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Rice Paddy runs away with the three-day freak show, comes back older, wiser...

America's largest motorcycle swap-meet came to its annual meeting-of-the-tribes-and-gearhead-vibes near Mansfield , Ohio. As usual the Rice Paddy was up there setting up its tent on Thursday, the day vendors are scheduled to pour in and get set for Friday opening morning. Paddy Daddy Supremo a veteran of every Vintage Days since 1994. Paddy Daddy found himself needing an interpreter for the potential Japanese customers interested in a bike or two he had. "My Japanese is as rusty as a Guadalcanal samurai saber," said the Paddy Daddy. But where there's a will there's a way. He can now boast of being able to say "and that includes sales tax" in three languages.

As the weekend progressed, loads of folks stopped by the pitched Rice Paddy tent, checking out the numerous plastic bins of parts and pieces, odds'n'ends and things that just cannot be named. Paddy Daddy brought 7 bikes and left with 9, having sold 3 and bought 5. Old friends were seen, new ones were made, gossip was gossiped and jokes were made.

In the meantime, constant racing, seminars, events and mass vending between dealers and individuals covered the sites 35 acres. Think a sort of Roman encampment with motorcycles instead of chariots, or a Woodstock of scores of thousands of deranged but sincere piston-people, gear-heads and two-wheeled speed freaks.

"Mid-Ohio '14 was good," said Tom who did business with folks from coast to coast as well as Japan, Australia and America's unofficial 51st state, Canada, whose national bird is a rabbit. "Plenty of sun, beer and no government drones over my shoulder--what more could you want?"

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword--But Neither Compare to a Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans...

You've heard of wandering minstrels, right? Well, before telling you about a visit to the Paddy by a modern nomadic motorcycling published author, let's indulge one more time with this week's Paddy newsletter theme of paranoia about our government. Ol' Joe Stalin, Russian dictator, decided in the '30s he wanted no more wandering folk story tellers in the Ukraine. These many fellows, usually blind, spoke or sang stories of Ukrainian myth and history. Invaluable to the culture back then, they plied their trade wandering from peasant village to peasant village, usually for food and a place to sleep. That is until Stalin decided they were undermining his collectivization of the country's fertile and productive farms. They were rounded up and either killed or exiled.

Obviously America isn't anywhere near that nightmare scenario. But we at the Paddy don't feel we're a little paranoid in thinking that rugged individualism--or even everyday individualism for that matter--ain't what it used to be, especially with the boomers and post-modern boomers. Thus it is, only half-jokingly we ask, "Can motorcycles save the American way of life as we knew it?"

Writer Ed Milich--City Bike, Motorcyclist magazines; three books: Wrenched(2009), Fueled (2011) and Bottom Dead Center (2014)--was in town for an in-Paddy reading/socializing promoting his third book, this year's Bottom Dead Center. His books contain poetry and prose, short stories that aren't without a little dead-on technical detail (he's also a mechanical engineer), but a competitor's attitude (he's a trophied racer) and a certain lyrical way with words (he's a musician). So in toto he's nothing if not an espouser of American motorcycle culture and like the good poets, a keen revealer of the obvious yet unseen parts of ye olde human condition.

On racing:

"Combustion is overrated...
Compression...is unglamorous
but necessary...

because the real glory is in his struggles

...I meet a resistive force
...when the furies wail in my head
or the demons stop by for a visit
...I beat them out with hammer blow,
cut them with carbon steel tools,
and twist their sinews with safety-wire pliers.

ouch! I'd hate to be his bike...

That's fine.
the path...means more than the drama that follows.

when you start at bottom dead center,
there's no place to go but up.

When it comes to writing about motorcycles or his 'favorite crashes,' Milich's philosophy of self is as tough as the steel and chrome he bends to his own ends. We're talking ego and will-power as well as their very antithesis--sublimation of ego and the futility of endeavor. In the poem, Words, he declares "writer's block is bullshit" and the man shirks no responsibility: "If you don't know how to get the words flowing/then it's your own damn fault"...His passionate, gutsy recipe?

Indulge your senses.
Scare yourself stupid.
Embrace that which you love,
or better yet, despise,
and the words will come.

But does it get you the girl? Or is that the motorcycle's job? He never says.

But when it comes to mishaps, he's as hard on himself on the road as with a story deadline dangling in front of him. From his story, "My Favorite Crashes", first published in Urban Moto, May 2011: "Crashing your motorcycle is ultimately your own damn fault. Even if some distracted cager sideswipes you in stop-and-go traffic, at some level you should have seen the idiot coming...Once I began road-racing motorcycles, crashes became familiar, though still unpleasant occurrences, like kisses from Aunt Phoebe who wears too much lipstick and smells like Pall Malls and Scotch."

He wisely concludes: "Motorcycle crashes are an opportunity for reflection and improvement. If they don't kill you."

Or if Aunt Phoebe doesn't make you pass out.

What was really cool about Ed's talk and reading from his work his local connection. He went to school here at Ohio State University in the '90s, working at Singing Dog Records on N. High Street and playing in bands. He gave college a couple incomplete go's before finally getting his degree. Since then he moved to California, worked behind the counters of his own motorcycle shop and others and accumulated a passel of entertaining customer war stories to prove it, as in the poem Assholes, most definitely not allegorical.

Milich's blood runs thick with super-competitive juices. He's won a glass case full of race trophies including Daytona multiple times. Besides quick but steady reflexes, his brain-instinct connection has him writing with elan about all things motorcycle both metal and metaphysical.

And if it's related, he's on top of that, too, such as his favorite designs of tools, t-shirts and pinball machines; quirks of the business with comparisons to the music biz he once busked to get through college; how he applies racing techniques in everyday life including, yes, how to negotiate a shopping cart at the grocery store while looking for 'holes' of opportunities to pass other shopping carts. You get it all with this dude.

Yes, Ed Milich is obsessed--and has survived his obsession. He's now 42 and yet finds new meaning in the motorized thing he once described with Zen detachment as "another's steaming mechanical heap/someone else wants to sell". Passionately intelligent and intelligently passionate, Milich acknowledges the duality of biking. The hunger for attachment between man and his shaped, purposeful metal changes with age but still guides his being. This his wife hopefully has made her peace with.

"After all," he concludes in Bottom Dead Center, "bikes are human, too."

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