Getting My Hands Dirty

Even though I’m not mechanically inclined, I’ve always loved working with my hands. When I was young I’d help my mom in the garden and refinish antique furniture for her – there was a time I thought I’d grow up to be a furniture designer – Sam Maloof was an early hero. Later, art was my vocation, which somehow lead to carpentry. Carpentry lead to home remodeling, an ultimate jigsaw puzzle of various hands on trades – probably my favorite hands on career that I’ve had, so great to see everything come together in the finished product.

Getting My Hands Dirty

If you’re long time reader, you know I’ve struggled with depression and unhappiness with my current situation. This has led to sloth and general procrastination with life. I have been vicariously living my life through books and television – when I watch TV, it’s usually hands-on shows: cooking, house remodeling, and restoration of classics.

I love old houses, old vehicles, and generally products and gear that were made sometime ago, usually in a more interesting fashion and more durably than things are produced now. There’s something so vital about getting one’s hands dirty, taking a neglected or broken item and breathing new life into it. One of the greatest progressions in my lifetime is the move away from returning classics to their pristine “showroom” condition, but rather allowing the patina of use and time to show through. Not only does it make it easier for a novice like myself, it also usually looks better, in my opinion.

As I work on creating a daily life that allows for me to enjoy what is truly an unhappy situation, I’m drawn more and more towards a return to getting my hands dirty. My initial thought was to find and restore old cars as a hobby, which is still one of my goals. To do so, however, requires time (which I have), space (which I don’t), and money (which I kinda sorta have). After some thought, I realized an easier entry into a mechanical world that I don’t really know (motors have always been a mystery to me), would be the world of motorcycles.

From scooters in high school to various motorcycles as an adult, I’ve always loved riding two-wheelers, being in an environment rather than cocooned and passing through. I always took my rides to a mechanic if anything needed to be done, never trusting myself to tune, replace, or fix anything. There is still some of that hesitancy, but as I get older, I realize that my childhood’s “Mañana Kid” was doing a disservice to my middle-aged self. Waiting, hoping, and fearing to learn something was just useless.

Getting My Hands Dirty

So I did some research and found Moto Guild Chicago, a community shop that rents space and gear to repair, rebuild, or transform motorcycles, while also offering classes for budding mechanics. Saturday I ventured over there for the motorcycle disassembly class, which promised to explain (and give me hands-on experience) how to disassemble a basic motorcycle in an organized fashion.

I had a blast. Nothing overtly complicated, nothing too difficult (we didn’t actually disassemble a motorcycle completely), but it was time spent getting my hands dirty in the company of others of a like mind. They have a variety of classes coming up, from an introduction to engines (boy do I need that) to suspension to the assembly of a bike. I’ll attend as my schedule allows, hoping to get my eldest son involved as well, and the next step will be to find a project bike I can buy cheaply and bring back to life.

So, while it’s a drag getting old, there’s still life left in these bones.


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