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Riding in the Storm: “There was something furtive and broken in the gesture.”

JWM REACTS TO “Two riders were approaching:” Isaiah and All Along the Watchtower

Saturday was our monthly bike club. No one came out to ride with us, and one of our guys was a no show. But we rode. Despite lockdowns, mandates, or whatever, we ride. The Vietnamese, God bless them, were rallying for Trump again at the Huntington Beach pier. They’ve been there every weekend since October. They know what it’s like to lose a country.

Sunday was quiet, sad, and empty. Deep haze and clouds buried the winter sun. I took my stretch cruiser, the show bike, out early, put on my club shirt, and took a slow morning cruise. The streets were all but deserted. The few people out were slouching along with their muzzled faces shoved into cell phones, ears jammed shut with blue-tooth plugs.

Luckily, there was no one at the park, so I sat at my favorite spot, and knocked back a couple of bowls. But that served only to deepen an overall sense of gloom. So I saddled up, and just wandered, turning here or there with no thought of getting anyplace.

I cruised down Whittier Boulevard, passed the Whittwood shopping center, and slid down the side streets into the neighborhood.

I passed St. Bruno’s Catholic Church. The haze rolled in deeper, and the silver morning light grew dull.

The sun rays turned the pewter sky into the iris of an immense leaden eye with a bone white pupil staring down the world.

I rolled around the corner, and stopped, just to look at the sky. Across the street, I could see St. Bruno’s holding outdoor mass in the lunch area of the parish schoolyard. Recorded music started as the congregants lined up in their face masks to receive communion. Each received the host in his cupped hands, turned from the altar to face the street where I sat on the cruiser. Each took several steps to ensure a safe social distance, and lifted a corner of the muzzle to slide the host into the mouth, and onto the tongue.

There was something furtive and broken in the gesture. The whole scene became surreal, almost frightening. I was standing inside a tarot card. That moment could have been painted by Breughel, or Bosch.

I rolled on home and put the bike up. Buddy the Cat was in the yard, snoozing on the table in the gazebo. The haze was breaking up and the ol’ guy was enjoying the thin warmth of the January sun. I re-heated some stale coffee, sat down, and joined him.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Casey Klahn January 12, 2021, 2:03 PM

    On point. Congrats, jmw.

  • ghostsniper January 12, 2021, 2:17 PM

    I’ll have some of what he’s having, with his 1000 yard stare.
    Is he thinking of the past, or the future?
    Or some where in between?
    How did I know he’s a he?
    No lipstick on the cup.
    And that Blackhawk 44 magnum on his hip.

  • Skorpion January 12, 2021, 2:20 PM

    Excellent little piece, @jmw. As good as anything our host has written here.
    I first heard “Riders on the Storm” as a 10 YO, riding the bus to summer camp. The DJ introduced it by saying that Doors singer Jim Morrison had just died in Paris at age 27.

  • gwbnyc January 12, 2021, 2:39 PM

    I can’t tolerate dogs, but I utterly adore cats.

  • BonafideView January 12, 2021, 3:01 PM

    The remarkable reflections from an attentive bike ride through present day realities are poignant. Your frankness is powerful. Thank you for stirring the soul while honoring humanity.

  • Uncle Mikey January 12, 2021, 3:53 PM

    Lovely. A deep breath before we hoist the weight of 2021 on our shoulders

  • John the River January 12, 2021, 4:19 PM

    I get along with cats. I bond with dogs.

  • JoanOfArgghh! January 12, 2021, 4:40 PM

    I took a picture today on the malecón in Mazatlán and came home to read you describing it. Awesome.
    It provoked the first post on my blog in a long time. Thanks.

  • JoanOfArgghh! January 12, 2021, 5:41 PM

    Corrected. I see JWM is rivaling Gerard for beautiful visuals!

  • jwm January 12, 2021, 6:01 PM

    Right now I’m speechless.
    Thank you all.


  • Zaphod January 12, 2021, 6:35 PM

    Shifty-looking Cat there.

  • julie January 12, 2021, 6:56 PM

    Beautifully written, jwm.

  • pacificus January 12, 2021, 7:58 PM

    The measure of a blog post? The quality of the comments it generates. Thank you all, Gerard, jwm, everyone, for making this a worthwhile place to stop each day.

    PS…ok, maybe not the main measure…but surely the quality of people is shown by where they gather and with whom they mingle

  • Daniel January 13, 2021, 7:48 AM

    Yes, there is something wrong about the outdoor Masses, the communion-in-a-mask; there is something deeply broken about the bishops and hierarchy who were among the first to embrace lockdown decrees, and show no sign of working for religious freedom.

  • James ONeil January 13, 2021, 9:00 AM

    Good on yer, JWM! Sitting up here on top of the world I can go days anyone in ridiculous masks, actually without seeing anyone be family and friends at all.

    Witnessing the fall of civilization (Our Republic was the last great hope.) is sad, of course but, as is said about the deceased at every Irish wake; we had a dang good run!

  • EX-Californian Pete January 13, 2021, 9:07 AM

    JWM, GREAT story about something very close to my heart- RIDING.

    I have some great memories of riding in some parts of Commiefornia- like the mountains in Ojai, parts of PCH on a Sunday morning when all the BMW yuppie-libs were still in bed with hangovers, Mulholland to the Rock Store (sometimes seeing Jay Leno on his jet turbine bike) before it became infected with wannabees, newbies, and meth heads.
    When I lived on Topanga Canyon Bl., it was a great ride to the beach, passing thru the “rich hippie” areas and the canyon roads and “twisties.”

    When I moved to Paradise, CA., the roads & rides got even better. Just a few deer or skunks to dodge there- instead of angry yuppies in BMW’s and illegal aliens driving uninsured junkers.
    Of course, that’s all moot now, since Paradise is gone, and both my Harleys were lost in the flames. One of them was a 1972 FLH custom, the other was the 1969 XLCH used in the old “Then Came Bronson” TV series- it was kickstart-only, so Michael Parks demanded one with an electric starter- an XL. Whatta wimp….

    Now I’m on a ’98 Harley FatBoy, and the rural roads here in the Midwest offer 100 times the pleasure of any road in Commiefornia, the air here is pure and fragrant, the scenery is lush and green, and the drivers around here are courteous and aware of riders. Even better- vehicle costs are a fraction of those in CA., and we have NO HELMET LAW.
    The only downside is 3 less months of riding per year due to weather. That’s OK, I’d rather deal with snow than deal with SNOWFLAKES!

    Life is a million times better on 2 wheels.

  • Gordon Scott January 13, 2021, 9:24 AM

    Has anyone here purchased one of the newfangled electric-assist bicycles? I am told, by a salesman, that all he has to do is get people to take a 10 second ride around the parking lot, and there is a big smile, and a sale.

  • DrTedNelson January 13, 2021, 10:12 AM

    All Pets Matter.

  • Bill Henry January 13, 2021, 10:39 AM

    Yes Gordon… Those electric bicycles are awesome. Ride one.. own one..

  • Nori January 13, 2021, 11:08 AM

    The more one reads this,the better it gets. Well done,JWM.

    These past few weeks feel like we’re trapped in a Bosch or Bruegel painting. Those Old Masters really understood humanity. Imagine the portraiture they could do of our ruling trash.

  • Sam L. January 13, 2021, 2:24 PM

    Can’t say if I’ve ever driven on those particular roads, but I’ve been on some much like them in New Mexico and Arizona.

  • jwm January 13, 2021, 2:45 PM

    My bike gang is pretty hard core when it comes to the E-bike.
    NO. Period. We pedal. End of discussion.
    We had one of the club founders get into his E-bike. He rides with us no longer. The guy gained forty pounds to boot.
    Ex Californian Pete: I do get nostalgic for the motorcycle. I remember an old buddy who had an XLCH with a magneto. I can still remember him kicking, and kicking, and kicking. Nobody envied him until the bike fired up. Then we all wanted a Sportster. I crossed the continent ten times on my Softail Springer in the early 90’s. Part of me admits to just plain losing my nerve when it came to riding the California streets. But behind the veil, my guardian angels were tellin’ me, “Listen up, bonehead…”
    So I said, OK, and sold the Hog in ’95.
    Still, I miss the 1967 BMW R69S…
    Oh well.


  • Jeffrey January 13, 2021, 2:54 PM

    Very poignant imagery John. I well know you mean about two wheel cruising with a more or less 360 degree view in a completely immersive environment with just your perceptions and reflections keeping you company.

  • Tom Hyland January 13, 2021, 5:12 PM

    @ Daniel… I agree with your sceptical view of the churches that shut down or function only via face-diaper. They have far more faith… and fear invested… in government than they have in God. They might as well say, “Oh yeah, Lord, we believe, ya know… we know YOU created the universe and hold the fate of eternity in YOUR hands… but face it… you DON’T have a handle on this covid19 thing. Hypocrites all.

  • Fletcher Christian January 14, 2021, 8:40 AM

    Tom Hyland:

    “God helps those who help themselves.”

    Not coincidentally, two days ago one of my best friends (30 years’ standing) was in ICU on a ventilator and in an induced coma. The problem was and still is (she’s still in hospital, now able to eat with help) self-inflicted; she invited people from 3 different households, all living in the Greater London hot zone, into her house for Christmas. The only excuse is that all of those households included her kids.

    I got away with it by staying away.

    If prayer is so wonderful, why do priests get sick?

    “Religion began when the first scoundrel met the first fool.”

  • Tom Hyland January 14, 2021, 9:28 AM

    @ fletcher christian…. everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. This is a big shocker… no one was ready for this… old people die. I’ll bet your friend on the ventilator is way up in years and has several more conditions rendering her more victimized by this flu. I don’t believe, I breathe. I’m a breather, not a believer. However, I DO believe this… the entire world lockdown has nothing to do with the germs. It’s about the money… and we are at war. https://www.globalresearch.ca/we-are-at-war-2/5733672

  • Dirk January 14, 2021, 9:29 AM

    Electric bicycles, rode one, fun, but I recognized this was the fastest way to destroy bicycle riding. In my young ” older” age, I’d like to participate in something big tech hasn’t screwed up. Those options are slim to none seems like.

    While my wife drives a 2020 f350, I have found myself going out and just sitting in our first ever purchase as a team, our old Toyota Landcruiser 1979. I’m just not embracing modern tech, it is the simple elegance of older, simpler designs I crave.

    Give me a 60s, tube amp and pre amp anyday over modern DAC computerized music, or a bicycle with pedals I have to make work, an older air cooled motorcycle, or a Bamboo fly rod. Lately I seem to fondle my old WWII m-I guarand rifles over my super dooper, modern weaponry.

    I can clearly see our future, don’t like what it is, I’m seeing.


  • aNewBanner January 14, 2021, 10:15 AM

    Outdoor Mass is lamentable. It is still Mass. It is still the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ. What I would have given to attend an outdoor Mass during Easter 2020. Instead, we suffered through a recorded video. It was an image of Mass, but not Mass. Outdoor Mass in freezing cold or burning heat is better than a streaming service from the comfort of your living room.

    The bishops are running the show. They have been selected for their congeniality rather than their leadership (perhaps with some exceptions). They are conventional believers in the Narrative and not ones to question its authority. They have given dispensations to the Sunday requirement instead of making a stand against the COVID regime, following Pope Francis. He has bought into everything.

    The bishops are in a bind. If they ordered everyone back, the world would see how little authority that they really have. A large portion of their congregation would stay home due to the risk of infection (real or imagined). Another portion has realized how little worship meant to them. (This was happening anyway, but lockdowns accelerated it.) Finally, many parishes are too small to hold the congregation with the current restrictions on capacity. Outdoor Mass solves some of these issues, though it is not ideal.

    The bishops cannot press the issue without being seen as paper tigers, so they will not.