Standing at the paint table for what seemed like the umpteenth time (really only the fifth) sanding spot putty and primer from my gas tank I began to wonder, what’s the point. Why am I doing this? Why am I spending over a dozen hours trying to smooth down the lumps, fill the holes, and round the curves? Wouldn’t it be better to spend my hours toiling on a project that pays me money so I can just hire someone else, someone more skilled, someone who could do a better job than I could ever do?
The resounding answer is no. I wouldn’t be better off letting someone else do it. Why? Because the point isn’t the end result. No matter how misshapen, or terrible the paint turns out, the point is the act of doing.
Some people build bikes, because they have a passion for it or because they can’t do anything else. Other people build them as a hobby, something fun to pass the time. And a few, mostly naive hipsters fueled by trust funds, foolishly try to build them as a way to fame, fortune, and glory.
Me, I work on my motorcycle as a form of therapy, It gives me something physical and tangible to show for my money and time. Something that works, something that’s not just bought with money, something I’ve built.
When I first left my big boy job as an associate attorney, the one with the secretary, paralegal, office with a view, healthcare, and decent salary. I thought I was crazy. Many of my friends, who were still struggling to find work, almost two years after being licensed agreed. At the time I was despondent and filled with anxiety, so I began to see a therapist. Once a week for over six months I sat there telling him all my problems, paying him money to listen. Eventually though I realized that instead of repeating my same problems, I needed to do something.
I don’t have anything against therapists. I find they can be helpful and I have at times benefited greatly from talking to them. But for me the act of creating is ultimately more therapeutic than sitting around endlessly talking about my thoughts and feelings.
Building a motorcycle is more than just a hobby, it allows me, even if for a brief period of time each week to turn off my over active brain and ignore the problems I see in the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s, the rising trend of religious fundamentalism, Russian separatists in Ukraine shooting down a jetliner, the ups and downs of the stock market, my frustration with a piece of fiction, or just my often depressed and anxiety ridden thoughts, even a bad day working on a bike allows me a respite. It allows me to escape into reality.
When I first got TIM I loved the knee dents and black pearlescent paint job. I wasn’t a fan of the silver stripes. So I took them off. In doing so I removed a not insignificant amount of paint, which led me down an epic rabbit hole. The knee dents were poorly done, and it was only massive amounts of paint, bondo, and spot putty that made the tank look decent. All of which only became apparent after I’d stripped the tank to bare metal.
Lessons I’ve learned From my Work on the Tank:
1. Use less bondo than you think you need.
2. Sanding down takes longer and is more of a pain in the ass than layering up.
3. Mr. Miagi was right, “wax on, wax off.”
4. “Whatever you can see after it’s been primed you will see when it’s painted.” (Words of wisdom from Ernesto)
5. Doing it the wrong way is still worth while, but only if you learn how to do it better the next time.
6. Wear appropriate protective gear.
If I had to do it all again, I would be able to do it quicker and better. In all so far, I’ve spent close to fourteen hours sanding and prepping my tank. This doesn’t include the time I spent stripping the paint and old bondo, the time spent staring at it in agony trying to figure out what I was going to do with it. It also doesn’t include the time I will spend painting it, sanding it, repainting it, cleaning the insides of rust and then resealing it so it lasts another thirty plus years. I expect when its finished to put in close to fifty hours on a single gas tank.
Why? Why am I doing all this? Because it’s cheaper than therapy, that’s why.
(Side note, look for the soon to come release of the first original fiction piece Odyssey of the Heliotrope, written by yours truly, cover art by Tom Vincent, available for purchase digitally.)