Thinkercade 2005: A Different Point of View

By SCIENCE
They say that it’s impossible to really know what the world looks like through another person’s eyes. Do things have the same meaning to them? Do they even see the same colors you do?
Last weekend, we magotts got the chance to view the world from a Thinker perspective, and it is a… ummmm… confusing place ๐Ÿ™‚
Thinkercade: The Departening
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For me it started on Friday afternoon as I rushed back from work to catch up with Scrounger. Or so I thought. I had a meeting that went until Noon, followed by lunch schmoozing. I had left my house door unlocked for Scrounger since he assured me that he was leaving his house in time to be at my place by 1 PM. He was going to take my bike, gas it up, and check the tire pressure so that we could zoom off as soon as the slacker (me) showed up.
Scrounger gets the Biffie for this trip ๐Ÿ™‚
I get to my house at 1:35. No Scrounger. Hmmmm… the bike is still here and the FJR is not. I scramble to pack the bike and don my riding gear because FOR SURE Scrounger will be here any minute. At 2 PM I leave a message for Katsoff to tell him we’ll be a little late. A half hour later, a drenched-in-sweat Scrounger shows up. He guzzles a half gallon of Pure Morris Plains springwater with Added Calcium ™ (ask me about my rotting plumbing) and we’re off.
My original plan was to head directly into NYC and try to get the magotts to meet us at Martinez Cigar Factory. Martinez is an honest-to-God cigar factory in a tiny storefront near FIT (29th and 6th). It’s run by some Dominicans who do the actual rolling, and their cigars are quite good. Unfortunately, nobody saluted that flag so we just set off to meet BOTA and Krewe at Reggie Pink’s Harley Davidson in White Plains. It was a hot uneventful sweaty HOT ride, and we made it in an hour-fifteen. BOTA, Ccarl, Julie (riding pile-on), and Thinker met us a few minutes later. Instead of just getting right on the Bronx River Parkway (Ah, the BRP… my nemesis! I hate that fucking road), Katsoff tells us that we have to stop by his house. “Why in God’s name would we want to do that?” I ask. I fear the answer, but I hear it anyway: “To pick up The Bitch.” Aaaargh! The only reason Lisa goes on a motorcycle ride with Rich is to MAKE SURE HE HAS NO FUN. If the rest of us were mean bastards like Katsoff, that would actually increase our fun level as we watched them send silent daggers of hatred at each other, but since we’re compassionate human beings we can partake in only a little bit of schadenfreude before having to look teh other way.
(Oh, BTW… Rich, Ccarl, Julie, and Thinker had apparently done a loop around the reservoir in Valhalla NY to warm up. Later on we would find out that this actually went beyond “warming up” Julie and was actually all the riding she could comfortably stand for one day, but by then it was too late… too late.)
One unexpected highlight of the trip to Richie’s house is that “Evil” Bill King meets us and gives our shriveled, dehydrated carcasses some water and a tour of La Villa King. It’s a fine mediterranean stucco number that would be so much more comfortable if it weren’t for the screaming and cursing that constantly wafts in from the neighbor’s house.
NYC on a Friday Night
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We also got to meet Mrs. Evil for the first time (well, at least the rest of us who aren’t next door neighbors did). She was charming yet tough… the perfect Biker Chick for Evil Bill. We also got to say high to Sherwood “Woody” Katsoff, BOTA’s dad. He mostly had the thousand-yard stare that one would expect would come from having raised Rich.
OK. Enough of that. It was approaching 6 PM when we set off for New York City. This was gonna be FUN! Rich and presumably Thinker have done enough riding in The City to be comfortable, and I’ve been in a lot less but still enough to know some of the basic rules, but Ccarl and Scrounger are Southern Boys (barely) to whom REAL city driving is about as alien as eating possum is to a New Yorker. Plus, Ccarl had Julie on the back. An amateur plus an inexperience passenger… Heh heh ๐Ÿ™‚
Sidebar: Pagan’s 10 Rules of NYC Riding
1) The best way to know what is behind you is to have just passed it
2) Watch the taillights; They are your best friend and worst enemy. If you read them right, it’s like having traffic ESP.
3) Ignore the potholes. Sure, they could wreck a rim but you need your eyes UP, dammit!
4) If the rider in front of you shoots a gap, don’t blindly follow. Do a head check. If you can’t make it, you can catch up at the next gap
5) If you ride slower than traffic, you’re doomed.
6) Use the bike’s accelleration advantage to treat the traffic like it was stationary. Everybody is more or less moving at the same speed, so you can really do this.
7) Lane split like a dog licks it’s balls. Because you can.
8) Cabbies may be fuzzy foreign terrorists in training and maniacs to boot, but they ARE predictable. Unlike those cars with NJ plates. Them folks is whacked.
9) Pedestrians are suicidal. Especially around Times Square or during lunch hour.
10) Try not to be the last rider in line. There is a temptation to keep up with the leader, and you’re the one who gets squeezed worst when everybody foolishly tries to shoot the same gap.
10a) Know the destination ahead of time in case you get seperated from the palaton.
The first destination was Faces & Names, a bar near Carnegie Hall famous for being a watering hole of Fame employees. Enough of us knew where it was that it seemed like a logical stop in case the ride got split up. Faces was still teeming with a NYC after-work crowd when we got there, but it cleared out quickly. Must have been the rugged piercing stares they got from the tough-assed bikers that came in. Heh. That or the fact that Julie immediately passing out cold on a bench seat suddenly made the place look much less hoppin’. I began my tradition for the trip of guzzling Red Bull(*) and Vodka. If it’s good enough for the Rave kiddies, then it’s good enough for me.
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(*) Red Bull: An “energy” drink that should be a controlled substance. Kicks harder than two full pots of espresso. Contains Taureine, which is chemical speak for “liquid crystal meth.”
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The plan was to bug out of Faces and head downtown into The Village for dinner and to be optimally situated for a run to Red Rocks West. We blasted down Broadway (FUN! Outta my way, pedestrian!) and found some packed brewpub for dinner on the second try. 90 minutes of beer & food were more fun than I can do justice to in writing. Ccarl tried to skip out on the bill, but we sent Scrounger after him to pay up.
After dinner. Poor Scrounger was feeling all Julie-like and wanted to get up to Thinker’s house. I spent 15 minutes trying to convince him to go to Red Rocks West. It went something like this:
Scr: “What kind of a bar is it?”
Pag: “It’s like Hogs & Heifers… like Coyote Ugly from that movie.”
Scr: “You mean like with naked chicks?”
Pag: “No. The bartenders are hot chicks and they pour Vodka all over the customers and dance the two-step on the bar.”
Scr: “Yeah, but is that going to be any fun?”
Pag: “Of course it is! Let’s go.”
Scr: “I dunno. I wanted to sit around the pool and Bullshit(*) like at Bingcade…”
Pag: “This is NOT Bingcade. Bingcade is out in the styx with nothing but possum and goobers for miles and miles. This is Thinkercade, outside the biggest, most hoppin’ city in all of the Free World. Let’s go to Red Rocks”
Scr: “Tell me again what kind of a bar it is?”
<repeat for 15 minutes… finally:>
Pag: “Oh, I give up. Let’s go up to Thinker’s house.”
Scr: “What? How come we’re not going to Red Rocks?”
Thinker: “I have no alcohol at my house, and the liquor stores in Connecticut have closed by now.”
Pag: “WHAT?!?!”
ย 
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(*) Translation: I want to taunt MJ
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So after a short panic, I realize that you can get beer in convenience stores in New York, unlike that backward state I come from. Convenience stores like the one we are STANDING DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF. Whew! I step inside and purchase 2 six packs of Bass Ale for (gulp) $26. Holy New York Prices, Batman. Still, beer is beer and I proceed to bungie the sixes to the bikes. One on my bike, one on Thinker’s. When putting the beer on my bike, for some reason I think to A) put the plastic bag over the beer with the beer bottles facing into the closed enf of the bag, B) tie the bag shut, and C) face the beer bottles forward, toward my back.
On Thinker’s bike, I do exactly the opposite. Can anyone see what’s coming?
By the time we pull onto the West Side Highway, I look to my right to see Thinker fiddling with his fanny pack (homo!). The same fanny pack that was bungied next to the beer. The beer which is no longer there. SHIT! $13 worth of beer launched out onto the streets of NYC like frothy malt torpedos. Probably happened at the first traffic light. I only wich I could have seen the expressions on the drivers of the cars behind us when Thinker launched beer at them. No wonder that drunken weirdo did that dance in Ccarl’s headlight.
No Mercy on the Merrit
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Did I mention that Rich had to go home? To drop off Lisa. Maybe we see him in the morning, maybe not.
The rest of us follow Thinker to his house. The Merritt Parkway is our road, and construction is our albatross. The powers that be in Connecticut have seen fit to cut off all but one lane in each direction, even though the construction is only on the southbound side. Aaargh! Thinker is leading, and he makes the command decision to lane split for about 15 miles. Lane splitting past 5 cars in NYC to get to a traffic light is one thing. Hell, that’s not really lane splitting… that’s “filtering.” Lane splitting for miles and miles on the highway sets off all the “they’re going to haul you off to jail” bells in my mind. Plus the fear that some road-rage bastard is going to open his car door just out of spite. Little did we know that this was just a tiny preview of Thinker’s riding on Saturday night.
It’s pretty damn late by the time we make Stately Thinker Manor in (almost) Greenwich CT. Julie get’s off Damien, kisses the ground, and locks herself in one of Thinker’s kid’s room mumbling ancient Taoist curses at Ccarl. The rest of us retire to the pool area to drink our single remaining 6-pack and bullshit. You win, Scrounger.
A Night in Stately Thinker Manor
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One would think that there would be some sort of ordinance in (almost) Greenwich CT that all Million-dollar and up homes (which, in that area means anything bigger than a garden shed)ย must have some form of air conditioning. Apparently Stately Thinker Manor was grandfathered in before such an ordinance was passed. I was panicing. Those of you who know me know that I am the biggest A/C wuss on the planet. I NEED my cold, dry air! Luckily, for these two days only we have a break in the oppressive 90+ degree summer heat, and sleeping out on Thinker’s porch is actually quite comfortable. A bit chilly even ๐Ÿ™‚
In the morning we wake to meet some of Thinker’s kids. On this I can only say: code of silence. There are some things you just don’t joke around about, right Scrounger? Katsoff? RIGHT? Even if she is 21 years old and smokin’ hot.
Wonder of wonders, Katsoff, MJ, and Don “Cato Kaylin” Whatsisname are there by the time everyone has shit, showered, and shaved. The full quorum has arrived.
To Lime Rock, Jeeves, and Smartly!
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We actually pick up a magott-in-training for the day’s ride. Andre, boyfriend to Thinker’s daughter (whom it would be rude of me to point out is a complete hottie) joins us on his robin’s egg blue Sportster.
Thinker has an excellent ride planned out. Ccarl has already compared it favorably to West Virginia. I’d agree, but this might be the time to hint at something that would later make things much more… interesting. At the beginning of the ride, Thinker handed out copies of his directions. Since I was the only one with a tank bag that had a map window, he told me that I would navigate once we got to a certain point. Fine by me.
When that point came I knew things had gone slightly askew because Thinker (leading) did a panic stop and a right turn, causing the following riders to compress together as successive reaction time delays caused the panic stop to worsen. It all came to a head with Andre, who was following Cato Kaylin too closely. Andre locked up his rear tire and did about 50 feet of seriously scary fishtails before halting. It was the kind of performance that caused the witnesses to pat him on the back and give him high-5’s for not crashing. This was also MY cue to take up navigation.
Now was the first time I looked at the directions. They looked like they might have been taken from Mapquest or MS Streets & Trips. Sort of. Sort of in a sense that someone had maybe had an academic understanding that such things as “directions” exist somewhere, but had little or no practical experience with such things. Or maybe someone who had such an idiosyncratic way of following directions that he had copied the directions but removed CRUCIAL INFORMATION such as whether to turn “LEFT” or “RIGHT” at each intersection. I kid you not. The directions consisted of road names and distances, but no indication of proper turns! It looked like this:
take CT 22 for 1.3 miles
to CT 243 for 11.7 miles
to Clarkstowne Rd. for 0.7 miles…
Needless to say I was a hopeless failure at following these directions. I’m willing to share the blame with the maker of the directions. Thinker?
Luckily Thinker was able to more or less eyeball it from hints in the directions and two stops to question the locals. We made it to Lime Rock Racetrack on some very good motorcycle roads. Connecticut is indeed very rural when you leave Hartford, Danbury, new Haven, and Stamford.
At Lime Rock, Ccarl turned tail and ran back to pick up Julie. The Taoist curses had worked! The mojo was on him, and he was being called back to momma. Bye bye, Ccarl. There is open speculation whether he will ever be seen from again, given that he has to get to Katsoff’s place for his car, then Thinker’s place for Julie, and he’s doing it all starting with Rich “Maps are for Pussies” Katsoff’s directions.
We spent 3 hours or so in Lime Rock watching all kinds of cars race. The second race we see is a GT/1 (read: 600+ horsepower purpose built closed wheel race cars… the real deal). The announcer keeps calling out the name of that famous salad dressing mogul, Paul Newman. Holy crap! Paul Newman is here, racing, today. Cool! After the race Scrounger and I go to ogle him with the rest of the maggotry.ย  It was indeed the famous food manufacturer Paul Newman. I hear he also made some movies once, too. The rest of the day is motorhead heaven. We see GT/1, GT/3, Formula 3000, Formula Atlantic, Formula V…ย  Got some great pictures that I’ll post later.
At some point Andre left too. I can’t recall when. He had to make it back to Stamford for his job as a bartender. More on that later.
Yale, Blues Traveller, Grateful Dead Cover Bands, and Black Bears
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Thinker’s directions call for a twisty ride to New Haven for a free Blues Traveller concert on the green. But, the best laid plans of mice and bikers… Fairly early on we gave up on the best roads and just took a straight shot towards New Haven.
Just inside of New Haven, in the “ethnic” section of town Thinker took us on a detour to try a ride up some amazing cliffs. These 1,000-foot cliffs just jut right up in the middle of a city. Amazing! Unfortunately the road to the top is closed, but we do get cheered on by some very large black women. You can smell the fear on Scrounger’s leathers.
Next stop, Yale University. It’s amazing how the nations second most prestigious learning institution, the school which graduated both the best president of the post ware era and the worst president of the postware era (note how I leave it to the reader to choose), could be immediately adjacent to such a crappy neighborhood. Remarkable. The magotts stop at a Yale-type bar for some outdoor brews and relaxation. At this point I should mention that nearly all of us are wearing official “Thinkercade” T-shirts courtesy of Scrounger. Once again I bow down to the Scrounge; he had these shirts made on only 24 hours notice and for only $15 each by piggybacking on his son’s cub scout shirt order. You go, man! I mention that because just as we saddle up some Yaley works up the nerve to ask “What’s Thinkercade?” I point to Thinker and say “He is Thinker, and we are Thinkercade.” I think he was impressed. Or puzzled.
Blues Traveller on the green in New Haven was the best concert I’ve been to in years. The other 49,999 people on the green seemed to think so too. Apparently like me they had all brought beer to drink, because the line for the portajohns was excruciatingly long. This would have definitely been a time to test out Biff’s products. Spent two hours watching the concert, until the last encore was over and then we headed to Toad’s Place.
Toad’s Place was another Yaley kind of bar with a huge stage and dance floor. Thinker worked there when he was in college, so we got in without a cover. I had a few more Red Bull & Vodkas while we watched the warm up act (a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band) and waited for the headliner to start. On the bill that night was Shakedown Street, a Grateful Dead cover band. that didn’t just go through the motions of learning the catalog, they actually forced their guitarist to PHYSICALLY BECOME Jerry Garcia. Now that’s deadication! I wonder if they made him chop off one of his fingers just like Jerry?
We could only take so much watching hippie chicks do the LSD dance. It’s amazing that the crowd was mostly 20-somethings. Think about it: The Dead’s heyday was in the late ’60’s, about 30 years ago. It would be as if a Frankie Avalon cover band drew a hught college crowd when we were at Lehigh in the ’80’s. Amazing. Still, we bugged out at around midnight.
Now things get a bit odd. There was some talk about “Going back to hang around the pool and bullshit” (can you guess who from?) But only Thinker knew how the fuck to get back to his house, so Thinker rules. Also, I’m not saying that Thinker may have partook of substances to alter the state of consciousness, but I’m not saying he didn’t. I’m just saying that the usual filters between the inner life and the outer behavior might have been a bit thin at that point. Thus we ride into the mind of Thinker.
U-Turn-Cade
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So picture this: It’s midnight on a Saturday night in New Haven. A huge free rock concert has just let out a few hours prior, and the city is crawling with cops. Our job: Follow Thinker somehwere. We’re not sure where. Home? mmmmmmaybe. Thinker is fixated on some kind of destination, because he pulls out and rides away BEFORE EVERYONE IS EVEN SADDLED UP ON THEIR BIKES. Specifically, MJ and Cato are still buckling their buckles and snapping their snaps. Scrounger and I follow him in the hopes of either catching him and telling him to stop or of stringing out the chase far enough for MJ and Cato to follow. Doh! he makes another turn before we can catch him, so we string it out and they catch up. But not for long! Thinker is riding like we’re the KGB and he’s actively trying to loose us! Right turns at red lights into single-bike gaps in the traffic. Unnanounced U-Turns (dozens of them) in the middle of the street. We circle back on ourselves several times. Hey… I’ve seen that building before…It goes without saying that Thinker is not using his turn signals, or when he does he just leaves them on permanently to confuse those who are tailing him. At one point we really and truly lost MJ and Cato completely. Had to catch Thinker and tap him on the shoulder to ask WTF he was doing. He was actually indignant. Called us pussies for not being able to keep up with him ๐Ÿ™‚ We relocated the lost riders and kept Thinker in sight long enough to make it on the infamous Merritt Parkway and down to…
Stamford, and the Black Bear Bar where Andre is bartendre and Thinker’s 21 year old daughter (whom it would be rude to point out is smokin’ hot) is hanging out and kind of acting like hostess or something. Yay, free drinks! More Red Bull & Vodka. I note that at this point it’s nearing 2 AM and I’m not the least bit tired. In fact, I’m finding it hard to even stand still and my teeth are clenched if I don’t actively think to unclench them. Maybe too much Red Bull?
In any case, we close the place. Not bad for the oldest people in the bar, if not that whole section of town which is one giant meat market for 20-somethings. There are apparently 10-12 bars in that block and Saturday night is THE night.
When you live an ascetic near-vegetarian lifestyle that a buddhist monk would find severe, sometimes you just have to kick out the jams and forget your vows. Such is the reason why Rich had us go across the street to the Paris Diner. There, the man who scowls at you for eating a slice of bread (carbs! CARBS!) not only orders a sandwich and a plateful of potstickers, but Mr. 2% bodyfat finishes off *my* plate of potstickers (hey, my svelte 240 pound frame can only take so much) and makes a serious dent in the gravy fries (GRAVY FRIES!) that Scrounger couldn’t finish. Sometimes the inner demon takes control.
Finally at nearly 3 AM we head back to Stately Thinker Manor.
How To Piss Off Your Wife & Philosophy
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There is one thing left to cap off the evening. Fireworks.
Before the 4th of July, Scrounger had borrowed me as a NJ citizen to go into Phantom Fireworks and pick up a crate of explosives. Phantom Fireworks is a brilliant revenue-making idea for PA. They allow out of state residents to buy fireworks that are highly illegal in PA as long as they promise to transport them immediately back to the state they came from WHERE THEY ARE ALSO HIGHLY ILLEGAL. Cool! I’m waiting for the heroin and crack stands they’ll be setting up next year.
When I bought Scrounger his $200 worth of fireworks, I also got myself 2 huge Grucci-level mortars. Massive 4-inch diameter bazookas of illegality. Single shot each, $20 a piece. They said they were something like “Blue Bowtie Arson Red Circle Handcuffs.” I’m sure Julie could have translated. Hell, her family probably worked in the factory that made these. We were going to launch them in a dry, tree-infested quiet Connecticut neighborhood. Heh heh hehehehehe.
The fuse was lit… Whump! KA-POW! Ooooh… aaaahhhhhh. They were about 90% professional grade. Definitely higher and louder than any fireworks I’ve ever gotten. Nice. Then the voice shouted out the window. What are you idiots DOING out there? Doh! I believe we might have woken up Mrs. Thinker. Oh well. My bad.
I mellowed out by sitting at the pool discussing philosophy with Cato Kaylin over a bottle of Johnny Walker Red. We killed about 2/3 of the bottle, which I consider a defeat since at Americade MJ was able to destroy 1.5 bottles of Genlteman Jack bourbon almost single handedly. Sleep overcame me at around 4:30 AM.
Oh… don’t hang around Thinker’s pool barefoot on a midsummer’s night. I have dozens of mosquito bites on all my exposed flesh, and the worst are on my feet.
Buh-Bye and Don’t Get Lost Looking for the Merrit Parkway
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The next day dawned with Katsoff already gone and a chance to make nice with Mrs. Thinker over breakfast. She didn’t seem to hold a grudge about the late night fireworks, but maybe she was just being polite. Thinker whipped up an awesome batch of eggs and meat, almost like you would do for a girlfriend who stayed over…
Eventually we had to leave for home. MJ decided to carry on tradition one more time by taking a wrong turn almost immediately out of Thinker’s neighborhood. We got to see the houses in the REAL Greenwich. More like mansions. No, more like castles. Had to ask a trophy wife jogging with what was undoubtedly some rare $50,000 dog how to get to the Merritt. She told us just to be rid of the riff-raff from the neighborhood. Bah! Those worms from almost-Greenwich keep wandering in! I must remember to have the town council erect that electric fence!
Later that day we were all home, and looking forward to… BINGCADE