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On a Run, Don’t look back…

Created: 17 July, 2009
Updated: 26 July, 2022
4 min read

First Person:

By Al Carlos Hernandez

 Been in a malaise-a-funk as it were ever since the MJ funeral. Ignoble icon or not, his music was part of the sound track of my life for many years. And now he is gone. What was hurtful to me was the looks on the Jackson brothers faces. I know how it is to lose a little brother to a lifestyle saturated in substance abuse.

 There is an old biker tradition, which is a low-rider tradition as well. Before you go on a run, (trip) you polish up your ride, check its vitals to make sure it looks good and is firing on all cylinders, no nails in the tires or bolts that may come loose.

 Scrubbing my bagger motorcycle’s white walls with a brillo pad, steam-cleaning the chrome spokes, making sure there is not a wet spot on the tank, fenders, or glistening pipes. Always kiss your loved ones good bye. This ritual is reminiscent of WW2 fliers who used to say, “Those who are about to die, salute you.” As you slip on your helmet, wrestling with the gloves, you pray in your heart that you will be one of the ones who return to ride another day.

 I find solace in riding an hour, rolling back to my old stomping grounds; the flat housed, strip mall flatlands where I spent, and at times misspent, my youth. But it’s all different now. All of the friends who lived out there are gone, only the memories live there now. Rumbling past abandoned car lots, boarded up bowling alleys, a domino column of vacated businesses, and wondering how things got so bad. Or was it bad then too, but my lenses rose-colored with youthful optimism and/or aggressive ignorance?

 While at the stop light I glance over to where a ten foot pane glass window housed the furniture store. I see in the refection a middle aged old dude on an expensive bike, whose weathered face I knew from the inside out. Admired the bike. It’s what I always wanted but could never afford. Now that I can afford it I have to ride alone because those who wished these things with me will never ever again make the trip. I remember Marlon singing, “Smile, though your heart is breaking.” It was for all the brothers who went before me who didn’t have a chance; because they took the wrong road.

 There seems to be a pall of sadness with little to smile about given the economy and the media-fueled fear of things that may, or may not, come. The passing of MJ seemed stark and surreal to me, as if we could change the channel suspending our disbelief. But it was real and now it is over. With him went part of my childhood. Kids like me sang Jackson 5 tunes while they ruled the Top Forty. We watched as they showed America that Black kids do exist and could blow The Beatles off the charts.

 I slip through the gears roaring through barking pipes from stop light to stop light, but there were no new cars to look at or flipped old school buckets for sale. This patch of land now belongs to another America, one that I no longer really know, and on the real, really doesn’t know me.

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 It is typical on the 4th of July, as a tribute, for me to make the trip past the cemetery where my baby brother and family members are laid to rest. Always try to keep a brave face as if they could see me, and maybe hoping Johnny boy could see the bike. But they can’t and he won’t. Tears dry easily behind mad dog sunglasses, with the wind in your face and the sun scorching laugh lines. The faster you go, the quicker the tears turn to salt. If you tilt your head often it won’t impair your vision. Never lower your head in submission. Losing focus on where you are going can be fatal.

 I accelerate into the next town and the next. Then I hit the freeway and let the bike run free, as if I could escape those who went before me. And I can by looking forward to going home.

 Jerry Garcia said, “I know the rent is in arrears, dog has not been fed in years, it’s even worse than it appears, but It’s alright, I will survive.”

 I stand with Romans 8:39

Al Carlos Hernandez writes for

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