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Going Fast
December 16, 2009 10:47 AM   Subscribe

I never left the unlockable motorcycle for long on the street and never out of my sight. One day I parked it on the sidewalk in front of the house beside the iron grill that was attached to the house but without chaining it. Broad daylight. A middle-aged man wearing a suit was seen by various neighbors riding down the street on my blue chopped Harley into history, while I sat inside reading Rilke. The neighbors said it was very odd to see a man in a suit riding a big Harley, but then it was my motorcycle, so of course! I never saw the bike again. —Frederick Seidel, About Motorcycles
posted by oldleada (28 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
There is no there, there. Everyone has a bunch of similar stories about their history with bicycles/motorcycles/cars, and there's nothing distinguishing about these other than the author's relentless name-dropping. As for his stolen Harley, maybe he should have bought a chain and a padlock like anybody with a grain of sense would, instead of blaming the lack of an ignition lock. Idiot.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:55 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sad... I generally don't leave it ever alone. But I also have the sidecar with Spirit in it, a sweet Pit Bull but no one knows that!!! Check into "OnGuard" chains and locks... they are the best...
be well...
Ara & Spirit

posted by ara and spirit at 10:56 AM on December 16, 2009


Everyone has custom-built machines from hard-to-find European manufacturers? Maybe I should start riding a motorcycle.
posted by ellF at 11:01 AM on December 16, 2009


This quote is going in the bag of lines I feed to people who persist in telling me the same old stories about how riding a motorcycle is dangerous, deadly and stupid: "The point is: if you are afraid you ought not to be doing it."
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:02 AM on December 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I tried to read this when it was in the magazine but had to stop. The writer hit levels of awful in going on about "lower-class energy" and his surprise that a laborer would turn out to be courteous that was only matched by his weird attention to everyone's ethnic makeup. It was hard to see past the incredible snobbery to find anything redeeming here. It's great that you loved motorcycles, Mr Seidel, but you're still an ass.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:12 AM on December 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


This quote is going in the bag of lines I feed to people who persist in telling me the same old stories about how riding a motorcycle is dangerous, deadly and stupid: "The point is: if you are afraid you ought not to be doing it."
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:02 AM on December 16 [+] [!]


Or you could say what you really mean: "Lol ur a pussy."
posted by basicchannel at 11:20 AM on December 16, 2009


At least he didn't get the Fréjus stolen. A fairly well-known local Philly beer blogger wrote this long post about the many bicycles that had been stolen from him/her over the years. Lots of people commented, mostly sympathetic. Me, I just thought that there wasn't a lot of learning going on there.
posted by fixedgear at 11:23 AM on December 16, 2009


Or you could say what you really mean: "Lol ur a pussy."

Except that's not what I said at all.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:59 AM on December 16, 2009


Mr. Seidel is one of those motorcyclists I've never been able to fully understand. How can you possess these magnificent things and not use them? Race bikes are meant to be raced - to own such things and not use them in the way they're intended, at full lean on a track somewhere, is like keeping a cheetah as a pet. Sure, it's beautiful sitting in the living room, but you'll never understand its full magnificence until you let it run. I have many motorcycles, all with number plates and wear marks or thousands and thousands of miles on them. They're beautiful in the garage, but it is only in motion that they become what they were meant to be.

Also, the idea that if you're afraid you ought not to be doing it is simply wrong. If you're not a little bit afraid some of the time, you need to think a little harder about your life. Either you need to get out a little more, or you're not paying sufficient attention to what you're doing.
posted by hackwolf at 12:31 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


That guy is rich. Something something motorcycles.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:31 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The first half was an interesting exploration of one man's love of motorcycles.
The second half was a dull exploration of one man's desire to buy status and drop names.
posted by lekvar at 12:51 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Top Three Irritating Trust Fund Babies Whom I Want to Strangle with Barbed Wire (Revised Dec. 2009)

1. Frederick Seidel
2. George W. Bush
3. Paris Hilton

Congrats on that number one with a bullet debut, Freddy; you earned it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:22 PM on December 16, 2009


Fear your motorcycle. It's healthy. The fear keeps you alive.
posted by Eideteker at 1:30 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I read this story in the hardcopy version the other day. It seemed so weird that Harper's of all places would publish it and especially at a time like this. Some rich asshole bragging about his toys next to articles about global warming, crashing economy and the war in the middle east. The new editor must be a little schitzo...
posted by c13 at 1:36 PM on December 16, 2009


This is a more accurate description of the modern motorcycle experience.
posted by poe at 2:39 PM on December 16, 2009


I don't think this is incongruent with Harper's at all. I think Harper's in this editorial regime is all about strange perspectives, like Wikipedia conspiracies conducted by Zionists, the Harper's Index, the investigative journalism that borders on the unbelievable, the post-modern fiction it regularly accepts, etc. Yeah, Seidel is a strange motorcyclist. He's also a fantastic storyteller, and his unique perspective (find me another independently rich person who spends his or her time brooding in verse about motorcycles, death, climate change, and class) makes him valuable.

There's this weird MetaFilter hangup about class where it's like, "Oh, this person has a bunch of money and thus has some skewed perspectives on working-class life. This is intolerable."

Well, I work shit jobs and Seidel rankles me a little but we should welcome perspectives that are far outside our value systems, especially when they are delivered with prose that is this deft:

Watch out for how quickly it accelerates. It accelerates so smoothly you won’t know how fast you’re going, so watch it. I keep waiting for the motorcycle that really does go fast almost too quickly, that does seem ready to pull your arms out of their sockets. But so far, each bike has seemed like a bike, thrilling and absolutely fine. One wants to go faster.

Also, if you're still thinking "who is this asshole", he's one of our best living poets, on some days maybe our best, and somewhat like this article, his poetry will confuse and offend and sadden you with absolutely exquisite means. From Poem by the Bridge at Ten-Shin

The Earth keeps turning, night and day, spit-roasting all the tanned
Tired icebergs and the polar bears, which makes white almost contraband.
The biosphere on a rotisserie emits a certain sound
That tells the stars that Earth was moaning pleasure while it drowned.
The amorous white icebergs flash their brown teeth, hissing.
They're watching old porn videos of melting icebergs pissing.
The icebergs still in panty hose are lesbians and kissing.
The rotting ocean swallows the bombed airliner that's missing.

posted by voronoi at 3:30 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fear your motorcycle. It's healthy. The fear keeps you alive.

True. Been riding since I was 14. 58 years ago. Just sold my last ride. A 750 Vulcan. So many of the old folk down here in s/w Florida now have dark tinted glass in their cars you can no longer see their faces. If that doesn't cause you fear, you are a far better man than I.
posted by notreally at 3:37 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Too bad its too cold out for a ride.
posted by Capt Jingo at 3:38 PM on December 16, 2009


find me another independently rich person who spends his or her time brooding in verse about motorcycles

That would be JUST motorcycles. The economy, climate change and other things I was referring to were separate articles in the same issue, he certainly does not mention any of it.
And his brooding sounds pathologic to me, like someone going way to deep into the difference between 1957 and 1958 editions of a Christmas postage stamp or some such. I mean, I like motorcycles as much as the next fella, and used to have a hell of a time riding the Dragon's tail in Cherokee park, but come on, I would wake in the middle of the night and go up front to check on my motorcycle like a man going out to the stable to check on his racehorse. I would smell it in the dark. I would stare at it.. Pleeese! Me thinks he confused Harper's with Hustler.
posted by c13 at 5:46 PM on December 16, 2009


Too bad its too cold out for a ride.

TWIAVBP
posted by HiroProtagonist at 6:21 PM on December 16, 2009


Yeah, Seidel is a strange motorcyclist. He's also a fantastic storyteller self-centered twat. ftfy

Here's the story of a guy that loves bikes, and manages to miss most of the last 50 years of American history. But it's ok, because he's "a poet" and can afford to call up the head mechanic at Motoguzzi and have them build him a custom bike.

I kind of enjoyed this article, but in a head-shaking, wondering at someone else's perversion kind of way.
posted by sneebler at 9:26 PM on December 16, 2009


This isn't the first bit with Seidel & his Ducati's - there was also this NY Mag puff piece , which notes that the reason you have no idea who he is because "Seidel doesn’t give readings, judge contests, teach, or, as far as I (NYMAG) can tell, care to fraternize with other poets" which prompted this response over at CPR. Go read the response - it includes a bit more info about the old geezer. I'm suprised he's not as popular as Bill Hicks.

So that's the poet part. As for the Ducatis? Well the monster was less than 10 grand set up, so that ain't exactly rich. The million dollar bike? Well Ducati races those and regularly spends lord knows how much - for what? Advertising? The fun of zipping around on one? They only make like 8 of this sort of bike a year for private use- why not give one to one of the best poets around. A poet buying a million dollar race bike (and it is not clear to me that is what he paid) hand built by Ducati is awesome. Oh yea he could have gave the cash to charity or something, but instead the old guy grabbed Moto GT machine. An American poet with fancy tailored clothing, no less.

And on that note - if I had one of those 916 he spends so much ink idolizing - which only cost about 7 GRAND, you damn well believe it would be my favorite xmas gift under the tree ever. It would also be total suicide. I'd be like, hey mefi, come check out my yellow titan 3 rocket I've got! rrrrrwwwaarrrr. Because they are in fact an amazing machine and if you watched a single race in the 90's you would know the sound and the madness would enter your soul - and you would dream of screaming around town on one.

And the arc of the whole story - if you didn't get to the end - is that his fav baby blue hog that got stolen just had a starter-no key, and his shiney new insane death machine also just has a go button, no key.
posted by zenon at 10:05 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Zenon, my problem with the piece wasn't about how much he did or didn't spend, it was that the story started out as a love letter to the thrill of riding and devolved into the thrill of owning. I can totally get behind reading about his love of motorcycles, but when the narrative goes from "shit that thing was fun to ride, and beautiful besides," to "yeah this girl was really impressed with my bike because there were only 70 made," I'm not going to be interested, no matter who says it.
posted by lekvar at 10:23 PM on December 16, 2009


I read it in Harpers. He's a pussy. Fucking choked because he suddenly realized how fast he was going, and then blamed the bike. Learn to fucking ride.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:38 PM on December 16, 2009


And on that note - if I had one of those 916 he spends so much ink idolizing - which only cost about 7 GRAND, you damn well believe it would be my favorite xmas gift under the tree ever. It would also be total suicide. I'd be like, hey mefi, come check out my yellow titan 3 rocket I've got! rrrrrwwwaarrrr. Because they are in fact an amazing machine and if you watched a single race in the 90's you would know the sound and the madness would enter your soul - and you would dream of screaming around town on one.


Yeah, totally.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:37 PM on December 16, 2009


This must be some strange new use of the word "never" that I wasn't previously aware of.
posted by tiamat at 1:50 AM on December 17, 2009


hackwolf said: Mr. Seidel is one of those motorcyclists I've never been able to fully understand. How can you possess these magnificent things and not use them?

Wasn't there a line in the article about how he can't get the Moto Poeta insured, so it's not street legal?

Full disclosure - I met Frederick Seidel through my work, and recorded him reading some of his poems, so my impression of him as a person is coloring this response.

The man clearly states that he's into motorcycles (or road bikes, or airplanes, or boats) as not just transportation devices, but as objects of beauty - that the look of them is a major part of his enjoyment. So taken in that context, why not have them in the house to look at, or smell, or whatever?
posted by dubold at 8:30 AM on December 17, 2009


My sarcasm meter must be broken. I can't tell if voronoi's comment is supposed to be sincere, especially with the attached poem, which sounds like a deliberate pastiche of the terrible ironic-mustache-MFA dreck that pops up everywhere on the poetry-reading circuit. (And I say this as someone with a love and appreciation for contemporary poetry.)
posted by nasreddin at 11:24 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


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