A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The World's Fastest Indian

The World's Fastest Indian
Went to the movies Saturday night to see The World's Fastest Indian. I liked it--which, if you know me, you know isn't saying much. It would take a lot for me to dislike a motorcycle movie. But, hey, it's got Anthony Hopkins in it, a bunch of people nobody ever heard of who also can really act, some hilarious dialogue, and of course the Indian.

Hopkins plays real-life Burt Munro, a New Zealander who wants to fulfill his dream of seeing how fast his 1920 souped-up Indian can go before he "falls off his perch." It's formulaic, of course, and the depiction of rube-from-down-under Munro in 1960's-era Hollywood is too stereotypical (think Crocodile Dundee set down on the West Coast). But I'm not very interested in plot to begin with....the less plot, the better, in fact. Movies with lots of twists and turns, violence, and characters who all look alike confuse me. And this was not one of those movies.

Burt Munro reminds me of my favorite uncle, my mother's brother Eddie. Brilliant, handsome, self-taught, eccentric, immensely charming, and a lover of machines, especially motorcycles. A motorcycle accident resulted in a couple of amputated toes and kept my uncle out of World War II. His four brothers all served honorably--one was a Marine on Iwo Jima, complete with Purple Heart. But Uncle Eddie was ever so much cooler.

I don't know what kind of motorcycle my uncle rode. But the original Indian was manufactured right here in Springfield, Massachusetts. So it could well have been an Indian.

Even today, nowhere are they more popular. In the summer, when free rock concerts are held in downtown Stearns Square, hundreds of pristine motorcycles are lined up all around the Square. Bikers come from all over New England to show off their machines. Mostly Harleys, a handful of Kawasakis, Hondas, and Ducatis, but always a few gorgeous Indians, too. Usually resplendent with fringe, so you can spot them from the top of the block.

The 1920 Indian, of course, didn't have fringe. It was a pretty rough-looking bike all around. The one in the movie was a replica (there were three built, actually). The original is in New Zealand and far too valuable to be used in a film.

The picture here is of the original Indian, not the movie replica. I think I'll go over to the Indian Motorcycle Museum one day soon and get my fill of vintage bikes. It's right here in Springfield, about three miles from where I live, but I've never been inside. Not everybody who sees The World's Fastest Indian has the luxury of that kind of follow-up.