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Blue Dog Diaries: The operating theater

By Terry Roorda

As the years go by, a man begins to take stock of himself; to assess his strengths and weaknesses, his temperament and prospects, and to begin to get a more realistic picture of what he’s likely to become and what he’s likely to accomplish before laying down his burden, and settling in for the big dirt nap. At a certain age you come to understand that not every boy can be president or hit a homer in the World Series. Later you learn to believe that there are things more important than fame and fortune—in large part because you astutely sense that you’re never going to have either. Still farther down the timeline you realize that even personal success and the respect of your fellows are not inevitable by-products of character and diligence, and that you’ve wasted precious time pretending to have both. That’s a hard one, but the hardest disappointment for me to swallow in my long journey of self-discovery is that I know now that I will never, ever, ever, have a clean, orderly, well equipped garage.

Damn… that one smarts.

This horror occurred to me today when I was doing some work on my bike and took stock of my lot. My operating theatre was the concrete slab in the backyard where the steel shed used to stand before the flood swept its spar, beam and corrugated tin down the Russian River to the Pacific and deposited the remains somewhere out in the Farallons where it would never, ever be converted into the clean, orderly, well-equipped garage I had intended for it.

That was in the “hundred-year” flood of ’94, and I never replaced it, and good thing I didn’t since it would’ve suffered the same fate in the “hundred-year” floods of ’95 and ’97, as well as the “hundred-year” floods of ’02 and ’05. (Time seems to pass real fast in these parts.) I never replaced that shed, but I did build a crackerjack workshop onto the house a couple of years ago. It was designed to hold Blue, Fatty and Spankster, the three Harleys my Personal Nurse and I had at the time, as well as a workbench, lift and my toolboxes. It has an industrial roll-up door and a big window above the bench. I hung a bright array of fluorescent fixtures, put pegboard on the wall to hang mechanical odds and ends, and built a loft to store all those swap-meet-bound parts that collect over time and never actually make it to a swap meet.

On the wall are a series of old Easyriders centerfolds that my Personal Nurse refers to as “The Sisters,” since I chose all blondes so as to color coordinate with her. It was to be my dream bike garage. It had such potential.

It started filling up with crap immediately. It was such a convenient place to stick crap. Since then the crap has ebbed and flowed, but it’s never quite cleared out enough for me to unequivocally reclaim the space and make it clean, orderly and well-equipped. The specific variety of crap that crams my dream garage today is cordwood. The place is jammed to the gunwales with the stuff, and it wasn’t supposed to be that way, but the guy we got the wood from wasn’t real clear in his thinking on what, exactly, constitutes a cord. He just kept it coming.

Being a recent arrival from south of the border, I gathered that he was endeavoring to give honest weight and make a good showing of himself. I also gathered that he’d been poaching the wood, since some of it looked like fence post, one chunk with a fragment of a “No Trespassing” sign still stapled to it. He wasn’t so much selling me a cord of wood as unloading hot property. What could I do? I wasn’t about to look that windfall in the knothole, even though it vastly exceeded the square footage I had grudgingly allotted for it in my dream garage, thus leaving no room to actually operate.

So there I was outdoors on the slab, kneeling on the damp cement, wrenching in a cold breeze with my curious and hyperactive papillon nosing through tools, parts and fasteners, and biting the tube of Permatex. But as with all the other encroaching disappointments that I’ve countenanced over time, I’m philosophical about this one. I realize, as all thoughtful persons do when suffering profound setbacks of this sort, that it could, after all, be worse. At least it ain’t flooding.

It’s all right here in the diaries…

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