Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride 2018: Salt Lake City

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2.1 Duane Rides

Today is Father’s Day. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than tell you for a moment about the the bad-assery of the OG Duane.  Some of you may know that Duane is not my last name, it’s my middle name, my father’s first name. I go by “Paul Duane” for a couple of reasons, one of which, is to pay tribute to my Dad with my work. 

It’s been nearly one year since my father passed away, and during this time, I’ve developed a profound appreciation for who he was.  

Death is like a photograph: it freezes a person in time, putting them on display to be examined in depth without the distraction of the movements of the current moment.  

Here are a few things my Dad has taught me, both while he was alive, and even in death:

Lesson 1:  

The sweet spot

“The way of the superior man is about giving. It’s about giving who you are to the world, and it’s about giving yourself more and more deeply to the world, to your woman, to your family, to everyone.”  – David Deida, “The Way Of The Superior Man”

My Dad silently but certainly  showed me one of the secrets of life that only superior men know:

There’s this sweet spot you can hit in life where one’s amusement and one’s service to the world become one in the same.  By living in his bliss, he was simply amusing himself AND bringing happiness to countless other people. 

My Dad was a real life Santa: he loved woodworking, and spent all of his free time making gifts for people.  Of the countless thousands of gifts he made over the years, he loved to make wooden toys. He loved to make children happy. My Dad has made innumerable wooden toys and sent them to schools, hospitals, nurseries, etc, around the world. He was like Santa and an Elf in one person. 

That’s some kind of superior man Zen you’ve got going on there, Dad. 

 You’ll see one of his toy trucks along with his photo in my Burning Man 2017 video around the 3:52 mark. 

Lesson 2: 

No fear, no guile, no regrets. Only gratitude. 

My Dad shouldn’t even be alive. Before I was born, he had a horrible motorcycle accident that left him severely speech disabled.  For all intents and purposes, he couldn’t speak.  His injuries changed the trajectory of his life and shaped everything about our family culture.   

“Your dad was always so grateful to even be alive. He knew his life was a gift”, my mom has often told me. 

My dad never looked that gift horse in the mouth. Not once. 

One afternoon I was driving my parents around town. A guy on a noisy Harley pulled up next to us. My Dad looked over at the big, loud motorcycle. His face lit up, a smile spread across his face and he nodded a few times, as if to say, 

“I’m fully aware of what a motorcycle did to me… and if I could get on that bike and ride away right now, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I regret NOTHING.”

Even though he actually was handicapped, he refused the label of “disabled” or “handicapped” at all times. He didn’t see himself that way. He had no shame. He loved his life. 

No fear.

No guile. 

No regrets. 

Only gratitude. 

In that intersection moment, a switch quietly flipped inside me: I KNEW, someday, I would get a bike and take up motorcycling.

The only person in my immediate and extended family who would approve of such a thing would be my Dad. Ironically, he was the only person that wasn’t absolutely terrified of them. 

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” – Steve Jobs

Lesson 3: 

The Power of The Word

My father had a certain relationship with The Word. 

As a kid, he was fascinated with the technology of sending words over the airwaves – he was well known for building his own AM radios from scratch. As an adult, he became a HAM radio operator. Because he could’t speak, he learned Morse code. 

There are two sounds that will always represent life at home with Dad: the sounds of his saws I the woodshed, and the dit dit dah dah of morse code, emanating from his bedroom. 

 As a kid I was mystified at the way my Dad could communicate with people on the other side of the country in a series of rapid fire “dit-dit-dah-dit-dah-dah-dit-dit-dah-dah-dah-dit-dah” beeping sounds, which often emanated through the living room from his adjacent bedroom. 

One of my more distinct childhood memories: one day I was taking apart a broken old radio and he explained to me the the workings of AM (amplitude modulation) and FM (frequency modulation) radio.  It was a massive struggle to have simple conversations with him about simple things.  To this day I have no idea how he communicated these complex concepts to my kid brain, but he did. 

I never would have imagined that some day, I would make my life’s work in the world of words. 

Between my experiences as a daytime talk radio host, a podcaster, and comedian, my voice and my words have been broadcast via satellite, radio tower, cell phone, and internet to every corner of the planet.  

For whatever reason, The Word has called to me and I answered.  

Working with The Word forces me into self examination in a way no therapist could ever hope to. It is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. 

I see those dots, Steve. 

Whether or not there was some divine design in the placement of those dots is a topic for another day. Regardless, those dots sure do make a pretty picture. 

I’m in the middle of making more dots, this time placing them in front of me. 

Currently I’m preparing to take my podcast on the road via motorcycle.  I’ll do a series of long journeys, and will share the conversations and stories that ensue via podcast and written word . stories. 

My Dad made his gifts out of wood. I make mine with words. Creating words while on wheels is the best way I can think of to pay tribute to my father and to make good on whatever deal he made with God in order to have a family. 

Aside from that – it’s so much fun! 

I love conversations with fascinating people. 

If some string of words happens to make you me laugh along the way, all the better. 

This journey has begun – 

Not long after my Dad passed away last year, a dear friend, Cody, dropped off an old classic of a bike for me to fix up and take over – a 1979 Suzuki GS1000. 

It’s the most obvious thing in the world to me that I should be writing about this story as it unfolds. I have been. I’ve been writing chapters and publishing them in my blog. Every week when one comes out, I notify my readers via my email list (join the list here)  I’d love to share it with you. On the surface, this might look like a motorcycle story, but really, it’s a story about living with 

No fear.

No guile. 

No regrets. 

Only gratitude. 

My Dad, the O.G. Duane, was a walking embodiment of what Marianne Williamson taught:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Thank you, Dad. 

Let’s go ride. 

Much love –

Paul Duane

#DuaneRides

#SoulAnarchist

 

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5. Rifles, Roller skates, and Recovery

*** Did you arrive in the middle of the story? Start at the beginning ***

* * * * * * * * * * * *

You know me as “Paul Duane”

Truth is, Duane, is not my last name… it’s my middle name. My Father’s first name. There are a number of reasons I’ve chosen to go by my first and middle name…  Among them, is the pure badassery that is my Dad…

Duane Huber Jensen.

I want you to meet my Dad.

I’ve got to be honest with you though – I didn’t always feel this way. There were times in my life when having you meet my Dad was really challenging.

Every teenager thinks their parents are dumb.

My situation was a bit different: my Dad actually… was… dumb:

This is the story of my dumb dad.

His brother, Al, always said, “Duane had the world by the tail.”

Every girl in school swooned over him. Apparently, roller skating was hot back in the 50’s. Look at how effortlessly he holds her up.

He was a brown belt in karate.

My dad took his rifle to school.

Yeah. Read that again.

He was the captain of the ROTC rifle team and one of the top marksmen in the state. It’s hard to believe the that this was not only okay at some point, but celebrated. How far we have slid. I digress. This is not meant to be a treatise on gun laws and schools, but it’s worth noting, this is how it used to be, back when America was truly great.

He enlisted in the Army and went to basic training, narrowly missing being activated during the Korean War.

He served an LDS Mission in England for two years. To this day, we still have the 10 speed bike he rode around in England (he disassembled it and shipped it home)

Upon his return home, he had a university scholarship in electronics waiting for him. My Dad was an all American young man. Not just a bad ass by even today’s standards, but a kind and happy guy who made friends everywhere he went.  In the words of his brother Albert, “Duane had the world by the tail.”

“Ok, great, your dad was basically Wally Cleaver, a handsome strapping young man that had everything going for him. What does that have to do with motorcycles or anything else? What does this have to do with me? TELL ME ABOUT ME. MAKE THIS ABOUT ME I’M GETTING BORED.”

Okay, dear reader, I will. Stick with me for a moment.

He returned home from his mission to a lovely girl that he had been dating for a long time whom he planned to marry. He started working at the Bear Lake Marina in northern Utah.  This required him to commute through the often treacherous Logan Canyon every day. He bought a Honda CB450 motorcycle to make the commute on. He had to order a helmet in. In his typical bravado, he didn’t wait for the helmet to arrive before he started making the daily trek on his CB450.

On June 15 1965, he was coming over the summit of Logan Canyon from Bear Lake, and something went very wrong. The sheriff’s investigation was inconclusive – the two theories are that he failed to negotiate a turn and slammed into the mountain side, or that someone hit him from behind and took off. The rear fender on his bike was dented in at the height of a car fender, lending credence to the hit and run theory.  One way or the other –

Someone found him nearly dead in a ditch.

Authorities were called, he was hauled off in an ambulance (there was no such thing as life flight back then). The nearest hospital that was sufficiently equipped to handle the severity of his injuries was two hours away in Ogden.  Upon arrival, my grandmother and grandfather were told that he would probably not make it through the night.

He made it.

The doctors told his parents that he would probably not make it another 24 hours.

He made it.

The doctors told them if he made it through the next 48 hours, he would live the rest off his days in a coma.

He made it.

The doctors told them if he made it through the next 72 hours, the most they could ever hope for is that the would be a vegetable in a wheel chair.

He made it.

My Dad’s injuries were so severe, the doctors kept setting very low expectations.

He kept making it.

He was in a coma for a few months. When he emerged, he was essentially completely paralyzed.  He emerged into the vegetable state that was predicted.  A whole book could be written about what happens from here, but for the purpose of this story, I’ll summarize it:

One near death experience, one miraculous faith healing experience, countless prayers, untold hours of care by hospital staff, doctors, family, and one godsend of a physical therapist and a few years later – he learned how to do everything again. He had to learn how to walk, how to eat, how write, and even how to think, all over again. He emerged from those years of rehabilitation with only one remaining problem:

His tongue was paralyzed.

For all intents and purposes, he couldn’t speak.

He could not control his saliva, either.

He drooled constantly and could not form words very well.

His former athletic prowess was gone, too. Being able to walk and ride a bicycle was the pinnacle of his physical abilities from that point on.

And though she tried,  his fiancé could not abide this new version of Duane.

She left him.

This magnificent young man had been completely humbled. He lost everything but life itself.

This was all taking place in the late 60’s; I was born in 1976. During the ensuing time, my Dad got to work reinventing himself with the cards he had been given. He met a woman named Ann, and they got married. He got trained as a draftsman and took a job working in a cabinet shop. The details were never clear as we never talked about it, but after 5 years of marriage they divorced, setting the stage for him to meet my mother. They met, dated briefly and got married. His doctors set very low expectations about one last thing – and again,

He made it.

Specifically: Me. 

Nice hair, Mom.

What’s the point of all this?

My hope is to give you a glimpse into why the word “motorcycle” was such a forbidden word in our family.

It wasn’t at his behest though…

Just my mom.

And his mom.

And his siblings.

And anyone else who was remotely close to him through the process.

For all of his congeniality, my Dad was a stubborn sonofabitch. Once he decided he wanted something, nothing would deter him, much to my Mother’s chagrin, and if we are being honest, much to the chagrin of the Grim Reaper. My Dad had an indomitable will.

One of my early childhood memories is of my Dad and a couple of his friends riding their 10 speed bikes (yes, the one he brought home from England) from Logan to Bear Lake, all the way through Logan Canyon. For those of you familiar with the geography, you know that the only people you see doing this are extremely committed cyclists who are training for the Tour de Something….

…and Duane.

Aside from the pure physicality of this bat-shit-crazy, punishing ride, it is a symbolic one.

It’s the place where he lost everything.

I’m not sure if it didn’t phase him, or if my Dad has the most bad ass poker face and penchant for beating odds, but here’s a picture of him and his friend Lynn on one of those rides. (He did it a few different times).

Nevermind that he essentially lost his life on two wheels in this canyon. He’s now going to go wag his dick in the face of his past, in the face of death, and in the face of his disability:

My Dad was not an athlete anymore. He was basically a functional cripple – riding his bike through Logan Canyon.

On many occasions, my Dad did things that just weren’t supposed to be possible: a heritage I hold sacred.

When I use his name as part of mine, I pay homage to his legacy.

Every time you say my name, “Paul DUANE”, there is a part of me that bows in reverence to this magnificent giant of a dumb man.

****

Next: No Fear, No Guile, No Regrets

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4. One way or the other, Moms know things

*** Did you arrive in the middle of the story? Start at the beginning ***

* * * * * * * * * * * *

“I know. Someone already told me. They asked me not to tell you who it was.”

There is a very short list of people who this could be, and within seconds, I’ve narrowed it down with 99% confidence.  I’m pretty certain it’s my Aunt Maureen – she means well. If only I could have had some knowledge that my Mom already knew. This would have saved me from all of that stress.  I’m both frustrated and relieved.

I’m glad that the memory I’ll always have of this day is of her wry and conflicted smile that said, “How did I ever give birth to you – oh that’s right, you are 50% your Dad and that explains everything”.

I thought it would be horror and tears. I much prefer this version of reality.

For the next hour, I told her about how it all came to be. I told her about the Motorcycle Safety Foundation rider’s education course I took. I told her about my experienced rider friends who have been coaching me.  I told her about hours and hours of practice in empty parking lots.  I told her about all of the safety skills I’ve been learning in a nearly frantic effort to calm her nerves. I showed her all of the nice, thick leather riding gear I was wearing: leather boots, chaps, quality leather coat, leather gloves, and helmet, of course. 

We talked about all of the people we know who have whole careers of riding safely on two wheels.  She wasn’t mad, and honestly, she didn’t seem terribly surprised.  Definitely nervous, though. 

“I just lost your Dad… I don’t know if I can take another loss…”

(note: My Dad passed away last year of causes incident to his age and condition, which I’ll explain to you in the next chapter. While his death has made a huge impact on my life, the focus of this story is his life.)

To know who, and why, I am, you have to know my father: 

The original Duane. 

****

Next up: My Dumb Dad: Rifles, Rollerskates and Recovery

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3. breaking the news to Mom

*** Did you arrive in the middle of the story? Start at the beginning ***

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I’ve done a lot of nerve-racking things in my life – 

Stand up comedy, 

Going out in public in pantyhose and high heels, 

Riding my bike naked through the streets of Portland, 

Putting the spirit of F*@K YOU PAUL DUANE into action.

A few things at Burning Man that shall remain at Burning Man…

What I’ve now done tops them all. 

I’ve found a new love, and the time has come to come clean with the most important woman in my life:

My mother. 

She’ll worry about me so much, she’ll be confused, she’ll lose sleep over this – 

She deserves to hear it straight from me, eye to eye. 

I’ve gone over this decision so many times…not only this new love, but the conversation I’m about to have with her. 

All of it is right. 

But God, I hate to break her heart.

I know how deeply she hoped I’d never do this. 

Hell, for most of my life, I didn’t know that I had this latent desire inside of me. 

I’ve played with the idea before, but never dared go further…

Something happened last year. 

An opportunity showed up. 

A friend extended an invitation.

I said yes. 

A switch flipped inside of me. 

I was terrified at first – it took some getting used to… I had to confront some of the most basic stories I had about myself and my relationship to the world – 

With the help of a couple of very supportive friends,  I did it, and I’ve never been happier. 

Something came alive inside of me that I did not know existed before, and I’m not going back.  I cannot unsee this new bliss. This will be a huge part of my life moving forward. 

I love everything about it…

the sounds… the smells… how it feels between my legs… even the black leather outfits. 

It makes me feel more alive than anything I’ve ever experienced. 

I

Had

No

Idea. 

I have to tell her. 

It’s not just her that would be shook up by what I’m about to drop on her –

My grandparents, too. They would be devastated. This goes against the very fiber of our family culture. 

The fact that they have not been haunting me and trying to persuade my course differently is a solid case for there not being an afterlife.  

In fact, I’m left with three possible conclusions:

  1. There is no afterlife
  2. There is an afterlife and they are too busy doing cool departed spirit stuff to know or care about what’s going on in my life
  3. There is an afterlife, they know about it, and they understand how important this really is. 

I spent an hour sitting in the parking lot of a nearby gas station, trying to sooth my nerves, preparing my speech. Hell, I even talked with an ex girlfriend  on the phone for 45 minutes about it.  

“Just do it. She’s going to be okay…. Your sweet mom.”

Painfully aware of all of the other ways I’ve disappointed my mom over the years, cringing at the morbid cherry I’m about to place atop it all, I head toward her house. 

This is my green mile. 

She’s not going to yell at me. She won’t lecture. 

She might not even cry in front of me…

…but I know that she’ll never sleep well again for the rest of her days. 

My heart breaks – 

But I must tell her the truth. 

I slowly and strangely ceremoniously pull into the driveway, 

I turn off the engine,

I wonder if she heard me arrive…

I walk in the house, and there she stands.

In a fraction of a second, I can tell she already knows. 

“Hi mom.”

“Hi….. “ she said, that syllable a sponge saturated with oceans of motherly worry.

“Mom…

I got a motorcycle.”

*****

Next up: I know

*****

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1. the muse, the rum, and the motorcycle

Hi. 

I’ve been away from writing for a while.

The return is awkward, like two estranged family members reconvening after far too long. 

Thank god for alcohol to ease such reunions. 

Speaking of which, I’d like to propose a toast. 

In a past and creatively fruitful chapter of my life, rum was my drink of choice.  

In the spirit of opening the next phase of fortuitous creation, 

My cup is filled with that old familiar spirit, mixed into a classic cola cocktail- 

To creation, to new adventures, to channeling the sacred and the profane into simple words that all can understand: 

Cheers! 

Tonight’s elixir is made with a fine spiced rum bearing the image of Admiral So-and-So, who closely resembles a well known national brand of pirate captain themed rum – It seems to be his dorky younger brother. 

One thing is for sure: they both love big ships, and rum. 

Brothers, sisters, and everyone in between- 

I have a tale to tell, and I’ve committed myself to the sharing of it. 

Of all the story worthy adventures I’ve had, this is by far the most important one, because it’s about the core of who I am and the humans that raised me, and where I’m going. 

This story is about the essence of my family culture — but don’t worry. I know you really don’t care about an exhaustive family history, so I’m going to keep that shit very brief — barely enough to set the stage. 

How’s your drink doing, anyway? I’m pouring another. 

This generic coke really has a way of opening up the vanilla notes in this Admiral… who? Admiral Dumbass Spiced Rum. 

And those caramel notes, are they from the cane molasses that I wish this was distilled from, or the added caramel flavoring that was unceremoniously squirted into this sugar mash hooch one step before bottling? 

I have my suspicions, and for now, I’d like to leave them at that. 

Cheers!

This story matters so much to me, that I’ve been intimidated to begin the telling of it. I’ve learned that when fear really takes hold of me, it secretes a venom that anesthetizes me and makes it feel more like indifference. I’m starting to learn that indifference is often my passion numbed out for some misguided notion of safety. 

I’ve put this storytelling off for long enough. 

Speaking of spirits, (how’s your glass, by the way)? Thank God for the muse. 

Muses come in many forms. 

I’ve recently found myself with an interesting pen pal on the other side of the country. For whatever reason, we haven’t exchanged numbers. We aren’t connected on Facebook. Our small talk simply outgrew the tiny window of Instagram messenger and expanded into email. She’s an adept wordsmith herself, which awakened my penchant for serving up the word.  A few emails later, and here we are. 

I’m all inspired to write. 

Let’s top of our glasses, shall we?

This Admiral Dumbass Spiced Rum and cola makes not only a fine aperitif (that’s a medium sized dumb word that just means, “I’m getting shit faced for desert, eat your ice cream, kids”). This spirit makes a fine muse, too.  Admiral, I think we’ll be sailing the seas of synonyms all summer long. 

I’m ready for some word play, story living and truth telling. 

What proceeds from here is a tale about transmuting fear into love. 

It’s a story about noisy Harleys and fear and God…

And radio

And being a kid

And destiny

I’ve embarked on a personal rite of passage that has taught me a new way to dance with the devil. She can be a magnificent partner.

Pro tip: 

If that samba with Satan is going to go smoothly,  

You must take the lead. 

More on that later. 

Cheers to Admiral Dumbass and his grog, 

Cheers to pen pals, 

Cheers to motorcycles, 

Cheers to the road,  and cheers to the muse!

*****

Next up: Black Holes and Hatred

*****

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Ask Me Anything Q&A March 2018

  • How can I stop stressing over the judgement of other people?

  • Flowers: Practical gift or waste of money?

  • Is photography still an art form or is it less hip now that everyone can do it?

  • What is your dream motorcycle?

  • How can I find my own unique clothing style?

  • Do women like men that Crossdress? I get asked this question SO MUCH… I decided to do a video exclusively about it:

Watch the Facebook Live recording here: