Announcing!!! My Latest Novel: Hope: The Adventures of Sid, the Buddhist, Ninja Detective; Motorcycles included.

Now available on an Amazon site nearest you. Ebook too!

https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Adventures-Buddhist-Ninja-Detective/dp/1090295529/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1553443881&refinements=p_27%3AGene+Powers&s=books&sr=1-1&text=Gene+Powers

 

In Georgia’s sultry Savannah, under the canopy of live oak trees and swaying Spanish moss, there’s been a bizarre murder in an historic square. Sid, the Buddhist, Ninja detective has been called in to help solve the crime. While some murders have no leads; this one has too many – a broken romance, a victim who worked for a mysterious international art gallery, even the death of a former prostitute twenty years earlier. Sid needs the help of retired, former detective, Rory Connor, but first, he must track him down, which won’t be easy. Last time anyone saw Connor he was hightailing it south on his motorcycle named Rocinante, on a quest to resurrect the Laws of Chivalry in this callous, modern world. Somebody’s got to do it. Find love, murder, hope and redemption amidst the blooming camellias, azaleas and resurrection ferns of Savannah. Ride along with Sid on the cobblestone streets and help him solve the mystery before someone else is killed. Let’s face it; he’s going to need all the help he can get.

Here’s a link to my other novels:

https://www.genepowers.org/

 

 

Hula girl is Back! Pure Consciousness, Shifty Shifter Shafts and Coffee.

Hula girl

Hula girl

My buddy Jeff “El Jefe” picked me up yesterday and we drove to the Harley dealer to pick up Big Red. As we rode down the highway in his police interceptor we had one of our usual manly conversations. This time it was about pure consciousness,the “luminous” quality of the mind, how it’s like a mirror that merely reflects thoughts but is not those thoughts, about how attitudes of gratitude and lovingkindness can crowd out negative emotions. The usual Harley talk.
When we got to the dealer the bike was ready and it had been awarded the prize of an astoundingly high repair bill. Even though the mechanic explained everything he had done to that bike I still didn’t understand. If he had explained it in terms of pure consciousness I might have had a chance. Instead he talked about the cams, the cam chain and a whole lot about the shifter. I recall a bit of the conversation.
“So,” I said, “Let me get this straight: You had to replace the shifter shaft seal, fix the stripped shifter shaft lever and the stripped shifter shaft?”
“You got it.”
I laughed. “I don’t even know what in the hell I’m talking about!”
Essentially, in terms that even I could understand, Jeff explained that everything below the engine had been repaired or upgraded. The bill easily reflected that. But Big Red does have 56,000 miles on her. She has safely ferried me across the country twice. She deserves a bit of pampering. And it made a difference. On the 30 minute ride back to Rome I noticed she had more torque, idled lower, gears shifted with less clunking, she rode more smoothly and there weren’t any rattles. Certainly ran more smoothly then I walk!
So I took her out again today. The temperature has soared and right now is knocking on 65 degrees. I had fun on the back roads, a few twisties, slaloming in the curves. I stopped at K Mart to buy a new hula girl to put on my bike. (I’ve written in a previous blog about how a Harley mechanic broke her off at the legs. The poor thing.) I rode out to the Oostanaula river and parked the bike and attached the new hula girl. That completed my trinity of tokens. I have a Yin Yang medal on the bike to remind me to stay balanced and in the here and now. I have a St Columbanus medal, the patron saint of motorcyclists, to remind me to be reverent and I’ve got hula girl to remind me to be silly and not take myself too seriously. I’m ready for anything now!
I found a spot by the river to sit and think about things like shifter shafts and pure consciousness. (Realizing ironically of course that if I’m thinking about pure consciousness then I’m not dwelling in it. But that’s okay.)
I mainly felt gratitude. Thankfulness for this moment. I dwelled in that zone for a spell.
I hopped on the bike again and went for another ride and stopped at a spot near the river. There I ran into a friend that for some reason I keep running into. A few minutes ago she took off for a walk and we’re going for coffee when she gets back. So right now I’m sitting by the river, writing, listening to the geese honking, watching the river flow.

Day 2: Simple pleasures, Hannibal Missouri, Mark Twain, Huck Finn and the Lamed Vov

Packed and Ready to Ride

Packed and Ready to Ride

Day 2: Simple pleasures, Hannibal Missouri, Mark Twain, Huck Finn and the Lamed Vov
Baths are great. I don’t do anything weird like candles and scented bath oils (I leave that to my normal riding buddy Jeff Stafford). I usually only take them when I’m on the road. They remind me of when I was a kid and things were simpler. Sometimes I’ll even turn the shower on and hide behind the plastic shower curtain and imagine I’m in one of those plastic tents I used to build in the backyard. Not much more than a sheet of plastic thrown over two sawhorses. Being outside in the rain was vastly superior to being inside with my two sisters and their Barbie dolls. Simple pleasures.
This morning the sky is blue and clear but it’s in the low 60’s and feels nippy. I’m waiting till after the morning rush hour before I head out. I managed to stay off the interstates for over 300 miles yesterday but that comes to an end this morning. Other than ferrying the bike across the Mississippi River I can’t see any other way of getting across other than interstate. When I reach the other side I hope to take Hwy 61 north, the great river road, but even then it disappears every now and again, as does Route 66, which I did last year. I’m heading toward St Louis and then Hannibal Missouri, but of course all that can change depending on what happens on the road. Hannibal is the birthplace of Mark Twain. If Huckleberry Finn was alive today he’d be riding a Harley Road King (like mine!).
The other day something weird popped into my head. It’s the story of the Lamed Vov, the 36 humble, righteous people who the fate of the world rests upon. God preserves the world on the basis of the actions of these 36 holy people, so humble, simple, content, grateful and kind that no one, not even them, thinks that they’re one of the 36. If we can’t be one, we can at least accept the challenge to try and live like one.
I’ll be thinking about that as I ride the Mississippi River Road.

Day Four: El Reno Oklahoma to Tucumcari New Mexico. Namaste!

Back in Georgia the time is now 8:50 pm Monday, in Ireland it’s 1:50 am Tuesday and here in Tucumcari, New Mexico I’d say it’s about 1950. That’s because the town still holds onto much of the grandeur of the 1930’s and 50’s when Route 66 was the only road in town; almost literally.  Once the interstate was built much of old Route 66 was abandoned. But some old diners and motels persist! Beautiful relics to a time long ago.

Today was a long biking day. Over 400 miles. Right now I’m sitting in the Desert Inn motel drinking a Tecate beer with the air conditioner on and feeling like I’m in somewhat of a stupor. Despite a couple of rounds of factor 50 sunscreen I’m toasted.  I hope I can write more intelligibly later but for now just a brief update.

Jeff took his bike to the Harley shop first thing and they managed to sort the problem out. By 10am we were on the road. Due to our different styles of riding with Jeff being a man with a mission, and me being a bit of a dawdler (“Hey, let’s see what’s down here!) we decided to again meet up somewhere later and ride at our own paces. We kept in touch a few times by texts during the day but otherwise we just met up an hour ago. He took off on Interstate 40 where the speed limit soars to 75mph. His story, which he can tell better than I, is that once we split up his handlebars starting going a bit wonky; too loose. He got to Amarillo, visited another Harley shop then drove on to Tucumcari.

He later admitted that the problem had been his own fault. Last night I had given him a small Route 66 gremlin bell and he had failed to attach it to his bike.  Motorcycle gremlins love to hitch rides on motorcycles. They are mischievous rascals who cause all sorts of mayhem. A minivan cuts in front of you; your battery goes dead, road gators charge after you, or as in some reported cases, your handlebars come loose. Apparently, if you get a bell on your bike (it has to be given to you-you can’t buy it yourself) the gremlins get trapped in the bell, the ringing drives them nuts and they lose their grip and fall onto the road. Jeff has promised me he will put the bell on tomorrow.

I decided to go Route 66 for awhile, back through Bethany and Yukon and El Reno where legal speeds can gust up to 55mph. I managed to take the wrong roads twice (not the same road-two different ones) but I also stopped and took pictures of an old bridge, of the great bar Jeff and I went to last night and then tried to go a bit further on Route 66  but I ended up on a section of pre-1937 route which was built with poured Portland concrete. I began to realize why they don’t drive much of the old-old route anymore: bounce, smooth, bounce, smooth-every 10 yards!

So I went back onto I-40 and settled into the 75 mph mantra. I crossed the rest of Oklahoma, then went across the top of Texas and slithered into New Mexico. I had to stop every hour or so to gas up,  rehydrate and to administer to myself a mental status exam to ensure I could still ride safely. I know there is a population crisis and that we should take this very seriously but really, has anybody been to the top of Texas and ridden across I-40? Miles and miles of deserted land. I know I went more than once about 40 miles without seeing a gas station. Consequently, I almost ran out of gas.

Amarillo was a bit dicey when I came upon a rolled up carpet and small pieces of wood blocking my lane. I braked, down shifted, looked left to change lanes but a car was there, to the right was another car so I somehow managed to slalom the bike and thread my way around the debris. I also dodged a metal bar in the road and avoided attacks by those pesky road gators, bits of tires lying in wait to pounce.

I decided not to take a chance on running out of gas again and so stopped about 20 miles east of Tucumcari. The filling station it turned out was run by Indians-no, not native Americans but real Indians. I stopped at the pump and it said: sold out. So I rolled the bike back to a pump that didn’t have a notice. Engine off, kickstand down, glasses off, helmet off, fingerless gloves off and I start filling. Turns out this one is out of gas too. I roll the bike over to another pump and try again and I get 20 cents worth. I stop and go inside and explain my problem to the Indian cashier. He says that they are out of premium gas. I ask whether I can have $5 of regular gas and give him $10. For some reason the cash register jams and I hear him discussing and arguing in some Indian language with a man standing by. This takes about 5 minutes.  I’m exhausted, frustrated and I’m thinking: I need to show love and compassion for all beings! Finally, the man says “You can do it now”. I ask for my $5 back from the $10 I gave him and he says: “Oh I thought you wanted $10 dollars on pump 5!”

I say: “That’s fine.” and “Namaste” which essentially means: “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you”. I go back to the pump and the tank will only hold $9 worth. “Namaste” and I ride off.

Later I make it to our motel  and the receptionist is another Indian man (not native American) who is delightful, charming and helpful. I kind of mutter but he is patient and suggests places to eat and drink.

And drink I do! I’m on my second can of Tecate right now and ready for bed.

Nameste to you and good night!

Monty Python and Zen Motorcycle Repair Shops

I’m pleased to say that Jeff finally got his bike back from the repair shop. Since we’re leaving in two days the delay was putting an unneeded and unexpected burden on our moods; his mainly. It got me thinking about my experiences with repair shops and whether there was any use exploring the problem from a Zen perspective.

We’ve all asked the question: “When will this be ready?”

Instead of getting a response like “tomorrow’ or “Monday” which I know is just a wild guess I’d rather just get a more honest Zen reply, like: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

We all meet a variety of skill level people everywhere we take our business. Motorcycle repair shops are just the same. There are some extremely competent people there and then sometimes, in the Monty Python tradition, you just wish you could yell: “Will every mechanic who is a mechanic punch a mechanic who isn’t a mechanic?”

I must say that overall I’ve had good karmic experiences at motorcycle shops. But then I haven’t had to use one in a long time. That’s because this is the first motorcycle I’ve owned in about 22 years. Before that I did ride a succession of bikes: Kawasaki 125, Honda 350, BMW R60/5 for years until I got the old “ultamato”. One day, staring at the BMW my wife at the time said to me.” Gene you’ve got a child on the way, it’s either us or the bike.”

I had sort of guessed this was coming. She’d hinted around about it. And, of course, you have to answer quickly because saying ‘I’m thinking about it’ would release a whole lot of pain on you that you don’t need.

“Of course”. I answered, already thinking that maybe I’ll put such an absurdly high price on it that no one will make an offer.

I reflected on the carefree days when the two of us would have great adventures riding all over the rolling hills and back roads. And you know that just offering to buy a side car, for some reason just won’t cut it.

Mothers-to-be are programmed to say these things. It’s instinctual. They know that our having a motorcycle will just interfere with our hunter and gatherer skills. Unless you are talking about hunting down and gathering more motorcycles.

Before I could get an advertisement in the paper I guy I know offered me money for the bike. In front of my wife. The worst place he could have done it!

So when I returned to riding motorcycles after the kids were grown I realized that, just like cars bikes had evolved technologically. Motorcycles also now have those check engine/ maintenance required lights that flicker on and off. The bike mechanics can plug your bike into a machine and it’ll whirl, groan, and then spin out some arcane number, both mystical and alchemical that may or may not give a clue to the problem. I’ve never seen one of these decoding machines work but I have seen the confused looks on the faces of mechanics. I remember hearing one exclaim: “Check the lean-angle sensor. Where the hell is that?”

In Zen motorcycle repair shops they probably get an answer more like: “Do not look outside. The answer is within.”

In the old days you’d stand there with the mechanic, he’d be wiping oil of his hands with a blue rag and he’d just say: “She done froze up on you.” That was the explanation for everything. We’d nod our heads in agreement and then shake them sadly in unison, staring at the bike.

I actually feel more comfortable when the check engine light is on. It’s reassuring. Most of the people I know ride with them on and, like me, get worried when the light goes off. “Okay, what’s wrong now? The light went out.”  If you’re like me you put a piece of black tape over the light so you won’t have to look at it all time. And if you’re like me you also angle your head to the side every now and then just to make sure it it’s still on.

You can tell a lot about the psychological makeup of a wife or girlfriend just by their reactions to the check engine light. Try this experiment: Next time you’re in a car and the light goes on or goes off what do she immediately say?

If she says: “what did I do?” it means she’s guilt prone, like me, and tends to take responsibility for her mistakes, along with the mistakes of others. Now that’s a way of being-in the-world you can work with.  There’s some self -reflective ability there, which, in moderation is good. If she looks at you and says: “What did you do or not do?’ you can tell that marriage counseling is likely to be ineffective with this person should you need it someday. You are going to get blamed for everything. These folks have an ability to see everyone else’s check engine lights, but their own. The Zen way of responding is just to smile, wonder at and appreciate the beauty of the disappearance of the check engine light.

I wish motorcycles would come with a check engine light, check light so I can be sure that my check engine light is always working. What if there’s a fault in the check engine light itself? . But then, having studied philosophy I know that my simple wish to have a check engine light, check light,  if followed, according to Zeno’s paradox would result in an infinite number of check engine light, check lights, each checking on each other. Motion itself would become impossible. Nobody wants that.

So how can we apply any of this to Zen motorcycle repair shops? Well it helps to teach us patience and to have compassion. Zen motorcycle repairmen have no more control over the future than we do. They are at the whim and mercy of their stock, the correctness of their inventory updates, the honesty of their suppliers and the talents and abilities of their staff, just like we are. The Buddhist idea of interconnectedness helps us see that we’re all in this together.

And while we watch them do their silly walks around the repair place, just like we do ours, we should relax, stay centered, breathe, and have gratitude.

After all, I know it’s in the Bible somewhere, maybe worded slightly differently, that we should deal with our own check engine lights first, before we point to those in others.

Makes good sense to me.

Planning the Trip: Harleys, Country Fried Steak and Gravy, Great Craic, A Trip to the Harley Shop, Beef Jerky and Cookie Selling Scouts and Zen

Our USA Rand McNally map was inaugurated successfully yesterday with coffee cup stains and bits of country fried steak and white gravy at Wes-Man’s restaurant in White, Georgia. Jeff and I unfolded the big map on the table and we began pointing at routes with our forks. “Can we get to Fort Smith the first day?” Jeff asked his fork hovering over Arkansas.  

     “Buddy,” I replied, “I think that might be a wee bit much.” I realized immediately and regrettably that I had used the Northern Irish vernacular “wee” in the sentence. Sixteen years in Northern Ireland leaves its trace in your language as well as your heart. The other day he had asked me how the Briar’s Club Night had been at Old Havana Cigar Bar in Rome and I had responded: “Terrific. The craic was great! Ninety.”

     “The what?” He had asked. “You boys using crack cocaine?”

     I laughed. “No, craic in Northern Ireland means…” I rolled my hands trying to think, “great banter, a really enjoyable time, good clean fun.”

     He eyed me suspiciously. “And ninety?”

     I raised my shoulders. “For some reason that’s the best the craic can get. Don’t ask me why, I didn’t make up the rules about it.”

     But now Jeff was shaking his head again and had a look on his face like he’d just smelled something bad. “Look here pal, don’t you start saying “wee” again. I’ve told you that real men don’t use the word “wee’! I don’t want to hear any of that Irish lingo. We’re Americans, tough bikers and we’re about to ride cross country on our Harleys.  We’re gonna look and sound like bikers!”

     I ignored him. “Jeff, Atlanta to Ft Smith would be about 700 miles. Unless, you’re practicing for the Iron Butt competition that’s a … bit much for our first day. Why don’t we stop in Memphis. I’ve never been there.”

     He shook his head in agreement. So at least we had our first destination planned: Memphis.

     After eating we drove down the road to the Cartersville Harley Davidson where a big shindig was going on. The place was packed with bikes and pickup trucks. Outside people were mingling, burgers were being grilled and music was blaring. We went inside and were immediately met by uniformed cub scouts and girl scouts selling beef jerky and cookies, respectively. The place was packed with people looking at the over 200 bikes on display for sale.

     I shook my head. “This is bad.” I said as I moseyed over to a magnificent looking bike. “This is a 2013 CVO Road King.” I drooled. “Says the color is ‘diamond dust and obsidian with palladium graphics’.

     “Palladium, I thought those were some of those people living in Sri Lanka?”

     “No those are Dravidians.”

     “No, those are them boys down in Waco Texas.”

     “No, those are Davidians.”

     “Purty bike.” Jeff said.

     “Yeah,” I replied, “and the list price is only $30,000!” I shook my head. “This is bad.”

     “Why?”

     “Cause I want it and I shouldn’t.

     “Why not?”

     “Cause Buddha says that suffering comes from a desire to be something or have something. I want that bike!”

     “Aw man! Don’t go all Zen on me. Bad enough you went Irish on me back at the restaurant.

     “God says the same thing.” I replied defensively.  

       He wandered off and I followed. Jeff looks every bit like the archetype of a biker. Strong, well built, tough sounding, thick grey hair (he was bald for a while), chiseled face, chin bearded, biker swagger, and he had this drawn out way of eyeing you up and staring at you that could make you want to confess sins you hadn’t even committed yet. If you ended up in a fight you wanted Jeff on your side. Even if you were assaulted by jerky and cookie selling kids you wanted him there to protect you.

     I didn’t look like a biker. I looked more like a mad professor, a tamer version of Doc from the Back to the Future films. Make him shorter, chubbier and take away his intelligence and you’ve got me!   

   I followed Jeff around as he pointed out things I needed for the trip. Before we got out of there Jeff had hooked me up with saddlebag liners, a three pocket windshield pouch attachment, a personal electronics magnetic pouch to hold my phone on my fuel tank, some Plexus plastic cleaner, Bugslide (“The Cleaner, Polisher and Bug Remover with Attitude”) and some beef jerky and cookies.

     With a handshake and a manly hug we said our goodbyes and agreed to meet next Friday at Old Havana in Rome to smoke a cigar and continue our planning.    

Reconcilling Motorcycle Riding Differences: Speed and Expressing Loving-Kindness

Jeff and I have a lot of things in common when we ride our Harleys. We love the muffled, chortling sounds they make when you’re accelerating, climbing the gears, slowing down. These are not the extremely loud unbaffled shouts some bikes make when the rider is seeking attention. Our bikes are different: as we slalom through the countryside our bikes make the sounds of strength, determination, gratitude and reverence.  My bike, maybe a bit more.

We love the smells too. I can still remember the sweet scents of confederate jasmine and wisteria I inhaled as I rode around the squares in Savannah on my old BMW. The smell of pine straw burning always brings me back to autumns of my youth.  Certain scents take us through the vaulted aisle of memory to moments of our past. The French writer Marcel Proust, the author of “In Search of Lost Time” wrote that “after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone,” remain “like souls, remembering, waiting  and hoping…”.

Up here in Northwest Georgia I’m attracted more by the alluring scents of wood burning fires, and the wafting aroma from barbecue joints. In some future posts I want to write about the scents -good and ugly- that one encounters on a motorcycle but now I have more serious issues to address.

While Jeff and I clearly have riding themes in common, admittedly, we’re going to have a few challenges reconciling our differences in how we like to ride on a trip. For one thing, Jeff’s always in a hurry. He wants to get to the next destination as quickly as possible. To him the trip is not about the journey it’s about speed (fast), miles (lots of),interstates (loves them),  destinations, coffee, meals, cigarette breaks, verbally insulting me and looking cool on his bike. (I will admit that he does look cool on his bike.) Whereas, my riding philosophy is about taking the back roads, the blue highways as William Least Heat Moon called them, savoring every moment of the journey, getting into that Zen mind, stopping now and again to appreciate the scenery, express gratitude,  and to demonstrate loving –kindness for all sentient beings present . I have yet to tell him that I plan to stop frequently in various towns, taking time to visit the florist section of a Piggly Wiggly or a Winn Dixie and buy flowers which I will hand out to people passing by, with special attention to individuals who have been overwhelmed by the exhaust fumes from Jeff’s Harley.   This may take some time.  Jeff will have to be patient. You can’t rush loving-kindness.