in denial that he was no longer of this Earth for so long that I couldn't write about his passing until now.  At the same time as I still feel sadness about his passing, I have got to realizing how many good and fond memories I have of the man that remain unsullied by his death and also still very strong, and how such as the sight of a beautiful motorbike parked in a central part of Hong Kong can get me thinking of him.         

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