Gator In the Big City


It was a long drive to the first big city. It was so big, people just refer to it as ‘The City’ If you had been there before, you knew the code word. Massive bridges, incredible hills and subculture ‘to die for’ as the saying goes. Good description. Best food, ethnic food. Best everything. A bridge to another big city that has six lanes in each direction. Fifty cent toll. Gator loved it there, it was exciting and at the cutting edge of what passed for civilization then.

Crossing the bay bridge on a hotted up Triumph and feeling the shocks open up and the front wheel begin to lift. Short handle bars and no oil in the transmission. Rather a short and thrilling ride. There was a crowd of Jaguar owners that met at a local coffee shop. They had an older mentor that showed them tuning tricks. He would put a crayon in his pocket and get in the right hand seat and tell the driver to head out to the Bayshore freeway. The man would tell the driver to stop on the edge of the pavement. He would get out and wait a few minutes while he slid under the rear bumper. Then the crayon would be dragged down the tailpipe a few feet to the end. “Take her out and hit it. Swing around and come back here” When the Jag came back the mentor would slide under the rear again and note where the crayon line had melted. “Cut ‘er right there, that’s your exhaust extraction pulse”. Cool trick.

His sidekick played excellent boogie-woggie on the piano in his second floor apartment. It was great music for rowdy know it all mechanics and late at night caused a visit from the local police. “Nice music, shut it down at 10 pm!” We were stupid young vets but we knew a bit about authority. So, the next night the sidekick stopped playing and picked up a battery powered megaphone (left over from the usual riots) He blasted out..”You will notice I have stopped playing at 10!” Boy, he could rock it. There are many such stories, a lot of you have them from big cities too. Trolley cars, ethnic food, and artistic enclaves. Gator had a brief job at an art movie theater as a projectionist. Old style with the carbon arc and two projector switch-overs. The little dancing dot on the upper right of the film indicated the switch to the other projector. The idle projector was then available for extracting any smoke with it’s powerful exhaust fan. Gator would light up right next to the projector and the smoke wound up in the courtyard of the pretentious grape vine lattice décor below the film booth.

The smell attracted a bit of attention but no one could find the source.

There were so many characters in The City that you needed a tour guide or one of ‘Humbeads maps of the world’ with all the names and places. Gator looked, but his name never made the press. Everyone’s gear box was in neutral headed down Lombard Street. Risky business’ abounded. Musicians from high profile rock bands began to have a funeral now and then. The music at the funerals was sought after. life was fast and loose and somewhat deadly which was very attractive to Gator and his new friends. Youth no future. The war did that to a lot of us. We learned how to get by and how to expect miracles offering life. Gator chose life, it’s pretty good. Jack Gator

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