I’m just returning from a friend’s funeral, even though I don’t usually attend such functions. I have a thing about saying goodbye; I just don’t do it. This was an exception for a variety of reasons, but mostly I felt I needed to be there for the sense of community and to support Pat, the longtime friend who called to tell me of our mutual friend’s passing.
Pat and I have been friends for over 30 years and we’ve lost a lot of friends recently, several in just the last five years. This particular friend, Wally, was larger than life in so many ways and he was always fun to be around. Once a Hell’s Angel, he’d retired from both the club and his business and was busily living the American dream. He had a nice house, the Jag he’d always wanted, two bikes, and a highly coveted country club membership. He’d paid more attention to his health in recent years, and here he was caught up in completely loving life when he was struck with a heart attack between the 17th and 18th holes on the golf course.
If he could have written his own story, Wally couldn’t have scripted a better ending to his vividly colorful life. He didn’t want to be old and he couldn’t fathom the concept of frail. However inconvenient for those of us who love him, it was the perfect exit for the storytelling, gregarious and gruff outside/teddy bear inside guy with the eclectic group of family and friends.
The chapel was filled to standing room only with folks decked out in everything from formal wear to club cuts, and we all had our individual Wally stories to tell—all of them with a humorous twist. We shared laughter, as well as tears, and we all know he’s holding court somewhere, cracking up the unearthly beings with his own road stories. The ceremony itself was a commentary on the respect we all held for him, but it also spoke to the respect Wally had for those of us he chose to share his life with. I walked away with the decision to follow Wally’s example of just living right out in the open. I have some pretty damned cool people in my life and I’m not gonna wait to be dead before they know how important they are to me. I think I ought to share some truths here while I’m at it.
I want my kids to know I love them more than life itself, but they ought to also know there is no inheritance so they’d better start saving for their own retirement. As a matter of fact, they’ll probably have to pay to dispose of my remains when that time comes. Though, if I get a vote, leaving me for the wolves to munch on in the Yellowstone hills would work fine, even though they might end up with the worst case of indigestion ever.
The kids should also know that the storage unit full of crap I pay for every month is pretty much junk except for a few odd motorcycle parts, so those guys from Storage Wars won’t be knocking at your door… sorry. The September 2004 edition of THUNDER PRESS that has my first article published for them is in a box, as well as a few copies of other publications that have run my photographs. There are hundreds of negatives of friends from back in my black-and-white film days when I turned the bathroom into a darkroom, crammed into the solid mahogany dresser my granddad built. The primed-and-ready-for-paint Mustang tank off the Sporty is in there and I’d prefer that it not be turned into a lamp, or an urn for my ashes. There is some pretty good old camping gear, too, and a weathered set of saddlebags somebody might be able to use, but mostly it is all slivers of my life; memories that mean nothing to anyone but me.
That’s pretty much the sum total of my net worth, kiddos, so I thought I should let you know that what you see is all there is. I plan to run the wheels off my bike before I make my great escape, so don’t expect to make any money off that, either. Thought you should know, just so you won’t be bummed in case you thought I was being responsible and stashing some cash for you. Instead I’m selfishly spending every dime I get on things like gas and roadmaps.
As for you, my friends, I’m grateful for the gift of having you in my life, and let’s just agree up front that you are the keepers of my truths. I’m hoping that when it’s my turn to head out into the Great Beyond you’ll throw a party, hoist a few drinks and laugh over shared times. Maybe the Fryed Brothers, Charlie Brechtel and a bunch of the Chubbs Brothers will show up to rock the place and everybody can dance. It would be cool if Missy Covill showed up with her guitar, too…and maybe Pat Simmons.