Monday, April 18, 2016

In Which Pete Channels Tom Sawyer

I'll never forget how tightly my daughter Ewa Frances wrapped her arms around my tummy and how loudly she exclaimed--when we got to the end of our block--"I LOVE YOU DADDY!!"

The occasion: Her first motorcycle ride.

Her age: 7.  Maybe 8.

She's 25 now and goes by Ev. (A quarter of a century explaining that "Ewa" is Polish and the "W" is pronounced like "V" was enough.)

Ev's friend, a University of Toronto creative writing student named Tess Hole, produced the following story as an assignment. They gave me permission to share.  (I've edited it slightly, for length.)

Posting Tess' story on my blog reminds me of Tom Sawyer letting other kids pay him to let them paint the fence.  A point very few folks make is, never mind how it got done, the fence got painted!

                                                  A Motorcycle Chronology

                                                            By Tess Hole

Ev walks in to Manic Coffee at Bathurst and College Street. She’s twenty-three.
The left side of her head is half-shaved, the right side curls behind her ears cut right at the
neck, red from henna dye. Ev has a soft welcome smile on glowing white skin, with
warmth about her aura that beckons anyone to talk to her. A tattoo of the festival map of
“Burning Man” is on her right wrist; an annual event in the Nevada Black Rock Desert
that is dedicated to connection, art, and self-expression. Ev is accustomed to being in
close proximity to strangers, she and her twin sister host couch surfers in their crafted
Love at first ride
blanket fort in the basement of their home. Christmas lights dangle on the walls and
books stack along the sides like a dreamworld reading nook.

Ev’s number one love is her motorcycle. I remember being terrified of riding
since I was a child, but when I was invited by Ev to go for a ride the anxieties drifted
away in the breeze that wisped by us. I watched the city lights pass by like cheerleader
pitons guiding us home. She always has two helmets, commonly takes friends on rides,
and checks how the passenger feels at every stoplight. I clung to her for dear life at first,
but then I realized she is an expert. She has claim over the road like the international
dancer knows the lines of every stage she dances across; a natural and trained instinct.

ProudDadsRUs: Jack Hole and his author/daughter Tess 
Today Ev and I sit down in the March sunshine of the front window of Manic
Coffee. I have a cortado and a chocolate hazelnut croissant. Ev orders an Americano and
a matcha white chocolate chip cookie.

“Can I ask you about your motorcycle?”

“Yes of course.”

“What kind of motorcycle?”

“BMW 650.”

I ask Ev how she got interested in motorcycles.

“I grew up on the back of my dad’s. We lived three streets away from my elementary
school. He would drive my brother, and come home, then my sister, and come home, then
me. And we always felt so cool with our helmets, on the back with our backpacks. And
he never got in any accidents so it felt really safe, which is probably why I don’t have the
aversion to it. Now I feel safer on a motorcycle than I do in a car. Like when I’m driving,
my mom’s van, it’s so bulky. Like, how am I supposed to be safe with this?”

“It sounds like it’s in your veins now, since when you were younger being on it.”

“Yeah. Totally. Definitely it feels safer.”

“And I have to say as the passenger too, that’s the experience with you. Perfect first
motorcycle experience. It’s like: I feel totally safe right now and taken care of.”

“That’s really important. I’m really glad you feel that way, thank you for telling me.”

“What kind of attention do you get when you’re on your motorcycle? What do people

“It’s begun!” Ev laughs. We’ve spoken about this before. She points outside, indicating
the dwindling winter season allowing for her to take out the bike again.

“I forgot about it until recently, until I started taking out again. I feel like I should write
these down., like all the people’s different comments.”

“Like a motorcyclist chronology?”

“Yeah! Like people who comment, or tell me things, or feel like they have a right to get
into my space because you’re only on a motorcycle. Um, I remember one time I was
stuck in traffic on the Gardiner. And a man said: ‘There’s nothing cuter than a woman on
a motorcycle!’ as he drove by me. Like, why do you think like that’s something to say?”

“How did that make you feel?”

“I was like, why am I cute? You would never say that to a guy.”

Ev: "You never get a negative reaction from kids"

“Um, and then like, police at stoplights pull down their windows and ask me, what kind
of bike is that blah, blah, blah.

I noticeably cringe.

“Do you feel like that’s a common thing? People try to like.. it almost seems to me trying
to play with power a little bit. Like, you have a certain power being a woman on a
motorcycle, it being a masculine thing, does it feel like a challenge?”

“I think it’s mostly annoying. Like, stay out of my space. I don’t want to talk to you. It
happens mostly at stoplights people will start talking from car windows, sidewalks.. It’s
mostly about gender, a guy once told me to ‘make sure to shoulder check!’. And it’s like,
you’re telling me how to drive? You would never do that for a man! It’s interesting, when
I wear more masculine clothes, the comments stop. Okay, I’ll tell you a positive
experience.. When kids see it. You never get a negative reaction from kids. They always
wave. When you’re just driving by, like a baby or something, or a kid in a wagon, or
elementary school, ALL the kids will wave. And like, I’ll get big smiles.”

“I like the kid in the wagon, because they’re in their own sort of vehicle.”

“Yeah, and they don’t even think about it, they just wave! It always brings a smile to my

“It sounds so pure.”

“Yeah, it’s so lovely.”