Ross Anthony, M.Ed. (A Los Angeles Creative)
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Zen Repair & the Art of Riding Chili
Written by Ross Anthony


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A real life adventure. A meandering journey of self-reflection, dream, purpose, tangenting philosophy, Zen repair, and inspiration. Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony rides a 1982 dirt bike named Chili across 14 states of country roads coast to coast in this story of rediscovery. Enjoy America's quieter side, her immense cultural and geographic beauty. It's time for a new start. Think of Zen Repair & the Art of Riding Chili as a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Lite.

Excerpt from Ch. 1

I strap my supplies to the bike with thirteen bungee cords that cling like me. I've been clinging to an immovable object – something heavy and dark. I've got enough to carry, I hope I won't be bringing that along. Baggage. Goodness, have I chosen my baggage wisely? What to strap on to my trusty steed? Can her petite 125cc engine bear it, while enduring the unforgiving, merciless battering of this mysterious journey? Or will that one cylinder buckle and lock under my cumbersome, untoned weight as my brother (who knows these little dirt bikes better than me) predicted? "These are small vehicles, they aren't made for distances. Seattle? Look at those worn sprockets, Ross. You'll be breakin' teeth and spittin' them out along the road, which is where your chain'll be layin' way before Washington State."

Neighbor Ed, slender old Mr. Ed, rests his elbow on the fence as I loop the last bungee. "You'll have a great time. I used ta go up ta Minnesota and fish." He leans a bit closer and whispers, "Before I got married." He speaks up again, "My wife, she's one in a million."

Ed looks like Humphrey Bogart and talks with a 1940's movie accent, "She's a great gal, I love her. 'Curses like a man, doesn't like fishin'." He pulls a thin cigar from a pocket sewn to his T-shirt, "Doesn’t like fishin." With a shake of the head, he steps away, "My wife, she's one in a million."

I check the straps one last time. Tight. Today is my day, it's not someone else's day. The sun shines on me alone. I lift my right leg over the bike and slide into a small patch of seat between bags. I draw back the kick-starter with my heal and thrust downward with my foot. The engine fires up easily. It's a manly feeling, mechanical combustion by brute bodily force. Left hand gently releases the clutch, right hand feathers the throttle. The tires, knobbied for dirt, roll forward on concrete. I slide up on the vinyl seat, scoot toward the gate. I lean over the handlebars, reach for the latch, the bike begins to tip with its new mass. I leverage it with my leg as I'd done countless times before in these unbalanced moments. This time, the strength of gravity on my strategically chosen survival necessities is greater than I anticipate. I fall. Haven't yet left my backyard, I fall. Even before I hit the Earth, I feel something crash inside me. A thing I’d worked so hard to prop up, simply, stupidly tumbles over.

It's not physically painful, falling from a virtual standstill. The bike's got weight, especially loaded down, but the embarrassment is heavier – self-embarrassment, embarrassment of self. You raise your chest, set out to conquer the world, then your first step is in a pile of dog crap.

"You can't make it." Lying on the ground, my great steed on top of me, I hear my brother's voice. I clumsily turn my head to see if he or anyone else stands witness. But, it's only me. Only me baring witness to my failure. Only me judging me. Only me replaying that comment in my head. Letting myself unsettle myself.

I slap my helmet, chase the negative cycle motoring around my head. I gather up the pieces of the thing that had crashed and place them back up high inside myself. I slide out from under the bike, stand, catch my breath, grab the grips and yank it off the ground. Damn, it's heavy. If it were any heavier, I wouldn't be able to upright it. I'm spent. I'm hot, I'm sweaty. I'm stupid in this red parachute jumper. Embarrassed, beaming red, inside and out. Still, I'm insipidly determined. Square one, much better than square zero. Even square point one is better. I'm not quitting. This is good. This is a warning, a reminder that I'm not on some Sunday drive. I unlatch the gate. Walk the bike out. Lock the gate. Look up just as Mrs. Jensen steps away from her window. So what? So what? So you saw some guy fall, some guy in a ridiculous red parachute suit. At least I'm out of the house. At least I'm in the world, not some voyeur, watching life from afar, from a safe distance.

I mount, I ride off slowly, cautiously, acquainting myself with my new balance, leaning and tugging the bike's new weight. I'm determined. The part of me that used to love to dream begins to flicker, like a damaged incandescent bulb. My grandfather used to fix factory machines. He knew how to make a burnt bulb light again. A flick of the finger, just right, the ruptured filament swings in the vacuum, makes contact with the live terminal post. Light.

"You might actually be able to do this." I say to myself. An odd bit of uncomfortable self-talk that just doesn't feel sincere. Truth is, I don't know if I can finish, but I'm damn sure gonna start.


Zen Repair & the Art of Riding Chili

Copyright © Ross Anthony, Last Modified: Saturday, 16-May-2020 12:49:19 PDT