RIDING: HOW TO STAY OUT OF THE RAIN
On the highways and during a downpour, have you ever noticed a group of bikers stopped, congregated, in the dryness under one of the overpasses? Chances are--and experience has shown me--that they are not group-riding, but separately sought shelter. The most wonderful feeling of comradeship happens. Immediate connections are made, experiences traded, drinks shared. Introductions not necessary. Spirituality occurs as a separate person among us. This is true. I have felt it. Many times.
On my Suzuki scooter I have traveled to spur-of-the-moment, randomly chosen AA meetings from Naples Florida to Virginia (twice) and I must tell you this. The moment I walk into a meeting room (actually before that, outside among the smoking crowd). although a stranger, I've been greeted as an old friend who has simply been away for a few years. (Not unlike those rain-caused 'mini-biker-conventions' of between 4-11 participants.)
GETTING TO KNOW YOU...(GETTING TO KNOW ALL ABOUT YOU!)
The questions "Where ya from? Oh, I've been there. Do you know Jake M?....etc". Thoughts are triggered, and traded are some brief descriptions of past drunken exploits, how we drank so many years, to oblivion, the massive amount of hurt we generated, causing disruption of SO many lives, families.
A strange biker--a BIG fellow, I think that was his real name, "Big Guy"-grin!--related to the rest of us, in a quiet voice with only the pouring rain as background music. "I remember looks on the faces of my children, as they gazed into the face of their father, looking seeking, needing some sign of love. Staring back at them through eyes as empty as a clean blackboard, as if I did not even know who they were-- Daddy. Me."
Imagine, in one of the groups, seven single, lone riders, three (Two + me!) were recovering from their addictions, their disease, in AA! I simply looked up at an imaginary image of a Higher Power, gratefully pondering the awesomeness of these occasions. Finding myself wet, but happy, smiling, safe under the bridges at least 18 times, convinced me more than anything else that--aside from slight variants--we are all the same. We ARE all somehow connected.
The point here is my discovery so late in life--the almost unbelievable acceptance by strangers everywhere, in a market, a theater, a parade, the beach, a park, a church--oh, wait...not the church I'm remembering....
It is sad for me to report that in churches (I enjoy visiting churches--and cemeteries--on the road), especially catholic churches, I feel no real true welcome. It is as if they leave it up to God to say, "Howdy stranger, come in and make yourself at home!" The one place I would EXPECT to be received with pleasure and hospitality--is the one place I am denied it. I am these years an outgoing person, I show love and acceptance in my eyes, even I can see it! And what happens? Well, it seems to me, almost a rejection. 2.000 people in the congregation, and not one asked a biker-visitor questions like, "Are you hungry? Thirsty? Cold? Tired?
Opposite that, out on the road, Peeps (strangers, bikers, new friends at meetings) often have asked me if I have a place to sleep, and I am offered that and more. Go figure.
REFORMATTING THE MEANING OF SPIRITUALITY--FOR ME
I am coming to believe that it is not necessarily holding tight to a prayer book, sweating to remember the words, avoiding the 'meaning', looking up at the ceiling of a cathedral, saying, "I believe, I believe! Hallelujah!"
The 'action' now for me is happening down in the street with the Peeps, working with drunks, the disabled, others overwhelmed by life. Somewhat shamefully (because I was not raised this way), I admit to feeling closer to God when spending hours in an art museum; riding my bike (speed limit, of course--grin!); sitting under a bridge in the rain; surrounded by Peeps who moments ago were strangers; and trying to 'work' these AA Steps in my life--now failing, now correcting, now making amends, now living, now loving, now helping, now praying, now meditating
ALWAYS I must remember that each of us: drunk, addict (male or female), by whatever name...was never really alone. Some of us have left an as-yet-uncounted number of people in our wakes--disillusioned, tired, untrusting, sometimes in that indescribable terror we could produce. There have been betrayals, lies, lies and more lies. Sometimes the one living with an drunk becomes more sick than the alcoholic, because the alkie has a drug to temporarily console him, while the partner frequently does not.
....well, that's about enough of this series of dimensional discussion from ME! If you read this far, you might agree.
On my scooter trip August 2010 (my second trip!), the camaraderie of the biking community was not a surprise, but rather a comforting feeling. Being an old guy out there on the road at dark midnight on two wheels, climbing a mountain in western Virginia alone was never scary--until I had inadvertently (yeah, right--grin!) cut in front of a pickup truck, with oversize wheels, and those Christmas decorations on top the cab--OK, so they are 'hunting lights', so what! Anyway, the driver tried his best to run me down. Well it WAS scary (I lied!) until I made a fast U-turn across the Interstate median (in the dark, right?)...I went south. He/she went north. Whew!
So it is at times lonely.