Saturday, January 14, 2012


With a little patience and a lot of paper, I could map out every great thing in my life. I would discover, when I studied it, they are all to be found at the junction of other people and chance. Where these two roads meet, wonderful things appear.

Riding a motorcycle takes you to that corner faster than any other way. Motorcycle riders are a source of the same endless surprise that their rides offer them--open to serendipity and to what happens: to the great Come What May.

Through a chance meeting (and is there any other kind?), one rider has lately become a friend: closer and closer, bit by bit. Funny and magnanimous and generous, he is willing to share his friends in turn. And so, one night a while ago, I found myself at a table of people new to me, and the possibilities they represented were spread out like a feast. As in fact a feast was on the table in front of us; it's a very good restaurant. But some possibilities are tastier than others. Midway through the meal, I asked the man next to me--talking to whom proved a bit like getting rocks out of a mountainside garden--if he wouldn't mind changing seats. That is because there was something about the woman on the other side of him. Our mutual friend had had the idea we might get along. He is perspicacious that way.

A few rare times in a life, we are given what we need at the precise moment we can use it most. A person appears whose words, ideas, spark and burn.

They reveal themselves slowly, though, in their ideal purpose as catalysts of furtherance: that is in fact how you know it was "meant" to be. Because you had no idea, at first. No idea that a friend can help show the way with such a bright light, or even that the way had been so dark before. Not to mention how much fun it is to talk about the things that matter most to one, when they are also the things that matter most to the other.

I was told at first only that she was an artist. OK, an artist. There are millions of those. But a real one, one of the true uncommon, and one who just happens to have a studio in the factory building next door, the roofline of which you can see through the winter-bared trees out your kitchen window?

This was beginning to feel eerie. And then I walked into her studio, and gasped. Emily Dickinson, herself one of the rarest of the rare--the true artist--said she knew something was poetry "if I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off." I felt my skull rising skyward as I saw the beautifully strange works hanging there. And then I caught sight of the small office space off to one side of the studio.

The walls were papered with show ribbons, a solid quilt of blue and red. Her dogs. Agility champs. Turns out she is also a dog trainer, and she knows more about positive reinforcement training than any nonprofessional I've ever met. This--the artist, to bring me back to what had fed me for a long time in a past life, and the dog training theorist, to bring me back to a project long stalled and now barking to get free again--feels like I've stepped into a moment of preordination. By way of a very nice dinner, a friend who knows more than he knows, and the lines converging on a map.

Let's go now.


Shybiker said...

That's great news. I'm glad you've discovered a good new friend and hope your bond deepens.

Also, as someone who lived with an artist for 20 years, I can say that they can open your eyes in wonderful ways.

brittany said...

New friends are wonderful. A lovely story about making a new one.

Speaking of friends and dogs, have you read Gail Caldwell's Let's Take The Long Way Home? I imagine you have. If you haven't, I think you might like it, though don't read it before bed. You'll never get to sleep.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

SB: Artists make the world go round. Sometimes upside down. But that's an interesting perspective, too, eh?


Brittany, the book is on order. If you recommend it, I need to read it.

Charles said...

i find, as I trudge onward to my grave, that the older I become, the more difficult it is to make new "friends".

It's like a job interview process. "So am I willing to put in the effort, do I have the time, is this person worth training?"

And I find? Friends of friends, people with bikes? seem to make that cut so much easier.

Something about a motorcycle, the vehicle, the journey, the challenges they provide? that hammer a person's character, usually into a mold I can work with.

That said, I ONLY work with true friends now, no more acquaintances. I am too goddamn old and cranky for that.

Glad you found an interesting one.

Pierre Sim said...

Hi Melissa: I thought about you while driving my way to Florida a few days ago. In the middle of a snow storm in New York State, I imagined that I had stopped by to drink a coffee in your company. But I didn't, too scared of the unknown, too scared of the damn snow piling on my path. Yesterday, in Sunny Isles, I unpacked my Tmax and pulled it out the trailer. My wife and I rode the scooter up to South Beach, without helmets. The feeling was great! Over sixty and riding free under the sun. Still, thinking about your good books and about my mom, who's 91 years old, and who I left behind in her residence in L'Orignal, Ontario. Nothing is perfect... But I am glad that I know you a bit.

Bryan Cohen said...


I just thought I would let you know I just finished reading your book, "The Perfect Vehicle," about a month ago.

Oddly enough, I had just purchased a used 2007 Moto Guzzi Norge last summer, but I did not know that was your ride in the book. Even stranger, I live in Philadelphia, and my motorcycle was being serviced at The Spare Part Co while I was reading it, so the coincidences were interesting.

Anyway, fantastic book, and it really explains why I love riding myself. Usually I donate books when I am done reading them, but this one is staying on my shelf so I can revisit it in the future.


Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

So true, Charles: age is like a winnowing machine. Only the good & useful gets through now. It had been so long since I'd made a new friend who excited me, it made a dent in this stiff exterior. And made me want to write about it.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Pierre, next time--please stop by! For real, and not just in the imagination. But I get it. I probably would not have, myself. And maybe it's better that way.

Lovely image of entering warmth: via speed and freedom. Happy for you. (And I bet your mother is too.)

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Bryan, thanks for your kind words.

Coincidence makes the world go round. And we get more than our fair share in the motorcycle world, don't you think? One more reason to fall down on our knees and offer up thanks that's where we are.